A report by the Defence Committee concludes that the UK Armed Forces have key capability and stockpile shortages and are losing personnel faster than they can recruit. Let’s take a look at the issues facing the Royal Air Force.

Read the full report by clicking here.

Both Generals Lord Houghton and Sir Nick Carter questioned the RAF’s ability to engage in peer-to-peer warfighting. General Lord Houghton suggested that the RAF had “good kit” in relation to its platforms and weapons but not enough of them—and a pilot shortage problem.

The Defence Committee said:

“He went to note that the RAF was rarely asked to carry out a short-notice operation (other than QRA) on its own, meaning that whilst it worked well in alliances on standing tasks, it would face difficulties in a warfighting situation because the RAF “can force packet—that is run from CAOC—in a way that is impressive, but is far more ugly with ground combat”.”

Professor Justin Bronk was in agreement with this assessment, telling the Committee that:

“The big thing on munitions is also that they are not the right kind of munitions. We have a reasonable number of munitions for permissive or semi-permissive environments—for, essentially, very precisely blowing up technicals, killing snipers on rooftops and things. … [On fighting the Russians] we would have to beat them on the ground, but, ultimately, our armies will never be resourced or the size required to beat them land for land. Our strategy is predicated, as is the entire western military instrument, on air superiority. Put bluntly, we have a Russia problem if we cannot establish air superiority over where we have to fight.

The Human Security Centre again produced a list of outstanding or near-future capability, resource and readiness shortfalls which the RAF faces:

  • A shortfall in combat aircraft numbers. The retirement of 30 Tranche 1 Typhoon aircraft in 2025 (with the majority of their airframe lives remaining) will leave only 107 Typhoons in service. 48 F-35B aircraft should be delivered by the end of 2025,115 but these will be jointly operated by the Royal Navy and will have a commitment to carrier operations.
  • There is also a shortfall in fixed-wing transport aircraft numbers and capabilities caused by the retirement of the C-130J Hercules116 with plans to procure greater numbers of the A400M judged by the National Audit Office to be unaffordable.
  • Delays in the procurement of 14 new model Chinook helicopters with extended ranges have occurred due to budget shortfalls. The new Chinooks are intended to replace older model Chinooks but the new model’s increased range could help cover some tasks previously assigned to the C-130J fleet and in supporting the Persistent Engagement strategy.
  • There has been a lack of a dedicated Suppression of Enemy Air Defence/Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD/DEAD) capability since the RAF retired the Air-Launched Anti-Radiation Missile (ALARM) in 2013. The planned introduction by the UK of the SPEAR 3 missile with a multi-mode seeker and a range of around 80 miles could—particularly if used in conjunction with the F-35B’s electronic warfare system—provide a new SEAD/DEAD capability.
  • Failures in the pilot training system have led to shortfalls in pilot numbers.
  • There are insufficient numbers of Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Wedgetail AEW1 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
  • There is a lack of air-to-air refuelling capacity for the Poseidon MRA1, Wedgetail AEW1, RC-135W Rivet Joint and C-17 Globemaster aircraft as they all lack an in-flight refuelling probe to make them compatible with the RAF Voyager tanker fleet.117
  • The RAF does not have kinetic ground-based air defence systems or an anti-ballistic missile capability.118

Professor Justin Bronk also raised the issue of F-35 fleet size, describing the F-35 force as “triple or quadruple-hatted in terms of how many parts of UK defence are counting on it for how many mission outputs in the case of a war [and] … there are not very many of them.”

Professor Bronk also addressed other issues raised by the Human Security Centre including the pilot shortage—which he attributed to a lack of RAF engineers and supply of spares to sustain the fleet and keep them flying; the lack of SEAD/DEAD capability (which, despite the planned introduction of SPEAR CAP 3 in 2028, will be compounded by the small number of F-35s) and the need for the hardening of air bases or the ability to disperse aircraft to a wider range of air bases and airports to avoid their destruction by enemy attack.

The Chief of the Defence Staff said that whilst there may be a tension between training and operational sorties, by Spring 2023 the RAF had delivered twice as many operational sorties as in the previous 12 months while also managing to deploy to the US Red Flag series of training events. The Red Flag series had seen the RAF being tested “against some of the most difficult air threats in the world, [and the RAF] did incredibly well. Some of our missile systems are far superior to even the Americans’.”

