Monday, May 16, 2011

Will it ever end...? - New cuts on the horizon, and Business Plan 2011

Fresh reports of more cuts possibly coming for the Armed Forces on BBC this morning. Apparently, the study, which is expected to be over by July, is related to Planning Round 2012, and is already considering more cuts to follow those delivered in the SDSR. Menaced is, according to BBC, old Lusty. HMS Illustrious will come out of its last refit next year, and the current plan is that she will become the Navy's sole LPH in service while HMS Ocean enters her own scheduled refit. HMS Illustrious is planned to bow out in 2014, leaving Ocean alone for some time, until HMS Queen Elizabeth is fully in service. 
Even the "new fleet of armored vehicles", which is the FRES SV, is at risk, or at least being evaluated as target for the cuts. 
I honestly don't even know what to say anymore. I wonder if something at all will survive, at times. And i keep wondering how the hell the government dared publishing a SDSR document setting targets for 2015 that are being blatantly betrayed only months after the "strategy" has been finalized. 

Anyway, before closing this depressing post, i want to take a peek into the MOD Business Plan 2011 document, which... is next to useless and provides very little detail in terms of procurement programmes, but still has a few interesting points worth pointing out: 

- By March 2012, the US/UK Defence Trade Co-Operation Treaty will have been fully implemented. 

- A Joint User Group with France about A400 Atlas has been established. 

- By december 2014, the group will report on several possibilities of collaboration about the A400, including possibly shared mainteinance, spares stocks and synthetic and live training. 

- By July, an agreement is expected on the usage of the FSTA Voyager's spare capacity to fill the French requirement for air to air refuelling. This could help the RAF pay the FSTA bill, and end once and for all the madness of air tankers being used by civilian flying companies, so that proper Electronic Self Defence DAS systems can be fitted without the need to remove them to lend the plane to Virgin Atlantic...  

- By March 2012, HMS Albion will be mothballed, and HMS Bulwark will be the fleet's Flagship and sole LPD at high readiness, until the situation is reversed when Bulwark hits scheduled refit time. 

- 5000 Redundancies in the Navy will be delivered in three tranches, the first ending in september 2012, and the last finishing in October 2012.

- The activities for the elimination of the Regional Division HQs, for the passage to the 5 Multi-Role Brigades structure and other big Army changes will be completed by March and April 2015 respectively. 

- "Rationalization" of wider equipment holdings will continue delivering improvements (read CUTS) to April 2020.

- Reductions of 40% in Challenger II fleet and 35% of the AS90 fleet are reportedly "complete". I did not see a single report about what this means, how many tanks are left, how the regimental structure will change to adapt to the lower number of machines, nothing.

- 7000 redundancies in the Army to be achieved in four tranches, the first ending in September 2012 and the last to be completed by April 2013.

- By March 2015 the reductions in Tornado force elements will mean that only 18 (down from 40) strike airplanes will be at high readiness at any one time. Not even two full squadrons.

- Typhoon multirole capability is expected to be completed by 2018. The document does not provide details, but from previous reports, rumors and Eurofighter press releases we know that the Paveway IV should be operative by 2012 and integration of Brimstone and Storm Shadow is planned for 2014, with the Meteor coming online in 2015. The ALARM apparently won't be cleared for use anymore as it appears it will be retired by 2013, without any activity being progressing to identify a replacement/stopgap weapon. The RAF is apparently killing its SEAD capability, simple as that. 

- F35C acquisitions to be completed by 2023. This date was not changed from the 2010 plan. In service date is 2018/2019 in the latest plans.

- By April 2013, the Tristar fleet will have been entirely retired. 

- The reduction of the role of the VC10 to sole Air to Air Refueling role is reported as "Complete". How can the RAF cope with the massive reduction in transport capability is a mystery. More chartered civilian flights, i'm guessing.

- The first tranche of RAF redundancies will be completed by September 2012. The second tranche of cuts will begin in October 2011 and be completed in April 2012, with the third running from April 2012 to October 2012. 

- The study on the restructuring of the Reserves of the three services is expected to be completed by August 2011.

- 20.000 civilians will be cut from the MOD (wasn't the original amount 25.000, by the way...?) in four tranches, running into March 2015.

- Submarine Enterprise Performances Programme will run to April 2022, seeking for savings in the submarine programmes (mainly Trident replacement) with a minimum target of 900 millions. However, initial gate approval has not been yet given, and is expected between August and October. 

- For what i can understand, BAE Systems will be contracted in a long term Foundation agreement about Trident Replacement submarines by March 2012. Rolls Royce will enter an equal agreement for the reactor and propulsion sector by December 2012, and Babcock will enter the frame by March 2013. As i've explained in the Royal Navy page, Trident Replacement part, the UK is already involved from several years in the US effort to design the Common Missile Compartment for the Vanguard and Ohio SSBN replacement programmes. Meanwhile, the government appears keen to adopt, for the Trident replacement, the latest-generation PWR3 nuclear reactor, a safer and more recent reactor than the PWR2 used on the Astute class.

- A study into a Sub-Strategy for Logistics is running, and will report in October.

We will see what this all truly means, and how things evolve.


  1. This has been on the cards for a while, the sdsr didn't come close to sorting out the budget, many knew there was still plenty to be cut away before the budget was under control.
    Things were ordered without any thought as to how to pay for them. Maybe something like this is needed to get the ministers, top cs and the defence chiefs to figure out how to stick to a budget.

  2. Hi Gabby,

    You are right: 25.000 was the quote in SDSR for the MoD civilians; now goinf to be down by 5.000 less

    RE "the Meteor coming online in 2015. The ALARM apparently won't be cleared for use anymore as it appears it will be retired by 2013, without any activity being progressing to identify a replacement/stopgap weapon. The RAF is apparently killing its SEAD capability, simple as that" - a version of Meteor is planned, budget and timing? Who knows!

    Latest generation reactors seem to be sailing for an approval (despite upping the cost for new subs - just wondering what is happening on the Astute side of things?)

    Cheers, ACC

  3. Welcome on my blog AAC, and thanks for the comments too!

    For the Astute it is too late for a change, and it will be PWR2 all the way. The reactor is modern and efficient, but lacks some of the most modern safety features of the PWR3.
    The fuss that has been going on on the press is, i believe, more than excessive. We've always known that nuclear reactors pose risks, but if they are maintained and used in the right way, nothing happens.

    However HMS Astute is experiencing a complex sea trials period, and while this is normal, in particular for a whole new submarine type, the press is being following each and every moment of the trials, and each problem that emerges is presented as a condemn of the class and of the RN's SSN efforts. This concerns me. I hope the next time Astute goes out at sea, everything works correctly and all problems are ironed out, to shut up the goddamn reporters.

    By the way, no offense meant, but... please keep the Duchess of Cornwall away from the RN ships. Not to be cruel to Camilla but... The Astute has experienced a lot of bad events so far, and if someone else can launch the next boats, i think we'll all be reassured!

    And are you sure that a Meteor SEAD variant is planned? I know it was offered by the industry, but i don't think the RAF ever committed to that, even just with words.
    Gods know that i'd love it to have, though. The loss of ALARM worries me a lot.


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