April 30, 2019

Our future lies not in the hands of science but in the hearts of men.

‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.’

In the mid 1950s the British Broadcasting Corporation produced and televised a series of fifteen programmes – War in the Air – covering the Second World War.  The 14th dealt with the postwar period and the 15th recalled the relatively short history of the Royal Air Force and its predecessors.  This also looked to the future based on the jet engine and guided missile, and the atomic and hydrogen bomb.  With a focus on the Arctic Circle it conjectured; whether this is to be a new link between us or our last battlefield, depends not on the machines we fly but on ourselves.  It concluded with a view of the General Assembly at the United Nations and of a young girl walking in to the bombed ruin of Coventry Cathedral.  The voice over hopefully spoke the words in the opening paragraph above.

Read the rest of this entry »


RN – the silent service

April 22, 2019

The 1950s saw the folly of misguided judgements in relation to defence policy.  Among these was a conviction in the demise of the manned warplane and its replacement by and reliance on guided missiles; both misplaced.  Another saw the nuclear navy as the future and Royal Navy planning was directed to that end.  While the US Navy embraced nuclear powered vessels with enthusiasm and built nuclear aircraft-carriers, cruisers and submarines.  The RN by force of circumstances was restricted to building submarines powered by nuclear reactors.  Even then the disadvantages were not fully understood and the legacy remains with us as every Royal Navy nuclear submarine built is still afloat [except for Courageous the museum vessel] and in long-term storage awaiting dismantling and disposal.

The submarine service is called the silent service for obvious reasons.  Submersible boats are intended to be unobtrusive and undetected.  Originally they were boats that travelled on the surface and submerged for short periods.  Now, especially with nuclear power, they spend all their time hidden in the depths of the world’s oceans.  They have grown in size and weight to become underwater cruisers.  Little is known about their operations as the RN and MoD remain silent and will not comment on them for security reasons.  This makes it difficult to be confident about anything relating to them and formulate a policy for the future.  So, lets start at the end.

Read the rest of this entry »

Naval Defence Act 2019

March 31, 2019

It is not going to happen anytime soon, but if you want to see how naval matters could be better handled then go back to the future.  That is, the 19th Century when Great Britain was at the height of its worldwide power with an extensive empire that required sea routes for trade; and they needed protecting.  The Royal Navy was central to foreign and colonial policy, with that underpinned by the two-power standard.  This required the RN to be maintained in strength equal to the naval strength of the next two greatest powers. At that time France and Russia.  As things go the powers to be, as ever, were reluctant to fund [tax and spend] that policy with the RN slipping below the standard.

That was rectified with the Naval Defence Act 1889 when the two-power standard was legally endorsed.  The Act provided £21.5 million for the construction over five years of 10 battleships, 42 cruisers and 18 other vessels.  Seven ships of the Royal Sovereign class were launched in just two years; the most powerful battleships in the world in terms of firepower, armour and speed.  Their effectiveness was increased by operating in squadrons.

Read the rest of this entry »

Royal Navy – conventional deterrent

February 26, 2019

Faced by a Government with foreign and defence policies that want the RN to be everywhere and doing everything, but will not fund those aspirations, they are spreading the jam very thin.  They have committed to the replacement of the nuclear deterrent at the expense of the conventional deterrent.  We have always been clear that faced with making a choice our priority would be for the surface fleet to be adequately provided with aircraft carriers and commando carriers.  The number of vessels to be determined by the extent of their potential operations, which due to the normal rotation programme would require a minimum of three ships for each role.  The further those ships have to travel and the longer they are away from home port, the more ships are required.  This also assumes that there is an additional requirement for commando landing craft carriers.  When those carriers are required to carry out both functions the requirement must be for a minimum of five strike carrier ships;  and even then there must be additional dock landing ships and helicopter carrying ships.  It is not at all clear how the Government is going to achieve its Global Agenda.

Read the rest of this entry »

Elastic Fantastic Royal Navy

January 30, 2019

European Union waters will be severely constrained following Brexit. The vessels of Baltic and Benelux countries will have to transit United Kingdom waters to reach the high seas; or go the long way via the waters of the Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland.  In peacetime, and with compliance of the rules of innocent passage, this should not be a problem.  In a war scenario the situation will be very different.  Assuming that NATO is not undermined by the new EU army and defence union, it can be anticipated that the only credible threat to the UK mainland would come from the air-force and navy of the Russian Federation.  Because of treaty obligations the UK would be obliged to respond to aggression anywhere against a NATO partner.  In reality the priority for the UK would be to stop the Russian Navy reaching the high seas of the North Atlantic through the Greenland Iceland United Kingdom (GIUK) gap, and the Russian Airforce coming down the coast of Norway in to the North Sea or via the west coast of Ireland.  The next priority would be to deter or oppose an anticipated invasion by the Russian Army across its land border with Norway by the deployment of airborne and amphibious forces.  Given the current state of the UK armed forces this is a big ask, especially for the Royal Navy that is being stretched like an elastic band and in danger of snapping.

Read the rest of this entry »

Royal Navy Review

December 31, 2018

Back in 2007 we focused our defence policy on the RN as the priority for an island Nation that is reliant on sea-borne trade and keeping sea-routes open.  This was not intended to be to the detriment of the RAF or Army and implied that defence spending needed to be increased.  The policy proposed an alternative approach for providing a deterrent to nuclear attack and a reassessment of the submarine service.  The decline of the RN was evident and needed to be reversed; and that decline has continued under all governments.  Our solution was for a naval shipbuilding programme and a positive review of the RN amphibious and aircraft-carrier capability.  Last year it seemed that out foresight had been rewarded with the approval of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.  Unfortunately, the Government did not put its money where its mouth is.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit and the Border

February 25, 2018

So much for the concept that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” as the Brussels Eurocrats blow with the wind.  They are now demanding the December Agreement be framed in a legal binding format before talks can commence on the next phase of Article 50.  Following the 2016 Referendum we warned that they were making the rules up as they went along and so it has proved.  The pity is that May’s Government has allowed them to dictate the whole process in a desperate attempt to get a bespoke trade deal.  Following the 2017 General Election, and her fall from grace, we again warned that she had put Brexit in jeopardy.  Man does not live by trade alone, there are other things that are much more important.  Unfortunately the political class, who are using every trick to undermine the Referendum result, continue to sow the seeds of confusion.  Apparently we did not know what we were voting for in the Heinz Referendum.  According to them there are fifty-seven varieties of Brexit and we must have another referendum to decide which one we want.  We are being nudged towards a second referendum, just as we predicted.

Read the rest of this entry »