Monday, 20 May 2024
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

     |      View our Twitter page at     |     
UK defence procurement

Underneath is the executive summary taken from the recently published Gray Report on MoD acquisition, and part of the response of the Secretary of State for Defence.

Procurement and support of military equipment consumes around 40% of annual defence cash expenditure and is of immense importance to the nation. The dedication of a wide group of individuals in attempting to deliver a complex programme of future capabilities while supporting our Armed Forces in current combat was apparent to the Review team throughout this work. The Department's commitment to improvement in acquisition is genuine and progress in some areas has been significant.

Read more...  

A senior and much respected UK Conservative figure recently set out some of the criteria which will underpin that party's defence and national security policy, including their proposed defence review (SDR). Delivered under the Chatham House rule, some of the key points are worth reporting for the light they throw on some of the detailed thinking that is being carried out by some thinkers in the Party. The proposals have not been formally included in Conservative Party policy but they should be.

Read more...  

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.


The Government believes that we need to take action to safeguard our national security at home and abroad. We also recognise that we need to do much more to ensure that our Armed Forces have the support they need, and that veterans and their families are treated with the dignity that they deserve.

Read more...  

Today the UK Treasury announced that two projects were being suspended pending urgent review.

1. Successor deterrent extension to concept phase long lead items 66 million. Its future will be included in the Trident value for money review.

2. The biggie - the joint MoD/Department of Transport Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter, announced with some fanfare a few months back. Cost (lifetime cost?) 4676 million from MoD, 2338 million from Department for Transport. This single project makes up the bulk of the 8 billion suspensions. Its review is said to be a matter of urgency.

Read more...  

By Thomas French

As the wrangling begins in the Britain's new coalition government over the depth and breadth of the necessary cuts to the troubled public purse, amongst the 'big ticket items' often cited as a possible victims are the two new UK aircraft carriers.

Read more...  

By Great North News Services staff reporter

The UK MoD has just placed a 303,500 contract for around 20,000 Model 4B NATO standard compasses with Silva Limited, a 10 person company in Livingston, West Lothian. Previously made in Scotland, compasses of this sort now come from Sweden.

The West Lothian Question is of course, why does the MoD need all these compasses all of a sudden? And have they paid a reasonable price to the single supplier with whom they negotiated a deal?

Read more...  

Almost from the beginning, the elephant on the flight deck has been the aircraft. And this commentator has been muttering for years to anyone who will listen get the hulls in the water, whatever. And nothing much has changed, except the growing certainty that something will have to give under the Treasury's financial cosh.

So maybe a little recapitulation is in order. The vast proportion of the world's population lives within 200 miles of the littoral. So the application of airpower in the absence of friendly bases, available at the point of need, continues to require the aircraft carrier.

In the 1960's CVA, a new generation UK aircraft carrier, was spiked by the dark arts of the RAF (some talk of them shifting Australia 1000 miles closer to Britain) and H M Treasury. Nevertheless, some smart thinking by the Royal Navy and British aeronautical inventiveness saw the "through deck cruiser" for "anti submarine operations in the North Atlantic" turning into a fleet of 3 mini-carriers bearing harriers. Still in service, they enabled the Falklands to be reclaimed by the longest distance ever amphibious operation almost entirely unsupported by land based aircraft.

Fast forward to the nineties. Carrier based air power having proven itself repeatedly, the Strategic Defence Review of the then-new Labour government came down firmly for expeditionary warfare capability and a new generation of carriers. These were to be of an adaptable design capable of accommodating cats and traps if needs be. There was a brief flowering of interest by the French in the design, and real money even changed hands.

The Iraq War and Afghanistan reinforced the carrier case. The CVF rumbled onwards. A Thales design was put into an arranged marriage with BAE Systems' manufacturing colossus. 2 billion was given to the cousins for a place at the top table of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. For which a goodly divided may be received in good time. It is said that the aircraft options are reviewed annually. But those on the sideline still raise an eyebrow at the STOVL version, yoked to the U S Marines Corps. Their lobbying power is legendary but in terms of the mission and possibly the unit cost the US Navy version is surely superior.

Then there is this observer's hobbyhorse. Those 232 Eurofighters. Second best dogfighter in the world to be sure, fearsome with BVRAAM Meteor. But 232. Come on. We understand all about treaties and tying down the Germans. So what about a bit of lateral thinking? We're stuck with tem. We're even looking at mud moving. How much would BAE Systems have to be bunged to marinise them? Probably a lot less than JSF as yet unpaid for, and in pounds rather than dollars too.

