A Draft for the PM’s Tuesday Speech

The draft of a speech seemingly prepared for the Prime Minister at her direction has been leaked (although not necessarily at her direction) to the editor.  It forces a completely new assessment of what she wishes to achieve, and a new admiration for her vision and courage, two virtues far exceeding those of her opponents in this country and in Brussels.  Her insistence on rejecting the parochial politics of Brexit for the global politics in which the restructuring of the European Union is only one part — alongside fifty million refugees and Africa’s legitimate ambitions — will place her opponents at serious disadvantage.

DRAFT Speech

The eager anticipation expressed by so many wishing to learn the details of our strategic approach to Brexit is, really, most encouraging, reflecting, as it surely does, widespread enthusiasm for the new opportunities it brings us both for expanded trade globally and, no less important, the necessary improvements in national security.  I intend today to set these opportunities out very briefly and in context.

Context is important and, I fear, the true Brexit context is easily overlooked by too many.  Brexit may appear important to Europeans, but this does not mean it will be considered so in isolation from the World.  Matters of a global importance will affect us all, eventually, much more than will Brexit.

Of these the most serious by far is the unsolved problem of the fifty or sixty million people displaced from their homes and having too many children for the resources available.  Many countries make small contributions to the alleviation of their misery, but who is producing the solution to it?  If we project the World refugee population forward for only a few years we can quickly see it to be a catastrophic trend, catastrophic for the refugees and catastrophic, too, for the remainder of the World’s steadily expanding population as it is crushed in the rush for resources.

Allied with this problem and part of it is the African continent, and this, too, is a European matter.  Millions there will join the flow, already well established, northward towards Europe.  They are coming for our technology, to learn our skills, and to return home to use them. Regrettably, once here they often prefer to stay, and their home countries stay poor.  Their passage may be blocked temporarily in Libya, if the EU pays Libya appropriately, but we have seen already how these migrants spread out around the Mediterranean to find alternative entry points, and Libya is now encumbered by a civil war between rival governments supported intermittently by rival groups of militias and criminal gangs.

No Brexit plans will make any sense at all unless the reconstruction they require of the EU recognises these two neglected problems, Asian refugees and African migrants, and caters for them while attending to the dangers of Libya following the path of Syria.  I shall return to this.

Our United Kingdom

But first What, in the context of what I have just described, is the British attitude to Brexit?  It can be summarised easily.  The United Kingdom wishes to retain its access to the Single Market, to recover control of its frontiers, and to repatriate its lawmaking, all while remaining the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend.

I shall repeat that.  We seek to remain the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend.

To demonstrate what I mean by loyal alliance and firm friendship we shall give to the EU a major asset for which its leaders yearn but cannot find a means to acquire, and as a new Global Britain we shall lead a world-wide, tariff-free trade expansion.

And for the removal of any doubt I shall answer this question.  What is this United Kingdom of which I am spokesman and which has these aims?  It is a Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and within its boundaries there are Highlanders and Lowlanders, Yorkists and Lancastrians, Ulstermen and Cornishmen, Anglians and Brummies, Scouses and Geordies, all of whom are British and, with all their countrymen, disinclined to suffer frustration when they have decided what they want.

Any who believe the Brexit vote can be frustrated by separatist movements should examine the damage done to Scotland by extremist sentiment.  I am frequently told that Scotland voted to remain in the EU, but Scotland did not vote.  Scotland had no vote.   Scotland as a country is a physical reality, and as ancestral history it is a spiritual reality, but extended into some anthropomorphic fantasy it does not acquire the franchise.   The reality is that a majority of those Scottish residents listed on the electoral roll who went to the polls and voted did indeed express their wish to remain in the EU, but that offers no guide to the future.  The economic situation in Scotland is now in flux, and any future independence poll that I might authorise will respect the powerful sentiment of Scottish ancestry, and be extended to include, in addition to all UK residents, all who justifiably boast of pride in their Scottish traditions and their British history wherever in the World they reside.

Europe’s Mediterranean Sea

The freedom Brexit brings to the United Kingdom will open our horizons to immense opportunities and to new ways to work with the other European states for the benefit of all.  We believe in free trade, and as a leader in its promotion I foresee us working very closely with the EU on the development of the European economy.  But this is only the obvious Brexit benefit everyone can see.

