After more than 3 years in gestation, the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy entitled “Global Britain in a Competitive Age” was published today. This is an ambitious and wide-ranging document that has much merit but for the Armed Forces, the devil will be in the detail that will follow in the Defence Command Paper published next week.
The IR can be described as comprehensive, coherent and well crafted. Unlike previous SDSRs, this is not just about defence and security but an attempt to respond to all the very diverse threats to UK peace and prosperity using hard and soft power levers. There are enormous challenges that span climate change, biosecurity, terrorism, grey zone activity, space, cyber, financial, conventional and nuclear threats. The post-Brexit Global Britain agenda is very much at the forefront and the aims represent something of a tour de force of global ambition. Promising so much is easy but delivering the programme will be extremely challenging, not only from a financial perspective but in breaking away from ingrained patterns of institutional behaviour.
The IR headlines will be dominated by the stated intention to increase the nuclear warhead stockpile from “180 to no more than 260 warheads”. For context, the UK still has the smallest stockpile of any declared nuclear state which pale in comparison to the 5,800 of the US and 6,375 of Russia. It should be noted the Russians are investing heavily in many kinds of new strategic and tactical nuclear weapon delivery systems. This modest increase is partly to do with the overlap in updating the existing Holbrook warhead stocks to a new design. If required, it would also allow the Trident submarine to embark more missiles and warheads than the present reduced level, although the deterrent posture is unlikely to change any time soon. If a deterrent is to remain fully credible more warheads may need to be launched at a given target to ensure the penetration of improving anti-ballistic missile defences.
The temporary retreat from the very significant 0.7% GDP commitment to overseas development aid is also controversial. Many have advocated redirecting these funds to the MoD but ODA is an important tool in the eradication of poverty, disease, migration, terrorism and conflicts at source and if well directed, benefits the UK as much as the recipients.
There is a further recognition that the disastrous feast and famine procurement order cycle and laissez-faire approach to the defence industrial base must end. All aspect of UK science, research and industry have a part to play in the defence of the realm and more strategic planning and long-term certainty can help with the North-South levelling up agenda and help boost the post-COVID economy. The Defence Secretary, who also doubles as the ‘Shipbuilding Tsar’, announced today that the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy will be refreshed and broadened to go beyond just the construction of hulls and include the complete supply chain. All government-owned vessels (over 150 tonnes) will be the subject of a 30-year procurement plan and their manufacture is likely to be restricted to predominantly UK companies.
Maritime front and centre
Other commentators will provide a deeper and broader analysis of the IR, but from a Royal Navy perspective, the direction of travel is mostly satisfactory. The RN is at the heart of many aspects of this document while the rapidly declining enthusiasm for putting boots on the ground overseas in anything but small numbers means the British Army is hardly mentioned. Many of the Army’s problems are of their own making, although a diminished Army should be a concern for everyone – ultimately conflicts are decided on land. While the Army leadership may be suffering a torrent of criticism, particularly for its mishandling of vehicle procurement, it should be noted the RN endured years of accusations and misinformation around the carrier project but has now successfully navigated stormy political seas and is assured that both ships will be retained in service. The Carrier Strike Group deployment is now the third most significant activity on the government’s foreign policy agenda (after chairing the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference).
The RAF, is of course, deeply involved with the carrier project and the number of F-35s that will be ordered should become clear next week. the original plan for 138 jets has faded but it now seems probable there will be a second tranche of orders beyond the initial 48. The RAF will take leadership of what the IR calls the “integrated space policy”, although expenditure on space will comprise a very small part of the defence budget. More widely, the RAF is likely to cut air mobility aircraft and reduce Typhoon numbers while betting big on the Tempest FCAS, which has heavy political backing as the future of the UK aerospace industry.
The IR identifies Russia as the biggest single actor threatening the UK, but adopts a more blurred approach to the rise of China which it describes as a “competitor” rather than specifically accusing them of undermining international laws and the established world order. The UK tilt towards the Indo-Pacific is a significant part of the document and emphasises trade and security with other partner nations. This obviously has major implications for the RN which is contemplating how to maintain a more persistent presence in the region.
Beyond the important, but transitory CSG21 deployment, how to sustain a forward-deployed naval force that is more than token is challenging. Basing a carrier east of Suez would impose a heavy financial cost and logistic burden and could be seen as being contrary to a strategy that sees Russia as the main threat. Duqm in Oman is now a viable base for aircraft carrier operations and/or other naval forces, should the tilt become a more significant pivot. The IR outlines plans to invest further existing overseas bases in Gibraltar, Cyprus, Oman and Singapore. Development of what are termed “strategic hubs” are designed to increase the reach of the armed forces and the RN in particular. The First Sea Lord confirmed HMS Tamar will be forward-deployed later this year. Whether she will base based in Singapore or another port in the Indo-Pacific is yet to be seen, although this would be more of an initial gesture of support as the presence of an OPV would have only minor military significance.
Unsurprisingly the IR names the United States as Britain’s most important ally and Trans-Atlantic trade looks likely to increase. There is deeply ingrained military and intelligence co-operation at many levels but the links between the RN and USN are especially strong. Whether it’s in the underseas domain, the naval aviation community, the Marine Corps or the surface ship world, there is mutual respect, exchanges of personnel and few secrets. The RN has lead the way in developing bonds with our increasingly important US partners, something that may be worth considering when politicians come to select the new Chief of Defence staff.
The IR document’s only concrete offering about the RN Equipment plan is to confirm what is already known, promising to: “develop the next generation of naval vessels, including Type 32 frigates and Fleet Solid Support ships, and deliver our plans for eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates.” Although two frigates and the minehunters will definitely go, the mood music emanating from the RN is positive, apparently having escaped some of the direst pre-review predictions about force reductions (including axing Wildcat). In our next article, we will try to make sense of the confusion around future surface escort numbers.
48 fast jets per Carrier minus 10 overall for both, 86 min/max for our Air wing for 2 carrier’s.
There will come a time when a carrier will be in refit. We will never have two carriers in operation.
We may not plan to have two carriers in operation at the same time in peacetime but what about in a national emergency? In 1982 we had to simultaneously generate two carrier air groups so why not not at some time in the future.
At a push we need the capability to put 72 F35Bs on those two ships.
Yes, plan for the worst. The F35B is a unique type of plane which wont stay in production for ever. The RAF already has another type in service and is looking/working on that types replacement, so their needs are more flexible.
As for there being a carrier in refit, theres a bigger problem with the ship if 1 of 2 is always under refit, remembering they dont have the cat launch and trap equipment which are very maintenance intensive. The Diesels and gas turbines are much maintenance load than old type boilers, turbines and condensors.
