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
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas