Monday, 18 November 2019
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Royal Air Force

By Nick Watts, Great North News Services Correspondent

You can't help feeling that the RAF is enjoying the Libyan situation, just a little bit. Before and immediately after the SDSR, the inter-service back biting got to the point where the other two services were asking what all those fast jets were for? History as Mark Twain once said, doesn't repeat itself but sometimes it rhymes. Many may remember that the Nott defence review which threatened to do damage to the Royal Navy was followed by the Falklands war. Now along comes a situation which the RAF must be hoping will drag on, and on, and on. Just like the Iraqi no fly zone which endured for 12 years.

The MOD briefing given in London this morning by the AOC of No 2 Group Air Vice Marshall Phil Osborne went to great lengths to stress to the assembled media just how professional / flexible the aircrews were being and how the utility of air power was just what was needed to enforce the UN's resolution 1973. There was some reference to two RN warships in the Mediterranean and to the Tomahawks which had been fired by HMS Triumph, but the story was undoubtedly about Typhoon and Tornado.

In fact the RAF has every reason to be flagging this as operation "told you so" as the utility of the Tornado has been amply demonstrated by the mission from Marham to strike targets in Libya, a round trip of some 3,000 miles. The Harrier had neither the endurance nor the weapons carrying capability to undertake such a mission. The absence of any naval aviation has not been a show stopper. The Treasury must be watching this with great interest.

The unspoken story, however, is a bit more worrying. We learnt that the Tornadoes were re-fuelled in flight by Tri-star and VC 10 tankers, both venerable aircraft. We have also learnt that the aerial surveillance has included such assets as the Nimrod R1, which provides signals intelligence, and the sentinel which provides ground surveillance. Both of which are due to be withdrawn from service. The replacements for all of these assets are not yet ready. Neither the Tankers, nor the replacement Boeing 707 style Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft which are due to replace the Nimrod R1. The Sentinel and the RAF's AWACS aircraft were able to assist the USAF locate and rescue the aircrew from their crashed F 15 Eagle.

The logistic support for this operation has been provided by the RAF's C 17s and the C 130s of the transport fleet. How much additional pressure is this putting on the airbridge to Afghanistan? It must be hoped that the advocates of air power will take heart from these developments and renew their case both with the MOD and the Treasury, so stave off some of the cuts demanded by the SDSR. The RAF is now involved in one enduring medium scale operation and a small one at the same time. No doubt the aircrews are working very hard, but the RAF must be at or near its operating limit. If the UK is going to be a player on the world stage, there cannot be any scope for further reductions in the front line RAF, and some of those announced must be re-visited.

There is just time to stop all those P45s going out!

 

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said today:"Of course I regret that it has been necessary to make redundancies to deliver our plans for reducing the size of the Armed Forces. The Royal Navy and RAF redundancy figures are smaller than anticipated due to the MoD's ability to use other measures such as slowing recruitment. No further significant reductions are expected for the Royal Navy or RAF. We still have some way to go to bring the size of the Army down to 82,000 and decisions on what is necessary to achieve this are yet to be taken, but we won't compromise the mission in Afghanistan."

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Royal Navy and Royal Marines

Commodore P. Cunningham, Royal Navy, to be Head of Joint Support Chain Services within Defence Equipment and Support with effect from January 2011.

Commodore J. A. Morse, Royal Navy, to be the Chief of the Defence Staffs Liaison Officer to the US Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, in succession to Air Commodore R. W. Judson, RAF, with effect from October 2011.

Captain R. C. Payne, Royal Navy, to be Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff (Carrier Strike) within Navy Command Headquarters, in succession to Captain R. S. Alexander, Royal Navy, with effect from February 2011.

Captain R. S. Alexander, Royal Navy, to be Assistant Director Carrier Strike Transition and Aviation Coherence with Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff with effect from February 2011.

Captain P. J. Titterton, QBE, Royal Navy, to be Director of the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff, in succession to Captain R. M. Allen, Royal Navy, with effect from June 2011.

Commander W. Oliphant, Royal Navy, to be promoted acting captain and to be the Joint Force 435 Liaison Officer with effect from January 2011.

Captain R. M. Pegg, OBE, Royal Navy, to be Director of the National Maritime Information Centre with effect from December 2010.

