Air Marshal: RAF may not have to be disbanded
It's 'plausible' that slug-balancers will be kept
Yesterday, reporting on the Ministry of Defence green paper issued this week, we referenced a news item in which the UK's top serviceman, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, reportedly said it was "plausible" that Britain might in future have just two armed services rather than three.
It has now emerged that this was in error. The MoD has issued a correction:
It is being misreported by some media outlets that when talking about the possible implications of the Green Paper, Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said yesterday that it was 'plausible' that there could be only two Armed Services.
This is not the case. The following question was asked:
"With regard to the forthcoming Strategic Defence Review and the requirement to save a lot of money, do you think it's plausible that we will have three Armed Services?"
CDS replied to this question by saying: "Certainly it's plausible."
So in fact it would appear that the idea of retaining all three armed services is only "plausible" - which is very different from "likely" or "definite". Indeed, no matter how you slice it, it is now confirmed by the Chief of the Defence Staff that the disappearance of one or more services is on the cards.
Which one it might be generally depends on the background of who you ask. The Royal Navy and Army continually suggest breaking up the RAF among the Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps, for instance.
Sir Jock, as we suggested yesterday, might rather favour amalgamating the other two services to form the Royal Surface and Subsurface Force. It might even be possible, in a world where tails wagged dogs to an even greater degree, to see the RAF Regiment (the air force's ground security troops, roughly equivalent to a couple of battalions of army infantry in organisation and quality) take over the Army.
Alternatively the navy might be broken up to form the RAF Seagoing Airbase Flotilla and an Army Maritime Transport and Associated Functions organisation, probably within the logistic corps. Both the Army and RAF operated significant fleets of their own in the past, after all.
Canada once tried to unify all three services, but this didn't really take - they still have quite a lot of separate identity.
Here on the Reg defence desk, we'd say that Sir Jock used the wrong word: it's not just plausible but very likely that all three services will continue to exist, though if we taxpayers are lucky their upper levels will be trimmed and amalgamated a great deal - perhaps by abolishing the three service ops commands (Fleet, Land and Strike) and assigning their remnants to the Joint Ops HQ, among other things. It seems mad to promote joint operations by increasing the number of warring HQs from three to four, as we have under the current setup.
You know what'll really happen.
They'll spend a load of time and money looking into it, decide it's a hornet's nest and settle for economies of scale by reorganising the various supply and logistics bits into a Combined Operations Purchasing Oversight UniT.
While the war we are fighting at the moment don't seem to require much in the way of a strategic airforce, there is still a big tactical requirement. Now, this function could be absorbed into an "army airforce" with some ease and may even have benefits from a command and control point of view.
However, in a war such as the first Gulf War there was a requirement for strategic bombing, gaining local air superiorty, etc. This is really the function of a conventional airforce, as is long range defence of UK airspace (although you could argue that this is coastal defence and perhaps the navy could do it)...
As always, we don't know what threats we might be facing 10/20 years down the road, roughly the time it takes to design and build a new military aircraft, so perhaps better safe than sorry?
It might also be worth noting that although the new generation of drones are pretty good, they are being used in a theatre where we have total air superiority and wouldn't be much use in a contested air environment.
Forgotten the cold war?
"there have been few wars where the RAF have been the sole forces element"
How about the cold war - where the RAF played a key role for 35 odd years?