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UK Defence Policy – EU White Elephant approach or complementary with America?

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.

Recent events:

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

Have air launched cruise missiles as well, around £1.5m each, speed 550 mph, range 1550 milesImprove ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile) capability

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?


In summary

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.

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About Hugo van Randwyck (41 Articles)
Hugo van Randwyck has been researching fast track options for self-government, via EFTA options, including opinion polls. He has business experience in change management and management training.

13 Comments on UK Defence Policy – EU White Elephant approach or complementary with America?

  1. Great info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).

    I have book-marked it for later!

  2. Julian Flood et al,

    Valuable info. Keep spreading. Real opinion is important, and ( No sarcasm intended) almost as near to facts as you’re likely to get nowadays. The more people know the more difficult it is to hide.

  3. The ongoing cooperation with the EU on defence matters is behind the cuts and, despite the vote to leave, seems to be continuing unchanged and unreported.

  4. When the Falklands war began I was one of the few people in the RAF who knew the length of the Stanley runway. As SLOPs at RAF Honington I’d whiled away several boring weeks designing a world where NATO could project air power over all the oceans from island bases. It was a good plan but needed the cooperation of the French which was a bit of a bummer.
    Times have changed. Google Alan Bond and his air-breathing rocket/jet engine. This technology, if it works, is the equivalent of the Merlin engine, a war-winner or, better, a war preventer. When a simple tungsten telegraph pole can be delivered from orbit to any point on the surface at a few hours notice, a telegraph pole with the kinetic energy of a major explosive weapon, many of the assumptions behind conventional air power are called into question. The technique is nicknamed ‘rods from God’.
    We do, however, need a government which treats the world as a serious matter. While Cameron and co gave Kids’ Company £60 million they aso provided Reaction Engines Ltd (Bond’s company) with £50 million for development, a devastating indictment of the wimps, ignoramuses and pillocks that made up one of the worst governments I’ve ever seen. A major stride forward in technology vs a ‘charity’ which allegedly was spending taxpayers’ money on educating the chauffeur’s children — guess which one they gave priority.
    Re cheap airpower from carriers: cheap = not as powerful. We ran through this when the Tornado was introduced, ‘what we need is lots of Mosquitoes’ vs buy the best’. I don’t know about you, but if I’m putting my arse on the line I’d like it to be in the most powerful bit of kit that HMG can afford. Anyway, it’ll all be drones before long.


    • Hugo van Randwyck // August 17, 2017 at 4:21 pm // Reply

      You make a good point about having the best kit. Having maybe 15 to 20 F35s, while the Americans have 100s, allows the UK to have expertise in top technology aircraft. However aerial combat is rare these days, a lot of bombing is done at high level with technology and also drones – as you pointed out.
      America doesn’t need duplication in spending. Complementing the US, so the UK can support, and initiate defence, without relying on other countries, is a real defence policy. If an F35 really will cost up to £150m, then an equivalent of 6 Hawks against an F35, would be better odds? Including smart missiles and drones?
      Patrolling and peacekeeping are also vital activities that allow countries to trade their way to prosperity, and create jobs. Having safe sea lanes are essential and a more simpler and larger amount of equipment and personnel help with these goals as well.
      Thank you for comments.

  5. The current defence procurement policy does make sense. But only if we understand the UK armed forces will be part of a EU wide military force. We will supply some assets other countries will also add theres. We provide the carriers others provide the supporting destroyers.

    • Hugo van Randwyck // August 17, 2017 at 4:14 pm // Reply

      My view is, if we are relying on other EU countries to set sail, then the carriers are merely a way to create employment in Scotland. The last Invincible class carrier was decommissioned in 2010, and the new carriers will be fully operational in 2021 – clearly won’t be missed, in the meanwhile? They started building in 2007, so taking 14 years to become useable, and then relying on the French navy. Is the Defence Ministry on the side of the UK?
      My suggestion is for aircraft carriers, not aircraft battleships, which is what the new ones are.

  6. UK troop numbers have dropped to 78,000. It seems the recruitment agency Capita are struggling to hit their targets. Too busy nicking TV licence evaders, perhaps.
    UK defence policy is EU defence union policy at the moment, which has not changed since we voted to leave in name only.
    You have mentioned the 2 aircraft carriers, well we don’t have the frigates to flank them so they will be protected not by the Americans, but by French frigates.
    @21min:30 sec “My final point is that an agile Army of the future requires strong partnerships sharing the burden of complex global challenges. Our 2015 SDSR set us the challenge of becoming more international-by-design. So, even as we step back from the political framework of EU, you will find us sticking by that plan and stepping up to confront those global challenges,” said Michael Fallon Defence Secretary

    International-by-design is another way of saying designed not to be independent. To be interdependant and interoperable with other armed forces to function.

  7. On Aircraft Carriers, I can’t see that 10 small carriers would be cheaper than 2 large carriers, either to build or to run. All would need the same expensive high tech equipment and defence systems. Size would not change that. The number of crew required would be considerably more too, again because there would be significant overlap.

    Operationally, the length of deck is vital. Our retired smaller carriers could not carry the top level aircraft needed in a combat zone. If there’s one thing history has taught us about warfare, going in half equipped and cheap is false economy.

    As an island nation, our navy is vital. Having two carriers will ensure we have the ability to export power to where it may be needed. That can prevent conflict in the way a British gunboat threat operated a century ago.

    Large carriers are a great weapon to have at your back when in a diplomatic discussion over some disputed area. Politically we will often hover their shadow over the table even if we never actually use them.

  8. Interesting. a few questions.

    This is the same maths problem as globalisation…Solvable ( or should that be soluble …I don’t do Media Studies.)

    It’s clearly to fit in with other countries capabilities, to give transferable assets and commonality. Note our industrial capability has never been more pathetic, we would be incapable of resisting any serious shock. ( but we’ve got plenty of typists and game-players )We could possibly murder N. Korea.

    However I reccommend waking up early in the morning near the sea, and seeing the grey misty bulk of a trident just sitting a mile or two away. The affect on the people is instructive. Strangely the question is always ” Is it British ?”
    Rarely American, Or, ( Laughing, Russian.)

    Though, I have to admit, i’m not a great traveller

    It makes you wonder if the old RN thing of showing the flag, or Royal Visits doesn’t still carry disproportunate weight. And. The bigger the stick the better

    It has to be remembered that for 70 years governments have spent the countries’ ( AND Commonwealths’ ) wealth in taxes bribing the public to give politicians better jobs.

    • Hugo van Randwyck // August 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm // Reply

      The new carriers would be complementary to US carriers. Designers could be asked to use the 20/80 rule. Which 20% gives 80% of benefits. For example, a thick hull up to 5 feet above sea level, to withstand torpedoes, the rest if the hull 50% thickness. Instead of 9 decks, have 2. The flight deck, have thicker deck for land g strip, thinner around the rest of the deck. And so on. Thinking like private sector. What can be designed for £250m.

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