Captain D. J. Noyes, Royal Navy, to be Deputy Commander Joint Force Support (Afghanistan) Headquarters with effect from December 2011.

Captain P. A. Erskine, Royal Navy, to be Director Industry Liaison with BAES Surface Ships Limited, in succession to Commodore A. D. Penny, Royal Navy, with effect from January 2011.

Commander M. D. J. Dyer, Royal Navy, to be promoted captain and to be Deputy Head Chief Information Officer J6 in succession to Group Captain I. M. A. Kirkwood, RAF, with effect from January 2011.

Lieutenant Colonel K. B. Oliver, Royal Marines, to be promoted colonel and to be Policy and Plans Adviser to Commander Kosovo Security Force with effect from February 2011.

Commander. A. Borland, Royal Navy, to be promoted captain and to be Head of Stability Division, Regional Command (South West) Afghanistan with effect from March 2011.

Commander J. G. Higham, Royal Navy, to be promoted captain and to be Chief of Strategic Engagement Cell, Headquarters International Stabilisation Assistance Force (Afghanistan), in succession to Captain P. R. Casson, Royal Navy, with effect from September 2011.

Army

Major-General R. Everard, CBE, Late Queen's Royal Lancers, currently General Officer Commanding 3rd (UK) Division, to be Chief of Staff Headquarters International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, in succession to Major-General T. P. Evans, DSO, MBE, in December 2011.

Brigadier J. F. Rowan, QBE, QHS, Late Royal Army Medical Corps, currently Commander 2nd Medical Brigade, to be Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Health), in the rank of major-general, in succession to Surgeon Rear-Admiral L. J. Jam's, QHS, in December 2011.

Royal Air Force

Air Vice-Marshal G. J. Bagwell, CBE, to be Chief of Staff (Joint Warfare Development) in the Permanent Joint Headquarters, in August 2011, in succession to Major General R. J. M. Porter, MBE.

Air Commodore I. D. Teakle, DSO, QBE, to be Director Combined Air & Space Operations Centre, Al Udeid, Qatar, in May 2011, in succession to Brigadier General J. Norman, United States Air Force.

Air Commodore A. C. Wilcock to be Assistant Chief of Staff Health, Headquarters Air Command, on May 13,2011, in succession to Air Commodore The Honourable R. J. M. Broadbridge, whose next appointment as Head of Healthcare, Joint Medical Command, has already been announced.

Group Captain R. L. A. Atherton to be promoted air commodore and to be Head of Defence Logistics (Commodities), Defence Equipment & Support, on January 4, 2011, in succession to Air Commodore A. T. Gell

 

There was a hint today from UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox that there could be a radical change to the new aircraft carriers already under construction.

When the design was first unveiled, some play was made of the fact that they were "adaptable" - i.e. while the principal plan was to operate STOVL aircraft (F-35B replacing Harriers) the design could allow for catapults and arrester wires to be installed instead.

Writing in The Times, Dr Fox criticised "the decision to order aircraft carriers that are not fully interoperable with our two closest allies - the United States and France. Neither the French Rafale nor the US Navy's planned version of the Joint Strike Fighter could land or take off from our carriers.

"The design of the carriers also meant that the variant of JSF as planned is the most expensive."

Although he goes on to say that "getting the carriers right would take longer and is likely to cost more", there are clear seeds there. After all, the F-35C - US Navy variant - is cheaper, has a longer range and greater "throw weight". This could justify a reduction in numbers on the basis of greater capability, and although time is money - as today's National Audit Office Major Projects Report clearly shows - there wouldn't be too much gnashing of teeth if delay in bringing the new carriers into service could be sold as being on the basis of capability and flexibility not just expedience.

Then there's the politics. On November 2nd French President Sarkozy meets Prime Minister David Cameron at Portsmouth. Sarkozy is about to order more Rafales, a decision that is causing great scandal in Paris as he's accused of giving a "sweetener" to Serge Dassault to buy Le Parisien newspaper which would then back Sarkozy in the run-ip to the 2012 Presidentail elections. France also has its defence budget problems. It needs a second carrier to augment the small, under powered Charles de Gaulle. Bear in mind that France pitched in a nine figure sum at the design stage of the new UK carriers, so they have good visibility of its technical spec.

