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It's about time the Conservatives piped up about defence. The Army by and large are conservative but they haven't had much attention from the Tories recently.

If anyone wants to know what our soldiers are thinking look at the Army Rumour Service (arrse.co.uk) weblog.It can be very funny but the average soldiers' contempt for politicians is palpable.

A great site Malcolm!

As an Officer Cadet I also get access to ArmyNet which has some good insider info.

We need to prove that we would be better. Lots of things are needed-transport helos, better boots and guns, aircraft carriers.

What we get are Eurofighters and obsolete destroyers.

We need to identify how we would spend the money better-and tell people.

Too right. The poor buggers in the armed forces have been denied decent equipment for the best part of 40 years, and now it's getting silly. We should either fund them adequately, or have a smaller but properly equipped military.

What's particularly appalling is that so much of this is entirely predictable - sending Land Rovers into areas where they will be repeatedly bombed? Essentially that's little more than using a domestic car to do a military job, thus the inevitable deaths.

We also need to say how we'd improve the defence equipment procurement process. (Another long-standing problem.) Millions are still being wasted on project overruns and cancellations.

The armed forces are one of the few government controlled things that really operate professionally these days.
Nulab doesn't really support them properly; we should do better, especially as, I think, two tory MPs (Desmond Swayne being one) actually saw active service in Iraq and can therefore interpret from first-hand experience what support is needed.
Mr Deputy Editor, can you quote exactly what Gordon Brown promised and when, so we can remind him from time to time?

When it comes to public services the armed forces are always forgotten unless they're in the middle of fighting a war. They don't go on strike even though the lower ranks aren't paid that well. Of all the public services they carry out the most dangerous and important duty - defending the realm (although that isn't to deny that they can be misused).

We also need to ask ourselves what our military is for.Some of the questions we need to ask ourselves include: Do we need the enormous hitting power of Trident? What (if any ) nuclear deterent should we have and should it be British? Do we need as much armour as we have?It's useful in a conventional war but useless against terrorists. What use are our German bases? Does the RAF need so many fighters and/or bombers?What is the role of the Royal Navy? Do we need aircraft carriers? Do we need so many 'top brass'? Do we buy equipment to keep British armaments factories in work or are the needs of our servicemen paramount? It has been the failure to answer questions such as these that have led to the current sorry state of affairs where our armed forces are struggling to carry out the tasks given it by our 'armchair warrior' of a PM.

Extending on Malcolm's last point, I believe that the armed forces have tended to prefer American equipment but have had to purchase European equipment for political reasons. How about allowing the army to decide their own policy on what weapons they get and where from (within limits of course).

Replying to malcolm August 15, 2006 at 12:07.

Taking a couple of your points in turn. IMO all too many 'Strategic Defence Reviews' have been dressed-up Treasury-driven cuts exercises. Are you old enough to remember Dennis Healy and John Nott?

If you don't buy British where possible, you lose the expertise. The Americans are already refusing us vital high-tech info because they fear it will leak to China via our European 'partners'. Where do you go to buy half-decent military hardware if the Americans won't sell and you don't have the domestic capability? Europe (sick joke)? Israel? Russia?

As a fully paid-up armchair warrior, in my opinion if you don't have aircraft carriers with shipborne conventional attack and Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, you don't have a Navy, you have a coastal defence force. Don't you remember the Falklands campaign? In order to bomb Stanley's runway, we were reduced to sending three ageing Vulcan bombers on the verge of retirement from Acension Island, that depended on being refuelled 17 times by equally aged Victor tankers!!! We had to put AEW radar on Sea King helicopters, for goodness' sake! Talk about Heath Robinson.

Richard@12:24. I think that you make a good point. Our armed forces are badly paid, but often end up buying certain personal equipment themselves.

"he might want to reinforce Conservative support for the forces" . Sam, I had hoped his visit to Afghanistan might do that, but I think that the media seem to have sent every foreign correspondent to Lebanon and Israel. Maybe I missed it but I can't remember the last time I saw a journalist send a TV report from either Afghanistan or Iraq highlighting the situation for British troops!
Considering the present situation in Afghanistan, and the Defence committee comment about the operation being run on a "shoestring". I had hoped to see some media attention.

Jabberwock makes a good point: often the biggest enemy our armed forces have to fight is the Treasury. The second is probably their own command structure (always preparing for the last war etc etc). I think there's an old Navy joke from the Cold War along the lines that our current enemy is Russia, our traditional enemy is France, but our perpetual enemy is the Admiralty.