The less obvious is the route to a new rationalisation of European Defence in the light of the more recent analyses of the threats and the existing dangers.  NATO will remain the principal safeguard with respect to territorial ambitions arising in the east, because it provides the structure to keep the United States as close as possible, and it ties the United Kingdom into a European alliance, but as it is unreasonable to expect the United States to fund the protection of Europe’s Mediterranean flank against migrants in the numbers currently expected, and against the millions of refugees forecast for the future, the United Kingdom will lead the new Mediterranean-based European Alliance.

The Mediterranean is a European Sea, historically controlled by the Royal Navy with the support of France and Italy, and its future control, so important in the face of the future threats we all recognise, will be based primarily on a new carrier fleet operating around the British aircraft carriers.  However, the provision of an active defence is insufficient.  The fundamental nature of the two threats we face, large numbers of impoverished and malnourished humans with small numbers among them whose intentions may deserve less sympathy, requires proactive measures.

Libya, the country through which a substantial proportion of the current flows seek to pass, is the fourth largest in Africa and has a population of less than seven million.  Its fertile littoral can be expanded southward with the nourishing waters already tapped from beneath the desert sands and available in great lakes feeding the pipes Gadaffi had the foresight to lay for his “Great Man-Made River”.   Unfortunately, the system has suffered serious damage during the Libyan conflicts, but this can be repaired and must be repaired, for here is a destination, starting with 5,000 square miles leased by the UN or the EU from a newly pacified and united Libyan government, for the many millions who could be shipped in during the coming decades.  As a secular protectorate under the care of the European Alliance, financed by oil, gas and international investment, with a credible guarantee of security, it could prosper as did Carthage, and as did the early Arab conquest when Islam spread westwards.

Libya is currently in serious trouble, and nothing is to be gained by pretending otherwise.  It threatens to follow the path blazed by Syria, yet need not do so if the UN, NATO, EU and, as the leader of the European Alliance, the UK, are willing, jointly, to impose peace with the aid of investment finance and, where necessary, maximum force.

The Libyan Protectorate

The migration northward of ambitious Africans could be controlled once this magnet was in place and functioning as a serious industrial centre, and as this would facilitate cooperation with those governments which had encouraged the emigration in search of the expertise needed at home, there would then be opportunities for an intellectual recolonisation of Africa with European direction of the investment necessary to unlock the continent’s underground riches.

The great nineteenth century expansion of British industry was based on the opportunities offered by an empire of trade and underground wealth.  This will now be repeated for the alliance of the EU, UK and the cooperating European states directing the investment flows into the Libyan Protectorate and the sub-Saharan states.  All cooperating governments will gain from this partnership.

But what I propose is, I must emphasise, based on peace and security.  In the Mediterranean this means a strong naval presence, and although some EU members can offer a few ships for specific operations, the EU itself has no naval assets and no naval command experience to impress African governments and Chinese investors.  I propose that the United Kingdom will provide these.

The two aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy were designed for wars quite different from those that might possibly be fought today, and are far too vulnerable to modern ballistic missiles to be risked in a serious conflict with another major power.  Moreover, the strike aircraft intended for use with them are far too short in range for use in a major war.  (Their acquisition has been, and doubtless would continue to be, more controversial than any in our history, but we need not be drawn into arguments about their capabilities other than to note that their range, about which there is no argument, is too short to be of practical use for the Royal Navy.)  Accordingly, I am instructing the Ministry of Defence to cancel these strike aircraft and to supply costings for the conversion of these two warships into Disaster-Relief Ships, assets the World has needed for many decades.  The necessary finance will be supplied from our International Aid budget.

As Disaster-Relief Ships they will carry Chinook helicopters, Osprey VTOL transport aircraft, and small Dolphin utility/liaison aircraft.  Their galleys will be capable of producing many thousands of meals per day, and a water purification plant will cater for the most common shortage in disaster scenarios.  There will be an extensive medical/surgical department with high-tech operating theatres and hundreds of beds.  One of the two ships will always be on duty in the Mediterranean, acting as the Command Centre of the screen protecting Libya, and combatting illegal immigration and piracy, while the other, when not in refit, will cruise in the tropics’ earthquake belt.

