People are asking questions of the UK Defence policy, priorities, amount of funding, and if the approach is right for current and future needs. Are there other ways of spending the Defence budget? Has Defence spending been affected by the EU White Elephant virus, e.g. like huge nuclear power stations and HS2? Why were 2 huge carriers – cost £6.2bn – built when there aren’t enough patrol boats for the UK coast? Why are troop numbers being reduced – which are needed and deployed – and spending on new huge nuclear submarines, which are not used? Is procurement of expensive equipment used to buy votes in elections? At the expense of defence capability?
Annual spending is £45bn; is there another way to spend the funds and make them more useful and effective? I believe so. Let’s look at current trends and recent battles.
Afghanistan, Iraq: High altitude precision bombing – no aerial combat
Troops on the ground – insufficient to win the peace, relying on US troops, who are not natural country builders
Mediterranean: Massive influx of illegal people across the sea into Europe– hopeless response
UK combat aircraft: 2006 = 220, 2015 = 149
UK Troops: 1990 = 120,000, 2017 = 80,000
Areas needing defence capability now:
Humanitarian, natural disasters, smuggling (all types), piracy and more.
Current Defence spending and major procurement (2% GDP (during Cold War up to 6% GDP) £45bn)
New large Trident submarines – 4, £31bn (£7bn each) with £10bn contingency for overruns
New F35, approximate cost £100m to £150m each, 17 ordered already, total expected to be 138, total over £13.8bn
New Wildcat helicopters – £26m each, 28 in total
New Destroyers: Type 45, current 6 vessels costing £1bn each, speed 35mph, range 7000 miles, more planned
Frigates, anti-submarine, type 26: 8 on order, speed 26 knots, range 7000 nmi,
Type 31 warships (smaller) : 5 aimed to be built
New aircraft carriers:
280m (920ft) long, 9 decks, speed 26 knots (30 mph, 49 km/h), range 10,000 miles, troops 250 to 900, crew 769, berths 1600, 40 to 70 aircraft,
Has this fall in military capability deterred the Crimea take over? Refugee influx? North Africa influx?
All of the above armaments are duplication of the American military – who also have vastly more of each.
How about developing a complementary defence spending approach, with American armed forces? And also helping developing countries save on their defence spending?
Simpler alternatives – increasing capability
Nuclear deterrent: switch to 4 mini submarines, with 2 missiles each, regular 8 hour shifts into North Sea, ability to stay for 4 weeks, deep enough not to be spotted from the air, aim for £250m to £500m each, saving £29bn in procurement spending
Have mobile ground launched missile capability, for more missiles
Total saving around £25bn
No more F35s, saving £13.8bn
Buy Hawk planes (lightweight fighter) carry up to 3000kg (6600lb), speed 638 mph, range 383 mi (617 km), see if a short take off version can be built – for aircraft carriers, £18 million each, buy 300 Hawks, approximate cost £6bn
Buy an additional 50 Wildcat helicopters £1.4bn
Buy simplified aircraft carriers, 10 or more – be creative, without bells and whistles, fast, able to carry 20 aircraft, aim for £250m price. Start with answer: flight deck length and width to withstand combat aircraft landing, room for 20 aircraft, crew, up to 200 personnel – troops and/or civilians, lightweight. Blue sky thinking: 4 to 6 hydrofoils, holding up a lattice network of beams, supporting a landing deck and 1 deck for aircraft, speeds up to 70mph (110 km/h), with defensive armaments, and redundancy built in in case of attack. Usual catapult and also arresting wires. There are many other ideas. Total cost £2.5bn
Patrol boats, hydrofoil: 20 fast hydrofoils with armaments, £10m each. Total £200m
Landing craft – for illegals
Buy more new Tornadoes (£30m each), new Harriers (£30m each), Jaguars (£15m each) Chinook £15m each) Apache (£15m each). Perhaps turboprop planes for troop transport. Let the Americans buy F35s.
Troops: currently 80,000 plus 35,000 reservists, aim for 200,000 troops plus reservists.
Finding the figures for other spending areas isn’t always easy.
Military spending on developing countries is high, e.g. Africa $40bn (Approx £35bn) a year. Valuable funds that could be better used for schools, health, transport and the environment. Perhaps the UK could use the increase in aircraft and troops, to offer – as a part of overseas aid – help with defence, so that developing country funds can be redirected to more useful ways in developing economies?
Cancelling: 120 more new F35 aircraft purchases, cancelling the new Trident submarine order. Saving £38bn.
Buying: 300 Hawk aircraft, 4 mini submarines, increasing full time troop numbers from 80,000 to 200,000, trialling new ideas for lighter and faster aircraft carriers, new fast patrol boats and hydrofoils.
The EU way of wasting funds on useless projects, is not a good role model for UK or even European defence. With Brexit, maybe this is an opportunity to liberate from the EU way of thinking and have a more effective defence capability.
The aim of this article is to show new ways of defence spending, that are useful, and have an immediate use in the world. Copying what the Americans can do with a bigger budget, has left huge gaps in defence capability. The UK’s expertise of winning the war and the peace has been compromised. A more practical approach to defence spending and simpler engineering, can make the difference and better defence and also humanitarian assistance.