Monday, 15 August 2022
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

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Royal Navy

Ship 1 - HMS Daring was declared in service with the Royal Navy in July 2010.

Ship 2 - HMS Dauntless was Commissioned into the Royal Navy in June 2010. Sea Viper was fired from HMS Dauntless on 29th September in the first firing of the missile from a Type 45 platfrom.

Ship 3 - Diamond was accepted off contract at Portsmouth Naval Base in September 2010.

Ship 4 - Dragon will shortly commence her first set of sea trials.

Ship 5 - Defender was launched in October 2009 and is currently being fitted out in Glasgow.

Ship 6 - Duncan was launched on 9th October 2010 and was 60% complete on launch. The ship is named after Admiral Lord Viscount Adam Duncan who defeated the Dutch in the Battle of Camperdown on 11th October 1797.


The Royal Navy's next generation helicopter, Wildcat, has completed 20 days of sea trials aboard HMS Iron Duke, laying the groundwork for future operations.

Wildcat landed nearly 400 times on the frigate's flight deck by day and night in various weather conditions as the ship sailed off the coasts of southern England and northern Scotland.

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HMS Atherstone, an 800 tonne mine hunter, returned home to Portsmouth last week after a two year mission.

She sailed the 10,000 km distance to and from station, and had five different crews during the deployment.

Her role was to provide security in the Gulf for surrounding nations, and has now been relieved by a similar ship, HMS Middleton.

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By Elayne Jude, Great North News Services

How are we to apprehend the last hours of the 118 souls lost aboard the submarineKursk in August 2000?

Perhaps by steeping ourselves in the reconstructed daily lives of the crew of an (almost imaginary) British Trafalgar class submarine, on covert patrol in theBarents Sea at the same time.

Imaginary, as this is the premise of Sound&Fury Theatre Company's current production at the Young Vic; absolutely realised, in a multidimensional production based on Bryony Lavery's watertight script.

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Commodore C J Hockley RN to be promoted Rear Admiral and to be Flag Officer Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland in succession to Rear Admiral M B Alabaster, on September 9, 2011

Commodore M R Darlington RN to be Manpower Utilisation Team Leader (NEM Progrmme) w.e.f. April 2011

Commodore N L Brown RN to be Director, Naval Staff in succession to Commodore R K Tarrant RN w.e.f. August 2011

Commodore P J Thicknesse RN to be Director, Maritime (Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre) in succession to Commodore M C N Cochrane RN w.e.f. August 2011

Rear Admiral C A Johnstone-Burt OBE to be Director, Counter Narcotics, Combined Joint Interagency Task Force Shfafiyat HQ ISAF w.e.f. 3 May 2011 and Head of British Defence Staff (USA) abd Defence Attache w.e.f. November

Rear Admiral S R Lister OBE, Director General Submarines will also become Chief Naval Engineering Officer in succession to Rear Admiral R T Love w.e.f. 28 June 2011

Captain G A Mackay RN to be promoted Commodore and to be Asst Chief of Staff (Carrier Strike Aviation) in succession to Commodore M W Westwood w.e.f. August 2011

Air Commodore Stuart D Atha DSO to be promote Air Vice-Marshal and to be AOC No 1 Group mw.e.f. 12 Augut 2011 in succession to Air Vice-Marshal G J Bagwell CBE who becomes Chief of Staff Jt Warfare Development ot PJHQ

Air Commodore G J Howard to be promoted Air Vice-Marshal and become ACDS Logistics Operations w.e.f. 27 May 2011 in successiojn to Maj General J S Mason MBE, RM

Air Commodore R Paterson OBE to lead work on military New Employment Model with immediate effect

Air Commodore N P Beet OBE has assumed post of Asst Chief of Staff Personnel Policy (RAF) on 4 April in succession to Air Commodore R Paterson

Air Commodore E J Stringer CBE to be Head Jt Capability w.e.f. 15 July in succession to Air Cdre S D Atha DSO

Air Commodore S C Evans to be Commandant of the Air Warfare Centre w.e.f. 8 July in succession to Air Cdre E J Stringer

Air Commodore T Winstanley became Asst Chief of Staff Trg HQ No 22 Group on 7 March 2011 in succession to Air Cdre R D Gammage who becomes Defence Technical Training Change Programme Integrated Project Team Leader

Group Captain G D A Parker OBE to be promoted Air Commodore and to be CO RAF Leuchars and Air Officer Scotland in succession to Air Cdre R J Atkinson ADC who is to attend RCDS


A Falklands veteran who was working on a clean water project in Libya, a Cardiff contracts manager and a couple of Yorkshire teachershas thanked the Royal Navy for their safe rescue.

Mike Wilson, 61, was among the 207 exhausted civilians delivered toMalta on Saturday by HMS Cumberland.

The former sailor from Stamshaw in Portsmouth, Hampshire made his wayfrom Brega in the desert south of Libya to meet the British warship inBenzaghi.
He said: "I can't speak highly enough of how we were treated and caredfor in getting out of Libya.

"It was a very dangerous situation which was escalating and all of usonboard were glad to be rescued."

Mr Wilson was working on the Great Man Made River project in the town ofBrega.Dozens of British workers have been involved in building a pipeline froma giant underground water source to the rest of Libya.

He said: "It's a really important programme for the people and it's areal shame that we have had to come out.But we were getting reports about looting and militias and it was bestto get out of there."

Mr Wilson travelled north by car past fighting factions in Libya, andspent more than 30 hours in HMS Cumberland as she crossed rough seas toMalta.

He said: "I served in HMS Broadsword which was a frigate that was in the1982 Falklands conflict.The seas in the South Atlantic are renowned for being choppy anddramatic but this was just the same as back then.

"We were in a small Junior Rates mess room and there were several peoplewho were ill.But it was fine given the situation we were leaving and we're veryhappy to be safe.

"We were in a compound of buildings back in the desert and we hadlooters trying to get in, armed with knives.

"It was potentially terrifying situation and it's sad for Libya, where I've been for three years."

Mr Wilson's son David is in the Royal Navy and serves on HMSIllustrious and his other son Mark is an army corporal based in Germany.

Richard Weeks, a64-year-old contracts manager from Sully near Cardiff, who had also beenworking on a clean water project, had been robbed at knifepoint..

The father of two said: "We were faced with looters rushing into theproperty where we were holed up and there was nothing we could do.It had been getting more risky for the ten days before and there was no
prospect of it easing.

"They were armed with knives and knew they could take what they wanted,so it was better to let them get on with it. It was a very sad and terrifying situation. I've lived between Cardiffand Benghazi for 20 years and the hope is that the country can return topeace soon."

The government sent HMS Cumberland to Benghazi to collect Britons andcivilians from more than 20 nations. RAF planes and commercial airlinershave rescued people from the north african country.

Mr Weeks said: "The Royal Navy has really impressed me during thisjourney. Space and resources were obviously limited but people were kindand considerate and we were kept warm and fed."

Cumberland's Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Dainton, said: "Ten daysago the ship was off the coast of Somali which shows how flexible we canbe."

Keith and Sue Rodgersare bound for Settle in North Yorkshire but said they werereluctant to leave Libya.

Mrs Rodgers, 54, who teaches primary pupils at the British School inBenghazi, said: "It was very surreal because we could hear gun fire butcould still pop to the shops to get items.

"It was in the last few days that the situation really worsened and we knew we had to go.We live in a normal apartment block in the city and had never had anytrouble before; the Libyan people are incredibly friendly.

"We don't know if we will go back yet, for the moment we will go backhome to Yorkshire."

HMS Cumberland is continuing to offer assistance in getting people outof Libya, and the Type 42 destroyer HMS York is also nearby to help ifrequired.

Editor's note : Both ships are destined for the scrap heap under recently announced defence cuts. But this proves that 19's not enough.


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.


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?


As the world rushed to the aid of earthquake stricken Haiti and large numbers of American ships gatehred offshore, there was a notable absentee.

Where was the Royal Navy?

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On the 23rd February Parliament set the maximum numbers of personnel to be maintained for service with the Armed Forces during the year ending 31st March 2011. The figures break down accordingly:

Service Regular Reserves Total
Royal Navy/Marines 42,550 19,205 61,755
Army 124,030 97,355 221,385
Royal Air Force 47,400 13,680 61,080

The total combined number of Armed Forces personnel expected to be in service during the financial year ending 2011 stands at 344,020.

A number of observations can be made from these figures. In terms of the regular Armed Forces, the combined total represents an extremely modest increase in personnel compared to the previous year. By 2011, it is anticipated that 213,980 regular personnel will be serving in the Armed Forces, compared with 212,430 in 2010.

By comparison, the number of reserves anticipated to be serving with the Armed Forces is much more alarming. The combined total of reserves anticipated to be in service for the year ending 2011 is 130,240. This figure represents a continuation of the decline of reserves since the beginning of the 21st Century. According to The Military Balance, the number of reserves within the Armed Forces throughout the decade was:

Year Total
2000 302,850
2001 247,100
2002 256,750
2003 272,550
2004 272,550
2005 272,550
2006 241,520
2007 199,280
2008 199,280
2009 199, 280

One of the key messages of Andrew Murrison MP's Sixty Second Soundbite is that the reserves have played a significant part in operations in the not-so-distant and will continue to do so in the future. Whilst the Ministry of Defence may dispute The Military Balance's figures, the declining number of reserves is likely to impact on the scope of all future operations, including the regular Armed Forces.

Andrew Murrison MP on the changing role for reservists and the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.


By Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord

We in Defence are stretched, certainly, but I think we are also delivering across all of our business. The Navy's immediate, unquestionable focus remains its long-standing commitment to supporting the Joint Campaign in Afghanistan. From last October to April this year, around 3,000 members of the Naval Service provided over 30% of the UK forces deployed to Helmand, including not only the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade and the Harrier jets of the Naval Strike Wing, but also Naval Air Squadron helicopters and significant numbers of logistic, engineering, medical and HQ staff. I pause to recognise the bravery of all those who have served and are serving in that Campaign. Indeed, as I speak, one of my sailors, Medical Assistant First Class Kate Nesbitt, is at Buckingham Palace to receive the Military Cross in recognition of her outstanding courage on the field of battle. I also pay tribute to those killed or injured in that fight, their selfless sacrifice and the courage of their families. The Navy's commitment to Afghanistan endures today with hundreds of individual sailors and marines in theatre supporting 11 Brigade. The future deployment of 40 Commando Royal Marines in 2010 as part of Operation HERRICK and of the remainder of 3 Commando Brigade planned during 2011 underscores the Navy's commitment to and engagement in this Campaign. Meanwhile, those elements of the Navy not in Afghanistan continue to undertake a vast range of other military tasks, providing the security needed to cover the UK's back while Defence focuses on Afghanistan. Naval ships, submarines, aircraft and personnel are currently deployed worldwide conducting national and multi-national operations which support the UK, promote its values and protect its interests and economic prosperity.

In the last 12 months alone, the range of tasks has been huge. Sailors and marines have been instrumental in intercepting major narcotic shipments in the Caribbean, off West Africa and in the Indian Ocean. Maritime security operations in the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea and off the Horn of Africa continue to intercept illegal activity and reassure legitimate users of the high seas, enabling global trade to continue unhindered by pirates, traffickers and other criminals. Importantly, that activity also protects the sea lanes along which logistic support to the fight in Afghanistan is supplied, and along which this island nation's food, energy and goods are imported and exported. Naval units are permanently deployed in the South Atlantic in support of the Government's responsibilities to protect the Falkland Islands and our interests in Antarctica.

Capacity building in the Gulf, particularly in Iraq, continues - as does intelligence support to operations and hydrographic activity across 3 oceans. At the same time, Royal Navy ships and aircraft continue to safeguard the integrity of UK Territorial Waters and Airspace, to provide counter terrorism support to the Home Office, to protect shipping, ports and offshore energy platforms, undertake inspection and enforcement action on behalf of the Marine and Fisheries Agency and conduct Search and Rescue operations around our coast. We are very busy on the Queen's business. Last, but far from least, the Royal Navy has for the last 40 years also been responsible for delivering the Nation's Nuclear Deterrent, arguably the ultimate guarantor of our country's security and sovereignty. While the UK remains nationally committed to retaining a Continuous At Sea Deterrent, the Royal Navy will continue to deliver it, 24/7, 365 days every year. Given that context, and the imminent Defence Review, my responsibility as a Defence Board member is to argue the case that the MoD's current prioritisation on the fight in Afghanistan should not lead to UK Armed Forces structured predominantly for a relatively narrow spectrum of land-locked, counter-insurgency operations and which lack the ability to conduct high-end war-fighting or indeed any of the vast array of operations in which the country's Armed Forces may be engaged in the future. Yet some have tried to argue that this is exactly the route we should be taking in Defence that all future conflict will involve lengthy stabilisation operations, measured in years, with an emphasis on land forces fighting low-tech enemy insurgents. I think that view ignores two things: firstly, the clear potential for future global inter-state conflict and secondly, the declining appetite politically, and within society, for interventionism. While the focus on Afghanistan, and the priority that has been placed on achieving a successful outcome is unquestionable, we have to appreciate that international frictions do persist elsewhere and the possibility of state-on-state conflict within the next 20 years (either directly involving the UK or, more likely, indirectly affecting our vital national interests) cannot, and must not, be ruled out.

This debate, as we all know, is taking place at a time of substantial resource challenges, both in the UK and elsewhere. Although we enjoy a very high level of public support for most of what we do, the financial realities are such that the UK is considering adjustments in Defence whilst at the same time the ability of our allies to share the burden of defending our common values may also reduce.

That creates an obvious tension, and any Defence strategy, whatever assumptions underpin it, must reconcile the competing demands of policy and resource. "Common values" are another important point of context. If we are to ensure that the UK's Armed Forces are used as effectively as possible to meet the security and defence challenges of today and tomorrow, we need to focus on values. We need a common understanding, across Government and with our coalition partners and allies of what the UK stands for and how the country's Armed Forces can and will be used to promote those values while also protecting our interests. An articulation of our national values can find its expression in foreign and security policy ambitions. These should in turn drive the strategy which shapes the Armed Forces' contribution to the defence and security of the Nation, at an affordable scale, in the most cost-effective and agile manner. This suggests that economic policy should take its place alongside foreign and security policy as a driver of the UK's strategy for Defence. I'm optimistic that the Defence Review promised by both the Government and the Opposition, provided it can remain pitched at the strategic level, should help us to get there - and I am committed to working with my fellow Service Chiefs and the Government to ensure that we do. Let me be absolutely clear about one thing. Success in Afghanistan however that success comes to be defined as the Campaign progresses - is vital to our national credibility and, hence, our national security. The Secretary of State in September espoused a policy of Afghanistan First, in which he made clear that it should be the Main Effort for Defence; this is a welcome development which builds on the Army's achievement, in last year getting operations there onto a true Campaign footing for the first time.

I fully support this new emphasis on Afghanistan, not least because, as I have explained, very many of my sailors and marines are fully engaged in the fight there, alongside Air Force and Army comrades. Importantly, and in contrast to the tone of resigned exasperation that seems to characterise so much press coverage of the Campaign, when I speak with those from all 3 Services who have returned from or who are still serving in Afghanistan, I am struck by their commitment to the mission, their unshakeable belief in what they are doing and the progress they are making. However, as I have stated, Afghanistan is not the only game in town, either now or in the future. As a member of the Defence Board, I am duty-bound to take a longer-term, strategic view of the challenges to the security and Defence of our Nation.

