Do you want to be the first Royal Navy female Rear-Admiral?

The British MOD released its latest diversity figures and the RAF leads in terms of proportion of females, regular or reserve. There was a great twitter chatter between myself and a certain Joan Roberston, Head of Research, Royal navy People Strategy about females serving in the Royal Navy. You can look that one up on my twitter feed but what also came up in another related discussion was the lack of a female OF-7 or Rear Admiral in the senior service.

At present, the RAF again leads with females with high ranks and appointments. They have: 1 x female Air Marshal (OF-8) as Director General Defence Service Authority, 2 x female Air-Vice Marshals (Air Secretary and Director Legal Services) and has and will have 6 x Air Commodores. The British Army has and will have: 3 x female Major-Generals (Director (Personnel), Director General Legal Services and in 2020, Deputy Commander, Field Army (Army Reserve)) and 6 x female Brigadiers. The Royal Navy has no females of flag rank and only 3 x female Commodores, occupying the positions of Assistant Chief of Staff (Personnel Capability), Assistant Chief of Staff (Medical) and Head, Healthcare (under Defence Medical Services or colloquially known as HQ Surgeon General).

There are a range of reasons, or rather rumours why the senior service fails to produce a two-star/OF-7 unlike the other two services, not even with the Royal Navy Reserve. The general Royal Nay promotion procedure is available for the public to view form the Royal Navy website under ‘Reference Library’ – ‘BRD3 Volume 1’ – ‘Part 7: Career Structures’ (I can’t link it as it is best view personally; use Google Chrome), Chapter 60, Section 4. Also very relevant is ‘Part 8 ‘ The two relevant chapters for officers (since we are dealing with the topic of a Rear-Admiral) are Chapters 65 and Chapter 66.

Chapter 66, Annex 66a, Section 2, paragraph B identifies that:

Selections for promotion to 1 and 2 Star rank are made by CNS/1SL and the Flag and Senior Officers Appointments Board (FSOAB) (see Para 6017) following the Flag and 1 Star Preliminary Selection Boards (PSB), which sit annually in May. The PSB, which is chaired by ACNS (Pers)/NavSec, consists of CNXO [Chief Naval Warfare Officer], CNEO [Chief Naval Engineering Officer], CNLO [Chief Naval Logistics Officer], CGRM and CNMO [Chief Naval Medical Officer]

Selection for Rear Admiral must also meet this zone requirement:

RADM Promotion Zone

Or basically, you need 2 years seniority as a Commodore as of 30 June and your promotion zone maximum age is around 52. The procedures promotion to a Flag rank are governed by the Flag and 1 star Preliminary Selection Board (PSB) which sits every May (Annex 66aA, para 2b), then passed to the First Sea Lord and the Flag and Senior Officers Appointments Board (FSOAB). The 1SL may consider exceptional candidates as seen in section 6018, Annex 66A, paragraphs c and d. Then the whole process of becoming is detailed from 6017 to 6020, with further relevant information in Annex 66A, paras 2e and f.

Alright, assume a female commodore makes it through the whole procedure but you don’t get the Rear Admiral sleeve race without an appointment. Below are the list of Navy Command and other 2-star commands across Joint Forces Command, MOD HQ and other TLBs:

Navy Command
ACNS Policy
COMUKMAR/RADM Surface Ships
ACNS (Aviation & Carriers)/Rear Admiral FAA
ACNS Submarines/RADM Submarines/Flag Officer Scotland & Northern Ireland
Commander Operations
ACNS Capability
ACNS Personnel/Naval Secretary
ACNS Support – currently held by a civilian although a RADM level appointment
ACNS Ships
ACNS Training/FOST
Chaplain of the Fleet – although officially Chaplains do not wear any Royal Navy Rank

Joint Forces Command
Chief of Staff JFC
ACDS (Logistics)
Chief of Staff British Forces Cyprus
Director Healthcare Delivery and Training
Director Medical Personnel & Training
Defence Medical Director
Director [of] Capability JFC
Director Joint Warfare
Director Service Operations ISS
Chief of Staff (Operations), PJHQ
Commander Standing Joint Force
Director Special Forces
Deputy Commander RCDS Senior Directing Staff x 2
Director, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre

DE&S
Director Ships Support (or held by a civil servant)
Director Ships Acquisition (or held by a civil servant)
Note: There are many two-star post in DE&S but these are mostly are held by civil servants.

DIO
Director Strategic Asset Management

MOD HQ
ACDS (Operations)
ACDS (Capability and Force Design)
ACDS (Defence Engagement)
ACDS (Personnel Capability)/Defence Services Secretary
ACDS (Reserves and Cadets)
Director Carrier Strike – always a RADM
Defence Attache Head (USA)
Director Operations and Assurance Chief Operating Officer, Defence Safety Authority
Director MAA
Head, Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre

Note: I’m not including Submarine Delivery Agency or Defence Nuclear as I don’t believe there’s any female OF-5/Captain and definitely no female OF-6/Commodores in the submarine service as yet. I’ve also not included NATO appointments as they vary depending on changing burden sharing.

Anyway, from the above list of possible OF-7 posts, even if we narrow down to Navy Command posts, the majority of them are sea-duty/combat positions, which I wager there aren’t many female warfare officers. Certainly, the two medical commodores and the third female commodore mentioned above (I don’t want to reveal their names but it can be easily checked), none of them would making it to the combat-related posts in Navy Command or other joint positions. They definitely won’t be able to be CGRM (women have only since last year be allowed to join the Royal Marines) although one of them (no names but it is quite obvious who) might be able to make to Naval Secretary in a few years time. Another of them might be able to reach Surgeon Rear-Admiral in DMS/HQ SG, if her boss, Director Healthcare Delivery and Training is promoted to Surgeon General/Director General DMS of if the current Defence Medical Director and current acting Surgeon General is promoted to Air Marshal and a substantive appointment.

These are all still predictions. On a closer look, there are few two-star posts that will see supersessions. The first I can identify is ACNS (Submarines)/Rear Admiral Submarines and Rear Admiral (Scotland and Northern Ireland) and quite obviously, none of the three female Commodores are submariners so they don’t qualify for this post. The other post is that of Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Operations) although that post, based on Colin Mackie’s predictions, has already been filled by a Royal Marine Major-General. Could the current three female Commodores be appointed to other TLB posts? Maybe not, as even the post of ACDS (Reserves and Cadets) would be held by a reservist officer. There might be a slim possibility that two of the three might be posted to DE&S or DIO appointments, but this is a very slim possibility.

I think that covers the core areas. If there should be or can be a female Rear-Admiral, she will have to meet the zone requirements, pass through PSB and FSOAB and then there must be a two-star appointment that will be vacated or need to be replaced. In summary, it isn’t a easy process to gain a female Rear-Admiral, and I would say this is the same for the other two services. Again, we currently have three, and shall I say, highly-qualified female Commodores and I view that at least two of them would get a 1 row of 14mm lace above a band of 45mm lace on their sleeve race. What also should be considered is increasing the number of female Commodores in all branches, from Warfare to Medical.

 

Not a 404: But service websites that are not updated

They say social media provides more instant up-to-date news and that this more of information better suits today’s world or at least the current, perhaps Millennial Generation. Yet, websites, a source of information that arose in the 1990s, are still a vital source. Most advanced militaries in open, democratic countries wish to get accurate information out and to connect with the civilian/political community. Yet, the UK’s three services websites lag behind in this area.

