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‘From Whitehall With Luff’

Last week the Ministry of Defence released its much anticipated White Paper, which details how the department intends to streamline its procurement process to ensure the armed forces continue to be outfitted with best-of-breed equipment. The document, ‘National Security through Technology: Technology Equipment, and Support for UK Defence and Security’, prioritises investment in Science and Technology (S&T), supports UK Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and opens the door to international competition.

The document is aimed at procuring the best equipment at the right cost within an acceptable and relevant operational timeframe; and all without stifling innovation or restricting the lifeblood to the UK’s defence industry. Clearly that’s an extraordinarily difficult task, but this White Paper is a good foundation towards meeting these goals.

Speaking exclusively with Defence IQ Peter Luff, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, said:

“No one seriously thinks it’s right to reinvent the wheel.  If a mature technology is available off-the-shelf, like the C17, of course we should buy it.  But to say this is bad for British business is nonsense.  Modifying off-the-shelf purchases with UK requirements such as communications and ECM equipment offers real, added value work for UK companies. And last weeks’ award of the Sea Ceptor development contract to MBDA shows a high level of investment in UK business too.”

Luff also revealed the MoD’s budget for defence equipment spending: “We plan to spend over £150 billion on defence equipment over the next ten years,” Luff said. “We will strongly support responsible exports, increasing the market opportunities for all defence and security companies and encouraging them to invest in the UK.”

Industry support

The document has been received to a somewhat mixed reception, with Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy calling it a “missed opportunity.” In contrast a number of commentators and organisations have come out in support of the White Paper, not least of which is the ADS Group, the UK’s defence trade organisation, because it “allowed for meaningful dialogue between industry and Government.”

Rees Ward, CEO at ADS, said: “Contrary to general opinion, the delay in the White Paper’s release would appear to have been beneficial, resulting in deeper understanding of industries concerns within the Government. The proof is of the pudding is in the eating, and in the case of the White Paper, this means its implementation. Industry is therefore looking forward to working in partnership with Government to ensure that the White Paper’s proposals are carried out to the benefit of both the nation’s defence and security and the achievement of growth in the economy.”

The support of ADS is telling, incontrovertible almost. Much of the document’s criticism has centred on how it will affect the UK defence industry, yet ADS (whose very existence is to “advance” the UK defence industry) has welcomed it.

Harvesting growth: Innovation as the seed

In Defence IQ’s Armoured Vehicles 2012 industry report released last month, I wrote that R&D (S&T, R&T, call it what you will) is likely to be the real loser as the contracting economy takes a stranglehold on the defence industry. This was apparent from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on the UK’s armoured vehicle procurement process, entitled ‘The cost-effective delivery of an armoured vehicle capability.’

“Over the past six years the Department has removed £47.4 billion from its equipment programme up to 2020-21,” the report states.

Of that £47.4 billion funding gap, £10.8 billion (23%) was removed from armour vehicle projects alone. I argued that this was less a cut to current capacity but, more worryingly, a restriction on future capability. As we now stand, while this is still an issue – after all the numbers don’t lie – at least this new White Paper is addressing this concern head-on. It’s effectively ring-fencing R&D, keeping it at a stable 1.2% of the total budget, which equates to £400 million each year.

This is another point in the document that ADS’s Ward is enthusiastic about. “R&T is the seed corn from which an industry can grow and thrive,” asserts Ward. “It is reassuring for Government to guarantee an investment which will deliver significant returns to the overall economy. Studies show that a defence investment of £100 million will deliver returns of £230 million.”

Further to this the White Paper addresses another two key issues; international competition and closer ties to UK SMEs.

“Wherever possible, we will seek to fulfil the UK’s defence and security requirements through open competition in the domestic and global market,” the report states.

Much has been made of this perceived desertion of the UK defence industry, but to some extent the MoD has always had an open policy of procuring the best-of-breed equipment whether that be from home or abroad. That’s a more politically sensitive issue rather than an industry relevant one.

Indeed, for ADS it doesn’t present a problem. “HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) has long espoused open competition as its main acquisition method and industry is comfortable with this approach,” Ward said. As such, the increased focus on the SME community is more directly important for the UK defence community because, as the report points out, 42% of the MoD’s equipment contracts (worth almost £1 billion per year) are dished out to SMEs.

As stated by the MoD: “The new measures in the White Paper will make it easier for smaller contractors to compete for Government tenders, help them to develop new products and provide expert advice to help them export.”

