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£2bn Black Hole

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£2bn Black Hole

Old 1st Jun 2008, 22:41
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£2bn Black Hole

Times: The Winners and Losers from the MoD's £2bn Black Hole, or Do I Mean the Losers and the Losers?

The past six months has seen internecine fighting between the three services on a scale not seen for many years as the Royal Navy, the Army, and the RAF bickered over which programmes should be scrapped to save the cash needed to fill the £2bn black hole in the MoD’s budget over the next three years.

Yes you're right, the whole point about black holes is you can't fill them and so it has proved. The service chiefs have agreed, if that is the right word, on a series of delays and salami-slicing, most of which simply postpone payments and move the black hole back a few years when it will re-emerge even larger than it is now.

Don't expect a list of cuts out of the MoD, Gordon doesn't want the bad publicity over not properly funding the armed forces so that mantra about telling parliament everything has gone out of the window. But here for TimesOnline readers only, is a list of the winners and losers, or more accurately the losers and the losers:

The Army is the big loser with a number of programmes cut or delayed:

FRES [Future Rapid Effect System] family of armoured vehicles, the army’s most important procurement project. There has been nothing rapid about this much delayed project at all. The more than 3,000 new vehicles were supposed to be introduced next year. Threats of further delays led last year to the resignation of Lord Drayson, procurement minister, who had vowed to bring it in on time. The MoD announced this month that the "provisional" choice is the General Dynamics Piranha V, which will be built in the UK. But the project will now be pushed back three years, taking it out of the current Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) period and saving around £800m. Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief of general staff, appears confident he will get the vehicles, but a revamp of the old FV430 series, now known as Bulldog, raises doubts as to whether it will ever go ahead.

Bowman Communications System. This is the army’s only other major programme, although strictly speaking it is tri-service, and has seen the sort of delays that would be impossible to believe were they happening in any other area than defence procurement. It is now 19 years old and is still not fully implemented. A key part of the system, a software upgrade designed to give it true battlefield internet capability helping to avoid friendly fire air strikes has been delayed indefinitely, effectively salami-sliced, pushing more than £300 million out of the three-year CSR period and again raising doubts as to whether it will ever happen.

Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) - futuristic attempt to have every soldier linked in to command HQs with a range of new technology - eg live video feeds from a soldier’s helmet back to commanders, his rifle linked into the video to improve accuracy and increased protection through reduced infrared and radar signatures. This has been pushed back three years out of the CSR period, saving £100m. Will it ever happen? If you ever thought frontline soldiers would get this sort of treatment you were living in a parallel universe where chocolate bars grew on trees and every woman looked like Michelle Pfeiffer.

Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) - The truck-mounted light version of this system known as the Lightweight Mobile Artillery Weapon System (Rocket) which is designed to provide an air portable version of the multiple launch rocket system has been salami-sliced saving an immediate £100m.

The army had also been expected to lose the Future Lynx helicopters it is buying in conjunction with the navy but the idea of cancelling this programme with the prospect of AgustaWestland closing its Yeovil base, losing hundreds of jobs in an area where Labour needs the votes, not to mention the loss of a British helicopter industry, has ensured the helicopters will be built. AgustaWestland has been forced to take a two-year payment holiday. This has pushed £200m out of the three year period, but how much it will add to the eventual cost of the £1bn project is far from clear.

The RAF has got off relatively lightly. It has already seen a two-year delay in the introduction of its new Typhoon (the aircraft formerly known as Eurofighter). Given the watertight contractual obligation to buy, and pay for, the aircraft on time, this was only engineered by the sale of 72 of the British aircraft direct to Saudi Arabia. This of course has already had a great deal of political fall-out in terms of the row over the associated decision not to allow a prosecution over the alleged payment of bribes to Saudi princes by BAE Systems.

Which idiot agreed to sign that watertight contractual obligation? It was of course us, not only did we agree to it, we designed it, in a misguided attempt to keep Germany on board. Now that's karma. The deal saves £1.3bn but that was already factored into the defence budget so has no effect whatsoever on the £2bn black hole. Yes, it really was that bad!

The RAF will also lose Project Listener, an upgrade for its AWACs early warning that would improve interoperability wtith US aircraft when detecting and attacking targets. This will save £50m.

