British Sky Tours





***  WORLD NEWS  ***




Adrian's writing is found on the book shelves of some discerning people on both sides of the Atlantic.

 Both Dick Nesbitt-Dufort and Adrian Hill are published authors. Dick's father wrote a book about his experiences as a special operations pilot flying agents into Occupied France. Dick has edited and produced the memoirs of a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. Adrian has written novels about espionage set in South Korea and Switzerland and remains the only British diplomat to have written part of the history of the US Department of State. When not organising sky tours he's working on a novel set during the height of the Vietnam War.

These books are on sale through Parapress based in Tunbridge Wells.


For those interested in the Vietnam War copies of  'Escape with Honor' written together by Ambassador Francis ' Terry ' McNamara and Adrian may be found via this link to the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in Washington DC.


When Adrian Hill served as a diplomat one of his most rewarding jobs was Director of British Information Services across Canada. At one stage he gave Britain's messages across the United States as well. Apart from network and local television and radio broadcasts a key part of his job was to brief and often write editorials for the hundreds of newspapers across North America, concentrating on foreign news. Most newspapers in North America view the World from a continent which could get along comfortably without anyone else - and the US/Canadian border is a surprising obstacle. Henry Ginsberg of the New York Times once challenged Adrian to find any Canadian news in his own paper. At that time Henry was their correspondent in Ottawa - he returned to New York City as the Foreign Editor and the Canadians featured more often!

Adrian's editorial contributions with a British slant proved highly popular right across North America so alongside these touring and history pages we opened this editorial page. Here we try to bring some historical perspective to the latest political and military events around the World. Military experience as a paratrooper came in handy as a diplomat. Adrian knows Afghanistan, Pakistan and India from his very first overseas posting as a diplomat serving at the British Deputy High Commission in Lahore and subsequent return visits. His career took in Cyprus and the Near East, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea and Jamaica and most places along the flight path.

Apart from witnessing huge armoured and airmobile battles from the Near East to the Far East, Adrian studied campaigns and battlefields on four continents, has written three books and articles for the Royal United Services Institute Journal.

This news page has a complimentary purpose. Although this website is about our tours we also try to promote the heritage of the Atlantic Charter and the Special Relationship. The United Nations and NATO owe their existence to the Atlantic Charter, unique among treaties in that there were no signatures, just messages to their respective cabinets from Churchill and Roosevelt on board a battleship and a cruiser anchored off Newfoundland - plus mutual trust at a time of great danger for the democracies.

Updates will occur when the news makes one worthwhile. Articles on British defence matters are very much works in progress and frequently edited, improved, modified to reflect new conversations and fresh information. All views expressed are personal reflections based on talking to people involved in events and over thirty years military and diplomatic service in the world's hot spots including three wars.


Adrian Hill


Last year Adrian joined a new combined think-tank and fledgling lobby group for all veterans of HM Armed Forces and the Police. All ranks welcome. This is a very well run outfit called Veterans for Britain. There's no money involved. It's all done by email and through the website although they launched with a rally in Portsmouth. You'll find some very respected names on the Board of Advisers - the Chairman is Julian Thompson, retired Major-General and Royal Marine Commando of Falklands fame - with some very switched on young people running the machine and producing papers that ask the right questions so the country proceeds at best speed - steered by a compass showing true bearings.

 If you are a veteran, if you believe we need to take better care of our freedom, starting with much stronger armed forces, sign up, your country needs you!


' Double the effort and square the error.'

 The late Sir Robert Thompson, over a Chinese dinner in Saigon, describing to Adrian the worst form of strategy.

David Cameron's coalition government have taken less than a year to make a string of dangerously foolish choices over defence and diplomacy. Our islands are defended by 10,000 troops some 6,000 miles away in Afghanistan. Our nuclear deterrent is compromised. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, cut to the bone, can no longer protect these islands, nor our trade, nor our citizens and friends overseas. An island nation that has 65% of its defence gambled on land forces - the posture of a Continental land power - possesses no defence at all.

The House of Commons has barely a handful of Members with any idea of strategy. Witness the ridiculous posturing for the television cameras by a silly Mrs Margaret Hodge and her mostly overfed - and in one case possibly under the influence of something - naive Public Accounts Select Committee who don't believe the RAF needs any fighters.

You don't need me to tell it's a pretty stupid way to protect your family. 






RAF Thor missile during late 1950s and the Royal Navy firing a Trident missile today.


' Then it may well be that we shall by a process of sublime irony have reached a stage in this story where safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation. '

Winston Churchill speaking about nuclear weapons in 1955.




How much a nation spends on its defence is a political decision. British voters allow the House of Commons to take this decision. The present members chose to increase overseas aid by 40% through slashing defence spending by roughly the same amount. Put another way, the National Health Service is the third largest employer in the World behind the Chinese Army and the Indian Railways, yet shared political ideology preaches there is no way its £ 120 billions budget could shrink through greater efficiency. The Conservatives also claim the previous Labour government left the defence budget under-funded by £ 38 billions for the next decade. The all party House of Commons Select Committee on Defence has doubts about this claim. Only £ 9 billions of the programme was under contract. That figure ties neatly with the figure given to me a few years ago by the Chief of the Air Staff, namely that a £ 1.5 billions increase on the defence budget - at that time - would have allowed all three services to carry out all their operations and equipment plans.

For the moment - although I regard it political drivel - let's work from the government's story. Add the so-called £ 38 billion black hole to reductions of £ 4 billion a year over the five years of the previous Parliament and that makes near enough £ 60 billions less money over the next five years. A calculation based on their own figures. Just as the government tried to hide their hopelessly wrong immigration numbers, so they try to pass the buck for their lack of enough investment in defence at a time of increasing danger.

Arguments that defence and diplomacy suffer because of the previous Labour government's profligate spending simply don't wash - the latest coalition government consumes nearly half our annual national income and all budget decisions reflect their priorities. Defence of the realm is the first duty of any government. I fear, that in coalition Britain, the people and the realm come last.

All forces deter. Whether fighters launched from aircraft carriers, missiles from submarines, precision weapons from land based fighters, surprise attack by special forces or the armoured infantry keeping watch on the Estonian plain. Whatever nuclear forces we maintain in the future depends on the same questions that shape our conventional forces; namely, what kind of dangers we can reasonably forecast. I do not expect the spies and diplomats to predict another Libya, another Syria, rather to identify the obvious trends, which they seem to find difficult!

All below should be read with the above remarks in mind.




RAF Vulcan bombers scorching off their base during a practise alert. V force crews were trained to scramble within four minutes. Often crews exceeded this standard and reduced average take-off time to one minute and forty-seven seconds; some crews left the ground after less than a minute. Flights of four also were dispersed all over the British Isles at times of tension.


Today's grudging naivety is a far cry from the V Bomber Force ready to strike with an entirely British nuclear arsenal ordered by Clement Atlee's Labour government and brought into service by Winston Churchill's and subsequent Conservative governments. Stalin had been determined to catch up with the Americans and British and construct an atomic weapon. Enormous effort was put into research and espionage. The latter caused Britain, Canada and the United States a great deal of trouble. The war had ended with Eastern Europe almost entirely occupied by Stalin's Russia and with Communist regimes imposed on every country. Europe's smashed cities were under reconstruction through the Marshal Plan. Real peace was not yet at hand. Germany and Austria were occupied by Britain, France, Russia and the United States. Berlin lay within the Russian Zone though also itself divided into four zones. Stalin was shortly to sever all road access to Berlin, forcing the Allies to supply West Berlin by air - the Berlin Airlift - with everything from milk to coal. Mao Tse Tung's Communists were about to win control of China and the North Koreans invade the South. It was a time of rising tension.

After the shock of the first Russian atomic bomb test, threatened with massive nuclear attack by a ruthless, mostly rational though shrewd and wily tyrant, Joseph Stalin, the British had no real defence. Although we had invented the jet and built the first twin engine jet bomber in the world, while the Canberra flew high enough and possessed the range, it could not lift the large atomic bombs of the era. Faced with the threat of obliteration, Britain was forced to rely on the emergency supply of an American ground launched ballistic missile called Thor. Altogether 77 missiles were organised rapidly into 20 squadrons. Britain later developed her own missiles called Blue Streak and Black Knight. Both of them were axed by the Conservatives. Defence Minister, Duncan Sandys, through his 1957 defence white paper also claimed there would be no more manned aircraft in the RAF. Our aircraft industry out-lived Duncan Sandys but axing Black Knight ended Britain's space programme.

In 1946 the American Congress had passed an act that ended co-operation over nuclear weapons. This act over-ruled agreements between Roosevelt and Churchill made during World War Two at Quebec and Hyde Park. Clement Atlee's government decided to develop nuclear weapons. The Canadians were also irritated by Congress. British scientists first split the atom at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University and throughout the later war years worked tirelessly on the Manhattan Project for the first atomic bomb. This situation was not rectified until the 1950s after the first tests of British bombs and Dwight Eisenhower was President. Thor missiles required a dual key - US and UK - for launching. If the British were to defend their islands, they needed a wholly British nuclear deterrent. The government opted for manned bombers.

At its peak strength, once production of nuclear weapons caught up with numbers of aircraft and trained crews, the V force was a terrifying weapon - no less than 167 bombers might have attacked targets in Russia many hours before US Strategic Air Command arrived over Europe. Some claim that the V Bombers required US agreement before taking off. I do not recall any such caveat when I first worked in Whitehall - directly to the most senior defence adviser in the office, veteran of Churchill's wartime Downing Street. Bomber Command reached its firepower zenith at that time, 1963, with 17 squadrons of V bombers operating from 10 bases and 26 dispersal bases and supported by many more squadrons of Canberra bombers. The V bombers flew so fast and high that in those days no Russian fighters could intercept them - near super sonic speed at 65,000 to 70,000 feet - altitudes reached at that time only by the U 2 reconnaissance aircraft. Each aircraft delivered the same firepower as a 1000 bomber raid during World War Two. The later invention of the SAM placed them at risk although stand off bombs soon came into service.

