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21 Mar 21. Defence review that cuts size of army leaves Britain at risk, says ex‑forces chief. Troop cuts announced today will encourage an attack from Russia and leave Britain unable to retake the Falklands, a former defence chief has warned.
After weeks of speculation, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has confirmed that his reforms will involve a reduction in the overall number of armed forces personnel.
Wallace also admitted the cuts would break a Tory election promise issued by Boris Johnson 16 months ago. The army’s strength is expected to be reduced by 10,000 soldiers, to leave it at its smallest in 200 years.
In a withering attack on the plans yesterday, the former chief of the defence staff Lord Richards of Herstmonceux said that “mass still matters”.
The general said that slashing the forces for the second time in a decade would prove “an asymmetric attraction to one’s opponents”.
In an interview with Times Radio, Richards also argued that another reduction in troops would leave Britain unable to fight either the Gulf War or Iraq War again.
It would “almost certainly” mean that the country would not be able to retake the Falkland Islands, and it would not have the military strength to stop genocides such as that in Rwanda in 1994, he said.
The cut, along with an expected reduction in numbers for the Royal Navy and RAF, will be confirmed today in a defence command paper.
It is expected to reduce the army to 72,000 troops from its present target of 82,000. The last time the British army was below an official strength of 80,000 was in 1824.
Johnson, speaking on the day he launched the Tories’ general election manifesto in November 2019, said: “We will not be cutting our armed services in any form. We will be maintaining the size of our armed services, because we believe in our armed services. They are loved.”
Pressed on that promise on Times Radio yesterday, Wallace indicated that it would be broken.
“When the threat changes, we change with it,” he said. “If we didn’t change with it, we would have an army like the First World War. It’s really important we’re driven by the threat not sentimentality.”
Richards, who was chief of the defence staff from 2010-13, also said the overhaul’s “direction of travel is right”, as “we need to get more into high-tech, cyber, drone technology and so on”, but he added: “It can’t be at the expense of conventional capabilities. And key to that is numbers. Mass still matters.
“The chiefs of staff have been under huge monetary pressure, and they are in my judgment underselling the requirement for conventional capability, even in this sort of more high-tech world we’re entering.”
The general, who has been the only British officer to command US troops since the Second World War, when he led international forces in Afghanistan in 2006, said: “You’ve got to have some of the more traditional capability in case mass becomes an asymmetric attraction to one’s potential opponents. I’m thinking Russia and China.
“I don’t necessarily buy that they’re about to start World War Three with us, but, they still possess large numbers, and if all we’ve got is high-tech stuff, and they’ve got half a million troops that can come across the border at you, then these high-tech capabilities aren’t going to be much good.
“If your opponent senses that they are at a disadvantage, or their own capability is being neutered by one’s own possession of those capabilities, they will look for another way of achieving their goals, and that could suddenly become numbers again — mass. And we certainly won’t have it.”
An array of recent operations mounted by Britain’s armed forces would no longer be possible if its standing strength was cut any further, Richards said, including many peace-keeping operations to halt genocides.
“I think we could do another Sierra Leone, because we had 5,000 people there and that’s considered a small-scale operation.
“We would not be able to recapture the Falklands, almost certainly. The strategy in respect of that is to continue to occupy the Falklands and not allow them to be captured. Now, if that goes wrong, we’ve got a problem.
“We could not do a Gulf War 1 or 2. Things come back to bite you. I don’t want us necessarily to get involved in another Afghanistan or Iraq. But say Rwanda came along again, would we just stand by and ignore it?
“We don’t have any numbers to risk getting involved in these nice-to-do operations that may be morally hugely important to us, but are practically no longer in our gift,” he said.
Richards also suggested Britain may soon be asked to deploy troops to Yemen, as part of an international peace-keeping force. “The pressures will come again somewhere,” he said “They already are in the case in Yemen. I understand from my contacts that there is talk of some stabilisation force having to go into Yemen.
“If the Americans feed into that, it would be very hard for the United Kingdom to say no, we’re not going to do it.”
The calibre of the SAS and SBS may also be affected by a further reduction in troop numbers, Richards argued.
“You also need numbers to make sure one’s special forces can be grown from the size of the armed forces that feed into them, and that’s going to become increasingly difficult to as they get smaller,” he said.
Labour also attacked the cuts. John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said: “There’s a gulf between the government’s ambitions and its actions, which is set to grow with this new review.
“The defence secretary must drop the bombast and explain very simply — how much smaller will the army be in 2024 than when the Conservatives came to office in 2010?”
Today’s military chiefs have defended the cuts. General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the head of the army, said last week: “Modernised armies will no longer be defined purely by scale. Size today actually matters much less. The real currency is capability, utility and relevance and deployability.
“What I think will emerge is a right-sized army for the digital age ready to compete more effectively.”
(Source: The Times)
21 Mar 21. Royal Navy to deploy ‘spy ship’ to stop Russian submarines sabotaging Britain’s undersea internet cables. The Royal Navy is to deploy a ‘spy ship’ to stop Russian submarines sabotaging Britain’s internet by damaging undersea cables in a new Battle of the Atlantic.
The new Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS) is due in service by 2024. The MoD says submarine warfare presents a particular risk of sabotage to undersea cable infrastructure and is an “existential threat to the UK”.
The MROSS, a surface vessel with a crew of around 15 people, will help reduce Britain’s vulnerability to threats, including from terrorism, hostile nations and serious and organised crime, an MoD spokesman said.
The vessels will help protect critical national infrastructure such as undersea cables which carry trillions of dollars of financial transfers each day and transmit 97% of the world’s global communications.
The biggest threat to Britain’s undersea cables is thought to come from the Russian spy ship Belgorod, which acts as mothership for a mini-submarine called Losharik.
Losharik is believed capable of sitting on the sea bed and has a robotic arm to tamper or cut internet cables.
Consisting of seven titanium spheres inside the hull, designed to withstand extreme pressures in the deep ocean, Losharik is thought to be able to operate at depths up to a kilometre.
Russian submarines and the Yantar Class intelligence ship, developed in part to tap the network of land and sea-bed sensors designed to listen for submarines (known as the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System, or IUSS), are now increasingly focussed on the Atlantic’s undersea cables.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “As the threat changes, we must change. Our adversaries look to our critical national infrastructure as a key vulnerability and have developed capabilities that put these under threat.
“Some of our new investments will therefore go into ensuring that we have the right equipment to close down these newer vulnerabilities.
“Whether on land, sea or air, we must make sure that we maintain the UK resilience to those that attempt to weaken us.”
The MROSS is likely to operate a towed-array sonar cable and underwater drones to search for submarines interfering with sea-bed cables.
Other maritime protection assets the MoD can call upon include the RAF’s P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and the Royal Navy’s Astute-class hunter-killer submarines and Type-23 Frigates.
The in-service date of 2024 for MROSS is very ambitious for a new-build ship.
The MoD may choose to buy an existing vessel and add sensitive military equipment in a bid to speed up the procurement process.
However, given the Prime Minister’s pledge to reinvigorate the British shipbuilding industry it is highly likely the vessel will be built in the UK.
The MoD has no costs for the ship and a spokesman said the contract had not yet been put out to tender.
Announcing he had made Defence Secretary Ben Wallace the government’s ‘Shipbuilding Tsar’ in 2019, Boris Johnson said: “This is an industry with a deep and visceral connection to so many parts of the UK and to the Union itself.
“My government will do all it can to develop this aspect of our heritage and the men and women who make up its workforce – from apprentices embarking on a long career, to those families who have worked in shipyards for generations.”
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
22 Mar 21. Warship to be sent to Gibraltar as Armed Forces face troops cut. It will be the first time a vessel has been based permanently in the territory, with the move to be unveiled in the Command Paper on Monday.
A Royal Navy warship will patrol from Gibraltar for the first time as part of a defence review designed to increase Britain’s influence across the globe.
The announcement will be set out before Parliament in Monday’s Command Paper, titled Defence in a Competitive Age, which is also expected to include plans to reduce the Army by 10,000 troops over the next decade.
That cut has been criticised by military experts and senior Tory MPs, who have warned that innovation must not be prioritised at the expense of “boots on the ground”.
The Command Paper follows the publication of the Integrated Review last week, which set out the Government’s strategy on defence, security and foreign policy for the next 10 years and how it intends to fight “future wars” with a focus on cyber conflict, space and robotics.
The paper will further efforts to ensure the Armed Forces makes more of its “global footprint” by having more ships, submarines and sailors at sea, as well as a future commando force which will be deployed on a sustained basis.
It will announce that HMS Trent, an offshore patrol vessel, will operate from Gibraltar later this year, where she will be able to support Nato operations in the Mediterranean, as well as work with North African partners and support counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa.
It will be the first time a vessel has been based permanently in the British Overseas Territory and will represent the new approach, which Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has described as “globally engaged, constantly campaigning and forward deployed”.
The Command Paper will set out plans to assign an extra £3 billion to the Army, £120 million of which will be used to create the new Special Operations Brigade, based around a ranger regiment of four battalions, while the Navy will also deploy a “spy ship” to stop Russian submarines sabotaging Britain’s internet by damaging undersea cables.
Last week The Daily Telegraph disclosed that the paper will announce that members of the Armed Forces face future pay cuts as part of a comprehensive review into giving lower ranks more money.
Mr Wallace, who has overseen the Integrated Review and Command Paper, said: “From striking Daesh terrorists in Iraq, disrupting drug shipments and deterring Russian aggression in the Baltics, our Armed Forces already reach where others cannot. In the coming years, we will broaden the spectrum of this worldwide engagement even further.
“Across a vast global footprint, we will be constantly operating to deter our adversaries and reassure our friends, integrating with our Allies, and ready to fight should it be necessary.”
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said that while he was “completely in favour of all the technology”, he feared the UK would be left “strained” if troop numbers were cut.
Sir Iain’s concerns were echoed by Lord Richards, the former chief of the defence staff, who warned the reduction in troop numbers will encourage adversaries such as Russia and China to launch conventional attacks.
He said: “If all we’ve got is high tech stuff, they’ve got half a million troops that can come across the border.”
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, called for the Government to increase the 2.2 percent of GDP it spends on Defence to 3 per cent, “so we don’t have to bin critical conventional capabilities where connected threats have not disappeared but are indeed growing”.
John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, accused the Government of making decisions that were “driven by the black hole in their defence budget, not by the needs of Britain’s defences”.
“Further Army cuts could seriously limit our Forces’ capacity simultaneously to deploy overseas, support allies and maintain strong national defences and resilience,” he said.
Meanwhile Lord Dannatt, who also served as CDS, told The Telegraph that while the “headline cut in the size of the army is disappointing”, he felt “some of the new tasks and capabilities that this review is giving to the army are sensible forward thinking”.
Lord Dannatt added that he would welcome the details set out in the paper “cautiously”. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
21 Mar 21. Aircraft carrier tech offered to South Korea as Royal Navy extends horizons. Babcock, BAE and Thales set to export designs to south-east Asian nation as UK seeks deals after construction of £3bn ships. Technology from the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers is being offered to South Korea as the country beefs up its military.
Advanced systems and designs developed by the “carrier alliance” of Babcock, BAE Systems and Thales to deliver the UK’s two Queen Elizabeth-class vessels could be exported to the south-east Asian nation as the UK steps up efforts to reap the financial benefits of constructing the 65,000-tonne ships. The two ships will cost taxpayers about £6.5bn.
Industry sources said officials from the Department for International Trade have begun informal discussions with Korean counterparts about areas of technology the country could be interested in. Any deal would have to meet strict controls designed to protect UK national security.
However, in January Defence Secretary Ben Wallace spoke with his Seoul counterpart about closer co-operation on military matters.
In 2019, Korea announced a 290 trillion won (£180bn) defence spending spree over five years that included adding an aircraft carrier capable of handling F-35B jets, though it envisaged a smaller vessel than the Queen Elizabeth class, which also operates advanced fighter jets.
The Royal Navy carriers have pioneered automated systems which reduce the number of crew they need, making them more efficient.
One such invention is a highly mechanised weapons handling system, which lifts bombs and missiles from arsenals deep inside the ship up to the flight deck.
Developments like this mean the Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship Prince of Wales have crews of just 700 to operate them, rising to 1,600 when the air wing is included.
By comparison, the US Nimitz-class carriers require 3,000 sailors to get under way and a further 1,800 to operate their aircraft.
Peter Sandeman, director of analyst group Navy Lookout, said: “A proposal has been floating around of a scaled-down carrier using the twin-island design from the Queen Elizabeth.
“The new technology in the Navy’s new carriers, like the ammunition handling, aircraft lifts, the electric power system, is what Korea is interested in as that’s the really hard stuff.”
Exporting carrier technology would be a further boost for the UK, after BAE secured deals with Australia and Canada for their navies to build new frigates based on the Type 26 ships currently under construction at the company’s Scottish shipyards.
Mr Sandeman added: “There’s definitely a small-scale revival going on in the UK’s naval industry.”
A Government spokesperson said: “The United Kingdom and South Korea have an important defence and security relationship. Our Indo-Pacific tilt will provide further areas for cooperation.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
19 Mar 21. UK nuclear warhead increase prompted by Russia’s missile defence capability. Defence secretary says controversial move needed to keep Britain’s deterrent ‘credible.’ Britain’s controversial move to raise the cap on its nuclear warhead stockpile was motivated by the need to maintain a “credible” deterrent to counter Russia’s improved ballistic missile defences, the UK defence secretary has said. Government ministers have so far been reluctant to explain the decision, announced last week as part of its defence, security and foreign policy review. But when challenged on the issue Ben Wallace, defence secretary, told the BBC on Sunday that his job in maintaining a credible deterrent was to “reflect and review what the Russians and others have been up to”. He added: “In the past few years we have seen Russia invest strongly in ballistic missile defence . . . They have planned and deployed new capabilities and that means if we are going to remain credible, it has to do the job”.
Downing Street’s move to increase the ceiling on its stockpile by more than 40 per cent to 260 warheads prompted criticism from nuclear experts, who warned this would damage the UK’s consistent emphasis on disarmament since the end of the cold war. Wallace insisted that despite the increase the UK would still have the “lowest” number of warheads among nuclear powers, pointing out that France has closer to 300. Whitehall officials said privately that the decision reflected wider concerns about nuclear proliferation by China and North Korea. Speaking ahead of the announcement of restructuring of the UK armed forces on Monday,
Wallace did not deny the review would involve a cut in army personnel numbers from a notional force of 82,000. “I’m going to make a decision to have the right armed forces to match our ambition, and to meet the threat,” he said. Military officials have said the army would make greater use of its reserves to compensate for cuts to full-time soldiers, although these would take several months to deploy in the event of a serious conflict. Officials have also been clear that the army is evolving to prioritise “lethality” over size, using new technologies such as swarms of drones and situational awareness systems. Cuts to equipment are expected to include the retirement of the Hercules transport aircraft, often used by special forces, and known as the workhorses of the Royal Air Force. The UK has operated earlier variants of the US-built aircraft since the mid-1950s and the 14 remaining aircraft had been due to keep flying until the mid-2030s. Their missions will be picked up by the RAF’s fleet of 20 larger A400M Atlas transport aircraft, according to people familiar with the plan. The army’s 700-plus Warrior infantry fighting vehicles are also due to be phased out, according to two people familiar with the situation. Meanwhile, the introduction of the new Boxer, a different type of armoured vehicle, will be accelerated. A planned life-extension programme of the army’s main battle tank, the Challenger 2, is expected to be announced shortly after the publication of the review. Commenting on the expected cuts John Healey, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, warned that a reduction in troop numbers could seriously limit the army’s capacity to deploy overseas, support allies and maintain strong national defences and resilience. “There’s a gulf between the government’s ambitions and its actions, which is set to grow with this new review,” Healey said. (Source: FT.com)
20 Mar 21. SAS ordered to start disrupting Russian meddling around the world. The SAS and other units in the Special Forces Group will likely work alongside MI6 to conduct covert surveillance operations
SAS soldiers will be told to disrupt Russian meddling around the world as part of a major shake up of defence priorities.
The SAS and other units in the Special Forces Group will likely work alongside MI6 to conduct covert surveillance operations against Russian spies and military units.
Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the chief of the general staff, told The Telegraph that special forces will be tasked with tackling “hostile state actors”.
The move comes ahead of the publication of the Defence Command Paper, the MoD’s contribution to the Government’s Integrated Review of foreign, defence, security and development policy, which will be published on Monday.
Writing for the The Telegraph, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that Britain must reinvent its armed forces for the 21st century as the threat it faces “has changed beyond recognition” in 30 years. He says: “Our enemies have infinitely more options. Encryption, precision, and information operations complicate the threat picture.
“We find ourselves constantly confronted in the ‘grey zone’, that limbo land between peace and war. So conflict prevention is more critical than ever.”
In what will be seen as a modern day Battle of the Atlantic, the Royal Navy will deploy a ‘spy ship’ to stop Russian submarines sabotaging Britain’s internet by damaging undersea cables.
Due in service by 2024, the Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS) will help protect critical national infrastructure such as undersea cables which carry trillions of dollars of financial transfers each day and transmit 97 per cent of the world’s global communications.
The command paper will see an extra £3bn given to the army, £120m of which will be used to create the new Special Operations Brigade, based around a Ranger Regiment of four battalions.
But it will also see cuts. As many as 10,000 troops are expected to be lost and senior members of the armed forces face future pay cuts. The last remaining C-130J Hercules aircraft are also expected to be axed in plans to be unveiled by the MoD on Monday.
The aircraft (affectionately known as the ‘Fat Albert’) has been a highly versatile workhorse of the military as its propeller engines allowed it to operate from rough surfaces like deserts or beaches.
The Hercules roles will be taken on by the recently-introduced A400M aircraft, although the fleet has suffered serviceability issues and has yet to earn soldiers’ trust.
The new tasks for the SAS will be complemented by the Rangers, the army’s new battalions of troops to advise partner forces around the world and go into battle with them.
Sir Mark said that in future special forces “will be tracking the changing and accelerating nature of the threat.
“The most persistent and lethal threats are those associated with hostile state actors.
“So they’re tracking a different trajectory and what they leave behind is a vacuum where they need to hand off tasks, missions and responsibilities to a second echelon force.
“The Rangers will fit neatly into that.”
Tackling hostile states has previously been run by the security services such as MI6 and GCHQ. The comments mark a step up in the UK’s response to Russia in the wake of the Salisbury poisonings.
The hostile states CGS referred to are likely to be Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Of these, Russia is considered the most pressing security concern. In his first speech as Director General of MI5 last October, Ken McCallum said Russian intelligence services were causing “the most aggravation” to the UK.
Russia was providing “bursts of bad weather”, he said, but warned espionage activity by Chinese spies is “changing the climate”.
Britain’s Special Forces units will likely be tasked to uncover activity by Russian Military Intelligence (the GRU) responsible for the 2018 nerve agent attack in Salisbury that sought to assassinate double-agent Sergei Skripal. Mr Skripal and his daughter survived the attack, but a local woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after exposure to the chemical weapon.
The elite units may also be tasked with countering activity by the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organisation widely thought to be acting on orders from Moscow.
