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23 Apr 21. Britain faces ‘moment of reckoning’ if we don’t step up cyber security capabilities, warns head of GCHQ. In a speech today Jeremy Fleming will say developing and protecting the technologies of the future will be vital to Britain’s security and prosperity.
Warning of the “competing values and vision for the future” from countries such as China and Russia, the spy chief will warn how the “global digital environment is under threat”.
Jeremy Fleming will say: “Cyber security is an increasingly strategic issue that needs a whole nation approach.
“The rules are changing in ways not always controlled by Government.
“Without action it is increasingly clear that the key technologies on which we will rely for our future prosperity and security won’t be shaped and controlled by the West.
“We are now facing a moment of reckoning.”
Authoritarian powers like China and Russia increasingly use access to the internet as a means of controlling their populations.
In recent years Western powers have been bombarded by misinformation and industrial-scale hacking activities by malign state-sponsored organisations, such as the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a troll factory run by Putin-associate Yevgeny Prigozhin.
North Korea was blamed for the 2017 WannaCry cyber attack that caused worldwide chaos, including in the NHS.
A 2018 report by the Department of Health said the cyber strike had cost the NHS £92million with 19,000 cancelled appointments.
In this year’s Imperial College Vincent Briscoe Annual Security Lecture, Jeremy Fleming, who has led Britain’s cyber spy agency since 2017, will say: “If this is left unchecked, it could threaten the design and freedom of the internet…and the autonomy of international standard-setting bodies.”
Key areas like quantum computing, including cryptographic technologies that protect the UK’s most sensitive information and capabilities, must be developed as sovereign British technologies.
Referring to the debacle over the 5G roll-out last year, Mr Fleming will say the government must ensure a diverse supply chain in a broader set of cyber technologies, so that Britain cannot be reliant on another power for some of the most sensitive parts of our national infrastructure.
“As a country we need to be using all the levers and tools at our disposal to shape and grow key technologies and markets,” he will say.
“We must do that in a way that helps protect the nation and open society. And that means becoming better at using the power of the state to both foster and protect brilliant developments in technology.
“If we get it right, new policies, informed by deep expertise, will influence and shape markets – protecting and growing the most critical technologies.
“Government will create new markets, focusing investment on the sectors and technologies that are best for the UK.”
Mr Fleming, a former Deputy Director General of MI5, believes Britain is a world leader in cyber defence through the NCSC, the public-facing arm of GCHQ.
Similarly, he will say the new National Cyber Force has transformed the UK’s ability to attack and disrupt adversaries through cyberspace.
“Today, the UK really is a global cyber power – a big animal in the digital world,” he will say.
“But historic strength does not mean we can assume we will be in the future.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
20 Apr 21. Germany, France set deadline to seal deal on new combat jet. The billion-euro Franco-German project for a new fighter aircraft is in a “very decisive phase,” says German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The defense ministers of France and Germany on Tuesday set a deadline for the end of April to reach a deal on the future of a next-generation stealth fighter.
During a visit to Paris, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said there were still some final points, involving engine development and legal issues, that needed clarification.
“We as politicians expect the industry to jointly find a viable basis (for the next steps of the project) which we can accept,” she told a joint press conference, adding that development of the aircraft was in a “very decisive phase.”
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told reporters: “We both think the same thing: we need a deal by the end of April and I am confident we can get there together,”
A first prototype of the new stealth fighter jet, currently known as “the Demonstrator,” is scheduled to begin test flights in 2026.
Until recently, progress had been hampered by questions about how to share the responsibility of construction as well as the allocation of intellectual property rights for the cutting-edge technologies used in the plane.
Following weeks of strained negotiations that were putting the plane’s development into doubt, manufacturers Airbus and Dassault Aviation reached a burden-sharing deal.
The companies will produce many of the components for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) that is intended to prove the EU’s ability to integrate its disparate defense forces and increase its military sovereignty. Plans call for the new plane to be fully operational by 2040, when it is to eventually replace the Eurofighter.
In addition to Germany and France, Spain is also involved in the project.
What else does the project include?
Besides planes, the defense system also includes drones and satellites.
