Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Future Force 2020: considerations on NATO

Previous posts in this series: 
1) Future Force 2020 - Considerations on Strategy 


When you follow matters of Defence like me, and have such a big interest and passion for the UK's armed forces in particular, you are bound to mention NATO many, many times. But in as few words as possible, how does NATO actually work when an operation such as Unified Protector over Libya pops up? What capabilities does NATO posses? How does it resource its ops, how does it get assets from the member countries? What is the Smart Defense approach, and what is happening with the "pooling of capabilities" drive is gaining strength due to the budget cuts maiming armed forces in Europe and now, to an extent, even in the US? 
I thought it would be interesting to write a piece providing some answers to these questions, as part of my Future Force 2020 considerations, before i post the big Army post. NATO is a cornerstone for the UK's defence policy, so we need to have a clear idea of what it implies and what it offers.

NATO HQs and Installations  

In itself, NATO is a relatively small central command structure. It currently has a so-called peacetime establishment of about 13,000, which is being cut back to about 8,500 following the agreements in Lisbon in 2010 , and there are military structures at NATO headquarters.

NATO has 2 Strategic-level Commands, Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in Norfolk, Virginia, USA; and Allied Command Operations, more commonly known as Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), in Mons, Belgium.

At Operational Level, two Joint Force Commands exist, one in Brunssum, the Netherlands, and one in Naples, Italy. Following the latest restructuring plan finalized last year when it was reported that Northwood might close, these two commands will be converted into larger joint force headquarters able to deploy 500 of their 850 personnel and will have a marked regional importance, with Naples becoming the focal point of NATO ops in the Mediterranean.

The land, air and maritime component commands are being reduced from two each to one each. The land component commands in Madrid and Heidelberg will be closed and replaced by one in Izmir, Turkey, grouping together land components available in NATO, providing command and control of land operations, and conducting multi-corps operations. Izmir in exchange loses its current air component command, while the one in Ramstein, Germany, will take on new tasks like missile defense. While staying easily capable to revert to a wartime structure such as the current one, used for air operations against Libya, thanks to the excellent command facilities available in the base.

The maritime component command in Naples will be closed, leaving the one in Northwood focusing on maritime surveillance.

NATO’s Coalition Air Operation Centers (CAOCs) will be reduced from four to two, with the others adopting a national or multinational character. The four current CAOCs are in Larissa, Greece, Finderup, Denmark, Poggio Renatico, Italy, and Uedem, Germany. The latter two will continue as part of the new NATO command structure and remain static, providing air policing and air command like Poggio Renatico has done for operations over Libya.

In addition, a new deployable air command and control center detached from the CAOCs will also have air command functions. The deployable air control system, recognized air picture production center, and sensor fusion post (DARS) in Nieuw Milligen will be combined with a new deployable air operations center in Poggio Renatico providing air command and real time control of fighters like that being provided over Libya.
The new Command and Information (C&I) Agency will combine the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A), parts of the NATO Communication and Information Systems Agency (NCSA), and NATO Air Command and Control System Management Agency (NACMA). The NCSA’s 18 deployable communication modules (signals companies) totalling 1,300 personnel will be transferred to SHAPE.

Save for the closure of the Naples center, Italy was a big winner in the restructuring, even more so since Sigonella air base was selected to host the NATO Air Ground Surveillance system as well: Italy had a powerful negotiating position since while the plan was fleshed out, operations in Libya were ongoing and Italy was menacing to retire its support and deny its bases to the Alliance’s airplanes. 

Smart Defense Initiative

“I know that in an age of austerity, we cannot spend more. But neither should we spend less. So the answer is to spend better. And to get better value for money. To help nations to preserve capabilities and to deliver new ones. This means we must prioritise, we must specialise, and we must seek multinational solutions. Taken together, this is what I call Smart Defence.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
30 September 2011

The Smart Defense Initiative is about pooling capabilities and jointly fund multinational solutions to common problems and shortcomings identified in the Alliance. Some of the recognized issues are insufficient ISTAR, Air to Air refueling, Strategic Lift (particularly air lift) and other particularly relevant strategic enablers.
At the time of the constitution of the NATO Heavy Airlift Wing it was estimated that buying 4 C17s (then down to 2 plus one offered by the USAF…) collaboratively would cost to the 10 partner nations in the HAW initiative some 13 million dollars a year. If all those countries had acquired a single C17 for themselves, they would have had less capability at a annual cost of at least 11 millions more.