The Chief of the Air Staff also argued that the RAF had benefitted significantly from investment in the past 15 years which had resulted in the bringing into service the F-35 fleet; A400M fleet; the Voyager fleet and the P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft fleet. This had made the RAF “more capable” and therefore “better able to meet the threats of the high-end fight”. However, he acknowledged the concerns about dispersal. He told the Committee the current level of “agility and operational flexibility” was hampering the RAF’s warfighting ability leading to a need to increase flexibility in the airfields the RAF utilised.

This would require “investment in spares and some further investment in infrastructure and in people”.

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Lisa has a degree in Media & Communication from Glasgow Caledonian University and works with industry news, sifting through press releases in addition to moderating website comments.
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geoff
geoff
3 days ago

Good article with the facts laid bare.
On the subject of good and bad articles please indulge me with this comment from the Mail Online and see why UKDJ is to be cherished and recommended for the REAL facts.

‘Meanwhile we have aircraft carriers with no plane’s(sic), frigates that won’t work in warm water(!) destroyers with no missiles just a big gun🙄tanks(?) that make the drivers sick and dizzy and guns that jam, 4 attack submarines but only ever one on duty and 1 civil service employees(I thought he said only 1?) to every 3 armed forces personnel. “

Louis G
Louis G
3 days ago
Reply to  geoff

The mainstream newspapers are generally piss-poor at reporting on anything defence related, the Daily Express recently ran a story about how HMS Vanguard (the submarine) is going to test fire an ICBM and somehow ended up using a photo of the battleship HMS Vanguard.

John Clark
John Clark
2 days ago
Reply to  geoff

Afternoon Geoff, GB News were just as bad yesterday, mentioning half truth nonsense that “T45 has gym equipment were the bombs should be” etc , etc…. close, but no cigar.

It’s what happens when folks speed read without really understanding the subject matter

Poorly researched. I suggested the researchers check UKDJ to brief themselves next time before giving the presenter a bum steer….

David Bevan
David Bevan
3 days ago

This is nowhere near good enough from the government. Genuflecting to some artificially constructed, reality detached % of GDP whilst our Defence capability rots is dereliction of duty. If the job of resourcing and managing defence is too tough for the current government they should just apologise and get out of the way and let someone else in who can do it.

John Clark
John Clark
2 days ago
Reply to  David Bevan

Said it before David, they are purley going through the motions as a dead administration.

Nothing they say, promise or do matters, as within 9 months they will be gone, swept aside, it’s all utterly irrelevant.

I would like to see Labour really pushed on their defense posture right now, that’s the direction of travel, like it or not.

JohnG
JohnG
1 day ago
Reply to  David Bevan

Agreed. It was simultaneously refreshing to see that people in positions of power are very clear on the issues the RAF face and frustrating to see the minister that they were highlighting these issues to essentially refuse to take them on board (bar the dispersal of assets during war time). I feel the above exchange is a microcosm of conversations that generally are going on at the higher levels. How on earth do we get the imbeciles in charge to listen to the facts and what we need to do to prepare to adequately fight against a peer opponent?

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 days ago

But not without the engine upgrades now scheduled for 2029-31 FOC??? 23 January 2024 @ Janes Defence F-35 to get Meteor, SPEAR 3 ‘by end of decade’ “The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning should receive additional UK-specific weapons “by the end of the decade”, the government said on 16 January. Answering questions in the House of Commons, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) James Cartlidge said that, with the MBDA AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and the RTX Paveway 4 precision-guided bomb already carried by the Lightning, the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) and the Selected… Read more »

Frank
Frank
3 days ago

All of this has been subject to many many comments on places such as this for decades…. yet all of a sudden, we seem to be waking up to the utter carnage caused by years of governmental mis management and dare I say woeful lack of “duty of care” regarding the defence of the realm…. the vast majority of posters here and many other sites have been saying this for so many years now…. has there ever been a more dangerous World than that of now ?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Agreed. Anyone who is interested in defence need only check in here. This list has been done to death on countless occasions.

Who was it here who actually thought cutting the Hercs to be a good idea?! Where were a few.

Frank
Frank
3 days ago

Mate….. If I were not banned and blocked on here quite so often…. (All actually deserved for my terrible mindset/passion/inability to keep my gob shut !!!!) I’d be well up there on the list of complainers…… !😁

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Frank

I miss your epic battles with H.

Jonathan
Jonathan
3 days ago

Indeed the hercs were a terrible idea…complete hole in tactical airlift around short runways…we needed a replacement for that capacity…Before getting rid off..the same with the tranche 1 typhoons…..sunseting capability and having a gap is fine in a peaceful world where war is clearly a decade away or more..not in a world that is full of enemies that are actually preparing for war….

