Friday, 22 July 2011

Fox By Name, Foxy By Nature

On what he thought was the last day of Parliament it took only ten minutes for Liam Fox to announce his Defence Transformation which included the closure of RAF Leuchars and simultaneously 'save' RAF Lossiemouth. The grapevine was partly correct, although Leuchars is not to be sold but turned over to the Army along with RM Condor near Arbroath.

The closure of Leuchars as an airbase was upsetting enough to locals here but when Liam Fox emphasised that the threat of an independence referendum from the SNP Scottish government had played a significant part in the way he had decided to reconfigure the armed forces across the UK, I gasped in astonishment.  Surely such reviews should be undertaken for reasons of security and practicality?  Since the demise of Scottish regiments by the last Labour government and the introduction of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, I am convinced our military are political pawns. One of my readers is so incensed, he has written to the Queen to express his anger about the politicizing of certain military events.

Liam Fox insisted the changes would save money but, as Leuchars had a multi-million pound refit only a few years ago and now it will be necessary to spend more millions in order to convert it to an Army base, I only see expenditure.  The new barracks at Kirknewton, near Edinburgh, has no price tag attached, although it's been reported in the press that the sale of Craighall, Redford Barracks and Dreghorn Barracks (all Edinburgh area) could release a sum around £50 million. Many are unhappy at the closure of these Army bases.

£1.5 billion is to be invested in the reserves over the next 10 years, building up the Territorial Army as the regular force numbers decline. It is expected that 30% (36,000) of the armed forces are to be part-time TA by 2020.

As my title denotes Dr Fox's plans may be more relevant to this rather than the security of these islands, even though William Hague currently disagrees.


Oldrightie said...

Don't fret, Subrosa, perhaps the Luftwaffe or EUAF will take over Leuchars.

subrosa said...

OR, nothing surprises me. I just don't understand the sheer waste of money with these changes.

CopPorn said...

Not really sure I understand what the point is of Leuchars or Lossiemouth. Who are they defending us from exactly? Liam should have went further and closed both of them down.

Their only purpose is for foreign aggression - not the security of anybody in this country - and the only reason the SNP bizarrely favour them being retained is simply a desire for fiscal largesse in those areas, regardless of the total lack of utility of it.

CopPorn said...

To add to above, this is what the air force of Scotland should look like, It is all you need when you're not wandering about the world invading everyone.

A gaggle of maritime craft, cessnas, and transport helicopters. That's it. No pointless and over-expensive eurofighters, bombers, tornados, interceptors etc etc

subrosa said...

CopPorn, Lossiemouth and Leuchars are very important strategic defence bases there to protect these islands from attack.

Who do you think supervises air and sea activities? Britain also has an Air Squadron like Eire.

Dare I saw your knowledge of RAF bases in Scotland could be improved as security is a much more complex system than you appear to realise.

I don't think an independent Scotland would have such equipment because I hope a Scottish military would be protectors rather than aggressors. That doesn't mean a lack of air power though.

Strathturret said...

Realistically I think this defence review is good. What the UK Govn is in effect saying is we are now planning on Scottish Independence. So lets move strategic stuff out of Scotland. Hence closure of Leuchars airbase and moving Commandos from Arbroath.

An independent Scotland will need one airbase and Lossiemouth will do fine I guess. We can base our fishery/oilfield protection craft and airsea rescue there. We are not threatened by anyone so convention defence would I suspect be very limited.

Ireland spends 0.9% of GDP on Defence. I see no reason why Scotland should spend more?

the elephant in the room is of course Trident/Coulport/Faslane?

CopPorn said...

It isn't 1960 anymore. Why do military planners always prepare for the last conflict?

There's exactly NO foreign aerial threat to british airspace at this moment in time, and one simply isn't going to develop again.

I have no doubt that the "air defence and security" situation for the UK is complex - in the minds of the air force top brass anyway. In the real world, there's no military threat from any other powers whatsover.

Even if there was a threat, any resulting war would not be fought with jets like some updated Battle of Britain. It would involve missiles - which render air defense utterly useless. And any modern conflict that involves conventional forces being targeted at British soil is unthinkable anyway due to, you know, nuclear weapons.

