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09 Jul 21. Hunter becomes hunted as Royal Navy helicopters hound Russian submarines. British aircraft drop specialist sonobuoys to search for vessels in the eastern Mediterranean that had been stalking Carrier Strike Group.
Merlin helicopters were scrambled to search for the Russian submarine when the group was passing through the eastern Mediterranean.
The two aircraft dropped sonobuoys – equipment designed to sink beneath the water to find submarines – to listen for its distinctive sounds after it was suspected to be monitoring HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s new aircraft carrier, and escort ships.
The hunt for the submarine took place four days after the confrontation in the Black Sea between HMS Defender, a Type-45 air defence ship, and Russian forces.
Russian submarines are known to be active in the eastern Mediterranean from the Tartus naval base on the Syrian coast.
Their primary mission is to lurk just off the coast of Cyprus, monitoring RAF aircraft launching from RAF Akrotiri to strike Daesh targets in Syria.
It is not known if the Russian boat – understood to be a diesel-electric Kilo-Class submarine from the Black Sea fleet – was caught unawares as it monitored British air operations, or if it was diverted specifically to spy on HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Two Merlin Mk2 submarine-hunting aircraft were launched, one from HMS Queen Elizabeth, the other from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Fort Victoria, a replenishment tanker.
It is not known if the USS The Sullivans, an American destroyer, or HNLMS Evertsen, a Dutch frigate, both contributing to the CSG, took part in the mission.
The Telegraph understands at least one sonobuoy was dropped from the Merlins.
There are seven such helicopters deployed with the group, and these would likely have been operating in coordination with other anti-submarine assets. These include the two Type-23 frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond and the Royal Navy’s deployed hunter-killer submarine, thought to be HMS Astute or HMS Ambush.
While the MoD refused to confirm the incident, understood to have occurred on June 27, it said “robust measures” were in place to protect the CSG, which is on its first operational deployment.
Defence sources have suggested the suspected Kilo-Class would likely have come from Moscow’s Black Sea fleet.
Ryan Ramsey, a former Royal Navy submariner and commander of the world-renowned Perisher training course, said: “Submarines aim not to be detected – it stops you completing your tasks.
“Evasion in a submarine is really difficult when you’re going up against something as capable as Merlin helicopters. The UK has always been really effective at anti-submarine warfare using ships, submarines and aviation.
“When I was teaching the submarine command course, Perisher, it was the Merlins that the student captains worried about the most. I’m sure the opposition are doing the same thing.”
The Russian Navy is thought to operate only diesel-electric boats in the Mediterranean, preferring to keep its nuclear powered submarines – capable of long passages submerged – in the North Atlantic, where they mainly shadow Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
Although older boats, diesel-electric submarines are quieter than nuclear powered vessels as they operate only on battery power when submerged.
However, they periodically need to hover near the surface of the ocean and run their diesel engines to replenish the batteries.
They use a “snort mast” to extend above the water to draw in air. This dustbin-sized piece of kit has a radar signature detectable to Merlin helicopters.
The Merlin Mk2 fleet of helicopters entered service in 2014 as an upgrade for the original 1990’s Mk1 naval version. It is the Royal Navy’s principal airborne anti-submarine warfare capability.
There are 30 Mk 2 aircraft in the fleet and each one carries a crew of five. They can be armed with Sting-Ray Torpedoes, Mk11 Depth Charges and the M3m .50 Calibre machine gun.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “We do not comment on operational matters of this kind, but can confirm that robust measures are in place to protect HMS Queen Elizabeth and the ships of the UK Carrier Strike Group.”
Since the incident in June, HMS Queen Elizabeth has led the CSG through the Suez Canal. The group is thought to be about to enter the Indian Ocean, on the next phase of its eight-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
09 Jul 21. Boris Johnson defends exodus of UK troops despite ‘grim’ days ahead for Afghanistan. Boris Johnson has admitted there could never be a “perfect moment” to leave Afghanistan after he confirmed British forces have withdrawn from the country after 20 years.
Speaking before the Commons on Thursday, the Prime Minister said: “We and our Nato allies were always going to withdraw our forces. The only question was when, and there could never be a perfect moment.”
Mr Johnson also confirmed to the Commons that “most of our personnel have already left”, as he urged MPs not to “leap to the false conclusion that the withdrawal of our forces somehow means the end of Britain’s commitment to Afghanistan”.
“We are not about to turn away, nor are we under any illusions about the perils of today’s situation and what may lie ahead,” he said.
Speaking ahead of the Prime Minister’s statement, General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, confirmed that it was on June 24 that the last Union flag in Afghanistan was taken down in a secret ceremony, as previously revealed by The Telegraph.
It was handed by Brigadier Olly Brown, the outgoing commander of Operation Toral, the UK’s contribution to Nato’s mission in Afghanistan, to Sir Laurie Bristow, the UK ambassador in a final flag-lowering event conducted without media for security reasons.
A small number of British troops will remain in the country to train the Afghan army, with additional military support available should the region pose a security threat to the UK in the future. However, General Sir Nick admitted the news from Afghanistan was “pretty grim”, adding the Taliban now holds “nearly 50 per cent of the rural districts” in the country.
Vetarans can ‘hold their heads high’
However, he insisted that the country was now very different to 2001 when British forces first deployed and paid tribute to veterans, saying they can “hold their heads up very high”.