Luff underlined the significance of this saying that, “giving smaller businesses bigger opportunities is good for the economy but it’s also good for defence. They bring real innovation, responsiveness and customer focus and so can play a big part in helping us meet both our defence and our financial objectives.”

Reasons for optimism

When I wrote about the “conspiracy of optimism” at the MoD in December, Luff, along with Chief of Defence Materiel Bernard Gray, were said to be putting together a wave of reforms to streamline the acquisition process and make it efficient for both government and industry. At the time, Luff said on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Buying Defence’ programme that “we will be as radical as we need to be.”

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said in November last year that “the MoD is an oil tanker. It has 250,000 people and you can’t turn it on a six pence.” This White Paper will not reverse some of the deeply ingrained issues at the MoD overnight, but it is another strong hand on that steering wheel helping to turn it around. “The culture is changing,” Hammond assures us.

Luff is equally optimistic, saying he sees “a real determination inside MoD to make things work better.  We have an ambitious package of reforms of which the policies of the White Paper are an important part. I really believe we can change things for the better.”


Spheres of importance: Critical regions for US air power exports revealed

The announcement of the sale of $29 billion worth of fighter jets and upgrades recently to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) comes as a further sign that the West and especially the US will continue to sell high tech weapon systems to Middle Eastern governments.

As the US seeks to re-posture itself from the Middle East towards Asia-Pacific, the continuing sale of high tech weaponry to a region too often blighted by instability and extremism might seem counter intuitive and irrational. However, seen in the economic, security and domestic political contexts in which they continue to occur, exports to the region take on the aura of calculated rationality.

It’s economics stupid…

First off, arms sales to the Middle East contribute to a US economy at a time when it is still finding it hard to recover from the financial crisis. The recent deal to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) will keep Boeing production lines open until 2018 and at a time of great economic uncertainty it is hard for anyone to argue against this.

No matter who wins the race to the White House this November keeping the economy on the path of recovery will be the President’s top goal. If the Republicans win then they won’t want to be seen as weak in an area which they are generally thought of as strong and will mercilessly attack Obama on during the election campaign.

Therefore, potential arms sales to the Gulf will be snapped up in order to keep jobs in the US at a time when manufacturing jobs increasingly find themselves shifting to the cheaper climes of the Far East.

…and stability too…

Beyond the domestic economic argument the sales to the Gulf also serve another key purpose (be it right or wrong); that is the stability of the respective regimes in an area of immense strategic importance to not just the US but the wider West too. The sale of the likes of aircraft, munitions, spares and training packages to the region buttress the likes of Saudi Arabia and the other GCC members against both internal and external sources of instability

While the West might champion ‘freedom’ in other parts of the Middle East the Gulf is a region where the status quo trumps any democratic aspirations the US might have for the region. Instability, upheaval, uprising, revolution, whatever one may call it would not be tolerated here for the simple fact that it would the give an already fragile world economy an almighty jolt through spiralling oil prices. The price of oil is already volatile enough these days even without major massive tensions gripping the internal affairs of the Gulf States.

Out of Iraq and into the…

While the recently announced deal to the RSAF had been in the pipeline for the past few years the US will want its regional allies to be able to maintain a credible deterrent against Iran at a time when US combat troops have departed Iraq.

With the Iranian nuclear program lumbering on even following a host of assassinations, the ‘stuxnet’ attack and enhanced sanctions the impasse, at some stage, will have to come to a head.

This increased pressure on Iran has led it to threaten to force shut the straits of Hormuz, a 35 mile wide strait on which a fifth of the world’s oil supply is carried daily. While, from Iran’s point of view such gestures and provocations often have a rational base a major miscalculation on the Iranians behalf is not beyond the realms of possibility. If such a situation does arise then the US will want its Gulf allies to maintain an active deterrent against Iranian moves.

It is then, for this reason that sales of advanced fighter jets, weapons systems, sensor suites et al to the Middle East will continue to grow.

When push comes to shove it is hard to know how the region’s air forces would fare if they had to act in any meaningful manner should the confrontation with Iran evolve into full blown hostilities.  It is hard to see beyond the US leading any significant military operation in the region in the future.

For the Gulf states, maintaining the power to purchase arms from the US and the West does not necessarily translate into the expertise on how to use them. The presence of Qatar and the UAE during Operation Unified Protector will have been an eye opener for their air forces as to how modern air centric multinational operations are conducted.  It is likely that they have much left to learn.

