The future of UK military power is under question and especially so with the new coalition government ramping up pressure on the MoD by cutting its budget. The UK has the fourth largest annual budget in the World and is heavily involved in Afghanistan as well as having bases in several other countries. The defence of the UK relies mostly on air power and sea power, these distinct powers both have the capability of protecting the UK from conventional threats. However in the modern age terrorism is a big threat as well as cyber-terrorism being a threat of tomorrow.
With the cuts in place and the coalition cutting the MoD’s budget as well as budgeting the Trident nuclear missile system on top of defence spending through the Ministry of Defence, it brings into question what the the UK and its armed forces are going to look like in the future. Whether the nuclear missile system goes ahead or not and if it doesn’t, other countries such as the US (The UK’s closest ally) and our position in the European Union will become slightly diminished. Or take the Royal Navy as another example, in operations with other countries to which the UK provides support to or provides military assistance to, will that be the future of the Royal Navy any more, will the role change as defence is downsized. It is understandable that the coalition wants to bring the structural and budget deficit down and they are making some hard decisions especially in the area of defence however people in the United States would likely argue you cannot place a price on defence. The American national defence budget is the largest in the World; and accounts for nearly half the Worlds military spending and larger than China’s annual budget times by 7. The question that needs to be brought up after the recent defence review, are the coalition doing the correct things in terms of defence.
What are they cutting in military defence spending?
Defence spending on a four year period will fall by 8%. This propagates onto the military branches losing personnel, with the RAF/NAVY to lose 5,000 jobs each, the Ministry of Defence losing 25,000 civilian workers and the Army losing 7,000 personnel. The MoD losing 25,000 civilian workers is something I support, as there is too much bureaucracy in defence. Sure people need jobs, however defence spending needs to go directly into defence, as that is the idea of defence, to have something to defend with and paying people who don’t actually achieve this, is a step backwards. We witnessed this in Iraq where soldiers weren’t wearing correct uniform at the start in 2003. It has slightly gotten better throughout the years however axing 25,000 civilian’s in the Ministry of Defence is a step in the right direct albeit to the fact that these people have lost very good and respectable jobs. There has also been axes in the ‘harrier‘ aircraft and the HMS Ark Royal which means that current aircraft carriers won’t have any aircraft aboard them and only until 2019 will Britain operate carriers with aircraft on them with the JSF F-35C being the future aircraft as opposed to the VTOL F-35B.
The two new Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carriers managed to squeeze it through alive in the defence review however with only one aircraft carrier being operational while the other being on extended readiness with possibilities of it being sold. With this in mind, there are going to be changes in the design of the new carrier so that it can be fitted with steam-catapults, this changes the whole design completely seeing as there will be no need for a ramp any more and the idea of two flight decks could also be a possibility. I also think that the F-35C is a better choice of aircraft and also the steam-catapults as Dr. Fox stated (The Secretary of Defence), it increases interoperability with our allies who also operate steam-catapult aircraft and aircraft carriers. In the short term and perhaps the long term with the steam-catapults, the design change will cost more and the switch over of contracts to the F-35C may also cost more as well as the spending which went toward the F-35B is at a loss as the UK won’t using that technology. However more categorically in the long term it will be more beneficial to the UK to have an aircraft carrier which has long term strategic interoperability with allied countries.
The main battle tank, the Challenger 2 will be cut by 40%, in a huge reduction to decrease spending on assets which aren’t being used and are sitting around in huge cold war British bases in Germany while also the AS90 heavy artillery is being decreased by 35%. However money is being directed into a more current use of assets such as the purchase of 12 more Chinooks and radio equipment as well as UAVs. The decision to cut the Challenger 2 and heavy artillery, I believe is a good decision in terms of future spending schemes as these vehicles aren’t really going to be deployed in such heavy numbers as one could argue the life of tanks and heavy vehicles such as the AS-90 are becoming outdated with aircraft being the prominent take over of strategic planning at the forefront.
Furthermore on naval spending by 2020 the number of frigates and destroyers will be dropped from 23 to 19, however with the 6 T-45 destroyers to still go a head as planned.
The full review:The full SDSR .pdf file
The nuclear missile system, Trident, is to go ahead. The Prime minister has stated that the replacement for a newer updated version of the Trident nuclear missile system will be cut on nuclear equipped Vanguard class equipped (They hold 16 missile equipped Trident missiles each) submarines from 48 to 40 with a saving of £750 million. The life of trident is also to be extended to 2016 until the next general election where the next government will set out plans on whether there should be a continuation of the Trident upgrade.
David Cameron: “We expect to continue with the 4th largest military budget in the world” – After the United States, China and France.