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Fox: I am concerned we do not have a narrative

Paul Mason | 08:39 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Earlier this month Newsweek leaked the existence of three potential military strategies under consideration by the Coalition government.

The "Adaptible Britain" scenario sees the UK retain the ability to respond to "generic threats" - retaining an army, airforce and deepwater navy, through conventional warfare. "Vigilant Britain" was code for retaining the big stick of nuclear weapons and a large Navy but with an army capable of only an "occasional foray". "Committed Britain" was code for a focus on power-projection, Afghanistan style.

Last night's leak of a letter from Liam Fox reveals not just the anger within the MoD at the scale of defence cuts, but also which posture has been chosen.

"Committed Britain" is a dead duck: the current government and its national security advisers seem to have already decided not to design the armed forces for future Afghan-style deployments. The starting point is the "Adaptible Britain" scenario - which means nuclear deterrent, aircraft carriers, tanks and a deployable ground force.

So at least, thanks to two press leaks, we now know what the military/diplomatic strategy of our country is.

However, the problem with "Adaptible Britain" seems to be that it can't be funded. This is the gist of the Liam Fox letter. The key passage summarises the aims:

"The maintenance of generic defence capability across all three environments of land, sea and air - not to mention the emerging asymmetric threats in domains such as cyber and space -with sufficient ability to regenerate capability in the face of these possible future threats were it required."

But we now learn that in order to pay for this the Nimrod surveillance aircraft, part of the Royal Navy's surface fleet, the ships, helicopters and support services needed to stage an amphibious landing; and the army's ability to respond to domestic crisis - are all on the block. Not mentioned in the letter, but widely leaked, is the proposal to lose 60% of the Royal Air Force's combat aircraft.

Liam Fox's argument is, essentially, the new stance cannot be delivered while making 10-20% cuts. I have pointed out before that the cyber and space threats mentioned in Fox's letter are new and imply extra cost (Note he is talking about threats, not capabilities, and that there is by implication an "asymmetric space threat" to the UK. I think this is the first time we have heard about this).

As a result of this gap between strategy and resources, he says:

"I am concerned that we do not have a narrative that we can communicate clearly."

The threat of a hit to morale, mentioned in the letter, is borne out by briefings and discussions coming out of the armed forces: note too Mr Fox seems to be predicting in the letter "significant casualties" from forthcoming operations in Afghanistan.

"Cuts there will have to be," Mr Fox ends; "Coherence we cannot do without, if there is to be any chance of a credible narrative."

And this goes to the heart of the debate currently being had behind closed doors and in the parliamentary committees: Britain lacks a strategy and a narrative. For this to be the case at a time that troops are on the ground in Afghanistan and the security services engaged with a very definite terrorist threat may seem to some strange.

But long range thinking identifies very different threats: to food, to energy, to the financial system, to government computer security - and they can come from sources as diverse as al-Qaeda and the People's Republic of China.

The problem is you can't do it all. As Sun Tsu famously wrote: he who defends everywhere defends nowhere. And if you do try to do it all, and weaken every element of your forces, you do not have much to take to each specific challenge. By retaining the trappings of great power status you risk not being able to bring much to the table in the so-called special relationship with the USA. That is what seemed to worry the US sources who briefed Newsweek.

To be able to ask yourself "what kind of country do we want to be in the world" is a nice choice to have: many countries don't have that choice. Mr Fox's letter reveals starkly where the Coalition is on that debate.


  • Comment number 1.

    Reports of Mr. Fox's anger at the leaked letter I suspect are greatly exaggerated! It is a general case of let's have the cuts and we will worry about/fudge the consequences later. It is not just defence and it is not just down to special pleading but the public sector does a lot of jolly useful and necessary things that contribute enormously to quality and security of the country. The letter's embarrassing content is only the beginning of an armada of complaints about the effects of cuts across the board - even where SoS's have already gone boy scout and cut a deal with Osborne-Alexander axis. Of course the effects of the cuts is one level better than speculation the experience of the CSR will hit the streets and job centres next spring in time for the local elections.

    What is missing from the specific row about defence spending is what is the government's and the Foreign Secretary's view about the role of Britain - historical irony - why cant we be more like Germany in our defence strategy.

