Saturday, 2 November 2013

October 2013 Thoughts (Extended Thoughts): Time to Think Globally

“Much of…his global thinking is, no matter how you slice it, still globaloney”

Clare Booth Luce,
Speech to the House of Representatives,
February 1943[1]

The quote above was not chosen because the speaker’s life story is interesting[2], nor because of the subject of the quote, Vice President Wallace; it was chosen because it is more than likely the origins of phrase ‘globaloney’. This phrase is very useful to describe some of the thinking about world politics, global international relations and especially global strategy (or Geo-Strategy as it is sometimes called). Thinking that is often very ill-defined to the point of either being so vague they are rendered useless and or so prescribed and specific that they only apply to a single circumstance/situation and a single nation’s perspective. The most potentially problematic area where this is the case is where it comes to joining up defence planning with whichever strategy is chosen – something which comes about because of a misunderstanding of what globalisation itself means.

Globalisation is often treated as just an economic or social term; sometimes just as an educated word to describe the ‘shrinking world’ syndrome. Too often it is forgotten that it has a far wider impact than just these dimensions; in fact the strategic & military aspects have been around longer than the mass transportation of goods, resources and people for business or holidays. It’s not just computers, cars and clothes which are assembled from components bought from all over the world, the battlefield hot rod – the Russian airframe upgraded with French radar, British engine(s), Israeli electronics, American missiles and a Swedish gun, is no longer just a theoretical possibility. With vehicles it’s an even more common phenomena, the modern world as far as defence concerned is a world where the vehicle doesn’t matter so much as what it is equipped with. A 1970s vehicle with an up to date stabilised weapon, sensors, communications and new engine can be a very capable combat system on the battlefield today. This means that no longer can intelligence officers or personnel in the field make judgements based upon the ‘name on the cover’, they have to look very carefully at the contents to provide a proper assessment of what the enemy is capable of. This is what globalisation of equipment means at simplest, that the world is getting more complicated, and in all likelihood the chance of casualties are going to increase.

It’s not only the equipment which is going global: there is an increased standardisation/universalization of training and skills becoming evident as all actors seek to raise the skill levels of their organisations. For many regular armies this is done by exchanging personnel/sending personnel to train at the more prestigious military academies belonging to allies – something which benefits the alliance by building close links between the partner’s forces as well as pooling experience and methodologies in a way that should make joint actions more integrated and seamless. For non-government organisations, and even some governments, that methodology is of course not an option as they do not have the relationships that would provide them access to these facilities; so they have to access the required skills by other means. For some the shills are acquired by either hiring mercenaries/personnel with the required skills to do the work or to train their own personnel in skills. Others will exchange personnel or goods with other groups of a similar purpose in a sort of barter to acquire the skills. Still more groups will turn to the Internet which can provide a surprisingly wide ranging education on all sorts of topics. Many of these facts are well known but too often they are not joined together as when security, strategy or defence are discussed they are treated as isolated sections, rather than cogs in the very intricate machine that is a nation state.  If they are to be discussed though as group in the context of global relations then appropriate terms have to be considered, terms which by their nature will be encompassing. There are of course various options that can be used, in terms of terminology, but the terms that this author uses are Global Interests, Global Presence and Global Reach, the definition, explanation and examination of which are the focus of this work.

Global Interests

Global interests are multi-national in context & form but national in definition, whilst trade is a global phenomenon; different nations have different levels of exposure to the global trading system. For example a nation which relies upon imports of energy, raw materials and food is of course more exposed to disruption of trade than nations which do not have such an exposure. Disruption of trade can take many forms; from a failed state becoming a hive of piracy or terrorism, to tensions between nations (possibly not evening including the nations trading) making a waterway, airspace or land route impractical.

When discussing pirates operating from failed states then Somalia (East Africa/Indian Ocean) is of course the first thought that will occur too many. The statistics published by the International Chamber of Commerce[3] highlight though that piracy is not just a single region situation but a worldwide problem. In truth only two of eleven hijackings that have taken place so far in 2013 have been Somali related; the same number as have been Nigeria (West Africa/Atlantic Ocean) related[4]. Even the 2013 Somali hijackings are way down from their peak; in fact they are even down from 2012 when six ships were hijacked[5]. The largest disruption to shipping though has not actually been the pirates and the hijackings they carry out, but the insurance spikes that the attacks have caused[6]. This combined with the failed nation status of Somalia is what lead to the deployment of the multi-national naval task force[7] which has had such an impact on the piracy levels. However, the disruption caused by these incidents would be nought in comparison to the disruption to the world economy that could be caused by Iran shutting the Straits of Hormuz, or what would happen if an increase in tension between China and Taiwan led to the Taiwanese straits becoming uninsurable or the disputes in the South China Sea[8] turning from posturing and placing to aggression and displacing. These though are the sea routes, which baring Hormuz can be circumnavigated/avoided by going different ways so offer the international system some alternates. However, land or sea pipelines due to their sedentary (in comparison to ships) form[9] and the complexity of the agreements which govern there use mean they are even more exposed to disruption – Russia has developed a tradition of using its control of such pipelines to get its own way[10]. It’s not only man made things though which cause disruptions, bad storms, earthquakes and volcanoes can all affect trade and movement. Most recently a volcano in Iceland disrupted air travel across much of Europe for a few days[11]. This was a relatively short amount of time, but was very costly to all economies involved as the other forms of transportation did not have anywhere near enough slack in their systems to make up for the surge in demand. Modern global trade though, is about more than the just the physical movement of goods – although that still underpins it.

Figure 1. A map Global Sea Trade and it's Choke points - visibly highlighting the importance of Suez[12] as well as the East & West African Trade routes

 Ones and Zeroes move so fast today a blink can miss them; the modern world is about the Internet and transactions which take place on it, about interconnectivity between financial institutions and the money and the data which are constantly moving between them. The Internet though doesn’t just bring money and data, it brings news; it makes the world open to everyone at a few clicks of mouse and taps of a keyboard, it brings events taking place hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of miles away to the homes of everyone. This means things like the Spanish actions at Gibraltar have a far large impact, because they are live tweeted, blogged and displayed[13] by ‘real’ people not just discussed by politicians and journalists. Therefore they become more ‘real’ to the public and shouts for action are louder. An example of such public pressure arguably leading government policy is the response some countries took to the Arab Spring, although interestingly enough (possibly due to the powers and nations which are involved) the events in each country bought different responses. The three best examples illustrating these different responses are Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Libya is of course the example where rebels received military support from Western powers and other nations; whilst in Egypt it was enough to use diplomatic pressure to assists those anti-government groups clambering for reform to bring about the removal of Mubarak[14], whilst in Syria no one seems really sure what to do – these variances are of course as much a reflection of the level of integration these countries had in the global network as it is the willingness of other nations to get involved.

