I have decided to act in the public interest and liberate from its imprisonment behind the Murdoch paywall the letter to the Times sent by retired panjandrums of the Royal Navy protesting against the Coalition's proposed cuts. This is their equivalent of storming the headquarters of the Tory Party. Their argument that it is irrational to rid Blighty of its Harrier Jump Jets in favour of the ill-named Tornado seems to be so authoritative a demolition of the Coalition's policy it is surely unlikely that any minister or Prime Minister will be able to defend it. See also Mary Kaldor. When it comes to the Falklands hower.... well, I'll try and write a post about that soon.
The Times, Letters to the Editor, 10 November 2010
Harrier cuts harm national interest
Sir, We believe the Prime Minister has been badly advised to scrap the Harrier force and HMS Ark Royal and to rely entirely upon Tornado. The following are verifiable facts about the least comprehensible and most dangerous of the defence cuts just announced.
In respect of Afghanistan: Harrier could still use Kandahar runway if half of it were blocked by Taleban action; can use any make-shift landing site; has a response time of less than 10 minutes, as against 30; performs better in hot weather; requires fewer ground crew; and has better availability.
Harrier can deliver close air support of ground forces anywhere from the existing carriers; can destroy surface units with Maverick, rockets and smart bombs; has nearly twice as many airframes provided with precision-guided ground attack capability; will not require a further £1.4 billion to re-engine in 2014 and can remain in service until 2023 without significant investment.
The existing Tornado force will cost, over ten years, seven times as much to keep in service as Harrier. Was the recent exercise not supposed to save money?
In respect of the newly valuable Falklands and their oilfields, because of these and other cuts for the next ten years at least, Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss of Singapore — one from which British prestige, let alone the Administration in power at the time, might never recover.
The decision to axe the entire Harrier force is strategically and financially perverse. The Government has. in effect, declared a new "ten-year rule" that assumes Britain will have warning time to rebuild to face a threat. The last Treasury-driven "ten-year rule" in the 1930s nearly cost us our freedom, faced with Hitler.
We believe that these decisions should be rescinded in the over-riding national interest, before it is too late.
ADMIRAL LORD WEST OF SPITHEAD; ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET SIR JULIAN OSWALD; VICE-ADMIRAL SIR JEREMY BLACKHAM; VICE-ADMIRAL JOHN MCANALLY; MAJOR-GENERAL JULIAN THOMPSON