Is the United Kingdom sacrificing the modernization of its armies to the GCAP and SSN-AUKUS programs?

In recent months in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defense has multiplied announcements aimed at consolidating two of its current equipment programs, on the one hand thee Global Combat Air Program inherit FCAS to co-produce with Italy and Japan a 6th generation air combat system by 2035, on the other hand the SSN-AUKUS program alongside the United States and Australia, to design and manufacture the future nuclear attack submarine or SSN according to the English acronym, which will partly equip the Royal Australian Navy and will allow the Royal Navy to replace its Astute class SSN from 2040.

This displayed determination, as well as the largest European defense budget, however masks the immense difficulties encountered by almost all of the other major programs currently in development, and who are, for the most part, in the most tense situations in terms of schedule, budget and format.

This is essentially what emerges from a vitriolic report commissioned by the British Parliament's Defense Committee. Led by Member of Parliament Mark François, Conservative representative of Rayleigh and Wickford counties since 2011 and chairman of the sub-committee in charge of this report, it paints a most worrying picture of the state of the armies of the United Kingdom, but also, and above all, about the deplorable management of defense industrial programs in recent years, which has severely handicapped their present and future operational capabilities.

The UK is making significant policy and fiscal efforts under the SSN-AUKUS program with the US and Australia
The voluntarism displayed by London around the SSN-Aukus and GCAP programs hides the immense difficulties and lack of management for most of the other industrial defense programs in progress.

Several examples of programs carried out despite industrial, capacity and budgetary common sense were thus studied by the authors of the report, in particular the Type 26 frigates of the Royal Navy, the British Army's Ajax armored fighting vehicle, and the Royal Air Force's E-7 Wedgetail aerial surveillance aircraft.

The latter is particularly highlighted by the report to demonstrate the “absolute madness” of the conduct of British defense programs in recent years.

Thus, while the Royal Air Force was initially to acquire 5 aircraft from Boeing for £2,1 billion, it finally turned to an order of only 3 aircraft on an extended schedule to increase budgetary sustainability.

Unfortunately, between the effects of the inflationary crisis and the impossibility for London to withdraw from the order of the 5 MESA radars to equip the initial devices, the final cost amounts to £1,89 billion, or 90% of the initial amount. , for only 60% of the expected capacities, depriving the RAF of the ability to maintain permanent air surveillance beyond a few days with such a small fleet.

This episode is reminiscent of the consequences of similar arbitrations carried out in France around the FREMM frigates program, which was initially intended to allow the French Navy to acquire 17 frigates produced at a rate of one ship every 7 months on 10 years for a total envelope of €8 billion.

It was ultimately reduced to a fleet of only 8 frigates produced over 12 years, for a final envelope of €8 billion identical to the previous one, without counting the additional €4 billion invested to acquire 5 lighter, less well-armed FDI frigates. but more modern, and above all produced over 10 more years, essential to reach the format of 15 first-class frigates required by the 2017 White Paper.

RAAF E 7A Wedgetail e1677849398884 United Kingdom | Defense Analysis | Fighter jets
London will finally acquire 3 E7 Wedgetail for 90% of the price of the initial offer for 5 devices...

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