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11 Oct 21. Britain’s ‘trade yacht’ to be granted national security role. Move will allow £250m diplomatic vessel to be built in the UK by avoiding WTO tender rules. UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s controversial £250m “trade yacht” is to be deemed to have a “national security” role, in a move that would allow it to be built in a British shipyard without going out to international tender. Ministers have been looking at ways to get around a World Trade Organization agreement signed by the UK last year that commits to putting civilian shipbuilding contracts out to international competition. The agreement exempts warships, but as an unarmed vessel the yacht does not qualify. Its principal purpose is to act as a floating venue for trade fairs and diplomatic receptions. The Ministry of Defence said it had identified a carve out for the “national flagship” from the WTO rules on national security grounds and would fit the vessel with security and communications equipment. One official briefed on the plans said the ship, which is expected to cost between £200m and £250m, could play an intelligence gathering role, but the MoD denied that was the intention or that it would carry surveillance equipment. “There are no plans for the national flagship to have an intelligence gathering capability,” the MoD said. Any suggestion that the vessel was a spy ship could make it unwelcome in territorial waters. The MoD said the ship would have standard security and communications features, given that it would host high-level delegates, but refused to say they were “for security reasons”. An international design competition for the yacht has been launched, but ministers insist it must be built in Britain. They argue it will help to achieve foreign policy and security objectives by hosting diplomatic events. The vessel, a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia which was retired in 1997, is intended to come into service in 2025. It is a civilian vessel but will be crewed by the Royal Navy and funded out of the defence budget. Johnson said in May: “This new national flagship will be the first vessel of its kind in the world, reflecting the UK’s burgeoning status as a great independent, maritime trading nation.” The yacht’s geographical limitations — it would be unable to reach inland cities including Paris, Berlin, Rome, Madrid and Moscow — have already led some to question its diplomatic value. Emily Thornberry, shadow trade secretary, said the government was scrabbling around to find a justification for exempting the construction of the civilian vessel from international competition. “This is only necessary because they failed to include a blanket exemption for shipbuilding when they signed us up to the WTO’s government procurement agreement. It is waste and incompetence on a staggeringly epic scale,” she said. (Source: FT.com)
12 Oct 21. ‘Shambolic’ MoD spends twice as much on land as it does on nuclear deterrent. A third of department’s estate, which covers 1.5pc of the UK, is in ‘unacceptable condition’, despite spending £4.6bn being spent on it. The Ministry of Defence is spending twice as much maintaining its land, including training areas and accommodation, as on the nuclear deterrent, a highly critical Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has found. A third of the MoD estate is in an “unacceptable condition”, the PAC says. The MPs say the MoD has repeatedly “missed by miles” the numerous targets it has set itself and spent £4.6bn on estate management in 2019-20, double the annual cost of the UK’s nuclear deterrent. In a report released on Tuesday, the PAC says it will not be until 2025 that the MoD can claim to have reached a “competent” level of asset management, failures which “continue to harm the well-being of service personnel”. The defence estate covers 1.5 per cent of the UK and is valued at £36bn. The PAC accepted the MoD had ended its 10-year management contract with Capita in 2019, five years early, as the contractor was “not delivering expected benefits”. In evidence to the committee, David Williams, the MoD’s permanent secretary, said the assumed savings and benefits from outsourcing work had been “substantially off track”. However, sacking Capita had “created a skills and capabilities gap which the [MoD] is seeking to fill by building in-house capabilities, although it currently remains reliant on contractors” the report noted. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), established by the MoD a decade ago to address problems, had taken “five to six years to understand what we have and the condition it is in”, according to Graham Dalton, the department head. Questioning Mr Dalton for the report, Mark Francois, a committee member, excoriated the DIO for years of dithering and mismanagement.
“It has taken you seven years to have a booking system for some of your accommodation that still is not in service.
“Which of these three best describes this overall? Is it a shambles, a total shambles or a complete and utter shambles? Is it A, B or C?”
Mr Dalton declined to answer the “rhetorical question” but agreed the situation could be improved. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
10 Oct 21. Mandatory annual mental health training launched across the Armed Forces. To ensure personnel are always working toward top levels of mental fitness, a new Annual Mental Fitness Brief (AMFB) programme has launched across the UK Armed Forces on World Mental Health Day.
Designed to cover the most important aspects of developing and maintaining good mental health, the AMFB is available to all personnel across the services.
Honouring the commitment made by all Service Chiefs on World Mental Health Day 2020, the programme will require all Armed Forces personnel to receive a mandatory mental health briefing available from 11th October 2021.
The Ministry of Defence recognises the unique demands of military life and how people are the military’s finest asset. This new initiative builds up these themes outlined in the Defence Command Paper published earlier this year.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said, “I am proud we have taken yet another step to enhance our welfare provision for personnel. The Annual Mental Fitness Brief is the latest example of Defence’s commitment to ensuring our people are at the top of their game, both mentally and physically. Not only is it vital for our personnel to understand what help is available to them, it is also essential our provisions are regularly updated with the latest in mental health research and science. The new programme will take place annually, ensuring our service people are equipped to support their mental health both on and off operations. Personnel already receive a gold-standard of mental support including a range of dedicated and comprehensive medical services. However, the AFMB goes yet another step further, recognising how the unique pressures of service life can cause stress and directly educating personnel on how these can be managed.”
Available on Defence’s internal learning platform, the mandatory annual briefing demonstrates Defence’s commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of the Armed Forces. The programme is made up of modules which deliver cutting-edge learning outlining the latest strategies for mental health and wellbeing, stress management and transformation techniques for turning stress into mental resilience. It also includes steps personnel can take to access advanced support services. As a mandatory programme, units will be responsible for ensuring that their personnel complete the briefing annually. The requirement aligns with other annual military assessments, such as navigation and operational law, establishing it as an essential part of the personnel development experience. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 Oct 21. Greek Armed Forces to Get New Missiles, Upgrade Systems. Besides the agreement with the French government to acquire three frigates, with an option for a fourth, and six more Rafale fighter jets, raising the total to 24, Greece will spend considerable sums to acquire missiles and ammunition, lease drones and upgrade other air and naval weapons systems, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday. The missiles and [ammunition] will cost about 550 m euros and will be used to upgrade the Hellenic Army Air Force’s Apache AH-64A helicopters, the Air Force’s fighter jets and Navy gunboats. Greece will also lease two more Heron-1 unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel, which, added to the two already in its possession, will help patrol the country’s Aegean waters. The armed forces will also upgrade training rotor aircraft and the diesel engines of its Meko-class frigates. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Ekathimerini;)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company