24 Jan 06. Following today’s meeting with French Defence Minister, Madame
Michele Alliot-Marie, Defence Secretary John Reid said: “We have taken a very significant step forward on the future carrier project in agreeing how the UK will proceed on cooperation with France.”The carrier project will ultimately provide the UK Armed Forces with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK. It is a vital project for France, the UK and for Europe and shows our joint commitment and leading role in Defence and Security. “We have agreed that France will pay one third of the demonstration phase costs of the common base line design. “We have also agreed on staged payments to be made by France in recognition of the investment the UK has already made in the design. This will comprise £30m now and £25m in July with a further £45m at the end of the demonstration phase if France decides to continue with the project.
Comment: How this deal pans out in the long-term we await with interest and what the quid pro quo for French equipment on the UK CVFs will be. The jury is still out on who is the design lead, BAE or Thales, both claim that right. The solution looks like a Thales design managed by BAE. We assume that the French carrier will be led by Thales/DCN. The choice of aircraft still hangs in the air with the JSF CTOL Carrier version still hanging on, but is the most likely version for the chop and France pushing the Rafale solution whilst BAE still insists that a carrier-borne Typhoon could easily be developed. It looks very much, given the award announced last week to strengthen the Merlin fleet, that the AEW requirement will be met with a Merlin derivative and not V-22 or Hawkeye, both previous considerations. (See BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.8 ISSUE 02, January 2006, LOCKHEED MARTIN UK AWARDED £750 MILLION MERLIN UPGRADE CONTRACT)
26 Jan 06. UK set to send 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. Britain is expected to confirm today the deployment of as many as 4,000 troops to southern Afghanistan, where they will head the Nato mission overseeing policing and reconstruction efforts. John Reid, defence secretary, who will brief cabinet colleagues about the deployment, told parliament yesterday that the UK had enough forces at its disposal and that there was sufficient development aid available to tackle the drugs trade in the Hilmand province. But he said he was “not yet satisfied” with the “configuration” of Nato troops intended for the mission – a thinly veiled reference to the Netherlands, which is due to vote next week on whether to join the deployment. Mr Reid, who spent yesterday conferring with Nato colleagues, said he welcomed the fact that the Dutch government backed the deployment and he thought the parliament would support it as well. The UK will assume command of the Nato mission in May and supply the most troops. Canada is expected to contribute 2,000 and the Netherlands to send another 1,200. Forces from Australia, Estonia and the US are expected to round out the mission. The UK currently has around 1,000 troops in Afghanistan. The deployment comes amid a surge in violence in Afghanistan which left more than 1,500 people dead in 2005, making it the worst year since 2001. With five suicide bombs in southern Afghanistan this year, the attacks show no sign of abating. Security experts also warn that British forces face the prospects of a deteriorating security situation in the Hilmand province, where their arrival will coincide with Afghan-US efforts to wipe out budding poppy crops in one of the major centres of opium production. “The timing couldn’t be worse because the new force is going to come in at the height of the eradication season. So people will be losing their crops at the same time as the Brits are trying to build security,” said a security source in southern Afghanistan. In the south of the country the government is fragile, with insurgents successfully targeting local officials, police and pro-gove