The beginning of the end for the RAF?


War Hero
When RAF officers write letters like the one below (in this morning's Daily Telegraph) there has to be some hope. Some people have been advocating that air power (eg MPAs/CAP etc. to the navy and air to ground/troop lift/transport to the Army) should be apportioned to the other two services for years.

Abolishing the RAF

Sir - A radical solution to the problem of defence costs would be to remove the Royal Air Force as a separate organisation (report, February 17). The last time we had a possible need for a third force was before the Royal Navy took over the nuclear deterrent from the RAF in 1979. Since then, the only war scenarios for which we have been preparing could be categorised as a land battle, commanded by a general, or a sea battle, commanded by an admiral.

Air assets committed to these would have passed out of the hands of the "light blue" chain, to be used by "dark blue" or "brown" as required.

If this seems like sacrilege, I have put the suggestion to three old friends, a wing commander and two squadron leaders, expecting an argument. To my surprise, they were largely in agreement. We had far more fun talking through the problem of what to do with the pieces.

My answer would be to give the Navy the lion's share. A natural synergy exists between the two blue services (they both find it easy to think globally) and Dartmouth is a first-class training establishment.

I would also abandon plans for expensive submarine-launched nuclear weapons. An airborne system should be enough to deter any foreseeable threat.

We would be in a position to give the men on the ground the things they need and deserve, including top-quality weapons, armour, transport and good pay and conditions.

When should this happen? As it could take some time to implement fully, I suggest that the final date should be April 1, 2017. That would have a nice symmetry and would be an honourable end to a force in which I was proud to serve.

Sqn Ldr Peter Severn Totnes Devon


Lantern Swinger
On the face of it I would say that this is jsut what we need. but then read the section that says about scrapping the Nuclear Deterrent:

"I would also abandon plans for expensive submarine-launched nuclear weapons. An airborne system should be enough to deter any foreseeable threat."

The RAF have never forgiven us for taking the deterrent away from them and effectively removing them as the protectors of the country. Hence the reason why the pulled all of the stops out to scupper the CVA-01 project.

Nonetheless this does echo some of the feelings within the RAF at the moment, that they are under threat, Hence the reason why they are keeping quiet about defence cuts. They've got their Typhoons and they're happy. Ignore the fact that they are built to win the Battle of Britain and haven't got a role in the two conflicts we are in at the moment.


War Hero
A good post, except for this bit: "I would also abandon plans for expensive submarine-launched nuclear weapons. An airborne system should be enough to deter any foreseeable threat." This seemed odd given that the government recently concluded that a submarine launched deterrent was cheaper and better than an air or land based version that would give the same capability.


War Hero
this was suggested as early as the 60s by a squadron leader, i'll dig the book out & he was against the naval cuts & the RAF policy of "we can protect the fleet anywhere" & wrote a scenario exactly which mirrored the falklands.
Ahead of his time & he believes most of the animosity was built up by lord trenchard.


War Hero
If I may offer a Crustacean perspective!

I've not seen the article but checked this individual's name on the Air Force List to see what his background was and could find no mention of him! Assuming however that he is a retired officer, I will offer some counter arguments.

An independent air service arose largely because of inter-service bickering and duplication of resources between the RN and Army during WWI. Air power (from land or sea) is inherently flexible and uniquely able to be applied across the tactical-strategic level throughout the battlespace. The neat division of assets between the RN and Army as suggested by F169 frankly illustrates why an independent RAF is still required. MPAs are currently more commited to land operations in support of the Land Component. How then would a Maritime Component Commander (MCC) allocate his assets when threatened by an ASW/ASuW threat? Would he be impartial when the Land Component Commander (LCC) was screaming out for an MR2? Likewise, let's suppose all A-G Tornados and Harriers go to the LCC. How do we train? Do they only practise and procure for CAS missions or do they retain a maritime strike role also? How should it be divided? How much priority do you think the Army would allocate to maintaining ASuW skills?

And what of Typhoon and JCA? How are these dual/swing role assets apportioned? Give some to the Army for CAS and some to the RN for DCA? What happens when you want to retask mid sortie between roles? Are they trained in the role and associated weapons? Will the LCC/MCC release them to the other in a timely manner?

