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Britainís Armed force to be slashed for High-Tech

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#1 Ilphi

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 02:33 PM

Quote

Armed forces to be slashed for hi-tech war
Jonathon Carr-Brown and Peter Almond
By The Sunday Times Online

THE government is preparing a radical reshaping of the armed forces, including plans to cut the number of nuclear-powered attack submarines by almost half.

The move, which has alarmed some senior commanders, is expected to mark a shift in defence spending, with conventional weapons such as tanks, artillery and ships cut back to make way for a new "digital" arsenal.

More investment will go into smart bombs, unmanned aircraft and computer systems that allow commanders to control a battle in "real time" from thousands of miles away.

Ministers are said to believe that radical change is needed to keep the British armed forces effective and compatible with those of the United States. But the changes are being planned within existing budgets and will necessitate deep cuts in many areas.

In a white paper to be published later this year, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is expected to propose the scrapping of at least two and possibly three of its nuclear-powered attack submarines in addition to the two vessels already due to be scrapped under the 1998  strategic defence review. This would reduce the fleet from 12 to just seven. Britain will, however, separately retain its four Trident submarines, which provide the country's nuclear deterrent.

The army has been told to look at cutting 42 Challenger 2 tanks and at least 15 AS90 self-propelled field guns. The RAF may have to reduce its order for 232 new Eurofighters by at least a third. Air force and navy orders for the joint strike fighter could fall from 160 to 110.

The navy is being told that the programme to replace Type 42 frigates with new Type 45 ships could be curtailed. In addition, only six Type 23s will be given new sonar designed to detect diesel-electric submarines, deployed by countries such as Iran.

The knock-on effects would see corresponding cuts in maintenance and logistical personnel, shrinking Britain's military even further. It is already known as "the best small army in the world".

The push for change started after the September 11 attacks on America, with planners arguing that Britain needs a lighter, more flexible army. "Military punch" is out, in favour of "effects rather than numbers".

The war in Iraq has provided ammunition for new thinkers and traditionalists alike. It was won in short order with relatively few troops, with a vanguard of high-tech special forces supported by drones and smart bombs. But heavy tanks proved vital.

Advocates of a lighter military want to see investment shifted to the purchase of more unmanned aircraft. They also want soldiers equipped with "mini-drones" so that they can survey the battlefield. The US Marines already have a drone called Dragon Eye that can be carried in a backpack.

In the future such aircraft could be as small as 6in long; drone helicopters are also being developed to avoid the need for landing strips.

Military planners think that Apache helicopters can replace much of the tank's firepower. Heavy tanks such as the Challenger 2 are thought to be too cumbersome to transport. During the Iraq war 10 huge C-17 aircraft were needed to transport just 10 65-ton M1-A2 tanks to an airstrip in the north of the country.

The MoD is expected to announce in the coming months a contract for a much lighter armoured vehicle that can take almost as much punishment as a heavy tank. The US has commissioned and is considering replacing at least a division of heavy tanks with Stryker light tanks and armoured vehicles.

British platoons were able to talk to one another on the battlefield in Iraq using new Bowman personal radios; but they are still a long way behind the Americans in terms of military communications. Every tank in the "digitised" US 4th Infantry Division can display a real-time video map of the battlefield, drastically reducing the probability of friendly fire incidents.

The Royal Navy is looking at a similar communication system which co-ordinates the defences of ships against attacking aircraft.

However, there is widespread concern among all the armed services that reconfiguring the military into smaller, high-tech forces will mean Britain does not have enough of anything to make a real difference in future campaigns.

Some senior army officers are convinced that the war has shown that we have already given up too much heavy punching power. "It was tanks and artillery that pushed us forward in Iraq," said one general. "Even when it is not knocking out other armour, a tank at a crossroads in town sends a powerful message of control."

Britain spends £24.5 billion a year on defence. This will climb to £27.4 billion by 2006, but in terms of gross domestic product, investment will slip from 2.5% to 2.2%, according to Treasury figures.

This means the MoD has to choose between technology and size. General Wesley Clark, the American former supreme commander of Nato, said last week: "The British force [in Iraq] is badly in need of increased resources. Already it is perhaps a generation behind the best available technology in some areas."

What do the military type people think? Is this a good move?

Edited by Certifiably Cait, 27 August 2012 - 02:25 PM.

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#2 Rov Judicata

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 04:46 PM

I think this entire article can be encapsulated with this:

Quote

Military planners think that Apache helicopters can replace much of the tank's firepower

Um... no.