  • Comment number 2.


  • Comment number 3.

    To understand today's conflicts & wars necessitates an understanding of imperialism, which in turn requires an economic theory of how capitalism works.

    Nation states are essentially a hang-over of feudalism.
    But capitalism requires the enforcement of private property backed by force.
    Hence, if the nation state had not existed it would have needed to create one.
    Each nation state essentially represents the interests of its capitalists.
    They need raw materials & markets.
    They don't just need them for production & consumption, it's a bit deeper than that.
    Rosa Luxemburg explained the accumulation problem & how non-capitalist sectors needed to be plundered to maintain growth.

    Germany went to war with Britain & France twice because the economics pushed it that way.
    The US was the main winner.
    Now US world dominance is being challenged by Chinese imperialism.

    Workers of one nation killing workers of another nation is just folly.
    The enemy is capitalism.

  • Comment number 4.

    Those aircraft carriers will be mighty big, slow-moving targets. I hope someone is budgeting for the correct but expensive defence screens - surface ships, submarines and aircraft - to be put constantly around them.

    The Army is the most disposable of all the 3 services - the UK needs a fast-response, well-equipped fighting capability and not glorified badly armed Policemen or nation builders. The point of the Army is to send tough people into other countries, kill them and get out but, during the Bliar years, the Army appears to have morphed into some kind of armed charity invading other people's countries and then trying 'to do good' whilst shooting at them.

    What exactly are we doing in Afghanistan other than dancing to Bin Laden's tune? The cost in lives is appalling and it is crippling us financially. But, it must be said, Generals love their wars, they get to play with toys, they get to command divisions, move pins on maps, become the centre of MOD spending, order new toys and get promotions. I digress.

    I was reading an article last week that our Army have forgotten what it is like to be bombed and how destructive to morale, lives and kit being bombed from the air is. Air superiority, nay air supremacy, is something that both British and US soldiers now take for granted - when was the last time any of our soldiers were bombed other than by mistake from our own side?

    It would be potentially military suicide for this country to forget the lessons of World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. In 1940 the affect that Nazi bombers had on the morale and destruction of men and kit in Europe resulted in Germany conquering the continent in weeks.

    Likewise, post D-Day in 1944, it was the mass bombing of German forces, via Operation Goodwood, that allowed the Allies to break-out from the Normandy beach-heads. Masses of German military kit - tanks, heavy guns, armoured vehicles - were destroyed never to be replaced and hardened German soldiers were so traumatised by the scale of the relentless bombing that many took their own lives.

    If the above is not enough to convince anyone of the importance of air power then look to Singapore and the Battle for Malaya in Dec 1941 to Feb 1942. Expensive capital ships of the Royal Navy - the Prince of Wales and the Repulse - were destroyed in a matter of minutes due to lack of air cover. At the time they were considered invincible. In turn there was nothing left to oppose the Japanese invasion fleet and the sinking of these two capital ships is considered a major factor in the loss of Singapore and Britain's influence in Far East Asia.

    Apologies for the history lesson but, um, aren't we supposed to learn from History.

    The threat to big, lumbering capital ships these days is not just from fighter bombers but, as we saw in the Falklands, from missiles and, as we have seen recently off Korea, from submarines. The much-talked about JSF fighter-bomber which will fly from these carries, as good an aircraft as it is, will not be truly up there with the fighters that will potentially be sent against it - so the aircraft carriers will have to rely on non-fighter technology to screen them from air attack or only operate jointly with US carrier-borne fighter protection.

    In other words, building carriers in itself, whilst a huge status symbol, is not enough in itself. You have to spend on the planes to fly from them and the ships, submarines and technology to protect them from being destroyed in minutes. When talking about these carriers what we need to be talking about is a carrier battle group. Expensive, formidable but, boy, what a target.

    I just thought I would mention it - just in case someone is listening.

  • Comment number 5.

