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Author Topic: Harrier dispute between Navy and RAF chiefs sees Army 'marriage counsellor' call  (Read 3479 times)

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Harrier dispute between Navy and RAF chiefs sees Army 'marriage counsellor' called in
The Defence Secretary John Hutton has been forced to call in an Army general to act as a “marriage counsellor” to resolve a bitter dispute between the heads of the Royal Navy and RAF over the future of the Harrier jump jet.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:32PM GMT 04 Feb 2009

The relationship between the First Sea Lord, Sir Jonathon Band, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Glenn Torpy has become “poisonous” due to a disagreement over the aircraft that is jointly run by both services.

Frustrated at the lack of compromise between the two military leaders, Major General Paul Newton, an Army officer with no flying background, has been appointed to resolve the dispute.

Air Marshal Torpy suggested that the Ministry of Defence could save £1 billion if the Harrier was phased out of service within the next five years with the closure of Joint Force Harrier with its 50 Navy and RAF pilots.

This would have signalled the end of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, regarded as the most professional of all air forces, despite the two new aircraft carriers entering service by the end of the next decade.

Admiral Band was incensed by the proposal, which would have meant there would be no Navy pilots to fly off the carriers, and threatened to resign.

But Air Marshal Torpy is thought to have the backing of the Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup, who was also an RAF pilot.

“Relations between Torpy and Band have become very bitter and very poisonous,” claims a defence source. “General Newton is being used as a marriage counsellor to ensure that the rowing does not become public.”

Major Gen Newton, Director of Development, Concepts and Doctrine in the MOD, is expected to agree with the Navy that a small force of sea-going pilots is vital to Britain’s interests if it wants to project power abroad when he presents his report to a meeting of MoD chiefs today (weds).

There is a suggestion now that Air Marshal Torpy will resign if the Navy wins the bitter turf war, according to Whitehall sources.

The Naval Strike Force will probably become the main Harrier force preparing pilots to fly the ‘fifth generation’ Joint Strike Fighter made in America.

The sticking point for the RAF is that only half of the 150 British JSF are likely now to be ordered with the Navy getting the majority. This would mean the RAF would struggle to get a full replacement for fourth generation Eurofighter Typhoon leaving them without a cutting edge aircraft

A senior Army officer described the dispute as “a bunch of overgrown school boys arguing over who gets to play on a new toy”.

The internecine battles being fought between the Services over a limited defence budget are said to be at the most bitter since the “east of Suez” defence cuts of the Sixties.

The RAF argues that with Afghanistan land-locked and the new carriers not coming into service until at least 2016 there is no current need to have carrier-borne fighters. Once the ships become operational, the RAF would be able to fly off them.

The savings would come through the maintenance contract that has yet to be signed with BAE Systems and by closing RAF Cottesmore when the Harrier force is based.

An MoD spokesman said: “The First Sea Lord and Chief of the Air Staff are committed to working together for the benefit of the Armed Forces and will continue to do so in the future.”“During any planning round a number of options are considered to ensure our spending plans are matching our priorities and delivering value for money. But we do not provide a running commentary on this process. At this stage no decisions have been made.”



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