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

For me, the worst of the cuts. Absolutely idiotic. They’re not even “wary” fighty assets. Vital enablers enabling their own forward presence strategy and supporting one of our aces, DSF.
Or usable in a range of other taskings.
Now all dropped into the Atlas and C17 fleets taskings.
Both of which….in time, will be completely shagged as ever decreasing assets take on the same load and people wonder why they’re clapped out.
😟

Luke Rogers
Luke Rogers
3 days ago

The disaster began when Lyneham was closed. Essentially we are now in a position where the closure of one runway will trap the entire air transport and AAR fleet on the ground. A similar massive loss of capability can be achieved at Waddington. Hit Lossiemouth and the RAF ceases to be a force in being. 3 weapons, total air supremacy over the UK. Even if the Typhoons had dispersed, they will have low fuel state, will be effectively blind and with patchy rearming chances if the dispersal sites survive the next strikes. 3 weapons and the next Battle of Britain… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Luke Rogers

To be fair, some of that scenario could have happened in the Cold War had it turned hot, when we were far far bigger. Still limited RAF Stations AT ARR wise, but yes, with at least 8 Fast Jet Stations. The other difference was the SAM screen we had on the east coast, and the RAFR Rapier Sqns. But I agree, the “super base” obsession has serious vulnerabilities and a home based GBAD system of sorts is needed. What goes to pay for it if there is no extra dosh? The Typhoon fleet will be impaired/blind if parts of the… Read more »

Luke Rogers
Luke Rogers
2 days ago

Could some strap on NAMO solid rockets on Meteor create a Bloodhound Mk3? Just spitballing a cheap and fast option…

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Luke Rogers

I have no idea. That is DBs department.

Louis
Louis
2 days ago

Super bases will be much more effective in wartime for the UK than alternatives. You need a certain size to make dispersal actually effective. The difference between 5 and 10 airbases makes defending them worse. An enemy that can destroy 5 airbases can destroy 10. It just means each of those 10 are much easier to destroy so is actually worse overall. It’s the same with industry. Lots on here don’t like the fact that there is only 1 or 2 factories for each piece of equipment, but at the end of the day, an enemy that can destroy 2… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Good alternative take on it, Louis. On the dispersal side, we’ve only seem them use St Mawgan and Boscombe Down. Both with HAS available. I don’t think the RAF yet has the assets in place for operating from civilian airfields.

Louis
Louis
2 days ago

RAF definitely doesn’t have the assets to effectively disperse. They are hugely increasing it though, whether enough is a different matter.

The UK will never have enough Air bases/factories/storage depots/ naval bases in peacetime to ever make dispersal effective.

RAF could also use Leuchars and there are probably others as well.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Myself and others have made lists of places before, there are plenty. Not all as well furnished as Leuchars as an ex fighter station, but there are many on the MoD estate.

Louis
Louis
2 days ago
Reply to  Luke Rogers

I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. An airbase needs a minimum of two frontline squadrons/OCU. Currently the RAF has 10 of those meaning a maximum of 5 airbases could realistically be operated. On the assumption that Russia can destroy 3 airbases, they can also destroy 5. The answer is not more bases, it is more infrastructure, mobile logistics and maintenance such that Typhoon flights can disperse all over the country. Russia will hit all 3 or 5 bases, if the aircraft disperse over the country they will have no idea where they are as they could… Read more »

Last edited 2 days ago by Louis
Luke Rogers
Luke Rogers
2 days ago
Reply to  Louis

I still feel the ability to move highly valuable force multipliers like AAR to Western bases like Brawdy, St Mawgan or Kemble, back behind the GBAD and fighter bases makes sense.

Degradable
Degradable
2 days ago

It’s the people Daniele, that is the worst thing. Many, don’t care. Health and Social care has been prioritised over defence. Now, no matter how many vehicles (land, sea or air) procured, you will find you can’t man them. The people just do not care. who has not heard, “we can’t be invaded as they have to come through Europe”. This comment is arguably true, so justification of spend is correct. we have a people problem, that should be our priority. We need to get the message of true cost of neglect in a manner that can be understood by… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Degradable

Yes, I agree. The general public are pretty clueless or interested in other things. I’d say in peace that is a plus that we live in a safe country.

Degradable
Degradable
1 day ago

“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

John Clark
John Clark
2 days ago

Spot on, the A400 is far from a good SF platform, but that aside, where is the 8 aircraft top up order to replace the 14 retired C130’s??

Never happened, I doubt they ever intended to order them either…

Both parties have caused huge damage to defence over the last 25 years, but the Conservatives must take the brunt of the blame, they have been in power for 14 years and have directly precided over the demise of our armed forces capability and capacity.