    #4 Tawse57 You rightly point to concerns I already have about the carriers. For me in defence strategy the carriers are a "single point of failure". Scenario - UK supply lines are threatened, deploy carrier battle group such as it is (surface ships crowded with admirals unless the cuts really bite ;-)) Lesson from WW2 ignored that a determined Kamikaze can eventually get through - only this time unmanned, shall we say, Chinese manufactured drones/cruise missiles delivering tactical nuclear warhead onto flightdeck - rather a lot of vaporised wreckage, steel and defence capability. That's even before evoking the lesson of HMS Hood and its weak deck armour. Our generals are still fighting the cold war (and earlier) because their power is only a reflection of their ability to deploy hard assets. I have long advocated the heavier deployment of technology in Afghanistan, but that doesn't win hearts and minds, it buries them. For me it has to be adaptable Britain and a re-education of the British public that on a world stage, the UK is at best irrelevant. It'll take a generation or more. Perhaps we should deploy Simon Cowell and bore the enemy to death with second rate talent shows.

  • Comment number 6.

    "3. At 09:24am on 29 Sep 2010, duvinrouge wrote:
    To understand today's conflicts & wars necessitates an understanding of imperialism, which in turn requires an economic theory of how capitalism works....
    Rosa Luxemburg explained the accumulation problem & how non-capitalist sectors needed to be plundered to maintain growth.
    Germany went to war with Britain & France twice because the economics pushed it that way."

    I think you would do well to question some of your dogmatic assumptions.
    Try entertaining the unthinkable as an exercise, e.g. that Rosa Luxemburg (like Trotsky) was 'a cosmopollitan' anarchist, an unwitting agent of global free-market grass-roots bottom up democracy. It doesn't mater what she and her ilk actually thought or said, as 'history does not walk on its head', what really matters is what happens when you have mass deregulation. This is why the KPD were told that their future lay in the hands of Hitler (by Stalin). Today, the SPD is largely a USA creation. What does Wall Street fear most? What did Rosa Luxembourg, Ayn Rand etc fear most? The answer is regulation. This is bad for freedom, i.e. bad for consumerism. People group together in families, writ large, nation states, some groups are small, but troublesome.

  • Comment number 7.

    Couldn't we just simply outsource our defence requirements to the private sector, who could then outsource them to say...China???

    There would surely be massive efficiency savings and low cost labour resources that could be taken advantage of there.

    Oops!, silly me, I just remembered that China is the enemy of Western Capitalism....err...I mean Democracy!?!

  • Comment number 8.

    This is a world-wide problem, because all nations in the West are under serious political pressure to cut their defence spending. But which international organisation is best to address the hugely complicated matter.

    Perhaps the G20. This new grouping is reckoned to have replaced the United Nations in many key areas. However it is doubtful if the next G20 in South Korea - or indeed later ones - will even table the matter for discussion, because in the words of defence secretary Liam Fox, "we do not have a narrative".

  • Comment number 9.

    In Singapore the guns were facing the wrong way...out to sea, we had no air cover but we also had 'no intelligence' hence the Japanese attacked down the peninsular so it wasn't all about air support. In 1940 Goerring did not have air supremacy but still bombed London for seven months but for a land invasion he did NEED air supremacy. This leaked letter will have grave political consequences for the Conservative party. There is open warfare going on between the treasury and the Ministry of Defence and I know who will win that one......

  • Comment number 10.

    euroscot is right in that this is an issue faced by all Western nations and all nations seeking technology to win wars - our problem is simply made worse by Brown and Darling bailing out, rather than letting go bust, the banks. 200 billion could have bought an awful lot of 'kit'.

    The US basically can no longer afford the numbers of F22 Raptors it originally planned on buying, it has cut back on the numbers of stealth bombers being purchased and has been busy re-equipping and re-tasking hunter-killer submarines to cut down on costs.

    Only China now appears unhindered by this economic problem.

    But tonyparksrun is correct in that we need a leap of the imagination when it comes to the use of technology.

    History teaches us that technology has always been the deciding factor when it comes to winning wars. This was true when the first caveman picked up the first stone and historians of warfare can clearly point to which sword, which shield, which helmet, which radar, even who had good boots and who had none, that meant the difference between empires rising and falling.

    Generals, Admirals and even Air Marshals are the problem. They like 'assets' and they like big, expensive assets. What is an Admiral without a fleet? What is a General without a Corps?