When the Russians shot down a U 2 in the Garry Powers incident the British switched the V bombers to low level penetration. On one exercise Vulcans over-flew Kennedy's White House having avoided detection. There is an argument that the V force should have been modified to fly even higher at altitudes over 75,000 to 80,000 feet - the SR 71 Blackbird flew at 85,000 feet although at much higher speed but was never shot down - armed with stand off weapons. Missiles cannot be recalled. V bombers could.


Vickers Valiant and Avro Vulcans - two wearing their original white coats.

Handley Page Victors

During the dangerous early years of the Cold War, the Valiants, Vulcans and Victors of RAF Bomber Command made a huge contribution towards keeping global peace. All three aircraft were highly agile and the Vulcan aerobatic - I've seen one loop-the-loop at quite low level - for their defence. Their bases were defended by 16 day fighter squadrons and 8 all weather fighter squadrons plus some 8 SAM guided missile squadrons. Their watch lasted from 1955 until 1969 with a significant number of crews on standby at 15 minutes readiness. Today's generation cannot imagine the nights when RAF fighter pilots sat in freezing cockpits on the end of the runway in Eastern England waiting for the word to scramble when Russian aircraft over the North Sea were picked up by radar. Both sides adopted a strategy known as MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction - massive bombardment of cities and strategic targets with hydrogen bombs. Later, realising the strategy was insane, NATO adopted ' flexible response ' which made a lot more sense. Read on, because we're back to MAD with the present strategy. Meanwhile compare the huge and determined national effort behind the creation of the V Bomber Force with the miserly backing from Parliament and people for the present generation of young people wearing uniform who fight against tyranny from several quarters.

We were a different country then, victor in two world wars, holder of the line in Korea, a great nation and imperial power.


Bloodhoud SAMs defending a Valiant base in Britain - when defence of the realm was taken seriously. Right photo a Skybolt stand-off missile.





Trident launch

Trident - no longer independent, no longer fire proof? The patrol aircraft - cost £ 4 billions - that make sure our nuclear submarines are not trailed, have been axed by David Cameron's laughable defence plan. The Liberal policy of nuclear disarmament sneaked through the back door and the voters remain blissfully ignorant.

The Labour Party and the Conservative Party claim to support Britain replacing the present four Vanguard Class submarines equipped with Trident missiles for a new generation of submarines and missiles. The Liberal-Democrat Party would not replace the existing submarines and instead do away with a British nuclear deterrent.


Throughout the latter years of the 1950s next generation aircraft and missiles reached the drawing board and some were under development. These ranged from the Avro 730 high altitude reconnaissance/bomber intended to cruise at Mach 2.5 over 65,000 feet with top speeds of Mach 3 and a range of 6,000 miles to the Blue Steel air-launched nuclear missile  which entered service. This version of Blue Steel had a range of 150 miles - enough to shoot before coming within range of the Moscow SAM defences - but later versions were planned to have range of 900 miles. There were many troubles with development and Harold Macmillan's government decided to buy off the shelf from the Americans an air-launched missile called Skybolt which would have the performance of the later version of Blue Steel.  

Harold Macmillan's government decided to become dependent on the United States rather than invest in new British designed bombers armed with air-launched missiles. Many opposed this change of national destiny, both on the left and right of politics. My generation are the last to have lived on the old imperial island. When the Americans cancelled Skybolt - submarines armed with Polaris missiles could loiter for months rather than hours and missile accuracy was vastly improved - finding himself in deep political trouble over the whole muddle, Harold Macmillan asked President Kennedy to supply the Royal Navy with the new submarine launched Polaris missiles, eventually replaced by Trident. At the time this deal was described as the bargain of the century. And it was! RAF Bomber Command stood down from strategic nuclear bombing and Royal Navy submarine service took over the deterrent duty. 

Britain's deterrent became less expensive though no longer independent.


For many decades Britain and the United States have worked together on nuclear missile technology. This saves the British a great deal of money which otherwise would go towards research. Most of the design and technology for the Vanguard submarines is British and the vessels were built at Vickers yard in Barrow-on-Furnace. They are the third largest submarine class ever built - at nearly 16,000 tons larger than a heavy cruiser and at 150 metres equally long.

Vanguard class submarines are armed with 16 silos for firing the Trident D5 missile - loaded with a total 128 MIRV warheads - although the missiles will support 12 MIRV warheads therefore 16 silos could fire 192 MIRV warheads. The vessels have 4 tubes for the Spearfish torpedo. A variety of towed and other sonar enable the vessels to escape detection by submarines, surface ships and aircraft. Their nuclear reactors which create steam for the turbines have a life of 20 years and thereby provide unlimited range at 25 knots underwater. Her complement is 135 officers and ratings. The job of a Vanguard class submarine is to carry out a six months long patrol without detection while always ready to fire her Trident missiles which have a range of 7,000 miles.

Only a single city on the planet has a defence system against ballistic missiles, Moscow, and the Trident D5 has a British designed system, code-named Chevaline, intended to confuse and thwart these defences. Perfecting this system cost a fortune, so much money that Harold Wilson hid the costs from his Chancellor, Denis Healey, on grounds of national security! Warheads are not simply for obliterating cities. Air bursts on such a massive scale will knock out sophisticated defence systems. A naval force might deploy nuclear air bursts to sweep away the enemy defences before its aircraft carriers come into action.

At least one Vanguard class submarine is on patrol at all times.

Overall this force provides a credible ' Cold War Era ' deterrent with an arsenal of slightly less than 200 nuclear weapons. The force has a single response, massive, there is no layering, no tactical nuclear capability. In other words, MAD, but could respond at once to an attack from a distant place.



Vanguard Class nuclear submarine and a Daring Class destroyer  - photo courtesy MOD


France has a completely independent nuclear deterrent force - designed and built by themselves and backed by a national space programme - consisting of four nuclear submarines armed with ballistic missiles, one aircraft carrier with naval fighters armed with medium range nuclear missiles, air force fighter squadrons similarly armed, plus ground launchers for medium range missiles. The French Navy plan to keep two submarines on patrol at all times equipped with missiles similar to Trident though carrying 6 - 10 MIRV warheads.

This is a layered force with a gold standard ' Cold War Era ' deterrent though backed by tactical nuclear forces with an emphasis on the European theatre. A much more flexible deterrent. France has revealed that its nuclear arsenal contains about 300 warheads.

To put the two European nuclear strike forces in proportion the United States maintains 450 ground launched missiles, more than 110 long range bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and 18 Ohio Class submarines - 14 provide the Trident force and 4 provide a force capable of delivering over 150 cruise missiles armed with conventional or nuclear warheads. This force is backed by the most advanced space programme on the planet.

At one time the US held over 30,000 nuclear warheads but phased reductions negotiated with Russia have reduced this arsenal to around 5,000 nuclear weapons. These negotiations also limit the US Navy to less than 12 MIRV warheads in their Trident D5 missiles. While the British have reduced their numbers of MIRV warheads in line with the Americans, France reserves its independence.


These forces would certainly deter Russia from a gamble in Europe - but as with all mortal duels, the real test is human nerves, loyalty, skill and willpower. Since 1945 the best example remains the Cuban Missile Crisis late in 1962 when Nikita Kruschev dangerously misread John F Kennedy, mistaking tolerance for weakness until Kennedy forced him to the brink, whereupon Kruschev wisely backed down.



HMS Vanguard - at all times one of these huge submarines patrols somewhere. The secrecy around these patrols is so great that during February 2009 HMS Vanguard and the French Navy's Triomphant managed to collide with each other at slow speed beneath the Atlantic. Possibly both submarines were hiding along the same ocean current - water temperatures effect sonar - and neither would have used active sonar if on patrol.

Perhaps the new agreement with France will make such incidents less likely. Nobody was hurt, no radio activity leaked, but there were repair bills/factures!



Under the latest phase of the START treaty both the United States and Russia will continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals and launchers. This phased reduction is timed for completion by 2017 and should leave both countries with no more than 1550 deployed strategic warheads and no more than 700 delivery systems deployed. Russia would have 200 land based launchers, 8 ballistic missile submarines each capable of firing 16 missiles with MIRV warheads, plus about 75 bombers. The submarine force is going through a modernisation programme that will allow the vessels to serve until 2040. The large number of delivery systems reflects how both nation's hardened launch sites have more priority as targets than any city.

At moments requiring strong nerves and cool courage, grave decisions are taken under stress by the weakest component in our relations with other countries including nuclear armed potential foes - namely, inexperienced, ignorant, feeble and often cowardly politicians. Could such a crisis ever happen? All members of the NATO alliance enjoy the right to invoke Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty - an attack on one is an attack on all - and call for help. Since the NATO alliance formed in 1949 this has occurred once, after the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001. The crisis did not go nuclear but might have done at three identifiable moments. No recent event better illustrates the speed at which the world can change.

Nowadays, like the present Cabinet - most British politicians are military virgins who try to hide ignorance behind arrogance when it comes to diplomacy and defence. Over four decades these same British politicians have used our Armed Forces as a soft target for budget cuts. Unlike civilians, our Armed Forces have no union, they cannot answer back. The latest cuts are so deep that Britain's Armed Forces cannot mount an independent conventional operation. HMS Ark Royal could have beaten Qadafi's forces on her own - but she's been sacrificed on the altars of ideology and oriental face as have no less than 80 Harrier jump jets. The RAF flies a handful of Tornado fighters from Norfolk to reach targets in Libya, refuelling two or three times both ways, brilliant airmanship but a ridiculous solution.