Smart Defense is about making sure that investments cover as much as possible the need of the alliance.
The noble target, however, is met only with words most of the time, since the firm commitment, when the moment of putting the money in arrives, is often not made. One evident case of this is the long-running NATO AGS effort, which much would do to close the gap in ISTAR: over the years, several nations withdrew and the funding was reduced and the system downsized again and again, and to this day it remains at risk.

Now, also following the Libya experience and the release of the new US strategy, Smart Defense is gaining new, vocal support from member nations.
The May 2012 meeting of NATO in Chicago will show how serious the commitments really are, and what can really be done.

Smart Defence is one of the devices that countries hope they can use collectively to meet some of the capability requirements. But we need to remember that, although Smart Defence will be a multinational initiative and facilitated by NATO, nations will choose, or not, to invest and then choose, or not, to make the capabilities available. By helping to produce common standards, however, with a common approach to and identification of where the most pressing gaps are, NATO hopes to be able to encourage countries to fill the gaps that are most important, and to give them some help in the way in which their co-operation is structured.

NATO Capabilities

NATO has very few commonly funded, NATO-registered enabling assets, and there is no fighting unit owned by NATO. Almost the entirety of the military capability available to NATO belongs to the nations of NATO -so it is the US defence capability, the British defence capability, French, German, Polish and so on. Whenever there is a NATO operation, it is those national capabilities that are brought to bear under the NATO commanders.

In peacetime NATO collectively looks at the defence planning process in the member countries, and tries to influence decisions by making known what it would like to ask of individual nations. NATO keeps track of the capabilities available to each country, and periodically a review is made to asses where the shortages are.

At the end of the day, on every single NATO operation, a member nation could decide for reasons of its own - legal, political or whatever - that it is going to withdraw that capability at very short notice or not provide it all. The alliance solidarity prevents most people from doing that most of the time, but it is a perpetual tension between national sovereignty and collective endeavour that is a perennial issue for the alliance.
On this I’ll expand later. Now I will briefly expand on those few NATO-owned capabilities that are available.

The most famous is the NATO AEW & Control Force, the common fleet of E3A AWACS radar airplanes. This is made up by 2 Components (unofficially but effectively 3 from when France re-joined NATO): the E3D Component is the british-owned fleet of 7 E3D Sentry AWACS, based on RAF Waddington. The “3rd Component” I mention would be France’s own fleet of 4 E3F AWACS, which is now available for NATO ops following the return of France into the alliance. For those who do not remember it, France withdrew from NATO's integrated military and leadership structures in March 1966, because then president Charles de Gaulle refused to allow the French armed forces to submit to the US command of NATO’s SACEUR. In the 90s, France of course collaborated with NATO in Kosovo, as part of a slow, gradual rapprochement that continued with ops in Afghanistan, the entry of French officers in NATO structure by 2004 and then the final return in 2009.

The NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force (NAEW&CF) force is a multinational service, commanded by a German or US officer and centered on the Main Base of Geilenkirchen, in Germany. It lines 3 operational squadrons plus a Training Wing, this last under Italian responsibility. The fleet currently counts 17 E3A Sentry AWACS: the original force numbered 18, but one plane was written off following a catastrophic incident in Greece in recent years. There was also a Training and Cargo fleet, part of the Training Wing, which had 3 B707 in cargo variant. These were used to train crews for the AWACS and also to carry personnel and cargo in support of the AWACS squadrons in their operational deployments. The 3 planes could be configured for palletized cargo and/or passenger seats, but have all been retired between 2010 and 2011, with the cargo needs of the force being met by chartered services from civilian contractors instead. 

