Examining the options for increasing funding for the Royal Navy

Jan 17, 2013   //   by NavyLookout   //   Articles, blog  //  43 Comments

The case for naval expenditure

It is impossible to define the exact economic value to the nation of any of our armed forces but there are many examples of how the RN has been and could be crucial to protecting our interests. As our economy depends on the sea with much of it passing through vulnerable ‘choke points’, even a minor disruption to this trade could be disastrous with costs in Billions. Piracy is costing millions and spreading beyond the Horn of Africa yet the RN is so stretched it cannot even manage to assign a single ship to a continuous permanent anti-piracy tasking. On a smaller scale, Spanish fisherman are plundering the waters of Gibraltar because the RN is not present in sufficient force. Our oil exploration on the South Atlantic is threatened by Argentine interference which a single patrol ship cannot prevent. This site has consistently argued the case for the funding the RN properly and as these examples show, the benefits of a fleet go beyond its obvious role in a major conflict, it makes sense economically too.


With a frightening national debt run up by the profligate Blair and Brown governments, it is clear that any responsible government must act to reduce the debt as fast as possible. We are actually spending more each year on paying interest on the debt than we do on defence. There is some limited sympathy with the Coalition government faced with a huge debt and deficit while every interest group in the country is pleading that they are a special case and not to cut their budget. However making Defence cuts in 2010 was a cowardly choice, without a Trade Union to speak for them, sending P45s to sailors, soldiers and airmen was an easy cut to make. The MoD had the strongest case of ANY department for ring-fencing its budget when the new government started to look for cuts.

Government spending 1990-2010

Government spending prior to the 2010 Defence Review 1990-2010

It had been easy for a succession of spineless ministers to keep ‘salami-slicing’ defence so they could spend money on more popular things. Defence spending was therefore already dangerously low when the economic crisis hit. Even in the ‘good times’ Blair and Brown, with a taste for overseas interventions still failed to ensure adequate funding for defence while other departments saw huge increases. The downright lies and spin that has accompanied their defence cuts resulted in a further loss of credibility. Instead of David Cameron insisting “we can still carry out the full spectrum of warfare” and “we will remain a first rank power”, his government should have at least carried out a more careful review, while admitting they were making cuts in capability for purely financial reasons. The continual ill-advised reduction in the defence budget over the last 22 years is squarely to blame for the mess we are now in but to put defence back on sound footing an unpalatable step-change in budget allocation is required.

22 years of shrinking budgets, a collapse in numbers of ships, and even aircraft carriers with no aircraft all suggest that it is reasonable to call for a change. Here we take a cursory look at the 6 options for funding a stronger Royal Navy, given the situation we are now facing.

1. Re-balancing priorities – take money for defence from other government departments

The first option to expand the existing budget for the RN would be to take funds from other government departments. It is clear that the Health and Welfare budgets in particular have become bloated, the Coalition is making some attempt at reform but virtually all changes are greeted with howls of protest. Britain genuinely loves the NHS (Sorry American friends, it is something wonderful and not the slippery slope to Communism) and no one wants it privatised or abolished. However it is a monster which does need to be tamed to an extent, now the 3rd largest employer in the world and another example of the UK living beyond its means.

One obvious candidate for re-allocation is the overseas aid budget (£11.4Bn). Giving aid money to economic powerhouses such as India & Brazil is insanity. There is a strong moral case to give aid to the very poorest and in times of crisis, but most UK ‘aid’ fails to find its way to the really poor and is frittered away by corruption and in futile schemes. If we are serious about helping the world’s poor we would do far better to force global corporations to trade fairly with the developing nations. Far better to spend that ‘aid’ money on national assets such as the RN to provide some real peace and security in the world’s shared spaces, its oceans. Unfortunately however logical, the spin doctors wouldn’t like the resulting “axe international development to spend money on arms” headlines. It’s easy to see how it’s become virtually unthinkable to take any money from one hard-pressed department to spend elsewhere, especially defence. It will probably be too late (ie. when we have suffered a serious military defeat or strategic setback) before the tide of opinion would accept this.