    The problem is that such men, predominantly in their mid to late 50s and early 60s, are often not that technology literate. Much has been talked about this week of British politics going to a younger generation but, in this age of super-technology, do we not now need a leap of the imagination... and perhaps the generations... in who and how and what decisions are made in this Defence Review?

    Sadly, Technology is increasingly a dirty word to many in this Government and, it must be said, sadly misunderstood or rubbished by men above a certain age.

    There has been talk of us and the French working together - much more sense for us to have some serious discussions with the Americans. A leap of the imagination - why not a joint British/American carrier-group? The US, despite its mind-boggingly large military budget, is facing, in the coming decades, all the same problems that us poor Brits are now facing - some in the US have woken up to this but, much like our military top-brass, are in denial about the need for new ideas, fresh thinking and that all important leap of the imagination when it comes to the hows and wheres of spending on defence.

    As I listen to the debate and the leaks with regards to this Defence Review I am increasingly concerned by how narrow, how conservative and how wrong so much of the thinking appears to be. It appears we are looking ahead but preparing to fight a type of war which, as soon as we are out of Afghanistan, we hopefully will not make the mistake of getting involved with again for generations.

  • Comment number 11.

    the war on terror has no narrative. it has no strategy. to be consistent neocons should be invading somalia and yemen where the new training camps are. Instead they want iran.

    counter terrorism as the rand report that looked into it made clear should be dealt with by the criminal system and small anti terrorist special forces [which brought the ira to its knees]. Grand adventures lasting decades that ends with more enemies than you started with is the height of political [tony's] folly and a failure of guardianship of the people.

    uk defence forces should be about defending the uk. yet ambition among the political and some military blinds them to common sense as they seek to have worldwide aspirations as if the map was still pink. There are also those who seek to pervert british defence to suit foreign country agendas. One way to sabotage uk defence is to make it not fit for uk defence but arraged for never ending neocon wars like some neocon foreign legion.

    one cut that should be made is to move the FO out of carlton house [anyway its owned by a russian oligarch connected to israel so hardly a sound security decision]. Anyone who stays in there long enough surrounded by massive images of empire is going to end up thinking they walk around in togas and thus unlikely to make sound decisions.

  • Comment number 12.


    Singapore was a massive cock-up on numerous fronts in tactics, lack of equipment and egoes and class clashes of the officers commanding.

    Prince of Wales and Repulse had been sent to the Far East to fly the flag, to deter a Japanese attack because they were mighty capital ships and, as had long been the military planning of the day, that capital ships of the Royal Navy would blast away any invasion fleet.

    That all went down the pan in the few minutes it took for Japanese bombers to destroy those two ships. This is well documented both in print and online.

    As for my comments about the German air-force being a major factor in the conquest of Europe - I was referring to Europe and made no mention of the UK, nor of London, so why bring it up as it is irrelevant to the point I was making and which is considered as fact by all miliary historians.

    That fact being that German bombers, especially the Stukka bomber, destroyed Allied targets whilst those targets were totally unable to defend themselves let alone fight back. In fact, quite often those targeted by the Stukkas never knew what hit them.

    Why didn't we have air-power like the Germans or the Japanese? Quite simple - the British Generals and the Admirals who so dominated military thinking in the 1918 to 1939 period simply dismissed its importance. Can we afford to allow the Admirals and the Generals, their modern-day counterparts, to make a similar as potentially disasterous decision now?

  • Comment number 13.

    "An "international currency war" has broken out, according to Guido Mantega, Brazil's finance minister, as governments around the globe compete to lower their exchange rates to boost competitiveness."

    Then again, maybe it hasn't? He and his boss are members of the Workers'
    Party aren't they?

    Although their friends are Russia, India and China, Brazil is an illustration of where multiculturalism leads. Still, iI guess it's good to have them on board creating a bit of colour in the USA's back yard.
    They're next as their population changes.

    "11. At 1:37pm on 29 Sep 2010, jauntycyclist wrote:
    the war on terror has no narrative. it has no strategy. to be consistent neocons should be invading somalia and yemen where the new training camps are. Instead they want iran"

    So you don't think the 'war on terror' was just a subterfuge to erode the last vestiges of Fabian Socialism at home using recruits such as yourself? You look over there, but in reality it's designed to make you lean the right way here? See your closing lines?