Currently, the full member nations in the AEW Force are: Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The UK, as seen, actually provides direct support via its own fleet. France to this day is technically only an observer, at least officially, and “ensures that its own AWACS are interoperable with the Allie’s ones”. Canada is however pulling out as part of budget cuts announced in June last year, and will no longer support the AEW force.
16 Nations (UK and US excluded) collaborate to crew and run the NATO force.
The Force maintains three forward operating bases (FOBs) at Konya in Turkey, Aktion in Greece, Trapani in Italy, and a forward operating location (FOL) at Oerland, Norway.

A force being created now is the NATO Air Ground Surveillance. This will consist of a NATO owned and operated fleet of 5 (down from 8) Global Hawk Block 40 drones, fitted with a powerful ground surveillance radar capable to track static and moving surface targets, like the Sentinel R1 system of the RAF does.
The ground segment will provide an interface between the AGS Core system and a wide range of command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C2ISR) systems to interconnect with and provide data to multiple deployed and non-deployed operational users, including reach-back facilities remote from the surveillance area.
The primary ground segment component will consist of a number of ground stations in various configurations, such as mobile and transportable, which will provide data-link connectivity, data-processing and -exploitation capabilities, and interfaces for interoperability with C2ISR systems. The AGS Core ground segment will also include dedicated mission support facilities at the AGS main operating bases (MOB), and ground stations for flight control of the UAVs. The main operating base will be located at Sigonella Air Base in Italy.

The AGS force tries to reduce the size of a capability gap that is very damaging and long known and noticed, that the Libya experience only evidenced further. However, for all the recognized need for this ISTAR capability and despite the urgency with which it is required, the AGS still lags and risks to fail. It started with much greater ambitions: it was to be a larger fleet, combining Global Hawk drones and manned surveillance planes built on Airbus A321 airframes (the platform that then became the RAF’s Sentinel R1 was a competitor for the manned section of AGS, but was rejected), but the lack of funding killed these ambitions rapidly. 5 Airbus A321 aircraft would have been hosting the new TCAR Transatlantic Cooperative AGS Radar (TCAR) development program. This aimed to create is a high-performance, side-looking, wide area, multi-mode ground surveillance radar developed under agreement between France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States. It would have been, in perspective, an obvious possible Joint-STARS replacement for the USAF as well, in due time, but both airplane and radar were soon cancelled. The drone component was expanded from 4 to 8, but then went down to 5.

And problems aren’t yet all ironed out: France is trying to acquire drones for its armed forces, namely the Heron, which is built by Israel and that France will modify via Dassault to meet its own requirements (sort of like what the Uk did with the Hermes 450 to create Watchkeeper). The bill for “Franceizing” the Heron is however proving very high, and France is trying to offer its Heron drones to the NATO AGS, instead of providing funding. This will have to be discussed next month at a NATO meeting, as it means that the AGS program could fall apart again, with the Global Hawks being abandoned for the Heron or, worse, for nothing if financial coverage can’t be assured due to France’s change of heart. 

The nations still backing the system in 2010 were 15, now they are down to 13. Canada retired from the program in August 2011. In the ever shrinking list of partners, there should still be Bulgaria, Czech Republic,  Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, USA, and a final agreement should be signed next May during the NATO meeting in Chicago. Acquisition cost is expected to be around 1 billion euro, with over 2 billion to be spent to support the system for 20 years. 
Germany is important because not only it is on board for AGS, it is also procuring 5 modified Global Hawk Block 20 (EuroHawks) for national needs. These don’t have the MP-RTIP radar of the Block 40, but in exchange they offer communications and electronic signals intercept (COMINT and SIGINT) capabilities. The combination of AGS and loaned Eurohawks could give NATO a small but full-spectrum battlefield monitoring option.
To express it very simply, the EuroHawk does the same job of a Nimrod R1 or Rivet Joint, while the Global Hawk Block 40 does the job of a Sentinel R1 or J-STARS. Assuming they both proceed in the end, and assuming they deliver, they make for a very excellent expansion in the Alliance’s capabilities. The RAF could contribute that manned element that NATO cannot afford, via the Sentinel R1, which proved fundamental over Libya.

