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David Steeper

There’s lots of reasons to feel negative about the RN. Not enough, not good enough etc etc. When has that ever not been the case ? But it’s also fair to say the future of the RN is brighter than it’s been for a generation at least. If we need more Frigates how many F35’s or SSN’s or Amphib’s would you cut to pay for it ? Well none we need double, triple the budget. And if we don’t get it what then ? There’s a rational plan for the future of both the RN and the RM. New ships, weapons and systems. If it isn’t what you’d choose then your not alone but the RN chiefs have to live and plan for the real world not the world they or we would choose.

Sunmack

The £5.5bn cost of Ajax would deal with pretty much every capability gap in the RN as would the £3.4bn wasted on MR4. It’s not that there isn’t enough money it’s that we waste it on the wrong things

eclipse

Agreed. We have the worlds third or fourth largest defence budget, at 68 billion USD, and we achieve very little with it. The French achieve very similar results to us with a budget 20 billion less, at 48 billion (that’s almost a third less). Since France is not so much cheaper than the U.K., as, for example, Russia is, I don’t see how this is possible unless we waste a lot of money.

https://www.janes.com/amp/uk-defence-budget-still-a-balancing-act/ZnlJK3dHVU9mZ28xajRJVkc5dVI5VFp1cVMwPQ2
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.janes.com/amp/france-increases-defence-budget/ZnlJK3dHVU9mZ28xajRJVkc5dVI5VFp1cVMwPQ2

Cammy

Do the French add their nuclear capability into that along with millitary pensions ect? Our defence budget is huge, and I can’t figure out where all the money goes to. We have lost a quarter of our millitary might all tornados and expensive crews half our destroyers and huge type 42 crews just to name two things we must save a fortune on, but we still spend the same or more on defence. I would love to see a spread sheet of what we spend our budget on.

Armchair Admiral

Accountability, in a word. None or very little combined with the meddling of contracts that goes on.
I think the T31 will all be delivered on time and budget because they have “no interference” contracts. Perhaps we would have an upgraded Warrior fleet by now if a similar contract type had been signed.
AA

Cammy

As I understand it warriors can last a fair bit longer with upgrades, so why not upgrade, if not we should have a reserve force like Russia does with old gear!, even a reserve battalion with warrior and other surplus for sale gear like the 2,500 for sale Mastiff and ridgeback MRAP vehicles, and the thousands of land rovers and 8 ton lorry’s up for sale, we are selling loads of Army gear!… and we should have more reserves than we do… We should start compulsory millitary training again… get out strength right back up to where we should be..

eclipse

Did some research; as far as I understand the French budget does include the €5bn nuclear deterrence budget but not the pensions budget. The pensions budget is a separate €8bn, which brings the total budget to around 58 billion dollars, which is still 15% less. I also don’t understand, sure our ships are terribly expensive but we have cut manpower by enormous margins so that should have allowed for more equipment, not less. The USAF in Britain has a similar number of fighters as the RAF, which is little known but unarguably embarrassing.

https://www.sipri.org/commentary/topical-backgrounder/2021/reassessing-sipris-military-expenditure-estimate-united-kingdom
https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2021/05/france-nuclear-recapitalisation
https://www.janes.com/amp/france-plans-45-defence-budget-increase-for-2021/ZnlJK3dHVU9mZ28xajRJVkc5dVI5VFp1cVMwPQ2

Cammy

Yeah we have cut manpower in defence massively and outsourced loads. We should be growing our millitary not cutting it. It is embarrassing the size of the oldest airforce and one many nations owe their Air Force too and look up to… we should be far bigger.