Egypt is, in great part thanks to the Suez Canal (one of the world’s most important Maritime Choke Points[15]), fairly interconnected into the global system meaning that it is exposed to the impact of diplomatic pressure more than other nations might be. A boycott of the Canal would have been expensive for the world to bear[16] but devastating for the Egyptian economy (it’s Egypt’s third largest revenue source)[17]; as would serious dents in the tourism trade (it’s second largest revenue source)[18] or any restrictions on the flow of money (as remittance from expatriate workers is their largest revenue source[19]). This means that Egypt’s governments have to pay attention to world opinions – even the more recent events and the second post-Mubarak government have to pay careful attention to world opinion. This is most visible in the differences that have come about in the second government from previous military backed Egyptian administrations; the most high profile being the selection of a civilian justice for interim leader in that it is an obvious statement sending a very specific message about the rule of the law (at least in terms of image it projects).

In comparison Libya after decades of rogue state status and with significant oil and gas reserves[20] as well as large, virtually impossible for the outside world to seal border[21], meant it had a level of immunity to external opinion. As a result there was very little those nations who wished to support the Libyan rebels could do but utilise force of arms. Unfortunately this situation has then been virtually ignored since[22], resulting in a very unstable state emerging in Libya, with a wide of variety of competing power bases; Libya has become arguably a semi-failed state. It has a great potential and resources to be a very successful county and member of the global system, but at the moment it’s in trouble.

In Syria there is a very different situation emerging, where even though there is a very active civil war in progress, Syria’s connectivity with certain key players in the global network and those nations willingness to support it in return for strategic favours[23] have made a unified multi-national approach virtually impossible (although recent breakthroughs on chemical weapons have shown some basis for collective action[24]). The wider effect though of these connections[25] when combined with a military difficult strategic situation[26] and a reluctance among the populations of many nations that could act to accept loss of life of their service personnel that would likely result from any intervention[27]; especially as the case has not be made that it is absolutely within their nations best interests to intervene. The overall result is a stagnation of effort, and seeming disarray of international opinion. Unfortunately this is not an unusual state of being for international relations; in fact similarities could be drawn to the situations with Iran and nuclear weapons procurement[28], or North Korea[29].

Figure 2. A map of the various Exclusive Economic Zone claims of the South China Sea, highlighting the possibility for dispute or worse[30]

 Much of the discussion so far has been about movement, most of this movement is that of resources[31] in terms of energy, raw materials , personnel or the data of the transactions; but the fact is access to these resources is not just about their freedom of movement. Most of the territorial and maritime disputes in this world are course caused by either avarice for, or lack of, resources[32]. Phrased another way, a nation might consider the acquisition of resources a method to boost their economy and pay for the things they need, it might fear its access to resources would be curtailed for some reason thus adversely impacting its economy, or it could be seeking to just fuel its economy and maintain the life its people have become accustomed to at the cost they have become accustomed to. As Figure 2 highlights, the South China Sea[33] is possibly the most high profile and consistently news generating example of where this problem exists: with various nations fitting in to one, two or even straddling all those categories. Unfortunately it is a story which is repeated around the world, for example the North Sea[34] is less militant but no less fought over, as is the Caribbean[35] and certainly (conceivably due to the early bouts that have already taken place[36]) the Arctic[37]. It is also something which likely to get more complex and tensioned as time goes on and maritime resources become even more important with the using up of land based resources and the development/exploitation of marine wind/wave/tidal power generation. For nations with large Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) this is of course going to present them with many opportunities, for nations like Britain with an EEZ spread around the world the problem becomes patrolling/policing/managing this extensive bounty for, whilst for others the problem may be more condensed but will still be an issue requiring attention. There is of course a temptation for nations when seeking to save money to pool maritime security issues with Allies[38]; and under perfect circumstances it can in theory work brilliantly. In reality different nations have different approaches to situations, where one might prosecute another might issue a warning or ignore completely. That is if they are willing or able to take any action at all, each nation has its own interests, each government has its own priorities and its actions will be based accordingly. Ultimately the maxim of “if a job needs doing it’s better to do it yourself” applies most completely in matters of national security, and relying upon the whims and wills of others is neither safe nor secure.

Figure 3. The UK Exclusive Economic Zone is bountiful, expansive and rather widely scattered[39] it includes of course most of the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. However it does not include rights which could be claimed due to Gibraltar or the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus – the light blue is the British claim in Antarctica

Therefore whilst none of these interests mean that it becomes a nation’s duty to be the world’s police force. It does mean that in order for stability to exist for a nation to prosper, for the safety of its interests and trade security, a nation has to keep abreast of what is going on and must certainly (in proportion to its level of exposure and economic constraints) seek to maintain this stability. If necessary it has to be willing and capable to do so by force of arms.  However, that should only be the final method of recourse not the first response. Although weaker nations will of course have fewer options to pursue before they use them, for all nations those arms will by their nature be a key foundation for all other methods pursued prior to their use. This is level of force is what is described under the term Global Presence, and as such is what will be examined next.

Global Presence

Global Presence means having a presence wherever a nation has interests, the level of presence of course depends upon the level of risk; this is a principle tenant of Conventional Deterrence[40], that the best method of deterring conflict is having an active diplomatic engagement within a region and a visible presence. The more visible the presence the better, but consistency is just as important as the scale of the visibility (i.e. the size of the presence). Under this principle if there is region which is a critical market for a nations goods it should maintain a presence, if there is a trade route upon which a nation’s economic well being is dependent then a presence will need to be maintained along it and of course it goes without saying that any territory or area under the control of the nation will need to have a presence. The key is matching the presence with the risk; the Falkland’s in 1982 was an example where the presence didn’t match the risk (some would argue that the reduction of Falkland’s patrol ships from two Castle class to just HMS Clyde[41] is again underestimating the risk in the face of renewed Argentinian posturing on the issue[42]). Furthermore, the Falklands are not the only distant territory that is part of the UK, the Pitcairn Islands (Figure 3, the blue in the Pacific Ocean)[43], as well as several islands in the Caribbean, the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic and even the Indian Ocean are all British Overseas Territories (BOT)[44] requiring a level of presence for their defence and security. Gibraltar is also a BOT, and along with the Falkland Islands an on-going example of the necessity of presence.  It could well be judged from hindsight that it was the lack of a dedicated patrol vessel of equivalent standing that led to Spain’s recent aggressive posturing over Gibraltar[45]; a feeling that if the UK government wasn’t interested enough to station a patrol boat there, then it might well give in with the application of enough pressure. A very similar calculation to that made by Argentina in 1982 upon decision to withdraw the then HMS Endurance[46]. This though is a question for future analysis – but it is important to realise that the presence balance is a very delicate judgement, that is as much about psychology and presentation as it is about reality.

America and the UK have maintained bases in Germany since the end of the Second World War in order to show their commitment to the region as a deterrent against Soviet Aggression (hence those bases are now being shut down, the loss of training facilities is a blow, but the requirement is not the same anymore[47]). The biggest examples of this adjusting presence to threat, at the moment, are the Pacific Pivot of the US and the general reduction in force strength by European Nations. Both of which judgements are based on a similar gamble that the world, or at least the Atlantic/European/Mediterranean part of it is going to be peaceful from now on; Russian Rearmament[48], Nigerian Piracy[49], Arab Spring[50] and of course the fact that at least two primary markets (the Far East and the Middle East) are in semi-Arms Races[51] and (for Europe) the nation that it has relied upon for its security for nearly 70 years is focusing elsewhere, all notwithstanding. So, that’s the balance but how do nations achieve presence?

