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Max Hastings in the Times

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Max Hastings in the Times

Old 10th Jan 2023, 14:38
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Max Hastings in the Times

A fairly opiniated piece.........

" It’s time for realism about our armed forces Manpower is falling and weaponry shrinking; meanwhile the Ukraine invasion exposes as fantasy an ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’Britain’s armed forces are crippled by deficiencies and shrinkages. Yet an elder statesman to whom I lamented this responded that if he was still in government, he would balk at producing a Visa card. The Treasury last month agreed an increase in defence spending from 46 billion towards a forecast 50 billion: “The Russians are proving incapable of defeating the Ukrainians. Do you expect us to believe they will take on Nato?” His scepticism is widely shared. Britain’s public finances are sorely strained. There are no votes in defence. Our most recent attempts to leverage military power abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been humiliating failures.
..............................


One of the two divisions Britain pledges to Nato is supposed to be combat-ready, but nobody believes this to be so. Most new defence money is going to support maritime capability, Johnson’s vision of “global Britain”. Yet the Ukraine invasion almost immediately exposed as unrealistic the “Indo-Pacific tilt”, proclaimed by the government in 2021’s Integrated Review. Whatever the outcome of the war, it seems essential for us to contribute to permanent Nato tripwire forces in Poland and the Baltic states, to deter further Russian aggression.

Like it or not, Europe is our continent. Yet all European army formations, to be capable of taking the field, rely on the support of American artillery and missile systems. In the event of war the RAF is tasked to provide a “day one” interdiction capability over the battlefield, but nobody believes it could do so.
...........................................

there's a lot moreAlmost no orders have yet been placed for munitions to rebuild our shrunken war reserve stocks, since the cupboard was stripped — rightly — to help arm the Ukrainians. Thales, hampered by a continent-wide shortage of fuses and guidance systems, struggles to manufacture seven missiles a day, maybe 15 minutes’ consumption on a “hot” battlefield. The Ukraine experience emphasises the importance of big munitions stockpiles.

All these shortcomings reflect decades of neglect, together with some shockingly bad procurement decisions, often politically driven. The current chief of defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, was appointed by Boris Johnson because he won favour as an optimist, a “booster”, with a similar mindset to that of the then prime minister.
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Old 10th Jan 2023, 14:46
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Already covered in the defence review thread. I’ll just point out the “tilt” and ordering of the carriers happened in 2007 under Tony Blair, not Boris.

Max just has a bee in his bonnet about Brexit and detests Boris and now, like a moth to a flame, drags every article he writes back to a diatribe against him.

UK Strategic Defence Review 2020 - get your bids in now ladies & gents
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Old 10th Jan 2023, 15:34
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Sorry ORAc - you posted an article from the Thin pinstriped line - its always a good read but has nowhere near the influence of a half page in the centre of the Times.

I agree that Hastings has an overinflated idea of himself but some of his points are reasonable - its not JUST about the tilt to the Pacific

"All procurement suffers from the political imperative to buy British. The three big national players — Rolls Royce, BAE and Babcock — share poor records of delivery. Many of the parts for the new Challenger 3 tanks are being purchased from Germany’s Rheinmetall. The French-owned Thales in Belfast makes the anti-tank weapons that have been shipped in such quantity to Ukraine."
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Old 10th Jan 2023, 17:55
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If I may offer an idea based on a modest experience in NATO: the UK returning to a maritime centered strategy, and looking well beyond Europe, makes some sense if we look at broad/large muscle movements.
There are numerous nations in Europe who can cover the ground fight in Europe proper if need be.
I think Mr Hastings is slightly guilty of Cold War era thinking in his criticisms.
Beyond that, not my rice bowl to worry about ... beyond keeping an eye on AUKUS and other Pacific Rim mutual security structures.
(Which means, yeah, I am being a bit selfish in my outlook in viewing the UK's strategic tilt toward the Pacific favorably; not an objective observer).
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Old 10th Jan 2023, 19:55
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Max Hastings is one of Britains most distinguished journalists and editors. He is also a staunch and respected member of the Conservative party. He was 100% right about Boris Johnson being unfit to be PM , he knows him well personally and professionally.. He is equally right about idiotic global Britain strategy, we are even less important globally than we are in Europe where despite Brexit we are recognised as having a competent and professional military even if its effectiveness is limited by shortages and poor procurement (latest 'tank' (in newspaper speak) fiasco.

