Defence CommitteeWritten evidence from Squadron Leader R T Snare RAF (Retd) FRAeS

I switched on the BBC Parliament Channel recording of your Select Committee meeting of 26 October 2011, managing to catch most of the last part. I wish to express my deep concern at the disingenuous obfuscation of Armed Forces Minister Mr Harvey, especially in relation to the costs involved in the NATO led operation. I am appalled my Chief of the Air Staff did not amplify the concerns of the Royal Air Force.

In his answer, Mr Harvey chose to state the net costs of the British contribution over and above the normal running costs. I therefore submit the enclosed answer I received from HM Treasury. This resulted from my meeting Anne Milton on 6 May 2010. I attach my letter to her at Appendix 1 and at Appendix 2 the Treasury response.

It will be noted the true cost is in line with my estimates and those of the Guardian’s Mr Tusa.

In discussing the capabilities of British and NATO forces, scant regard was given to the fact that, were it not for the initial overwhelming onslaught by the United States Tomahawk missiles which suppressed the Libyan Air Defences and prevented their aircraft from taking off, this battle would have had a much longer, and more costly attrition scenario. At an average cost of £1 million per Tomahawk, 120 missiles cost £120 million to start with. If the costs of the other Brimstone, Storm Shadow and Paveway missiles are added it is fundamental the true cost is well in excess of the Minister’s figure.

In a written answer, the Treasury stated the cost of maintaining the Ark Royal and the Harriers on station would cost approximately £208 million per annum.

The Minister attempted to play down the effect of the hours flown by the Tornados and the Typhoons which Mr Glen started to explore. I believe the figure of 4,400 hours was mentioned which at an average cost of £50,000 per hour is a further £220 million exclusive of the tanker flight refuelling costs.

The impact of these hours on the remaining life of the Tornados needs to be examined.

As I understand it, the initial less capable Tranche 1 Typhoons are due to be replaced by the later version over the next few years.

There is an excellent article, UK Air Power post-SDSR in the RAeS Aerospace International April 2011 for further reading.

You were about to discuss future capabilities when the meeting had to be terminated due to other commitments. I have therefore taken the liberty of submitting my concerned questions as Appendix 3.

30 October 2011


Dear Anne,

I have booked an appointment to meet you on Friday 6 May at 3.30 pm.

Mr Cameron wants us to tell him what makes us happy as part of his social experiment. I want him to know what makes me unhappy, and that is the continued ignorance displayed by his office in failing to answer pertinent and relevant questions concerning the conduct of this Coalition Government, of which you are a senior member.

This attitude pervades from the office of the Defence Secretary through to Gerald Howarth. How three totally unqualified people can assume the office of Ministers of Defence with no operational background beggars belief in this day and age. No doubt you will think I am being too direct and unreasonable in my comment, but when I hear Mr Howarth extolling his experience as a Chipmunk pilot (a light training aircraft) at Southampton University Air Squadron to establish his credentials to hold a Ministerial Defence post, I cringe.

The problem is further compounded by promoting compliant officers within the MoD. One of the reasons I resigned my Permanent Commission in the Royal Air Force was that I realised that in a peace time air force, promotion would not be forthcoming for those officers who tried to put the interests of the Service before their careers. Indeed one very senior officer told me that flying was not important if I wanted a successful career in the RAF, which was in direct contradiction to the ethos and the reasons Lord Trenchard started the Royal Air Force College Cranwell as a centre of excellence. I accept that it is an equally important requirement to have a good administrative background if one is destined for the most senior posts, but that training must be based on a firm and clear understanding of the whole spectrum of having extensive operational flying experience.

To get to the point of the matter, we arrive at a situation where the Chief of the Defence Staff is seemingly unaware, or does not wish to know, how the UK budget is distributed. I questioned Sir David Richards at the RUSI Christmas address when he gave his talk on the Strategic Defence and Spending Review. I started by itemising the gross waste of money in the European Union of over £20 billion, which amounted to over half the Defence Budget when we could have retained the Ark Royal and Harrier capability for some £200 million a year. He seemed to have no idea of these figures and his answer was totally unsatisfactory.

It is an adverse reflection that the most senior officers of today could ever subscribe or condone a policy based on the concept that there was no foreseeable threat to Britain for the next 10 years. Liam Fox extols the new reduced Services as providing an agile response to the conflict in Libya.