Another recent NATO capability is the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) created from the Strategic Airlift Capability program, another attempt at reducing the bleeding size of another long-known gap in the Alliance’s capabilities.
SAC came into being in 2006, when 10 NATO nations (Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Hungary, USA) plus two nations of the ‘Partnership for Peace’ group (Finland and Sweden) joined forces and funding to create the multinational HAW. 

The wing has 3 C17 cargo planes, 2 acquired from Boeing, one made available by the USAF. All nations member of the initiative allocate some of their defence budget to the HAW, buying a number of hours on the airplanes. The airplanes are common, and are not formally owned by any of the nations, even if they are registered in Hungary and are based in the same country, on the Pàpa airfield. This base was, indeed, chosen merely because it is… geographically in the middle of the Partnership!

Again in support of always high-in-demand Strategic Air Transport, NATO manages the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS), on behalf of a consortium including 14 NATO nations (Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom) and two partner nations (Finland and Sweden).
The SALIS contract was first signed in 2006, with a 3 years duration, and then renewed. It provides two Antonov An-124-100 aircraft which are constantly based at Leipzig-Halle airport on full-time charter, two more are on six days' notice and another two on nine days' notice. Participating countries have committed to using the SALIS Antonovs for a minimum of 2,000 flying hours per year, of which the UK has 200 pre-paid and 250 part-paid An-124 annual flying hours. The initial SALIS lease was for three years, renewable annually thereafter until the A-400M enters Service.

In theory, as implied by the Interim title, this solution is a stopgap until the A400 cargo aircrafts are delivered to the various NATO countries which ordered it. The SAC initiative was also meant as an alternative to SALIS (the charter costs are quite high), but the reality is that no A400, no C17 and not even the C5 of the USAF can deliver the payloads and performances that the AN124 offers. SALIS is likely to continue for many more years regardless of both C17 and A400 availability, as these planes simply will not be able to haul some of the payloads needed.

Volga-Dnepr and Ukraine’s ADB provide the SALIS aircraft and also provide AN-124-100 aircraft to support the Afghanistan mission, with weekly sorties from Germany to Afghanistan and back, under contractual arrangements with the Allied Movement Coordination Centre at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. The An124 can carry a 120 tons payload on 5400 km (a bit more that the C17 will cover with 72 tons) or haul 150 tons of payload on 4500 km, or fly 7500 km with 92 tons. In comparison the C17 has a range of 2400 miles with a 72 tons payload and a maximum payload of 77 tons. Again, the gigantic cargo bay of the Russian giant is larger (36,5 meter long, 6,4 wide and 4,4 high VS 26,82 x 5,49 x 3,96 [under wing, lowest point of the cargo bay] ) and allows to carry outside loads comfortably.
NATO will no doubt end up in the same situation of the RAF: even with C17, the UK MOD still charters, on average, 10 AN124 sorties per quarter to sustain afghan commitments. The RAF has been chartering An124s from at least 1993, and is unlikely to stop doing it anytime soon.

Cost of SALIS is hard to pinpoint. Members pay for the flying hours used, they also pay a proportional share of the administrative charges, service charges, and the costs of assured access based on their total number of hours. A single mission to Afghanistan can cost 250.000 dollars. 

Not properly a capability, but a Force Multiplying collaboration, is the NATO Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE), stationed at Eindhoven Air Base, coordinates strategic military transport within the 23 participating NATO and European Union (EU) nations by air, sea or on land. The MCCE was established on 1 July 2007 and was created by merging the European Airlift Centre (EAC) and the Sealift Co-ordination Centre (SCC).

The nations participating in the MCCE are: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The concept at the base of MCCE is the co-ordination of capabilities, with the member nations offering up spare air, sea and land lift capacity for the other members to utilise to thereby improve overall efficiency and effectiveness. In the case of air transport, nations can offer whole or part of a transport aircraft uplift because it makes no sense for, example, a German air lifter to fly back from Afghanistan half empty when a close ally is desperate for that carrying capacity. This MCCE system works because no money is involved. Each MCCE allocated AT aircraft is given a value in C-130 hours, eg. one RAF C-17 hour is valued at 7.10 C-130 hours, while a Luftwaffe A-310 AT/Medevac is assessed at 2.5 C-130 hours. This common currency is traded between Air Forces.

