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31 Mar 21. Demand for digital experts will supersede traditional aircraft engineers within 20 years. Air Force looking at ‘game-changing mix’ of swarming drones, un-crewed combat aircraft and next-generation piloted aircraft. Demand for digital experts will supersede traditional aircraft engineers within 20 years, the head of the Royal Air Force has said.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said that as part of the RAF’s “revolutionary approach” to future aircraft it would have to start asking “what are the skills we need in the future?”
He said: “I’m in no doubt that by 2040 the skill base of Royal Air Force people will be entirely different to what it is today.
“Today we recruit around four times as many traditional mechanical engineers, as we do our digital and cyberspace experts. So it’s a four-to-one ratio. Well, everything that I read and look at on Air Force of 2040 tells me that that ratio is probably going to have to be reversed.”
Sir Mike, who was speaking at an Air and Space Power Association webinar, said that the Air Force was currently looking at a “game-changing mix” of swarming drones, mixed formations of un-crewed combat aircraft and next-generation piloted aircraft like Tempest.
He said the un-crewed combat aircraft, Mosquito, was “already taking shape” and that Alvina, the experimental swarming drone, has “exceeded expectations on trials” with 216 Sqn.
He cautioned that “this isn’t stuff of a distant sci-fi future; I want Mosquito and Alvina to be fielded operationally this decade”.
It comes after the publication of the Integrated Review and Command Paper which put data, cyber, space and AI at the heart of defence’s future warfighting capabilities.
Sir Mike added that the Integrated Review had enabled the RAF to “take a world-leading approach alongside the UK aerospace industry”.
“This is about sovereignty, it is about prosperity and it is about security,” he said.
He added that the RAF’s focus on cyber did not mean a “trade between technological sophistication and quantity”.
“While that may have been true in the past, I would offer that technology now allows us to take a different view, that you can have both,” he said, adding that if the combat utility of today’s eight-ship of Typhoons can be replicated with a pair of Typhoon, eight Mosquito and a hundred Alvina, “an entirely different calculus is at play”.
His comments come after General Sir Nick Carter made a speech on Tuesday where he said data scientists will be the new “Afghan interpreters” of the Armed Forces and will be embedded at every level.
The head of the Armed Forces said such scientists will “give you the turnkey capacity to be able to maximise that adaptability and innovation”. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
01 Apr 21. UK military relaxes recruiting rules to attract cyber specialists. Tech experts can now be taken directly into senior ranks without having to work way up hierarchy. Strategic Command’s new cyber career strategy will seek to attract more cyber specialists as reservists, as military ‘regulars’ — including for the new National Cyber Force — and as civilian staff. The UK armed forces have relaxed hiring rules to allow candidates from the private sector to go directly into senior military roles, in a drive to recruit more cyber specialists as warfare expands into the digital realm. General Sir Patrick Sanders, head of the UK’s Strategic Command, told the Financial Times that while he sometimes envied Israel’s conscription model — which allows defence chiefs to find the best cyber talent from a population-wide pool — the British military was finding new ways to attract tech experts. “I’m interested in people who may want to come in and spend a bit of time in defence, gain their credentials, their credibility and then move in and out,” said Sanders, who was speaking on the FT’s Rachman Review podcast. “And so that idea of a much more flexible approach to a career in defence, encouraging ‘lateral’ entry, and also looking at people with very different entry standards to what we traditionally expect.” Strategic Command’s new cyber career strategy will seek to attract more cyber specialists as reservists, as military “regulars” — including for the new National Cyber Force — and as civilian staff. One of the most significant changes is a new “lateral” entry regime, which allows cyber experts to leave industry and transfer directly into senior military ranks without the need to work their way up the hierarchy. From this summer, all existing members of the armed forces will be offered a cyber aptitude test: those found to have the relevant skills will be offered further training and a career path into a cyber job. Typical roles include electronic warfare specialists, who intercept enemy signals on the battlefield. Gen Sir Patrick Sanders: if you come and join defence . . . working in cyber space, you’re not operating against avatars in a game, you’re operating against real-life threat actors’ © Getty Images Britain’s “cyber power” ambitions were emphasised this month in the government’s defence, security and foreign policy review, which saw a commitment to sharing the UK’s offensive cyber capabilities with Nato allies, and highlighted the importance of the national cyber force staffed jointly by spies and military personnel. While defence chiefs are keen to bring in tech specialists to counter growing cyber aggression from countries such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, there is intense competition for candidates with these skills. The UK faces a shortfall of 10,000 skilled cyber professionals this year, according to research by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The military is also keen to emulate the success of the signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, in recruiting people from a neurodiverse background, who may have enhanced cyber abilities. Earlier this month Vice Admiral Nick Hine, the second sea lord, revealed that he is autistic, and appealed to others with the same diagnosis to consider a career in the armed forces. “Neurodiversity is something that we absolutely welcome because it can lead to incredibly imaginative and effective operators in the cyber roles,” Sanders said. Joyce Hakmeh, a cyber policy expert at the Chatham House think-tank, said the big question for the public sector had always been “how do you compete with the private sector given the huge difference in compensation? Attracting [cyber experts] has always been one issue, but how do you retain them?” Sanders insisted, however, there were unique attractions to a military career in cyber. “I do have one thing that gaming companies, and that other commercial organisations who can pay more don’t have, and that is that if you come and join defence . . . working in cyber space, you’re not operating against avatars in a game, you’re operating against real-life threat actors, and nothing can beat that,” he said. (Source: FT.com)
01 Apr 21. Report of Russian navigation gear on German submarines has lawmakers on alert. A report that Russian-developed navigation technology is installed on German navy submarines has prompted lawmakers to investigate.
