Julian Lewis and “Trident” and the nuclear arms race.

Saw this the other day. Julian Lewis, Conservative MP and Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee is, no, has been a life long advocate of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, erroneously but colloquially known as ‘Trident’. In the interview, Lewis stated that three of the five powers–UK, France and China–were not part of the nuclear arms race and have not been so. I’m not an expert of France or China, but it is quite clear that the latter has been improving its nuclear launch capabilities and arsenal. Sites likeNTI and this news release have pointed out the growth of China’s nuclear arsenal. Unlike France, China has the typical ‘triad’ of nuclear weapons–land-based, sea-based and aerial-based. So the good Doctor is incorrect in this point.

Written Evidence to the UK HoC Defence Committee

Nice piece of evidence.

Read it here

LJS Blog

Read and review.

Thanks to the UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee for publishing it.

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Committees and the British Armed Forces

Many people know the British Armed Forces act according to the government of the day, which at present time, is the Conservative Party, with a slim majority. What many may not exactly know are the various British Government and British Parliamentary committees that shape policies and laws that affect the size, direction and even equipment of the armed forces.

Government: (see this list )

After 2010, a certain National Security Council NSC was set up by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in order to draw all National Security-linked individuals together. The main figure in the UK’s NSC is undoubtedly the Prime Minister (PM). Within this NSC are various sub-committees. Those that I believe are relevant to the British Armed Forces are the:

1) NSC (Nuclear Deterrence and Security) (restricted attendance) sub-Committee: Chaired by the PM it’s name says it all.

2) NSC (Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies) sub-Committee: Also chaired by the PM, the role is different from 1) but again easy to guess

3) Public Expenditure Committee and Public Expenditure (Efficiency) sub-Committee: Chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury respectively, these deal with the icky part: money. The latter committee is important to the Ministry of Defence and the SoS of Defence sits on the committee.

Still within Government:

The Home Affairs (Armed Forces Covenant) sub-Committee: Chaired by the PM, it deals with “matters relating to our obligation to support current and former members of the Armed Forces and their families”.

Within the Ministry of Defence:

1) The Defence Board: Chaired by the the Secretary of State for Defence, it comprises of the senior Chiefs of Staff and other key MOD figures, deciding on MOD’s business (not so much operations).

2) The Defence Council, again chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence, this one “provides the formal legal basis for the conduct of defence in the UK through a range of powers vested in it by statute and Letters Patent”.

3) All the Chiefs (CDS, VCDS, 1SL, CGS, CAF and the new JFC Commander) can meet together, and of course the big CDS would normally chair this. They, I believe, don’t have much power but can formulate strategy.

4) Other MOD committees, definitely those within the various services but I shan’t go into them.

Within Parliament:

In the UK, the UK’s Parliament, especially its select committees, do not have the powers of their USA counterparts. They cannot explicitly change government policy, stall financial funding or halt the government. But they can pressure.

Those committees that may affect the British Armed Forces:

1) Undoubtedly, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee: No need for explanation.

2) The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: Since the MOD-FCO-DFID and others have some joint operations/work together.

3) The House of Commons International Development Committee: As with 2)

4) The Intelligence and Security Committee: More about MI6, GCHQ and MI5, this may still steer the Armed Forces, especially those personnel (Special Forces) that work with them.

5) The House of Commons Public Affairs Committee: Deals with MOD and Armed Forces efficiency

6) The The National Audit Office: Not a Parliamentary Committee, but its work helps the PAC.

7) The National Security Strategy Committee: A Joint Select Committee that hardly anyone has heard of. It analyses the National Security Strategy (NSS) that the government, post 2010, creates.

8) The House of Lords Arctic Committee: It looks at government policy towards the Arctic. Could have an effect on the Royal Navy?

9) The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee: Could suggest changes to MOD finances?

10) The The House of Lords European Union External Affairs Committee: Recommendations of EU Defence?

There you have it. There may be others I missed out. Do correct me.

