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18 Dec 13. UK losing ‘courageous instinct’, warns general. The UK is losing its “courageous instinct” on the international stage in what threatens to become the “most damaging” threat to armed forces in the future, according to the country’s most senior military officer.
The chief of the defence staff, Sir Nicholas Houghton, warned on Wednesday evening in a hard-hitting lecture to the Royal United Services Institute that he feared the UK was at risk of stepping back from its responsibilities – and needs – on the global stage. In a thinly veiled reference to the UK’s abortive flirtation with military intervention in Syria this year and its pullback from Afghanistan, Sir Nicholas cautioned against a “creeping aversion to risk” among politicians, the public and the armed forces themselves. “I have recently observed with some admiration the relative ability of French forces to operate with a mindset of aggressive risk management,” he noted at one point – a remark guaranteed to raise hackles in some political circles. “We must be careful as a society and as a professional military not to lose our courageous instinct since it is one of the things which keeps us in a class apart,” he said. Quietly, many members of the military establishment have worried that the country is in danger of undermining its own military capabilities because of a domestic aversion to the use of military force since the Iraq war and the mission in Afghanistan. “My stark conclusion is that, when you compare the international security context to the UK domestic scene, then one of my great military challenges as CDS is to help re-validate the utility of the military instrument of national power in the minds of government and the wider public,” Sir Nicholas said to the Rusi audience. “In adopting a strategic posture of engagement, we can better add to the country’s influence on the world stage; support national security and policy objectives; and be more proactive on the national prosperity agenda.” Sir Nicholas also warned on cutbacks on the number of soldiers in the regular armed forces. The UK military risked suffering from a “critical deficiency” in its capabilities as cuts to the numbers of troops begin to hit home over the next few years. The chief of defence staff warned against a “hollow force” – well-equipped, but understaffed. “Unattended, our current course leads to a strategically incoherent force structure: exquisite equipment, but insufficient resources to man that equipment or train on it,” Sir Nicholas said. The Royal Navy was “perilously close” to such a situation, he added. The Ministry of Defence intends to shave 20,000 soldiers from its regular service staff under the government’s current strategic plan. Although it intends a large increase in reserve forces – from 20,000 currently to 30,000 by 2018 – so far efforts have been stymied by organisational mishaps and a lack of interest among civilians in joining the reserves. (Source: FT.com)
18 Dec 13. Swedish €1.8bn fighter aircraft order lifts Saab. The Swedish government ordered 60 Gripen E aircraft for SKr16.4bn (€1.8bn), ushering in the latest generation of Saab’s fighter jet. The order allows Saab, the Swedish defence company, to begin building its newest version of the jet fighter, which it expects also to sell to Switzerland and hopes Brazil may also purchase when the Latin American country goes ahead with its long-awaited tender decision. Saab has already received two development contracts from Sweden, but Wednesday’s order allows the company to begin cutting steel. The total value of the Gripen E programme – including the mission systems, support and maintenance and the 22 aircraft Switzerland is expected to buy – is S