Ukraine has shown up once again that Europe can still be home to armed conflict and we cannot continue to expect the USA to bail us (Europe) out all the time . If Trump was still Pres who knows what could have happened, nuclear war? Siding with Pootin ?/

Unpopular; as the idea is a European army /defense force needs to happen sooner rather than later while there is still considerable regard and respect in the EU countries for Britains military competence and professionalism. That coupled with our relative size would give UK a substantial leadership role in any such entity. We have to ditch the Dads Army view of our neighbours and work with them precisely because they are our neighbors and any conflict affecting them affects us and vice versa. A previous poster pointed out the interdepence of our defense industry on investment and material from EU countries and theres nothing wrong with that, In todays, world few if any countries can seriously support their military from their on industrial resources. Probably just CHina and USA .

The sun has finally set on Empire these days.


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Old 10th Jan 2023, 21:00
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Originally Posted by pax britanica View Post
Max Hastings is one of Britains most distinguished journalists and editors.
In his own mind at least, although I will concede the point WRT Johnson's character.

Generally I find in matters of geopolitics or military affairs, whatever Hastings says is usually wrong.
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Old 10th Jan 2023, 21:18
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Originally Posted by pax britanica View Post
Max Hastings is one of Britains most distinguished journalists and editors. He is also a staunch and respected member of the Conservative party.
From here (my highlight in the quote below): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Hastings

Political views

Hastings has at different times voted for all three major British Political parties. He announced his support for the Conservative Party at the 2010 general election, having previously voted for the Labour Party at the 1997 and 2001 general elections. He said that "four terms are too many for any government" and described Gordon Brown as "wholly psychologically unfit to be Prime Minister". At elections since he has voted for the Liberal Democrats.
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 01:17
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Originally Posted by pax britanica View Post
Ukraine has shown up once again that Europe can still be home to armed conflict and we cannot continue to expect the USA to bail us (Europe) out all the time . If Trump was still Pres who knows what could have happened, nuclear war? Siding with Pootin ?
INteresting question, no idea how that counterfactual would have worked out. While Mr Trump has on various occasions insisted that were he still President Mr Putin would not have done that -- I am very skeptical of that claim.
(Hell, if he said it was raining I'd first take a look out the window ...)
He might well have been an enabler for Vlad ... but as it worked out, we'll never know, a fact that many people in Ukraine are doubtless grateful for.
Unpopular; as the idea is a European army /defense force needs to happen sooner rather than later while there is still considerable regard and respect in the EU countries for Britains military competence and professionalism.
Well earned, based on my NATO experiences, and other bilateral ops experiences.
​​​​​​​ a European army /defense force needs to happen sooner rather than later
I totally support your point on that, and have since about 1997. (When I began to get an idea of what the Independent European Security Identity thing was all about). Sadly, it has failed as badly as the NH-90. Europe still suckles on the American Security Teat.
The sun has finally set on Empire these days.
You are a bit late to the party on that observation.
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 07:43
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"The challenge is not to avow that we are doomed. It is, instead, to adopt policies that preserve our descendants from peril of becoming so, exploiting the scantiest commodity in modern government: honesty."
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 09:06
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
"The challenge is not to avow that we are doomed. It is, instead, to adopt policies that preserve our descendants from peril of becoming so, exploiting the scantiest commodity in modern government: honesty."
Honesty! In the current UK government? They wouldn't know it if they fell over it.
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 11:31
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The Ukraine experience emphasises the importance of big munitions stockpiles.
I guess if you have to fight the likes of the Russians the Russian way. I'll wager NATO's 'modern' way of fighting, with emphasis of air power, stand-off, combined ops etc etc is still the way to go.

I do wonder why we even bother to field any armed forces other than nukes as a last resort insurance policy plus maybe a handful of warships and fighters to patrol our territorial waters & airspace. I mean, what are the odds we would ever be required to take on Russia (especially now, given their forces have been shown to be a wafer-thin paper tiger) or China over Taiwan? We'd be a bit-part player in the latter at best.

