Monday, May 27, 2024
HomeDemocracy in DecayRishi’s rocket – the latest pie-in-the-sky vanity project

Rishi’s rocket – the latest pie-in-the-sky vanity project


THE Telegraph reports plans to equip the armed forces with a new hypersonic cruise missile, to be ready in five years and designed and built in the UK. This follows Rishi Sunak’s announcement that he is ‘putting the country on a war footing’ with a £75billion increase in defence spending, using money that doesn’t exist and that won’t last the demise of his benighted government. 

In fact the ‘Hypersonic Technologies & Capability Development Framework Agreement’ was launched by the MoD late last year. It may be that this project is now viable due to the (fake) massive uplift in spending. But it’s not new and it’s far from groundbreaking – the Prime Minister’s minions are just hyping hypersonics.

The attraction of hypersonic missiles is that they’re hard to shoot down as they move very fast. If the hypersonic missile is agile and can change course rapidly and frequently it’s an even harder target.

Of course, putting such technology in a missile is very expensive. Travelling at over five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) means it will get very hot. Concorde, which cruised at Mach 2 in the stratosphere – where the air is much less dense – got so hot it stretched by six to ten inches due to the heat of the air friction. Rishi’s rocket will have greater problems. Hypersonic missiles are not impossible – Russia has several, including the Mach 9 Zircon and the Mach 10 Kinzhal, both of which have been used in Ukraine; some have been shot down. But Russia, like the Soviet Union, has long had a coherent policy of weapon design and development. It sometimes gets it wrong – like the T-14 Armarta – but it knows what it wants to achieve. The UK’s approach to military matters is more sclerotic. The Army forgot to update its artillery and over 30 per cent of the AS90 guns that it shipped to Ukraine were unserviceable. It then bought 14 Archer guns as an interim solution before announcing its new gun, the Boxer RCH 155, last week. Until these are in service the Army will have just 14 155mm guns to support its armoured division. (The more normal number would be at least 96). You can see why the MoD is keen to deflect press attention elsewhere. Anything to avoid the reality that for every 11 who join the armed forces 16 leave. No amount of magic hardware can fill that gap.

Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister hasn’t told us which of the UK’s multiple military problems will be solved with a hypersonic cruise missile. Does he envisage using it to sink warships (hypersonic cruise missiles are ideal for sinking aircraft carriers)? Or will it be used to attack enemy (Russian or Chinese)? In which case he’ll need a lot (Russia has more than 250 civil airports). Will it be launched from a ship, jet or land? All are possible in theory, but currently no UK warship or combat jet is designed to do that.  

When I asked the MoD press office I was told that no further information is available. Quite.

Producing a new missile in six years is unlikely. There is research under way in the US for sure, and no doubt in rarefied bits of companies such as BAE Systems and its competitors. What hasn’t happened is a full requirement being produced – which would answer the key question of what the missile is for. Unless you use nuclear warheads the requirements for, say, sinking an aircraft carrier or disabling an airfield are very different – and that warhead must be able to withstand the high g-forces and huge temperatures associated with hypersonic flight. 

While the PM and his minions are making fake announcements about defence the rest of the news about the UK is dire. Our borders remain insecure, the economy is stagnating, the debt is staggering and the NHS is in a worse state that the British Army. I suppose that having consigned the UK to Starmergeddon, Sunak and the remains of his team are trying to build some sort of positive legacy, Rishi’s Rocket being the latest iteration of his vanity.

It’s time to put him, his shameful party and this country out of our misery. We need an election and we need reform.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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