DefenceSynergia – Post Ukraine, A New Defence Paradigm
DefenceSynergia (DS) has considered the current European crisis in Ukraine and concluded, despite the situation still being fluid, that there should be a paradigm shift for Western Defence Policy in general and British Defence Policy in particular. In saying this, DS is conscious of the work that was carried out in the 2021 Integrated Review (IR) and associated Command Paper (CP) and how much political and career capital was invested in the financially determined outcomes. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the associated dire threats by Putin of a potential tactical nuclear exchange should NATO or the EU become involved has relegated the Integrated Review and Command Paper to history. The presumptions and Defence Planning Assumptions upon which they were predicated no longer hold.
Western democracies have been awoken from a 30 year reverie (the End of History nonsense) and realised that an adherence to Soft Power initiatives, Welfare expenditure and tilting at too many eco-windmills has left them supine and vulnerable to aggressive kinetic action by a peer military adversary that does not accept, let alone obey, the alleged ‘International Rules Based Order’ or the Geneva Conventions! Germany has overnight moved its decades old geo-political position of dependence upon the Russian Federation for energy and shifted its Strategic outlook towards alternatives – in the process the German Chancellor has allocated an immediate extra 100bn Euro increase for defence.
Whilst HMG is preoccupied with sanctions in response to the geo-political implications to UK and NATO of the Russian attack in Ukraine there is little current evidence of HM Forces being given a Defence Budget uplift despite some knowledgeable advocates calling for resources. This must change now if the UK is to remain secure and not be caught short as our Health service has been.
A DS Proposed Paradigm Shift. DS considers a number of issues that require remedial action. European border security is no longer guaranteed. An incoherent energy policy that includes sourcing and reserve storage – and revisiting unrealistic Net Zero assumptions. DS recognises the eco genie cannot be put back in its box, but realistic technical solutions are needed together with sufficiently greater investment. Greater world activity is a defence issue because too much CO2 will lead to the world suffering.
Nothing can be achieved without communication and most human activity depends upon connectivity. There is a need for the telecommunications Industry infrastructure to become integrated into the national infrastructure resilience planning net. EG The Telecommunications Companies must provide workable fall-back plans in the case of electricity or cyber down time and outages and must NOT allow hostile foreign companies access or control of UK Communications, interconnectivity, and Cyber links.
However, the greatest shift in Strategic thinking must be in the Naval/Military sphere of government policy. UK capabilities must be to ‘Fly, Float & Fight’ to achieve their task of Defence of the realm. This requires a rebalancing of national spending priorities and a change of political mind set if the challenge to UK security and defence is to be adequately addressed
At the top of the Strategic reset list must be nuclear weapons policy. Putin’s less than veiled threats to use tactical nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapons state and/or to frighten NATO into non-action must be confronted. Russia and China must understand that NATO/UK is not prepared to accept tactical nuclear blackmail. DS does accept that tactical weapons are not in the UK inventory, but they are held by our allies France and the USA. Any change in this area of defence policy will likely require bilateral discussion between UK/USA and then multilateral discussion with the NATO Council.
In conventional defence the UK must look to its home defences as well as those of its expeditionary forces most particularly the UK must redevelop a national integrated multi layered Air Defence system – including against stand-off, cruise, ballistic and hypersonic missile threats – to protect our islands and those involved in national business abroad.
If UK is to be a leader in NATO our Defence Policy must have forward basing, maritime and air mobility at its heart. ‘Critical mass’ in personnel and platforms must be the benchmark for all three services civil service as well, they are part of the system of defence. While opinions may vary as to what precise forces UK requires DS would postulate a minimum ORBAT to undertake national, NATO and other treaty obligations as briefly described below:
JOINT Closer relationships between Departments of State e.g. MOD, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Home Office & Business departments must look to common secure & interoperable data exchange capability and capacity, cyber, intelligence and electronic warfare research and training. Special Forces that work across government and closer integration with the UK defence industry.