The facts are that basing a few Typhoons and Tornados in Italy, plus the in-flight refuelling costs is costing the country double that which would have occurred if we had deployed the Ark Royal and the Harriers in the Mediterranean.

It is even more disconcerting that presumably Mr Cameron accepted the advice he received from the MoD staffs that it was feasible to mount an Air Exclusion zone. Any junior officer with operational experience of Air Exclusion Zones (such as those established over Iraq and Bosnia) could have told him that it was unrealistic to mount a 24/7 operation with the small number of aircraft remaining available after the Afghanistan, Falkland Islands, and our National air defence requirements are taken into account.

I realise Mr Cameron wanted to do something to try and stop Gadddafi’s onslaught on Benghazi as being a charitable objective. Those of us who are less charitable might see it as a means of diverting attention to the rapidly worsening and precarious position of the UK economy.

What really disturbs me is that the House committed itself to taking action against Libya with no knowledge of the strength of the Libyan forces. Not a single MP produced any figures, which if they had, would probably have stopped the motion to attack Libya in its tracks.

I will give you just a few examples. The army outnumbers the British Army with approximately 120,000 men. Gaddafi has 650 tanks and 2,300 artillery pieces according to the latest Israeli intelligence assessment. We have taken out no more than 100 tanks at a cost of £800,000 to £1 million per missile cost only. Add in the amortisation of the aircraft flying hours, the fuel and operating costs of several thousand pounds an hour, and you can work out for yourself an assumed cost of £2 million per tank or artillery piece. To reduce his forces by half is going to cost Britain at least £1 billion. He also has 260 aircraft which are probably largely immobilised by the strikes on the airfields. Even so, they represent a potent threat if they get airborne.

If consideration is given to the political mess associated with the UN Resolution 1973, and the countries which supported it, it emerges that the main members of the Arab League are the ones committing the worst atrocities. No one has charged the Saudis for invading Bahrain to support a corrupt Sunni monarchy. We have no remaining capacity to take on Syria, Yemen and Iran, and so the remaining mainly Sunni monarchies from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE constitute our so called allies.

The Government has no right to embroil this country in yet another war. Surely it should be in the Italian and French interests to have taken positive action given their geographical location to North Africa. We can no longer afford to police the world and the Government is getting on to dangerous ground.

I am therefore demanding that you set up a meeting with Liam Fox, Nick Harvey, Gerald Howarth and even the CDS to justify to me where my figures are wrong: to state where all this additional money is suddenly becoming available from to conduct a war with no foreseeable exit strategy, having destroyed our carrier and Harrier forces.

Gaddafi can hang on for months to come, and there will come a point where our servicemen who are being maimed in Afghanistan and return home in time to receive their redundancy notices will join ranks with other redundant servicemen to throw out a deceitful specious Government staffed by politicians whose reckless expenses cost our troops several hundred suits of body armour at £350 per set, and probably even a couple of urgently needed Chinook helicopters.

If Churchill could see the long line of incompetent British Ministers of Defence over the past 60 years he would shudder in his grave. More recently, from Robertson, through buffoon Hoon, to Hutton, Ainsworth and now Fox and Howarth, our servicemen have been repeatedly betrayed by an intellectual elite whose first duty is to further their own careers.

Therefore, I will continue to demand answers to such crass stupidity as is exhibited by ignorant and uncaring politicians. I pray to God, for a Winston Churchill to emerge and save our country from extinction.



You asked for information on Libya’s military assets, in response to the following observations by one of your constituents:

The army outnumbers the British Army with approximately 120,000 men. Gaddafi has 650 tanks and 2300 artillery pieces according to the latest Israeli intelligence assessment. We have taken out no more than 100 tanks at a cost of £800,000 to £1 million per missile cost only. Add in the amortisation of the aircraft flying hours, the fuel and operating costs of several thousand £’s an hour, and you can work out for yourself an assumed cost of £2 MILLION per tank or artillery piece. To reduce his forces by half is going to cost Britain at least £1 billion. He also has 260 aircraft which are probably largely immobilised by the strikes on the airfields. Even so, they represent a potent threat if they get airborne.

Libyan Manpower and Assets

There are many statistical sources for military forces around the world. However, The Military Balance, which is compiled annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is considered one of the most authoritative independent sources on this issue.

