Thursday, December 27, 2012

The MOD's 10 year budget

Both the MOD and the NAO are late and have missed their "hoped for" release dates for the Basing Plan, 10-year Equipment plan, NAO evaluation paper of the same document and the NAO Major Projects Report 2012. They were all due in the Autumn, or anyway before Christmas, but they have all slipped, and are now expected to make interesting the months of January and February.

Waiting for their release, i can however provide some more details on the famous 10 year budget, at least in terms of money and concept, thanks to what Jon Thompson, Permanent Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence, and David Williams, Acting Director General Finance, Ministry of Defence, said to the Parliamentary Defence Committee on Wednesday 12 December. The uncorrected evidence is available here.

First of all it must be noted that the 10-year budget relates to equipment: it is the amount of money the MOD will have to acquire, operate, upgrade and support existing and future equipment. It includes the cost of running kit already in service; but it has nothing to share with funding for basing, accommodations and personnel. These are budgets in their own right, and an announcement on the money available for the basing of the forces is expected early into the next year: this is a particularly important area, as the army returns from Germany and adapts to its Army 2020 plan.  

It has emerged that the 10-years budget includes several layers of built-in flexibility, with contingency money available to cover cost-growth and unpredicatable issues and urgent requirements that might always emerge, depending on the military situation.

Then there is, as we know, a Core Committed Budget, which is money already allocated to specific programs: we do not yet know all of the programs on the list, but several have been revealed and are, indeed, very evident to the eyes of anyone: from the Carriers to the 7 Astute submarines, from Typhoon to A400 Atlas, and for the Army the Warrior CSP, Apache CSP, Challenger 2 CSP later in the decade, FRES SV and FRES UV, plus Foxhound and other systems.

Then there is an as yet uncommitted amount of money - some 8 billion pounds - which will be, in time, assigned to a number of other procurement programs.

These "other programs" are included in what the MOD calls Single Integrated Capability Priority List (SICPL), nicknamed "White Board". This list includes requirements from the three services that haven't yet been assigned a budget, and have seen no contracts signed. According to Jon Thompson, the value of the items on the list ranges somewhere between 7 and 12 billion, with the value "continuining to reduce", which suggests that the service chiefs are still engaged in a process to decide what is really necessary, and what can be postponed further.

The MOD's Equipment Plan, to be published in the near future, will provide indications on what exactly is part of the Core committed budget, either already under contract or anyway firmly planned for the next few years, while the White Board remains an internal list that the MOD is not keen to reveal. In the words of Mr. Thompson:

The white board are those things that we would like to do over time in order to fully deliver all the public aspects of Future Force 2020, which were announced in the SDSR. We have 10 years to do that. That, if you like, is the list of the things that we would like to do in that period of time. As the Secretary of State also said on 14 May, we have £8 billion of financial headroom over that 10-year period. Our funding assumption at that time was that we had £161 billion to spend, but the core programme was £153 billion, and therefore you have £8 billion of headroom.

On the other side of that equation, you have the white board of things that you want to do over that period. As we enter the annual budgeting process, we can see how much of the headroom is available and what we would like to pull off the white board and commit ourselves to, so that over the 10-year period, you would spend the £161 billion and deliver all the items on the white board. That is the conceptual framework.
The Type 26 frigate is part of the Core Committed Budget, with planning assumption for 13 hulls to be built, Mr. Thompson assures. 
However, i must note that much of the actual building phase of the ships will be outside the current 10-year plan, so that the money currently allocated covers the design phase and the building of the very first ships, assuming that the first hull is built as planned from 2018 and enters service in 2021. 
The current planning assumption appears to be a 12-months interval between one Type 26 and another, which would mean the last would be launched in 2034 or later (compatible with the plan that sees the last Type 23 bow out of service in 2036).

