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OUR ARMED FORCES AND DEFENCE: Forces for good and the first responsibility of any Government.

By Tim Scott

TimScottPhoto.jpg‘Strong National Defences’ is one of the founding principles of The Freedom Association. It serves to protect, and is the ultimate guarantor of, our other freedoms. Post-Brexit they fit in with a ‘global Britain’ that is present across the world and as a key driver not just of British security, but influence too. 

The Conservative manifesto of 2019 committed to the NATO minimum of 2% of GDP and a spending increase of 0.5% pa over inflation. A commitment to increase Defence spending by £16 billion over the next 4 years was very welcome. This will see Defence spending increase to about £54 billion by 2024. New agencies will be created for Cyber, Artificial Intelligence and Satellites.   

With already stretched public finances, this was a big win for Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. Service Chiefs had wanted a multi-year settlement to help plan for the future.

In truth, with the National Audit Office (for the 4th year in a row) criticising the Forces planned equipment budget as over-stretched and unrealistic, more money is needed to avoid more cuts in capability. Tough choices will continue to be made, the Army wants new armoured vehicles, the RAF those new F35 Lightnings, and the Navy would like more ships. 

The Treasury had wanted a smaller increase, but it is to Boris Johnson’s credit that he has recognised the need, plus the opportunity, to create more jobs and boost the UK’s influence. A good military will help you be taken seriously in Washington, whoever is in the White House. 

Former US President, Donald Trump, was right to publicly call out the NATO freeloaders, those not matching the agreed 2% of GDP minimum spending. Germany being the worst (relative to the size of its economy). 

If there’s one institution in Britain with a positive and can-do attitude, even (in fact, especially) under difficult conditions it’s our Armed Forces. They deliver. 

RAF_Chinook_helicopter_over_the_Sahara_Desert.jpgReaders will no doubt remember how successive Governments have called on our Forces in times of national emergency (and not just in times of war or conflict). Foot and mouth disease, not enough security guards for the 2012 Olympics, floods, a dam threatening to burst, and more recently Covid vaccinations of course. 

Tony Blair famously noted that when he asked the Forces to do something, the answer was always helpful and positive. When others were asked, he’d often get a list of excuses why not. 

Numbers have been considerably reduced over the last few decades, with many regiments merging. 

Let's consider the current strengths of our Armed Forces:

Army: 79,000 (official size 82,000) full-time and 30,000 reserves

RAF and Navy are at about 32,000 strong each. 

Our spending, as a percentage of GDP, has reduced from WW2 & post-WW2 heights of 5% in the 70s, about 4% by the end of the 80s to roughly 2.5% now. Whilst few (if any?) public services have had such a decline, to be fair we are in a different place strategically now. Northern Ireland is now (mostly) at peace; when I was there we had about 10,000 troops stationed. 

The UN peacekeeping commitment in Cyprus is now manned mostly by reserve troops (not a regular battalion, as was my first posting). Gibraltar and Belize now have a small presence only, not a 600-plus strong battalion group as was. Berlin and Hong Kong no longer have any British troops. What used to be West Germany now has a small presence only, and numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan are much reduced. 

Significant overseas bases retained by us are as follows:

Cyprus: The UK's biggest overseas base with 2 infantry battalions (about 600 strong each), 3000 personnel in total, much signals and intelligence gathering and an RAF base. The latter was used to launch cruise-missile raids against chemical weapons facilities in Syria. 

Gibraltar: Navy base and a small mostly locally-recruited garrison. The smaller RAF base has no planes permanently based there and doubles up as Gib airport- with an interesting approach and landing!

Brunei: a Gurkha Battalion plus jungle warfare school (I tried to get on that course, but with true Forces sense-of-humour was sent climbing in Norway instead). 

Falkland Islands: RAF base (takes flights from the UK via Ascension island), small Army presence, total about 1000 personnel strong. A Navy offshore patrol vessel is also permanently based there. 

Estonia: forward-deployed as a NATO commitment and based around an armoured infantry battalion. Troops are rotated through on a six-month posting, with vehicles there permanently. Total nearly 1000 personnel.  

HMS Jufair on Bahrain: our first base ‘east of Suez’ in years. It was reactivated in 2015. Guarded by a platoon detached from Cyprus, it hosts a Navy frigate (currently HMS Montrose), 4 minesweepers and a supply ship. Crews are rotated through every 4 months. 

We still have about 1000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, mostly training local forces. Camp Bastion - our largest base since WW2 - is now closed. 

In Mali (West Africa) there are 3 large RAF Chinook helicopters and 250 troops supporting the French on anti-Jihadi operations. 

There are also permanently manned training facilities in Oman, Belize, Canada and Kenya. In addition to the above, there are small Navy facilities in Singapore and at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. 

As regards post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ I feel that the Navy is the most relevant service (let's not forget the Royal Marines are part of the Navy). The 2 big new Carriers are good news, they will be able to project power, influence and deterrence globally. We will be able to rotate them, so can virtually guarantee to have one always available. Frigates and Destroyers are however a bit short at only 19 in total. 

HMS Argus has just returned from 8 months in the Caribbean (where we often have a ship), but is rumoured to be retired soon with no current announcement on a replacement.  

Our replacement nuclear deterrent is now confirmed, and will be based again on 4 dedicated submarines. They are expected to enter service during the 2030s.

The intended global deployment this year of a Carrier Battle Group to the Pacific and back (COVID allowing) is to be welcomed. The Queen Elizabeth, with 2 Type 23 Frigates, 2 Type 45 Destroyers, a tanker and a supply ship will go. I gather one of the new Astute-class submarines will accompany them (however, submarine deployments are never commented on by the MoD). 