It doesnt seem to be too hard to plan for at least 20% of the time 2 ships are at sea at the same time with some sort of surge F35B capability on board ‘for some of that 20%’
Once one of them goes into refit we will never have two operational again. We haven’t got two operational now and they are both new.
Some of you around really need to learn about how navies work and operate.
Two carriers in operation together briefly last spring. That is Not to say that two carriers will be in operation together in the future. It depend on taskings assign by RN High Command.
Are you recommending that we return to conventional steam-driven major warships?
The most jets we’ve deployed in action from carriers since 1945 was a mix of roughly 35 FAA and RAF Harriers down south in 1982 – and even then no more than 30 were in operation at any one time. The idea of packing both carriers with 70+ vastly more capable 5th gen jets is a bit fanciful.
Having said that I think everyone agrees if you want to have more than a token carrier capability then you do need more than 48 F35B and only 2 front-line squadrons.
The aim is to routinely embark 24 UK jets on either QE or PoW when they deploy (which would represent a very respectable force) whilst having the usual OCU squadron, a small attritional reserve and enough spare capacity to conduct RAF operations (providing a detachment on stuff like Op Shader in The Middle East for example) or beef up the carrier air wing as and when required.
All told i think a force structure of 70-80 F35B’s in 4 squadrons will enable us to do everything we want to do.
All true, but bear in mind Harrier was a much more basic, robust and easy to repair platform.
Although it’s improved considerably, F35b is a vastly more complex platform not renowned for reliability or maintainability and it’s unlikely to ever reach the same availability as Harrier.
So when compared to Harrier, to achieve the same sustained daily sortie rate it’s likely that a significantly larger number of F35b would be required.
Yes. When they were planning the carriers they were hoodwinked by the very high daily sortie rate ‘promised’ and worked backwards to say they only needed the low numbers on board. Reality bites now they are in service and 3 squadrons or around 36 is necessary now, but not in times of low conflict.
Agreed, also I think we should be careful making comparisons to 1982. While it was undoubtedly a great achievement with limited resources, the quantity of jets available was insufficient for the task. UK couldn’t attain full air supremacy for which a heavy price was paid, in lives and hulls lost.
On the other hand I think it’s fair to say that the technology gap between first & second tier militaries has widened considerably since then, equipment, sensors and weapons now available to UK forces will certainly provide an advantage.
Also the large size & facilities of the QEs will facilitate quick turnaround much easier than with the Invincibles
I remember when people said we should have just bought two new invincible size carriers!…. And they weren’t even meant to be fast jet carriers..More helicopter cruisers. And size really does matter with carriers.
But Atleast we got the second best Option out of the three new carrier proposals!, could have been the smaller option, But should really have been the best option that was bigger and better armed and equipped.
Agreed, better to start with large basic carriers that can be added to and enhanced over time, with smaller carriers options are limited from the start. Ultimately the QEs are clearly a superior capability to anything else available outside the USA, who we could never hope to match. The French experience with CDG just shows how important it is to match capability to available resources, it’s much better to have something more basic that’s sustainable IMO.
Carriers are big and expensive. And when you pull them apart they don’t go back together quickly. Any national emergency that occurs that quickly we can’t see it coming would stump us anyway. To have two available like that we would need three hulls (possibly 4). The RN will never ever operate carriers at the same intensity as the USN operates their carriers. Our carriers are the reserve for the ’emergency’.
Actually ours are rather more on the big and simple side.
Dry docking a ship is very expensive in prelims (overheads) so docking periods need to be kept short.
Maintenance methods are changing. A lot of prep work is done prior to the docking period.
Design is more modular and logistics chains allow more precise ordering of parts. More minor repairs don’t wait for docking as it is better to keep the punch lost short.
So you wouldn’t keep a ship in dry dock whilst all the internal works were done.
Yes you are right. That is why the Chinese are knocking carriers out because they are simple…..not. Actually once again you are just showing that you have very limited understanding.
A ship doesn’t have to be in dry dock to be unusable. It can be secured alongside the wall, stripped of kit, and useless.
the only logistic you know is getting loo paper from tesco
Nothing else to say?
Please reply in constructive detail your opposition to SB’s comment then!
Now I know who the down voter was!
I’ll settle for 68 for the two ships.
We will never have two carriers in commission. I would settle for 68 just so we can have an adequate number for one carrier.
Don’t we already have two active? And I think there will be times when both carriers are deployed, all be it POW might be in the commando helicopter role, maybe just a handful of f35s for top cover tnough.
Wrong! Two carriers have already been Commissioned, and also 2nd carrier been in operation training crew at the same time. Only when in refit a carrier is technically out of commission. In the future a 2nd carrier will be training with 207Squ OCU for periods of training.
We will have 2 active Carriers at the same this year. While QE is off on her travels leading a CSG, POW will be working up and getting itself ready to take over when QE returns and goes into maintenance.
Both fully crewed, one on active service, one working up. Just as it will be in future cycles.
36 on one of the carriers, plus possibly a couple of spares, is the maximum for a strike carrier. If the other operates at the same time it will probably be in an amphibous attack mode with a high number of heavy lift rotories. Assume a dozen F-35s for the defensive bubble. That’s before we develop/buy loyal wingman drones to pad out the numbers.
I’d be happy if we bought another 24 F-35Bs when the block 4 upgrades are standard. That should be enough to last us for a number of years. F-35 prices will drop and replacements could be bought as the current airframes wear out, giving us 25 or 30 years with F-35B at the heart of the carrier strike force.
To be honest I can’t ever see them putting 36 F35s on one carrier, it’ll be 24 max I can gaurintee.
It’s actually a bit worse then that. The 48 F35B’s we will receive by 2025 will all be block 3 aircraft, so limited in capability to Paveway Mk 4, ASRAAM and AMRAAM , unless they all receive the upgrade – some £20 million each.
Secondly and potentially more importantly, F35 was meant to replace both the Harrier -57 aircraft and RAF Tornadoes -62 aircraft, some 120 airframes in total. F35 might be good, but it can’t be in 2 places at once. Unless we do buy more we will lose an entire capability whether you call it Harrier or Tornado is irrelevant!!! If the aircraft are on a deployed carrier, they will not be available for the RAF and vice versa.
To think be originally bought 300 odd tornadoes!
We certainly did CAM, had more Tornadoes alone, then we have got aircraft in the RAF now!!!!
Agreed. For me the lack of a stand off land attack and anti-ship missile* is the big weakness in the UK’S F35. They are fine for air defence missions. However, the increasing proliferation of long range Russian SAM’s the continued improvements in stealth detection leave them useless for strike missions against anything other than third rate opponents.
