There are serious doubts about the affordability of the Ministry of Defence’s equipment plan, according to the Defence Committee report, Gambling on ‘Efficiency’: Defence Acquisition and Procurement.

Committee chairman, Dr Julian Lewis MP, says:

“It is extremely doubtful that the MoD can generate even more efficiencies from within its already stretched budget on the scale required to deliver its equipment plan. This will inevitably lead either to a reduction in the numbers of ships, aircraft and vehicles or to even greater delays in their acquisition.”

The affordability of the equipment plan (to design, build or buy new ships, aircraft and combat vehicles) rests on a presumption of £7.3 billion of ‘efficiency savings’ that have yet to be achieved say the Defence Select Committee.

In particular, the report expresses concerns that:

  • While there is much talk of reform and transformation of defence acquisition and procurement, an explanation is required of the criteria for assessing such progress and a timetable is needed for the achievement of clearly specified goals.
  • The affordability of the equipment plan rests on £7.3 billion of theoretical ‘efficiency savings’, in addition to the realisation of £7.1 billion of previously announced savings, but it is extremely doubtful that the MoD can generate efficiencies on the scale required to deliver the equipment plan or detail how it would proceed to do so;
  • Though the SSRO has helped the MoD to realise some savings for the taxpayer, its limited scope and powers and the lack of clarity regarding its relationship with the MoD, all serve to restrict the SSRO’s ability to be an effective regulator. We recommend that the SSRO be given the ability to inspect all single source contracts, save for exceptional circumstances.

The report also calls for an emphasis on the importance of sustained production in UK defence manufacturing, in order to maintain a successful and high-skilled workforce and to preserve our sovereign defence manufacturing capabilities. The report goes on to recommend that a new defence industrial policy should be underpinned by the following:

  • A broader definition of ‘value for money’ that incorporates the positive impact of major defence projects on local economies, skills and employment levels by adopting new Government procurement guidelines so that ‘local value’ can be taken into account;
  • An emphasis on the importance of a regular drumbeat of activity [i.e. a sustained production line of defence manufacturing in the UK] to sustaining a successful and high-skilled workforce and to maintain the UK’s sovereign defence manufacturing capabilities; and
  • Increased investment in research and development, with a commitment by the Government to spend at least 2% of the MoD’s budget on science and technology.

Read the full report here.


  1. i dont think it helped moving Trident and looking after it into the defence budget,even though Trident is part of our defence,it does take a massive chunk of the budget away the same with war pensions and also these daft abuse compensation claims…take them away from the defence budget it would probably save 50 billion plus which could then be used for manpower and equipment that is needed…
    just my opinion mind….

    • Agreed Andy – Osborne’s little gift to the MoD of paying for the nuclear deterrent chews up a full 8% of the defence budget. As you point out the budget also has to pay for pensions etc that weren’t included before AND find efficiency savings (ie cuts) elsewhere to fund new equipment, leaves not a whole lot left in the kitty……

      I am from Northern Ireland but live in the US. The contrast between how funding for the US Forces is made available vs the utter penny pinching mentality of HMG is shocking!!! Not that the US doesn’t have it issues in paying for defence but the military always gets what it needs (not always want it wants). Ships don’t go to sea without air-air missiles as the RN had to over Libya, the USN would never dream of eliminating their entire ASM inventory as we were about to, nor would they entertain utterly insane ‘capability gaps’ as we do.

      There again, our politicians think they can freeload off the US anyway, so why spend what they should…… pathetic.

    • all of those changes to the budget were made so cuts could be made whilst keeping to the NATO 2% at a time when everyone else bar the US were dropping below, and we were giving them shit for it.

      the budget is a farce as it is right now.

  2. No doubt in my mind the current equipment plan is unaffordable.

    Solutions are reform the MOD, have a viable defence strategy and increase defence budget.

    Chances of this happening? Zero. No political will exists it’s not as if politicans have their sons and daughters in the firing line, too busy getting their politican mates to give them jobs as political assistants at the taxpayers expense. Examples are Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

    • Agreed, it is a shame how nobody with any power wants to change the situation (or wants to say that change is needed). I don’t really know what the Tories even want any more. They don’t want to spend on anything at all if they can help it, and Labour want to spend money on everything apart from defence which is quite irritating. People won’t start pressuring the government with any effect until we are knee deep into another cold war, which is inevitable it seems.

    • retire all the admirals an other ranking expensive people we don’t realy need. that would at least cover the grey paint bills!

    • I’m no fan of Corbyn and MacDonnell but exactly how can they influence the decisions being made by the current Conservative Government and how is the current mess even slightly their fault?

  3. Does anybody in the MOD talk with other services to ensure a linked up procurement plan? How can well publicised programmes suddenly become unaffordable, Brexit aside?

    On hearing these concerns I did my own quick analysis as to what the UK forces really require, in the immediate future.
    * Land Forces
    Quick and responsive divisions that can deploy at a moments notice,a highly probable scenario.
    Conventional tactics, using MBT’s and other heavy armour, possibly less likely in the short term.