Another program "with a very long tail" is the F35, and Thompson makes another very interesting statement regarding this particular program, confirming that the 10-year plan includes funding for 48 airplanes. According to my interpretation of the MOD's Business Plan 2012-2015, the 48 F35Bs will all be delivered to the MOD by 2023. 

Jon Thompson: The Joint Strike Fighter has a very long tail. It is more than 10 years. Our commitment over the first 10 years is for 48, which was part of the announcements on 10 May in relation to the reversion to STOVL. Over time, we would expect the number to rise to beyond three figures, but that would be in the second decade.

Thomas Docherty: So there are 48 in the core equipment programme, and any beyond that would be effectively on the white board.

Jon Thompson: No; because it goes beyond the decade, that is an issue that can be considered in the next SDSR, and then you would think about it in longer terms. We are only talking here about the 10-year period.

The Core budget was determined in a relatively simple way:

David Williams: If it helps in terms of the content of the core equipment programme, the way in which we built the content of that programme up over the 10-year period was to start off with everything that was contractually committed, to add in the deterrent and wider nuclear submarine enterprise costs, and then to add in as the next layer other projects to which there had been a ministerial commitment. The most recent set of those, at the time, was the announcements that Liam Fox had made in July 2011 around carrier, Type 26, aspects of the armoured fighting programme, Chinook and Air Seeker. We then added in a degree of contingency or financial realism on top, took stock of how much headroom we had against the forecast budget over the period and decided how much of that we wanted to allocate out and how much we wanted to retain as unallocated provision or headroom for the future.

In terms of nuclear deterrence, the expenditure goes on well past the end of the current 10-years planning horizon, but it is interesting to note that the current planning is made on the assumption that the Vanguards will be replaced like for like, four new boats to replace the four old ones. A wise way to proceed. 
Naturally, we know what we are contractually committed to, but very often the MOD deals with costs that aren't initially clear, and that are often subject to variations. Cost growth has been a serious issue for Defence, and so the 153 billions of the Core budget include a contingency of 4.9 billion (more than the "4 billion" figure originally announced): 148 billions are already set aside and assigned, with some 4900 million pounds destined to cover cost growth, variations etcetera. This is extremely important, especially because there are important items in the equipment program that do not yet have a clear pricetag: namely, the F35B.

Thomas Docherty: Hang on-I am going to end up down a cul-de-sac if I am not too careful. Let us take one single item, the Joint Strike Fighter. We are buying 48 of them.

Jon Thompson: Yes.

Thomas Docherty: But you do not know how much they are going to cost? Because the US Air Force do not know much they are going to cost, the Chief of Defence Materiel does not know, and the US Congress do not know. It is going to cost you more than you think because the cost keeps going in the wrong direction. So you do not have £8 billion to play with because you are going to have to use some of that £8 billion if you have committed to buying 48.

Jon Thompson: As David said, the way in which we have approached that is that we have used the best information we have about what the programme is currently estimated to cost, and that is in the core assumption, the £153 billion. Then we added in £4.9 billion of risk provision within the core programme on the assumption that, as some of these programmes mature, the cost will rise. Then, rather than having to cancel a project that you have already committed to, you can use some of that risk provision, which is built into the £153 billion.

Thomas Docherty: Is that £4.9 billion out of your £8 billion?

David Williams: No, it is in addition.

Jon Thompson: It is in addition.

Thomas Docherty: So you have got £8 billion, then you have got another £4.9 billion?

Jon Thompson: Yes.

Thomas Docherty: Is that £4.9 billion within your £153 billion?

Jon Thompson: Yes.

The use of contingency money specifically set aside to tackle in-year changes to procurement contracts is a conceptually simple but absolutely vital change in the way the MOD works. A change that i've been praying for, for a long time, because the lack of spare money in the pockets in the past has been the cause of an endless series of program cancellations and delaying, which has resulted in lost capability and in monstrous cost escalations. As Thompson explains:

[...] in the past, if you go back two or three years, the way in which the Ministry of Defence approached this was to say, "We have a cost increase on a programme-what shall we do now? Everything is committed, so we will have to cancel something else." Or, as in the most extreme version, the carrier decisions in 2009, "We will stretch out that programme over a longer period of time," which leads to a sub-optimal value for money solution.