The two ships will be supplied to the EU for use by the European Alliance, with positioning crews found by the Royal Navy, on what is effectively a renewable twelve-year wet-lease.  (They will fly the EU standard at the bow and the White Ensign at the stern.)  When needed, the operational crews, whose members will be drawn from many different European countries, will be flown in from all directions to a disaster area’s nearest airports, and then will transfer to the ships by Ospreys or Chinooks.

I said that we would remain the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend, and that we would seek to share the opportunities our freedom would create.  These opportunities will be in Africa, which we shall help with the technology its peoples come to Europe to find, our friendship with the EU will be symbolised by the EU disaster-relief ships, and in the European Alliance partnership the UK, the EU and the independent European countries will expand tariff-free trade with the British Commonwealth countries, the North American countries, and all others seeking to advance peace and prosperity.

Editor’s comment:  

We shall not know until Tuesday whether the PM will use this draft, or whether she will use any part of it, but we hope she will at least insist that the UK will remain undivided and intent on continuing as the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend.  An aircraft carrier has not been a useful war weapon for many years now; the weapon is the carrier fleet, and even the US is beginning to have doubts about the viability of theirs.  The UK cannot afford to put to sea a complete and fully manned, fully armed carrier fleet, and will not in 2020 be able to protect its carriers against the known 2020 missile and submarine threats.

The draft’s comments on the Joint Strike Fighter version the UK is buying, the F-35B, are a very modest criticism.  In this blog it has been categorised as a golden turkey which cannot climb, cannot turn, cannot fight, cannot run, and cannot be afforded.  However, while all this will be denied, the PM has used only the killer argument:  the F-35B has no legs.  There can be no denial for this.  The sales brochure range figure bears no relationship to the actual performance figures the planners and pilots must use on operations at sea in adverse weather conditions and with no air-refuelling capability.        

With the wet-lease cost paid from the International Aid budget, there will be a useful contribution to the Defence budget each year, a Defence budget already boosted significantly by the cancellation of the redundant F-35B, and these supplements will help pay for the aircraft the RAF really needs. and for the personnel the Royal Navy must have to compensate for those so foolishly discarded during the recent ill-planned redundancy programmes. 

Malevolence and Negligence

Despite the understandable hopes of his family and legion of supporters, observers more removed from the Sergeant Blackman tragedy did not expect a favourable decision from yesterday’s bail application.  The arguments presented in court were sound in law, indeed many would judge them unanswerable, but the Blackman case has been driven to its present stage not by law but by administrative mandate, and it is shaped by a bureaucratic malevolence against which no one can fight.  Any who doubt this malevolence should read the analysis of the JAG’s Sentencing Remarks in Chapter Three of The Betrayal of Sergeant Blackman (available inexpensively from Amazon).

One of the principal arguments advanced by his supporters is that the cumulative stress imposed by the repetitive patrols in which he and his men acted as Taliban-bait led to a temporary mental breakdown.  In presenting the terrible reality of this, a situation to whose truth Sergeant Blackman’s commanding officer was prevented from testifying at his Court Martial, the absence of air cover was a crucial consideration, and that avoidable absence was owed to MoD negligence, a conscious and deliberate negligence. The cause of this negligence was explained by emailed letter from one of our colleagues to Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, dated 7th December, but it has received no answer, not even an acknowledgement of its receipt, perhaps because it was blocked in his back office.  Accordingly, the full text of that letter is reproduced here.

Dear Secretary of State,

Your announcement (as reported by the Daily Mail) that injured troops will no longer have to sue for more compensation will be widely welcomed, and you deserve the profound thanks of many who have sought over the years to have these men and women treated fairly, but were you advised by the MoD clerks that this concession will substantially reduce the possibilities of the MoD being sued for negligence?  Doubtless it may do so in those cases in which victims, persuaded of the value of a half-loaf, fear that an adverse decision in court might be used to cast doubts on the validity of what has already been agreed, but where the negligence is clear, where it is inexcusable negligence in the somnolent surroundings of Whitehall, and not an error in the heat of far-flung battle, the MoD must be seen to remain fully accountable.

