“Crude and Bonkers” Armchair Generals?

Although this blog’s colleagues are not “crude and bonkers”, “financially illiterate” armchair generals, but rather air force and navy pilots, warship and aircraft designers, and financial analysts, they have understood his message.  The Secretary of State for Defence does not wish to have their advice.

Accordingly, this blog will not today attempt to advise him, but will instead pose some questions on subjects of concern, these being [1] the new aircraft carriers, [2] the aircraft the Defence Secretary wishes to operate from them, and [3] the coordinated IED-ambush tactic expected to remain for both ground troops and civilian populations the principal threat in insurgencies.  Readers may wish to forward some of the questions to their MPs.

2 future carriers

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales

1.   What is the Defence Secretary’s assessment of the vulnerability of the new carriers if they are deployed in hostile waters.  Have the dangers posed by the weapons listed here been evaluated?

(a)   Supersonic (and soon hypersonic) anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) with semi-armour-piercing high-explosive (SAPHE) or large diameter high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warheads.

(b)   Short and medium-range anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM).

(c)   Torpedoes.  (As the Defence Secretary may have been advised, the carriers appear to have no side protective systems.)

(d)   Mines.  (The carriers appear to be designed with a simple inner bottom giving almost no protection to under-keel threats.)

2.   What tests were completed on the carriers’ Rolled Homogeneous Armour (RHA) plate ability to defeat the kinetic energy of a supersonic ASCM (similar to that of an 11 inch to 14 inch shell)?  These tests would have been completed long before the Defence Secretary took office, but was he shown the results?

3.   What confidence does the Defence Secretary have in the carriers’ protection against HEAT warheads, bearing in mind the HEAT penetration of RHA by 3 to 6 times its own diameter?  (A single HEAT hit could be catastrophic and he will remember how HMS Hood exploded despite the pre-war warnings about the lethality of the kriegsmarine’s biggest guns.)

4.   Although everyone recognises the ASTER 15/30 capability against incoming missiles, what is its performance against crossing targets such as the missiles aimed at the carrier the Type 45 Destroyer is there to defend?  (The Probability of Kill (Pk) against incoming missiles is said to be around 0.97, which if true is very good indeed, but against crossing targets the accusation of a suicidal 0.15 Pk appears not yet to have been refuted with contrary data.)  What is the truth?

5.   In the decisions to minimise crew size in our warships (“efficiency savings”?), what allowances were made for the need to replace battle-damaged equipment with humans when the action begins?  (All-singing-all-dancing computerised machinery is financially economic and very sexy, but when hits are taken our warships need hands, which is why they are so-called.) We have noted political boasts of the intimidating size of the carriers (although around only half the size of the latest US carriers) and we have been asked if, in view of the tactical impotence of their aircraft, we shall exploit their size by ramming enemy coastlines (preferably, it has been suggested, with Captain Blair in the crow’s-nest and Captain Brown as the figurehead).

F-35B Vertical Landing

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) ‘jump-jet’ F-35B

1.   What is the Defence Secretary’s assessment of the F-35B’s vulnerability in combat?  As its weight problems have reduced its performance, and the solution to the recently discovered bulkhead cracks may lead to further weight increases, have the ‘g’ limits been reduced again?  Specifically, what for this allegedly ‘fifth generation’ fighter are the ‘g’ limits compared with those of the ‘fourth generation’ Russian Su-35 available for sale to other countries?

2.   What are the top speed and service ceiling of the F-35B in comparison with the top speed and service ceiling of the Su-35?  Yes, scary, isn’t it?  And the third element in the fighter pilot’s holy trinity is … ?

3.   Range!  Range is the third element.  (The first edition of the Joint Operational Requirements Document – the JORD – asked for the F-35B a combat radius of 464 nautical miles, but the associated data were so imprecise that USN representatives in the Pentagon thought it should be reduced to 386 nm – which they believed achievable.)  What has the Defence Secretary been told is the combat radius of the Royal Navy’s F-35B when flown by squadron pilots (not manufacturer’s test pilots) on a high-low-high profile with 15 minutes over the target and a return to the carrier with adequate fuel reserves?

4.   In defence of the purchase of the F-35B it has been suggested that what is good enough for the United States Marine Corps ought to be good enough for the Royal Navy.  Has the Defence Secretary been informed that the USMC has exchanged some of its ordered jump-jets for the longer range F-35C carrier version of the JSF, that when operating the F-35Bs it will eventually buy, the carrier will provide ‘buddy refuelling’ to extend their combat radius and to reduce the amount of reserve fuel the Royal Navy F-35Bs must save, and that the intended USMC and RN operations are too dissimilar to be compared?

