Thoughts on the National Security Capability Review

The UK’s National Security Capability Review (NSCR) was released without much fanfare in March 2018. Rather than open it up with a parliamentary debate, it was just stated via a Written Ministerial Statement, then posted online on the gov.uk website. Along with the NSCR, a Cross-Government Funds Review (also not debated and released in a Written Statement) was published, basically a summary of the Prosperity Fund Annual Report 16-17 and the Conflict Security Stability Fund (CSSF) Annual Report 16-17. In this article, I’ll be concentrating mostly on the NSCR and partly on the upcoming Modernising Defence Review (MDP).

Background

The NSCR arose from the 2015 NSS & SDSR (here after known as SDSR 2015) because there were  new “uncertain [and] volatile” threats since 2015 and the NSCR is to:

identify how we [the UK] could develop, deliver and deploy our considerable national security capabilities to maximum collective effect.

. The Joint Committee for National Security Strategy (JCNSS) gave a stronger and more closely-examined an excellent investigation on how the NSCR came about (see National Security Capability Review A changing security environment pp.8-19.) A written evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee also provides a succinct timeline how the NSCR and later the MDP came about. Basically, the NSCR took a really long time to come about from April 2017 to March 2018, probably longer than SDSR 2010 and SDSR 2015.

One should also note that the 2017 annual report of SDSR 2015 is also mixed within the NSCR. Previously, the 2016 report or Corporate report was published as a separate piece. Stepping back, the NSCR is unique as this is the first review of a SDSR and maybe even all British defence reviews. Ok, previously, there was a New Chapter added to the 1998 Strategic Defence Review but I wouldn’t consider that a review of a review. It certainly is confusing.

What is this NSCR anyway?

As much as they say this NSCR is not a SDSR-like review, it contains words and phrases like any previous Strategic Defence Review. The first part already states a whole series of pledges. These pledges are part of the ‘streams’ or topics that the National Security Council (NSC) decided upon. These streams are:

• Our National Security Doctrine;
• Defence;
• Counter-terrorism;
• Cyber;
• Serious and organised and economic crime;
• Ports and borders;
• National resilience;
• Global Britain;
• National security strategic communications;
• Economic security, prosperity and trade;
• Development;
• Cross-government funds.

In the NSCR, these are again mentioned with the ‘Our National Security Doctrine’ stream replaced as the ‘Fusion Doctrine’ while the ‘Global Britain’ strand turned into the pledge that

We will strengthen our overseas network so that we can reinvest in our relationships around the world, champion the rules-based system including free trade and use our soft power to project our values and advance UK interests.

Out of all the streams, the Fusion Doctrine is perhaps the most prominent and most peculiar stream. Defence and national security commentators online have indeed made comments, mostly jovial about it. According to NSCR document, the Fusion Doctrine (I do not want to abbreviate it to FD) helps to further draw in NSC ministerial members to strength a collective approach towards the three NSC aims or priorities: 1) Protecting our [the UK] people; 2) Projecting our [the UK’s] influence [abroad] and 3) Promoting our [the UK’s] prosperity. It is based on a post-Chilchot inquiry approach, especially through the MOD-created document, The Good Operation. According to the NSCR, “Many capabilities that can contribute to national security lie outside traditional [British] national security departments” therefore there is the need to draw in all possible national security-related tools to bear.

The NSCR simplifies in this cute diagram:

Fusion Doctrine

(PS  I don’t own the image. PPS: I know the quality of the picture sucks, so go view it directly on p.10 of the NSCR document)

This Fusion Doctrine nevertheless brings up the question: Why form it when the UK’s NSC was formed back in 2010 for the same reason? This question was post to the National Security Adviser, currently Mark Sedwill by Defence Committee by MP Gavin Robinson. Sedwill replied that it is a “step forward” from the NSC “building on it” as the UK deals with more intensifying threats and address “modern deterrence” issued, however you define what that is. He goes on to give the example of the response to the Salisbury chemical attack to prove how the Fusion Doctrine was used–the response took place before the full investigation was completed and therefore it occurred at a faster pace and with stronger allied support. The Fusion Doctrine therefore dominates other parts of NSCR especially in the topics of ‘Economic Security, Prosperity and Trade’ and ‘Cross-Government Funds’ and will most definitely be the basis for future UK national security documents.

