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Britain’s tin-ear ’tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific

Written By: - Date published: 5:39 pm, March 18th, 2021 - 14 comments
Categories: boris johnson, China, colonialism, defence, Disarmament, uk politics, uncategorized - Tags:

In its new integrated defence and foreign policy strategy, Britain intends  to raise its nuclear warheads on Trident from 180 to 240. What a waste. It also intends to “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific, sending the New HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier here later in the year to give a message to China. It should read its history.

Spending money on more nuclear warheads is a colossal waste, at time when the pay increase on offer for nurses who have slogged their way through UK’s covid disaster is a measly 1% rise. It also puts Britain in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations.

Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is also a colossal waste of money. In the age of missiles, aircraft carriers are just bigger targets. It will deploy with the new F-35B vertical take-off fighter, another waste of money as it too is a clunker. They will be flown by US Marine pilots, showing that this deployment isn’t even something the Royal Navy can manage on its own.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the Royal Navy’s brand new flagship.  It is first of a class, the second of which is the HMS Prince of Wales, in the water but not yet fully up to speed. This is where the history comes in. The last time the Royal Navy sent a brand-new battleship named HMS Prince of Wales to the Indo-Pacific was to Singapore in 1942. It was sunk just after it arrived  by Japanese torpedo-bombers along with the battle-cruiser HMS Repulse. The admiral in command, Sir Tom Phillips, did not think the Japanese planes had sufficient range to fly from Indo-China.

The surrender of Singapore was the final nail in the coffin of the British Empire. It was a strategic blunder of epic proportions, made worse by incompetence on a colossal scale. My uncle was killed there flying an obsolete biplane against Zeros in a desperate daylight raid from which more than half of those sent out did not return.

Previous tilts to the Indo-Pacific by the Royal Navy took place in the nineteenth-century opium wars, where their superior gunnery forced the Qing empire to accept opium in lieu of silver to pay for Chinese silks and ceramics. The Chinese were forced to cede Hong Kong to Britain in the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing.

The Chinese have learnt the lesson – never again. Their carrier-killer missiles will be more than a match for HMS Queen Elizabeth today.

But you have to wonder what the strategists in London are thinking. How do they think other countries in Asia as well as the Chinese are going to perceive this crude attempt at neo-imperial overreach. The world is changing fast and sea-power is not what it used to be centuries ago.

Bluff and bluster is BoJo’s trademark but Britannia no longer rules the waves.

 

 

14 comments on “Britain’s tin-ear ’tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific ”

  1. Stuart Munro 1

    It does seem a bit odd – England's interests lying more with Europe than in this hemisphere. But the evident cooperation with the US (much more palatable without Trump) became almost inevitable with Brexit, and Europe turning away from L'Albion Perfide. As a shakedown voyage though, it's probably a very heathy exercise, and though the quality of Chinese antishipping missiles is still to be determined, demonstrations and counter demonstrations seem to be happening already. The UK will want to be part of the group developing countermeasures.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    "…In the age of missiles, aircraft carriers are just bigger targets. It will deploy with the new F-35B vertical take-off fighter, another waste of money as it too is a clunker…"

    It is good to know the Standard is blessed with such an astute military expert.

    • arkie 2.1

      But the Air Force and Lockheed baked failure into the F-35’s very concept. “They tried to make the F-35 do too much,” said Dan Grazier, an analyst with the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C.

      There’s a small-wing version for land-based operations, a big-wing version for the Navy’s catapult-equipped aircraft carriers and, for the small-deck assault ships the Marines ride in, a vertical-landing model with a downward-blasting lift engine.

      The complexity added cost. Rising costs imposed delays. Delays gave developers more time to add yet more complexity to the design. Those additions added more cost. Those costs resulted in more delays. So on and so forth.