We see the same blinkered thinking the air force have, as regards the navy with the useless development of Air Force carriers, despite that modern pop-up missiles mean they are instantly toast in any real conflict with an actor that isn't in the stone age.

The entire profile of the modern Armed forces is an anachronism and a huge waste of money. We don't need air craft carriers except for wars of aggression against vastly technologically inferior opponents, and we don't need bombers, fighters, or anything of the sort, as they are all only useful in the same profile.

subrosa said...

Whilst I appreciate the Army coming to Scotland Strathurret, I think the closure of Leuchars is a wrong move. The selling of the Edinburgh barracks will cause problems as two are listed buildings and developers won't like those. Of course in time the listing will be dropped. That never happens for the few people who try to renovate ageing buildings but it will if it means big money for the treasury.

There was nothing said about the airfield at Leuchars. In fact, the statement has little detail about anything except bases.

Switzerland spends 0.8% on its defence so I wouldn't expect Scotland to be more than that.

RMcGeddon said...

"There's exactly NO foreign aerial threat to british airspace at this moment in time, and one simply isn't going to develop again."

That's not true Cop. The Typhoons at Leuchars regularly intercept Russian bombers which penetrate our airspace.
Do you not think it's better to have an intercept capability than sit wondering what the Russians are doing up there ?
We can no longer patrol our waters for Russian subs ( with the Nimrod being scrapped) but we shouldn't give up on patrolling our airspace as well. Ground radar is fine but there's no substitute for getting up close to the intruders and seeing what weapons they carry etc.

RMcGeddon said...

Some recent intercepts...

Apogee said...

Hi SR. What happened to the proposal that was floated to use Leuchars as a civilian airport?
One assumption is that Westmonster/MoD no longer sees a need for forward bases in Scotland and is pulling everything back south for the defence of England. Will they take their atomic weapons and subs with them as well?.
Why the sudden increase of Army numbers in Scotland now there is talk of an Independence Referendum.
The costs quoted are peanuts relatively speaking, so what is the real thinking here? If there is a pull out from Germany and Afghanistan, the troops have to go somewhere,and with Cathy Ashtons proposal for an EU version of NATO, promptly shot down by Haig,what will be the next move? And I wonder who told her what to propose? A lot of questions, wonder what the answers are?

Woodsy42 said...

When you become independent we don't want our boys toys left behind in 'foreign hands' do we.

CopPorn said...

RMcGeddon, What you're describing there is really political brinksmanship. The Russians aren't any actual threat - there's not going to be Russian bombing runs over the UK, because there's not going to be a UK-Russian war (and if there was we'd be facing a species-wide existential threat).

Now, brinksmanship is an interesting phenomenon, but it just boils down to politics between the UK and Russia. If the UK did not have an interesting defence capability, this brinksmanship simply wouldn't occur as it would be pointless.

Spending a non-marginal percentage of our GDP to be able to perform brinksmanship with Russia is not cost-effective.

There is not going to be a war with Russia. If there ever was war with Russia, we're toast. Spending untold billions maintaining the capability to wage war with Russia is pointless.

RMcGeddon said...


Of course we're at war with Russia. You might not see bombs falling but there's a constant war in the fields of energy resources, propaganda, cybersecurity, industrial espionage, murder of political dissidents ( polonium man ?), ideological message, banking, intelligence gathering, probing of our defence capability and our readiness to react. The list is endless.
To allow Russian spy planes free access to our airspace seems a bit dangerous. We've no idea what their submarines are doing so at least we should know what their spy planes are doing.

CopPorn said...

While I agree that nation states, and especially Russia, will have conflicts with the UK in the areas of espionage and commerce, I strongly disagree that this means we have to maintain an anachronistic "hot war" military machine. We combat those things in the proper fields.

I very much doubt there's anything useful the Russians can find out via spy planes.

At one time, in the depths of the cold war, spy planes were useful. Leuchars itself was designed to be difficult to see by sea and air - it was well camouflaged. The thing about that is, times change.

If Russian spy planes had "free access to our air space" there's nothing they are going to find out they don't already know, and nothing practically useful to be known in any case. Spy planes may be handy if there's a hot war and you want to find a SAM battery or monitor triangulate enemy electronic emissions - neither are going to happen.