Their curiosity stems from a March 27 article in the tabloid Bild am Sonntag that said German submarines were using the Navi Sailor 4100 product as an electronic chart display and information system, or ECDIS. The manufacturer is Transas, a company with roots in Saint Petersburg, Russia, a branch of which was bought by Finland’s Wärtsilä in 2018.
The Navi Sailor 4000-series terminals, a kind of digital version of nautical maps, are standard pieces of equipment on many commercial vessels. Some Western governments have chosen the equipment for their security forces in the past.
According to the Bild am Sonntag report, the German navy’s association with Transas goes back to 2005. Twitter sleuths this week circulated a photo of a Transas terminal installed on the German frigate Brandenburg as proof that surface ships also were equipped with the technology.
A navy spokesman told Defense News that the potential for security risks was acknowledged inside the service, though details are classified.
The inner workings of navigation and geolocation are typically highly guarded secrets on navy vessels, as many types, especially submarines, try to evade detection by adversaries for the advantage of surprise.
Western defense officials have previously acknowledged that navigation services can amount to an Achilles’ heel in military operations. Savvy adversaries could jam the GPS signal, for example, or trick forces by feeding them erroneous position markers.
According to the Bild am Sonntag report, the data encryption level used by the Transas equipment is below that required for military equipment.
Jeremy Stöhs, non-resident naval analyst at the University of Kiel in northern Germany, said there is a potential for over-hyping the problem. “One has to assume that there is very conscious consideration given to what kinds of systems are installed on the few submarines that Germany has,” he told Defense News.
“I’d be very careful with the assumption that German submarines are ‘sailing with Russian navigation,’ as the reporting would make you believe,” he added.
Still, several lawmakers are alarmed enough to demand answers. Bundestag members Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann and Tobias Lindner, the Free Democratic and Green parties’ leading voices on defense topics, respectively, have called for the parliamentary defense committee to discuss potential risks.
Lindner’s office queried the defense ministry about the issue in November 2020, receiving a classified response, according to a staffer.
A spokesman for Finnish Transas owner Wärtsilä argued his company has no connection to the Russian defense branch.
“Wärtsilä acquired Transas in 2018 for its commercial marine business and did not acquire a previous defense business which had the same ownership but was separate from the current marine business,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “We understand that the defense business was sold by the former owners in or around 2015, and it has never been connected to Wärtsilä.”
All Transas navigation systems owned and sold by Wärtsilä conform to industry standards, including on cybersecurity, the spokesman added. “We do not disclose the details of our customers or contracts and cannot comment on their cybersecurity requirements and protocols.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
31 Mar 21. UK Carrier Strike Group to sail with Netherlands Frigate on 2021 deployment. The Netherlands will be fully integrated into the UK sovereign Carrier Strike Group’s maiden operational deployment later this year, Defence ministers have confirmed today.
Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS Evertsen will join the UK Carrier Strike Group for the duration of its inaugural deployment – from the North Atlantic, through to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and on to the Indo-Pacific. The strike group will undertake a range of operations and training with allies and partners, including maritime missions with NATO in the Mediterranean and Coalition operations in the Middle East. As an Air Defence Frigate she will provide vital air defence protection to the Carrier and control air missions from her operations room.
Frigate Evertsen joins a squadron of US Marine Corps F35 jets and a US Navy Destroyer as a contribution from our NATO Allies to the 2021 deployment. They will be integral elements of the Carrier Strike Group, showcasing NATO’s first 5th generation Carrier Strike asset and demonstrating NATO’s credible deterrence through joint expeditionary capability.