In terms of Sealift, NATO has assured access to 3 Ro-Ro vessels covered by a dormant contract through the NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization based in Luxembourg. Finance is provided by seven of the ten signatory countries of the Sealift initiative (The consortium is led by Norway, and includes Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.)  The 3 nations that do not provide money are Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom, that instead make available their ships.
Denmark and Germany provide the residual capacity of their combined fleet of four ARK Ro/Ro vessels (from 2012, five Ro/Ro ships), which are chartered on a full-time contract basis until 2021. The United Kingdom offers the residual capacity of their six Point class Ro/Ro vessels being provided to its Ministry of Defence under a Private Finance Initiative contract with AWSR Shipping Ltd. This contract lasts until December 2024.
In addition, Norway has a dormant contract for one Ro/Ro ship.

NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC) should reach Full Operational Capability (FOC) this year. It will bring all of NATO bodies under centralised cyber protection and it will promote the development of Allies’ cyber defence capabilities; assist individual Allies upon request, and optimise information sharing, collaboration and interoperability.

At the November 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, NATO’s leaders decided to develop a ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability to pursue its core task of collective defence. The Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence System capability aims  to protect NATO-deployed forces against short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats up to 3,000-kilometer range. In order to manage the risk associated with development of such a complex capability, ALTBMD will be fielded in several phases.

In the autumn of 2011, Turkey announced its decision to host a ballistic missile defence radar at Kürecik as an integral part of the NATO BMD capability. Romania and the United States agreed to base SM-3 interceptors at Deveselu airbase in Romania, and a similar basing agreement between the United States and Poland entered into force. The SM3 is a well known naval missile, which is now going on land, together with the MK41 launch system, to create the ballistic defence shield. The Romania and Poland detachments will use use SM-3 Block 1B missiles from semi-mobile Mk.41 VLS launchers, controlled by an AEGIS BMD 5.0.1 combat system. The SM-3 Block 1B missile is in development under a collaborative agreement between US and Japan. Romania will get the missiles in 2015, while Poland in 2018. In 2018 the SM-3 Block II, larger and more capable, is expected to be fielded.

In November 2011, the Netherlands announced plans to upgrade four air-defence frigates with extended long-range missile defence early-warning radars as its national contribution to NATO's ballistic missile defence capability. The Netherlands have frigates fitted with MK41 Strike Length missile silos which can readily take SM3 missiles, but for the moment this kinetic element is not planned. Finally, Spain and the United States announced an agreement to base four Aegis missile defence ships in Rota, Spain, as part of the US contribution to NATO’s BMD capability.

The above mentioned moves are largely American-backed, American-executed and American-funded. The effort is known as European Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA). The European members of NATO are being very slow and hesitant at actually stepping up their own efforts. Many of the NATO countries, including the UK with the Type 45, could contribute and embark SM3 missiles on their AAW ships, but there is currently no plan to do so.
Again, despite much talk of an European anti-ballistic missile developed from Aster (Aster Block II or Aster 45, whatever is more fashion at a given moment) there is no actual funding nor a credible plan. Essentially, the European antiballistic missile development is a French ambition that France alone can’t realistically fund and that Italy and the UK do not seem ready to finance.  

NATO of course brings together the efforts of participating countries in many sectors, including the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Acency (NETMA) and joint studies on C-IED, but the above are the main true capabilities available to the Alliance.
The rest of NATO’s force on an operation comes from what the member nations can give, and that is the next point to analyze.

How is a NATO operation resourced?  

NATO deals with the perennial issue of whether or not nations are going to make available the assets that they have assigned to SACEUR. Addressing that is as much a political question as it is a capabilities question. We have two problems. Do we have the capabilities -that is what the Smart Defense initiative hopes to address- and is there the will to deploy them?
As of now, unless the US provide them, many capabilities are not there at all to start with. And even when tomorrow eventually they are there, at least on small scale, political will of making them available for operations might not be there.  