The other main part of the NSCR  talks about certain “cross-cutting issues”, namely, 1) Innovation: 2) Science & Technology; 3) Data; 4) Strategic Assessment and 5) Diversity. Basically, they (the NSC and NSA) wish to speed up the UK national security machinery in 1,2,3, harness the use of 5 and they claimed to have conducted a national security assessment, although that was not published in the NSCR but will be later in 2018 (p.20, paragraph 26. So that’s the main crux of the NSCR; the rest of it covers the other eleven streams stated above.)

What is missing or what wrong with the NSCR?

As mentioned, the JCNSS report gave a very extensive evaluation of the NSCR, but it was published 11 days before the actual NSCR came out. I’ll try not use the same criticism the JCNSS used but rather choose four topics 1) criticism of the Fusion Doctrine (with reference to diagram above); 2) the lack of a review of the National Security Risk Assessment and 3) the fact that the NSCR is ‘fiscal neutral.

Criticism of the Fusion Doctrine (what that wheel all about?)

The Fusion  Doctrine puzzled many when the NSCR was published; some commentators online gave snide comments, others humorous. You can check twitter or other social media platforms to find out. On a more serious note, I too was puzzled and wondered the same questions that MP Gavin Robinson and the answers provided by Mark Sedwill hasn’t satisfied me. Surely there has been whole-of-government response during pre-NSCR periods? Global events and crises such as the 2011 Libya campaign, the wider Arab Spring, sectarian violence in Syria and Iraq, Russia’s illegal activities in Eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea all were approached via different UK government departments and organisations.

There has been joint up efforts by various departments such as through the CSSF and its predecessor, the Conflict Pool, was created long before the NSC or the Fusion Doctrine came about. The announcement of on this further joint-up approach towards any threat to the UK or national security issue doesn’t appear to a unique positive contribution. Using the examples of the Salisbury chemical attack and the US-UK-French strike on Syria, the joint-government department approach in both cases in my view is no different from pre-Fusion Doctrine approach.

Sedwill mentioned they reacted faster in the case of the Salisbury attack–instead of waiting for a full investigation, they approached it by showing the Russian government what the cost of such an attack would be, ie, placing a wide range of Russian embassy staff on persona non grata. While this and the response to Assad’s chemical attack appears fine, responding quickly may give the impression that not all facts and avenues were scrutinised. This then could give an indication that the British government or its related agencies would be ignoring the Chilchot inquiry or the MOD’s The Good Operation document.

The most criticism on social media about the Fusion Doctrine is the ‘wheel-shape’ diagram above, especially where the term ‘Armed Forces’ is located. Yes it is tucked at the ‘south east’ corner and appears to be the only defence-related item there. By placing the word ‘armed forces’ there amongst the many other tools, it appears that the Fusion Doctrine presents the British military as just a cog in a wheel and not a key voice or player.

This view or course is unwarranted since this is the National Security Capability Review, not the military-onlyCapability Review. Those who criticise that the military is sidelined, especially the House of Commons Defence Committee, journalists like Deborah Haynes all hold the biased view that the NSCR should be solely or mainly about the MOD and the British Armed Forces. This view is quite outdated as inferred by Lord Ricketts in this oral evidence (More about the separation of defence from the NSCR later) and do no service to the whole concept of the UK’s NSC in the first place. What these critics do have a point is that the voice of the armed forces or the MOD needs to be heard when the NSC chooses what mix of tools to use. The MOD and the armed forces must have a strong equal say on the same level as the other list tools in that wheel, perhaps equal to key tools such as diplomacy, development and covert forces.

