The Starry Firmament



I want the government to offer £2.23 billion worth of prizes, in the form of offers for share capital, to the companies that win four competitions in space technology.

A potential benefit of the prize money being an investment in the project in exchange for shares is that the government could make a profit.

More specifically:

  • £90 million to design and, if possible within the budget, build a prototype for an unmanned interstellar probe
  • £40 million to design and, if possible within the budget, build a prototype for an interstellar communication diasporanet
  • £100 million to design an interstellar colony ship
  • £2 billion to be offered to the company that profitably mines the asteroid belt for water (not for drinking on earth but for fuel in space) and/or platinum, so long as they do so by 2024 and so long as the rocket they construct is not an old fashioned chemical rocket but a next generation VASIMR (or equivalently) rocket.


 In 2016 the Russian born US billionare Yuri Milner founded the Breakthrough Starshot project with a $100 million dollar donation. The purpose of the project is to build an interstellar spaceship able to reach the Alpha Centauri (our neighbouring) star system 20 years after launch.

It is envisaged that the ship will be wafer sized and its primary propulsion will be a sail built to be propelled by photons. At launch the ship would be kick started by an energy beam that would originate on earth (enabling relatively low cost construction and maintenance) strike it and thereby accelerate the sail and the rest of the spaceship, within minutes, to ~0.2c (20% the speed of light).

I propose that the equivalent amount of £90 million be offered in order to finance competition to Yuri Milner’s project.

Yuri Milner’s advisers identified twenty major obstacles to achieving the goal. One way for a competitor to win the star probe prize might be to develop a technological solution to one or more of those obstacles. The solution could, potentially, then be sold to the Breakthrough Starshot project and/or used by the winning competitor in their own interstellar probe design or construction.

For example, one major obstacle to an interstellar probe is that moving at ~0.2c (as the Breakthrough Starshot project requires) the spaceship is prone to catastrophic damage from interstellar dust and gas by erosion and by melting.

In a paper uploaded to the Starshot project archive in August 2016 a team at Harvard University propose that this problem could be fixed by an ablative shield placed at the prow of the spaceship.

A consequence of the small size of the spaceship is that it may not be a forbidding proposition to build hundreds of them or even thousands.

This would enable a fleet to be dispatched forthwith that then, upon relevant information being obtained by telescopes whose capacities are dramatically improving, could be redirected to more promising destinations even while en route.

Were a thousand probes built today and launched forthwith at ~0.2c velocity then regardless of any improvements in such craft made subsequently it would be doubtful that any successor ships could ever overtake them. This is because it is doubtful that successor ships could be made substantially faster than ~0.2c. This suggests that were such a fleet dispatched forthwith in all conceivable directions, even ahead of identifying which star systems are most likely to be useful to humans, a first-mover advantage would be acquired in virtue of some of these probes arriving before any other ship at the most potentially useful reachable destinations.

In the event any such destinations did prove to be potentially useful it is self-evident, to me at least, that the great nations would resolve at once to send men and women to the stars. Such first-mover probes as I have imagined could sell information about the destination they had reached to these interested nations (or other parties such as, say, the Mormons who have it as part of their doctrine that they will, in due course, spread across the stars) and in this way generate profit. This is the reason to launch this project as soon as possible.

Moreover, were the UK to withdraw from the the United Nations Treaty on Outer Space so that we were no longer bound to declare private claims to extra terrestrial land illegal and were the Kingdom to declare instead, under our own constitution that private property rights to land are to the benefit of all mankind (which the UN treaty suggests they might not be),  it would logically follow that private property claims to the newly discovered star systems, or parts thereof, could be upheld by the UK courts and in such a case international private space enterprises would have a very compelling reason to locate to the UK instead of anywhere else.  It is for this reason that the state of Luxembourg has already offered its own jurisdiction for precisely such a function.  But in the case of Luxembourg who, like the UK, remains a signatory to the Treaty, it is only the produce of such land that can be protected in Luxembourg courts not the land itself. Indeed, were the UK to renounce the United Nations Treaty it could logically claim such territories, if it wished, as British and sovereign. My aim in suggesting this is to kick start private enterprise in outer space but I am not sure that the idea of recreating the British Empire in space is an entirely unattractive spin-off. It would be nice, I can’t help thinking, to make a even better job of it than the Kingdom did last time!

I submit that declaration of such a sovereign claim would create an incentive for the private development of distant star systems and intrasolar bodies if it also meant protection of private property rights and that for this reason the UK should in fact renounce the United Nations Treaty on Outer Space.


 On 17-Apr-2011 P. Galea presented a paper at a symposium entitled “World Ships – The Long Journey to the Stars.” In this paper the author outlined the engineering requirements for maintaining a light communication link between the inner solar system and any spaceships journeying through interstellar space.

Such a communications capacity would be invaluable to a crewed colonization effort.

The author noted that in the context of a fleet of interstellar ships for the earth to act as a communications hub would be a great deal more practical than the fleet attempting to maintain intra-fleet communications directly.

He proposed using the gravitational force of the sun to focus a high frequency (light) signal incoming from the interstellar ship. From the point of view of the interstellar spaceship this would mean pointing its broadcast antennae at the sun (a relative obvious space-mark).

The focal point would be exploited by positioning a relay craft, with receiving and broadcasting dish, on the side of the sun opposite to the location of the spaceship. After the incoming signal was gained it would be relayed to earth. Conversely a signal transmitted from the earth to the relay craft would then be broadcast by it using the sun as a transmitter lens.

It is a consequence of this approach that for every interstellar ship there would need to be one relay craft.

Using the sun as an enormous antenna allows signal gain potentially equivalent to a 10,000,000 km diameter Cyclops (a particular type of) antenna array. Assuming a power output on the relay craft of 10 Megawatts theoretical upload rates of Gigabytes per second would be achievable enabling substantial data flow back and forth.

The main problem with this idea is,

“The relay craft has to be held on track with a staggering degree of precision.”

This problem can be solved by deploying a flotilla of Navigation Satellites at least 10 Astronimical Units outward of the sun which constellation would enable the interstellar spaceship’s position to be fixed with sufficient precision for the relay craft to be shifted so as to maintain the orientation to the spaceship that would ensure the stability of the communications link.

A difficulty of the above scheme is that it would require at least five spacecraft (one relay craft and four, and potentially more, navigation satellites at least one either side of and one above and one below the sun) in the solar system. Launch costs alone for five 7 ton satellites would be £1.0 billion (2016 prices).

The focus of the competition to build a prototype diasporanet would therefore in part be on reducing the mass of the launched vehicles. This would not be easy as in order to position themselves correctly they would need to have propulsive systems and the relay craft in particular would need a substantial integral power source.


 On 17-Apr-2011 Gregory L Matloff presented a paper “World Ships – The Solar-Photon Sail option.”

In this paper the author considered the three configurations of solar sail he considered most viable given the >1g acceleration loads experienced during close solar pass.

The first he examines is a parachute sail. This suffers from the fact that cable mass rises faster than payload mass for any given increase in size. The third he considers is a Hoop Sail but he identifies problems with this too.

Probably a better option, in his view, would be a hollow-bodied sail. Matloff proposed that it be made from beryllium and considers a 110,000 ton vessel, propelled by a 550,000 ton sail with a radius of 540 kilometres, traveling at ~0.002c (so taking 1,750 years to reach Alpha Centauri) and with a 1,000+ crew.

I think a more realistic and useful target would be a 1,500 ton vessel propelled by a 7,800 ton sail, with a radius of, say, 8km feeding a variable specific impulse magneto-plasma rocket able to travel at ~0.03c (so taking 120 years to reach Alpha Centauri) with a target crew of 150.

The conceptual environment for photon powered spaceships has been transformed recently by commitment to the idea of a kick start, powered by emitters on the surface of the earth, to achieve higher states of initial acceleration.

