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21 May 21. Britain will regain mastery of political warfare after taking ‘eye off ball’ over Russian threat. All the levers of power must be deployed to achieve our strategic objectives, head of Strategic Command tells The Telegraph
Britain has “woken up” to the threat from Russia after we “took our eye off the ball” at the end of the Cold War, the general in charge of cyber and special forces has said.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of Britain’s Strategic Command, says the West “assumed our adversaries would see the world as we did” when it ended but “they didn’t”.
He warns they “continued to pursue [us]” through “political warfare” because they “saw how advanced we had become in the more narrow definition of warfare” and realised “it was a fool’s errand to take us on”.
“We’ve woken up to that,” Gen Sanders, speaking exclusively to The Telegraph in Estonia as he visited Nato forces, said.
“In political warfare, you deploy all the levers of state power, overt and covert, to pursue your national strategic objectives. The Russians do it really well.
“We have all the history to do it – we were the exemplar when we were running an empire – but we’ve fallen out of the habit and lost the muscle-memory since the end of the Cold War. We need to regain that.”
Strategic Command, established in 2019, runs the Ministry of Defence’s “future-facing” capability areas such as special forces, cyber, defence intelligence, information warfare and many space-based military assets. It also jointly runs Britain’s National Cyber Force alongside GCHQ.
Four years after Gen Sanders, as Commander 3rd (UK) Division, deployed the first British battlegroup to Estonia as part of Nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission, he said Nato’s reinforcement of the eastern flank was necessary in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Around 900 British troops are there, reinforcing the military alliance’s deterrence against Russia.
The mission, he says, is “designed not to provoke, not to be escalatory, but to underscore the fact that Nato is pinned on collective defence and deterrence.
“We don’t expect there to be a conventional conflict in the eastern Baltics [but] there’s no doubt that one of the critical components of deterrence is readiness; the speed at which you can respond.
“Not being able to demonstrate that readiness can sometimes undermine deterrence.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Gen Sanders also sounded a blunt note of caution to those who have prophesied the demise of expensive tanks and fighter jets with an increasing focus on cyber warfare. “Don’t get caught out bringing a computer to a knife fight,” he warns.
Gen Sanders says the key to the future is integrating military force, not just between services, but with other government departments and international allies.
He says a “cultural shift” is under way across Whitehall, to reinforce a “strategic culture we had that we’ve slightly forgotten”.
“There’s something in the machinery of government that still needs a bit of tweaking,” he says, suggesting the appointment of Stephen Lovegrove, formerly the top civil servant in the MoD, as Britain’s new National Security Adviser is a way of “looking at how we pull those strategic levers and who does grand strategy for government”.
“We’ve got all of the tools – we’re a great economic power, we’re one of the leading diplomatic powers, we’ve got great legal minds, our military is not bad. We’re just not combining them as effectively and as dynamically as we could.”
For the armed forces, this cultural shift will mean recognising Britain’s military strength does not always require a starring role.
“Being integrated with allies is nothing new, but we’re sometimes guilty of thinking through more of a sovereign lens.
“For all that we talk of Nato being at the heart of defence and our security policy – and I think we mean it – we sometimes forget to use it.
“We can lead well in Nato, we also need to learn to follow well in Nato as well.”
Gen Sanders says pulling these organisations together, across government and with international partners, is extremely hard, but essential if Britain is to respond to multiple threats above and below the threshold of conventional military conflict.
The great advantage of having special forces and the Permanent Joint Headquarters within Strategic Command, he says, is because they are organisations that are already plugged into other government departments and the intelligence agencies, in the UK and overseas.
“These are my vanguards, these are the organisations that can experiment.
“They’ve got a really live operational problem in front of them [and] all of that creativity and disruptive instinct that they have.
“They can operate to a degree under the cloak of special operations.
“You’re already seeing really quite advanced combining of effects in cyberspace, drawing on assets from space, blending air, land and sometimes maritime, and exploiting the sort of technologies that will allow that to happen at machine speed.
“That’s the vanguard of what we’re trying to achieve in multi-domain operations. Scaling that up and out with the skills it requires across the rest of defence, that’s a longer journey.”
The National Cyber Force (NCF), run jointly by Strategic Command and GCHQ, is one example of the cross-government integration required for the future.