Figure 4. HTMS Krabi, the Royal Thai Navy's modified River class OPV[52]

There are three methods, the most obvious one being ‘Permanent’: which isn’t really because it’s a nation building/maintaining of bases in another country[53] in the hope that if there is a conflict in that region they will allow the nation to make use of it[54]. A case in point is despite Cyprus benefiting from British presence for their national security in the face of recent security threats due to Syria[55]; they have previously requested the UK not to use those bases in active operations during Libya because of their own security needs[56]. Such actions though are not unusual, even Britain refused to allow America to the Cyprus bases in 2012 for a strike on Iran allegedly because of legal reasons[57]. This is why these bases are important but cannot be relied upon to be available at all times – it will only be when it’s in the host nations interests, even if they are sovereign territory as the British bases in Cyprus are[58]. This having been said, Land basing is still the most cost effective if it is going to be a very long term deployment, like Britain and America in Germany[59]. However, the biggest weakness for land bases is something which is only going to grow from now on, the Internet. More specifically programs such as Google-Maps, where just typing in “British Army Bases in Germany” not only brings up a list, but show’s their positions on the map of Germany and whilst the map doesn’t reveal that much detail; the satellite and aerial images do allowing a interested party to zoom in and get an accurate understanding of the geography of any base they choose. This makes it easier to attack or infiltrate them, easier to target points of importance, easier to spot security installations which might hold up any access; this is an advantage for both government and non-government actors who do not have ready access to their own satellites, or even nations which do have their own satellites but want to be less obvious than pointing a satellite at the target.  This form of presence though, will always carry the most weight with interested parties as it binds a nation that much closer to events; perhaps too closely sometimes. Though, without careful management and constant attention, the bases themselves can become issues which exacerbate tensions further rather than promoting peace through dialogue and visible commitment. 

Figure 5. Some of the Largest Bases in the world, interestingly enough Afghanistan doesn't feature, but Cyprus (2), Germany (3), Gibraltar (4), Kenya (5), Sierra Leone (6), Falklands (7), Brunei (8) and Canada (9) does – Faslane(1) is the only one in the UK[60]. It also highlights the use that the US makes of British territory, for example airfield in the UK (13), and the overseas territory of Diego Garcia (14).

Another method of presence is Global Maritime which historically[61] been achieved with a force of medium-small sized vessels packing adequate self-defence and Task Group Warfare capability, good communications, entertaining facilities and a helicopter (with UAVs as well in modern times) to expand its area of influence/effect and therefore its presence[62]. Until recently this was a well understood and most importantly a well-supported mission; for example in the 1960s the Royal Navy (RN) had the twenty-six frigates of Type 12l Leander class for this – backed up by several other classes[63], in the 1970s/80s the US Navy (USN) had the fifty-one frigates of the Oliver Hazard Perry class[64] - again supplemented by more escorts and cruisers. Now though in the 2010s, the RN is reliant upon the remaining thirteen Type 23 Duke class frigates – backed up by just six Type 45 Daring class destroyers[65] and arguably now whilst the USN are sort of building the Littoral Combat Ship for this mission – in fact the Arleigh Burke class destroyers have been built in such numbers they are more often than not fulfilling the role[66]. This is a massive step change in operational approach and procurement, and what’s stranger still is the style of vessel that would be used for this role is still arguably being procured in a slightly simple/scaled down form for the final form of presence.

The final method is a more limited form of presence, the Territorial Maritime; this is done using Maritime Security Vessels, usually Ocean Patrol Vessels (OPVs) like the River class or Corvettes like the Chinese Type 056[67]. These are for providing presence in a nation’s own territories or rather their EEZs and immediate maritime neighbourhoods. As they should normally be operating within range of land based air support then a government can afford to make do with smaller, more ‘police’ orientated, ships to provide this presence/maritime security capability, in theory. In reality many nations see these ships as either guard ships, like the Russians[68], or as powerful littoral/task group combatants in their own right for example Thai navy’s modified River class vessel HTMS Krabi and the Chinese navy’s Type 056 corvettes. These vessel don’t fit the ‘patrol boat’ mould to the extent the River class does, but there again neither does the Danish Knud Ramusen class[69] (and historically the RN patrol vessels have been a little extreme on this matter) they are all more akin with a capable task group combatant that is used as an ocean patrol ship. For example the Knud Ramusen can thanks to its use of the stanflex system can carry a range of weapons allowing it to be the point guard of a high value vessel, or the task group mine countermeasures ship; whilst the Type 056 are, as Figure 6 illustrates (next page), highly capable little warships, bristling with weaponry. More importantly they have relatively small crews to bigger ships and are cheap enough to run/procure that using them for the patrol role is not a waste or an excessive expense and free up the larger combatants to focus more on the war fighting role that will be discussed under the next heading.

Figure 6. Peoples Liberation Army Navy (the Chinese Navy)'s Type 056 corvette Meizhou on patrol[70]

 “In the first sixty years of the Pax Britaninica the absence of any other powerful navy apart from the French made it possible for Britain to police the maritime world by gunboat and by cruiser at remarkably little expense. Of course, the gunboats were supported by the fleet in being, the line-of-battle ships, far distant, without whose invisible backing the flimsy naval presence could not have been long sustained. A naval captain knew that he represented that unseen armada, that vast arsenal of naval power, the mere existed of which enable him to exercise authority on behalf of the local British consul or magistrate that was out of all proportion to the actual force at his command”

These are the words of Admiral Lord Hill-Norton[71], they are about the age of empire where the needs were greater but the principles remained the same – the primary duty of the ships carrying out presence duties are support of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office with the aim of maximising British influence. Their Secondary role is war fighting; that is why they are described as being Task Group vessels not Pickets, they do not need the firepower of an Anti-Submarine Frigate or Area Air Defence Destroyer, what they need is the ability to be useful adjuncts in war time, to be able to defend themselves and act as point guards for Carriers, Amphibious Ships and other high value units. A role which whilst not grand, does free up the Destroyers and the Frigates to be the pickets, and to establish those pickets further from the main body of ships and more densely packed defence layers.  Therefore providing the task groups with greater operational security and tactical flexibility, and thereby enhancing their chances of operational safety and success. This though is sometimes sort by means outside of those a nation provides itself, i.e. through alliances.

