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British Typhoon fighter jets arrive in Malaysia
By Tom Dunlop
October 2, 2019

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The RAF have announced that Typhoon fighters have arrived in Malaysia to begin preparations for Exercise Bersama Lima, the annual Five Powers Defence Arrangement exercise.

The RAF say that pilots and ground crew from the Lossiemouth based II (Army Cooperation) Squadron, plus supporting personnel from across the Royal Air Force have deployed to the Malaysian Air Force base at Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia to take part in the exercise.

“The jets have flown in after a stopover in Sri Lanka. Previously the jets had been flown as part of the recently completed Exercise Magic Carpet in the Middle East.”

The Officer Commanding II (AC) Squadron said:
“This is a fantastic opportunity to train together with our Commonwealth Allies in Asia. The RAF have conducted this exercise for many years now, and we look forward to celebrating 50 years of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement in the near future.

During the exercise we will all be sharing knowledge and expertise in the tactical environment, continuing to develop our combined skills and procedures. We have been warmly welcomed by the Royal Malaysian Air Force at Butterworth Air Base and we very much look forward to continuing to share friendship, flying and experience.”


The Five Powers Defence Arrangement is the cornerstone of British defence policy in the region and brings the militaries of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom together in a defensive arrangement in the region.
 

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UK defence secretary wants to end ‘hollow force’
Tim Ripley, Manchester and Fenella McGerty, London
04 October 2019

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The UK’s newest aircraft carrier, Prince of Wales, sailed from Rosyth Dockyard for the very first time on 22 September 2019 to begin initial sea trials. Some observers in the UK defence establishment worry that the UK has often funded high-profile prestige projects at the expense of less-glamourous enabling or support capabilities. Source: Crown Copyright

Key Points
  • The UK defence secretary has made a bid to put the UK defence budget on a realistic footing
  • Defence spending is set to get an uplift, at least in the short term, but these plans remain to be enacted
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he wants to end the “hollowing out” of the country’s armed forces that have led to recruitment shortfalls, equipment that does not work, and low stockpiles of supplies.

Speaking to a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on 30 September, Wallace said he had secured acceptance earlier this summer from the UK Treasury (finance ministry) that the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review – which set in train several major equipment procurement projects – was “not properly funded”. He added that Ministry of Defence (MoD) cost-saving projections that have underpinned many of the review’s spending plans “were not realistic”.

Wallace, who was appointed by the new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July, decried 20 to 30 years of “hollowing out” of the UK military, in particular of the army. “It is an iceberg,” he said. “Beneath it is poor recruiting, a shortage of pilots, kit not working, and low stocks.”
“Ambitions of prime ministers, secretaries of defence, chancellors of the exchequer [finance ministers], and generals have not been matched with funding,” he told the event.

This, he said, led to overstretch that was unfair on the UK armed forces, he said, adding that he blamed the current situation on a series of short-term decisions or the failure to make decisions. “We need to be honest to the rest of government that we need more money or [be] honest to the public about our ambitions,” he said. “The music is about to stop and it will not be funny. It’s about political leadership; we have to cut our cloth.
 

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RAF seconds pilot to Virgin Orbit satellite programme
Gareth Jennings, London
04 October 2019

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Virgin Orbit is developing the launch of small satellites from a 747 testbed aircraft. Source: Crown Copyright

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has seconded one of its pilots to the Virgin Orbit satellite launch programme as part of a wider ‘ambitious’ national defence space effort.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 3 October that Eurofighter Typhoon and test pilot Flight Lieutenant Mathew ‘Stanny’ Stannard had been selected to join Virgin’s Boeing 747-based small-satellite launch programme.

“Flt Lt Stannard is a Typhoon pilot with one of the RAF’s test and evaluation squadrons and is expected to join the pioneering Virgin Orbit programme next year, pending final US and UK regulatory approvals,” the MoD said, adding, “The secondment is expected to last three years and will see Flt Lt Stannard join the fleet of expert ‘test pilots’ trialling Boeing 747-400 aircraft from which cutting-edge satellites will be launched.”

The MoD’s decision to second a pilot with Virgin Orbit was first announced at the 2019 Chief of the Air Staff’s Air and Space Power Conference (ASPC) in London on 18 July. At the time the then-Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said, “Science fiction is becoming science fact [and] one day I want to see RAF pilots earning their ‘space wings’ and flying beyond the stratosphere.”

At the same time as the announcement was made, Mordaunt outlined a raft of space-based efforts for the MoD valued at GBP30 million (USD36.9 million). As well as the Virgin Orbit secondment, these comprised a satellite development and launch programme, a counter counter-satellite effort, the creation of a new military command to oversee operations in the space domain and beyond, a competition to boost the capabilities of UK satellites in orbit, and the building of new ground control station facilities.
 

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British F-35Bs take off from, land on new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth
Oct. 14, 2019
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A British F-35B aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares for takeoff, one of several exercises officials say moves Britain closer to having an operational carrier strike capability. Photo courtesy of British Ministry of Defense
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Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The first landings and takeoffs of Britain's Royal Navy aboard the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth were a success, the British Defense Ministry reported on Monday.

The exercises, held over the weekend near the U.S. East Coast, involved the Royal Navy's F-35B Lightning fighter planes and were staged to demonstrate the next-generation fighter planes' "end to end" compatibility with the new carrier, commissioned in December 2017.

The British military has 17 F-35 variants, the first of which arrived in 2017.

The landings, takeoffs and hovering of the short-takeoff-and-landing planes were part of the "Westslant 19" carrier strike group deployment trials, the ministry said in a statement.

The F-35B of pilot Wing Cmdr. Adam Curd of the Royal Air Force was the first to arrive.

"This is the first time I have landed onboard an aircraft carrier," Curd said in a statement. "For it to be HMS Queen Elizabeth, and in an aircraft as amazing as a UK Lightning, is quite something. This is a proud moment not only for me, but the wider team that has brought us to this milestone for maritime aviation and U.K. defense."

Royal Navy pilot Cmdr. Nathan Gray was the first to take off from the carrier.

The carrier group escorting the HMS Queen Elizabeth, once the vessel is declared fully operational, will include the destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlin and Wildcat aircraft.
 

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British Typhoon fighter jets arrive in Malaysia
By Tom Dunlop
October 2, 2019

View attachment 10457
The RAF have announced that Typhoon fighters have arrived in Malaysia to begin preparations for Exercise Bersama Lima, the annual Five Powers Defence Arrangement exercise.

The RAF say that pilots and ground crew from the Lossiemouth based II (Army Cooperation) Squadron, plus supporting personnel from across the Royal Air Force have deployed to the Malaysian Air Force base at Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia to take part in the exercise.

“The jets have flown in after a stopover in Sri Lanka. Previously the jets had been flown as part of the recently completed Exercise Magic Carpet in the Middle East.”

The Officer Commanding II (AC) Squadron said:
“This is a fantastic opportunity to train together with our Commonwealth Allies in Asia. The RAF have conducted this exercise for many years now, and we look forward to celebrating 50 years of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement in the near future.

During the exercise we will all be sharing knowledge and expertise in the tactical environment, continuing to develop our combined skills and procedures. We have been warmly welcomed by the Royal Malaysian Air Force at Butterworth Air Base and we very much look forward to continuing to share friendship, flying and experience.”


The Five Powers Defence Arrangement is the cornerstone of British defence policy in the region and brings the militaries of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom together in a defensive arrangement in the region.
For Exercise Bersama Lima 19 the Royal Air Force has deployed six Eurofighter Typhoons to RMAF Butterworth (Malaysia) while the supporting Voyager multi-role tanker transporter has been deployed to Singapore.

Exercise Bersama Lima brings together the militaries of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom, who make up the Five Powers Defence Arrangement (FPDA). They join in the region to develop training. BL19 is an annual FPDA Maritime/Air Field Training Exercise (FTX) and Joint Command Post Exercise (CPX) conducted to enhance the interoperability and mutual cooperation between the FPDA nations.

