19 May 2016: Defence Minister, Philip Hammond ‘tried to court-martial senior general
General Sir Richard Shirreff, who served as Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander for Europe until 2014, said before standing down from the post the Government was taking “one hell of a risk” by cutting the regular army. In his book ‘2017: The War with Russia’, published today, Sir Richard claims he was summoned by the head of the Army after his remarks in March 2014, who told him the Foreign Secretary wanted disciplinary action against him.
Formal action would have involved a court-martial and, fortunately for (Mr Hammond’s) political reputation — “it also seems he had not appreciated that I reported to Nato and not to him — wiser counsel prevailed. But the damage to our armed forces… had already been done. It’s the duty of senior soldiers engaged with politicians not to think like politicians, not to make life easier for politicians, but to be prepared to lay out the military consequences of political decisions, and I sense that is something that has got blurred in recent years.”
Sir Richard, who was the army’s third most senior officer, said the level of cutbacks to the British military means the armed forces might not be able to deploy an effective force for war. There has been a hollowing out, a cutting away at muscle and damn nearly bone in UK defences which puts us in a very different position from where we were even ten years ago.
I would question whether the UK could deploy a division for war — I think that’s highly unlikely. The notion of deploying a division for war as the UK did in Iraq in 2003 and Iraq in 1991 is frankly almost inconceivable.” Sir Richard also hit out at what he branded “increasingly irrelevant” political leadership and claimed Britain has become “semi pacifist” in recent years. The former general suggests Vladimir Putin’s regime “has set itself on a collision course with the West”.
14 August 2016: Scandalous splurge – Ministry of Defence doubles spending on on ‘experts’ to £91million as it cuts troops to the bone
Whitehall defence chiefs employ over 2,395 pen-pushers (many on salaries over £60K) in its Finance Department, at an annual cost in excess of £75million. It also employs 282 lawyers at a cost to the taxpayer of £26 million.
But last year it still spent another £17.8 million on legal consultants. And £57million on other experts in areas such as “change management.”
In recent years, the Army has axed 18,000 personnel, the RAF 6,000 and the Navy 3,000. In March the MoD announced it was closing 10 sites across the UK reducing the size of its built estate by 30 per cent.
The chief of the UK National Defence Association, said: “For the MOD to be lavishing so much public money on “consultancy” is scandalous and an insult to all the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have lost their jobs in the last few years in wave after wave of penny-pinching Defence cuts.”
17 Sep 2016: Gen Sir Richard Barrons, Senior General of the British Armed Forces accuses the government of leaving the UK vulnerable to a military attack
General Sir Richard Barrons served as Commander Joint Forces Command, one of the six ‘Chiefs of Staff” leading the UK Armed Forces until April 2016. He was responsible for 23000 people worldwide and a budget of £4.3Bn, delivering intelligence, Special Forces, operational command and control, information systems and communications, logistics, medical support, and advanced education and training across the Armed Forces. His military career includes leadership from Captain to General on military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan – often as part of US-led coalitions
In a long memo (written just before his retirement), to the Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon he warned that key capabilities had been sidelined to cut costs. His warning stated that the government was simply “preserving the shop window” with items “large ticket items” such as aircraft carriers and “capability that is foundational to all major armed forces has been withered by design.”
He continued: “Counter-terrorism is the limit of up-to-date plans and preparations to secure our airspace, waters and territory. Neither the UK homeland nor a deployed force could be protected from a concerted Russian air effort. The army has grown used to operating from safe bases in the middle of its operating area, against opponents who do not manoeuvre at scale.”
He further warned that crucial manpower in all three armed services is “dangerously squeezed and there is a sense that modern conflict is ordained to be only as small and as short term as the UK wishes and is able to afford which is absurd. The failure to come to terms with this will not matter at all if we are lucky in the way the world happens to turn out, but it could matter a very great deal if even a few of the risks now at large conspire against the UK.”
The memo was sent to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, following the government’s decision to increase defence spending by nearly £5bn ($6.5bn) by 2020-21, reaching Nato’s target to spend 2% of GDP on defence until 2020.
But the vast bulk of the projected increase in defence spending includes the purchase of “big ticket” items, New type 26 destroyers, 2 aircraft carriers (without aircraft or crews), 48 x F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft (not available from the USA for some years yet). Replacement of the Trident nuclear missile systems and accompanying nuclear submarines. Conventional forces are reduced to their lowest level ever, including reservists and recruitment is stagnant.