5.   Has the Defence Secretary been briefed that –

(a)   – when flown in “stealth” mode the F-35B’s bombs cannot be heavier than 500lbs (insufficient to destroy, for example, a standard target such as a typical railway bridge)?

(b)   – current problems with the “stealth” anti-radar coating restrict the JSFs to one flight in two days?  (“Stealth” is the successor to the ‘swing-wing’ or ‘variable geometry’ aircraft as a concept of value only to the manufacturers – not to the operators.)

(c)    – the proposed complement of 12 F-35Bs per carrier is insufficient to operate a combat air patrol (CAP) to defend the carrier from ASCM-carrying attack aircraft, leaving no aircraft available for the strike missions (‘Carrier Strike’) for which this absurdly expensive combination has been assembled?

(d)   – no one in the MoD knows what the F-35B operation will cost the UK, and neither does anyone at the Pentagon, and nor does anyone at Lockheed Martin?  (How, then, can the famous ‘black hole’ have been filled, when no one knows the figures?)

(e)   – who advised the Defence Secretary that ‘Deep Strike’ (or ‘Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability’) would be possible with the F-35B?  (See this blog dated September 24th.)  If the carrier stands so far off-shore it has a fair chance of not being hit by shore-based ASCMs, will its aircraft (if the CAP is abandoned) have the range to reach a target and return to the carrier?  And if the F-35Bs are launched as strike aircraft from the carrier, will they survive air-to-air combat with a ‘fourth generation’ aircraft?  (The answer to that, of course, is probably not, and if they meet a ‘fifth generation’ fighter they will have no chance at all, having neither escape speed, nor height, nor agility — and the vaunted “stealth”, if it truly exists, is neither all-aspect nor all-wavelength.)

Well, that is enough for starters.  These questions are intended to publicise the reality that a group of independent and objective designers and fighter pilots (not “crude and bonkers”, “financially illiterate” armchair generals) have recognised that the carriers and the F-35B aircraft chosen to operate from them are too vulnerable to give ‘Carrier Strike’ any credibility. The Secretary of State for Defence will have heard the common claim that the magnificent electronics (computers and sensors) of the F-35B will allow the pilots to know exactly where and when they will die but, of course, this will only be after all the lines of computer code have been written, and that is many years away – which he may not have been told.  The priority question he must now ask is about the SAPHE and HEAT tests against the carriers’ armour, the RHA.

Taylorcraft Auster Mk1

‘Buddy Cover’ for troops facing IED-ambush threats

More than half the British casualties in Helmand arose from IEDs and/or sniper fire which could have been deterred or detected or destroyed before the troops were hit.  Against such threats the US Army in Vietnam used small military aircraft ( SMAs) such as the  O-1 to accompany, at low level, foot patrols and road convoys.  The British did the same in post-colonial conflicts, in Korea and in WWII, with British Austers and American Pipers and Stinsons.  However, despite a long campaign to persuade the MoD to provide ‘Buddy Cover’ with SMAs (and to protect perimeters such as that at Camp Bastion, successfully penetrated later by the Taliban), this low-cost, economic defence was consistently rejected for demonstrably fatuous reasons.

1.   Why were the recommendations presented by the MoD’s own professional experts, the Boscombe Down test pilots, for the use of the Dragoon SMAs in the role of the earlier and now obsolescent Austers rejected and their evaluation report suppressed?

2.   Why were the proposals presented by the MoD’s own professional experts, the Advanced Research & Assessment Group (ARAG) analysts rejected without any trials.

3.   Why was the request for Dragoon SMAs made by the recently retired Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) vetoed by a Permanent Under Secretary who could not understand the principles involved and who was unqualified for her job as the head of the MoD?

4.   How many lives, limbs and senses were lost in IED-sniper coordinated ambushes that if not initially deterred would have been detected and destroyed by SMAs?  How much will the damage to mental health arising from these ambushes cost the UK?

5.   Why are the Afghan Forces being left without simple and economic air assets capable of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), resupply, casualty evacuation, ‘Buddy Cover’, perimeter patrol and border patrol, despite the ARAG proposals presented consistently since 2007?