I suppose I shall start with the most incomplete and hardly updated website: The British Army or https://www.army.mod.uk/ . This service was the last the update its website to a more modern, tech-savvy kind of website in around 2017/2018. With this update, it finally released the new structure of the Army, seen under the ‘Who We Are’ Structure’ here (I won’t put up the full picture for fear of copyright violation). The picture, however, has long had some errors. First, it sorts of incorrectly suggests that the Deputy Chief of the General Staff (DCGS) is a four star when only his boss is. Ok, that is a small error. Second, it says that there’s a command called ‘Army Recruiting Training Division’ under Home Command. This training command has been, since 2018, been re-named as ‘Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command’ since 2108. It is also jointly held by the Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The Sandhurst Group, indicated in the in the chart, is actually under a Brigadier/One-Star command. You can google around and find this fact such as here or check the good Colin Mackie, http://www.gulabin.com.

Second, there are errors in the ‘Equipment’ section. Under ‘Small Arms and Support Weapons’ they still list the Light Support Weapon and Light Machine Gun, even though these weapons were phased out by at least in April 2019. They also have not listed anti-materiel rifles like the L135A1 LRPAS or ‘other weapons’, though these other weapons are used by UK Special Forces. Under ‘Vehicles’, the TpZ Fuchs, is not listed although it and the numbers of such vehicle are supposedly top secret, though easily found. There are also a couple of minor vehicles such as Pinzgauer (though now mainly used by the Royal Marines) which aren’t listed. Correctly, the ‘aircraft’ sub-section does not list fixed-wing aircraft like the Islander and Defender; the squadron they are under are transferred to RAF command and control.

The biggest incomplete section that has not been updated for at least a year is the ‘Who we are’ section. Under ‘Our people’, there is only sections of ‘ranks’ which is so commonly known, and ‘a soldier’s standards’. There is absolutely, as of 16 June 2019, no biographies of senior officers, not even of the CGS, who has been in position for just over a year. This in sharp contrast to the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Air Force (RAF) websites. The RN has biographies of its top three senior leaders–First Sea Lord, Second Sea Lord and Fleet Commander. The RAF goes even further, listing all, or maybe almost all the senior commanders, including members of the Air Board. The British Army’s website is most likely still under development, but the lack of any simple information like senior commanders is explicitly damaging in terms of image. How long does it take to take a picture of top leaders and write their biographies?

Other missing or incomplete information rest in the ‘Corps, Regiments and Units’ section. Initially, only units from the Infantry and Royal Armour Corps were linked when the website was updated to its more modern look, and not all of them were listed. It took ages before various combat units, combat service support and other units were added. It also took ages before they created another section called ‘Formations and Divisions’ but initially erroneously added sub-units like the 77th Brigade there. Many battalions and units under ‘Corps, Regiments and Units’ are still without pages/websites. These are:

Army Air Corps: One of the last sections to be added since website was re-designed. No sub-units added.

Royal Artillery: It took them weeks before 5 RA, 7 RHA, and other regiments were added. 106 RA is still missing. 32 RA still listed but supposedly will go in 2021. Supposedly.

Royal Signals: As with AAC, one of the last corps added and no-sub units added at all.

Corps of Royal Engineers: Very incomplete, missing the new 28 RE, 32 RE, 35 (EOD) RE, reserve units like 71, 75, 101 (EOD) RE and Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia).

Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: Listed only 6 Close Support Battalion REME recently. The rest from 1 to 7 Aviation Support and the reserve battalions, all missing.

Royal Logistic Corps: All complete and was the fast to be completed. Some units like training units may still be missing though.

Intelligence Corps: 1 Military Intelligence Battalion is missing or will it disband under Army 2020 Refine?

Infantry: Regiments are fully listed but not individual battalions. Exceptions are Royal Regiment of Scotland–just a general list, The Rifles and the Yorkshire Regiment. Even the Royal Gurkha Rifles don’t have separate pages for their two battalions, but that’s a minor squabble.

Adjutant General’s Corps: All complete and completed in a short time. The Royal Military Police page however gives you information not many know of–that the 1st Military Brigade is under the operational control of 3rd UK Division. More about this below.

Army Medical Services: All complete, even including unit(s) that will disband under Army 2020 Refine.

All the other regiments/corps/units are minor units. In summary, there is a whole list of uncompleted units, and to a normal, non-military observer, he/she would believe the British Army has shrunk. Overall, listing 230 units (as of 15/6/2019) doesn’t give a very positive image to the wider public.

Under Formations, Divisions and Brigades: The information again took long to complete and there was a misleading idea that HQ 1st Artillery Brigade was under Force Troops Command, as it was stated in the original Army 2020 Plan. Then, the website shifted it under 3rd UK Division, as your truly noted. Was there a change of operational command? Yes, but no official announcement was made. I only found proof of this via a FOIA and made the British Army webmaster change the wording. The biographies under Home Command also may need updating.

Another area I’m critical about is the news section. The British Army. along with the RAF (as I’ll detail below), hardly post news events, as compared to the senior service. British army news articles come like once every few days, sometimes one or two articles after a week or worse, a fortnight. The best source of news then comes from not even the monthly Soldier Magazine (which isn’t always updated immediately), but from individual corps or regimental websites or charities or association. These are sadly, harder to fine.

Enough rating about the Army. The senior and junior websites are better in terms of style but still lack in accurate content. In the Royal Navy, under ‘Equipment’ and under ‘Ships’ they still list Landing Platform Helicopter although HMS Ocean has been decommissioned and sold to Brazil. Under ‘Submarines’, the style for the ‘Astute Class’ isn’t presented in the main page; you have to scroll down to find it. Ok, that’s a very minor squabble. Under “Commando’ and ‘Troop’ weapons, they still the L110A2 5.56MM LMG although as with the British Army, this weapon has been phased out of service. They also don’t list all the vehicles used by the Royal Marines, just the Viking All-Terrain Armoured Vehicle. More significantly, in recent weeks, the webmasters have removed the profiles of commanding officers of ships, submarines, FAA squadrons, bases you name it. They also temporarily removed the senior 2* posts–COMUKMARFOR, RADM FAA, CGRM and Commander, RFA–and only just replaced them. The search function in the website, as well as the British Army’s, also isn’t very user friendly.

Other than this, the Royal Navy website is top notch. As stated, it is the leading service website that updates its news section like around at least three or up to five articles a day or nearly more than ten articles across the working week. The style of all sections of the website is appealing to users of generations. Perhaps they could, as with the British Army, merge the news and Navy News much closer and get the former to publish the monthly edition online much earlier.

The RAF’s website, with a dark blue (I doubt it is trolling the Royal Navy) background, has quite up to date information. Previously, the old, 1990s-style RAF website had more detailed information on RAF weapons from guns to bombs to missiles. In this website, that information is mostly removed but in place, the images of all, or almost all RAF aircraft are of higher quality and some have individual 3D images or videos. Squadrons and groups are neatly detailed there are biographies of the commanding officers, and as noted, of the senior officers who mostly make up the Air Force board. What is lacking is updates–the current or recently new officers like Air Marshal Gerry Mayhew and Air-Vice Marshal Ian Gale did not have their biographies published until very recently. Under RAF Police and Regiment, the information about 26 RAF Regiment was only just removed, giving an incorrect impression that there’s two RAF Regiment still conducting CBRN ops.