Thankfully, normally there will be a way to find at least a partial solution: in the case of operation Unified Protector over Libya, Germany refused to contribute to the operation, but they did at least make sure to man their share of the NATO AWACS at very short notice and send them to the Afghan theatre, so that other NATO AWACS and crews could be released from there and used in Libya. 

So, when NATO is challenged with the prospect of military action, what does happen?

The effort for securing the kit and personnel needed for an operation starts fairly early on in the planning stage, before a decision has been taken to do a military intervention. The NATO council will assess the situation politically, and they will give the commanders a first authorization to start planning for the military option. Eventually, the planning reaches the “Force Sensing” moment, in which the commanders will have what they call a force sensing conference, in which they ask individual nations, "What could you provide?"

At that stage, the answer is not yet a commitment from the nation, but it is a pretty good indication that they would be there on the night with the material they promise. Force sensing makes the commanders aware of what pool of forces is available for them to pick from in order to prepare the force package needed. The planning process continues from here, and a joint statement of requirements is drafted, with NATO then asking to its member nations to deploy N ships, X airplanes, Y missiles and so along.

That gets further defined at a force generation conference, and then there are various revised statements of requirement as the operation goes on and as it changes its shape. All that is part of the standard NATO procedure. For Libya, the force sensing took place on 19 March. Military operations begun the same day, but the airstrikes were under control of UK, France and US, with the Alliance doing some planning but still without an operation and a role in the air campaign. The first force generation conference was on 28 March.
NATO started taking control of the Libya operations gradually from 23 March, and formally took command at 06:00 GMT on 31 March 2011, formally ending the national operations such as the U.S.-coordinated Operation Odyssey Dawn or the UK’s Ellamy, France’s Harmattan and Canada’s Mobile. The national names of the campaign remained in use, but now command resided within the NATO structures.

How is a NATO operation such as Unified Protector financed?

The bulk of the cost is funded by the nations that provide the forces. But in addition to that, there are increased costs to NATO due to the use of HQs, infrastructure and common capabilities. In the case of Libya, the bulk of the additional NATO expense are made up by the setting up of the task force in Naples and all the things that went around it, including the deployment of elements from AWACS from NATO AEW force. These expenses come under the NATO military budget. The United Kingdom’s share of that military budget is 11.5%, so the UK could be liable for up to 11.5% of the additional common-funded costs as well.

These additional NATO costs are unlikely to be part of the expense announced for Operation Ellamy by government. The full extent of the additional expense is probably still being calculated, and it is normal practice to try and shift priorities around to cover, as much as possible, the additional costs with the money allocated for normal financial support. This ensures that knowing the extent of the expense will take a while, since negotiations are likely not to be fast.  

When politicians talk about the importance of NATO, it is all well and good. But using NATO as a justification for cuts is absurd. NATO offers a few capabilities jointly funded, but these programs have suffered and suffer from waning international support. Again, the UK has not joined several of the initiatives, while other "capabilities" draw heavily from UK owned capabilties (E3D Sentry, Sentinel R1, Point Ro-Ro vessels). We have to be very careful in assuming that coalition work will always solve problems and make available what the national budget does not provide. 
The reality in fact is that NATO's capabilities are often national capabilities borrowed to the Alliance. Most of them come from few, well known countries. The rest, so far, has alwasy arrived from the US. 
"Coalition ops" really does mean "United States support", mostly. But the US are, from several years, saying clearly that they won't continue to accept this way of working. The new, recently published defense strategy and their conduct in operations over Libya make, by far, for the most clear and urgent warning. 

Ultimately, everyone is cutting back and saying that the "Coalition" will fill the holes. Ironically, the Coalition is just armed with what the single budgets buy and support, for the most part. Smart Defense, and even just the coordination of cuts ("We need this one, but as an alliance we have a lot of these others, so cut back on these") is indispensable to limit damage and keep the Coalition viable. 

Take the Sentinel R1 cut option in the SDSR, or even the Nimrod MR4A cut: the first is now thankfully probably not going to happen, since the error has been now recognized. The second happened, and now Europe is short on MPA and Germany presses for a Smart Defense approach to reconstitute a viable fleet at least at NATO level if not at national level. 
These two cuts, more than any other, are indication of one thing: the rushed SDSR did not listen to what allies had to say, nor did it read the "Gap List" that NATO regularly updates. And so, decisions absolutely opposite to those needed were taken. 