The disasterous delay imposed to CVF actually dates 2008, and calling it sub-optimal is really an understatement: according to the NAO, the 2-years delay is responsible for the 1.56 billion increase in cost in the long term that allows opponents of the carrier program to call it a "5 billion program".  It is not. It has been turned into one by a blaring example of financial madness.
Unable to spend some 405 million in-year (which weren't even a cost increase, but just the normal expenditure needed to continue with the original pace set for the CVF contract), the MOD ended up condemning itself to spend over 1500 millions over the rest of the program. And this is just one example, of many that could be made. It is absolutely evident that this must not happen again. 

Is there any indication on what sits on the White Board?
Yes, there are some.

Thompson seems to confirm my interpretation of the little information so far available on the MARS Solid Support Ship, for example: the Core Committed budget includes money for the development of the design of the ships, but their procurement for the moment sits on the White Board, and will move into the Core budget only in the next few years.
Always in terms of requirements not currently funded we have the Fast Landing Craft for the Royal Marines, which was confirmed at the time of the SDSR but is currently on hold, on the White Board.
Further investments into ISTAR, including probably new drones for the Navy and the Army, sit on the White Board, along with other programs, many of which relate to Combat Support and Combat Service Support for the Army. I believe, for example, that the modernisation of the Warrior FV514 Artillery Observation vehicle is likely to be found on the White Board, along very possibly with the long-term replacement of the DROPS trucks (the interim solution has been identified in the EPLS already in use as UOR in Afghanistan), Light Equipment Transporter trucks and General Service Tanker truck replacements.

Another interesting aspect regarding the budget is the significant underspend that was reported in-year. The Hearing provides an explanation:

In relation to 2012-13, the current financial year, we are currently in negotiation to transfer £1.5 billion of the defence budget from the current year into the next two financial years. If we are successful in those conversations with the Treasury, that will be appropriately disclosed to Parliament in supplementary estimates in January.

The MOD is not normally allowed to move money from a budget year to the following ones: the Treasury normally claws back every penny that is not spent. Fortunately, the MOD has been improving its management enough since the SDSR that the negotiations with the Treasury were successful, and a special permission has been gained to move the unspent money into the next two financial years. 

The huge 1.5 billion underspend in-year is due to several factors:

There are three areas that give rise to the sum. First, we have established an unallocated provision in every single year. In the current year, that is approximately £500 million. Secondly, although we think that we have improved the overall costing of the equipment programme, and we have a more stable programme, the programme delivery profile moves slightly back in every financial year. We are therefore looking to transfer half a billion pounds from the current year to future years because the programmes have moved back slightly. Then we have made £500 million of provisions in the wake of the SDSR, either for industrial liabilities or for redundancy payments that we do not think we need in the current financial year. So there are three reasons for it. It depends on how you like to define an underspend.

We earlier saw how the Equipment budget has a 4.9 billion contingency reserve of money. The 500 millions of unallocated provision in-year here mentioned is another layer of financial flexibility and protection:

We spoke earlier about, within the equipment plan across the 10-year period, £4.9 billion-worth of contingency and then £8 billion-worth of headroom, as a second layer. As the third layer in balancing the budget last year, we have put across the entire programme, so not specifically for equipment issues, further unallocated provision, which was £500 million this year and it is about £200 million a year, or thereabouts, across the 10-year period.

The equipment is not the only source of unexpected expenses in year, so the MOD has wisely decided to set aside a certain amount of money, not specifically tied to equipment, to cover other possible problems. For 2012, the unallocated provision was 500 millions, an high one because the MOD is still dealing with the many (and expensive) changes mandated in the SDSR. In the next years, the provision will be of around 200 million in each budget cycle.
This is a cross-sector reserve of 2 billions spread over 10 years. The total expenditure of the MOD over 10 years approaches 400 billions, so it is evident that Equipment is only part of the problem. Manpower is by far the heaviest voice of expenditure, and that's why manpower has been steeply reduced in the cuts.

