Saturday, 30 November 2013

Assessment on the proposals for the Scottish Defence force (Part Two – The Air Force)

In the previous part of this series, Humphrey looked at the proposals for what an independent Scottish Navy would look like, and whether it would be fit for purpose. His general conclusions were that any force would struggle to achieve the goals placed on it due to the lack of support, infrastructure, money and manpower. The next part of this series will focus on the proposals for the Air Force.

The current proposals seem somewhat vague – they seem to imply the acquisition of around 12 Typhoon jets for QRA and 6 C130 Hercules, presumably operating out of Lossiemouth and a helicopter squadron (type unknown) plus contributions to wider regional air defence and seeking fast jet training overseas. The assumption is that around 2000 personnel will be required for this task.

The first challenge is the Typhoon fleet and how it can be operated to best effect. QRA is a very expensive thing to do properly – its not just about having pilots based in a cockpit ready to take off. Setting up QRA is about having a Recognised Air Picture, a means of sharing information and communicating it to the airbase. It is about having the C2 links in place so that in the event of a scramble, the means exist for the senior decision taking Minister to be able to authorise a shoot down decision and then for the pilot to carry it out in an appropriate manner. This ability needs to be available 24/7/365 and is an onerous task on aircrew and support teams.

In the SDF the reality is that with only 12 jets available, their entire effort will be taken up doing QRA – assuming two training aircraft come over, this gives a squadron of 10 aircraft to generate 2 airframes on a constant basis. Take two out of the equation for servicing, two on the flight line and two being prepared to take over, and this leaves you with a flex of four aircraft to conduct all training and flying for the fleet.

The MOD currently estimates that Typhoon costs £70k per hour to fly (full costs), so assuming that it flies for 30 hours per airframe per month over a year (an averaged figure as there will be peaks and troughs), you suddenly realise that it would cost £2.1 million per month, £25 million per year to keep each aircraft going, or a total of nearly £300 million per year to ensure that two jets were constantly available for QRA. This is well over 10% of the putative budget. Add to this the operating costs of RAF Lossiemouth currently exceed £100m per year, and you realise that nearly 20% of the SDF budget is going to be taken up just to run QRA.

The next challenge is manpower and support. Finding the Typhoon pilots to join will be a headache – there is no guarantee they will come over at independence, and it takes many years to train new ones. A job offer of a career where your entire flying life will be linked to QRA is unlikely to be a draw for many pilots unless they want long term stability. Retention is likely to prove a major issue for the SDF as it simply will not be able to offer the sort of opportunities that other Typhoon operating forces can.

More worryingly still is not the pilots, but securing sufficient trained groundcrew and engineers to support the Typhoon. There is no aviation engineering training facility in Scotland, meaning the SDF will either need to build one at very substantial cost, or try to get places on courses elsewhere (presumably in the UK). Given that these come at significant cost, and there is no guarantee of places on a long term basis, one cannot escape the sense that either the SDF will have to invest heavily in local training, or it will have to accept it is utterly dependent on the UK for provision of training of its ground crew in perpetuity. Humphrey predicts that securing sufficient trained engineers in the force will be the biggest challenge facing the SDF.
The other problem is who actually supports the aircraft – a lot of deep level RAF servicing has been contracted out now, and these contracts will be null and void for the SDF airframes. The SDF will either have to spend a lot of money to introduce servicing facilities (which are not cheap) or it will have to enter into all manner of very expensive commercial arrangements with UK companies to get them to support Typhoon in Scottish service. This sort of arrangement cannot be skimped either – if you don’t service your aircraft, then you quickly lose the ability to fly them. As such a newly independent Scotland may find itself hamstrung by a need to pay a great deal of money in support contracts and servicing contracts and not capital investment in new technology.

The final issue with adopting Typhoon is what batch of aircraft will be taken and how Scotland proposes to work with the Eurofighter consortium of nations? Typhoon is subject to a multi-national development programme which isn't cheap, but is designed to keep the aircraft at the cutting edge. Either Scotland buys into the programme (again at very considerable cost), ensuring its airframes remain current and relevant, or it has to save money in the short term by not working with the partner nations, but instead finds itself solely responsible for updating and upgrading an increasingly obsolete fleet. The costs to the Scottish taxpayer would rise as this would essentially become an orphan fleet, incurring significant costs to industry to support it.

