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.

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?

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.