Sunday, January 01, 2006

Nimrod Variations


We blogged the Nimrod MRA4 fiasco a couple of days ago, and now the Sunday Times takes it up:

"...an upgrade of aircraft designed to hunt down Russian submarines but of dubious value in the post-cold war world. The original plan was to upgrade 21 aircraft by 2002 at a cost of £2.8 billion. But BAE Systems ran into a series of problems, not the least of which was building the wings the wrong size.

The project has already cost £2.2 billion and is set to climb to as much as £4 billion, for which we will get not 21 but just 12 new aircraft. They will come into service in 2009, precisely two decades after the cold war came to an end.

As an example of the incompetence of UK defence procurement it is unassailable."

Hear, hear on the last bit. Except of course the Eurofighter is an even worse example of the same thing, and that will cost £9.5 billion.

The ST quotes Lewis Page who "abandoned a naval career in despair in 2004 after 11 years because, as he wrote, the British fleet seemed designed for cocktail parties rather than modern warfare." He's just written a book Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs, that "deconstructs many of the most cherished beliefs of the men and women who run our military. Most spend their careers defending the indefensible, largely because it is the only way to keep their jobs and inflation-proof pensions. The number of officers is way out of proportion to the number of service units that actually need commanders."

Page points out that the Army- with just two combat divisions- has 180 brigadiers and 60 generals; the Royal Navy has 41 admirals for only 40 major warships; the RAF has 40 air marshals for 36 squadrons. “Nearly all our mid-to-senior officer ranks are not employed on any work that justifies having them. The proportion of desk jockeys at any given rank often runs above 90%.”

So while our armed forces have shrunk dramatically in scope and number, and those magnificent moustaches are no more, we still have the same number of Top Brass as in the days of Sir Douglas and Sir Edward. And it seems most of those idle hands have found work in defence procurement. With all-too-predictable results.

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