Alliances are popular, especially when it comes to managing international opinion and long term commitments, this is arguably why China is building the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO)[72], which may or may not be the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)[73] of the Pacific[74]. They are usually an attempt not to pool presence in a global sense, but a regional sense (hence they are in Global Presence not the next section), and whilst this may have global affects and/or applications (the reason why so many commentators are debating whether SCO is NATO’s equivalent or rival[75]) they will not necessarily have or seek a global impact. Nevertheless they are on the rise, not just in number, but in members and most importantly in activity. For example the African Union[76] has been taking an increasingly active role[77], for example deploying troops in Somali[78] – when arguably it’s the major trading nations whose sea routes are being so impacted by pirates which should be deploying the forces. Furthermore they have become increasingly litigious[79]. Of course NATO which is arguably the militarily most flexible and capable of such groups is the one taking the most active stance[80], but the European Union[81], the Union of South American Nations[82] and others have also been expanding their activity and influence. The largest of all these groups is the United Nations (UN)[83], where theoretically global presence can be achieved by sending a diplomat to New York. The reality is different, allies do work together, they train together, they even pool resources – but there is no guarantee they will fight together. Just as there is no guarantee nations will obey the sanctions of the UN, and as has been said with allies (singular), there are no guarantees with alliances. They will not always react in the same way to protect a member’s interests; alliances are reflections of a collective will and a collective appreciation of any scenario; basically it has to be in the interest of at least a very persuasive minority of members for something to happen. This is especially true if it’s going to mean signing up to a long term expense/position, which might be not so in their interests in the future – presence by its nature is long term, it is about being in there, being a locality for as long as it takes, for forever if necessary, because presence doesn’t have a long half-life and leaving exposes the interests that were being protected even more than before the presence there as the new absence will serve to highlight their now ‘undefended’ position. 

Presence is a diplomatic tool, the ship visits, with their parties (and connections which are made as result), which come along with a ship being an area are in ‘peace’ time certainly just as important to maintaining relations ships and strengthen bonds as the war fighting capabilities of those vessels and the fleet they represent. A warship when looked at, is a large, often grey, thing with lots of lumps, bumps, aerials and moving parts – it’s a machine, it only gains meaning and life with its crew. Therefore meeting them, seeing their training, understanding their skills and determination; these are things help a navy, but certainly any service project above its weight, and carry influence. Hill-Norton as was said, was right when saying that the gunboat captain represented the unseen armada; but he also misses half the equation, that armada would have been nowhere near as influential to their thinking if they had only seen the ship, or had seen an inefficient, ill-disciplined, badly motivated crew – instead of an efficient, clean, well-organised professional seamen who knew how to ‘fight’ their ships. This can make all the difference to how a ship is seen, and therefore how effective its presence is.

Presence is about being ‘there’ – wherever there is in the world, if a nation has interests of a significant enough level that’s where ‘they’ have to be. It’s something navies do very well due to their low footprint and the fact they have such flexibility in deployment; but again for longer term larger commitments, bases even with all their commitments and limitations could well be the sensible strategic choice. What matters is that the presence is based on firm calculations of interest, realistic appraisals of threat and sensible levels of spending. However presence is not enough, as is pointed out by Lord Hill-Norton, presence is only made possible or in fact relevant by the forces it rests upon – that it can call upon when needed. This is what brings us to the final term to be examined, Global Reach.

Figure 7. For bigger occasions then more important ships will need to be sent, this is a photo of HMS Daring departing Sydney harbour after the 2013 Australian International Fleet Review[84], a major event for which Prince Harry was sent as well[85] – as would no doubt a Royal Yacht have been under different circumstances[86]

Global Reach

Global Presence and Global Reach are often confused or treated as being the same thing, and in a sense they are – they both have ‘Global’ in their name but the differences begin there. Presence for nations, as has been said, is about being in regions of interest at a level significant enough to guarantee invitations to the ‘parties’ when that nation’s interests are affected. Reach is about being able to deploy enough force to provide a strong foundation for that presence to be felt, and to be able to influence events[87] in that region when necessary. Therefore global reach tends to come down to three things, having the capability, being able to deploy the capability and being able to use the capability.

Having the capability is more complicated than it can sound; a single aircraft carrier[88] like a single strategic deterrent submarine[89] is not very good as the odds are (or murphy’s law[90]) that when they are needed they will be in maintenance or have had an accident[91]. This is the reason why France has three Mistral class LHDs (as well as the Charles De Gaulle nuclear powered aircraft carrier[92]) and Russia is ordering four[93], why the Indian Navy plans to operate at least two Vikrant class indigenous build aircraft carriers[94] alongside the Russian built INS Vikramaditya[95], and certainly the reason why the Americans have so many aircraft carriers and LHDs[96]. Whilst these ships are not global reach on their own, they are the vessels that provide fleets with ‘organic’ aviation, a core capability requirement for Surface Strike, for Airborne Early Warning/Fleet Air Defence, for Amphibious Assault and Littoral Manoeuvre/Logistics as well as providing a superior platform for the support of Anti-Submarine Warfare. To have those capabilities available for use when they’re required then multiple platforms are necessary, the usual requirement is for 3-4 units if the requirement is for 1 vessel available[97] at all times (it depends upon how critical the capability is), 5-6 units if the requirement is for 2 vessels available at all times, 7-8 units if the requirement is for up to 2 vessels deployed and 2-4 available all times and so on. This is where the difference in numbers between vessels required for reach/enforcement/war fighting picket missions and those required for presence/war fighting task group missions stems from. It is also true that the more of a class of vessel that a navy has, the more efficiently it can operate that class; as the commonality means less re-training needs to take place when personnel change ships, a wider range of spare parts can be justified as they are not competing for space on the auxiliaries with other classes and finally it makes planning simpler as there is more of guarantee about what will be available[98]. This is possibly the example where the attributed Joseph Stalin quote[99], “Quantity has a Quality all its own”¸ becomes most apt – both in terms of total numbers of ships and of individual class sizes, the more there are, and the more that are the same the better the overall quality of projected capability will be. The type of vessel which is the most obvious example of this, is the vessel which depends upon extensive post operations maintenance to prevent its crew being crushed by water pressure, the submarine.

Submarines are possibly the most focused Global Reach assets available, although this is more so the case with the nuclear powered SSNs – rather than the more range limited diesel powered SSKs, that are have other more defensive sea denial (anti-presence) missions they can fulfil just as well[100]. This is the case because submarines, because their strength and ability is so much based in stealth, in being unseen, have very limited to virtually no ‘presence’ ability. In fact it is arguably the case, that a submarine when seen instead of gaining presence, actually loses reach as once ‘located’ they are easier to place or track and therefore avoid or destroy.  However, modern submarines with their modern land attack (thanks to cruise missiles) capabilities, their acknowledged Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) capabilities, their Anti-Submarine Warfare(ASW) emphasis and their stealthy nature they certainly rank alongside aircraft carriers and amphibious ships as premier focused tools of maritime/naval global reach; although without necessarily ‘capital ship’ presence the others also supply[101]. The important thing is to acknowledge that focus and use it to best serve the nation’s needs.  