The newspaper predicted that on that day (1st December) you would “announce a 12-week consultation” on the new proposals.  One must hope that the terms of reference will have sufficient width to include the probable consequences of victims of IED-ambushes suing the MoD on the grounds of Whitehall’s criminal negligence, for among these may be a flood of claims based on the absence of close air cover (“Buddy Cover”) for foot patrols sent out through the wire as Taliban-bait.  It may be that only fear of the hostile publicity triggered by those claims, and the large awards the courts are certain to make, will force the MoD to recognise the immense damage inflicted on the Armed Forces by bureaucratic whims, and then to ensure that for COIN foot patrols there will be no repetition of the careless waste of lives and limbs suffered in Basra and Helmand.  COIN conflict has not ended for the British Army with the retreat from Helmand and the downsizing of the infantry, for IEDs may yet become common in Western Europe and even within the British Isles.  Mumbai has shown us the future and the MoD, as you must know, is unprepared for it. 

My letter of 20th July drew your attention to the three principal deficiencies, fundamental weaknesses, underlying our failures in Basra and Helmand – competence, morale and honesty – and shortcomings in two of these, competence and honesty, have contributed to the negligence responsible for the loss of scores of lives and limbs.  The paper attached to that letter described how for the early stages of the Helmand campaign the MoD’s direction was in the hands of three hopelessly unqualified bureaucrats, a financial director with no financial qualifications, a policy director responsible for Afghanistan who had never served in the Armed Forces, and a PUS similarly innocent of any military history and whose background was principally in welfare and pensions (although she was very successful, one must admit, in the expensive promotion of equality and diversity during a period when equipment budgets were so heavily squeezed that troops in the frontline were short of essential equipment).

Obviously, this triumvirate, for whom the Senior Civil Service had sanctified supreme power, had no idea how, for example, Helmand should be treated either at the strategic or operational level, but in respect of the negligence directly responsible for the deaths and mutilations delivered in the IED-ambushes, their ignorance of basic tactical experience was material.  The warrior’s triad of Sword, Shield, Support’ was dismissed.  The ‘Sword’ was thought good enough and, although not the best, to fight the Taliban it usually was sufficient; the ‘Support’ was usually inadequate, and reports of this from the frontline were treated with morale-sapping carelessness; but, alas, the ‘Shield’ …  Where was the Air? Where was the ‘Buddy Cover’?  Where were the Austers’ successors?  Why were there so few Chinooks?

As you may know, and certainly as you ought to have been briefed, an inexpensive Small Military Aircraft (SMA) was available for ‘Buddy Cover’ in two versions, the simpler ‘Tribal’ version for issue to the Northern Tribes, and the rather more complex ‘Patrol’ version (optionally equipped with an array of sensors and bespoke gadgets) for use by the British forces.  

Of the first, the MoD’s own test pilots at AAEE Boscombe Down had completed its splendid evaluation report with a General Summary in which its key findings were re-emphasised in this final paragraph (in which the red italicised emphasis here is the editor’s):

“The type demonstrated convincingly that in its current form it would be capable of conducting a wide variety of missions at a fraction of the cost associated with other air vehicles in the spectrum from parachutes through helicopters to remotely piloted vehicles.  At the heart of these capabilities was its outstanding aptitude as a detailed reconnaissance platform both by day and by night, its near immediate availability and its complete autonomy once provided with fuel.  Furthermore, the type promises considerable potential at an unmatched degree of economy for improvement in the future where the constraints imposed by Civil Regulations could be relaxed for military, operational purposes.” 

That paragraph alone is sufficient to alert any intelligent clerk to the potential of this aircraft, the Dragoon, as a life-saver when escorting a foot patrol or road convoy in hostile territory, detecting body heat among the crops, noting unusual behaviour, and recognising the significance of disturbed earth on a track.  Applying the data from the AAEE tests to the Helmand casualty figures gives a probable saving of 100-plus lives and a larger number of limbs if, following the correspondence with the CGS’s staff (forwarded to DECISTAR) in 2007, the Dragoons had been deployed in 2008 as recommended.  (Later tests in Australia and the US gave results that justify much higher savings being calculated.)