Dassault is leading the jet development side of the project, while Airbus is spearheading the development of the drones and the ultra-fast “combat cloud” communications network designed to harness artificial intelligence capabilities.
Why build now?
French lawmakers warned this month that time was running out to move forward on the plane and its associated drones and network technologies if it is to be operational by 2040 as planned.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany was feeling some time pressure because parliament is being asked to decide on the next stage of the project before elections take place in September. (Source: News Now/https://www.dw.com/en)
20 Apr 21. Johnny Mercer sacked by text message after row over Northern Ireland veterans. Veteran’s Minister fired from Government after accusing Boris Johnson of lacking ‘moral strength’ to protect ex-soldiers from prosecution. Johnny Mercer, the Veterans’ Minister, was sacked by text message on Tuesday as he accused Boris Johnson of lacking the “moral strength and courage” to protect ex-soldiers from prosecution in Northern Ireland.
Mr Mercer, a former captain in the Army, had told Number 10 of his intention to resign on Monday night but was fired 24 hours later in a pre-emptive strike.
Mr Mercer on Tuesday night posted on Twitter a letter of resignation he had originally planned to make public on Wednesday in which he criticised the prime minister for continuing “to say all the right things” but failing “to match that with what we deliver”.
He complained that Mr Johnson’s Government had “abandoned our people in a way I simply cannot reconcile” and added: “Whilst endless plans are promised… veterans are being sectioned, drinking themselves to death and dying well before their time – simply because the UK Government cannot find the moral strength or courage … to stop these appalling injustices.”
Mr Mercer had become increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and had clashed with Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, and Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary.
In his resignation letter, he said it had only managed to secure his first face-to-face meeting with Mr Johnson last month at which he told the Prime Minister of his anger that veterans in their 70s and 80s were being dragged through the courts over “events often more than 50 years ago in Northern Ireland”.
In the course of a turbulent 24 hours prior to his sacking, Mr Mercer was finally summoned to a meeting with Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, on Tuesday night. But talks descended into a stormy exchange and Mr Mercer walked out. The 39-year-old minister was invited to resign from the front bench, but refused.
Mr Spencer followed the meeting up with text messages, informing Mr Mercer he had been sacked. Allies of Mr Mercer on Tuesday night accused the Government of bullying.
Leo Docherty, an assistant government whip who has been the Conservative MP for Aldershot, Farnborough and Blackwater since 2017, has been appointed as Mr Mercer’s replacement.
A Downing Street spokeswoman put a more diplomatic twist on events, insisting: “This evening the Prime Minister has accepted the resignation of Johnny Mercer as Minister for Defence People and Veterans. He thanks Johnny Mercer for his service as a Government Minister since 2019.”
The Prime Minister also adopted a warm and praising tone in a letter to Mr Mercer, which is likely to have been aimed in part at mollifying him.
Gliding over the ex-minister’s criticism of the Government, Mr Johnson said: “Your determination to fix problems and make life better for our defence personnel and veterans has made a real difference, and I am grateful for everything you have done.”
Mr Mercer, who set up the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, had notified Downing Street on Monday evening of his intention to quit ‘out of courtesy’ and was left ‘furious’ when it was leaked. He had planned to formally announce his resignation on Wednesday after his Overseas Operations Bill, which gives legal protections to soldiers, passes through the Commons.
Mr Mercer was unhappy that veterans from the conflict in Northern Ireland were excluded from the Bill and concerned no other legislation was in the pipeline.
Two soldiers in their 70s go on trial next week for the killing Joe McCann, an Official IRA commander, and Mr Mercer had told friends he did not wish to remain in Government by the time the case came to court. Up to 200 ex-soldiers are thought to face criminal investigations over deaths in Northern Ireland as long as 50 years ago. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
19 Apr 21. German parliament approves funding for AEVs, Tornado RWRs, UAVs, flight training and IT. The budget committee of the Bundestag, the German parliament, approved funding for the procurement of armoured engineer vehicles (AEVs), radar warning receivers (RWRs) for Tornado bombers, rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the K130 frigate, helicopter pilot training, and IT equipment for the army, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 15 April.