According to the IISS, the Libyan military has the following:

Manpower: 50,000 Army personnel comprising 25,000 Regular personnel and 25,000 conscripts. A further 8,000 Navy personnel and 18,000 Air Force personnel make a total force composition of 76,000 personnel.

Reserves: approximately 40,000 People’s Militia.

Tanks and Artillery: 800 main battle tanks and approximately 2,400 artillery pieces.

Aircraft: 394 combat capable aircraft.

In comparison, the British Army currently has 101,300 Army personnel; 35,430 naval personnel; 40,090 air force personnel and approximately 39,420 reserves, of which 28,960 are Territorial Army. On that basis, the Libyan Army, in terms of manpower, does not outnumber of the UK Armed Forces.

UK Costs

The UK has Typhoon and Tornado GR4 aircraft operating in Libya. The operational cost per hour of each of those aircraft is £70,000 and £35,000 respectively. Those costs include forward and depth servicing fuel costs, crew costs, training costs, costs of capital charge, depreciation and amortisation.

The UK has expended Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-surface missiles over Libya, along with Block III and Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, and Enhanced Paveway II and IV guided bombs. The unit costs of those missiles are as follows:

Storm Shadow—£790,000.


Tomahawk Block III—£1.1 million.

Tomahawk Block IV—£870,000.

A unit cost for the Enhanced Paveway has not been released by the MOD on the basis of commercial sensitivity.

Only the Storm Shadow, Brimstone and Enhanced Paveway are used by the RAF to destroy Libyan tanks and artillery on the ground. Both Tornado and Typhoon aircraft carry the Brimstone air-to-surface missile; while only the Tornado carries the Storm Shadow air-to-surface missile.

On that basis, and discounting the use of the Enhanced Paveway, if one assumes that one missile was expended to destroy a Libyan tank or artillery piece during a one hour flight by each aircraft, the cost to the UK would be either £210,000, £245,000 or £825,000 per Libyan tank, depending on which aircraft was being flown and which missile was used.

Assuming that Colonel Gaddafi has 800 tanks and 2,400 artillery pieces, the cost to the UK of destroying half of his assets (1,600), at a minimum would be £336 million and at a maximum would be £1.32 billion.

It is worth noting, however, that the operation in Libya is a NATO-led operation, and therefore the Coalition has far more assets available to it, than those currently provided by the UK. The following chart sets out the number of countries and assets that have been assigned to Operation Unified Protector:

Source: NATO, 5 April 2011




Our Armed Forces have no aircraft carrier or carrier capable aircraft for the next nine to 10 years. We are currently dependent on the French Charles de Gaulle carrier which has an uncompromising history of unserviceabilities due to its nuclear powered engine and propulsion systems.

We no longer have fixed wing carrier deployable aircraft. The JSF is behind schedule.

Operational Questions

In the event of an attack on the Falkland Islands how is it intended to deploy additional forces to theatre?

What contingency plan is proposed should the Port Stanley runway be blocked or destroyed?

Does the Anglo-French treaty permit the deployment of French assets to the Falklands?

How will Britain be able to help to defend Commonwealth Countries? What forces can be deployed to stop Somali pirate attacks?

What aircraft launch system is going to fitted to the first British carrier, now that the JSF STOL version has been cancelled?

What maritime surveillance capability is planned?

What will replace the Sentinel R1 ASTOR ground surveillance aircraft?

Should the purchase of 22 Airbus A400M and 14 A330 tanker/transports be reviewed?

Financial Questions—Preamble

The UK is currently £1.5 trillion in debt, yet spends up to £12 billion on the European Union, and a further £12 billion on International Aid some of which goes to nuclear armed countries such as India and Pakistan. The European Defence Agency costs £5 million. There are contingent liabilities to the IMF of £3.2 billion, the Irish Banks £3.2 billion. A further major IMF liability of £24 billion is pending following the recent Eurozone bail out.

A recent paper by Professor Chalmers of RUSI estimated the maximum “black hole” cost including Trident was £74 billion spread over 10 years. This equates to £7.4 billion a year.


Should consideration be given to diverting part or, all of these sums to restore Britain’s defences?

The Libyan operation is being paid from the General Reserves, which is also being used to pay the costs of the London and other city riots, and to compensate citizens. Given the country’s indebtedness, what is the size of the Reserve Fund?

Should Britain’s costs be repaid by Libya from its oil revenue, or recovered from Gaddaffi capital held in Britain?

November 2012

Prepared 7th February 2012