There are more minor mistakes but the point is very clear: UK Armed Forces just don’t have up-to-date websites. Don’t get me started on the MOD’s gov.uk site; that is just as terrible. But is this worthy criticism or just ranting? For sure, many say website work isn’t a core function for officers, ORs, or civil servants. The whole of defence and the armed forces have better issues to worry about but having incomplete or worse, stagnant websites adversely affects the whole force. Having up-to-date websites with accurate contents has several benefits:

1) As I harp on above, it helps inform the public about the armed services. Not everyone is social media-savvy and social media has more often than not, created disinformation or as Donald Trump has supported, created fake news. By having properly updated websites, any of the three services could rightly counter, yes, we are conducting ABC, no, we have unit XYZ, it has not disbanded, and so on. Those without social media, and even those who don’t go to the library (!!!) can look up the website and check what’s happening to this regiment or what is being procured. This would be more for veterans of past decades. Say you served in the Royal Engineers. Hey, why isn’t there a page on 32 RE? Did they disband the unit under Army 2020/Army 2020 Refine? I’m angry! This response would not be so if there was a unit webpage/website. Or say you are interested in joining up, especially to a regiment/corps you father/grandfather was part of. Would you like it if you check and not find the webpage/website on army.mod.uk?

2) The image of a proper updated website brings value, or even soft power to the service and the UK as a whole. Allies may not be always so privy to the any of three services and may often check their websites rather than tweet or Facebook them. What sort of image would it bring if an ally of the UK finds an Army website lack unit information or new updates? Or cannot find the biography or a senior Royal Navy officer? In sharp contrast, the US has quite informative and quickly updated military sites for its four main armed services, the DOD and other defense-related agencies. Alright, it’s the world’s superpower and each service has a regiment-size media and webpage team. The British aren’t that far behind; for the army, there’s a Major-General holding the appointment of Director Engagement and Communications (D E&C) and a Colonel as Assistant Head, Army Media & Communications. Surely, they have a team working on webpage development. What’s taking them so long from fixing the British Army’s website.

3) The image it provides adversaries. Ok, perhaps the army’s incomplete website, the minor missing content in the Royal Navy and RAF’s website is part of a larger disinformation campaign against UK adversaries such as Russia, China, Daesh, you name it. I do not buy this at all. Even at the height of Op HERRICK, the government still published which units would deploy for that operation and publicise new equipment like Mastiff and Foxhound vehicles. A complete, up-to-date website would add more to the soft power element, informing or perhaps scaring the enemy of the lethality the British Armed Forces. Alright, there’s nothing scary really since most outsiders know the army isn’t even close to the 82,000 figure, the Royal Navy is still small in terms of surface warships and the RAF isn’t that huge in size or firepower either. But websites that don’t contain the simple information of units or weapons further degrade the whole picture.

It’s up to the three services if they want fix up their websites or plod on with not even a half full glass.

USMC F-35Bs on the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers: The benefits and challenges

This week, there was sudden ‘breaking news’ that USMC F-35Bs will be deployed on HMS Queen Elizabeth when the aircraft carrier deploys on its inaugural deployment in 2021. Experts, analysts and journalists (or so they title themselves) quickly praise or criticise this news.

But wait, don’t you all have any memories? This is not new news; rather it was announced at least 3 years ago. During a press conference with then Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon and US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the former remarked, ” I can welcome the commitment of the United States to deploying F-35s on the first operational deployment of Queen Elizabeth — the HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2021.” This was even previous mentioned by defence-savy BBC journalist Mark Urban back in 2014. Other news articles, releases or documents that mention the USMC F-35Bs on HMS Queen Elizabeth include:

Defensenews article citing former First Sea Lord George Zambellas saying US will aid British F-35s entryr into operations

A Royal Navy news release in 2014 saying “The aim is for US aircraft to be able to operate from UK aircraft carriers and vice versa.” Also see similar news here.

Aviationweek news article in 2015 stating exactly the same news. You can find a related article here.

Also reported on USNI news, see also this article which says “A Marine F-35B squadron will join the Royal Navy strike group on its first operational deployment in 2021 as part of the air group.”

It’s also mentioned on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s issus news article here

Also found on UK parliamentary questions

as well as the anti-F35 website, War is Boring

So, the Military.com news isn’t really new news.

Anyway, like it, hate it, or love it, the Yanks are coming to fly off a British-made aircraft carrier. Of course, as previously pointed on on twitter and in an academic paper, this is not a new format of military operations. The good blogger Sir Humphrey also notes that during WWII, the usage of HMS Victorious, aka USS Robin, is another example or US-UK joint naval partnership. I argue that, it is not exactly, since firstly, the request to use a Royal Navy carrier was due to circumstances, while in this case, US usage of either HMS Queen Elizabeth or HMS Prince of Wales was well planned in advance. Second, while HMS victorious was rapidly altered to suit USN carrier operations, both QECs already were planned–ingoring the STOVL to CTOL and back debacle–from the start to be joint operable with USMC F-35Bs, or even other allied F-35Bs, more about that later.

OK, we can debate the history of allied operations from a single deck or cross-decking, but now that we are definitely certain HMS Queen Elizabeth’s 2021 deployment will include USMC F-35Bs, what are the benefits and challenges for the USMC or US forces in general?

Benefits:

1) Flight deck size, elevator: One, the USMC will enjoy a much larger flight deck. As far as I can gather, the QECs have a flight deck size of around 4.5 acres while the America-class, which the USMC F-35Bs wil use, has only 2 acres of flight deck. The QECs also quite possibly have a larger hangar–I may be wrong, and its elevators can lift 2 F-35Bs each while an America-class can lift only one–again I may be wrong. The typical deployment of USMC aircraft on an America-class LHA will be around 6, maximum 10, excluding some helicopters. With the QECs large size, it can deploy a full squadron–either of 10 of 16 planes. Naturally, the more the merrier. Also, by deploying their F-35Bs on board the QEC, this would free up space on their America-class for more helicopters, making them pure amphibious assault ships.

2) Ski-jump: I suppose this is the most important benefit the USMC will gain and utilise. The British love the skim-jump and since they are set for STOVL operations in the long-term, ie, using the F-35B, the have included the ski-jump to ensure the STOVL aircraft can safely fly off the aircraft carrier–since it doesn’t have catapults and more crucially, able to launch with a heavier payload. USN Wasp and America-class LHDs and LHAs have never included a ski-jump in their design, so the USMC F-35Bs will enjoy flying off the QECs confidently and with a heavier payload. This is especially since their weaponry, particularly their GBU-32 (1,013 pounds) is generally heavier than the RAF/FAA Paveway IV (550 pounds). The USMC may even learn how to land using Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL), the British-specific method of landing a STOVL aircraft with a heavy payload.

3) Organic AEW or ASAC, ASW: The USMC Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) / Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) Air component / Marine Air-Ground Task Force(MAGTF) does not, as yet, have an organic aerial early warning (AEW) aircraft/helicopter while the RN tailored task group will have the Merlin Mk2 mounted with the modified Thales Searchwater 2000 AEW radar . This AEW or ASAC system might not exactly be fully operational by the 2021 deployment, but it will quite definitely be part of any UK carrier-based strike group in the future. The USMC might be procuring a better AEW UAV, but that will take time to develop, so while their are flying of either QEC carrier, they will have the safe knowledge that Royal Navy FAA AEW/ASAC helicopters will be aiding them.