Obviously, these questions would not have been asked if we had not known the answers, but this blog asks them anyway because there is some doubt about whether the Secretary of State for Defence appreciates the importance of the questions and  has been briefed on the answers.

Postscript dated 25 October 2013

The MoD has today said of the penetration of Camp Bastion’s perimeter defences, the two US Marines then killed in action, and the loss of six Harriers destroyed and two seriously damaged, that –

“Following the incident we contributed fully to a number of US and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) reviews as well as carrying out our own thorough investigations.  These processes were undertaken to assure the force protection of ISAF personnel and equipment and to prevent a similar attack happening again.

“As such, the UK’s consideration of the US review was primarily focused on whether any new material had been brought to light that would warrant additional UK action. We have now considered the US review findings in detail and are confident that we have identified all significant lessons and acted upon them.  Consequently, we are content with our earlier assessment that no further UK action is required.

ARAG consistently emphasised the danger to Camp Bastion and Kandahar perimeters from 2007 and recommended, in line with the Boscombe Down evaluation report, the economic use of Dragoon SMAs by day and night.  What, we wonder, has the MoD done with the ARAG papers?  What does the MoD intend to do with those papers now they have been validated?  How thorough are “thoroughinvestigations in the MoD?


An American colleague writing in a private email today has contributed this –

Basically an ASCM warhead attacking the British carriers will have to penetrate multiple decks or bulkheads in order either  to mass detonate stored ammo or to cause the hull to sink or capsize.  So the question is not just the RHA but the array of decks and bulkheads. The flight and hangar decks have to be about 30mm and 20mm respectively in thickness in order to withstand aircraft wheel loads when landing or parked. This is not armor.  Most decks/bulkheads will be 7-10mm.  It requires about 30mm of steel to defeat most fragments.  It requires about 325mm of steel to defeat a SAPHE warhead on a missile at Mach 2 plus.  It requires about 1,400mm of conventional steel to defeat a first generation ASCM’s HEAT warhead …. and double that for the current state of the art design.  Obviously, on the battlefield modern tanks use advanced armor which is more effective then steel.  Relative to the required weight per square metre these are perhaps 3-7 times as effective as steel …. but this is against darts or smaller diameter HEAT warheads.  I do not believe anyone has studied defeating big warheads.  As a matter of fact, the US can no longer manufacture ballistic steel armor thicker then about 100mm.  My guess is that the British carriers will have fragment protection, but not ballistic protection designed to defeat penetrating warheads.  (By the way, the issue for the ASTER 30 is not just Pk against crossing targets …. but a very limited engagement envelope owed to the limited kinematics of the missile.)


For the 2012 archives visit forbesblog.dailymail.co.uk

From a Correspondent: Breakfast with the MoD

Among the readers here will be many of those who last year realised that much of this blog’s material has been supplied to me by recently retired members of the Armed Forces and even by middle-ranking civil servants still inside the MoD.  Usually, after deleting the rants, I select only what I think useful and necessary, but today I am reproducing a report in its entirety.  It is alleged to have been submitted with an expense account, although I am not sure I believe that.

It was late when I arrived at the B&B, but there was a kettle with a teabag in my room and I eventually found a cup in the bedside cupboard bottom drawer, and then my tiredness hit me and I was asleep as soon as I dropped onto the bed.  In the morning the shower worked but the water was tepid, yet the soap packaging had a name I knew to be expensive, so at least the management was trying.

Breakfast was the real beginning of my education.  Salisbury Plain is still very much MoD-land, and this was very much the sort of B&B one expects of a lodging managed by Whitehall, especially when the staff is rumoured to be on detachment from Main Building.  I sat at the only table and looked at the menu, beautifully printed, obviously designed by one of the hundreds of talented and expensive PR men the MoD employs, and spoiled only, I thought uncharitably, by its grammar and spelling.  But that was not important, and I was hungry.

After waiting for rather a long time, or so it seemed, I left to find evidence of human occupation somewhere and eventually stumbled into the kitchen to discover a cook wrestling with a large and complicated food mixer.  I explained that I was in a hurry and should be grateful for tea, toast and scrambled eggs.

