When the UK’s current Coalition Government announced deep defence cuts in 2010, under it’s so-called “Strategic Defence and Security Review”, I warned that these cuts would gravely weaken the British armed forces.
The evidence materialised before long. While Argentina was threatening the Falklands, the UK had no meaningful naval capability to counter that. While Russia, China, and North Korea were staging provocation after provocation, the UK had no capability to counter that. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the UK was powerless to stop it. When Russian bombers flew close to UK coasts to test the RAF’s response, the RAF’s few fighter squadrons were overstretched by the necessity to respond.
A British parliamentary committee has now come to similar conclusions: the Coalition Government’s utterly irresponsible defence cuts have gravely weakened Britain’s armed forces, which now need to be rebuilt. As DefenseNews reports:
“Britain needs to rebuild conventional military capabilities lost since the end of the Cold War in order to deter further threats on Europe’s eastern border, the parliamentary defense committee has warned the government.
Maritime surveillance, nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological warfare training, ballistic missile defense, a comprehensive carrier strike capability, full maneuver warfare capability, more warships and aircraft, and possible prepositioning of troops in continental Europe are required, the report said
Entitled, “Re-thinking Defence To Meet New Threats,” the committee said Britain’s future military force structure and the accompany[ing] national security strategy resulting from the 2010 strategic defense and security review (SDSR) conducted by the current Conservative-led coalition government are no longer fit for purpose and need rethinking.
The committee cited the increasing security problems around the globe and particularly the threat to Europe posed by Russia and warned that Britain couldn’t afford to “retreat to isolation.”
“The current national security strategy is no longer adequate for this changed world, nor is the future force structure. It will be necessary to continue to commit to 2 percent of gross domestic product to enhance the NATO alliance and retain US involvement in Europe,” said the lawmakers.
“The UK will need to make tough choices within limited resources, about what to do, and perhaps more importantly, what not to do. … But it is vital to rethink the fundamental assumptions of our defense planning, if we are to help arrest the descent into chaos, which threatens to spread from the Western Mediterranean to the Black Sea,” said the report.
To bring the UK military into line with future needs, the committee said the government needed to build a closer coalition with the US and France, develop new asymmetric warfare capabilities, and develop the capacity to respond to the expanding challenges outside Europe.
Rory Stewart, the committee chairman, said the current SDSR had been overtaken by events and the military had to change to adapt to the new security situation.
“The SDSR and Future Force 2020 were based on the fundamental assumption that British forces should be structured to deploy a single brigade formation to a single key theater such as Afghanistan and sustain it there. But now we can see that we might be needed in a dozen different theaters, concurrently, confronting terrorism or lightly armed paramilitaries in one setting and heavily armed, formed units of an advanced military nation in another. More advanced military threats and multiple concurrent threats both require a fundamental rethinking of our strategy and our force structure,”Stewart said.”
The Committee wrote that “Britain’s future military force structure and the accompany[ing] national security strategy resulting from the 2010 strategic defense and security review (SDSR) conducted by the current Conservative-led coalition government are no longer fit for purpose and need rethinking.” But in truth, the military force structure, budgets, programmatic decisions, and the accompanying national security strategy resulting from the 2010 SDSR were absolutely not fit for purpose even back in 2010! Even then, there was no shortage of threats around the world, and the Coalition Government’s draconian defence cuts were utterly foolish even back then.
Yet, this idiotic Coalition Government, including its senior Tory members, will never admit being wrong. They’re actually PROUD of their record of gutting the UK military – although, of course, they’ll never admit they’ve done that, they still deny doing so and claim to have reformed the Ministry of Defence:
“British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon dismissed the committee’s recommendations, saying the government is already Europe’s biggest defense spender and was committed to spending over £160 billion (US $239.1 billion) on equipment and support over the next 10 years.
“The suggestion that we need to rebuild our defense capabilities is nonsense. Under this government we have gone from the £38 billion black hole in the defense budget that we inherited to a properly funded £34 billion annual budget. That means we have been able to commit to spending over £160 billion on equipment over the next decade to keep Britain safe — including new joint strike fighters, hunter killer submarines, two aircraft carriers and the most advanced armored vehicles.”