 The lack of a review of the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA)

They say the NSCR is not a SDSR or a mini-SDSR but reviewing capabilities only. The JCNSS report specifically reported that the NSA told me the NSCR will not review the NRSA but there will be a review of the NRSA published in the later part of 2018 (see above). This is really out of place, especially since the NSCR was created due to the increasing or “intensifying” range of threats (mentioned prominently in the document) and that the NSCR occurred after the majority of British people voted to leave the European Union, the rise of an unpredictable President of the United States and the new non-state and state-based threats. The 2010 NRA, listed Tier One (most highly likely) threats as 1) International terrorism; 2) Hostile attacks upon UK cyber space; 3) A major accident or natural hazard which requires a national response and 4) International military crisis between states that require UK and allied response (see p27) (All these are not ranked in terms of likelihood, only just as Tier One.) In the 2015 NRSA, the same topics were noted as Tier One risks, with additional topics namely 5) Public health crisis and 6) Instability overseas (see p87).

Yet, since SDSR 2015, UK officials and politicians increasingly saying that Russia and other nation states are becoming threats, see for example, Secret Intelligence Service Chief Younger’s speech, the Intelligence and Security Committee 2016 2017 report, sections on foreign countries, the speech given by General Sir Nicholas Carter at RUSI especially his video on Russian capabilities, CGHQ’s directors speech in April 2018, Gavin Williamson indicate than Russian is a bigger threat than terrorism, MI5’s Director General mentioning Russia as well in a recent speech and Chief of Defence Intelligence Osborn highlighting state-based threats. It is thus clear the current government views state-based threats as the biggest priority in Tier One, a clear topic not mentioned in in the previous NRSAs and only briefly stated in the  2016 Corporate Report, see page 6 paragraph 1.7. The NRSA review should therefore have been publish alongside the NSCR or in it rather than it pushed back to late 2018, where more different topics could be added to the Tier One list. A review on capabilities while perspectives on threats or actual threat is not really a review then.

The fact that the NSCR is ‘fiscal neutral’ or ‘fiscally neutral’

I’ve actually never heard the term ‘fiscal neutral’ or ‘fiscally neutral’ before but let’s use it anyway. The ‘criticism’ levelled by many parliamentarians (mainly from the House of Commons), the media (mainly Deborah Haynes from The Times and other defence journalists from other news papers), is the the NSCR’s (including the area of defence) woes could be simply solved by adding more money or pounds to the MOD’s budget. The blame, and I said it is a common and easy target to blame, lies exactly Treasury here. This can be seen in the follow parliamentary debates such as the introduction of the MDP, an emergency question on the MDP by Dr Lewis and the Lords debate about the MDP. Parliamentarians and commentators basically say, naughty Treasury, you aren’t giving enough to a department which protects the nation.

Let me focus on the on the NSCR, minus the area of defence which I’ll cover separately when the MDP comes out. It is incorrect to call it a review when it shows just how there would be more joint-up approach and a sweeping ‘yes we will do this’ list. It is even more astonishing that the review was conducted due to not so-called, but actual new or evolving threats to the UK without any possible financial increase to sharpen non-military UK defence. The 2015 SDSR did say the intelligence services account and personnel will receive a financial boost in real terms. Other UK departments like the Home Department or even like DEFRA–Climate Change is an ever evolving threat don’t appear to gain any monetary increase. A clear example is the newest Home Secretary calling for more finances for the police. UK national security does require more than one hard or soft power tool or department or institution, and if the threats change, the departments and institutions cannot always address the threat if constrained by a financial box.  Of course, this demand of more money comes after the NSCR, but is a relevant example on its failure for boxing in finances of these national security-linked agencies.

This ‘fiscal neutral’ condition draws in more criticism, especially those cheering solely for the MOD and/or the British Armed Forces. This lot of people see the ‘fiscal neutral’ condition as an extension of the British government whether Conservative or Labour, act not to place the MOD in charge of defence reviews except in 1991 or place defence first. It brings up the argument that British national security is best or only handled by the MOD and no away should HM Treasury or the Cabinet Office constrain defence spending. More about that in the post on the MDP.

