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31 Dec 13. Afghanistan: OP HERRICK. 617 Squadron RAF continues to provide armed overwatch and aerial reconnaissance for Afghan-led Ground Forces. This is the last Operational tour for the Squadron as a Tornado GR4 unit. (MoD, 31 Dec 13.)
“Armed Forces across Afghanistan continue to build-up the capability of their Afghan colleagues through vital mentoring and training….”. (MoD, 31 Dec 13.)
Comment: It can only be hoped that, with the ending of the ‘festive season’, some sensible information from Afghanistan will be forthcoming. More Press Releases about mince pies are not required. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 14/02, 06 Dec 13)
19 Dec 13. NSS & SDSR: 2013 Progress Report. The Prime Minister presented (19 Dec 13) the 2013 Report on progress in implementing the 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). Mr Cameron noted that “a balanced budget means that MoD can now afford its future equipment programme” with investment focused on critical areas such as cyber. It was confirmed that HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH is expected to be launched in 2014, with flying trials beginning in 2018. Government policy also remains to proceed with the build of “a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines.” On Afghanistan the Prime Minister said that “security transition remains on track to be achieved, by the end of 2014” and that the UK will maintain “current development assistance of £178m per annum until 2017 to help Afghans tackle extreme poverty, create jobs and achieve sustainable economic growth”.
Comment: The ‘Annual Report on the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review’ is the third such report since 2010 and is available on the Cabinet Office website, via the Government portal (www.gov.uk). (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 14/02, 06 Dec 13)
17 Dec 13. Unmanned Air Vehicles: Weapons Release. The Defence Equipment Minister said (17 Dec 13) that a total of 332 weapons were released by UK Reapers between 1 Dec 10 and 30 Nov 13 in Afghanistan. The Rules of Engagement and policy governing the use of Reapers are the same as those applying to conventionally piloted combat aircraft.
Comment: The Minister confirmed (11 Dec 13) that the acquisition of five additional Reapers is being managed as an Urgent Operational Requirement, with acceptance testing of four of the five completed. Of the original five Reapers, one has been withdrawn from service following a crash in 2008. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 14/02, 06 Dec 13)
30 Dec 13. HMS DUNCAN: In Service Early. The MoD reported (30 Dec 13) that HMS DUNCAN has entered service four months ahead of schedule. The sixth and last Type 45 destroyer had been expected to enter service in March 2014 but will now start a programme of trials to prepare her for Operational deployment.
Comment: The first four Type 45s (HMS DARING, DAUNTLESS, DIAMOND & DRAGON) have already undertaken Operational deployments, with HMS DRAGON returning to Portsmouth on 22 Nov 13. Fifth of Class, HMS DEFENDER, is due to deploy for the first time during 2014. HMS DUNCAN’s trials/training period is expected to last for most of 2014. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 14/02, 06 Dec 13)
31 Dec 13. Naval Gun Systems: Contract Extension. Desider (December 2013) reported that Babcock has been awarded an 18-month contract extension to support the 4.5 inch (114mm) Mk8 Mod 1 gun, as fitted to all RN destroyers and frigates. In-service support to the gun systems is provided by a long-term Contractor Logistics Support contract.
Comment: Under the same contract, Babcock successfully upgraded all the Mk8 guns to Mod 1 standard. The upgrading programm