The real nonsense here are Mr Fallon’s claims. This government HAS gutted Britain’s armed forces, and the country’s defence capabilities DO NEED to be rebuilt. Under this government many crucial equipment programs have been dramatically cut or cancelled altogether, the defence budget has been slashed (in nominal terms, not even accounting for inflation) from £40 bn in 2009/2010 to £34 bn in 2014/2015, and the size of the armed forces – as well as their equipment inventories – have been slashed to dangerously low, woefully inadequate levels.
As for the weapon programs Mr Fallon cites – “including new joint strike fighters, hunter killer submarines, two aircraft carriers and the most advanced armored vehicles” – Britain committed to ALL of these programs under the PREVIOUS (Labour) government, NOT the current Coalition cabinet. The current government only (reluctantly) reaffirmed these programs – and cut most of them. Excluding the Joint Strike Fighters and aircraft carriers, all of these weapon systems will be procured in woefully inadequate quantities. For example, the UK will procure only seven (7) hunter-killer submarines, which will be barely enough to escort a British carrier strike group and the British ballistic missile submarine fleet. Beyond that, a fleet of just 7 hunter-killer subs won’t be able to do much, if anything.
As for the Joint Strike Fighter, it’s an utter waste of money and a totally useless aircraft. It is not truly stealthy, poorly armed (it can carry only 4 air-to-air missiles internally in its “stealth” mode), slow, overweight, unmaneuverable, smokes worse than an F-4 Phantom, and a single round from an enemy fighter’s gun could easily bring it down. It therefore stands ZERO chance of defeating current and future adversary aircraft. It is also useless for counter-insurgency operations, as it’s too expensive and overbuilt for such situations.
“The UK has the second largest defense budget in NATO and the largest in the EU. We are the US’s largest partner in the coalition air effort against ISIL, bearing more of the load in terms of strikes in Iraq than we played in either of the gulf wars,” said Fallon in a statement.”
Wrong. The UK is NOT playing a greater role – or conducting more strikes per day – in Iraq than during either of the Gulf Wars. The UK is now playing a much SMALLER role and conducting fewer strikes daily. During both Gulf Wars, the UK deployed scores of land-based strike jets and at least one aircraft carrier in each case. Today, the UK can barely muster a handful of strike aircraft – and ZERO aircraft carriers – to the Gulf to strike targets in Iraq.
Today, the UK armed forces are flying FEWER sorties, conducting FEWER strikes, and delivering LESS ordnance daily than during either of the two Gulf Wars.
The UK is NOT America’s largest partner in the coalition air effort against ISIL – France is. It has deployed squadrons of land-based strike aircraft (it has a few bases available in the region) and the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91), with 40 embarked aircraft, a vessel whose capability outmatches anything that Britain – or anyone in the world except the US, for that matter – can muster right now.
More broadly, as DefenseNews reported recently, France is now America’s most important European military ally right now – not just in Iraq, but globally, a marked change from 12 years ago. France is contributing (and is able to contribute) MORE than the UK can.
As for the UK having the largest defence budget in the EU and the 2nd largest in NATO, that is ONLY because other European states spend even less on their defense than the UK does.
As badly as the UK is underinvesting in its own defense, other European countries are underinvesting even more badly. Put another way, although the UK had deeply cut its defence budget, other European countries have cut their defence budgets even more deeply.
As Mr Fallon’s comments demonstrate abundantly, there are three kinds of lies: ordinary lies, big lies, and statistics as the worst possible kind of lies. He’s trying to use irrelevant statistics to cover the Coalition Government’s draconian defence cuts.
“As US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told me earlier this month, ‘the UK military has the ability to act independently, to be a force of its own in the world’. Our response to events in the Middle East, Sierra Leone and Ukraine recently highlight that the flexible strategy adopted under the 2010 SDSR and Future Force 2020 is working.”
This is also utter nonsense. The UK military has NO ability to act independently – even in the defense of its own country! Because this Coalition Government has completely axed the UK’s maritime surveillance aircraft capability, Britain now depends on other countries to fight submarines and to protect its territorial waters from such vessels! As was evidenced recently when Britain had to beg its NATO allies to dispatch ASW aircraft and ships to its home waters to find the Russian submarine that was prowling these waters and threatening Britain’s ballistic missile submarine fleet.