By Padraic McCluskey, Conference Producer at Defence IQ

Top 5 military gadgets at the CES 2012 show

Soldier On!

In the first of a series of articles, Defence IQ takes time out to speak with military charities, discussing how they are helping our armed forces, uncovering their success stories, and detailing how we can support them in the future.

Charity name: Soldier On!

Charity Number: 1136567

Contact: Nicholas Harrison (Founder and Managing Director)

Helping medically discharged service personnel prosper in civilian careers.

Speaking to Defence IQ recently, Nicholas Harrison, the Founder and Managing Director of Soldier On!, explained that service personnel are given good support on leaving the armed forces, but it can sometimes be one dimensional.

“The concentration of effort is amazing, but it is purely focused on rehabilitation,” Harrison said.

The aim of Soldier On! is to support those individuals beyond this period of convalescence and help them get back into the work-place. But Harrison was quick to differentiate Soldier On! from the work other charities are doing by noting two key points: first, it is for medically discharged individuals, which is not necessarily just those wounded in battle, but also includes soldiers suffering from genetic diseases for example; second, Soldier On! does not look to put candidates into “the first available job” but rather seeks to place them on the path to a meaningful, lifelong career. It achieves this by fully understanding what the candidate has to offer and then approaches relevant potential recruiters on the candidates’ behalf.

“Our focus is on helping individuals who have been medically discharged, so it is not just the limbless, it is equally for someone who may have a degenerative spinal disease for example … it’s the medical discharge that is the important thing,” said Harrison.

Among the support Soldier On! provides during the process of finding the ideal career for ex-service personnel is coaching seminars, hands-on CV assistance and interview training.

Last year was the charity’s first operational year and it has already helped a number of individuals find their dream career. Not least is Corporal Stuart Parker, who was injured when a 500lb bomb dropped from a USAF F-15 fighter bomber hit his position while serving in Afghanistan in 2007. Stuart sustained massive lung damage, lost his spleen and part of his pancreas, suffered severe burns and lost his hearing in his left ear while also rupturing his stomach, bowl and bladder. But because of Soldier On!’s help and guidance – which worked hand-in-hand with Stuart’s tenacity, skill-set, attitude and ambition – he is now a Logistics Manager for the Athlete’s Village on the Olympic site. You can see a video of Corporal Parker’s story by clicking this link.

The charity is working with a number of recruitment bodies including Job Centre Plus, HR Magazine, The Recruiter Magazine, and Michael Page recruiters. However, it is interest and support from industry that will really drive Soldier On! forward and help it get more soldiers into new careers. Thames Water, Lend Lease and the National Grid have all been forthcoming to-date but Harrison is keen to talk with many more companies – in any sector, it is in no way restricted to the defence industry – to improve the charity’s network and reach.

“We need to connect with as many companies as possible,” says Harrison. With the Army “medically discharging around 1,000 soldiers per year,” that’s a significant number of highly trained individuals who have a plethora of desirable skills relevant for the work-place.

Soldier On! needs £9,000 a month to keep going. Harrison explained that in the future he expects to step-away from operational control of the charity and let it be run “by the very people that it was set-up to support in the first place.” A medically discharged member of the Grenadier Guards is starting as the charity’s Candidate Manager at the end of this month.

Soldier On! has the backing of MoD officials and has Lieutenant General Gary Coward CB OBE, and current Director of Materiel (Land) and Quartermaster-General to the Forces, among its patrons.

How can we help? Well, getting in contact is the best place to start! Here are the details you need:



Linked In:

Twitter: @soldieroncharity

020 7193 0492 / 01904 211048


India: Navy Superpower?

As we set sail in 2012 with global navy power swinging to the East, how well placed is India to emerge as the dominant naval superpower over the next decade?

The Indian Navy has 132 ships under its command, 14 of which are submarines. As we speak India has commissioned 49 ships and submarines which are under construction in country and abroad.

“49 ships and submarines, which are under construction, would be inducted in the next five years. Out of these, 45 are being built indigenously at the Indian shipyards, while four are being built outside India,” Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Naval Command, told IBN.

With India doing an admirable job on coastal security and anti-piracy operations recently, and with the induction of this new fleet, the Navy seems well placed to increase efficiency and tackle future threats. But is it?
Relations with neighbouring Pakistan and China remain frosty; if India is to secure its borders and maintain its influence in the region, it must invest further in its naval presence. Challenges from terrorism, piracy and Pakistan and China’s growing sea power will force it to.