Of course though it’s not just aircraft carriers, amphibious ships and submarines which are about global reach; larger escorts – cruisers, destroyers and frigates are all also an essential part of the maritime are of this capability[102]. Leaving aside cruisers from the discussion, as they are in many ways now the supersized destroyers afforded by super powers and aspiring super powers; destroyers are possibly the most powerful surface ships that are put to sea. With their array of missiles[103], guns and multipliers (helicopters and boats) they are the defensive, and in many navies the offensive, linchpins of any operations. As a rule even though according to denominations modern destroyers can be divided into two sets, the Area Air Defence (AAD)[104] or General Purpose[105]; in reality they are usually primarily orientated upon Air Defence[106]. Just as likewise frigates are orientated on Anti-Submarine Warfare; which usually means a towed sonar array, bow mounted sonar, helicopter with dipping sonar and an array of torpedoes[107]. Usually all escort vessels were equipped with at least a minimal land attack capability (mainly in the form a large gun[108]) and ASuW capability – although in recent times the latter has been suffering because of a perception of the lack of a need combined with other types of system taking primacy in that role[109]. A theory which only works as long as those other units are available (and close enough to be of use), otherwise it is a severe operational impairment for any ship lacking the capability – conceivably leaving the vessels exposed. However, the more capabilities desired for a ship; the larger it will have to be to accommodate them all, and also the more expensive it will be because of the cost of the equipment to fit it out. Therefore when a nation considers its global reach requirements it has to not only envisage long term contingencies, but also balance what it is prepared to pay, with the quantity of vessels it needs to meet its commitments, and the quality those vessels need to be in order to be effective at those commitments. Of course though, it’s not just navies which are part of global reach.

Land forces are just as an important part of that global reach, for example self-contained/supporting specialist amphibious troops able to force entrance into areas when necessary are a key component of maritime security and global reach. However for that to be true they do need to be properly equipped and whilst that does not mean every navy needs or even should aspire to the big Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs) of the USN/USMC[110] or even their Assault Amphibious Vehicle(AAV) (what was previous called the Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Personnel-7 ( LVTP-7))[111], some sort of vehicle which can go straight from the sea to the land providing continuous support for those personnel as a supplement to whatever landing craft a nation does have would certainly be a force multiplier[112]. Whilst amphibious forces are important for their ability to reach and be positioned (this gives them a place in global presence[113]), Air mobile forces are important because of the speed of response they can grant a government.

Figure 8. A C130 Hercules drops elements of the 16th Air Assault Brigade during Exercise Joint Warrior[114]

Whilst they might not carry much weight in terms of firepower or quantity, they will carry a huge weight as a show of commitment and conviction possibly challenging the resolve of the parties they are sent in a response to the actions of. Plus if their training and leadership is of a high calibre they could well acquit themselves respectably in any conflict. Just as important as these theatre entry forces are the armour, infantry and other supporting elements (such as land based aircraft[115]) which come in behind the amphibious and air mobile forces. These are the head and the shaft of the land spear, as opposed to its tip – but that doesn’t make them any less important, after all there is no point having a sharp spear whose shaft shatters on first contact with an enemy. Global reach and the missions it will necessitate are, for many western countries whose forces have been traditionally more orientated for presence, a transition of not just operational style and equipment but of mind-set and operational philosophy. Whilst the current battle group operational concept[116] is certainly very suited to this future[117] it will take time to truly make it work as part of the global reach structure.

If carriers and other aviation vessels can be considered the core of global reach, land forces and aircraft are its arms, and destroyers and submarines are its muscle, then auxiliaries are its foundation (or stomach/digestive system to continue the body analogy). They are also the best foundation of global presence though, because whilst it is in theory possible to always refuel/resupply in friendly ports there are times and places where it’s best to not rely upon the port that’s to be visited for fuel or supplies. This is where Replenishment at Sea becomes a true enabler and force multiplier, and why a naval ‘footprint’ can be so small compared to a land based one. Theoretically with a sufficient auxiliary a fleet can be maintained indefinitely at a position in the world; although the realities of equipment maintenance and wear from operating in saltwater high-energy wave environment of the world’s oceans means ships do need to ‘cycled’ in order for them return to port for periodic maintenance. The trouble with procurement of these ships is that it’s a guestimate as to how many will be needed; it depends upon what operations are envisaged, as well as experience of what operations have taken place. Another factor that must be considered by nation’s seeking global reach, is that whilst there are many allies which might be able to provide warships if requested, there are very few, if any, that will have spare auxiliaries. Which is strange, in a way, as unlike warships which require extensive upgrades to weapons, sensors and command systems to maintain serviceability, auxiliaries don’t – there are rules about tankers and environmental protection that make the older ships illegal, but dry stores ships don’t have that restriction so could in theory be put in reserve[118]. Certainly they would probably have to have communications upgrades at some point to keep them current with the fleet, but as long as their hull, engines and replenishment equipment was all fine and serviceable they would be a positive asset – even if they were just used to carry the stores an area close to the region, then conduct an at sea transfer of the stores to the newer ships to take task force into the conflict zone. For those navies with a civilian manned auxiliary, whilst certain specialisms would need to be maintained in some form reserve, many could be recruited as circumstance required.

Figure 9. Computer generated image of the new Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) tanker[119] or Tide class[120]. These four ships(six were originally planned) will along with the two Wave class tankers[121] provide the fuel that will enable the RN to traverse the world at the orders of the British Government without relying upon other nations direct support. The orders for the three Solid Support Ships (the other part of the MARS program now[122]) are yet to be placed.

In the late 19th/early 20th century, pre-fuel that could be pumped, coaling stations were established around the world to provide for navies to be able to move fleets or ships around the world’s oceans as necessary or desired[123]. In a similar way friendly ports & air bases can be used either to provide direct support to war fighting units or possibly allowing the less ‘overtly military’ air-to-air tankers and naval auxiliaries to make use of them. When it works it can be a very useful supplement for global reach, as it brings the supply ‘source’ closer to the operational area. The problems with it begins in a similar fashion to the problem with using bases to achieve global presence; access to them depends upon the will of other nations, forcing a government to listen to interests outside of its own before it can take action. There are also difficulties with aircraft in terms of even if fuel is able to be found, other countries might still deny over flight simply for diplomatic reasons, let alone other considerations; or even if basing is allowed if that nation does not operate that aircraft and access to the base has not been available before it’s needed then the base might not have the facilities to support the aircraft[124].

The final part of global reach is the nation’s ability to use the capability that they can support/project; this means training. The crew need to know their ship, they need to know the systems, damage repair and their ship geography literally backwards, forwards, in dark with smoke and fire all round them. At sea ship is probably going to be a long way from help, even if it is in a task group; the other ships might well have other pressing issues to deal with. If a ship is on it of course it’s on its own. However, if the vessel is an amphibious operations unit or an aircraft carrier the training becomes not just about using the ship but integrating it within a wider war fighting unit. An aircraft carrier and its air group are not separate things, they are one system and integrating is the second hardest challenge a navy will face; and it’s a challenge which never goes away. The aircrew need to understand ship operations so that they can interpret the various manoeuvres a ship might do when they are landing, taking off, or just flying to and from the ship – yes modern equipment does make this all easier, but training and understanding are the best insurance for if that equipment goes wrong due to error or intent. The point is though is that as hard as an aircraft carrier is to integrate it isn’t the hardest. That title goes the amphibious ships, vessels which integrate into them aircraft and land forces, in order to conduct the most complex combined arms operation as yet known to mankind – the amphibious assault. These are operations which demand a lot because whilst the enemy will be doing everything in its power to prevent a landing, so will it seem that the natural world is as well. Tides, sea states, beaches and weather are all in their own way far more restrictive than enemy forces – after all enemy forces can be fought and destroyed or at least pushed out the way, heavy rain can only be predicted.