Mr Johnson also praised those who fought there, stating: “The threat that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place has been greatly diminished by the valour and by the sacrifice of the Armed Forces of Britain, and many other countries.
“We are safer because of everything they did.”
Mr Johnson confirmed that the withdrawal was “a follow up” to the end of military operations in 2014 and that the Government will back the Afghan state, “with over £100m of development assistance this year, and £58m for the Afghan National Security and Defence Forces”.
He also cited the “millions of children educated” and the “millions of girls in school”, as well as “the reduction in the terrorist threat in that country for decades”, and the “chance of a political negotiated settlement involving the Taliban”, as some of the UK’s achievements in Afghanistan over the last two decades.
‘Legacy is in doubt’
However, Mr Johnson’s defence of the UK’s legacy in Afghanistan, which saw 457 British military personnel killed, as a “proud” and “lasting one” came amid mounting criticism from MPs who questioned the decision to pull all troops out.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who served in Afghanistan, questioned what the UK’s “legacy” would be, as he told the Commons: “The achievements that he has listed were won with the blood of my friends and I can point him to the graves, where they now lay, because that legacy is now one that is in real doubt.”
Sir Edward Leigh, a senior Tory MP, denounced it as “a catastrophic defeat for the West” and a “very sad day for tens of thousands of British personnel whose life work may now lie in ruins”. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
07 Jul 21. Turkey joins NATO Baltic Air Policing for first time since 2006. Turkey has joined the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission for the first time since 2006, with a detachment of Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons arriving at Malbork Air Base in Poland on 6 July. The NATO Allied Air Command reported the arrival of four Turkish Air Force (TuAF) F-16s from 6th Main Jet Base at Bandırma, as well as a Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules support aircraft and associated personnel.
“An 80-strong Turkish Air Force detachment [will] operate the fighters from Malbork until mid-September in support of NATO’s Air Policing mission in the region. This is the second time the Turkish Air Force [has] contributed fighter jets to NATO Air Policing in the region, and the first deployment to Malbork, Poland,” the command said.
For its two-month rotation, the first in 15 years, the TuAF will support Spanish Air Force Eurofighters and Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana: AMI) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) that have been flying out of Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania and Amari Air Base in Estonia respectively since May.
“Three allies from the south – Spain, Italy, and Turkey – are supporting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing in the north, demonstrating alliance cohesion and solidarity,” the NATO Allied Air Command said, “Deployed in the Baltic region, they will work with each other and the hosting air forces to enhance co-operation and interoperability.” (Source: Jane’s)
05 Jul 21. Chief of Defence Staff Hosts Dragon Group with Gulf Partners. General Sir Nick Carter hosted a meeting of the Dragon Group at Lancaster House with partners from the Gulf and wider Middle East region.
The Dragon Group, named after its first meeting aboard HMS Dragon in 2018, is an annual meeting of Defence Chiefs from the Middle East.
The UK is among the closest Defence partners of Dragon Group members. Global Britain is ready to work with our allies around the world to secure a better, safer world.
Today’s meeting focused on regional trends as well as new capabilities to combat our shared threats.
Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter said:
Today’s Dragon Group meeting of the military leaders from the GCC, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan was a tremendous opportunity to discuss common challenges, share best practice and take a view on how we chart a common approach to the future.
The UK Armed Forces hugely value our partnerships in the Middle East and we stand with our friends in seeking to create a stable and prosperous region.
Our security relationships in the Gulf run deep. We routinely have over 1,000 military personnel in the region, in addition to aircraft and ships. Our Defence partnerships help us mount counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and counter-smuggling operations that keep everyone safe.
The UK’s Carrier Strike Group will soon enter the Middle East to further bolster our commitment to regional security, including carrying out operations against Daesh from Britain’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
HRH The Earl of Wessex attended a lunch with the Dragon Group guests.
Members of the Dragon Group include Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Today’s meeting was held in line with COVID-19 regulations.
In the coming days, the Chief of the Defence Staff will also host the inaugural bi-lateral Military Cooperation Committee meeting with the Saudi Defence Chief. The Military Cooperation Committee is a forum for discussing bi-lateral military cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
05 Jul 21. EU’s trial programme for defence capability set to disburse its final funding. Financial grants worth nearly EUR300m (USD356m) for two major flagship capability projects and a host of new, smaller ones will complete the European Union’s (EU’s) spending for its 2019–20 European Defence Industry Development Programme (EDIDP), the European Commission announced on 30 June.
As a so-called precursor programme that tested defence spending by the EU, the EDIDP – and its smaller twinned EU precursor budget of EUR90m for defence research – set the stage for the union’s much larger European Defence Fund (EDF), which is worth EUR8bn for 2021-27 and was officially launched on 30 June.
Commenting on the various initiatives’ expected impact on the sector, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton declared that European co-operation in defence “will become the norm. Public authorities will spend better together and companies – big or small – from all member states will benefit, resulting in more integrated European defence-industrial value chains.”
The EDIDP’s concluding round of grants, worth EUR295 m, will be conferred on the two previously selected flagship capability projects and on 26 new ones linked to the programme’s 2020 call for proposals. EDIDP’s total budget for 2019-20 was EUR500m.
Direct award grants totaling EUR137m are set to go to two flagship projects: EUR37 m for the European Secure Software Defined Radio (ESSOR) programme and EUR100 m for the development of the European Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS). EDIDP rules allow direct awards if there are no other competitive consortia in the EU. (Source: Jane’s)
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