A New Day, A New Plan

SHAH ALAM: Within the next two weeks, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to table Rancangan Malaysia Ke 10 (RMK10). The bulk of allocation for the defence procurement in the next five years will be allocated in the RMK10.

I am assuming that the procurement plan for defence has been finalised and those in power already know what they will be getting in the next five years. But hey, one can throw the book out, as there is an opportunity to maximise the little money we have to get the biggest bang.

As most of you already know, the Brits are cutting their forces due to budgetary constraints (see the news story below). The last time they did that they retired five brand new diesel electric submarines which was later sold for 1 pound in exchange for a training facility in Canada. We could have gotten those subs but since we did not, its water under the bridge. And as other countries are also cutting their budgets and retiring their arms, we should also look at their list for our RMK10 shopping bag

From the list below, one could surmised that we can use our special relationship to purchase the weapon systems which are suitable for our armed forces requirement.

The first thing the Government should buy should be the Royal Air Force’s five almost-new Sentinel R1 battlefield surveillance aircraft. I know its not an AEW but the Sentinels are certainly one of the best ISR systems around. Since we are so far behind the UAV curve, we need the Sentinel capability especially for border control.

We probably cannot afford to buy all five but two are good enough. We could also supplant the Sentinels with the RN Sea Kings fitted with the Searchwater radar if the Brits want to get rid of them.

And instead of embarking on the MPSS project, we should instead purchase one of the Bay amphibious support ships to be retired. We should also persuade the Brits to retire another Bay so we could have these two support ships working for RMN within six months.

Any other wish list? No, the Challengers and AS90 are interesting but again these are tracked vehicles and I am not sure whether we can actually afford them in the long run. But theres nothing wrong in wanting more….

Lots of Losers in U.K. Defense Review
LONDON – Few winners but lots of losers have emerged from a defense review that has inflicted the most sweeping cuts to Britain’s defense capabilities since the end of the Cold War.The Strategic Defense and Security Review, unveiled Oct. 19 by Prime Minister David Cameron, stripped the armed forces of various capabilities, reduced military and civilian personnel numbers, and ushered in a restructuring of the Army.

Cameron told lawmakers that the 36.9 billion pound ($53.1 billion) defense budget was being cut in real terms by 8 percent over the next four years, but that he envisaged a possible increase in spending beyond that.

The review said that Britain will in the future deploy no more than 30,000 troops overseas, including maritime and air support – two-thirds of the force deployed to Iraq in 2003.

It will reduce the civilian MoD work force by about 25,000 and military personnel by about 17,000, both by 2015.

In a separate announcement just hours before Cameron’s, the government said it would scrap the Defence Training Review, a 14 billion-pound deal to provide technical training for the British military.

All three services will see capabilities reduced, but the British Army has come off the lightest, mainly because it is embroiled deeper in the war in Afghanistan.

The review did call for a few new programs, including a four-year, 650 million-pound national cyber security program, and increases in signals, logistics and medical support troops for special forces.

Most of the cuts have been leaked to the media over the last few weeks, so there were few genuine surprises in the list of capabilities being dumped completely, partially, or in the case of naval air strike, temporarily.

Unexpected, however, was the decision to retire the Royal Air Force’s five almost-new Sentinel R1 battlefield surveillance aircraft around 2015, once it is no longer required in Afghanistan. Government officials said radars on Joint Strike Fighter and other aircraft would be able to take over much of the role of the five Sentinels, which entered service last year. Purchased in a 1 billion-pound deal with Raytheon, the Sentinels have synthetic aperture and moving target indication radars in a Bombardier Global Express airframe.

The government also said it was scrapping the Nimrod MRA4 maritime reconnaissance capability even before the aircraft entered service. Late last year, the Labour government then in power announced it was withdrawing the Nimrod MR2 almost immediately and delaying the arrival of the nine MRA4s it had on order from BAE through 2012. Now the Conservative-led coalition says it is going to junk the 3.6 billion pound program, launched in 1996, altogether.