Conclusion

The NSCR came out quite late and without a parliamentary debate, though perhaps that wouldn’t have produced constructive critique, given the current nature of Her Majesty’s opposition. It is claimed as a review, but largely contributes just a new, or rather updated concept of further joining up UK national security-related departments, agencies and tools, so that response to crises or harmful scenarios will be in one united and perhaps a more forceful response. The remainder of the NSCR does not really review but provides an multitude of pledges. Here, I tried to explain and critique the Fusion Doctrine and criticise the lack of a proper risk assessment and the failure to consider more financial funding despite the NSCR claiming that threats to the UK have ‘intensified’ or increased. As I have mentioned, there’s a more and better comprehensive critique found in the JCNSS report, even though it was published before the NSCR.

The National Security Capability Review, the Modernising Defence Programme: Common accusations

The UK since July 2017, has been conducting a National Security Capability Review or NSCRS. In brief, is a short revision of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), shaping this SDSR under the era of Brexit and new security threats. The 2015 SDSR was cheered by military people and defence commentators, however, the NSCR is getting constant criticism by this same group of individuals. The NSCR is viewed as a means to cut the defence budget and reduce the power of the British Armed Forces. Last week, on 25 January 2018, Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson offered a sub-review within the NSCR, titled a Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) as a means to placate these critical commentators. As the debates and criticisms drawn on over both reviews, out appear three common accusations.

The very first accusation and often heard of is the ‘blame DFID, it takes away money for the MOD’. Post 2010, the Department for International Development (DFID) aid, or officially Official Development Assistance (ODA), was ringfenced at 0.7% of UK GDP and then enshrined into law in 2015. This has caused much dissent amongst the media and commentators, who view DFID as a government department sucking away money that could rather be given to the MOD and the British Armed Forces. The reason for any decrease in UK military expenditure is often attributed to DFID and high UK aid levels.

The second, and this more relating to SDSR 2015, is placing the blame on individuals or organisations for not funding the forces. There the ‘blame HM Treasury review, MOD doesn’t get enough money’ accusation. This was often mentioned and brought up in a recent Defence Committee hearing.[1] Such an accusation may be separate or linked to the above review regarding DFID. If HMT Treasury as a whole doesn’t get the blame, it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer who gets the blame; he is said to have little care for funding the armed forces. Another individual who is recently targeted for all the ‘low’ defence spending is the British National Security Adviser (NSA). In the Defence Committee hearing mentioned above, the questions appear to indicate that either the NSA has little appreciation for the MOD and the armed services, or that SDSRs should be mainly MOD-led and not by some civil servant who has never served a day in combat.

The third sort of accusation or rather belief, as just mentioned, is that defence reviews or SDSRs should be mainly about the British military and the MOD. An example is from this Telegraph article which asserts that the NSA is aiming to place more funding towards the intelligence and security services and away from the armed forces.[2] Another Telegraph article quotes the Chair the Defence Committee, who is relieved that the formation of MDP means a review lead by the Defence Secretary.[3] Clearly to such pundits, any defence review equals to a review about the armed forces, and that’s final.

All this of this accusation must come to a halt. First, regarding the accusation that HM Treasury or the Chancellor is not caring about defence. It is certainly not the case there there’s this evil organisation or politician, snatching money from the MOD and channelling to some other department. There certainly are threats facing the UK, directly and indirectly, and a good number of them can be addressed by strong armed forces. It, however, doesn’t mean, that you should spend to excess on the military with no regard for the economy.[4]

Second, it should be clear that ‘defence of the realm’ today, or even in the past, cannot just be addressed through large navies, massive armies and swarming planes. Intelligence, cyber defences, and well UK assistance for development do help address military and other security threats alone. If the MOD or defence ministers lead SDSRs or defence reviews, such reviews might even reduce the funding and role of UK intelligence services and weaken UK response and defences. The NSA may be a career civil servant and not always have a military or security background. Even with such lack of experience, he should not be characterised as one with no care for armed forces. It is right to critically analyse his performance, but not to accuse him because of individual beliefs.

