Defence @ Resurgence News May 2009
ROCK UNDER ATTACK
Israel has recently launched another attack on Gibraltar. This has now been going on for two years but it does not get reported in the British media. The attacks have been getting progressively elaborate and involving more aircraft. They have reached a new height since Israel acquired AWAC aircraft to control and direct operations. Most of the Israeli Air Force fighter-bomber squadrons are taking part supported by a deployment of in-flight refuelling tankers so that they can undertake flights across the full length of the Mediterranean. Helicopters are also deployed for rescue missions in the event of fighters being downed. Latest reports indicate that the Israel home-defence missile system is being readied to deal with any reprisals directed at their territory.
Gibraltar is ill prepared to deal with the threat as there is no permanent RAF aircraft deployment on the Rock and the missile defence is non existent. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment is not equipped for this purpose. Thankfully, the Israeli flights against the British territory are training exercises in preparation for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are roughly the same distance away. Relief that Israel has no evil intent towards Gibraltar should be tempered by the realisation that when the Israeli Air Force does strike Iran it will trigger a wider conflict in the Middle East that could escalate worldwide.
If this Israeli threat was real, could the UK defend its territory in the Med and mount a counter attack? Due to the rundown of our military forces and them being over stretched in other theatres, the answer is no. We could not mount another Falkland reinvasion operation with the current strength of the Forces. Things are so bad that the Home fleet has no more patrol ships than the Irish Navy. To deter a real Israeli threat, the immediate action should be to deploy a Trident submarine to the area with its nuclear armed missiles aimed at Israel and a warning of terrible reprisal. We had Polaris armed submarines in the 80s and they did not deter the Argentinians from invading South Georgia, the Falklands and the South Sandwich Islands [Thule Island occupied from 1976 to 1982]. The Argentinians thought that the UK did not have the political will to defend the Falkland Islands and knew that the UK response would have to be proportionate, that is non-nuclear. Any attack by the UK on the Argentinian mainland would have escalated the conflict to a higher level.
The Israelis would make the same calculation. In any case we only have one of the four Trident submarines on patrol at any time and in February it managed to bump into a French missile submarine undersea in the Bay of Biscay. The second option would be to send a new Daring class missile-defence destroyer to Gib. With its advanced multi-missile system it could single handedly protect the Rock. Except, only one of the six vessels has been commissioned and the missiles will not be available for another two years, if then.
The next option would be to deploy a Royal Navy carrier task force to the Med to intercept any air attack on Gib or the Cyprus sovereign bases. None of the three carriers are available; the Invincible is mothballed and the Illustrious is on ceremonial duties before being scrapped. The Ark Royal had been stripped of its Harrier fighters and was doubling up and equipped with helicopters because of the refitting of HMS Ocean – our single helicopter and commando carrier. The Ark is now in dry-dock being refitted as a strike carrier. Only eight Harriers are available [the rest are on duty in Afghanistan]. In any case the Harriers would be outmatched by the more powerful Israeli fighter aircraft.
The airfield on Gib is as good as an aircraft carrier in the Med and cannot be sunk. As a last resort we could send a couple of squadron of the latest Typhoon fighters, which are more than a match for anything the Israelis have. But, the Spanish government would not like it. Spain is supposed to be a NATO ally but does all it can to disrupt operations from Gib and will not allow over flying of their airspace. They hindered operations in the build up to the retaking of the Falklands and are totally paranoid about the British occupation of Gib since 1704. Their actions are illogical and get sillier [see later article]. The Spanish Navy wants to be the dominant naval force in the Western Med and consider Gib to be an obstacle to that goal.
The good news is that Gib airfield and dockyard are not NATO bases [because Spain objected for political purposes], so the Spanish can be disregarded. While the Foreign Office is no friend of Gib, the Ministry of Defence is and still recognise its strategic importance for controlling the Strait of Gibraltar. The USA are also supportive of the independent facilities at Gib and are frequent callers, knowing that they can rely on it despite any anti-American sentiments in other European countries. The bad news is that the EU wants its own military forces and moves are already afoot to achieve that aim. The French and Germans are leading this drive without any Treaty authority. It is all hush hush and agreements paving the way for an EU navy and army have already been implemented. An example of this is the agreement between Blair and Sarkozy to have one UK or French carrier task group on station at any time. The same applies to the nuclear armed French and UK submarines. At least that way they will not bump in to each other. The European Parliament has called for all members’ military bases to be brought under EU command, including Gib. Can you ever envisage the EU coming to the aid of Gibraltar with the Spanish exercising a veto?
In conclusion, Spain is the real threat to Gib and the UK needs to adopt a robust stance to counter their continuing and incessant harassment of the Territory. The people of Gib have shown their unwavering loyalty to the UK and repeatedly voted overwhelmingly to stay British and determine their own future as a sovereign independent state free from Spanish influence. The run down of the UK armed forces needs to be reversed and they must be provided with the hardware to undertake the tasks required of them. Now is not the time to be cancelling defence contracts. The construction of ships for the Navy and aircraft for the RAF, with a steady order book for high-tec equipment, is just what the UKs ailing economy needs.
We also need to get rid of muddled thinking and provide the right forces with the right equipment for the jobs that have to be undertaken. Expensive nuclear submarines and missile-defence destroyers are not much use in counteracting piracy or in carrying out peace keeping duties and disaster relief. We are still an island reliant on sea borne trade and shipping routes. Amphibious forces with carrier borne aircraft cover are essential , but also are cheap small corvette vessels for counter piracy and anti-terrorist duties.
In previous news sheets we have referred to the origins of the European Unity project founded on the so called three-pillars. From the very beginning the aim has been to establish the European Economic Community, the European Political Community and the European Defence Community. Once these three pillars are brought together under the European government (the Commission) and the European parliament, the European federal state will have been completed. The Lisbon Treaty is designed for that purpose and any future integration will not require further treaties. The ultimate danger is that a European Army could be used to suppress dissent within the European Union. The President of the Czech Republic has warned that the EU is acting like the USSR and the Eastern EU countries have first hand experience of the Red Army suppressing dissent and freedom uprisings. Are we in danger of creating the Blue Army?
For further defence related matters associated with this article – click on main archive and then on Resurgence News 2/4 May 2009.