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Thread: UK military procurement and why a soldiers (sailors or airmans)lot is sometimes not a happy one

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeppityDawg View Post
    The only surprising thing about that post is that you were ever allowed within 100 miles of a defence contract.
    Care to explain why please, and be very careful how you reply.

    The surprising thing is why my ex employer was. Every engineering company I worked for worked on defence contracts.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Major Sinic View Post
    It is necessary that the this story is unspecific for obvious reasons. My son is a troop leader in an armoured regiment and was recently on exercise. The vehicles within the regiment were introduced 47 years ago and the last western democracy other than the UK and Latvia, to use them was Belgium which replaced them in 2004. On the first day of the exercise on my son's own vehicle, the turret seized and the vehicle was out of the exercise for the remainder of the day whilst the turret was lifted and bearings replaced. On the fourth day of the exercise a rear half shaft snapped, screwing up the differential and again losing the vehicle for a day and a half, while on the same day a second vehicle in his troop suffered a seized gearbox. The fuel gauges are so inaccurate that they have to rod the tanks to know how much fuel they have with obvious occasional consequences. The new 'platform' that has been on the cards for a several years has now been put back until the early twenties. The present vehicles with the exception of a small number of updated units have flat hulls, providing far less protection or the occupants than 'V' hulls operated by other nations. Again an unwillingness to spend puts out troops in greater jeopardy.

    Since commissioning in the second half of last year my son has considered it necessary to spend some thousands of pounds on personal equipment including a military Garmin watch, leather as opposed to plastic boots, certain specialised clothing and a number of other items of equipment, all of which either help him to do his job more effectively or will serve more him efficiently than army standard issue. My wife and I are fortunately in a position to assist and have provided some of these items as 'gifts'. However the average enlisted soldier does not have access to such a source of supply and does not earn enough to pay for them himself. The result is that many of our combat soldiers, liable to risk their lives at a moments notice almost anywhere in the world are not kitted out sufficiently well to maximise their comfort under harsh conditions nor sufficiently well to maximise their safety. Despite the scandals regarding equipment and kit in Iraq and Afghanistan we have not learned the lesson and those needing body armour (primarily dismounted recon and infantry) can buy far superior body armour albeit at a price privately. That is a disgrace and reflects badly on every government of recent times including the current one.

    This is personal experience which one can't help but view against a backdrop of two multi-billion pound non-operational aircraft carriers.

    The number of soldiers, sailors and airmen has reduced massively, but this is less of an issue than it might have been if the likelihood of major conflict hadn't also reduced and the development of technology potentially enables our military to enter into combat more efficiently. More to the point is that the army , I don't know about the other arms, are finding it impossible to recruit sufficient numbers of competent individuals with the potential to be effective using the promised new technology to meet even the needs of our reduced military. Few, like the police or fire services, join the military forces to make money but under £15000 per annum for a new recruit and £18500 per annum for a private soldier is unacceptably low. There has been no general pay increase for well over five years but there is no Police Federation or Fire Service union to represent them.

    I recognise that there is a finite amount of financial resource available and that the NHS, Social Care, Transport, Education all have unique needs of their own but I personally believe that if we can't care for and protect the young men and women who are prepared to suffer maiming or death for their country, then we don't deserve to be defended in the event of need.

    Inevitably government tends to provide the bigger budget increases to those which areas which make the loudest noise and, of course are likely to deliver the most votes, In this connection I believe all governments have let down our armed forces for at least the last twenty years. I am disappointed that this government has failed to do more.

    I am particularly disgusted and appalled that this country considers the Marxist Leader of the Labour Party even remotely viable as Prime Minister. Jeremy Corbyn defended the IRA and mourned the passing of the murderer Martin McGuinness but was strangely silent about the 1000 plus British security forces who, doing their duty, were murdered by the IRA. Corbyn's contempt for our armed forces is well known. He has missed attending two consecutive Armed Forces Days, preferring to go to a rock concert instead.

    Frankly, and not just in connection with this post, every year that passes I feel an increasing shame in my country and many of its people, when once I felt pride.
    Your post puts me in mind of kipling

    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' “Tommy, go away”;
    But it's “Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's “Thank you, Mr. Atkins," when the band begins to play.
    When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.

  3. The Following User Says Thank You to cromwell For This Useful Post:

    Major Sinic (12-07-2018)

  4. #13
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    Good post Major. I don't feel qualified to adjudge the lack of funding at such a basic level but have read many stories that tally with it. It is absolutely wrong that the basic kit provided is regarded as so inadequate that individuals have to get their own. I believe this has been the case for quite a time - it was a common story in the days of WW2 that the Americans had better basic kit and I note that Andy McNab pointedly said they "acquired" better kit from the Americans too in one of his books. My experience is with dealing with some of the large defence contractors who benefit from selling very expensive high tech equipment. I will not mention specific ones but they all play a similar game in that they play on the obsession of getting the ultimate quality and that means paying vast amounts for "Quality Assurance". It all sounds, in principle, a good idea but the amount extra charged for such perceived quality is truly massive, especially on very complex bits of kit (guided missiles, planes etc.) but I expect it pervades into all levels. In some cases the ethos is so embedded in the major suppliers that the individuals working there are often unaware of how this plays out - it is just part of the ethos.