The activity of the Russian private military company across Africa – particularly in Libya, Mozambique and the Central African Republic – was described to The Telegraph as “opportunistic but with a view of strategic importance” by a defence source.
“Putin has met more African leaders in the last 10 years than all of his predecessors put together,” the source said, in efforts to court votes in the UN, gain access for military forces, mineral rights and to extract money via the Wagner Group for activity including operations to rig elections.
Bugging houses and vehicles and using imagery from miniature cameras, drones and satellites, the troops will seek to uncover evidence of illegality and links to the criminal underworld.
The actions will seek to reveal and discredit Russian activity, some of which may be conducted under the guise of legitimate business or tourist activity.
The response is part of a much more muscular British military presence around the world. The new posture seeks to “restore our expeditionary reflexes and capitalise and electrify the international circuitry that we enjoy,” the head of the army said.
Submarine warfare presents a particular risk of sabotage to undersea cable infrastructure and is an “existential threat to the UK”.
The biggest threat to Britain’s undersea cables is thought to come from the Russian spy ship Belgorod, which acts as mothership for a mini-submarine called Losharik. It is believed to be capable of sitting on the sea bed and has a robotic arm to tamper or cut internet cables.
Consisting of seven titanium spheres inside the hull, designed to withstand extreme pressures in the deep ocean, Losharik is thought to be able to operate at depths up to a kilometre.
Russian submarines and the Yantar Class intelligence ship, developed in part to tap the network of land and sea bed sensors designed to listen for submarines (known as the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System, or IUSS), are now increasingly focused on the Atlantic’s undersea cables.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
20 Mar 21. Thousands of aerospace jobs warned to be under threat due to defence cuts. Thousands of aerospace jobs are at risk due to defence cuts, it was claimed yesterday. MoD investment in the sector has fallen by 41 per cent since 2012-14, official figures show. Thousands of aerospace jobs could be at risk due to defence cutsCredit: Handout
Ministers were accused earlier this year of risking UK national security by ordering second-hand Chinese aircraft to convert into spy planes. Labour said it means 4,500 fewer jobs are now being directly supported by military expenditure. Shadow defence secretary John Healey accused successive Conservative governments of failing to invest in British firms. Earlier this year ministers were accused of risking national security by ordering second-hand Chinese aircraft
John Healey accused successive Conservative governments of ‘failing to invest in our highly skilled defence industries’Credit: PA:Press Association
Think-tank boss says tight rules on pub reopening are a recipe for disaster
He said: “These figures show they have failed to invest in our highly skilled defence industries in the UK, and undermined the foundations of the UK’s defence sector.
“The forthcoming defence command paper and industrial strategy must set out a long-term plan to boost Britain’s foundation industries in steel, shipbuilding, aerospace, and cyber security as national assets.”
An MoD spokesman said: “The PM’s additional investment in defence of more than £24billion will allow us to invest in the changes and modernisation we need, including fuelling job growth.”
BATTLESPACE Comment: BATTLESPACE has written about the threat to the whole UK supply chain and the loss of at least 2000 jobs if the warrior WCSP upgrade is cancelled. It was interesting to note from the FT Feature below that WCSP is still in the balance.
20 Mar 21. RAF Hercules fleet to be axed under plans to modernise Britain’s military. Long-serving transport will be retired in the biggest armed forces shake-up in decades Hercules transport planes entered service in the mid-1950s © UK Ministry of Defence 2020 Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Share Save Sylvia Pfeifer and Helen Warrell MARCH 20 2021 140 Print this page Britain’s Hercules transport planes used by special forces operations will be among the most high-profile victims of a sweeping overhaul of defence equipment, part of a review of the military intended to make it fit for the 21st century. The last remaining 14 Hercules, or C-130Js, are among the country’s longest-serving transport aircraft and have seen service in Iraq and Syria. Known as the workhorse of the Royal Air Force’s transport fleet, the Hercules entered service in the mid-1950s. They had been due to keep flying until the mid-2030s.
Their missions will be picked up by the RAF’s fleet of 20 larger A400M Atlas transport aircraft, according to people familiar with the plan, which will be unveiled on Monday. The army’s 700-plus Warrior infantry fighting vehicles will be phased out, according to two people familiar with the situation. Meanwhile, the deployment of the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) Boxer will be brought forward. Recommended News in-depthUK foreign policy Johnson set to unnerve allies with ‘Global Britain’ defence review It was not clear last night if a planned upgrade of Warrior would still go ahead. Lockheed Martin, the US defence group, has been in talks with the Ministry of Defence about modernising the decades-old vehicles. The programme is several years behind schedule and has long been under fire, according to defence analysts. Cancellation could put at risk close to 2,000 jobs. A planned life-extension programme of the army’s main battle tank, the Challenger 2, is expected to be announced shortly after the publication of the review. The army is expected to bear the brunt of the cuts under the revamp, which has been billed as the biggest military transformation since the cold war, shifting Britain’s conventional equipment programmes to cyber, space and unmanned technologies.
Boris Johnson announced a £16.5bn funding boost for the MoD last year, but at least some of this will be used to plug a £17bn hole in the equipment budget. Defence insiders said painful decisions had to be made to balance the books while investing in new digital capabilities. It was “one of those hard decisions that had to be made”, said one person, referring to the decision to retire the Hercules. Francis Tusa, consultant and editor at Defence Analysis, said some of the Hercules fleet would have required a “significant upgrade to see them through to 2035”. The range and speed of the A400M, he added, were “significantly in excess of the Hercules”. One of the winners of the review will be the UK’s combat air strategy, including its new fighter jet, Tempest. The government last week confirmed a commitment to spend at least £6.6bn in research and development, which included the development of the so-called Future Combat Air System for the RAF.
Defence insiders said they did not expect a major announcement on the final number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft the UK would order. The UK has contractually committed to 48 of the fighter jets as part of a potential order of 138. The jets will fly off the Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers and 48 is not enough to make both ships operational. Monday’s white paper will underline the government’s investment in technologies such as artificial intelligence to better integrate its operations across land, sea and air, and move beyond the industrial age of warfare into an information age. As threats change, our armed forces must change and they are being redesigned to confront future threats, not re-fight old wars Ben Wallace, defence secretary, said the white paper would be an “honest assessment” of what the UK could deliver. For too long, he said, the British armed forces had been hampered by “over-ambition from government and underfunding”. “We’ve been boxed in by sentimentality and a sort of Top Trumps game of numbers on paper,” he told reporters at a special operations demonstration in Dorset on Friday. “What that leaves you with is lots of ships that are tied up and not actually available and deployed . . . because you couldn’t properly afford to maintain [them].” Hinting that the armed forces restructuring would involve cuts, he added: “what matters is availability. What matters is deployability rather than just numbers on bits of paper.” The MoD on Saturday said last November’s increase in defence spending would “underpin the modernisation of the armed forces”. “As threats change, our armed forces must change and they are being redesigned to confront future threats, not re-fight old wars. The armed forces will be fully staffed and equipped to confront those threats and any such reporting is merely speculation at this stage.” (Source: FT.com)
19 Mar 21. British Army to turn infantry soldiers into elite fighters to tackle ‘high security’ missions abroad.
MoD says new Ranger Regiment will be deployed to assist partner nations in delivering defence and security in high-threat environments
The British Army is to turn infantry soldiers into elite fighters to tackle ‘high-threat’ missions abroad.
As part of the move four infantry battalions will be absorbed into the new Ranger Regiment, which will be part of a Special Operations Brigade that will work in support of special forces in high-threat environments.
Over the next four years a share of £120m will be invested into the unit, which will undertake roles traditionally carried out by the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) such as training, advising, enabling and accompanying partner forces from foreign countries.
One area a Ranger battalion might be used is in Somalia where government forces are tackling Islamist al-Shabaab terrorists.
The Government is keen to expand its Defence engagement in East Africa and tackling causes of instability in the region.
They could be used a skirmishers on the battlefield but were better employed in a deep reconnaissance role.
Alongside the Brigade a similarly-sized Security Force Assistance Brigade will be drawn from across the army to provide other specialist skills, such as medical and intelligence training to partners.
The Ministry of Defence said elements of each Brigade will be routinely deployed across the globe to assist partner nations in delivering defence and security.
In addition to the Ranger Regiment and Security Force Assistance Brigade there will be an Experimental Battlegroup which will replace the two existing trials and development units, focussed on infantry skills and armoured warfare.
It comes after The Telegraph revealed last month that the Army is to be reduced by nearly 10,000 troops over the next decade, with the number of full-time posts reduced from 82,000 to 72,500.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said he believed the “best way to prevent conflict and deter our adversaries is to work alongside partners to strengthen their security and resilience”, while adding that the “Ranger battalions will be at the vanguard of a more active and engaged armed forces”.
He added that the Ranger units would also free up special forces units for more discreet missions.
However, Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said that while the initiative was “welcome”, the fact that it is “placed next to planned reduction in overall force structure, cuts to our aid budget and a tilt towards investment in automated platforms, will shift our overall defence posture ever more towards, threat specific, war fighting domains”.
Meanwhile the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton Smith (pictured below), said the new Ranger Regiments will look and feel very different to Britain’s special forces units and high-end elite infantry such as the Parachute Regiment. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
19 Mar 21. Rheinmetall is set to win multi-million pound contract to upgrade 150 of the UK’s ageing Challenger II tanks
Britain’s fleet of Challenger II battle tanks will get a £750m upgrade overseen by German company Rheinmetall, The Telegraph understands.
The industrial giant indicated a contract had been agreed with the Ministry of Defence as it updated the market on its financial performance on Thursday.
About 150 of the British Army’s 227 Challenger tanks will get a new turret and gun capable of firing advanced types of ammunition, along with better targeting and computerised systems.
