Today (04/09/17) the Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin announced the successful first firings of the Sea Ceptor air defence system.
In a visit to defence company MBDA’s site in Bristol, the Minister revealed the major milestone for the Royal Navy. HMS Argyll fired the Sea Ceptor missiles off the coast of Scotland earlier this Summer that will be used to protect the new aircraft carriers.
A thoroughly fascinating and horrifying look at the state of British civil defence in 1980 hosted by a strikingly young Jeremy Paxman. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 triggered a new age of fear in the west about the possibility of a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union with Europe sandwiched in the middle. This in turn sparked questions about Britain’s preparedness for such an eventuality as well as inspire a new wave of anti-nuclear protests.
Those who have seen the BBC’s Threads docudrama will see a lot of familiar scenes only this time acted out with the people who would have really carried out those roles had war broken out. Threads used both this program and a later program made by the BBC in 1982, QED – A Guide to Armageddon, to formulate its frighteningly realistic script before it aired in 1984.
The documentary makes note of the relatively small amount spent on civil defence compared to the immense sums of money spent on the nuclear deterrence itself. It also makes clear the belief that if the deterrence remains effective then the need for a permanent civil defence force is negated.
For those with an interest in both history and nuclear weapons, this is well produced and must-see program from that troubled time which hopefully has now passed.
Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon which is currently undergoing a 12-month refurbishment programme has been refloated at Portsmouth naval base for the first time since July of last year. The refit programme is the warship’s first major maintenance period since the ship was launched in 2008. Upgrades made to the ship include deep maintenance of the electric propulsion system and an enhancement of the ship’s dual-purpose gun, sensors and communications systems. In the grandiose traditions of the Royal Navy, Dragon has also received a fresh coat of paint.
Commander Joe Allfree of HMS Dragon said to the press:
In addition to overhauling and upgrading the various propulsion and weapon systems, we have made significant improvements to communal spaces and living quarters, which will make a real difference to Dragon’s sailors once we return to sea.
The destroyer is expected to rejoin the Royal Navy’s surface fleet in June when it will be subjected to sea trials before the crew are retrained in operating the vessel and its newest features.
Leading Logistician Scott Furber, 29, who had been accused of filming a sexual encounter with a crewmember aboard a warship without her permission has been acquitted by a panel of three senior officers after a two-day trial at Portsmouth Naval Base.
The pair could still be punished for breaking the navy’s “no touching” rule.
Defence experts, senior academics and former high-ranking officers have reacted angrily to the Ministry of Defence agreeing to take into consideration any recommendations they may have for the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 (SDSR 2015) providing they are limited to 1500 characters. Watchdogs and members of the political opposition claimed that the conditional agreement offered by the Conservative government and Ministry of Defence is little more than a public relations effort. The limit means that any recommendations made in the online form produced by the government can be no more than 300 words in total.
The online form became available last week but even before it was realised there was such a small limit there were calls for the SDSR to be extended in to next year in order to allow enough time to properly assess the entire spectrum of British defence requirements. As it stands the current SDSR is expected to be published by the end of October leading many to question whether David Cameron’s government has already decided on how it wants to invest in defence and that the SDSR is merely formalising those decisions.
Following the brutal cuts of the previous SDSR in 2010 many within the UK’s wider defence community are concerned that the government is not adequately assessing all of the military’s needs which could lead to losses in capability. Among the assets lost in the 2010 review was the Nimrod maritime patrol force which left Britain extremely vulnerable to submarine incursions in British territorial waters; a situation that remains to this day. Earlier this week the Royal Navy asked for an increase of personnel by 2500 sailors in order to suitably man the new aircraft carriers coming in to service. In the 2010 review over 6000 sailors were made redundant.
US contractor L-3 Communications is set to deliver the new aircraft in August and will join the first RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft that joined the Royal Air Force in late 2013 to replace BAE Nimrod R1 spy planes. The aircraft is expected to be pressed into service against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq within eight weeks of delivery demonstrating the importance of the asset. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed the aircraft’s delivery in August at the Royal United Services Institute think tank conference on July 16th.
Delivery of the aircraft comes as government ministers and senior military officers continue to emphasize the priority being given to ISTAR in the upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 due to be published at the end of October. However David Cameron has hinted that he wants to place greater emphasis on unmanned assets which brings in to question how many more RC-135s the RAF can expect to receive. There were only three Nimrod R.1s that the American-built aircraft are replacing so the question is will a third be acquired or will drones make up the shortfall?
The RAF and Royal Navy have officially completed the transfer of the Merlin HC.3/3A troop transport helicopter force following a ceremony held at RAF Benson earlier this week. The last 25 of the RAF’s helicopters operated by No.28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron were handed over to the Royal Navy’s No.845 NAS on the 9th of July. No.28 (Army Cooperation) squadron has now been re-formed as the RAF’s Chinook and Puma operational conversion unit based at RAF Benson but as No.28 (Reserve) Squadron.
The plan to transfer the aircraft came as a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence & Security Review under the coalition government of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and was intended to keep the Royal Navy’s transport helicopter force operational as the Royal Navy’s Commando HC.4s reach the end of their operational lives in March 2016. As part of the transition the Merlins will undergo a £445m upgrade program known as the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme which as well as prolonging the life of the aircraft will also make them more suitable to naval operations and will include features from the naval Merlin HMA.2 such as folding main rotors and tail boom for stowage aboard a carrier.
To make up the shortfall in RAF rotary transport up to 14 new Chinook HC.6 heavylift helicopters are to be acquired.