No 1956 Suez crisis: Impact on UK Defence Procurement

uk 75

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If the 1956 Suez crisis had not happened (Macmillan Prime Minister instead of Eden so no military response to Nasser's nationalisation of the Canal) the following might have been the impacts on British Defence Procurement.
Royal Navy
Without experience of operating helicopters at Suez there might have been no conversion of Albion and Bulwark to Commando Ships.
The use of Fleet Carriers to support amphibious assaults might have been less important than their NATO North Atlantic role.
The need for a nuclear Deterrent independent of the US might not have seemed as crucial.
Royal Air Force
The limitations of the Canberra and Valiant strikes on Egypt would not have underscored the need for TSR2
Army
The concept of airportable brigades for the UK Strategic Reserve might not have emerged and 3 Division would instead have received equipment for reinforcing BAOR.

Generally Macmillan would have been more relaxed about withdrawing from Empire without the shadow of Suez and resources might have been directed at NATO sooner.
 

Archibald

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Suez was one among many nails in the 4th Republique coffin. Could butterfly away De Gaulle return; and doom France to civil war in the long term. Related to that Vietnam-like moral morasse called the Algerian war... and a maddening political instability worse than present day Belgium Italy and Israel together.
1946 1958 12 years 25 governments, one every 6 months.
I'm not blind dumb fan of De Gaulle - but on the Algerian morasse front he played smart, risked a lot including his own life, and took the correct long term decision(s). No way in hell France stayed there even with a military victory (at the cost of a moral defeat, even if FLNC fedayins were no angels either.)
 

EwenS

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No Suez would not have prevented development of the Commando carrier in the RN.

RN helicopters had been transporting troops around in Malaya since 1952 so that aspect wasn’t new. Friedman in British Carrier Aviation notes that in July 1956, the Admiralty Board authorised work on a commando conversion of a light carrier. Then the Suez crisis blows up and Ocean & Theseus, training ships which had each had a detachment of ASW helicopters aboard from early 1956 for trials, were called up to their wartime troopship role. Someone put two and two together and an exercise took place 29 Sept-12 Oct to study helicopter assault. That proved successful and was used operationally.

Then we have the 1957 Defence Review, and it becomes clear that Bulwark and Albion will become available for commando carrier conversion. Given their better command and control and radar facilities compared to a Colossus, they become the conversion of choice. Bulwark then begins conversion in Jan 1959.

Over on the other side of the Atlantic the same thing is happening. USMC studies for helicopter assault began in 1946. After various delays, the first hardware appears in May 1956 with the completion of the Thetis Bay CVE conversion and start of design work on the Iwo Jima class LPH. 1959 sees 3 Essex class LPH conversions enter service and the laying down of Iwo Jima.

So with no Suez what happens in the 1957 Defence Review? Either way I think we get a commando carrier, but maybe not based on Bulwark.
 

uk 75

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My argument about the carriers and commando ships is based on their "East of Suez" roles.
I think without the shadow cast by Suez a Macmillan government would have moved faster to get us out of this commitment. Paradoxical I know.
 

Hood

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My argument about the carriers and commando ships is based on their "East of Suez" roles.
I think without the shadow cast by Suez a Macmillan government would have moved faster to get us out of this commitment. Paradoxical I know.
But there is all that sweet delicious oil in the Gulf still to protect.
Iran 1958 and Iraq/Kuwait 1960 still going to need sorting out plus Malaysian Emergency is ongoing and the Konfrontasi with Indonesia comes up 1964-65, tons of reasons to stay EoS and to make sure the region stays stable.
Plus there is CENTO and SEATO commitments to back up too. Of course no Suez means a whole new chain of dominoes (unstoppable Nasserism across the Middle East? No change?) but too much stuff was already in motion, Suez was an unexpected road hump to be got over or around.
 

starviking

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No Suez could mean no Simonstown accord, and easier transits to EoS. Impacts on the Iraqi Revolution, Sri Lankan expulsion of British forces, possibly Iran too.

Then again, Nasser being Nasser - he would probably find some way to needle the UK or West and start a conflict or Cold War.
 

zen

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Without Suez Crisis...

Deterrent carries on, as that relates to experience of 1945.

Defence Review is 1956.

Carriers remain focused on Strike North.

If Nasser humiliated, he may be removed.
If still 'successful', then dominos fall. Iraq, Yemen, Aden, 'Somalia'.
 

Hood

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The limitations of the Canberra and Valiant strikes on Egypt would not have underscored the need for TSR2
I would say that is inaccurate, I am working on an article to cover this but the Air Staff was obsessed by bombing accuracy from 1950 onwards, regardless of whatever theoretical NBC/NBS had or the visual bomb-sights of the Canberras, sizable efforts went into refining dropping accuracy, pathfinders, homing beacons, navigational aids and what we would today call smart weapons even before the V-bombers entered service and well before Suez.
The Valiant's poor showing was perhaps a bigger shock due to the amount of testing already undertaken to validate the system.

I think its perhaps too easy to read too into what was a week's worth of limited combat making use of available resources and doctrines. Operationally there were no doubt lessons to be learned, but it wasn't the kind of operation that had massive impacts, not when you consider the more drawn out counter-insurgency operations in Malaya and Borneo that were carving out some new niches on shoestring budgets at the extremity of supply lines and which actually lasted long enough to implement reforms and carry out operational research.
Suez validated some things like helicopter assault, but its not unlikely exercises would have done that anyway, indeed such thinking was already evident in Requirement NA.43 some 3-4 years prior.
Valiant inaccuracy was a fluke, soon Bomber Command was winning SAC trophies.

In any case with carriers it was a case of use them or lose them, without new roles the lighter carriers would have been pruned once helicopter ASW escort carriers had been killed as a concept by 1955.
 
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