    "Anyone who stays in there long enough surrounded by massive images of empire is going to end up thinking they walk around in togas and thus unlikely to make sound decisions".

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks, Paul.
    What I find revealing here is the fact that our national defence is now handled by a new apparatus which I am not entirely sure is fully accountable. Liam Fox is not master of his own realm. The National Security Council is the centre of power now - it composes elected ministers and career diplomats. It is served by a Secretariat, and, as is normally the case, this Secretariat must do a lot of the groundwork. Read the Select Committee's reports and figure out whether they fully understand what's going on and who's pulling the strings.

    As I undertsand it the MoD has its own mini-structural deficit caused by its own past profligacy which it cannot overcome or balance on its own. No wonder the Treasury is moving in, and so it should. As I read it, the MoD enjoy a temporary ring fence on its currect year budget to give it the breathing space to manage its short term. If our lads are at risk from spending cuts, un-ring fence DIFD and give MoD more slack.

  • Comment number 15.

    10. At 1:29pm on 29 Sep 2010, tawse57 wrote:

    'But tonyparksrun is correct in that we need a leap of the imagination when it comes to the use of technology.'


    What? mean something like this!?!

    Iron Man-style power suits 'will be in war zones in five years'

    Iron Man-style power suits which make the wearer vastly stronger will be used by soldiers in war zones in the next five years, according to a firm developing them.


    Gee!....I wonder how much they'll cost?

    What ever they do cost, I expect there will be a hefty PROFIT MARGIN in it for some folk.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think one of those 'iron-man' suits would be very suitable for the morning commute.

  • Comment number 17.

    Liam Fox is a true believer - he wants to shrink the state - he wants to cut public spending.

    For him to write this letter to Cameron means that he can see where deep defence cuts would lead and how this would so reduce our capabilities that the UK would not be able to deal with quite a range of threats and foreign policy priorities anymore.

    In an overpopulated world running out of food, energy and habitable land, as an island on a temperate latitude, we are extremely vulnerable to asymetric warfare and to having our vital trade routes disrupted.

    We cannot hide inside Fortress Britain and starve to death - we will need the ability to project military power just to feed ourselves.

    The other really silly idea - from the ConDems point of view - is losing the Aid to the Civil Power capability to deal with civil and industrial unrest. There are plans to cut 40,000 police - if you add in major reductions in infantry numbers too, there is the very real risk that the state will simply lose the ability to keep order.

    When Fox says there is no "narrative", what he means is that there is no coherent, logical statement of military capability and for the level of funding to provide it - this is code for SLASH AND BURN spending cuts - i.e. think of a defence spending number, then try and cobble together a case to justify it.

    As the nation's security is THE MOST IMPORTANT role of Government, it does rather show that we need to develop a public "narrative" to descibe Cameron's approach:


    These are the words most suitable for us to use in our "narrative" on ConDem Defence plans and policy.

  • Comment number 18.

    "16. At 6:36pm on 29 Sep 2010, tawse57 wrote:
    I think one of those 'iron-man' suits would be very suitable for the morning commute."

    Or some of the links to Telegraph pieces lined to in recent times show that what the Telegraph reports should not be taken too seriously.

    And mason should stay clear of the defence stuff, leave that to Urban.
    Basic rule for British politics, they want less Britain more Europe, less governance more consumerism, less regulation more profit - apply the rule to everything or just think anarchism making sure you know what that is in practice (i.e it is not anarchy, which is bad for business).

    What was David (Stripe) Miliband's role in bringing all that about?
    Don't ask silly questions! We've heard nothing but celebrated extended-nepotism in recent days, very openly so too. If you don't see that, it can't be helped.

  • Comment number 19.

    The old saying goes that generals always fight the last war. Most people assume this refers solely to tactics, e.g. in WWII the Allies assumed Hitler could not attack through the Ardennes. But there is a second part: your equipment must be up to your current and future threats.