Yes agree, unfortunately MOD dropped the requirements to integrate Storm Shadow into F35 some years ago!!!!!
We might get lucky with a ASH missile, if we go for the JSM which Norway and Australia are developing for BLK 4 inclusion, as it will fit into F35 won bay. You never know.
JSM is slightly too big for the B’s weapons bays, it has to be fitted under the wings. Japan has paid Kongsberg to study the feasibility of a slight redesign to allow it fit internally on a B model.
Not entirely True! The new F-35Bs we received from last year have received most the Block 4 hardware upgrades already. Some are plug in modules.
The software side is 80% of Block 4 which is being introduced incidentally at 6 month interviews up to 2026. It was originally planned to be completed by 2024.
It would of been a nightmare if Block 4 was done in All in One Go, that is Not the case! LM did learn lessons from Block 3i to 3F!
You are party right, in that some aspects of F-35B will still be Block 3 up to 2026.
That being the case, which part of the incremental upgrades to BLK 4 cover the integration of Spear3/Meteor, which is a big capability increase for is? Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be now, so, could potentially still be in late 25, early 26, either way still a major shortfall for us. To be fair, Spear3 won’t be ready for integrating until 2024 anyway, however, you get my point.
I think the biggest issue LM has learnt over the years is how to charge customers more!!!!!!! Only my view…..
Yes Deep32, some of the capabilities
you mentioned, are not available until later entry of Block 4 functions.
I have read that the nuclear capability for F-35A, is available from 2023.
Meteor is I read in 2024.
I understood that both S3 and Meteor were to be integrated in2024 to coincide with the acceptance of original BLK 4 timescale. Just a tad annoying that it’s all been delayed until 2025/26 with increased costs too!
Amazing that it will have taken approx 20 yrs to get it it to a reasonable state for effective strike capability (for UK F25B anyway).
Just madingly frustrating really…
All F35Bs will be upgraded to the Block 4 standard, including the 3 test and evaluation aircraft at Nellis. A quote from the Station Commander at RAF Marham: “The UK will operate a single standard of aircraft in terms of rolling upgrades, no jet will be left behind.”
Simply put we wont have the numbers and therefore can’t afford aircraft to have different modification states. As this will dictate which aircraft can be deployed as part of a squadron.
“The IR identifies Russia as the biggest single actor threatening the UK, but adopts a more blurred approach to the rise of China which it describes as a “competitor” rather than specifically accusing them of undermining international laws and the established world order.”
The Thin Pinstriped Line has won.
In fairness China and the West are now mutually dependent on so many levels open conflict is highly unlikely.
I’m sure it won’t stop the continuing posturing on both sides though.
Good Morning. I’ve no confidence that Xi’s Politburo views mutual dependency as anything other than transitory, which is by no means the same as believing that most, if not all, chinese companies would prefer to cooperate with the rest of us. After all, the smooth generation of money is a primary motivation for all, and they are technologically innovative. They remind me of the Japanese in that respect, once we got over the latter’s ‘copying’ accusations duting 50/60s, and we have benefitted from Japanese management & investment over the years.
Secondly, for arguments sake, say ‘united nations’ decided to press the universal legal axiom that China has no right to arbitrarily claim most of the SCS over numerous legitimate interests. Or, for that matter, to enter other countries fishing zones and bully indigenous fishermen out of there. Retorically, are the Chinese military just going to fall back from illegally fortified shoals following naval challenge (the only realistic ‘police action’)? So, I’m afraid that the ‘confict is highly unlikely’ depends upon ‘us’ doing nothing. Then there’s Taiwan………
I don’t disagree on Xi’s world view and recent actions clearly show that China seeks decoupling from dependence on the West. However, in practice I believe that due to a number of systemic issues, decoupling will be much more difficult for China to achieve Vs Japan.
China is the world’s largest exporter so would be foolish to attack their largest customer i.e. the West. To rebalance China seek to grow domestic demand, including via impressive infrastructure projects.
However China remains a relatively poor – albeit large – country with low and sluggish GDP per capita. This is heavily compounded by aging population – a dependency ratio problem, after decades of one-child policy, which worsens over time.
Chinese have deep culture of personal saving so will struggle to replace insatiable consumption of the west with domestic demand because they are not natural consumers.
Besides, domestic growth creates a cycle of wage inflation that subsequently diminishes global competitiveness, essentially the same problem that the west faced for decades! The west painfully transitioned economies to services and advanced tech, something that will be equally difficult for China to achieve.
China lacks capacity, both technically and culturally, to produce independent innovation. A problem understood by politburo hence insistence on technology transfer by western suppliers. Ironically such policy actually undermines independent development, as it’s really just a state-enforced system of copying on grand scale.
China is supreme in reverse engineering but often show that they fail to understand what they copy. Many examples where China copies advanced western technology yet still unable to produce barely adequate products after several decades e.g. civil & military aviation industry and aircraft carrier program.
Japan is culturally very different – innovative engineers and scientists are highly respected by all. China by contrast has exploitative ‘fast-buck’ culture that strongly favours wit over actual knowledge & capability. China also completely lacks ingrained culture of quality that was taught to Japan by USA and subsequently a factor in Japanese industrial success.
On the political front Chinese government must be viewed as strong but fragile. The continued support & stability of the enormous population is garnered partly through oppression but is also somewhat dependent on continuing to deliver improvement in quantity of life, this already facing strong economic headwinds and would be very rapidly eroded by any external war or conflict.
So while I agree that China is not to be underestimated and don’t doubt their ambition, I think due to factors above such ambitions will be tempered by reality and mutual dependency with the West will continue, at least for the next decade or two.
TLDR – it’s important to note that the industrial and economic success of both Japan and Germany required a major cultural shift that was imposed from outside following a humiliating military defeat.
It would therefore be deeply unwise for the west to force China economicaly or politically into a similar situation, hence IMO the posture of viewing them as a competitor to be respected but contained is perhaps a sensible one.
Perhaps. But the same was said of Europe in 1914. Interdependence did not prevent a clash.
The principal question for the immediate future will be what China will do about Taiwan and what will the United States do (Europe is essentially irrelevant) if there is an overt attempt to absorb Taiwan?
That’s a fair point but I think the degree of dependence and nature of international trade is markedly different today Vs early 20th century.
Back then international trade was primarily focused on raw materials, with more limited exports from the industrialised West to the developing world. Today it’s the other way round – China seeks to gain control of natural resources but is also highly dependent on the West for it’s exports.
Nobody knows what the Chinese government will do but it’s clear that they study geopolitical & economic history and integrate this into policy. So while there will always be skirmishes and posturing I think Chinese government are perhaps far more rational than we give them credit, and as such much less likely to actually do something rash like invading Taiwan.