So when looking at the proposal to operate Typhoon, there seem to be real and clear difficulties in providing the aircrew (and there is no guarantee of getting flying training places given how taught the training pipeline is for most nations these days with very little spare capacity to sell), and the ground crew to support the aircraft. There are huge and immediate support costs to be incurred to run the airframe, and the long term investment costs are substantial. Of course it could be done, but it will cost far more than people think, and will place great pressure on a defence budget which looks increasingly overheated.

The proposal to acquire C130s seems similarly expensive. There is not, and has never been a C130 basing presence in Scotland. This means that the SDF would need to pay out from the start to set up a C130 support facility and hangar in Lossiemouth. They would also need to find sufficiently trained crews and groundstaff – a small point, but the C130 fleet has been based at Lyneham and Brize Norton for nearly 50 years. Finding a sufficient pool of operators and support staff to uproot from their home to go to a newly independent Scotland is going to be a major challenge in itself.

The next challenge is that C130 is due to leave RAF service in 2022 (or thereabouts). This means that the SDF will not be able to draw on RAF resources in the medium term for shared training or support places, thus meaning a requirement to set their own training pipeline up. Given the age of the ‘J’ fleet, the heavy fatigue on most airframes as a result of TELIC/HERRICK and the lack of a long term future in the RAF, one feels that the SDF will find itself saddled with a great deal of costs to keep the airframe going. Of course it can be done, but it is going to be much more expensive than planned – particularly once you factor in the costs of training all the ground crew and aircrew locally, as there will be no UK pipeline for them to try and secure places on.

The proposal to acquire a squadron of helicopters has similar challenges – where do the crews come from, where does the support come from and where do you get it serviced? Frankly the lack of planning as to how you would recruit the aircrew pipeline, and where they would be trained is perhaps the biggest worry in these plans. The time it takes to get people to the front line is measured in years, and requires training schools, training aircraft fleets and a lot of investment of time and money. The SDF will get a one time injection of equipment but cannot guarantee what level of personnel it will get. It has to retain the people it does get, while recruiting and training at a fast pace from the start of independence to ensure that in 5-10 years after independence, there are sufficiently qualified pilots, engineers and other key staff in the system. This is going to place a large burden on the training pipeline, and cost an enormous amount of money.

So in summary, the proposals for the SDF Air Force appear to be built around the concept of operating a very expensive and enormously capable fighter jet purely for QRA, while introducing an aged and nearly out of service transport aircraft into an environment where it has never been based before. It assumes that this will be done on a manpower ceiling capable of retaining key personnel, and recruiting / training more staff through a training and ground school environment which doesn't yet exist and would be extortionately expensive to create. All of this will be done within a shared wider budget of £2.5 billion.

Bluntly the sums don’t add up, the manpower totals don’t add up, and the ability to generate a long term and credible airforce is probably in doubt due to the lack of thought about the training and support implications of the plan.


In the final part of this series, Humphrey will look at some wider aspects of the plan and see whether the plans really do add up.  

53 comments:

  1. The SNP seem to be very confident that as they "own" a share of Sterling, we will have no alternative but to create a currency union with them on their terms...presumably the same is believed to apply to HMAF...they'll tell us who they want, and we will book the removal vans...

    aka GNB

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  2. you failed to cover what QRA is in a broad national context--ASACS--go look it up--especially since you and other commentators are supposedly military personnel.

    QRA isn't just about Typhoons, its about coverage and surveillance. No AWACS in their plan? No RRH (again in the haste of time I'm not defining that). If and If they find people to build an RRH, thne the rest of the UK armed forces (the remaining RAF) is also monetarily screwed as they have to build more RRH domes south of Scotland (to defend NI, Wales and England). Also, no mobile GBAD (again quite simple to figure that out, given the Olympics)? Not that the UK's current QRA is reliant on GBA but a Scottish Defence without GBA isn't very practical.

    C-130s are ok actually but they failed to specify which version? Given that the move is to switch to the A400 M, ok maybe the Scots can buy the retired J/K versions. But what use is a C-130--unless you have a dedicated paratroop unit--which I don't think the Scottish Army plans to do. 6 C-130s for mainly transport to...? For only humanitarian relief?

