The Times (Letters): "Is It Time To Reorganise The Armed Forces?"

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by soleil, Jan 31, 2014.

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    Sir, Lester May is right that the balance of effort in the UK needs correction (letter, Jan 23), but wrong to advocate disbanding the RAF. Now is not the time to waste angst and management effort on such argument, but our US colleagues, and others, are right when they express concern at the shrinkage of the Royal Navy. Once withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete it will be upon the Royal Navy that the support for security, diplomacy and trade will depend; the UK should not be found wanting. In Future Force 2020, with only one operational aircraft carrier and 19 escorts, there will be insufficient resource to fulfil such roles. It is here where the Army and RAF are relatively impotent and must be scaled accordingly. The Prime Minister is disingenuous to suggest that all is well in defence — it blatantly is not.

    Chris Palmer

    Commodore RN

    Havant, Hants


    Sir, As Mr May suggests, there are questions about the appropriateness of maintaining independent air forces on both sides of the Atlantic. My research on nearly a century’s experience suggests that independent air forces create two big problems. First, they erect bureaucratic walls between missions, such that soldiers in need of air support often can’t get the help they need. To remedy this the US Army and Marine Corps created their own air forces.

    Second, independent air forces create lobbying organisations for parochial approaches to warfighting and procurement, approaches that do not necessarily contribute to the pursuit of national security. The USAF, for example, has consistently advocated for air power-centric escalation of diplomatic disputes, and has often argued for the procurement of sophisticated-but-mission-challenged fighter and bombers and for the retirement of much-beloved attack aircraft, such as the A-10 Warthog.

    I believe that it would be beneficial for the UK and the US alike to reconsider the organisation of their military air power.

    Dr Robert M. Farley

    Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce,
    University of Kentucky


    Sir, As a former Royal Naval officer it is hardly surprising that Lester May favours his old service over the RAF but his wish to see its assets split between the other two services would not result in the “huge cost and manpower savings” to which he refers. The aircraft would still require the personnel to operate and maintain them, the airfields with their supporting staff would still be needed to house them, no matter what colour of uniform they wore. Administration and headquarters would still be needed to run the organisation, unless Mr May believes that there is excess capacity currently within the Army and the Navy to carry out these functions?

    While he is correct that for a maritime nation the Royal Navy is of critical importance and has been badly treated in recent defence cuts, he should not forget that the RAF is much more than just a few combat jets. He makes no mention of its air transport, helicopter support, air-to-air refuelling, intelligence gathering assets or remotely piloted aircraft.

    Each of the three services performs an essential role in safeguarding this country and its interests. Abolishing the RAF would neither make us safer nor save the money that Mr Lester says it would.

    Phil Mobbs

    West Hanney, Oxon


    Lester May

    I absolutely made mention of all the RAF's 650 support aircraft - yes, 650 of them! There was no space to mention AT, AAR, helicopters and so on.

    It has been estimated, not just by me, that were the RN and Army to run the RAF's aircraft, personnel and assets, the annual saving would be £3.5bn (about half the annual cost of an independent air force) and some 20,000 fewer uniformed personnel would be required. There would be no reduction in capability, indeed, greater operational and combat efficiency would be likely. Given that almost all combat operations involving RAF combat jets are in support of land or sea warfare and operations, cutting out the middle man, the RAF, is sensible - see Robert Farley's argument above.

    One can understand many feeling uncomfortable about abolishing the RAF but, with £1.25 trillion debts, and £50bn a year debt repayments, the UK has surely to find more cost-effective ways of running Whitehall departments, including defence. The nation's children and grandchildren will not thank us if we fail to do so. It is interesting that few suggest what other ways there are in defence to make big savings, yet many seem unconcerned by an RAF that is very expensive, grossly under-employed, has conditions of overseas service that make soldiers, sailors and marines both angry and amused, and is widely felt by many serving and retired service personnel to be a self-serving, over-officered and suffocating bureaucracy too much concerned about its future survival and little concerned about operating in concert with the RN and Army. Many of the junior officers and airmen do a good job but they are led poorly by too many air marshals and air commodores, far too many of whom are administrators with little or no front-line operational experience.

    21% of RAF personnel are commissioned officers. Only 10% of RAF personnel fly as aircrew and a good number of them are carrying out ground duties (while drawing flying pay). What are the other 90% of RAF personnel doing? What are the 160 Typhoon jets (40 still to be delivered), costing £1bn for eight, all for? A Typhoon costs some £75,000 an hour, a Tornado half that. It is time to wake up and question the huge cost of an independent air force, one with far more combat jets and personnel than any defence requirement possibly needs.


    Is it time to reorganise the Armed Forces? | The Times
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
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  2. I'd go one further and have a Defence Force - cut another set of overheads.
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  3. I think the argument of manpower differences is a valid one.

    On your average crab squadron they do have a lot more manpower down to the following:

    The refusal to multi skill the weapons trade. Therefore they require 10-20 extra personnel (NSW used avionics trade as bombheads).

    Having two flight SGT's to basically do the job of one squadron Reggie.

    Having 3 Chiefs as trade managers. Telling people when their auths are due, surely this can put on JPA?

    Having a Sgt or Chief in with the aircrew as ex ops controller, pointless! On a NAS they ring the watch Chief.

    When I ran the line I had two Cpl's who worked for me, again prob 1 too many.

    2 SAC's to run the ffing tea bar! These 2 are not working on aircraft as well, the tea bar is a full time job!

    Therefore approx 20 pointless positions identified in a few minutes x that by the amount of squadrons?

    However they still drip about manpower shortages.

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    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  4. This.

    When Tornado took over from Harrier on Herrick the footprint tripled.
  5. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    ...and operational capability halved.
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  6. I'll add the 4 SE's per unit as well !