As we know, however, the MOD has been badly affected by the cuts announced in the Autumn Statement of the Chancellor: the result is that a significant part of the 2 billion reserve is going to vanish in 2013 and 2014.

The reduction in our resource Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) of 1% for 2013-14 and 2% for 2014-15 is the methodology that was adopted for all Departments with three exceptions. Everyone else was treated in exactly the same way as we were.

The exceptions are NHS, Education and International Aid.
Defence was not spared and as a consequence will lose £250m in 2013/14 and £490m in 2014/15.
As a consequence, the 2012 underspend is effectively going back to the Treasury anyway: the permission to "move" this money on to the next two financial years is rather "virtual", as the money will effectively go back to the Treasury.
And it won't even be enough, as one billion out of 1.5 is money that IS going to be spent: these 1000 millions had been set aside to cover the costs of industrial liabilities and personnel redundancies caused by the SDSR, and to finance some of the equipment programs. They have not been used up in 2012 because things have developed in a slower way than expected, but they are costs that are not gone away.
The 740 millions in cuts that the MOD has to tackle in the next two years will eat away the 500 million unused provision moved on from 2012, and part of the unallocated provisions built into the next two years (which should be, as we saw, 200 million in each year).

The cut is manageable, and will not impact the Core Committed equipment budget, nor manpower. However, there obviously is an impact, as that money could have been eventually employed to help fund programs currently on the White Board:

Clearly our previous plan was based on not having that adjustment. Would we otherwise spend it? Yes. I am fairly sure that we would have spent it on appropriate things in accordance with what the defence board decided it should spend that budget on.

For now, there is no big shock, and no impact on the Equipment Budget, but something which could have been given funds and go ahead from the White Board will now have to wait. The real battle will go on over the new year, as the Treasury rolls forwards with a new Spending Review connected with the plan for an extended Austerity period lasting up to 2017/18. 
The Spending Review will determine the amount of money the MOD receives from 2015/16 onwards. Currently, the MOD is working to the assumption that its budget will be flat in real terms (no increases but no cuts either), with the famous 1% budget uplift (for the sole equipment program) in the three years from 2015 to 2018.  
Any reduction imposed on the MOD's budget will have a dramatic impact on military capability that will no longer be possible to absorb with contingency funds without putting the whole plan at serious risk.

The MOD is now planning prudently and rather efficiently: there has been a big impact on capability (and we don't even know yet exactly how many programs have been killed in the book-balancing effort) but there now is a conceptually-simple but effective plan to control spending and deliver programs in the decade.
The Treasury, however, is already starting to put the whole thing at risk: first of all, the MOD desperately needs to be able to negotiate its budget with the Treasury. If a program, for whatever reason, does not reach the Investment point in-year as was expected, the MOD must be able to keep the money, to spend it the following year when the moment comes: if the Treasury claws it all back, when it'll be time to pay the MOD will no longer have the money.
As we have seen, there is a special agreement in place to cover the next two years, but the Treasury must allow the MOD to carry forwards unspent money in the following years too, if the plan has to work.

In the past, knowing that every penny not spent was a penny lost, the MOD used to commit, each year 100% of its money. That meant having no reserve at all to meet cost increases, delays, unexpected changes etcetera, causing the infamous policy of cancelling and deferring, which solved the problems in-year but made them ten times worse in the following financial cycles.

Now that the MOD is genuinely trying not to repeat that suicidal approach, it is fundamental that the Treasury does not get in to claw the underspend away, otherwise the MOD, quite understandably indeed, will be more than tempted to return to the old methods.  