The reason there's the odd russian sub or jet engaging in brinksmanship with UK forces is not because of primary effects - that is, they're not finding out anything useful from the engagement directly. It is simply brinksmanship and sending messages at a political level. If the UK vastly downsized its military, those messages would have to be sent by alternative means. This would not make any difference to the security of these islands, however.

Brian said...

In an ideal world the runways and facilities would be placed on a care and maintenance basis with civilian use to subsidise running costs. It's always handy to have an airbase to hand as a diversionary or midpoint refuelling for long helicopter rescue sorties, for instance.
Although the Soviet/Russian threat has decreased, there's always the possibility of a hijacked commercial aircraft coming in over the Pole.

Joe Public said...

The least-cost solution is to scrap the entire 'Defence' budget, and teach everyone to say "ya sdayusʹ"

я сдаюсь

RMcGeddon said...


"If Russian spy planes had "free access to our air space" there's nothing they are going to find out they don't already know"

That's not true. By definition they would find out that we can't defend it.
Control of airspace is the first priority in controlling a country. Long before you take out the essential infrastructure like power and communications and tv stations etc.

William said...

I agree with RMcGeddon.

Economies always fail whenever people start thinking that it couldn't happen to them. That they have solved all the economic problems. Or there will be no more 'boom and bust', in other words.

Wars always start whenever people start thinking that peace is here forever. That they have solved every conceivable world problem.

I think letting your guard down in the modern age is very dangerous. We don't know the intentions of every country in the world and to assume no-one is interested in us as 'we're jist wee Scotland' is extremely naive.

I don't know about the UK Government 'planning' for Scottish independence but the current uncertainty over Scotland's future is bound to be a factor in future planning. Still, Alex Salmond's got a nice, fat salary so what does he care?

Joe Public said...

Cop & RMcG

Spy planes are old hat.

There's Google Earth for everybody; the subscription version for more-detailed info; and, the Military Version for the curious.

If Uncle Sam or Uncle Vanya want to know what's happening in your back yard, they just reposition a satellite.

RMcGeddon said...

Ha ha. I doubt if those satellites can see much with our cloudy weather ;)
Or can loiter, listen, monitor, disrupt communications, act as a command post, drop bombs, terrorise etc....

Joe Public said...

@ RMcG

I'd forgotten about Scotland's natural defences!

I'm no strategist, but a plane flying over enemy territory would not be my first choice as a 'Command Post'. I doubt even the Japanese had KamiKazi commanders in the air.

CopPorn said...

RMcGeddon and WIlliam: You both seem to have a very 19th century view of geopolitics. If UK airspace is not defended, then the dastardly russians will conclude that our air space is not defended, and.. what? Have us all speaking russian within a few decades? What are the consequences and how exactly would they happen?

Am I to expect that countries with comparatively poor air space defences are a whisker away from becoming russian satellites? According to your zero sum theories of international relations, surely Ireland should have long since succumbed to the Russky threat? As well as most every country around not as strong as Russia?

Note that I am not calling for some pacifist, hippy, "naive" policy. I'm merely being a realist - except my particular brand of realism falls on the side of the fence that the sabre-rattling kissinger-style "realists" of the world dislike.

In this world, Russia is not going to invade the UK. If they learn that UK airspace is not defended, the immediate consequences as they apply to UK security are precisely nothing. There's no explicable mechanism by which the consequences would be otherwise - there's no remotely believable theory of international relations which has the russians initiating some war of aggression against the UK. It is utterly insane to believe otherwise.

Now, I suppose the Russians could become sway to some crazy religion or ideology that calls for global domination (though I really think, in this pluralistic and post-modern world, the time for such things is long gone) - but even if that happened, it would take so long for things to change to the extent that the UK is threatened, we'd have plenty of time to adjust posture.

In the meantime, the only purpose of a military as developed as the UK's is force projection, not defence. That's how it has been used for these last 60 years (with the arguable exception of the falklands), and that's how it will be used for the coming 60. Maintaining that needing a UK military is for defence is buying into a fiction.

RMcGeddon said...

Joe said..