2. Raise taxes

Raising taxes is likely to damage economic growth and it is upon this growth our hopes of recovery, repayment of the debt and even a real increase in defence spending is perilously placed. Few would be willing to stomach a rise in taxation, least of all for defence, barring a specific national emergency. In theory governments around the world could get serious about properly taxing the obscenely wealthy who hide their money abroad while living under the security shelter provided by national defences. Recovering this money would make a considerable dent in the national debts of the US and the UK but unsurprisingly the super-rich have influence in high places that seems to keep this from being addressed.

3. Radical surgery on the structures of UK defence

The 3 services have been increasingly set against each other in battles over ever-dwindling budgets and of course the ‘divide and conqueror’ approach suits the politicians hell-bent on continual cuts. How we spend the defence budget should be analysed more rationally and divided according to national priority rather than allowing the 3 children to argue for their ‘fair’ share of the cake to maintain their private empires and prestige. Although there is a veneer of “Jointery” (and some very good working relationships at more junior levels) the 3 services have their entrenched positions and suggesting even the most logical change is to guarantee hot coals raining on your head in short order. Really we need to define a coherent long-term national strategy and firm foreign policy strategy. The logical conclusion would be that Britain should adopt a maritime-based strategy. (Acknowledging this subject is worthy of further discussion, this observation is based both on historical precedence and cold analysis of the interests of an island nation). Such a thing is very unlikely to happen, it is simply too radical and demanding for a defence secretary (who may only be in the job for a couple of years) to contemplate. If for example, he or she was to propose significant cuts to the RAF budget or to move some of its assets to the Army or Navy, he would be up against a vast array of land-based air power advocates and veterans, a powerful and well-funded aerospace industrial lobby, masses of aviation historians and enthusiasts marshaled by considerable PR machine (The Navy has nothing really comparable). All agree that airpower is a decisive factor in most conflicts but it would be met with hysterical opposition in many quarters to suggest that it would make sense for Army and Navy to entirely own and command their own integrated air forces. A possible solution would  be to decapitate the senior leadership structure of the Air Force and return the RAF to its roots as a Corps of the British Army, retaining its “RAF” brand name and uniform. This would eliminate a costly bureaucracy which distorts procurement decisions and partially dictates the conduct of land and maritime war to the Army and Navy. The Fleet Air Arm would flourish again and the Army in charge of its own helicopters for instance, could make informed trade-offs around transporting troops by armoured vehicle or air.

4. Spend the existing defence budget more efficiently

Despite years of cuts, the UK remains the 4th in the world for military expenditure. Given the state of our armed forces it is clear the British taxpayer is getting terrible value for money for the approx £39 Billion we currently spend each year on defence. “By cutting waste we can reach our goals…” is the mantra of many politicians and there is indeed huge waste in the public sector. For decades the MoD has been a notorious for bureaucracy, inefficiency and waste. The recent report published by the National Audit Office shows most major defence procurement projects are late and over-budget, although some tiny progress has been made. To be fair, the Coalition government has made some steps to try to address this but as Phillip Hammond observed, reforming the MoD is like “trying to turn a super tanker”. We applaud Hammond’s attempt to get the budget on a sound footing but his short-term book balancing in some cases, is adding future costs and leaving devastating gaps in capability. While the MoD is busy making plenty of in-house cock-ups of its own, much of the responsibility must be taken by its political masters. By delaying projects that have already started, such as the carrier programme or the Astute class submarines to save money in the short-term, these delays add to the overall cost in the long run. By the failing to order in sufficient quantity, the unit price of items increases. A classic example is the Type 45 destroyers. A planned 12-ship class was gradually reduced to a 6-ship class. Instead of getting 12 ships with an average price of approx. £600 Million (including development costs) the RN gets just 6 ships averaging £1Billion each. Instead of spending £7.2Bn on a flexible and resilient force of 12 ships we get an over-stretched fleet of 6 ships for £6Bn. There is also a saving in running costs but still not a sensible use of resources. The decision to not to fit catapults to the aircraft carriers was mainly justified on ground of short-term cost savings. Mr Hammond can crow about how he has “balanced the MoD finances” for now while the RN will have to put up with a big reduction in capability and his successor will have to pay the increased costs (F35B is more complex & expensive then F35C). There is also the problem of ‘Pork barrel‘ politicking over defence. Back bench MPs will usually look after narrow local interest ahead of national interest. This has often resulted in vastly more expensive, sometimes less effective UK-made equipment is supplied to the forces when a foreign option would have been far better and cheaper. Our parliamentary system ensures MPs see defence primarily as a job-creation scheme for their constituents so they will fight for the interests of their local defence companies and installations ahead of what is best for the nation, the forces or the Navy. There are hundreds of examples but recently Norfolk MPs have been badgering the Defence Secretary to announce the F35B will be based at RAF Marham. This base is not best for the Navy or the efficiency of operating aircraft flying from carriers based in Portsmouth but so long as a few jobs in Norfolk are preserved that’s what matters most! Fundamentally our political system incentivises politicians to look to the short-term (maximum 5 yrs) while complex defence projects & infrastructure would benefit from 10-20 year planning cycles. This is a deep conundrum faced by all democracies for which there is no easy answer. There is no accountability for politicians or civil servants who can make decisions that are convenient for them now but store up problems for the future when they are long-gone. Maybe defence is too important to be run by politicians!

5. Spend the existing Navy budget differently

The “Rob Peter to pay Paul” approach has little appeal. There is really no slack in the RN’s budget and after years of cuts there are simply no spare or non-essential assets left to cut. Shore establishments are now most often cited as ripe for merger or closure. Proposals include officer training at Britannia Royal Navy College to merge with rating training at HMS Raleigh or Devonport to close and the surface fleet to move to Portsmouth etc. On a spreadsheet these options may offer some moderate financial saving might be made but at what actual cost? The very successful ethos of the RN is instilled in young officers at Britannia and much could be lost in a merger with Raleigh or other officer training colleges. Devonport is the largest naval base in Western Europe and has many facilities; even now further investment is being made there in a base for the Royal Marines. One day we hope the RN may actually expand and retaining both Portsmouth and Devonport makes strategic and long-term sense. Ironically it is probably the local & commercial interests that have so far protected both bases ahead of any kind of strategic thinking by government. In fact the balancing act of determining how the navy spends its budget is always getting harder, even without cuts because defence inflation runs far ahead of the national inflation rate. Defence equipment generally gets more complicated and more expensive in real terms as time progresses. We have always avoided trying to dictate policy to the Naval staff or playing ‘fantasy fleets’ (There are hoards of armchair admirals on the internet insisting the RN should do this or that). However we broadly agree with the current Chief of Defence Staff who says the RN needs to find a way to build some cheaper ships in the future.

6. PFI and private sponsorship

PFI is very attractive for politicians as they can deliver a service now but defer payment for years ahead when they will be long-gone. It is usually claimed a private company is more efficient than the public sector but of course it involves paying the extra so they make a profit on top of the cost of delivery. The RN’s 4 river class patrol ships were initially ‘rented’ from their builders VT/BAE but have now been fully purchased. Probably the biggest ever rip-off of the UK taxpayer is the RAF’s Voyager FTSA air-air refuelling tanker programme which will cost a whopping £12.5 Billion to deliver and maintain just 14 aircraft. This is to fit refuelling equipment to an existing commercial aircraft design and maintain them. (To put that in perspective the cost of building 2 aircraft carriers is less than half of this. The NAO now says “PFI is not a suitable procurement route for such important military capabilities”). Clearly someone is getting very rich on the back of precious defence funds and is a prime example of why PFI is a plague on all our houses. Private sponsorship of defence assets is clearly a non-starter “HMS Nonsuch sponsored by McDonalds” would be an embarrassing nonsense and there is little incentive for non-defence companies to be involved anyway. Much of UK defence kit now has “Made by BAE Systems” stamped on the side and the MoD is somewhat at the mercy of this monopoly. (BAE’s biggest profits are made in aerospace and inevitably it regards its less profitable shipbuilding ‘metal-bashing’ yards as a lower priority – hardly good news for the Royal Navy). With a very mixed track record on delivery of reliable kit on time but a very solid record of generating considerable profits it would seem it is actually the other way around – the defence budget is more ‘sponsoring’ a private company. Any serious reform of UK defence would involve playing hardball with the very powerful BAE Systems, another very unappetising prospect for a defence secretary.


