UIK defence cuts

Discussion in 'Politics' started by dandelion, Oct 19, 2010.

  1. dandelion

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    A nice modest 8% cut in defence spending. Is this a dangerous blow, or not half enough?

    Two highlights: the decision to buy a new submarine nuclear missile system is put off for 5 years, so it is the problem of the next government. Interestingly there were conservatives today saying the thing should jolly well be bought now, even though effectively nothing much was going to happen for 5 years anyway.

    By contrast, other conservatives have been moaning at labour for having bought two aircraft carriers which will not be built for 5 years or so but which apparently will have to be paid for irrespective of whether we chose to actually build them or not. So construction will continue. meanwhile however, one aircraft carrier currently in service will be scrapped now rather than in 5 years as planned. Its aircraft will also be scrapped, despite another 15 years service life or so, so when the new carrier arrives it will not have any aircraft. It has been suggested that if there is a war, we might borrow some.

    Meanwhile the number of small ships is to be cut. Carriers do not float about by themselves. They have to have escort ships. Will there be any? It looks very much like the carrier is utterly useless and will be for sale in 5 years time. The whole thing is probably complicated by the question of shipyards. The tiny rump of the british shipbuilding industry runs on defence contracts. So it may be this decision to build any ships had something to do with that.

    Meanwhile the magic number is 1/3. 1/3 less, that is, available ships, troops, planes for deployment on the next gung-ho jolly abroad. Pain for the army is deferred for 5 years until the anticipated finish of their current slightly more intimate pain of being shot at abroad. Oh, and the great helicopter shortage saga takes another turn as the extra helicopters which had finally been agreed for the army after 5 years dithering are once more cut.

    It has been suggested that the reason we had defence cut announcements today and cuts in child benefit for the rich just recently is because the government wished to choose its battle grounds. First be seen to be making cuts which affect its traditional supporters. Tomorrow we await the bloodbath for everyone else.

    Oh and im no good at typing, which explains the odd title.
     
    #1 dandelion, Oct 19, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2010
  2. Jason

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    Indeed tomorrow is the bloodbath - and it's going to be horrible.

    One part of the challenge is that the government must put forward a set of figures that add up. The judge of this is the international money markets, the credit ratings agencies, the speculators. I'm reasonably confident that they will keep this constituency happy. I'm also confident that Labour are not offering an alternative that is any better than a bit of political propaganda wrapped in a woeful ignorance of basic economics - and I think this will come through and be accepted.

    The other challenge is how the pain at home can be spread so that people aren't too badly hurt. This really is difficult. We are all going to be hurt to some extent and it isn't going to be fair - these things never are.

    My thought is that the Cameron approach to politics is reactive. He is putting forward what is essentially a five year plan, with many of these cuts actually due a few years down the line. He is quite capable of having another spending review in say three or four years' time and reviewing some of these issues. While he has to have a tough five-year plan now to satisfy the markets that doesn't mean he has to stick to it. With defence, with everything, it happens only when it happens, not when its announced.
     
  3. dandelion

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    The question of exactly what happens in 5 years is perfectly correct. I think deferring the missiles is right for several reasons, not least the one they are currently lampooning labour for. The question of unbreakable contracts. Odd that labour should deliberately make unbreakable contracts for defence equipment. Or not odd, because of the maxim that political parties always feel free to act against their natural politics. Thus conservatives cutting defence and labour spending (not to mention starting a war). Theres a few people on walking holidays through the streets of France today who might give pause to someone about to introduce cuts, even if the british are much calmer than the French.

    I disagree about this issue of markets. It has been much exaggerated by BANKERS wishing to do what comes naturally, make more money. The fundamental position is that britain is rich compared to most of the world. Banks do not care about absolute risk, only relative risk. They are obliged to lend or die. It is how we appear compared to others which matters, and that is still pretty good. The weakness of the british financial system is shared by every other country in the world.