But we agin are cutting numbers, I bet tempest is about 80 aircraft total… we need to stop cutting, F35b numbers wedgetails cut, half the ISTAR fleet cut and sold to usaf, it’s happening everywhere…The Royal Navy is so under strength it’s also embarrassing, ships with no anti ship missiles.. the list is massive.. we are also closing so many bases that should stay open… we should have a 30 strong escort fleet. We need a multipurpose destroyer and 20 frigates half GP half Anti submarine/ multipurpose. We also need 8 min smaller conventional submarines for home/ European North Sea areas leave nuclear to globe trott. The RFA has also been chopped to bits and barely has a fleet left, 3 new solid suport ships is great though. And let’s hope we get the 6 new ships being talked about. Anyways rant over..

eclipse

Royal Navy I have faith will fix itself; its procurement is by far the most competent, and their plans usually result in deliveries. The RAF has started taking the RN’s lead and I think Tempest numbers will be in the 150-200 range, especially if Japan joins. Army… they need to sort themselves out. We can increase budgets as much as we want, if the money isn’t being spent properly there will be no change.

Joe16

The MOD is frustratingly closed up about projects and funding. Despite having a lot of secret stuff, it seems that the US has significantly more public oversight and available information- something i think we could learn from. But that would then require some kind of public accountability on the part of the MOD too…!

Cammy

We should be buying and building what we need to be a credible force not buying and building to impossible budgets that inevitably overrun. We should have what we need what ever the cost. And halving foreign aid to still a huge 6 billion would give us more strength but instead we insist on giving it to any Tom dick and Harry because we have to by law spend all of it every single year and it increases almost every year too! no wonder we give it away to dumb projects and assholes…

eclipse

Foreign aid budget should be used properly, too. Firstly there should be a law that no cash can be given out, only material, tangible help. Secondly, the materials being given have to be sourced from the U.K., so the billions are going to British businesses who are providing the materials. For example, if there has been a natural disaster, the government should NOT give money to the country; every country that requires aid is not developed and therefore has higher degrees of corruption. The government should ONLY be able to purchase aid, first aid kits, long lasting food, torches and survival packages and whatever it is from British companies. This way, the foreign aid budget also benefits the country’s economy.

David Steeper

The aid rules have been changed so that the aid has to be spent in UK. Late but better than never.

Joe16

We seem to be conflating a number of issues here.
We already have a very significant military budget without going near the foreign aid budget. The problem is in how well that money is used and what it is used for. The NAO consistently report that the MOD has poor programme/project management at the fundamental level, yet the MOD has only just started to work towards acting on their years-old recommendations witht eh Dreadnought programme. I’m not sure if any of the other acquisition programmes are the same, but WCSP and Ajax suggest otherwise. The lack of oversight (and thus accoutnability) compound this problem, because the government has no information against which they can hold the MOD.
This is only made worse because the government wants the military to do more than their budget allows. That is where the Foreign Aid budget could help, but I’d still hesitate. Foreign Aid is predominately issued as loans- it’s not just a handout in that the money is returned with interest. I believe there are also some strings attached to encourage using British support for that money, but I may be wrong on that one. I fully agree that some people shouldn’t be getting money from us (India, for example, who are putting rockets into space while we pay for their poorest to be supported), but that is to do again with proper management or oversight. You only need to look at the expansion of China into Africa and elsewhere to see how the use of loans and other financial aid can be a boon to the lender’s economy and global influence. We can’t say that foreign aid is pointless and be worried about China’s growing influence using similar means- if it works for them then it can be an effective tool for us that should not be defunded.
Besides, as far as I’m concerned, the MOD needs to show that they can properly handle the money thay they already receive before we take money from any other budget and give it to them. They have some way to go in that regard.

X

We have to borrow for the ‘Foreign Aid Budget’. It costs us not only the principal but interest too (obviously). And for what? Show us a tangible result, just one. Africa is already away with European money.