British Army Vehicles OSD–Out of Service…

More often than not, the House of Lords doesn’t churn out interesting defence or foreign affairs-related debates or questions-answers. A recent question by Lord Moonie however, breaks the norm. Check it out below :

Armoured Fighting Vehicles
To ask Her Majesty’s Government which of the following vehicle types are still in service with the British Army and what were or are their anticipated out of service dates: Challenger 2, Driver Track Training Vehicle, Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicles, Trojan, Titan, Warrior, Saxon, Samson, Spartan, Scimitar, Samaritan, Sultan, Snatch Land Rover, FV430, Mastiff, Jackal, Vector, Bulldog, and Panther.

The out of service dates of the vehicles specified are as follows:

Vehicle Type Planned Out Of Service Date
Challenger 2 2025
Driver Track Training Vehicle 2025
Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle 2040
Trojan 2040
Titan 2040
Warrior 2025
Saxon Out of service
Samson 2026
Spartan 2026
Scimitar 2026
Samaritan 2026
Sultan 2026
Snatch Land Rover (1, 1.5, 2 and Vixen variants) Out of service
Snatch Land Rover (2A and 2B variants) 2024
Snatch Land Rover (Vixen Plus variant) 2024
FV 430 Out of service
Mastiff 2024
Jackal 2030
Vector 2015
Bulldog 2030
Panther 2037

Well, the above say “anticipated Out of Service Dates (OSD)” but planned may well just be actual. Whatever it is, the table raises worries for the whole Army 2020 and Future Force 2020 equipment plans. Reaction Force (RF) vehicles seem to be leaving pretty early–Challenger 2 and its “Driver Track Training Vehicle” will be OSD by 2025, along with the British Army’s only Armoured Personnel Carrier, the Warrior. These two vehicles are part of the Armoured Infantry (AI) Brigades in the RF. Of course both variants are to upgraded–the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP)and the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (LEP). Neither programme is completed and both are facing challenges. A key issues is also the firepower of the Challenger 2 tank–the L30 rifled gun is great, but eventually it should be replaced with something like other NATO armies smoothbore guns in order to tackle adversaries such as the Russian T-90 or the new Armata tank.

Moving down, the Mastiff was to continued be part of the “Heavy Protected Mobility Regiments”. The Mastiff 2 or 3 vehicle is great but the table says “bye bye” to it by 2024. Mastiff is to be replaced by the yet-to-be-shown Utility Vehicle (UV). UV was originally FRES UV, which was to be a similar design to the FRES SV (now SCOUT SV) vehicle. So it is crucial that the UV programme stays on track, or either the Mastiff 2/3 continues beyond 2024.One positive note from above is that the Bulldog armoured/mechanised vehicles will stay at least till 2030. Originally the FV 432, these upgraded vehicles serve as mortar carriers in the Warrior Armoured Infantry Regiments, possibly troop-carrying vehicles for Support Companies and medical armoured vehicles in the Medical Armoured Regiments. If the UV vehicle fails to materialise, perhaps the Bulldog could be an interim. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… Bulldog may also help as an interim vehicle until the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (ABSV) is finalised. A Warrior without its 30mm/40mm gun, this vehicle is suppose to act as a mortar launching vehicle/sniper/anti-tank troop carrier, recovery and repair and even medical evacuation vehicle. Another programme that must be kept on track.(Also see page 184 of this NAO report regarding the ABSV).

The CVR (T) family will all go by 2026 but they have a stated replacement in the form of the SCOUT SV variants. This heavy armoured infantry fighting vehicle seems to be on track, but one may never know. The Royal Engineers (those supporting the RF) may heavy a sigh of relief as their vehicles wont go out until 2040. These mine clearing, route-clearing vehicles are great, not just in conventional warfare but counter-insurgency (COIN) operations. The Challenger 2 recovery vehicle will still stay around till 2040, so maybe the upgraded Challenger 2 will. Or its successor…