      Fifteen years after the F-35’s first flight, the Air Force has just 250 of the jets. Now the service is signaling possible cuts to the program. It’s not for no reason that Brown has begun characterizing the F-35 as a boutique, high-end fighter in the class of the F-22. The Air Force ended F-22 production after completing just 195 copies.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2021/02/23/the-us-air-force-just-admitted-the-f-35-stealth-fighter-has-failed/?sh=b6c086f1b169

      • McFlock 2.1.1

        David Axe has been following the F35 for years at a variety of media platforms. He has some really interesting stuff.

        That link really brings home how far the F35 has wandered from its original requirements.

        It does have some excellent features in addition to its low observability. The integrated sensor suite is apparently far superior to any of the pods that can be clipped onto the hardpoint of a cheaper aircraft, and that helps it be an excellent scout for air and ground support operations. But it's not a replacement for an A10, nor an F16/18. It's too fragile and doesn't have anough brrrrt for the former, and would need an arsenal aircraft to hold its own in a large-scale air battle – too many arseholes, too few missiles.

        Like, it's not useless by any means. But it's highly expensive, so the USAF is trying to say it can do every job. It just ain't so.

        • arkie 2.1.1.1

          A-10 is a fantastic aircraft design, the continued upgrades has meant a 48 year service record with no end date as yet. It's hard to see an effective replacement in the F-35.

          • McFlock 2.1.1.1.1

            The AF theory is that the F35 can do the same job by dropping bombs from 30k feet. That's not an idea supported by the army – but then the army can't develop an A10 replacement because they don't do fixed wing aircraft (a compromise from the early days of helicopters). And before anyone says "super tucano or equivalent", the super tucano could barely manage the weight of the A10's cannon and its ammunition. Different league entirely.

            But there was an exercise a few years ago (this might be an Axe report too) where it was a simulated SAR in enemy territory. The CAS was A10s and an F35, and what happened was the F35 took a coordinating role with its sensors, rather than a direct engagement role. Apparently made everything go much more smoothly, seeing "enemy" concentrations building up and being able to deploy the A10s more closely to friendlies, while coordinating the rescue elements to move in from a safer route.

            • arkie 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Yeah I can see that, CAS can only be as effective as the information they can take in and act on, a small number of F35s in A-10 squadrons might be the 'Next Generation' they've been chasing, would keep costs down somewhat haha.

              I think the whole multi-role quest is a bust, compromises must be made and the end product might be capable but will almost always be a master-of-none. But then I'm certainly no military expert.

              • McFlock

                Me neither. But when you're studying foreign policy in 2001, things tend to overlap with military policies in semester 2 lol…

  3. McFlock 3

    If Chinese missiles made carriers obsolete, the Chinese government wouldn't be building its own carrier capabilities.

    But the carrier cruise is about domestic politics more than geopolitics. Brexit brought back the empire upon which the sun never sets, any economic woe is because of covid. That sort of BS.

  4. Siobhan 4

    Well, does this mean our kiwisaver funds are going to be doing extra well till the bombs drop?

    And given Jacindas choice to 'not know' and not opt for an ethical investment fund…are we having a sort of inverse "Nuclear-Free Moment"

    "A KiwiSaver fund owned by the New Zealand stock exchange operator was the biggest investor in companies involved in manufacturing nuclear weapons, a survey shows."

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/124567391/nzxowned-kiwisaver-provider-is-the-biggest-nuclear-investor

  5. GreenBus 5

    …and what would happen if China sunk, or just attacked this new pride of the Royal Navy? WW3 probably. China would know this and would China be that reckless? Doubt it. Meanwhile a show of force alongside the US and others may cause some head scratching in the CPP. The US has 14 of these things. If just 1 of these turned up at your door, with their immense firepower and fighters/bombers, you would have to be more than a little worried.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 5.1

      If just 1 of these turned up at your door, with their immense firepower and fighters/bombers, you would have to be more than a little worried.

      I'd be very worried indeed, as I live some 35 km inland.

      • GreenBus 5.1.1

        LOL!

        So at Mach 2 a fighter could be delivering the mail in 24.01 seconds.

        Cheers.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 5.1.1.1

          Bring it on! I've almost forgotten what NZ's 'six days a week' postal delivery service (last 'seen' in 2015) was like.

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