CSG21 will be an ambitious deployment, covering over 20,000 nautical miles from the North Atlantic, through to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and on to the Indo-Pacific.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “The Netherlands’ participation adds another dimension to this UK sovereign deployment. Our NATO, JEF and European Ally’s commitment signals the Carrier Strike Group’s contribution to collective defence and credible deterrence.
This joint deployment will offer a unique opportunity for our forces to integrate and operate together in support of truly shared global defence and security challenges.”
Minister of Defence of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Ank Bijleveld-Schouten said, “I am very pleased that HNLMS Evertsen participates in the UK Carrier Strike Group. This provides the Royal Netherlands Navy with the unique opportunity to exercise in this type of international setting, in particular with the UK and the US, but also with other partners. The UK is a strategic partner and important NATO ally of the Netherlands, also post-Brexit. Participation in the Carrier Strike Group enables the Royal Netherlands Navy to provide a valuable contribution to the NATO alliance in the near future. The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have worked together intensively for years. This new combined activity underlines our close ties.”
HNLMS Evertsen is a highly sophisticated air defence frigate, equipped with weapons and sensors that will protect the Carrier Strike Group from hostile aircraft and missiles. She is also capable of conducting maritime security duties, operating either as part of the Strike Group or independently.
The Netherlands have played a significant role in the build up to the deployment through participation in a series of multi-national exercises throughout 2020, most recently Exercise Strike Warrior last October in the North Sea.
30 Mar 21. Computer science the future of Britain’s defence, says Head of the Armed Forces. Data scientists will be integral to Britain’s defence capabilities – just like the interpreters who supported the troops in Afghanistan
Data scientists will be the new ‘Afghan interpreters’ of the Armed Forces and will be embedded at every level, the Chief of the Defence Staff has said.
General Sir Nick Carter told a webinar on Defence Innovation that computer scientists would be as integral to the future of defence as the interpreters who risked their lives supporting British troops in Afghanistan.
Sir Nick told the International Institute for Strategic Studies: “I think data scientists are going to be found at almost every level in our Armed Forces. They are going to be the new Afghan interpreters, which give you the turnkey capacity to be able to maximise that adaptability and innovation.”
It comes after the publication of the Integrated Review and Command Paper which put data, cyber, space and AI at the heart of its future defence capabilities.
Sir Nick, the Head of the Armed Forces, also told the webinar that as part of the UK’s pivot towards cyber, by 2030, it would be “entirely respectable” for a tactical formation of the Air Force to reduce the number of Typhoons and instead make up the mass with other aircraft, including drones.
He said that “you can see that playing out both in their land and maritime domains as well”.
Sir Nick also said that as warfighting focuses more on the grey zone, fighting terrorists was comparatively “easy”.
He said new domains like cyber and space, which are not regulated in the way that the traditional domains are regulated, makes defence more challenging today.
“I think it’s easy, taking on terrorists which we’ve become accustomed to over the last 20 years, but it’s quite another matter when you’re competing with states and that requires some thought.”
Sir Nick also questioned China’s “totalitarian surveillance”, as he said it will focus minds to join forces against a common adversary’s use of technology.
He said he believed it “will focus minds, and I think what it will probably encourage us to do over the next few years, is to think about how like minded communities of interests can come together to make sure that the sorts of technologies that are necessary to be able to provide an alternative to what China is producing, can work more closely together.”
It comes after the Integrated Review called China a “systemic competitor”.
Meanwhile, asked what keeps him up at night, Sir Nick, who was recently kept on in post to oversee the changes brought about by the defence review, said it was the thought of what “quantum computing in the wrong hands” could do to humanity. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
29 Mar 21. From Challenger to Charger: Army will roll out electric tanks to battle climate change. Armoured vehicles powered by renewable fuel and vegetarian options in the mess tent among military’s moves to go greener.
While it would not be possible to turn the Challenger 2 main battle tank electric, armoured vehicles powered by renewable fuels were possible within the next 20 years, said Lt. Gen. Richard Nugee. Electric tanks and vegetarian options in the mess are just some of the ways the Armed Forces will go greener, the Ministry of Defence has revealed.
The MoD sets out in a new report how it will respond to “the threat posed by climate change”, following an internal climate change and sustainability review conducted by Lt. Gen. Richard Nugee last year.
Lt Gen Nugee told The Telegraph that a major factor under consideration was how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels. He said that while it was not possible to turn the UK’s “monster” Challenger 2 main battle tanks electric, there was a “distinct possibility” that in the next “10 to 15 years”, 20 tonne, un-crewed tanks could potentially operate with renewable energy.