The awesome threshold for contemplating nuclear defence lowers with every successive dismantling of conventional forces - nowadays this trigger point is dangerously low. Britain doesn't usually start wars - leaving aside Tony Blair and Iraq - but we're often dragged into wars because an ally calls for help. The list is global - South Korea, Malaysia two times, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Oman, Cyprus, Kuwait two times, Belize, the Falkland Islands, Kosovo, Kurds, Sierra Leone, the United States over Iraq twice and Afghanistan twice, now Libya.

  Until 1992 the Royal Navy deployed tactical nuclear weapons on aircraft carriers and nuclear depth charges on surface ships. The RAF could deliver tactical nuclear weapons with its Tornado force and the Army deployed nuclear artillery rounds and short range missiles. The Americans stood down their nuclear artillery - we shared warheads with a two key system -while a Conservative government unilaterally dismantled our tactical nuclear arsenal. France maintains her flexible response because the French believe it makes more sense as a first deterrent act to employ a smaller weapon on a tactical target such as mass invading tanks rather than obliterate Moscow.

The French approach is more logical than Britain's. We need look no further than the European Central Plain. Britain's coalition government plans to withdraw the First Armoured Division from Germany and probably will disband most of its famous regiments. British politicians do not have the brains and imagination to turn this division into a reserve formation - based in Germany - instead they will open a gap along the NATO border with Russia's client, Byelorussia. The logical way to compensate for this gap is through increasing the air strike squadrons based in Germany. An inexperienced - and I gather arrogant schoolboy government - has slashed the RAF strike fighter force that already has lost its tactical nuclear weapons, because of ideology.


HMS Astute on trials off Scotland


The existence of a Russian tactical arsenal probably has more to do with shielding allies in Central Asia than any perceived threat from NATO - China, Iran and Pakistan are more dangerous next door neighbours. None-the-less, Russia's leadership calculated - correctly - that NATO would not intervene when they invaded Georgia in summer 2008 because the alliance, heavily committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, also recognised the situation could spiral out of control. This gamble exploited the stupidity of the Georgian President though exposed the low quality of the Russian invading force - their line of supply was through a long tunnel under mountains yet the Georgians never once thought of blocking either tunnel mouth. Equally the crisis proved the European members of NATO both divided and helpless when the Russian Army walked into a neighbour and grabbed large chunks of its territory. Remember, the Russians are still there, and NATO's mainland European members find it easier to appease Mr Putin than evict his occupying troops. There are scores to settle, a slow fuse smoulders on Georgia's powder keg.

America's plans for a ballistic missile defence system also strain relations with Putin's government even though the proposed shield searches for missiles launched from the Middle East. At one stage Putin threatened the Poles and Czechs that Russia's missiles would be targeted on their countries - as though they were not already - thereby providing clear evidence that the days of Russian nuclear blackmail are not over. The Baltic states also suffered from political threats and cyber attacks when they refused to be bullied. Ukraine has endured blatant political meddling, successful meddling given that NATO membership seems further away than ever for that country. Just the threat of shut valves along the gas pipelines made the Germans cave in over soaring winter gas prices.

Let us suppose that Mr Putin is replaced one day - it's always possible - by somebody more reckless. Although the USAF plans to base F 16 fighters in Poland, the reality on the ground among NATO's European members is to put it mildly, careless. The largest armoured formation guarding the North European Plain is the British First Armoured Division - due for the axe under David Cameron's slash and burn programme - while the neutral Swiss own more tanks than the NATO Germans. This is an invitation for any gambler.  Add up the armed forces of all the new members of NATO living along the western marches of Russia and one scrapes together about a dozen properly formed divisions. Fortunately most of the Russian Army is tied up around the Caucasus. That emphasis might switch were the Ukraine to vote again for a government favouring closer ties with Western Europe or Byelorussia decide to kick out its aging leader.

 Other possible flash-points with Russia might arise through a combination of energy reserves and maritime claims. Four NATO members - USA, Canada, Norway and Denmark - not unreasonably, dispute Russia's claim to vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean seabed. Finland disputes Russian claims to Baltic Islands and its northern coastal region. The latter impacts on Norway. Another potential dispute is the right of passage through the Arctic Sea as global warming melts the Polar Ice Cap. Russia supports ' notification ' whereby a foreign warship has to seek permission to pass through the coastal waters - under the UN Law of the Sea Convention all coastal states are entitled to claim an Exclusive Economic Zone extending 200 miles out to sea. When such zones meet the coastal states negotiate median lines and sometimes disputes result. As resources become scarce or fishing grounds move in line with sea temperature changes - expect more disputes.

Danger comes from unexpected directions and usually much faster than politicians believe possible. Yet, equally, we should not exclude the possibility that the Russians turn their backs on ego-trippers and vote for a modernist who leads his country towards democracy. Who knows? Russia might yet join NATO.


HMS Vanguard



China has built up a layered nuclear deterrent about the same size as that of France, mostly land-launched missiles with short, medium and inter-continental range. Some weapons are air-launched, mostly from fighters, although the Chinese are developing ballistic missiles for launch by submarines. Their largest submarine missiles will have a range of more than 10,000 miles which implies either an urge to hit targets in Europe, Australia and Latin America or an attempt to increase the amount of ocean where their submarines can hide.

China's reasoning starts with self-protection from the most powerful nation in the region - since the 1950s the USA has been ready to launch a nuclear attack on the Chinese mainland. During the early sixties I kept the map of the British nuclear targets in my cupboard at the office and I can tell you - there were quite a number in China. We kept our nuclear weapons at the RAF base on Singapore Island. The Korean War remained fresh in the institutional memory as did the Malayan Emergency. Truce in Indo-China had broken down - daily intelligence reports arrived with the numbers of North Vietnamese troops moving into South Vietnam through Laos. Their route would become known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. SEATO had plans to intervene by placing a cordon across Laos and Vietnam and cutting the infiltration routes. We calculated that during a second round of warfare on the Indo-China Peninsular that China would support the communists directly as she had done on the Korean Peninsular. The nuclear threat was partly to warn China to keep out of Thailand - and Hong Kong.

Despite claims that China's nuclear weapons are strictly defensive their layered posture speaks otherwise. China's army holds regular exercises that include the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. The message is not lost on their neighbours who number some of our most important trading partners - Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Australia and New Zealand; but only the USA, Russia and India could offer a nuclear response from within the region. Burma might become a target in a fight with India. Pakistan and North Korea are allies of China and as such, potential targets for every nuclear armed country other than perhaps Iran.

China also lays claim to small islands in the South China Sea that are the territory of its neighbours. The purpose of these claims is twofold - enlarging China's exclusive economic zone would bring the potential oil and gas reserves into her possession while parallel to this, China would vastly increase her territorial waters thereby bringing one of the world's main sea highways under her control. Such a move would place China on a collision course with North America, Europe and most of her neighbours.

As a historian I view China's foreign policy as almost a carbon copy of eighteenth century Britain. Deals for the supply of increasingly scarce raw materials, energy and food bear a close resemblance to the commercial expansion that eventually led to the East India Company and the British Raj on the Indian sub-continent. Eighteenth century Britain already had established thriving colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America and challenged the French for possession of Canada. Australia and New Zealand only recently had been discovered. China today has only one colony - Tibet - though pursues her commercial ambitions on three continents. Whether one should feel alarm depends on how much value one places on the right to trade freely with all nations.

Although British governments have allowed formal alliances among Commonwealth countries to fray or lapse, largely driven by pro-Europe ideology within the FCO, should a grave emergency arise, the ordinary people of Britain might not tolerate this attitude from their professional politicians - a species loathed almost as much as bankers. Tens of millions of people throughout the Commonwealth have family in Britain and vice versa. Half the population of Canada and more than half the population of Australia are entitled to British passports by birth or descent. New Zealanders number even more dual citizens. I find it quite impossible to believe that the same voters who rallied behind 2,000 people on the Falkland Islands would take very long to punish a government that attempted to ignore millions of kith and kin under threat in the Pacific. 

As with South Korea, it is not impossible that China's students will learn from the Koreans, change their tactics, and bring China to democracy. That would solve a great number of the World's problems.


17 May 1987. USS Stark on fire and listing after two Exocet hits following an attack by an Iranian Mirage. Stark lost 37 men that day. France supplied Argentine and Iran with the aircraft and missiles that damaged the USS Stark and burnt out HMS Sheffield six years before.



Only fools proclaim that war between states is not likely for a decade. Those who are older have heard that nonsense before. Colonel Q has done us a favour just like General Galtieri did back in 1982. We are now engaged in yet another war against a Middle Eastern state - in case the government hadn't realised. That said, with Iran, the best guide is last time. Who and what will young Cameron send to protect our shipping if a war breaks out in the Gulf as happened during Iran's 1980 - 1988 war with Saddam. Western owned tankers were regularly attacked in what became known as the tanker war. The Arab neighbourhood were heavily involved backing Iraq and hoping for territorial gains. Iraq repeatedly attacked Iran's oil terminal on Khark Island until the Iranians began attacking tankers loaded with Iraq's oil. Some 546 ships of all types were damaged. The frigate USS Stark was hit by an Exocet causing 37 deaths, the only time one has managed to strike a US warship. Another frigate, USS Samuel B Roberts, struck an Iranian mine. The Americans destroyed several oil rigs as a punitive measure.