Personally I think our defence budget would be best donated in part to the likes of Poland & the Baltic states, with the proviso that they spend it on UK manufactured kit....
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 12:15
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Originally Posted by dead_pan View Post
Personally I think our defence budget would be best donated in part to the likes of Poland & the Baltic states, with the proviso that they spend it on UK manufactured kit....
But who would pick up the rubbish, drive the ambulances, fight the fires etc?! I suppose we could open the borders again. Come back, all is forgiven. Bring your Mrs, as long as she's a nurse.
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 13:30
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Max Hastings has a well deserved reputation for writing articles with an opinion in mind, and not letting research interfere with it. His opinions seem to coincide with whoever is paying him. It would not be hard to find articles in which he seems to have expressed support for the carriers, and then a few years later he advances the opposite view. Perhaps the issue is that he opposes the defence budget being spent on non Army equipment or personnel?

As for NATO versus the Indo-Pacific, perhaps he did not read the paper?

Global Britain in a Competitive Age

Paragraph 17 of the overview

The UK is a European country with global interests, as an open economy and a maritime trading nation with a large diaspora. Our future prosperity will be enhanced by deepening our economic connections with dynamic parts of the world such as the Indo-Pacific, Africa and the Gulf, as well as trade with Europe. The precondition for Global Britain is the safety of our citizens at home and the security of the Euro-Atlantic region, where the bulk of the UK’s security focus will remain.

Paragraph 32 iii

NATO will remain the foundation of collective security in our home region of the Euro-Atlantic, where Russia remains the most acute threat to our security.

Page 6

We will continue to be the leading European Ally within NATO, bolstering the Alliance by tackling threats jointly and committing our resources to collective security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

Page 16

The precondition for Global Britain is the safety of our citizens at home and the security of the Euro-Atlantic region, where the bulk of the UK’s security focus will remain.

Page 18

NATO will remain the foundation of collective security in our home region of the Euro-Atlantic, where Russia remains the most acute threat to our security.

Page 26

The Euro-Atlantic region will remain critical to the UK’s security and prosperity; partnerships beyond the immediate European neighbourhood will also remain important. Russia will remain the most acute direct threat to the UK, and the US will continue to ask more from its allies in Europe in sharing the burden of collective security.

Page 60

Our aim is to be well-placed to take advantage of emerging markets, shifts in the global economy and global progress in S&T, and to shoulder our share of the burden in providing for stability and security at the global level as well as in the Euro-Atlantic area. This will guide the way we prioritise our diplomatic efforts, including in our tilt to the Indo-Pacific.

Page 60

The UK will be the greatest single European contributor to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area to 2030.

Page 69

We will tailor our presence and support according to the country and region, continuing to focus our security efforts primarily on the Euro-Atlantic region and providing support in Africa – in particular in East Africa and to important partners in West Africa such as Nigeria – and in the Middle East.

Page 71

The Royal Navy will remain active in the UK’s territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone, including by investing in new capabilities to protect undersea CNI. The Royal Air Force (RAF) will continue to provide a 24-hour quick reaction alert force to defend UK airspace and our new Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will patrol the North Atlantic from their base at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

Page 71

...a permanent maritime presence in the Atlantic and Caribbean...

Page 71

NATO is the foundation of collective security in the Euro-Atlantic area, where our commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty remains our most powerful deterrent. In an era of rapid developments in technology and doctrine, the Alliance must be equipped to deal with the full range of possible threats. These include long-range precision strike weapons, cyber weapons and weapons aimed at degrading spacebased infrastructure. They also include malign activity intended to test the boundary between peace and war, and our resolve in response. Russia is the most acute threat in the region and we will work with NATO Allies to ensure a united Western response, combining military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts.

Page 72

Operating across the Euro-Atlantic region, and with a focus on the northern and southern flanks of Europe, we will support collective security from the Black Sea to the High North, in the Baltics, the Balkans and the Mediterranean....

