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31 Jul 15. Channel Crossing: Disruption. The Prime Minister chaired a meeting (31 Jul 15) of the Government’s emergency committee COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Room); called “to address the response to the unacceptable disruption in Dover and Coquelles”.
The Armed Forces Minister and senior Service representatives were among those who attended. The meeting focussed on what more could be done to deal with the immediate security issues on the French side of the
Channel. New measures to help reduce disruption were also to be introduced on the British side. The Government is to continue to collaborate closely with the French Government to reduce the number of migrants in Calais and the incentives for them to stay there.
The Prime Minister telephoned the French President (evening, 31 Jul 15) to discuss the situation in Calais and around the Eurotunnel entrance. The two leaders expressed concern about the immediate security challenges and reiterated their commitment to continue working closely together to tackle the problems posed by illegal migration.
Comment: To help alleviate pressures in Kent, Ministry of Defence planners and the Department for Transport are working with local agencies to agree a way forward, including the option of temporarily parking freight traffic overspill at Ebbsfleet. Media estimates put the number of migrants camping at Calais at some 5,000. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 15/31, 03 Jul 15)
31 Jul 15. Baltic Air Patrol: Quick Reaction Alert. Typhoon from 6 (Fighter) Squadron, RAF Lossiemouth, were launched after multiple groups of aircraft were detected by NATO air defences in international airspace near the Baltic States. 10 Russian aircraft were identified as: four Fullback Sukhoi Su-34 fighters; four Foxhound Mikoyan MiG-31 fighters and two Curl Antonov An 26 transport aircraft. All the Russian aircraft appeared to be carrying out routine training and were escorted ‘out of area.’
Comment: The Defence Secretary commented: “Air interceptions such as this highlight the vital importance of the UK.s contribution to the Baltic Air Policing mission and demonstrate our collective resolve to protect NATO airspace alongside our allies.” According to NATO (31 Jul 15), Alliance aircraft have had to conduct emergency deployments over Europe on over 250 occasions so far during 2015.
31 Jul 15. MH370: UK Offers Expertise. Following the discovery of debris on the island of Reunion, probably from the missing Malaysian airliner MH370, the Defence Secretary announced (31 Jul 15) that the UK has offered assistance from Government hydrographers and oceanographers. Analysts from the UK Hydrographic Office, working closely with colleagues in the Meteorological Office, can run a modelling process known as ‘hind casting.’ The process uses historical data on ocean currents and survey data of the sea floor in order to establish where debris may have originated.
Comment: HMS ECHO, HMS TIRELESS and RAF personnel helped with the initial search for MH370 which went missing during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 Mar 14. The aircraft debris was reportedly found washed-up on Reunion on 29 Jul 15. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 15/31, 03 Jul 15)
31 Jul 15. HMS ARGYLL: Life Extension. Desider (July 2015) reported that HMS ARGYLL has arrived at the Devonport Royal Dockyard to take part in a new life extension programme. The frigate will be the first to undergo a Life Extension (LIFEX) Upkeep; “an extension programme of capability update and upgrade”. The LIFEX programme brings together major changes to equipment and systems while examining equipment obsolescence and extending the service life of the ship’s hull and superstructure well beyond the original design life. Among other major upgrades, HMS ARGYLL