    I am quite looking forward to tomorrow. We are shortly to have the debate which should have taken place before the election. Then maybe we can discuss the merits of whatever finally is announced. It will be interesting if Milliband can find something sensible to say. He had a bad start, thoroughly wrong footed, defending cuts in child benefit for the rich. he will be well beaten over the head with aircraft carriers. Cameron, as you say, has essentially deferred their eventual fate for 5 years, depending on how things are then, and he has the pleasure of blaming it all (unjustly) on labour. As with the financial position pre-crash, the conservatives would have done nothing material different to labour had they been in power.

    The news several times has noted that the UK is the 4th largest spender on military in the world. That does not make sense. It is soooo wrong. Soooo overpriced aircraft carrier or delayed cancelled airborn warning system.

    The budget figures will not and can not add up. They rely mainly on growth to solve the defecit. This is unknowable. The cuts are a wave in the right direction of a balanced budget. On principle the conservatives oppose tax rises, so they choose cuts. However the other truth which seems currently popular is that the 'bloodbath' will only bring us back to the position a couple of years pre-crash. Do we really feel any different now than then? Bit of a 'cut finger'?

    As to unequal pain? Recently the government announced a cap on housing benefit, claiming it was driving up rental values. Now it is about to announce (or has?) massive cuts in state funded house building for the poor. Hardly calculated to drive down rents, then. There is one clear and obvious way to solve the housing shortage, which is to grant more planning permissions to build houses. The market would erase the problem pretty quick. Say 10 years, since recession is a bad time to start such a thing. But the market would take care of it, if it was permitted. This will not happen. Conservatives grant plebs permission to build slums next to where posh people live? Equally serious, the house market is now so screwed and inextricably linked to the fate of the british economy that it can only be tweaked. Slashing government housebuilding can be seen as a lifeline attempt to prop up the economy and stave off house price collapse. But in the longer term the situation just gets worse. How would you feel about paying a bit more tax if your mortgage/rent costs were halved? would that seem a good deal?

    Incidentally, I happened to read the report of a committee of the local county council just recently. You never read so many platitudes and self justifications. Someone is being paid to create all that?
     
  4. Joll

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    Lol...just been talking about this with someone.

    The loss of jets on our aircraft carrier/s between now and 2019/2020 seems foolish. Apparently, they're planning to convert the new ones to accept US jets too (b4 our Joint Strike Fighters arrive), so - maybe converting the current ones too would be a good interim measure?

    We're keeping Tornados and Typhoons I think, which is good. Going ahead with next version of Astute hunter-subs, and leaving the Army itself virtually unscathed.

    I think...it would've been good to limit the defense cuts to 5% if possible - but maybe it wasn't. As I said, I think the absence of jets on carriers seems foolish - maybe that's what Hillary Clinton was so horrified by?

    Deferring Trident decision seems like a good idea...puts it off for a bit (when I suspect we'll go ahead), but also doesn't reduce our credibility in the meantime by ruling it out for the moment.
     
    #4 Joll, Oct 19, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2010
  5. dandelion

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    Submarines were accepted as a good idea for fighting a naval war about 1900 and it hasnt changed. Small (relatively!). Good at sneaking up on things. Small is beautiful now in navies, because big ships are just as easy to sink but bigger targets. Which leaves carriers as an anomaly. Very expensive. Doesnt just stop at the cost of the ship. A carrier has to have a support fleet of its own. I think Cameron has dodged the issue of whether or not to keep this very expensive distance air weapon. He claims labour already made the decision for him. I dont know if this is true or false, but it is true the conservatives welcomed the carrier orders when they were placed. The decision to run down the fleet, get rid of carriers, was made 30 years ago before the Falklands war. The war changed the view, probably for the wrong reason. Carriers are of no use if you are not intending to project air force abroad. Why do we need to do this? It is an offensive weapon not a defensive one unless we have any foreign territories without airports left to defend. Do we? Is it conceivable we would want to do this without US support, and the US has the resources to do it by themselves. We do not and would not if we doubled the size of the military. leaving aside the fortuitous possibility of oil, are we in any way better off because we had the military capability to recapture the Falklands?

