Friday 29 October 2010

Sold out!

In The Daily Telegraph we now read that French Rafales may be using the Royal Navy carriers. You did, of course, read it here first and then here.  Amazingly, after the debacle of the "carriers with no planes", we are now told that, trying to bridge the “capability gap”, ministers have said the new carriers will be redesigned to have catapults to launch aircraft. That "will allow them to carry planes like the French Rafale".  Oh, what a surprise.

The beans have been spilled by French defence minister Morin, who has told a "Euronaval conference" that: "I've asked our military command to consider the feasibility of stationing British aircraft on our aircraft carrier and vice versa." He added: "The idea is an exchange of capacity and an interdependence. It's a new approach."

Is it bollocks a new approach.  That has been the plan all along ... do they think we are that stupid?

Anyhow, us poor little dimwits are told: "The British have decided to equip their aircraft carriers with catapults - we can have joint exercises, but also arrange to have a Rafale squadron make use of the British platform." The plan would give France "a permanent presence at sea" even when its single aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is in dock for maintenance and cannot sail, Morin says.

And so we march on to the Euro-navy.  Dave the slime presides over the work of his predecessors, Blair, Major and Heath. The Royal Navy is being sold out on the altar of European political integration.  A more potent symbol of integration could hardly exist, and its all but in the bag.


Wednesday 20 October 2010

Well, what a surprise

The Daily Telegraph print edition runs a front-page story headed, "Armed Forces will have to seek French help to fight a war". The on-line version does not share the headline, but the key part of the content remains the same.

"At an Anglo-French summit next month," we are told, "Mr Cameron will discuss with President Nicolas Sarkozy a range of options for greater partnership, including the creation of 'high readiness joint formations' composed of British and French personnel." Mr Cameron, we further learn, "told MPs the summit would produce 'some very exciting steps forward'".

There is the real agenda. This a direct continuation of the post-Maastricht defence policy espoused by Major, and supported by Portillo in 1996, and continued by Bair in St. Malo and beyond. The 1996 agreement was even reported by The Independent at the time.

"Anglo-French military co-operation is thriving in a number of areas, despite the anti-European rhetoric of the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo," the paper said. "An Anglo- French nuclear committee is said to meet regularly and to have made considerable progress since President Chirac came to power last May, although both sides are secretive about the committee's agenda."

You can bet both sides are "secretive", and they still are. But this is not helped by the current newspapers failing to make the links between then and now. Reporters have no memory of previous events and the media has no institutional memory, and thus every event is reported in isolation, without reference to the previous, linked developments.

Thus, Cameron is able to talk about "a range of options", as he was in charge, and had thought about the possibilities himself, rather than having had the Foreign Officer deliver them to him as part of the ongoing plan. And that is how we are being sold out – small step, by small step, so slowly that the media doesn't notice and can't join up the dots.

The name of the game is "interdependence", with each member state of the EU being robbed of the capability for independent action, thus being forced to worth with and rely on other member states. Through such a mechanism is the process of political integration driven.

The real irony, though, is that if we were to dispense with the annual payments to the EU - £18 billion and rising, we would not have needed to curtail spending on the Navy in the first place. But, of course, these things must not be mentioned in polite company, where European integration is simply a figment of the imagination of those horrid, uncouth eurosceptics.

So, gradually, we move into the end game. The sell-out will soon be complete, happening under our very noses while the clever-dicks sleep on, leaving Mr Cameron and his euroweenies to succeed where Hitler and the Axis powers never could - the destruction of the Royal Navy as an independent force.


Heath in our time

Well, not only is HMS Ark Royal to be scrapped but the Fleet Air Arm as well. In the meantime, the BBC has learned that "at least one" of the new carriers will be redesigned so that it can deploy normal fighter aircraft that do not need a Harrier-style vertical lift capability.

Dr Fox says that there would be "interoperability" so strike fighter aircraft from allies such as France could land on UK aircraft carriers, and vice versa.

So what have we here? No British aircraft, an Anglo-French agreement on joint carrier operation and now a carrier design change that allows for the operation of French aircraft on the British carrier. Where did you read this first?

And as more and more details leak out, you can see the game – the Armed Forces are being stripped of capability to the point that they can no longer operate independently, even within the context of an alliance. We will have to look to "allies" for operational components just so that we can field our forces.

Well, the US Armed Forces don't work that way, so we will have to look elsewhere. Where do we think Cammy and his euroweenie chums are looking? Why does the phrase "sold out" come to mind? But then, this has been on the cards for a long time, and we said this was going to happen in January 2006.

That it should happen now, under a (partially) Tory government is not a surprise. Historically, the Tories have always been keenest on European military "co-operation" and the die was cast when Portillo signed the co-operation deal in 1996. Euro-Navy here we come, with the European Carrier Group as the flagship operation.

We are now simply seeing the end came of a process that has been under development for decades, and which started with Heath and his merry men.  Forget Thatcher (Blair and all the rest). Cameron is the true heir to Edward Heath. In the manner of Chamberlain and Munich, we now have "Heath in our time".