The threats world-wide are certainly not getting any the less and remain unpredictable. China in particular is flexing her muscles and seeking global influence. We must continue to work with other friendly democracies. Claims of post-Brexit isolation are wide of the mark and we remain as committed to NATO as ever. Our armed forces are forces for good and long may that continue.

Tim Scott is Treasurer of The Freedom Association and a former Captain in The Queen’s Fusiliers

 

Photo Credits: RAF Chinnok Helicopter. © Crown Copyright 2014 Photographer: SAC Andy Masson. Image 45157162.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk

HMS Queen Elizabeth: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infogibraltar/28386226189/ Creative Commons 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Licence


Captain Tim Scott highlights how much our armed forces are a force for good

In a Freedom Association webinar, held on Tuesday 2nd February, Captain Tim Scott, a former army officer and Treasurer of The Freedom Association, highlighted that our armed forces are a force for good and also highlighted the future opportunities there are for the defence and security of the UK now we have left the European Union.

Click here to watch the full webinar. 

Click here to become a member of The Freedom Association. If you are in a position help us in our work, please consider making a donation.


WATCH the Rt Hon Julian Lewis MP discuss the defence challenges facing the UK

In a Freedom Association webinar, held on Tuesday 2nd February, the Rt Hon Julian Lewis MP, a former Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, and the current Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, discussed the defence challenges facing the UK.

Click here to watch the full webinar. 

Click here to become a member of The Freedom Association. And to help us in our work, please consider making a donation.


WATCH Colonel Richard Kemp giving his assessment about the opportunities for defence policy in a post-Brexit world

In a recent Freedom Association webinar, Colonel Richard Kemp gave his assessment about the opportunities for defence policy in a post-Brexit world. 

He said that "freedom from the EU means freedom in the future, as we have had in the past, to pursue our own global defence policies in our country's interests." 

Click on the image below to watch it. 

To become a member of the The Freedom Association, click here. And click here to make a donation. 


Defence and Security: the great new post-Brexit opportunities

In the latest Freedom Association webinar, recorded on 2nd February, we looked at defence and security: the opportunities post-Brexit Britain presents, and the challenges that as a country we face.

Click HERE to watch it 

The panellists were:

Colonel Richard Kemp: Richard served as an officer in the British Army from 1977 to 2006. During his years of service, he completed eight tours of Northern Ireland. During one of those tours he was wounded in a multiple terrorist mortar attack in South Armagh. He took command of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003, although most of the last five years of Richard’s military career were spent in Downing Street as head of the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee, where he was responsible for producing assessments on the growing global terrorist problem for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Rt. Hon Julian Lewis MP: Julian is the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. Prior to that, he was Chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee from 2015 to 2019. During that period he supervised the production of more than 30 Inquiry Reports and consistently campaigned to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent submarines and to restore the Defence budget from two per cent to three per cent of GDP. Julian is a member of The Freedom Association, and has served as the Conservative Member of Parliament for New Forest East since 1997.

Tim Scott: Tim is the Treasurer of The Freedom Association and served as a Captain in The Queen’s Fusiliers. Tim was a Platoon Commander in charge of 25-30 soldiers, and served in Cyprus and Northern Ireland. Tim now works as a Business Development Manager.

The webinar was chaired by David Campbell Bannerman, our Chairman, who served on the Defence Sub-Committee at the European Parliament and also served in the Territorial Army (OTC).

To become a member of The Freedom Association, click here


Join us for our next webinar - Defence and Security: the great new post-Brexit opportunities

During our next webinar, The Freedom Association will be looking at defence and security: the opportunities post-Brexit Britain presents, and the challenges that as a country we face. It will be held on Tuesday 2nd February at 6.00 pm. Confirmed panellists are:

Colonel Richard Kemp: Richard served as an officer in the British Army from 1977 to 2006. During his years of service, he completed eight tours of Northern Ireland. During one of those tours he was wounded in a multiple terrorist mortar attack in South Armagh. He took command of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003, although most of the last five years of Richard’s military career were spent in Downing Street as head of the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee, where he was responsible for producing assessments on the growing global terrorist problem for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Rt. Hon Julian Lewis MP: Julian is the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. Prior to that, he was Chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee from 2015 to 2019. During that period he supervised the production of more than 30 Inquiry Reports and consistently campaigned to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent submarines and to restore the Defence budget from two per cent to three per cent of GDP. Julian is a member of The Freedom Association, and has served as the Conservative Member of Parliament for New Forest East since 1997.

Tim Scott: Tim is the Treasurer of The Freedom Association and served as a Captain in The Queen’s Fusiliers. Tim was a Platoon Commander in charge of 25-30 soldiers, and served in Cyprus and Northern Ireland. Tim now works as a Business Development Manager.

The webinar will be chaired by David Cambell Bannerman, our Chairman, who served on the Defence Sub-Committee at the European Parliament and also served in the Territorial Army (OTC).

Places are limited. Click here to register.


We should be concerned with the government's view on EU security

Prime Minister Theresa May signalled her desire for continued security cooperation with the EU in her Florence Speech. She has subsequently built on that desire in numerous speeches, including in Munich and at the Mansion House in London. But the UK government's willingness to coordinate with the EU should not be blind. Its response to a recent petition signed by over 14,000 people raises questions about whether the Government is willing to sacrifice our freedom in order to follow the EU's agenda. 

Read more