Friday, October 14, 2011

Bad, bad news - Updated

For how much i've criticized the SDSR, for how many decisions about defence have made my eyebrows arch, still i had an incredible amount of confidence in one person: Liam Fox.
I honestly believe that he's been nothing short of formidable in fighting defence's corner in the very best way he could, and my greatest regret is to have seen him taking over Defence at a time in which, simply, there was no alternative to cuts.
Years ago, or hopefully in the future, in quieter days, Liam Fox, i believe, would have been able to deliver great improvements in matters of UK defence.

I'm very sorry, and really worried, while reading the letter with which Liam resigns from his post

Dear David,

As you know, I have always placed a great deal of importance on accountability and responsibility. As I said in the House of Commons on Monday, I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred. The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days. I am very sorry for this.

I have also repeatedly said that the national interest must always come before personal interest. I now have to hold myself to my own standard. I have therefore decided, with great sadness, to resign from my post as Secretary of State for Defence - a position which I have been immensely proud and honoured to have held.

I am particularly proud to have overseen the long overdue reforms to the Ministry of Defence and to our Armed Forces, which will shape them to meet the challenges of the future and keep this country safe.

I am proud also to have played a part in helping to liberate the people of Libya, and I regret that I will not see through to its conclusion Britain's role in Afghanistan, where so much progress has been made.

Above all, I am honoured and humbled to have worked with the superb men and women in our Armed Forces. Their bravery, dedication and professionalism are second-to-none.

I appreciate all the support you have given me - and will continue to support the vital work of this government, above all in controlling the enormous budget deficit we inherited, which is a threat not just to this country's economic prosperity but also to its national security.

I look forward to continuing to represent my constituents in North Somerset.

Yours ever,


In a time of deep crisis and change, with so many challenges still to be addressed for the future of defence, i'm really worried by the loss of a minister that, i believe, did a very good job, considering the storm he found himself in the middle of.

The future for the Armed Forces is still dangerous and full of challenges, and i fear that Liam Fox's dedication and willingness to fight harshly with the treasury, with the prime minister, and with everyone to ensure that the forces are not maimed, will be sorely missed.

This is a very bad news.
I just hope we won't have to regret it too painfully.


New defence minister is Philip Hammond, previously Minister for Transports, where he will be replaced by Justine Greening, a junior finance minister. 

He is a Treasury friend, but in the sense that he's been a supporter of cuts to public spending.  And this is a very bad start. 

Commentators describe him as a "reassuringly boring" appointment to calm the waters at the MoD, and this worries me even more, since this is definitely not a time for "reassuringly boring" leaders.

I can only wish the new minister good luck, and hope he proves a good lead for the Armed Forces in this terribly challenging time. But much as i try not to judge him before he even does something, i'll say it again. 
I'm worried.  


  1. Hi Gabriele,

    Yes, it's sad to see a man with the will and vision go.
    Lets hope the next minister knows what they are doing, and can keep the MoD and the service chiefs in line and on budget!

    Keep up the good work Gabriele!

  2. Let's hope the minister can also fight his corner at least some against Treasury and Prime Minister, as Liam did!
    I'm under the impression that Liam, for all his defects, saved the armed forces from even worse cuts, after all. And i'm worried that the new minister might be unable to fence off new requests from the treasury, that the services are unable to meet without disasters following.

    There really is nothing left to cut. And when i see that cutting 40% of Challengers saves a mere 10 million a year at most; when i remember how little was saved by giving away Largs Bay (with an IMMENSE loss in capability on the other hand)... well. It is horrifying. There's no room for more of that.

    But do not worry, i'll keep following things here. Next article will be about the future of minesweeping at sea. Within the end of the month, after all, it was planned that ATLAS Elektronik and the MOD would stage a week-long test and demonstration even of the evolving stand-off, unmanned mine sweeping machines and techniques.

    So, stay tuned!

  3. Hi Gabriele,

    I hope the new minister will fight for his new department.
    I am however worried by the lack of news on army equipment orders?
    I also worry about the rumour that the RAF is short of 4 billion?
    I did expect to hear in November about the future of big projects like the F35, warrior upgrade, light armour replacement family?
    I am expecting more cuts to emerge, have you heard anything?


  4. The Warrior upgrade programme last month was said to be nearing contract signing, with an announcement due "later in the autumn", which as you can guess leaves quite an ample margin of maneuver. It could be next week, or next month, and it still would fit the promise.
    But it should be safe, even if numbers are for now unknown, and it is not clear if the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle conversion(s) will go ahead at all.

    As to the RAF being short of four billions, i've not heard anything new, and this is, in a way, a good thing. If new big cuts were on the way, we'd be hearing something.

    And yes. We are still waiting for the 10-years equipment plan that was promised for september, but which is not coming along, apparently due to the fight still ongoing for fitting FRES SV into it.

    Last, in one article on the press about the new defence minister, there was a mention of him having to sign within days a document "spelling the end of some of the most historic regiments of the army". Said document would come out shortly, and probably be about the new army structure planned for the future.

    And the latest defence answers contained hints about a document planning for the future Rotary wing fleets and capabilities, to come out by year's end, and hopefully containing a finalized plan for the Merlin's Life Extension/Navalization and for their transfer to the navy.
    I'd expect, personally, the two current Merlin squadrons of the RAF to convert to Chinook, to give, when the new ones come, a fleet of 60 helicopters in 5 squadrons, the magic number to meet guidelines.

    This is what we can expect to see in the coming months. OUVS will only be heard of in 2012, Foxhound is safe and on the way, F35 orders will come next year at the earlier, but probably in 2013, and at most there'll be some funding for long lead items acquisition for said future orders.

  5. Hi Gabriele,

    Thanks for the update.

    I did see on the MoD site that Navel Sea King Commando units are on there way back to UK to start training on Merlins.

    I look forward to your further posts.


  6. Yeah, training for Commando Helicopter Force crews for the transition to the Merlin should have been kicked off last month according to plan, and it will now start gearing up.

    It'll be interesting to see how much navalization work can be funded on the airframes, though. One possibility is that the rotors will be changed with folding ones, but the tail will not be touched, so the Merlin might remain quite a bit large.
    Possibly, too long to fit HMS Ocean's lifts.

    Then again, if the Mighty O is to bow out in 2016, that might prove not important. We'll have to see, on this as on many other things!


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