IMO the biggest risk we currently face is not China achieving dominance – they are still a very long way from that, despite appearances – but a sudden failure or economic shock leading to them doing something desperate. Just as happened to Germany before both world wars.
It could result in China taking control of a significant proportion of microprocessor production.
We must not let it happen.
We should restrict our trade with China, but not stop altogether.
Mm, I’d like to see the bona fide references to China lacking understanding* of what they copy. Same was said for Japan who subsequently took the tech ahead of us, particularly on personal transport, before going a long way to re-educating and modernizing our management to get our industry efficient again. Luckily, Japan took the full democratic option after WWII, which likely had a bearing on their freedom and desire to do that.
* I recall that even during the war the Allies looked at very western fighter they could to establish exactly what the Japs had copied to make the Zero (?) because ‘they’ did not understand aeronautics adequately; but turned out they did, though.
Agree that China is far more fragile politically than appears, and will suffer the same domestic economic complications as other economies, but in the
meantime it’s aggressive Politburo model needs effective economic and steadfast counter prior to that or there is likely to be a miscalculation on their part, I feel. Xi is not likely to respect perpetual ‘reaching out’, though we can & should continue with that approach in tandem.
I’m not saying China is incapable of developing new technology – clearly they are not – but their culture and political model does not inherently support innovation, and in many ways undermines it.
I already mentioned civil aviation as a reference; have a look at ARJ21 or C919 if you are interested. Both blatant copies of established western products, beset by ongoing problems, and neither a resounding success.
I respect your viewpoint but IMO Japan’s post war development cannot really be compared, firstly because Japanese culture is very different to China’s to start with.
Secondly as I already hinted the Japanese industrial-economic miracle was achieved with full support and cooperation with the USA, under the Marshall plan. So it was no accident of history.
Essentially Japan took many of USA’s own hard learned lessons and did it better, to the extent that they could teach us back.
China will never willingly give up the South China Sea (SCS) for a number of key reasons. The first is resources, the second is pride.
China has a population over 1 billion, who all need to be fed. Those living within 50 miles of the coast have a predominant “sea” based diet. To keep the population under control and relatively content, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) need to make sure that they are fed. To achieve this, China has the biggest fishing fleet in the World. They range from small inshore to deep water boats, that can been seen hoovering up fish stocks around the World. However, they have already overfished the Bohei Sea and most of the Yellow Sea, so much so, that the North Koreans are mostly fishing of their East coast and being found in Japanese and Russian waters.
The SCS is surrounded by China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, it should also include Taiwan. Each have claims on the area. However, with China’s recent rampant economic growth. They have managed to supersede all these Nations militarily and industrially. Whereby, fishing fleets now regularly sail under the protection of at least one Chinese coastguard vessel. There have been regular clashes between Chinese coastguard and fishing boats and other Nations boats, including loss of life and generally in favour of the Chinese. However, there have also recently been clashes between these coastguard vessels and the other Nations naval vessels, particularly Vietnamese and Pilipino. Indeed, it was only a couple of weeks ago, that Premier Xi announced that the “military” have been given authorisation to protect their Nation’s interests with force. This is a clear statement of intent with regards to their gazumping of the SCS.
The amount of untapped Oil and Natural gas under the SCS rivals the Arabian peninsular. China is resource poor in this area and needs to heavily import these resources, at cost. So China’s aim would be to exploit these resources and cut down on their costly imports.
To them the SCS is a life line to making sure the CCP stay in power, but it also leads to the next reason pride. China is very good at and has historically always played the long game, i.e. patience will win out. However, after they were invaded and then controlled by various Western Nations (us included), then being labelled the sick man of Asia. This double stigma has eaten into their soul. Their ambition is clear, they want to get rid of the historical stigma and become a super power that rivals the USA, righting the wrongs done to them under the Imperialist” yoke along the way.
At some point in the very near future, the Chinese will escalate tensions within the SCS with one of the other Nations, most likely Vietnam, who they have a history of conflict with. Vietnam, also rely on the SCS for food, so being forced out by China will have dire consequences on the country. There is no other local country that can prevent this, unless the US step in.
Squabbling over marine resources is nothing new, nor is it unique to the Chinese. Indeed the UK, and other European nations, have been arguing over fishing rights for decades, including at times the use of military escorts.
The Chinese do take it to a whole new level, but it’s difficult to know what can really be done besides the usual presence and FONOP stuff. The presence of US and European ships will certainly give China pause, while reassuring others in the region.
On the pride issue I am not so sure. The imperial history of China was centuries ago. We do not after all hold any grudge against the USA for their ‘treacherous’ deceleration of independence?
One thing that is constant in international relations, is that the parties often fail to understand each others actions, simply because they do not see the world from the others point of view.
For example, chairman Xi need not worry about being re-elected, so to him the blustering and political maneuvering of our own leaders must at times seem a little bizarre. But equally it is harder for us to understand the true motivations of a leader who cares much less about playing to the home crowd.
So despite all the provocations and strong arming, I remain to be convinced that China would actually resort to open conflict with another country. It simply does not serve their interests.
If Russia is a “threat” to the UK, then you’re going to need a much larger force. A 900-man army “task force” (or even a brigade) in the Baltics, in the face of 3 Russian armies and separate corps in Kaliningrad, is just pretending. And by all reports the review will actually even further reduce the British army!
As for China, for the RN to deploy (let alone sustain) a serious task group to the eastern Pacific requires a significantly larger force than what is currently envisaged. I would be surprised if the PRC is particularly worried about a task group that basically incorporates everything the RN has at the sharp end and which may show up about as often as Halley’s comet.
cuts to air mobility seem a bloody stupid idea….. what are we gonna get rid of…our c17’s?? that would be a horriffic idea!
The US would gladly take C17 off our hands, but my money is on the Hercs….not big enough to carry any of the new vehicles like Boxer.
Yup, we are losing all hercs, might be linked to decision to drop warrior?
IDK what’s happening with Warrior but it’s looking like it may be dropped.
One problem maybe not adequately considered – scrapping Warrior will leave CTA-40 as an orphan on Ajax, and the economics of that gun platform was already iffy. Needs volume to get the ammo cost down.
Unless the intention will be to try and integrate the Warrior turret on to some of the Boxer fleet.
Yes that’s a possibility, but as others on here often say, such things are never so simple. There would be a lengthy & costly integration exercise.
It would be fairly typical of UK defence procurement to drop Warrior upgrade just at the point it’s all proven and working, having spent several hundred million quid on development!
So is that true, MoD spends £100Ms down drain again??
£400m or so on Warrior IIRC, not sure what that includes and perhaps some of the investment like the turret could be diverted into another program.