- Royal Navy (RN) Global deployable maritime capability to protect UK assets. 2 Carrier Air Wings 50 x F35B, 2 operational Carriers (requiring a 3rd to be built), 12 DD and 24 FF, 12 SSN and 4 SSBN and 3 LPD plus RFA numbers capable of supporting 2 full carrier groups concurrently. Mine warfare capabilities. Royal Marine (RM) Brigade to be available to be deployed anywhere in the world as reconnaissance/influence/aggressive response although some assets already exist they are too small to achieve full lethality.
- British Army = 1 Corps of 3 Divisions (i.e. 9 Brigades utilising up to 500 MBT, 36 Infantry Battalions of 600, Organic Combat Support, Air Defence, Combat Service Support (Logistics), SHF 100 Medium and Heavy Lift helicopters). UK will need to develop specialised capabilities to meet our defence requirements as follows:
- Arctic Warfare. To protect and support our Northern NATO partners and associates – Norway/Sweden/Finland/Canada/Denmark (Greenland) – and increasingly areas on the edge of the Arctic Circle to counter Russian exploitation of natural resources in the region. This would involve reforming a major unit such as NATO’s former ACE Mobile Force Land (AMF(L)) and would require Attack Helicopters – This would equate to 3,000 personnel which could be based in Scotland.
- Peer on peer armoured capability. Armoured recce, infantry, MBTs and Attack Helicopters, for operation in the European environment; 2 divisions of 10K troops based in Germany/EU must be near to deployment area because we cannot move this much armour in a hurry.
- Air Portable capability. This to include firepower and combat engineer and combat support which can be deployed at reasonably short notice anywhere in the world. Plus Attack Helicopter and UAV. 2 Brigades – a minimum of 5000 personnel forward based in Cyprus, Brunei, Australia.
- Special Forces (SF). SAS, SF Support Regiment x 2, Ranger Battalions for influence operations to counter both the Russians and Chinese.
- Unmanned Air Vehicles. An important evaluation of Attack and Recce UAV capability will be an essential requirement in all areas.
- Electronic Warfare. Cyber/EW capability reevaluated for all areas.
- Reinforcement, Recruitment and Training. The numbers above do not include any figures for reinforcement, recruitment, training and leave. A reevaluation of these requirements is essential.
- Home defence units. Home defence to provide protection to the UK mainland and Military Assistance to the Civil Authorities (MACA) in the case of floods, pandemics etc
- Royal Air Force (RAF). 12 x FJ Squadrons – 50 x F35A and 100 combined x Typhoon/Predator/Tempest, 30 x Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (LRMPA) P-8 Poseidon, 7 x P-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning (AEW), 63 combined AT/AAR (8 x C17, 25 x A400M, 15 x C130J, 15 x A330-200) – New integrated Space/Cyber/Ground UK AD Environment and reinstatement of Airborne Stand Off Radar capability and Combat Search and Rescue and downed aircraft classified systems recovery using armed heavy-lift helicopters.
- Defence Medical Services. MEDICAL ENHANCEMENTS. Any increases in Defence Spending will have implications on the Armed Forces Medical Services. Furthermore war fighting will be more intensive than over the past 30 years and this may lead to increased casualties. A nation must provide the best possible medical care to those injured in the service of their country. It should be provided as close as possible to point of wounding and has to be provided by regular doctors and medics who are trained both medically and militarily.
As well as an increase in medical personnel, secondary hospital services are required either as field hospitals or Patient Casualty Receiving Ships. There will be a need to provide another Royal Fleet Auxiliary Primary Casualty Receiving Ship to accompany a second task force or Royal Marine deployment.
Finally as well as clinical care, there is a need for environmental support, such a aviation medicine, submarine reactor monitoring and indeed much neglected Nuclear Casualties should they occur.
The Cost to the Exchequer.
DS is conscious that these ORBAT proposals come with a cost to the exchequer. Exactly how much is not easy to quantify without a more intimate knowledge of the details. What DS is sure of is that whatever the costs they are worth paying and are long overdue. It is time for HMG to put money where the rhetoric has been –
The first duty of government is defence of the realm and its people.