Defence strategy casts doubt on tactical missiles: Christopher Bellamy examines a White Paper that redefines the priorities of the UK's defence plans

The strength of RAF squadrons, home ports of Royal Navy ships and even the budget of the Chief of Defence Intelligence - pounds 98.5m - are no longer secret. The Defence White Paper, published yesterday, gives them all. But there is no mention of a commitment to the 'sub-strategic nuclear deterrent' to replace the RAF's free-fall nuclear bombs at the turn of the century, merely of 'studying possible replacements'.

Many defence experts saw the lack of any reference to the Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile (TASM) in the text or the index as a sign that the Government was quietly 'airbrushing' it out of the picture. With pressure on the defence budget and continued commitment to Trident which, many believe, could have a 'sub-strategic' role, the need for a separate air-launched nuclear missile is looking questionable.

Launching the White Paper yesterday, Mr Rifkind commended the essay on UK defence strategy. Asked if Britain was 'out of step' with its European allies - a clear reference to Germany's withdrawal from the EFA fighter project - he said Britain's position was, historically and strategically, closest to that of France. Both countries were nuclear powers, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and had residual colonial responsibilities. In this, their requirements diverged from their European allies'.

Mr Rifkind said the French had stronger nuclear forces than Britain and were pursuing the development of the Rafale aircraft alone, unlike Britain's commitment to the joint European Fighter Aircraft. This showed that 'the UK is far from gung-ho in these matters . . . and does not seek to aspire to contribute above realistic capabilities'.

Mr Rifkind rebutted suggestions that Germany's decision to withdraw from the European Fighter Aircraft project resulted from a recent divergence of globally-oriented British requirements from those of its European partners: Germany, Italy and Spain.

'That is not a new phenomenon,' he said.

The White Paper redefines the main priorities of UK defence strategy. The strategic nuclear deterrent; the defence of the UK; a contribution to Nato forces in Europe; maritime defence of the eastern Atlantic and the Channel; and limited responsibilities outside the Nato area, have been officially replaced.

The new priorities are to ensure protection and security of the UK and dependent territories, even where there is no major external threat; insuring against any major external threat to the UK and allies, and contributing to promoting Britain's wider security interests through the maintenance of international peace and stability. Each of the three new, overlapping areas embraces all types of forces, Mr Rifkind said yesterday. Every one could imply operations outside the former Nato area.

There are few references to the controversial European Fighter Aircraft. It is mentioned in a chapter on 'Operation Granby: Lessons for the Future', the first official British analysis of the Gulf war, which says 'coalition operations demonstrated the importance of achieving air superiority and confirmed the value of an agile aircraft such as EFA'.

The Gulf war analysis says discrepancies in the speed of the armoured vehicles was one problem, with the older FV432 armoured personnel carriers and armoured reconnaissance vehicles unable to keep up with the more modern Challenger tanks and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles.

The unmanned 'drones' used to spot targets proved unreliable, although they will be replaced by a new one, Phoenix, next year. Although the Army's Lynx helicopters carried out missile attacks on enemy armour, they were not tough enough to act as true attack helicopters, and this will be borne in mind when buying new helicopters. But the Navy's helicopters, armed with Sea Skua missiles, did exceptionally well.

The report also says that the RAF attacked some targets a second time, unnecessarily, because of shortcomings in battle damage assessment.

EFA hopes, page 8

(Table omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies