General Richards, Sir, Go Get Your Chequebook

A couple of years ago Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff made a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Future Conflict and its Prevention: People and the Information Age. It was a good smart speech–we have linked to it on KOW before and I have quoted parts of it many times in papers and lectures. There’s a line in there which I know caused a fair bit of consternation here and there–though I agree with it:

If one equips more for this type of conflict [i.e., 'unconventional'] while significantly reducing investment in higher-end war-fighting capability, suddenly one can buy an impressive amount of ‘kit’. Whilst, as you will hear, I am emphatically not advocating getting rid of all such equipment, one can buy a lot of UAVs or Tucano aircraft for the cost of a few JSF and heavy tanks.

Such ‘bang for for buck’ arguments have a lot of resonance now that we are, um, nearly broke. To be sure, I don’t think the government will be contemplating purchases like two big aircraft carriers (apparently one more than we can afford) without working airplanes (that we will struggle to pay for) any time in the near future.

Yeah, Baby. Now you’ve got my attention.

But, you know, life’s funny–fate closes one door and opens another. It is with interest, then, that I read in the New York Times that in Burma they have found literally binders of Spitfires (ok, crates–maybe 140 of them) in mint condition. Mr Crisis? Meet Mr Opportunity. I mean Tucano shmucano. Spitfires! Buy ‘em all!

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5 thoughts on “General Richards, Sir, Go Get Your Chequebook

  1. Given air superiority, which is the case in Afghanistan, a Spitfire would perform perfectly fine in a close air support role. Replacement parts could likely be machined for less than the cost of parts for the F-35.

  2. Paul Withers says:

    The sound of the Merlin engine over the 21st Century Battlefield! A fantastic idea David! With the added benefit that it is still an aircraft type that is in service with the RAF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight), we might be able to keep it flying. Now then, just the small problem of integrating it operationally with modern C4ISR and weapons systems…

    Perhaps keeping it simple has some merits

  3. SM says:

    People arguing for the latest in high-tech vehicles do often fail to mention that older, cheaper equipment can be just as useful in many roles. (See the attempts to convince the Canadian public that we really need the F-35). The request for bids to equip a Spitfire with modern electronics would be interesting to read …

  4. CY says:

    Your addition to General Richards quote (the “i.e., ‘unconventional’”) is incorrect. Unconventional warfare, which Gen. Richards was not referring to, is that which involves NBCD. In his speech, he is clearly referring to the need to conduct either warfare based upon counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism, or both. Typically, this is considered irregular warfare.
    It is confusing as one can face an unconventional threat and be talking about an insurgent or terrorist. But when labeling warfare, the distinction is clear. Unconventional warfare is that which involves NBCD.

  5. Pat says:

    Sorry, but can’t agree with CY regarding “NBCD” as a pre-requisite for “unconventional warfare”. The statement flies in the face of everything I’ve read, experienced, discussed and taught over recent years. A couple of definitions:

    From uslegal.com: Unconventional warfare is a form of warfare to destabilize an enemy in such ways that can even disable the enemy to continue making war. Unconventional warfare is based on using creative, innovative, and stealthy tactics which makes the enemy unable to know what happens next. Those who use unconventional warfare use a variety of tactics to torture enemy troops. They also undermine quality of life for civilians by making life more dangerous, and, encouraging the curtailment of civil liberties. The use of intimidation and coercion is also common in unconventional warfare.

    Unconventional warfare is a spectrum of military and paramilitary operations, normally of long duration, predominantly conducted through, with, or by indigenous or surrogate forces. It includes guerrilla warfare, subversion, sabotage, intelligence activities, and unconventional assisted recovery. The use of intimidation and coercion is also common in unconventional warfare.

    From Coalition & Irregular Warfare Center of Excellence (CIWC). Definition: Unconventional Warfare consists of activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary and guerrilla force in a denied area.

    Definition: Irregular War. This includes a range of activities such as counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism and the conduct of
    unconventional warfare.

    While accepting that “NBCD” may be employed (dirty bombs?) in various unconventional scenarios, it’s not a requirement…..

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