The Royal Navy: what's needed for the future?

Magic_Mushroom

War Hero
Seaweed,
Global Hawk is very impressive on paper but is immensely expensive. I'm also assuming I'm misunderstanding your post here as well because GH does not fly at high mach, is not stealthy and at present does not carry AMRAAM (or indeed any other weapons right now).

In short, it is akin to an unmanned and long endurance U-2: a very useful ISTAR asset which does have some potential for weaponisation.

However, be very cautious about being seduced by UAVs. Ironically, they are generally more manpower intensive than manned aircraft and USAF/RAF experience with Pred A and Reaper has shown that operating them is still very fatiguing.

Comms wise, in my AWACS there was just as much comms with a Pred A or GH than with other types. You still need to coordinate and direct the pilot, the only differnce is the pilot is on the other side of the world. Then there is the issue of limited bandwidth and the greater susceptability of current UAVs to weather.

UAVs will gain in capability immeasurably over coming decades but they are not a panacea. That said, I suspect MASC will evolve onto some sort of UAV after the SKASaC service life has been stretched out to 2020 ish, and a small UCAV is a possibility for RN carrier ops from 2030 ish.

Regards,
MM
 

Seaweed

RIP
Book Reviewer
Magic Mushroom, noted. I think however there is a major political driver - quite apart from performance criteria, which can only improve - regarding the political difficulties caused by servicemen taken prisoner on ops against irregular forces and other uncivilised parties, even if the politicos and MoD civilians couldn't give a stuff about the actual treatment received by their servants that they send into danger, except to try and hush it up.

Try the following:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/27/navy_robot_carrier_jet_deck_2011_good_progress/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/22/raf_overseas_outsource_outrage_taranis_robot_stealth_bomber/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/08/bae_mouse_click_robot_spy_dover_over/

(NB Chief Crab Torpy's comment)

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/29/barracuda_back_from_the_deep/

Mind you, I can fully appreciate how the Crabs will hate to have to give up all that Red Baron stuff; just as the cavalry didn't like giving up their horses. As the carriers slide right, the assumtions about the embarked air group need to keep up with emerging technology.
 

Magic_Mushroom

War Hero
Seaweed,
I'd be very careful about taking the musings of Mr Page at face value. In my humble opinion he is one of the most partial and least qualified defence commentators around today.

You may actually be quite surprised at how popular a UAV posting is in the RAF. Many see it as a very positive career step and one which places you at the tip of a technological revolution.
Regards,
MM
 

OSLO

War Hero
Magic_Mushroom said:
Seaweed,
I'd be very careful about taking the musings of Mr Page at face value. In my humble opinion he is one of the most partial and least qualified defence commentators around today.

You may actually be quite surprised at how popular a UAV posting is in the RAF. Many see it as a very positive career step and one which places you at the tip of a technological revolution.
Regards,
MM

I'd be interested in why you believe Lewis Page is partial and unqualified. I'm reading his book at the moment (and about time to) and reluctantly find myself agreeing with the basics of his logic. His background connection to the Army and the RN would serve him well to comment on the subject, far more than many in the media who call themselves "defence correspondents".

But then, I do tend to believe that from a military perspective, the RAF is no longer needed.
 

Magic_Mushroom

War Hero
Why do I believe Lewis Page is partial and unqualified? Christ, where do I start?!!!

Firstly, although he served in the RN, any connection to the Army or RAF is tenuous at best. Indeed, I wasn't even aware he had connections to the former.

I forced myself to read the book some time ago due to the publicity it attracted and I have rarely read such ill informed, simplistic, sensationalist tosh in my entire life. In short, the content of the book reflects the fact that it was written by a fairly junior officer who frankly didn't serve all that long in the military, nor saw any op service particularly relevant to our current campaigns. He comes across as someone who is quite bitter and certainly naive regarding the realitities of defence.

Whilst I too would agree with his very basic premise that there is much wrong with UK defence procurement, many of his arguments are fundamentally flawed and contradictory. In the book and in the Register he constantly bangs on about his own personal hobby horses. I know of few people in any of the services who view him with any credibility and 'Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs' is regularly used at Shrivenham as an example of how not to tackle such Joint issues. Indeed, I would suggest that there are many defence correspondants who lack military experience yet who demonstrate a better understanding of the issues. He is clearly intelligent. But I feel he allows his own prejudices to cloud his judgement.