Joe16

The government’s deficit last year was £323B, while the aid budget was £14B. As far as I can see the UK government doesn’t publish which parts of their budget are covered by borrowing, and clearly our defecit is far more than the Foreign Aid budget (why did you put it in quote marks, it’s a real thing?) so I’ve no idea how you’re making your assertion or what your point is. UK government borrowing is at a very low interest rate- lower than we charge on the loans that make up the majority of our foreign aid. That means we cover the interest and make some back (obviously). Incidentally, that’s how a lot of our financial economy works too- wrapping up debt and reselling it. It’s nothing new.
There are numerous success stories for our foreign aid if you want to go looking, but our involvement in Kenya is seen as a good example. The UK is also a major contributor to programmes that provide vaccines to tens of millions of people, provide education to over 10 million children, and water/environmental/farming support to people so they can support themselves where they are- rather than being driven to emigrate due to poor opportunities where they are. UK government reviews have consistently shown that it is cheaper to support communities in the countries where they are, rather than if they were here in the UK.
Of course there are failures too, that will happen anywhere, but I’d love for you to back up your assertion that there are no positive tangible results from our foreign aid. Unless you’re using a different definition of tangible?

Jon

The defence budget is far from substantial as these things go. Over the last decade it’s been at a historic low in terms of the UK’s GDP. By historic I mean since there has been a UK, over 300 years.

Yes, MoD procurement is lamentable, but a lot of that is because they are juggling too many requirements with too little budget, and they suck at juggling. I don’t know if it’s because the project managers are bad, or if they don’t have the power to sort things out. When you answer to someone who answers to an accountant who answers to a politician, none of whom can delegate but must follow labyrinthine procedures mandated by the treasury, your scope for sorting problems will be limited. It could be that’s why they can’t attract decent project managers.

Tell me which spending ministry gets it right in your book. Who does it “properly”?

The MoD can never satisfy people who say: let’s see them show they can properly handle what they have. Even if they delegated to the best people, they still have to take chances on research. Risk means there will always be things going wrong and the cynics will point and say I told you so; you should never have spent that money there, ignoring all the research that went well.

Meanwhile the military gets less and less and it shrinks further and further. Politicians keep claiming that the shrinking size is nothing to do with the shrinking budget. And they say it with a straight face too. Crazy.

Joe16

I’ll acknowledge that as a percentage of GDP our military spending is less than the period during which we were expanding and maintaining the largest Empire the world has ever known- or when we were fighting two world wars, or when we were facing down the Soviets. But I’m not sure what that proves, other than that we don’t need to spend that much anymore. I think it’s also rather skewed from the perspective that the government provides significantly greater services now compared to 1800, which necessarily comes out of the same pot of money as defence, and we would all be the worse off without them.
I’m sorry, but the whole point of programme / project management is to juggle and successfully prioritise. You’re describing the process of cost, schedule, risk and change management as if it’s a dark art; it’s not and there are a great many well recognised tools and processes for managing even very large projects effectively. If the MOD suck at it, then by definition they are bad at their job and they need to improve. The NAO has specifically stated that structural issues within
the MOD (regular rotation of uniformed staff through posts, preventing
familiarity with projects and suchlike) cause major problems with execution. Nothing to do with politicians or Treasury sticking their oar in- the MOD have an project execution organisation, that they are responsible for creating, that doesn’t work. The NAO have pointed this out for years, with recommendations for change, and they’ve been largely ignored until more recently.
Last year, the IPA (another independent review board similar to the NAO) reported that 10 of the MOD’s major projects were at serious risk of failure or significant increase in cost and/or schedule. Some were viewed as unachievable without major re-baselining. That’s out of the 33 major projects that they provided evaluations for in the public sphere, but didn’t include either Warrior CSP or Ajax. That is not far off of 30% of the large projects that the MOD administers currently failing to deliver. If the projects department where I work was returning that kind of hit rate, then a lot of people would find themselves without jobs. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether other departments are better or worse- if the MOD can’t deliver what they said they would then their processes and structure are not fit for purpose. If they don’t address that, then it is not an effective use of public money to provide them with more to waste. 

Jon

You say we don’t need to spend that much any more. That’s your opinion, one shared by several recent governments whose public statements show a stellar lack of understanding of the subject, and vociferously disagreed with by all the recent Commons Defence Select Committees. In fact that’s what the debate is all about.

