Whilst we have elected officials managing to show as much disrespect to our armed forces as possible, we also have a government which seems intent on crippling them.

The recent Defence Review seems almost suicidal in its decisions. We have helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft being cut in favour of low level bombers, compounded with reductions in our ability for defence posturing overseas by the delay and mothballing of our replacement carrier capability. Not to mention the 100% capability shortfall in our capacity to operate combat air patrols for fleets at sea.

I simply cannot foresee what type of strategic planning our pitifully small number of low level fighter bombers could be useful in? Designed for a cold war where they had to penetrate Russian defended airspace they are now an asset without a cause. In any serious total war scenario they are too few in number, and largely superfluous given the ICBM capability for nuclear counter attack, and now becoming obselete as a defence force with the advent of the Typhoon. Far more useful, flexible and deployable would be an expanded helicopter fleet backed up with an intelligence and reconnaissance capability. This is about the only part of the defence review I do whole heartedly agree with. The Nimrod fleet was vastly over budget, delayed and based on the Comet airframe! Similar equipment could easily have designed into and mounted on a more recent Boeing or airbus airframe without the expensive requirement for bespoke parts required for upkeep. Even better, mount this on AUV platforms for increased endurance, reach and stealth. By way of comparison the MRA4 has cost around £4.1bn for one airworthy aircraft which we have now trashed – compare that with around £1.75bn for a new space shuttle.

The reduction in carriers and helicopters is almost unforgivable at the strategic planning level. The US Navy describe the big Nimitz class carriers “4.5 acres of sovereign and mobile American territory” And essentially that what a carrier is. It is more than the simple organic fleet protection capability. It is more than being able to control the airspace of the littoral without any host nation support, it is even more than the ability to loiter of a coast as an aid to diplomatic discussions .It is sovereign territory that you can use an airfield, receiving station, accommodation, evacuation point and command platform. It can flex muscle without committing to a war. It’s presence alone is a negotiating tool that does not require UN resolutions, and allows the pre-staging of men and equipment in safe, secure and above all British territory.

The reach of the carrier is in the helicopter force accompanying it. And these Helos are simply so versatile they are esential for modern forces. They allow troops to avoid ambush laden dangerous road trips, or give commanders the ability to rapidly reorganise or deploy forces to wield them to best effect. They give the capability to quickly and efficiently move large quantities of kit or people without the need for specialist infrastructure. Such as in a civilian evacuation, as we’ve seen before

Now I can’t imagine where one of those might come in useful?

All of this, to ensure the RAF has a reason for existing. Madness.

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