The often quoted phrase to describe the modern world is the ‘global village’; the trouble is a village does not usually encompass an area of over 510million km2 and have a population of over 7billion people (and growing). Whilst the greater interconnectivity which the global communications revolution has brought about (facilitated in large part by the Internet) has had the impact of magnifying the effect of globalisation – it has not made the challenge of being physically present really any easier, just increased demand. This means though now that more and more nations must seek to protect vital national interests which are far beyond their borders or even their ‘immediate’ region.

This means nations now need to think in longer and longer terms in order to balance their Global Interests with forces for presence and reach. These are as has been shown two very separate but complementary missions, force structures and requirements. These missions need to be balanced though, for example if Britain was just thinking of the presence mission then it wouldn’t need to develop anything, all it would have to do is modify the available extended River class design[125] using this to provide a hangar for a light helicopter, as well as an entertaining space + enlarged galley for diplomatic events. Although it would have to be up armed in comparison with the current in-service vessels, for example fitting a BAE Mk110 double 57mm (like is used by the USN’s Littoral Combat Ship[126] and Zumwalt class destroyers[127]) on the front, a single Phalanx on the back/over the hangar[128], perhaps an 8 cell quad-pack (32) SeaCeptor[129] Surface to air missile system behind the main gun and, if Denmark, allowed 2-3 stanflex positions to allow for the fitting of towed sonar arrays/surface-to-surface missiles, UUVs for Minesweeping[130] and to give the vessels a broader role in task group warfare than just point defence[131].  Such a corvette would be a very useful and sustainable asset for global presence missions – so why have the British government not pursued it already? Simply put the reason why is because of the difficultly of mission sell – which is also why the RN got an Area Air Defence Destroyer instead of General Purpose one[132] when all that would have been required to do make the change would have been fitting a strategic length Vertical Launch System.

It’s not just a case of balancing interests with forces, nations (or rather governments) must also think of balancing the ‘books’. So in realty all these things intercept, they are a trinity; a nation must balance the requirements of its global interests with the resources it puts/is prepared to put towards global presence and global reach. This is though is very careful judgement, err to much one way the country cannot support its own forces, err to much the other and it will be weak and open to attack; sacrifice presence for reach or vice versa and the country will be either always be putting out fires which could have been prevented or will be a brittle mirage that will be smashed the first time the bluff is called. Nations at one time got around funding problem by using older slow, but still serviceable, ships for presence and putting old fast ships in reserve to supplement the newer ships providing the reach.

Now there are very few old ships to go round and despite many governments loud declarations on strengthening reserve forces no sign that they will actually give them the hardware. Instead it seems they are more interest in the short term idea of using those personnel to supplement undermanned regular units. Perhaps this is why the USN seems to be giving up trying to sell presence vessels(Littoral Combat Ships) to its government and instead is aiming to buy as many reach vessels (Arleigh Burke class Destroyers[133]) as it can with the aim no doubt of using them to fulfil both missions. In contrast the Russian and Chinese navies have either made the sell[134] to their governments or have made the decision that such ships were necessary and so sold them another way. Whichever route is chosen it is difficult to balance the need for dispersion that presence requires and concentration that reach requires without a certain level of quantity, some very fancy footwork or false accountancy[135]. Something which the 2007-8 global banking crisis and subsequent disruption to global markets and commerce has certainly shown the folly of doing.

 Globalisation might be the name of the game in the modern world, and the global village might be just a really massive village; this is something only the passage of time will really reveal. There is though one way, a very important way, in which the world is still very small and very local. Nations without a local presence in area find that their influence in that area will be very limited, and interaction will be even more limited. Such circumstances actually make the use of force more likely as there are less chances or opportunities to make use of alternatives when situations begin to have a detrimental impact upon interests. Therefore whilst presence forces are the most difficult to sell, the should not be forgotten as like the policeman walking the street – their capacity to do anything might be limited, but it’s presence and what they inspire in both law abiding and non-law abiding citizenry that matters not pure capability; and like presence forces their strength really rests upon the area car, and capabilities of the riot police, mounted police and detectives, or the ‘reach forces’, that they represent.

The difficulty is balance and the risk of spending money on something that turns out to be an operational or research dead end is always going to be there; but if some risks are not taken then nothing would ever be accomplished or secured. Those risks however must be calculated risks, and security is not an area where the risk should be ever be calculated in anything but the most conservative of ways – like health and education systems, security is one of those things which if a nation lets go it becomes very difficult and very expensive to bring it back up the required standard or even just an acceptable standard. A lesson which much of the western world learnt in the 1930s and 40s at the hands of Japan and Nazi Germany; but which seemingly it has been the rest of the world which has taken the lesson to heart.


