DefenceSynergia (DS) congratulates The Right Honourable Ben Wallace on his appointment as Secretary of State (SoS) for Defence and wishes him every success. And, hopefully, for the cohesion of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, more time in post than several of his predecessors.
DS has warned previous Defence Secretaries to be mindful that Russia, China and other adversarial nations continue to develop evermore effective weapon systems and asymmetric tactics to counter the conventional balance that naval power and especially aircraft carrier groups and their escorts have traditionally projected. ‘Anti-access (A2) Area Denial (AD) capability’ is now being enhanced by ‘high end’ Hypersonic Missile systems that can defeat current detection systems against which the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force has no obvious, deployed, credible defence.
MOD PR talks of ever greater operational capability but DS sees this somewhat differently and less complacently. For example, America with her large nuclear powered and more powerful catapult equipped aircraft carriers is leagues ahead of the United Kingdom. Even when both UK carriers are fully operational only one Air Wing with Helicopter Airborne Early Warning (AEW) – with inherently poor radar horizon and limited early warning time – will be operational at any one time. And the number of escorts restricted to 19 of which at the current time only circa 50% are operational, many of the Type 45s being moored in dock pending long-term corrective maintenance to their propulsion systems.
As the present crisis in the Gulf clearly demonstrates, even at the ‘low end’ of war-fighting technology, without sufficient fully-manned supporting destroyers, frigates, submarines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and appropriate air cover the United Kingdom’s (UK) precious sea lanes of communication, and the ships and crews that sail them, are at grave risk.
Therefore, DS urges the new SoS to reject the hyperbole peddled by MOD PR and focus all effort on securing the right money, spent on the right things, to provide coherent UK Armed Forces and Capabilities geared to achieving realistic Strategically articulated aims. Indeed, it would not hurt if the new SoS could persuade the Cabinet Office to say what its strategic intent is: give himself and the Service Chiefs a head start when calculating the order of battle – land, sea and air – required to meet Government aims and public expectations.
It would do no harm, either, to give the heads of our armed services more freedom to brief on capabilities like other professionals such as police, NHS and civil servants. They are after all our time-experienced professional heads of war-fighting capabilities whose knowledge is not bettered by any others in government.
However, we respectfully suggest that the top of his agenda is to acknowledge that the UK has been caught with its pants down in the Straits of Hormuz, learn the lesson and redress decades of under investment in military equipment, personnel, support capabilities. Also, to secure improved remuneration and conditions, not least to uphold the Military Covenant, for our Service men and women, on whose lives our nation’s security depends. Perhaps then the uphill battle to recruit could be alleviated, so more manpower secured, and fewer trained service personnel leaving at (or even before) normal break points. This improvement would then enable more ships and aircraft to underpin British Foreign Policy instead of sitting in harbour, storage or unserviceable through lack of resources.
In the interests of HM Armed Forces and the public DS wishes Ben Wallace every success.