I am obliged to think Beyond Afghanistan. Beyond Afghanistan in terms of looking today at security challenges emanating from elsewhere in the world. And Beyond Afghanistan in terms of looking at the sort of threats and challenges we may be facing long after the fighting in Afghanistan has been consigned to history. We have to guard against Afghanistan becoming the template for a future UK Defence structure that can do nothing but more Afghanistans. The range of threats to UK interests is greater than that. I say that because we live in an unpredictable world characterised by a rapid, often confounding, rate of change. This inevitably has an impact on the UK. Britain is an island nation, dependent on the free movement of maritime trade and highly reliant on the stability and security of the globalised world. The UK has worldwide interests and responsibilities; it benefits from being a hub for global activity and is an influential member of the UN Security Council Permanent 5, the G20, NATO and the EU. The UK is also responsible for the security of 14 overseas territories and its population is increasingly multi-ethnic, with a large number of UK nationals living abroad. Our national prosperity and freedoms are increasingly vulnerable to events across the globe and therefore UK domestic security, and the protection of our vital national interests, cannot be separated from the security and stability of the international system upon which we rely. The UK's National Security Strategy, updated in July, reminds us that the UK's prosperity and national wealth are founded upon, and continue to be enhanced by, our outward-facing participation in the global trading system. When it comes to thinking about and planning for the security challenges of tomorrow from a strategic perspective you might agree with an analysis that suggests that while an existential threat to the UK is pretty unlikely, this country's involvement in conflict somewhere on the planet is a distinct possibility. The proliferation of small wars as state and non-state actors jostle for their place in the new order of things, and the reliance of our economy on investment and trade across the international community, make this a reasonable assumption. Governments not directly involved in these smaller conflicts will as ever have to decide to what extent their national interests are engaged by them and decide on the extent they wish to respond militarily. That in turn depends on the military capability at their disposal. As always, the military needs to be configured to give maximum political freedom of choice to Government. Whether the military is used in a given situation is a matter for Government. How the military is used is also a matter for Government, taking advice from the Chiefs but how the military is configured is very much the business of the Chiefs. When you think about it, what the Government really wants from Defence is the efficient delivery of one of the levers of national power military force in a way that maximises political freedom of choice.

I think that has always been the case, but the need to preserve political choice has been thrown into sharper relief by the experience of recent campaigns. In terms of maximising choice, I am a firm believer that prevention of conflict is always better than cure. A proactive policy of conflict prevention, using all the levers of national power but placing conventional military capabilities at its heart, should be central to our national efforts to defend the international system and the UK's place within it. This is a strategy that offers the Government choices in deciding how best to prevent conflict, while retaining the option of resort to combat force in the event that this proves necessary. An effective conflict prevention strategy calls for a range of activities, including diplomatic and economic action, which can simultaneously persuade, dissuade and if necessary deter a potential aggressor, in order to prevent the escalation of situations into conflict. Those activities do, however, ultimately depend on military capabilities to enable them or back them up. For us in the military, conflict prevention strategies encompass non-kinetic activities such as capacity building, wider regional engagement, reassurance, the ability to conduct Non Combatant Evacuation Operations as we did in the Lebanon in 2006, the provision of humanitarian relief, and military-to-military cooperation and training. All of these military activities enable security threats to be tackled early and facilitate the promotion and protection of UK national interests globally.

