24 Dec 06. Concerns about the MoD’s treatment of the Army in particular and the Armed Forces in general have been coming through thick and fast in the Festive Season. The BBC reported that the Queen praised the courage of troops. It is the second time the Queen has made such a broadcast. The Queen has acknowledged the “great personal risk” British servicemen and women face in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a special Christmas message to them. The Queen said their “courage and loyalty are not lightly taken” and she was “grateful to you all”. She also said her thoughts and prayers were with the families of servicemen and women who had been killed. The pre-recorded Christmas Eve radio broadcast has been played to armed forces personnel at home and abroad. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.8 ISSUE 51, 19 December 2006, 2006 – A YEAR OF RECOGNITION?, The Men Have Their Groundsheets).
Wars cost money and the MoD’s statement hat it has provided £3bn more for defence appears to overlook the fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being funded out of the existing budget which does not take into account the huge amount being spent on UORs. The speech by Sir Alan West as reported below places the CVF Requirement in the firing line for possible cut or delay. As we have discussed in numerous articles during 2006, CVF is a very expensive project and the £.9bn earmarked in the recent IAB will go nowhere near in meeting the required budget, that is before Through Life Support and the JSF aircraft are considered. £6bn is the figure being bandied around plus the costs of the aircraft and with the steel price rocketing and the tonnage going from a reported 40,000 to 60,000, this in itslef looks tight when general inflation is taken into account. The current high-level statements being made by senior Army officers signals that the Army is fed up with the bulk of the budget going to the RAF, Typhoon, JSF and C-17 and A400M and the Navy Type 45, Trident and CVF when the Army is bearing the brunt of the war. The display at Larkhill in September was seen by one source as being Sir Richard Dannett’s display of his clapped out equipment to give a message to Procurement Supremo Lord Drayson who was present to launch the Cougar and Vector vehicles. However Lord Drayson appears keener on high-tech solutions, given his background and is steeped in R&D and Grand Challenge issues and the launch of the £126m BAE-led Taranis UAV Project. BAE Systems will lead an industry team including Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ, and Smiths (See BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.8 ISSUE 49, 07 December 2006, DIRTY, DANGEROUS, DULL AND DEEP – THE MoD LAUNCEHS NEW UAV INITIATIVE). Some see a cancellation of CVF as a means of curtailing the Government’s ability to wage costly wars. It is unlikely that the U.K. will require to wage war with a large carrier in the near future, which would be a good excuse to cancale or dealy CVF and thus JSF.
The Ministry of Defence said it had “long recognised” the importance of investing properly in the armed forces at home and abroad. The defence budget had “steadily risen” by an extra £3.7bn over the last three years, a spokesman said. He added: “We are constantly investing in new equipment, medical care and accommodation. “Last year alone, we spent more than £700m on improvements to service housing, announced the introduction of a new £2,240 operational bonus and invested millions more in new equipment, including body armour and armoured vehicles.”
On December 27th the BBC reported a further call for support of our troops was given by Maj Gen Shirreff head of British forces in southern Iraq.
Issues such as underfunding had to be addressed to maintain their quality of work, Maj Gen Richard Shirreff said. His comments came after an interviewer said many soldiers had complained of “running on empty” in Iraq. The MoD said spending had risen steadily.
Meanwhile, seven British soldiers on patrol in northern Basra suffered minor injuries w