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  3. Overall not a bad article, puts most if not all into perceptive. But Sir Humphrey I have a little concern with the figures you quote concerning the hourly cost of running a Typhoon

    You quote a figure of £70K per hour but last year Janes published a study where they estimated the Typhoon cost $18k/hour to operate.

    How did you arrive at £70K per hour?

    Best Regards

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    1. The Typhoon figures are based on the full cost basis, which assumes all the costs on the airframe. I've used this as this is seems the most appropriate figure to use for the aircraft. I took the figures direct from Hansard - a quick google should find you the link.
      I'm going to be travelling abroad for a few days, but let me know if you can't find it when I'm back and I'll post it.

      The other point I'd make is that when I use figures on this site I always use Hansard or MOD figures as they are public fact, not journalistic speculation!

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    2. I just did a very quick Google and couldn't find the figure quoted. The issue is that £70,000 per hour sounds *extremely* high, in fact almost ridiculously so.

      As I am sure you are aware Jane's are a long established and world renowned independent defence analyst group who don't publish mere "journalistic speculation". I'm also sure you are aware that there are many different ways to calculate the cost of procuring and operating an aircraft which are often misquoted or misrepresented in order to support an agenda - for example the recent figures quoted for the cost of the F-35 which were used to show the cost of the aircraft was indeed falling, but which later emerged didn't include the cost of the engine!

      I've got a feeling that the £70,000 per hour figure you quote includes *all* costs associated with the Typhoon, including development and acquisition - which is obviously something an independent Scotland would not have to pay for as these costs have already been paid by the UK.

      If you take a UK fleet of approximately 100 Typhoons, with a projected life of 6,000 hours each then £70,000 per hour works out at £42bn for the entire programme which does indeed sound about right. However, suggesting that Typhoon costs £70,000 to *operate* sounds absolutely mad.

      What I'd like to know is exactly how the £70,000 per hour figure has been arrived at and exactly what costs are included. The SNP's sums are already shaky enough without having to misquote or misuse statistics/figures to discredit them.

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    3. Hi Nick
      The Figure is full costs which i regard as a reasonble figure to use and have regularly seen used. I have my own reaervations about janes for various reasons and i prefer to rely on official figures.
      As noted i am travelling for a couple of days but will post link when time permits.

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    4. The full cost per hour of operating Typhoon was given in Hansaard on 14 Sep 2010; Column 928W refers, which you can find at this link: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm100914/text/100914w0001.htm.

      The figures quoted for full operating cost per hour in Financial Year 2010/11 are:

      Tornado GR4 £35,000

      Typhoon FGR4 (previously known as F2) £70,000

      Harrier GR7/GR9 £37,000

      Tornado F3 £43,000

      I found that using a very quick Google using the syntax listed in Hansard. The fact that it comes from the MOD in response to a question raised in Parliament means that either it's accurate and verifiable, or a Minister has lied to Parliament, which would require their resignation (and pretty shortly the resignation of whoever drafted the response).

      Of course I realise that there's no way the MOD, with all of it's *actual* recorded costs and forecasts for the cost of purchasing and operating airframes - including all the commercial information held in confidence - could possibly be in any way as accurate as anything produced by Janes Defence and their researchers.

      PS: I have to answer questions from Janes occasionally in my day job, and I've been generally unimpressed with the efforts put in by those raising the questions. The quality of the research done varies considerably; I was particularly unimpressed when a researcher from Janes quoted an official speech, given at an official event, at which copies of the speech were available, and which included numbers that are both accurate and available generally on the internet, and which Janes managed to get wrong in their article.

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    5. are you covering weapons and other accessories? Or just the cost of maintaining "bare" Typhoons?

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    6. Good article this, and lots of well-raised points. The Typhoon costs point is interesting - I also thought it looked high and checked out the Hansard link which does good job of explaining where how it is calculated:
      "These figures include forward and depth servicing, fuel costs, crew costs, training costs, cost of capital charge, depreciation and amortisation. The Typhoon cost per flying hour reflects the build up of the fleet with smaller numbers of aircraft currently in service; this cost is expected to reduce significantly over the in-service life of the aircraft."