Faced with what is an extremely tough set of choices, there are no easy options for funding the Royal Navy properly. Point 4 offers the best immediate hope for getting a better fleet. Radical reform in the procurement and delivery of equipment offers the most achievable option making better use of the money available in the short-term at least. It will still need great political strength to fundamentally reshape the MoD, resist the forces of local interest and establish a robust client/supplier relationship with BAE Systems. It is quite easy to dispense with naval assets and capabilities but it is either very expensive or impossible to get them back. Whatever route is chosen, the first responsibility of the government is defence of the realm and a gradual increase in spending on the Royal Navy, together with better management of procurement is a matter of urgency.



  • There is a lot of ignorance (deliberate or otherwise in this debate), for instance the F3 service ceiling was 50,000 ft not 30,000 and it had a very capable radar for all but the initial stages of its integration into service. If you put air assets in the hands of the Army they would, quite understandably, focus on CAS. The investment in strategic reccie would suffer and deep strike to take 2 examples. To Win a war you target the enemy centre of gravity, which may not (and often is not) be tanks and troops on the front line. It is C2 and, whether you like it or not, economic and leadership targets. A balanced force is required that does not focus on a limited mindset. I think the logic of what you suggest leads to a Uk defence force and the end of separate services for all 3. The RAF also has the lead for Space Ops and cyber. This area is of huge importance to the RAF and could be neglected if the focus for airpower became the battlefield and not its wider usage. The aim should be to work better together and spend the money wisely.

  • Although I am an American, I am a long-time student and admirer of the Royal Navy. Winston Churchill, Fighter Command in the B of B and the Royal Navy from the first day of the war to the last saved Western Civilization. The heroism and sacrifice of the RN in WW Two alone is enough to strike awe into the hearts of everyone who learns the history. Allow me to end by saying: Lest We Forget-Cap. BAW Washburton-Lee, VC, posthumous award, First Battle of Narvik. Commander 2nd Destroyer Flotilla.

  • the royal navy simply needs 2 carriers, 8 destroyers around 20 frigates, probably 3 or 4 conventionally powered attack submarines to save the aatutes for performing menial duties. 6 to 8 landing platform docks and a least 1 heli carrier potentially a back up or reserve carrier. thialands small carrier would be perfect.

    • @james p

      Ah!…too dream…

      Although I would be happy to lose a carrier for 8 rather than 4 conventional attack subs (with perhaps a few coast guard/defense boats?! oh and a few maritime patrol aircraft if i was being picky!) :p


    • The Royal Navy needs a lot more than two aircraft carriers and associated support vessels such as frigates and destroyers. We live in such uncertain times that we need to be able to operate if needed in several different oceans at once. This is not a vainglorious exercise but the activation of the simple belief that security comes from strength. We need 4-6 aircraft carriers, bearing in mind that 1-2 will be in refit or other off duty situations at any one time. Then we need sufficient vessels to support this.
      There is a mistaken belief that we cannot afford this. Yet we continue to purchase ships in stupid ways. If we built up our shipyards again we would be able to make them very efficient and, hence, get low cost but superior ships, buying them in bulk.

      There is also a mistaken belief that we should spend military money on social security. This is daft. Every penny spent on social security is a penny that does not get invested. If we build ships and other manufactured goods nothing to do with defence as well, we build expertise, innovation, opportunity, self esteem, confidence – whereas on social security we get nothing but continued reliance on the state.

  • Who`d ever think that our armed forces would be defeated by our own idiotic politicians, not an enemy force, but a bunch of suited wankers that should never have been allowed to gain office and this is true of all the political parties in the UK.
    Thanks to the Labour parties madness in office over 14 years,during which ,they seriously down-graded the performance of the Harriers,that have now cost the country the ability to provide close air support of its army along with the loss of the country`s premeture retirement of its only aircraft carrier,this countries deffences have never been so poor and under the Tories, will only get worse,in my view its only fair that Cameron should be held personally accountable for his decision in respect of this matter,his decision concerning the deffence review has cost this country billions in terms of tax payers investment and our ability to deffend ourselves and he should be held financialy accountable for his choice, then in future he may think twice about his decisions.

