11 Dec 03. Following Chancellor Gordon Brown’s announcement yesterday that the U.K. MoD would be given a further £800m for Iraq, Defence Minister Geoff Hoon gave his White Paper outlining the defence structure for the future.
In short he has pinpointed the development of a new lightweight Network enabled force equipped with the new FRES vehicles transported on the C-130J, A400M and C-17 fleet backed up by the new Ro-Ro fleet. A new light brigade will be created with the loss of one armoured brigade putting into doubt future deployment of Challenger 2, Warrior and AS90 in numbers. In addition more Missile Defence and Homeland Defence capability will be deployed including increased NBC assets.
A joint Typhoon JSF force equipped with increased numbers of Storm Shadow and Paveway munitions will be deployed although tranche 3 of Typhoon is now not officially dead as he would not commit to numbers. The proposed Ground Attack version of Typhoon could be more problematic than originally proposed. As the aircraft is fundamentally an unstable platform controlled by computers, BATTLESPACE understands that in times of weapons release at low level the master computer could countermand the weapons computer because of the change in weight and flyability of the aircraft post or prior to release. This may indicate why the Jaguars have had their service life extended.
No mention was made of specific budgetary changes but BATTLESPACE has learnt from a source that the MoD has issued a letter to a list of contractors stating that in effect contracts over £150,000 will have to be personally cleared by CDP and that if the contractor chooses to go ahead with the contract then the MoD would consider supporting that. This regime will continue until the end of March. One contract affected has been the Lynx BLUH upgrade where 75% of the £15m has been spent but the FLIR suite including the advanced optics has been shelved ‘until further notice’. The use by Prudence (Gordon Brown), who beamed his way through the Budget, that the defence cuts were due to the Iraq war overspend appear wide of the mark. One contractor told BATTLESPACE that now defence companies have no way of managing their workforces if cuts come post-contract award.
A source told BATTLESPACE that he was aware of cuts but no specifics as told to him by the Editor. “I think the reason for this is that these companies, large to mid-tier suppliers have been keeping quiet for fear of frightening their banks or affecting the share price.”
Certainly since this information broke BATTLESPACE has been informed that at least three large contracts have been delayed until next year, the FSTA tanker requirement, the FCS truck requirement and the DII computer infrastructure contract which was due to be announced on November 24th. Unconfirmed reports suggest that DII may be downselected to two contractors, IBM and Lockheed Martin although maybe EDS will stay in on a three downselect. CSC is believed to have been dropped, although this statement is pure conjecture and unconfirmed as we write.
BAE SYSTEMS, Northrop, Thales and General Dynamics should all benefit from an increase in C4ISR spend although BATTLESPACE was told by a source during Dubai that the Saudi Royal Family is in danger of being deposed within 9 months by a force operating in the country who are ‘1000 strong with an efficient command structure, heavily armed and well organized.’ Some members of the Saudi Royal family are believed to have left the country already after an attempt to bomb one of the palaces. Perhaps the Iraq invasion did have a purpose?