The U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) is getting £3 billion ($4.2 billion) more to spend on military equipment post-2015 to realize its so-called Force 2020.
The money was not free. The MOD has had to give up on army end-strength and will have to rely more heavily on the reserve forces. Base structure also is coming down.
What's more, the money is not actually buying additional capabilities, it is merely funding what the MOD had already committed to in the Strategic Defense and Security Review last year, even though it seemingly did not have adequate financial resources underpinning the plan. Defense Secretary Liam Fox said that the money will help programs such as buying 14 more Chinook helicopters, to be delivered starting in 2014; conversion of a carrier to use catapult launch and arrestor gear systems; the down payment on the F-35C; development of the so-called Global Combat Ship; three RC-135 signals intelligence aircraft for delivery starting in 2014; and upgraded Warrior armored vehicles.
As is typical for the U.K., specifics are in short supply. How many JSFs may be bought during the period is not set, although some officials indicate it should be at least 16 F-35Cs.
The real question, though, is whether the money will be enough. Industry planners worry that the real growth promised the MOD after 2015 will be pegged to consumer inflation, not inflation levels the defense and aerospace sector sees. Moreover, it appears there is still a mismatch between defense plans and budget plans, to the tune of several billion pounds.
The MOD intends to release a defense equipment plan by September. It may provide more insight into how meaningful the £3 billion promised in Parliament today really is, or whether it is merely another band-aid solution to a much bigger spending crisis.