A previous UK Defence Forum paper has shown that the power to weight ratio exceeds that of the Harrier. So taking off across a ski jump, especially one at the end of the flight deck as long as the Palace of Westminster sounds feasible. Indeed, there are rumours of trials of just such a concept at a private northern airfield. And Eurofighter has a vestigial tail hook already. Sure it wouldn't be cheap in absolute terms within the treaty Class of 232 rather than something new is surely worth sacrificing a notional first day of the war capability for. Especially when we could only conceivably fight an enemy where such capabilities were required in concert with the USA. And where our submarine launched stand off missiles have already shown we can do our bit in that regard during previous unpleasantness's.

Mr Darling, Mr Osborne and even in his dreams Dr Cable are no doubt whetting their knives for the carrier programme. But there are fringe benefits they shouldn't neglect. There's a huge amount of manufacturing work - already more than 700 million of contracts have been flagged - and none of it is subject to European competition rules. It's a mini-quantitative easing that helps the regions but pales into insignificance in the face of 200 billion of bond purchases to boost the City of London.

Some would say the Royal Navy has acted like a chump in sacrificing swathes of the surface fleet to keep the carriers in the programme - with still no guarantee that they'll get them. Surely the hit to have taken was always on their cost, and hence the details of the spec. What's wrong with a couple of "bird farms" when you have a brace of T45 cruisers in each task group? The battle can be commanded from there rather than from the biggest target in the pack (their control centre being bigger and more capable than the existing carriers), and if the unthinkable were to happen a chopper could pop the admiral onto a carbon copy within minutes.

The Prince of Wales as a replacement for HMS Ocean? In extremis, go for it. They can work miracles in the UK's refit yards when the dosh is available and better sense prevails.

Ah for the good old days. We want eight and we won't wait. The two we were promised would be a start. Then a couple more T45s and a decent class of FSCs. Britannia might not rule the waves unaided any more, but we should be able to put on a decent show of flying the flag!

Editor's Note : the opinions expressed in the article are not those of Willie Rennie MP

{qtube vid:=kj0VPCtaBIs w:=280 h:=233 b:=0 ap:=0 rel:=0}
Willie Rennie MP on the need for Carriers


By Nick Paterson

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are not the latest or greatest scientific development to explode onto the technological battlefield in modern times.  On the contrary, UAVs have been around for some 50 years and flew missions during both the Korean and the Vietnam Wars.  They have also routinely been used to provide electronic intelligence, communications intelligence, and bomb damage assessment: cheaper and safer than manned aircraft.

Read more...  

By Dr Jeffrey Bradford, Director of  Research, U K Defence Forum

Pity UK defence. In the grand scheme of political priorities - across the spectrum - the defence enterprise sits squarely in fourth place (at best) behind social security, health care and education. All politicians wish to be seen looking strong and striding the world stage in exotic locales surrounded by a professional military and a willing press entourage. They will the ends, but do they will the means?

If only the pressure placed on the health service procurement budget were given the same level of scrutiny by the Treasury, NAO and media. The incoming Labour Government of 1997 conducted a highly praised foreign policy led Strategic Defence Review. One of the principal outputs was reform of the defence procurement system known as 'smart procurement' - echoing the Olympic ideals of smaller, faster, better (and obviously cheaper).

Read more...  

By Ian Godden, Secretary to the DIC and Chairman of A|D|S - the UK's Aerospace, Defence and Security trade organisation

The UK defence industry welcomes the publication of the report and the Government statements, and is strongly behind initiatives to reform defence procurement.  However, it also notes the issues around budgets, delays and cost over-runs.  In the industry's view these are caused by pressure on defence budgets from central Government.  Despite the National Audit Office finding that 75 per cent of defence projects are on time and on budget as the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) budget is squeezed it has to delay projects and this also increases their costs.

Read more...  

By Simon Roberts, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

On 10th August Quentin Davies, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, spoke with BBC Radio from Helmand Province, Afghanistan where he was visiting troops on operations. Predictably the questions all focused on the recent media reports of a lack of equipment for troops on the front line and whether this was a cause for the increased loss of lives over the past few months.

Read more...  

By Roger Jeffries

Checkmate if deployed in the ocean choke points, the littorals, and/or sensitive waters, can provide precise information on the location and movement of a targeted vessels, (particularly submarines) capital ships and even drug running or terrorist high speed vessels. It could be used for surveillance, overt or covert, pre positioned mining, offensive or defensive, or even as the bedrock for a tsunami warning system. In an offensive role it can interdict sea movement.

Read more...  