According to the Deccan Chronicle by 2025 Pakistan will have acquired four frigates, six submarines, and a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from China.

Robert Knapp outlined China’s increasing naval power in his Review of 2011 article recently. “China, India, Japan, Australia and virtually all of the middle ranking regional powers are all currently engaged in dramatically expanding or modernising their navies. China has spearheaded this naval arms race, feeling that it should have naval capabilities to match its economic might. During the past year the most significant development has been the commissioning of China’s first aircraft carrier – the ex-Russian Varyag. While the limitations of this vessel have been much discussed it serves much more as a symbol of China’s ambitions; by the end of the decade there is the intention to have three carrier battle groups in service. The arrival of the Varyag has overshadowed the continuing expansion of both the large (and increasingly capable) surface fleet and what is expected to soon be the largest submarine fleet in the world.”

Delays, overruns and bureaucracy aside, India does have plans to continue growing its Navy in the future, as Chopra went on to state: “Other ships to be inducted include, three Shivalik class stealth frigates, four Kamorta class ASW corvettes, three Kolkata class project 15A, four project 15B ships, seven project 17A ships, three follow on 1135.6 ships, nine offshore patrol vessels, two cadet training ships.”

Consistent with India’s growth strategy in other parts of its defence industry, as well as its economy as a whole, the government wants to build and invest in its own infrastructure, rather than relying on imports.

“Since imported platforms are expensive and make us dependent on imported spare parts, India needs a home-built Navy, which can protect India’s seas and borders while providing the nation with strategic second-strike capability,” reports the Deccan Chronicle.

It’s not just the mainland where India must improve its naval infrastructure though. To protect against the threat from China Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma, Chief of the Naval Staff for the Indian Navy, explained to India Today that strategic outposts in the surrounding region must be established.

“We are creating infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep and Minicoy islands which form our country’s strategic outposts,” Admiral Verma told IT. “They enhance our country’s forward operating capability.”

With lead times reaching 15 years from the original RFP to order completion and delivery, India is under pressure to hurry this process along. Or at least it ought to be. To achieve this though there must first be more cooperation between the public and private sectors, and more specifically the drawing up of joint ventures between public and private shipyards. The red tape dogging India’s rapid ascent is no less apparent in its naval infrastructure as it is in any other part of its defence industry. This has to change.

Want to learn more about this subject? Join us at the Offshore Paqtrol Vessels Asia-Pacific conference from 20 – 22 March 2012 at Swissôtel Merchant Court in Singapore (

Water water everywhere…but not a drop on me

It’s the video that’s been going viral – Neverwet’s water-repellent+ nanotechnology. Why water-repellant+ and not just water-repellant? Because any liquid is not only repelled from NeverWet treated surfaces, it “shoots” off them. 

Just spray on 12 microns of the stuff and you can protect against anything including water ingress, corrosion, bacteria. Anything….even Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup (see video below).

So what applications does this have in defence?

In an interview with DefenceIQ Andrew Jones, President of Ross Nanotechnology, which is the company behind NeverWet, revealed that “there are many, many defence applications for this” technology.

Although Jones admitted that defence had not been a priority market for the company at this early stage in its go-to-market strategy, it was an area in which he feels the nanotechnology could gain a lot of traction in the future.

The most applicable use for NeverWet according to Jones would be for the Navy, specifically for use on submarines and submarines structures.

“I was a nuclear submarine officer for five years. I’ve served in these markets. We used to have these giant AC/DC motors all over the submarine … I think it would be fabulous to coat those pumps so that the frequent water spray that happens in submarines would not be an issue.”

But it’s not just a bog standard waterproof coating that NeverWet offers though, it is also provides anti-corrosion and anti-icing protection. Anti-corrosion is where Jones thinks NeverWet can offer the most value for military applications by extending the through-life of equipment.

“We haven’t had a lot of exposure in corrosion, but the technology is terrific against corrosion,” said Jones. Indicating that Navy applications will be considered more in the future Jones explained that, “We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire at the moment and corrosion hasn’t been a priority market but it is a terrific application for this stuff.”

Jones explained that he has been in contact with Navy officials regarding the technology but at this time cost is a prohibitive factor.  Jones told Defence IQ that “NeverWet’s performance greatly exceeds their (the Navy’s) needs and specified standards” in terms of anti-corrosion requirements. He went on to state that “If I can be the cheapest solution then I’ll win.” It’s not a matter of capability but a matter of affordability.