Cameron said the aircraft was eight years late and twice as costly as originally planned. Last week, though, the National Audit Office, the government watchdog, reported in a review of major projects that part of the reason for the Nimrod cost increase was caused by decisions over the last few to cut the number of aircraft from 21 to 18, then 12 then nine.

A Labour government commitment to acquire 22 additional Chinook helicopters has been cut to just 12. The new government said it would continue with the Eurocopter update of Puma helicopters.

The defense review said that the RAF is to lose a raft of other aircraft; see 5,000 personnel cut over five years, leaving 33,000; and close air bases. Its Hercules C-130J airlifters will be withdrawn by 2022, a decade earlier than planned, leaving the RAF’s airlifter fleet made up largely of the larger C-17 and A400M.
Two Kinds of Fast Jets

The military’s is heading toward a fast-jet fleet consisting solely of Typhoons and Lockheed Martin F-35s.

The Harrier GR9 is being withdrawn from service beginning in 2011; the number of RAF Tornado GR4 strike aircraft will also be reduced as Eurofighter Typhoons arrive.

The government decision to withdraw the GR9 and only start operating the F-35 in 2020 means the Royal Navy will have to take a capability holiday on carrier strike for the next 10 years.

The review said the MoD intended to operate a single type of F-35, not different land and naval variants. Officials have decided to change the type of F-35s to be flown from Britain’s new 65,000-ton aircraft carrier from the STOVL B-version to the conventional C-version to be purchased by the U.S. Navy. The British have spent hundreds of millions of pounds to buy three STOVL aircraft for operational evaluation.

One of the two carriers being built by a BAE-led consortium for the Royal Navy will be fitted with catapult and arrestor gear, and is slated to arrive in 2020. The second carrier being built will be mothballed in a low state of readiness.

Britain, the main international partner in the U.S. F-35 program, originally committed to buy 150 aircraft. That figure subsequently dropped to 138 and is likely to slip further.

Government officials said no decision on the timing and number of RAF F-35s would likely be made until after the 2015 strategic defense and security review.
Ships, Departing

The carrier Ark Royal is being decommissioned immediately. Either HMS Ocean or HMS Illustrious will be decommissioned following a study into which provides the most effective helicopter platform, and a landing and command ship will be placed in extended readiness.

Replacement of the four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines is being delayed by five years; the first new boat will now enter service around 2028, and the lives of the existing boats will be extended.

A cost-cutting review on the next generation of Trident boats has identified savings or spending deferrals of 3 billion pounds over the next 10 years.

Overall, the government said it would reduce by one-third the number of launch tubes planned for the new boats, to eight, and cut the number of operationally available warheads from “fewer than 160 to no more than 120.”

A decision on the number of boats to be built will be taken around 2016.

The defense review also said that the 23-ship destroyer and frigate fleet would be reduced to 19: six Type 45 destroyers and 13 Type 23 frigates.

Initially, four frigates will be decommissioned. The Type 23s will be replaced by Type 26 warships “as soon as possible after 2020,” the review said.

A Bay-class amphibious support ship will also be decommissioned and Royal Fleet Auxiliary logistics vessels “will be scaled to meet Royal Navy requirements.”

Overall, the Royal Navy will lose 5,000 personnel, shrinking the force to 30,000.

The army has comes out of the review in better shape than the other services but even here it has had to endure some capability reductions. Army personnel are being cut by around 7,000 to 95,000. Five new multi-role brigades are being created each with around 6,500 personnel and a range of capabilities to make the units self-supporting. Deployable brigades will be cut from six to five, while regional brigade and divisional commands will be heavily cut.

The return of troops from Germany is being speeded up with half the 20,000 British personnel coming back by 2015 and the remainder by 2020.

The review said Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, AS90 artillery, engineer vehicles and Challenger tanks would be reduced.

Holdings of Challenger tanks will be reduced by about 40 percent and heavy artillery by about 35 percent. Numbers for other vehicles subject to cuts have not been given.

The new scout reconnaissance vehicles being developed by General Dynamics UK and eventually the Future Rapid Effects System utility vehicle will continue to be the core of the army’s maneuver fleet, the review said.

–Malaysian Defence

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