  • @Steve You are badly misunderstanding the reason for needing a strong navy (although this post is not really about making that case – read about it elsewhere on this site). Of course it is not 1900 and the case for the Navy is nothing to do with protecting an empire! As an island nation that is totally reliant on the sea (95% of our trade arrives and departs by sea) it is pretty obvious how vulnerable we are without the ability to protect that trade. The navy also gives us a very flexible and relatively affordable way to influence events across the globe. This is not an old fashioned kind of imperialism but simply protecting out interests in an increasingly unstable world where competition for resources is growing. We can follow the lead of most Europeans and spend little or nothing on defence believing the US will always bale us out or we can prepare properly for the challenges ahead. We could become a Belgium and give up all ability to control our destiny or make some relatively small adjustments to our spending priorities and keep world-class forces that we will undoubtedly be grateful to have in future. As an analogy you don’t stop paying your house insurance when money is tight (You MUST protect yourself in case of the house burning down even if it seems unlikely) rather, make cuts to non-essentials.

    • And non essentials include weapons that never have been fired and draw away money from needed conventional strike.

      • …..And here we are again….If nuclear weapons were not needed then why are other countries trying to build them? I mean seriously; WAKE UP!!! THE WORLD IS NOT A NICE SAFE PLACE! AND LIFE IS NOT ABOUT FAIRNESS!!!!!

        Tell you what why don’t we just scrap the Armed forces get our self’s a border defence force and arm them with tazers? Great! Now you have saved 2%GDP Oh but look!…..Iran (insert future threat) sees our weakness!..a State controlled terrorist has just planted a ‘dirty’ nuclear bomb in London as they know we have no WMD to retaliate with. What now!?….please insert what you would do now…I would say nothing. Any form of defense has been lost with your short sightedness.

        No-one WANTS to use WMDs but you don’t stop paying your insurance just because you haven’t claimed in a while.
        If you want to save money then simples…you cut from you dont NEED!! How about for a start scrapping foreign aid, transforming the NHS from covering all medical needs to just life saving (no more “i need a boob job coz i iz depressed!”), or another radical idea you can only claim from the State if you have paid tax and national insurance?! ….Too radical?!…So is saying we don’t need nuclear weapons!….


        • The UK’s Human Development Index is worst that Singapore which has a stronger military

          • Jiesheng,

            No denying it, it true..although an Armed Forces built from 40,000 conscripts out of 71,500 doesn’t mean it is a “stronger” fighting force. But i can only think how jealous the Armed Forces high command here must be of Singapore’s Forces receiving 6% GDP funding.


            PS nice looking stealth frigates they have as well i might add…are they any good though? Anyone…

        • If Nimrod and a strong surface RN were around the dirty bomb or its components would be intercepted before getting to London or any other british city.By cutting these systems britain has made an attack more likely not less.

  • I think some realism is needed here. This is not 1900. We are not a superpower but a medium sized (population wise) country. Other countries of course will overtake us as their economies stronger. I think our Navy will remain top 20-30 in the world over the next 20 years and I think we should be proud of that. Yes we were number 1 but we don’t have the money or influence any more.

    Accept the changes and embrace our new status as a medium sized modest country. If you do not do this you will endlessly frustrate yourself with the predictable increased cuts coming soon. It’s only going to be bad news.

  • In principal I find it hard to wish to see the government giving subsidies to industry. By and large this is deemed inefficient etc.
    However it is worth remembering that in the 1930′s the government underwrote the Queen mary and Queen Elizabeth to the tune of 4m GBP and 5m GBP respectively. These enabled John Brown shipyard to get back in business. it can be argued that without these two vessels and the modernisation of our industrial base prior to WW2 the outcome might have been very different.
    11bn GBP spent on foreign aid is IMHO a tranvesty, at least in the scale that is involved.

    • I think there is a difference between underwriting and a loan, which is what the Government gave for the Queens. The loan was paid back and they became good earners for the Country. The Shipbuilding industry was going to benefit from a government financing plan, but before that came into effect, war came about, which was foreseen, but not as soon as politicians/officials/Forces thought. It takes me back to the MARS ships, because if Britain got back into some meaningful commercial shipbuilding (which she should and could), this tends to make yards become more effecient, compared to warship building, and there would be a cross over. This would benefit warship building. Instead we have an aerospace firm building ships, that sees this really as mearly metal bashing, which it is not.

