A fair point KC
-135, however, even with all that's happened in the past few few years, defence is not as high up on the political agenda here.
Whilst the UK still has a very substantial defence industry, employing 100's of 1000's, there is not the lobbying power from politicians as in the US, sure they lobby, BAE Systems are far from silent either, as we have seen, but it is to nowhere near the extent of the USA, or indeed, even France.
(I rate our forces equipment wise in better shape than France in many areas. They've one big carrier, for the next few years, it's refitting means they'll have none. They've never had a medium lift chopper, the RN
want 8 Type 45 Destroyers, they might only get 6, the French Navy is getting just 2 of their version, to a lower spec in some areas. The Frigate force is better, as is the transport/tanker force).
To be fair, the current government, is nowhere the worst post war in this area. Whilst we are spending too little (2.3% GDP), it has improved a bit since 2000, (compared to the years 1986-99). It took a change of government to actually do a proper post Cold War review, in 1998. The government in 1990 having flunked a once in 50 year opportunity then.
All they did was salami slicing, just much bigger slices then usual.
The late Alan Clark MP
, a maverick Tory, better known here for his very colourful personal life and very indiscreet diaries published after he left government, was a junior minister at the MoD in 1990. He was also a military historian and all round defence expert.
He somewhat exceeded his authority in late 1989/early 1990, by turning a paper on near term procurement priorities, into a short but radical review, to in his words, 're-jig the forces so they can for example, defend the Bahrain corridor.
Also adding, 'mine is the only way we can retain military clout without going bust'.
His review was spiked by his boss, it had infuriated service chiefs whose careers had either been forged in the British Army Of the Rhine or countering the Soviet Navy.
But just weeks later, Saddam invaded Kuwait, but in those reaches of power, being proved right is not a way to advance a career, though in truth, Clark himself was too colourful for a full cabinet post as Defence Sec.
But the review under Labour, the 1998 one, though mirroring Clark's in many ways, was not fully funded, and that was before Iraq, Afghanistan etc.
But then, they never are, the infamous 1957 one, which so damaged the aircraft industry, never saw the large forces of SAM's, IRBM's etc, at least not much above what was already planned.
I would like to see a rise in the next three year across government review, from 2008-which covers everything, to 2.5% reaching 2.8% by the end of that period. Then after this has seen the big ticket items like the carriers, F-35, through the peak spending stages, settle back to 2.5% for the next review.
What has been happening, is the contingency fund chucking £1-2 billion every year or so, with additional near half billion last week, to cover running costs of deployments.
The likely new PM
, Chancellor Gordon Brown, has a lot of jobs in his political back yard, reliant on the carriers, Destroyers and other warships, no coincidence I suspect, that long delayed progress here is being reported as imminent.
The press however, often speak with a forked tongue, in many cases, their sudden concern about shortages, funding, is more about opposition to Iraq, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan,
Recently, senior service chiefs have been a lot more frank in public, over what they require.
Back to helicopters, there is a medium term need to replace the RN
's Sea King HC
.4 support choppers, and the RAF's Pumas.
The obvious choice is the Merlin HC
.3, though a well received procurement/industrial policy document in late 2005-at last there IS
a policy here, already committed the current fleet to improvements to that standard, as well as last year, getting the Army and Navy Lynx light helicopters massively upgraded.
But the grass is not always greener, the USMC CH
-46 machines, roughly in the same role as the Sea King HC
.4's, are 15-20 years older than the RN
This current deal, gets a decent sized boost to pressing needs, to service all within two years, at only £230 million, the MoD did a good deal here, don't expect much press coverage.