      The last point is probably the key one - suggests to me that the 70k figure is probably a top-end number and that costs now and in the future would be lower. On the other hand, a small Scottish fleet of 12-14 aircraft would have none of the economies of scale generated by the UK fleet so perhaps not. It would be interesting to know how Austria manages with their fleet of 15 Typhoons.

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    7. Back in 2011 the CO of the Austrian Air Defence Forces said his Typhoons operate a 7-minute QRA with a per-hour cost around £40k. They skimp a bit on flying hours though and do a lot of simulator work.

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  4. There is no doubt that manning an air combat force would be challenging, but broadly similar European countries have done so now and in the recent past, from Finnish F-18s and Danish and Norwegian F-16s to Czech and Hungarian Gripens and Austrian Typhoons. As with your first chapter, ignoring what happens out in the big wide world in favour of MoD groupthink is not going to produce sensible results or accurate criticisms.

    While the F-16 is undoubtedly a simpler aircraft to operate than Typhoon and advantage is taken of NATO air training programmes, Norway shows an example of a small country operating an air force rather more capabilities than are listed in the White Paper, for example maritime patrol and a military-operated SAR function. All this on the basis of around 2,000 personnel.

    On the issue of the suitability of Typhoon and Hercules, they are what is likely to be available. The Treasury will undoubtedly want to "share" hardware and the MoD is unlikely to win any subsequent argument. In addition, I am not seeing why the RAF's plans for Hercules are significant. The world is a big place, and it will be full of C-130 operators for decades to come. I have read that the USAF is still looking to order C-130Js today, and will therefore have training facilities, both for itself and others, long into the future.

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    1. Hi Angus,
      I'm very much not ignoring what is going on in the world - I'm calling this based on looking at the proposals and what seems likely to occur. Ultimately if you look at the budget that the SDF have, the costs it must incur immediately, the lack of a training pipeline capable of delivering pilots or ground crew for several years past indepedence, and the costs involved of building from scratch the very expensive support facilities you quickly see that the figures do not add up.
      The plans don't make financial sense, and the reason other countries of equal size can operate as they do is that they have had decades to build and support air forces of that size. Now in due course Scotland could do this, but to asume that at the outset this is possible is plain misleading.
      The C130 fleet is a major issue - you are talking about establishing a support organisation, ground crew, training schools and so on in a location which has never done this. The cost runs into tens, if not hundreds, of millons - just look at the cost of bringing Voyager into service as a good example of how all the costs add up.
      The other point about overseas training is that you get what you pay for - and this is VERY expensive to do. By all means train overseas, but the pipline is often smaller than people think, with places reserved for nations of strategic interest and value - say in the Middle East, and other nations get the spare slots. Relying purely on foreign nations to deliver training requirements will meet some of the needs, but is not sustainable in the long term.

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    2. Not only is UK training availability limited, but there are now major issues in Europe about who is going to do it and on what platforms. The older Hawks and Alphajets are near the end of their service lives and the proposed joint European training organisation has not yet taken off (excuse the pun). In fact the UK is in a better position than most. Even France is facing training pipeline issues. Germany does virtually all its training in the USA and Scotland might have to go down this route too. The other option is to train commercially (Canada or private providers). The UK is currently outsourcing much of its training to Ascent and other providers, but there is no reason to think they will simply add Scotland to their existing contracts. In fact they may see a desperate Scotland as a an easy money-making opportunity. Whatever the path taken, it will be very expensive and I cannot think many existing Typhoon pilots will move their careers northwards to the Royal Scottish Air Farce unless their palms are greased with gold, further reducing available funding.

      The other problem is that 'cheap' fighters like F-16 are no longer cheap and second hand equipment is increasingly old and nearing the end of its service life. The ideal time for Scots independence would have been 1992 when NATO was downsizing and giving away all kinds of surplus equipment. The world has changed and an increasing number of smaller countries are giving up on serious air combat capabilities.

      My suspicion is that like Ireland the Scottish government will try to hitch a free ride and shelter under the UK's air umbrella. That might be possible in exchange for say a 999-year lease on Faslane and unlimited low flying over Scotland... However,such behaviour will hardly endear Scotland to other NATO countries who expect an applicant to pull its full weight.