Although price is a concern currently, Jones said that NeverWet isn’t necessarily required for a large-scale coating, but can be very effective at targeting the specific areas most exposed to rusting and corrosion.

“In our military infrastructure you will always have that one joint which rots. You don’t have to coat the whole vehicle with it but in small applications Neverwet can be of critical use and importance.”

Jones is far from ruling out the technology for use in the future as it becomes more price competitive. Added to that, the Navy is making moves towards new, clean, innovative technology demonstrated in the $12 million procurement of biofuel last week and its commitment to creating a Green Green Fleet by 2016. The U.S Navy, it seems, is not against spending money for the right technology.

Further to its submarine applications Jones foresees a number of other uses for NeverWet in the military. High altitude aircraft could potentially use the technology in the future to prevent icing, although this isn’t something that is available just yet. “We cannot prevent wings from icing just yet, but we’re working on that,” said Jones. With the increasing numbers of mobile electronic equipment now carried by troops on the ground, NeverWet also has undeniable applications here to protect all of the expensive and mission-critical devices from the elements.

NeverWet is still in its infancy but it could have many applications for the military in the future, not least for protecting and maintaining submarines and its equipment and technology.

UK welcomes women submariners: reason and impact?

Contributed by Richard de Silva

This week, the UK Ministry of Defence gave the all-clear on allowing female officers to serve aboard its Royal Navy submarines in a change that will be implemented from 2013.

Officially, the reason behind the blockade stemmed from a belief that higher levels of carbon dioxide on the vessels carried much greater health risks for women. This conclusion has now been overruled after research conducted by the Institute of Naval Medicine.

Vanguard-class subs will be the first to benefit from women submariners

While this development has been hailed a triumph for equality by some – and one of scientific reason by others – the decision brings into question the real reason behind the u-turn, as well as the real reason behind the initial ban.

It is far from a state secret that the MoD is struggling to control its budget and remain operational. Every service – Army, Navy, and Air Force – has suffered deep cuts to personnel numbers and platform acquisition. A shift that allows women officers to take to the underwater battlespace is undeniably helpful in spreading fewer resources to cover more ground – reflecting the SDSR’s “more with less” ethos.

At the same time, new Defence Minister Philip Hammond will be revelling in the opportunity to mark his stamp on the role, placing a positive emphasis on his ministry at a time when it has been blighted with dark cloud headlines. As Liam Fox learned to his detriment, there is no UOR contract available for good PR.

At the same time, it is a worrying thought that bans such as this could be made without proper research or justification. Either MoD decision-makers have been guilty of complacency, or they are guilty of jeopardising operations in efforts to avoid potential scandal. Should there now be an enquiry into all similar restrictions?

One year ago, the US Navy made the same amendment to its rulebook, following on the heels ofNorway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Canada and Spain, all of which permitted female submariners at some point between 1985 to present.

However, serving British female soldiers still remain barred from close-combat frontline duties. Will we see this decision also overturned in light of dwindling infantry numbers and a few more months of news tickers berating MoD failings?

Mr. Hammond will be sure to let us know.

In the meantime, Defence IQ welcomes your thoughts.

Strategies and Capabilities in Countering Seaborne Terrorism

contributed by Keith Mallon

A visit, board, search and seizure team assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) investigates a suspected pirate skiff. Image: US Navy

It is well-documented that terror organisations utilise shipping lanes and the littoral environment as a means to convey both men and materiel towards their intended targets.

Previous attacks in Mumbai illustrate the ease with which terror events can be delivered into an urban area to perpetrate significant terror events, and thus produce high casualty counts. The 2011 attacks upon Pakistan’s naval facilities at Karachi highlight the capacity of Al Qaeda-inspired groups to inflict not only loss of life, but with the destruction of a Pakistani P-3C Orion maritime patrol craft, the ability to seriously degrade military operational effectiveness.

But to what extent have maritime-launched attacks been opportunistic? Are we witnessing the emergence of a coherent terrorist strategy to systematically target weak port and littoral defences or should we anticipate a more random and dispersed pattern of events, difficult to predict but not so serious in scale as to induce a revision of current counter-terrorism strategies?

US Navy Commander Chris Rawley explores just this point in an article entitled “Al Qaeda’s Seapower Strategy“, recently published in Small Wars Journal.