 The Royal Navy sent HMS Glamorgan, HMS Brazen and the RFA Blue Ranger as the Armilla Patrol and these ships reached the southern end of the Gulf in February 1984. The patrol was restricted to the Indian Ocean - due to the fast deteriorating political situation! And this when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. All a very few of us could do from London was set up a warning system. British ship owners and their crews were extremely grateful. Ships delayed sailing or avoided stretches of the Gulf when an air attack looked probable. Today there's a growing risk that to reduce the diplomatic pressure over its nuclear ambitions, Iran might interfere once again with tanker traffic, sending a warning signal to the western nations. Harassment might take more than a single form. Stopping and searching, closing stretches of the Gulf, laying mines rather than overt surface or air attacks spring to mind. To counter such acts the US Navy would have to boost its force policing the Gulf to protect American and allied shipping. Britain might well be asked to help by sending in minesweepers, even surface warships.

France has the means to provide such support but their record is not promising. France's aircraft carrier sailed through the Suez Canal in Gulf War One though for political reasons went no further than Djibouti. France's only carrier has a record of mechanical problems.

Add the present tension between Iran and Bahrain - which the Shah claimed and the Ayatollah's still claim - where the immigrant population are Shias, many from Iran, out-numbering the locals who are Sunis. Then add the US 5th Fleet with its base in Bahrain and the odds shorten for a serious clash. Further north, leaving aside Kuwait, spread between Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran are the largest oil fields on the planet. Most people living among the oil fields in all three countries are Shias while the Saudi royal family are Sunis. Iran's leadership meddle in these countries and Afghanistan. Iran presses on regardless with its nuclear ambitions.

The great and good of the British political class warn that a nuclear threat only works on rational people. A madman would not be deterred by the fear of nuclear retaliation. So far, so good? Not really. Our deterrent is precisely for such a purpose - protecting our population from lunatics of all shades. Who judges whether a foreign leadership is malevolent or mad? What is appropriate retaliation against a foreign government that shelters a madman who then attacks Britain or a close ally? What level of deterrence is needed to persuade foreign regimes against giving shelter to madmen and terrorists? Unless we make it clear that foreign governments that knowingly shelter terrorists who mount a nuclear, chemical or biological attack on our territories, successful or not, that host country will suffer the full consequences - namely, nuclear strikes - until we make that clear, we are, more or less, inviting frightful danger. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are likely to see a great deal of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.


Could we reach Teheran? Yes, the city lies about 1000 miles due east from the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area on Cyprus - but these days the Cyprus Government might strongly object to launching nuclear strikes from their island. They've already effectively blocked conventional strikes on Libya. Would Turkey and Iraq grant over-flight rights? Highly improbable. Indeed, the whole region may prove much more unhelpful, starting with NATO warships routinely passing through the Suez Canal. Bases such as Diego Garcia are going to become much more valuable. Aircraft carriers, surface ships and submarines need nobody's permission to patrol the oceans. Iran has a long coastline to guard, not easy against sophisticated attacks by naval cruise missiles and naval aircraft. The flat earth foreign and defence plans of Cameron's government have been proved nonsense by the fate of Qadafi's air defences, before the ink was dry on their ridiculous Strategic Defence Review.

Would we obliterate Teheran? Of course not, but we might want to obliterate the regime's nuclear weapons production and its means to control Iran's population. The same situation is likely when confronted by threats or attacks from other countries including North Korea and hostile groups hosted by hostile regimes which grow like human bacteria. A pattern emerges which makes the headline politics of the Muslim world much easier to read but the detail far more difficult to untangle. A huge wave of desire for personal liberty sweeps across the region from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Punjab Plain. Against this tidal wave are two forces - well established despots and religious bigots. The despots fight openly with brutal supression to save their skins and their affluent life styles. The bigots are more subtle - they move among the people while trying to pervert their cause. Somehow the democracies have to find the means to nurture this movement without allowing the bigots to snatch the reins and bolt.

Look at Pakistan from a British viewpoint. We have a large Pakistan community in Britain. Most do not integrate which is hardly surprising as the original immigrants were largely illiterate peasants displaced by the Mangla Dam project on the edge of Kashmir. Most gave thumb prints when collecting their employment vouchers from the office in Lahore. The original immigrants lacked the required skills to integrate; for a start they spoke only Urdu or Kashmiri dialect. They remain isolated. This vulnerable community is exploited by violent religious bigots as a breeding ground for terrorist cannon fodder. Britain's intelligence services spend an enormous amount of time monitoring hostile activity within this community. One attack succeeded against the Tube and bus service in London, at least one failed, and more have been foiled.

Three governments of Pakistan in a row have played a double game with the United States and Britain. Pakistan is directly responsible for supporting the Taliban for twenty years and thereby partly to blame for the September attacks on New York. Pakistan's intelligence service and the army are a state within a state. They are engaged in trying to undermine the NATO campaign in Afghanistan. They are guardians of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and therefore responsible for the leaks of know-how to countries such as North Korea and Iran.

As if this were not enough, Pakistan's military and intelligence clique sheltered Osama Bin Laden for a decade, believing this mass murderer as an ally somehow would hasten America's exit from Afghanistan and leave the way clear for a return of Pakistan's clients, the Taliban. Don't believe any humble confessions of failure. Abbottabad has grown since I knew it during the early 1960s but even today remains no larger than Tunbridge Wells and the Army community is the town. Pakistanis don't believe their government's denials so why should anyone else? Sheltering Bin Laden implies involvement in both directions. The attacks on New Delhi and Bombay along with other attacks in Afghanistan bear the dead fingerprints of Bin Laden.  

This is not the Pakistan Army that I knew and greatly respected during the 1960s. From a British view-point today, sadly, the old Pakistan has gone and the shambles of a replacement should be treated as a potentially hostile country. Millions are still living in tents and shelters after last year's floods - neither the civil powers nor the army have delivered help to many, many people. Where has the money gone? One questions whether any more aid millions should be squandered down this bottomless drain.

NATO has a complex relationship because its supplies come through Pakistan to reach Afghanistan. Should any attempt be made to attack a target within Britain through terrorists planting a so-called ' dirty ' bomb the Pakistan army and intelligence leadership must understand that we will destroy their nuclear arsenal - wherever they try and hide it - and because of tunnel vision in Whitehall, the only means we have are Trident missiles capable of destroying Moscow. There will be collateral damage, lots. The Pakistan military clique should understand that message. 

Regimes harbouring terror gangs need to realise beyond all doubt that punitive counter strikes could involve nuclear weapons. British politicians need to understand that Britain's present nuclear arsenal consists of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Punitive nuclear strikes are tactical, tasks more suited to cruise missiles launched from submarines, surface ships and naval fighters from aircraft carriers. For certain targets, neutron weapons might prove more suitable than huge thermonuclear blasts. A layered nuclear arsenal allows Britain such options.

No doubt the FCO lawyers would point out that under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, we, as a nuclear armed power, have vowed not to mount nuclear attacks on countries that are signatories and promised to remain non-nuclear powers. However, frankly, if such a nation knowingly allows its territory to become a safe haven and base for terror attacks on Britain, common sense says that nation in breach of the treaty. Britain has issued a statement warning of this caveat, though offered no explanation of what would constitute such a breach, nor any warning of the precise consequences. Pakistan as a nuclear armed state has no such rights should it allow an attack on Britain. All of which confirms that around Whitehall the debate about nuclear weapons is confined to the usual ' Cold War ' assumptions held by a small circle, however well meaning and educated, somewhat intellectually incestuous, offering ideas that provide little political help when civilised nations must live among modern savages. There appears a dangerous absence of common sense, sparse roaming imagination, no practical ideas for how to fight terror states and gangs on our terms instead of theirs.

When the first hi-jacking of an airliner took place the democracies chose the wrong strategy. They took the most difficult and expensive path. They opted for precisely the strategy that Clauswitz described as the worst possible - ' To defend everywhere is to defend nowhere.' I remember as a young diplomat fresh out of the Royal Engineers arguing that our approach was absurd, would cost a fortune, employed mass effort world wide to deal with a few people out of billions. Why should the innocent traveller spend hours passing through checks when small forces of specialists could hunt down the hi-jackers? Moreover, the hi-jackers lived somewhere and those states had a choice - hand them over, start behaving as civilised nations, or face massive retaliation. The principle stands.

 Evidence suggests that despite the odd bellicose squawk from Russia, the political currents flow otherwise; America and Russia advance steadily towards nuclear disarmament with each other. Both have dismantled thousands of nuclear weapons and this programme continues. For the moment both nations retain the means to deter China. There remains a possibility that Russia might have a future leader both hostile to the democracies and mad enough to risk a nuclear exchange. There also remains a possibility of the complete opposite. China increases its military spending and this includes nuclear weaponry. China's military doctrine implies that the PLA would deploy battlefield nuclear weapons. China may keep on its present course or change as fast as South Korea did in 1987.




The northern half of the hermit kingdom provides a perfect example of a primitive dictatorship stroke kingdom which has managed to produce nuclear weapons. And, boy, what a lot of trouble they can stir up. Nuclear weapons were the distant ambition of Kim Jong Il but his son, Tubby Kim, is busy reaping the rewards of father’s schemes and bribery. The Pakistanis are to blame for North Korea’s nuclear weapons – reason enough to treat their politicians and spies as pariahs – and the Iranians and Russians for their rocket science. China is notable by its absence from this list of helpers. Tubby Kim is trying to make his nuclear warheads small enough to fit inside an ICBM and his missiles capable of hitting the USA after launch from a submarine. This is known as a second strike capability and is the logic behind our British deterrent and the American’s deterrent. In other words, an enemy could deliver a massive nuclear attack but no matter how much damage we suffer, our second strike will do more damage to our attacker, thus making their first strike rather pointless.

