18 Jan 10. The BBC reported that the rules of war have been rewritten by the challenges of fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the head of the Army has said.
Gen Sir David Richards called for more investment in hi-tech equipment such as spy planes and cyber-defences to shift away from “old war fighting”.
His views come amid the backdrop of a defence review after the general election and potential spending cuts. Gen Richards elaborated on these ideas in a speech yesterday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
He believes Britain’s enemies will have seen from Iraq and Afghanistan that for relatively little cost, opponents with cheap weaponry can pose a deadly threat
“He is thought to believe future conflicts will be fought in increasingly hi-tech ways and that the threat of cyber-attacks against Britain’s infrastructure mean radical change is unavoidable.” Caroline Wyatt, BBC defence correspondent
Gen Richards has compared it to the moment British forces realised they had to phase out cavalry on horseback in favour of using tanks in World War I. Despite the need for hi-tech equipment, he also insists more Army manpower is necessary.
However, Gen Richards expects significant spending cuts in the upcoming defence review and says that while Britain still needs ships, aircraft and tanks, there may have to be fewer of them. BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said: “Gen Sir David Richards says the UK has been in denial ever since the end of the Cold War on how future wars are likely to be fought.
“He believes Britain’s enemies will have seen from Iraq and Afghanistan that for relatively little cost, opponents with cheap weaponry can pose a deadly threat – with future opponents likely to use similar tactics.”
She added that all three service chiefs will be outlining their different visions for the future as the defence review draws closer and the battle for resources intensifies.
BATTLESPACE Comment: We said last year that we considered that the future British Army lay with a faster, lighter, cleverer force. Sources suggested that Sir David is not a fan of FRES as he regards it as a Cold war legacy Programme which has allowed the other services to feed their own requirements with carriers and fast jets. The likelihood of FRES being under contract before the election and/or surviving a Review look very slim, particularly as the CTA canon has not even begun qualification. DESIDER reported this week that the MoD has only just ordered the hardware for the canon. The BATTLESPACE view would be that the WCSP Programme will get the green light without the new canon and BAE Systems will get a development contract to keep them happy and the Newcastle plant intact in the run up to the election.
Why has the MoD doggedly continued to pursue FRES with 20 year old metal vehicles which are too big for the job and are not mine proofed to the degree required to protect their crews.
To have a proper Scout/Recce vehicle for Afghanistan, the vehicle needs to have a two metre wide tack to pursue Afghan Toyota Land Cruisers, not a clunking noisy beast.
Sir David has laid down the gauntlet for the whole Army to rethink itself. The cavalry should take note of this and as we said last year, evolve, not expect what they require. It took them long enough to ditch their horses, now they will have to ditch their big clunky iron horses in favour of more nimble solutions such as Jackal.