Rawley reflects on two distinct elements of terrorists’ use of sea power. First, he demonstrates the way the sea has been used as a conduit for arms, fighters, funding and crucial cargo; mainly since it is subject to far less scrutiny than land or air transport. The second is the use of specific sea ports as safe havens, most notably around the Indian Ocean, from which operations can be launched and refuge taken from security authorities.

There is, of course, the consideration of attacks launched on targets at sea. The bombing of the USS Cole still lives strong in US naval memory. However, force protection of major craft has become so proficient that such attacks are now much less likely to succeed than was previously the case. Additionally, Rawley notes that the piracy business model is now well-established and could be adapted by terror groups “to incite fear and over-reaction, while increasing the cost of business for Western governments”. It is likely too premature to judge if this is the case; western governments have delivered a quite restrained response to piracy. The move of Al Qaeda into the sustainable business of piracy (as distinct from kinetic attacks upon craft intended solely to cause fatalities) does not necessarily reflect on western investment in anti-piracy (or the lack, thereof).

The world’s most prolific terrorist group then seems to have set its maritime strategy on the use of the domain as a kind of logistics base. The implications of this are most keenly felt in Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula. The impact of this successful strategy directly hits NATO and other western forces operating in these areas. Successful counter-insurgency operations are recognised as being impossible whilst insurgent forces have secure supply lines and a wide variety of refuge locations. Just as Al Qaeda’s lessons learned in an asymmetric land warfare campaign have proliferated amongst other terror and criminal groups worldwide, we can be sure that their strategy and tactics at sea will be similarly adopted. Tackling the problem of seaborne terrorism is not just an Al Qaeda problem, but common to many other security threats too.

Rawley’s answer to this problem is a three-fold strategy that involves:

(i)    Vigilance against attacks on military and commercial targets
(ii)    Countering Al Qaeda’s smuggling campaign
(iii)    Recapturing strategic ports (e.g. Karachi, Kismaayo, Zinjibar, Port Sudan etc.)

The devil, as always, is in the detail. Implementing such a strategy could prove to be exceptionally difficult, especially when it comes to capability.

Denying a terror network access to the sea is a complex task. The network is diverse and dynamic – and the seas are vast. Securing ports is a crucial step, but even if that is possible, the ease with which more discreet coastal refuges may be exploited is alarming.

The experience of Western governments in tackling piracy is instructive here. Piracy has been deemed serious enough to warrant the deployment of a naval task force to tackle the problem. Frigates, destroyers and other patrol craft engage in a continuous game of cat and mouse with an agile and tactically savvy enemy. Whilst the response has not been overblown, its success has been somewhat muted. Specific attacks are prevented and pirates’ numbers and capabilities are depleted through kinetic means. But overall, the results speak volumes. Piracy remains a persistent threat despite the presence of the task force.

Fundamentally, the limitations of large, conventional naval warfare craft in tackling piracy are the same limitations that would be experienced in tackling terror networks at sea.

Political strategy aside, the technology required to counter such a network is significant. Contenders would surely be:

(i)    Small, fast, patrol craft that can cover range at speed and in volume
(ii)    Persistent, wide-area surveillance systems – most likely airborne

Fortunately, the command and control networks that would manage these capabilities are largely in place. But with budgets restricted and a wide variety of threats demanding the allocation of resources elsewhere, the practicality of procuring significant new capabilities in the volume required seems unlikely.

This means more tough decisions on the development of naval and joint force assets. Specific developments in programmes such as the Littoral Combat Ship and the recent operational deployment of Fire Scout in Libya offer a way forward in terms of capability. This is heartening. But it is tempered by a dismaying decline in overall Western naval strength. Platforms may be more capable, but sometimes hull numbers really do count.

Rawley’s contention is that a targeted campaign will sufficiently degrade the potency of Al Q’aeda’s support network. Even presuming this to be possible, the question of whether or not Western forces would be able to spare the platforms, the sensors, the manpower and the cash to enduringly suppress Al Qaeda at sea remains to be seen.

Military readers of this article may be interested in two upcoming conferences. Offshore Patrol Vessels takes place in Hamburg from 20th to 22nd September.

Maritime Surveillance and Reconnaissance takes place in Rome from 20th to 23rd September.

A limited number of complimentary places are available to serving military personnel on both events. Reply to now to make sure you don’t miss out.

