Tuesday, 19 October 2010
The British Defence Spending Review and the Cypriot Bases
David Cameron announced a substantial defence review. Although the review was dressed up as a review of tactical priorities the fact was that the aim of the review was to substantially cut the defence budget by as much as 8%-10%.
The review has made some truly silly choices. The hugely expensive redevelopment of a more updated nuclear deterrent to replace trident and its submarines stayed, but the UK has effectively has killed all the units that gave it the capability of intervention in the Faklands, Sierra Leone and Iraq. If anything the UK military will be ever more dependent to US military power, and completely immobile in terms of offensive airpower: the surviving aircraft carrier and its harrier jets will be axed long before the two replacement aircraft carriers are ready. Even if the new carriers are pushed through the aircraft for them are not ready, unless the UK buys off-the-self carrier aircraft from another country. At an age where agility and surveillance is key, the UK airforce is being grounded - the Chinese news agency could not hide its joy.
This spells the end of the UK policy of increased intervention initiated by the Blair government, at for at least a decade until the new aircraft carriers are in place. Interestingly this may increase the importance of Cyprus (Akrotiri) as a base from with to handle the logistical network of operations in Afganistan. Although British troop presence in Germany will be winded down the report said nothing about Cyprus, whose role as a land based foreign airbase becomes more important as the air fleet looses all its carrier capability.
It is a loosely held secret that the UK offered Decelia to the G/C during some of the rounds of the Annan negotiation as it is considered it superfluous to requirements. However the UK presence in Akrotiri is here to stay, with the Acrotiri airbase becoming the only option for planes and men heading to Afganistan other than the hugely expensive in-flight re-fuelling process - this can be seen by the map below - which shows 1,100mile radii from Gibraltar, RAF Akrotiri, Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar, the French airbase in Djibouti and Masirah Island in Oman.
Lastly the role of the Cypriot Bases as a centre of surveillance is now as important as it was in the height of the cold war as the middle east surveillance is quite high in US and UK agendas.
A cold war U2 surveillance plane lifting off from Acrotiri