North Korea provides a text book example of the tricky options faced when eliminating the nuclear weapons of a bandit state. Their missiles are largely home made and the technology is still at the phase when liquid fuel gives way to solid fuel. Liquid fuel rockets required several hours work before a launch, making a potential launch easier to spot from space or a high flying aircraft. During the 1980s when I served at the British Embassy in Seoul the sonic boom of the SR 71 Blackbird making its mach three run at 80,000 feet over the DMZ was a familiar sound around tea time. Solid fuels shorten launch times, making launch sites harder to spot. North Korea does not need missiles to threaten Seoul, nor Inchon its port, because both are within artillery range. During late summer 1988 when the Olympic Games were hosted by Seoul the North Koreans had two thousand tanks and eighty-thousand Special Forces poised along the northern bank of the Imjin River threatening the capital and games venues. Three US carrier groups patrolled the seas around Korea.

Instead of bombs the latest crisis might be solved by sinking Tubby Kim’s one and only submarine. Already the number of failed rocket launches is starting to look a trifle suspicious! The Americans, of course, deny any involvement. Another option is to send a large raiding force to sink the submarine and dismantle the whole naval base. Dealing with lunatics like Putin and Tubby Kim is better done with lateral thought and lots of imagination rather than deploying massive firepower that makes the Chinese next door jumpy.

 Given all this, before spending £ 20 billions - probably much more - on a new version of the Vanguard Class armed with Trident, which is the present British plan, we should ask ourselves whether that's the best form of nuclear deterrent for potential dangers over the next forty years.


HMS Triumph returns from Libya - after bombarding shore targets with cruise missiles - flying the traditional skull and crossbones after being in action.



A truly independent nuclear deterrent requires its own communications and navigation systems. That demands a real British space programme. Far more thought is needed about the whole spectrum of threats and consequent targets. Any thought about the defences that missiles could encounter would offer a sensible start. As far as one can tell, from government public statements, there hasn't been very much. Perhaps I'm wrong but one can only judge from the available public material. Only when these questions are investigated will the kind of missiles, numbers and types of launch platforms become clear. For the moment, let's assume that my suspicions are justified.

One option is to prolong the life of the present Vanguard submarines beyond 2020 thereby maintaining instant response and global reach from home waters. This would also maintain the Moscow standard of target defence penetration. The declared budget of £ 20 billions could build another five Astute class submarines and complete the full planned programme of twelve Type 45 Daring class destroyers while developing a new missile system adaptable for both classes. All the design and development work for the Astute and Daring classes has been done, leaving the construction costs for the extra submarines and destroyers. Five more Astute class vessels would cost £ 5 billions and six more Daring class £ 5 billions. With twelve Astute class all capable of serving on a deterrent patrol the Royal Navy would need two or three on duty or standby during low alert periods. When a high level alert occurred the navy could send to sea seven or eight nuclear armed submarines and the same number of destroyers plus aircraft carriers with nuclear armed strike fighters. This option provides a much more versatile deterrent with significant repairs to the Royal Navy's dangerously thin grey line - anorexic grey line, frankly.


Boeing X 51 Wave Rider and NSA scramjet space aircraft project.


That leaves £ 10 billions for developing a new missile that could replace both Trident and the Tomahawk form of cruise missile. The disadvantage with cruise missiles is that they fly at sub-sonic speeds, leaving them vulnerable to strong air defences. Something much faster might solve this problem. Boeing are working on a new hypersonic missile employing ram jet technology that already has reached Mach 4.5 during trials. What is required? Probably a missile that carries a low kiloton warhead and that is extremely hard to shoot down while capable of considerable accuracy. Nuclear warheads should be exchangeable with conventional warheads. The missile could be launched from submarines, surface ships and aircraft, one that can be targeted extremely quickly, allowing a fast reaction, coupled with long range.

Looking ahead what might replace the Vanguard and Trident combination for providing global, instant response?

American ships and submarines are gradually switching to launch systems that can fire a variety of missiles and even submersible vessels from large diameter tubes known as CWLs or Common Weapon Launchers, otherwise CMCs, Common Missile Containers. A large diameter allows the tube to load and fire mixed weapons including the next generation of hypersonic cruise missiles when they come into service. Four of the new Ohio class submarines are being fitted out this way and the US Navy also has a design on the drawing board for a 12,000 tons triple role submarine. This latter boat would carry Tridents, cruise and hypersonic missiles, submersible vessels, plus seal teams and other special forces – offering a patrol submarine that can undertake deterrent and conventional patrols, tactical strike missions and special operations. Britain’s new Dreadnought class could be fitted with CWLs/CMCs thereby gaining the capability to launch hypersonic weapons at some future date. Let us suppose that before long hypersonic missiles will launch from the same CWL/CMCs that fire cruise missiles. This argues for a super Astute class submarine. Indeed, providing its ability to avoid detection matches the new Dreadnought standard, the possibility arises that super Astute Class submarines ( they could keep Dreadnought as the class name ) on rotation could perform nuclear and hypersonic deterrent patrols, tactical strikes and special operations.

The RUSI produced a sensible paper on the nuclear deterrent which included a very similar suggestion. The paper proposed that the new Trident submarines could also be designed as patrol submarines capable of deterrent duties. The paper only suggested four boats whereas I think we should build six or eight boats. Even if only four launch tubes were loaded with Trident, so long as the deterrent patrol submarines operate covertly, greater uncertainty is achieved because several submarines may carry deterrent missiles while performing conventional patrols. The arithmetic speaks for itself. Four new Dreadnought submarines each with twelve launch tubes on rotation allow just a single Dreadnought on deterrent patrol at all times. In other words, our deterrent provides twelve launch tubes twenty-four hours a day every day of the year. Three new patrol submarines armed with four Tridents each would provide the same deterrent. Suppose, however, that we build eight super Astutes, then arm all eight with a mix of missiles that in the not so distant future, includes hypersonic. With all eight super Astute class capable of serving on tactical or strategic deterrent patrols, the Royal Navy could keep two or three on rotation or standby during low alert periods. When a high level alert occurred the navy could send to sea up to five or six nuclear submarines armed with four CWLs/CMCs loaded with nuclear, hypersonic rounds or sub-sonic cruise missiles.

The declared budget of about £ 31 billions for the Dreadnought submarines would build a further eight super Astute class submarines and complete the originally planned programme of twelve Type 45 Daring class destroyers with all twelve Darings armed properly. At present they are not. America’s aegis destroyers sail with a layered missile defence that can shoot down anything from close range wave skimming missiles to ICBMs. Their long range ICBM interceptors have over a thousand miles reach. Daring’s radar and electronics can track multiple targets. What they lack is firepower against space and surface targets. Nearly all the design and development work for both the Astute and Daring classes has been done, leaving mostly the construction costs for the extra submarines and destroyers and their proper armament. Eight super Astute class vessels would cost possibly £12 billions and six more Daring class about £ 10 billions when properly armed. At a moment of crisis early shooting down the Russian ICBMs may be the optimal defence move and a dozen AA destroyers welcome. Moreover, our new aircraft carriers would gain Aegis standard protection from their Daring escorts. Tactical nuclear and conventional/or hypersonic weapons could be launched from our submarines and destroyers and by strike fighters from our new aircraft carriers. This option provides a much more versatile and elusive deterrent force with the bonus of fourteen significant additions to the Royal Navy's dangerously anorexic grey line, frankly – while leaving potential foes challenged by the core ingredient of an effective deterrent: to quote Mervyn King, radical uncertainty.


                      THIN SKY BLUE LINE    


For nearly twenty years the RAF worked on a study called FOAS - Future Offensive Air System – seeking a design to replace the Tornado GR 4 strike and reconnaissance fighter around 2017. This study was replaced by another one, DPOC, Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability until with typical government short term planning, effectively, this project also was scrubbed. DPOC gave way to SUAVE - Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicles ( Experiment ) - which resulted in the Taranis UAV - a stealth flying machine. By now you will have realised that yet again a decision was postponed and another study commissioned rather than bite the bullet and provide enough money to finish the job. This saga is all too familiar and repeats the sad history of several brilliant designs during the 1950s and 1960s - another period when Ministers took decisions for reasons based on ignorance and panic rather than informed wisdom. Each time this happens enormous damage is done to our high technology industrial base. Our industry has been in front and then tripped up by its own government.

Tornado was designed for taking off from bases in the UK and Germany to carry out long range strikes on Warsaw Pact targets – airfields, choke points, assembly areas, ports, headquarters and so forth. However, as we read every morning in our newspapers, any replacement aircraft needs the ability to operate all over the globe and its targets may range from ISIS leaders on motorbikes to North Korean hardened launch pads. This requires an aircraft that can operate from jungles, deserts, short runways at sea level and high up among mountains, hot and cold climates. FOAS and DPOC resulted in a stealth design for a two man fighter called Replica, very much on the same wavelength as similar purpose designs coming out of Lockheed and Northrop at same time. One might even call the design Stealth TSR2. Replica is stored at Warton Airfield.

Once again the government performed a classic panic and ordered the F 35 Lightning from the USA. Although this choice was made nearly fifteen years ago the FOAS series of studies continued. Put another way, the F 35 was not considered the answer to the FOAS study but more a super-sonic and stealth replacement for the Tornado that took off and landed like a Harrier. Despite this third repeat of history during forty years, eventually the SUAVE programme came up with Taranis, home designed and built, a British UAV intended for trans-continental missions. Named after the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis is a pilotless stealth aircraft for reconnaissance and air strikes. So far the programme has cost £ 150 millions, employs technology and production techniques learnt from the Typhoon programme and proves that BAE competes with the most advanced manufacturers on the globe.