I used to be an advocate of our SH being given to the LCC. However, now that Land is Customer 1 for SH I have changed my mind. The RAF and RN moved all their SH and Junglie staff posts into JHC. The Army retained DAAvn and then created further posts in JHC!! Likewise, funding for future rotorcraft dropped considerably in priority once Land took control. I've also just returned from Iraq where I worked in an Army HQ and was frankly appalled at how inefficient the LCC were in allocating those helo and AT resources under their TACON. Likewise I saw the difficulties in obtaining USMC AV-8Bs from the MCC for HQ MND(SE).

In short then, it is inevitably difficult for any LCC or MCC to remain impartial in the allocation of resources. The RAF was formed to overcome these problems.

As far as Ding Dong's assertions regarding our nuclear role and current ops, you are, with respect, severely lacking in operational knowledge. Come to Iraq and Afghanistan and see how sought after the Tornado GR4/ Harrier GR7 (CAS/NTISR/recce), Nimrod MR2/Nimrod R1 (ISTAR various/ SF/ASW), C-130 (Tac AT/SF), Tristar/VC10 (AT/ AAR), Chinook/Puma/Merlin (SH/SF), HS125/BAe146 (VIP/liason) are. Elsewhere other assets such as the E-3D and Tornado F3 are engaged in other ops. In Iraq I defended the RN vehemently when an Army Col stated that the RN should be disbanded as it contributed nothing to modern warfare! So perhaps we both need to inform the wider audience of what each others services bring to modern ops.

Likewise you are deluded if you think we want the nuclear strike role back. The current CAS is a former Strike pilot who has stated himself that we'll leave that to the RN. A submarine based deterrent is clearly the most survivable option although I wonder if it is the cheapest. What should be debated is the cost of maintaining a deterrent at all. Whilst that is another argument entirely I for one am concerned that the future of the RN will be 2 x CVF and 2 x SSBN with little else affordable. Remember that, whilst RN/RAF bickering undermined both services in the 1960s (CVA01, TSR2, P1154 etc) it was also the cost of Polaris which ate up a considerable portion of the RN budget.

Sadly however, I tink the RAF will be disbanded around the 2020 timescale. However, I'm convinced that all 3 of our proud services are headed for ultimate amalgamation into a purple conglomerate, no matter how much we chimp that 'it didn't work in Canada'.

For operational reasons we need to maintain 3 independant services. History proves that. What we must do however is work more closely together, stop sniping at one another and unite against our true enemy, the civil servants who man the treasury. In the meantime, ALL MPs should have a MANDATORY period of 2 months deployed with the armed services on election and every 10 years to see what we do.

Standing by for incoming...



War Hero
I think this guy's argument is incredibly shallow and misinformed, the statement that "That would have a nice symmetry and would be an honourable end to a force in which I was proud to serve." Indicates to me that he is probably a disgruntled (rtd) officer who never made it to Wg Cmdr, the fact that he got together with some of his crusty old (rtd) mates indicates to me that he had a chat about it down the Legion over a few beers!

I agree that 3 services still makes sense especially given the complexity of modern warfare, jointery is undoubtedly the way ahead as frustrating as it often is with the interservice sniping that you note. Maintaining specialist organisations who can effectively communicate is the key.


War Hero
Concur with that. In my experience there seems to be no problem at the tactical level and grand fromage (CNS/CGS/CAS) level. Most problems seem to originate in the SO1-2* areas.


Lantern Swinger

I think you'll find that there aren't any F3s in Afganhistan at the moment, according to CAS website and the EAW that is already deployed.

Typhoon, Eurofighter, EAP or whatever it is next was originally conceived as a fighter and not a swing role aircraft. Certainly Blocks 1 and 2 are fighters, block 3 will no doubt be able to deploy brimstone, stormshadow and LGBs however it is still a fighter in the same way F-22 has become F/A-22 because of the recongition of the fact the single role aircraft aren't much use in the modern battlespace.

I agree that CAS missions are highly sort after in the two theatres you mention, and all of the other mission types highlight that there is no need of DCA missions in both theatres either. However some bright spark will surely question the need for fighters when all that is being used are the AG. Logs and Battlespace support aircraft. You only have to look at the RNZAF to see the results of that type of argument.

Don't muisunderstand MM, I support the RAF, becasue we need the expertise. However as with the RN you can't be everywhere at once. The true key message here is that we were set a level of committment of 2 Medium scale ops at the same time, or a combination of 1 MS and 2 SS, under the SDR and New Chapter.