Air power is vital, granted.

But ground troops, tanks, and all those other neat toys developed in the last century are absolutely vital. This is a really, really bad plan...
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#3 Shalamar

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 04:52 PM

I have to agree with Rov.  The hi tech toys are "sexy" but don't often fare well yet in the down and dirty of combat.

#4 Kosh

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 05:39 PM

Tanks and artillary still pack a good bang for the buck. Tomohawks are wonderful, but they cost something like 500,000 per.

I think having enough troops to do the job is important. I don't know what the totals are, but we (USA) had 200,000 in the gulf to start. Everybody added troops every day for a while.
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#5 Shaun

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 06:14 PM

The problem with a lot of decisions in the government today is that it's the Treasury department who're driving things rather than the people who have experience in particular areas. MoD has some serious finance problems (there are some things that I'm not at liberty to discuss that have my red alert alarms going off) and it also doesn't help that it's probably the least efficient and most wasteful government department.

It's just another example of the government's incredible lack of foresight, lack of good sense, failure to understand military needs and inability to listen to those with experience.
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#6 usmarox

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 06:19 PM

While I would love to have all the latest toys to play with, the article ignores something borne out time and again by history - at the end of the day, the work is accomplished by boots on the ground.  If those boots happen to be armed with OICW and have a heads-up display, that's great.  But no matter how good the technology, it has to have a human on the trigger.
Reducing manpower strengths for technology's sake is foolish, especially in the case of the British army.  The strength of our army has traditionally been - and remains to this day - the soldier himself.  Hell, we're so used to going without we're good at it :)
The fact is, at present, we are still so far ahead, technologically, of our likely warfighting opponents, that we can afford to delay the introduction of this kit for a little until it is cheap enough that the impact can be minimised.  That's not to say that we should be complacent - far from it - but this sort of thing needs to be placed in perspective.  The best example of this is the curtailment of the Type 23 frigate upgrade - this is the sort of thing that needs to happen, as it enhances our warfighting ability in likely scenarios.  
Which is not to say I'm against reform.  It is true that an armoured divison is an unwieldy thing.  The best type of investment would be along the lines of increasing the "deployability" of our forces.  A successor to CVR(T), and an APC intermediate between Saxon and Warrior , would allow us to deploy a large armoured formation faster than the traditional Challenger/Warrior/AS90 battlegroup.  We used to have light SP artillery in the form of the Abbot, but in it's infinite wisdom, the government ditched them at the end of the Cold War.
Change is required.  This much I accept. But the proposed nature of the change is short-sighted.
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#7 the 'Hawk

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 11:15 PM

Air power is little more than manned artillery.

You can't secure and hold terrain with air power.

And anyone who attempts to accomplish infantry goals with armoured, artillery, naval or air power and NOT incorporate any infantry understands none of the above.

I applaud the use of tech in order to save lives.

But altering your military paradigm because Iraq, flat as a board and poorly defended, gave you "new insight" is hardly the kind of "insight" a military should have.

All the tech in the world simply drives the cost of your average soldier up. Soldiers who, by and large, still die just as easily as they did in every war in history.

A "smart bomb" costs a hell of a lot more than a suicide bomber--- yet they both can have exactly the same effect.

Think about it.

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#8 tennyson

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Posted 20 April 2003 - 11:53 PM

I don't see this as a wise move, especially the naval and heavy vehicle cuts. The British don't have as much of a "legacy force" to fall back on if the latest tech innovation is neutralized and this will only make it worse.
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#9 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 07:56 AM

I have a few mixed feelings on this one.  The attack subs are all most something Britain could give up a few of without cortically weakening their current military force.  The fast attack boats in recent years have really been reduced to being a stealthier than usual T-hawk launcher.  The mass threat of a Soviet submarines force choking off the Atlantic has passed and the fast attacks boats are slightly less important for Britain in the current threat environment than more diverse platforms.  Instead of a mass submarine threat these days the main worry is a handful of very stealthily diesel electrics in the hands of a state with less than nice intentions.  With a seven or so fast attacks Britain could keep two or three deployed at a give time while relying on the larger USN fast attack force to cover the majority of the world.  It is far from the perfect solution but myself I would rather have two CVFs and their escorts then five SSNs.  Now not replacing the Type 42 frigates and not giving the Type 23s new sonar is a major mistake.  Those diesel electrics are the big threat now.    