The future of the armoured vehicles has been subject to intense speculation.
Last summer a major row blew up after leaks to the media that the Army’s tanks could be axed in the forthcoming integrated defence review.
The actual review, issued on Tuesday, signalled the Challenger would stay, but the fleet size would be reduced.
Work to upgrade the tanks will be carried out by RBSL, a joint venture between Rheinmetall and BAE Systems, after the UK defence giant sold a 55pc stake in its land systems division to the German business for £30m two years ago .
It is unclear how much of the upgrade will be carried out in the UK.
Rheinmetall sought to play down the deal after chief executive Armin Papperger told analysts it was confident it had won the contract at a results briefing.
Other industry sources said they understood it was a done deal.
One analyst who attended the briefing asked for clarity on whether the deal was inked, something which the company would have to disclose under Germany’s financial rules, and was assured it was certain.
A spokesman for Rheinmetall said: “Mr Papperger said Rheinmetall was confident that RBSL would be signing the Challenger II life extension programme contract in the near future. RBSL is still in talks with the UK MOD and looks forward to a positive outcome of the negotiations.”
The MoD is due to issue a “Defence Command” paper on Monday which details how it will act on the strategy laid out in the integrated review, and is expected to detail plans to expand, update or cut parts of the UK’s arsenal.
An announcement on the Challenger II deal would be likely to be included in the paper.
An MoD spokesman said: “Work on the Challenger II upgrade project continues and announcements on its progress will be made in due course.”
Defence analyst Francis Tusa said: “RBSL doing the upgrade has been the only game in town since the summer, despite bids from others including completely new Leopard tanks from Germany’s KMW, which said it would put a plant in Britain to build them.
“Even if the MoD won’t say so, there is undoubtedly a contract in place, they just wanted to announce it on their own terms.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
19 Mar 21. Crown exemption for controlled military list equipment and technology owned by the UK MOD.
Exemptions from export and trade control licences for controlled military goods owned by the Crown.
Ministry of Defence, Department for International Trade, and Export Control Joint Unit
10 September 2012
19 March 2021, see all updates
- Crown exemption
- Official letter granting crown exemption
- When crown exemption does not apply
- Further information
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This guidance provides a brief overview about Crown exemption in respect of the transfers of export-controlled military list goods, technology or software owned by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). It applies to exporters engaged by the MOD, including UK armed forces, to export on their behalf military list goods, technology or software.
Other government departments have their own arrangements for Crown exemption.
Crown exemption does not apply to the transfer from the United Kingdom of any goods, technology or software controlled under the EU dual use regulation.
Crown exemption does not apply to the transfer from the United Kingdom of any goods, technology or software owned privately by commercial entities.
The UK Crown is not bound by the provisions of the Export Control Act 2002 for goods specified by schedule 2 of the Export Control Order 2008 (ie the UK military list which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists).
Official letter granting crown exemption
Where the Crown owns the controlled military goods, technology or software being exported, and has similar rights over disposal, then an exporter acting on the Crown’s behalf may carry out the export without a licence. This Crown Exemption for MOD UK/UK Armed Forces-owned goods, technology or software is subject to the issuing of an approval letter by the MOD team in the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).
Export Control Joint Unit – Ministry of Defence team
Department for International Trade
3 Whitehall Place
London, SW1A 2AW
Telephone: 020 7218 9821 Email: ECJU-MODTeam@mod.uk
Only approval letters issued by the MOD team in the ECJU constitute formal approval to export military goods, technology or software on behalf of the MOD under Crown exemption. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) formally recognise these letters as authorisation of Crown exemption.
Letters of approval issued by any other MOD entity than the MOD team in ECJU are not valid and will constitute non-compliance.
When crown exemption does not apply
Crown exemption does not apply if the goods are owned privately. In this case an export or trade control licence will be required if the goods, technology or software are subject to control by the Department for International Trade (DIT) Export Control Organisation.
Goods are generally controlled either because they are listed on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists or as a result of end use controls.
You can apply for an export licence using SPIRE.
Goods vested in the Crown under a contract with the Ministry of Defence do not automatically have Crown exemption status unless ownership of the goods formally passes to the Ministry of Defence. If in doubt, please contact the MOD team in ECJU.
- MOD team in the ECJU: telephone 020 7218 9821, email: ECJU-MODTeam@mod.gov.uk
- DIT ECO Helpline: telephone 020 7215 4594, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
18 Mar 21. Supply Chain Small and Medium Enterprise Engagement. A scheme intended to ensure greater opportunities by removing barriers which may be perceived when engaging with larger companies.
Liaise, Innovate, Network & Collaborate (LINC).
This initiative was set up by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) to encourage SMEs to collaborate with each other at a local and national level to deliver innovative solutions that support the Dounreay decommissioning programme. The scheme is intended to ensure greater opportunities by removing barriers which may be perceived when engaging with larger companies (risk of staff/expertise poaching, intellectual property etc).
SMEs have been invited to self-register on the DSRL website, providing information about their company, areas of expertise and contact details. Work packages are identified, focussing on the various challenges faced across the site and details are sent directly to all the companies who have registered. Since its launch, over 230 SME companies have registered, 7 opportunities have been offered, 4 contracts have been awarded, all won by SMEs, and 3 are still to be announced.
A winning company has since progressed to work with one of DSRL’s main subcontractors and has now completed a large on-site cladding job.
The initiative has subsequently been adopted and further developed by Sellafield Limited to meet its own local requirements. 465 suppliers (including 366 SMEs) have registered and 45 contracts have been awarded with a cumulative value of £1.85m.
Business and Technical Solutions Marketplace
Low Level Waste Repository Limited (LLWR Limited) introduced a simplified electronic purchasing system, known as the Business Services Marketplace, to particularly help local businesses and SMEs to pursue opportunities that may have previously been unavailable or too difficult to access due to the time and scale of framework opportunities (see Socio-Economics).
150 suppliers registered for the Business Services Marketplace and contracts with a cumulative value of £17.5m were awarded under the scheme.
The system was updated and relaunched as the Business and Technical Solutions Marketplace in January 2020 to deliver professional services in 13 categories across all business areas. Since the relaunch, 76 suppliers have registered for the new scheme, including 45 SMEs (60%). 11 contracts have been awarded (4 to SMEs) and there are another 4 current opportunities. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
18 Mar 21. Former defence worker jailed for longer after breaching Officials Secrets Act. Simon Finch’s sentence increased to 8 years. A former defence worker who disclosed highly sensitive information about a UK missile system has had his sentence increased following intervention by the then Solicitor General, Rt Hon Michael Ellis QC MP, who presented the case at the Court of Appeal.
Simon Finch, 50, was formerly employed by two major defence companies who provide contracted services to the Ministry of Defence.
Finch’s personal circumstances began to deteriorate after he was arrested for carrying a hammer and a large kitchen knife in public. He was sentenced to 16 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months in 2016. He did not tell his employer of the conviction.
Finch subsequently made a series of complaints about the way he was treated by the police. In February 2018 he left his job and began to plan the unlawful disclosure, recording from memory highly sensitive details of a UK missile system. In October 2018, he deliberately sent the information to several recipients.
He was arrested at his home address in Swansea in March 2019. During the investigation, he refused to disclose the passwords to his personal computers.
On 10 November 2020, Finch was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months’ imprisonment at the Old Bailey. He was also made the subject of a five-year serious crime and prevention order.
Following a referral to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme, on 2 March the sentence was found to be unduly lenient and has been increased to a sentence of 8 years’ imprisonment.
After the hearing at the Court of Appeal, the now Attorney General, Rt Hon Michael Ellis QC MP, said:
Finch deliberately disclosed highly sensitive information which could have put our national security at risk. His actions could have caused significant harm to British citizens and I welcome the Court of Appeal increasing his sentence today. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Mar 21. Airbus execs tell French lawmakers they have no ‘Plan B’ for FCAS. Airbus executives said they see no viable ‚Plan B‘ for the embattled Future Combat Air System, as Eric Trappier, the CEO of fellow prime contractor Dassault, had suggested earlier this month.
Antoine Bouvier, the head of Airbus strategy, mergers and public affairs, and Dirk Hoke, CEO of the aerospace giant’s defense division, testified before the French Senate’s foreign affairs committee on March 17 in an effort calm tensions boiling in the trinational program, known as SCAF in French.
Airbus and Dassault are the two main contractors for the program, with work shares to be equally divided between partner nations France, Germany and Spain. The participants had envisioned kicking off the next project stage, dubbed phase 1 B, by this summer. But new disagreements over governance procedures and the sharing of industry secrets have put the program’s future in question.
The two Airbus executives sought to pin the program’s success to the broader vision of a more independent Europe. Failure would mean the Americans can swoop in and sell their F-35 aircraft to a continent in need of its own advanced warplane industry, Bouvier argued.
„There is is no ‚Plan B,‘“ he said, picking up a suggestion that Dassault CEO Eric Trappier made before the same committee a week prior.
The Dassault boss lamented that the division of labor following Spain’s inclusion would make his job as the main risk taker on the program’s central element, the Next-Generation Fighter, near impossible. In addition, Airbus was on track become too dominant a player, given that the company has roots in Spain and Germany, too, he argued.
Bouvier sought to dispel the idea of Dassault getting outplayed, stressing instead Airbus teaming arrangements that include other French industry heavyweights such as Thales and MBDA. Airbus is firmly entrenched in the business of French defense, he said, suggesting the company should not be viewed as leaning too German when it comes to FCAS.
The bias on both sides goes something like this, according to Bouvier: Some Germans think the French want to build a French airplane with German money, while some French think the Germans want to steal their trade secrets and build a weapon of their own.
