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11 Apr 19. HMS Montrose’s arrival in Bahrain heralds new era for UK’s Gulf mission. A NEW era in Royal Navy operations in the Middle East began today with the arrival of HMS Montrose in Bahrain – ready for a three-year mission.
After an epic six-month, 47,000-mile journey from her home in Plymouth, the frigate sailed into the Navy’s new support facility in the Gulf kingdom, the hub of Britain’s naval operations east of Suez.
From there she will conduct regular patrols dealing with drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean – where HMS Dragon scored a record-breaking eight busts over the winter – supporting counter-terrorism and counter-smuggling operations, and work with Middle East and allied navies to ensure the safety and security of this key region.
Instead of returning home to the UK after a six to nine-month deployment, Montrose is being stationed in Bahrain until 2022 to ensure a permanent presence and spare warships the lengthy passage to and from Britain, time which could be spent on patrol in the Middle East.
“Today marks a significant milestone for us – it is the end of our global voyage but the start of our period stationed in the Middle East,” said Commander Conor O’Neill, Montrose’s Commanding Officer.
“I am immensely proud of all that we have achieved during our voyage to Bahrain, from hosting royalty in Chile, deepening our relationships with allies, sharpening our war-fighting edge in exercises with the Japanese, to our success enforcing sanctions against North Korea.
“We now have the time to recuperate; making use of the excellent new facilities of the United Kingdom Naval Support Facility before handing over to our opposite numbers.”
Montrose has enjoyed an adventurous six months reaching the Gulf, sailing the ‘wrong way’ around the world via the Pacific, visiting countries and islands not called at by Royal Navy warships in many years.
To date she has:
- supported counter-drugs operations in the Caribbean;
- represented the UK at the 200th anniversary of the Chilean Navy where the ship hosted the Princess Royal and the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones;
- visited Easter Island at Christmas and Pitcairn Island, last resting place of the Bounty;
- helped the international fight against plastics in the oceans by surveying Pacific islands;
- trained with the French Navy in Tahiti;
- enjoyed visits to Auckland in New Zealand, Darwin in Australia, Singapore, Tokyo, Brunei and Colombo in Sri Lanka;
- enforced UN sanctions against North Korea to prevent fuel smuggling;
- worked side-by-side with the US and Japanese Navies on a combined anti-submarine exercise;
- and finally carried out boardings of suspicious vessels in the Indian Ocean in preparation for her long-term mission in the region.
The men and women who brought the ship to Bahrain will shortly return to the UK, swapping places with another crew from Plymouth who will take HMS Montrose back to sea once she has undergone a short period of maintenance following her six-month voyage out from Britain.
The senior Royal Navy commander in the Middle East theatre, Commodore Steve Dainton, UK Maritime Component Commander, who directs naval operations from his headquarters in Bahrain said Montrose’s long-term presence demonstrated “the UK’s commitment to the whole Middle East region. The Royal Navy is here to help protect the UK’s overseas interests and promote regional security and resilience.
“HMS Montrose will fulfil a vital role along with our mine countermeasure vessels and the support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay. It is clear we will have significantly enhanced the scope and capacity of our operations throughout the region.” (Source: U.K. MoD)
10 Apr 19. Turkey’s Erdogan says Russian S-400s delivery may be brought forward – Sabah. President Tayyip Erdogan said the delivery of Russian S-400 missile defence systems may be brought forward from July, the Sabah newspaper reported on Wednesday, sticking to a purchase which has put Turkey at odds with NATO ally the United States. The S-400s are not compatible with NATO systems and Washington says Turkey’s purchase of them would compromise the security of F-35 fighter jets, which are built by Lockheed Martin Corp. Turkey is involved in F-35 production.
Erdogan told reporters on his plane while returning from a trip to Russia this week that he and his foreign minister were constantly being asked about the S-400 purchase and being pressured to abandon it.
“We answer that ‘this deal is done, everything is settled’. The delivery of the S-400 missile defence system was to be in July. Maybe it can be brought forward,” Erdogan said.
On Tuesday, leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees warned Turkey that it risked tough sanctions if it pursued plans to buy the S-400s, and they threatened further legislative action.
“By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence system. It will not have both,” Republican Senators Jim Risch and Jim Inhofe and Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Jack Reed said in a New York Times opinion column. (Source: Reuters)
08 Apr 19. UK’s most advanced jets deploy overseas for the first time. F-35B Lightning aircraft are set to deploy to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus Britain’s new cutting-edge F-35B aircraft will depart their home station of RAF Marham in Norfolk later this year for Cyprus in their first overseas deployment.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world. This deployment marks an important milestone in this game-changing aircraft’s journey to becoming fully operational.”
Owned and operated by the RAF, the Lightning Force is jointly manned by both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. This deployment will allow personnel from both services to gain vital experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment.
The deployment will also train and test all aspects of moving this aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and sustainment of all the equipment and crew that comes with this impressive aircraft.