“Ah,” he said, in a voice I recognised from my dealings with MoD over the years.  “Sorry, no eggs, and although we do have bread, somewhere, we lost our toaster as an efficiency saving.  I can do you some caviar, and I’m plucking one of the turkeys, and we’ve got some Christmas pudding.  There’s no tea now, for when they cancelled the biscuits they decided we didn’t need any more tea bags during working hours, but there’s some champagne left in the fridge.  Of course, if you’re in a hurry, and if you’re really sure you want breakfast, I’ll get you a croissant from next door.  We share our resources with the French now, and if that’s not enough I can probably get you some sauerkraut later, if you’re not too fussy.  European Defence Force, you know.  That’s the future.  More economic, they say.”

I looked around the kitchen. It was clean but, fairly obviously, not used in a regular or systematic way.  There were seven pans, all of the same size, but as there was no frying pan my scrambled eggs would have been a non-starter even if there had been any eggs.  I checked the refrigerator, a top-of-the-line and very expensive European model, made, I suspected, in four different countries and assembled in Lancashire, but it was empty apart from about a dozen pots of caviar and a half-full bottle of an inexpensive champagne.  The oven was from the same multi-role manufacturer, but when I checked its controls no lights appeared.

“What’s wrong with this?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing, really.  We didn’t plug it into the electricity because we were promised an Aga and with an Aga we won’t need an oven.”  Then, responding to my congratulatory smile, he continued, “Problem is: I have to be trained and all the instructors were made redundant in the last cuts because all the new Aga ovens are oil-fired and we can’t afford the oil any more, so that’s okay, really, I think, or anyway that’s what they told me. ‘It’s to protect the bonus,’ they said.”

“So how do you cook?” I asked. “I mean, that food mixer won’t cook, will it?  And although I’m no expert, it looks to me as though it won’t even work.”

“Work?” he said, in wonder.  “Of course it won’t work.  I’ve been waiting for spare parts for months.  It’s just for show, really.  We all know that.  Like a soap on the telly, it’s all illusion.  Nothing here actually works.  We can’t afford for it to work … electricity’s too expensive … so we blame the lack of spare parts.”

“But doesn’t that upset you?” I asked.  “I mean, you’ve obviously nothing to do.”  And then I added mischievously, “Or are you just waiting for your redundancy money to come through?”

“Oh, no,” he said.  “There’s no redundancy for me.  Too many ahead of me in the queue.  Now to fill the spaces opening up I have to change to being a Warrior driver, or something like that.  Anyway, that’s all in the future, and no one really seems to know what’s happening.  And in any case I have to do Shrivenham first.”

Shrivenham?  That made no sense.  The staff colleges are at Shrivenham, and only officers attend them, not kitchen hands, not even cooks.

“Shrivenham?” I said.  

“Yes,” he replied.  “I have to pass the Equality & Diversity Course before my next posting.  Should be fun.”

So I left him for my appointment, breakfastless.

Perhaps the title I chose should have been NOT Breakfast with the MoD.

For the 2012 archives visit forbesblog.dailymail.co.uk

Do you truly understand your Prime Minister?


“Do you understand your Prime Minister?” the General asked me.  “Have you seen the news from BAE Systems?  It’s a picture of his new peaceship.  The First Sea Lord says it’s designed for ‘humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world’, but just look at it.  It’s not built for the North Atlantic, not with that hull it ain’t (look at the flare), but it’s painted North Atlantic grey to make it look stealthy.  Very fashionable, stealth.  If it’s to run around the world doing good as the SDSR tells us, the Prime Minister will want people to see it, won’t he?  So it shouldn’t be coloured for stealth – it should be painted vividly in highly saturated fluorescent red, white and blue.”

Type 26 GCS Peaceship 

“Yes,” I said, “but this is the Type 26, the new Global Combat Ship.  It’s going to be in combat against pirates and drug runners.  That’s why it’s grey.  Not exactly stealth, but ‘low observability’.  Look, it has a gun.”

“A gun!” he said.  “You call that a gun?  When I was a toddler I had a cowboy suit with a bigger gun than that.  Matelots used to know how to cover their rear, but they can’t here with that, can they?  A Somali in a skiff with an RPG could approach from astern and sink it.”

“Yes, if it could get near enough to use an RPG, but there’s a helicopter to look after the rear.”  But only one, I thought, and that might be a Merlin even if they plan on an updated Lynx.  And how often would a Merlin be serviceable in 2020?

“Six years ago, in the Gulf, HMS Cornwall had a chopper but it couldn’t even defend the cabin boy’s iPod.  D’you see there are no rails?  A rough sea swamping the deck and stealth will be destroyed by a trail of sailors washed overboard.  No davits for the lifeboats. No lifeboats.  I can see only two cells for launching missiles – perhaps there are more astern – but it really doesn’t look like a warship, does it?  It’ s a peaceship. What’s it actually for?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “They plan on it coming into service in 2020, so …”

“2020!” he interrupted.  “It’s a BAE Systems contract commissioned by the MoD, for heaven’s sake.  And it’s for the Royal Navy, which is still governed by tradition.  That means it will be vastly over budget, too expensive to fully equip, and years late, years late.  We’ve been sending ships to sea without their missiles ever since that lunatic Brown decided missiles were unnecessary so long as our ships were actually capable of putting to sea with missiles if they had any, so having no missiles because we have no money is the tradition we must now follow.  (The current Deputy Prime Minister is pushing that as the new Naval doctrine.  He even says the Vanguard submarines should go to sea without their Trident missiles!  It’s called LibDem Duality.  That means having a deterrent that can’t deter.)  Forget 2020.  That date was chosen for PR reasons because the first new carrier is due to go to sea then – without aircraft, of course, because we can’t afford the ones for which it was designed, and those will be tactically useless anyway.”

“Well, it’s not really that bad,” I said.  “When the peaceship does eventually come into service, it will be basically a new type of frigate.  Our admirals insist on having a destroyer-frigate navy.  That’s what they understand.  They can cope with aircraft carriers, but they don’t really like them.”

“Yes, you’re right,” he said, “and that’s the problem.  A destroyer-frigate navy.  The frigates are there to defend against submarines, and the destroyers against air attacks, but the submarines the frigates once fought successfully were diesel-powered.  They can’t fight nuclear subs.  Only other nuclear subs can do that.  Helicopters could sometimes, perhaps, but I doubt it for the future.  The destroyers might do point defence against some incoming missiles, but not against crossing targets, and not against the existing supersonic surface-skimming cruise missiles heading for the carrier – and by 2020 new hypersonic anti-ship missiles will have put this Type 26 Global Combat Ship out of business, and the carriers, too, of course.”

“Perhaps you have a point,” I admitted.

“I’ll tell you what’s behind this,” he said.  “By the target date of 2020 the carriers, even if they are ready, won’t have the strike aircraft their designers intended, and they will be far too vulnerable to put to sea in a war.  But they will have hospitals and helicopters and large kitchens they call galleys, and hangars full of Red Cross and Red Crescent parcels, so that they can run around the world ‘doing good’ in crisis areas, droughts, tsunamis and earthquakes.  The same goes for the new Type 26 GCS alias frigates, which also will be far too vulnerable to expose to actual warfare.  It’s all in the subtext of the SDSR.  And why?”

“Search me,” I said.  “I don’t understand my Prime Minister either.”

“It’s his ‘Soft Power’ theory,” he said.  “Someone told him of the ‘fleet-in-being’ doctrines developed by Lord Torrington and Admiral Mahan that allowed the Royal Navy to rule the seven seas while staying safe in port, and then he coupled those to Brown’s lunacies about it being sufficient to have unarmed ships so long as they are capable of being armed, and then he realised that if the Royal Navy remained unarmed and also stayed in port the MoD would be able to reduce its personnel by half.  So this ‘Soft Power‘ idea was initially about saving money to fund the International Aid budget he had ringfenced.  It’s the same strategy he’s used with education.  If there are to be no grammar schools it’s not possible to educate modern youth, and if you can’t educate modern youth you don’t need to spend the money trying.  I know that doesn’t work, but neither did he until he tried it.”

“Hold on,” I said.  “That’s absurd.”

“Of course it’s absurd,” he said.  “You know that and I know that, but he doesn’t.  Now watch the Army.  It’s fighting wars with inferior equipment and as its morale drops the lads queue up to leave and ancient regiments cannot find new recruits.  So then he disbands the regiments because they’re undermanned, and suddenly we find we have an army which is no longer an army, just a collection of 82,000 extremely unhappy men and women with capability consistent with ‘Soft Power’.  We can’t fight a war with an army of only 82,000.  It’s not possible.  And we can’t fight anything with ‘Soft Power’.”

“What about the RAF, then?” I asked.