    * Airforce
    Continuum of current operations in the Middle East, therefore Typhoon deployment to continue
    plus future upgrades. Introduction of F35 is already painfully slow, but could possibly be delayed
    flying from POW?

    * Navy
    No current requirements over and above existing operations. Introduction of QE and F35 will no
    doubt continue. POW commissioning could be delayed a year? Post-Bretix the RN will need to
    develop a broader envelope of operations, in order to link possible defence pacts with trade

    On balance, heavy land equipment is the least of the critical programmes, so there could be some flexibility in CH2 upgrade timing and Ajax production rates? Anti-terror needs will continue to be challenging and difficult to establish concrete fiscal targets.

    • I slightly disagree on the armour front. I think that with the planned upgrades, MBT numbers should be kept the same, but have plenty based in Estonia, or anywhere that is under threat from Russia. As it is, a few hundred troops couldn’t do anything against a Russian army, and our tank divisions would take too long to get to where they are needed. There isn’t much of a need to have many MBTs here, unless for training and maintenance, since our island itself isn’t under threat from a uniformed enemy in which a tank would be of any use at all. Rather than thinking so much about armour, we should order another 30+ Apaches. This way, we are gearing ourselves to deal with a sudden attack on NATO ally more appropriately, by providing more support for French and German armour which would make up the bulk of a defending force against the Russians.

      • What I was attempting to say was, faced with a tightening of the belt and warnings of falling short of planned equipment numbers, where could the MOD ease off the pedal in the near term? Heavy armour is essential but are we wise to upgrade CH2 over Type 26 /31 availability? Those CH2’s currently deployed in eastern Europe are more than a match for the Russian equivalent apart from their all-new tank, which is currently working up.
        I know it’s much used, but Brexit is a major headache for the UK MOD. Currently, we have no real roadmap as to how many types 26/31’s, we will eventually need as the UK negotiates global trade agreements, which could so easily incorporate some military assurances? This was very much the modus operandi of the 18/19th century Britain. That being the case, alongside warships we may require more troop and supply planes and hopefully, be retaining landing and logistic ships of the Albion Class? Though addressing some of these issues are in the future, the current equipment budgets do need to keep in mind how a more global UK will design its forces going forward.

      • I would disagree – but before I do will say it depends on what we want.

        If speed and a medium capability is required then 8×8’s backed up by a larger fleet of Apache’s is preferable to a tracked heavy armour.

        I personally think we can go with Boxer and a larger (144 as opposed to 50) apache force instead of tanks.

        The ability of this force to move further and faster and deliver the required offensive punch seems to be a game changer.

        Our Tank fleet has been used very lightly in the last 20 years – whilst our apache force has been over used to the point its airframes are knackered.

        So on balance I think we can do without tanks (or at least keep what we have in storage as backup) and increase the volume of apache – especially given the incredibly competitive pricing currently being offered to us.

        Just one opinion – but depends on what we want to achieve

        • Tanks are great if the enemy have no tanks and no air cover. Since Russia have both we should focus on air defences and land force mobility.

        • Helos are only viable for air support if you can guarantee air supremacy and, you are not going against a foe with large numbers of both shoulder and vehicle launched SAMs. Gunships are highly vulnerable when pulling out of their attack runs when flying at low level for extended periods.
          The best weapons against tanks has repeatedly been shown to be other better equipped better traind tanks and tankers. MBTs should never be sacrificed for wheeled vehicles unless the mission is peacekeeping not real war.

          • The problem is money today! The idea we increase the Apache is not open for discussion,as that replacement programme is already signed off, but could still see a reduction? As I pointed out in my initial post, where can the MOD ease off the pedal, in order to protect critical projects? I summarised by suggesting heavy armour could be placed on a slower cooker, as opposed to slowing F35 deliveries and cutting projected Type 26 /31 numbers. The notion we can do without MBT’s would be to deny ground troops of the support and protection, regardless of weather conditions. An Apache has its uses as the history books will tell you, but they are not a MBT replacement, but in combination with tanks poses the enemy with a formidable force.

          • Every piece of equipment has its pros and cons and every piece of equipment has various missiles etc – designed to kill it.

            MBT’s cant keep up or travel as far or as fast as the 8×8 strike fleet being proposed, Apaches can.

            As I said – its horses for courses and obviously a balanced force is best but costs money.

      • The day MBT’s come up against even a handfull of Attack helo’s will be a Prince of Wales, Repulse moment. MBT’s are obsolete just like Battleships were in 1941. I am still waiting for someone, anyone in the MoD the select commitee or Parliament to raise the question of how much money is being spent on the brass of all 3 services. If we were to reduce their % to that of the US armed forces we would save £100’s of millions every single year. But it will never happen as always the armed forces will fight for the last desk job and throw the people who actually matter out of the window to save their worthless, scabby behinds.

  4. Want a world class, balanced military then it must be paid for.

    Politicians are not prepared to pay for it even though they say they want it.