Importantly, it is not solely about influencing potential aggressors. It's also about reassuring friends and developing alliances. This is vital for effective coalition security operations because although forces can surge when necessary to respond to crises, trust and co-operation with allies cannot be surged. It is particularly in this regard that the UK's Armed Forces can be the standard-bearers for this nation and its values.
However, the ability to influence is also dependent on maintaining a capable and credible military which can operate in support of a wider Government strategy. If non-kinetic activity to contain or deter others is to be effective, it must be underpinned by the existence and proven success of credible, conventional military forces, capable of wielding a big stick and a willingness, if necessary, for Government to compel others to act in a desired manner.

It is precisely because the effective prevention of conflict in the future depends upon the continued credibility of our armed forces that the success of UK Armed Forces in the Afghanistan campaign is so important.
And what contribution can you expect from Maritime Forces? Appropriately structured, trained and resourced maritime forces afford the Government a highly cost-effective, military means by which political and diplomatic influence can be leveraged to prevent conflict.

When necessary, they can also apply decisive combat force in support of national objectives. The ships and submarines that guarantee the freedom of the seas also exploit those freedoms for strategic and operational effect, free from the constraints of host nation support or the need for access, basing and over-flight permissions from other countries.

Warships are incredibly versatile and can deploy for many months with a small logistic foot-print and very controllable political overheads. A single ship can do everything from diplomatic engagement, the delivery of humanitarian aid, capacity-building by training other forces, containment and coercion through embargo operations and the delivery of decisive combat power onto the land. A balanced maritime force can deliver amphibious forces, Carrier Strike, Naval Gun Fire and submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. That last bit the ability to strike with precision really matters. The case for conflict prevention activity is strong, but there can be no guarantees that it will be successful in every case.

As I said a moment ago, in the event that prevention activity fails, military forces with credible war-fighting capabilities will be required to coerce or confront a potential aggressor in order to limit or contain the conflict. In extremis, they may be called upon to intervene militarily, using their war-fighting capabilities to defeat the aggressor. Where force has to be used, it must be used precisely.

Maritime Forces can do all of this, and operate on land as they are in Afghanistan at sea and in the air. So, while Afghanistan is rightly the Main Effort, it should not be regarded as the Only Effort. The range of threats to UK interests is greater than that. In these challenging times, we will need to retain armed forces that are versatile and adaptable, flexible and resilient across the full spectrum of operations, from conflict prevention to high-end war-fighting and back again, at range, from the UK.

Forces that possess these attributes will best equip Defence for its vital role in supporting Government in the future. Such forces can offer real policy choice to the Government in deciding whether and how to engage with others, how to respond to developing threats and crises while minimising entanglement and how best to protect the UK's national interests and promote its values in the wider world, Beyond Afghanistan.

Edited version of  a speech deklivered at Chatham House 27 November 2009


By Gisela Stuart MP


"Ma'am, the explosive event is to take place in 30 minutes." That was my wake-up call from Sub Lieutenant Robert Frost. It was 5.30 in the morning and we were on board the mine hunter HMS Grimsby in the Persian Gulf. The "explosive event" was an object representing a mine being disposed of as part of a clearing exercise.

For me it was day four of a tour organised by the Royal Navy for the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.

This was set up to give members of the Commons and the Lords first-hand experience of the armed forces. Having decided whether to join the Army, the Navy, the Air Force or the Marines, we have to pass a fitness test, are issued with the appropriate uniform, given the honorary rank of a major or, in the case of the Navy, a lieutenant commander, before being sent off to spend 22 days with our soldiers.

The initial security briefing includes advice on what to do if taken hostage. Be careful what you say, don't panic and, when you get rescued by your own side, don't be surprised if they manhandle you. They'll handcuff everyone first and establish who is friend or foe later.

Makes sense, but it was useful to have it spelled out.

We started in Bahrain. It's a mistake to think that all the Gulf States are the same. Bahrain, unlike its neighbours, is mostly Shia, is less dependent on oil and does its best to move towards a parliamentary democracy. And it knows that, without outside support, Iran could make the kind of historic claim on Bahrain which Iraq made on Kuwait. The first briefing covers the region's strategic importance and the UK and other nations' military presence. Our role has increased significantly since 2001 and, geographically, Commodore Lowe covers an immense area spanning from the Red Sea to the west coast of India and as far north as the Arabian Gulf.