How convenient would be the ability for maritime Rafales to hitch a ride on a UK carrier instead? And what a driver for the much-mooted improved Anglo-French defence co-operation.

And again today, US Secretary of State Clinton is reported to be concerned about defence cuts and says "Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contribution." How valuable would it be for Cameron to call Clinton and say "well, we've taken it to heart and we're going to make our carriers more interoperable with yours - and remember that our new strategic tanker aircraft use probe and drogue like the US Navy do, so we can keep backing you up with logistics as we have over Afghanistan so far". Added to which France is in the market for strategic tankers, so some kind of joint force would be another warm fuzzy for Britfrogs to push the way of the cousins.

Last straw in the wind? Recently a dozen UK Forces personnel have been undergoing training on cat and trap operations over in the USA....

To clarify : In the 6 years 2005 - 2010 31 Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel underwent training as pilots, landing safety officers or weapons ssytems officers on US carriers. The tempo is picking up : in the 3 years 2011-2013, which of course is right in the middle of the UK carrier build programme, a further 51 will be trained.

In answer to a Parliamentary question, Defence Minister Lord Astor of Hever said : "The current design of the proposed "Queen Elizabeth" class aircraft carriers is also configured for the Short-Takeoff and Vertical Landing aircraft variant of the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) but this carrier design could be adapted for the operation of catapult-assisted take-off aircraft. If this option is chosen, the training plan would be altered."

In other words, are we already training the trainers?

 

By Laurent Rathborn, UK Defence Forum Researcher

The moral question over how Europe and America should respond to Gaddafi's attack on civilians has been at least partially answered; aircraft from multiple nations are attempting to keep the peace, and so far seem to be succeeding. What happens next, however, depends on a number of factors and the response that NATO forces will adopt in the face of ongoing violence. Unlike Iraq in the mid-90s, this no-fly-zone (NFZ) has been set up right in the middle of a civil war. Legitimised by its bid to throw off a tyrant who, like Saddam Hussein, has little compunction about murdering his own citizens, this is almost a textbook example of an uphill struggle for democratic freedom, supported by a regional body the Arab League - which asked for outside help in restoring sanity.

Unlike Iraq, where the no-fly zone was imposed after the brunt of the fighting had stopped, this conflict is still hot. Several ways forwards for NATO forces are now possible, but will depend on Gaddafi's next moves. In the immediate term, there must be an active effort to prevent what happened at the end of the first Gulf War; a deliberate punishment of civilians by Saddam's helicopter corps. Whereas all reports indicate that Gaddafi's air forces are now no longer a factor, it will take constant monitoring to ensure that revenge attacks are not perpetrated by ground forces in the future for what NATO is doing in the present.

Libyan government forces have thousands of square miles of desert to hide in, and the language used in Resolution 1973 explicitly forbids foreign occupation. However, as noted by UK government ministers, in strict legal terms, a ground force does not have to be an occupation force. The situation as it exists at the moment is very fluid, and all efforts will be concentrated on stopping government forces punishing civilians and disabling the infrastructure that enables them to do so. Strikes to this effect have already been carried out, but NATO forces will eventually run out of military targets. Once they do, several options may present themselves. The following are listed in order of aggression:

Actively target the Libyan leadership by military means. Emplace a NATO-backed, UN-approved government;Actively target the Libyan leadership in order to place them before the International Criminal Court, which is investigating multiple human rights abuses by the regime;Quarantine the east of the country from government forces via heavy NFZ activity or troop emplacement while seeking a political settlement that may end in partition or the creation of a transitional rebel-led government. Allow the internal prosecution of former regime elements;Continue to quarantine the air and wait for the rebels to win;Retreat, and let affairs come to their own conclusion.

The last of these is unlikely, but is included for the sake of completeness in the light of complaints by the Arab League that the intervention goes too far and was not what it had envisaged when it asked for international help. There are feelings amongst some commentators that those expressing legitimate revolutionary sentiments in Libya have now been disenfranchised by NATO's actions. They miss the more immediate point that people expressing revolutionary sentiments would have been overrun by now without intervention. Whether the democratic protests and rebel action can still be called legitimate is a talking point for political philosophers; what matters now is what NATO, the democratic rebels, and the Arab League can achieve.

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