    The 2% originally a target to shame Germany et al into upping their game has become both a comfort blanket for politicians to wrap themselves in and a straight jacket from which they unable to escape.

    • maybe a study into the cost of one single u.k defence force along the lines of the u.s marine corps with a land sea and air capability. its worked for some nations notably japan.

  5. It doesn’t make a jot of difference as to where the money for Trident comes from nor is there anything much that can be saved without dramatically altering the UK’s role in the world. As my Meerkat friends would say “we need more is simples”

  6. I believe it’s time to accept that the UK can’t do everything. I think we should have slightly smaller but well equipped modern armed forces who’s main priority is the defence and security of the UK closely followed by it’s NATO commitments. Our area of operation should be the North Atlantic, South Atlantic and the Med and not the South China Sea. America and it’s regional allies in the Pacific are more than capable of handling that situation without us.

    • Agreed I don’t see a need for our ships to cross the Panama Canal or go beyond the horn of Africa unless its humanitarian funded out of the FA budget. Defence should be at the very least 2.5% of GDP especially if the Nuclear deterrent is included in the budget. The whole point of maintaining a large military is so that no one dare mess with you at least that’s how the British and US empires justified it.

  7. the u.k should make up its mind quality or quantity, you can’t have both. the u.k should swallow its pride google amarg inventory and see where the R.A.F budget could be better spent and sometimes go for 2nd hand equipment. maybe even get a mates rate from the u.s 300 f-16’s 100 f -15’s?the yanks have hundreds in maintained storage. the giant j.f.k carrier is in mothballs, available as a museum donation. that would have been a faster, better acquisition than either the q.e or p.o.w,it may have even come with a tailored air arm as part of the deal at least it would have come with cats and traps and far cheaper aircraft. if an armchair admiral like me can use commonsense why can’t the M.O.D?

  8. The armoured fighting vehicles procurement programme has been raided continuously and annually over 30 years to pay for the vast cost over-runs on aircraft, warships, missiles and sensors. The result is a miniscule fleet of ageing Challenger 2s and Warriors and a 40+ year-old fleet of geriatric FV-432 Bulldogs. Let us sincerely hope that we never have to field this lot in a serious engagement or we are going to be found out as having been entirely negligent regarding equipping our army.

    Calls to transfer even more money from the army to pay for RN and RAF kit makes mt hair stand on end – as do calls to put the protection of the UK as the first item in the defence agenda. The defence priorities seem to me to be self-evident:

    1) Defence of Europe via NATO: this is the single area where a serious situation could arise that threatens the security of the UK. The best possible antidote to Russian ambitions and meddling is to have the ability to field a strong NATO land army, backed by air superiority and naval ASW predominance in the northern Atlantic and Med. The army component would need 4 corps on reinforcement, one each in Baltic Republics, North German Plain, Carpathian Basin and eastern Balkans. UK contribution would need to be minimum 5 ‘heavy’ (i.e. armoured/armoured infantry) brigades, 2 in Estonia and 3 in Germany/Poland, with ideally another 3 based in/forming in the UK. At present, we have just 3 heavy brigades with ageing AFVs, one of which is to be converted to a light mechanised Ajax brigade, so we are basically miles behind the game.

    2) A light/medium mobile reaction force able to fight limited military or COIN engagements out of area. We have defence agreements with most of the 40+ Commonwealth countries around the globs, a host of other allies, a dozen defenceless UK dependencies and are party to UN military engagements. To fulfill the above would need an infantry division and a light mechanised division – given that brigades overseas are rotated on a 4-month cycle, to have even one in position for a longer period means having 4 of them available – plus a quick-reaction force of airborne assault and amphibious assault brigades, plus the Special Forces. A total of approx 9 brigades. We will have the equivalent of 5 – the 2 new light mechanised bdes, 16 Air Aslt Bde, 3 Cdo Bde and the SF. So again we are well short, able to maintain only ONE bde in position for any length of time, the same problem we had in Helmand – big area, inadequately small force not equal to the task. We can divert a few aircraft and ships for a time but there would be none to spare in the event of Russia pushing its luck in eastern Europe. Our global pretensions hit the brick wall called reality.

    3) Defence of the UK. As in WW2, that means primarily air defence, as the pitifully small number of ground troops we could scrape together would not have an earthly against any planned invasion. It would need probably 7 or 8 home air defence sqns, we currently have 5 – and their combat strength would quickly be denuded by the need to reinforce NATO in eastern Europe or play any significant tole in an out-of-area conflict (or both calls at once). The home army would need about 16 infantry bns absolute minimum to provide some wafer-thin regional defence, stiffen reserve field formations and provide the training cadres for wartime expansion. There are currently about 10 and only one (possibly) spare armoured regt, so again we are miles short.

    If the SDSR covered these 3 specific tasks and looked at the real requirements and shortfalls, rather than endlessly wittering on about overseas aid, ‘soft power’, etc, we might actually get a focused defence debate in the HoC, rather than the smoke, mirrors, evasions and duplicity which seems to accompany every defence statement by the Government.


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