[1] Edited by Elizabeth Knowles, Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, published by Oxford University Press, Oxford in2009,page 504
[2] Clare Booth Luce was a woman who achieved many firsts, for example becoming the first female Ambassador for the United States and serving two terms in the House of Representatives.,, and (all gathered 22/10/2013)
[4] Nigerian piracy has been growing (01/11/2013) - although no multi-national task group has yet been deployed.
[8] For those interested in the South China Sea, these sites are great: ( and (all gathered on 19/10/2013)
[13] Tweeting not just by leaders but by regular citizens such as and
[17],, and (all gathered 24/10/2013) - provide figures of $4.8billion in 2010 and $5.2billion in 2011, most importantly this is income is in foreign ‘hard’ currency, which is very much needed by the Egyptian economy.
[21] Total border length: 4,348 km, divided between  Algeria 982 km, Chad 1,055 km, Egypt 1,115 km, Niger 354 km, Sudan 383 km, Tunisia 459 km – distances which are further complicated by large parts of the border/geography of  Libya being the Sahara Desert.
[26] Borders with Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan put Syria in the heart of many of the Middle East’s trouble zones and delicate balances – without the threat of Russian warships preventing action or having to be moved out of the way/got round (,,, and (all gathered 24/10/2013) - it’s even prompted some commentators to declare that the Cold War is back!)
[34] It’s mostly now been settled, but there were bitter arguments over the North Sea Continental Shelf, and (both gathered 31/10/2013), there is also the interesting case of Rockall which is disputed by Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Iceland in the North Atlantic and (both gathered 31/10/2013).
[36] Russia’s already planted a flag on the Sea Floor, and (both gathered 31/10/2013)
[39] It’s not a new image to those who read this blog regularly, but it is a useful one, the data is sourced from (21/10/2013) but it has to be compiled from multiple maps.
[41] Originally a class of six Castles were to be ordered, but this was reduced to two as it was felt not so many patrol ships would be needed and they were only assigned to the Falklands role after the 1982 conflict. The four River class vessels (this number includes HMS Clyde, the only one fitted to support a helicopter, (20/102013)) were ordered to replace the seven Island and the two Castle class vessels. Even with increased operability and being far more modern they cannot equate to same level of presence; and are very under armed in comparison to the modified River class vessel HTMS Krabi built for the Thai Navy. It also didn’t save that much money cutting from nine vessels to four, as in the value of things bought for UK, the River class cost less than £40million a unit (so only £200million was saved)  compared Eurofighters £125million, F-35s £122million (current exchange rate) or Type 45 Destroyers £500million (£1billion including R&D which was for 12 ships -  = so a program which provided a relatively cheap form of global presence and maritime security asset was cut and in the scheme of UK defence procurement didn’t save much money. In simple terms in the 1970s it was felt that Britain need thirteen patrol ships as well as the Minesweepers attached to that role, this was cut to nine and now is just four; the same rules of maintenance and basing still apply, and ships can still only be in one place at a time.
[43] (31/10/2013). Type “RN visit Pitcairn Islands” or “Navy visit Pitcairn Islands” into a search engine; whilst it does only have ~50 citizens, it has a large EEZ and with the US ‘Pacific’ Pivot going on due to increasing tensions in the region, as the only British territory the lack of a regular RN visit seems to be an obvious oversight that should be rectified (they last visited over 13 years ago in September 2000 (31/10/2013)). In fact when asked by Andrew Rosindell MP in 2012, Nick Harvey the then Minister of State (Armed Forces) replied “I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 30 November 2011, Hansard, column 981W. The remoteness of Pitcairn Island is such that these visits are infrequent. The Royal Navy currently has no plans to visit the island.” ( (31/10/2013))…
[46] It’s interesting to note that the recent HMS Endurance when it came to the end of its service life was replaced by HMS Protector almost immediately (she was chartered in 2011, bought in 2013) – although the new ship is yet to have a hangar fitted, a serious disadvantage considering its operations in the Antarctic, but more than likely a costly in time operation, doable but costly. (20/10/2013)
[47] and (20/10/13) - interestingly this withdraw is advertised as saving £240million a year, or enough to buy six River Class vessels
[53] Permanent bases in a nation’s own territory do not really count especially those in the larger chunks of it as they are expected – it’s their own territory. Hence the base in Falkland’s show’s a commitment to the Falkland’s, but not South America. This is especially true given the strength or rather lack of strength of forces based there.
[54] Saudi Arabia and Gulf War II
[63] For example the County class Destroyers, the Type 82 Bristol class Destroyer, the Type 42 Sheffield class Destroyers, the Type 21 Amazon class frigates, the Type 81 Tribal class Frigates, the Type 41 Leopard class frigates, and in 1960s there were 7 aircraft carriers (Victorious, Eagle, Ark Royal, Centaur, Albion, Bulwark and Hermes) in service and CVA-01 was on order; the RN had the largest such carrier force in world other than that possessed by the USN. In fact it is arguably at the beginning of the 1960s the RN was at the height of post-second world war capabilities in terms of presence and reach.
[65] (20/10/2013)  this lack of escorts for essential roles means that things like escorting a single yacht through pirate infested waters, (20/10/2013) is a request unlikely to be acceded to – what is interesting is that there hasn’t been any major attempt to organise a proper convoy system  that such vessels could attach themselves too.  Again though this is most likely a bi-product of the basic lack of ships that navies have – arguably because of focusing in Western Navies at least on buying the Best, rather than necessarily the Best Fit (although again a logical consequence of the fear that ship numbers will be cut by Treasuries to save money, so therefore every unit needs to be as powerful as possible in order to be of use and to try and fill some gaps in the quantity of the force with quality).
[66] With 62 in service and 75 vessels planned this is one of the most numerous classes ever built by a navy in peacetime,, and (all gathered 20/10/2013)
[67] The River class displaces more than the Type 056 (,,, and (all gathered 20/10/2013)), but this is reflective of the values placed on various attributes, the River class has a longer range (7800nautical miles as opposed to 2000nautical miles) and only half the crew (30)  - the Type 056 though has a 76mm main gun, eight FL-3000N Flying Leopard surface to air missiles, four YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, two H/PJ-17 30mm guns and two Triple 324mm torpedo launchers are quite a contrast to the River class’s  single 20mm cannon and two general purpose machine guns – especially as the fleet which sits behind them is no longer possessing quite the same superiority of strength as it did in the 19th Century and four fifths of the 21st.
[69] The Knud Rasmussen displace only slightly more than the River class but pack a lot more in, a range of only 3000nautical miles is the biggest limiter, but thanks the two (with two more fitted for) stanflex systems fitted they can be easily fitted for a wide range of operations (recommend a read of,,,, and (all gathered 20/10/2013))
[70] (21/10/2013) - lots of great pictures of the class on this site, plus some very interesting discussions in the forums.
[71] Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill- Norton and John Dekker, Seapower; A Story of Warships and Navies from Dreadnoughts to Nuclear Submarines, published by Faber and Faber of London in1982,page 80
[73] (25/10/2013)
[74] Or possibly as NATO could be considered it’s opposition maybe the Warsaw Pact of the Pacific – and it’s name is similar to that group, but we’ll have to wait to see if the is Pacific Treaty Organisation ( and (both gathered 25/10/2013)) or even an Asian Pacific Treaty Organisation ( formed that will really be the proof. Currently the South East Asia Treaty Organisation was the closest and that became extinct in 1977 ( (25/10/2013))
[80] Currently NATO is in Afghanistan, Kosovo, monitoring the Mediterranean Sea, conducting Counter-Piracy of the coast of Somalia (Horn of Africa), and providing air lift support to African Union Missions ( (25/10/2013))
[81] (25/10/2013), which has taken an active part in the Counter-Piracy Missions of the coast of Somalia ( (25/10/2103))
[82] (25/10/2013), interestingly enough there is also in parallel the pre-existing Latin American Integration Association ( (25/10/2013))
[88] The longest link in the world but I can’t find the .pdf copy of this piece I did ages ago any other way – please excuse some of the poor English, I do always try to get friends to read through my work but they don’t always catch the mistakes,d.Yms (working as of 20/10/2013)