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    3. I don't think Ireland hitches on the UK's air defences. There are no major RRHs near Ireland nor is the AWACS based nearby. It's just that no one wants to attack Ireland.

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    4. Ireland does not hitch. It gets a free ride courtesy of the UK taxpayer. There is no current air threat to Ireland. If one were to emerge (for example a spate of terrorist kamikaze hijackings) Ireland would be able to call upon UK assistance at short notice - and probably will. Only the UK can deal with a threat to Cork or Dublin. The Irish free ride in strategic terms is the knowledge that any serious threats to the British Isles will have to be dealt with by the UK, just as happened in the Second World War. No-one will say this explicitly, but that is the way it is. The UK can hardly ignore military threats to Scotland either and that is what will allow a future Scots government to pare spending to the minimum.

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    5. would it? Is there a standing agreement between the Irish forces and HM Armed Forces?

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    6. I think 'political understanding' would be nearer the mark, hardly surprising given the UK's desire to enhance relations with Ireland.

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  5. Again, QRA and an Air Force is not simply about jets and transport craft. No Radar--whether GB or AWACs? Weapons--how many Sidewinders, ASRAAMS, AMRAAMs, Meteor, surface-to-air missiles/weapons? Ammo for guns? Chaff/Flares? No possibility of a GBAD? You post fails to talk about these.

    NATO may provide their AWACS as a cover--but if and only if the Scots enter NATO. Not forgetting NATO E-3s are set only to Iceland, the Baltic states and other members which do not have an airforce/air defence forces.

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    1. Maybe this will be covered in Part 3?

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    2. I'm well aware of the other issues, unfortunately i only have a finite amount of time in which to write, and while these are important, i didnt have time to cover them to the depth required.

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    3. they are important. You can have jets or trainer aircraft. But without the support you have no airforce. The logic is applied to the Falklands--there are radar sites as well as Typhoons.

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    4. Your point is well taken however whilst they are very definitely important ultimately I only have a finite amount of time available to me to write and wouldrather focus on specific matters rather than the wider logistical matters at this

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    5. You seem to think you have written the best critque.. Clearly this is not so.

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    6. An odd comment. Serious critiques of Chapter 6 of the Independence White Paper sadly appear to be uncommon, on-line at least, but I don't see that Sir H has done anything to imply that he has written the best one. If you know of a better critique perhaps you could direct us all to it please?

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  6. Would it be feasible for the Scots to take a squadron's worth of Tornadoes since these are being retired slightly "before their time"? If anything I could see them being drawn-down even faster after the SDR in 2015, which would tie-in nicely with independence.
    Relatively recent upgrades giving respectable ground attack capabilities if they want to send a token force abroad, and certainly the speed to do QRA even if the air-to-air capability is somewhat limited. They would certainly be perfectly adequate for heading off the occasional Russian bomber/mpa trying it's luck, which is all they're likely to have to do.
    My thinking is that they could operate Tornado out of Lossiemouth, with enough spare airframes and parts going cheap from the RAF and Germans to keep them ticking over for say 10 years until they could procure something cheaper and more appropriate to their needs. Something closer to Gripen rather than Eurofighter.
    All of this is of course based on the assumption that Tornado would be markedly cheaper to operate than Typhoon, which is guesswork on my part.

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    1. Tornados are old plus they at best can only carry Sidewinders.

      Not exactly great in tackling Tu-160s.

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    2. No they're not going to do too well against the cream of the Russian air force, but if they somehow got into a one-on-one conflict with Russia then I don't think a single squadron of Typhoons would go very far either. My point is that it seems Scotland want to go "too big, too soon", without the cash to back it up, so why not use Tornado as a cheaper interim option until they sort out what they want to have on a long term basis?

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    3. Which Tornado version? F3? Even that platform is considered old.

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    4. They can carry more than Sidewinders. The F3 originally carried the Skyflash Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile, which was then replaced by the even more capable US AMRAAM. Much more appropriate for intercepting Russian bombers.

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    5. F3s are 1990s era old. There are no more Skyflash and its not so easy to ask--"hey can we get some AMRAAM?"

      N

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  7. The airframes are old and would need work to keep jn the air. Additionally it would mandare the reopening of the wsop pipeline which i believe has now been shut down as we move towards osd. Running on tornado would require sdf to set up and run a back seater training programne from scratch at large cost for less than 10 yrs service.

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  8. A number of comments:

    I remain unconvinced that, at least as a full member of NATO, training overseas would be a major problem. Denmark and Norway have undertaken advanced flying training overseas for a generation now, and Hungary must have added to that number since the retirement of L-39 Albatros aircraft. Outside NATO it would be a different picture, but in every respect and not just this one.

    Just because the White Paper doesn't include the RRHs at Buchan and Benbecula - or indeed anything else which is currently to be found in Scotland - in a pages-long shopping list buried in an appendix, it would be unwise to assume they aren't on someone's list. The document also doesn't say that the army would have uniforms or guns, but it seems reasonable to think that we are to make that assumption. It seems just as probable that all fixed installations, RRHs included, are on the alpha version of the shopping list. Of course the MoD may have other ideas ...

    Finally, I have to question the logic of using of full costs per flying hour together with costs for RAF Lossiemouth. Is it not the case that some part of the costs incurred at Lossiemouth, et al, also form part of the full costs for Typhoon and Tornado? Looking at the breakdown of Kinloss costs in Hansard it seems that it must.

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    1. Angus
      I would be careful in estimating the leave of fast jet training spaces out there.most countries don't have that big a training system and only resource it for their own pilot requirements. In the next few years the numbers across NATO will be very low - even the raf will only need around 150 fast jet pilots at any one time. As such as we come to the end ofthe period in which legacy systems and capacity exist (eg hawk t1s) we see that due to costs most nations have a tiny pipeline requirement. The issues is finding one willing to fund spaces on their system to support an other nation - more difficult than you may think!
      As for costs, the costs quoted don't include running the base - these are separate figures. Lossiemouth alone costs £100m per year on top of flying typhoon (which isn't based there yet). Running a fast jet fleet is extremely expensive.

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    2. I agree with Sir H. Recent studies of flying training show that across NATO the capacity is being cut to the bare minimum and there is no longer a pool of spare places the way there was 20 tears ago. As UCAVs come into view there is a marked decrease in fast jet training especially. Other training could be done commercially, but is expensive and has many issues (which is why the UK has avoided this route). The UK might be able to fit RScAF needs into their pipeline but you can bet that it will cost a lot more than the RAF is paying. That is the way things are. Scotland should not expect to piggyback cheaply on its allies.

      As for infrastructure it is an contentious assumption that the Orkneys and Shetlands will leave the UK. They might wish to be retained, which takes care of Saxa Vord. Other UK options could include radars mounted in the North Sea on a current or obsolete oil platforms. Scotland should not assume the Buchan radars will remain since, for ITAR reasons, they may be removed or downgraded before handover.

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    3. It would complicate the whole issue should the Scots take at least one RRH. As said, the RAF would have to build a new one south of the Scottish border that scans threats from outside UK airspace plus from Scotland itself--rogue terrorist-captured airlines.

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    4. I'd take the bet on flying training costs. Not that it would ever be settled because impressions are all that will ever exist. And I have a suspicion that NATO would be quite keen to assist with standing up a hypothetical SDF air force, rather than obstructing it (why? just because!) as seems to be the common assumption here. After all, what's to be gained by doing otherwise?

      On Lossiemouth costs and the extent to which they are duplicated in "full costs per flying hour", the £100 million figures (if it comes from Hansard in January 2010) would include about £70 million in personnel costs. I can't see how some part of those costs - which logically must include flying personnel and maintainers based at Lossiemouth - would not also appear in the calculated "full cost per flying hour" numbers.

      As regards Saxa Vord, I had formed the impression from news reports that it was reduced to C&M status since the local facilties closed, and that it was not presently functioning as a remote radar site (unlike Buchan). Is this incorrect? Colour me skeptical, but (were an independent Scotland a member of NATO) ITAR seems like a non-issue. TPS- and FPS-117 radars aren't super secret sauce and neither are their control systems. Operators include Pakistan, perhaps to be joined in future by Iraq and Georgia.