The „invective and polemic“ surrounding the program – French business newspaper La Tribune had recently trashed Germany’s FCAS motives in a series of articles – was beginning to „pollute“ the debate, Bouvier warned.
Speaking in French during the in-person committee meeting in Paris, Hoke said Airbus had made a new offer for Dassault to retain four of six strategic work packages. In addition, negotiations were ongoing about contract language for phase 1B that would preserve companies‘ unique know-how in critical domains. „That is easier said than done,“ Hoke said.
Speed is critical for a deal to be struck so the German parliament, the Bundestag, has time to study and approve it before the summer recess in late June, Hoke said. Timing and the political context in Germany is the reason why Airbus has kept largely quiet about the FCAS kerfuffle, he added, as there is no telling how the issue would fare if dragged into Germany’s election season. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
17 Mar 21. Britain pours billions into race to develop world’s fastest missile. Ministry of Defence commits £6.6bn to development of new technologies such as hypersonic missiles and laser weapons
The development of new technologies such as hypersonic missiles and laser weapons is to be given a boost from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with extra money, the Government has announced.
The Integrated Review of foreign, defence, security and development policy, launched by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, has committed £6.6bn for novel military research.
The MoD will invest a significant amount of the extra money it won from the Treasury last year in “higher-risk research”.
Adversaries such as Russia have invested in new air weapons programmes with the potential to outmatch existing ballistic missile defences, including hypersonic glide vehicles that are thought to be capable of flying at over 15,000mph.
The MoD said research into “space, directed energy weapons, and advanced high-speed missiles [will] deliver an enduring military edge”.
Defence chiefs in Britain and the US have been concerned in recent years by the development of new military kits in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
The race to develop such weapons is partly a result of reports from Russia of successful flights of the Mach 8 Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile, test fired last October, and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, thought to be able to carry nuclear warheads at 20 times the speed of sound.
The Chinese DF-17 Hypersonic Glide Vehicle is said to be able to fly at Mach 10. However, there is no way to verify these claims.
The US Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, due for testing in April, is expected to reach about Mach 6.
The MoD will invest in new missile technology in a bid not only to develop such weapons, but also to understand better how best to defend against them.
Mach 1 is the speed of sound at sea level, roughly 767mph. High-Mach, or hypersonic, refers to speeds roughly between Mach 5 and Mach 10.
Above about Mach 5 the chemical properties of the metals making up the air vehicle are affected by heat caused by friction with the air molecules, making development of such systems very difficult.
The space shuttle reached speeds around Mach 5 on re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere but needed special ceramic materials to withstand the extreme temperatures generated.
The MoD will outline plans for the future shape of Britain’s military next Monday in a Defence Command Paper.
Last year’s science and technology strategy said the MoD would “prioritise higher-risk research to support the modernisation of our armed forces”.
A Government source close to the production of the paper told The Telegraph the push for greater risk in research was a bid to make the armed forces “the most effective and innovative in the world”.
The MoD will aim to use artificial intelligence and “digital twinning” to speed up the time from research to actually having kit in service.
Military research and development should emulate the US Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance Programme, the Government source said. The programme sought to implement the so-called Roper Rule – after the USAF’s service acquisition chief Will Roper – that said procurement of new equipment even to the complexity of fighter jets, should take no more than five years.
By comparison, the F-35 stealth fighter, just entering service, has been in development for about 20 years.
The Integrated Review promised a network of MoD innovation hubs within UK technology clusters to improve the “pull through” of the new research money into novel equipment.
The Government will produce a defence and security industrial strategy in a bid to create “a more certain environment for industry that enables investment to support innovation and convert it into deployable national security capabilities and future commercial opportunities”.
The MoD will also publish an AI Strategy and invest in a new centre to accelerate adoption of new capabilities. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
17 Mar 21. UK MoD is holding a media facility in response to the 2021 Integrated Review announcement but there is apparently no room at the inn for us. Last Friday, after finding out from a source last week that an MoD media facility was on the cards to allow defence correspondents and journalists to hear the details of how yesterday’s Integrated Review would impact UK Armed Forces, and to presumably let journalists ask pertinent questions on the topic, we formally requested details. On Monday, having heard nothing from Whitehall, we enquired again. This morning, our two previous requests remaining unanswered, we asked for a third time and were told in a reply that space is limited due to COVID restrictions but a press release and images will be made available after the event.
We realise that even although we have already had more than half a million page views of our website in the first 16 days of this month, JOINT-FORCES.com is not in the same league as The Telegraph or the BBC and therefore we cannot expect to be invited to every facility on offer to the media. However as we have not (with the exception of an Unattributable Briefing given by Commander Field Army in MoD Main Building in July 2019) been invited to a single MoD media facility since the roll-out of the British Army PES in September 2018 or been invited to cover a single UK exercise since IRON PYTHON in November 2018, we had rather hoped that we would be allowed to cover firsthand the biggest UK Defence story of a decade. But apparently it is not to be.
We are assured that the MoD and its Directorate of Defence Communications (DDC) does not operate a Media Blacklist, and indeed to do so would breach both the Government Communication Service Propriety Guidance and the Civil Service Code as well as denying media freedom, though we have been pretty sure for years that it runs a Whitelist instead. Possibly if the Kelly Report had queried whether a Media Whitelist was operated by DDC, a different conclusion would have been reached in the December 2020 report. If a Whitelist is not being operated, one wonders how so many have already been invited that space at the forthcoming facility has already run out and one more (albeit slightly rotund) interested defence correspondent cannot be invited.
Writing the news oneself, which the MoD spin machine tends to do these days, rather than allowing a Free Press to independently cover the story firsthand is called Propaganda and is more usually associated with autocratic states rather than democracies. One could be forgiven for asking whatever happened to the ‘openness’ mentioned in the current Defence Instruction and Notice (DIN) which states: “Within the obvious security constraints, the MoD and the armed forces operate a policy of openness about their activities.”
It has been said that we should not “rock the boat” with those public servants who restrict media ability to freely cover UK Forces “in case we don’t get invited back” but as we never get invited to anything anyway that one doesn’t really cut the mustard.
¤ Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the WHO we have worked safely in Bulgaria, France, Germany and Poland with European and US troops while happily observing the necessary protocols put in place by various militaries and governments to ensure freedom of the press in testing times continues.
BATTLESPACE Comment: Whilst welcoming the Defence and Security Review and its concentration on high tech weapons systems and new technology to meet the challenges of international conflicts, the elephant in the room, as always is existing doctrine and training. To introduce these new doctrines and technologies there will have to be a wholesale review of doctrines, particularly around the laws of deployment and live firing of unmanned vehicles and a completely new training doctrine and Health & Safety to enable soldiers to mix with unmanned machines on and off the battlefield. This will take years to integrate and certainly not in the life of this Parliament and cost money which seemingly was not budgeted for.
The Editor is just wondering if all this high-tech hype is just a cover for a wrecked budget and the high-tech stuff will quietly disappear? After all there are no Programmes to support the Budget as AWE is just in the demo phase? Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that No 10 was worried about a lack of coherence between the IR and the command paper. Looks very much that way and another example of Boris failing to do his homework, headlines first, fact second. The IR certainly suited his Churchillian aspirations!
17 Mar 21. British Army poised for Integrated Review organisational overhaul. Army-technology.com reported today in a now-deleted page addressing the Integrated Review, the British Army revealed that it will be reorganised around ‘Brigade Combat Teams’ that will be ‘self-sufficient tactical units.’
The deleted page, first reported by UK Defence Journal, also include information about a new first of its kind Army Industrial Strategy and a to-be-released ‘Future Land Combat System’ document that will outline how the Army will fight going forward.
The Future Land Combat System is designed as having ‘six priority areas’ including an ability to work and fight across all domains, anticipate crises, prevent war by ‘acting as a deterrent’ and operating in ‘below the threshold’ operation – commonly called the ‘grey zone’, creating smaller units that can operate more self-sufficiently.
Other priorities are reducing risk ‘associated with mass troops’ by physically dispersing and using electronic deception to ‘hide’ its electronic footprint, and to be well trained for urban operations ‘which are set to become more of a focus in the future.’
Describing a move to Brigade Combat Teams (BCTS), the page said: “In order to be able to operate and fight in the way described in the Future Land Combat System document, the Army will be organised differently.
“Brigade Combat teams will be self-sufficient tactical units with the ability to work across the Army, partners across government, allies and industry.”
The page also outlined how the British Army ‘must be more lethal and more agile’ than it has been in the past to win battles and reduce risks to frontline personnel.
It describes how combat forces will consist of ‘armoured troops – using modern armoured vehicles.’ Mechanised and Infantry soldiers, it says, are to be tasked with ‘seizing and holding complex or urban terrain.’
Close combat forces are set to be supported by a mix of lethal and non-lethal capabilities including artillery, attack helicopters and uncrewed aerial systems or UAS.
The page also described how ‘increasingly automated logistics’ would support troops and “counter-UAS, counter-missile and chemical biological radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) capabilities will provide a protective system which can identify and react to different kinds of attacks: from conventional, cyber or chemical weapons.”
The page also says the Army will increase its global presence to ‘anticipate and prevent war’.
In a section headed ‘How we fight’, the now-deleted page reads: “The nature of war does not change, and we will always need the ability to move quickly to a war footing, with a credible warfighting capability.”
The page describes how the army expects a ‘blended approach’ will be needed to win future battles where drones, infantry and air defences work together.
It adds that ‘growing emphasis’ will be placed on long-range precision weapons – including ‘the upgraded Multi Launch Rocket System’, as well as uncrewed vehicles and cyber capabilities.
Describing how it will fight future conflicts, the army reiterated previous statements about a move to ‘persistent engagement’ which will see it constantly ‘working to keep the country safe’.