The RAF will also not get any replacements for the three C130 Hercules transport aircraft lost in Iraq and Afghanistan or the nine scrapped over the past year due to fatigue, saving some £600m.

But the furore over the safety of the Nimrod MR2 in the wake of the September 2006 deaths of 14 men when their aircraft exploded over Afghanistan, not to mention the importance of the aircraft’s spy in the sky capability, has ensured the survival of the Nimrod MRA4 programme.

The Navy appears at first sight to have got off Scot-free. Not only is it getting its much cherished carriers at a cost of £2bn each, it is also keeping its part of the Future Lynx project. Its only concession has been the acceptance that it will only get six Astute submarines instead of the original seven and six Type-45 destroyers instead of eight. (It had already gone down from the 12 first announced in 1999, ouch!) It will lose five frigates, all four Type-22s and one Type-23. So actually not totally Scot-free. But in fact all these cuts had long since been written in stone in exchange for the carriers.

With so many payments being pushed back into the next three-year CSR period, few people expect things to get any better, particularly if the defence-hating Brown survives as prime minister. The service chiefs are said to be in “survival mode”, picking over the bones of every story that suggests Labour might ditch Brown as leader and hoping against hope that it just might be true.
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Old 1st Jun 2008, 23:54
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Is this pretty accurate? I haven't seen anything official except "announcements will be made in due course". My (RAF) view of it is:

FRES - Would appear to be by the far the most important, but a lot of different vehicles have been purchased under UORs for Afghanistan, although nowhere near 3000. Are they doing the business or is the army on ops still short of decent vehicles? Maybe I should go over to AARSE. I understand that most of the difficulties with this programme are self inflicted, with the army changing the requirement every 5 minutes (or every year or so).

Bowman - Disaster. Anyone know why? General concensus seems to be we bit off more than we could chew. Or was the contractor crap?

FIST - agree with last sentence. Sayings about run before walk spring to mind.

MLRS - From my restricted point of view appears to be a nice to have rather than must have. Any artillery guys on PPRuNe can comment?

C130 - 12 down. Good job we don't have much demand for tactical transport at the moment. Don't understand why we don't cut the SH force as well.

Nimrod - Saved due to jobs, IMHO, rather than a furore or Afghanistan/Iraq capability.

Astutes and T45s - JFC must be rubbing his hands in delight knowing he can use those.
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Old 2nd Jun 2008, 08:17
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I look at this another way. Rest assured, if the MoD/Government are announcing £2Bn cuts/savings, then this is the GOOD news. Delve a little deeper and you expose the REAL problems that beset MoD.

Take BOWMAN and FIST as a simple example. What does BOWMAN deliver? (Or rather, what was it meant to deliver?). Personal Role Radio (the immensely bulky thing that dangles from soldiers), VHF radio (another immensely bulky thingy that the Army’s Director Infantry said he didn’t want in 1999, 5 years before the contract was let, because it was, well, crap. He was right). Personal User Data Terminals (PDAs to you and me, only in technology terms stuck in the mid-90s with no upgrade path). Situational Awareness software run on the PUDT, along with other applications. Oh, and you have to integrate the lot but, as their IPTL once said, we don’t do integration.


So why then is the FIST contractor blowing his trumpet about the latest trials kit which contains, PRR replacement, VHF radio replacement, PUDT replacement and, er, SA replacement.

The only conclusion is that the political imperative has drifted down that “BOWMAN is a success” and, not so quietly in the background, other major programmes are being schemed to replace this successful kit (before its all delivered). The problem is, I guess, that the FIST people may have been doing a wonderful job for some years, but now they’re told “Forget 2009 ISD, you’ve got to stop, regress 10 years and bale out BOWMAN”.

I won’t go on about the links to FRES. Having spent zillions modifying fleets of land vehicles to take BOWMAN (still ongoing probably), another programme to remove it and refit to FRES would make the system topple. That’s what I call lack of programmatic integration.

