October 10, 2013

Periscope view of HMS Illustrious, courtesy HMCS Corner Brook

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:55

Submariners love other ships … as potential targets:

In 2007 HMCS Corner Brook, a diesel-electric submarine of the Canadian navy, sneaked up on Illustrious during an exercise in the Atlantic.

HMS Illustrious in HMCS Corner Brook's periscopeTo prove they could have sunk the carrier, Corner Brook’s crew snapped a photo through the periscope — and the Canadian navy helpfully published it. “The picture represents hard evidence that the submarine was well within attack parameters and would have been successful in an attack,” boasted Cmdr. Luc Cassivi, commander of the Canadian submarine division.

Corner Brook, a former British submarine displacing only 2,400 tons, is no more capable than Dallas — and probably much less so once crew training is taken into account. American submariners spend far more time at sea than their Canadian counterparts.

Dallas and Corner Brook scored their simulated carrier kills against allied warships in the context of a scripted exercise. But many other close encounters between subs and flattops have occurred between rival nations deep at sea, in a usually bloodless duel that is nevertheless deadly serious.

QotD: Micro-economics with a Chinese twist

Filed under: China, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:53

China’s great economic renaissance began when Deng Xiaoping said that creating a modern China required “opening and reform.” Xiaoping hedged on the precise definition of “opening and reform.” In 1989 he sent tanks and infantry to Tiananmen Square to demonstrate that the process had severe limitations.

But micro-economic innovation? Xiaoping sought a micro-economic revolution. Xiaoping wanted Chinese entrepreneurs to fulfill what economist Joseph Schumpeter dubbed the entrepreneur’s function: “to reform or revolutionize the pattern of production.” The micro-economic opportunity, however, came with the Tiananmen restriction: The Party must remain supreme.

China’s first-generation entrepreneurs of micro-economic innovators pulled it off. In 1980 China had a GDP of about $190 billion. In 1998, the year after Xiaoping died, China’s GDP topped $1 trillion. In 2013 China has the world’s second largest economy, with a GDP of over $7 trillion.

Wei Gu is The Wall Street Journal‘s “China Wealth and Luxury editor” — and in 1980 who’d have predicted that job? In a recent article titled “China’s Second-Generation Entrepreneurs A Different Breed,” Gu reported that the “foreign educated” children of Chinese entrepreneurs are not enthralled with “the endless wining and dining of government officials that is necessary to do business in China.” In China, since personal whim still trumps law, businesspeople must constantly curry favor with government officials. It amounts to micro-economic lobbying.

Austin Bay, “China’s Toughest Economic Problem Is Political”, Strategy Page, 2013-10-8

Defending an independent Scotland

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:33

Sir Humphrey has read the British Ministry of Defence paper on Scottish options in a post-independence scenario and has a few thoughts:

The paper nicely highlights the reality that you cannot slice up defence assets and turn them into a coherent military force – ORBATs may look impressive, but dividing them into something more meaningful is particularly difficult.

Additionally the paper highlights the issue of how one takes a world class military, optimised for power projection abroad, and then carves off a smaller chunk of it to focus on missions for which it was not designed. For instance, the idea that Scotland would keep running a modern air force built around Typhoon seems interesting, but where does the pilot training pipeline come from, how is this affordable and what happens when the Eurofighter nations move to upgrade their aircraft? Is it truly feasible to imagine a relatively small Scottish Defence Force being able to shoulder the burden of paying the costs of sustaining an increasingly obsolescent Typhoon fleet, which is no longer at the same standard as its multi-national peers?

The problem facing a newly independent Scotland seems to be that the UK military assets are simply not appropriate for what will be a low level defence force in a relatively small country. Stripped of the recruiting, support and logistical contracts and pipeline that have sustained the equipment, one can imagine a future Scottish Defence Force burdened down with legacy equipment which requires expensive training and support to run properly, and which is too expensive to meet what will be a very small budget.

One could almost argue that rather than take much UK military equipment, it would be more sensible for Scotland to instead take a large cash payment and procure a low level defence force (with UK forces providing sovereignty assurance in the interim) which better meets their specific needs. So, procurement of low level OPVs, simple vehicles and so on – in other words start from scratch with something that is feasible, and not take on equipment that is designed for a very different role.

Update: His look at the SNP’s proposed military structure from last year is also worth reading:

At the moment, the current policy seems to be that on separation, those army regiments deemed Scottish will become part of the SDF. Similarly, an equivalent amount of manpower, roughly 1/8th of all UK military assets and personnel will be offered to the Scottish Government. In broad-brush terms, this leads to an Army of about 10,000 troops, 5,000 air force and 4000 navy/marines (say 19,000 overall).

Here is where the fun really starts. Firstly, the armed forces do not neatly break into component parts which can be divided up. An infantry battalion may have 650 people on its strength, but there may be many more from supporting arms such as REME and so on who will be there to maintain and support weapons and equipment. Do the SNP want to take the supporting arms too?

Secondly — how will they attribute manpower against specialisations — the RN for instance has a deeply specialised manpower structure, made up of composite branches – it’s not just a mixy blob of 30,000 sailors looking good and drinking rum prior to catching the eye of hairy women with tattoos, it’s a collection of branches and capabilities.


The author knows relatively few individuals who would willingly wish to transfer to any SDF. Most of the Scots personnel he knows are immensely proud of being Scottish, but are also equally proud of belonging to something much greater in the form of HM Armed Forces. They relish the challenge offered by soldiering in a military that has a track record for being employed aggressively overseas. How many of them will willingly want to transfer to a SDF that is unlikely to be used in any similar manner?

The SDF is going to have a challenging initial few years — it will inherit people at all levels, but probably not enough for any one role. It’s going to take time to grow personnel into the jobs required of them, and even if it started recruiting on the day of independence, it would still take 5-10 years to grow the critical mass of SNCOs and junior officers needed to manage and lead the organisation.

Replacing the Sea King – a British alternative

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:21

At Think Defence, Fedaykin wonders if the best solution for the Royal Canadian Navy’s Sea King helicopter might just be the Merlin which is in Royal Navy service:

With the Canadian government threatening to cancel the CH-148 contract, the sending of team to inspect Royal Navy Merlin is an interesting development.

Whilst the Merlin has developed a bit of a reputation for being fragile and expensive to maintain it has nevertheless seen many years of service now and is finally catching its second wind of maturity.

The Royal Navy is upgrading 30 Merlin from HM1 to HM2 standard leaving 8 airframes unchanged. Initially, thinking was these 8 spare airframes would probably form part of Crowsnest getting a permanent AEW fit. Sensibly (in my opinion) the MOD and navy has decided that Crowsnest will instead be a quick fit solution to any of the HM2 fleet ensuring that we don’t end up with “fleets within fleets”.

That leaves 8 standard HM1 going spare and possibly a home for them.

If the Canadian government was to suck up the embarrassment they could buy the AW Merlin HM2 with the 8 HM1 being given to them at a throw away price as a hot swap to get them going.

Once new build HM2 become available off the line the older HM1 in Canadian service can be upgraded to the common standard. The second article does clearly state the Canadian team did look at the HM1 in particular so is a happy solution close to hand.

The main barrier as it stands is the Omni-shambles of the Victoria class procurement, the Canadian public is not exactly happy about that disaster despite a significant proportion of blame being laid at their own door.

The UK does not do enough in terms of defence co-operation with Canada, New Zealand and Australia and there is much we can learn from each other.

H/T to Tony Prudori for the link.

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