In a paper published in 2012 Stephen Ashworth assessed the practicability of beamed energy vehicles. He came down against them on the grounds that natural photon pressure would be unable to deliver sufficient acceleration for a sub-1,750 year journey time to Alpha Centauri and because of the need to use auxiliary propulsion to ensure the spaceship remains sufficiently centred on its power beam. However Stephen Ashworth did not allow for Galea’s proposed solution to the navigation problem. Stephen does allow for more practicable journey times if a collimated laser kick-starter is used but he did not allow for Yuri Milner’s determination to make this happen. What he did do, however, is fix a couple of other problems. Stephen Ashworth pointed out that greater efficiency can be achieved by capturing the beamed energy at the vehicle as electrical power and using it to drive an electric propulsion system such as the variable specific impulse magneto-plasma rocket or, if such a rocket was not available, then deceleration could be achieved by reflecting the power beam from one annular sail section to another. Not only does the use of an electric rocket fix the problem of how to decelerate upon arrival but Stephen Ashworth estimates that such a rocket would improve the energy supply fifteen fold potentially reducing, all else being equal, journey time to Alpha Centauri from 1,750 years to 120 years. If this approach were combined with a more powerful and precise power-broadcasting beam speeds of 0.2c seem reachable. Ten years ago it was a given that photon powered spaceships would be too slow for interstellar missions. Not any more.

Kick starting a colony ship involves difficulty if it means subjecting the crew to higher gravitational force than is healthy over sustained periods. On the other hand, it has a massive impact on journey time. Accelerating at twice standard gravity per annum over a fifteen year period delivers an eighty fold increase in velocity as compared with acceleration at standard gravity over the same time period so that a journey time that would otherwise be 1,750 years is reduced to 22. Accelerating at 1.5g on this logic reduces journey time from 1,750 to about 200 years.

Given that the spaceship should maintain artificial gravity (for example by spinning to create centrifugal force) of not less than 1g the issue of gravitational force is a major obstacle to overcome in building any slow colony ship design.

Another problem that would need to be overcome would be fending off cosmic rays. Current thinking has tended to focus on shielding (for example by wrapping the crew space in water) but an artificial magnetosphere could prove a more elegant and cost effective solution if one could be generated.

 In any case the purpose of the competition would be to produce a design that was viable.

When ships embarked upon voyages of discovery in the late 15th century the crew did not know what, upon arrival, they would find. They sailed literally into the unknown and in the process often died for their pains. I think a slow and cautious dispatch of unmanned probes to nearby stars before risking any human exploration or colonization is guilty of the charge of health and safety madness.

Interstellar colonization should not be postponed by 250 years while unmanned missions map the sphere within, say, ten lights years of earth.

Current thinking on interstellar colonization is framed by, for example, Yuri Milner’s project, in that it aims to identify more useful destinations before committing to intense exploration and, as such, is a more precise setting of targets than a scatter-shot approach. Actually the Breakthrough Starshot probe concept does tend towards a scatter gun approach in the sense that it envisages large numbers of spacecraft probes being sent out initially. In any case the idea is to dispatch robotic probes first and only to consider sending people subsequently. My contention is that if the stars are worth pursuing they are worth pursuing with people at the first practical opportunity even if deaths result.

Subject to speeds attainable being competitive with unmanned vehicles a colony ship can double as a probe.

In conclusion my proposal is not to build a crewed interstellar colony ship. Not yet. Phase I would just be to design it to map out all the issues that need to be overcome. If, after, say, five years of work, the design proved viable then the next step would be to prototype some of the component technologies and only then to go on to construction.


 In April 2017 a Singaporean technology consultancy published its assessment that asteroid mining would begin as soon as 2025. Already Planetary Resources (who plan their first prospecting mission in 2020) and Deep Space Industries (both on the US west Coast and, in the case of Planetary Resources also with offices in Luxembourg) have raised large amounts of venture capital.

In November 2016 The state of Luxembourg (just as I am proposing the UK do on a larger scale) invested $25 million in Planetary Resources. Since then it has invested an additional $175 million in asteroid mining projects (including additional amounts in Planetary Resources).

In the UK the Asteroid Mining Corporation was formed in February 2016 while in the USA Kepler Energy and Space Engineering hopes to steal a march on the opposition by mining, in effect, sample amounts using existing technology and to do so as soon as 2019.

Deep Space Industries seeks to establish a fuel depot in space near to a water rich asteroid by 2020.

No doubt the dates for the depot and for the commencement of mining are a movable feast but in this matter the key thing is that the economic exploitation of the near asteroid belt is already being, and is going to go on being, pursued and so there is a demand, from the companies pursuing, for appropriate suppliers.

By financing, in the form of taking shares in a private company, or companies, via a competition, the government could equip investees to get into the running and make money for itself at the same time.

The reason this makes more sense than applying the same argument to financing, say, films is that, in my judgement at least, the total long term positive consequences are greater and the film makers, in any case, can manage by themselves (or not as the case may be).

My idea is that the government would harness the private sector to cost effectively implement these goals and create the preconditions for a Britain that would raise its eyes up from the pavement and fix them instead on the stars.

The earth’s 190 ton per annum (2011) platinum production (at £717 per ounce) is worth about £5 billion per year. With asteroids containing substantially more platinum than the earth’s entire estimated reserves the projected return on a mining for platinum operation could be taken, after adjusting for price falls if the market were flooded with a fifty per cent increase in supply, to be circa £35 billion (amortised over 10 years). The figures justify a considerable investment in this opportunity even if it did prove, as enhanced supply depressed prices, to be somewhat short term. It is for the reason that it might prove short term that it would be prudent to mine for water too. Water would primarily be useful as a long term fuel source for spaceships. It would also be necessary for potable and not potable water for human life beyond the earth as it becomes established, for example, by the People’s Republic of China should it succeed in establishing a manned moon base by 2040, as it wishes to, but at the same time fail to process sufficient water locally (from the small amounts existing in crater shadows) or by the European Union should it succeed in establishing its moon village by 2030 as it wishes to.

In the asteroid mining competition I would have it be stipulated that the mining rocket be powered by a variable specific impulse magneto-plasm (or equivalent) rocket. This is a novel type of engine that relies on magnetic fields to contain and manipulate, typically, an argon gas fuel. The technology offers the prospect of nozzle operating temperatures two orders of magnitude greater than traditional chemical rockets. A year and a half ago NASA awarded a $9 million grant to the US company Ad Astra to build a prototype which NASA reports to be on track today half way through the project. On the other hand, initial milestones have not as yet been met even though progress has been made so it is possible that Ad Astra will not deliver or even that the this whole technology will not deliver (hence my mention of any equivalent being also satisfactory). If built magneto-plasma rockets would need a small fraction of the fuel of a traditional chemical rocket enabling it to transport much greater weights and, if additional space were allocated to fuel, to change trajectory repeatedly during missions. If the technology is delivered it offers to effect intra-solar industry as profoundly as the railways did terrestrial industry. A further feature of this type of rocket is that it would go substantially faster thereby reducing the time astronauts would be exposed to cosmic radiation in travelling from A to B and consequently it would be a more practical propulsive system for human crewed vessels particularly to Mars. A draw back of the technology is that the earth’s magnetic field would interfere with it so such a rocket would have to be built where the earth’s magnetic field would have little effect so in cislunar space not on earth. This in turn would demand construction technologies that could deliver small weights of intelligent equipment (3D printers and robots) that could then assemble larger systems in situ or that could lift weights more economically. Although the price of lifting weight into orbit remains extremely high it has been falling and will continue to. Mining the asteroids with such rockets would therefore require a two track approach including the construction of cislunar infrastructure, a dock, where such a rocket could be assembled as well as building the rocket (which would use solar power for thrust when operating close to the sun by which I mean, more or less, inside the orbit of mars) itself. Based on an assessment by a group at Caltech I have allowed £2 billion to build the rocket but we might estimate that there would be an additional £8 billion needed to pay for the dock, the new assembly technologies and returning the mined material to earth. This cost of £10 billion would still leave a profit of £25 billion so long as the competition were well and truly pipped at the post which is the reason why we need to get on with this.

In May 2017 Ye Peijian, commander and designer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, announced that the People’s Republic of China intends to mine asteroids for the likes of palladium and platinum. The Mail newspaper in the UK reported that the Chinese estimate the asteroid belt contains trillions of pounds worth of these minerals. In practice that is not so since if so much became available the price would fall. But the belt does contain platinum to a practical value of circa £35 billion plus which is still a very valuable prize and as mining costs fall the vast quantities of diverse metals in the asteroids might start to become economic to use.