As a last important information, the Afghanistan war expenditure is falling. This additional money is provided by the Treasury over and above the rest of the defence budget, and the cost fell from £3.777 billion in 2010-11 to £3.458 billion in 2011-12. This year it should be around 2.5 billion.
The cost of the last two years of the Campaign, 2013 and 2014, is still being determined: importantly, it will include the money needed to fund the return of equipment to the UK.


  1. Absolutely fascinating read, thank you for posting.

    F-35 rears it's head again- looks like the long term thinking at the moment is to keep buying them as money allows and progressively replace the Typhoon fleet with them. Goodbye UK fast-jet industry.

    1. Unfortunately, it is no mystery that there is no plan to design and build a new manned jet for the armed forces after the F35.
      If there will still be manned fighters by then (and i do believe it'll be the case), the UK will have no alternative but work either with the US or with Europe.

  2. I would prefer less number of SSBNs to save up money.

    1. 3 submarines aren't enough to keep CASD going.

    2. Building only 3 SSBNs would save very little money as the development/infrastucture costs are the same whether you have 3 or 4. In addition, it means an increased workload for the 3 remaining boats, resulting in higher maintenance costs and, potentially, a reduced service life. It has been estimated that reducing the fleet from 4 to 3 SSBNs (i.e. a 25% reduction) would only reduce total costs by ~10%, therefore not worthwhile.

  3. Gaby

    A tremendous post, Gaby.

    For the moment, a couple of specific questions:

    "along very possibly with the long-term replacement of the DROPS trucks (the interim solution has been identified in the EPLS already in use as UOR in Afghanistan), Light Equipment Transporter trucks"

    Has any of the thinking in this area hardened up yet? I know that the EPLS is the interim solution but is it also likely to be the long-term one? There are some problems with visibility to the rear, aren't there? Also what about the LET replacement? Any news that you know of there? Last I heard it seemed to be between Oshkosh and MAN.

    1. I think further orders of EPLS are pretty likely, but longer term the Army might want to look at different solutions. Nothing new that i can report, though. I've heard nothing so far about more specific plans.

  4. Very interesting, thanks Gab. I am encouraged that the MOD does seem to be getting this under control, though recent moves by the treasury are concerning. The 1.5bn increase in the CVF was a peime example of poor financial practices. To think what could have been achieved with that money... no carrier strike gap, funds to spend on light frigates to keep Portsmouth open...

  5. Gaby

    Let me see whether I have understood all the figures. You will have to be tolerant, as I am not good with figures, having only just scraped a pass in “O” Level Maths, many moons ago! It is the case, the, is it not, that the budget for the next decade budget includes three layers of built-in flexibility?

    First there is the amount of money - some £8 billion, as yet uncommitted ,which will provide financial “headroom” over the next ten years and might very well be assigned to a number of procurement programmes.

    Then there is the contingency of £4.9 billion risk provision, which is built into the £153 billion of the Core budget.

    Thirdly, there is the £500 millions of unallocated provision in-year (not specifically for equipment).
    Is that correct so far?

    I ask because there is a misunderstanding that seems to be abroad at the moment that the Treasury is going to “claw back” some (or even all) of the £8 billion reserve mentioned in my point 1 above. That is certainly not true, is it?

    It is bad news indeed that “the 2012 underspend is effectively going back to the Treasury anyway”. I think that as Defence is one of the few Government departments to have balanced its books, the Treasury could have been a little more grateful.

    Now a question about the Capability Priority List or “White Board”. You have been pretty informative about the items you think it might contain. I would very much like to know which programmes you would like to see (i.e. what your priorities would be in terms of items currently not funded but which you would deem very important indeed for the future of the British Armed Forces). It is Christmas time, Gaby, and you are allowed a little indulgence in the direction of “fantasy fleets”. I would be particularly interested in what your views on Army equipment are. I am going to post another comment on a specific item of Land equipment later on but have not found the necessary references yet.