I’m not only comparing spending to the 1700s and 1800s (the expansion of the empire was largely privately funded), but also the 1970/80s pre-Falklands sell offs and the 1930s Great Depression: the decade before WW2, when the military was being run down and Churchill was warning and warning. We still spent far more then than we do now.

You keep saying that there’s failure in the MoD, as though that means the military can get away with having less money and still defend the country. There’s no logic there. If you said fire every third member of MoD procurement until they stop screwing up, at least that would be logical (although not very effective). I’m not saying MoD procurement is good at its job, nor that they don’t need to improve significantly. There we are in agreement. I am saying that defunding the whole of the military to teach MoD procurement a lesson is no solution to a problem that we both agree is there.

In 2019/20 Total expenditure was £54bn. The majority of that went on resource expenditure: personnel, maintenance, support, pensions, depreciation, etc. Capital projects cost £10.3bn, of which military-use capital purchases cost less than £7bn. Can you really argue that fewer than 30% of the military-use capital projects deemed “at serious risk of failure” justifies a massive reduction in paying for everything else?

You never answered my question. Which department gets it right? Health, education, transport, justice? Why only defund the military when it’s clear all spending departments are inefficient and they all screw up?

Last edited 20 days ago by Jon
Joe16

I say that we don’t need to spend as much as we did historically, not that we should spend less than we currently do. During the 1700s and 800s, we were not only administering an empire but fighting a number of rather major wars and battles across 3 continents (from War of 1812, the Napoleonic and peninsular wars in western Europe, two Boer wars in southern Africa, the Crimean War in eastern Europe, plus wars in the middle east, far east, and Africa to either expand territory or prevent other Empires from doing the same. Those are British Army forces, not British East India company forces or similar. That is a huge amount of military commitment.
But let’s discuss the 1900s periods that you mention. There was certainly a drawdown of forces (and funding) after WW1, which is understandable given we were on a total war type of footing, but the reduction in strength really happened in the late 20s and early 30s. that said, we were still administering an empire (fully government funded since 1858 when the British East India Company handed their military over), moving through a project to entirely mechanise the army started in 1929, expanding the Royal Navy to keep pace with the USN, modernising the RAF with monoplane designs, all while struggling through the great depression. Contrary to public perceptions, Britain was expanding their warfighting capabilities from the mid-1930s if not before. The British government wasn’t blind- they could see the expansion of Germany and the Soviet Union and they were concerned.   
As far as the 1970s go, we were in a very sorry state financially to the extent that we had to go to the IMF for a bail out and had finally pulled back from all of our eastern commitments only in 1971, yet were still maintaining the BAOR, an air-delivered tactical nuclear deterrent (on top of CASD), 27,000 troops in Northern Ireland, and having to actively and aggressively patrol the north Atlantic for Soviet submarines.
Since then, our requirements of the armed forces have gone down rather than up. We no longer have (nor do we need) a tactical nuclear delivery capability- which apparently constituted approximately 10% of the defence budget at the time of retirement. Nor, thankfully are we expected to deploy 55,000 troops with significant armour in Germany or anywhere close to 30,000 in NI. I agree that we need a potent, effective force and we are at an absolute bare minimum when it comes to capability right now. But we do not now have the same force requirements as we did even in the 1970s. Russia is aggressive and no pushover, but they are not the Soviet Union. China is the rising power, but has severe economic and social problems of their own and are more interested in economic influence beyond their immediate region. We shouldn’t be complacent, and we need to maintain and augment the power we have, but we should not spend more on defence in our current situation because we did in the past.
I’m also not saying that the MOD should have less money because they’re performing poorly with the money they have. But I don’t think that they should receive significantly more, after adjustments for inflation, than they currently do until they can prove that they are doing what they’re supposed to with their current slice of the pie. Over the last 20 years, the budget has stayed relatively stable between 2% and 2.5% of GDP, which is how it’s normally measured. I simply don’t see the “massive reduction in paying for everything else” that you are claiming. I would support an increase from the 2020 level of 2.2% GDP for operational purposes, potentially, except that the British Army are incapable of producing an ORBAT that actually reflects the government’s stated strategic aims for the armed forces (not my analysis, experienced defence journalists both military and civilian say the same thing). Once again- spending extra money to achieve capabilities that we don’t need would be a waste.
But you’re missing the point about the projects: They have a defined budget and schedule, offset against a set of risks with some contingency. Yet the MOD does not have an effective arrangement with Treasury for funding across financial years, and does not seem to be able to manage risk and change sufficiently well to avoid 30% of their projects from becoming failures. These are NAO and IPA findings, not the Guardian’s or DM’s, and not mine. You give the raw values of the projects there, but let’s remember that’s 20% of the MOD’s budget we’re talking about devoted to capital purchases. I will say it again, but if you have a structure and people within a sub-department who are mis-managing 20% of the department’s budget then that sub-department gets reviewed and overhauled until they can perform effectively with the money provided to them. They do not receive more money and the inefficiency accepted as wastage. I didn’t need to answer your what-about question regarding other departments, because it simply shouldn’t matter. If a department performs poorly then it should be fixed before a greater share of the available resources are given it. It should not be a race for mediocrity and poor performance with public money.