The case of DFID and UK aid is slightly more controversial. I do disagree with a parliamentary law regarding aid. As for the aid target, it is outdated although there are merits to focusing on a percentage figure. On the same note, the UK also is focusing on meeting the NATO target of 2% of GDP on defence. Yes, there are claims the UK isn’t meeting that figure but as with 0.7% it is a target the UK adheres towards. In the bigger picture, the accusing of DFID fails to consider that UK aid and aid policy directly and indirectly addresses threats to the UK which complements military expenditure and action. Furthermore, blaming DFID often ignores why the department was founded in the first place and wishing the department to be dissolved would not stop the UK from providing aid for development or foreign policy purposes.[5] Commentators should rather focus on how DFID can add to British defence policy rather that use it as an easy target for accusation.

British SDSRs or national security reviews always generate debates from a wide audience. The constant cacophony of accusing DFID, blaming government officials or believing defence reviews are just about the military. The NSCR is much delayed and the MDP will follow suit. Both of them need rational debates and criticism, not long-standing accusations that do not add to British defence policy.

[1]http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/national-security-capability-review/oral/73765.html . Especially see Q39.

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/26/armed-forces-denied-extra-funding-cash-diverted-cyber-warfare/

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/23/gavin-williamson-wins-new-defence-review-five-months-make-case/

[4] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/cut-to-marines-will-encourage-our-enemies-9dnnm92sj. The quote behind this paywalled article says “Political masters need to understand that the defence you need is dictated by your enemy, not by economics”.

[5] A good history of DFID’s creation can be found here https://www.cgdev.org/publication/reforming-development-assistance-lessons-uk-experience-working-paper-70 .

Stealth cut my foot: RFA Diligence’s case

Reporting and criticising former and current government actions regarding military capability is 99.9% of the duty of “defence experts” and bloggers including yours truly. However, identifying what is a real defence cut and what is a secret, not publicly listed defence cut is more often than not, what some trigger happy “defence experts” state.

In this case, I’m talking about the advertisement (more than a sale) of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s only (and thus Her Majesty’s Naval Service only) mobile forward repair ship, RFA Diligence. On 4 August 2016, the advert was was placed up on the Ministry’s of Defence’s MOD surplus equipment for sale site. However, since the MOD has connected all its sites to the gov.uk web system, it thus appeared on the MOD’s own announcement page. In simple terms, the MOD is as transparent as can be regarding the sale. Yes, there was no news release and thus no immediate “mainstream media” articles about the sale although Forces TV and IHS Janes both wrote article’s about the sale around a week later.

So to the “defence experts” Gabriele and SavetheRoyalNavy, it is NOT a “Stealth cut” no matter how you try to represent it to your ultra-right wing readers or might band of followers. In fact, to you two and others, the bemoaning shouldn’t even start yet since officially, it is NOT SOLD YET and the above two advertisements are what they are, advertisements! Those who are interested in PURCHASING the vessel have a time limit, no LATER THAN “17.00hrs (GMT) Monday 26th September 2016.” So officially, the vessel is still in the MOD’s/Disposal Services Authority’s (DSA) possession. Yes, it will definitely not sail again but it is still there. The moaning, crying and (dirty) finger-pointing is however overrated. I repeat: The MOD has been as transparent as it can be regarding the sale, and technically it is not sold yet. So to you two and others, stop your dirty cursing. If you want to talk about non-transparency, try criticising the militaries of say Cambodia or Egypt, which https://government.defenceindex.org/#close are listed as least transparent regarding defence, especially arms sales.

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.

What you will likely and may not get from SDSR 2015

I never like rumours or hearsay but I guess it’s not harm jumping on the pre-Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015 bandwagon.