" I'm no strategist, but a plane flying over enemy territory would not be my first choice as a 'Command Post'. I doubt even the Japanese had KamiKazi commanders in the air."

Aircraft like the Awacs and formerly the Nimrod were the standard 'command posts' for operations in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Once you have air superiority they are perfectly safe to use and certainly not kamikaze missions.


Russia may not be a threat to us militarily at the moment but who knows what may happen in the future. If things become desperate then people do desperate things. Who would have thought that Norway would have simultaneous attacks on it's centre of power and it's youth training centres. They will now have to re assess their defences rapidly. There are many countries like Chechnya and Libya that would have loved to have had a good air defence.

William said...

CP, at no point did I say Russia were a threat.

The point is we don't know what the threats are, where they will come from or how they will operate.

Wars are always preceded by 'new' eras of peace, friendly international relations and the old ways behind us. Someone inevitably ends up with a sore face. I just don't want it to be us.

The UK is not comparable with Ireland which has always been a bonkers state of little interest to anyone outside its own borders - and even sometimes within its own borders. The UK cannot base its military strategy on how the Irish have dealt with the strategic threat to Cork.

Your argument is one of complacency. We don't need a defence because no-one is trying to invade us because we have a defence? No, I'm not buying that, I'm afraid.

subrosa said...

Cop, the 'odd' Russian jet? I wish. I live in an area where these aircraft recce far too often for our liking and they do it because they gain information. Their technology is as good as ours to achieve their aims.

What a utopia you suggest without a defensive military.

I would dearly like to say to you that we'll try your idea of reducing our military to next to nothing, but knowing what I do, that would be totally irresponsible of me.

subrosa said...

There's no info yet about the airstrip use Brian and I do hope it continues to permit civilian use or much of Fife will lose millions a year.

subrosa said...

William, for the second time this year I agree with you. Wars begin when countries become complacent.

I think this present situation is rather good for an independent Scotland as long as the airstrip at Leuchars isn't sold off.

The Army numbers are being reduced to around 84,000 which will reduce the figures quoted this week and with a new base near Edinburgh (if it ever rises out of the soil) then we're reasonably on course for a decent level of training and military residence.

subrosa said...

As I said earlier and RM has also reiterated Joe, spy places are so sophisticated these days I'm sure the technology would baffle most with the exception of the communications boffins.

Russia doesn't fly over this area on exercise. It's information gathering which they cannot receive any other way.

Billy Carlin said...

Dear Dear - The wars in the past up to WW2 were mostly about some King/Queen or Emperor being greedy and wanting more money/power etc and so they would go around invading other peoples countries in order to get their booty and empire etc.

England/Britain has never had forces for defence it was always for invading and defending its ill gotten gains. Britain did not fight WW2 for freedom and democracy like they try to make out - they fought to stay top empire whilst stopping other people getting their freedom and democracy in order to rob them of their resources.

These days are gone and most of the wars we have been involved in since then have been about stopping other people getting independence or hanging onto places that do not belong to us.

There are no threats to us - When NATO was setup the USSR wanted to join as well but the US would not let them because they had decided that they were to be the badies and since the collapse of the USSR you can see that they have created the new badies - Al Quaeda.

Russia is only doing what we do to them - we and the US fly into their airspace as well. Don't forget the US is still encrcling Russia with missle defences around the world.

The biggest threat to world peace at the moment is the US and the UK with their false flag attacks on themselves and other countries so that they can invade other countries, again to steal (oil), which looks like deliberate attempts to start a new world war because there is no way they can fix their bankrupt economies.

There is no threat from any country against us because everyone knows that the next war will be the last for everyone.

William said...

"William, for the second time this year I agree with you. Wars begin when countries become complacent."

Well, even a broken clock is right twice a day, SR. ;)

subrosa said...

That's what they said after the Falklands, then Iraq, then Afghanistan and now Libya Billy. 'The next war will be the last'.

subrosa said...

Excellent William!

Billy Carlin said...

The next world war will be the last Subrosa is what I mean and most countries know it. It looks like that is what the people behind the NWO are pushing for though.

subrosa said...

Ah I see William. I've read that opinion before and have an open mind about it.

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