Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Another Prick Amongst Them All

I recently treated myself to a new record deck and amongst the pleasures of listening to old vinyl recordings, the oldest is circa 1964, I came across Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and that got me thinking all that has actually got worse since the albums cutting satire on Thatcherdom is an ever more hermaphrodite political class in London, now so totally inbred and narcissistic they don't know, in the immortal words of Terry Pratchet's Commander Vimes, "Arse from biscuit time".

This brings me to inchoate bam who is currently Minister for Defence until the next round of May's musical ministerial chairs around the 14th of January. His name does not matter as he is just another "here today - gone tomorrow" Tory Defence Secretary. The seriously idiotic case he made for Brexit was the UK could have overseas military bases again, so the sun would no longer set on his Tory post Brexit, imperial delusion.

"Just dwell a marching pace on that", as the old "bootnecks" would say.*

In 1982 John Knott, another "here today - gone tomorrow" Tory Defence Secretary, decided the UK could not afford to continue with its deep ocean navy strategy and by getting rid of three carriers (two on their last legs and the other brand new), all the County class destroyers and Leander class frigates he could save a lot of money. His big idea was that the Army could be airlifted into action by the RAF so why have this deep ocean naval capacity?

The first problem with that one was the Army logistics were set up to supply the then Army of the Rhine by sea if the Reds came through the "gap" or if they came via Norway. In 1982 the RAF did not have the lift capacity nor did they have access to the Galaxy super lift aircraft that were in service by the second Gulf War. In the first Gulf War the 8th Armoured Brigade went by sea as did most of the heavy lift logistics at the time of the Second Gulf War or Kosovo. You get the picture?

OK, we know how Mr Knott's Baldrickian cunning plan went, the Argentinians invaded the Falklands and suddenly the RN had to bring ships and fleet auxiliaries out of mothballs and un mothball some ships, like Hermes, which were nominally already sold to India or Australia or Chile. Even with frigates designed in the late 1940's pressed into service it was a close run thing to get all the ships, with deep ocean capability, Mr Knott didn't think the UK Armed Forces needed, to make a fist of getting the Falklands back.

In 1982 the RN had 110 deep ocean capable surface vessels, two squadrons of nuclear hunter killers and one squadron of conventional submarines. As of today the RN is down to one amphibious carrier, HMS Ocean, the two "Brown job" carriers that will have no planes until at least 2024 on the current rate of F35 development and delivery to non-US allies.

Why you may or may not ask?

Well ..... because another "here today - gone tomorrow" Tory Defence minister in 2010 sold off the recently upgraded  avionics and weaponed RN / RAF Gr8 Harrier fleet to the US Marines for not much more than their scrap value, plus all the spares the US Marine Corps could carry. The upgrade had been carried out to extend the Harrier fleet's effective service life to 2025. He is the same bloke who cancelled the Nimrod replacement, leaving the UK unable to fulfil its NATO commitments to provide airborne maritime surveillance, a move that has seriously pissed off the Norwegians who have had to take up the slack. This may explain why the Norwegians do not want a Tory lead UK Government anywhere near EFTA.

As we start 2019 the latest mono synaptic Tory defence minister is talking about reviving the glory years by having overseas bases once more. There is a large problem with this. The biggest being the Tories have so cut the UK Armed Forces they do not have the additional manpower to get him his morning tea, boiled egg and soldiers let alone reestablishing a base in Singapore or Hong Kong or where ever else he thinks Brexit UK will be welcome.

The RN can either run the new super-duper "Brown job" carrier at sea or have a serviceable frigate and destroyer squadron. The RN does not have the manpower available (it is 10,000 short of complement) to do anything else except by laying up the amphibious troop carrier, HMS Ocean . Currently it has just sufficient numbers of frigates for anti-submarine protection and Type 45 air defence destroyers to defend the new carrier. The RN could maybe manage a hunter killer submarine or two as a screen - that is if any of the Astute class are actually serviceable and not undergoing yet another period of emergency maintenance.

I will not labour the point any further, as it must be increasingly evident - without going into further detail on the Army and Air Force's problems with manpower shortages, lack of equipment - excetera - there is no capability within the current UK Armed Forces to man or maintain any overseas base, let alone the additional costs of such bases on the MoD budget. In the early 1960's, yet another "here today - gone tomorrow" Tory Defence Minister, Mr Sandys, decided to close all UK bases east of Suez because of the excessive cost on the UK Exchequer.

So there we have it, the current Minister for Defence is just "Another Prick Amongst them All " to roughly paraphrase Pink Floyd.

* "Bootneck" an RN term of affection for the Royal Marines, honest ... nothing to do with them having compulsory frontal lobotomies to get into Lympstone in the first place, no siree ...

1 comment:

  1. You haven't even mentioned the possibility of Scottish independence making a "10%" hole in the RN. The two carriers and submarine force badly distorts the force mix, adding up to nearly 300,000 tons out of 500,000 of fighting ships. Scottish negotiators could start out asking for 50,000 tons, which is around 25% of the remaining 200,000 tons.