We involved in two medium concurrent ops and we haven't got the funding - that is a political failing which is fuelling this constant round of sniping in the run up to any budget cut.

The RN is only the custodian of the deterrant, not the employer. It is a strategic weapon used by politicians and therefore shouldn't just come out of the RN Budget, That was the mistake of the 1960s with Polaris.

I digress.

I agree with MM, the three services should exits in unison, any thought of disbanding the RAF should always be fought. We're supposed to be a team, but sadly the current political climate has turned us into opponents.

One final shot, i have to disagree that at the grand fromage level that there is no problem, SO1 and 1/2* don't just dream up ways to attack eachother, it has to be coming from somewhere. CAS is known to dislike the CVF project for the harm it can do to the JCA ownership issue and RAF strategic intent arguments of being able to influence anything anywhere.

My turn for incoming me thinks


War Hero

I didn't say F3s were in Afghanistan. They, like the E-3Ds and MR2s are involved in other ops of varying intensity and duration elsewhere, much like other RN assets are.

Actually the RAF were the ONLY service to specifiy an A-G capability from the 4 nations when the EF specification was originally drawn up in the early 1980s. It was always envisaged that what became Typhoon would replace the Jag as well as the F3 (and when it was written the remaining F4s). Therefore, Typhoon has always been a dual/swing role asset in UK plans.

Similarly, Typhoon is already trialling A-G weapons and should have a deployable bomb dropping capability in 2008. However, don't forget that bomb dropping is not necessarily the only way (in fact in Iraq, it's one of the least used methods) a fast jet can support the LCC or MCC. Typhoon's sensors should make it an excellent NTISR platform.

As far as the need for DCA/OCA, we should not fight the current wars in isolation. What happens if the US/Israel schwack Iran and Tehran wants to give some back? The easiest targets are in Iraq, the Gulf and Afghanistan. Further down the line, the Chinese, Russian and French propensity to export high quality fighters such as the J-10, Flanker and Rafale means we cannot allow our AD capability to wane. That's why binning the FA2 was such a gamble. It was only in 1999 that air-air combat was being fought over Europe. Sadly western air dominance is now assumed and has become a victim of it's own success. But double digit SAMs and the latest fighters on the export market increasingly limit the superiority of the F-15C and certainly the F3. That's why the F-22 and Typhoon are still needed. You don't stay ahead by standing still.

Ref nuke ownership, I agree wholeheartedly that the funding for this should be partially be met by the Treasury. Retaining an 'independant' deterrent is as much about maintaining a seat on the P5 and keeping up with France as it is about national defence against emerging powers. I just hope Gordon's successors see it that way.

As far as CAS opinion's of CVF, I think we'll have to agree to disagree. Whenever I've heard him speak, he's always been very positive about CVF. My understanding was that CAS/CNS did a deal some time ago that CVF/Typhoon would not be sniped at by the other. If anything, we view CVF as a valuable argument for the JCA purchase.

Well, MM has Posted everything that I was in the course of writing. I agree that the Service with the poorest grasp of use of air power is the Army, closely followed by submariners. With that in mind, I'm grateful that the Army had command of the Luftwaffe in the last lot! It's also worth remembering that Trenchard had little choice but adopt his abrasive attitude if he was to succeed in his task. If I remember correctly, he wasn't initially sold on the independent Air Force idea. Having been duly influenced by Smuts, Henderson and Sykes, though, he grasped it firmly and assertively, letting nobody bar his way.

I think that a lot of the destructive "rivalry" and denigration does take place around SO1/SO2. Whether it's an attempt to get noticed and mistaken for a deep thinker, I don't know. It certainly goes far beyond banter.

We keep returning to the Canadian experiment without any assurance that anybody of influence has learned from it. It still grates on me that they were stuck with US style Army ranks when the Air Force re-formed.

You'll get no Incoming from me DingDong.


Lantern Swinger

Lets disagree. To be honest i'm not in favour of these "the future of RN/ARMY/RAF (delete where applicable) threads. They waste time and work people up.

I take your point about the Typhoon, and agree that we need to think of the wars we will be fighting. Sadly budget cuts are always about the here and the now. Poloticians

Take care Crab, I don't want the RAF to disappear.


Lantern Swinger
The RAF could cut its manpower conciderably by combining with the other 2 forces. 200+ people per aircraft is taking the p**s. We havn't got that per ship and it takes a lot more that 1 pilot and a navigator to get them from A to B.

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