The Lightning, as the aircraft is known in the UK, is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings. With the ability to operate from land and sea, the F-35 forms a vital part of delivering a ‘carrier strike’ capability to the UK when combined with Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said, “It is great to see 617 Squadron, the modern day Dambusters, flying the most advanced and dynamic fighter jet in the UK’s history and about to start their first overseas deployment. I have no doubt that this short deployment will offer many tests, but likewise I am confident that our highly trained and skilled personnel will rise to the challenge and confirm our ability to deliver truly formidable capability.”
Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC DL Royal Navy, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said, “This first overseas deployment of these world-beating British F-35B aircraft to RAF Akrotiri, together with their embarkation in HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time in the Autumn of this year, are important milestones to prove their readiness for deployed operations anywhere in the world in defence of our national interests.”
The UK currently owns 17 F-35B aircraft with the reformed 617 Sqn having arrived back in the UK last year, with RAF Voyager aircraft providing air-to-air refuelling on their trans-Atlantic journey. More jets are due in Britain over the coming years, and there is an overall plan to procure 138 aircraft over the life of the Programme.
The F-35 is the world’s largest defence programme at over $1.3trn, with UK industry providing 15% by value of every one of over 3,000 jets set for the global order book. That makes the economic impact greater than if we were building 100% of all 138 aircraft which we intend to buy. The programme has already generated $12.9bn worth of orders and at peak production will support thousands of British manufacturing and engineering jobs. (Source: U.K. MoD)
04 Apr 19. Germany Defensive On NATO, Points to Existing Spending Plans. German ministers pushed back on criticism from the US over Berlin’s defense budget. Despite emphasizing the importance of the military alliance, German lawmakers only narrowly passed a motion on strengthening NATO. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas sought to brush off doubts from the United States over Germany’s commitment to NATOon Thursday, saying that Berlin is “determined to fulfil our commitments.”
“We will do our part to ensure that NATO can meet all the challenges of the future,” Maas said in Washington ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
Back in Berlin, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen repeated the government’s pledge to spend more on defense, albeit in smaller increments than Washington would like. Germany plans to increase its defense spending to 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024 and will then try to hit NATO’s 2 percent target at an unspecified point in the future. Speaking in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, she added that “we cannot allow any doubt to arise regarding our solidarity” from partners in North America to ones in Europe. The comments came as parliament marked the 70th anniversary of NATO’s founding, and amid hefty criticism from US President Donald Trump and others in his administration over Germany’s contributions.
“It is simply unacceptable for Europe’s largest economy to continue to ignore the threat of Russian aggression and neglect its own self-defense and our common defense,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday.
NATO motion narrowly passes
Despite attempting to dispel doubts about Berlin’s commitment to the military alliance, the German government suffered an embarrassing slip-up on Thursday when a NATO motion barely passed through parliament. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition proposed a motion on the government’s NATO strategy, calling for strengthening the military alliance as the backbone of European and trans-Atlantic security. However, not enough lawmakers from Merkel’s coalition were present in parliament during the regular vote, meaning there was no clear majority — with the environmentalist Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) voting against it in large numbers on Thursday. The far-left party, Die Linke, is usually a staunch critic of NATO as well.
Lawmakers then had to split up and vote in what is called a “Hammelsprung” — where they leave the plenary hall and vote by walking through one of three doors which are marked “yes,” “no,” or “abstention.” The measure then narrowly passed with a vote of 324 to 245. Amendments to the government’s motion that were filed by the Greens, the socialist Left party, and the business-friendly Free Democrats were all rejected.
2 percent is ‘a fictitious number’
Although Germany has pledged to spend more money, it is unsure how the NATO defense budget goal will be reached. Last year’s defense spending was around 1.23 percent, with government officials expecting to bump it up to 1.26 percent by 2023. Germany is hurting its credibility by not holding to its pledge to significantly increase defense spending, said Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who took over from Merkel as the head of the Christian Democrats in December. The low rate at which Germany has upped its defense spending is “one of the biggest political open flanks that we have in debates with the United States,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper. Germany’s opposition, on the other hand, is reluctant to hold to the 2 percent spending target, which the Greens foreign policy spokesman described as “a fictitious number.”
The figure “has nothing at all to do with [defense] needs and certainly does nothing to automatically bring more security,” the Greens’ Omid Nouripour told German radio Deutschlandfunk. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Deutsche Welle German radio)
04 Apr 19. Removing Turkey from F-35 Jet’s Supply Chain Could Slow Work On 75 Jets: Navy Officer. If Turkey were removed from the F-35 jet supply chain amid a dispute with the United States over its planned purchase of a Russian missile system, it would impact the production rate for up to 75 of the fighters, a Pentagon official said on Thursday.
The United States has halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy fighter aircraft to Turkey. It was the first concrete American step to block delivery of the jet to the NATO ally in light of the planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
“The evaluation of Turkey stopping would be between 50- and 75-airplane impact over a two-year period,” the head of the F-35 program, Navy Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, told a U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee subcommittee. Turkey produces between 6 percent and 7 percent of the parts for the F-35, Winter said. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Reuters)
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