By Ian Godden

Various commentators and service chiefs are arguing over whether the UK needs large defence equipment, such as aircraft carriers, or more troops and support equipment. However, the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) believes that this is a risky distraction, brought about by the fact that defence has been underfunded, and that defence is about to be short-changed again.

Read more...  

by Olivier Grouille

The FCS Manned Ground Vehicle Common Chassis, now abandoned following Robert Gates' latest defence spending review Olivier Grouille is Head of Land Operations and Capabilities Programme at RUSI. In this article he considers the state of the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) after the recent announcement by the UK Secretary of State for Defence postponing and re-prioritising the programme.

In November 2008, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton, announced the postponement of the Utility Variant (UV), the intended first batch of vehicles to be procured as part of the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) programme, a

Read more...  

Elayne Jude of Great North News Services reports on the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon John Hutton MP, in session with the House of Commons Defence Select Committee:


It's difficult to find a critic of Urgent Operational Requirements; Defence Select Committee Chairman James Arbuthnot described them as 'the new black'.

But aren't they, he asks, rather an expensive way to get kit into theatre ?

Read more...  

By our research staff

Today there was a debate in the House of Commons on defence procurement. The briefing for Members comprised the following sources, all of which is in the public domain:

Newspaper articles

(Many of these have been featured in DEFENCENET Daily, and are posted in the U K Defence Forum archive including the links to websites)

Read more...  

Dr Robert Crowcroft

The Strategic Defence Review process is underway, and already the signs are ominous for the UK and its role in the world. It is clear that the outcome will see the UK's military capabilities significantly, and probably permanently, diminished. It is an 'East of Suez' moment, a watershed. The Armed Forces will either have to undertake a radically different range of missions or, if the outcome of the SDR is a fudge whereby choices are avoided, the UK's military will be overexposed in future crises perhaps disastrously so. What's worse is that there appears to be little clarity of thinking in Government about the general international strategy of the UK. Before policymakers work out how many soldiers, ships, and aeroplanes we need, they need to decide what world, or regional, role London will seek.

Read more...  

By Adam Lyons

At a time when economic constraints are unleashed across broad areas of public spending, it is right that defence should receive its share of the pain. However, during a time of conflict in Afghanistan, it is essential that defence should not bear the brunt of the cuts that are to come, as continued operations have added unforeseen, but necessary strain to the defence budget. Neither should the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review be overwhelmingly influenced by that conflict. Afghanistan is a current priority. Consequently there is a danger that this will result in an overwhelming focus upon counter-insurgency operations, to the detriment of future operational effectiveness. Where, and in what form future conflicts shall take, cannot be accurately predicted. It is vital, therefore, that the United Kingdom's armed forces should remain effective, whilst becoming increasingly economical. To abscond from its world role and relegate itself from the league of true blue-water military powers, for mere short-term savings, would be devastating for British security and global influence. The maintenance of a modern, technological force is becoming increasingly expensive to the point where elements have become unaffordable. As coalition warfare has become the norm, some capabilities and assets can be dispensed with. A complete overhaul of the defence procurement budget is also needed to make it more affordable and effective. Yet, significant investment in air, land and sea projects must be continued to meet the unforeseen challenges of the future.

Read more...  


Driven by globalisation, the world is rapidly and irreversibly changing. So too is the character of conflict: the Cold War is emphatically in the past. However, Defence has not changed apace. It must therefore transform in order to remain relevant and thus continue to secure UK national interests. The Army has conducted a detailed study, drawing on lessons from contemporary operations and the deductions from Defence's thorough examination of the Future Character of Conflict. Based on this, we have designed a relevant, adaptable and cost effective Future Force, which will continue to evolve as the demands of operations change over time and is designed to meet future threats and challenges. This work is known as Transformational Army Structures (TAS). The key word is transformational; the Army will continue to evolve.

Whilst TAS focuses on the Army's deployable component, the broader study encompasses all elements of the Force, including the Territorial Army, our Reserves and those which support the deployable component from 'the home base'. Furthermore, it is fully integrated with a number of other detailed studies focused on Equipment, Doctrine, Infrastructure and Personnel. This note focuses on the deployable structure, that which we must protect.

Read more...  

Latest from the Ministry of Defence

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Defence Viewpoints website. However, if you would like to, you can modify your browser so that it notifies you when cookies are sent to it or you can refuse cookies altogether. You can also delete cookies that have already been set. You may wish to visit which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers. Please note that you will lose some features and functionality on this website if you choose to disable cookies. For example, you may not be able to link into our Twitter feed, which gives up to the minute perspectives on defence and security matters.