Jon

Once again, we are in agreement about the poor procurement ability of much of the MoD. There is no point in rehashing that. However, £7bn out out £54bn, how is that 20%? I make it about 13%. And I don’t know how much by value that 30% of the £7bn marked likely to fail is, 5% of the total maybe; anyway that’s not the core of our disagreement. It’s still too much.

Spend has fallen considerably over the last 10 years, but it’s disguised by an alteration of the calculation method and what’s allowed in the headline figures. On the old basis we spent about 1.8% of GDP in 2019/20. See Chapter 2. Just to get it back to 2.3% (measured on the old basis) would require a 27% increase in funding. That’s not keeping it stable. (I think it needs to end up closer to 3% of GDP as it was around 1990, but we can agree to disgree on that if you like.)

I believe the military is already too small given the current geopolitical situation, and shrinking it even further as the government is proposing is a really bad idea. Perhaps we agree on the latter as you say we are at “an absolute bare minimum now”. However, the current budgets aren’t enough to cover that bare minimum, so what do you think we should we do?

“I will say it again, but if you have a structure and people within a sub-department who are mis-managing 20% of the department’s budget then that sub-department gets reviewed and overhauled until they can perform effectively with the money provided to them.”

Yes I agree with that too.

“They do not receive more money and the inefficiency accepted as wastage.”

Here is where I think we really disagree. The don’t receive the money at all! They administer it. The military receive the money. You are punishing the military for the failure of the MoD. By all means find a different group to channel necessary money (if you can), but don’t stop the money in the meantime. If more money is necessary to fund the military, as I contend it is, and you have agreed far more was spent historically in far worse financial conditions than we have now, then I think it’s clear those funds should not be held back because of sub-departmental incompetence.

You have argued that more money was spent in the past because more was needed in the past, you have not argued it because the MoD was more efficient in the past. I agree that need should be the criterion. I argue more is needed now, and if you think the military has reached an absolute minimum, perhaps you also would be in favour of some remedial steps being taken to stop it shrinking further as called for in current plans.

Would you at least agree that reducing the 80+% of the budget (as the government has done and continues to do) should not be a consequence of mismanagement of a minority of the £7bn? If you agree, how would you propose neccesary money gets to the military if not through the MoD?

But no. You say you would be in favour, but claim the army is incapable of producing an ORBAT that reflects the government strategic objectives. So what? Isn’t it better to have a structure capable of adapting to real requirements than one reflecting the government’s thought for the day? When the army has been called on, have they been seen to fail? That’s the real test. How will sacking 10,000 soldiers help? Do you think we’ll be able to get them back in time for the next strategic review?

If you’d really support more money going into the resource budget if only it weren’t for the army, come out in support of giving it to the RAF, or that other bunch, the ones with the ships. It would be a heck of a surprise to ask the Navy to recruit 5,000 more sailors and 5,000 more marines to compensate for the army’s losses. I still don’t think they’d say no.