Page 72

In the Euro-Atlantic, the UK will be one of only two NATO Allies to bring to bear nuclear, offensive cyber, precision strike weapons and fifth-generation strike aircraft. We will also contribute to missile defence, to space awareness and resilience (including through a new Space Command) and to CBRN resilience. A new generation of warships will support our historic role in keeping the North Atlantic open. Our highly mobile airborne and amphibious forces will be able to reinforce Allies at short notice.

Page 74

This will involve deepening our security relationships in the wider Euro-Atlantic area, Africa and the Middle East, and with a greater emphasis on the Indo-Pacific. Through our support to others in capacity-building, we will: develop a shared understanding of the security threats we face, including through increased information-sharing; undertake joint education, training and exercises; and provide assistance and expertise in developing policy, legislation and regulatory frameworks.

Page 77

Since 1962, the UK has declared our nuclear capability to the defence of the Alliance. We will continue to do so, safeguarding European and Euro-Atlantic security. We will work with Allies to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent capabilities remain safe, secure and effective, adapt to emerging challenges including the growing and diversifying nuclear threats that the Alliance may face, and contribute to the indivisible security of the Alliance.

Nor do I think that he had read this: Fire and Ice - A New Maritime Strategy for NATO's Northern Flank

Page 39 has a vignette about the United Kingdom's aircraft carriers:

During the closing decade of the Cold War, the Royal Navy would have deployed a task group of ASW vessels led by one or two Invincible class light aircraft carriers to the GIUK-Gap to support efforts to halt Soviet submarines from transiting into the North Atlantic. Carrying Sea King ASW helicopters and Sea Harrier combat aircraft, these ships would have arrived ahead of the main US-led Carrier Striking Force to hold the line, and subsequently acted to defend the wider fleet as it advanced north.

In contrast to the
Invincible class, the Queen Elizabeth class were designed with expeditionary operations in mind. As such, it was intended that they would focus on the delivery of fixed-wing offensive air power rather than ASW operations. With the return of the Russian threat, some have questioned whether these are the correct ships for the current era. But for the Royal Navy, the Queen Elizabeth class carriers are an avenue to make a major contribution to the NATO’s deterrence and defence force on its northern maritime flank, and present a number of significant advantages over their predecessors. Most notably, the air group they will carry – for wartime open-ocean operations expected to be around 24 F-35Bs and fourteen Merlin HM Mk2s helicopters for ASW and airborne early warning and control – will be far more potent than that previously available. Thus, the security of the North Atlantic SLOC could be quickly supported by a Royal Navy carrier group near the GIUK-Gap in a more robust and survivable manner during either a crisis or early in a conflict than was the case during the Cold War. Such an effort would also help mitigate the practical problem of the US now having fewer carriers and a focus on the Pacific and the Middle East, given that these issues extend the time it would take to bring US assets into theatre.

I am also certain that he did not read the Royal Navy's Maritime Operating Concept:

Force Level Outputs - page 50

The Maritime Force will be organised around four Force Level Outputs: Homeland and Operational Advantage in the North Atlantic; Persistent Engagement; Carrier Strike; Littoral Strike

Homeland and Operational Advantage in the North Atlantic -
page 52

An integrated Maritime Force, with NATO at its heart, protecting our homeland and our allies. Homeland Defence/Warfighting. Includes the attribution of CASD, Carrier Strike, and Littoral Strike capabilities (LRG(N)) to NATO as a pillar of Defence and Deterrence in the Euro Atlantic; seeks a more assertive posture which regains operational advantage.

Key outcomes:

• Protection of strategic interests and CNI, including Maritime Counter Terrorism and Maritime Security in the UK’s TTW and EEZ.
Ensure freedom of manoeuvre in the North Atlantic.
• Maintain CASD for UK and NATO.
Lead nation in NATO MARCOM.

Persistent Engagement
- page 53

A high utility force optimised to deliver persistent global presence, with Littoral Readiness Groups at the heart. Persistent Engagement: Contingency/Persistently Engaged. Persistent deployment in strategic locations across the globe to promote UK interests, deter adversaries and prevent conflict.