This prototype’s technology is about to be shared with Dassault as the UK half of an Anglo-French venture called, wait for it, FCAS, Future Combat Air System. Dassault have a prototype called the nEURON which is a UAV and may lead to a twin engine pilotless bomber. Stealth Mirage IV? A budget of £ 120 millions has been allocated. My doubts remain. Yes, we have built a fighter with France, the Jaguar. We also built Concorde. Tornado and Typhoon were built with Germany and Italy plus Spain for the latter. France was invited to join the Typhoon project but would only accept if their Rafale was chosen! I hope we’re not going to see Taranis shoved aside for Dassault’s design and at our expense. I would like to see the Replica and Taranis projects continue while a completely new design is shared with Dassault. And if it doesn’t work out, never mind, because after Brexit, launching joint projects with EC members invites endless trouble.   

As both Replica and Taranis were the brain children of design teams at BAE, one hopes their stealth technology is entirely UK owned. At some time in the future, I could imagine an up-scaled version of Taranis, possibly UAV, possibly manned, taking to the skies. The means to penetrate heavily defended air space have been enhanced by stealth technology, pilotless aircraft, smaller drones, smart missiles and all manner of ECM techniques. Britain’s involvement in the F 35 programme is much simpler than the media implies. We and the Americans speak the same language in more ways than one. There are security problems with the technology – the Senate don’t want to share it – but those are gradually being overcome. We are building about 15% of the whole programme, increasing exports, money and jobs for decades. The programme is very reliant on American politics – just think of Donald Trump’s mutterings about the unit cost – but face was saved all round and the first squadron has arrived at RAF Lakenheath. Sharing in the production of the aircraft will give our aerospace industry wider experience of manufacturing, operating and servicing a cutting edge stealth aircraft which augers well for producing the sixth or seventh generation of combat aircraft, indeed low orbit craft.




Stealth aircraft bring dramatic technical advances yet represent old fashioned warfare. Dropping bombs and attack by cruise missiles are being superseded by a whole range of sophisticated weapons whose power has yet to be appreciated by civilians. The range of weapon systems available for use by the U.S. military extends beyond bombs, missiles and anti-missile defences. Over the last decade, America has been successful in developing entirely new weapon systems and defences which encompass hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons, electro-mechanical pulses and satellite weapons in space. It is these which give Americans a tactical and strategic advantage over others and will be their greatest guarantee of security.

This growth in non-conventional defence systems has emerged as a response to the actions and investments by America’s enemies and potential enemies. Russia, China, and even lesser powers like Iran are investing in so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) systems. Sophisticated networks of long-range missiles and sensors — backed by submarines, strike aircraft, mines, and other forces — have been designed to detect and destroy ships and aircraft ( guess whose ) that come within hundreds of miles of their territory. A2/AD danger zones already extend well into the territory and coastal waters of America’s allies like the Baltic states, Poland, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

The initial response to the spread of A2/AD deployments has been defensive; Aegis, Patriot and THAAD anti-missile batteries. As for the offensive, Army surface-to-surface ATACMS missiles, and Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) missiles, can strike enemy missile launchers, radars, and command posts on the ground. While these systems are largely effective in achieving interdiction of A2/AD attacks they were not enough. America needed to employ new technologies to extend indefensible lethality beyond deploying and destroying missiles, however sophisticated. The first step was creating a weapons system which could deliver a kinetic impact quickly and over long distances.

In 2003 the Department of Defence proposed a new research mission—conventional prompt global strike (CPGS)—that sought to provide the United States with the ability to strike targets anywhere on Earth with conventional weapons in as little as an hour, without relying on forward based forces. The most important aspect of this CPGS program was that it focussed on the delivery of conventional rather than nuclear impacts.

The Conventional Prompt Global Strike programme has developed weapons capable of performing a highly precise non-nuclear strike anywhere in the world within an hour of making the decision to attack. The development of CPGS after remotely operated drones and Aegis missiles, relied, instead, on delivering a non-explosive force to the target at a speed of almost five to ten times the speed of sound – hypersonic weapons travel at extremely high speeds, anywhere from 3,840 to 16,250 miles an hour. A hypersonic weapon launched from New York could reach Moscow in less than 40 minutes. By comparison, a Boeing 777 would make the same trip in eight and a half hours.

AHW is designed to provide a 6,000km range with 35-minutes flight and achieve less than ten metre accuracy. It delivers a conventional payload at medium and global ranges, using a hypersonic glider. The weapon’s high manoeuvrability allows it to avoid flight over third party nations when approaching the target. Its precision guidance system homes in on the target. One might argue that at such a speed, third parties would be just glad when it left their patch of sky.

The most prominent version of hypersonic weapons currently under development are ‘ boost-glide ’ weapons. These are missiles that, instead of arcing into space before coming down on their target, are fired at a shallow trajectory that barely exits the atmosphere. After reaching a hypersonic speed, the missile’s warhead is released and glides the rest of the way to its target. As the weapon begins to glide, its relatively shallow angle of approach makes it extremely difficult to track and defend against. Imagine RAF strike aircraft launching hypersonic missiles over the arc of Norwegian Sea, aimed at clusters of dachas owned by Putin’s elite, over a fine weekend in Moscow. How many minutes before impact, fifteen, ten, less? We’re back to the days of the V bombers with stand-off missiles.

Kinetic bombardment has the advantage of being able to deliver projectiles from a very high angle at a very high speed, making them extremely difficult to defend against. Projectiles at this velocity do not require explosive warheads. Using hypersonic weapons means that there is no need to deploy missiles, aircraft or other vehicles on a continuous basis; even from space platforms - other than to confuse potential foes. Although the 1979 SALT II Treaty prohibited the deployment of orbital weapons of mass destruction, it did not prohibit the deployment of conventional weapons. The system is not prohibited by either the Outer Space Treaty or the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The use of AHW weapons offers a possibility of reacting swiftly to emerging crises. Imagine a satellite spotting a North Korean nuclear missile rolling out of its cave and that sighting triggers a hypersonic warhead, destroying the nuclear missile before it can be fired. Imagine a hypersonic weapon tearing through the complex layered defences of ‘ anti-access/area denial ’ systems before Russian or Chinese missile batteries can get a good enough radar lock to shoot it down. Imagine scores of AHW missiles screaming towards Russia at Mach 20, each one a pinpoint strike hitting the Kremlin’s nuclear missiles, military radars, submarine bases. Within minutes, 80 percent of Russia’s nuclear arsenal could be destroyed without the United States launching a single nuclear weapon of its own. Russia’s ability to strike back could be eliminated or severely degraded.

Hypersonic weapons are useful for destroying A2/AD capabilities but of limited use in the battle theatre. The need for battlefield lethality has led to the concomitant development of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW). Perhaps most striking is the Electromagnetic Rail Gun which can fire a projectile with colossal speed. The projectile looks rather like a tank gun sabot round, discarding its jacket as it leaves the muzzle. The round travels at hypervelocity and has a range of a hundred miles. Again, its speed of impact is the destructive power, and the ambition is guided rounds. No explosives are involved. Only the rounds need magazine space. No wonder the US Navy would like to arm the Zumwalt destroyers with rail guns.

Laser technology has come a long way in recent years and offers a means of instant direct fire against all manner of targets. Laser weapons engage a target at the speed of light. That’s better than any Aegis missile if you want to kill attacking ICBMs. Add all this together and one begins to wonder if renewing a second strike force is the wrong way to go, rather wiser to design and build a pre-emptive CPGS force to hit the hostile launchers, missiles, satellites, command and control systems before they can attack. There is also an argument for a second strike by CPGS weapons on the hostile country’s armed forces, government and economy.  





Britain is very good at designing and building experimental technologies yet has a dismal reputation for exploiting this inventiveness by turning brilliant ideas into world beating industries. The first research on a rail gun was carried out in by BAE in Scotland. Lack of interest from the government persuaded BAE to try the Americans. Their 5.5 inch naval gun with guided rounds suffered the same fate and they now equip the DG 1000 Zumwalt destroyer. I hope Brexit will force change a la Margaret Thatcher with the Stock Exchange. Cambridge shows what’s possible with Silicon Fenn. All pure research is a gamble but the rewards can prove spectacular. Go to CERN just outside Geneva in Switzerland and visit Building One, the rather run down original block, where the world wide web was tested by Tim Berners-Lee, sending data between two small offices either side of a dingy corridor. Another CERN pure research project resulted in a spin off that is now called the Pet-scan.

We are living through a period that is very similar to the beginning of the jet age. Britain no longer has a cottage industry building aircraft. Our manufacturing is dominated by BAE through defence contracts which turned the group into an international force. Airbus at Filton and Westland at Yeovil, Rolls Royce at Derby are the only other companies with real international weight. Many famous names have been merged into a few survivors. Yet the old cottage industry allowed many ideas to surface. Let me list only the ones I saw, many as prototypes, before I was twenty-one years old – the first jet, the giant Brabazon airliner, the world’s first jet fighter, jet airliner and jet bomber, the first aircraft to exceed one thousand miles an hour, jump jets, hotol, swing wings, rocket powered fighters, long range rockets, surface to air missiles, air to air missiles, turbo-prop airliners, hovercraft, combined propeller driven helicopters to name just the few that reached the runway - and that kind of inventiveness exists today in the UK space industry where many small firms together produce £ 13.7 billions of annual turnover. Another industry where we lead is high technology where often pure research projects result in anything from a Mars lander to computer games. Britain should nurture this spirit of enterprise - not smother it at birth a third time - it's the same global drive behind new growth, the second industrial revolution and Cambridge’s version of Silicon Fenn.

