Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Oh! What A Lovely War!

So. Here we go again. A no-fly zone which is in no way intended to bring about regime change and ensure future oil supplies are maintained, but is aimed purely at 'protecting civilians'. Hmmm.
The UK is employing Tornado GR4 aircraft, manufactured by BAE Systems, for its air strikes in Libya. It is difficult to obtain precise details of how much each of these airplanes cost, given the problems in attributing historical development costs and the natural tendency towards secrecy amongst The Powers That Be. But in 1979, James Wellbeloved, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State advised that the Tornado 'air defence variant' unit production cost was  £10.7 million (Hansard HC Deb 21 February 1979 vol 963 c185W). Adjusting for inflation using the RPI gives a comparable figure for 2010 of £41 million. The Ministry of Defence calculate the cost per flying hour for the Tornado is £35,000 (Hansard HL Written Answers 25 November 2010HL 3481,3482). So that's a pretty penny or two we've spent in sending aircraft to Libya from the UK, even before we count the cost of the munitions and training the air crew. I accept, of course, that these aircraft are not used solely for bombing Libya but to bomb other places too, so the costs should be seen in a broader bombing context.
The UK has also been firing Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, manufactured by the Raytheon Company at their Tucson, Arizona facility, from its submarines. According to the US Navy, the cost to them for these little beauties is $569,000 but I would guess that excludes development costs which would take it up to $1 million or more. I have not been able to find out how much the USA charges the UK for each missile, however. And who knows how much it costs to keep the submarines going?
Tomahawk missiles are snazzy; you simply input some GPS coordinates into its computer and off it goes. But let's hope its Sat Nav system is better than most and avoids low bridges. Moreover, you can reprogram the missile in-flight, and it can report back via an on-board camera on target conditions. One thing worries me though; it uses Windows software, which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Blue Screen of Death'.
Libya has been ruled by the Romans, the Venetians, the Ottoman Turks, the Italians, the British and the French. Meanwhile, they've fought amongst themselves and for many years were famous for making a living as The Barbary Pirates. The USA launched a war against them in the 19th Century. Modern Libya was established by the Italian colonists and, after World War II the Brits and the French established a Kingdom which Gaddafi rebelled against as a 27 year-old. Ethnically, they are Arabs, Berbers, Touaregs, and Tebou consisting of some 140 tribes and/or clans most of whom are Sunni Moslems of one sort or another. Gaddafi is a Berber from the Qaddadfa tribe, apparently. But it seems Libya has never been what one might call a democracy, or even that the concept means much to yer average Touareg. But the UK has either been selling them arms or buying their oil, or both, intermittently since 1943.
So there you have it. All that money and all that technology to protect one lot of Libyan tribesmen from another.

1 comment:

  1. cracks me up that BAE has a corporate responsibility policy.

    "reducing our impact on the environment"

    surely that means they arent blowing things up properly