News Round-Up – July 7th 2018

typhoon fgr 4 centurion paveway brimstone asraam

Hi everybody,

I am sorry for the lack of content the last two months. It has just been so hectic recently for me that I felt I had no choice but to put the site on hiatus for a while. I am aiming to at least get the news round-ups out every week on either a Friday or Saturday but I will be researching and writing up some new content over the coming weeks. If you are still here then thank you for your patience and support.

Here are some of the latest British military news stories making the headlines this past week.

General Defence News

UK authorities seeking clues in new Novichok poisoning case
(Washington Post)

Russia uses World Cup defence to preempt new poisoning accusations

The Battle Against IS Is Not Over, Says Defence Secretary
(Forces Network)

UK in talks with Sweden over next-generation fighter jet
(Financial Times)

UK misses NATO deadline for completing defence review
(The Guardian)

Almost 2000 Scottish MoD jobs have gone
(The Scotsman)

Lincad to Supply Batteries to UK Ministry of Defence
(Renewable Energy Magazine)

Britain Will Build Australia’s Future Frigate
(The Diplomat)

British Army News

British Soldier Found Dead At Catterick Garrison
(Forces Network)

Yorkshire Regiment soldier Reece Miller dies in Estonia
(BBC News)

May slaps down calls for IRA terrorists amnesties – ‘We owe our soldiers’

Castlemartin inquest: Tank crews ‘in chaos’ before blast
(BBC News)

Army Prepares NHS Medics For Potential Terrorist Attacks
(Forces Network)

Army recruits are being turned away for minor ailments such as eczema despite chronic shortage of troops

Hitler’s Reich in ruins: Incredible photos taken by one of the first British soldiers to enter Berlin
(Daily Mail)

Royal Air Force News

RAF receives first ‘Centurion’ Typhoons ahead of Tornado retirement
(IHS Jane’s 360)

F-35B Makes First Visit To RAF Valley
(Forces Network)

UK Defence Committee urges tender for E-3D AWACS aircraft replacement
(Airforce Technology)

The Royal Air Force Museum has had a revamp — and it’s got something for everyone
(Metro Newspaper UK)

Nazi U-boat sunk by RAF and USAF found off Galicia by Spanish divers
(BBC News)

Funeral for no-relatives RAF veteran Raymond Burrows
(BBC News)

Improved safety the lasting legacy of tragic RAF jet crash which took the lives of three Moray men
(Press and Journal)

Queen Elizabeth attends reception for RAF
(Royal Central)

Royal Navy & Marines News

Issues surface over UK’s Crowsnest programme
(Shephard Media)

UK transfers SNMG2 command to Royal Netherlands Navy
(Naval Technology)

Tyne-built Royal Navy ship HMS Northumberland returns home for a special visit
(Chronicle Live)

Royal Marines join London Pride for the first time as navy flies the flag for LGBT+ communities
(The News)

Prodrive fast tracks UOR for HMS Diamond
(Innovation in Textiles)

UK MoD seeks to mitigate effects of US steel tariffs on nuclear programme
(IHS Jane’s 360)

RFA sailors who saved lives in hurricane horror honoured in Portsmouth
(The News)

Disclaimer: All news stories are the property of their respective publishers. Any opinions expressed in the articles are of the person making them. An effort is made to vary news sources as much as possible to avoid political bias.


NEWS: MoD questioned over same-sex military marriages

MoD RAF Halton chapelLabour MP Madeleine Moon has put forward in writing a question to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the MoD, Penny Mordaunt, asking for clarification on the state of same-sex marriages within the military.

Mordaunt, herself a Royal Navy reservist, issued a statement saying;

The Ministry of Defence allows same-sex marriages in military chapels, but none of the sending Churches using the chapels currently allows same-sex marriages to be conducted there.

The “sending churches” that Mordaunt is referring to are the churches that provide the chaplain. Chaplains are themselves military officers who have been ordained in their recognised religion before serving in the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines of Royal Air Force. They command the authority of their rank but do not bear arms instead providing religious and often morale services.

At present the chaplains of the British armed forces feature representatives from the following faiths;

  • The Church of England
  • The Church of Scotland
  • The Roman Catholic church
  • The Methodistchurch
  • The Presbyterian church
  • The Baptist church
  • The United Reformed and Congregational churches
  • There are also chaplains of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh faiths

Mordaunt is therefore effectively putting the blame on these faiths for the lack of same-sex weddings in military chapels. At present military chapels or places of worship are shared with other denominations and can only host gay marriages if every denomination sharing the building agrees, something which is highly unlikely.