The USMC aviation team also does not have organic ASW helicopters, although their USN counterparts might deploy MH-60R helicopters off their baby aircraft carriers. In contrast, the RN FAA has the Merlin Mk2, which has a primary ASW role. Furthermore, the QEC task group will most definitely be accompanied by a RN Type 23 or in future, Type 26 ASW frigate. So the USMC pilots will safely know that while on board either QEC carrier, they will be surrounded with perfect ASW assets, unlike in their ARG/MEU, which typically is just one LHA, one LPD and one LSD, no ASW assets.

4) Logistics: In relation to the first argument, the USMC themselves the utility of the QEC carriers due to their larger size. Various USMC Aviation plans, such as the 2015, 2016 (can’t find the link but a hard copy says so) and 2017 versions explicitly indicate that the QECs, as well as the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi will be used as for not just allied/joint operations but forward basing for logistics operations. The USMC calls it ‘Distributed Aviation Operations’ or DAO.

5) AAW: Again, a basic USN-USMC ARG set of ships does not include an air defence ship. The QEC carriers, on the other hand, will always, and I say this with certainty, be accompanied with a Type 45 destroyer or maybe two, or even allied AAW ship(s). I know their are many armchair admirals on and offline criticising the Type 45s for lack of sufficient numerical VLS cells, but I say it is a very effective and lethal AAW destroyer. So given that the US ARG doesn’t include such a ship as yet, USMC F-35B aviators will have an excellent opportunity working with RN Type 45s to form AAW operations for the task group.

These are just some of the benefits that the USMC will gain while operating from either QEC carrier. Of course, the RAF and FAA will likewise benefit from a USMC squadron in terms of mass–more aircraft for again air defence, training and strike operations. They will benefit from learning USMC logistics and repairs procedures, especially since the USMC is the leading force in terms of operating the F-35B. Now for the challenges

1) Messing: I suppose this is minor challenge or not even a problem. But generally, Americans are larger in weight than the British. The British have a tight Daily Messing Rate for their sailors which although keeps them active and energetic, is limited in terms of budget. I can’t exactly find the USN or USMC equivalent to the DMR, but I suspect US sailors and marines get fed of a slightly higher budget. The amount of calories may not differ, but the Royal Navy lifestyle may take time to adjust to.

2) Terminology: Yes, it is a Special Relationship, yes they are NATO partners, but the terminology used, especially since RAF Air Command is the lead for the joint RAF/FAA F-35Bs, may be different. This again may not be a major hurdle or challenge and quite definitely will be worked out pre-deployment.

3) Logistics: Both countries might be using the same stealth fighter, but each unit and country won’t exactly be using the set of weapons. The UK at present will arm their F-35Bs will ASRAAM, AIM-120 for air-defence/air superiority roles, and Paveway IV LGBs for strike missions. The USMC on the other hand, will AIM-120 and quite definitely AIM-9, and for striking, GBU-32 JDAM and GBU-12 LGB or Paveway II, the former which has never been used by the UK. In future, the UK F-35Bs will be armed with Meteor and SPEAR 3 while the USMC aircraft will have Small Diameter Bombs. Commander (Logistics), along with Commander (Weapons Engineering) on board the QEC carrier would then be challenged to ensure sufficient stocks of both UK and US weapons for each countries aircraft. In 2021, it is doubtful that the new Future Support Ships (FSS) will be operational ready for the QEC task group will have to depend on United States Navy’s Military Sealift Command ammunition ships, quite definitely the Lewis and Clark-class ships, adding to their challenge. There will quite undoubtedly USN, US MSC and USMC on board to assist with logistics distribution and USN or USMC aviation ordnance man but this might be a challenge to overcome.

4) Command and control and rules of engagement: Again, whilst both countries have worked extremely closely before, are NATO allies and have a Special Relationship, one of the biggest challenges and perhaps problems will be the C2C and ROE. Sir Humphrey presents a simple friendly scenario of how both countries will work together using the QEC, that is, a NEO. I present a more complex scenario: Say for example the UK just wants to use the QEC task group for conventional deterrence against country A while the US dislikes country A’s WMD development so much it orders its F-35Bs on board the QEC to attack country A’s facilities. Will the UK, not wishing to start a military conflict, agree? One must take a step back to the Pristina Airport incident, where even well under tight allied NATO command, then Lieutenant General Mike Jackson told his superior US General Wesley Clark, “”I’m not going to start the Third World War for you.” What if, during the course of the 2021 deployment, there is a similar disagreement? Will both parties agree to how the QEC will operate? Or take a less confrontational scenario: Say the British only wish for F-35Bs to assist with a NEO that evacuates British citizens but the US wishes to use those F-35Bs to enforce a US-led by UK-abstained, UNSC-voted No-fly zone. Would it then be USMC aircraft launching to enforce a NFZ and British aircraft just for self-defence?

There are other challenges but of course, the higher powers will work it out, although there may be more Pristina airport like disagreements. There are also other questions such as:

1) How many F-35Bs will the USMC VMFA squadron have 10, or 16? Either number is the proposed size of any USMC VMFA F-35B squadron. If it is 10, this will mean that there will be 22 (12 (UK) + 10 (US) fixed-wing aircraft on board. If it is 16, then there will be 28 (12+16). The larger the number, the less number of Merlin Mk2 (ASW and AEW/ASAC) and Merlin Mk4 (Join Personnel Recovery and Commando air assault).

2) From which USMC Air Station will the squadron deploy from? There are no USMC bases in the UK on permanently stationed in the NATO/European continent so they will most likely deploy from either USMC Air Station Cherry Point or USMC Air Station Beaufort–these are US East Coast USMC Air Stations; it is highly unlikely the squadron will come from those stationed on the West Coast in 2021. Which ever Air Station they come from, it still might affect the direction HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail to for its first operational deployment.

3) Following up from deployment and the the challenge of differing ROE and C2C, will the inaugural operation actually be towards the the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region as former Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson announced? Or will it be sail directly to the Persian Gulf where Donald Trump and John Bolton and fanning the flames of war towards Iran?

There are so many questions. For now, it is welcoming to have friendly F-35Bs on board.

ACM Peach as CMC: A review of senior NATO posts held by British Officers

The latest news that Air Chief Marshal Stuart as the next Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee or CMC has been hailed by journalists and watchers as a success point for Brexit and helps strengthen the UK’s position as a leading power.

This has, however, made me think back as to the UK’s personnel contribution to NATO’s military structure. The UK has, since NATO’s founding, held the number 2 position in the Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, or Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) or Allied Commander Operations (ACO). In easier terms, it is the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe or DSACEUR for short. During much of the Cold War, a German General also held such a post alongside his British counterpart but now it is just a British four-star officer (usually from the British Army). Scarmonger and chief rumour maker for the Sunday Times Mark Hookham wrote that the British position of DSACEUR would be threatened with Brexit but that is TOTAL RUBBISH. The UK will undoubtedly hold this position unless the UK government turns ala pacifist.