  • Interesting post but unfortunately starts from the wrong assumption I.e. that the cuts in defence spending of the last 20-30 years are terrible and must be reversed.

    The reality is Britain came out of WW2 as an Empire and world power and arrived straight into a Cold War. It also had in equipment terms the enormous amounts of Wartime equipment some of which was still viable for many years to come, think HMS Hermes, laid down pre 45 and still serving the Indian Navy to this day.

    the Empire has gone, it is simply a reality, we no longer have to worry about protecting Singapore, but also we can no longer rely on the Indian Army to help us do it.

    The Cold War is over again it is simply a reality, in 1994 the last by then ex Soviet Tanks were being withdrawn from Eastern Europe, by 2004 most of Eastern Europe is in both NATO and EU, by 2014, Eastern Europe has been in EU for a decade, with passport free travel and our worry is polish plumbers not Soviet Tanks.

    All of Europe has reacted by cutting defence by a lot, conscription which was common till the 1990s has gone almost everywhere. NATO in the 1980s was trying to get countries to spend 4% of GDP on defence and increase spending by at least 3% a year. It is now asking for countries to spend 2% of GDP and it is just about only us that still does. If the threat has gone why are we spending as much as we are?

    The other anomaly in Euro NATO is ironically bankrupt Grrece, it still has conscription partly as it would have even worse unemployment initially if it did not, it spends well over the 2% target but the rest of the EU is cautious about demanding it cuts defence, as most of it is going on contracts to French and German arms manufacturers.

    The reality is short of a very big very new threat appears defence is going to get AT MOST 2% of GDP going forward. In terms of the size of the eccomomy, the UK economy of 2013 is still smaller than it was in 2008. 2% of a growing economy is very different from a shrinking eccomomy.

  • Your Options 3 warrants comment. As stated above it is critical that the UK retains a balanced military force with the capability to conduct operations across the spectrum of conflict – this requires Air, Land, Sea and Cyber forces. CDS’ vision (RUSI Dec 12) of a smaller, joint expeditionary force, centred around the RFTG, thus appears to be logical. While not a Maritime Strategy per se, such a move would certainly strengthen the Navy’s case for receiving a larger share of the dwindling funding pot. However, given the global proliferation of high end war fighting capabilities (drones, IADS etc), even if we chose to avoid tacking near peer competitors, in order to deliver any meaningful effect, we will require a potent (thus costly) Strike capability (RAF). A redistribution of resource could thus only be delivered by further reducing Land Force end strength. While there will be little or no political appetite for such action, this appears to be the most compelling solution for a country/government that will be reticent to participate in any land campaign post Afghanistan. A hard sell certainly but such a position is likely to garner more support than calls for the removal of the Air Staff.

    • Busy Bee I very much agree. The Navy is lucky to hold the deadliest yet never to be used nuclear weapons. The Army probably suffers more. Less Challenger Tanks, Less infantry, and only one main division in the future.

    • If we have Apache gunships and Tomahawk missiles why do we need a separate armed service to fly bombers? Surely its better for bombers to be one option available to the Army to use instead of being run by an independent power structure designed to deliver promotion and pay increases of those in that structure

      • The UK does not have bomber aircraft. Tornado GR 4 are considered Strike. Same as the F-35 C.

        • Of course the RAF has bombers! the Tornados are bombers through & through, although not as big as US heavy bombers such as B-52s etc. It is the most holy and sacred mission of the RAF going back to WWII to bomb deep in enemy territory. Of course “Strike” sounds much nicer than bombing and “Surgical strike” is sounds even better, but it is still bombing. While close support of ground forces is a really useful role, strategic bombing or “deep strike” is of little or no value, morally questionable and usually prolongs wars. Blowing up utilities, killing civilians and alienating the population is making life hearder for the troops on the ground. We should ditch the decrepit Tornado force and invest in more Tomahawks missiles which are a far better option when needing to take out military targets such as C3 or air defence sites.