Lt Gen Nugee said in such a scenario, “that makes it possible, not definite, but possible to be propelled by a green energy solution.
“Not all our vehicles are going to be susceptible to this, but what we should be doing is looking for the mindset and the opportunity to develop different types of vehicles which are susceptible to renewable energy over time,” he said.
Lt Gen Nugee, who revealed that he had reduced his own meat consumption by “80 per cent”, added that troops were being educated about the benefits of vegetarianism for both a healthy lifestyle and the planet.
He noted that while it was Napoleon who said “an army marches on its stomach”, the Armed Forces would look to educate troops “that eating less meat is a good idea”.
He added that they would also “produce menus in our messes that might offer more alternatives to meat”.
“If we’ve educated people and we have told them of the value of some of the other diets that are available, then I think we might see a difference,” he said.
Earlier this month, Jens Stoltenberg, the head of Nato, said climate change makes the world unsafe and that the 30-strong military alliance, of which the UK is a member, “needs to step up and play a bigger role in combating it – including by reducing military emissions”.
In the foreword of the new report, Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, said the department was “determined to play our full part in helping the Government address climate change head on and achieve our legal commitment of net zero by 2050”.
Mr Quin said: “Inevitably, the very scale of what Defence is called upon to do makes us a carbon emitter. However, we recognise both the necessity and opportunity to build on our existing successes in cutting carbon and mitigating Defence’s impact on the environment.”
Defence, which accounts for 50 percent of the UK central government’s emissions, will also impose ‘no-mow’ rules on some of its land to encourage pollination and enhance biodiversity.
After a successful trial at Westdown Camp on Salisbury Plain, where stopping mowing led to a flowering of wild herbs and shrubs, work is under way to roll the initiative out across the Defence estate.
Lt Gen Nugee added: “The reality is that we own a significant chunk of the UK’s landmass and I believe have a responsibility to look after that landmass as best we possibly can to try and increase biodiversity and improve environmental sustainability on it.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
30 Mar 21. Turkey detains 26 suspects over defense industry espionage charges. Turkey’s security and intelligence forces detained 26 people in a March 30 joint operation, charging the suspects with defense industry espionage and of belonging to what the Turkish government claims is a secretive terrorist organization run by self-exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The Turkish police announced the detentions, which took place in five different provinces. An anti-terror court released seven suspects and ruled for the arrest of 19.
“This probe aims to reveal the Gulenist infiltration into Turkey’s national defense industry,” said a judicial official familiar with the investigation. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt. The cleric lives in the United States, and the Turkish government has demanded his extradition.
A security official said that the 26 detained are former employees of state-controlled entities:
- 16 are former employees of Turkish Aerospace Industries.
- Four are former employees of military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s largest defense company.
- Two are former employees of military software concern Havelsan.
- Two are former employees of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, otherwise known as TUBITAK.
- One is a former employee of missile-maker Roketsan.
- One is a former employee of the government’s defense procurement agency, previously known as the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) but was later renamed the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB).
The judicial official said a long legal process will follow, during which the defendants will stand trial. He would not offer a prediction of the verdicts. There will most likely be an appeals process, the official added, with the entire process taking several years.
In December 2018, several dozen engineers and officials working for what law enforcement authorities described as “critical indigenous programs” were detained as part of a government probe in Turkey.
More recently, in January, six suspects were detained in Turkey in an alleged fraud scheme involving defense industry contracts. The detentions, reported by the government on Jan. 12, came after a joint covert operation by the Turkish police force and the National Intelligence Organization, or MIT. The suspects are charged with selling classified and secret data pertaining to defense industry programs.
The chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara said the operation targeted “a group of people involved in illegal activities in defense industry.” MIT and the police said they had the suspects under surveillance since last year, having suspected them of influencing defense programs and contracts in exchange for bribes.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the suspects shared confidential data and information about the projects’ resources, pricing, technical specifications and contractual progress to foreign defense companies.
“Foreign company representatives shared this data with their companies and gained advantages in tenders and their own projects,” according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office. (Source: Defense News)
30 Mar 21. UK MoD outlines greener future. The Ministry of Defence has published its roadmap to becoming more resilient and sustainable in the face of the immense challenge of global climate change.
Following on from a landmark report undertaken by Lieutenant General Richard Nugee commissioned by the MOD, the Department means to refresh and renew its approach, building on the work already achieved across defence.
Defence aims to champion a culture of sustainability across its community, by mitigating environmental impact whilst maintaining critical military outputs.