Operations in the Gulf are complex. There are more than 30 navies operating in the region, plus task forces from the EU and Nato and conversations brim with abbreviations, acronyms and curious words such as "deconflicting" - which I think means that those who are on the same side should try not to get in each other's way.

We are here to keep sea lines of communication open, to counter terroristrelated activities, such as narcotics, alcohol and people-smuggling - all of which to some degree fund terrorist activities - and we play our part in the Global Maritime Partnership On Counter Piracy. The UK is a maritime trading nation and much of our oil and gas comes from this part of the world.

If things go wrong here, it won't be long before we'd notice it on our streets and in our shops.

We are picked up by HMS Kent. Launched in 1998, she cost 140 million to build and 14-16 million a year to run. She carries an array of weapons, from Harpoon anti-ship missiles, to Stingray torpedoes and vertical launched Seawolf anti-air missiles, as well as a helicopter.

Almost 200 officers and ratings are on board and I'm sure finding bunks for five visitors wasn't easy. It is hot and I mean hot. The water temperature is around 32C, but at least air-conditioning makes things easier on board. These ships were designed for anti-submarine warfare and intended to sail in cold Atlantic waters.

There are some Royal Marines on board - a reminder that the Navy isn't just about sailors and the sea. The Navy plays its role on land, sea and air.

HMS Kent's tasks are to participate in defence diplomacy, support the joint maritime operations, and provide an airborne asset, as well as supporting wider British interests.

Some British interests in the region are more obvious than others. If the Straights of Hormuz are blocked, the entire world's trade will suffer.

Piracy is back and it's big business. Modern container ships are huge and there are only about 600 of them. Capturing one means a huge bounty for the pirates, usually big ransom payments by some company or other and increased insurance premiums for all of us.

International law is difficult to enforce. Bringing the pirates to justice is far from easy and the solution to the problem has to be found in Somalia and not the high seas.

And then there is human trafficking, counter narcotic patrols and providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

A small sea boat takes us from the HMS Kent to Royal Fleet Auxiliary Lyme Bay. I now understand what they mean by floating platforms. Lyme Bay, a class of ship which replaced the Sir Galahad Class, can carry military forces of up to 356 Royal Marines and all they need, as well as vehicles, battle tanks and, above all, fuel. These are massive floating petrol stations. Access to the ship is either by helicopter, the extending side ramp or via a floodable stern dock. Think of a James Bond film and you get the picture.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary [RFA] is outside the navy, but provides capabilities which can be deployed where and when they're needed.

On Lyme Bay we talk to reservists. Many of them are coming up to their limit of 18 months' service in a three year period. The armed forces rely on them more than was anticipated. A fair number are signing up full time. They've got the taste for active service and it's a secure job.

HMS Grimsby is a mine hunter which can fight back if it needs to, but its main function is defensive. It works with local communities but first and foremost they look for mines and dispose of them.

After the Iraq war mine hunters cleared an area off the coast, which allowed the local fishermen to go out and earn a living, and brought down insurance rates for oil tankers, which in turn affects the price of oil for all of us. The process is painstaking and slow, relying on modern technology, but in the end the job is done by experienced divers and explosive experts.

Some of the officers we met started as submariners and have served on Trident nuclear boats.

Talking to them reminded me that the essence of Trident is the reliability and precision of its delivery mechanism.

Once the decision to launch has been made, there is nothing to stop it. So it's much more than just the price you have to pay to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The journey back to Bahrain in an US Desert Hawk helicopter is a neat illustration of the way we share capabilities! After four days in the Gulf  I've seen first hand that there is nothing optional about us having a Navy. It's essential to the protection and defence of our national interests - military as well as trade.

