Thin Pin Striped Line & UK Armed Forces Commentary – CDS Xmas speech

A brief news post to recommend the coverage given to the CDS’s Xmas speech by The Thin Pin Striped Line & UK Armed Forces Commentary defence blogs. The full text of the speech can be found on Thinkdefence here.


Some highlights follow.

From The Thin Pinstriped Line:

The news that the RN may move back into acquiring larger numbers of vessels is interesting, and would no doubt be welcomed by the entire Royal Navy, but it is important to avoid getting carried away with internet ‘fantasy fleet’ debates. The first thing to remember is that any decision on the size of the RN would not be taken until 2015 at the very earliest – this is the time of the next defence review, and its findings would ultimately depend on the UK strategic interests at the time, the amount of funding available and also what other equipment funding is needed. It is not a guarantee that this decision will be made, and it is also very likely that neither the current CDS, nor CNS will be in post come 2015 – CDS can make this sort of pledge, partially because he will not be required to try and see whether it can be implemented.
If a decision to enlarge the RN is taken, the question then becomes what form do these ships take? The mention of the word ‘corvette’ is interesting – the recent debate about the Black Swan sloop,  modern class of corvette for the 21st century seems to have been quite high profile. Perhaps CDS was tacitly acknowledging that there is a case to be made for a sloop style procurement. It is clear that the use of very expensive warships such as T45 on deployments to interdict pirates, and ‘fly the flag’ is not necessarily the best use of a billion pound platform.
Acquiring a sloop class would perhaps ensure that the RN could continue to fly the white ensign in areas of lower threat, say for instance the West Indies or West Africa, providing a more relevant training capability for lower end navies, while retaining sufficient high end escorts for global deployments. The concept of a second rate frigate is not entirely new to the RN – look at the Type 14 class and how they were employed initially as low tech ASW escorts, but in reality spent much of their career doing more generic ‘fly the flag’ duties during the early Cold War.
From UK Armed Forces Commentary:
I have highlighted the passages that i deem more impressive and interesting. They go in the direction i’ve always suggested to follow: a UK with capable armed forces capable to act indipendently and, perhaps even more crucially, provide a framework in which less well-equipped countries can provide numerical strenght, helped by the crucial enablers fielded by the UK, including the aircraft carriers, the Sentinel R1, the Rivet Joint platforms, the RFA, the strong amphibious fleet and brigade and other elements. 
There is also a return to Nelson’s “want of frigates”, for which i’ve also been arguing: Nelson wanted cheap frigates in great numbers to serve as eyes for the fleet, and to cover the immense number of jobs that a navy has to cover every day, leaving the big, powerful and expensive ships of the line free to focus on delivering the thick of the military effect.
The Navy needs that kind of approach today more than back then. With the important difference, not always appreciated, that today’s frigates and destroyers are the ships of the line, while OPVs and corvettes are the “frigates”. The Royal Navy needs a fleet of simpler, smaller but capable, long range “presence” ships to cover the wide variety of not-warlike standing tasks, so that the “ships of the line” can focus on warfighting, reaction and task group roles.
I can’t help but wonder if we can read in this speech a ray of hope for Portsmouth’s shipyard, among other things: the CDS essentially agrees with me on the strategic concepts, and i think he would agree on the opportunity to begin the rebalancing of the fleet with an order for a couple of OPVs
The bolded text I very much agree with two.
Thank you both, made any contribution on my part redundant. 🙂

8 responses to “Thin Pin Striped Line & UK Armed Forces Commentary – CDS Xmas speech

  1. Thanks for mentioning my article in your blog, Jedi.
    I’m glad you found my comments noteworthy. I know we do share, among with professor Lindley-French i’ll add, a certain idea of the ideal strategy for the UK, and this year’s CDS’s speech very much goes in the same direction. I found his words very interesting and promising… now, of course, the challenge is to implement some actual action to go with the promises, or it’ll be just a bunch of words in the wind.

    • Always Gabbie, always.

      The biggest problem I have with Lindley-French is that he has a razer-like focus on geopolitics as the art of achieving [your] preferences, and I agree with pretty much everything he says on matters military, which makes his presumed accuracy all the more depressing when he writes on the EU! 😀

      But yes, lets see some of this wisdom become practice, it would make a nice change.

  2. As we still have to wait for this year’s Xmas speech, it is interesting to note that in the face of cuts, the US Army is also retrenching and putting more formations into a cadre-like status. This is what Breaking Defence picked up from evidence given on Capitol Hill recently (the article is of Nov 8th):
    ” two brigades fully trained, equipped, and available for any contingency that might arise outside Afghanistan – although he later made clear to me he isn’t counting the “Global Response Force“ brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, which would make three. (Since the lightweight GRF is designed to airdrop rapidly to a crisis zone but not to hang around for sustained combat, there is some logic in Odierno not including it in his go-to-war force). It’ll take to July [counting from Nov] to get up to seven ready and available brigades in a balanced mix: two light infantry brigades, basically foot troops; two brigades in eight-wheel-drive Stryker vehicles; two brigades of heavy armored vehicles; and one “combat aviation brigade” of helicopters.

    “We’ll stay at seven and hopefully over time we’ll be able to increase that, but right now seven is about the most we can do,” Odierno [Army Chief] told me when I slipped past an anxious aide to accost him after Thursday’s hearing.

    Those seven on-call brigades will presumably get the funds to go to the Army’s famed Combat Training Centers at Fort Irwin, Calif. and Fort Polk, La. for the rigorous wargames that have been the secret of the Army’s tactical success since the 1980s. The next set of seven will need to through that full training regimen as well. (It takes two, three, or even four units going through the recover-train-deploy cycle to keep one fully ready at any given time). But what about everybody else?

    “The rest of the Army will be able to do minimal home-station training,” Odierno told me. His prepared testimony explicitly calls this “tiered readiness,” a separate-and-unequal system in which roughly 80 percent of the force is never fully manned, equipped, and ready. (Previously, Army leaders had tried to avoid the dreaded word “tiered”).”

    You could now take the total size of the two Armies (OK, USMC is also an army but run from a different budget), and do some scaling according to the relative size:
    – 2 BGs vs a GRF bde ready to go
    – 4 more bde’s to follow vs the above count of 7

    Well, that’s the paper design and a lot more moving of garrisons etc probably standing in the way of making it a reality, but would one not say that the job done from the readiness aspect is not bad? With some rather deep cuts to cope with (the twitter link to Telegraph article of a day ago set out hat scene v nicely)

    • “but would one not say that the job done from the readiness aspect is not bad?”

      Yes, i remain pretty ‘content’ that the budget is as high as any reasonable expectation, and that the broad allocation of resources given this constraint is on the button.

      Tiered forces is a reasonable description for the adaptable force.

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