Tuesday, 21 July 2009


I was driving back from work today, the road was a little busy, at a point where due to a bus lane two lanes become one, a little jam developed. Now why is this starting this post you will ask? well I had (because I have experienced it before), gone straight into the right hand lane, but not everyone manages this of course, and when I got to the point of the conference (which is helpfully just before some traffic lights) a jam had developed with the cars from both lanes coming together. Now thanks to a bus forcing its way through the bus lane, a lady driving a small Peugeot 308 (small compared to my Vauxhall Astra) was forced up next to me, indicating to join my lane. Now when the traffic cleared a bit, she was most shocked when I waved her forward instead of charging on my own way. Partially I will admit I let her through because she looked slightly distracted, not unfocused on her driving, but as if she had something on her mind; but mainly I let her through because I could, because it was the 'right', the 'courteous' thing to do.

Now I get to the point of this blog, if I can be courteous whilst driving my car, why can senior officers and ministers in our military/government not be courteous with each other and with each other’s projects; why does every military system have to be compared to every other military system? Yes we need to get the best for our needs; but why turn the argument over whether or not the Army gets its own or RAF UAVs into whether or not the RN should be allowed new carriers, or maintain control of its own fixed wing aircraft? Why is it then when the RN offers to help out the Army by sending more of its Commando Helicopters to Afghanistan, the RAF then jumps in about this testifying to the RN not needing fixed wing aircraft, and therefore not needing to buy the JSF, therefore Britain does not need to purchase the JSF, and as the RAF's magic Eurofighter's cannot fly off carriers - they are not needed either. Apart from this argument which was put forward in a magazine being terribly convoluted - it all smacks of obsession with self. There seems to be a rash of officers, both in American and Britain more obsessed with defending their own patch, and getting their own funding than providing their nations with what they need to defend themselves and their interests.

Now before anyone gets into the various debates of: maintaining bases in Germany, and Saudi Arabia vs. building aircraft carriers; whether we should build 3 or 2; or if they should be built nuclear or not; purchasing Eurofighters or JSFs; UAVs or Manned; IFVs or MRAP; in fact any of the debates wouldn't it be good if those fighting both sides admitted that the other systems do actually have some benefits; for example the RAF admit that the RN needs carriers and organic air power of a much better standard than it currently has; that the Army allows that the RN needs escorts and subs; the RAF allows that UAVs/MAVs dropping bombs will not win the war in Afghanistan alone; the RN could admit and allow the Commander of the RM to become a fully fledged member of the Chiefs of Staffs. Accepting this, and instead of making the debate 'you have to have one or the other based on partisanship'; you transform the debate based in the merits of the various equipment. Such a debate is what Britain, in fact what every nation needs; we need politicians, ambassadors, the public and most importantly all branches of the forces to get involved, to work out what the nation's current, future and supportable defence commitments are and are most likely to be; then design a force, and force structure capable of fulfilling those needs - perhaps with a little more than required, just in case.