What will likely be mentioned (in terms of Strategy and Security):

Strategy:

* Government will mean 2% of Gross National Product/Income (GDP/GDNI) of spending on defence.
* Budget (for maybe just equipment) will rise to rise in real terms – 0.5% above inflation – every year during the Parliament (as stated previously in the July 2015 Budget statement )
* NATO will be the core alliance the UK will work with for eternity (or for the super long term), not the European Union (EU)
* Government will also mean the (oudated) Official Development Assistance aka foreign aid target of 0.7% of GDP.
* Focus will be on core areas such as the Middle East (Daesh/ISIS/ISIL), Africa (North and Central)
* Falklands Garrison will stay with no immediate change
* US will be the main strategic ally
* Lancaster House treaty will continue
* Focus will be on value for money–efficiency savings as MOD budget is not ringfenced–but value for strong output
*Linking to above, people such as the Reserves will play a core role in Future Force 2020

In terms of armed forces:

Royal Navy:

* 2 Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carriers will be built
* The Type 26 Global Combat Ship/frigate will be built
* 4 x Successor Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear) (SSBNs) will be built to retain the UK’s strategic deterrent.
* 7 x Astute Ship Submersible Nuclear (SSN) Astute-Class boats
* 3 x River-Class Batch 2 Patrol Boats (likely to replace the older 3 Batch 1 boats)
* The Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) will be considered to replace current Mine-countermeasure vessels
* Merlin and Wildcat numbers will remain
* The Response Force Task Group (RFTG) annual COUGAR deployments will continue, with either Queen Elizabeth-Class carrier joining the RFTG post-2020.
* Unmanned aircraft, surface craft (USV) and undersea craft (UUV) will form the main R&D projects in the future Royal Navy

British Army:

* Army 2020 will continue with some unit changes and some units changing barracks. All units in Germany will return to the UK.
* Ajax (formerly SCOUT SV) production and numbers will continue and stay the same.
* Warrior upgrades aka Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) will continue, except that only 245 of them will receive the CTA 40mm gun/cannon (see this article). That is, not all of the six Army 2020 armoured infantry vehicles will gain the new gun/cannon
* Money will be set aside for the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (former Utility Vehicle, former FRES UV) and the Multi-Role Vehicle-Protected (MRV-P) programmes.
* 50 Apaches will be upgraded to the E version.

Royal Air Force:

* 20 new “Protector” Remotely-Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) will be acquired, a double of the existing number. Basically, updated version of the MQ-9 Reaper.
* F-35Bs will be purchased.
* Trance 1 (T1) Typhoons will be retained to create additional Typhoon Squadrons for UK Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). Tranche 2 and 3 aircraft will thus be free for air-to-ground operations (that is, Operation Shader) (see this link)
* Sentinel R1 aircraft will be replaced.
* Other Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft to be upgraded, except the E-3s.

Joint Forces:

* The range of UK Special Forces will gain new equipment.See this news article
* There will be a Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA), not just a new Maritime Patrol aircraft. (see again this link
* Cyber defences will be strengthened, and the Joint Cyber Reserve will be a key part of this.
* The 77th Brigade (I put this under Joint since it consider of personnel from all services and civilians from other ministerial departments join it) will be a create part of soft power or mechanisms to stabilise or prevent conflict.

These are some of the top issues and assets you may get from SDSR 2015. What you MAY NOT GET or MOST LIKELY WON’T GET:

Strategy:

* Government will not have spare cash or large amount of spare cash to boost the Defence budget beyond 2% of GDP. It may gain funds from the Treasury Reserve, the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). The MOD may not have enough money to contribute to the Deployed Military Activity Pool (DMAP), which is a contingency fund within the CSSF, used to support the UK’s emerging in-year security, diplomatic and aid priorities.
* The UK may not, and has not recently been, the second highly country with the largest number of deployed troops in NATO. This level will unlikely be an issue in SDSR 2015.
* The UK will have to depend largely on the US and France should it find itself in a Iraq (Gulf War I mean) or Afghanistan-style conflict. Daesh seems to creating one. SDSR 2015 may not throw in money or personnel into this.
* Personnel shortages may be addressed but not solved in the short or long-term. It would mean lots of equipment without people to operate. More below.
* Chasing targets like 2% and 0.7% would be lots of changing goalposts and a fixation on money not quality. No change in SDSR 2015 for sure.