Dropping down the NATO military forces structure, senior British military officers have held the positions in the NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) and the land-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). Both, like DSACEUR, have historically been UK-led commands because of NATO’s historical structure: MARCOM sort of  originated from Eastern Atlantic Command or EASTLANT which was under the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). Actually, both SACLANT and EASTLANT were four-star commands (The former UK Commander-in-Chief Fleet was the head of EASTLANT). A post-9/11 structure saw EASTLANT evolved into Allied Maritime Component Command Northwood (MCC Northwood), sharing maritime operations with what was then MCC Naples. Finally, in 2012, all NATO Maritime planning, operations and advice was centralised at MARCOM. Having stayed in the UK’s maritime area and city, MARCOM continued to be led by a Royal Navy ViceAdmiral, only one-star lower than the Commander of EASTLANT. (Update: MARCOM could have also originated from Allied Command Channel (ACCHAN), a smaller part of SACLANT and EASTLAnt).

The ARRC, formerly at Rheindalen, Germany, now based in Imjin Barracks, Innsworth, Gloucester, England, has a more British origin, originating from the last British Army warfighting corps, I (BR) Corps which was part of the British Army on the Rhine (BAOR). That unit was a major part of Northern Army Group, or NORTHTAG, the NATO army group that would defend the northern part of West Germany from any Eastern bloc attack during the Cold War. Cold War over/won, I (BR) Corps was dissolved and transformed into the ARRC. Unlike the transition from EASTLANT to MARCOM, the Commander of I (BR) Corps and eventually remained a British Army Lieutenant General. The ARRC is not the solely rapid response force for NATO; ARRC’s website states nine responses forces. ARRC also does have any active units under its control until given warning orders. Nevertheless, it is quite clearly a chief response force, especially given that the British Army is the highest quality trained land force in NATO after the US Army.

So far I’ve shown historical NATO commands that are still helmed by senior British officers. Well, the present Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) in its former namesake, Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE), deputised by an Air Chief Marshal, reporting to the Commander of AAFCE who also was the four-star United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). AAFCE at the height of the Cold War commanded two two Allied Tactical Air Forces, two and fourth. At around the time, NATO’s Southern flank also had and aerial command, AIRSOUTH, commanding two, later three other tactical Allied Tactical Air Forces. Move on to post-Cold War, there wee many NATO allied air forces but the RAF continued to hold the number two position in first Allied Forces Central Europe (see the good historian Colin Mackie or Gulabin’s record under “SENIOR ROYAL AIR FORCE APPOINTMENTS” page 77–he gives different names or see AIRCOM’s own history ), to Regional Command Allied Forces North Europe in the form of a three-star Air Marshal. Just before the formation of AIRCOM, There was Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein or HQ AC Ramstein and another NATO air command in Izmir, Turkey. I don’t think the RAF held the deputy commander’s position when AIRCOM became fully active until August 2016 when RAF Air Marshal Stuart Evans took the position. As AIRCOM’s senior leadership page states, the Deputy Commander’s position is rotated between RAF (UK) and Germany on a regular basis, the last non-British Deputy Commander actually being French Lieutenant General Dominique de Longvilliers. So unlike the Cold War and immediate post-Cold War days, the UK doesn’t dominate AIRCOM.

Moving back up to the naval commands, the Royal Navy sends a Rear Admiral to commands Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), NATO’s premier Maritime Battle-staff and the Alliance’s primary link for integrating U.S. Maritime Forces into NATO operations. This command, directly report to SACEUR, also has historical origins from Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) which commanded Naval Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe or STRIKFORSOUTH. A quick Google search, however, reveals that the deputy commander of STRIKFORSOUTH which later became STRIKFORNATO was an American. The good Colin Mackie, under his page ROYAL NAVY SENIOR APPOINTMENTS, page 220, reveals that a Royal Navy Rear Admiral took reigns on deputy commander onwards since January 200 and remains so up to today. It should be noted that STRIKFORNATO is not the same as the disestablished NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic which was under SACLANT for decades, during and after the Cold War. That command did have a Royal Navy Commodore in charge, but possibly not since inception. Today, that position is now the Deputy Director, Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence, of same Royal Navy rank.

Okay. Who else. Ah yes, the Chief of Staff, NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT). Moving back a few years, the UK once held ACT’s Deputy Commander’s position in the form of a four-star officer until July (First Admiral Sir Ian Forbes and then Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope) before the UK was ‘downgraded’ to the post of Chief of Staff. Al of this can again be found on Colin Mackie’s pdf files under : MINISTRY OF DEFENCE AND TRI-SERVICE SENIOR APPOINTMENTS page 36.

Other senior UK officers in NATO commands but not as top-level leaders include the Deputy Chief of Staff – Plans, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, currently Major General Ian Cave. Previously, a British Army Major General Rob Weighill also held this post but I’m nor sure if this post is always given to a British Army officer. The other NATO JFC, JFC Brunssum also recently has a British Army Major General Karl Ford as its Deputy Chief of Staff – Plans as of September 2017 (thanks again to Colin Mackie for the information). Is is always a case there? Not sure. Finally, the Deputy Commander to NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corp Italy or NRDC-ITA has been a British Officer, present holder is Major General Edward Smyth-Osborne, past holders include David Campbell, George Norton and Tom Beckett (all information again on Google). Colin informed me that the UK held this post as far back as 2003, starting with Major General The Honorable Seymour Monro.

As with historical commands, the UK also once held the Deputy Commander of JFC Brunssum and before that, Allied Forces Northern Europe; in fact it held the full commander’s position until January 2004. It held this deputy commander’s position until around December 2015, when its transferred to some Italian Lieutenant General. The UK also previously held the Director General of the NATO International Military Staff position, and held it several times in the past. Royal Marines Lieutenant Generals have also held the the Deputy Commander’s position in Allied Land Command (LANDCOM), specifically Lieutenant General Ed Davis and Lieutenant General Gordon Messenger, who is now full General and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. Land Command was initially Allied Land Forces South-Eastern Europe (LANDSOUTHEAST) but I’m unable to to find whether any previous UK officer held its deputy commander’s position. There are further other post but I won’t cover them here–mostly Brigadier posts. You can find an extensive list with no names in this parliamentary reply (which funnily forgets to include the head of the ARRC in its table) or this older one (many positions outdated or removed) or check http://www.gulabin.com (his is very messy–you have to find them in each of his pdfs.)

What is the point of all of this? Well, it mostly shows that the majority of historical NATO commands positions given to UK officers since NATO’s formation or since the Cold War are still held by UK officers today. It is definitely or mostly certain the UK will retain the DSACEUR, MARCOM Chief and ARRC positions, unless it retreats from the NATO and global role. It most likely will retain the deputy commander’s in STRIKFORNATO, despite the uncertainty over the size of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Moving down the line again, the UK could move up to ACT’s deputy commander’s position, given that it held that position, as well as previously deputy commander, SACLANT or it could just “hold the line” in the Chief of Staff.

The information above clearly shows the UK only dominates MARCOM and not the two other major NATO services commands. As noted, it once held the number 2 position in AAFCE, lost it around post-Cold War, and now holds it but on a rotational basis with Germany. That could be said to be strange, given the average state of the German Air Force or Luftwaffe (then again, choice of who leads what is also possibly independent of the state of their own armed forces). It is really sad that they UK doesn’t hold the deputy commander’s position in LANDCOM anymore, or even on of the senior leader holders. It could do so, but then this would suck away a 3-star British Army or Royal Marine officer, and lead to calls of “more officers than equipment” (more about this in a later post).