Here's the problem: how do you conduct a much-needed review to scope the needs and objectives of the armed forces for the 21st Century, and overhaul procurement so that we get the best weaponry for our money, without letting in the accountants or decimating British industry?

Answers on a postcard, please, to the MOD.

What is the role of the Royal Navy?

I've been wondering that about the RAF recently - why is it still a seperate entity? We are neither defending our skies nor firestorming other people's anymore.

Defense spending has never been a popular option. When the nation is at peace it feels like paying your insurance premium, expenditure with no visible return. Once the bullets start to fly it is too late to increase spending.

The big problem that the armed forces have is that they are an invisible force. Many are stationed overseas, they are rarely if ever seen in uniform and almost no one has any idea what they actually do. Spending money on them is not, therefore, a vote winner, many on the left/center left blame the armed forces for the conflicts that politicians commit them to.

Governments of both parties have been guilty of overlooking and under funding the forces but the current government has taken it to a new level. This is made worse by an obsession with headline grabbing deployments with little understanding of the consequences. The situation in Afghanistan is a classic example.

The Russian poured brigades of troops into the area and had little success, Blair seemed to think that a battlegroup+ would be enough. Send in the Paras, duff up the baddies, home for tea and medles. Pure folly! And it is the soldiers of the 3Para battlegroup who are paying for Blair’s ego with their lives. Our airborne forces are some of the toughest and most effective soldiers in the world, but they are not miracle workers and they are not bullet proof.

As a party we need to stand up and have the guts to say “enough is enough”. Fund the forces properly, stop wasting billions on unworkable and unwanted technology projects and stop writing political cheques with other people’s lives.

I merely posed the questions Jabberwock.It will take people with a hell of a lot more knowledge than I to answer them.
Sadly our party does not have a great reputation with the forces for managing the MOD that well.Some ministers are not interested in the role or see it as a stepping stone to greater things (Michael Portillo) and many people have still not forgiven us for 'Options for Change'which I think was overseen by Tom King.
On the rumour mill I did hear that Fox was diappointed to be given Defence but that he is now enjoying his role and developing good ideas.I hope in the days to come he will prove to be the radical but competent minister I believe him to be.

Well no change there then from New Labour. Gordon has a habit of promising loads of dosh then reneging.
It is a sad fact that New Labour for all the rhetoric are anti armed forces, it goes deep into their physche and stems from the CND days.
So many of the labourites have always taken the view that it would be better if this country where ruled from elsewhere, in the old days, Moscow, now Brussels/Strasbourg. These people are not interested in the external defence of the country, they are firmly convinced of the need to socially re-engineer the country so that they can stay in power for ever. Funding the armed forces is a waste in their eyes as we can always rely on the Dutch or Belgium army to defend us.
Cameron needs to speak out and take the high moral ground, on providing the armed forces with the right kit to do the job that a vainglorious PM has sent them on. And ensure that he takes no nonsense about what previous Conservatives did 9 years ago as irrevalent today.

David Belchamber, see this Times article in March for some details.

James Cleverly at 1402

Paying with their lives both in the Afghan and Iraqi theatres. The biggest shortfall is in helicopter airlift capacity which is hindering rapid deployment / reinforcement, evacuation of casualties and even distribution of rations. Result - the paras have had to withdraw into larger groupings. In order to find two more Chinooks they had to withdraw one from the Falklands and cannibalise another in the UK. There ARE no others.

They are also short of land vehicles with proper armour protection while a British company's (BAe) S African subsidiary has the vehicles which the Canadians are actually using in Afghanistan. And today we learn of cuts to other procurement projects.

"order to bomb Stanley's runway, we were reduced to sending three ageing Vulcan bombers on the verge of retirement from Acension Island, that depended on being refuelled 17 times by equally aged Victor tankers!!!"

What's really daft is that the above is not even the most absurd part of the story :-) The Vulcans were so shambolically maintained that in the rush to prepare them the radar jammers had to be fixed up using parts from a beer brewing kit......

Then again, it was the longest bombing run in history, so pretty impressive nevertheless. What really was dreadful was the lack of adequate air defences in the actual landings - the Argentinean toy aircraft were able to fly in almost unmolested and bomb the ships at harbour. Utterly hopeless, as if WWII lessons had never be learned.

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