BATTLESPACE Comment: This move mirrors the US Army’s reorganisation announced several years ago into Integrated Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) . However, is the British Army’s move following a changing pattern of how to wage war? In 2020 Warontherocks.com reported that the infantry community has a problem. The centerpiece of the Army’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the infantry brigade combat team, is in danger of becoming obsolete in the face of near-peer opponents. This formation of three infantry battalions, an engineer battalion, an artillery battalion, a cavalry squadron, and a support battalion needs to be restructured to maximize an infantry brigade’s chances of success in an era of fast-paced and rapidly evolving multidomain operations. For the first time in 50 years, the infantry brigade can expect to have its artillery outgunned and be under electronic and aerial attack. Army leaders often note that multidomain operations will not only have an impact on Army organizations and operations but will drive Army modernization efforts as well. I suggest that the Army needs to shift away from three infantry battalions in an infantry brigade to two. This will allow the brigade to bring in sorely needed electronic warfare and air defense capabilities that currently do not exist in the unit and increase other existing capabilities that will prove essential in a future fight.
The current infantry brigade combat team consists of approximately 4,413 soldiers assigned to seven subordinate battalions. The three infantry battalions form the core of the brigade’s combat power. This structure is the result of decisions made when the Army was downsized from four brigade combat teams in a division to three. Simultaneous with downsizing were the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and recently concluded operations in Iraq.
While the current structure is suitable for activity in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is anachronistic and ill-suited to perform well in the complex and fast-paced operating environment that current Army leadership expects in the future. Why? This is due in part to a lack of assets internal to the brigade that can deny opponents the use of airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, but also to the 2015 downsizing and a general overreliance on airpower.
The current structure assumes that there will be time for a deliberate train-up and for “enablers,” like additional soldiers for electronic warfare and explosive ordnance disposal, to integrate with the brigade before being thrust into a combat environment. The current infantry brigade is well-suited for wide area security missions and stability operations in places like Iraq, where it is possible to have deliberate preparation and where the operating environment is mature — with supporting elements already in theater such as civil affairs, additional route clearance, additional intelligence, and more. But in a rapidly evolving fight where an infantry brigade could deploy as part of an immediate response force, commanders will not have the luxury of time to meet their external supporting units and go through a deliberate training progression with them. If the brigade is to remain the primary fighting formation in the U.S. Army, then it needs to be outfitted to succeed unilaterally.
17 Mar 21. Integrated Review: GMB Calls For Investment In MoD Facilities. Review silent on what matters to defence workers – secure jobs, decent pay and workplaces which are properly heated, ventilated and free of asbestos, says GMB Union.
GMB, the union for Ministry of Defence workers, has cautiously welcomed the additional investment announced this week – but calls for more cash to be spent on facilities.
The Integrated Review which sets out the UK’s foreign and defence policies until 2030, announced three years of investment in the MoD.
But GMB is calling for a radical overhaul of facilities – many of which date back to the last world war – as well as the insourcing of work undertaken by private companies and a rapid expansion of apprentice roles.
Many MoD buildings are not fit for purpose and were built at a time when asbestos was used extensively.
Others have problems with temperature and ventilation being too hot in the summer and told cold in the winter and the lessons of the Covid 19 pandemic need to be applied to allow for better ventilation.
For many years the MoD has chosen to involve the private sector as a default in the provision of transport, catering, cleaning and other facilities management leading to these workers being paid substantially less than equivalent MoD workers and feeling undervalued for the essential roles they undertake.
Vehicle maintenance and repair contracts have been hampered by inadequate staffing levels, a lack of investment, and companies more concerned with delivering profits than caring for the workforce.
The MoD has thousands of skilled workers in both industrial and non-industrial roles, and already provides training and development, however the integrated review provides an opportunity for this to be enhanced to deliver skilled careers for the future to the benefit of society.
Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer, said, “The Integrated Defence Review is very long to how tackle ‘adversaries’, including references to serious organised crime and flooding, neither of which are part of the MoD remit. But is effectively silent on issues which actually matter to defence workers – secure jobs, decent pay and workplaces which are fit for purpose, properly heated and ventilated and free of asbestos. Our members want workplaces to be modernised, safe and secure. They want new and up to date tools to enable them to do their jobs properly and with pride. Abandoning outsourcing as the automatic first choice for civilian work must become a priority. “Despite all its problems the implementation of this review gives the MoD an opportunity to provide young people in particular to develop skills through enhanced and well supported apprenticeship and training programmes and this is an opportunity which the MoD must not ignore.”
16 Mar 21. A speech by the Defence Secretary at the Society of Maritime Industries Annual Conference. Speaking at the Society of Maritime Industries Annual Conference, the Defence Secretary announced a refresh of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
It’s a privilege to speak to so many maritime professionals this morning.
As an island nation, Britain’s trade has always depended on the tide.
And at the turn of the century, the UK built an astonishing 60 per cent of the world’s ships.
We might no longer be the workshop of the world.
But your industry remains global leaders in Design and Innovation.
You still bring in billions to our economy and spread wealth right across the country.
And you still directly provide for the livelihoods of some 44,000 people from Appledore to the Clyde and many more in the supply chain.
But, as Shipbuilding Tsar, you know I want our ambition to be greater still.
And, as chair of the Maritime Working Group, I’ve been pushing my colleagues right across government to create the conditions to help you be successful.
We know we must up our productivity because our international counterparts are getting ahead.
Our UK shipyards currently lag behind our European rivals, as does our cost base, and this needs to be improved.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s led-study into UK productivity provided us with a foundation to build on.
It gave us a better understanding of the challenges you face as an industry and a better understanding of how Government can work with industry to increase productivity.
The “rich picture” of the industry developed by the Maritime Enterprise Working Group has further strengthened our understanding, identifying areas which require improvement, investment and consolidation.
We also know we need to do more to develop the skills of the future.
That’s where the Department for Education’s work comes in.
They’ve been speaking to employers across England to understand the skills requirements throughout the enterprise.
We’re in the midst of analysing their work. These findings will help industry gain the skills they need for the future.
We need to be more innovative too.
How can we develop hydrogen powered ships? How can we make better use of autonomy? How can we build a digital backbone into this industry?
Another of my Working Group colleagues, Minister Courts, will be speaking to you later about our exciting plans in this area.
And we need to be more competitive.
I want to see us out there exporting. And DIT’s work on export credits will help you by making sure no viable UK export fails through lack of finance or insurance.
But the key to our future success is a sense of certainty.
Certainty breeds confidence.
The good news is this Prime Minister is determined to give you that certainty.
That’s why, when he announced an extra £24bn for Defence, he talked about spurring a renaissance in British shipbuilding across the UK.
It’s why we’re building a pipeline of future projects.
It’s why we’re developing a maritime enterprise export plan to deliver state-of-the art British ships to our global allies.
And it’s why, I can announce today, that we will be refreshing our National Shipbuilding Strategy.
Why will it be different?
First, our strategy is going to be much more wide-ranging. It will no longer be primarily about hulls but about looking right across the shipbuilding enterprise, from naval and commercial shipbuilding to systems and sub-systems.
Secondly, we’re going to be sending you a much clearer demand signal about what we’re trying to achieve with our procurement programmes – for the first time releasing a 30-year pipeline of all Government vessel procurements over 150 tons.
This will encompass not just military vessels but all ships including those procured by Home Office, DFT, Defra, BEIS and the Scottish government.
The strategy will also deliver for all parts of the UK, building on the proud traditions of shipbuilding in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We’re going to be letting you know our policy and technology priorities for shipbuilding. What green capabilities we’re after to achieve our net zero commitments. And how we will take account of the social value of shipbuilding when making appraisals.
In return for the certainty we instil, I expect you to up your productivity, invest in your people and develop the advanced manufacturing skills necessary to compete on the global stage
Finally, we’re going to be working more seamlessly with central, local government and devolved governments as well as industry and academia, to realise our aspirations. The Maritime Working Group has already shown the benefits of this approach
But we’re going further. I have just approved a cross sector study to identify the challenges, priorities and ambitions that the Royal Navy shares with the wider Maritime Enterprise in Scotland. I want to see how we can do more together to boost skills, innovation, and green projects.
More broadly, I want us to create local hubs of expertise. So that the ships that leave these shores aren’t simply famed for bearing a stamp saying “made in Britain” but for the stamp that says Belfast or Birkenhead.
And I want to make sure that, once you’ve built those era-defining ships, we do more to trumpet your achievements.
My vision is for a supercharged, successful and sustainable UK shipbuilding enterprise.
By 2030, I want our industry to be at the forefront of the technological and environmental revolutions driving our sector.
But Government cannot reinvigorate the enterprise alone. We can only make this happen by working together.
Fittingly, this year we will see HMS Queen Elizabeth embark on her first operational deployment I can’t think of a more impressive floating showcase of the talents you all possess.
Nor a stronger signal to the world that the renaissance in British shipbuilding is now firmly underway. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
Commenting on the Government’s defence review, Dr David Blagden, of the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, said, “
The publication of the Integrated Security, Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy Review confirms much of what was already expected. There is emphasis on a “tilt” in UK commitments towards more engagement with the Indian Ocean and Pacific theatres, but also continued recognition that our Euro-Atlantic home region will have to remain the enduring focus of UK strategy; there could therefore be difficult balancing acts to come when deploying forces ‘East of Suez’ means less availability for European/Atlantic/Mediterranean operations. There is also significant commitment to developing new science and technology – both in general, and also with specific military applications – that should help to keep the UK at or near the frontier of technological sophistication, but that may also come at the expense of proven conventional capabilities; next week’s Defence Command Paper will contain more detail on that front. There is an eye-catching decision to raise the stated ceiling on the number of nuclear weapons in the UK stockpile, reflecting growing concern about several possible deterrence challenges, including a potential Russian threat to NATO, fears over a catastrophic cyberattack that could inflict damage akin to an atomic strike, or state supply of weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist group.”