• Engage, support and deepen existing alliances and partnerships whilst establishing new and enduring relationships with emerging regional powers; particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
• Provide a global and persistent footprint and operate as Britain’s contingency force in use with ever more ships and forces deployed on an enduring basis.
• Outward manifestation of ‘Global Britain’, offering persistent presence – and influence - in areas of UK national interest.
• Preserve, promote and enforce RBIS and Freedom of Navigation and access.
• Informing governmental decision making, acting early to mitigate crises at source.
• Counter violent extremism and organised crime. • Enabling and executing Special Operations


Carrier Strike - page 54

The heart of the Maritime Force’s – and NATO’s – warfighting capability Built around the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers. Carrier Strike: Homeland Defence/Contingency/ Warfighting. Contribute to OANA. Through deployments to strategic locations across the globe, promote UK interests, deter adversaries and prevent conflict.

• Project decisive air power from a protected maritime task group, including gaining and retaining the necessary degree of sea control to ensure Freedom of Manoeuvre.
• Demonstrate Global Britain, with regular deployments openly demonstrating British will to engage and resolve to act.
• Contribute to UK/NATO warfighting capability, as a more lethal and more integrated Maritime Force.
• Enable and execute Special Operations


Littoral Strike - page 55

A persistently engaged and technologically enabled Commando Force capable of strike and Special Operations.

Littoral Strike: Contingency/Crisis Response/ Warfighting/Persistently Engaged. Through LRG(N) contribute to OANA. Alongside regional partners, conduct capacity building and Counter-Hostile State Actors, provide a focus for Naval Special Operations and able to respond to crises. Commando Forces apply precise effect as part of an alliance or Sovereign action. They support Theatre Access by countering defensive systems and shaping the battlespace.

• Prevail against non-traditional threats in subthreshold competition.
• An amphibious advance force able to ensure rapid entry to the fight.
• Assertively and pre-emptively shape the battlespace and strike ashore.
• Retain, at very high readiness, the capacity to act, especially in concert with PAG and in the execution of Naval Special.
• Demonstrate Global Britain, and the resolve to act.
• Maritime Forward Presence. Sea-basing, operational manoeuvre and Maritime Interdiction options.
• Special Operations and Crisis Response. Special Operations capable force elements persistently forward and engaged.
• Hybrid Warfare. Cross-government integration for complex operations.

• Shaping Operations. Commando Forces optimised to shape the battlespace for follow on forces.

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Old 11th Jan 2023, 16:17
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he did read the papers - he disagrees with them

"The Royal Navy is tiny. One of its two aircraft carriers is an embarrassing dockyard case. Britain’s shipbuilding skills are notoriously weak, which is why sailors’ hearts sink when new warships are ordered here instead of from foreign yards, which deliver better vessels for less money."

"Most new defence money is going to support maritime capability, Johnson’s vision of “global Britain”. Yet the Ukraine invasion almost immediately exposed as unrealistic the “Indo-Pacific tilt”, proclaimed by the government in 2021’s Integrated Review. Whatever the outcome of the war, it seems essential for us to contribute to permanent Nato tripwire forces in Poland and the Baltic states, to deter further Russian aggression. Like it or not, Europe is our continent"
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 17:26
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We seem to be doing a better job building warships than developing the Ajax vehicle...

Is it the same Max Hastings who once wrote:

A European war seems unthinkable. Instead, the armed forces are being configured to fight far afield, alongside the Americans or other allies. The thrust of British policy is to man and equip a standing expeditionary force for services overseas - "out of area" - as warriors or peace-keepers.

Perhaps he had a point back then.


Britain is about to buy 232 Eurofighters at a cost of 80m a piece. This is a folly comparable with building a modern copy of Nelson's Victory for fleet service, and much more expensive. The Eurofighter is a cold war interceptor. No strategist can devise a credible threat for it to intercept. Whatever the political difficulties of abandoning this project now, we should do so. The cost and futility of persevering are too great.

No one should be deceived by current plans to fit some Eurofighters with missiles and bombs for a ground attack role. The RAF is, in effect, buying a racing car as old-fashioned as the Bugatti, and spending another fortune to modify it for cross-country work. Diehards say: if the RAF does not have the Eurofighter, what does it have? Yet this argument possesses validity only if British defence policy is perceived as a job creation scheme for pilots and air marshals.