A bit of simple science. “Live video feeds”. Video consumes bandwidth. We don’t have any to spare. If we free it up for a few video stars, wide bandwidth consumes power. As we’re talking about foot soldiers, and the weight of batteries will slow them down, making them more vulnerable, perhaps the idea is to use FRES as a mobile stores depot dedicated to batteries?
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Old 2nd Jun 2008, 09:18
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Originally Posted by tucumseh View Post
Personal User Data Terminals (PDAs to you and me, only in technology terms stuck in the mid-90s with no upgrade path). Situational Awareness software run on the PUDT, along with other applications. Oh, and you have to integrate the lot but, as their IPTL once said, we don’t do integration.
I swear by my PDA but then I work in an office. I plug it into my PC USB and it charges. It works for 3 hours or so but not too well in sunlight. It might be hand-held but you need a second hand to operate it.

Oh, and when operating it is is definitely heads down look in. I also need reading glasses to see it, not something that will bother the average squaddie but those more senior . . .

Oh, what happens if you lose it? Or your Panasonic Roughie Toughie laptop. Just imagine the Apache sortie so locate and shoot up the laptop.

Now there is an idea, put GPS homers into the PDAs and Laptops, an mobiles while wer are at it

Oh, forgot, we don't do integration although we are spending exactly £2bn on NEC
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Old 2nd Jun 2008, 14:57
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Second post and someone starts dark blue bashing already. Just because Astute and T45 won't be seen on the streets of Basra or in the air above Helmand, does not mean that they are not extremely valuable to the UK.

Everything noted above has value, the problem is that some projects have been more about politics rather than affordability.
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Old 2nd Jun 2008, 17:09
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Originally Posted by Backwards PLT View Post
MLRS - From my restricted point of view appears to be a nice to have rather than must have.
Is the problem not that the only air-portable artillery they have is the 105mm Light Gun?
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Old 2nd Jun 2008, 18:27
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Is the problem not that the only air-portable artillery they have is the 105mm Light Gun?
What about those shiny guns the Kings Troop use? - surely you could get a few of those in a C130 - not too sure about the horse though...
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Old 2nd Jun 2008, 19:23
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"......... some projects have been more about politics rather than affordability."

Like CVF and the Trident replacement perhaps?

But no, of course, you mean Typhoon.

Because like that utter d*ckhead Page none of you dark blue wearing malcontents can grasp the idea that a rapidly deployable, supportable, multi-role fast jet is useful for post Cold War ops.

Typhoon may have been designed in the Cold War period, but the emphasis on the RAF's out of area and regional reinforcement roles (it was a Jag replacement, in part, remember) are about as relevant as you can get today.

And the ability to get a high exchange rate against a developed 'Flanker' threat, assuming parity in radar and mx performance sounds pretty relevant, too.
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Old 2nd Jun 2008, 23:18
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MLRS - From my restricted point of view appears to be a nice to have rather than must have. Any artillery guys on PPRuNe can comment?

January 10, 2007: The U.S. Army is testing a thermobaric (fuel air explosive) warhead for its GMLRS (officially the "GMLRS Unitary rocket") rockets. In the last year, U.S. Army artillery units in Iraq have been firing about ten GPS guided 227mm MLRS rockets a month in Iraq. When the GMLRS (Guided MLRS) first went into action, the troops realized that this was a near-perfect artillery weapon. There have been no reliability problems with the GMLRS, which has a range of 70 kilometers and, because of the GPS guidance, has the same accuracy at any range. Unguided rockets become less accurate the farther they go. The GMLRS is designed to put each rocket with in a 16 foot circle (the center of which is the GPS coordinates the rocket is programmed to go for). In nearly all cases, the GMLRS rocket appears to land less than ten feet from the aiming point.

...

In order to get more GMLRS, all new MLRS production is being switched to GMLRS, and a retrofit kit, that will turn unguided MLRS rockets into GMLRS, has been introduced. The army believes that GMLRS will remain the most useful smart weapon, even with the coming introduction of the hundred pound 155mm GPS guided Excalibur artillery shell, and the U.S. Air Force's 250 pound JDAM (the SDB, or small diameter bomb). ...

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htart/articles/20070110.aspx?comments=Y
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 00:14
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Widger said:

some projects have been more about politics rather than affordability.
And then PN said:

when operating it is is definitely heads down look in. I also need reading glasses to see it, not something that will bother the average squaddie but those more senior . . .
Replace 'I' with 'they' and 'squaddie' with 'politician' and I think between you, you Gents have hit the nail on the head!
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 00:43
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Originally Posted by Modern Elmo View Post
MLRS - From my restricted point of view appears to be a nice to have rather than must have. Any artillery guys on PPRuNe can comment?