None of the political parties should forget this. Talk of saving money by cutting back on aircraft carriers is not just misguided, but it's dangerous. We are an island, and we must have a properly equipped Navy.

Gisela Stuart is Labour MP for Edgbaston, a member of the foreign affairs committee and chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International and Transatlantic Security.

Andrew Miller MP on the Royal Navy and Sea Cadets
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Extracts from a submission for the Strategic Defence and Security Review by Oliver Covile MP. Mr Colvile is MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport and chairs the Royal Marines group within the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review is being conducted in the context of a much wider public expenditure review. Public expenditure needs to fall as a proportion of national income to stabilise the public finances and to reduce the crowding out effects that public spending has on private sector economic activity.

Nevertheless, this paper argues for establishing the priority given to defence spending within public spending and national income as a whole.

The previous Labour Government's Green Paper (February 2010) assumed that defence should be planned within the current level of spending or less. I believe that this assumption needs to be explicitly abandoned by the Coalition Government. Defence of the Realm and its interests are a fundamental duty of any Government and a core belief amongst Conservatives.

Defence spending within overall public spending and national income

While it was right to reduce defence spending as a share of GDP after the end of the Cold War from around 5 per cent of GDP, the peace dividend sought in the early 1990s was too great.

The Options for Change White Paper went too far in reducing defence spending in relation to the international risks UK has to recognise and prepare to meet in terms of properly funded defence capabilities.

Having reduced the share of GDP devoted to defence to less than 3 per cent, defence spending after 1997 was subject to a further squeeze that pushed it slightly below 2.5 per cent of GDP in the mid 2000s, despite increased spending resulting from extensive overseas operations.

In my judgement this is an unrealistic basis for defence and foreign policy planning. Historically it is a very low level indeed, apparently lower than the previously lowest recorded proportion of national income spent on defence in 1930 when it was 2.6 per cent.

Not only has defence spending fallen as a share of national income but also as a proportion of total government expenditure. The ONS study in 2009 on public sector output productivity between 1997 and 2007 among other things exemplifies how public expenditure priorities have been changed.

The weight given to defence within General Government Expenditure by sector weight, fell from 15.1 per cent to 11 per cent. What this shows is that during a period when there was increased international risk and with more than two major protracted operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, at a time when public spending was rising rapidly, the priority given to defence was reduced.

In my judgment this priority need to be reversed. It is not a question of affordability but priority within public spending.
The proportion of public expenditure devoted to defence should return to a position that is at least comparable to that in 1997. I believe that the ratio of GDP spent on defence should return to a more realistic level closer to 3 per cent of GDP.

The principle issue about the level of defence spending is not one of affordability, but rather one of deciding political priorities.

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China, South Korea, Australia and Russia are all investing heavily in amphibious capability right now. So why is ours under threat?

The great strategist Basil Lidell-Hart once said that a self contained and sea based amphibious force is the best kind of fire extinguisher because of its flexibility, reliability, logistic simplicity and relative economy. Is that still true?

Currently the UK maintains 2 formations which have historically constituted the conventional element of our Response Force: 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade. The critical difference between these formations lies in the way they deploy to a theatre of battle / influence, the former by air and the latter by amphibious shipping. Traditionally the argument has been that a nation seeking to have global influence must maintain both. However, as financial pressures compel the Armed Forces to economise and assess ambition, it seems increasingly unlikely that a Response Force consisting of 2 Brigades is either plausible or necessary.

There are three options; keep both, amalgamate them, or scrap one or the other. The UK armed forces will be operating in a post-Afghanistan/Iraq era where the political, social and military appetite for conducting enduring stabilisation operations in the way they have been conducted - will be significantly reduced. The 'selected option' would have to be resourced fully. Specialist Brigades need specialist equipment, people and training. This analysis considers what capability the UK needs from its Response Force, demonstrating via the components of fighting power that the Royal marines provides the UK with the best, single Brigade option and that resources are already in place.

Read more...  

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