Should women and transgender soldiers have a combat role in the British Army?

British Army female soldier

At a time when the role of women in close combat is still under review Lieutenant General Andrew Gregory, deputy chief of defence staff (personnel and training) acknowledged that transgender soldiers could serve in the British infantry in close combat roles stating that men who became women might still be eligible for such roles.

Lieutenant General Gregory was quoted by LGBT news outlet PinkNews as saying:

“We have (transgender people) serving as I’m sure you know. We do not yet have any … transgender (women) serving in the infantry. We haven’t had to address it because we haven’t had the issue come up. It would be a very interesting test case if it did come up. If somebody, birth gender male, who physically has all the physical strength and durability but had transitioned (to female), they might well be able.”

Gregory’s words are very interesting and obviously well considered. He is repeating the Army’s old “party line” regarding women in combat that women do not have the physical strength of men which makes them unsuitable for a combat role however soldiers who are female by choice may still posses that strength and therefore be eligible for a combat role. This has been something hotly debated on both sides of the argument with feminists and female athletes especially arguing against the Army’s attitude that women are physically inferior. Lieutenant General Gregory’s views also show a certain lack of knowledge regarding the transgender process as he still makes the distinction that the soldier would still have primarily male attributes despite the hormonal replacement therapy required for such a process which in effect feminizes the individual and therefore makes them more in line with female soldiers.

Last December, defence secretary Michael Fallon said that women could, in principle, serve in roles that involve close combat but that a final decision would only be made after sufficient research into whether women could complete required physical tests is carried out. Such tests include carrying heavy loads over long distances the importance of which was reaffirmed by the British Army during the 1982 Falklands War when the loss of heavylift helicopters in combat forced British soldiers and marines to make a superhuman effort to carry all their equipment in to combat. Many men suffered injuries from the sheer weight of their packs as they literally had to carry everything they needed from weapons down to food. There has long been those in the Army’s hierarchy that argue that women could not make a similar undertaking should such a need arise again.

What worries many campaigners is that both Gregory and Fallon’s words are quite stereotyping in nature as both make generalising comments regarding women’s abilities. They point out that both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have had women in combat for quite some time but even this has caused friction with the Army’s views. In 2006 Major James Loden of 3 Para said to British newspapers that during combat operations in Afghanistan;

“A female Harrier pilot ‘couldn’t identify the target’, fired two phosphorus rockets that just missed our own compound so that we thought they were incoming RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], and then strafed our perimeter missing the enemy by 200 metres,”

Major Loden made the remarks when listing numerous grievances the Army apparently had with the RAF but what is worrying is that he specifically pointed out the pilot’s gender. He therefore implied (perhaps unintentionally but certainly subconsciously) that the pilot’s gender was a factor in her inability to find the target for he never referred to any male pilots by their gender.

So why does the Army seem so reluctant to allow women to serve on the frontline?

As pointed out by both Fallon and Gregory the main reason is physical abilities but how long will this wash with women who want to fight for their country. In a meritocratic society they argue that rather than say all women aren’t as strong as men there should be a universal test for men and women (by birth or by choice) to determine whether an individual is suitable both physically and psychologically to fight in close combat on the frontlines.

There are other factors that need to be considered also. An increasingly big factor is the response from allied Muslim countries in the fight against Islamic State and other extremist organizations to having British female soldiers or officers. This is something that cannot be ignored as cooperation with such Muslim armed forces is essential and in those situations the Army would have to make some concessions through no fault of its own.

There are those in the Army that believe that women in combat would erode the traditions of the Army. Few Armies have such rich traditions as the British Army and it remains a fundamental part of its existence with new recruits indoctrinated in to their regiment’s traditions and exploits. They also argue that the infantry way of life is an especially close-knit male environment and that female interaction would upset cohesion in these units. However an Army must be fluid in order to advance and remain potent. The nature of soldiering has not only changed from the days of Knights on horseback but is almost unrecognisable from World War II! The fighting spirit remains a vital factor however and Army traditionalists again argue that women lack the killer instinct and competitive spirit of men.

It has to be said that these are worryingly old fashioned positions regarding gender in the 21st century. If an individual regardless of gender, race, religion or even age can meet the necessary requirements both physical and psychological to be in combat then why should they be barred from serving their country?