The Defence Committee launches an inquiry into Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015 and the RAF. The inquiry assesses how effectively the RAF is implementing the ambitions outlined in the SDSR and its ability to meet ongoing and potential future strategic challenges.
In May 2016, the Defence Committee launched the first of its inquiries into the SDSR 2015 and the individual services: SDSR 2015 and the Army. Following this first inquiry, the Defence Committee is launching a parallel inquiry into the SDSR 2015 and the RAF. This inquiry examines the extent to which the SDSR provided a strategy for the future of the RAF that took into account the threats facing the United Kingdom, including those outlined by the Committee's 2015 report, Flexible response?
In advance of the 2015 SDSR, the Committee set out a checklist of eleven potential threats and general vulnerabilities that should be addressed by the SDSR. Of particular relevance to the RAF are the following:
--Growing instability in the Middle East and North Africa
--Non-state actors and hybrid warfare undermining the international rules-based order
--Potential for Russian aggression in Europe and the High North and possible dilution of the commitment to Article 5
--Lack of numbers in UK Armed Forces and gaps in capabilities
This inquiry evaluates how far, if at all, the SDSR 2015 equips the RAF to meet these potential threats and vulnerabilities.
The SDSR 2015 outlined the Government's plans for the Armed Forces for the next ten years. Among its headline commitments were meeting the NATO pledge of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence, spending £178 billion on equipment and equipment support, and establishing Joint Force 2025 with a commitment to maintain the size of the regular Armed Forces and to increase the RAF and Royal Navy by a total of 700 personnel.
This followed the retrenchment in the size of the Armed Forces that resulted from the 2010 SDSR which aimed to reduce the size of the RAF to 33,000 personnel as part of the Future Force 2020 initiative. As of February 2017, there are 33,150 regular personnel in the RAF.
The Joint Force 2025 builds on the SDSR 2010 and Future Force 2020 initiative and aims to create an expeditionary force of some 50,000 personnel from across the services. According to the Government, Joint Force 2025 will enable the deployment of a larger force more quickly and will enhance the Armed Forces' capability to work alongside other branches of Government, e.g. the intelligence services, and our international partners.
As part of Joint Force 2025, the RAF will have the following:
--2 F-35 Lightning Squadrons and 7 Typhoon squadrons (thus yielding an additional F-35 Lightning squadron and two additional Typhoon squadrons). The MoD will also maintain their plan to buy 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme.
---Complex weapons, including Storm Shadow and Brimstone missiles
---More than 20 new Protector armed remotely piloted aircraft
--Upgraded intelligence-gathering aircraft, with the service lives of Sentinel, Shadow, Sentry and Rivet Joint extended
--9 new Boeing P8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft
--A recapitalised air transport fleet, including 14 Voyager air-to-air refuelling aircraft; 22 new A400M Atlas aircraft, 8 additional C17 aircraft and an extension to the service-life of the C130J Hercules aircraft
--A recapitalised Command Support Air Transport fleet and the adaption of a Voyager aircraft so as to provide transport for senior Ministers and the Royal Family
This inquiry examines the extent to which the SDSR provides a credible strategy and route-map for the future of the RAF.
The 2016 Equipment Plan
While the SDSR is intended to outline the Government's defence strategy, the Defence Equipment Plan, published on an annual basis, sets out how the MoD will deliver and support the equipment the UK Armed Forces require over the next ten years. The 2016 Plan was the first to be produced after the 2015 SDSR and details how the Government will spend £178 billion over the next decade on equipment and support.
The 2016 Plan will see the Air Command budget increase by 11% to £32.84 billion. The Plan will result in £13.5 billion being spent on the weapons programme, including Brimstone 2 and Storm Shadow strike capabilities, £18billion on Combat Air, including Typhoon capability and the delivery of F-35 Lightning aircraft, and £16.6 billion on air support, including the procurement of the P8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
With £24.4 billion of new commitments arising from SDSR 2015, the affordability of the Plan rests on realising an additional £7.3 billion of savings on top of the realisation of £7.1 billion of 'efficiency savings' already assumed in the Plan.
The affordability of the 2016 Plan is examined in the Committee's Defence Acquisition and Procurement inquiry. However, this inquiry also assesses whether the equipment plan provides a credible platform for the RAF to meet ongoing and potential future threats and vulnerabilities.
Call for evidence
The Committee invites written submissions on the following questions:
--Does SDSR 2015 outline a credible and clear strategic vision for the future of the RAF and, if not, what should a vision for the future of the RAF entail?
--How, if it all, does the SDSR equip the RAF to meet the potential threats and vulnerabilities outlined in our report Flexible response? An SDSR checklist of potential threats and vulnerabilities?
--What impact did SDSR 2010 and the Future Force 2020 programme have on the capabilities of the RAF?
--What progress has been made in the delivery of the Future Force 2020 programme?
--Whether the RAF will be able, by 2025, to deliver two F35 squadrons jointly with the Royal Navy, and to deliver seven Typhoon squadrons as part of the 50,000 strong force envisaged by SDSR 2015?
--How adequately does the 2016 Equipment Plan equip the RAF to meet the requirements of the Joint Force 2025 and other changing strategic circumstances, and establish the extent to which the RAF will procure Ground Based Air Defence equipment for the Army to man as part of Joint Force 2025?
--What provision is being made to insure the commitments made in the SDSR against further depreciation in the value of the pound and a failure to realise estimated savings?
--To what extent does the RAF have the levels of regular and reserve personnel and the skills required to meet its current and future commitments, including Joint Force 2025?
--What capabilities are the RAF developing in respect of unmanned aerial vehicles and are they sufficient to meet ongoing and potential future strategic challenges?