The failure is a generational one; namely, a modern tendency to think small and timid rather than big and bold. Ships and aircraft cannot patrol in two places at once. Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg and Osborne’s governments were slippery crews and scepticism remains the rule when dealing with any of their claims. For example, no reliable figure was ever given by them for the number F 35 aircraft on order for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. The plan was to buy 150 of the STOVL variant. Cameron then decided to switch to the conventional naval version and wasted millions discovering the blindingly obvious, that dismantling a ski ramp and installing catapults on a near enough finished hull is rather costly. Since that fiasco, all that has been said in public is that 138 STOVL variants are planned as the MOD order. The Royal Navy will need at least 80 unless there is an arrangement for US Marine Corps squadrons to fly from the new British aircraft carriers. No doubt the politicians will declare that the F 35 force is a joint RN/RAF force and squadrons from both services are going to fly from the new carriers. That’s alright for coping with medium sized military powers, one at a time, but won’t work when dealing with Russia or China, one at a time, let alone both together. Reliable sources tell me that the new carriers are capable of operating fifty or sixty aircraft in an emergency. I would suggest that an order of 200 plus F 35 fighters is more like the number required to deter a single big military power.  

We are more than able to design and build our own advanced aircraft and spacecraft. We are lucky enough to have a high technology industry that thrives and grows. The problems stem from the two largest investors - government and banks; neither run a proper business, neither understands a leading edge industry, indeed even now, after the tax payers covered scores of billions of their losses by increasing the national debt, bankers still pay themselves huge bonuses and more absurd, still believe they should replace industry. Banks won't invest and government remains a very fickle investor. Most of the damage to our manufacturing industries has been done by banks and government. The government spends £ 25 billions a year on the EC and international aid targets plus another £ 50 billions on debt servicing. Imagine the armed forces if we spent that kind of money on our defence equipment. We need a James Dyson to take charge of defence procurement. Dyson's machines are cleaning carpets and drying people's hands all over the world.

Britain possesses a gold mine of research from the slide rule age learnt about advanced aircraft and space vehicles. Twenty years from now we may not need a nuclear deterrent to protect ourselves from super powers but we will almost certainly need a deterrent with global reach against super powers and rogue states. My own view is that a more versatile deterrent should be developed rather than another Cold War weapon. Submarines, surface ships, aircraft carriers all exist for such forces, we just need more of them, properly armed. The RAF may need a modern V bomber, pilotless or manned, stealth or space, which provides early warning and instant reaction to threats or attacks, globally. Piloted stealth aircraft, submarines and ships will probably control fleets of flying and swimming drones. All these systems should possess the ability to deliver conventional or nuclear weapons. MAD was a strategy when the only two superpowers believed there was no other posture. Flexible response replaced MAD as a first step towards a safer world.    




BAE Taranis and Replica

Very little information has been released by BAE about new projects under way. Named after the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis is a pilotless stealth aircraft for reconnaissance and air strikes with continental range. So far the programme has cost £ 150 millions. The project employs technology and production techniques learnt from the Typhoon programme and proves that BAE competes with the most advanced manufacturers on the globe. So far, only ground trials have taken place, but the aircraft is expected to fly during this year.

Replica is a piloted stealth aircraft project under development at BAE. No public information has been released about whether a prototype has even flown. The point I want to make is that Britain is very good at designing and building new technologies yet has earned a dismal record for exploiting this inventiveness and turning it into world beating industries. We are living through a period that is very similar to the beginning of the jet age. Britain no longer has a cottage industry for building aircraft. The market is dominated by BAE which has turned itself into an international force. However, the old cottage industry allowed many ideas to surface - swing wings, jump jets, hotol, rocket powered fighters, Concorde, the Brabazon, hovercraft, combined propeller driven helicopters to name just the few that reached the runway - and that kind of inventiveness exists today in the UK space industry where many small firms together produce £ 1 billion of annual turnover. Britain should nurture this spirit of enterprise - not smother it at birth a second time - it's the drive behind new growth, the industrial revolution and Silicon Valley.

The problem lies with the two large investors - government and banks; neither run a business, neither understand industry, indeed even now bankers still believe they should replace industry. Banks won't invest and government remains a very fickle investor. Most of the damage to our shipbuilding and aircraft industries has been made by banks and government.  James Dyson is the kind of person who should take over defence procurement not a journalist. Dyson's machines are cleaning carpets and drying people's hands all over the world.

Britain possesses a gold mine of research from the slide rule age about advanced aircraft and space vehicles. Twenty years from now we may not need a nuclear deterrent to protect ourselves from super powers but we will almost certainly need a deterrent with global reach against rogue states. My own view is that such a deterrent should be developed rather than another Cold War weapon. Submarines, surface ships, aircraft carriers all exist for such a force, we just need more. The RAF may need a modern V bomber. Pilotless or manned, stealth or space, which provides early warning and instant reaction to threats or attacks, globally. All these systems should possess the ability to deliver conventional or nuclear weapons. MAD was a strategy when the only two superpowers believed there was no other. Flexible response makes for a safer world.    


HM The Queen visting RAF Marham - Raven pilotless aircraft.

The future - or are passing through another 1957 moment and the pilotless aircraft will clear paths for larger manned variants?

Tornado fighters flew from Marham to Libya though turned round when the crews spotted civilians near the targets and flew all the way home without dropping their weapons. Ballistic missiles cannot do that which is an important reason for a new generation of manned aircraft.




Our present politicians are low quality leadership material yet jostle for awesome responsibility. Tony Blair launched interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq without very much forethought. When the Chilcot Enquiry was making headlines, one day I met the head of defence intelligence in the street. I asked him about the quality of the intelligence that had been available before sending the Paras into Helmand. He replied with a sigh, ‘ What intelligence?                


Today’s rather inexperienced British politicians must be made to understand that we voters pay for our deterrents - conventional and nuclear - because we trust the Queen’s Armed Forces that both deterrents will do their job well - as they have done for seventy years. The Prime Minister is a crucial working part. Deterrents must deter. And they do. So long as the potential country or madmen know that you are well armed and will reap catastrophic retribution. British voters do not want a Notting Hill set dashing for their bunkers when some lunatic attacks London with a dirty bomb, then wringing their lily white hands in sorrow before offering weasel words and salving their shallow consciences by doing precisely nothing save attending a memorial service at Saint Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. The overwhelming majority of British voters willingly paid for the V bombers and Polaris because they trusted Clement Atlee, Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan to stand firm in the face of blackmail.

All three Prime Ministers served as officers during the First World War. When the Gallipoli landings failed and ended with withdrawal, Clement Atlee was the last man but one off the beach at Suvla Bay, just in front of his general. Winston Churchill fought on the North West Frontier, took part in the cavalry charge at the Battle of Omdurman, escaped from the Boers during the South African War, made sure the fleet was ready for war in summer 1914 then led a battalion in France after his resignation from the Admiralty following the Gallipoli landings failure. Atlee admired Churchill as a strategist, even when he waded into the sea that last night at Suvla Bay. That’s why he brought the Labour Party into Churchill’s wartime government in summer 1940. Harold Macmillan was wounded three times, very severely wounded at the Somme and lay waiting in a trench all day, feigning death when German infantry passed, reading the classical playwright Aeschylus in the original Ancient Greek until he was rescued. After many operations Macmillan was still on crotches on Armistice Day.

At moments requiring strong nerves and cool courage, grave decisions are taken under stress by the weakest component in our relations with other countries, including nuclear armed potential foes - namely, inexperienced, ignorant, feeble and often cowardly politicians, sometimes barely older than my children. Could another nuclear danger like the Cuban missile crisis happen again in my lifetime? All members of the NATO alliance enjoy the right to invoke Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty - an attack on one is an attack on all - and call for help. Since the NATO alliance formed in 1949 this has occurred only once, after the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001. The crisis did not go nuclear but might have done at three identifiable moments. No recent event better illustrates the speed at which the world can change. Whoever would have thought that the first country to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty would be the United States of America and not a place in Europe? Thus the answer to my question is yes, another nuclear crisis is ever possible.

Nowadays, like the present Cabinet - most British politicians are military virgins who try to hide their ignorance when it comes to diplomacy and warfare. Over four decades those same British politicians have used our Armed Forces as a soft target for budget cuts. Unlike civilians, our Armed Forces have no union, they cannot answer back. The latest cuts went so deep that Britain's Armed Forces can barely mount a medium sized independent conventional operation. HMS Ark Royal could have beaten Qadafi's forces on her own - but she'd been sacrificed on the altars of ideology and oriental face as were no less than 80 Harrier jump jets. The RAF flew a handful of Tornado fighters from Norfolk to reach targets in Libya, refuelling two or three times both ways, brilliant airmanship but a ridiculous solution. At least the Tornado and Typhoon fighters operating over Syria are based on Cyprus.

The awesome threshold for contemplating nuclear warfare sinks lower with every further dismantling of our conventional forces; nowadays this trigger point is dangerously low. Britain doesn't usually start wars - leaving aside Tony Blair - but we're often dragged into wars because an ally calls for help. The list is global - South Korea, Malaysia two times, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Oman, Aden, Cyprus, Southern Rhodesia, Kuwait two times, Belize, the Falkland Islands, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Sierra Leone, the United States over Iraq twice and Afghanistan twice, and now Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan once more.

Until 1992 the Royal Navy deployed tactical nuclear weapons on aircraft carriers and nuclear depth charges on its surface ships. The RAF could deliver tactical nuclear weapons with its Tornado force and the Army deployed nuclear artillery rounds and short range missiles. The Americans stood down their nuclear artillery - we shared warheads with a two key system - while a Conservative government unilaterally dismantled our tactical nuclear arsenal. France maintains her flexible response because the French , correctly, believe that it makes more sense as a first deterrent act to drop a smaller weapon on a tactical target such as mass invading tanks rather than obliterate Moscow.