    My country (that would be the USA) buys weapons in the same manner as Paris Hilton buys clothes, i.e. with no regard for a budget. If one buys too many F-22 Raptors, one does not have money to buy sufficient ammunition for other weapons.

    The UK is probably similar to the USA in that there are limited production facilities for specialized ammunition, usually just one plant for each weapon type. If a terrorist or foreign power destroyed or even damaged that plant, finding sufficient ammo to fight a battle might prove problematic. Parameters, the U.S. Army War College Quarterly, has published articles on this subject in the past.

    If you read my blog series of "The upcoming USA-China war," you will see that China is rapidly building a modern submarine force. Submarines are much cheaper than fully outfitted aircraft carriers. China's submarines are quiet enough to have surfaced in the middle of the Kitty Hawk task force without being noticed beforehand. China also has a missile, the Dong Feng 21D, capable of destroying carriers at mach 10; there is no defense.

    Assume the following scenario for the UK or USA: China launches a major cyberwar to disrupt satellite reconnaissance and military communications, and to cause mass confusion in the home front. At the same time it uses its quiet submarines and Dong Feng 21D missiles to sink a good number of carriers and submarines, both boomers and attack. Will the leaders really launch the only counter-offensive they have left, i.e. a nuclear missile strike, knowing that China can retaliate in kind? Or would they realize that China had won the battle to control the seas in Asia and scurry home and concentrate on matters closer to home?

    One hopes that Fox and other leaders understand the difference between "want" and "need."

  • Comment number 20.


    china has no need for a hot war when it is doing very nicely accumulating all the wealth in the world [their surplus doubling every 3 years] through currency manipulation and ignoring international law and human and environmental standards and capturing secrets through a foreign policy of aggressive espionage. They don't believe in capitalism and free markets. They just seek to exploit those who do. Money = power.

    people here watch us getting poor and somehow don't understand why or how it is going on because the hayekists in the uk government keep explaining it away as 'market forces'.

    The financial markets in the general opinion of traders are 'broken'. They do not perform their function. why? because the country that has the biggest surplus the biggest growth has the weakest currency so nothing can rebalance in the financial system. So the world economic system is constipated and thus lurches from one panic to another.

    China does not want to join in the world capitalist system and see vast flows of money from them back to us as should happen. If war is the failure of politics [ie the reasoning process] then yes we are heading to a conflict to 'unblock the system' because the western politicians are too stupid to understand what is going on and will let it drag on. Unless they put tariffs on chinese goods to the value where their currency should be and prosecute the constant breaches of international law with sanctions if necessary why should china do anything different. They will just see it as the weakness and decadence of the bourgeoisie who through their own greed and stupidity are leading to their own downfall.

    people think the west won the war on communism. nope. its still going on. at the moment the communist statement that capitalism must fall is proving true.

  • Comment number 21.

    19. At 10:47pm on 29 Sep 2010, saucymugwump wrote:

    "China's submarines are quiet enough to have surfaced in the middle of the Kitty Hawk task force without being noticed beforehand."


    That wasn't a Chinese submarine...that was a UK politician called Ed Miliband!

  • Comment number 22.

    jauntycyclist wrote: "china has no need for a hot war"

    Not right now, but later . . .

    jauntycyclist wrote: "capturing secrets through a foreign policy of aggressive espionage"

    This is so true. Der Spiegel has an article just about every week on how China is stealing German technology. Last week, Deutsche Welle's "Made in Germany" show included a segment (watch at on how a Chinese "businessman" was caught taking photos and/or video of Rieder's manufacturing trade secrets. One wonders how many other "businessmen" get away without being caught.

    Back to the first point. Yes, today everyone is playing nice and allowing China to kick them. But I believe that China understands that this will only go so far. Our next president (or the one after that) might be a loose cannon who is voted in by people sick of being unemployed. Obama is already starting to talk tough, although we all know he is going it solely to garner Democratic votes this autumn. But if our unemployment rises to 30%, as it probably will, a firebrand might be elected who will go beyond talk.