The F35 joint strike aircraft (US built) is the most expensive combat aircraft ever built for the UK. But payloads are restricted and with a complement of 48 the RAF will only be able to place 6 in the air in any combat situation. In any event the aircraft will not be available much before 2020. Plans are to deploy the new carriers equipped with complements of US aircraft and flyers but the logistics of joint deployment of forces has yet to be discussed and may never get off the ground in which case the carriers will be mothballed for a few years.
Britain has 6 x type 45 destroyers. 4 are tasked to protect the new carriers. The remaining 2 destroyers are needed for the defence of the UK mainland & islands. And the foregoing provides no time for maintenance. The Type 45 destroyers are unable to operate in warm climates for any length of time due to design faults and this restricts their deployment to the North Atlantic. So the navy will need to confine deployment of the new carriers to the same area. Hardly inspiring.
The army has not deployed forces for training in tank warfare since 2003 and skills have been lost or waned. Plans are to upgrade the remaining ageing Challenger tanks but not until other higher priority items are completed. Russia’s new “Armata” tanks outspeed and outgun the Challenger and are equipped with an active protection system that further reduce the efficacy of existing UK anti-tank weapons by over 50%.
The UK’s operates a fleet of 6 x AWACS planes, (providing long-range radar coverage and command hubs for deployed forces). They are hopelessly outdated and require ever increasing downtime for maintenance. It is known that only 1 aircraft is guaranteed to be airworthy at any time.
1 Nov 2016: Army’s new £3.5bn mini-tanks are ‘DEATH traps’ that are only useful against ‘incompetent enemies’ who cannot hit them with heavy artillery
Hundreds of Ajax mini-tanks are due to be supplied to the Army next year with the full order of 600 delivered to the Ministry of Defence by 2024.
But sources have claimed the delivery could be delayed due to complications with a revolutionary weapons system fitted on board each tank, although the MoD has insisted the project will be completed on time and will provide the ‘best’ tanks.
Critics claim the ‘lightly armoured’ tanks cannot stand up to heavy artillery and say the weaponry on board is not sufficient – with the gun having already ‘stopped working’ during foreign trials. Raising concerns about the new tanks, one former defence official told The Times: ‘It is fine if you are operating against incompetent enemies, but if you are up against a peer enemy this thing is useless, it’s a death trap.’
The Ajax armoured vehicles will travel at speeds of up to 40mph and have been touted as the first ever fully digital armoured fighting vehicle in UK military history.
The 589 tanks are said to become the ‘eyes and ears’ of the British Army on the battlefields of the future. The new vehicle will allegedly give the army enhanced intelligence, surveillance, protection, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities, and it will be able to defend itself with a highly effective 40-millimetre cannon, which was developed jointly with France.
However, critics claim the cannon has already encountered problems during routine testing in overseas trials and say it is simply not up to the job of defending rival power from countries such as Russia. Referring to an alleged complication with the cannon’s turret – a section attached to the weapon to feed ammunition to the barrel – a source claimed: ‘As soon as the turret was subject to vibration and bumps the [feeding] mechanism failed. ‘My understanding is that there are quite a few reasons why the programme has been delayed’.
In addition, there are reported concerns that the barrel life of the weapon system is too short to function adequately – although the MoD says the new technology ‘can’t be compared to previous technology’. The turret and feeding mechanism on the cannon is being supplied and tested by defence firm Lockheed Martin, while the cannon and ammunition are being developed by BAE Systems and Nexter.
The Ajax tanks are being supplied to the MoD by US defence company General Dynamics, as part of a £3.5bn deal. A spokesman for Lockheed Martin admitted ‘issues did arise in recent trials’ on the weaponry but said ‘early indications point to a component failure and not a design flaw’, The Times reported. BAE systems said the cannon had passed ‘stringent qualification trials’ and said there were no issues with its performance or when it will be delivered. ‘Deliveries to date to the UK Ministry of Defence are ahead of schedule,’ a spokesman said.
The MoD said the project is ‘running to time and cost expectations’ and insisted the tanks were ‘the best in class’. delivering internationally best-in-class standards of scalable protection, reliability, mobility, lethality, and all-weather surveillance. Prototype vehicles are currently being put through a rigorous trials process, with successful live firings taking place in April and more to come. ‘As planned, the Army will take delivery of the first production vehicles in Spring 17.
UK Defence Secretary in waiting