Joe16

I think that we agree on far more than we disagree on- which I’m glad for! I’m really sorry, but I’m writing this in my lunchbreak so can’t tick off every point- but appreciate the back and forth nonetheless.
Thank you for the link to the Commons publication, that’s helpful and just goes to show that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics! I would agree with you that 2.5-3% of GDP by the early 2030s would be an ideal place to be, given the scope of our politicians’ plans for Britain’s place in the world and the developing political picture. The bare minimum we are at now does not provide a comfortable margin of capability that we should have- we are paper thin at this point.
I do think that we could potentially make allotments to different parts of the military budget in order to prevent loss of capability (to me, the axing of the C130s is more major than most given that one of our key strengths is our force enablers- unless we increase our buy of A400Ms). However I also think that this needs to be carefully managed; we have a similar budget to the French, yet they operate a nuclear powered carrier and have air-delivered nuclear strike as well as CASD. Their military is otherwise not hugely different in terms of capability to ours- except for strategic airlift. For the cost of air delivered nuclear strike, I would imagine we should be able to have a strategic airlift capability quite comfortably and not be cutting left right and centre. But we are, and that worries me because it suggests that the money isn’t being managed in the core/operational budgets as well as in the acquisitions budget. I know that there is rightly a level of secrecy surrounding some of the stuff within the military, but they need to be transparent to someone and they need to be accountable.
I understand your concern that we need to spend more to make sure we don’t lose capabilities that would cost more to re-create later, I agree. But I still think that the MOD needs a proper sorting out when it comes to how they are spending money.
I think my issue with Army ORBAT is that the RN and RAF have developed a force structure and future strategy that is focussed on delivering what the government is going to be expecting from them, while being balanced enough to adapt to strategic changes. The government’s white papers have broadly laid out expectations for an ‘expeditionary outlook’ to enforce/support the global rule of law consistently for decades now (see the 1999 SDSR). There has admittedly been fluctuation surrounding how important peer conflict is, but nothing has fundamentally changed. The army shouldn’t have had much to surprise them. Yet they’re creating multiple small light infantry battalions with no logistical enablers in order to maintain cap badges, coming up with “new” Strike Brigade concepts that aren’t capable of doing what they are modelled on, cocked up or unacceptably delayed even relatively straightforward acquisition and upgrade programmes, and generally trying to avoid making painful decisions now to be able to build later. The RAF the RN had to do the latter, giving up their nuclear strike, Tornado fleet, carrier capability, cutting the FAA of fixed wing aircraft and shuttering squadrons with history in the process. Those are things I can think of just off the top of my head. But they’ve both laid a foundation now that they can build on. The army doesn’t seem to want to swap infantry for the logistical enablers that make them deployable, or anything remotely joined up. I’m not talking about sacking 10k soldiers, I’m saying we need those soldiers to be doing something else (force enablers rather than a paper force of squaddies with rifles that can’t go anywhere or communicate with anyone because the “tail” isn’t there to support them). The army has done a fantastic job with the resources available whenever it has been asked to do so. But, the fact remains that even if the army had the money to do what they say they want to do, that doesn’t do what is being asked of it. I hate to make the army my whipping boy, there are definitely issues in the whole MOD (Crowsnest, the weird helicopter share arrangements between the branches, Wedgetail numbers, C130), but to me the Army are not playing as part of “the team” in the same way that the other services are- and on top of that seem to be having far greater difficulty managing and administering their slice of the pie.    

Jon

It’s been an interesting chat, but probably time to move on now we’ve reached a point where we agree on much. I’ll just let you know that there are indeed plans to buy more A400Ms reported only yesterday.

I understand better what you mean by the army ORBAT. I’m more optimistic about the strike brigades. Given the fact that we’ll be losing so many soldiers, more contraction is necessary and smaller units are the result. It’s impossible to know whether they can make it work this early in the game. But I see this as a consequence of the loss of budget, not because it’s what they want. I don’t really follow the army to the same extent as the navy, and I have to admit my opinion is probably not that well informed.