Whereas the National Cyber Security Centre (the public-facing arm of GCHQ) is set up to defend Britain from online harms, the NCF’s mission is to seek out weaknesses in the cyber systems of potential adversaries and be in a position to take aggressive action.
Gen Sanders, who will be vying with other senior officers to take over as chief of the defence staff when General Sir Nick Carter retires in November, said the level of cyber attacks and espionage against the West is going up “close to exponentially” and it is necessary to take the digital fight to Britain’s adversaries, be they states, terrorists or criminals.
“You’ve got to be forward and engaged because it gives you the intelligence about what’s going on. It allows you, crucially, to be able to attribute behaviour – you call it out – or it allows you to impose cost.
“Being eyeball to eyeball in cyberspace is hugely important because sitting behind metaphorical digital walls just doesn’t work.”
He says Britain is conducting digital reconnaissance missions in cyberspace, and probing the defences of potential adversaries.
“That’s exactly what we’re doing. Anyone who is a threat, whether it’s the criminal end, right up to hostile states, yes, we would absolutely be engaged in… reconnaissance. That’s how you secure our own freedoms and protect our own people and economies,” Gen Sanders says.
As for the future, he says the Government’s recent Integrated Review of foreign, defence, security and development policy was “one step short of a strategy, but describes the ‘ends’ you’d want a grand strategy to pursue”.
“We’ve been given, to a large extent, the resources, the ambition, the political direction, we have got an opportunity… to re-establish that place where we contribute to global security.
“It does require us to embrace, or rekindle, that strategic culture we had if we’re really going to make the most of it.”
Estonia, one of only three Nato nations with a land border with Russia, was subject to a crippling cyber attack in 2007, widely blamed on Russia.
Colonel Andres Hairk, head of the Estonian Defence Forces Cyber Command, welcomed Nato’s increased presence, particularly given the ongoing Russian threat in cyberspace.
“We are always in a battle, it doesn’t matter if it is peacetime, crisis or war. It’s the same thing,” he told The Telegraph.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
21 May 21. Britain launches $2.3bn logistics ship competition — again. Britain has relaunched a £1.6bn (U.S. $2.3bn) competition to build three logistic ships to support the deployments of Royal Navy aircraft carriers and other surface ships.
The Ministry of Defence issued a contract notice inviting companies to register an interest in bidding for the work to replace aging Fort-class logistics vessels.
A contract to build the ships, locally known as fleet solid support vessels, is expected to be awarded within two years, the MoD said in a May 20 announcement.
Construction of the ships has been at the center of a long-running row between the government, politicians and unions about the extent to which international shipyards should participate in a program that some believe should be reserved for domestic industry members.
At one stage of the naval effort, the government claimed the vessels were not warships and therefore must be procured under international rules that prevent reserving the contract for British industry alone.
A controversial international competition was abandoned in late 2019 with the MoD claimed the process failed to generate a value-for-money bid.
Now the competition has begun anew.
With the government committing to a revitalization of British military and commercial shipbuilding, ministers late last year signaled that this time a revised procurement policy for the logistics ships would require a “significant” portion of the work be undertaken locally and that any international teaming be British-led.
That prompted Spanish shipyard Navantia to announce a tie-up with Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The partnership, known as Team Resolute, also includes warship designer BMT in Bath, west England. Team Resolute is expected to be among the partnerships declaring an interest in the new procurement effort. BMT already supplied the design for four South Korean-built oilers now in operation with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
A local grouping of Babcock International, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce also previously expressed an interest in the competition.
Despite the reference to a “significant” portion of work required to be undertaken by British companies, the government did not spell out what that entails. It also made no mention of the bids having to be British-led, as it did earlier. However, the MoD expects to award the contract to a British company alone or as part of a consortium
The announcement stated that the successful bidder “can work in partnership with international companies, but would be required to integrate the ships in a UK shipyard.”
One industry executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he hopes the MoD hadn’t resorted to weasel words in order to keep its options open when it comes to international competition.
“The worst-case scenario on integration could involve the hull being built offshore and the fitting-out undertaken in the U.K.,” he said. “With publication of a refreshed national shipbuilding strategy close, a strong commitment to a British-built warship program now would be a golden opportunity to rev up skills and capabilities locally ahead of publication of a 30-year requirements plan for the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary.”
Part of the revised shipbuilding strategy will involve laying out warship construction requirements over a 30-year timescale to help industry plan ahead.
Trade unions, which have campaigned fiercely for a “Buy British” policy on the logistics ships, urged the government to move quickly with awarding the contract.
Ross Murdoch, the national officer for the GMB union, said: “The restart of the procurement process is not just needed — it is long overdue. Ministers must end the delays that have dogged this program because our yards are crying out for work.”
“Ministers talk about supporting U.K. shipbuilding, but they are setting U.K. yards against each other. Despite the grand words about making the U.K. into a ‘shipbuilding superpower,’ there is still no requirement that the bulk of the work will be fulfilled domestically,” he added. “That’s why we are calling for the government to favor a collaborative approach which makes use of the specialist skills in yards across the U.K.”
Vice Adm. Chris Gardner, director general ships at the MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support procurement organization, said: ”The launch of the Fleet Solid Support competition presents a really exciting opportunity for the shipbuilding industry to support the design and build of a new class of ship that will primarily resupply our Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
“It is also another step in implementing the National Shipbuilding Strategy and increasing our domestic maritime construction capacity and capability alongside the Type 26 and Type 31 [frigate] program already underway.”
The logistic ships, to be operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, will primarily be used to supply ammunition, food and stores to the two 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers now operated by the Royal Navy.
The logistics ship announcement by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace comes hours ahead of Britain embarking on its first operational deployment of a carrier strike group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The carrier — along with Royal Navy warships, a nuclear submarine, logistics ships, and American and Dutch warships — is deploying to the Indo-Pacific region via the Mediterranean and the Middle East. (Source: Defense News)
21 May 21. Fleet Solid Support Contract Notice reveals ships delayed to 2032. GMB, the union for shipbuilding and ship repair workers, has called for a guarantee that the long-awaited Fleet Solid Support contract will be built in UK yards and use UK supply chains.
The call comes as the Ministry of Defence today [Friday 21 May 2021] launched its Contract Notice for the supply vessels. 
The ships are needed to restock the UK’s new carrier fleet on long distance operations. The original competition for the contract was cancelled in November 2019 amid fears that the order would be sent overseas.
However, the Contract Notice reveals that the ships are now expected to be delivered in 2032 – compared to the original timetable of the mid-2020s. 
The Government has said that the successful bidder must be ‘led by a British company,’ but it has not said what proportion of the value of the contract will be reserved for UK yards and suppliers. 
GMB today said that the lack of clarity over the contract was undermining workers’ confidence in the programme. Further delays would risk jobs and investment, the union said.
Ross Murdoch, GMB National Secretary and Maritime Chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said:
‘While the relaunch of this essential contract is welcome, today is also a missed opportunity.
‘Our yards are crying out for work, and Ministers could have guaranteed that this £1.6 billion order would be used to boost the economy and deliver the next generation of apprenticeships.
‘Instead, the Government is setting our yards against each other and leaving the door open to millions of pounds flowing overseas.
‘Meanwhile, the contract is now delayed by up to seven years – risking jobs and investment.
‘The Government must make best use of the specialised skills in UK yards by spreading the work, securing our vital defence manufacturing capabilities, and backing our world class shipbuilding industry.’
20 May 21. Carrier Strike Group sets sail for first operational deployment. HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales meet at sea for the first time following Exercise Strike Warrior 21. Twenty warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft have taken part in a UK-led multinational military exercise to test the UK Carrier Strike Group’s response to a range of crisis and conflict situations.
Designed to push the Carrier Strike Group to the limits and ensure its readiness for any situation during this year’s seven-month global deployment, Exercise Strike Warrior 21 provided the largest and most demanding assessment it has so-far faced.
Military assets from 10 different nations took part in the exercise off the coast of north west Scotland, which saw ships from a range of partner nations deploy a range of advanced threats against the group.
Our state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets conducted missile firings during the exercise, marking the first time British jets have done so at sea for 15 years.