I believe LM have already demonstrated CTA on Boxer, so it can be done.
Smaller Army lends itself to becoming fully mechanised (no more light inf) and I think we will see an IFV version of Ajax with 6 dismounts becoming the standard.
The problem I have with CTA is why didn’t we select for T31 instead of Bofors, that way we standardise like we have successfully with sea captor etc.
CTA-40 is optimised for IFV where the compact non-penetrating turret is a real advantage, saving internal space for dismounts and increased survivability due to magazine being outside the manned compartment.
That’s much less of an advantage on a ship where you have more space, better compartmentation. Also the 2.5km effective range is fine for close infantry support but a bit limited for naval application.
CTA-40 is another Anglo-French project where we paid and they got the benefit. We would have been better just buying either what the Yanks were buying or getting something off the shelf like say Bofors 40mm.
The Warrior upgrade should have been simply to plate over the hole for the turret and a RWS. This new turret idea was a farce.
Where the money should have gone is a turret for a Boxer. Sort of obvious really. But the MoD don’t do obvious.
Yeah it’s a bit of a farce, but IMO CTA-40 does have some real advantages (non penetrating turret, arc of fire, armour piercing performance) and since we already paid for the development we might as well make use of it.
Bottom line, we are already committed to CTA-40 on Ajax by contract, so like I said it needs to be on another platform in volume to get the economics to work.
Probably thought “I know Let’s save money by reusing our hundreds of warrior hulls” But it’s not that simple.. better buying new now. Maybe keep warriors as a reserve… plenty of old trained crews that could be called upon? Maybe fixed Reserve contract for times of need?
From what I have read Warrior is not deffo for the chop – MOD and various government consultants all said it’s an essential core capability that needs to be fulfilled somehow.
So it’s more a case that HMG are asking MOD to show that WCSP represents value for money vs purchasing a whole new platform and if not cut their losses.
If that argument will get fudged into the existing Boxer/Ajax buy remains to be seen. But I doubt a refurbished Warrior would cost anything like as much as the other two, at several £m a piece.
To be fair the LM offer undercut the BAe deal. As BAe knew that a new turret would be required and factored that in their bid. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Classic old school builders trick – underbid, win the contract, then jack up the price while repeating the phrase ‘didn’t quote for that, it’ll be extra’
Not sure if LM were sly or incompetent, but a proper procurement process shouldn’t have let them get away with it, either way.
But the hercs do the jobs the other two can’t! It’s perfect for special force’s and the like. We should have converted our old hercs we GAVE to Bangladesh to tankers for our chopper fleet, that’s a capability we should have in the uk, but given the chopper numbers maybe it’s a capabilty we don’t need!
I think the intention was always to replace the Hercs with Atlas but C130 got a stay of execution, possibly due to the initial availability problems with A400m.
Problem with keeping stuff, especially aeroplanes, is that they cost a fortune to maintain and the smaller the fleet the bigger the cost per unit.
does this mean building more war heads, or just stopping the reduction that was due to go ahead .
Somewhat washy but it does seem like an increase, most likely due to rotating in new stock though.
Most likely the increase is to rotate to new stock…and from now on we are not telling (how many warheads) apparently. Draw your own conclusions!
Surely they will be building more as no doubt the ones they originally got rid of are long gone to save money.
Would hardly describe that the loss of the entire minehunting fleet is positive for the RN or the UK’s defence. Does a ship not count as part of total numbers unless it is an aircraft carrier or frigate? Don’t see any evidence that mines are no longer a possible threat to the UK’s security.
Much more risk from cyber attacks on port and supply chain communications and software than dropping some acoustic/pressure mines in the large ports shipping channels.
Cyber attacks are stand-off, lower risk to the perpetrators so that’s arguably very true. But the simple existence of an additional risk does not negate the other that’s a logical fallacy.
Mine risk is not just UK waters you have to consider where our oil & gas, food etc. come from….there are still a number of hotspots where mines are a real possibility.
And cyber attacks on a port, while undeniably inconvenient are unlikely to result in sunken ships and dead sailors…so which is more important, likely but lower impact, or unlikely but higher impact?
The Gulf, and isn’t that why we have a third of our MCMVs There! To protect it. Even with 5 new so called frigates, they can’t be in two places at once so we need new smaller than frigates mine MCMVs vessels, maybe River class size, and 10 of them.
Maybe the MoD expects those new MCM robots to swim All the way the Gulf!!
Maybe parachute them out a bloody herc into the ocean and leave it to patrol, kind of like hat we do with drone pilots continents away controlling them.
Assuming we still have the Hercs that is….!!!
Sorry it’s not really funny…
Perhaps another way to look at it – current MCMV has very limited self defense weapons, sensors etc. Working in volatile waters like the gulf, would need to be escorted in a group by a frigate? In which case you might as well put the MCM capability on the frigate, and be no worse off?
But regardless current MCMV do already get used for OPV tasking, so the suggestion to add some Rivers to compensate is a good one.
My guess is the biggest issue for RN is crewing, since MCMV are not the most expensive ships to run getting rid won’t save a huge amount.
Especially when there’s still millions of old mines and munitions in european waters that in theory could still cause problems for fisherman ect
I thought the idea was to transition to unmanned vessels for mine hunting, especially for ports?
But they need mother ships.
Swimming robots, maybe!!
Expect a robot to turn up on a beach to ask you where the mines are!!
Interesting on the frigate numbers.
Giving up the minehunters seems to be giving the headroom for this.
With minehunting being catered for from the mission bays on the new ships.
In past conflicts fishing trawlers have been called up to help in the minehunting roll. With that in mind should a small incentive be given to some new build trawlers so that they have the potential designed in to be able to offer some basic level of compatibilty with autonomous minewarfare systems?
IDK about trawlers specifically but STUFT is always an option in times of crisis.
North Sea oil rig supply ships would probably be more suitable, with open decks & cranes etc. and there are plenty already available.
The important bit being that some consideration is given to how in a crisis that these autonomous systems could be operated from a STUFT.
Yep I agree. Another issue there are not so many ships on the UK register these days, nor British citizen crews in the merchant navy. Not to say that foreign flags or sailors couldn’t be used but that could complicate things especially legally…would tend to support your suggestion to have some standing arrangements in place.
But Britain still has one of the largest merchant marine fleets on earth.
In theory we are somewhere at the bottom of the top 10 iirc. However these ships are British in flag only, foreign owners, and foreign crews.
The red ensign has been a flag of convenience for some time now which is especially sad considering Britain is still the centre of world shipping and Britons are still major owners of (foreign flagged) shipping.
Although I hate to bring up the “F” word that seems to crop up in every discussion on this site, if we required a large number of STUFT shipping again we would find it nearly impossible to find the ships and crews.