An evening with defence

So it came to pass that the North went south to attend the great debate. There was a smaller than usual attendance for a Spectator debate, which is interesting in itself, given the high profile of the defence at the moment.

The motion, I think, was part of the problem ... that the armed forces should be scrapped and replaced with the Royal Marines. It was roundly defeated, and deservedly so, and I say that even though I was speaking for the motion.

I tried to turn the debate by arguing that the motion was a proxy for arguing for institutional change, and that the real need was to break away from thinking about our three services and introduce an Armed Forces ethos, task orientated rather that focused on what the services wanted.

The trouble is with these things though, is that the spectator does see more of the game. You sit there, blinded by the lights, in your little bubble of nerves, trying to marshal your thoughts and hoping you do not fluff you lines.

One point, I made was that the officer corps in the WWII Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe trained together and that the officers only specialised after being commissioned. But it was also the case that Albert Kesselring, in command of Luftflotte 2 during the Battle of Britain then went on to command OB South and mastermind the fighting withdrawal of the German land forces in Italy.

I am not sure the idea went down all that well, but I also went on to point out that the strategic bombing campaign conducted by the allies was fought by RAF bomber command on the one hand and the US Army Air Force on the other. And, of the two, arguably the USAAF was more innovative and effective.

The point from all that, and some other more recent examples, is that performance does not depend on the nature of the institution. But another from the war made that point. In Germany, anti-aircraft defences were part of the Luftwaffe. In Britain, they were part of the Army, but under the overall control of Fighter Command. In Germany, Paratroops were again part of the Luftwaffe. In Britain, they were part of the Army.

There are loads of other examples which, I think, demonstrate that it really does not matter which service you are in, as long as the function is well defined, and the people in it are properly trained and equipped. The job isn’t done better because it is done by any specific service. In the Korean War, the British air component was provided exclusively by the Fleet Air Arm, and so on.

Anyhow, it was entertaining enough, and the dinner afterwards more so. But it was Chatham House rules, so I cannot repeat what any one person said. Nevertheless, the discussion confirms my many impressions of certain high personages. Surprising accord on Afghanistan. There has been something of a learning curve and the original paradigms have been thrown out of the window. We are simply looking for a credible – or any – exit plan.

One really interesting point though was that there was lots of bitching about the cost of the csrriers and complaints about them being bought. I made my speech about the European Carrier Group, St Malo and the ERRF ... it was like I'd made a bad smell in the room. They couldn't change the subject fast enough.

I am never sure, therefore, whether these events are worth the time and nervous energy they take, but it does help to climb out of the ivory tower occasionally, and see how the other half live. It is not a pretty sight really, but the beef was actually rather good.


Sunday 10 October 2010

Savagely vindicated ... again

I first wrote about it on 28 July 2004, marking it down as "another blunder of Eurofighter proportions".

This is the £16 billion FRES programme, which I have consistently opposed, writing over 100 pieces about it. Yet I was almost a lone voice, stacked up against an indifferent and ignorant media, with only Booker for support in the media, and the tenacious Ann Winterton in Parliament.

On the other side of the divide, its greatest supporter has been General Sir Richard Dannatt, with the wholehearted approval of the Defence Committee and the Tory defence team.

But now we learn that FRES is dead in the water. "It's a dead duck. It is the definition of everything that is wrong with the MoD's procurement process," says a senior Ministry of Defence source. Actually, this isn't a procurement issue - it is a definition problem - the Army simple couldn't get its act together and make a coherent case for its future needs.

Fortunately, the project has not gone so far down the acquisition path that it is incapable of being cancelled. And, although I say it myself – because no one else will – that is in no small measure due to the opposition of this blog. Such was its reach and its sister blog DOTR, that we had the then procurement minister coming onto our forum to plead the case, after I had written this.

This I remarked at the time was when the blogosphere came of age, when a blog was setting the agenda and forcing ministers to respond. We in turn responded with this - a case which was never satisfactorily countered.   Few people know the effect that piece had on the defence establishment, and why. I do.

You can read much of the background in Ministry of Defeat, still the only book that gets near telling the story. It has a recent review here.

Yet it is the Gen Dannatt who is lauded as the great expert, doyen of The Daily Telegraph - the man who "knows". This is the man who would have lumbered us with that useless pile of junk called FRES, and its lifetime costs in excess of £60 billion. By contrast, this blog won't even get a look in, shunned by the great and the good for telling the inconvenient truths.

Even then, the media doesn't get it. That idiot political editor Patrick Hennessy, who writes the piece about FRES being ditched, states: "The decision will mean that the Army will be forced to fight in Afghanistan and in future conflicts with its existing fleet of ageing vehicles, some of which first entered service in the 1960s."

In his little Westminster bubble, the world passes him by. Has he not heard of the Mastiff, Ridgeback, Wolfhound, Ocelot? How you can be that ignorant and still be a journalist is one of those modern miracles. No wonder they think Dannatt is an expert.