Moving down to the Adaptable Force (AF) vehicles, we see that the Jackal Vehicle (and perhaps its longer Coyote variant) will bow out by 2030. So the Light Cavalry Regiments are fine for a while. Jackal/Coyote is also used in the Mastiff/UV regiments, so that’s also not too bad. They are also crucial reconnaissance vehicles for the Royal Marines and the 16th Air Assault Brigade/Air Assault Task Force. This is especially so for the 16th AA Brigade/AATF, since this unit no longer has Scimitar vehicles supporting it. The lighter-than-the-SCOUT-SV (or even ABSV) Panther Command & Control  vehicle appears to have long “shelf life”, OSD-ing only in 2037. Some commentators I have talked to says this is an over-exaggerated target date. Exaggerated or not, it ensures that AF (and possibly some RF battalions) have some Command and Control vehicles. Panther is nice, though a new variant or vehicle should be procured. One that allows more command staff to sit at the back–2 at the back is far too little. What else? ah, of course the hated Vector vehicle gets OSD this year, 2015. One of the many creations or Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) during the Afghanistan Campaign, it wasIED-prone despite its supposed armour and hated by troops. It’s supposed replacement is the Truck Utility Medium Heavy Duty. Hopefully it will far better in conflict–if it is used in conflict.

Conclusion: The table above, if the data is correct, means the upgrading programmes for the Challenger 2, the Warrior, the UV programme and even the SCOUT SV programme need to be on track. The Defence Equipment and Support (DES) will have lots of pressure on their hands. With a highly possible defence budget decrease, some numbers of these upgrades will be cut, as seen in this IHS Janes report regarding the Challenger 2. That’s pretty sad. Many other key vehicles such as the AS-90, the Alvis Stormer (for the Starstreak HVM), the Foxhound Light Protected Mobility vehicle aren’t in the above table. It would be interesting to see their OSDs, as they are part of Army 2020 or Future Force 2020.

Update: I made and received an FOIA regarding other other key Army 2020 vehicles. Part of the FOIA (I will not publish the full document) is reproduced below.

A search for the information has now been completed within the Ministry of Defence, and I can confirm that information in scope of your request is held. The answers to your questions are in the table below:

Vehicle Out of service date
FUCHs 2020
Warthog 2024
L131 AS-90 Self Propelled Artillery 2030
M270 GMLRS 2030
Alvis Stormer 2026
Ridgback Battlefield Ambulance 2024
Husky TSV 2024
Foxhound 2030

Well it looks like the major artillery pieces for 1st Artillery Brigade’s Close Support regiments will stay on till around 2030. There is a high probability that the UK will replace the M270 GMLRS with whatever the US Army replaces theirs with, or even buy the (better) HIMARS. As for the AS-90, well I would recommend they just improve the calibre or the type of artillery shell.

The UOR bought from Singapore, (yes Singapore, an ex-British colony), the ST Kinetics Bronco ,or Warthog in the British Army, will will serve in the Watchkeeper WK450 regiments–they act as launching platforms. More specifically, they will probably be allocated in 47th Regiment, Royal Artillery (RA), the regiment for RF brigades. The Bronco/Warthog served well in Op Herrick, and transferring it to a UAV role, is well, the least they could do. With an OSD in 2024, the RA or rather DES needs to find a replacement vehicle or work with ST Kinetics to extended the lifespan of this vehicle. Possible replacements could be the BvS 10 Viking (which means ordering more), or using the yet-to-be seen Utility Vehicle (UV).

The earliest vehicle about to exit is the FUCHS (in 2020). This as stated in an earlier post (or here) returns to be be the primary vehicle of Falcon Squadron, Royal Tank Regiment (RTR). With CBRN being a hot issue for UK defence (or rather suggested as a key topic by the HOC Defence Select Committe), nine FUCHS vehicles will be refurbished. Yet, with the vehicle predicted to be OSD by 2020, it possibly has no replacement (a A letter by the RTR Commandant suggests it may be replaced by a UAV ). I personally would want a FUCHS-like vehicle replacement for the FUCHS, possibly a modified UV.

Next, the Alvis Stormer will bow out in 2026. Although not spelt out directly in the Army 2020 document, it is used to give mobility for the Starstreak HVM missiles in 12th Regiment Royal Artillery. I can’t immediately think of what can be used to replace the Stormer; the SCOUT SV base for example is too heavy for a mobile SAM platform. Thy might want to buy the US AN/TWQ-1 Avenger vehicle from the US or mount them on Coyotes. The wheeled ambulance, the Rigdback Ambulance exits in 2024. Don’t worry, the UV medical variant might replace it, maybe. The Husky TSV, another piece that sprung up from Afghanistan, is important to both the RF and AF units. I hope there’s a replacement in the works, or it gets extended beyond 2024. Finally, the good ol’ Foxhound, which will dominate six regiments/battalions in the AF. 2030 eh? Matches its friends the Jackal and perhaps the Panther. Still sometime to think of a better replacement, hopefully one that can sit more than four soldiers.

