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16 Oct 19. Office for Veterans Affairs launched. The launch of the Office for Veterans Affairs is officially taking place today. As part of the launch, ministers have announced that the new head of the OVA will be Col David Richmond, the former Recovery Director of Help for Heroes. Further details of what the office will do have also been announced, including its new functions of better co-ordinating Government and charity support and improving perceptions of veterans. The launch has been covered across widely across many national media outlets today, with pieces in the Daily Telegraph and The Sun, as well as broadcast coverage with interviews on Good Morning Britain and Sky News this morning. Coverage was also featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
The Telegraph carries comments from Col David Richmond on the launch, who says that he “understands the struggles that some face” after he became the most senior officer injured in the Afghanistan conflict. The Sun also carries comments from Col David Richmond saying he “wants the OVA to champion veterans.”
Earlier this morning, Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer was interviewed on Good Morning Britain. He said that he “came into politics to reset the relationship between the country and its veterans”. Later the Minister was also interviewed on Sky News and said that the new office will help to cohere the goodwill towards veterans. (Source: U.K. MoD)
17 Oct 19. Arms sales bans will not impact Turkey’s defence industry – industry head. The Turkish defence industry will not be hit by embargoes or bans on arms sales, the head of the presidency’s Defence Industries Directorate was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
European Union countries agreed on Monday to limit arms exports to Turkey over its offensive even as they stopped short of a bloc-wide embargo against a NATO ally. Ismail Demir said on Wednesday that arms sales bans and embargoes would not would impact Turkey’s defence industry.
“We’ve made our analyses regarding these, we’ve taken the necessary measures including issues like alternative sources and domestic production,” he was quoted as saying by state-owned Anadolu agency.
The EU exported 45m euros ($50m) worth of arms and ammunition to Turkey last year, including missiles, according to EU statistics office Eurostat. Sales of aircraft to Turkey, although not all military, amounted to 1.4bn euros last year, according to Eurostat. The EU is the top foreign investor in Turkey. The United States has imposed sanctions on Turkish officials, including the defence minister and his ministry, hiked tariffs and halted trade talks in an effort to persuade Ankara to stop attacks against the Kurdish YPG militia in northeastern Syria. (Source: Reuters)
17 Oct 19. France and Germany sign deals on space and arms exports. France and Germany have signed a binding deal on arm exports control rules for jointly developed programmes, such as the tank and the warplane of the future, the two countries said on Wednesday in a statement issued after a joint cabinet meeting held in Toulouse. German curbs on arms exports to non-European Union or non-NATO countries have been a thorn in bilateral co-operation for years. Germany’s SPD party, part of the ruling coalition, is particularly concerned about the trade. According to the deal signed on Wednesday, Germany will not block French exports to third countries provided equipment was made with less than 20% German components.
French firms, such as Nexter and Arquus, previously known as Renault Trucks Defense, say German restrictions have hindered export deals. Nexter was also worried about the feasibility of the tank of the future project (MGCS) that should be developed with German firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Airbus Defence & Space and Dassault equally complained that the SCAF fighter jet project with Germany and Spain could be left in limbo.
France and Germany tentatively agreed to speed up the development of the warplane in the next few months, French President Emmanuel Macron said during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The two countries will sign in January 2020 a deal to develop the SCAF demonstrator programme, French minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly said on Twitter. Besides defence deals, Paris and Berlin also said they agreed to give preferential treatment to European companies for the launch of space rockets. (Source: Reuters)
15 Oct 19. UK government halts arms export licences to Turkey. The UK government is to suspend arms export licences to Turkey amid concerns over its military operation in northern Syria, Downing Street has said. Speaking in the Commons, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would keep its exports to Turkey under “very careful and continual review”.
The Turkish offensive, which began last week, aims to push Kurdish-led forces from the border region. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the operation so far. Meanwhile, at least 160,000 have fled the area, according to the UN.
The Turkish government wants to create a “safe zone” in the area, where it can resettle up to two million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.
Mr Raab told MPs the UK government has called on Turkey to “exercise maximum restraint and to bring an end to this unilateral military action”.
“This is not the action we expected from an ally,” he said.
“It is reckless, it is counter-productive and it plays straight into the hands of Russia and indeed the [Syrian President] Assad regime.”
He went on: “I can tell the House that no further export licences to Turkey for items which might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review.” (Source: BBC)
14 Oct 19. 1st UK Fighter Jets Land Onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. Flown by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots, the Lightning jets are embarking in the 65,000 tonne carrier to conduct operational trials off the East Coast of the USA. This follows successful developmental trials last year with US Lightning jets, where forces conducted 500 take offs and landings over their 11-week period at sea. These trials are aimed at ‘end-to-end’ testing of the aircraft and personnel to ensure the aircraft are compatible with the carrier. The tests involve mission planning, arming the aircraft using the ship’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, flying missions and debriefing on completion.
The landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth are part of the ‘WESTLANT 19’ Carrier Strike Group deployment. Once fully operational, UK Carrier Strike Group will be a formidable force around the world, using a number of platforms to work alongside our allies.
During this time, the aircraft carrier will be escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlins from 814, 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons, Wildcats from 815 squadron and Royal Marines from Lima Company, 42 Commando.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This is another step towards the UK’s carrier strike capability becoming fully operational. The bringing together of the UK Lightnings on the first in class HMS Queen Elizabeth paves the way for the world’s most up to date, fully integrated carrier force.”
The Lightning aircraft operates with a cutting-edge design. It is the first jet to combine radar evading stealth technology with supersonic speed, as well as the ability to land vertically. Given its ability to conduct missions both from land and sea, the jets act as a formidable spine to the ‘carrier strike’ capability. The UK currently owns 18 aircraft, with an additional order placed for 30 jets.
First to land onboard, Wing Commander Adam Curd, Royal Air Force, said:
“This is the first time I have landed onboard an aircraft carrier – for it to be HMS Queen Elizabeth, and in an aircraft as amazing as a UK Lightning, is quite something.”
“This is a proud moment not only for me, but the wider team that has brought us to this milestone for maritime aviation and UK Defence.”
The trials will be led by the joint Royal Navy – Royal Air Force 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron from the Air Warfare Centre. The Squadron will be operating alongside personnel and aircraft from the UK Lightning Force, based out of RAF Marham.
Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff for Aviation and Carrier Strike, Rear Admiral Martin Connell, Royal Navy, said: “Embarking UK Lightning jets in HMS Queen Elizabeth for the very first time is a major milestone for Royal Navy and Royal Air Force aviation and for our development of the 5th generation Carrier Strike Group capability. Once again, the support from our US Navy and US Marine Corps colleagues in the United States has been incredible and undoubtedly helped bring us to this moment: making maritime aviation history.”
Air Officer Commanding Number 1 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, Royal Air Force, said: “WESTLANT19 marks an extremely significant milestone on our 10-year journey to establishing our renewed Carrier Strike capability. Bringing our own Lightnings onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time gives us the opportunity to conduct critical operational testing. With the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force operating so closely together, these are incredibly exciting times for embarked Combat Air.”
The UK will declare Initial Operating Capability for Carrier Strike by the end of 2020. The first operational deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth 617 Squadron and a squadron of US Marine Corps Lightning jets is due to take place in 2021.
Commander of the Strike Group, Commodore Mike Utley, Royal Navy said: “Getting to this point of embarking UK Lightning jets into our British-built carrier has been a significant joint undertaking by industry and military – both ours, and those from the United States. We will take the jets from the successful developmental phase we achieved last year through to a more operational footing, so we are confident that the jets, the carrier and our destroyers and frigates will function seamlessly together.” (Source: ASD Network)
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