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    5. You are assuming of course that a CND-leaning, anti-nuclear, 'but we will join NATO to keep the electorate happy' socialist Scots government, with a territorial dispute (over the EEZ) and possibly strained relations with the UK (over the pound, debts, Trident) will just walk into NATO and keep access to ITAR equipment. ITAR is an issue because 'USA says no' is all it takes. And the USA may be very unimpressed with the attitudes of a newly independent SNP-led government. The clear lack of understanding of defence in the White Paper will hardly have helped things.

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    6. Again, why would NATO or the USA adopt this view after a Yes vote? Regardless of the universally unenthusiastic attittude towards state secession, NATO, with the USA well to the fore, has admitted a considerable number of post-split micro- and mini-states.

      All of those small states were (and are) poorer and less stable than any of the plausible hypothetical independent Scotlands. Many of them had, and still have, real territorial disputes, disputes over which shots have been fired within living memory, which is quite a different matter from the imaginary dispute which you have confected here for our edification.

      As for lack of understanding and regrettable political inclinations, a reasoned response might proceed along the lines of influencing political leaders into adopting "correct" ways of thinking, And on that note, it seems to me than at least Robertson and MacNeil among the SNP's Westminster contingent have already been drinking NATO koolaid. The predictable model - does it have a STANAG number? - advanced in the White Paper didn't write itself.

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    7. @Angus McLellan - There is absolutely nothing imaginary about the dispute with respect to Faslane and the CASD...that will give the UK a massive practical and financial headache...and there seems to be no doubt that the CND wing of the SNP are hoping to force us to give up CASD against our wishes, without the support of any major UK political party, and despite the fact that we see it as a central plank of our Foreign and Defence Policy...that seems to be pretty real dispute to me...

      aka GNB

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    8. @A McLellan
      'the imaginary dispute which you have confected here for our edification':

      FACT: there is a potentially serious territorial dispute over the exact demarcation of the English-Scottish EEZ boundary, which is likely to end up in the International Court if Scotland becomes independent. This could cost Scotland 10%+ of its oil and gas reserves. The EU now refuses to accept new member states involved in territorial disputes with existing members.

      FACT: the SNP determination to remove Trident and preferably see the UK forced into unilateral nuclear disarmament will lead to serious political and military strains, not just with London, but also Washington and possibly Paris and Brussels too. This may affect the question of NATO membership, which could be significantly delayed.

      FACT: there is highly likely to be a dispute over the shared use of the pound. A future London government will find it very difficult to explain to UK taxpayers why they should be the lender of last resort for a foreign country whose government pursues policies against UK interests.

      FACT: the repeated threats by Salmond, Sturgeon and Co to refuse to accept their share of the UK national debt unless London agrees to their negotiating demands over the pound will have a serious impact both on relations with London and on Edinburgh's ability to raise foreign loans. Even if the debt is finally accepted the damage has now been done, since international finance will see lending to Scotland as a risk.

      FACT: the US takes a serious view of ITAR and a 'new' and unproven state like Scotland is unlikely to get access to really sensitive items. The same will apply to intelligence data. That may change in time, but it would be foolhardy to make plans based on the assumption that there will be no difference after independence. The SNP government' s release of the Lockerbie bomber may also have some effect on future US diplomatic relations, especially if Salmond is the first Prime Minister of an independent Scotland.

      I am Scots myself, but I fear there is complacent and naive assumption among many Scots nationalists that they can make the rest of the world accede to their demands without any compromise on their side. Independence may lead to some rather unpleasant political surprises, but that won't stop the SNP and their cult-like supporters assuming that all will be well once they have their 'freedom'.

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    9. I'm sorry GNB, but "we want to run a military base on your territory" is not any sort of territorial dispute. At least the another anonymous almost has a point with the maritime border. But only almost, because there's an obvious difference between resorting to arbitration over a trivial matter and invading Transylvania.

      On the issue of basing rights on the Clyde, the question has been covered at length by Chalmers and Walker in their book 'Uncharted Waters'. If you can't find the book then Bort's review in 'Scottish Affairs' may be helpful and is available online. To say that it's complicated is an understatement. Grudging agreement wouldn't do. Without the active cooperation of the Scottish government of the day, the bases would be of little value.

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    10. @Angus McLellan - I said it was a dispute...but not a territorial one...it is one of Foreign and Defence Policy, likely to cost us a great deal of trouble and money - and where at least some SNP supporters hope to force us to change our policy against our wishes...explain to me how that is not so? And how it is not likely to sour relations from the start?

      aka GNB

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    11. My apologies, you did not say territorial.