As far as the continued existence of an independant RAF, it is very easy to counter such arguments and am happy to discuss further if you wish. However, let's do it via PM or another thread so as to avoid thread creep on this.

Meanwhile, you may wish to see this thread.

Regards,
MM
 
MM

I have a similar opinion of L Page Esq. He has either a pretty blunt axe he needs to grind or has become the ultimat cynic and writes that kind of stuff because he kbnows he will be paid well for it. What ever the reason his words certainly spin of the page at you.

As for an independant RAF, always an emotive subject but there is perhaps good reason in the light of how technology and equipment is developing to perhaps look at how we organise ourselves. Tradition is good and important but that at the end of the day does not mean we should disadvantage ourselves because of it.
 

OSLO

War Hero
Magic_Mushroom said:
Why do I believe Lewis Page is partial and unqualified? Christ, where do I start?!!!

Firstly, although he served in the RN, any connection to the Army or RAF is tenuous at best. Indeed, I wasn't even aware he had connections to the former.

He was an Army cadet at Uni before joining the Senior Service, from what I recall


Magic_Mushroom said:
I forced myself to read the book some time ago due to the publicity it attracted and I have rarely read such ill informed, simplistic, sensationalist tosh in my entire life. In short, the content of the book reflects the fact that it was written by a fairly junior officer who frankly didn't serve all that long in the military, nor saw any op service particularly relevant to our current campaigns. He comes across as someone who is quite bitter and certainly naive regarding the realitities of defence.

He served 11 years in the RN, which is not exactly half a dog-watch even if he didn't do the 22. Even at the level he left at, he'd have a pretty good idea of the basic mechanics of the services. His bitterness is explained in the book, mostly stemming from the perceived pig-headedness of the way the MoD and the Services operate, something which he spends most of the book describing and fleshing out.

Magic_Mushroom said:
Whilst I too would agree with his very basic premise that there is much wrong with UK defence procurement, many of his arguments are fundamentally flawed and contradictory. In the book and in the Register he constantly bangs on about his own personal hobby horses. I know of few people in any of the services who view him with any credibility ...

Given his premise and arguments about the out-of-date mentality of senior officers and the inefficiency of civil servants in the MoD, I'd expect nothing less!

Magic_Mushroom said:
...and 'Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs' is regularly used at Shrivenham as an example of how not to tackle such Joint issues.

They'd hardly hold it up as a shining beacon of good argument - that would imply agreement with it!

Magic_Mushroom said:
Indeed, I would suggest that there are many defence correspondants who lack military experience yet who demonstrate a better understanding of the issues. He is clearly intelligent. But I feel he allows his own prejudices to cloud his judgement.

Magic_Mushroom said:
As far as the continued existence of an independant RAF, it is very easy to counter such arguments and am happy to discuss further if you wish. However, let's do it via PM or another thread so as to avoid thread creep on this.

I'll read the thread and take matters from there.
 

Magic_Mushroom

War Hero
OSLO said:
He was an Army cadet at Uni before joining the Senior Service, from what I recall

So, pretty tenuous then!

OSLO said:
Given his premise and arguments about the out-of-date mentality of senior officers and the inefficiency of civil servants in the MoD, I'd expect nothing less!

Like all large organisations, there are obviously inefficiencies. However, I've always been very impressed with the middle management of the RN in particular, especially at the lt cdr - Capt rank.

OSLO said:
They'd hardly hold it up as a shining beacon of good argument - that would imply agreement with it!

Actually, the various courses I've attended at Shrivenham have always actively encouraged challenging the accepted norm of the 3 services and MoD. However, Page's book is held in particularly low regard by the academics there.

As I say, like you I accept some of his arguments regarding procurement at the very basic level. However, in my humble opinion it resembled the sensationalist approach of a low grade tabloid. Certainly, if some of his arguments were follwed through HMF would be critically undermined in current, let alone future ops, and he consistently fails to appreciate the wider effects of many assets (eg carriers to place a dark blue slant on it).

Regards,
MM
 

Not_a_boffin

War Hero
If Mr Page served only 11 yrs in, I'd be astonished if he was ever exposed in any meaningful way to the workings of the MoD and the CS (lucky him) which would render much of his analysis invalid. As MM says, you may well agree with many of his sentiments about the way MoD works (who doesn't?), but that does not mean his arguments and solutions have any validity at all.