The big mistakes I see are in the ground forces.  If anything the result of this war is that any attempt to start turning a significant portion of the United States Army into a lighter force will find some serious opposition.  Stryker will probably make it in but I doubt weíll ever see it replace the Abrams or Bradley in any real number.  Iíd say maybe as planned a single Stryker Division if not less. Special Forces and high tech gadgets were great force multipliers but they can only do so much.  The heavy armor and airpower were the twin hammers that smashed the Iraqi military. The article questions being able to airlift the M1A2 Abrams but a point has to be made about the Abrams.  For everything the Iraqis threw at the Abrams most of it bounced off or inflicted no damage with only a handful of them lost.  Meanwhile the Bradley an IFV was killing MBTs with 25 mm rounds and this was a piece of armor that was called a pork barrel/death trap/boondoggle for years.  Rather than having less MBTs maybe it is a ďsmallĒ sign that we need some more C-17s.  In fact some interesting lighter than air dirigible like transports have been proposed that could carry larger numbers of armor into a theater.  The problem is it would be slower than a fixed wing and more vulnerable to attack but I think as a proposal it has enough potential that it should be explored.
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#10 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 08:04 AM

the'Hawk, on Apr 20 2003, 07:59 PM, said:

Soldiers who, by and large, still die just as easily as they did in every war in history.
Iím reminded of the Ranger who was hit in the chest by antitank rocket in Somalia.  Lucky for him the round was a dud but he was blown back through an exterior wall of a house.  He then came back out of the same hole returning fire on the Somalis who for some reason lost their will to fightÖ  He ended up with a few bruised ribs and no other injuries.

Moral of the story is try that with a World War II or even Vietnam era Flak jacketÖ. ;)
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#11 Uncle Sid

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 11:19 AM

Agreed with Aegis about the fast attacks.  Britain could easily live with a few less of them.  Heck, they could probably live without their Tridents, if it came to that.  The US would likely nuke anyone who Britain would nuke.  As for the Type-23's it is necessary to view the diesel-electrics as the big threat now, but it's not like they didn't have the capability to detect them already.  Most surface ships ping active anyway because they can't hide from subs and also have variable depth sonar arrays for under-the-layer checking.  Since D/E's tend to operate much closer to the surface than nukes do, current methods can be effective in locating these type of subs.

As for helicopters, didn't they look at the issues that the Apaches had in this war with the small arms and RPG fire, not to mention being grounded by the dust storms?  Tanks and infantry don't get grounded in dust storms and can deal with small arms fire head-on.  I'm all for air superiority, drones, and helicopter gunships, but one needs to be very careful betting their life on these toys.  People need to remember that while the coalition forces did extremely well against Iraqi forces, Iraq happened to be completely unprepared for the attack, as it turns out.  Iraq also had a pre-softened air defense system and no air force, thanks to ten years of no-fly zone enforcement.  A place like North Korea, with a massive, redundant, and interlocking air defense system would not make such easy prey for gunships or even modern jets, even though its systems are still quite inferior technologically to Western equipment.  

Now, I don't mean to say that Coalition military effectiveness has been overstated.  What I mean to say is that Coalition effectiveness *as it is now* with normal armor and infantry alongside high tech toys is what makes it effective.  Unbalancing that could cause problems as poorer nations devise cheap counters to expensive hardware.
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#12 Godeskian

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 11:29 AM

Quote

Every tank in the "digitised" US 4th Infantry Division can display a real-time video map of the battlefield, drastically reducing the probability of friendly fire incidents.

right, that's why the Brits lost almost as many troops to US 'friendly fire' as to Iraqi 'hostile fire'

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#13 Ilphi

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 11:50 AM

^

Well, to be fair that does only say the tanks are and those toys arn't much good if our boys don't have the "beacons" or whatever they need.

But I did read some pretty disturbing articles online regarding a tank explosion, where the troops actually climbed out and waved to surrender and the tank just kept firing at them.
Yea, ere my hot youth pass, I speak to my people and say:
Ye shall be foolish as I; ye shall scatter, not save;
Ye shall venture your all, lest ye lose what is more than all;
Ye shall call for a miracle, taking Christ at His word.
And for this I will answer, O people, answer here and hereafter,
The Fool - Padraic Pearse

#14 Delvo

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 04:45 PM

Godeskian, on Apr 25 2003, 02:13 AM, said:

Quote

Every tank in the "digitised" US 4th Infantry Division can display a real-time video map of the battlefield, drastically reducing the probability of friendly fire incidents.