German Navy MKS 180 upgrades to be revealed in November 2011

Contributor: Kim Vigila, Offshore Patrol Vessels Team, Defence IQ

Updates on the MKS180 (“Mehrzweckkampfschiff” – Multi-Purpose Surface Combatant) project’s progress will be presented by the German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement (BWB) this September 2011 at an annual naval meeting taking place in Hamburg, Germany.

The contract award for the definition of the MKS180 (formerly K131) product lifecycle management concept to the German company ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH last month supports the objective to optimise the project management throughout its entire lifecycle, including analysis, project definition, service introduction and operation. ESG is slated to finish upgrades later this year and has not commented on how much the contract is worth.

K131 (now MKS 180) upgrades have been awarded to ESG and Logistik-GmbH

By the end of November 2011, ESG is to present the PLM concept and upgrades, which have, up this point, been kept under wraps.

The anticipation for the German Navy’s new multi-purpose vessel comes during a time of great activity within the offshore patrol market, with the recent launches of the Gowind OPV for the French Navy, the Tor 994 in June as part of the Royal Thai Navy’s patrol fleet modernisation, and the Kenyan Navy’s refurbishment of its Nyayo and Umoja OPVs.

“The OPV, the light frigate, corvette, however you want characterise it, is actually one of the key building blocks of the navy,” comments Vice Admiral Sir Anthony Dymock, during an interview with Defence IQ.  “It’s part of your personnel development; it’s how you deliver early command; early ability to operate independently. But also it provides, as far as a key naval capability, presence.”

Global interest in developing these patrol ships highlights the fact that, while the types of sea security issues such as anti-piracy, counter-narcotics, fishery protection and NATO support roles may vary across regions, the requirement for dealing with these issues is a mutual priority, given the huge socio-economic cost of piracy, smuggling and terrorism.

Although complete details of BWB’s address have not been publicly distributed, it is expected that they will provide an overview of the requirement framework and discuss the demands of international expeditionary mission and littoral defence.

The National Audit Office strikes again

Whether we are talking about armoured vehicles or the development of soon-to-be scrapped aircraft carriers, one thing is clear: civilian oversight and due diligence on behalf of the UK taxpayer (through the medium of the National Audit Office) are wreaking their vengeance on the litany of defence decisions originally proffered in FY 2010’s SDSR.

“The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review has radically changed the Carrier Strike concept. It generated £3.4 billion of savings but introduced significant levels of operational, technical, cost and schedule uncertainty. It will take two years for the Department to reach a mature understanding of the consequences of the decision. These consequences include a decade without an operational carrier and the risks after such a time associated with reconstituting the capability.

“The risks to the delivery of the new carriers are compounded by more generic problems with defence acquisition – notably the MoD’s continuing difficulties in balancing its budget.”

Michael Whitehouse, Chief Operating Officer, 7 July 2011

NAO’s earlier report on armoured vehicle expenditure was released in May and specified key expenditures: millions of pounds spent not just on delayed armoured vehicle projects, but also on scrapped programmes. Objectively speaking, many of these projects harken back to an era of ‘open coffer’ Labour policy. Defence IQ’s interview with Peter Luff, however, highlighted what would become a ‘monodrone’ – a standard message disseminated from the MoD (and from No 10) that all fiscal blame lies with the previous generation of decision makers. Perhaps this is partly true.

What the latest round of NAO executive statements and reports provide is a framework of justification for public outrage – at the current government. Clearly, decisions have been made, specifically in carrier strike capability, that are not only unpopular, but have perhaps cut too deep into ‘the muscle’ of military capability. I think we are all aware at this point in history that traditional ‘power projection’ is not a defence priority for the UK. What the carrier decision (and ensuing MoD statements in their own defence) really portends is the sudden and irreversible loss of a national defence asset – and one that was operational, to boot.

Subsequent foreign policy decisions, namely the full-scale committal to NATO operations in Libya, have only served to instill doubt in the minds of taxpayers. It seems that infamous ‘sucking sound’ has returned to political parlance, except that, this time, it would be emitted by UK voters who are bracing themselves. They are steeling themselves for increased defence expenditure abroad, the delay of a balanced budget and further obligation to foreign partners.

That the full NAO report on Carrier Strike capability is likely to be delayed (today’s release raised preliminary figures) will be of no great comfort to the Coalition government. Mr Whitehouse, it would appear, is clearly not optimistic, either.

Armoured Vehicle Infographic designed by Richard de Silva

Robert Densmore is the Editor of

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