The ministry said EUR295m (USD355m) was approved for AEVs based on the Leopard 2 main battle tank to replace the Dachs engineer vehicle that has been in service with the German Army since 1989. The new vehicle will be equipped with a plough and mechanical arm. About EUR105m was allocated to replace Luftwaffe Tornado RWRs, for which there will be no more spare parts in the medium term, with new systems with faster processors and additional interfaces and connections to lighten the load on the aircraft’s avionics. About EUR78m was earmarked for a procurement programme to equip the German Navy’s two K130 corvettes with rotary-wing UAVs. The first phase will involve adapting the aerial vehicles to Bundeswehr requirements and equipping the corvettes with a system consisting of two UAVs and a control station. During the ensuing serial production phase, two systems – one for training, including simulation, and the other for installation in the three remaining K130s – will be procured. (Source: Jane’s)
19 Apr 21. Frigate build work to be moved if Scotland leaves UK. Sources have suggested that the work on the Type 26 Frigates would be moved if Scotland voted for independence.
The Type 26 Frigate programme is responsible for just under 2,000 jobs in Scotland.
While it has been long known that the UK doesn’t build complex warships outside of the UK, the extent to which the builders were taking this position wasn’t well known.
Two sources have now stated that alternatives are being explored should BAE have to move the work from the Clyde.
Just so people are aware, the first batch of Type 31 Frigates at Rosyth would likely have been built before Scotland leaves the UK should they vote to, so they’re not entirely relevant here.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone.
One side, the Scottish government, say that naval shipbuilding would continue if Scotland left the UK. The other side, the UK government, say it would not.
“No warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there.”
The issue of UK naval contracts in Scotland has been a hot topic both before and after the 2014 Independence Referendum and even more so recently when several groups indicated that the work on complex warships for the Royal Navy would not go to an independent country.
Have we heard this before?
I can guarantee a response on social media to this article will be “we have heard this before”, suggesting that frigates were ordered to secure a vote in the last referendum and cancelled after the vote came in. Nothing has changed, the ships are being built and ordered in batches.
UK policy on building complex warships outside the UK has not changed so it stands to reason that this will come up after talk of Scotland leaving the UK.
With the change from 13 Type 26 Frigates to 8 Type 26 Frigates and 5 Type 31 Frigates (plus some Offshore Patrol vessels), there was the perception in some corners that work had been cut for Scotland, what actually happened?
What happened after the independence referendum was the five-yearly occurrence known as a defence review, this time called the ‘Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015’. The initial Type 26 Frigate order had been cut back from 13 to 8 in order to fund more of the immediate spending outlined in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
As a result of Type 26 being reduced to 8 ships, it was announced that five general purpose frigates were to be designed and ordered. These became the the Type 31 Frigates and they were ordered from Babcock at Rosyth. Part of the reason for this change was understood to be that the MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement.
There are plans for 8 Type 26 Frigates and 5 Type 31 frigates to be built in Scotland, 5 River class Offshore Patrol Vessels have been launched. The original plan was for 13 Type 26 Frigates at one yard, years later the plan is now 18 vessels of three types sustaining work at three yards.
Jonathan Chartier, a defence commentator working in Government and local government IT services, explains the issue.
“Traditionally the Royal Navy has purchased ship classes from multiple yards and in distinct batches, this not only spreads programme costs but also allows for changes and improvements to the base design plus rectification work as well as keep shipyards open with a constant steady stream of work. Certainly for famous classes like the Type 12I Leander this batch production was necessary just to keep up with the radical changes seen in electronics and systems over their extensive career.
So whilst the Royal Navy would have a projected number to be built it was not unusual for the number of batches to be reduced or on some occasion increased as needed without comment by the wider general public to satisfy the requirements of the Admiralty and always lurking in the background Treasury. This practice continued through to the Type 23 class which was built by competing yards Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun and Swan Hunter, Wallsend. It is actually possible to tell where an individual Type 23 was built by inspecting its internal pipe fittings. With warship construction consolidated on the Clyde Type 26 was projected to be a build of thirteen vessels again through multiple batches in keeping with common practice, for those familiar with military ship building the thirteen projected was at best a placeholder subject to change.