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  7. The May fly is always banging that drum. Getting into an inter Service backstabbing match is just what Whitehall and the Treasury would love.

    Joint_Force_Harrier. You make some very good points there that HQ Strike might do well to consider. Thanks for not posting your often anti Crab pipes.

    I think the Canadian experiment in a unified Armed Forces tells us most of what we need to know about that. Jointery taken to the point of silliness.
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  8. Mine are always anti crab :)

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  9. All very good pointers to where the crabs need to take a reality pill. However, might I add that the crux of their manpower req't's revolve around their harmony times? IOT to maintain their presence in any theatre, home or abroad, they need a comparatively huge number of people. Of course, this also works on a polical level, because they can honestly claim they have had so many people "on ops" over a given period, which at once can be used to implied they are useful, needed and potentially essential. But, they still need to justify these figures in their parent units and thus, I/c tea bar can take on greater importance to the manpower controllers.

    i don't advocate the removal of the air farce, as it happens, IMHO we'd (the country, that is), gain little, but action is desperately needed to rein them in. Again IMHO we need an independent aviation organisation for Strat AT and homeland air defence. But your expeditionary/ power projection business sits better with firstly the RN, and therefore the FAA, and then land forces establishing a bridgehead, (the number of A/C operating from carriers in support of ops in AFG is oft conveniently forgotten whenever landlocked AOs are quoted). Perhaps, a limited expeditionary element from the junior service would alleviate pressures, but their current harmony policy means their footprint will always be bigger than the rest of us would deem necessary.

    Their generally poor attitude to being "on ops", and quality in general, (as a number of recent events have indicated), don't help the matter either!
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  10. I still feel that if you gave the not ship specific A/C to the Navy, we'd use it as just another weapon on the ship. Again, I'm sure that if the Army was given anything but battlefield HELOs, they'd squander any offensive capability as long range high speed artillery. Nothing would get beyond CAS. The Air Force does keep the big air picture in mind with things like interdiction and area denial.
  11. P-O-L potentially a good point? Though, I have to say its a fear I have only heard spoken of from the Crabs. The glory days of Naval Aviation were before my time, is there any real or anecdotal evidence to suggest this was true then? I could actually counter your argument slightly by claiming that currently the light blue are just as unable to conduct ops across the board because of their outlook/attitude, you only have to look at the lack of enthusiasm to embark, ( and the massive enthusiasm to disembark!), whenever the opportunity arose with JFH. Something any dark blue member of that force will have plenty of dits about, (please note, I said when said when the opportunity arose, I do appreciate the AFG committment severely reduced the chances). You only have to read a couple of threads on the Pprune Military thread as well to understand their seemingly rather narrow (and arrogant) outlook on all things 'Air'.

    Perhaps, the answer lies in getting the FAA to model itself on the US NavAir & USMC EAWs?

    WRT the Army's attitude, I'm not sure they're really that interested in fast jet, they just want a vehicle that saves boot leather and avoids landlines, with the necessary overhead support, so why shouldn't they use their air delivery vehicles as such?
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  12. Why not disband the Army and call it the Royal Marines and Land Forces?
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  13. i/cflyingcircus. that's a fair point As I see it, though, not every intrepid birdman wants to be squeezed into a tin can in the same way they don't want to be in a hoochie in the middle of bumf**nowhere. Horses for courses and all that; but I really believe that the core of maritime air (I hate NATO-speak!) should be Navy. That said, I think that if our offensive air is ever limited to what can launch from and recover to a carrier, we are buggered.

    The Air Force don't do themselves that many favours presentationally nor in attitude; but I go back to my point that they do usually see the bigger air picture. For example; Cdr N Ward was a sometimes maligned Naviator who saw the potential offensive capability of his aeroplane. Try and sell that for an authorisation from his commanding sludgemariner and he was on a hiding to sod all. Just saying.
  14. So perhaps, the obvious and most workable solution would be a retained, but slightly reined in Air Force, with a separate and dedicated Maritime Aircraft Operating Authority; one that fully appreciates and holds the risks and understands the capabilities involved in ship operations and just as importantly more willing to embrace them?

    Just like the (good) old days?

    Lets hope SDSR15 brings some CDF and good news!
  15. The USMC have 195,000 personnel alone. We cannot model ourselves on the US forces

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  16. Clarification

    I fear you may have misunderstood my idea?

    By modelling ourselves on other nations forces I was meaning in terms of roles. No one could justify a manpower uplift to equate to the USMC. Therefore, we should look at the roles that their individual Units undertake and then look at how we can emulate, only on a (much) smaller and achievable scale.

    Perhaps, if I’d also mentioned the more comparably sized French Naval Air Arm it would have made more sense?

    Indeed, I believe work of this ilk is already ongoing. But that's probably the easy bit, trying to convince the powers that be that the Navy is best placed, best suited, and best understands the risks involved whilst being the most willing to undertake carrier aviation and therefore should have ownership of carrier aviation [email protected] will be the hard part.

    The British Forces have seemingly always prided themselves on delivering more for less, and that has enhanced our standing amongst other Armed Forces around the Globe, and subsequently why so many have used our training facilities, e.g. FOST. However, I think most would agree that this line of thought is no longer doing any of us any favours now, hence, I would suggest it was one of the reasons for raising the letter in the first place as well as trying to induce a more credible balance in the make up of our Forces across the board, and not just as an excuse for a bit of Crab-bashing as the myopic contributors to PPrune/military would have you believe.
  17. I like the French analogy-despite what people say we could learn something from them. UK forces are the best trained in the world (or amongst them)-should just concentrate on British interests.

    If anyone else wants to use them they should pay top dollar

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