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04 Aug 23. Soldiers must keep ‘slugging it out’ on the battlefield despite rise of AI. Former Army chief Lord Dannatt cautions against over-reliance on technology in warfare. Land troops must not be forgotten as new methods of warfare are created, says Lord Dannatt
Soldiers need to keep “slugging it out” on the battlefield despite the growth of drone warfare and artificial intelligence (AI), the former head of the army has warned.
Lord Dannatt, who was Chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2009, said the UK had failed to prioritise land warfare as it concentrated on pivoting to fighting wars through cyber and technology.
In last month’s Command Paper Refresh, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) insisted fewer troops will be needed on future front lines because of the rise of AI.
The document defended its decision to cut troop numbers by nearly 10,000 and said lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will “change the way we think about the ‘size’ of our Armed Forces”.
However, Lord Dannatt pushed back against this, cautioning that it was wrong to prioritise newer methods of modern warfare over the old.
“Of course it’s important to resource the new ways of warfare as a modern technology for high tech, but that doesn’t mean to say that the old ways of warfare have gone out the window,” he said.
Speaking on the General Talk podcast, hosted by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Lord Dannatt said: “It goes back to that much overused analogy of the golf bag: just because you got a snazzy new driver, which is absolutely cutting edge of technology, it doesn’t mean to say that you can throw out the old trusted three wood, which you really needed.”
In 2021, the MoD announced it would cut troop numbers from 82,000 to 73,000 by 2025 – its smallest size since the Napoleonic era. The number of main battle tanks in the British Army will decline from 227 to 148 Challenger 3s.
Lord Dannatt added: “This is borne out by what’s happening in Ukraine.
“Yes, high technology is a really key part of that war, whether it’s drones, whether it’s satellite imagery, or better communications, all that’s really important.
“But there is still old-fashioned chin-to-chin slugging it out, to an infantryman and armoured soldiers. So the modern way of warfare is going to be a combination of the new ways of warfare and the old warfare.”
Speaking to The Telegraph, Lord Dannatt said today’s warfare needed to be a “combination” of methods.
He said that while drones, imagery, long-range precision fires, and rapid secure communications all needed to be utilised, this was not to be at the expense of close-range weapons, high rates of fire, trenches, wire, mines and “determined infantrymen and tank soldiers”.
“The uncomfortable truth for Treasury and defence planners is that the new and expensive hi-tech equipment is very much part of the future but does not replace the old, more traditional capabilities,” he added.
“The new complements the old, it does not replace it.”
Lord Dannatt also told the podcast that with Britain’s shrinking military, it risked hiding behind Nato nations.
In June, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, pushed back on this after General Sir Patrick Sanders, the current head of the Army, contrasted the cuts being made to the UK Armed Forces to significant investments made by Nato allies in eastern Europe.
“The Poles are definitely increasing their defence expenditure,” said Lord Dannatt.
“I think we will see the Polish army being the largest, important and most capable army in Europe. We are accused of hiding behind our allies and to an extent I think we are actually doing that at the moment, particularly as far as our land forces are concerned.”
Lord Dannatt added that the Germans were “significantly increasing” their defence budget, and criticised the uplift in money the Prime Minister allocated for the MoD earlier this year.
“The majority of that money is going into new technologies. It’s going into maritime programmes,” he said.
“It’s going into air programmes, and very little of it, in the early years certainly, is going into our land forces.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
04 Aug 23. Nato’s new battle plan reveals Russia is not the only threat facing Europe Defence in Depth. As the alliance implements its first new plan in 60 years, threats from Asia and Africa may also shape its future military preparations
What were you doing in 1967? Elvis and Priscilla got married, The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Yuri Andropov, the future Soviet president, became head of the KGB.
Nato, meanwhile, was drawing up its big battle plan – a blueprint that remained in force for decades, until just three weeks ago.
A new plan was driven forward by Christopher Cavoli, Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and a US general, who made it his mission to update Nato’s preparedness in the face of a renewed threat from the east.
Endorsed last month at the Nato summit in Vilnius, the proposal is based on three regional plans: one for the north, covering the Atlantic and the northern Arctic flank; one for the centre, for the Baltic and mainland Europe; and one for the south, for the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
But it remains to be seen whether Nato has totally shaken off its Cold War mindset, and whether it remains too focused on Russia.
In this episode of Defence in Depth, Dominic Nicholls, The Telegraph’s associate editor, explains Nato’s new battle plan and why threats from Asia and Africa may shape the alliance’s future policy beyond Putin’s Russia. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
03 Aug 23. RAF completes NATO air policing mission in the Baltic after intercepting 50 Russian aircraft. The UK has been leading NATO’s air policing mission in Estonia for the last four months, demonstrating the UK’s commitment to the Alliance and security in Europe. Royal Air Force personnel have returned to the UK after leading NATO’s Baltic air policing mission in Estonia for four months, during which pilots intercepted 50 Russian aircraft and flew for a combined total of more than 500 hours.
Members of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (140 EAW) have been deployed to Ämari Air Base since the start of March, along with a squadron of RAF Typhoon fighter jets, to conduct Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) intercepts of Russian aircraft transiting close to NATO airspace.
Typhoon jets and their pilots from IX(Bomber) and 1(Fighter) squadrons had deployed to Estonia from RAF Lossiemouth, where the majority of 140 EAW’s personnel have now returned.
