Friday, January 02, 2004
Can We Fight?

Sometimes it is surprising that we manage to put an expeditionary force together for campaigns in Mesopotamia or other farflung corners of the globe. Our latest venture has reinforced the reputation that Great Britain has for being the most capable of all European countries in terms of military expeditions. Whereas professionalism and fighting spirit are second to none, our record of procuring and deploying military equipment is very poor.

The history of overruns includes the SA80 rifle, the Bowman communications system and the Typhoon. The Ministry of Defence makes Failtrack look punctual. Their latest projects are already facing cutbacks and lower capabilities than planned:

Only nine of the 25 Airbus A400M transport aircraft which will form the backbone of the RAF's key rapid-deployment airlift from 2012 onwards are to be fitted with anti-missile defences to save the Ministry of Defence £319m.
This means only nine can be used in a combat zone at the same time, unless the RAF is willing to risk the lives of its aircrew and the survival of its airframes.

The plan to build two new aircraft carriers is rapidly heading south:

The plan to build two "supercarriers" as the lynchpin of UK expeditionary policy is in trouble before the first steel has been cut for their hulls. They will be 10,000-tons smaller to save on their £4bn cost and the number of US-designed future strike craft to equip them will be cut as a result.

and what about our contribution to UAVs:

Britain's commitment to a new, £800m fleet of robot surveillance aircraft to be bought off-the-shelf from either Israel or the US, has a particularly unhappy track-record.
When the Phoenix unmanned drone first entered frontline duty in 1996, it was already 16 years late. Since then, it has been plagued by crashes.The army lost 24 over Iraq during the war in March alone. Many of the 198 bought at £1.5m apiece have been cannibalised for spare parts to keep the others operational.

On this record, the gap between the capabilities of the British and American armies can only widen.

(22.41, 2nd January 2004)


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