And following the exercise, the UK’s two aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – were able to meet each other at sea for the very first time.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “The UK Carrier Strike Group is a great symbol of collaboration, both across the Armed Forces and our industry partners. Sailing together through a number of different environments, the partnership will uphold British values and international order. By leading a large international exercise, practicing its wide range of capabilities, and demonstrating its formidable size, Strike Warrior 21 has proved that years of hard work, training and planning have paid off. The UK Carrier Strike Group is ready to promote Global Britain and confront future security threats of the twenty-first century.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said, “Exercise Strike Warrior has been a huge success and is a fine example of the crucial role Scotland plays in the defence and security of the United Kingdom and that of our NATO allies. I commend those who took part in the exercise in the waters off north west Scotland and am fully confident their experiences will ensure that the Carrier Strike Group’s seven month global deployment beginning this weekend will be a big success. I am proud that Scotland is at the forefront of flying the flag for Global Britain, with Rosyth assembled HMS Queen Elizabeth being a key part of the exercise and the Carrier Strike Group – as were submarines from Faslane, aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth, and many Scottish Armed Forces personnel.”
Strike Warrior 21 saw the Carrier Strike Group pitted against warships from NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 to prove it can undertake high-intensity operations in response to a broad range of crisis and conflict situations. Activities included live missile firings at sea, NATO integration training, Mine Counter Measures operations and submarine exercises.
Demonstrating the ability of the strike group to operate alongside NATO allies, Strike Warrior featured forces from Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the USA and one non-NATO country, Australia.
Strike Warrior 21 formed part of the wider military biannual exercise, Joint Warrior, where the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, British Army and UK Strategic Command – alongside NATO and Australian partners – conducted land, cyber and space exercises.
This was the final test of the Carrier Strike Group before it sets sail on a maiden operational deployment this weekend that will see it undertake engagements and exercises with more than one fifth of the world’s nations.
Led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the task group will interact with 40 nations across the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific including India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.
As outlined in the recently-published Defence Command Paper, the MOD is committed and ready to confront future threats alongside international partners and help seize new opportunities for Global Britain.
A highlight of the exercise included the first missile firings from a British jet at sea for 15 years, conducted by the state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighters.
In the tests off the west coast of Scotland, the F-35s launched from Queen Elizabeth’s flight deck to intercept a Mirach target drone.
By successfully bringing down two “bogeys” – jet target drones – with air-to-air missiles, the pilots of 617 Squadron (aka The Dambusters) showed how they can protect HMS Queen Elizabeth from air attack during the deployment and demonstrated the potency of the fifth-generation strike fighter.
Elsewhere, Type 23 frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond conducted a stores transfer and other exercises with Royal Navy and Allied submarines.
Proving the ability of the strike group’s differing units to work together seamlessly, HMS Kent and her Wildcat helicopter from Yeovilton-based 815 Naval Air Squadron transferred vital stores to the surfaced Astute class submarine.
Following the conclusion of Exercise Strike Warrior, the UK’s two new Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales rendezvoused at sea for the first time as the former returned to Portsmouth.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said, “Having previously commanded both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, it was hugely exciting to be present as the two met at sea for the first time. I know that sense of pride and accomplishment is shared by thousands of others, military and civilian, who have contributed to the Royal Navy’s carrier renaissance over the past decade or more. The strategic significance is profound. Building one aircraft carrier is a sign of national ambition. But building two – and operating them simultaneously – is a sign of serious national intent. It means Britain has a continuous carrier strike capability, with one vessel always ready to respond to global events at short notice. Few other navies can do that. Britain is back in the front rank of maritime powers.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
18 May 21. Military Committee Enthusiastically Welcomes NATO 2030 Proposals. Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach touted NATO’s ability to adapt and evolve to stay effective and relevant as a deterrent force.
The chairman of NATO’s Military Committee spoke at the beginning of a meeting of alliance chiefs of defense in Brussels, today. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented the U.S. at the meeting.
Peach said the discussion focused on NATO 2030, NATO’s military strategic planning and adaptation, and NATO-led operations, missions and activities.
The meeting opened with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discussing NATO 2030, which is an initiative that focuses on ensuring that the NATO alliance remains ready to face tomorrow’s challenges, and alliance heads of state will discuss in Brussels next month. “[Stoltenberg] informed the Military Committee on progress related to NATO 2030 and the main political issues in the lead up to the Summit,” Peach said. “The allied chiefs of defense enthusiastically welcomed the NATO 2030 agenda, which underpins the work of NATO’s military authorities.”
NATO is effective today, he said. “All four points of the compass, across all the domains of land, sea and air and space and cyber, our highly trained, professional and committed service people are prepared for any endeavor,” Peach said.