I know what you mean but it’s impossible to discuss ‘sovereign’ UK capability without sometimes using the F word! We should not be so afraid to mention it.
I guess sovereign capability is so often central to UK naval & defence discussion because of what happened in 1982. In an international coalition it ceases to be an issue.
You keep saying this but it’s just not true. There are just over a billion gross tonnes in the world’s merchant fleets. Of this around 30 million tonnes (3%) are British. You can add around half as much again if you include overseas territories.
9th on the list is still pretty large. Larger than japan And USA combined…
Tiny compared to the EU but let’s not go there huh?
What a pile of …..
I got to page 74 before there was anything that could really be measured and why it should be a plan to increase the number of nukes from some where upwards of 180 to some where under 260 is unclear. Why is 260 a better deterrent than 180, given the resources it will suck up?
If this was meant to be a plan against which the government could be measured, it isn’t.
The reason is due to the S400/S500 type systems having a better chance at intercepting the MIRV on re-entry. Each Trident also carries a number of decoys, that cuts down on the total number of MIRVs carried. Therefore, to make sure the deterrent still poses a significant risk by overwhelming the defences, we need to increase the number of MIRVs a boat can carry.
In response to a question after the speech the PM said that there would be 24 Frigates by the end of the decade. What do we make of that, did he misspoke?
His lips were moving. That is a sign he is fibbing.
We here are persons on the proverbial street. And though we all have varying degrees of knowledge and experience we do share one common thing: we care about the country. Hardly anybody in Westminster cares about the country.
Makes me blood boil.
Stephen Lovegrove gave evidence to the defence select committee that the aim was to start construction of Type32 ” towards the end of the decade”. Unless that has changed in the last couple of months, it means the 24 escort target can’t be met by 2030.
Boris doesn’t do detail.
I was thinking the same, Tim, Dave and Paul Really need to get a move On in Glasgow, maybe work weekends to speed up HMS Glasgow and Cardiff’s build, heck maybe they should hire another guy, my mate Steve might be free to Help speed up things, he’s a great welder.
It’s really worrying when our PM doesn’t know how many frigates and destroyers we have…or will have.
Nothing really in this to shout home about, for 3 years work it is a pretty poor effort. As with all things Govt, devil is in the detail
The loss of the minehunting fleet was always on the cards, but they do need to be replaced with something and losing 13 ships to be replaced by 5 is essentially a cut (unless of course HMG starts building Karel Doorman type vessels in large numbers).
I do believe we need at least 3 more SSN’s and would like to see a fleet of 25 corvettes to replace the Rivers and mine hunters (it is a 30 year plan after all).
Perhaps the spartan platform using the T23 hull form we know and own would be a cost effective way of doing this.
One last thing, the PM said we are spending 2.2% on defence – that may be true during COVID, but is patently not the case.
the last MOD accounts presented by Ben Wallace state a £38bn MOD budget, this is some £7bn short of a 2.1% GDP target. So the starting point is off and the only way to correct is to enshrine the MOD budget in law as we have done with foreign aid.
And when they announce an increase in spending it’s really just giving the money we have already pledged to spend! It’s a dam sham, even Germany spends more than us on defence now.
It would take as much effort to redo T23 as it would to take an off the shelf design from say BMT or another design bureau. We need to be more worried about T31 being virtually unarmed before we should worry about anything else. I still think T31 should be scrapped and the extra capacity used to turn out more T26.
just imagine how the type 32 will be armed! I dread to think. Ships need good offensive weapons something we critically lack, what’s the point of just being defective…
I don’t think anybody at MoD(N) cares or knows to be honest.
The Russians and Chinese are committed to submarines. T45’s noisiness and lack of decent sonar worry me and they will spend most of their time within the outer screen. But T31 sans anything……well…….
We won’t fight an industrial war again but there will be crisis less than war where doubt will feed into the decision cycle. And submarines provide doubt.
The T45 has got a good 360° sonar, Type 2091, with a range of 29km. It has an underwater telephone channel, operating between 8kHz to 42kHz.
Erm, doesnt the uk have more Nukes than India, China and Pakistan just now?
I thought they had 150 odd, but no doubt they are tripling their Nuke numbers just like their navys ships.
What did you make of the Prime Minister’s statement in the Commons that there would be 24 frigates in service by the end of the decade? Did he mean “frigates” or escort vessels more generally?
The terms are very elastic. He probably means both.
Before we start looking at extra T26/31/45 et al let’s look at the effect and outcome we are trying to achieve. An escort or frigate doesn’t need to be an above 4000 tonne manned warship, it could be an optionally manned platform providing security and presence protecting a task group, amphibious group or working in partnership with a Multi Role Support Ship. If we look at the TX ship from Steller Systems for example we have a 700 tonne platform that can travel 6000 miles and has an endurance of 40 days (unmanned). We need to move beyond looking at the past for our solutions for the future. Whilst they may be called the same things (frigate/escort) they will look and operate in a different way. If we are looking to have a fleet of circa 24 escorts by the end of the decade it doesn’t mean they are all going to look like platforms we currently see tied up along side at Devonport and Portsmouth.
The future fleet is going to look and feel a lot different than it does today. If we look back in history at the turn of the 20th century it took the RN a while to “let go” of the sail and embrace the power of steam. We are going through that process again.
An escort doesn’t need to be above 4000 tonnes? How so? Take T45 instances her displacement is a result of the need to loft SAMPSON so high. Optionally manned? We are decades away from that. And I am only three lines into your post.
This assumes that the primary sensor needs to reside on the platform. We are investing heavily in Space and a digital backbone which means the escort could get its situational awareness from any asset it can share information with. As soon as Sampson is powered up it gives it position away. Each platform will soon have the ability to process and exploit data before exchanging actionable information to a decider who will be able to make decisions accordingly. USV’s exist already and have been developed by USN, RN and other navies and were demonstrated at DSEI 2019 and trialled in 2020 by HMS Albion when deployed overseas. UAE and other nations are actively seeking these systems to provide coastal defence and to counter Iranian fast boat swarm attacks (which they have demonstrated on many highly visible exercises).
Not so sure I would want to be relying on satellites, with their inherent lag and flakey downlink, to detect incoming missiles at Mach3+ ?
Useful additional contribution to overall ISTAR picture, yes, absolutely.
Replacement for radar, no. Not now, not ever.
Can’t change the laws of physics…
Complementary, not replacement of. We seem to be stuck under the illusion that we can only use large capital platforms with powerful radars as a means to defend assets. This then feeds the narrative that more of these large expensive ships are needed which then produces large fantasy fleets of ships we could never afford or man.