I think Crowsnest, which had an early OOS date announced before it was even operational, and a desperate call out to industry for interim replacement ideas, is clearly not fit for purpose. But once again, it was a cheap, bad solution forced on the Navy because of budget cuts. Or maybe it was MoD penny-pinching in the wrong place. I don’t know. The project was mismanaged either way.

Joe16

Yes indeed, that A400M piece was a bit of good news after the C130 anouncement! Crowsnest is certainly not the Navy’s best effort, but I think they’re making do with what is essentially the old Seaking capability until they can get a UAV to do the job. At least, that’s what I hope is the case.
It’s been a good conversation, I’m sure we’ll talk again on here, or maybe UKDJ.

N-a-B

I’m far from convinced we are any worse than the French – or the other countries mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

It is indisputable that there are issues in procurement – although if you understand what the various NAO, IPA, PAC and HCDC reports are referring to you develop a more nuanced view. For example, anything that the PAC and HCDC report is generally informed by ignorance, rather than understanding what’s going on. Francois’ pre-xmas rant at 1SL over the T45 PIP is a case in point. You can’t do them any quicker than 2028, because doing so removes the entire class from availability for operations for a two-year period, even if the country had the skilled resource available to conduct the PIP (and more importantly the post-mod STW and commissioning).

What we see are a bunch of seemingly damning reports, some of which are valid, some of which are far less so. We do not have access to the equivalent from other countries, merely top trumps style force structure numbers. There is a tendency to assume that those numbers represent fully available assets, with no issues or limitations whatsoever. Which is far from the case.

Barry Larking

Without the people, all ranks and service branches, where the hell would this country be at this present state of widespread unease for the future? We own them a very great deal.

Geoffrey Hicking

MoD waste is degrading our capabilities and it feels like there is nothing we can do about it. How many Fort fleet stores ships could have been ordered for the cost of the Ajax failure? That is probably the key weak link in carrier capability.

If you think that’s civvie moaning, well civilians controlling the military is vital. The people in charge aren’t always omniscient and can make terrible mistakes. Even the Thin Pinstriped Line admits the serious MoD problems that must be dealt with.

The more people that moan, the more the public knows about it, and thus the more likely that something is done about it.

David Steeper

Spot on. Pretending there aren’t serious problems at MoD procurement means they’ll never be dealt with. It’s not anti military or defence it’s the opposite.

N-a-B

You can’t order any Fleet Solid Stores ships if there’s no viable design, irrespective of how much has been spent on Ajax. You can only order a ship when the design has been completed to a contract level (which still leaves an awful lot of basic, detailed and production design to do). As of this date, that remains the situation.

The fact there is – as yet – no design, is down to lack of the right people, not any particular “waste”.

Geoffrey Hicking

I’m not talking about them specifically. I was referring to the waste of Ajax and used FSS to put it into perspective on how much has been wasted.

4thwatch

The RN needs a longer reach. There are significant shortcomings that it cant but it needs to fight in all conditions and too much reliance on too few aircraft. By that I mean it never seems to train to fight its ships in heavy weather, which is surprising being located on the North Atlantic. If the helicopter is down for any reason they are seriously in trouble. No ship killing weapon. No heavy subkilling weapon. Its as if the enemy can’t shoot first and furthest. Not good.

Challenger

Overall 2021 has definitely been another strong year for The Royal Navy with the Carrier Strike Group coming to fruition, continued good work on forward basing / increasing the amount of time at sea and at the very least encouraging talk about up-gunning the future fleet.

Fair to say the senior service has done a fantastic job of shaping a prominent role in Britain’s post Brexit global agenda!