It’s absolutely disgraceful….

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
3 days ago

I’m of the firm opinion that select committees, media outlets, informed sites (such as UKDJ, NL etc), serving senior officers, valued Allies (USA) et all are completely wasting all their time. Someone has to ask the PM or Grant (I don’t take defence questions, because I don’t know anything about anything) Scrapps, one Simple direct question at PMQs. And not accept anything other than a straight bloody answer 😡 “Can you tell the country what level of direct foreign threat, warning from Allies or embarrassment will it take for you to actually wake up and boost Defence spending right now… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

“And not accept anything other than a straight bloody answer”

You do realize that you’re talking about a politician 😂

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Not a chance. Most MPs are as clueless about defence than the majority of the public. And as for the party shortly coming in, I think they are more concerned with social issues and public spending than defence. A number of them actually supported Jeremy Corbyn for Gods sake and are still sitting there in their seats.

Does not fill me with much hope sadly.

Agree with all your points though mate. I’d pay good money to see the PM or the DS put on the spot like that.

lonpfrb
lonpfrb
23 minutes ago

On the E-7 Wedgetail shortfall, I see that Stansted Airport is home to VQ-BOS Boeing 737 800 currently available for sale from Canadian owners. There’s another for sale in California. So a serious effort to procure five not three aircraft is feasible with prompt action and contract extension..
Aiming for 2.5% GDP spend would mean something were action taken!

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago

I’d not be quite so negative on RAf. I am very RN centric in my views but I do think that RAF has modernised even if it has made a total mess of pilot training pipelines. Yes, F35B is spread very, very thin and is expected to be in 10 places at one. However, there is a decedent level of Typhoon force that is state-of-the-art. A lot of the kits is very, very new and so is genuinely very good. As every not enough frames or my main bugbear – enough pilots/ground crew to deal with really working the frames… Read more »

Bob
Bob
3 days ago

Typhoon is not state of the art even for a gen 4 fighter, it still lacks an AESA radar.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  Bob

I’d beg to differ and there is a program for sorting that.

Paul Willmer
Paul Willmer
3 days ago

Yes but how long to get fitted and operational ? And on present plans to only 40 Aircraft

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
3 days ago

SB Happy Monday from Derby. Yes it is excellent equipment and the professionalism of the People is simply superlative. But other than the 3 Wedgetails and last @12 F35B that are being built / delivered there is zilch on order. Which probably makes us the only member of NATO (except maybe Luxemburg) that’s hasn’t added anything due to the Ukraine. You worry when Canada and Germany stick their hands in their wallets. We are fitting AESA Radar to only 40 Tranche 3 Airframes and the Tranche 1’s are going out of service in 2025 rather than 2030. That will inevitably… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
3 days ago

The problem supportive is as always mass or lack of it…yes we can fight and win for a week for a month….but actual peer on peer conflicts run over years…this is our problem the UK and the west as a whole is suffering from a lack of depth…our enemies freely admit that the west will walk all over them…but China especially thinks it can simply out attrition and exhaust the west…Russia is in that camp as well….we have militaries designed to fight a very high intensity conflict over a very short timeframe…..counties like china cannot be reduced in those timeframes….and… Read more »

Bob
Bob
3 days ago

Takes a professor until now to point out what us “warmongers” have been saying for years.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 days ago
Reply to  Bob

And the government still won’t listen 🙄

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 days ago

Is there any good news in UK Defence 🙄 🇬🇧

Frank
Frank
3 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Yes……. ermmm there’s the …. ummmm, hang on…. ermmmm….. bugger…. can’t seem to find it now…..

Jonathan
Jonathan
3 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Yes but most of it will be delivered in the 2030s….but we do have 2 very good carriers as well as some of the only 5th generation navel air power…we also have some of the best SSNs on the planet..the issue is mass and our ability to fight a high intensity peer war over a long period of time.

jjsmallpiece
jjsmallpiece
3 days ago

Slash the defence budget to help fund tax cuts, no surprise that this is the result.

Frank
Frank
3 days ago
Reply to  jjsmallpiece

Slash the Defence Budget ? …… Feck me…. Lets just take a look at the Tax avoidance our Elite are getting away with…. just look at Rich Sunak and his Wife….. Richer than basically 90% of all the Brits who actually were born here and worked their Arses off for decades…..

Andrew
Andrew
3 days ago

This isn’t going to surprise anyone on this forum. There is a critical shortage of everything in all areas of the military. Only those with their head in the sand for the last several decades will be surprised.