Missiles (including hypersonic) can be detected by the heat signature they generate when launched. In the OODA cycle this has already been taken into account. Intelligence has been gathered, locations of missile sites (fixed or mobile) have been determined and the Operations team then plan their dispositions accordingly. The full array of data is gathered and turned into actionable information that can be used to aid the warfare team in making sure the assets they are protecting have the best possible chance of survival. T45 with SAMPSON plays it part, but when SAMPSON is picking up a missile unless it is aware is already coming then something has gone wrong in the intelligence cycle and we move from proactive defence into reactive defence. If the T45 is cued early enough, by another sensor for example it could (if equipped with BMD, CEC and MADL) launch its missiles with out the need necessary of switching its targeting radar on.
I think the point I am trying to get across is we are moving from a network centric single role platform based system to a network enabled network where each node is connected and has a part to play. This will make the RN look different to what it is today which could make certain commentators uncomfortable. We have to trust that the RN know what they are doing, that they have looked at the risks and planned accordingly understanding what their constraints are. When it comes to generating mass it has recognised that those constraints include cost and manpower so it looks to different solutions to solve the problems.
I see what you are saying – essentially network capabilities add an additional, wider defensive layer, on top of existing.
And it’s always best to engage from furthest layer out, because that gives geographic advantage, and more time to react. i.e. Catch the adversary, before they are even in range to fire. No problem at all, agreeing with any of that.
But do you not still keep your inner layers, right down to CWIS, just in case something does get through? Isn’t that the whole concept of defence in depth? What happens to your outer layer(s) when you must enter a narrow contested space – somewhere like the strait of hormuz?
Like I said, networking has some inherent technical limitations – e.g. the radar on a ship, is directly connected to CMS and defensive missiles, by wires, which will always be faster, and more reliable, than a long distance radio link. No getting around that, no matter how good the tech or tactics.
So I’m trying to square all that with your comments about switching off Sampson/defensive radars? Yes, that would most definitely make me less comfortable, because that would effectively disable a whole defensive layer, and probably the most dependable one.
Not sure what that has to do with trust…it’s just physics no?
I do take your points about resources, and distribution of available assets, but surely you would want to make full use of whatever you already have at your disposal?
Apologies if I come across a bit cynical. Working in tech through various technical ‘revolutions’ I have heard many promises of ‘new paradym’ or ‘rewriting the rulebook’.
All too often these arguments fell short, because they conveniently ignored fundemental factors. We must not be too hasty to forget the hard learned lessons of the past.
You definitely keep your inner layers, as you rightly say, its the defence in depth concept. This also recognises that as the adversary gets closer to the target the system is already failing.
If operating in the Straits of Hormuz or a any other contested space (Gulf of Oman for example) then you tailor your assets according to the threat. Newer vessels (OPV2/T26/T31/T31/MRSS/FSS etc) will have the ability to utilise the RN Modular Fits concept so they become role fitted dependent on the scenario they find themselves.
With regards to SAMPSON and any active sensor for that matter, it is sometimes a matter of course that these active sensors get switched off and the platform relies on its passive suite of sensors (or other assets) to get a better understanding of where the enemy is, once understood and if required the sensor could get powered up to provide the accurate data (find, fix, fight) needed to “fight the ship”.
I am all for cynicism, I believe that everything needs to be questioned and we have a poor record of actually delivering any ambition we may have.
Lessons from the past (Falklands, Gulf, Gulf of Aden, Caribbean etc) tell us the right platform has to be deployed to meet the right mission. There is no point in deploying a T45 on anti-piracy missions when something else will do. By giving the platforms flexibility to re-role dependent on need gives us added flexibility. An MRV deployed to the Caribbean on a HADR mission could be rapidly re-roled and equipped with the appropriate mission modules (NS110, CIWS, NLOS, EWS etc) before it is deployed into a higher threat area.
Ok I take your point – maybe we are talking cross purposes!
There are obviously a number of roles and degrees of threat, and the current global trend seems to be towards an increase in engagement at a level somewhat below full head on combat. In that context, increased input from more widely based and dispersed range of sensors, and sharing this between various assets will be increasingly useful in building a broader ISTAR picture and managing the combat space.
To be clear, I’m not a technophobe and I do understand that things need to evolve, which sometimes requires a radical change in thinking and new ways of doing things. e.g. some would say that F35 is useless as a dogfighter, which totally misses the point about stealth, sensor fusion, stand off capability etc. In that example the performance of F35 on exercise speaks for itself. I get that.
At the same time, I think it’s easy to be seduced by the promise of new technology. War is a dirty business and there will always come a time when resources are stretched, and the whole system breaks down, leaving those at the sharp end to pick up the pieces. This is particularly true for the UK, as we often tend to push the limits and try
to punch a bit above our weight.
So I think we just need to tread very carefully, and not be too hasty to reinvent the wheel.
Yeah the Royal Navy still put sails onto steam ships because they didn’t trust steam lol..
Yep, trust is important. Change is hard – some people adapt and embrace change better than others.
An enemy will be able to see a small vessel long before it sees the enemy.
Unless it has eyes in the sky constantly!
Why wouldn’t it have eyes in the sky constantly? UK is investing heavily in space. As shown last week it isn’t hard with current commercial space based platforms to see where navies are deploying their ships. We don’t just identify a ship from the reflection it gives off on radar, It is a built up picture based on intelligence, surveillance and a variety of other sensors and systems.
Yes, a constellation of Low Earth orbit sats, or Zephyr high flying drone to keep overwatch on small unmanned vessels.
Each system has its counter, which then includes a counter to that. The satellite constellation is the new “big thing”. However, it is no different to the previous satellites except they’re smaller and there’s lots of them. There are a number of ways of counteracting a satellite, from hard kill to soft. Both Russia and China have intelligence gathering satellites that are parked adjacent to and at a slightly higher altitude then some of our military satellites. It is expected that these have a means to kinetically kill our satellites. Then there is the soft kill method done by either hacking or jamming. Russia are very good at both, showing that they can blanket jam GPS as well as spoof the timing signal to alter lat/long positioning. Everyone can agree that Russian cyber activities are very effective and is perhaps top of the league. How effective they are at hacking a satellite is anyone’s guess, as this isn’t the type of thing that would be publicised.
As has been mentioned numerous times on this site, at some point in the near future we will start to see laser based CIWS on ships. However, it will likely have another purpose, which is to dazzle, or permanently blind observation cameras or even interrupt a satellite’s power source by burning out its solar cells. At least with this method a knocked out satellite doesn’t increase the amount of debris flying around up there.