right, that's why the Brits lost almost as many troops to US 'friendly fire' as to Iraqi 'hostile fire'
By the Division in question? And, whether that's a Yes or No or an IDon'tKnow, it doesn't matter to the actual truth or falsehood of the statement you're trying to refute. An increased ratio of friendly to hostile fire incidents exists almost entirely because of how far down the hostile fire incidents have plummeted; friendly fire can go down as well, only not as fast, and this ratio still go up. Unfortunately, the newer and less "proven" a new gizmo is, the more likely it seems to be to fail. I think the main cause of American casualties has been our own aircraft just dropping to the ground on their own. But the question is: Does the new stuff's failure rate cause more deaths of its own users than its less effective predecessors would have allowed the enemy to inflict... and does its ability to subdue enemy forces exceed its failure rate? Such accidents sound ridiculously sloppy, but I'd rather have a few embarassing incidents like that on the news than have the news reporting how many hundreds or thousands of Americans and Brits died each day/week in WWII-style battles.

Whether Britain's plan is a good thing depends on how far they take it; it's a shift, not a total replacement of everything. Less troops? Maybe, if they can be made more effective or safer, but still not too many less. More choppers, less tanks? Maybe, but only up to the point where what you gain's not equal to or greater than what you give up. It's easy to hear a description of a subtle shift and think the change will be much more than it will.

#15 Godeskian

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 04:47 PM

Fair point

it's an 'i don't know' answer,

i had somewhat automatically assumed that the 4th division was the primary one in iraq

mea culpa

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#16 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 25 April 2003 - 05:12 PM

Quote

Uncle Side:  As for the Type-23's it is necessary to view the diesel-electrics as the big threat now, but it's not like they didn't have the capability to detect them already. Most surface ships ping active anyway because they can't hide from subs and also have variable depth sonar arrays for under-the-layer checking.

Though running with active sonar is a two edged when it comes to detection.  They can hear you a lot further out them your sonar is ever going to managed to detect them.  A Duke Frigate does have the advantage of having diesel electric propulsion.  So she is a little quieter than usual but pinging away like a mad man gives away that advantage.  In most cases Iíd really want to make sure I had my ASW birds and a good towed array.  The problem is Britain has all ready been launching Type 23s without towed arrays.  

Quote

Uncle Side:  As for helicopters, didn't they look at the issues that the Apaches had in this war with the small arms and RPG fire, not to mention being grounded by the dust storms?

You have those examples along with the fact that the Iraqis seemed to have a notable lack of large numbers of manpads that would really be a threat to helicopters.  Helicopters are very vulnerable over a modern battlefield compared to high speed fixed wings or drones that can be sent in without fear of losing the pilot.  What we really need is a tiltrotor drone equipped with something along the lines of the armaments of the Apache.  Arming the Predator with Hellfires is getting there but more needs to be done.  The introduction of the V-22 Osprey should also reduce losses among transport helicopters and hopefully stop the ďCanadian Sea King phenomenonĒô in regards to US forces.  

Personally though I still say nothing kills a tank and lives to tell the tail like an A-10.  Sure they are old and ugly but they get the job done just like the B-52.  Well ok a nice Iowa broadside would be a better tank killer. ;)

Quote

Gode:

Quote

Every tank in the "digitised" US 4th Infantry Division can display a real-time video map of the battlefield, drastically reducing the probability of friendly fire incidents.

right, that's why the Brits lost almost as many troops to US 'friendly fire' as to Iraqi 'hostile fire'.

If you notice the quote refers to the 4 ID that has only recently joined the fighting in Iraq rather than the bulk of US forces, which are equipped with older equipment.  The British Forces, 1 MEF, 101st, and 3 ID did the bulk of the fighting with other smaller units attached or operating in theater.  

Quote

Ilphi: Well, to be fair that does only say the tanks are and those toys arn't much good if our boys don't have the "beacons" or whatever they need.

Agreed and the problem only gets worse when you consider the rest of NATO.  The real kicker is Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Equipment that they use if you really want to talk about a blue on blue inducing factor.
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
        -Fleet Admiral Nimitz
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        - Ernie Pyle: Aboard a DE

#17 tennyson

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 07:33 AM

Godeskian, the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division was the primary American heavy force in the Gulf backed by the 7th Armoured Cavalry Regiment. The 4th ID didn't even reach the combat zone before all organized resistance from the Baath regime collapsed. It didn't even have a chance to participate in the fighting and the British don't have the same level of interconectivity and measures in place to avoid hitting thier own troops and allies as the more high-end American formations.
"Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts."

— Londo, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" Babylon-5




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