NATO has evolved in response to growing threats. Russia is the main threat in the Euro-Atlantic region, but China — a rising global power — is also making waves. “Since 2014, we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defense in a generation,” Peach said. “We have strengthened our military posture from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”
The alliance has undertaken a huge program of adaptation with more investments, modern capabilities and an increased readiness of NATO forces, he said.
But the future will be different, and we will face different difficulties. Climate change is already being felt, and the alliance must incorporate the effects of this in any long-term military development, Peach said. “Climate change will impact our lives in many ways, but crucially for the Military Committee, we are focused on how it affects our common security,” he said.
The chiefs called for a survey on the impacts and possible consequences of climate change to be completed across the Alliance’s national armed forces. “From there, the military authorities can further integrate climate change risks and considerations into NATO’s military planning and exercises,” Peach said.
Climate change will affect everything. But there are many threats from other areas. “We see threats and challenges emanating at us [from] many directions,” Peach said. “Assertive and rising authoritarian powers, non-state actors and terrorists are challenging the rules-based international order.”
Russia is a big problem. Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his program to destabilize the continent, most recently by ordering a large deployment of troops to his nation’s border with Ukraine. The movement came with no explanation, and NATO officials called it the largest deployment of Russian forces since the nation’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“Although we have seen some reduction in the number of Russian troops near the border, tens of thousands remain, including their weapons and equipment,” Peach said.
Russian efforts go beyond Eastern Europe. Putin is trying to impose restrictions in the Black Sea, including restricting access to the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait. “NATO needs to stay vigilant and preserve our freedom of movement in all relevant seas and airspaces,” Peach said.
While the effort against international terrorism has had success, the problem has not disappeared, and NATO nations must gather intelligence, develop capabilities and work with partners to deter this threat.
Other threats to the alliance include malicious cyberattacks, disruptive technologies and nuclear proliferation. “Climate change has implications for security,” Peach said. “So, the alliance is responding by adapting and taking action.
In a nod to the growing threat from China, Peach said alliance nations must strengthen resilience and “reduce the vulnerabilities stemming from foreign ownership, coercion or manipulation.”
This is Peach’s last Military Committee meeting as chairman. The chiefs elected Dutch Navy Adm. Rob Bauer to become chair of the Military Committee next month. He had been chief of defense of the Netherlands armed forces. Peach has served in the position since June 2018. He has helped cultivate excellent military-to-military relations among the 30 NATO allies and with partner nations to the alliance.
Peach helped shape the discussions on the NATO Military Strategy and with the challenging problems posed by Afghanistan, Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Balkans.
Milley presented the Air Chief Marshal with the Legion of Merit — the highest U.S. military award presented to foreign leaders. (Source: US DoD)
17 May 21. France, Germany and Spain strike deal over joint combat jet. France, Germany and Spain said on Monday they had reached a deal over the next steps of the development of a new fighter jet, Europe’s largest defence project at an estimated cost of more than 100bn euros ($121.4bn).
France in particular has billed the combat jet project — which includes a next-generation manned and unmanned aircraft — as crucial for Europe to strengthen its defence autonomy and face competition from China, Russia and the United States.
The next development phase for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is expected to cost 3.5bn euros ($4.25bn), to be shared equally by the three countries.
“France, Germany and Spain are building one of the most important tools for their sovereignty and that of Europe in the 21st century,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted.
France’s Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA), Airbus (AIR.PA) and Indra (IDR.MC) – the latter two representing Germany and Spain respectively – are involved in the scheme to start replacing French Rafale and German and Spanish Eurofighters from 2040.
The sum will cover finalisation of the designs of both the combat jet and drone by 2024 and the building of demonstrators for both, a French defence ministry source said.
France and Germany had originally set the end of April for a deal, but a dispute over how to share intellectual property rights held up negotiations.
Under the terms of the agreement, the fighter jet will not have a black box to help preserve sensitive commercial know-how, the French defence source said.
However, even with a deal between the governments and aerospace companies, time is short for Berlin to secure the approval of Germany’s powerful parliamentary budget committee ahead of September’s federal election.
Approval is needed before funds can be spent and the process can take months.
Previously, a source with knowledge of the issue told Reuters the German defence ministry must refer the budget proposal to the finance ministry by May 19. ($1 = 0.8232 euros) (Source: Google/Reuters)
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