    The aforementioned Parameters magazine included a review in the Summer 2008 Book Reviews, "Why Taiwan? Geostrategic Rationales for China’s Territorial Integrity," referencing a Chinese admiral who recently suggested "that China and the United States split the Pacific Ocean down the middle" along a mid-Pacific line running through Guam. Google on "global post south china sea" and select the first link from GlobalPost on how China is staking its claim to the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea, annoying Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, and other countries in the bargain.

  • Comment number 23.

    saucymugwump - nicely summed up.

    Interesting isn't it that we - the British - have Nimrod submarine hunters/killers for 30 plus years and just as submarines are about to become a major threat again we are considering chopping them.

    I am convinced that the UK needs to go high-tech with a smaller but better equipped armed forces but that will not please the Admirals, Generals and Air Marshals.

    If we go ahead and build those two carriers I suspect they will stay in port most of the time - partly because of the expense of crewing and running them, partly because the screen protection will not exist, or will be being repaired themselves or will simply be too expensive to go off on cruises round the World. At some point we probably would be too scared of losing them to actually risk them.

    Do we - the British - really want to have a carrier group sailing around in the South China Seas? Why?

    The Japanese pushed us out of there in 1941 and we tended to stay in ports in then Ceylon and Kenya most of WW2 rather than venture out even into the Indian Ocean. At the same time the US made it more than clear to us that the Pacific was theirs - not that we had the ships, resources and money to keep a Pacific fleet going.

    As China grows militarily in Asia is Britain really going to be sailing off on expeditions in support of the Asiatic Pacific rim countries? I doubt it. I hope not.

    The US will have to look to Japan, South Korea, Australia and others to boost their own naval power in the region - about time they shouldered some of the global weight. It might even help the Japanese economy to finally get out of deflation.

    Thinking that carriers are the future is as stupid as those Admirals who thought battleships still ruled the seas in 1940.

  • Comment number 24.


    "China's submarines are quiet enough to have surfaced in the middle of the Kitty Hawk task force without being noticed beforehand."


    That wasn't a Chinese submarine...that was a UK politician called Ed Miliband!


    But isn't the difference that people actually cared after the submarine surfaced?

  • Comment number 25.

    20. At 11:17pm on 29 Sep 2010, jauntycyclist wrote:

    "people think the west won the war on communism. nope. its still going on. at the moment the communist statement that capitalism must fall is proving true."

    Maybe it's just people like you who don't understand Fabianism?

    Look up the history of the LSE before the war (Beveridge v Robbins).
    Watch the cartoon "The Road To Serfdom" on youtube (or the Mises
    website) and as you do, say to yourself, "Don't Vote Labour'' as that was the message for here after the war (in the USA it would have been "Don't Vote Democrat" (as it's bad for our business)..

  • Comment number 26.


    yes . the carrier taskforce should be called the falklands task force. it has no other uk purpose. one taskforce only has the battle duration of maybe 12 weeks. what then? what wars that need carriers are fought and won in 12 weeks? If the argentinians had held out for a few more weeks the uk troops would have lost through the lack of supply and ammunition.

    Such carriers could not be used in a war against conventional states these days without being blown out the water. So they could only be used against states with no missile technology. which means the secret agenda is more 'liberal inteverventionism'. so the carriers could only support wars like afghanistan and that for a limited time as crews need rest and ships resupply and repair.

    for a carrier strategy to work you would need at least 3 carrier task forces just to allow for rotation assuming none breakdown or damaged. but we are not a world power economy that can afford that.

    even the basic things of defence like having a good understanding of what is happening in the economy are missing.China has been at economic war with us for years and no defences have been put in place. uk democracy institutionalises incompetence.

  • Comment number 27.

    so Liam doesn't like public spending.....but Ok, not when it involves DEFENCE spending...doesn't that just about sum up Tory thinking on everything...

  • Comment number 28.

    #26 jauntycyclist wrote: "the carrier taskforce should be called the falklands task force"

    I think it should be called the Yamato task force, in honor of the Japanese battleship sent on a one-way (suicide) mission against the U.S. Navy in WWII. Given China's close relationship with many South American (and African) countries, it is highly likely that Argentina would buy China's Dong Feng 21D missiles to destroy the carrier and other large ships before they caused a fuss. A latter-day Thatcher would end up killing thousands of British sailors for naught. China's new missile changes everything, a fact with which Western navies still have not come to grips.