This brings us nicely to very altitude pseudo satellites like the Zephyr aircraft. At the moment Zephyy has a very limited payload, which means it can carry either a communications relay or a electro-optical camera. It has shown that it can carry a small radar, that uses remote signal processing for synthetic aperture radar for ground mapping generation. However, the radar has very low gain and the picture has a narrow view window, that is then built up over time to create a larger one. For a Zephyr type of aircraft to carry the weight for a decent radar, it will need to be a lot bigger. Which then means the ground handling, launch and recovery phase becomes even more weather dependent. However, all is not lost as we may see a return of the hybrid airship. These may be manned or unmanned fulfilling multiple roles as not only an ISTAR platform, but AEW, communications relay and maritime surveillance.
Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) will be a must have for a task group to survive a missile swarm attack. Not only will it be able to share the situational picture, but more efficiently allocate resources to counter the swarm. But what about a ship operating on its own? It will have to rely on its primary radar for long range searches and is thus more likely to have little warning from a sea skimming missile attack. If and its a big if, a satellite constellation can provide both optical and radar coverage, then this will be a godsend. However, if this system becomes impaired or inoperative, the ship must be able to rely on its own organic resources. Ships like the Type 26 and 31 have mission bays. These are designed to accommodate standard length ISOs equipped with “mission modules”. Hopefully, these will include both underwater and on water unmanned vessels, that will do anti-submarine, mine searches and countermeasures but also maritime surveillance. I doubt they will be armed to begin with, but they will be in time. However, both of these systems are constrained by geography. This is where I believe the ships will use a VTOL UAV, for beyond the horizon surveillance, using electro-optic cameras and a digital AESA radar. The capability will be determined by the aircraft’s size and available payload. However, if we base it on a gold standard airframe, such a Bell’s X247 Vigilant. The Vigilant shares roughly the same footprint as a Wildcat, when all folded up. It can fly at 25,000ft and remain on station for over 11 hours, whilst carrying a payload of 270kg. This is enough to carry a AESA radar like those used on a fighter. However, the signal processing does not need to be done on the aircraft, as it can be done remotely on the ship via a high bandwidth data link, much like the F35’s multifunctional advanced datalink (MADL). This means more weight can be allocated to the antenna array, increasing its transmitter-receiver module count, thus increasing the radars detection range and receiver sensitivity. The main issue with the Vigilant is the relatively large size and the current hangar sizes of the T26 and T31, so perhaps only one could be carried along with a manned helo. So perhaps for a T45 replacement, it would need a larger hanger to house more UAVs.
On the last point we are looking to do as much processing and exploiting of data on the node and only shift the information. This reduces the burden on the network whilst we can use AI and ML on the platform (NVIDIA chips etc) to do a lot of the “heavy processing”. With the advance in technology the SWAP requirements for these activities have decreased greatly (driven by the commercial sector, not by the defence sector).
Yes, I agree. It is amazing on the speed of development that graphics cards have been through over the last 5 years alone. As part of my radar degree back in 2015, we used a single Radeon R7 card for the project to do the signal processing (it was available and relatively cheap). Yet it breezed through the FFT calculations we threw at it. This was for a 120 degree scanning AESA radar that could also do multiple network links (three) to data nodes simultaneously, whilst building a mapped image. Today’s top end graphics cards can handle 4K resolution without a strain, whereas the one we used could just about handle 1080HD.
Cheap commercial off the shelf tech is often more reliable than expensive proprietary stuff.
Volume manufacturers are very highly focused on designing products to work perfectly before release to market, because they have very tight profit margins per unit so if they build something that doesn’t work they will soon be out of business.
Contrast with expensive proprietary defense tech, with multi £Bn budgets and high unit prices, vendors don’t have the same commercial incentive to get it right first time.
Counter intuitive but it’s true
Defense can gain a lot from using COTS and adopting tech from the commercial sector. It’s a much larger market so technology evolves and matures more quickly, and it’s cheaper too, vs expensive proprietary military tech. Often much cheaper, like 1/10 the cost.
But it sometimes needs a change in mindset. I recal a few years ago many engineers in telecoms saying Ethernet was a commercial protocol not suitable for Telco networks because it didn’t have X or Y etc. Today maybe 90% of circuits on Telco networks are delivered on Ethernet – because it does the job and it’s cheap.
Imbedded edge processing is a useful way to overcome limitations of network bandwidth.
However as the network grows in scale and number of nodes, keeping each remote node updated with new iterations of development, while ensuring that nodes at different release levels can still interoperate, becomes increasingly complex and challenging. Trust me this is something I have much painful experience of!
Software can be updated remotely, but if this fails – as it inevitably sometimes does – you are forced to physically visit the node to repair or replace it, which could be very expensive with remote assets deployed in space or deep ocean for example.
In the commercial space this is one of the primary drivers back to a more centralised but distributed model in the form of cloud computing, which has itself been enabled by faster and cheaper network bandwidth. The centralisation of processing assets into huge data centres greatly facilitates rapid and efficient technology refresh
For defence the obvious limitation is reliance on temporary radio connections and the inherent limitation that places on bandwidth. Perhaps a more hybrid network model, with a mixture of hard wired fibre optic connections and shorter, faster radio links, could provide a solution. But of course that then relies on vulnerable physical connectivity infrastructure.
In terms of managing the update of remote assets, a high degree of release control and procedural discipline is required, fortunately these are things inherent to defense culture.
Plenty to think about!
The issue with just 48 F35Bs, and the ever reducing number of Typhoons, and putting all the eggs in yet another high end future fighter, is twofold: 1) We have no mass and no reserves if god forbid, we ever got into a shooting war and started to sustain losses. 2) what we have got is worked much harder and we burn through expensive high end airframe life faster.
The aircraft strategy has been wrong for decades. We should have frontline ‘Ferrari’s’ that are used for high end missions, and second line ‘hatchbacks’ to do the donkey work and burn through airframe life.
Refurbishing / updating the Harriers and running them alongside a smaller number of F35Bs would have been an approach worth considering. We don’t need Tempest, it’s the wrong project, we need a ‘hatchback’ fighter.
Sorry, but previous SDSR’s were never primarily concerned with Defence and Security but with the Government at the times determination to reduce the Defence budget yet again. This is a well written article and I thank you for it but we must never allow those now responsible for our safekeeping to forget the present dreadful state of Britain’s Armed Forces and their part in it.
The question for me is more about what are the capabilities of the t31/ t32. Without ASW/AsUW capabilities they are liabilities that put the lives of sailors at extreme risk. Why do the RN persist with underarming everything they build? weapons, training, tactics, procedures should be drilled. Harpoon is a classic example – no training, no weapons = no tactics. For ASW T31 resembles Bacchante class, and we know what happened there. History is worth looking at.