Certainly it was well known in the period after the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security review it was clear that the equipment programme was again coming under extreme financial pressure again. In that circumstance it was unfortunate with a Scottish Independence referendum in the running David Cameron and the Better Together campaign unwisely turned routine procurement that could be subject to change into a political football by making it a direct promise to Scotland; thirteen Type 26 Frigates would be built on the Clyde alongside a new ‘Frigate Factory’.
The Labour Party exacerbated the situation with a leaflet spelling out that if Scotland remained in the Union it would get 13 Type 26 frigates. The Prime Minister and other Ministers plus representatives of the Better Together Campaign regularly spelled out that a Scotland in the Union would be getting thirteen Type 26.” (Source: News Now/https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/)
19 Apr 21. Royal Navy tracks eight warships through UK waters. The Royal Navy has kept close watch on seven warships and one submarine passing in opposite directions through the Channel.
Three British patrol ships – Portsmouth-based sisters HMS Tyne, Severn and Mersey – have been called upon to monitor the presence of seven Russian Federation Navy vessels plus an Algerian submarine as they sailed past the British Isles.
The latter was tracked on the surface as it returned home to Africa by HMS Severn, which normally trains Royal Navy navigators but also acts as the eyes and ears of the Fleet in home waters.
“It has been a pleasant duty to welcome our Algerian friends for their transit of UK waters in great weather as they head home,” said Commander Philip Harper, Severn’s Commanding Officer.
Trainee officer Sub Lieutenant Lara Martin added: “This has been my first operation in the Royal Navy – I feel I have broadened my knowledge and experience tenfold within the last week of the role that we play in protecting our national interests.”
Heading in the opposite direction, HMS Mersey met up with a trio of vessels – frigate Admiral Kasatonov, a supporting tug Nikolay Chiker and tanker Vyazma – off Ushant in France and stayed with them through the Channel and Dover Strait and into the North Sea.
Her monitoring mission was made more challenging by adverse weather conditions such as high winds and large sea states which meant the Russian ships took longer than usual to pass through as they sheltered in more confined waters before resuming their journey.
HMS Mersey’s ship’s company worked around the clock to ensure that the three Russian ships passed the area safely with navigating officer Lieutenant Thomas Bees says that “the Russian Federation naval vessels operated in a safe and professional manner throughout their transit.”
His Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Edward Munns added: “Mersey proved her flexibility once more in being able to react to a short notice tasking quickly and successfully. Throughout this tasking my ship’s company displayed outstanding professionalism to switch their mind set to National Tasking and dutifully ensured the safe transit of these vessels.”
The primary role of Portsmouth-based Mersey and her sister Tyne is to ensure all fishing vessels operating in home waters abide by the rules and stick to UK regulations in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone on behalf of the Marine Management Organisation.
With the River class typically at sea for ten months of the year, they act as the eyes and ears of the Navy around the UK, keeping an eye on any suspicious activity as well as monitoring the presence of any warships from countries of interest to Britain and her NATO allies.
Before the Kasatonov group sailed through the Channel Mersey worked in tandem with HMS Tyne to keep constant watch on four Russian vessels sailing through the Channel towards the Atlantic.
The quartet – three Ropucha-class amphibious ships capable of landing tanks, Minsk, Kaliningrad and Korolev, and the frigate Boiky – were located in the North Sea and closely followed through the Dover Strait and into the English Channel before reaching the open waters of the North Atlantic.
As part of the operation, the Portsmouth-based offshore patrol ships worked with several allied NATO ships and aircraft to ensure the Russian force was observed seamlessly. Tyne’s operations officer Lieutenant Justin Shirtcliff said: “All interaction with Russian units was safe and professional throughout the operation.”
Lieutenant Nicholas Ward, Tyne’s executive officer, added: “Once again HMS Tyne demonstrated the fantastic capability that the River-class ships provide. We have quickly switched from conducting fishery protection to working with our NATO allies monitoring foreign warships operating close to the UK. We’re all proud on Tyne to be part of the team protecting the nation’s interests.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
18 Apr 21. Israel and Greece sign record defence deal. Israel and Greece have signed their biggest ever defence procurement deal, which Israel said on Sunday would strengthen political and economic ties between the countries and the two countries’ air forces launched a joint exercise.
