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The Year Of Big Decisions
It’s heartening to see the daylight hours begin to stretch out once more and where summer beckons albeit for what seems like a brief moment. The bad and most expensive period of the year is over with taxes and winter fuel bills all paid up to date and offering a short respite before Community Charges fall due. In this respect, there has been discussions about replacing the latter with a new form of payment but already, there are rumblings among local councils’ eager to abandon the current freeze on Community Charge payments although, if that happens, then it may be next year before we encounter it. It's just one of many big decisions that we’re likely to be hearing about in the months ahead, some of which have already been delayed yet cannot be avoided for much longer. 2016 thus seems set to be the ‘year of big decisions’ and I’m planning to add a series to this website providing some background to these challenges in the near future albeit from a personal perspective. This issue, I’m starting with the thorny issue of nuclear defence and defence in general.
MAD Decisions.
In this context, the word MAD means ‘mutually assured destruction’ as first introduced in a telephone conversion between US President John Kennedy and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1963 and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s scary to realise just how close the World came to Armageddon at that time and where wise minds prevailed to avoid it. The resolution meant a climb down on both sides with US missiles withdrawn from Turkey and Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba. It’s become a lesson that none should ever forget since it is this ‘balance of power’ that has retained peace in the wake of two global conflicts that occurred prior to the nuclear age and murdered millions of people.
Decades later and with a new younger generation, we hear talk from some politicians advocating the apparently sensible notion of unilateral disarmament whilst failing to recognise how the concept of MAD means that the smart play in times of conflict is not to play and thereby rendering possible offensives redundant but it only works if the concept of MAD is maintained. It means nothing if an enemy can strike at the other with impunity.
In my view, it’s counter-productive for politicians to talk about unilateral disarmament as if any conflict involving such weapons are restricted outside of their national borders. The accidental nuclear explosion at Chernobyl should have taught us that lesson and again reinforcing the idea that the best prevention against deliberate use of nuclear weapons is to reinforce the notion that such use would be counter-productive and invite terrible retribution.
Being entirely clear on this, I truly wish the damned weapons had never been invented but it’s hard to backtrack through history and uninvent something that allegedly may have saved millions of lives caught up in the closing stages of the last global conflict. Nagasaki in my humble opinion remains as the ‘most unfortunate city’ since it was not the preferred target on that day.
Ultimately, the decision to be made in 2016 starts with the recognition that NATO is an alliance in which the credo of MAD is central and where we were once glad of US participation by supplying air bases and naval port facilities during the ‘Cold War’ era. The fact that US bombers and submarines can now operate on a global basis without assistance from other nations doesn’t alter the need for an independent and credible defence program. “Fixed defensive structures are a monument of man’s stupidity,” offered General George S Patton in the past but in the modern era; it’s maybe even more pertinent than before.

Royal Navy Blues.
Sticking with a Royal Navy theme; it's generally accepted that the new Type 45 ‘Daring’ class of destroyers represent some of the most advanced naval ships in the World. At one hundred and fifty-two metres in length and with a crew of one hundred and ninety, they’re expected to be ‘at sea’ on 365 days of the year and ready to perform a wide variety of tasks ranging from humanitarian aid to that of military objectives.
Built to replace the Type 42 navy ships of Falkland Isles crisis fame; the new ships are said to be capable of tracking and destroying attacking aircraft in a manner that would have meant use of five Type 42s in the past. The last Type 42 vessel was decommissioned in 2013.
There are six Type 45s currently in the Royal Navy and the cost of each one averaged out at £1050 million including all research and development. The original order for twelve of these ships was reduced to eight and then six in recent years. This led to claims that this would leave the Royal Navy unable to fulfil its commitments but the principal reasons for the order reduction was cost and where the overall projected cost of the ships had risen by nearly 30% during the time of construction.
 It’s bad news then to report that the new Type 45 ships are to receive new engines because the existing ones are proving unreliable and keep breaking down. With six of these ships in current service, (HMS Dragon is in refit at this time of writing), the cost to the taxpayer is likely to be considerable.
Lockheed F-35 'Lightning II' Aircraft.
The UK governent has taken delivery of a few Lockheed F-35 Lightning II aircraft whilst retaining them at Elgin Air Force Base in Nevada, USA. RAF and RN pilots have been flying the new Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft with the intent of these pioneers teaching others in the future. The cost of each aircraft (without engines or ordinance) is currently about £72 million pounds sterling.

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