If Coalition has to be the way, things have to be done right.


  1. Gabriele

    A fascinating report. You mention at one point the following:

    “Following the latest restructuring plan finalized last year when it was reported that Northwood might close”

    I heard that rumour too but apparently it will survive, focused, as you say, on maritime surveillance. Could you tell me, though, whether Northwood is still responsible nationally for our Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF), which I always understood had its headquarters at Northwood. Furthermore, what part, if any does the JRRF play in NATO organization and planning?

    On another topic, I read over on TD’s site the extract from, I think it was the “Daily Mail”, Allan Mallinson’s article on General Carter’s plan for the future Army, about how Carter has departed from the previous aspirations for five strong, identically configured brigades, each comprising armoured (tank) and armoured reconnaissance regiments, infantry battalions, artillery and engineers, etc. and is determined to keep infantry and cavalry at the expense of ‘enablers’ and support units.

    This worries me tremendously. I still think that the 5 Multi-Role Brigade idea has such a tremendous amount to recommend it. I cannot for the life of me imagine how the new formations will work without adequate organic combat support.

    I don’t know how this will affect your thinking and your forthcoming article. You also seem to be a supporter of the 5 MRB type of organization. Still, I suppose there is always a chance that the “Mail” article got it wrong and that Carter’s ideas will not be put into practice. I don’t know how reliable Mallinson’s sources are but I have always found him a very sound writer. I fear the worst. Look forward to the article.

  2. Yeah, Northwood eventually was confirmed and will definitely survive. As to the JRRF role in NATO, it is a difficult subject. Until a few years ago the British Army rotated battalions into NATO Reaction role, but eventually this role was fused with the Spearhead elemment requirement, so the battalion at extremely high readiness inside JRRF also has a theoric role as a NATO response force.

    I've read of General's Carter plan myself, and sincerely, my reaction was on the lines of "WTF!". I respect his experience and thinking and in theory he is a lot more qualified than me or any of us to talk about Army structure... But to me, it sounds like junk.

    How is he going to resource "twice as many" (10) smaller brigades of "tanks and infantry" when infantry and tanks are being cut? Is he going to call "brigade" a squadron of tanks and companies of armoured infantry? And with less artillery!
    Cutting back further on artillery goes against all operational experience. Even refusing to consider the Afghan experience, cutting back on arty goes against logic.

    Sincerely, to me the idea looks kind of awful. The best point i can see is in the fact that 10 brigades and more deployable divisional HQs means more historic badges coming back to life. Which delights me, but is not the first thing i'd wish for in Army restructuring. The british army is already small and lacks density: many small brigades with few enablers will make it worse, but mean more top brass posts saved at Brigade and Division level. I'm not going to keep it in consideration in my article, which anyway is complete and that, i think, i'll post tomorrow if i can find the time.
    I stick to the MRBs and i'm hoping the British Army will, as well.

  3. Thanks for the info about the JRRF.

    Concerning your views on General Carter's plan (if reported accurately), I agree with every single word. Look forward to your article.

  4. Hi Gabriele,
    Just trawling around and came across this on 'PPRUNE' wondered if you were aware of it.

    Sentinel to survive post Afghanistan?
    It would appear so if the last paragraph of the Evolution portion of this press release comes to fruition.


    On 3 February 2012, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) decided on a way ahead to collectively cover the costs for operating AGS for the benefit of the Alliance. The decision to engage NATO common funding for infrastructure, satellite communications and operations and support paves the way for awarding the AGS acquisition contract by 13 Allies. In addition, an agreement was reached to make the United Kingdom Sentinel system and the future French Heron TP system available as national contributions-in-kind, partly replacing financial contributions from those two Allies.

    NATO - Topic: Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS)

  5. Yes, i'm aware of the fact that Sentinel appears to be safe. Aware and very relieved, i must add, since i'm a firm believer of the Sentinel R1 system and of its usefulness.
    Thank you, though, for sharing.


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