The French approach is more logical than Britain's. We need look no further than the European Central Plain. Britain's recent coalition government withdrew the First Armoured Division from Germany and disbanded most of its famous regiments. British politicians do not have the brains and imagination to turn this division into a reserve formation - based in Germany - instead they opened a gap along the NATO border with Russia's client, Byelorussia. The logical way to compensate for this gap is by increasing the air strike squadrons based in Germany. An inexperienced and frankly bombastic government slashed the RAF strike fighter force that already had lost its tactical nuclear weapons. Keep these obvious mistakes in mind before you trust the shallow, almost invisible former political dogsbodies who are nowadays MPs, with our nation's safety. One of the few choices Donald Trump actually got right from the start of his Administration was to pick former senior Navy, Marine and Army officers as his Defence Secretary, National Security Adviser and Director of Defence Intelligence. British voters could learn from Donald Trump.

British politicians still don’t grasp that a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction, of whatever type, remains exactly that and the host nation must understand, without the shadow of a doubt, the price will be a heavy. Unless both parties are clear about what happens in such an event, regardless of scale, there is no deterrence, because a deterrent is a political weapon first and battle weapon last. 

Despite the bellicose squawks from Russia, the main political currents flow otherwise; America and Russia advance slowly and fitfully towards nuclear disarmament with each other. Both have dismantled thousands of nuclear weapons and this programme will resume. For the moment both nations retain the means to deter each other and China. There’s still a possibility that Russia might have a leader both hostile to the democracies and mad enough to risk a nuclear exchange. There also remains a possibility of the complete opposite. China increases its military spending and this includes nuclear weaponry. China's military doctrine implies that the PLA would deploy battlefield nuclear weapons. China may keep on its present course yet one day might change as fast as South Korea did in 1987 and its people win their struggle for democracy.

Few political leaders are capable of weighing up the kind of threats and risks described above. Nor is a diplomat on a London posting as National Security Adviser, usually before being sent overseas again as an ambassador. That is not meant unkindly but just recognition of the limits of a diplomat’s experience today. And I say that having served as a diplomat in four wars and three low intensity conflicts. I also worked in the past with two recent National Security Advisers.

Gone are the days when it was quite usual that an ambassador or high commissioner had served with distinction during World War Two. Indeed, two such wartime veterans, both British High Commissioners to Canada, foresaw the ethos of the diplomatic service changing when their generation retired. Both of them, quite independently, advised me to get out because as a former officer, I would not fit the new mould.* One had won the MC as a battery commander in Normandy. His successor was the son of Winston Churchill’s doctor. As an eighteen years old Ordinary Seaman he was on watch in the aircraft lookout – crows nest – on HMS Belfast the night HMS Duke of York sank the battlecruiser Scharnhorst in what became known as the Battle of the North Cape.

The Prime Minister deserves better counsel than she has at the moment. She seems not a natural leader nor finds hard choices easy. She's doubtless conscientious though her wavering sometimes makes her look a flag in the wind. Regardless of her personality, she ought to be able to share this awesome burden with people who are removed from day-to-day government but know exactly what’s involved and precisely what they’re talking about. The current Service chiefs are always in a difficult position. Constitutionally they may give advice but must defer to the elected civil power – the Prime Minister and her Cabinet, not to mention the House of Commons. Yet the very idea that there will be time for a debate and vote in the age of hypersonic weapons is rather quaint. I think we need a committee of wise old owls, former heads of the individual services, former chiefs of the intelligence services, who assemble instantly via the Internet or as many as possible in person within a very short time.



*   I respected their judgement, took their advice, and eventually found a third career.





HMS Astute, latest nuclear attack submarine, makes her first surface.



Displacement: 7,000 tonnes surfaced, 7,800 tonnes dived. Dimensions, metres: 97.0 x 11.3 x 10.0.

Main Machinery: 1 modified Rolls-Royce PWR-2 pressurized water reactor;  2 sets GEC-Alston geared turbine drive; 1 shaft with pump jet propulsion; 27,500 shp.  2 Paxman auxiliary diesels.
Astute-class boats are powered by a reactor and fitted with a pump jet propulsor. The PWR2 reactor was developed for the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines. As a result Astute-class boats are about 30 per cent larger than previous British attack submarines, which were powered by smaller diameter reactors.

Speed, knots: Officially 29+ knots dived, unofficially probably over 32 knots, possibly faster. Dive Depth: Over 300m. Endurance: 70 days submerged

Complement: 84 with accommodation for 12 officers, 97 enlisted

Missiles: SLCM: GDC/Hughes Tomahawk (TLAM-C Block III) land attack; Tercom aided inertial navigation system (TAINS) with GPS backup; range 1,700 km (918 n miles) at 0.7 Mach; altitude 15-100 m; 318 kg shaped charge warhead.

Torpedoes: 6-21 in (533 mm) tubes. Marconi Spearfish torpedoes; active/passive homing to 65 km (35 n miles) at up to 60 kt armed with a directed energy warhead.
A total of 38 weapons can be carried for tube-launch, for example: 14 Tomahawk missiles, 24 Spearfish torpedoes.
Mines: Can lay mines.

Sonar: Type 2076 integrated suite (with Type 2074 active/passive bow array); Type 2077 HF under-ice navigational active; type probably towed passive array. EW: Racal Outfit UAP(4) intercept suite; launchers for SCAD 101 and SCAD 102 decoys and SCAD 200 sonar jammers. Radar: 1 Kelvin Hughes Type 1007 navigation/search

 It is the first Royal Navy submarine class to have a bunk for each member of the ship's company, ending the practice of 'hot bunking', whereby two sailors on opposite watches shared the same bunk.[5]

As with all submarines built for the Royal Navy the bridge fin of the Astute-class boats is specially reinforced to allow surfacing through ice caps. They can fire Tomahawk crise missiles from their launch tubes, including the new "tactical Tomahawk" currently under development. More than 39,000 acoustic tiles mask the vessel's sonar signature, giving the Astute class a better stealth quality than any other submarine previously operated by the Royal Navy. The vessel is equipped with the advanced the advanced Sonar 2076 which is an integrated passive/active search and attack sonar suite with bow, intercept, flank and towed arrays.

The Astute Combat Management System is an evolved version of the submarine command system used on other classes of submarine. The system receives data from the boat's sensors and displays real time imagery on all command consoles. The submarines also have DESO 25 high-precision echosounders, two CM010 non-hull-penetrating optronic masts which carry thermal imaging and low-light TV and colour CCD TV sensors.

The Astute-class submarines can be fitted with a dry deck shelter which allows special forces soldiers to deploy whilst the submarine is submerged.


Cold grey waters off Scotland are familiar for the nuclear submarines


Former Prime Minister, Lord Callaghan, sipping coffee in an Ottawa hotel back in April 1982, told me that during the late 1970s when Argentina previously threatened the Falklands he was offered two naval options - send surface ships rather publicly or send nuclear submarines discreetly. With a canny smile, he added,' I sent both.' 

Jim Callaghan then added, ' When you're on the phone to Downing Street this morning, Adrian, remind the lady who ordered all those ships she's sending south.'

I conveyed his message, diplomatically....




' Every man has two countries, his own and France.'

Henri de Bornier

By far the most frank - honest - appraisal of the new defence arrangement with France came from the lips of the French Ambassador who very kindly attended a meeting of a Parliamentary Select Committee. France views the deal in a much more practical and prudent way. There is no question of ' sharing ' aircraft carriers or any other such political nonsense. The arrangement concerns sharing costs for research and development and possible joint operations on a small scale where there is no, repeat no political conflict. This is very different from the flannel pushed by David Cameron which fools nobody save the gullible - Britain is no loner a world player.

Conservative voters no longer have a party that believes in their politics. Tony Blair won three elections in a row because Conservative voters stayed home on election day.

Meanwhile events across the Arab world remind that the future belongs to the nations with a strong navy - and that means balanced fleets; aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, surface ships, amphibious forces, support ships and plenty of them all. 





JCF  1

Photos courtesy the Royal Navy

The new aircraft carriers are designed to carry forty aircraft. Some thirty-six will be JCF and these would add a significant punch to a nuclear deterrent force and offer a much more flexible force multiplier against a rogue state than ballistic missiles.

Most places that are going to cause trouble for the democracies are coastal nations.




' Double the effort and square the error.'

Sir Robert Thompson describing the worst form of strategy - debating with Adrian over a Chinese meal in wartime Saigon.



Afghanistan and Libya reveal the President's working style. As one might expect from a man who is an instinctive academic, President Obama likes to examine all the evidence very carefully, take the best advice possible, before making strategic choices. This style has great merits. The USA has not rushed into recognition of the Libyan rebels. What SACEUR, Admiral Jim Stavrides calls ' flickerings ' of Al Qaeda and others signal caution. The President wanted to know the full implications of US involvement before reluctantly coming to the assistance of the European members of NATO.

The dilemma is that it all takes far too long in an emergency.

May I drop a note in the White House ideas box? Organise a regular briefing session for the President where he's taken through the known evidence about all the places and groups that are trouble - including a wide variety of the most horrendous combinations - so he's done most of the home work before the proverbial hits the fan.




The Special Relationship

USS Winston Churchill making an emergency break away from the USS Harry S Truman. She is the only ship in the US Navy permanently assigned a Royal Navy officer - she flies the Stars and Stripes and the White Ensign. Escorting astern of the carrier and her support ship is HMS Manchester. Clicking this photo leads straight to how the Special Relationship began.


HMS Daring - photo Royal Navy and BAE

    Ideas on future diplomacy and strategy found by clicking on the Canberra bomber and HMS Daring or links further below.










Anyone taking our Normandy sky tour finds it helpful to have an idea of the scale of Operation Overlord and our briefing pages are worth a glance to understand some of the events before America's entry into the Second World War. Many visitors to our website probably know much of what is explained on these pages. Please grant us your forbearance. We try to ensure that those less familiar with the background to D Day, particularly the young, start their tour with a sound conception of what was at stake thereby making their time with us all the more worthwhile and enjoyable.

Just click the Spitfire...





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