No need for fighter aircraft?

These [the Type 45 destroyers] represent another huge folly. They are escorts, offering limited anti-missile and anti-submarine cover, whose chief purpose is to maintain the critical mass of the Royal Navy. I have heard some senior sailors sincerely suggest that frigates also fulfil an important role in countering drug-smuggling. To such desperate measures has the navy come, in the struggle to justify its own existence, and what a nonsense it all is. In the unlikely event that Britain's carriers and minehunters face a submarine threat, aircraft offer far more effective protection than destroyers or frigates.

We honour the past achievements of the Royal Navy and RAF. But historic reverence should not today determine defence policy. We need a small Royal Navy dominated by carriers and submarines. We need to shift resources decisively towards the army, which is today grossly overstretched.

Was he spending time with Lewis Page by any chance? What sort of person proposes a navy without surface combatants? As for aircraft being more effective against submarines, does he mean fixed wing or rotary, like the ones carried by ships? How do you cue them without sonar equipped frigates? He seemed to argue that there would never be any air or submarine threat, and we should not have warships or aircraft for presence, but we need more troops for presence..

Anyway, back the the recent article - what are these warships from foreign yards he talks of?

Why commit troops to a NATO tripwire if they cannot be reinforced - which means countering air and naval threats in the Atlantic, Norwegian Sea, and Baltic? He is arguing that we should ignore air and maritime threats and deterrence, so we can focus on more presence on the ground...



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Old 11th Jan 2023, 17:46
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Originally Posted by WE Branch Fanatic View Post
Was he spending time with Lewis Page by any chance? What sort of person proposes a navy without surface combatants? As for aircraft being more effective against submarines, does he mean fixed wing or rotary, like the ones carried by ships? How do you cue them without sonar equipped frigates? He seemed to argue that there would never be any air or submarine threat, and we should not have warships or aircraft for presence, but we need more troops for presence..
Anyway, back the the recent article - what are these warships from foreign yards he talks of?
Why commit troops to a NATO tripwire if they cannot be reinforced - which means countering air and naval threats in the Atlantic, Norwegian Sea, and Baltic? He is arguing that we should ignore air and maritime threats and deterrence, so we can focus on more presence on the ground...
Thanks for posting the longer paper further up (interesting reading) and thanks also for offering me some of Max's points of view.
The idea that the RN should focus on Carriers and Submarines...and he then leaves blank all else...puzzles me, particularly with him having been 'on scene' during the Falklands campaign.
(Career Navy, I am, so bust me for bias if need be).
That - carriers and submarines - is 'half of an answer' as one of my old professors used to say.
But for context: when Max wrote this
We need a small Royal Navy dominated by carriers and submarines. We need to shift resources decisively towards the army, which is today grossly overstretched.
was the UK still involved in Afghanistan, or is this a more recent opinion?
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 18:17
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It was in 2004, but he has a bias towards the Army (not all parts) as some his counterparts spent time in green and does not understand technical issues.

His historical writings are full of prejudice against British forces and poorly researched.
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 18:33
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Originally Posted by WE Branch Fanatic View Post
Max Hastings has a well deserved reputation for writing articles with an opinion in mind, and not letting research interfere with it. His opinions seem to coincide with whoever is paying him. It would not be hard to find articles in which he seems to have expressed support for the carriers, and then a few years later he advances the opposite view. Perhaps the issue is that he opposes the defence budget being spent on non Army equipment or personnel?.
Nail, Hammer, Head. Basically an army centric arsehole. .

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Old 11th Jan 2023, 18:37
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Originally Posted by WE Branch Fanatic View Post
It was in 2004, but he has a bias towards the Army (not all parts) as some his counterparts spent time in green and does not understand technical issues.
His historical writings are full of prejudice against British forces and poorly researched.
I found Karnow's book on Vietnam better than Hastings'.
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Old 11th Jan 2023, 19:37
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During Afghanistan he also wrote that the RAF (“ A fast jet flying club”) should ditch its fast jets and exclusively support the army with light attack COIN types.

He was right about Boris though!

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