In terms of armed forces:

Royal Navy:

* SDSR 2015 will not increase personnel strength so that both carriers will operate simultaneously. In fact, snippets indicate that only 450 more sailors will be added to the Royal Navy’s strength. It might mean that HMS Queen Elizabeth won’t operate at full strength, even minus air group. One carrier at all times will most definitely be in port aka extended readiness.
* There will be no definitely confirmation that 13 Type 26 frigates will be ordered. Mybe there could be, but in “drips and draps”.
* There might be, as there always has been, delays to the Astute SSNs boats coming into service. Same with the never to be used Successor SSBNs.
* HMS Ocean may not or never be replaced as a like-for-like. The Royal Navy will have to depend on an aircraft carrier as a strike carrier and a LPH.
* The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) eldery ships may not be replaced like-for-like.
* The Royal Navy may only end up with the 3 new River-Class Batch 2 ships and HMS Clyde with the Batch 1 ships decommissioned early.
* The MHC project may be delayed.
* Not change in the Merlin HM2/MK2 numbers, so not enough for ASAC and carrier-based ASW roles.
* 809 NAS may have more RAF pilots than Fleet Air Arm (FAA) pilots

British Army:

* No change to Army 2020 in terms of units and personnel. Big adverse implications for units and the Special Forces–see below.
* There may be some removal of 2*s aka Major-Generals or even 1*s Brgadiers who don’t command units. But the Army may still be top-heavy.
* Army Command will change–Deputy CGGS and Commander Personnel Support Command, but that means more money for top commanders not units.
* Challenger 2 will be updated but may not improved or replaced anytime soon unlike this report. So this report is more likely.
* MIV and MRV-P may not appear in the short term.
* No change in CTA turrets or guns/cannon numbers.

Royal Air Force:

* No large order of F-35B aircraft. The orders may likely be in “drips and draps”.
* AMRAAMs may be kept in the long term and there may not be larger numbers of Meteor missile produced or ordered.
* As noted above, there may not be upgrades for all UK ISTAR aircraft or C2 aircraft such as the E-3 which is critical for QRA an operations.
* RAF may end up with more aircraft and still not solving its manpower shortage. This might affect not just the manned aircraft but the 20 new Protectors.

Joint Forces:

* The MMA or at least MPA will not be the highly expensive yet operational P-8 Poseidon. The yet unknown aircraft may not appear in the short term (say 2-4 years) after it is announced.
* The Joint Cyber Reserve may not likely become a full cyber unit despite cyber threats being a Tier 1 threat as identity in the 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS).
* Special Forces will et their new equipment but with the shrunken Army 2020 and Future Force 2020, the various SF units may not be at full strength.

So there you have it folks!!! We wait the announcement around 1530 UK time 23 November 2015.

He’s hooked you: The Hookham Ripley P-8 scare

No it’s not an April Fools Joke though if you read carefully it could be one. The article “MOD sinks £2bn sub-hunter jet deal” the Sunday Times 1 November 2015 written by Mark Hookham and Tim Ripley tried to cast more doom and gloom on the future of the UK’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). I paste the article below, since the Sunday Times likes to earn money for any of its factual or non-factual articles.

THE Ministry of Defence is understood to have dropped a £2bn plan to buy a fleet of US-made submarine-hunting jets for the RAF.

 

The proposed purchase of up to nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft was expected to be the centrepiece of the government’s forthcoming defence review, but sources say the project has been shelved after ministers decided the aircraft were “fiendishly expensive”.

 

The move has raised fears that Britain’s four Vanguard nuclear deterrent submarines and the navy’s new £6bn aircraft carriers could be inadequately protected.