IIRC he advocates replacing surface combatants (which according to him exist only to provide drives for certain branches) with a few helicopter carriers, which demonstrates pretty breathtaking ignorance of what constitutes balanced naval capabilities, let alone of what helicopters and surface ships can and cannot do. As an example, try working out LLOA against an SSN (or modern K for that matter) without some form of wide area sensor (which helos most definitely do not provide).

MoD procurement is certainly FUBAR, but this is principally due to a combination of the following :

1. Nowhere near enough money to compensate for the spending "holiday" of the last 15 years or so, coupled with operating way above the MoDs own planning assumptions for nearly a decade.
2. Inability of central staff and ABW to turn what they know they need (and can afford) into a specification that can be contracted against - often aided and abetted by snake-oil salesmen peddling "systems engineering practices" or other tools that may not be right for the particular application, but promise perfection and the Holy Grail of perfectly auditable performance delivery from initial idea to delivery.
3. Inability of MoD to undertake (or contract for an independent) credible cost estimate for a kit programme - and to be fair to industry, inability to understand that changing your spec (or your programme timescale) means changing the cost.

It is most certainly not down to senior officer, single service or CS vested interests, although I'm sure there is still a residual effect from these, it is pretty negligible. If Mr Page could crack the three problems identified above, he might get some form of recognition.
 

Jay_Nine

Midshipman
My sincere apologies for the delay, gentlemen (and ladies, if any have posted... well, it's sometimes hard to tell due to the anonymity online)... problems with some uni work, and a few kinks needed ironing out of the manuscript of The High Cliff (Book One) so I've been a bit busy.

Concerning Lewis Page:

I've read his book out of the library and read his document 'Cost-Effective Defence', and after careful consideration I decided I disagreed with most of his viewpoints and opinions. He writes in an extremely persuasive manner and his style is extremely inviting to the average civilian reader, laying things out in a simple fashion that easily draws them in. So far as I can tell, it would seem that Page is simply trying to earn a living, and that at least some of the opinions he expresses are probably not what he genuinely feels, although his frustration with BAe is quite understandable. If he were to write (or has already written) anything on the subject of explosive ordnance disposal, I would be most inclined to accept it as authoritative as this was his primary area of expertise: beyond that... *shrugs*

Personally, I do believe that an independent RAF is a useful institution, whilst also maintaining that the Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm are also useful institutions, all three of which are well worth keeping. Each has its own specialisations, its own particular capabilities, and I feel that these justify the continued operation of these three branches. However, I do appreciate that this is an issue upon which there is considerable debate, and accept that there are others who feel differently on the subject.

Getting back on track...

Concerning the American next-generation AMRAAMs: do we need the design specifications? (I accept that maybe there's a good reason why we may wish to modify the missiles in the future, and if so, fair enough... it's just I don't know what it is at the moment.) If we were to offer to invest in developing and purchasing the next-generation AMRAAM, might the Americans then be more inclined to make the sale to us? (Sorry if that's not a particularly good idea, I'm just trying to come up with a solution and it's pretty hit and miss.)

Concerning the F-35B... MM, NaB and Oil Slick: it sounds as if purchasing a third CVF (unless the French pull out when theirs is almost complete, allowing us to snap it up, hopefully more cheaply than the pair we've currently got on order) would be very difficult and rather impractical. Could we get away with purchasing two or three Wasp-class LHDs modified to serve as... well, I suppose they could be described as escort carriers?

As far as I'm aware, the big problem with us purchasing only two CVFs is that every so often, one will have to go into refit, leaving us with only one conventional carrier available for operations over as much as a year. (Or more, if something goes wrong.) But if we had two or three modified Wasps on the strength, could they stand in temporarily, with the option of having a Wasp or two to support the CVFs when both CVFs are on operations? Or would we be better off looking overseas for a third conventional carrier?

If the Wasp-class escort carrier idea is worth looking into... well, do you know (or can you make informed guesses - well, you're certainly better informed than me :)), even vaguely speaking, what that might add to the price of a normal Wasp? (I mean, would it double it, treble it, barely affect it... just an approximation will do nicely.) And what sort of air group might they be able to support? Could we at least get most of a squadron of F-35Bs and a pair of EV-22s aboard? (I'm guessing that that's the minimum number of airframes needed to be able to avoid anything too untoward happening to our forces.)