In the year 2000 the EU, the USA and Japan filed 91% of all the patents in the world. The People’s Republic of China filed about 4%. In 2015 the EU, the USA and Japan combined filed 34% and the People’s Republic of China 51%.

The UK courts may accept that claims to parts of the asteroid belt by private enterprise, or indeed individual persons, for the benefit of all mankind is a legally acceptable form of proceeding if we pass legislation to make it so and so British jurisdiction could open up the belt to investment from all over the world. It seems to me quite possible that, by contrast, the People’s Republic of China will take the view that asteroids it possesses fall within its exclusive economic zone a zone which, on earth at least, is one within which Chinese state powers call all the shots with the rest of the world far from encouraged to join in. If so I suspect our juridical model would attract far more capital to our advantage than the Chinese one would.

A historian once described ancient democratic Athens as the first nation whose character was that of a man with a fist full of coins and eye for the main chance.

I want to see the United Kingdom take on more of the character of ancient Athens and when our civilisation expands into the inner solar system I want to see in that civilisation more of ancient Athens than modern Beijing.

2,788 words written 18-May-2017 by:

Aidan Christopher Ulrich Powlesland

UKIP candidate for Parliament 2017 Suffolk South

Commanding Heights


Subject, firstly, to greater offsetting cuts in non-military expenditure and, secondly, to 75% of any increase in the defence budget being invested in innovation, I propose the defence budget be increased by £25 billion per year.

 In 1939 the Distribution of British spending on defence looked like this:

Table 1.

In 2014 the distribution of British spending on defence looked like this:

Table 2.

In the 65 years between 1949 and 2014 British defence focused on pre-empting enemy threats on land before they could reach Briton’s shores. Spending on the army rose relative to spending on the other services.

The World Wars demonstrated the danger of not conducting a forward defence on land and thereby contributed, more than anything else, to the policy of deploying the British army, in accordance with our NATO obligations, to foreign states and locations close to, and designed to deter, our most dangerous neighbours from acts of war.

It is doubtful that Germany would have invaded Belgium in 1914 if the British Expeditionary Force had been permanently deployed there.

It is equally doubtful that Germany would have invaded Poland in 1939 if the British expeditionary force had been deployed there (although I recognise if it had only been deployed there Germany probably would have invaded Lithuania instead).

In both cases we can say that there was no obvious peace dividend from not being in Belgium and Poland since in both cases we ended up warring against Germany anyway.

Britain’s 1949-2014 policy of forward defence was successful, but under David Cameron’s coalition government, if not before, it ran out of steam.

I do not believe, had the UK deployed, in accordance with my interpretation of the UK’s undertakings in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances 05-Dec-1994, an expeditionary force to Ukraine in 2013 and positioned it in the Crimea, that Russia would have invaded Ukraine at all.

My conclusion is not that we should deploy to Ukraine (although personally I think we should). My conclusion is that we should deploy meaningfully to our allies in Eastern Europe. Extending this principle of forward defence we should also strengthen our ability to deploy suddenly and swiftly to any foreign location.

To provide for the above two goals the new budget I propose assigns £3.4 billion, £2.7 billion for army expeditionary forces and £0.7 billion for a Royal Air Force flying aircraft carrier with 10 F35Bs or equivalent on board. The flying aircraft carrier would not be needed for an east European deployment (as ground based war planes could rebase there from the UK) but beyond Europe the flying aircraft carriers range, vertical take off and landing (VTOL) capability, including on water, could provide air support to expeditionary forces or allies regardless of the terrain, or availability of fixed air bases.

In the 40 years since 1977 the British army has engaged in three substantial wars, the Falklands Conflict 1982, The Gulf War 1990-91 and The Iraq War 2003. In addition it has been active in suppression of the Iraqi insurgency from 2003-2006, in assisting the Iraqi government during the Iraqi civil war from 2006-2011 and in Afghanistan from 2001-2014. In 2017 there are circa 500 British troops in Afghanistan and circa 400 in Iraq. Treating the anti-insurgent operations as a single conflict for the purposes of analysis I would say that had the UK possessed the sort of forward defence strength I am proposing (and deployed it appropriately) it is probable that three out of four of the above wars would have been prevented and part of the fourth.

The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have not been so grave that it is self-evident that if we had had an expeditionary force in Ukraine, which Russia had attacked, that this would have been a better outcome than what has actually happened.

However what is self-evident is that we have encouraged Russia’s President to believe that he may make war relatively unrestrained. It was this same message to Adolf Hitler, in 1936, 1938 and March 1939, that caused him to misread the intentions of the British Empire in Autumn 1939.

Our east European policy has increased the chance of war in the coming decade on our continent. Isolationism may have been the prudent course but the lesson I wish to keep in mind is that appeasement tends to backfire.

Deterrence must involve the risk that your enemy will not be deterred. The Russian Federation under President Putin has twice invaded other countries in the last nine years. The danger, precisely because the Russian (active) arsenal contains 2,500 tactical nuclear warheads and 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads  (as compared to the UK’s 160 strategic) is especially grave in view of Russian military doctrine’s willingness, since 2000, to deploy nuclear weapons in limited numbers in any conventional war in which it was considered in Russia’s interest to do so including before the enemy does.

The new defence budget I outline herein increases the conventional army that could make up an expeditionary force raising the expeditionary rapid reaction percentage from 10% to 20% of the whole. It makes provision to replace the UK’s aging main battle tank and ensures that each component brigade of even the largest possible quick reaction expeditionary force would have an organic heavy cavalry regiment with a fourth to act as a mobile reserve. The 40% absolute increase in spending on the army is seventy five per cent directed towards this goal of discouraging our closest potential enemies far from our shores. This is done in part by assigning £700 million to increasing the rapid reaction part (with mobile logistical elements to hand) of the army (from 8,000 infantry to 16,000 infantry). In addition I would increase the total number of infantry, by about 11% (from 80,000 to 89,000) partly so as to increase the combat infantry element on the Falklands from 250 to 1,250 and partly with a view to deploying the 8,000 new infantry permanently to eastern Europe in the form of 3,000 to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and 5,000 to Poland or, even better, 3,000 to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, 3,000 to Poland, 1,000 to Ukraine and 1,000 to Moldova if they want us.

I mention the Falklands not in a spirit of macabre nostalgia. The Falklands should be developed to protect its resources which include £500 billion worth of oil after extraction costs, as well as good underwater locations for a secondary base, perhaps the primary base, for our strategic deterrent. The potential enemy against which the 1,000 extra infantry would be primarily guarding in such a case would not be Argentina but other and potentially mightier powers. With this in mind the budget provides for deployment of one of the proposed two Royal Air Force flying aircraft carriers to the Falklands where it’s VTOL capacity combined with a doctrine of mobile basing would render it particularly secure against surprise attack by enemy special forces.

In the period 1950-1992 the UK’s forward defence policy took the form of the honouring of obligations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In the period 1992-2017 it took the additional form of wars in the Middle East.

Although I embrace the inherent wisdom of forward defence in principle (hence the £5 billion allocated to it) the shift from the Navy and the Air Force to the army has, under the influence of Middle Eastern affairs since 1992, come about without due consideration. It is due for some reversal.

In respect of the element of this proposal that might be deemed provocative to Russia I would make this deployment to our East European allies only at the same time as offering a bilateral tourist visa free regimen between Russia and the UK. This would demonstrate good faith. Such a visa regime would be merited on its own terms, but its purpose would also be to let Russia know that the UK was open to good relations with the Federation even at the same time as our actions proved our willingness to deter invasion of allied and friendly nations.

In the light of our failure to do anything substantial about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and our gratuitous exclusion of Russian tourists from our shores, this corrective is overdue


Outside the scope of this essay I have explained why the construction of a fleet of flying aircraft carriers makes sense. I allow £2.1 billion in table 3 below for six. Flying carriers, although less vulnerable than surface carriers, more useful and less expensive, would be vulnerable to detection by real time satellite observation or Airborne Early Warning Systems and the surface-to-air hypersonic and other missile fire those satellites and aircraft could direct. The military solution to this is to secure control of the near extra-terrestrial and aerial environment and to achieve this I have provided £3.6 billion to establish a Royal Star Navy as well as increasing fighting air strength by the equivalent of 100 F35Bs (deployed within the proposed aircraft carrier fleet). In principle I would not favour F35s for the aerial carrier fleet. The obvious alternative is drones but assuming a catapult launch, steam catapults exert more acceleration pressure than drones can stand (which is why they are only just being introduced to surface carriers now) so electro-magnetic catapults would be needed instead. The constraint here might be that electricity generation on board would be insufficient to power an electro-magnetic catapult.

The Royal Star Navy would have to establish and train for an integrated joint doctrine for working with the aircraft carriers force and the cyber force as these three would constitute a combined arms force in exactly the same way tanks, helicopters and tactical bombers do now.

Real time satellite based observation of air craft is not a capability that has existed for more than a few years and indeed may not have existed prior to this year. Such observational resources will, however, constitute the primary change in the military environment of the coming decade. This change demands that in war the UK be capable of seizing control of this commanding geography. So long as it does so its aerial fleet of carriers would remain illusive, especially when operating over water or unpopulated land, to the enemy but should the enemy gain control of this zone the aerial fleet would be highly vulnerable. It is for this reason that I have allocated £3.6 billion to founding a Royal Star Navy. I envisage £0.2 billion for command and control, £0.9 billion for downward reconnaissance satellites capable of tracking enemy aircraft en masse in real time, £0.4 billion to finance joint-civilian projects, £1.3 billion to finance near space combat units, £0.6 billion to finance near space reconnaissance and £0.2 billion to establish a deep space fighting capacity and marine corps including planning for a complement on the interstellar colony ship.


As a precaution against loss, in war, of all aircraft carriers, whether surface or aerial, or the loss of control of the near space extra-terrestrial environment provision is made for the construction of a submarine, and so stealthier, aircraft carrier to explore whether in the long run a fleet of them might not be the better than either the surface carriers favoured now or the aerial carriers I favour. Owing to the high ratio of the carrier to air component cost it is proposed, in the first instance, to make provision only for an evaluation and design with construction pushed back in time. This preparation would, however, enable the design to be commissioned relatively rapidly should circumstances allow.


Investigations by the US Senate suggested that this type of strategic weapon could knock out an adversary’s power to wage war of mass destruction without inflicting mass casualties and that this technology might have special appeal to relatively weak potential opponents. As such it could be particularly useful for the UK in standoffs with mightier powers as well as against states like North Korea. The scientific consensus appears to be that such a weapon would be insufficiently effective, that the senate’s review was alarmist, and for this reason I have provided only for a prototype. In the event the prototype demonstrated the efficacy of the system additional finance would be needed for a battery of such missiles and at least one nuclear submarine to deploy them illusively which would mean shutting down other programmes. Clearly it would be worth it should such a technology be made effective and indeed were that so a squadron or flotilla could make more sense than a single submarine


Drone led semi-intelligent air craft swarms (or simply drones that outperform piloted war planes) might be deliverable sooner than autonomous intelligent war planes and if so should be ruthlessly concentrated on in the first instance. I have made provision for both as a precaution.


This new corps would sit organically within the four combat services (as the Corps of Royal Engineers and the Medical Corps does within the army) funded to the tune of £500 million per annum in each case.

The expenditure I propose constitutes a 220% increase on current spending on this method of waging war.


The extra hunter killer submarine (increasing the existing fleet of seven to eight) should be assigned permanently to the South Atlantic (which incidentally would free up the one that at present has to be there some of the time). A £500 million provision is included for construction of an underground and underwater dock in one of the several locations around the Falkland’s archipelago where the land drops precipitously into deep water so that submarines could come and go deeply submerged and relatively unobserved. The dock should be made large enough to accommodate at least four nuclear submarines so that part of the strategic weapons fleet could be based there at will.


The army had 168 main battle tanks in three regiments of heavy cavalry in 2016. By comparison Russia plans to have 2,400 of its brand new design in 2020. A side effect of the army shifting its focus to unconventional or weak opponents such as the Taliban, ISIS and the Iraqi army over the last 25 years has been that the army has fallen behind in tank technology. I propose a 25% increase in numbers of tanks (£600 million). This would mean that the expanded 16,000 rapid reaction infantry force and the additional 16,000 infantry to be permanently deployed overseas would each have a pair of integral heavy cavalry regiments. However, the greater focus of my proposal is not more but better tanks drawing upon the best technology of all the other tanks in the world. I would estimate that £0.9 billion would be enough, barely perhaps, to develop a state of the art successor tank which could then be paid for out of the existing army budget, maintaining the 25% increased numbers. Alternatively, there are some effective tanks that have been developed by other countries recently, including some of our allies, which the £0.9 billion could instead be used to acquire circa 80 of.

F35Bs x 40 or equivalent for R. Navy aerial Carriers £1.3 billion
F35Bs x 20 or equivalent for R. Airforce aerial carriers £0.6 billion
NEW: ROYAL CYBER CORPS (organic to each service) £1.6 billion
Drones or drone-led (semi-autonomous) aircraft swarms £1.6 billion
Ver. Take Off & Landing stealth drones (recon & combat) £1.6 billion
Rapid Reaction Element (up 100%) + 9,000 Infantry £1.5 billion
Astute Class Hunter Killer Submarine £1.5 billion
Free Electron Beam weapon acquisition (from the USN) £1.2 billion
Supercavitating torpedoes or equivalent (development) £1.0 billion
NEW: ROYAL ROBOT CORPS (organic to army units) £1.0 billion
Autonomous aircraft £1.0 billion
Capacitor & power system enhancement (development or acquisition) £0.9 billion
New Battle Tank (hybrid engine, active infra-red camouflage system, EMP, Laser or smoothbore main gun/s, windbreaker or equivalent close defence system, and modular ceramic composite armour or equivalent). Development. £0.9 billion
+40-62 tanks of new design (in one heavy cav. regiment) £0.7 billion
Underwater nuclear submarine dock in the Falklands £0.5 billion
SUBMARINE AIRCRAFT CARRIER x 1 (evaluation) £0.4 billion
Autonomous submarine x 1 £0.4 billion
Drone Submarines x 2 £0.4 billion
Land Based R.N. maritime reconnaissance arm £0.4 billion
Nuclear Electro-Magnetic-Pulse SSBM (evaluation) £0.3 billion
Rail guns (research, evaluation or acquisition) £0.3 billion
Uniforms, exoskeletons and quantum stealth £0.2 billion
Royal Marines £0.1 billion
TOTAL £58.0 billion
Table 3.


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A Slave Market: UK Housing




In 1965 there were 3.5 people per house in the UK. In 2015 there were 2.6 people per house. In the last fifty years the supply of houses per person has risen abundantly by 23%. Population has grown but supply of houses has grown more.

The number of people living in each household has fallen by about 27% in the last fifty years to 2.3 per household in 2015 mostly because there are more people living alone now than there were.

The combined effect of these two factors of increasing numbers of houses per person and shrinking families (households) is that the ratio of houses to households has not changed at all since 1965. In 1965 there were 11% more households than houses and there still are.

These facts prove that the belief that 100% of the reason house prices have risen is because of overcrowding in the UK exacerbated by immigration is rubbish. It is a powerful myth but no less false for that. Although it is about 35% true it is not the main explanation for why house prices have gone up in the last 50 years by a factor of 66 instead of the factor of 17 that inflation alone would account for.

Relative to income houses have become dramatically less affordable in the last 50 years for the average person. Meanwhile credit markets have got much deeper. As a result despite the fact houses are four times more expensive by ratio to income 49% more people owned houses in 2013 (64%) than in 1965 (circa 43%). Not only is there less overcrowding than there was fifty years ago there is also more security of tenure.

So if the basics of supply and demand and security of tenure are not putting pressure on house prices why have UK house prices gone up by a factor of 66 in the last 50 years?

The reason is that the residential land and buildings market in the UK is not a free market.

Capital gains on the sale of a primary residence are exempt from tax. That is one. Interest rates are artificially low. That is two. Then there is the planning system. It is three.

In their 2010 report for the Department of Communities and Local Government Doctors Hilber and Vermuelen calculate that between 15% and 25% of the price of a building is a function of builders being constrained by the planning system.

I calculate that 22% of the price of land and buildings in 2015 is a consequence of easy borrowing and 25% is a result of capital gains tax exemptions leaving only 33% of the price of land and buildings a result of supply and demand considered independent of other factors.

Had the market been free the average price of a house in 2015 would not be the £190,000 it was (Nationwide Building Society) but would be £63,000 instead. If so house prices over the last fifty years would still have risen faster than inflation but only 30%, not 200%, faster. This would have meant that by now, say, 88% of households would have been able to afford to own their own house. For those who could not renting would be extremely cheap.

It might be thought that if no public housing had been built in the last fifty years we would have fewer houses per person than we had in 1965. This view takes no account of publically subsidized building crowding out the private sector. With a combination of more private supply, and costs 67% less, only a fraction of the 17% now in subsidized housing would need to be. The public purse could pay for this group to be housed in private housing without needing council tax and business rates to pay to build that housing.

Since 1965 residential land and buildings have acted like a gravitational force upon the nation’s capital which now tends, all other things being equal, to flow towards them. This is bad. Primarily, because it distorts the free market in capital and so makes the economy inefficient. In recent years it has also meant that land and buildings, even with deeper credit markets, are becoming beyond more people’s means (64% of households were owner occupiers in 2013 as opposed to 68% in 2001).

A free market in private property would systematically expel capital out of land and buildings into the general economy but in a gradual manner not catastrophic for most owners with relative decline in property value possibly more than offset by faster growth of the economy.

An arbitrary and inefficient land economy has survived and thrived because it appears to serve two powerful vested interests. The 64% of Britons who live in owner occupied housing and the government who has kept the cost of paying the interest on its borrowing down by artificially low interest rates and quantitative easing. But actually both of these interests would do better if the economy were not held back by land’s artificially boosted gravitational pull on capital.

A free market in land and buildings would reduce our exposure to debt inflated bubbles because borrowing would be harder to get. This is one. A free market in land and buildings would lower the real price of land and buildings making them hugely less expensive relative to people’s incomes over the next fifty years. This is two. A free market in land and building would result in more efficient use of the nation’s capital and so make the nation richer. This is three.

Where do the political parties stand on setting the land and buildings market free?

Labour’s anti-little-old-lady policy aims to tighten the shackles on the property market even further by controlling rents. Controlling rents will push buildings to be withdrawn from the rental market as renting becomes uneconomic. This will cause the price of buildings to rise (as there will now be fewer of them on the market worth investing in) with the especially arbitrary twist that profits from capital gains will therefore increase relative to profits from renting accelerating the shrinking of the rental market further. The net effect will be that the poorest 20% of people, who typically rent, will find it harder to do so and perversely some will end up on the street. Labour’s policy is to protect the poor but it will have the reverse effect.

The Conservatives are also enemies of a free land economy. They have, for example, allowed social housing tenants to buy their own houses at a massive discount under the “Right to Buy Scheme”. Sadly, all these Conservative pounds showered on the housing market (in the form of discounts) will only drive up prices as will the ever tightening Conservative screws of regulatory control over property managers and landladies.

Conservatives, Labour, Liberals and Greens are all competing with each other to promise to build hundreds of thousands of houses at immense cost to the Public Purse of, say, £7 billion per hundred thousand homes.

I call on UKIP, or better still the government, to instead get behind a free market in land and buildings (by repeal of the 1947 Town and Country Act, by abolition of capital gains tax relief on the sale of primary residences and by reform of the Bank of England and the mechanisms of monetary policy) so as to strike off the land economy’s chains.

Fruitcake: H.M.S. Dragon




 In June 1933 the United States Navy commissioned its second aerial aircraft carrier U.S.S. Macon. The primary tactical advantage of an aircraft carrier then, as now, was its ability to fight from over the horizon remaining undetected by the enemy even while delivering fatal blows against it.


The top speed of a surface carrier like HMS Queen Elizabeth (which started sea trials in August 2017) will be 50 miles per hour. The top speed of an “aeroscraft” rigid airship in 2018 will be 125 miles per hour. For an enemy the difficulty, per unit of time, of hunting down an aerial, as opposed to surface, carrier is increased by circa 500% (i.e. the greater distance the aerial carrier, as a result of being circa 150%% faster, can move north or south multiplied by the greater distance it can move east or west regardless of the nature of the terrain beneath it).


In normal conditions the maximum distance a (say 30m tall) target on the surface can be observed from a (say 30m tall) warship or vehicle borne radar on the surface is circa 30 miles because it depends on line of sight and so has a horizon. The maximum distance an aerial target could be seen from is 50 miles but in this case the limit is the capacity of the eye. This capacity does not constrain ordinary radar. A target high enough up in the air can be detected by ordinary radar on the surface from up to 240 miles further away than a target on the surface. This is a disadvantage aerial carriers face relative to surface carriers but only against surface based observation. Aerial units can limit the effectiveness of enemy ordinary surface radar to as little as 13 miles (or less) by approaching the enemy radar, at not more than 20 metres (or less) above the surface, along the nap of the earth. For example, in the 1982 Falklands conflict Argentine war planes targeting Royal Navy warships often approached along the nap of the earth before “popping up” to fire air-to-surface missiles.


It is for the reason of line of sight restrictions that airborne early warning radar (AWACS) is so important to aerial warfare since it cannot be snuck up on and can detect targets at up to an order of magnitude greater range than radar on the surface. Even aerial carriers would find it difficult to elude AWACS. One way to would be to remain out of range and reconnoiter the AWACS with, say, scout drones deployed on the carrier itself specifically for this purpose. Warplanes could then be vectored from the carrier against the enemy AWACS without the location of the carrier necessarily being revealed. Indeed, the aerial aircraft carrier might be given the secondary function of acting as an airborne early warning system itself.


Over-the-horizon radars are less important (the USA Air Force mothballed its main systems in the 1990s), in 2017, than airborne early warning radars. Nonetheless, over-the-horizon systems, which use either lower frequencies or alternative high frequency techniques, are also of significance. For example, the Jindalee Operational Radar network of the Royal Australian Air Force (which scans the northern approaches to Oceania) has a range of 2,700 (+ or – 900) miles. The principal weaknesses of such systems is that they are not useful to operations beyond their envelope and are more vulnerable to attack.


In combat against surface radars the aerial carrier itself (as well as its aircraft) could adopt nap of the earth movement to frustrate the enemy’s line-of-sight. In combat against airborne early warning systems (AWACS) the aerial carrier would seek to attack from 300 or more miles away and then retreat for retrieval of its air component.


Aircraft carrier vulnerability to enemy reconnaissance is further compounded when considering enemy real-time aircraft tracking from space. This is an ability that the US military will (SpaceX Irridium satellite launches permitting) acquire no later than August 2018 and which they probably already did acquire, say, circa 2015. On this basis one might suppose that by 2021 the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation will too. Indeed, achieving this technological objective as soon as possible may well be the cutting edge of today’s unseen arms race.


Just as maximizing the effectiveness of armoured forces in the 1940s required the implementation of a combined arms doctrine whereby armoured units fought in conjunction with motorized infantry and tactical bombers, so aircraft carriers in the 2020s would benefit from, if not require for survival, a combined arms doctrine involving carriers collaboration with space, and cyber, forces to maintain elusiveness.


The advantage heightened mobility gives to an aerial, as contrasted with a surface, aircraft carrier is not confined to tactics. Imagine that the Russian Federation invaded Latvia and a N.A.T.O. brigade around Riga is holding out for reinforcements. A surface carrier launched to the rescue sailing at two thirds speed from the UK would take circa forty hours to arrive in Riga whereas an air borne carrier would take thirteen hours. This might make the difference between relieving Riga and not doing so.


“Worldwide Aeros Corp” is planning to build the ML86X rigid helium filled airship “aeroscraft” with a length of circa 280 metres, a maximum cargo capacity of 500 tons (with cargo bay dimensions of 138m long x 22m beam x 16m high), a range of 5,100 miles and price tag of, say, £180 million for civilian use. The company made its first test flight of the smaller “Pelican” 81 metre long prototype “Dragon Dream” on 31-Aug-2016 for which the Pentagon had provided a grant of US$50 million.


