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14 Dec 06. Two soldiers, Corporal Bryan James Budd (VC) and Corporal Mark William Wright (GC) from the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment were posthumously honoured on 14 December 2006, with the Nation’s highest gallantry awards for their exceptional valour in Afghanistan this summer. Corporal Bryan Budd, who died leading an assault against Taliban fighters, was awarded the Victoria Cross, becoming only the second recipient of the award in 24 years.
Corporal Mark Wright, who died after entering a minefield in an extraordinary
attempt to save the lives of other critically injured soldiers, received the
George Cross. Together they head a list of 134 Service men and women who were honoured with operational awards for their bravery and service around the World, principally in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defence Secretary Des Browne said: “It is with a deep sense of pride and some sadness that we reflect on the truly extraordinary achievements of our Armed Forces today. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and across the world, our brave men and women continue to put their lives on the line in the pursuit of security and stability. They are an inspiration to us all.” (Source: MoD)

19 Dec 06. UK demands MIS commitment before CVF main gate. UK Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson has said he will not authorise the main gate funding decision for the UK Royal Navy’s (RN’s) future aircraft carrier (CVF) programme without a commitment to the implementation of the Maritime Industrial Strategy (MIS) from the naval shipbuilding industry.During a hearing of the UK Parliamentary Defence Committee on 19 December, Lord Drayson said: “It would be quite right for the department [Ministry of Defence – MoD] not to close the contract for CVF without this clarity. It is a pre-condition for signing.”If consolidation does not happen then main gate will be pushed back. (Source: Jane’s Defence Industry)

22 Dec 06. French PM testifies over scandal. The French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, has been questioned by judges for 17 hours about an alleged plot to discredit one of his political rivals. It is only the second time in living memory that a serving French prime minister has been required to testify. The judges say he is a star witness rather than a suspect in the so-called Clearstream scandal. The scandal has pitted Mr de Villepin against Nicolas Sarkozy, who is tipped to run for president next year. Speaking to reporters afterwards, he referred to his “marathon testimony,” saying: “For my part, I was very pleased to be able to testify on this matter, of which I have for many months been a victim of slander and lies.” The investigation centres on bogus claims that Interior Minister Sarkozy and others were laundering kickbacks from defence deals through secret accounts with a Luxembourg finance house called Clearstream. Mr de Villepin has vehemently denied allegations that he asked a retired secret service general to dig up dirt on Mr Sarkozy. Media reports based on judicial leaks allege that Mr de Villepin ordered an investigation focusing on Mr Sarkozy, whose name was on the list of secret accounts. The list has since been exposed as a fake. The judges have already questioned Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie – another potential presidential candidate – and former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. (Source: BBC)

28 Dec 06. MoD pins hopes on Boeing C17 amid Airbus doubts. The Ministry of Defence is facing a new procurement crisis as it tries to boost the strength of its heavy transport aircraft. As fears grow that the delivery schedule for Airbus’s rival transport aircraft will slip further, The Times has learnt that the MoD is planning to buy three Boeing C17 Globemaster IIIs for about $660m (£337m). But its plans are threatened by the potential closure of the C17 production line in the United States. The Royal Air Force wants the additional C17s because it is understood to be impressed by its existing fleet and concern

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