    A personal example (I have a few) was that there was a supply problem from a major component manufacturer that was making it hard to meet orders for a particular surface to surface guided missile. I visited the manufacturer and quoted for redesigning the component in a more modern technology and (I later found out) would be one tenth of the price they were paying. They were very interested until the original supplier then simply reduced his selling price by 90% (I also only found out later) to match so the company declined my offer in favour of the safer route, particularly as the initial supply difficulties had been rectified. The issue is the ridiculous mark up they had for this component. Each missile sold at £80,000 a pop! IMO, the cost of manufacture, had everyone got off the gravy train and into a competitive world, should have been much less that 1/10th of what was being charged. I have other examples but I feel I should not reveal these as the particular companies may be identifiable. I feel this sort of mark-up is quite common and is justified because the product has to be reliable, "Military Grade". This is more or less BS and everyone buys into it. It is not an EU issue but a multinational one - the F35s and the new carriers are an example though I actually think not as extreme as some of the much less prominent procurements like the one I mentioned. This sort of thing also happened quite frequently when the UK made its own weapons - I'm sure you know the companies involved - so it is not the EU or greedy American corporations but simply capitalism at work in a very close market where it is relatively easy to have bulls**t baffling brains.

    PS I will be "off the grid" for a few days so please don't think I'm being rude in ignoring any comments.

  5. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by grumzed View Post
    Good post Major. I don't feel qualified to adjudge the lack of funding at such a basic level but have read many stories that tally with it. It is absolutely wrong that the basic kit provided is regarded as so inadequate that individuals have to get their own. I believe this has been the case for quite a time - it was a common story in the days of WW2 that the Americans had better basic kit and I note that Andy McNab pointedly said they "acquired" better kit from the Americans too in one of his books. My experience is with dealing with some of the large defence contractors who benefit from selling very expensive high tech equipment. I will not mention specific ones but they all play a similar game in that they play on the obsession of getting the ultimate quality and that means paying vast amounts for "Quality Assurance". It all sounds, in principle, a good idea but the amount extra charged for such perceived quality is truly massive, especially on very complex bits of kit (guided missiles, planes etc.) but I expect it pervades into all levels. In some cases the ethos is so embedded in the major suppliers that the individuals working there are often unaware of how this plays out - it is just part of the ethos.

    A personal example (I have a few) was that there was a supply problem from a major component manufacturer that was making it hard to meet orders for a particular surface to surface guided missile. I visited the manufacturer and quoted for redesigning the component in a more modern technology and (I later found out) would be one tenth of the price they were paying. They were very interested until the original supplier then simply reduced his selling price by 90% (I also only found out later) to match so the company declined my offer in favour of the safer route, particularly as the initial supply difficulties had been rectified. The issue is the ridiculous mark up they had for this component. Each missile sold at £80,000 a pop! IMO, the cost of manufacture, had everyone got off the gravy train and into a competitive world, should have been much less that 1/10th of what was being charged. I have other examples but I feel I should not reveal these as the particular companies may be identifiable. I feel this sort of mark-up is quite common and is justified because the product has to be reliable, "Military Grade". This is more or less BS and everyone buys into it. It is not an EU issue but a multinational one - the F35s and the new carriers are an example though I actually think not as extreme as some of the much less prominent procurements like the one I mentioned. This sort of thing also happened quite frequently when the UK made its own weapons - I'm sure you know the companies involved - so it is not the EU or greedy American corporations but simply capitalism at work in a very close market where it is relatively easy to have bulls**t baffling brains.

    PS I will be "off the grid" for a few days so please don't think I'm being rude in ignoring any comments.
    Good follow up Grumzed. The ground to ground missile you refer to wouldn't be the Javelin by any chance? Your experience with MOD procurement must surely resonate for many with NHS drug procurement. The problem with so much protection of intellectual property rights and patent protection; be it high technology defence equipment or high technology drug treatments, is that it is difficult for state health services or the defence procurement function to establish the difference between the costs of R & D and markup until challenged in the market place. There is also the partially justifiable policy of recuperating losses on failed technology from successful technology, without which many high tech companies, be they drugs or defence equipment, could not continue to research and survive.

  6. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by cromwell View Post
    Your post puts me in mind of kipling
    Now you quote it, I understand exactly what you mean.

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    The fact that many serving members of the armed forces feel the need to upgrade their kit is a shocking indictment of procurement policy in the MOD.
    The slogan says, "Be The Best" so surely they deserve the best?

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    Not to discount that soldiers are basically magpies. Anything buckshee, or anything that can be traded is not a bad thing. There’s also the “Top gun” effect. There’s an expression, “ally”, that basically means cool. Anything ally is good (as opposed to “bone”, which is bad). Often perfectly serviceable issued kit is replaced with brand name/Gucci kit that makes the wearer/user look cooller in an aviator shades kind of way, but not necessarily more effective.

    That said, the Army’s history is littered with kit/equipment failures. The early SA80/L85 for example. Leyland L60s etc. Most squaddies can remember boots “DMS”. Boots durable moulded sole I think, but then the sole used to fall off and they filled with water in anything more than a light drizzle. There were so many pisstakes I can’t honestly remember what the actual name was. In true army pisstake style, everything had to have an “MLA” (multi letter acronym), so even MLAs had to have an MLA.

    That has always been the British squaddies way of dealing with it. If it isn’t nailed down, borrow it. If it moves, take the piss out of it, and if it doesn’t move take the piss out of it anyway. Laughter keeps you going when things look bleak.

  9. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by albertcornercrew View Post
    The fact that many serving members of the armed forces feel the need to upgrade their kit is a shocking indictment of procurement policy in the MOD.
    The slogan says, "Be The Best" so surely they deserve the best?
    Unfortunately it has always been the same - I served in the 70's and we had exactly the same issues.

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