The deployment, named Op Azotize, began with RAF pilots flying missions alongside the German Air Force – during which the first ever air joint air intercept between NATO allies took place, as British and German Typhoons shadowed a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft and transport aircraft.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Hundreds of RAF pilots and personnel have spent months away from their families, working round-the-clock alongside our allies to keep Europe’s skies safe. The UK’s successful leadership of NATO’s air policing mission in Estonia, resulting in the interception of dozens of Russian aircraft by the RAF, sends a strong message to Putin that we stand united with our allies against any threat to our borders.”
Personnel from 140EAW were held at a moment’s notice to intercept Russian aircraft that do not liaise with NATO-controlled regional air traffic agencies and do not file flight plans, thus failing to adhere to international norms. This, in turn, creates a flight safety risk that must be investigated and monitored by NATO aircraft to ensure the safety of all air traffic in the region.
After taking full leadership of the air policing mission, RAF Typhoons flew QRA intercepts on a regular basis – including a 21-day period in which Russian fighters, long-range bombers, and reconnaissance aircraft were intercepted 21 times.
During the course of the deployment, operations were conducted in coordination with the Portuguese and Romanian Air Forces, which jointly led the NATO air policing mission in Lithuania.
Defence Minister Baroness Goldie DL said: “Following a successful deployment to Estonia from our strategic airbase at Lossiemouth, I pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of personnel from 140 Expeditionary Air Wing for their role in protecting NATO airspace over the last four months. The day to day, personal sacrifices made not only by the individuals but also their families in the name of duty are nothing short of commendable. It is reflective of the important contribution to our defence capability from all parts of the UK. Our work with European partners and our NATO Allies continues to provide the backbone to European security, of which our pilots, aircrews and RAF personnel have all formed a central part. They should be proud of what they have achieved.”
While deployed to Estonia, the RAF has also taken part in a number of major exercises with NATO allies, including Exercise Air Defender, the largest NATO Air Deployment exercise since the end of the Cold War, with more than 250 aircraft and 10,000 personnel taking part from 25 nations. The RAF contribution to the exercise combined Typhoons from 140 EAW based in Estonia and 903 EAW based in Cyprus, and included F-35, Voyager and A-400M aircraft flying from the UK.
The RAF Typhoons of 140EAW conducted multiple exercises with NATO’s newest member Finland, including joint training in the Arctic Circle, as well as with future Alliance member Sweden. These exercises ensure the strength and unity of the alliance as well as deterring and defending against threats to NATO security
On Wednesday, the Commanding Officer of 140 EAW, Wing Commander Scott MacColl, formally handed over leadership of the air policing mission in Estonia to the Spanish Air Force.
Air & Space Commander, Air Marshal Harv Smyth, said: “The RAF is committed to its role within NATO of collective defence, to ensure the strength and unity of the alliance and to deter and defend against threats to NATO security. While in Estonia, 140 Expeditionary Air Wing has excelled, participating in 12 major NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force exercises in addition to the Air Policing role. I am extremely proud of the whole force’s hard work and dedication. Now that they are back in the UK, their focus will be straight back to providing UK quick reaction alert where they will help ensure the safety and integrity of UK airspace, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
The NATO Baltic Air Policing mission was established at Amari base in Estonia and Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania in 2014 after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Allies who contribute to the mission deploy to the air bases in Eastern Europe on a four month rotational basis, providing protection and assurance to all NATO members as well as partner nations.
The UK’s defence commitment to Estonia will continue through Op Cabrit, with more than 1,000 soldiers from the British Army currently stationed at Tapa Army Base to form the UK’s contribution to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence along its eastern border with Russia.
03 Aug 23. Poland: Amended Russian influence commission will likely prolong EU funding disputes. On 2 August, President Andrzej Duda signed into law on the amendments to the powers of a controversial commission designed to investigate Russian influence in the country. Under the revised legislation, introduced following a backlash from Brussels and Washington DC, Russian-influenced individuals will no longer be banned from holding public office for up to 10 years. Nevertheless, the committee can still issue statements that an individual has operated under Russian influence and comment on their suitability for public office. The legislation has been dubbed ‘Lex Tux’ as it is widely seen as an attempt to target opposition leader Donald Tusk ahead of the general election in October or November. The EU remains likely to uphold legal action against Warsaw over the body, increasing the likelihood that funding disputes will persist in the months ahead. This will weigh on the country’s overall growth prospects for 2023. Given that the legislation is highly polarising (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 8 June 2023), it also increases the likelihood of large-scale protests ahead of the election, though these will almost certainly remain peaceful. (Source: Sibylline)
01 Aug 23. Hungary: Likely eventual ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid will not improve strained ties with West. On 31 July, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party delayed ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership by boycotting a special parliamentary session on the issue. The government has withheld its approval in the hope of gaining concessions on the EU funding disputes. The move is also in part due to strained diplomatic relations with Sweden. Budapest will almost certainly eventually ratify the bid but is possibly waiting until the Turkish parliament does so. Separately, on 1 August, the US government restricted Hungary’s participation in the American Visa Waiver Program due to security concerns over passports issued between 2011 and 2020. This relates to Budapest’s policy of issuing passports to ethnic Hungarians living abroad, despite repeated warnings from Washington over the associated security risks. The twin developments are a further sign of deteriorating relations between Hungary and its Western allies. This will likely further encourage Budapest to cultivate closer trade ties with China, deviating from wider EU efforts to scrutinise Chinese investment in Europe. (Source: Sibylline)
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