It is unnecessary here to quote from NATO conferences at Ramstein and Chièvres, London presentations at RUSI and the RAeS, and long days of discussions at Warminster, Wilton and Shrivenham, or to quote from very senior officers, British and American, who include Field Marshal Lord Harding (MiD in Waziristan, and Governor of Cyprus during the EOKA insurgency) and ex-CDS Lord Richards, who saw active service recently in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, but the weight of documentation will sink any defence the guilty PUS, Dame Ursula Brennan, might offer on behalf of the MoD.  The reputation and authority of AAEE and ARAG alone will do that, and General Richards formed his judgement, shaped by personal experience in Helmand, after flying the aircraft, whereas the PUS vetoed the proposed use of Dragoons not only with no understanding of their use (or of COIN), but without seeing one fly, without even seeing one on the ground, and without meeting its designer or even talking with him by telephone.

If this seems harsh, then reflect on what such newspapers as the Daily Mail will make of a clerk who had in her personal consultancy fund sufficient money to start saving lives with an initial SMA deployment, who pleaded a lack of money but was found later to have several million pounds unspent, and who confessed to the Select Defence Committee that she did not know what a precision aerial delivery system was, a precision aerial delivery system being one of the benefits supplied by SMAs, and rejected by her, whose absence forced the use of vulnerable surface transport.  (You will recall that Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe wrote many memoranda explaining the need for more air assets before he was killed by an IED while travelling in a road convoy that could have been unnecessary if an aerial delivery system had been available.)

While calculating the numbers of lives and limbs lost by this negligence aggravating the ignorance of the “Sword, Shield, Support” mantra, it is necessary also to account for the damage to senses and to mental health.  Then there is the wider problem of the effect on morale, on the Army’s fighting spirit, and thus on the Army’s fighting ability.  And then there is Sergeant Alexander Blackman, RM.  When men are sent out through the wire day after day, week after week, without air escort, without the ‘Buddy Cover’ that would watch their flanks, scan ahead for evidence of ambushes, warn of disturbed ground on their track, and relay messages every time their unreliable radios fail, which is too often, the stress builds, and then that stress is sometimes sufficient to crack eventually even the toughest [bold red emphasis added here is by the editor].  

The italicised text on pages 18-20 of The Betrayal of Sergeant Blackman [attached to the letter ~ Editor], attempts to describe this experience (and justifies immediate release for this victim of the MoD’s contemptible virtue signalling).

Another very helpful book, Bullingdon Defences, is available inexpensively from Amazon.  You will find pages 70-96 useful for they provide the substance of the prosecution’s case against the MoD’s direction during the years of the Helmand campaign.  They clearly and irrefutably demonstrate also that the figures for avoidable deaths and mutilation in Helmand (plus the consequences of the absence of SMAs in Basra where, for example, an Auster successor would have relayed the murdered MPs’ call for help) have not been exaggerated.  The prevention of repetitions of such negligence is, my colleagues and I believe, a ministerial responsibility, for all our experience persuades us that the cure to this bureaucratic malaise will not be generated within Main Building.

You may decide the “12-week consultation” ought to have a full briefing on the Dragoon Concept and the ‘Buddy Cover’ its exploitation provides for COIN operations.  I should welcome an invitation to visit London to give one.

 

Perhaps someone will draw the attention of the Defence Secretary to this letter.  Perhaps we shall be invited to brief him.

The law courts will reach their decisions according to their practice, but the court of public opinion, when its members have full access to all the relevant facts, will reach another. Accordingly, it is our duty to ensure these facts are given the widest possible circulation.  The Court Martial has been reported as having “reached” the verdict of its members, seven officers claimed by the JAG to be Sergeant Blackman’s peers (although manifestly not his peers), but the Court Martial did not “reach” a verdict: it merely confirmed by five votes to two (a member reported to Frederick Forsyth) the verdict reached inside the Great Wen, the MoD, and handed down as guidance as to what was expected.  It was, as stated in Parliament and often repeated in this blog, a “stitch-up” from its ignoble start.

 

 

 

 

“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?

COMMENT

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.)

 

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