I know it's not much, but if we still have one CVF fully loaded with aircraft available as well, or if we can send in three modified Wasps, might we be able to get away with using these ships and their air groups as a substitute for a third conventional carrier?

(Hopefully we'd make sure to order three proper carriers when the time comes to replace the CVFs... assuming, of course, that we're not using craft that resemble the Starship Enterprise by then, or had to go back to using coal-powered ships. :) Although in the latter scenario, I suppose we could still have carriers operating balloons or zeppelins or something like that...)

Please let me know if this idea is complete and utter codswallop. :)

Following on from the escort carrier suggestion: if we were to purchase modified Wasps, would we need to purchase some F-35Cs as well for use aboard the CVFs and from land bases? Or would we be better off just getting F-35Bs? And if we exclusively operated the F-35B model and bought a couple of escort carriers, would we need to expand the present F-35B order?

Concerning BAe: what if someone were to take them over, change the way things worked there - sackings, hiring fresh blood, adopting a more competitive/businesslike attitude, that sort of thing? Could that improve things over there to a point where... well, where we don't get drastically shortchanged at every turn? (To put it extremely mildly.) I know, it probably won't happen for real, but it's fiction for a good reason... :) (The book's meant to be a look at how we should try to change if at all possible.)

THis might sound a bit daft, but here goes anyhow: given that the concept of The Lion Awakens involves a vast defence budget increase, shake ups, that sort of thing, if there were enough funds to go around, would more Typhoons be useful? Could an extra couple of squadrons come in handy?

Many thanks, everyone, :)

Jay
 
NaB

Certainly the equipment budget shortfall against the operational demand has made things a lot worse than they should have been, mind you I am not saying that giving them a shed load of cash is the total pancea, but a better balance between demand and available cash would help a lot.

Smart procurement helped a bit but it still needs to get deaper into into expressing the problem not the solution. Mind you there are some who are at least aware of some of the shortcomings and that is a step forward. Mind you having worked with US contractors we have a lot to learn, both about running an equipment programme well and about how to stop Johnny Foreigner ripping us off.

I would suggest that rather than not being able to set good estimates at the begining of a project the problem is more one of picking a number too soon and setting that in stone rather than building up a proper cost picture and properly trading cost against capability when you have control. I think they do understand changes do cost but the system is too unwieldy to do anything else.

Change in both the MOD and Civil Service is not easy and you will find many who resist, I remember as smart procurement was being introduce an staff officer in OR proudly telling me he had rewritten the requirement in Smart Procurement speak so that he still got the kit he really wanted and could in the past have specified in and Cardinal Points Spec.

What is certain though that neither will Mr Pages rants solve the problems nor his suggestions make anything any better.
 

Not_a_boffin

War Hero
I don't disagree Maxi. The trouble with Smart procurement is that the process has become the dominant factor, rather than the objective. As you're probably well aware, hordes of acquisitions specialists and requirementalists roam the corridors of MB and ABW confusing the TLB holders with grand sweeping visions of painless procurement if only you apply Sun Tzu's unpublished work - "S0d the Art of war, lend yourself to requirementalism and surely victory will follow". Cue vast reams of OA, URDs, SRDs, DOORS databases and constantly changing specifications as the planning assumptions change while all this mentalism is undertaken(see MARS IPT for details).

As for cost estimating, fully agree they need to get a grip of what the ongoing effect of capability / spec change is - appropriate to the stage they're at. When they don't you get all eth shenanigans with CVF, as explained here...

http://www.navy-net.co.uk/cpgn2/Forums/viewtopic/t=12000/postdays=0/postorder=asc/start=0.html

The trouble is they have no independent idea of what ship acquisition costs actually are, which is half their problem. I once sat in a meeting with a fella from PFG who blithely suggested that 42 MILLION manhours was reasonable provision to build 6 fleet tankers. When I suggested that 10% of that might be a more reasonable figure, there was a distinct sense of humour failure, followed by onset of NIH syndrome. If they can't get in the ballpark from the off, they have no chance of delivering a cost-effective programme.

The imminent manpower cuts in DE&S are really going to help that as well.
 

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