Monday, 27 February 2012

Can Fortress Falklands be Defence on a Shoe String?

Yes. It Can.

Defence of the Falklands is an economic nightmare, If the recent ThinkDefence think piece is correct, and it costs £400,000,000 per year to maintain the garrison, of one Infantry company, a Typhoon Flight and supporting staff, the current situation is both economicaly ruinous, the islands generate less than a quarter of that per annum, and would need to generate 10x that to be a military affordability and militarily pointless, the defence is successful only because Argentina is too weak to invade in the first place.
Its unlikely that wool, sheep and squid prices are going to increase that much, or that Rockhopper well is actualy another Saudi.

When you consider that since the last war, we have spent (in theory) £12,000,000,000 its clear something is wrong.
We'd be financialy better off refighting Corporate every decade.

Simply adding more forces isnt really an answer. 4 more Typhoons would be nice, but a pilot on 200 flight hours per year, and £80,000 per flight hour costs a stunning £16,000,000 per year to operate. 8 pilots alone would set us back £128mn, and unless you build a whole additional airfield, no number of planes deal with the underwater knife fighter carrying a few dozen ATGMS

So how do we defend the Falklands, without spending any money defending the Falklands?

Well, we cheat, and we book defence of the Falklands under other budget codes.

I think there are three larger organisations who could pick up the tab without really noticing it. All plans are essentialy varients of militarising the Western Islands, by differing bodies for differing reasons, NATO, the EU, and The MoD.

NATO, on the face it, has no need to get involved in the situation, the US provides huge land and airwarfare spaces, that far dwarf the land mass of the falklands islands, and the Atlantic Ocean provides all the room anyone could want for Naval Warfare. Except for perhaps one area, the Littoral / Riverine. The Falklands Islands are a chain of nearly 100 islands, a geographical occurance I dont believe is replicated anywhere else over such a small area, Greece has many more islands, but over a larger area, and lets be honest, withing a Greco-Turkish sparing ground and a frequent transit point for Russian intelligence ships.
If NATO is serious about the mastering the littoral warfare and amphibious assault sector, there dont seem to be many more demanding environments than The Falklands Islands to train for such a war in.

The European Union maintains that it should be viewed as a military, economic and political equal of the US. Now, TrT has a well informed view that this is bunkum, the EU is a paper tiger (Libyan intervention), with a collapsing economy (see share of world GDP over the last 50 years) and near as damnit self inflicted genocide (see birth rates).
However, if it truely wishes to be an equal, theres a great deal it must do, not the least of which is create indiginous versions of the services it currently receives from the US, Tankers and AWACS are the ones in the news at the moment, but just as, if not more important, are the land and air proving grounds in the Flyover States.
West Falkland is more than twice the size of the Suffield Block (BATUS) and, if you include the islands, significantly larger than China Lake

There simply no where in Europe that such a range could be created, possibly, somewhere in the Scandies, but thats complicated by Swedish Independance, or perhaps Greenland, but that has a far more complicated sovereignity dispute.
The largest military site in the UK is the rather tiny salisbury plain at 390km2, less than a tenth of whats available on west falkland, and theres nothing appreciably bigger in Europe.
If Europe wants somewhere it can test fire large artilery at long range, its options are limited.

And Finaly, we have the MoD itself.
Figure looted liberaly from ArmedForces.co.uk
The Army recruits over 1000 soldiers a month, and has a target for more than double that, and all of these recruits undergo a 6 month long infantry soldier course.
I'm going to take a guess and say there are 12 of these ran per year, because it makes my life easier.
Rather than run this course at Catterick, why not the Falklands? West Falkland, to be precise?
The Recruitment budget stands at about £700mn per year. Would this really cost more than £400mn per year to relocate half way round the world? Obviously, there will be some capital costs to building an infantry warfare centre at the end of the earth, but a Ro-Ro capable port for a Point Class isnt going to be billions, then its just a case of knocking up some barrack blocks.
Getting the Greenies on board by powering it by wind turbines wouldnt be the worst idea, the wind is such thats lits likely cheaper than running diesel generators, the alternative being put in a small nuclear reactor, a smart metering system* and so provide grid electric to major settlements, or everywhere.

Suddenly, the islands have a resident population of 6000 trainee infantrymen, 4500 of which will have undergone weapons training, 3x more than the current garrison. There will also be a supporting garrison of some size, trainers, cooks, clerks, ect

All of that now on the islands, already exists in the UK, so isnt a "new" cost, all thats a "new" cost for the falklands defence fund, is the amount required to build the base, a pittance, the cost of shipping down the recruits, cheap as chips and the "away from costs" of the training staff.
£400mn? Not Likely, or so I assume.

But why just the Army?

Well, several reasons actualy.
The RAF pilots spend
40 weeks pre flight training,
26 weeks on tutor aircraft and if selected for fast jets, another
40 on a Tuccano, followed by
28 on Hawk
16 on armed Hawks and
Unknown in OCU on Typhoon

The only time they would be of use in defence of the Falklands is the 16 week training period on armed Hawks, and the second stage of the Typhoon training. The Hawk is less of a complete and total overmatch for the Skyhawk than I would consider reasonable, but basing both the weapons courses for the Hawk and Typhoon there creates an utter disdaster for the Argentines.
Suddenly there are 36 multirole typhoons in the area, along with our trainers, who I assume to be the more competant, although I wonder how relevent that is given Typhoon against Skyhawk?

And cost to us isnt £16mn per pilot, its whatever it costs to sail someone down on a point class and overpay the instructors.

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