Monday, August 09, 2004
What, another Eurofighter?

Generally I've been fairly relaxed at the European Union's attempts to create a super-power worthy military machine. As long as it doesn't involve us (yes, it almost always does, but that's another question) Europe should be perfectly free to follow its military follies.
That is before the "Future Rapid Effects System" came along. This is a cross between a tank and a personnel carrier with state of the art communication and weapons systems which sounds sensible and hi-tech enough until you look at the price tag. According to Richard North it's lifetime ownership cost is £55.5 million per vehicle. We're looking at buying 900 of them.
Now the first thing that is noticeable is that these vehicles aren't much use for defensive purposes. Defence emplacements, a large body of trained (if not active) troops, air-systems, submarines and naval small ships are all good. These vehicles are not. We will already control the transport infrastructure if we are attacked, we do not need a tank on the Atkins diet to force it's way through enemy held territory.
So this is an offensive weapon par excellence. It is so expensive that it will take even more money from our defensive forces.
However it gets worse from there. The cost means that we won't be able to develop it on its own - so we must turn to the Europeans. Like the total mess that is the Eurofighter this is a collaborative venture that will tie us into the whims of other European governments. This is a practical side of European defence co-operation that is more effective than all the joint planning staffs.
As Richard North has pointed out, this means that the essential piece of our army's kit will be under foreign control. Belgium refused to honour its contract with us for ammunition during the first Gulf War and Germany put the Eurofighter programme in a spin when it decided to cut its contribution, France gave American military intelligence to the Serbs. Now imagine if they start acting flaky, and on past performance they will, could they pull a Suez on us? Of course they could, with fatal consequences for British troops.
This folly is wrong because there are not enough checks on the spending, it is forcing us into a more offensive rather than defensive role and it is tying the centrepiece of army mobility with other - let's face it potentially hostile - powers. It must be opposed.


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