Sadly MoD procurement in a broader sense is still a mess that results in a serious lack of bang for the buck compared to a number of other nations (France, Australia and Japan spring to mind). Also despite the positive commitments to a number of new classes of vessel there are still lots of question marks and potential gaps on the horizon – namely in platforms that can deliver autonomous mine-hunters, a forward repair/support capability that was lost when Diligence was scrapped, the loss of a casualty receiving / aviation training platform when Argus goes, the glacial pace of FSS, the upcoming AShM gap and a lack of detail on things like the F35 follow-on order and how the Littoral Strike Groups will be configured if the Bays are no longer going to be refitted.

Jon

While no progress has been reported on the Bay conversion, I assumed that was a temporary lack of funds or just the MoD incapability of making decisions on anything over 20m long. Is that under review?

Hats off to the small boat brigade, mind you. They’ve shown themselves capable of taking decisions and placing orders over the last few years. Quite a few boats ordered this year, and deliveries coming along nicely too. Probably worth a mention.

Last edited 24 days ago by Jon
DavidB

Although the deployments have shown prescence and ability at the End Year, are we able to issue war load stocks to the fleet?

Are we sure that with 2022, when we ask sailors to go in harms way, they can defend themselves?

And finally, as another poster wrote, could the Parliamentary Accounts Cmtte along with the P. Defence Cmtte, ask MoD to put a spread sheet together and if they can’t present the actual numbers, at least show % waste of budget spent – it is too opaque and needs sunlight.

Happy New Year People!

James

Thank you for all the interesting images and articles and comments on your site this past year.

Martin Hall

No mention of the Prime Ministers yacht and what it will be expected to do in times of trouble.
What costs will it have and from who’s budget?

Jon

Originally it was announced as a build cost of £100m, but that figure was revised within the week to about £250m. It will come from the MoD’s budget and within that the Royal Navy’s. The recent cancellation of a £250m navy missile programme might give a hint as to the MoD’s thinking on the issue. Operating costs are unknown, ditto maintenance, but it will be crewed by the navy and operating costs will be paid for from their budget, leaving less in the pot for operating and maintaining warships. It won’t be a one-off drain on the navy, but will be a continual drain for decades to come.

In times of extreme trouble it will submerge, almost like a submarine, but unlike a submarine it won’t be able to resurface without the aid of a salvage crew.

David Steeper

I think I read somewhere it will come out of the MoD not RN budget like the old royal yacht. I could be wrong where did you read it was coming from RN budget ?

Jon

I don’t know how official it was, but it was the Commons Defence Select Committee report, We’re Going to Need a Bigger Navy.

“The £200-£250 million capital cost (the cost of a Type 31 frigate), combined with
running costs (expected to be £20–30 million annually along with the need to provide a ship’s company of 50–60) will be an ongoing pressure on an already constrained naval budget.”

I should know better than to believe a bunch of politicians, but let’s face it, who knows the political mind better?

No 10 and the MoD have confirmed it’s to come from the MoD budget, and the MoD budget doesn’t have fat. It has to come from somewhere in there. It could be taken from any of the three services, cyber or space, or from nuclear or research, pensions, etc. And you’d have to ask, where else if not the RN? So I believe the Select Committee on this one.

There are also unofficial places it’s implied or even stated, such as the Thin Pinstriped Line blog

“which … means implementing defence cuts to pay for it. What are the projects that the Royal Navy is going to have to defer, descope or delete to pay for a new national flagship?”

It wasn’t always going to be so. Navy Lookout stated the exact opposite in June

“From the Royal Navy’s perspective, the concern about this concept has always been that it might come at the expense of its own budget and create additional crewing pressures. Although she will be commissioned into the RN and managed by the MoD, the ship and her running costs will be funded completely separately.”

“The £200M budget for the project has been approved by Cabinet but it has not been decided whether this will be by direct grant from the Treasury or shared across Whitehall.”

But the Chancellor put the kibosh on that and it was soon made clear it would all be funded from the MoD budget after all. I hope Ben Wallace got some good tit for this old tat, because he really bent over (backwards) and took one for the team.

Hopefully the Department of International Trade will at least stump up for the champaign and caviar.

Last edited 21 days ago by Jon
David Steeper

Thanks did not know any or that.