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23 May 14. Afghanistan: OP HERRICK. The UK’s force level in Afghanistan has reduced from 9,000 at the start of 2013 to a current strength of around 5,200. The strength is decreasing further to 4,100 by the beginning of June 2014. By the end of 2014 there will be no British personnel in a combat role in Afghanistan. (MoD Top Level, May 2014.)
Comment: The UK has taken the coalition lead at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy. There are now some 500 Cadets undertaking training, with the UK providing about 90 of the instructing staff. The UK also provides a small military contingent for the protection of the instructors. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 14/21, 26 May 14)
18 May 14. Nigeria: Teenage Girls Still Missing. The MoD reported (18 May 14) that an RAF Sentinel aircraft had been sent to assist the Nigerian Government in the search for over 200 teenage girls, abducted on 14 Apr 14. The aircraft is operating from Accra, Ghana and has joined US aircraft in attempting to locate the girls. Deployment of the aircraft followed the UK’s offer of further assistance in the search operation, including an advisory team for the Nigerian Army HQ and a specialist team to provide analytical assistance.
Comment: Sentinel is capable of flying for a considerable time at high altitude and is fitted with a dual-mode radar which can locate moving targets and offer radar imagery. There was an (unconfirmed) report that the aircraft broke down en route to Accra and had to divert to Senegal. As currently planned, Sentinel aircraft are due to be withdrawn from service when no longer required to support Operations in Afghanistan. A “final decision” on the aircraft’s future is due as part of the next Strategic Defence and Security Review. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 14/21, 26 May 14)
23 May 14. Missing Yachtsmen: Feared Lost. The US Coast Guard reported (23 May 14) that the upturned hull of the 40ft Cheeky Rafiki had been found but that there was no sign of the crew. A US Navy helicopter crew discovered the wreckage about 1,000 miles (1,600km) East of Massachusetts. An RAF C-130 operating from the Azores had been due to continue its search on 24 May 14 but was re-routed to return to the UK.
Comment: On 21 May 14 an MoD spokesman had said: “We can confirm that the UK will be providing military assistance in the search for four British sailors. A C-130 aircraft was deployed from RAF Brize Norton at
0500hrs on 21 May 14 and has started the move towards the search area where it will join the international Search and Rescue effort.”. The yachtsmen ran into difficulties on 15 May 14 while returning from Antigua Sailing Week and contact was lost early on 16 May 14. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 14/21, 26 May 14)
23 May 14. Lynx Wildcat: Maritime Force. The Royal Navy has confirmed (23 May 14) that on 1 Aug 14 the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force (LWMF), comprising 815, 702 and 700W NAS will reconfigure into two Squadrons. 815 NAS will become the only Lynx Squadron while a new Wildcat Squadron (825 NAS) will form with the unification of 702 and 700W NAS. From 31 Mar 17, when the Lynx Mk8 retires from service, the LWMF will become the Maritime Wildcat Force.
Comment: Lynx helicopters from 815 NAS will continue to operate at Very High Readiness for Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT) until the aircraft goes out of service. The Squadron will start converting from Lynx to Wildcat during the latter part of 2015. Once fully converted, the Squadron will comprise 12 single-manned flights at readiness for deployed Operations and two double-manned MCT Flights. 825 NAS is due to commission in September 2014 and will operate the first four converted Wildcat Flights fo