The Ex is sponsored on a rotational basis between the armed forces of Malaysia and the Republic of Singapore and facilitated by HQ Integrated Area Defence System (IADS). The Ex also aims at developing the integration of Air, Maritime and Land forces to promote interoperability while exercising FPDA combined and joint doctrines at the tactical and operational levels.
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British F-35Bs take off from, land on new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth
Oct. 14, 2019
View attachment 10860
A British F-35B aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares for takeoff, one of several exercises officials say moves Britain closer to having an operational carrier strike capability. Photo courtesy of British Ministry of Defense
View attachment 10861

Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The first landings and takeoffs of Britain's Royal Navy aboard the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth were a success, the British Defense Ministry reported on Monday.

The exercises, held over the weekend near the U.S. East Coast, involved the Royal Navy's F-35B Lightning fighter planes and were staged to demonstrate the next-generation fighter planes' "end to end" compatibility with the new carrier, commissioned in December 2017.

The British military has 17 F-35 variants, the first of which arrived in 2017.

The landings, takeoffs and hovering of the short-takeoff-and-landing planes were part of the "Westslant 19" carrier strike group deployment trials, the ministry said in a statement.

The F-35B of pilot Wing Cmdr. Adam Curd of the Royal Air Force was the first to arrive.

"This is the first time I have landed onboard an aircraft carrier," Curd said in a statement. "For it to be HMS Queen Elizabeth, and in an aircraft as amazing as a UK Lightning, is quite something. This is a proud moment not only for me, but the wider team that has brought us to this milestone for maritime aviation and U.K. defense."

Royal Navy pilot Cmdr. Nathan Gray was the first to take off from the carrier.

The carrier group escorting the HMS Queen Elizabeth, once the vessel is declared fully operational, will include the destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlin and Wildcat aircraft.
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UK discloses Reaper accidents
24 October 2019
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The UK currently has eight of its Reapers operational, after accidents caused one to be decommissioned and another to undergo long-term repairs. Source: Crown Copyright

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has disclosed that two of its 10 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been involved in serious accidents since the beginning of 2015, with one aircraft being decommissioned and the other being placed in long-term repair as a result.

Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) made the disclosure in a freedom of information (FOI) request that was submitted by Drone Wars UK, and was supplied to Jane's on 24 October.

According to the FOI response, Reaper ZZ201 suffered a collapse of its port main-landing gear during a landing on 17 October 2015. That aircraft was withdrawn from service as it was nearing the end of its viable flying life, DE&S said. Jane's reported this decommissioning earlier this year following another FOI request submitted by Drone Wars UK, but the response to that request from the MoD made no mention of an accident.
Separately, on 16 August 2016, Reaper ZZ205 suffered a runway excursion. "The air vehicle is under repair at Poway [in California] and will be returned to the fleet", DE&S said.

With nine Reapers currently in its inventory and eight in service, all the vehicles themselves are currently based in the Middle East (understood, but not confirmed, to be Kuwait) for operations over Syria.

The UK is due to replace its Reapers with up to 26 MQ-9B Protector RG1 MALE UAVs. The Protector programme is running some years behind schedule, and the original plan was that the transition would take place seamlessly with no loss of capability. The first of an initial 16 Protectors is set to enter service in the mid-2020s.
 

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Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier HMS Prince of Wales Vists Invergordon for Resupplies
October 26, 2019

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The UK Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales (R09) has paid her second visit to the Scottish port of Invergordon – one of the few harbours in the north of the UK able to accommodate the 65,000-tonne vessel.

The £3bn carrier has been undergoing sea trials in the Moray Firth and the North Sea. The short stop-off in Invergordon allowed the ship to get rid of rubbish (aka ‘gash’), take on fuel and fresh food, and also allow the ship’s company to get ashore.

The remote port – north of Inverness – is used to handling tankers connected with the North Sea oil and gas industries as well as cruise liners (passengers visit Loch Ness). But it is not normally geared up for handling ships of the size, shape and nature of HMS Prince of Wales which is too large and unwieldy to berth unaided.

