Suivre ce blog
Editer l'article Administration Créer mon blog
7 juillet 2014 1 07 /07 /juillet /2014 12:50
We have the centrepiece…but what about the rest of the board?


4th July 2014  – by Alexander Clarke *   - europeangeostrategy.org


The game of chess is played with both players having sixteen pieces, of which eight on each side are pawns. Pawns are often the most undervalued of all pieces, but as Anatoly Karpov once said ‘pawns not only create the sketch for the whole painting, they are also the soil, the foundation, of any position’. The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will be the Queens of British strategy for most likely the next four to five decades. However, that strategy may evolve to deal with potential threats/situations which will arise over a far longer period of time. The trouble is that security, much like the game of chess, requires more than just Queens.

This is the problem for many navies in the modern world, including the United States Navy (USN), but for Britain, for the Royal Navy (RN), it is particularly acute. Gone are the Harriers, which leaving aside their operating from the Invincible-class carriers (that have been the most versatile pillar of Britain’s global reach capability for more than three decades), which would have operated from the Queen Elizabeths until the F35Bs were ready for service. This decision though is in the past. Short-termist it was, but it is not the only decision that was; and Britain has not been alone in making such decisions. The fact is democracies, Western ones especially, seem to have developed blinkers when it comes to conceiving of problems beyond the next election cycle. This is possibly because the political leaders fear public reaction to what might be required, but more likely it reflects a fear of their ability to sell the need for such things to a taxpaying public that in the modern 24-hour news cycle seems to consume information in ever smaller chunks.

Therefore while the economic crisis is starting to recede (although the joy of ‘boom and bust’ means there is another around the corner), nations are going to have to live with the decisions made in times of crisis for many years to come.

This is the problem for strategists, and for those looking after a nation’s security; they know the threats, they know what is needed – a ship may be twenty times better than a vessel in its predecessor class, but it can still only be in one place at a time. The same goes for planes, for tanks, for troops. Britain has equipped itself with an excellent, First Rate expeditionary aircraft carrier, but it is without fighters that can fly from it; it has six of the world’s best destroyers, yet they were not fitted with vital communications equipment or land attack missile capability; it has built some of the most complex and advanced submarines ever conceived, and is conceiving what could be a brilliantly versatile frigate class. The RN will be fielding some of the best First Rate vessels of any nation. The problem is that this is what all Western nations are doing and it is another trap, perhaps even worse than that posed by the election cycle.

Building the best and fielding only the best; it is arguable that Admiral Fisher started this habit when he was First Sea Lord and got rid of so many of Britain’s gunboats in order to provide manpower for his first rate Dreadnought Battleships of the Grand Fleet. Today it has led to navies, with Queens, with Rooks, with Bishops and Knights, but without Pawns; only First Rate ships are built and there are no cheap frigates or corvettes – that is the biggest problem. Without them there is no real chance for the presence that can alert, and even deter minor conflicts; allowing the First Rates to be saved for when they are really needed. The worst thing about all this, is that governments know there is the problem; the Black Swan concept was envisaged by the British Ministry of Defence/RN as the solution to the problem in 2012, but two years later the closest Britain has got to a small/affordable escort is the order for three new River-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).


* Dr. Alexander Clarke recently finished his PhD on British Naval Aviation in the 1920-1930s at the War Studies Department, King’s College London. He writes here in a personal capacity.

Partager cet article



  • : RP Defense
  • RP Defense
  • : Web review defence industry - Revue du web industrie de défense - company information - news in France, Europe and elsewhere ...
  • Contact


Articles Récents

  • La version illustrée de Berezina de Sylvain Tesson
    17.10.2016 par Thomas Goisque Sur la trace des spectres de 1812 Septembre 1812, Napoléon entre dans Moscou. Les Russes ont mis le feu à la ville, bientôt elle sera réduite à un tas de cendres. L’Empereur tergiverse, se décide à rebrousser chemin. Il donne...
  • Chronique culturelle - 17 Oct.
    Henri de La Rochejaquelein au combat de Cholet, 17 octobre 1793, peinture de Paul-Émile Boutigny. 17.10.2016 source JFP 17 octobre 1748 : échec du siège britannique de Pondichéry (Inde). Les habitants de la ville de Pondichéry et les français œuvrant...
  • Chronique culturelle - 14 Oct.
    Charles Yeager - photo USAF 14.10.2015 source SHD 14 octobre 1066 : bataille d’Hastings (Angleterre). Guillaume, duc de Normandie a débarqué depuis deux semaines dans le Sussex et a fait construire une place forte dans l’urgence afin d’attendre le retour...
  • Chronique culturelle - 13 oct.
    La prise de Constantine, par Horace Vernet 13.10.2016 source SHD 13 octobre 1307 : arrestation des Templiers en France . Par ordre du Roi de France, Philippe IV le Bel, Guillaume de Nogaret (Garde du sceau) fait arrêter et confisquer leurs biens aux membres...
  • Contribuer à la politique de formation de la Brigade de sapeurs-pompiers de Paris (BSPP)
    source BSPP Grande unité de l’armée de Terre mise à la disposition du préfet de police pour emploi, la Brigade de sapeurs-pompiers de Paris (BSPP) est chargée d'assurer la protection des personnes et des biens dans Paris et dans trois départements de...
  • [Euronaval 2016] Avion de patrouille maritime Atlantique 2 rénové
    12 oct. 2016 Ministère de la Défense Missions : • Sûreté et soutien de la Force océanique stratégique (escorte des sous-marins nucléaires lanceurs d’engins) • Lutte anti-surface et lutte anti-sous-marine à long rayon d’action • Sauvegarde maritime (sauvetage,...
  • [Euronaval 2016] Bâtiment de projection et de commandement (BPC)
    12 oct. 2016 Ministère de la Défense Missions : • Commandement et conduite d’opérations interarmées nationales ou multinationales • Projection de forces par voies aérienne et maritime • Soutien des forces déployées • Assistance aux populations • Evacuation...
  • [Teaser] salon Euronaval 2016
    12 oct. 2016 Ministère de la Défense Le salon Euronaval 2016 se déroulera du 17 au 21 octobre au Parc des expositions de Paris-Le Bourget. Dans le cadre de sa mission de soutien aux exportations des équipements militaires, le ministère de la Défense présente...
  • [Euronaval 2016] Embarcation commando à usage multiple (ECUME)
    12 oct. 2016 Ministère de la Défense Missions : • Intervention de lutte contre la piraterie • Libération d’otages • Lutte contre les narcotrafics • Raids nautiques à partir d’un port, d’un bâtiment porteur (frégate, bâtiment amphibie) ou d’un avion. Atouts...
  • [Euronaval 2016] Engin de débarquement amphibie rapide (EDA-R)
    12 oct. 2016 Ministère de la Défense Missions : • Transport et débarquement rapides de troupes et de véhicules • Acheminement logistique • Opérations humanitaires : assistance aux populations civiles et évacuations de ressortissants Atouts majeurs : •...