120 reserve paratroopers have been deployed to the Falkland Islands. It is the first time that a reserve force has been deployed to help garrison the islands since the British government was forced to fortify them in the wake of the 1982 Falklands War. The paratroopers are said to all hail from Lincoln in the East Midlands.
A source in the MoD told the Express;
This is a great opportunity to give them a focus. In the past we’ve pennypacketed reservists. You’d have a group of 20, including a sergeant, put in among regulars. It meant reservist officers never got to command. This allows them to experience duties which are difficult to do here.
The deployment reflects the British Army’s growing trend towards greater use of part-time forces to complement full-time personnel. Known as “Future Army 2020”, the aim is to integrate regular and reserve personnel in to a more harmonious force than has been the case in the past. This would consist of a planned 82,000 regular personnel supported by 30,000 trained reservists. A consequence of this will be that reserve troops will be deployed more frequently on operations in the future. The plan was conceived in 2012 as a response to the then coalition government’s sweeping reforms in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The MoD admits however that recruitment and retention of personnel is becoming an increasing problem. Recently, the Army introduced gift vouchers to soldiers who could convince friends to sign up indicating just how serious the problem is. Unfortunately, personnel shortages affect all branches of the armed forces and this will no doubt only further the use of reserve personnel in order to maintain the UK’s operational commitments.
It has been reported in the British media that soldiers will no longer have to undergo “excessive” physical exercise or even be shouted at by an NCO as part of a punishment. Known as a “beasting”, the changes have come about following an inquest in to the death of Private Gavin Williams who died in 2006 during one such “beasting”.
The inquest concluded that Private Williams had died after being forced to do intensive exercise after turning up for duty intoxicated with a mix of alcohol and ecstasy and setting off a fire extinguisher at his Wiltshire Barracks. He had also been absent without leave and had missed guard duty. The “beasting” he received included lifting weights and undertaking a gym session with a physical training instructor during which he died. The inquest stated that the Army had let down Private Williams by not taking in to account his physical condition during the session.
Additionally, at the Army’s training centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire, it has been claimed that out-of-hours inspections, swearing and shouting in recruit’s faces has all been banned.
A number of observers have stated that the Army’s culture needs to change particularly when it comes to the treatment of new recruits going through training. There have been a number of fatalities in recent years during such training bringing the Army and the MoD’s health and safety procedures in to question. Traditionalists, however have argued that the new measures will go too far and soften the Army up.
The Royal Marines of 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group based at HMNB Clyde, Faslane in Scotland have started to receive the Canadian-manufactured rifle to replace the long standing but troubled SA80. Variants of the C8 Carbine have been used by British special forces units in the past but 43 Commando will be among the first British regular units to adopt the weapon.
Like the SA80 the C8 is chambered to fire the standard NATO 5.56mm round but is configured in a more traditional fashion rather than the the bullpup configuration of the SA80 (magazine positioned behind the trigger which made the SA80 a more compact weapon than previous generations of rifle such as the SLR). Despite this the C8 Carbine is still a relatively compact and ergonomic design with a reported high level of reliability.
The acquisition of the weapon for 43 Commando has been defended as reflecting the unit’s unique operating role which covers guarding Britain’s nuclear ballistic missile submarines in Faslane from terrorist and foreign intelligence operatives. The unit’s role has been made even more difficult with increasing protests against the nuclear deterrent from anti-nuclear activists and Scottish nationalists demanding the submarines’ removal from Scottish waters.
However, sources close to the Royal Marines have been quoted in The Independent as saying that the Royal Marines have been increasingly dissatisfied with the SA80; a claim not unique to the Royal Marines it must be noted. The SA80, which has become synonymous with the British armed forces in the past 25 years, has been marred by issues over reliability with it being described as a very high maintenance weapon. The SA80 has also received criticism for lacking range and stopping power especially when faced with insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq armed with the ubiquitous 7.62mm AK-47. The source quoted in The Independent states that the C8 addresses all of these issues but the Royal Navy has hit back stating that the SA80 remains the weapon of choice for the infantry soldier across the British armed forces.
Proving that despite the end of open hostilities Northern Ireland remains a divided land; a Ballygawley secondary school has received complaints from parents with nationalist backgrounds after a British Army recruitment team visited the school during a careers event. The decision to include British Army representatives has been branded “insensitive” given that many families in the area had lost family members in combat with British forces. Dungannon Independent Republican councillor, Barry Monteith, said that he shared parent’s “justifiable anger”.
One particularly vocal parent opposed to the decision was a cousin of Tony Gormley who was one of eight Irish Republican Army (IRA) men shot dead by members of the SAS in the Loughgall Ambush on May 8th 1987.
The College would never intend to cause offence or hurt to any member of our community. We welcome into our school, children of a range of cultures and faiths and we are educational partners with both maintained and controlled schools. With that in mind, we aim to provide as much factual information about a wide range of careers as we can to our student body whilst ensuring that such information is age appropriate so that students can make objective, informed choices about careers at the appropriate time.
It is in this context that a career event about Apprenticeships organised by STEMNET took place within the school. STEMNET provide ambassadors from a wide range of Industries and government organisations throughout Northern Ireland. We now appreciate the choice of Ambassador sent by STEMNET may have caused offence to some of our community and it would never have been our intention to do so.
After having been somewhat neglected in the 2010 defence review the Challenger II Main Battle Tank (MBT) is now one step closer to receiving a major update. Known as the Challenger II Life Extension Program (LEP) the update will see the tank have its service life extended to 2035 instead of the original out-of-service date of 2025. The contract which is said to be worth around £700 million will include logistical support for the tank and will also cover a similar upgrade to Omani Challenger IIs.
The MoD gave prospective companies until January 14th 2016 to produce an initial proposal for their assessment. It has now been revealed that three companies are in the running; BAE Systems (who originally built the tank), Lockheed Martin UK and General Dynamics UK. It was thought that German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann who build the excellent Leopard 2 tank for a number of European countries would submit a proposal but pulled out after the option of new or second-hand Leopards was ruled out by the British Army.
From a political standpoint, British company BAE Systems has something of an advantage after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged more military contracts for British arms manufacturers in the run up to last year’s election. However, General Dynamics UK already has a large order for new Scout vehicles for the Army and could undercut BAE Systems if they agree to a new combined contract to cut overall costs especially if the American company promises to have the work carried out primarily in the UK.
Planned service entry for the updated tank is currently set as late 2018.