16 Mar 21. Here’s how much one future TF-X fighter jet will cost Turkey. A Ukrainian engine will power Turkey’s new Atak II-class T929 helicopter, the head of Turkish Aerospace Industries announced Monday in a TV interview, during which he also identified the price of the future TF-X fighter jet as $100m per unit.
Temel Kotil said the 11-ton T929, a heavier version of the T129, will be powered by a twin turboshaft 2,500-horsepower engine made in Ukraine. He did not give any further details on the engine, but said the T929 will make its maiden flight in 2023.
The T929 is Turkey’s second homemade helicopter gunship after the T129, which TAI produces under license from the Italian-British company AgustaWestland. It’s expected to be able to carry a 1,500-kilogram payload, and perform combat, reconnaissance, surveillance, close-air support and escort missions. TAI plans to equip it with target-tracking and imaging systems, electronic warfare technology, navigation systems, communication systems, and weapons.
The CEO also said the TF-X, Turkey’s firs indigenous fighter jet in the making, will make its maiden flight in 2025, with plans for the aircraft to enter the Turkish Air Force’s inventory in 2029. He added that the TF-X will come at a cost of $100m per unit.
TAI will produce two TF-X aircraft per month, hoping to generate $2.4bn in annual revenue from its fighter jet program. At present, Kotil said, 1,000 of TAI’s 4,000 engineers are working on the TF-X program. (Source: Defense News)
16 Mar 21. Integrated Review: Defence Spending Must Invest In UK Manufacturing, Says GMB. Intention to move away from ‘competition by default’ is a step in the right direction but more detail is needed, says defence workers’ union
GMB, the union for defence shipbuilding workers, has cautiously welcomed the Integrated Review’s statement that the Government ‘will move away from the 2012 policy of ‘competition by default’ and prioritise UK industrial capability where required for national security and operational reasons.’
However, the union warned that the existing critical projects are delayed and there is still no guarantee that critical contracts will go to UK yards and the UK supply chain. 
GMB has long campaigned for contracts to be retained in the UK. The union is currently fighting to secure the £1.5bn Fleet Solid Support order for the UK.
But the international competition was initially cancelled in November 2019 and it has not been relaunched. The Ministry of Defence has refused to confirm what share of that contract’s value will be guaranteed for the UK under its new policy.
Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer and Maritime Chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said, “We have long campaigned for a strategy for retaining essential defence manufacturing in the UK, and if it is sincere then today’s announcement could represent a significant victory on behalf of shipbuilding workers. However, there is a lack of detail and close scrutiny will be needed. While it is welcome that Ministers have finally recognised that their ‘competition by default’ policy was fatally flawed, it should not have taken thousands of job losses while lucrative contracts flowed overseas to get to this point. Ministers must now prove that they are serious about backing UK industry by bringing forward the £1.5bn Fleet Solid Support contract, and guaranteeing that it will be fulfilled through UK yards and the world class UK supply chain.”
16 Mar 21. PM statement to the House of Commons on the Integrated Review.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a statement to the House of Commons on the Integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. Mr Speaker, with permission I will make a statement on the government’s Integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, which we are publishing today. The overriding purpose of this Review – the most comprehensive since the Cold War – is to make the United Kingdom stronger, safer and more prosperous while standing up for our values.
Our international policy is a vital instrument for fulfilling this government’s vision of uniting and levelling up across our country,
reinforcing the Union, and securing Britain’s place as a science superpower and a hub of innovation and research. The Review describes how we will bolster our alliances, strengthen our capabilities, find new ways of reaching solutions
and relearn the art of competing against states with opposing values.
We will be more dynamic abroad and more focused on delivering for our citizens at home.
I begin with the essential fact that the fortunes of the British people are almost uniquely interlinked with events on the far side of the world.
With limited natural resources we have always earned our living as a maritime trading nation.
In 2019 the UK sold goods and services overseas worth £690bn
- fully a third of our GDP, sustaining millions of jobs and livelihoods everywhere from Stranraer to St Ives – and making our country the fifth biggest exporter in the world.
Between 5 and 6 million Britons – nearly one in ten of us – live permanently overseas, including 175,000 in the Gulf and nearly two million in Asia and Australasia. So a crisis in any of those regions, or in the trade routes connecting them, would be a crisis for us from the very beginning.
The truth is that even if we wished it – and of course we don’t– the UK could never turn inwards or be content with the cramped horizons of a regional foreign policy.
For us, there are no faraway countries of which we know little.
Global Britain is not a reflection of old obligations, still less a vainglorious gesture, but a necessity for the safety and prosperity of the British people in the decades ahead.
I am determined that the UK will join our friends to ensure that free societies flourish after the pandemic, sharing the risks and burdens of addressing the world’s toughest problems.
The UK’s presidency of the G7 has already produced agreement to explore a global Treaty on Pandemic Preparedness, working through the World Health Organisation to enshrine the steps that countries will need to take to prevent another COVID.
We will host COP-26 in Glasgow in November and rally as many nations as possible behind the target of Net Zero by 2050,
leading by example since the UK was the first major economy to accept this obligation in law.
Britain will remain unswervingly committed to NATO and preserving peace and security in Europe, and from this secure basis, we will seek out friends and partners wherever they can be found, building a coalition for openness and innovation, and engaging more deeply in the Indo-Pacific.
I have invited the leaders of Australia, South Korea and India to attend the G7 summit in Carbis Bay in June, and I am delighted to announce that I will visit India next month to strengthen our friendship with the world’s biggest democracy.
Our approach will place diplomacy first and the UK has applied to become a dialogue partner of the Association of South East Asian Nations and we will seek to join the Trans-Pacific free trade agreement.
But all our international goals rest upon keeping our people safe at home
and deterring those who would do us harm.
So we will create a Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre, bringing together our ability to thwart the designs of terrorists, while also dealing with the actions of hostile states.
It is almost exactly three years since the Russian state used a chemical weapon in Salisbury, killing an innocent mother, Dawn Sturgess, and bringing fear to a tranquil city.
I can announce that the National Cyber Force, which conducts offensive cyber operations against terrorists, hostile states and criminal gangs, will in future be located in a cyber corridor in the North West of England.
And we will also establish a cross-government Situation Centre in the Cabinet Office, learning the lessons of the pandemic and improving our use of data to anticipate and respond to future crises.
The first outcome of the Integrated Review was the government’s decision to invest an extra £24bn in defence, allowing the wholesale modernisation of our armed forces and taking forward the renewal of our nuclear deterrent.
The new money will be focused on mastering the emerging technologies that are transforming warfare, reflecting the premium placed on speed and deployment and technical skill, and my Right Honourable Friend the Defence Secretary will set out the details next week.
Later this year, HMS Queen Elizabeth will embark on her maiden deployment, leading a carrier strike group on a 20,000-mile voyage to the Indo-Pacific and back, exercising with Britain’s allies and partners along the way, and demonstrating the importance that we attach to freedom of the seas.
By strengthening our armed forces, we will extend British influence while simultaneously creating jobs across the United Kingdom, reinforcing the Union, and maximising our advantage in science and technology.
This government will invest more in research and development than any of our predecessors because innovation is the key to our success at home and abroad, from speeding our economic recovery,
to shaping emerging technologies in accordance with freedom and openness.
We will better protect ourselves against threats to our economic security.
Our newly independent trade policy will be an instrument for ensuring that the rules and standards in future trade agreements reflect our values.
Our newly independent sanctions policy already allows the UK to act swiftly and robustly wherever necessary and we were the first European country to sanction the generals in Myanmar after the coup last month.
In all our endeavours, the United States will be our greatest ally and a uniquely close partner in defence, intelligence and security.
Britain’s commitment to the security of our European home will remain unconditional and immoveable, incarnated by our leadership of NATO’s deployment in Estonia.
We shall stand up for our values as well as for our interests – and here I commend the vigilance and dedication of Hon Members from all parties.
The UK, with the wholehearted support of this whole House, has led the international community in expressing our deep concern over China’s mass detention of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province, and in giving nearly three million of Hong Kong’s people a route to British citizenship.
There is no question that China will pose a great challenge for an open society such as ours.
But we will also work with China where that is consistent with our values and interests, including building a stronger and positive economic relationship and in addressing climate change.
The greater our unity at home, the stronger our influence abroad, which will, in turn, open up new markets and create jobs in every corner of the UK, not only maximising opportunities for the British people but also, I hope, inspiring a sense of pride that their country is willing to follow in its finest traditions and stand up for what is right.
With the extra investment and new capabilities of the Integrated Review,
I believe the United Kingdom can thrive in an ever more competitive world, and fulfil our historic mission as a force for good, and I commend this statement to the House.
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/969402/The_Integrated_Review_of_Security__Defence__Development_and_Foreign_Policy.pdf (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
16 Mar 21. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has released his Annual Report for 2020. The Annual Report for 2020 covers NATO’s work and achievements throughout the year, including NATO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, its efforts to ensure the health crisis did not become a security crisis, and the NATO 2030 initiative to future-proof the Alliance.
In 2020, NATO worked to help save lives and keep its people safe. It supported the civilian response to the pandemic. At the same time, it continued to deter aggression, defend all Allies against any threat, and project stability beyond NATO’s borders. Under the NATO 2030 initiative, work has been ongoing to make NATO even stronger in an unpredictable world. In December 2020, the independent expert group, appointed by the Secretary General, presented its recommendations for NATO 2030.
The Annual Report includes the results of new polls on the public perception of the Alliance. These show that, in a year of upheaval, overall support for the NATO Alliance, the transatlantic bond and collective defence remains strong.