With the help of a civilian pilot, the ship sailed into and out of Cromarty Firth – announcing her presence at the mouth with blasts on her horn. Four tugs were needed to help the carrier to her jetty, brought in by port authorities from various other harbours – including one which made the 100-mile journey up from Leith.

The ship tested another facet of her defences against chemical, nuclear and biological warfare. As well as a protected ‘citadel’ – the air-tight inner heart of the ship where the crew are safe from dangerous elements in the atmosphere – the flight deck has the ability to ‘wash off’ any toxic particles which land on it.

A complex web of high-pressure jets covers the four-acre flight deck, with pop-up nozzles pumping out spray covering around 50 square metres with the spouts reaching up to two metres high. Left running for an hour, the ‘pre-wetting’ system can wash the flight deck with 4,500 tonnes of water – that’s as much as a Type 23 frigate displaces. It can also be used to tackle flight deck fires alongside Prince of Wales’ own dedicated firefighting teams.

With 600 Royal Navy personnel and more than 300 industry experts on board to test the engineering, weapons and sensor systems, Prince of Wales is continuing her trials in the Moray Firth for the rest of the autumn.

The carrier is due to debut in her future home of Portsmouth before Christmas. She is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy fleet next year and should be fully ready for frontline duties from 2023
 

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British Army orders four Rheinmetall Mission Master-Cargo UGVs
Melanie Rovery, London - Jane's Defence Weekly
16 April 2020
View attachment 12272
The United Kingdom has ordered four Rheinmetall Mission Master-Cargo UGVs. Source: Rheinmetall Canada


The United Kingdom armed forces have ordered four Mission Master-Cargo unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) from Rheinmetall Canada for its Robotic Platoon Vehicle (RPV) programme, the company announced in a press release on 16 April.

The contract includes training, service support, and spare parts. Rheinmetall Canada is to supply the platforms, while Rheinmetall BAE Land Systems will provide on-location support services.

The Mission Master UGV is an all-terrain, multipurpose vehicle based on an 8×8 platform. It has a top speed of 40 km/h and is ruggedised and fully amphibious, with the option of being fitted with tracks or chains for additional mobility. The basic platform is 2.95 m long, weighs approximately 750 kg, and can carry a 600 kg payload (400 kg during amphibious operations). The cargo version can carry payloads for missions including logistic transport, surveillance, protection, medical evacuation, fire suppression, chemical, biological and nuclear detection, and communication relay.

The vehicle is air-transportable by external sling load or internally by a CH-53 or CH-46 heavy lift helicopter or a C-130 transport aircraft. None of the parts are subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), facilitating export.
 

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Royal Navy awards new contracts for Type 31 frigates
A new round of supply chain contract awards has been announced in relation to the Royal Navy’s new Type 31 general purpose frigate program.

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Photo: Babcock

The program is led by Babcock International and will provide the navy with a fleet of five new frigates.

Construction of the vessels will take place at Babcock’s Rosyth, Scotland-based yard. The first unit is planned to be launched in 2023.

As informed, Rolls-Royce is now a major supplier to the program with its brand MTU, delivering the main engines and diesel generators for the frigates, which will be manufactured in Germany.

Renk will provide the main reduction gearboxes, and MAN Energy Solutions will supply the propellers and propeller shaft lines.

In addition, Blunox are contracted to supply the exhaust environmental equipment that significantly reduces emissions from the main engines and diesel generators. Combined with the subcontract placed with Darchem Engineering Ltd, it will supply the intake and exhaust systems for the main engines and generators, rounding out the key propulsion system subcontracts.

Additionally, the chilled water plant subcontract has been awarded to Novenco AS, which will provide critical system capability for the HVAC system.

“Team 31 have committed to a programme of investments to deliver prosperity in line with the National Shipbuilding Strategy. We are delighted to welcome these key suppliers to the supply chain for the Type 31 frigate programme, and we continue to engage with additional suppliers to support this exciting programme for Babcock and the Royal Navy,” Sean Donaldson, Managing Director for Energy & Marine, said.