In order to get more GMLRS, all new MLRS production is being switched to GMLRS, and a retrofit kit, that will turn unguided MLRS rockets into GMLRS, has been introduced. The army believes that GMLRS will remain the most useful smart weapon, even with the coming introduction of the hundred pound 155mm GPS guided Excalibur artillery shell, and the U.S. Air Force's 250 pound JDAM (the SDB, or small diameter bomb). ...
They have GMLRS on the full spec kit, the LIMAWS(R) is a 6 shot version that can be deployed by C-130 or Chinook.

Some public source stuff:

http://www.army-technology.com/projects/limaws/

They cancelled the gun version last year.
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 10:56
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RN gets of lightly

RN gets off seamingly lightly?

I'd say the RN has been bled the most out of all the services. With these cuts Labour can claim to have cut the navy in half during its tenure. I hope they are proud

1997
12 SSNs
12 Destroyers
23 Frigates

Now
6 SSNs
6 Destroyers
12 Frigates.. and falling.

Real world availability rates will most probably mean that the UK will have an active fleet of 2 subs, 2 Destroyers and 4 Frigates available for any crisis. Whatever the colour of your uniform, that surely is a sad sad statistic.
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 10:58
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Originally Posted by XV277 View Post
They have GMLRS on the full spec kit, the LIMAWS(R) is a 6 shot version that can be deployed by C-130 or Chinook..
Now under wing, and forward firing, would be nice to have. Wonder what range you would get then.
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 17:17
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Cuts

For me the whole £2Bn cut or hole in the budget is beyond words to describe. At a time when we are actually fighting in two different countries and have numerious other commitments elsewhere throught the world we are actually cutting numbers of personnel and the kit that they have.

I look at this and wonder when the system that is UK forces will break down.

Ok this is a simple way of looking at things and yes I appreciate the Jag was never that good at hot/high but the Indian/Omani Airforce has been opperating it in similar conditions for decades. WHy did we just scrap them when to my simple eyes and brain they would have been Ideal for CAS in either sand pit.

Instead of retiring them get an OCU that could convert all FJ pilots onto the Jag.
Yes I know it was intensive cockpit and a Jag mate would work like a one armed paper hanger. But that was when they had to be master of all trades Recce, FBS, FBA, and AD. So all the they needed was to keep the equipment that they had and just maintain them at that level. Just so they could provide CAS. No fancy upgrades and yes I know the same arguement could be used for the Shar.

Yes I also know this particular way of using the Jags has been flogged to death on other threads. But with the politicians arranging things like the Olymipics and pay raises for them selves rather than concentrating on fighting these wars they get the forces into, well it just seems wrong to be cutting the forces rather than supporting or actually improving them!
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 21:10
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Trap one

they had to be master of all trades Recce, FBS, FBA, and AD
So what AD role did the Jag ever have???!

LJ
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 21:12
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Target......???
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 22:01
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Use the GR4 whilst we still have 7, yes 7, front-line sqns. It is the most capable CAS platform around at the moment, suppressed only by higher command (lack-of) initiative. Getting rid of Brown won't be enough the Labour Party has to go, chance the Conservatives I say.

Interestingly, who exactly is accountable for these procurement failings? Why don't we see accountability in the services, a Stn Cdr who creates single-line manning which robs sqn's of thier identity to save money, knowing full well that the sqn's will run on reduced effectiveness, with less aircraft on the line, gets promoted and hands the s**t sandwich to the next staish - where is he now? He should be accountable surely - he would be in civvie land.

Stop mini-rant, apologies.
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 22:16
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AD role for jags

How about the role in the 80's when they did the last ditch AD role. Also the ability to defend their-selves when as part of the package.

Thats why they had winders on the wing.

Did quite a lot of ACT/DACT with them.
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 22:34
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Well said hula...
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Old 3rd Jun 2008, 22:34
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well 432 has just had its midlife update (considering last one rolled of production line in 1972) they'll probably out last the FRES programme. Is warrior update happening. So the Mech inf is going to still have to soldier on with that piece of junk called saxon.
As to the Navy what will the point of having the carriers be if we have no escorts to portect them?
The descision on the Herc's will come back to haunt us except Airbus catch up with the a400m is the plan now to replace the c130J with it by overworking the remaing airframes?
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