The UK never dominated JFC Naples or its predecessor so that’s ok. It sadly “vacated” the role of deputy commander in JFC Brunssum. I guess that doesn’t matter, since the UK now hold’s the role of deputy commander, Resolute Support (RS) Mission, taking over from the Italians–JFC Brunssum’s core operation is to oversee RS. JFC Naples’ on the other hand is rather long -winded; I don’t think the UK would make much of an impact holding a senior role there. As for the NRDC-ITA, the UK may hold this position until some other European nation sends its equivalent general to take over. For the wider UK appointments to different parts of NATO as mentioned in this parliamentary reply, well the UK will probably still keep those positions.

This is all 1) not considering how NATO appointments are made and 2) what impact these senior British officers can made on these commands. 1) is crucial and I’ve not bothered to go into deep research–I believe the detailed explanation would most probably negate most of what I wrote above. This goes back to ACM Peach’s appoint as NATO CMC. This appointment was and has been through a vote and the UK played it well to win it. If the other positions mentioned above are made by voting, then the UK should strategise to win core NATO post. This could be contrasted with 2) as well, remember these work for NATO, although they originate from the British Armed Forces. Certainly really top figures like DSACEUR, the head of MARCOM and ARRC shape their commands towards a bring a dose of British military ideas to them. Nevertheless, NATO commands are NATO, that is, multinational. Being British matters yes, but being NATO-ish and achieving the objectives of each NATO command and the organisation as a whole. Coming back to the role of CMC, NATO states it as “ the principal military advisor to the Secretary General and the conduit through which consensus-based advice from NATO’s 29 Chiefs of Defence is brought forward to the political decision-making bodies of NATO.“. No where does it suggest the officer uses his country’s origin to shape the Secretary General towards his/her country’s defence policies. Certainly, I haven’t seen General Petr Pavel shaping the Secretary General towards Czech Republic ideas or beliefs. So inasmuch Deborah Haynes and other defence journalists were worrying their hairs of over ACM Peach’s possible loss, NATO would still be NATO and there still would be a size of amount of British officers in NATO and dear old England, oops, the UK.

So here’s my little background of British senior officers in NATO commands, how they remain or change due to historical positions.

Doing more with less or rather higher quality

This post by the pretty famous aviation-centred geek Foxtrot Jalopnik takes a critical view of a graphic presented Contemporary Issues and Geography. The picture as show below shows a graphic or rather ORBAT of almost all or all the UK’s active military aircraft, combat, combat air support and even training.

UK military aircraft Feb 2016

UK military aircraft Feb 2016

(All rights go to http://cigeography.blogspot.fr/)

Foxtrot Jalopnik (henceforth FJ) goes on to say:

The Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm and the Army Air Corps have shrunk dramatically over the last decade, but the recent Strategic Defense and Security Review has ordered the UK begin to reinvest heavily into its air arms…Of particular note in this case is just how small the UK’s front-line fighter force is…Even the Army Air Corps helicopter transport fleet looks particularly small…

It does however end on a positive note:

This graphic will dramatically change once again in the coming decade as the F-35 is introduced into the Fleet Air Arm and RAF inventory, as well as other aircraft such as the P-8 Poseidon. Still, its unlikely that the UK’s air combat end-strength will ever look anything like it once did as recently as 2003 invasion of Iraq. Then again, the same can be said for America’s air combat aircraft inventory.

If FJ’s post could be said to be critical, the commentators below are far more acerbic. Sxay91 bring up the common swipe that previous (Labour) governments have destroyed the UK military. Buzz Killington is even more biased, using the “usual” line hat the UK (and European nations) have to spend more on welfare (than the Us, which by the way, has some sort of welfare system in certain areas) and now has to tend to (Muslim) refugees. JohnDiz cites his (possible) own experience saying that UK Special Forces needed UK rotary and aviation support (damn the Special Relationship?), FSBCyberPropagandaDivision calls the UK’s future carriers “useless” (not exactly about UK aviation) the list goes on and on. To sum up, These commentators who I guess are mostly American or Brits who want to jump on the bangwagon, agree the UK military aviation is shrinking, lousy, useless (insert your own negative adjective here).

Ok, fine, it is a small force. It’s smaller than it was during World War Two (where by the UK did get US help through the Lend-Lease Act and the wider Commonwealth), it’s a smaller force since immediate post-World War Two, it’s a small aerial force since the Falklands, Gulf War One, Operation Telic. But ok, since FJ brings up the 2003 invasion. Back then, the UK just did have the Tornado Gr4 and the classic Harrier, but it did not have the high accurate Brimstone missile. It ha only the Tornado ADV, the air defence fighter which was definitely less agile and deadly as the Eurofighter Typhoon or its USAF counterparts. In 2003, the Nimrod was was certainly in the ORBAT and in more than one squadron, but not that it was really need for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The Harrier version in Op Telic was the GR7, not the GR9. There was at best one Army Air Corps (AAC) Regiment there, but not the famous Apache. The UK used its old Lynx AH7 and Gazelle AH1s in the initially campaign. As for Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) assets, Op Tellic saw the ageing Sea King, not the Merlin helicopter.

The bottom line is, in 2003 Iraq War (or previous campaigns), the UK did have a numerically larger force of aviation assets and a larger variety. What it did not have back with those numerical quantity was quality. Today, even with a smaller FAA, AAC, and Royal Air Force, it has far better equipment and weaponry. The UK has Apaches (and soon to be upgraded AH-64s), Merlin HM2 and later HM4s, Lynx Wildcats, Eurofighter Tranche 1/2 and later versions, as well as other support and ISTAR aircraft. One most common touted weapon by politicians and the media is the Brimstone missile, used in Op Ellamy and the present Syria/Iraq campaign, Op Shader. Everyone wishes for a larger force and FJ did mention that the US aviation force is smaller than it was in Gulf War One and Two. Power doesn’t just come through quantity alone. Ok fine, quantity does matter, but as I’ve quickly shown, it matters at best with high quality.

It’s a good ideal world to have large quantities of forces, aerial, maritime or land-based. But that’s an ideal world. For now, a good quality force helps more than just a larger quantity.

The A-Z dummies guide to the UK’s nuclear deterrent aka “Trident”

Here I present the A-Z guide for the UK’s nuclear deterrent, colloquially and erroneously called “Trident”.

A is for Atom. The Atom and the splitting on the atom is needed for two vital parts: First, to create the nuclear reaction for the reactor plant of the SSBN (the ballistic missile submarine that carries the missiles which carry the warheads) and second, the nuclear reaction that occurs in order to classify the warheads (and missiles) as nuclear-related weapons or if you like, weapons of mass destruction. A is also for Atomic Weapons Establishment, the facility in Aldermaston where UK nuclear warheads are built.

B is for Boat. A Submarine is a submarine, but the sailors and military people, call it a “boat”, NOT a ship. This is a common mistake in fiction novels and movies.

C is for Continuous-at-sea-Deterrence (CASD). CASD is not unique to the UK; The US, France Russia, China, and India, possibly Pakistan but not as yet for North Korea maintain SSBNs that patrol 24/7/365. One SSBN is on deterrence patrol while the three others are on training, maintenance or ready to deploy. This is because there are at maximum FOUR UK SSBNs and only four to maintain the “minimum credible deterrent.” C is also for Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the full anti-nuclear weapons, anti-war, anti-military movement.

