Forces: Freeloaders?

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October 29, 2005: Which nations have freeloaded in terms of paying for their defense? This is a touchy question, as nobody likes to be called a freeloader (even if it is the truth - especially if it is the truth). Also, freeloading is a relative term. Some countries who have low defense budgets do not really face local threats.

One example of this is Ireland. Ireland's military is pretty small. The Irish Army has 8,500 personnel in three brigades, each with three infantry battalions, an artillery regiment, and a cavalry squadron. The Irish Naval Service has eight offshore patrol vessels. The Irish Air Corps has 15 helicopters, seven cargo aircraft, three VIP aircraft, and eight trainers ( that can also carry machine guns). This is pretty far down in terms of military power. Ireland, though, has had very few conflicts since their independence from the United Kingdom in the 1920s. Ireland is not a freeloader. It just hasn't been in any fights.

New Zealand is another country that has been labeled a freeloader, particularly given the retirement of its combat air arm of A-4 Skyhawks and MB.339s. But New Zealand is maintaining a decent military in the areas it needs. It still maintains an air force of six P-3 Orions, and also has a number of transport planes, particularly the C-130. The Royal New Zealand Navy has two modern frigates comparable to the Australian Anzac-class, and eight patrol vessels. The New Zealand Army has six battalions and a total of 4,500 men. Like Ireland, New Zealand has not faced off against a real enemy in a long time. It's in an isolated part of the planet.

Canada also has faced these allegations. In a sense, they have not been freeloading. They have one of the more capable militaries among the "freeloaders". The Royal Canadian Navy had four guided-missile destroyers, twelve frigates, twelve offshore patrol vessels, and four relatively modern diesel-electric submarines. The Royal Canadian Air Force has 90 CF-18A Hornets, 39 CF-18B Hornets, 18 CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft, and 30 C-130 transports in its inventory. Canda's navy has deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, and Canadian forces are currently serving in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

These three countries do have larger neighbors nearby. Ireland has the United Kingdom, Canada has the United States, and New Zealand has Australia. In a sense, they do live off the efforts of the larger neighbors. However, labeling them freeloaders is an injustice to those who serve in these small militaries that face the threats that these countries face. - Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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