Senior retired RAF officers argued earlier this year that Britain’s nuclear deterrent has been left vulnerable after plans to update a fleet of Nimrod submarine-hunting aircraft were axed in 2010.

 

The defence review, due to be published later this month, was widely expected to announce a replacement for the Nimrod, with Boeing’s P-8, which carries torpedoes, depth charges and anti-ship missiles, regarded as the frontrunner.

Sources said Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has ordered a rethink after receiving costs from Boeing. Each P-8, a modified 737 airliner, is thought to cost about £100m. It is understood that Fallon was also concerned that the deal would involve few UK firms.

 

One senior industry source questioned the decision: “The public need to recognise that we have a resurgent Russia. We are an island nation and we have two new carriers about to come into service. What’s going to protect them for the next five years? There is nothing else out there that can do it.”

 

It is believed Fallon hopes to fill the “capability gap” with a cheaper “interim solution”, possibly by installing anti-submarine warfare equipment into C-130J Hercules transport aircraft or Spanish-made C295s. In the longer term he is believed to want to review new submarine hunting technology and drones.

 

Andrew Brookes, a retired wing commander, said: “If you are in the business of power projection with our new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers then you need support assets, like maritime patrol aircraft, that can operate at long range from shore bases. CASA 295s and C-130s can’t do that – they are the poor man’s plan B.”

 

The MoD said it “continues to assess future requirements www….no decisions have been taken”.

On the surface, ST readers (if you bought to buy the paper or subscribe) would immediately think, this government sucks, it is weak on defence, this is SDSR 2010 all over again….

Reader deeper the article is riddled with factual errors and more importantly, is more a rumour than a actual news. First, “The proposed purchase of up to nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft” has not been stated anywhere else but this news article. Not in military news sites, not in other defence related newspapers or newsites at all. Second, this sentence, “The move has raised fears that Britain’s four Vanguard nuclear deterrent submarines and the navy’s new £6bn aircraft carriers could be inadequately protected” is slightly inaccurate. Since when do carrier strike groups, Royal Navy or allied, sail with MPAs overhead all the way? That sucks up lots of fuel and pilot time–the MPA most certainly cannot follow the carrier task force every where. Second, while MPAs assist submarines, they should not always flight out everytime a UK SSBN sails out. By gosh, all the aviation geeks and plan spotters would then be able to tell the SSBN sail patterns and timings!!!

Another fault lies in these phrases “Senior retired RAF officers”, One senior industry source” and “Sources said Michael Fallon”. Which sources are these? Are they people or companies directly linked to the future MPA project or just some small level official you got drunk? Who do they represent? How could they have spoken to two reporters, bearing in mind that this is defence and the MOD, not some circus company. More of this later.

Yet another mistake lies in line “The defence review, due to be published later this month”. Exactly how can the reporters know for sure that the 2015 SDSR will be published in November? Are they sources credible? Also look at the glaring typo “The MoD said it “continues to assess future requirements www….no decisions have been taken”.

The only credible source is the named source retired RAF officer, Andrew Brookes. Still he is just a Wing Commander, not even an Air Commodore or senior rank. And how much can one retired officer know about the future MPA.

Bottom line: The article lacks credibility due to its mistakes and dubious sources. It could just be churned up by Hookham and Ripley taking a MOD clerk or retired MOD low-level staffer to drinks and use him or her as a source. As I pointed out, if the P-8 is being dumped, why haven’t IHS Janes, Defensenews, Breakingdefence or any or credible military news site reported the same topic? Why hasn’t this been reported on the defence section of the Telegraph, a newspaper oriented towards defence? Or even major newsites for that matter?

Second, who ever said the P-8 is the only MPA the UK should chose? What about the others, some which are mentioned in the project? Why always buy American? Why splurge money on one damn expensive airframe when you dont have sufficient capability in other areas?

So please Hookham (mainly him not Tim Ripley), stop your scare warmongering.

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.