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Cheers - AE

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

This weeks special offer.

The Telegraph talks money again, this time speculating that the MOD can't afford all the Eurofighter Typhoons it was committed to ordering and is looking to shift as many as half, possibly to the Saudis. The MOD's line at the moment is that all this is pure speculation but on the other hand Typhoon costs overran a fair bit and the damn things were late in service as well. Worth watching to see how many of the 144 aircraft the RAF actually end up with in say five years or so.

I'm not the first to say this but you have to wonder why the UK government insists on being so heavily involved in developing really big military systems. I'm no military expert and for all I know there are valid reasons for having your own designs of submarines, ships, aircraft, missiles, rifles and so on, and I can see that at least the UK has shipbuilding experience and has the expertise to build some things itself and that doing so provides jobs. But then look at all the cock ups. The SA80 rifle with all it's problems (according to a soldier I spoke to a year or so ago it's now a great rifle, but it took a while and a lot of money to make it so), wrong boots and body armour, ineffectively armoured vehicles deployed in someone else's war zone, Nimrod, the special version of the Chinook that can't fly unless conditions are just so, and of course the Typhoon. Surely some of these and more could have been ditched cheaply at an early stage and a proven off the shelf product bought instead. It's not as if it doesn't happen sometimes anyway - the Apache helcopter is a British built licensed version of the American original with probably just a few tweaks here and there, and the RAF has long used Sidewinder missiles, Chinooks, Hercules transport aircraft and now Globemasters as well. All designed by and in some case made by Uncle Sam. Say what you like about the Americans, they do give good death machine. So it seems to this Angry Stingy Exile that buying from abroad a bit more often might have saved time, money and maybe lives.

And on buying from abroad I was in the crowd at this year's Australian Formula One Grand Prix a few months back and watched the RAAF doing fly pasts in their (American) F18 Hornets. Impressive stuff, especially the low level pass with the landing gear and tail hook sticking out. Tail hook? Australia doesn't have any aircraft carriers. I suppose it's not like ordering a BMW and ticking the box marked "delete sunroof".

* I understand one problem with the SA80 has never been solved - you can't use it left handed. As a right handed person who shoots left handed for eye dominance reasons I thought this was fairly insignificant. I learned to shoot the other way round and thought it would be the same thing... until it was pointed out that clay pigeon shooters rarely need to fire round the corner of a building but soldiers in built up areas might have to, and for them it would be nice to have a gun that is easy to shoot round both left and right hand corners.
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