D is for Disarmament. The UK maintains its SSBNs but [supposedly] works to create multilateral disarmament. There have been a range of global nuclear disarmament talks such as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty(ies) (which the UK was not a partner of) and recently, the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (not that such a topic is needed–everyone should know what a nuclear–fission or fusion–explosion would do). Multilateral Disarmament is just one means of reducing nuclear weapon stockpiles; there is unilateral disarmament, which some politicians advocate but others argue is not viable.

E is for Project E, a previous UK-US agreement to provide RAF bombers with nuclear weapons. One of the first UK-US nuclear agreements. Google it.

F is for the Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent White Paper, published in 2006. It was one of the first post-Cold War UK government papers to advocate retaining an independent nuclear deterrent through to the 21st Century.

G
is for the Guidance System. I’m not exactly sure if the UK version is the same as the US version which uses an “astro-inertial guidance” system. Does this mean the UK’s nuclear deterrent is 100% independent of the US and others? See “I”.

H is for Operation Hurricane, the very first UK atom bomb test.

I is for Independence. The UK is the only P5 member of the United Nations Security Council not to have its own delivery system. The Trident II (D5) UGM-133A missiles are American-made and shared through a “joint pool” with the US Navy. The warheads (see W and A) are supposedly UK-built but based on the US W76 design. With the missiles US-made, many claim the US “controls” the UK’s nuclear deterrent and a UK Prime Minister is unable to even set the launch without a US President’s approval. Opponents say no, the UK has control over its missile launches. See this old FOIA release for how the UK’s weapons are independent.

J is for I guess, Justification for the UK to have a nuclear deterrent.

K is for Kiloton, the measurement in which some nuclear yields (see Y) is measured. The best public evidence on how large the tonnage for UK-built warheads in at least 100 kilotons. The warheads could have a variable yield, who  knows.

L is for Legality. It is one of the major arguments for and against the UK having nuclear weapons or a nuclear deterrent. L is also for the Letters of Last Resort, the dreaded letter a British Prime Minister has to write when entering office. It tells the SSBN commander what to do if the UK has been nuked and command and control is limited or lost.

M is for the Ministry of Defence, where the full super Top Secret nuclear deterrence and launch scenarios are held. M is also for Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), which is what nuclear deterrence is, if you hold that view.

N is for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows the UK to be a nuclear weapon state and this may be considered as legality for the UK to have a nuclear deterrent. It also may cause question about the UK’s status and role, since it called for nuclear disarmament. N is also for Northwood where CTF 345 personnel will receive the order from the PM (and his/her team, UK doesn’t officially say if it has a two-man rule at that level) for ballistic missile launch.

O is for Operational Control, again related to Independence. As stated in the FOIA states, UK and US are assigned for NATO security. This was supposedly stopped after 1992 (see this evidence and this.

P is for Polaris, the missile that came become Trident and the colloquially known system. P is also for PINDAR, The top secret bunker beneath Whitehall where the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Defence Staff would hide in during a nuclear crisis or attack and where they would issue the order for a UK strategic missile launch. Official name: Defence Crisis Management Centre (DCMC).

Q is for the Queen. Supposedly, according to Lord Guthrie, the Prime Minister of the day isn’t the final part of the fail-safe mechanism for nuclear missile launch. The Queen is the ultimate head of the armed forces and could stop a made PM from launching a nuclear missile or starting nuclear war.

R is for ROF Cardiff, a former nuclear weapons site. R is also for the Resolution-class submarine, which carried the Polaris missiles, see P.

S is for the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, which pledged to reduce the UK nuclear force to “ewer than 160 to no more than 120” warheads. (See page 38 of the 2010 SDSR). This was officially concluded on 20 January 2015. “All Vanguard Class SSBNs on continuous at-sea deterrent patrol now carry 40 nuclear warheads and no more than eight operational missiles”. S is also for Submariner, the personnel who man the SSBNs and who may lose their jobs if the whole system is scrapped.

T is for, of course, Trident. This as I stated, is the missile, NOT The entire nuclear deterrent!!! You can read about the whole missile here.

U is for Ulysses, an UK nuclear warhead. U is also for the 1958 US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement.

V is for Vanguard, the class of SSBN submarine which carries the Trident D5 missiles which carry the UK-made nuclear warheads. V is also for the V-Bomber force, which once carried nuclear gravity bombs.

W is for Warhead. As stated in K (kilton), the warhead is the main part of the whole system that delivers the thermonuclear explosion. The submarine does not actually threaten targets; the Trident missile just guides the warhead to the target. W is also for the WE.177 nuclear gravity bomb, which the UK had until it was removed it 1992 (Royal Navy depth charge) and 1998 (Royal Air Force). This removal is often hailed by politicians as the UK’s major unilateral disarmament, while no other nuclear power followed suit.

X is for Weapon X, “an emergency capability ‘stop-gap’ laydown weapon intended to enable the Vulcan bomber force to operate at low-level for a few years, until the Royal Navy Polaris SLBM force became operational at the end of the 1960s.”

Y is for Yield, the nuclear yield.

Z is for Zodiac Mk3, another UK bomb.

NSS and SDSR 2015: My review of the military context

The National Security Review and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 has been published, rather late in the day but nevertheless published. One immediate difference from the 2010 reviews is that both the National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) are combined together. That makes a big difference, but I’ll deal with the strategy part in a later post. First, the military (which forms the defence part):

The Royal Navy:

* Senior service in the NSS and SDSR 2015 stays almost as expected.
* Major ships in surface fleet stay at the small number of 19. But only eight/8 x Type 26 Global combat Ships will be ordered, the anti-submarine variant with Sonar 2087. Five more will appear later, but possibly more with a revised version for “General Purposes”. As many point out, this goes back to the original C1 and C2 variants. Would we thus get more than thirteen/13 type 26 frigates? What exactly will this GP variant be like? Will it have Mk41 Vertical Launch Silos (VLS)? Or are they copying my old idea?
* The graphic shows “up to 6 Patrol Vessels”. Batch 2 River-Class Frigates for sure, plus HMS Clyde, plus the two more that the document (page 31) that will be ordered. I suspect these two/2 additional vessels will also be Batch 2 River-Class? So goodbye to the Batch 1 Offshoere Patrol Vessels (OPV). All seems really good–These can help patrol the Caribbean to some extent and release Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels for other more pressing commitments. It well, also means the Scottish workers have more secured jobs for a while. Lucky them.
* No mention of other patrol vessels, especial the Gibraltar Squadron. Will there be any change?
* Only twelve/12 Mine-counter measure vessels are specified in the graphic, down from the fifteen/15 the Royal Navy has at present. No mention if these are the Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) future variant, though they are likely to be. That’s ok but only if they can extend their reach to the present commitments–the MENA area–or possibly elsewhere.
* Goodbye HMS Ocean. No mention in the graphic or elsewhere. Instead, “We will enhance a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier to support this amphibious capability.” That, as I and many others point out, is not a practical use of the QEC but well has to be.
* The LPDs and LSDs will stay, ok.
* No mention of the Point-Class Ro-Ros, but they will likely stay.
* No mention of the Merlin HM4/Mk4 variants, oh wait, they put that under the Army graphic. Typo or just saying it’s Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) controlled?
* Royal Marines with Arctic capability. Well, not exactly new; they have operated in Norway for a long time.
* Six/6 Fleet Tankers. Is this four/4 Tide-Class tankers plus the two/2 Wave-Class fuel and support tankers/support ships? Will the Wave-Class ships be replaced in the distant future? Ok, not a worry.
* Three/3 Fleet Solid Support Ships. At present it is RFA Fort Victoria, RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Fort Austin. Will Fort Rosalie and Fort Austin be replaced by newer Solid Support Ships, again built in South Korea?
* No mention of a replacement for RFA Argus and RFA Diligence. So sad though you did say it it was to be considered. Liar.
* Likely or most likely no change in the number of Merlin HM2/MK2 ASW/ASAC helicopters. Which you know, means a tight Tailored Air Group (TAG). Boo…
*Type 45s may be part of a future Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).
* Not forgetting the Queen-Elizabeth Class Carriers. Still no confirmation how they will operate, especially with HMS Ocean going away. The TAG is questionable even with the 138 F-35B order which will arise only in the distant future. There are still questions regarding the order. For example, this report says “It means the UK will have 24 F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft available on its two new aircraft carriers by 2023.” Does that mean 24 on one operational carrier or 24×2 = 48 on both carriers? Let’s take it as 24 on HMS Queen Elizabeth. What about the 138-24 others (besides OCU and OEU?) As Justin Bronk points out, could they be the A version?
* Of course, Successor-class, that is the SSBNs will be procured. The submarines that cannot do anything.

British Army:

* The Army 2020 model is no more; it is Army 2025. Instead of the austerity-linked but nice plan by General Sir Nicholas Carter (see this), the Army 2025 plan alters the Reaction and Adaptable Forces. Now there will be two/2 x Armoured Infantry (AI) Brigades, down from 3 from the original plan and a change from the typical division size. Wait, two/2 “Strike Brigades” that that could quickly deploy anywhere with independent logistical footprint.
* Strike Brigades?! They want to draw in the 589 Ajax (SCOUT SV) Brigades to form these brigades. But Ajax was to be for the original 3 AI brigades, not playing with a new fantasy fleet concept. What will these Strike Brigades consist of? Say one of the existing AIs and one brigade from the Adaptable Force (AF), maybe 7th Infantry Brigade. What else besides Ajax? Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) formerly UV, formerly FRES UV. Ok. But what else? How on earth are they independent in terms of logistics? And if you need to deploy a division, will the Strike Brigade (single) become a AI?
* A further question: What happens to the third Challenger 2 Armour regiment with these Strike Brigades? Will the disband/stay in suspended animation or will they be re-organised into the two other AI brigades? Good that Challenger 2 LEP will continue but well tank’s gun is outdated.
* Warrior CSP will continue–will all the six/6 Armoured Infantry battalions get the CTA 40mm gun?
* Upgraded helicopters–expected, nothing new.
* “Two innovative brigades comprising a mix of Regulars and specialist capabilities from the Reserves able to contribute to our strategic communications, tackle hybrid warfare and deliver better battlefield intelligence.” From the AF brigades? What will these be? MRV-P centred?
* 16 Air Assault Brigade stays but any change?
* Field Hospitals stay in the Joint Force (Command). See below.
* No mention of the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (ABSV).
* No mention of upgrades or replacement for the Defender planes or Gazelle.
* No core mention of MIV and MRV-P and other key projects that will replace soon to OSD assets.
* Of course, the magical 77th Brigade will remain as a soft-power enabler.
* Hey look, Commander Land Forces is now Commander Field Army. Great priority change.

The Royal Air Force

* It gains the most as it did in the 2010 SDSR. Junior Service wins.
* 20 “Protector” RPAS, basically MQ-9 Repear upgraded. Not new, announced before.
* Nine/9 PBoeing P-8 Poseidon, the expensive US MPA, to be based at RAF Lossiemouth. The usual cheers around, and it shows how incorrect Mark Hookham is. But 1) They wont appear instantly; 2) RAF and the Royal Navy have no air-launched Harpoons left so they can’t conduct ASuW 3) UK Stingray torpedoes and MK 11 depth charges need to be integrated onboard. Its “overland surveillance capability” is questionable.
* Amazingly, Sentinel R1, the formerly to-be-scrapped aircraft, will stay on “into the next decade”. Possibly they will help the P-8s or act as interim aircraft until the P-8s reach Full Operational Capability (FOC).
* They “el-cheapo: Shadow R1 will stay on until 2030. Really not bad for a propeller plane that could be taken up be Defender (theoretically). And the UK will get two more of them, bringing the total to eight.
* Sentry E-3 and the Rivet Joint (not Air Seeker!!!) stay on till 2035. Any upgrades darling?
* Hey, you didn’t want to keep the C-130s before. Hey! You are keeping 14 of the J models. Plus still aiming for 22 A400Ms plus just only 8 C-17ERs. Suddenly there’s the money to keep the C-130s? Ok, the Special Forces are really happy. More on that later…
* Along with the P-8s and keeping of Sentinel R1, you get this new drone that “will fly at the very edge of the earth’s atmosphere and allow us to observe our adversaries for weeks on end”. As Beth Stevenson points out, it is likely to be the “Airbus Defence & Space Zephyr high-altitude pseudo-satellite”.
* T1 Typhoons to form additional 2 x Squadrons, but only around 12 planes each, down from the 13-15 as seen in FOIAs like this. It is yet to be seen where they will be based given that RAF Lossiemouth will be choked full of planes.
* F-35s as above. But with the great projected order, isn’t it time to given all light blues and all dark blues to Squadrons and dark blue FAA Squadrons?
* Voyager Fleet: You get Cameron Fore One or PM Force One. Save money, give prestige it works out well. But please UK, don’t abuse it.
* The Future UCAV research project with France will continue. Yay..

Joint Forces (Command):

* Special Forces will get the most high-tech equipment. But with a shrunken active force, you would (still) struggle to get enough people to operate this. More later…
* Will you even have enough reserve special forces personnel?
* Joint Force Command, particularly, PJHQ, will get more stars (my FOIA). With a shrunken force, don’t try a top-heavy leadership. Won’t sound out well with the lower ranks.
* Space Operations Centre–a mouthful. For non-military means as well?
* How much effort will be place on cyber, since it is a Tier One threat?

Larger questions:

* So much of the SDSR and NSS is on equipment. How about personnel shortfalls? Getting women and minorities into the armed forces is only one bit to gain strength. You won’t get enough personnel for these major high tech assets–the carriers, the surface ships, the submarines, the F-35s, the additional Typhoons, the Army units etc. Personnel shortages hasn’t but must be addressed.
* When will the new equipment and assets be ready?
* Buying Yank stuff. Do you have a plan if prices increase?
* Will you really spend 2% of GDP on Defence and ho much contingency money is there?
* Any plans to increase, not alter, the personnel size? Or will you make cuts to unit strengths? No use claiming to have a division-sized force when the companies or battalions are under-sized.
* Will the joint model between departments (not JFC), ie. DFID, FCO, improve?
* How much change will there be for this Joint Force 2025 between now and 2020?

Next up, reviewing the Strategy…

PS: Did I miss anything out?