I did think we needed to increase spending to 3% of GDP but as time goes on I think we need even more in a short amount of time. 4% within 5 years seems more needed now.

John Miles
John Miles
3 days ago

Time for 4% GDP me thinks.

Jonathan
Jonathan
3 days ago
Reply to  John Miles

For the world we live in..which is a multi polar world in which our enemy has essentially said they will go to war if presented with the possibility of winning..and is on a massive armament programme….5-6% is actually the required amount….that’s what we spend when facing the USSR..and the china Russia axis is a far greater threat than the USSR was.

Old Tony
Old Tony
3 days ago

Look on the bright side, folks !

It’s been obvious to everyone on this site for many years that, although much of our kit is very good, there isn’t anything like enough of everything.

But these woes have now come into the public domain, and into everyone’s consciousness. If Joe Public now realises that more needs to be spent on defence, then politicians who wish to be re-elected will fall into line.

It will all come right. Eventually.

(Puts tin hat on, crawls into bunker)

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 days ago

SK Really knows how to get something from the design phase into Full-Rate Production. Purely asking a question, would the EJ200 fit this aircraft? MBDA are looking to fit a range of their missiles onboard (KAI) and MBDA, with flight and launch tests already underway. Friday, Feb 2 2024South Korea to start mass production of KF-21 fighter jets “MANILA, Philippines — South Korea will build 40 KF-21 Boramae fighter jets this year with the 238.7 billion won (U.S. $178.6 million) allocated for the Defense Ministry, even as the aircraft makes its way through flight and ground tests. The first mass production… Read more »

Andrew Climo
Andrew Climo
2 days ago

It’s easy to see how we got here, after all it’s a problem shared outside the defence realm, removing all capabilities not needed in the present, seen in pandemic preparedness, attracting and training the next generation of health care workers, replacement of ageing passenger railway stock. But the solution is much harder to effect. How, exactly, does one win the argument with a treasury that simply wants to progress budget cuts in the name of present day efficiency? The answer partly may be that efficiency drives need to be placed under far greater scrutiny, where it seems that layers of… Read more »

Cripes
Cripes
2 days ago

This report only scratches the surface of how far the RAF has fallen in numbers and capability. We had close to 30 fast jet (aka fighter) squadrons in Cold War times. This has been slashed to just 6 squadrons today, of which the 5 Typhoon ones are well understrength. We have cut so far that we now have far fewer FJCA than France, Germany, Italy and even Spain, (which has a population 20 million less than the UK!). With the retirement and non-replacement of the Tornado, we have NO interdiction/strike capability at all, just Typhoon and F-35b doing their limited… Read more »

Last edited 2 days ago by Cripes
DC647
DC647
2 days ago

All these articles point to one thing the government has made that many cuts, that the Royal Navy, the Royal Air force, and the Army have gone from the best in the world to a second class military that wouldn’t last long in a fight. At the moment if Russia, China, Iran, North Korea are any other dictatorship escalated a conflict, we would be outgunned and out-matched.

David Smile
David Smile
1 day ago

Personally I think many of you are being very negative, I have every confidence that our RAF could-after our huge investment in it in time and money over the past decade- defeat even a sustained pro noun attack from the likes of China, or NK.
Diversity inclusion and equity training and indoctrination is our RAF’s strength 😉
Without which the RAF couldn’t have binned off those few dozen promising future world leading fast jet pilots, and discouraged a great many others to even bother applying to the RAF🙄

Last edited 1 day ago by David Smile
Marcus FARRINGTON
Marcus FARRINGTON
1 day ago

All contributors on here grasp both problem and solution.Successive Govts have ignored the problem and underfunded the solution.Never be enough Govt will,never be enough money.The kit we buy is too expensive ,too complex,not enough of everything.So perhaps the whole of UK defence needs a rethink by impartial professionals not politicians.Empire and boxing above our weight are long over.What do we want the defence forces to do,what can we afford?A Trump win in November will see NATO starved of US clout.Demoralised UK personnel leaving left,right and centre.But it will be fine…The latest super missile will be available at the end of… Read more »

lonpfrb
lonpfrb
1 minute ago

The drum tight decision of the DC Circuit Appeals court that #45 has no presidential immunity will likely not be taken by the Supreme Court meaning that he will be going to Jail not the White House.

Until that plays out the possibility of USA withdrawal from NATO must be exploited to push the reluctant UK & European politicians to deliver a 5% GDP spending commitment.

Detterance must be credible so serious as a heart attack.

Last edited 4 seconds ago by lonpfrb