The Report also includes the details of estimated 2020 national defence expenditures for all 30 NATO Allies.
The full Report is now available online: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_182236.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Secretary%20Generals%20Annual%20Report%20for%202020&utm_content=Secretary%20Generals%20Annual%20Report%20for%202020+CID_efce13d9ee103614651dac671ee01a05&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=The%20full%20Report%20is%20no (Source: NATO)
16 Mar 21. Defence Expenditures of NATO Countries (2013-2020). NATO collects defence expenditure data from Allies on a regular basis and presents aggregates and subsets of this information. Each Ally’s Ministry of Defence reports current and estimated future defence expenditure according to an agreed definition of defence expenditure. The amounts represent payments by a national government actually made, or to be made, during the course of the fiscal year to meet the needs of its armed forces, those of Allies or of the Alliance. In the figures and tables that follow, NATO also uses economic and demographic information available from the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission (DG-ECFIN), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In view of differences between both these sources and national GDP forecasts, and also the definition of NATO defence expenditure and national definitions, the figures shown in this report may diverge considerably from those which are quoted by media, published by national authorities or given in national budgets. Equipment expenditure includes expenditure on major equipment as well as on research and development devoted to major equipment. Personnel expenditure includes pensions paid to retirees. The cut-off date for information used in this report was 4 February 2021. Figures for 2020 are estimates.
See: https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/2021/3/pdf/210316-pr-2020-30-en.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Press%20Release%202021030&utm_content=Press%20Release%202021030+CID_f4fffdc938bc4b75681d330bebe50a1d&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=Download%20the%20full%20document%20in%20PDF (Source: NATO)
15 Mar 21. US-EU cooperation pitch on military mobility gets positive response. European Union officials have offered a positive initial assessment of a recent U.S. request to join the bloc’s program for improving transportation pathways for military forces on the continent.
Stefano Sannino, secretary general of the European External Action Service, said he is “very pleased” with the Pentagon’s initiative to partake in a Permanent Structured Cooperation program on military mobility.
“I suppose, and I hope, that it will work fine,” Sannino said, adding that Brussels would “devote energy and attention” to seeing the application through.
The U.S. request, along with similar ones by Canada and Norway, marks the first time that a non-EU member has gone through the motions of seeking a role in one of the bloc’s 47 defense cooperation projects. Initiatives under the PESCO banner are primarily meant to streamline capabilities among member states, but exceptions can be granted to admit outsiders.
Officials on both sides of the Atlantic view U.S. participation in the military mobility initiative as a trial balloon for future cooperation under EU rules. That is partly because all relevant member states are represented in that effort, led by the Netherlands, thereby exposing everyone to the decision.
In addition, the topic of military mobility is largely about political decision-making and bureaucratic wrangling rather than teaming up on new weapons spending, which is a more conflict-prone subject in Europe.
“We’re at the start of it,” Sannino said at a March 12 online event hosted by the European Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the status of discussions. He framed Washington’s request as an opportunity to put into action a “political willingness” toward a U.S.-EU defense relationship.
Still, there are no guarantees, as the EU can be fickle.
When asked about the state of play, a Dutch defense official, listed as a point of contact in the PESCO catalog, declined to comment, describing the matter as an “internal process.”
Since Washington submitted its cooperation request on Feb. 25, all project members had an initial meeting that leaned favorable, a German defense official said. The idea is to tee up a formal decision during a May 6 meeting of the Council of the European Union.
Some European officials remain apprehensive about cooperating with the U.S. on the bloc’s internal effort to become more militarily independent. As the world’s largest and most expensive military force, the United States could, knowingly or not, end up detracting from Europe’s vision of autonomy if given too prominent a role, the thinking goes.
That is why the prospective military mobility cooperation is considered a fairly safe bet: There is no danger of importing U.S. laws affecting weapon acquisition and exports, for example, a German official said.
Harmonizing cross-border transportation for military forces in Europe, many of them American, has long been on the trans-Atlantic agenda in a NATO context. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has reinvigorated alliance efforts to be able to quickly ship forces eastward in the event of a conflict.
But rail lines remain incompatible across countries, bridges need repairs and the red tape of customs clearance remains a hindrance, according to military officials. (Source: Defense News)
16 Mar 21. New UK defence money potentially lost in “funding black hole” at centre of UK defence equipment plan. The UK Ministry of Defence (the Department) has published its Equipment Plan (the Plan) each year since 2013, setting out its intended investment in equipment and support projects for the next 10 years. The Department assesses whether this is affordable within its future budget. The Committee remains extremely concerned that the latest Plan was again unaffordable, with the funding shortfall potentially as high as £17.4bn between 2020 and 2030. The Department also faces significant additional cost pressures—estimated to be more than £20bn—to develop future military capabilities that are not yet included in the Plan. This is highly destabilising for defence and must not continue. The Committee has highlighted serious affordability issues year after year and, while the Department has made some improvements, it has not yet established a reliable and consistent basis on which to assess the affordability of its equipment programme.
The whole document can be viewed at www.battle-technology.com/FEATURES
15 Mar 21. £20m SME Brexit Support Fund opens for applications. The fund will help smaller businesses with changes to trade rules with the EU. Smaller businesses can today (15 March 2021) apply for grants of up to £2,000 to help them adapt to new customs and tax rules when trading with the EU. The £20m SME Brexit Support Fund enables traders to access practical support, including training for new customs, rules of origin and VAT processes.
Katherine Green and Sophie Dean, Directors General, Borders and Trade, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said, “We recognise that changes to customs rules have been challenging for small and micro businesses, and this is why we are encouraging business owners to apply for support through the SME Brexit Support Fund. We do not take for granted that the UK’s small businesses – from designers creating bespoke handmade pieces from their kitchen tables, to those selling sweet treats – are vital to the growth and prosperity of our economy, so we look forward to supporting them with practical help to do business with our European partners, on top of a wide range of support available from the government.”
Small and medium sized businesses that trade solely with the EU – and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes – are encouraged to apply for the grants.
The fund, announced in February by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, is the latest round of government support for UK trade.
To be eligible, businesses must import or export goods between Great Britain and the EU, or move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This follows the government setting out a new timetable for introducing import border control processes to enable UK businesses to focus on their recovery. Full import border control processes will now be introduced on 1 January 2022, six months later than originally planned.
Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman, said:
The vast majority of UK small firms that do business overseas trade with the EU. Not only are they trying to stay afloat as lockdowns gradually ease, they now have new, unfamiliar paperwork and costs to navigate when they buy from, or sell to, Europe.
That’s why we asked the government for targeted funding to help them navigate these fresh demands, and it’s brilliant to see that funding go live today.
We encourage all eligible small businesses to take a look and apply for this new source of help.
Jon Geldart, Director-General, Institute of Directors, said, “Smaller firms have long needed assistance with managing the host of new requirements that come with changing our EU trading arrangements, and that need has only grown in the current adjustment phase. This is why the Institute of Directors has campaigned for so long to help companies with the cost of accessing the professional advice they need, and we commend the government for stepping in to do so.”
More information about the SME Brexit Support Fund, including details of how to apply, can be found on GOV.UK.
In addition to this new support, the government is:
- meeting businesses from specific sectors across all parts of the UK weekly through the Brexit Business Taskforce chaired by Michael Gove – the latest meeting focused specifically on businesses in Wales
- leading the Seafood Exports Working Group, meeting twice a week to troubleshoot issues raised by the industry, and a newly established Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force
- offering support to businesses moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland through its Trader Support Service
- providing numerous helplines which businesses can contact if they need further information – this includes a dedicated HMRC imports and exports enquiry service which is available via phone on 0300 322 9434 or via online webchat
- running regular webinars with policy specialists
- providing the Brexit Checker Tool on GOV.UK which gives businesses a personalised list of actions that they need to take
- providing one-to-one support for exporters in delivered via a network of around 300 International Trade Advisers
- leading a specific taskforce working with businesses across Northern Ireland and Great Britain on issues related to the Northern Ireland Protocol
- operating a range of other support schemes including a guarantee scheme aimed at SMEs which means the government can provide an 80% guarantee on financial support from lenders to help with general exporting costs, up to the value of £25m. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
13 Mar 21. Britain must boost cyber-attack capacity, PM Johnson says. Britain needs to boost its capacity to conduct cyber attacks on foreign enemies, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said before the publication of a national security review next week.
“Cyber power is revolutionising the way we live our lives and fight our wars, just as air power did 100 years ago,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office on Saturday.
Johnson is due to present a long-term review of national security strategy to parliament on Tuesday which media reports suggest could lead to a reduction in armed forces personnel.
“The review will set out the importance of cyber technology to our way of life – whether it’s defeating our enemies on the battlefield, making the internet a safer place or developing cutting-edge tech to improve people’s lives,” Johnson’s office said.
In 2019, Britain spent $59bn, or 2.1% of national income, on defence, more than any other large European country but far below the 3.5% of income spent by the United States.
Britain has invested heavily in costly aircraft carriers in recent years and maintains nuclear weapons, but its ground forces have shrunk since the Cold War ended.
Some British media have reported that the review will call for the number of army personnel to be reduced by a further 12,500 to around 70,000.
The defence ministry said on Saturday that talk of cuts “at this stage is speculation”.
Johnson said the National Cyber Force – including spies, defence officials and scientists – would have a permanent base in northern England as the government tries to boost regional development outside London.
The NCF targets threats including foreign air defence systems and the mobile phones of people the government views as serious criminals or terrorists.
It was created last year alongside a dedicated army regiment focused on cyber warfare. In 2016 a National Cyber Security Centre was set up to advise the government and public on how to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. (Source: Reuters)
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