In a separate announcement, Lloyd’s Register (LR) said it has been selected to provide naval assurance services for the UK’s Type 31 frigate program. The five vessels will be designed and constructed to LR’s Naval Ship Rules.

During the first phase of the programme LR will provide design assessment and support, which will result in formal appraisal of the Type 31 design in 2020. During the later phases of the program, LR will assist Babcock to ensure it is fully integrated with the shipyard’s digital acceptance systems and that supply chains effectively implement project requirements for equipment certification.

Arrowhead
The Arrowhead 140 was the preferred design for the Type 31 frigate program announced in September 2019.

It is a general-purpose, light frigate developed by Team 31, led by Babcock International as prime for the Type 31 program, comprising Thales UK, BMT and OMT.

The design of the Type 31 is based on Odense Maritime Technology’s (OMT) ‘Iver Huitfeldt class’ hull form, which is currently in service with the Royal Danish Navy.
 

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Britain’s new carrier Queen Elizabeth sets sail, prepared to train amid pandemic
April 30, 2020

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An F-35B lands onboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 26, 2018, in Portsmouth, England. (Kyle Heller/British Ministry of Defence via Getty Images)


LONDON — Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed its Portsmouth base April 29 for training, but only after its crew was tested for the new coronavirus, the Royal Navy announced.

The 65,000-ton warship is currently in an isolation period at sea ahead of training off the south coast of England.

The ship’s departure from the Portsmouth naval base was delayed by a few days to enable the entire crew of about 800 to be tested for COVID-19.

The warship is expected to be at sea for up to eight weeks conducting the Flag Officer Sea Training assessment required to certify that HMS Queen Elizabeth is competent to join the fleet for operational tasking. Britain is targeting next year for the ship’s first operational deployment, and the FOST assessment is a key element in achieving that plan.

Training with F-35 fighter jets, simulated battle damage, fires and flood training, and mission rehearsals will be part of the process, the Royal Navy said in a statement. “This will prepare the ship for further training later in the year with other Royal Navy ships to ensure they are ready to deploy as a task group next year,” the service said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging in the U.K., and the recent impact that the virus has had on French and U.S. naval crews and operations, the British warship was only allowed to go to sea after the head of the Royal Navy wrote to the defense secretary, Ben Wallace, explaining why it was necessary.

“The continuation of this training has been agreed by senior leaders across defence,” the Royal Navy said in announcing the departure.

Speaking to the parliamentary Defence Committee on April 22, Wallace said he was anxious not to repeat the experiences of the U.S. and France.

“We do not [want to] get into what we saw happening in America and France. I have been very clear that the captains of our ships have my full authority, should they have an outbreak and feel that the best course of action is to return to port, or come alongside, or to evacuate, that they have that authority to do so. I will not force them to go to sea with an infected crew,” Wallace told the committee.

“I have spoken to the captain [of HMS Queen Elizabeth] directly, saying: ‘We will not judge you, we will not think worse of you, if, when at sea, you feel the need to come back because of a crew outbreak or something,’ " the defense secretary added. "It is going to be in U.K. waters, the ship, so it will not be very far away; she will be within helicopter distance if we need to get someone back.”

Wallace told the Defence Committee that along with well-tried, traditional isolation rules that ships have always had, the Royal Navy is “in a place where we can look after welfare while maintaining some of our defense operations that we have to do."
 

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UK Reportedly Mulls Buying Smart Rifles Which May ‘Transform the Battlefield’
10.05.2020 by Oleg Burunov
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The sophisticated scope has already been tested by Delta Force, the United States' most elite tactical combat group, which praised the device as "outstanding".