The agreement includes a $1.65bn contract for the establishment and operation of a training centre for the Hellenic Air Force by Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems (ESLT.TA) over a 22-year period, Israel’s defence ministry said.
The training centre will be modelled on Israel’s own flight academy and will be equipped with 10 M-346 training aircraft produced by Italy’s Leonardo (LDOF.MI), the ministry said.
Elbit will supply kits to upgrade and operate Greece’s T-6 aircraft and also provide training, simulators and logistical support.
“I am certain that (this programme) will upgrade the capabilities and strengthen the economies of Israel and Greece and thus the partnership between our two countries will deepen on the defence, economic and political levels,” said Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz.
The announcement follows a meeting in Cyprus on Friday between the UAE, Greek, Cypriot and Israeli foreign ministers, who agreed to deepen cooperation.
The Israeli and Greek air forces on Sunday launched a joint exercise in Greece, the Israeli military said.
In at least one past exercise over Greece, Israeli fighter planes practised against an S-300 posted on Crete. The Russian-made air defence system is also deployed in Syria and Iran, Israel’s foes.
A source in the Hellenic National Defence Command said the S-300 had not been activated in the joint exercise that began Sunday. (Source: Reuters)
18 Apr 21. UK warships to sail for Black Sea in May as Ukraine-Russia tensions rise- Sunday Times. British warships will sail for the Black Sea in May amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, the Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing senior naval sources.
The deployment is aimed at showing solidarity with Ukraine and Britain’s NATO allies, the newspaper reported.
One Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate will leave the Royal Navy’s carrier task group in the Mediterranean and head through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, according to the report.
RAF F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters will stand ready on the task group’s flag ship, the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to support the warships in the Black Sea, the report added.
Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv have been rising amid a build-up of Russian troops along the border and clashes in eastern Ukraine between the army and pro-Russian separatists. read more
Officials at the UK Ministry of Defence were not immediately available for comment.
A ministry spokesman told the newspaper that the UK government was working closely with Ukraine to monitor the situation and continued to call on Russia to de-escalate.
“The UK and our international allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, the newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying. (Source: Reuters)
16 Apr 21. German defense minister vows to keep fighting for armed drones. Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she will continue to push for armed drones in the military, after lawmakers this week insisted on keeping the Franco-German Eurodrone weaponless for now.
The parliamentary Budget Committee on April 14 allowed the program to proceed with two caveats: The Defence Ministry is not authorized to purchase ammunition for the unmanned aircraft, and there can be no “tactical weapons training” for system operators, lawmakers wrote.
The decision comes after Social Democrats, the junior partner in a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, signaled their blanket disapproval of weaponized drones. The center-left party argued that ethical considerations have yet to be fully discussed, despite a public campaign by Kramp-Karrenbauer’s ministry toward that end last year.
Writing on Twitter on April 16, the defense minister thanked lawmakers for allowing the Eurodrone program to proceed, a key stepping stone in the Franco-German alliance that’s meant to lift the European Union’s defense capabilities in the coming years.
At the same time, she stressed she will continue campaigning for weaponized drones used to protect German forces in the Bundeswehr.
The debate has dragged on here for years, fueled in large part by U.S. drone strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq that were seen as indiscriminate. The Bundeswehr has argued targeted killings would never be a mission for German drones, saying the weapons would fire only in defense of ground forces.
Lawmakers also slapped new reporting requirements on the Eurodrone project, led here by Airbus Defence and Space. Defense officials must tell parliament about cost developments twice a year, starting in January 2022. In addition, lawmakers want to see in those reports include data on workshare packages performed in Germany, as agreed in an eventual contract.
Cross-referencing the Eurodrone progress with other defense cooperation programs is allowed only with parliamentary approval, lawmakers wrote.
That requirement affects mostly the other big-ticket programs underway with France: the Future Combat Air System and the Main Ground Combat System. Some lawmakers here fear that political and industrial horse trading among those efforts could disadvantage Germany. (Source: US DoD)
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