“He followed his predecessors and took orders from Brussels.  We had to agree to buy 250 Eurofighter Typhoons.  That was twenty-odd years ago.  We now plan to have in 2017 only 107 of them and they will cost us three times what we were told would be the price.  To pay for them we first took a complete and fully operational attack wing of Jaguars offline and scrapped them, and more recently we decommissioned all our Harriers (and then, not having any Harriers to fly from the through-deck cruisers he decommissioned those too and scrapped them).  Now we are told that these wonderful Typhoons won’t do the job the Jaguars did because they cannot integrate their computer software with the weaponry software.  That’s why the Typhoons attacking Libya needed Tornados to fly alongside them to aim their bombs for them.”

“Yes,” I said.  “I knew that.”

But as we had only eight pilots capable of flying those Typhoons, it was all a nonsense anyway.  Having the Tornados fly all the way from Norfolk each day in order to help the Typhoons work as simple bombtrucks must be the most bizarrely uneconomic arrangement in RAF history, and it was all done in an attempt to hide the stupidity of decommissioning the Harriers and scrapping HMS Ark Royal.  And then, after all this unnecessary expense, and after the failure to hide from the world the Typhoon’s inadequate ground attack capability, the operation was claimed to be a huge success that justified the SDSR decisions.  What cynics call spin, older judgement describes as blatant dishonesty.

It is dispiriting to think back to the Second World War when in 1940, still suffering from the lack of preparation, we could yet launch, just, enough fighters each day to defend us against very large fleets of well-escorted bombers, and then later to when we could send, each night, raids of a thousand bombers flown by a thousand pilots to attack the enemy factories, and then to appreciate that there were only eight pilots to fly the RAF’s shiny new frontline fighter-bombers against Libya.

And the cost of all this?  When a representative of the MoD told the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons that the Typhoons were costing only £72 million each, one of the committee members told him that if we divided the full programme cost by the 107 Typhoons we would have accumulated by 2017, then we were paying £186 million each.  Ah, yes, but for that figure, he was told, it was necessary to include the cost of research and development.  One wonders who he thought was to pay for that.  The tooth fairy or the taxpayers?

This fundamental incompetence in the interpretation of the numbers pushed around in the MoD has been well illustrated with the decommissioning of the Harriers and their sale to the US Marine Corps, with which they are planned to remain in use for several years, and for even longer if the F-35B, their theoretical replacement, fails so badly that even the White House must recognise it.  No one knows how much the F-35B will cost the Royal Navy, nor even how many will be bought, but the price will not be less than £125 million each.  This means that the sum received by the MoD for the sale of 72 Harriers plus spares plus support equipment, £110 million, is less than the currently forecast price the MoD will pay for one F-35B, one single F-35B without spares, in whose performance independent aviation defence analysts have no faith, absolutely no faith at all.

“You know what I think,” said the General.  “I think it started with the Typhoon and the scrapping of the Jaguar attack wing.  That was in the same continuum that is planned to end with the Armed Forces cut to the bone and unable to fight a war alone for British interests.  Our frontline ships will be too vulnerable and too few to fight, the RAF won’t have sufficient aircraft or pilots to operate, and the Army won’t have sufficient men to field a brigade for an overseas campaign.  That is the ‘Soft Power’ that can be provided for pennies so that the pounds can be spent on International Aid.”  He paused to pour the remainder of the Glenlivet into his glass while I recalled the Jaguar stupidity.  In 2004, the MoD decided to retire the ground attack Jaguar aircraft early (although it was eventually delayed until mid-2007) and to spend £119 million to install ground attack upgrades on early Typhoons to cover the resulting capability gap.  The MoD thus took offline a fully operational attack wing, long before its life was over (the Indian Air Force is to continue flying upgraded Jaguars for another twenty years), in order to fund an overdue aircraft it could not afford, and then made that overdue aircraft even more unaffordable by upgrading it at great expense to do the work of the proven and splendidly efficient operational aircraft taken offline to help fund the newcomer that was supposedly replacing it.

“Think of the continuum as a flexible hose,” the General continued.  “At one end, before the Berlin Wall came down and our lords and masters were burbling on about imaginary ‘peace dividends’, we had Armed Forces that could defend our national interests.  Now we do not.  One end of the hose was in Westminster back in 1990, and the other end is in Brussels in 2020 when the ‘Soft Power’ will ooze into the EuroForce to become its ‘Soft Power’ element – to operate peaceships, air ambulances, and stretcher bearers.”

He emptied his glass and turned it down.

“Sic transit gloria mundi,” he said. 


For the 2012 archives visit forbesblog.dailymail.co.uk