This is an excerpt from an article published in Aerospace International: May 2010 The UK Government has announced a series of defence cuts in advance of a wider Strategic Defence Review. MIKE BRATBY from the RAeS Air Power Group asks if this combination of cost-cutting before planning for the future is reshaping Britain’s defence in an uneasy mix that does not add up to a strategy.
The British Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, announced a series of defence cuts on 15 December 2009 that are seen by some critics as the beginning of an attempt to preempt the savage cuts in the defence budget expected after the next election. They included reducing the Joint Force Harrier by one squadron, concentrating the fleet at RAF Wittering, leading to closure of RAF Cottesmore by 2013, retiring the Nimrod MR2 fleet early, in March 2010, and delaying delivery of the MRA4 until autumn 2012, leaving a potentially serious gap in capability. Set against these reductions, principally to fight the war in Afghanistan, the RAF will receive 22 more Chinooks, increased funding for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR), including additional MQ-9 Reaper UAVs, improvements to the defensive aids of the C-130J and a seventh C-17 Globemaster strategic airlifter(1). Rumours abound that this is merely the first step, with further cuts in the Harrier and Tornado fleets, the closure of additional bases and possibly reductions in the number of RAF personnel to follow as part of the wider Strategic Defence Review. The danger is that the cost-cutting already underway or being planned is reshaping Britain’s defence before the long awaited Strategic Defence Review that has been promised after the forthcoming election can take place.
The MoD is facing the unenviable task of conducting a Financial Planning Review with the aim of balancing the books and finding a billion pounds in savings to pay for Afghanistan but this is a Review that is very likely to have strategic consequences. All this comes when the RAF has just launched the fourth edition of AP 3000, the manual of British Air and Space Power Doctrine and the second edition of its Future Air and Space Operational Concept (FASOC). The aim of AP 3000 is to establish a sound conceptual basis for air and space operations and comes at a time when the dynamic shifts in the nature of the operational environment makes this especially important. AP 3000 is one of a number of joint doctrine documents, another being the FASOC, which complements the other documents by examining how the strategic context and character of military operations are developing. Ambitiously it looks forward some 20 years and seeks to establish ‘an operational framework around which the lines of development for future equipment and force structure can be studied’(2). So how significant are these latest RAF doctrine publications and what are the implications for the evolution of the UK’s air and space power in the coming years, given the current problems over defence spending?
Aerospace International Contents - May 2010
- Aerospace News 4
- News Roundup 5
- News focus 13
- Space invaders 14 Blended wing body passenger experience
- Flight of fancy 20 Designing a luxury jet interior
- Doctrine and defence cuts 24 Implications of UK defence cuts
- Plane speaking 28 Interview with AVM Graham Lintott, CAF, RNZAF
- Wide-open skies 32 Pilot training in Alberta
- The last word 34 Keith Hayward on UK space policy