  6. Gaby

    I’m sorry. My second post was to be on the subject Of General Nick Carter’s comment in a speech to the Institute for Strategic Studies about how the Royal Artillery was likely to adopt one single calibre for its guns and look at acquiring a 155 mm weapon. However, I see that you have effectively answered this point in another post. I still feel, though, that as he took the trouble to mention a single calibre, the M777 stands a pretty good chance of being high on the list of priorities for the British Army.

    1. Financial documents are always a nightmare to understand, don't worry. Fortunately, though, the guys from the MOD were very clear this time around (something i notice is becoming a norm in all hearings, which is promising!):

      The MOD is going to spend up to 400 billions over the decade, all-in.
      Of these, around 160 billions are for equipment.

      Around 148 billion pounds are already committed to run and support items already in service; procure other items already under contract; procure other items which are firmly planned but not yet contracted for.

      Then there are 4.9 billions of contingency funding to cover cost increases in-year, provide headroom for those items which do not yet have a definitive pricetag (F35) etcetera.

      Then there are 8 billions which are set aside to be used, mostly but not exclusively AFTER the next SDSR, to fund items picked up by the White Board, with the MOD trying to reduce the list to one that can be financed with the billions available.

      Then there is indeed a third layer of flexibility in the form of around 2 billion pounds left uncommitted inside the GENERAL budget. This money is not specifically part of the Equipment pot, and is intended to be used for any other kind of expenditure that pops up, including (unfortunately) the latest cuts mandated by the Treasury.

      The Autumn Statement's cuts are not going to bite into the Equipment budget. The 148, 4.9 and 8 billion pots are safe, for the moment.

      Threats come from the Spending Review to be carried out in the new year, though: if the MOD finances for the second half of the decade are slashed, then the MOD will have to cancel other voices from the equipment budget, from the white board in particular, and/or cut manpower further.

      The MOD desperately needs to be able to make 10-year plans, with how long and complex defence procurement programs are. It is essential that the Treasury gives them a solid indication of the money they'll have over the ten years, and then sticks to the indication.
      Each cut changes everything and makes the plan unsustainable.

      As for what i'd absolutely want to see funded, i guess i'd better write a full article, explaining it in detail, however i can give you a first list:

      Retain Sentinel R1, Shadow R1 and Reapers beyond 2014

      Procure 9 P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircrafts from 2015. The airplane is fitted with a very powerful radar (AN/APY-10) which can track targets on land too, so Sentinel R1 could be sacrificed in exchange.

      Speed up Crowsnest to have it available by 2016 and use the 8 HM1 airframes left instead of scrapping them, so to have around 30 HM2 for the maritime security and ASW taskings. (At least 10 airframes in total to be modified to be able to cover AEW role)

      Go ahead with 2011 plan for 8 Wildcat LAH to assign to 657 AAC in support of Special Forces. (current status of this announced plan is unknown)

      Go ahead with Scavenger, to replace Reaper in 2020

      Begin procurement of at least two OPV/Corvettes for the Royal Navy's constabulary tasks.

      Prioritize project Virtus (new body armour and helmet for the soldiers) and go ahead with an unmanned Load Carrier for the infantry Section: i'm reading accounts of the war in Afghanistan, and the greatest source of casualties is the excessive weight of kit. This has to change.

      Delay and reconsider FRES UV: if it is for just 3 battalions, it isn't worth the money. Reconsider the whole thing and work with France on their 6x6 armored vehicle to mechanize, over time, ideally the 3 "deployable" BRIGADES of the Adaptable force.

      Towards the end of the decade, begin work to retain a squadron of C130J cargo planes for Special Forces mission and tactical transport. You never have too many cargo planes.

      Continue running Typhoon Tranche 1 into the 2020s to sustain a force of 7 Typhoon squadrons.

    2. Good list of possible procurements, I broadly agree with you're ideas!

    3. Hi Gabriele,

      I agree with you on your shopping list, except for the load carrying. As an ex infantry soldier, I can't agree with that.
      I would add the M777 to the list instead.
      I think there will be a few equipment cancellations to come.


