A striking difference (pardon the pun) between the last two Strategic Defence and Security Reviews has to be the fanfare (or lack of) surrounding their respective announcements. Whilst 2010’s review was widely – if nervously – anticipated, and set amid a backdrop of financial Armageddon; 2015’s announcement was ‘slipped in’ between the news of the PMs visit to the Élysée Palace, and the ongoing lock-down in Brussels (connected stories I grant you).
The announcements seem broadly positive at face value; unless you are a civil servant in the MoD (in which case you may have some anxiety ahead), or reside in the vicinity of one of Lincolnshire’s RAF bases (in which case you may have some anxiety ahead).
But where is the detail? I’m still waiting for the Press Release from gov.uk – and had expected it to arrive from late afternoon (23rd November). Good things come to those that wait? Perhaps.
The planned procurement of 9 Boeing P8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) is great news (or will be in around a decade) in terms of plugging a capability gap; and I for one will not be jumping on the ‘but you chopped up the Nimrod MRA4s five years ago’ bandwagon. Those aircraft – in my opinion – were rapidly destroyed as they represented one of the worst, hastily-arranged procurement decisions of modern times. We did NOT remove a capability by their destruction; the capability was simply not there – information sources involved directly in the project revealed huge issues with airworthiness and safe flying (shock wave formation directly in front of the tail cone being but one example).
Procuring new armoured vehicles for the British Army is great news – as is the extra F-35, Typhoon and Reaper aircraft for the RAF, the (reduced) acquisition of new frigates and offshore patrol vessels for the Royal Navy, and the extra funding for Special Forces and the Security Services. Even more satisfying to hear was the announcement that Sentry, Sentinel, Airseeker and Shadow aircraft will be extended to at least 2020 (for Sentinel, and up to 2035 for Sentry and Airseeker).
Admitting that the details are scant at present, I don’t see that further scrutiny will alter the fact that this feels like tactical decisions based on a specific, current threat – for which we will have the capability to counter in around a decade (excepting the formation of two Strike Brigades, and the troops placed on standby to counter a ‘Paris’ style attack).
I doubt very much that warfare will ever again involve state versus state; as we are now heavily intertwined with allied forces in the battle against asymmetric enemies – and this review will certainly counter current threats with future capability (if both the government and I are correct).
But here’s the thing – all new, enhanced and burgeoning capabilities require an inordinate amount of personnel to operate, maintain, support and procure for – not to mention the need to house, feed, sustain and provide medical and dental care for such personnel. I may have missed how the government intends to attract new armed and civilian personnel (as well as concurrently making a third of MoD civil servants redundant) to provide this support. And if the rumours over eradicating automatic incremental pay rises for those still serving are true – they may have a huge battle on their hands to simply retain the existing numbers.
My humble opinion? A seemingly tactical review to meet a projected and current asymmetric threat, with no clear indication on how to provide the manpower required to nurture and support increased capabilities.
I await with baited breath for now. Watch and shoot. Watch. And. Shoot.
What is your take on the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review? Let everyone know in the comments section below – and please share this article using the icons at ‘share with friends’ below.
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