Bringing together the various requirements that the three Tiers of threat have generated, this part now attempts to translate them into broad military capabilities. In 1000 words or so, that is a tough task, but the main feature is to look at it through the eyes of an independent Britain.
Intelligence and Counter-cyber
Essentially, such a capability already exists with the combined resources of:
- M.I.5, M.I.6 and GCHQ
- Army Intelligence Corps
- RAF Photo and Satellite reconnaissance capability
- Tri-Service Electronic Intelligence operations
This is not the kind of capability that can be openly discussed, and any new government would clearly need to review:
- Whether the size and balance of the capabilities was adequate
- Protections in place to prevent exploitation of data on innocent persons, and avoidance of mass surveillance
- That the different agencies and services (and other nations where applicable) co-operate and collaborate in an appropriate way to ensure maximum value is gained from each resource.
This is another highly classified area that cannot be openly and easily discussed, but it can be stated that the armed forces would need to provide the following capabilities:
- A credible means of providing a nuclear deterrent, whether that be an extension of the present submarine SSBM capability, or an alternative.
- A specialist organisation, to deal with any nuclear accidents, civil or military.
- All service personnel trained and equipped to survive as best as possible in hostile CBRN environments.
Flexible disciplined manpower, trained in dealing with terrorist/crime threats
To some extent, the military contains a wide range of skills and trades that when any form of civil emergency occurs, there are people with appropriate skills that can be deployed into almost any area of critical civilian work where augmentation by service personnel is required. However, the following conditions must be met:
- There must be sufficient “spare” manpower above and beyond operational and essential training commitments that service personnel can be given in support of a civil emergency.
- Where there are particular threats requiring special skills (for example, deploying armed service personnel onto the streets in the event of a major crime/riot scenario beyond police capability) that there are sufficient personnel trained in such a role in addition to their military role.
Home military-industrial capability
This is an area which is often forgotten. We used to have a very rich home defence industry, with multiple suppliers for each major type of equipment (aircraft, ships, armoured vehicles, electronics) but much of that capability has been diluted, impacted more by political job-securing vote-winning considerations than by military need. We are now down to the bone with in certain areas with only one aircraft manufacturer, one helicopter maker, fragmented shipyards kept alive for political needs rather than needing them to meet volume, and deficiencies in other area.
In his article, John Carins reminded us of how many British industrial companies have been taken over by foreign operators: Astrium, Ferranti, GEC, ICI, Marconi, Plessey, Racal, Swan Hunter, Vickers and Westland being Defence supplies amongst his list. When the chips are down, would a foreign owner continue to support British Defence investment?
A future government of an independent Britain must take this aspect seriously and ensure capabilities are developed, which of course will open up export opportunities too.
The ability to grow a substantial home defence force quickly if a conventional attack on UK becomes more likely
To be able to grow defence capabilities, a nation must have in place several things:
- The full range of capabilities in a balanced peacetime force, albeit some may be small. At present, our government has chosen to forego certain elements of that, for example, aircraft carrier and maritime surveillance, both woeful omissions.
- A reserve force that can be brought to operational readiness in time to meet growing threats. The present Territorial Army is being transformed and grown, but that strategy does not seem to be working very well. An alternative reserve methodology is to keep service personnel on a reserve commitment after their full-time service expires, matching them with mothballed older equipment, both equipment and manpower being re-activated where required.
- A training capability that can either grow or rapidly transform itself to take conscripts. One solution could be to resurrect National Service, albeit this is a controversial subject, perhaps best handled with a Referendum, and having a “civilian service” alternative for those who dislike the military approach.
Air and Naval forces to help secure our borders and to protect shipping and oil/gas rigs
Most people would agree that home defence interceptor fighters and naval patrol vessels have been trimmed to the bone, and cannot be reduced any more. On top of that, there is a glaring hole with no maritime surveillance aircraft to speak of.
A future government of an independent Britain would need to consider if growth in the size of these forces is needed.
Greater home production of energy, food and minerals
UKIP’s Energy and Agricultural policies already focus on this and propose workable solutions. I would also suggest that an independent Britain would need to resurrect our home-produced metals industry – freed of the shackles of EU energy policies and over-regulation, coupled with automation, our industry could become competitive again, and provide worthwhile jobs and export opportunities.
Forces as agreed for assignment to NATO and flexibility to deploy other forces
During the Cold War, large elements of our forces were assigned to NATO. Nowadays, NATO assignments are either provided by personnel posted to NATO Headquarters, units meeting NATO tasks, or deployments to expeditionary operations (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan). If we are able to maintain the full balance of capabilities in a minimum peacetime scenario, then we would make a balanced contribution to support most future NATO operations.
Some expeditionary capability to defend overseas territories, factored on a cost/benefit basis, which might also be available to protect other foreign interests
The Falklands scenario is the classic and extreme case. On the assumption that a future British government would go as far as Margaret Thatcher did, if the Argentinians were to overcome our defence forces there, then as of today we are clearly lacking. The two aircraft carriers and embarked aircraft are the absolute minimum for such an operation in that sphere, but even in 1982 we were woefully stretched in respect of other Naval capital ships. Such investment would be a major decision based on a solid cost-benefit analysis, I am sorry to say – I would rather say that ensuring the sovereignty of 3000 British-descended people in the South Atlantic would be worth it, but in these stretched times different criteria must apply.
This series of articles has only scratched at the surface, but I would hope it has provided some clues as to how UKIP might approach formulating a credible Defence Policy to support an independent and confident Britain.