    4. I just can't believe you were happy with the weight you had to carry. Soldiers in Afghanistan certainly aren't.

      I constantly read accounts of missions ended with no contacts but nonetheless with "7 soldiers lost; 4 to back injuries, one with ripped ligaments and 2 to the heat", to quote only one of several examples that could be made.

      A load carrier is part of the Infantry Modernisation programme as part of a major weight-reduction effort, and i believe it absolutely is the way to go, for several reasons:

      the british army is unfortunately going to be one of the less mechanized in the world. Lots of light infantry with little vehicle supports.
      Even with UOR protected mobility vehicles provided when on operations, soldiers will always have to walk a lot, with lots of kit.

      Kit can only be made SO light. There's no easy way to achieve a definitive, resolutive reduction, just improvements, however significant.

      A manned load carrier is going to require additional manpower or require men from the platoon who end up driving instead of focusing on fighting.

      A manned load carrier can only have a high profile due to the driver himself. You can only make it SO small. Makes it that much harder to sneak the load carrier towards the very first line of fire. An interim solution is the quadbike with trailer, but the Army is and rightfully so aiming for something better.

      As per the M777, it would be a fantastic improvement, but i can't see it being an urgent improvement when there are far more pressing needs to be met. Even within the Royal Artillery itself, i think FV514 modernisation, guided shells, weapons for the Watchkeeper and other investments are much higher up the list of improvements.
      I just can't imagine the army funding the M777 right now, nor would i suggest it before tackling the real urgencies.

  7. Gaby

    Good Heavens! And you've written all that in the time since I posted the last comment! Contrast that with what I can my strain from my hard-bound brains - something like two paragraphs a day.

    Like your ideas a great deal, though, particularly those on retaining Sentinel R1, Shadow R1 and Reapers beyond 2014, on the Poseidon MPAs and the C130J for Special Forces.

    More later. I am not so sure about FRES UV.

    Tremendous stuff all round!

    1. I know my position regarding FRES UV is likely to be controversial and not liked by everyone, but spending a huge amount of money to provide highly-advanced 8x8 armored vehicles to just three battalions, to me makes little sense.
      But as i said, i think i'll have to write an "SDSR according to me" piece at some point, to explain things properly.

      I'll put that on the "To Do" list!

  8. Off topic, relating to your latest tweet, I think you fail to see how development is related to defence. Securing fragile states through properly directed aid will prevent the need to send in troops later and cost lives. Development is just as essential as defence, or Eastern Europe would not have been properly rebuilt post WWII.

    1. The fact is that i do not think british aid is currently doing any of that. Theory is awesome, practice is a different story.

  9. Gaby

    "A load carrier is part of the Infantry Modernisation programme as part of a major weight-reduction effort, and i believe it absolutely is the way to go"

    Probably, but are there any outstanding candidates? I have seen the one offered by Marshall, in which the MOD seems interested. It seems rather on the small side from photographs but you can never tell unless you see the real thing.

    "Delay and reconsider FRES UV: if it is for just 3 battalions, it isn't worth the money. Reconsider the whole thing and work with France on their 6x6 armored vehicle to mechanize, over time, ideally the 3 "deployable" BRIGADES of the Adaptable force."

    I'm not quite with this as I'm not sure which formations you have in mind from the Adaptable Force. Presumably not the Protected Mobility Battalions (on Foxhound), so are you referring to the "Light Role" battalions? Won't they then (once Mechanized) cease to be "Light" or is that the intention?

    1. The Marshal TRAKKAR is very promising, but there are other options too: for example Lochkeed Martin has allowed the MOD to trial its Squad Mission Support System, which the US Army has already been experimenting on the afghan battlefield.
      Israel can offer products as advanced as the AvantGuard, which is much more than just a load carrier... There are options, and they are growing to maturity quite quickly.