          • I never like to see bickering of such stuff. Go back to your military database. They are strike aircraft.

            Tomahawks have their disadvantages.

          • NavyLookout,

            To say that “deep strike” is of no value, morally questionable and prolongs wars is sooo wrong!

            First how would a deep strike prolong a war? Let’s say a deep strike had taken out Hitler not long after the start of WW2…how would that changed history?

            Morally how is it wrong taking out high value targets PRECISELY insuring no civilian casualties?

            ^^^how are these of no value?

            Now to comment on your view of the tornado aircraft…yes it is old, but still effective…tomcat I believe is older and still used by the USA fleet for air defense. Also the tornado does close airsupport and can also shoot down tomahawk missles ..as can most modern aircraft.

            In b4 they cheaper etc…a simple goal keeper air defense cannon system would defend enough against a tomahawk attack.


          • Deep strike is of little or no value! Almost laughable in its wilful naivety. Deep Strike is central to the new US military doctrine of the Air/Sea battle. The difficulties experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with shrinking defence budgets, would indicate that such ground conflicts are unlikely to be a regular occasion in the future. Instead, deep strike and sea-based power projection operations are much more likely to become the norm. (You’ll like that bit!). You’re understanding of deep strike seems weak and dated to carpet bombing cities, you see airpower as simply a tactical tool, which is why it is so vital that it reminds independent and free thinking. The US military says: “As a concept, strategic attack builds on the idea that it is possible to directly affect an adversary’s sources of strength and will to fight without first having to engage and defeat their ground forces,” AFDD 1 says. “While strategic deep strike (attack) may not totally eliminate the need to directly engage the adversary’s fielded military forces, it can shape those engagements so they will be fought at the time and place of our choosing under conditions more likely to lead to decisive outcomes with the least risk for friendly forces.” You seem to suggest that we should be happy to just attack the enemy on the tactical level only as other options are ‘of little of no value’. Strange what a premium raising powers like India and China seem to put on deep strike. It would appear that your opposition may stem from a deep paranoia about the RAF rather than reasoned thinking. I fully support the need of aircraft careers and a strong navy – you undermine your position with silly statements based on prejudice and, dare a say, jealousy that you feel the RAF is better at PR than the RN. Lets work together rather than trying to eliminate a sister service full of decided professionals who serve their country with pride and an ethos which made them join the Air Force in the first place.

  • the truth is that our never been out of westminster mps have no intrest in defence other than the few who pork barrel. As they only care about there 5 years and the needs of the defence does not win a new elections.

  • What if the 3 way split produces a balanced armed forces that is able to respond to emerging threats and promote the interests of the UK across a number of areas.

    Navy Lookout, I have read the RUSI piece many times, I found its arguments weak to be honest but then I favour balance.

    • Navy will have to gain the lion’s share, given it’s the only out the three to own the nuclear weapons. Unless you reduce them. Also, RM’s fall under navy’s budget.

      Splitting 3 ways would severely kill the army. It already fails to have more than one deployable division.

  • Well done for raising The issue Navy Lookout. This is The issue and you are correct in saying we have been getting poor value for money.
    The example of Nimrod is the scandal of the decade and merits a judicial enquiry. Notwithstanding the colossal waste of resources it has also left an extremely large hole in our defence capabilities. I believe there is a strong case to be made for rebalancing the defence budget such as there is and because of the lead time in ship construction account should be taken of this.

  • The Voyager PFI costs are for the entire 30 year life cycle of the capability and cover everything from aircraft, fuel, buildings and so on.
    The CVF may cost £6 billion to build, but will easily cost vastly more than that over its life expectancy of 50 years. You cant compare the two like for like.

    Its an interesting post, but making arguments for removing the leadership of the RAF just turns it from being a credible piece to something resembling angry ranting in the Pub. If you want to be taken seriously as an argument, then demanding the evisceration of another armed service to support the RN is not the way to go about it.

    • Very much agree with Sir Humphrey

    • Sir Humphrey
      I did state in the post that the Voyager running cost is included but over £12 Billion is excessive, you know it, the RAF know it and the NAO says so.