    I do not think these cuts were simply finance driven. It seems clear that if the military could justify something, they got to keep it. The anomaly is the carriers, which we are stuck with. There is an impression that reducing the size of the rest of the fleet is a quid pro quo for keeping the carriers, but this does not make sense. The whole picture is a fundamental question as to whether we need a navy any more. There are no credible threats for a ship vs ship war. Should we maintain a fleet to go chase pirates in far seas, which is that they do now?

    It isnt clear what is intended for the army. The fine print seems to be 'think about it when they are finished in Afghanistan'.
     
  6. D_Abraham Slinkin

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    If we'd just scrap trident; we wouldn't need to cut our defence budget.
    Furthermore, pull out of Afghanistan. Deploy the troops where they're really needed - Buenos Aires ¬_¬
    The Argies are making murmurs again - we should have nuked Buenos Aires when we had the chance - Montevideo too just to be on the safe side.
     
  7. dandelion

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    would that be by submarine launched polaris missile or carrier launched bomber?
    Or, I'm not sure, possibly long range refuelled bombers from ascension?
     
  8. Jason

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    Let them murmur!

    The international law position on the Falklands is covered in a UN resolution. The fate of the Falklands is to be determined by a referendum of the people living there, and both UK and Argentina must abide by the decision. Argentina does not accept this so the referendum hasn't been held. The concept of self determination is absolutely rock solid in international law.

    I don't think a 1982-style invasion by Argentina is conceivable. In the end they have a different political system now, and they are more alert to international pressure (eg sanctions which the UN would almost certainly apply). However it suits their internal politics to murmur about the issue, and with oil now confirmed there of course they feel the issue all the more. Right now UK supplies most of the Falklands' needs from Punta Arenas in Chile (curiously Chile has a tiny window on the Atlantic more or less opposite the Falklands). Let the Argies murmur; The UK's natural friend in the region is Chile.
     
  9. Jason

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    No. What's bothering her is that her toy-boy David Miliband is not leader of the opposition and possible next PM. :wink:
     
  10. Joll

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    LOL! :biggrin1: Tuff shit?
     
  11. Drifterwood

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    Oh dear oh dear. Do you have any sense of what you are saying?
     
  12. dandelion

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    Worth thing about, drifter. Nuking Argentina would have been plain stupid. Because there was nothing worth fighting for, not because the idea is abhorrent. No reason to have nuclear weapons if you wont use them. The question is, what real situation can we envisage where it would be worth using them? I thought of a scenario. World economic crisis expands and fuel shortages grow. US threatens Iran that if it does not sell all its oil to the US, US will start nuking the bits where there are no oil wells. UK (and europe) do not like this plan because they want the oil themselves. We threaten to nuke the US if they attack Iran. Realistically, who else is there to defend against? World war III, rest of the world v. US.

    Could the US institute a convoy system to get its tankers from the mediterranean to the US? The straights of Gibraltar are only 10 miles wide so I guess we could sink any outbound ships by shell fire. US navy wouldnt last long. Much easier for them to seize our oil assets around the Falklands. No realistic way of defending them against the US. Not much chance against Argentina if it got its military act together properly.
     
    #12 dandelion, Oct 20, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2010
  13. Joll

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    I agree. What on earth?! :rolleyes:
     
  14. dandelion

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    its all very well to say that, but what happens when countrys really get desperate? The US just invaded Iraq for no clear reason except perhaps oil at the cost of a million lives and increased instability in the area as a whole. What is so different to dropping a bomb? It is not the deaths but whether it would work to get what you want. We are currently in a world which has returned to gunboat diplomacy, if it ever really left it.
     
  15. Joll

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    Hmmm. I think we've got a responsibility not just to look after our own interests (which is important), but also to make sure our impact on others is as benign and beneficial as possible.
     