[90] It’s not exactly an academic phrase but it is a rather apt point for this discussion
[92] (20/10/2013) – there have been rumours it is to be deployed to the Syrian coast ( (20/10/2013)) with possibly a Mistral class vessel as well.
[94] (20/10/2013) - which generated an almost instant response in China (20/10/2013)
[96] Again it’s the British who are the odd nation out, building just two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, and having announced no plans yet for successors to Ocean, Illustrious and Argus, an LHD design with the ability to operate F-35Bs would be the sensible option, but it’s complex sell in the current economic climate. However, multiple aviation ships are a requirement, as insurance is needed for the carriers, and operationally at least two aviation ships are required to fulfil the role of carrier and amphibious assault vessel. Whilst a theoretical combination of roles is possible, in reality the roles divulge when it’s realised the amphibious vessel needs to be more sedentary (tied as it is to the landings) whilst the carrier needs to be more mobile (as it is used to respond to the emerging strategic/tactical situation) – especially a vessel that’s a Ski Jump Assisted Short Take Off and Landing aircraft carrier as it’s aircraft are shorter ranged and air-to-air-refuelling is more limited even if the aircraft are capable of it.
[97] With three  (as it did with the Illustrious class aircraft carriers) it splits basically into 1 will be in major refit/repair/returning from deployment, 1 will be in refit/training up to operational and 1 will be operational; with four (as it does with the Vanguard class Strategic Deterrent Submarines) it splits into 1 vessel in Major Refit, 1/2 vessel in patrol refit/training, 1/2 vessel travelling to or from patrol and 1 vessel on patrol
[99] (31/10/2013), for some interesting mathematical working’s on this point it’s worthwhile taking a look at (31/10/2013)
[102] Jane’s Warship Recognition Guide, edited by Anothy J. Whatts, and published in 2006 by Collins, resorts to hull length to decide classification of which is which; and the reasons why this is the case is plane to see. Basically as time goes on and more and more is packed into ships, by necessity they grow in size to accommodate it all:  hence, the Royal Navy’s Type 23 Duke class frigates displaced 4,900tons, their successors the Type 26s will displace 6,000tons (a growth of just under 25%); the  Type 42 Sheffield class destroyers that served in the 1982 Falklands War (Batch 1 and 2) displaced 4,200tons, whilst their successors the Type 45 Daring class displace 8,500tons (over double the previous displacement). This of course means that any size groupings are measured meaningless because  even a Type 23 would have been a destroyer compared to the Type 42 on displacement, whilst the Type 45s are not that far off the US Navy’s Ticonderoga class cruisers (9,800tons).
[103] These are mostly stowed in Vertical Launch Systems (VLS), which as they’re name suggests launch the missiles vertically from silos or cells as they are called, rather than on an arm system as earlier missiles were. They come in different lengths, ‘Strategic’ which is the longest – capable of taking cruise missiles, ‘Tactical’ which are capable of taking large area air defence missiles and ‘Defence’ length are just for point  defence missiles.
[105] US Navy DDG-51  Arleigh Burke Class destroyers are General Purpose, and they are so good the US Navy cancelled their successor class at three ships and has restarted them,, and (all gathered 31/10/2013)
[106] Australian Navy Hobart class destroyers are described as AAD but because they have the MK41 VLS fitted capable of taking Tomahawk cruise missiles, so whilst the are actually General Purpose (or easily configurable to that definition),,,, and (all gathered 31/10/2013)
[107] The Norwegian navy’s Nansen class is a good example of such a vessel, (31/10/2013)
[112] Considering the 2011 operation in Somalia conducted by Royal Marines (, and (all gathered 22/10/2013) such a vehicle would have been of considerable use although, RFA Cardigan Bay, one of its  Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP), the Royal Marines and the two Viking APCs they took with them did do a very good job.
[113] This is because the positioning of such forces at sea near a troubled area can act as a deterrent to further troubles and along with the deployment of aircraft carriers is one of the biggest sea based statements that can be made if a government is aiming to deter conflict and position a force for readiness should it not work
[115] Foreign bases have already been discussed at length in this piece, but it is worth noting that if a suitable air base (i.e. has the required capabilities, or can be quickly/simply brought to the required standards) is available, defendable, supply-able at the rate necessary to sustain the desirable tempo of operations, and most importantly financially and diplomatically/strategically affordable – then use of it to support global reach is of course sensible; whether to support a long term operation, or perhaps as a supplement to forces deployed by aircraft carrier.
[116] Despite having originated as Kampfgruppe in the German army during the latter part of world war I, but it has taken a while to be adopted by others, it involves the integration of armor, infantry, artillery, everything needed into one force – usually in modern scenarios it’s a formation built around a battalion which constitutes its main strength.
[117] Specifically an armoured battle group could be integrated into an amphibious force to enable rapid manoeuvre/heavy combat; something which those nations that don’t have large amounts of armour regularly integrated into them will surely need in the future. - a little old now, but still hopefully of relevance on this important topic, at the moment the UK is quite flexible in how it can get ashore, but could easily be more flexible and possibly get some amphibious armoured vehicles that would also allow for much greater manoeuvrability of amphibious forces when they are ashore.
[122] Originally there were three types planned, with a total of eleven ships; six Tankers, two Solid Support ships and three Joint Sea Based Logistic (with the role of providing logistical support to land forces ashore); the last role has now been folded into the required for the Solid Support ship to save money and the numbers for that vessel have grown to three. (21/10/2013)
[124] This is something which is only going to grow in problem as more stealth aircraft enter service – as they require numerous special pieces of kit to maintain their ‘skin’ so that they are ‘stealthy’ (,, and (all gathered 24/10/2013)); another reason for the growth of attractiveness of sea basing ,as this equipment gets brought with the forces and doesn’t require an outlay of cost for every new region/scenario faced.
[125] A middle section can be inserted (22/10/2013)
[128] or even two with one on each side of the hangar mounted on a corner sponson – it depends upon how important the point defence task group mission is to its builders
[131] In fact it would be a slightly more adaptable less crammed version of what is already on offer (22/10/2013)
[132] - as originally 12 Type 45s were planned to replace the 12 AAD Type 42s, but eventually it was decided the RN didn’t need 12 AAD destroyers – which is true, but it could have used 12 general purpose destroyers with a strong AAD capability – or even 6 and 6 could have been built, same hull, same engines, very similar logistics, just perhaps a different radar fit (although preferably not) and different VLS, but otherwise as similar as possible. Money was saved but not that much, it pushed the cost (including R&D), as has already been said, up to £1billion per ship – what is the point of spending £3billion+ developing a design for 12 ships and then throwing that money away and only building 6 because the VLS then selected only allows them to be an AAD vessel for which the requirement has reduced?
[134] Chinese Corvettes are of course the Type 056, which are already mentioned, the Russian Corvettes are the Steregushchy class ( and (gathered 23/10/2013)) and it’s successor the Gremyashchy class (
[135] The lack of quantity and it’s effects are made clear in this speech by Admiral Lord Zamballas, (22/10/2013)


  1. There is more to defence than just the military.

    1. Well, definitely when talking of Security there is more than just the military, although they do take the lead on many issues; and in Diplomacy terms whilst presence forces are a key enabler/supporter the are working in concert and to an extent the lead of the foreign office. but Defence (leaving aside cyber warfare with all its caveats and nuisances) is the military... yes civilians are in top charge, as was said at many times during this piece the budget and the world view of the government is important to what will happen; but in the end it always comes back to the military being the primary tool for defence.

      I hope that answered your question/point.

    2. *for some reason it cut this off

      yours sincerely



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