      As I also predicted in the post, anyone seriously challenging structure of UK defence is labelled as ‘ranting’. The establishment are just too set in their ways and will move quickly to discredit anyone challenging the status quo. “This us how we have always done it” it essentially your argument. This post above is not a detailed and complete restructuring plan, rather an initial proposal. The RAF has much expertise and experience which is needed and I am not advocating abolition rather putting them in the RIGHTFUL place of SERVING the the army over the land and the navy at sea. The logic for an entirely separate service doesn’t stand up to scrutiny anymore and with such limited funds we could save a great deal in the long run. Such a change would be complex and difficult but very much worth it for savings and gain in fighting efficiency.

  • I see your points but why do you automatically assume that naval forces should be the recipient of additional funding, have the other services not been reduced equally, do they not deserve additional funding and why is the logical conclusion that the UK needs to adopt a maritime strategy?

    None of these are coherent arguments, which is why it wont happen

    • TD – If you read the RUSI document (link in article) you will see there is a very coherent argument for a maritime-based strategy. It is not an ‘automatic’ assumption, rather a case that has been put forward by many others. (I also aim to blog further on this in future).

      Yes all 3 services have suffered cuts and my overall point is that defence spending should be raised. Given that is not happening, we have to prioritise what we have got on what will actually benefit us as a WHOLE nation – not try to split the cake 3 equal ways out of some kind of sense of ‘fairness’ to each service.

      I agree that currently such a radical (and beneficial) change is unlikely to happen, given the huge vested interests and aerospace & land-based air lobby out to stop such alternative ‘defence thinking’.

      • Well the British Army is reduced to 2 deployable divisions and in future only one. They would want to argue for more money two. And out of the three services, only the RN has the never-to-be-fired nukes.

  • Jiesheng! We need 4SSBN to ensure to can maintain a constant patrol. As for never being fired…..good! It means they have done their job! Do you think we have the DFID to thank for 60 years of peace in Europe!

    • You have DFID elevating conflict in parts of the world. Don’t compare apples to oranges. Conventional weapons suffer. Did SSBNs prevents the 7/7 bombings?

      • Jiesheng – I dont pretend to be an expert on international development, what is clear is that money is being poured away and given to nations that don’t need it. I also don’t buy into the idea that ‘bribing’ people with aid helps our foreign policy and creates much stability. Yes we need to have some funds to help the very poorest and in emergencies but in general hand outs dont work. At a time when we are running a huge defecit giving away £11Bn is an insult to the taxpayer and a is a marketing ploy by the Tories to help them present a ‘softer’ image to the world.

        • Development inherently is political and it’s not about bribing or simply giving away money. I’m not sure if you can send a Type 23 to Nepal for example or in land Africa.

  • I don’t know what to add except something has to be done as things cannot go on as they are. It never fail thought to make me laugh when the likes of Cameron says things like britain is still a great power and can still defend the Falklands. The standard of equipment gives me concern.
    The ‘flesh’ (servicemen and women) is willing but the kit is weak. For example the SA80 rifle-jams when a speck of sand gets in it,breaks and has been known to need tape to hold parts of it together. ‘Fixed’ at great cost by Heckler and Koch from Germany(how adolf must be sniggering).Tornado F3 – could not climb above 30,000ft, could not dogfight and cement ballast in place of late radar have been well documented. For all the money wasted on these britain could have had a carrier fleet with airwings ,frigates and subs. Perhaps the english establishment thinks britain is no longer worth defending as it allows such mess to build up?

    • They’re improve the SA-80 although yes it isn’t the best multi-issued assault rifle..neither are the Americans…

      The Tornado F3 is retired

      • Yes the F3 went ,it was just a example. The Typhoon looks better but I have heard from the Germans it does not like cold weather. They dig out their dwindling F4 Phantoms for chilly weather ops. One wonders what problems lurk in the Typhoon aircraft.

        • You at least have the Typhoon. There’s nothing else worth as a fighter/strike aircraft.

  • It’s only a tiny small portion that goes to DFID. Aid is not a direct transfer of money but foreign policy at work. So is defence. You want to manage money well? Cut away at least one SSBN. These nukes will never be fired in a lifetime while conventional arms suffer. One SSBN can pay for a squadron and a bit of naval aircraft and maintain several ships.

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