      But you're still assuming the existence of a dispute without being sure that one exists. At least there really is a small question mark over the maritime boundary in the North Sea to hang a hypothetical dispute on.

      As Mr Hammond wisely remarked when giving evidence to the Defence Select Committee earlier this year: "until we saw the opening negotiating position of a Scottish Government, as opposed to the posture it had taken up during a referendum campaign, we would not actually be clear on what contingency planning we would need to be doing". It should hardly need said (but I'll say it anyway) that this important qualification applies equally to statements made by the UK government. The UK must have the advantage in any negotiations for a host of reasons. If Westminster's negotiators failed to achieve some sort of acceptable agreement on basing Trident on the Clyde, it could only be because the UK Government of the day did not rate the issue as being of much importance. There is, after all, no end of largesse available which might be thrown around to dazzle Scottish negotiators into compliance.

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    12. In theory, that is possible. However everything I have read, seen or heard about the SNP position on this is that it is an article of faith that one certain consequence of independence will be that CASD will be out of Faslane pdq; for some of them that outcome seems to be one of the main reasons that they joined the SNP in the first place. I am therefore struggling to imagine circumstances in which Alex Salmond could explain to his own party that what appeared to be a red line four metres tall with razor wire on top is actually a negotiating position...the alternative being that despite their public position, all the main UK parties are in secret so keen to see the back of CASD that they will allow themselves to appear to be brow-beaten into it by the people who have just broken up the Union...and who will by then be engaged in delivering the longest Bronx cheer in history to the rest of us...

      Theoretically possible, but it seems to me very difficult to imagine this not ending in a pretty savage and destructive argument that will go on for years and sour relationships for decades.

      aka GNB

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  9. Don't forget for whom this Wish List is intended. Not for anybody remotely interested in Scottish defense issues. The tartan army will be scotch mist and just another branding opprotunity for First Ministers to get a fighter escort into Glasgow Airport and displaying a pretty thistle instead of the roundel.
    Sir Humphs forensic analysis demonstrates with admirable restraint and diplomatic nicety, exactly why the very idea of a credible Scottish Air Force will be nothing more than a shadow. It will be dumped justa s soon as the Scots Nats can find a reason to blame Westminster

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  10. I get uncomfortable about civil servants critiquing the Scottish Government's defence planning prior to a referendum. That is not to say it is wrong, but just uncomfortable nonetheless.

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    1. Why assume that the comments are all by civil servants? In any case are you saying that Scottish government proposals, no matter how ill-thought out, should not be critiqued before the referendum by those with some knowledge even if they have the misfortune to be civil servants? Is it OK for them to be critiqued only after the referendum when it is too late to have any influence on voters' thinking?

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    2. Sir H is very careful to explain his own situation accurately, and takes a pretty objective line in all his articles...as indeed he does when he comments on articles elsewhere in the Blogosphere...so far as I know the rest of us are no more likely to be Civil servants than anything else - and I am certainly not, and never was...

      aka GNB

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  11. Please read the site description. This is a private blog written in my own time. In no way is this an official blog in same way as arrse or pprune are.

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    1. Isn't ARRSE an unofficial blog/ forum as well?

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  12. One also wonders why the Scottish plan calls for no helicopters? C-130 can't do search and rescue that well...especially not hovering.

    And once again, you won't have an air force without radar, surveillance etc etc

    ARRSE is a bigoted site.

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    1. I think Anonymous that you are in fact the poster formerly known as jeneral28 - you've already been banned from the sites facebook page for trolling. It is painfully obvious when you are posting here, and your style is extremely recognisable. While I cannot make you stop posting, I will say that you and your aggressive, rude and unpleasant posting style is not welcome or wanted on this site.

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  13. "There is no aviation engineering training facility in Scotland,"


    Oh dear. That'll come as a surprise to MoD people and thousands of foreign pilots and engineers (from countries far larger than Scotland) trained at the air university, and the former Fleet Air Arm senior officer who was MD last time I was there. I imagine they're already queuing up for the support contracts, which MoD's anti-Scotland policy denied them for decades.

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