By 2050, and as part of the UK-wide Climate Change Strategy, defence aims to:
- adapt, fight and win in ever more hostile and unforgiving physical environments
- contribute to the UK’s net zero by 2050 target by reducing emissions and scaling up the transition to renewables
- act and be recognised as a global leader both in responding to the emerging geopolitical and conflict-related threats being exacerbated by climate change and is addressing carbon emissions.
The approach also outlines defence’s vision for deployed military technologies being fit for the future. This will include increased use of material recycle for fuel and components, advancing maintenance methods to reduce waste and footprint and the continued rollout of the electric vehicle fleet.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said, “The threat posed by climate change is one that affects us all and for defence, it will deeply impact the tasks our Armed Forces are called upon to undertake. As a global military leader we must evolve and set an example on how to protect peace and stability while embracing sustainability and reducing our carbon emissions.”
Defence is already working to become more sustainable; the Royal Navy have reduced their Nitrogen Oxide emissions by 95% on their Offshore Vessel Patrols, whilst the British Army are piloting Carbon efficient accommodation across their training estates and will continue this programme into 2022. The RAF have also introduced more environmentally-friendly green fuel to power aircraft and have increased the use of synthetics in pilot training which has led to a reduction in fuel demands. Defence has also committed to enhancing biodiversity across its estate and is developing new agri-environmental programmes.
Lt Gen Richard Nugee, MOD Climate Change & Sustainability lead said, “Climate change is just as much a threat to global security as more conventional threats, and this has the ability to change the way we operate. Defence is already making great strides in its efforts to become more sustainable. By changing the way we operate, across land, sea and air domains, Defence will play its part in the fight against climate change.”
The Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper recognise the threat climate change poses to global security and defence. This new approach is reflective of that and will ensure green initiatives and sustainable considerations are embedded in all decision making areas across defence.
Read the full report Ministry of Defence Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ministry-of-defence-climate-change-and-sustainability-strategic-approach (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
29 Mar 21. SMEs set to benefit from UK Defence and Security Industrial Strategy. Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are set to benefit from the UK’s new Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) which promises to refresh the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) commitment to working with them and reduce barriers, improving access.
Under the plans set out by DSIS, the MOD is set to publish a new SME Action Plan aimed at increasing opportunities for SMEs to do business with the department.
The Defence Technology Exploitation Programme currently being trialled in Northern Ireland will be expanded into a UK-wide initiative designed to foster better collaboration between SMEs and larger prime contractors.
The founder UK immersive close-combat training technology specialist 4GD Rob Taylor told Army Technology: “The DSIS appears to show the government’s renewed commitment to support and enhance British SMEs in the defence sector, supporting innovative businesses and giving them the space and tools needed to develop and deliver world-leading capabilities.
“This is a welcome first step in building an environment where specialist, veteran-led companies like 4GD can pursue previously closed-off opportunities and help level up the domestic defence market”
Lionel Nierop director at Digital Concepts Engineering (DCE), a UK developer of advanced robotic control systems and uncrewed vehicles including the X2 uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) that has featured heavily in the British Army’s testing of robotic capabilities, said his company was excited to see the plan’s to improve SME engagement.
Nierop said: “We are excited to see that the Government’s plans will address many obstacles inherent with the status quo, in particular by considering the longer-term implications of procurement decisions, and we particularly welcome the news that defence procurement will be reviewed to enable more SME participation.”
DCE has seen success with its robotic systems developing an optionally-crewed Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) for the British Army in 2018, and recently seeing success with its X2 and X3 UGVs.
Nierop added: “Overall the plan validates DCE’s significant investment in developing solutions to enable the robotic capabilities of the army’s future fighting force.
“We look forward to working with the army, MOD and the wider defence industry to make the vision a reality.”
The Department for International Trade will also establish a Defence and Security Faculty which as part of its export academy will aim to help SMEs do more business overseas.
The move to improve export support was praised by Angus Hone, CEO of Blighter Surveillance Systems, a UK manufacturer of electronic-scanning (e-scan) ground radar and counter-drone systems.
Hone told Army Technology: “We were delighted to see the government committing to further support for SMEs in the sector.
“As a small company looking to address both the home market as well as capitalise on export opportunities the commitment to better direct access here as well as renewed export support through DIT’s Export Academy was very well received. We look forward to building our relationship with the government going forward.”
Unlike the security sector, SME involvement in the defence supply chain typically tends to come as subcontractors to larger programmes rather than working directly with the MOD.
Plans will also see the creation of a Defence Suppliers Forum (DSF) SME Working Group to be chaired by the Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quinn. (Source: army-technology.com)
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