  • Comment number 29.

    is all this a double bluff?


    LF Dave, sorry to interrupt the nappies and poo, but I can't implement these cuts - i'll be seen as the enemy within - as in within my own department.

    DC Liam, we just can't afford to be a major power anymore. You know that. We all know that - except, of course, the top brass in your own department. It has to be cut down to a manageable size to do things we really need to do, not fight last century's wars.

    LF Yes i agree, i'm not going native i assure you, but my reputation inside the ministry will be toast if i agree to this lot. they'll make it impossible for me. Just look at Obama over the pond and his obstructive generals.

    DC And that's why i've asked you here. Do you see this letter?

    LF What letter?

    DC This one which i've written for you. Well, we've decided you need some "cover". We've therefore decided that you wrote it. Or rather you WILL write it in your own hand - with a few of your own phrases, if you don't mind - and send to me, marked "personal". Then, given half a chance, they'll leak it. But if not, we will. Cue almighty fuss in the papers and Central office for a day or three, leak inquiry, you "hopping mad" etc etc - we'll leak it during the Labour conference to bury it as best we can so it won't have legs. You'll be the hero of the admiralty, Liam! Then, by the time of the CSR, you'll be the most loyal of ministers for "resisting" the cuts, whilst implementing a watered-down version, which of course is our true position. Okay?

    LF Okay. I'll have to practice my "indignation" and "hopping mad" pose though. Give me a week or so and i'll give you a preview.

  • Comment number 30.

    Western Navies have still not come to terms with countering the acoustic/wake homing Russian-designed, allegedly, Chinese copied North Korean torpdeo that destroyed the South Korean warship earlier this year.

    For years both the US and British navies have had very little effective counter-measures against such devices. They are cheap and easy to build, pack a heck of a punch and, unlike in the Hollywood films where manageable holes are punched in the hull, they tend to split a ship in two.

    One of those would cripple if not sink a carrier. Two hits and no carrier would stand a chance.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Fox: I am concerned we do not have a narrative"

    You just know that we are in very deep doo-doo when your Minister for Defence starts speaking in the feminized (muddled) vernacular of Derrida's deconstructivism. :-(

  • Comment number 32.

    #30 tawse57 wrote: "One of those would cripple if not sink a carrier. Two hits and no carrier would stand a chance"

    The Russian type-65 has a top speed of 50 knots and warheads with 450-550 kg of high explosive. What a beast! Given that Chinese submarines can surface within a carrier task force without being detected, that submarine can instead fire a spread of torpedoes at the carrier. The only defense is for a escort to sacrifice itself. But if the Chinese captain is dedicated and willing to die for his cause, he can shoot too close for the escorts to intercede.

    I suspect the Chinese would simultaneously launch torpedoes from a nearby submarine and a Dong Feng 21D missile or two from another platform to cause mass confusion. The task force might only concentrate on one of the threats.

    The US and UK navies are living in the past. And the media, by and large, hasn't a clue with respect to Chinese intentions. For me, it is fairly obvious what the intentions are of a country concentrating on building carrier killing missiles, quiet submarines, and lethal torpedoes: Pearl Harbor 2.0.

  • Comment number 33.

    R. J. Mitchell was ignored. Billy Mitchell was ignored, side-lined, demoted and eventually court-martialed for raising the importance of, and threat, from air power.

    You are right, by and large this discussion is not even on the radar of most journalists here in the UK. It needs to be highlighted, explored and debated but I get the impression that some defence journalists are as hung up on having 'big toys' as the Admirals, Generals and Air Marashals are.

    I was watching a video of the new US 'stealth' ship, the USS Independence, yesterday. Interestingly, one of the ship's capabilities is being able to support multiple unmanned aerial vehicles. If the UK must build ships then it is ships of this kind that are needed - but I still believe the future and safety is in submarines.

  • Comment number 34.

    Interesting times.

  • Comment number 35.

    I hope the comments made by a former Director Special Forces, reported in The Telegraph, will be at least heard.


    SAS officers warn that Britain is unprepared for a Mumbai-style attack


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