  16. LambHair McNeil

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    First off, all replies to this point in time have been from the UK. I am not British, just curious about this subject matter.

    Per the carriers, doesn't there come a point that if you are only going to have two of them and also severely cut back on possible escort vessels (defensive screen) that you make using the carriers so potentially risky that they'll be held for only the safest possible missions?

    Also, given the ever-increasing price of the F-35B V/STOL (Harrier follow-on) jets, would it be cheaper for the UK to double-down on restarting purchases and prodn of modernized Harriers, forget the F-35B, and revert to updated carriers in the mode of the Invincible or even Italian Cavour? Is that even possible? The thought there: smaller carriers, and instead of having just two, possibly three or four and at a lower overall cost than the two QE-class vessels. A smaller carrier might even be something that could be produced en masse and sold to other nations (creating sustainable jobs & still cheaper vessels), such as India, that are looking to expand their naval fleets.
     
  17. dandelion

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    I think you may know more about carriers than I do, but to try to explain the uk's position. We gave up carriers in quantity quite some time ago and having two is pretty much so that one will be available at any one time. As far as I can tell, the plan had been to replace the two existing medium size carriers with two new ones 200ft longer (though still 150 feet shorter than Nimitz). The older of the two existing, Arc Royal, is now to be decommissioned immediately rather than waiting 5 years. The other will remain in service but only operating helicopters. All harriers will be disposed of now. I think I heard a report saying navy harriers had already been pinched and sent off to support the army in the recent wars. The first new carrier is to enter service carrying helicopters, or possibly not at all.

    They are now spending extra on equipping the new carriers with catapults and catchers so they can be used with conventional jets of some sort. Possibly to make them more saleable? I think if it had been possible, probably they would have been cancelled. As things stand a final decision is effectively deferred until after they are completed.
     
  18. LambHair McNeil

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    I am kind of a Navy nerd but nothing beats the insight of someone living in the UK who keeps up with this area of life. The "having 2 so that 1 would be available" is logical per the carriers. I do, however, lament the premature retirement of the Harriers which could have flown from them - a good jet for a good price.

    I hate seeing the cuts, especially to the Royal Navy and it's just in my fiscally conservative nature to wonder about what the alternatives were to the two Q.E.-class carriers - assuming some qty of carriers were to be built no matter what.

    The steam catapults will enable the carriers to deal with multiple types of aircraft. As originally designed, they could only handle vertical or short-take-off items like Harriers, F-35B's, or helos. With the catapults, they can also potentially handle jets like the Sea Gripen, Rafale M, F-18 Super Hornets, or the F-35C variant (slightly cheaper and longer-legged than the F-35B). Makes the carriers themselves more expensive but what you can use on them cheaper. Over a 40-50 year life-span, that probably makes it a wise investment.
     
  19. Joll

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    ^ I think adding the cats and traps is a good idea, too.

    Why not add them to whichever carrier remains in service (Illustrious?) until Q.E. comes on stream - then modify her too, so we can rely on US jets if in a pinch?

    Modifications cost about £750 million I think :redface: - but worth it if we're decommissioning the Harriers?
     
  20. dandelion

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    This is supposed to be an exercise in saving money not buying extras! Buying new carriers but prematurely retiring the ones you had intended to use until they were ready, not to mention disposing of the aeroplanes suggests a decision has been made that aircraft carriers are not affordable. Then also the cuts in escort ships (though i dont know what they customarily use or are getting rid of). So whatever they say will happen to the new ones, it sounds like a decision has been made that carriers are no longer to feature in the RN (or what is left of it). I saw a note that invincible, the third ship of the previous class was moved from mothballed to de-listed in september, also suggesting carriers are out.

    I cant disagree. I looked at a bit of blurb about the carriers and it was talking about 'designed to operate with US forces'. Ye what? we are building ships to act in support of the US navy? No sense there!
     
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