It is my suggestion that the UK government take steps to ensure that the ML86X is built for aircraft carrier operations and that, subject to trials, a fleet be purchased.


Assuming an ML86X price tag for a military (stealthy) version of £450 million each the ML86X would be capable of carrying the weight of 10 fully loaded 32 ton F35B (the short takeoff vertical landing war plane) plus 134 tons of stores in its cargo bay. In addition it could lift circa 40 tons (if the system had the same weight as a steam catapult) of electromagnetic aircraft launch systems (built into the cargo bay floor) for which circa 90 metres of length might be needed and (if planes were to be taken on board horizontally) 4 tons of electromagnetic arrester systems (the electromagnetic launch systems being essential if the airships are to be drone capable given that drones cannot absorb the stress of steam catapult launches). The aerial carrier could park these 10 F35Bs in a single 170 metre long row with 5 metres clear either side (the F35B wing span is 11 metres) or, if the ML86X could be built with a circa 5 metre wider beam, the aircraft could be accommodated in a double row 84 metres long with 2 metres clearance either side which might also be possible if the F35C were used. The F35C wingspan is 13 metres but its wing tips are foldable and with the wings folded wingspan is reduced to 9.6 metres. 9.6 metres might allow double parking without requiring the aerial aircraft carrier to have a wider beam.


For aerodynamic stability the best warplane launch direction would be out of the rear of the aerial carrier. For the same reason the best landing approach would be from underneath using VTOL capacity, however, if it transpired that the optimal taking on board speed for the carrier was dangerously close to the jet warplanes stall speed then an arrester system could be used. In the 1930s the USN aerial aircraft carriers took planes on board by catching them on an arrester hook dangling from the underside of the airship. The hook formed part of a pulley system that then moved them into the hanger so this angle of approach has form. If underside landing, which would suggest VTOL capable aircraft, was required and it was desired to equip the carrier with drones then developing such short take off vertical landing drones would have merit in itself.


Vertical take off and landing war planes effectiveness is significantly reduced by the heavy fuel consumption required for vertical take off. This is one reason why they are not the norm. Ideally, therefore, the war planes on aerial aircraft carriers would take off, if not land, horizontally, which would mean the cargo bay would have to incorporate the aforementioned catapult into its floor and the “aeroscraft” would have to be redesigned at the stern. However, arrester gear might not be needed because the high speed of the aerial carrier, so long as it were not so slow that war planes stalled at it, would enable war planes to approach and touch down at a much lower differential speed than when touching down on a surface carrier.


In the case horizontal landing was desired the aerial aircraft carrier might have to be made wider in the beam (and so would have to be longer too to remain airworthy) so that planes could land (from the stern) ideally beside the strip from which planes would also (if not simultaneously) take off.


I have outlined how take off and landing systems might work in some detail as they suggest a realistic squadron strength per aerial aircraft carrier of ten war planes if F35Bs or F35Cs.


Given that HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales cost £6.4 billion the Ministry of Defence might be able to equip itself with fourteen ML86X aircraft carriers, able to house 40% more combat planes, for the same capital cost.


This looks like a good deal to me.


The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has a standard operational air component of 36 (though it can accommodate 50) short take off (but vertical landing) F35Bs. Were this air component dispersed between five ML86X aerial aircraft carriers the force would be less vulnerable since not all eggs would be in one basket. Such an aerial fleet would have tactical superiority in an engagement with surface fleets (and would be relatively invulnerable to attack from submarines), as well as having tactical advantage against ground based aircraft tied to runways, because of the ability to fly away from strike launch points at 125 miles per hour.


The Aeroscrafts turbofan jet engines allow the airships to takeoff and land vertically without ground crews. Indeed, they will be able to land on water. This advantage would be magnified greatly if they could be modified to take off from water too. Even without water take off VTOL capacity is a further enhancement of their ability to survive and deploy in a strategically useful fashion as they could be dispersed to no runway bases. Such a capacity could be ideal for defence of, say, the Falklands, or of any ally who was lacking in runways where needed, as it would free the airships of the requirement to be concentrated at any particular place, which would enhance security given that fixed bases are plumb targets for surprise attack. Instead, a plethora of concealed caches could be dotted around the islands, or place of conflict, which would enable the carriers to hop around between them unpredictably.


My first proposal is to spend, say, £3 million on a six month study of the cost effectiveness of making the Aeroscraft battle capable.


Subject to that I also suggest that the government seek to buy, say, £40 million of shares in Worldwide Aeros Corp, subject to an executive role in the company being granted, that would enable the Ministry of Defence to advocate combat military applications awareness in the development process and, later, prevent over-charging were the Ministry to purchase a fleet. The shares could be disposed of once the aerial carriers started to enter service.


Only after Worldwide Aeros Corp has completed testing their prototype airship, as they plan to in 2018, would I advocate that the UK have a military prototype built, say, for 2020. The aim would be to authorize the fleet, if at all, in 2023 to commission aerial aircraft carriers into service from 2026.


If the innovation proved viable it would be my proposal to increase the naval budget by £2.9 billion per year, and the air force budget by £1.3 billion per year, in order to buy and operate four aerial aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy and two for the Royal Air Force.


The £4.2 billion per annum extra budget would cover the cost of equipping and operating the aerial carrier fleet, if the air component was the F35B, with 60 new war planes. With a £210 million capital cost (so £14 million per year amortised over fifteen years) and a £38,000 per flight hour cost so, say, £17 million per year operating cost (assuming 60% repair, maintain, refit and down time and 12.5% of operational time in the air) the F35B should have an annual cost of £31 million per war plane per year so that 60 would cost £1.9 billion per year to operate including provision for amortisation. The carriers would have an annual amortised over 15 years capital cost of £40 million. Owing, primarily, to the relatively low cost of carrier fuel, annual operating costs per pound of capital cost should be massively, say, 80% lower than for ten F35Bs (so assuming £88,000 per flight hour cost, 60% repair, maintain, refit and down time and 100% of operational time in the air) giving an estimated £308 million per year operating cost per carrier for a net annual cost of £348 million or £2.1 billion for the six vessel fleet.


To build an combined arms force appropriate to a six carrier fleet I propose setting up a Royal Space Navy and a Royal Cyber Force to be charged with the aim of securing the outer and info spaces respectively and for these services I would propose a further increase in spending of £5.7 billion combined per annum.

One alternative to the F35Bs would be a jet such as a modified Scorpion cutting the capital (and operating) cost by, say, 80% per plane and so enabling the fleet to be increased to 16 carriers and the carried force to 160 war planes.


In the case one were to equip the aerial carrier with short take off vertical landing drones these would have an operating cost about 4% that of the F35B so even allowing for research and development costs for a short take off vertical landing drone such a heavier-than-air arm might be even more effective.


Concomitantly there could be a £1.0 billion p.a. additional budget for stealthy unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles with the aim of identifying targets and directing the carrier’s war planes against them before an enemy attack could be made against the aerial carrier. Indeed, in practice it might be operationally sensible to assign, particularly in the case of Royal Navy carriers operating over oceans as opposed to narrow seas, say, 20-40% of the carrier’s air component to the scouting role.


I would suggest that a further £1.5 billion provision to buy free electron laser (from the USN who are scheduled to test full power prototypes in 2018, potentially to install them into the Zumwalt-class destroyers and Gerald Ford class carriers) weapons (assuming on board aerial carrier power supplies can be made adequate with an additional £1.0 billion provision to try and make it so). Free electron beam weapons would maximize the aerial carrier’s ability to defend itself against over the horizon guided missile threats because their munitions effect moves much faster than an incoming missile and so permits a reactive defence, crucially, for a much lower munitions cost (missiles can be extremely expensive).

Over the horizon, particularly hypersonic, missile threats guided from outer space or AWACS would be the primary danger facing the aerial aircraft carrier fleet I propose. To justify investment in aerial aircraft carriers in the face of this risk the prospective enemy’s extra terrestrial, airborne warning and surface picket unit capacity would have to be weak in the first place (as in conflict with a power such as North Korea) or rapidly destroyed (as in a conflict with a power such as the Peoples Republic of China). This is why the combined arms doctrine is an indivisible part of my aerial carrier proposal.


The space guided missile threat suggests the merit of a further line of investigation into submarine carriers (which the Japanese navy commissioned in the 1940s).


The £4.0 billion p.a. extra expenditure for aerial carriers and on board aircraft, £3.6 billion p.a. for a Royal Star Navy, £1.2 billion p.a. for electron beam weapons, £1.6 billion extra for cyber warfare, £0.9 billion for capacitor and power systems enhancement and £1.6 billion for vertical take off stealth drones, so £12.9 billion in total for the new combined arms of the 2020s, that I have written about, would be practical if one were to increase defence spending by 78% (or £25 billion p.a. to take UK defence spending to the Russian level in nominal terms) as I, subject to (much bigger) cuts elsewhere, hereby advocate.


Preventing the Second Falklands War.


FULL ARTICLE 28-Dec-2016


The exclusive British maritime economic zone of the 778 Falklands islands contains an estimated 30 billion barrels of oil reserves worth (assuming 20% wastage and $50 per barrel), £520 billion pounds after extraction costs of £680 billion pounds so £1200 billion gross.

The UK should take steps now to ensure that Argentina (or, say, Russia), £520 billion potential profit notwithstanding, knows that invading the Falklands will not pay in the late 2010s or 2020s.

I estimate the United Kingdom spent £340 million (£110 million on naval defence, £110 million on air defence, £26 million on army defence and £94 million on support) defending the Falklands in 2014. It almost might as well have spent nothing.

The last line of defence of the Falklands are the 120 soldiers of the British army infantry company group there (the other circa 1,080 military servicemen and women, although the 140 Royal Engineers might disagree with me, are largely non combat personnel).

260 combat personnel may be sufficient to act as a trip wire but a trip wire did not prevent war in 1982.

In the spring of 2015 Michael Fallon announced a £180 million upgrade to the islands’ forces focused on improved command, control and communications facilities. A better use of less money would have been the approximately £90 million annual expenditure required to beef up the infantry company group already there to battle group strength of circa 1,000 infantry and artillerymen. Such a force would be disproportionately potent as it would include, which the company group does not, organic artillery. A battle group would have a fighting chance of delaying any Argentine attack from capturing Mount Pleasant for long enough to allow reinforcements to arrive and could deploy a force to contest for the West Falklands too. A company group has no such chance.

The Argentine army has a frontline strength of 70,000 so even a battle group will not be able to defeat a determined landed Argentine attack indefinitely.

Evidently the current plan for defence of the islands does not rely on the army, so how does the second line of defence shape up? The second line of defence of the islands is the flight of four Typhoon Fighters operating out of RAF Mount Pleasant. This constitutes circa 3.2% of the RAF’s operational Typhoons. At any time there is a rougly 50% chance one of these four Typhoons will be in refit, maintenance or repair. Assuming a flight ratio of two pilots to one plane this would mean that each aircraft not in refit or repair could be airborne (assuming 5 hour shifts) for about 40% of the time. In other words, with a single flight stationed on the island, unless the ratio of pilots to planes is much higher than two, only one, and occasionally two, British warplanes would be in the air. This, were the sole plane in the air knocked out by a man portable surface-to-air missile, even though the Typhoon’s radar has a range of about 160 miles puts an alarming degree of reliance on the islands’ ground based radar systems (which could be vulnerable to simultaneous special forces attack) to detect an aerial attack in a timely fashion.

In 2014 Argentina attempted to acquire 20 Mirage F1 fighter jets from Spain, considered a deal to lease 12 Sukhoi Su-24 long range bombers from Russia and sought 18 Kfir fighter jets from Israel. British diplomacy, and other factors, stymied these three deals but at the time it appeared that Argentina wanted to triple its interceptor force (from 14 to 44) and perhaps create a bombing force too. By January 2015 Argentina had established a working group with the People’s Republic of China with a view to replacing the existing interceptor inventory with 14-20 Chinese FC-1 (called JF-17s when manufactured in Pakistan) or J-10 multirole war planes. Of the two the J-10s would be the more modern and potent. Mere replacement of the 2015 inventory would still leave Argentina able to engage the RAF at odds of three to one but unlike the old Mirages the Chinese planes are of a more recent design than the British Typhoons. The Typhoon probably is stronger than the FC-1 but the gap if Argentina acquired FC-1s would be narrower than it was in 2015 and if they acquired 20 J-10s and deployed them against the Falklands the Typhoons would have little chance even if all four were airborne at the time of attack.

Unlike in 1982, The UK has no means, until 2019 or 2020 (when HMS Queen Elizabeth, whose sea trials begin in August 2017 and whose flight trials begin in September 2018, should complete working up its combat planes), to deploy air power for any campaign to retake the Falklands.

To defend the Falklands in a proportionate fashion, by which I mean without recourse to strategic assault, we must have more than a trip wire defence.

Given the weakness of the infantry company it is plain that the defence chiefs have determined that it is in the air that the Falklands will be lost or won. But the current air defence does not shape up. We should increase the flight of four combat aircraft there to a squadron of twelve Typhoons. Permanent deployment of a strong squadron to the Falklands would cost circa £220 million per year more than the current spend (circa £110 million) on a single flight but this would be a fraction of what it would cost to try to retake the Falklands if they were lost.

It would also be prudent to deploy a second surface to air missile battery (ideally the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile system not another Rapier) at RAF Mount Pleasant to better defend any planes on the ground from surprise attack from the air. A Rapier surface to air missile battery (3 x launchers) can engage about six incoming targets simultaneously. With 14-20 Chinese multirole war planes in mind a second battery is in order (as might be a third to a secondary base in West Falklands were a base to be established there).

The front line of defence of the Falklands islands is the Royal Navy who deploy perhaps 3% of their strength in the South Atlantic in the form of a frigate or a destroyer and a nuclear fleet (hunter-killer) submarine from time to time.

It would be less tempting to a potentially gambling invader if a fleet submarine were deployed in the South Atlantic at all times. This would cost (including amortisation over 23 years), say, £70 million more per annum than is being spent at the moment to be there, say, 30% of the time. It is particularly needed since in the absence of air power and artillery a Trafalgar or Astute class submarine’s cruise missiles (it might be fifteen of them onboard) are the only way, should an invading army arrive by air, of providing heavy fire support to any ground forces on the islands conducting a last ditch defence.

The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have their pants down in the South Atlantic. The aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales may not be floated out until 2018 and won’t be fitted out until 2019, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has no combat aircraft and the air force has no combat planes with the range, even with in-flight refueling, to rebase to (or bomb) the Falklands from St Helena island (the nearest alternative base). In the last year the Royal Navy cut back its permanent destroyer or frigate presence and made it occasional.

The Falkland Islands defence is only a trip wire. This is despite the fact that the existing defence is costing roughly £340 million per year. I suggest we increase that spending by circa £580 million per annum; £220 million to triple the number of Typhoons from four to twelve, £70 million to put a fleet submarine, and £46 million to put an air-defence destroyer (not an anti-submarine Frigate), permanently on station and £90 million to increase the combat infantry from company to battle group strength. I would further propose £500 million per year to create (hardened and underground underwater) maintenance and repair facilities for at least four fleet nuclear submarines. These facilities should have underwater access enabling the Falklands to act as a base, for South Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean operations, from which submarines could come and go unobserved. This would allow us to base part of our strategic deterrent on the other side of the globe for which I can see several advantages and would also make Scottish independence, should it happen, less disruptive of our strategic defence (since we would have a strategic base in reserve). Possible locations, where the seabed drops precipitously from the coast to below 50 metres depth, would include Volunteer Point (which has the advantage of being relatively close to the airport at Mount Pleasant) or New, Bird, or Beaver, Island (which are more remote). By the above measures we could be confident, firstly, that a belligerent but rational enemy government would be deterred from attack at all and, secondly, that an Argentine government, in particular, that did attack would be defeated.

Since October 2015 the short term air threat from Argentina has steeply declined. Not only did the Foreign Office stymie the Argentine attempt to acquire the 20 Mirage F1 fighters from Spain, as well as reportedly playing a role in the collapse of the deal to acquire the 18 Kfir fighters from Israel, but in addition on 30-Nov-15 all existing Mirage war planes were de-commissioned on grounds of age and cost. The Argentine government has also changed. The new government is much less adversarial in its foreign policy rhetoric and has not yet acquired the Chinese warplanes (or Russian bombers) that were talked about in 2015. Moreover, in January 2016 with 31 out of 36 of Argentina’s Lockheed-Martin A-4AR Skyhawk jet fighter bombers already in storage the remaining 4-5 were grounded for lack of spare parts. This leaves the air force with no jet powered fighter or bomber planes.

The Argentine working group with China, however, has not been terminated. According to the US Economic and Security Review Commission’s report of November 2015 the Chinese will construct five 1,800 ton “Malvinas” class corvettes for the Argentine navy. Each one comes with a helicopter, a 76mm main gun, 2 x twin surface-to-surface missile launching cells and 1 x octuple launching cell surface-to-air missile weapon. Potentially this flotilla could shoot down the four typhoons with its surface-to-air missiles, sink any Royal Navy warship on station with its surface-to-surface missiles and use its guns to bombard the islands whose infantry (if only a company is there) would not have the artillery with which to reply. Such a flotilla would still be vulnerable to the Royal Navy submarine but only if it was on station.

The Argentine working group with China has also agreed that the two countries will jointly construct 100+ amphibious armoured personell carriers which could be handy if one was wanting to land a lot of infantry from just off the Falklands’ shores. It is reported that 10% of the uplink time to China’s satellites, from the new space tracking and control station that is being built by China in Argentina to provide China’s satellite network with a southern hemisphere node, will be made available to the Argentine government thus bestowing on Argentina the capacity, independent of borrowing US systems (which in 1982 the USA declined to provide), for observation from space of the South Atlantic by satellites we might hesitate to shoot down.

It is possible that the new Argentine government will cancel its £800 million deal with China for vehicles, corvettes and war planes. If so all the better a breathing space, I would say, to build up a reliable defence of the Falklands archipelago.

The petroleum age may end within 25, or even 10, years so perhaps the economic value of the archipelago will diminish (though it will increase first). Many must wonder as many, including the Labour party, did in 1982 if the islands are worth any blood and treasure at all whether rich in oil or not?

The Argentine writer Georges Luis Borges said, of the 1982 Falklands War, that observing it was like watching two bald men fighting over a comb.

But even if no drop of blood is worth any number of bejeweled isles then all the more reason, say I, to deter from temptation to action those who think differently.

Attempted Murder in the South Suffolk Countryside


FULL ARTICLE 31-Dec-2016


In 2012 I started a business aiming to rent six buildings. Instead, for three years four of them stood empty. This was because the district council’s “countryside plan” required, regardless of what was possible, the continuation of commercial use permissions for reasons of “sustainability.” Eventually, the councilors on the planning committee overruled their planning officers. After his defeat the presiding planning officer declared that by the committee’s decision “democracy had been served”. Democracy would have been better served if twelve house-years of use had not been wasted in the first place.

My new business (although it did survive) was buried alive.

I accuse an Act of Parliament of being the attempted murderer, namely, The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.

The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act was a product of the UK’s first Labour government. It is therefore not surprising that it exemplifies a vain belief in Soviet style planning.

In many cases the economic thing to do with a building whose use is redundant (and can’t be changed because of planning) is to knock it down. This is because the owner will lose money on the vacant building to taxes (increased during the vacancy) and maintenance.

Eric Pickles, former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, tinkered with planning arbitrarily. Mr. Pickles allowed buildings with the office use-class to convert to residential use. But this good measure was rendered half-hearted by not being extended to all other (non polluting) commercial use-classes or, indeed, all offices. Moreover, to exercise this right you still have to submit a form, pay circa 80 pounds and know that although the Pickelsian right is “permitted” it can be denied.

I call on UKIP to advocate repeal of the Soviet style Town and Country Planning Act and allow actions for damages (tort) by way of a replacement.

Reliance on tort would be efficient because it would allow small land use changes to proceed without further ado. This is because, unlike planning officers, not many citizens would seek prohibitory injunctions against you for painting a union jack on your front door if they had to pay to do so.

The rules should not be simplified because they are like a hydra whose heads regenerate. Better to wipe the slate clean.

Reliance on tort would be just because big developers, including the government to take a swipe at that white hippopotamus HS2, would have to compensate people for damage.

Reliance on tort would also be democratic because the real cost to others of, say, your kitchen extension would be negotiated between the parties with most interest in the matter and by the body of case law that would arise when, and if, these negotiations became adversarial.

My proposal raises issues of access to justice. Perhaps part of the solution could be class actions (against large scale developers). It might be that compulsory mediation, with only appealed cases going to court, could reduce costs.

It could be argued that I am dodging the question of how to preserve beauty in a land-use ecology characterised by every woman for herself. I would say, however, that if people (even if they are Barratt our biggest home builder) are left to their own devices they are more likely to produce the magical (even if some will produce the revolting) than if someone is looking over their shoulder trying to ensure that they do.

The vast majority of houses considered beautiful enough to preserve by listing orders pre-date the planning system. Houses built since 1947 are characterized by dull uniformity. This is due partly to building regulations and construction technology but our blander urban environments are also indebted to planning law.

It has been suggested that listed buildings and the green belt best be exempted from such a system as I propose and they could be.

My proposal certainly raises questions of detail. For example, should it be possible to take action against a developer before they act (which would require a duty on the developer to inform) or is it better to allow the developer to act first? Probably the former since the change I propose would still be more efficient, even with a duty to inform, than the system we have now.

This is a proposal to remove coercion bearing upon most UK households (since circa 57% of, people belong to households that own their own property) but it is not a proposal to marginalize those who own no property. A more efficient and freer land economy will be one with more, including less expensive, rental opportunities for those who do not own.

In their 2010 report for the Department of Communities and Local Government Doctors Hilber and Vermuelen calculate that 20% of the price of a building is a function of builders being constrained by the planning system. I propose a less constrained system. We could not expect the repeal in favour of tort to bring house prices down by 20% but we could expect a fall of, say, 12.5%.

In the case the Town and Country Planning Act were repealed it would make sense to limit the new system to new developments.

The dominant narrative says ours are overcrowded islands. Actually the number of houses per person in the UK has never been higher (1:2.6 in 2015 up from 1:3.5 in 1965) than it is today. In our state capitalist system, because of planning law, cheap borrowing and capital gains tax exemptions, house prices will continue to soar high above what a free market would permit, regardless of the population and buildings stock. This does not mean that the population to buildings ratio is irrelevant to house prices but it means this is just one factor among four.

If the government built 400,000 houses it would cost the public purse, say, 30 billion pounds. As it is the Conservative government plans to spend £1.8 billion per year (presumably to build about 24,000 homes annually) until 2020. But if, instead, we repeal the Town and Country Planning Act we could expect to see 400,000 new residences created, at no cost whatsoever to tax payers, from the circa 700,000 empty buildings, (0.25 million long term unused houses and 0.45 million long term unused commercial buildings) in the UK.

Let’s allow those most engaged with a land or a building to decide for themselves what is and is not beautiful, and/or profitable to do, subject to the right of those affected by change of land use to take tort action.

In the system I propose change would be most rapid where the greatest profit, or least injury to others or both lay.

Some disagreement with my proposal will come from people who resent the fact that there is private property at all and wrongly believe that disposing of your own property as you see fit is a bad thing rather than a good without which our civilisation would become bankrupt.

Due to planning being one of the principal activities of district and unitary councils my proposal would open the door to reducing district and unitary government spending by, perhaps, £1 billion, or circa 4%, per year.

If you choose to do something with your property that I do not like and the state acts against you on my behalf this is an infantile alternative to you and I, if I have a real interest, working it out between ourselves.

Let us set property free of the zombie planners’ joy in chewing the life out of the land economy.

The chomping clomping Town and Country Planning Act was a crime in 1947.

To allow it to carry on will be an atrocity.