OK folks, that’s it for now!

The Type 26 Frigate: The October 2014 Letter

Something letters/emails/news releases/literature exaggerates, other times the just lie to the reader. This parliamentary letter from current UK Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, to the current Chairman of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee Rory Stewart may be telling a huge lie or exaggerating, or simply giving the facts which could have been given earlier. I focus of several parts of the letter.

First, Fallon’s reply states or rather confirms that the Type 26 may (the design isn’t finalised) carry the the Mk 41 VLS tubes. This is significant as previously, it was a toss up between Mk 41 or the SYLVER VLS, which the Royal Navy already uses on its Type 45 destroyers. There has been many articles on the pros and cons regarding each different VLS system, but the Mk 41 certainly is the better choice for the Royal Navy in terms of practicality (Others have covered this in greater detail so I won’t–for the moment). In any case, the sweating of whether it was going to Mk 41 is finally over.

A second more surprising topic/issue brought up from the letter is the number of VLS cells, 24. Now, if you skim through old articles and blogs about the Type 26, everyone said the first model in around 2012 had 24 cells. Then in 2013 with the high likelihood of it moving to Mk 41, the number dropped to 16, given the almost definitive displacement and dimensions of the ship. You can view NavyRecognition’s articles here and here and watch the two Youtube videos below.

16 tubes in my view would be pushing it to the bare minimum so the letter would be on the surface a welcome. But 24 tubes would mean a ship with a larger displacement (noting that the MK 41 is a heavy tube) and of large dimensions. Secretaries of State and politicians are known for never telling the truth or setting the facts straight. Stil, this is from a SoS to a Select Committee Chairman, most possibly for a report (I can’t figure out what the letter is exactly for; any guesses?). 24 is a nice touch but not without complications.

Third, the possibility of exaggeration comes in the types of weapons the Mk 41 VLS cells may fire. The letter says “Such as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile), to anti-ship missiles and Anti-Submarine Rockets…”. First part, the well known Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM). It’s already in the Royal Navy, that is, with the Trafalgar-Class and the Astute-Class SSNs. But unlike the US Navy, the Royal Navy fires TLAMs via their torpedo tubes, not submarine VLS tubes or using Mk 41 VLS on their surface ships. It would mean buying the TLAM variant that can be fitted into a Mk 41 VLS tube, altering the costs complications. But ok,  it’s nice Fallon tells Stewart that the Type 26 will/may fire the TLAM. (Personally, I’m not a strong proponent of the Type 26 being a land-attack ship).

Second part, “to anti-ship missiles”. Ok, here it is not an exaggeration or a lie but just reiterating a “known-unknown” (I’m not a Rumsfeld supporter btw). No one knows what anti-surface warfare (ASuW) missile the Royal Navy will be getting. Ok, the fantasy fleet people think it’s going to be the US Nay’s next-generation Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) (see here). That’s fine, but the missile isn’t exactly out yet or even projected to be sold to the UK. Others suggest the future SPEAR III missile may be the future ASuW weapon. That supposedly can quad-pack into the Mk 41 so that would be 24×4=96 SPEAR III missiles if all the cells are filled (never the case). But again, SPEAR III isn’t out yet (though it is a UK project).

Third Part which could be an exaggeration of the Type 26’s capabilities or a real fact is the “and Anti-Submarine Rockets” part. This undoubtedly refers to the RUM-139 VL-ASROC or simply ASROC, the only possible rocket launcher with a torpedo in it. Now, that would be a wonderful weapon for the Type 26, especially the eight of them fitted with the Sonar 2087 sonar, the supposedly best kind of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) sonar around. ASROC however needs the torpedo to be effective. So far, the USN and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) use the Mk 46 or Mk 50 torpedo in their ASROCs. The Royal Navy’s Stingray torpedo has never known to be fitted on a ASROC type rocket, nor launched vertically. Again, costs come into play if this is a fact. Or an exaggeration?

There’s some more to be picked out of the Fallon-Stewart letter such as the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) (FASGW (L)) missile. It will be called the Martlet. Other issues, well read the letter yourself.

To be expanded later.