SDSR - initial commentary on the UK's defence cuts  from Professor Keith Hayward, Head of Research, Royal Aeronautical Society The UK Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) published on 18th October followed rapidly by the announcement of a eight per cent budget cut, will limit UK expeditionary capability. While the two big carriers have been saved, one will be built and effectively mothballed, the second will not be deployed until the early 2020s. The current fleet of Harriers is to go and so is the Ark Royal. The Navy will have no fixed wing capability until the arrival of the F-35, leaving the next generation carriers to fly helicopters only for several years. The second carrier, the Prince of Wales, will have "cats and traps" that could take the likes of the F-18, Rafale Navale and later the F-35C. The troubled Nimrod MRA4 is also cancelled, with little idea of how the long range ISTAR mission might be covered. Some hints of unmanned operation have been mentioned by ministers. The RAF's fleet of Tornado strike aircraft has been reduced, but not withdrawn entirely as implied during the battle of leaks that preceded the SDSR. Typhoon will be the main strike-fighter, but numbers may yet be reduced. The UK's order for 160 F-35s will certainly be nearer 50, and again there are hints that the UK might abandon the VSTOL F-35B - bad news for Rolls-Royce. The nuclear deterrent will remain missile-based, but decisions on new submarines will be delayed for five years - a gap to be covered by construction of a seventh Astute hunter-killer. Civilian and military jobs are to go - around 50,000 in total, but the infantry has some protection while the current Afghan conflict dominates UK commitments. The SDSR makes great play of a new range of threats - the UK is to have a cyber war command - but it has all the feel of a finance-led holding operation structured as much by procurement contract commitments as strategic planning. To read 'five priorities for the post-SDSR environment' see November's issue of Aerospace Interntional magazine - the publication for aerospace professionals. For a full in-depth  analysis of the SDSR and its operational, technological and industrial implications, look out for the December edition of Aerospace International. from the Royal Aeronautical Society

Tim Robinson
22 October 2010