      As for FRES UV, as of now it would go to the three mechanized battalions in the Reaction Force, but i would like to mechanize the three Adaptable Brigades (Scotland, Cottersmore, Catterick) which are meant to sustain actual deployments abroad.
      They are mostly made up by light infantry, save for the battalions with Foxhound (of which we don't yet know the intended capability and structure, either) and i do not believe that is sufficient.

  10. Gaby

    Nice to know that the options for an unmanned load carrier are growing to maturity.

    Understandable views on Mechanized infantry too.


  11. Hi Gabriele,

    Yes, soldiers have always had to carry a load. The Roman legionaries were the original walking mules.

    In my view, having a vehicle to carry a sections kit goes against all the rules of field craft. I agree with you it would be better to have more vehicle mobile battalions, but there just not the money for that. In a way it goes against the way the British infantry like to work, on foot.

    Kit discipline is another point. It is all too easy to carry to much kit. I bet you, that even with a section mule; the load an infantryman will carry will never go down.

    Afghan is an extreme example of the load an infantryman is asked to carry, hopefully that will soon be over. The extra water, extreme heat and extra weapons will soon be a thing of the past. Salisbury plain, mud and rain the future.

    I would rather spend the money for 30 to 40 mules for a battalion, on more real soldiers on the battlefield.


    1. Pardon me, but Salisbury is for training. What about the next time the Army will deploy abroad? Afghanistan is all but a page, about to be turned, of a massive book. The next pages are yet to be written, and will not be written in Salisbury, but somewhere else where there are good probabilities that the soldiers will still need extra water, ECM devices to protect from IEDs and much more.
      It would be irresponsible not to try and provide the soldiers with a lighter and less bulky body-worn load while ensuring they have adequate equipment for long patrols.
      Especially in an army that is not going to be able to cope with the constant loss of soldiers to avoidable back injures in each handful-of-days patrol.

    2. Hi Gabriele,

      I think we must agree to disagree on this one.

      I must however ask what happens, when your mule;

      It breaks down.
      You have to wade across a river four feet deep.
      You arrive at an obstacle or terrain which the mule is unable to cross.
      Your mission changes and you have to abandon your mule.
      You come under enemy fire, and have to crawl to remain unseen for 400 metres.
      You are deployed to an area were the terrain means a mule cannot be used, i.e. the jungle.
      A lynx or wildcat helicopter drops down to pick you up.

      I would rather have another soldier with me, he can cope with all of the above, and he can fight.

      But that’s just my opinion; I guess others would rather have a mule.

      Sorry I missed your happy Christmas post, so may I wish you a Happy New Year, and I look forward to reading your very good articles in 2013.


  12. Hey, with future planning assumptions under consideration. I wondered what was the situation regarding the t-45's, and the potential for them to become fully fitted out. Eg, with harpoon. I apologise if this has been spoken about before, but just wondered what happened to the harpoon systems that were on the four t-22's that were decommisioned? Surely those could be fitted sp at least four t-45's have some anti ship capability.


    1. It is expected to happen in the new year. First heard of it last april, and this month it has been reported by Warship World.

    2. Hi,
      What issue was it in? I must have missed reading it. Cheers

    3. The april rumor wasn't on Warship World, at least i don't think it was. But it was loud enough a rumor that it was given as fact even on specialised defence press here in Italy!

    4. Having gone through the latest issue Jan/Feb 2013, I found one line mentioning Harpoon "and fitted to selected Type 45 Destroyers from 2013" , they are usually pretty spot on because they confirmed as fact Phalanx was being fitted to the Type 45, and a few months later it was.


  13. Thanks for the info, just browsing through the article now. Will be nice for the few we have to have a rounded capability. Now hoping the new year will bring news of 2 opv for the navy. At least river class, or in a dream world khareef. Ideally would love 3, one for north atlantic patrol, one for the indian ocean, and one as a sort of gibraltar guard ship/med patrol ship supplement gulf patrols



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