The UK’s Special Air Service (SAS) is considering the purchase of so-called SMASH smart scope rifles which may turn all SAS soldiers into sharpshooters, The Sun cited an unnamed British defence source as saying. The scope's price tag is estimated at about £800 ($900).
“This weapon sight could really transform the battlefield. It should reduce the risk of accidental deaths because it will only allow shots to be fired at an identified target”, the source underscored.
We're proud to have @smart_shooter_ exhibiting and showcasing its products at #ISDEF2019 - Israel’s largest #Defense, #Security & #Cyber expo! pic.twitter.com/WnPSiq8KLH
— ISDEF Expo (@ISDEFExpo) April 10, 2019
The official added that the scope's performance specifications “massively reduce the risk of a stray round killing or wounding an innocent bystander”.
“Stray bullets from high velocity rifles can go through walls, doors, and cars, so knowing that when you pull the trigger you are going to take down a target and nothing else is a game-changer”, the source stressed.
SAS are reportedly interested in acquiring the smart scope rifles after the elite US combat group Delta Force touted the device as "outstanding" following tests.

“The individual fire control system Smart Shooter significantly increases the chances of accurately hitting the target in all shooting modes”, this tweet reads.
Developed by the Israeli company Smart Shooter, the SMASH electro-optical fire control setup enables a soldier to place a virtual tag on a target seen through the rifle's scope, and if the trigger is pressed, the gun fires only if it is correctly lined up.

A Linux-based computer installed on the scope calculates angles and distance, as well as the expected spin drift of the bullet and even the wind direction.

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Special Forces Deficient British Army Launches Major Recruitment Drive

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Despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis, he British Army's website makes clear the armed forces are still accepting applications - indeed is currently advertising for a number of "army jobs", including officers, mechanics and trainee intelligence analysts.

British Army commanders have launched a major recruitment drive for special forces soldiers and ex-veterans, as mysterious as it is high-priority.
To qualify, you must already be a soldier in the army, and aged between 18 - 28. Officers will earn an initial salary of £27,200, which can rise to £32,800 upon completion of a year's training, which includes free medical and dental health cover.

Veterans up to the age of 57 are also being urged to apply to rejoin, even if they were thrown out on disciplinary grounds or medically discharged.
The Mirror reports this lax attitude to recruitment stems from collapsing numbers in special forces - while the UK Ministry of Defence doesn’t publicly disclose the number of special forces troops retained by the Army, it’s known the target of 82,000 regular soldiers is in itself short by over 5,000.
40 years ago our SAS eradicated a murderous terrorist cell in 17 minutes. Today our gates are wide open to all. Rape. Murder. Blow up concerts. Blow up the underground. Stab with impunity. Diversity is our strength. Ned kelly. on Twitter
— Lefty Tears ? ?? (@MadeInGBritain) May 5, 2020
“Special forces numbers have decreased. Even though regular forces aren’t engaged in operations at anywhere near the tempo of a few years ago, the tempo is still high in special forces. The time it takes to get a special forces soldier trained means they need to process even more recruits right now,” a nameless source told the outlet.

Messages posted by individual regular Army regiments show how veterans are being urged to consider rejoining.

The news comes as controversial Scottish Nationalist Party defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald has outlined plans to create a civilian army to be deployed at times of national crisis.
Lots of positive feedback, but I’d like to point out that anyone who mistakes this for national service, military training, conscription or - as some on the right think - a way of delivering public services on the cheap, has woefully misunderstood the concept of resilience. Stewart McDonald MP on Twitter
— Stewart McDonald MP (@StewartMcDonald) May 6, 2020
Under the proposals, school leavers, graduates, retirees and those taking career breaks would be offered incentives to sign up. School leavers could be offered a year’s training in responding to food shortages, storms, cyberattacks and other alleged perils.

After training volunteers would join a reserve and be available to be deployed at short notice.
 

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Cash-strapped Britain eyes shrinking its order of new early-warning planes

By: Andrew Chuter

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Britain’s Royal Air Force was to operate a fleet of five Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft in an almost $2 billion deal with Boeing, officials announced in early 2019. The question now is, how many planes can the country still afford? (British Ministry of Defence)

LONDON – Britain is poised to cut an order for Boeing E-7 Wedgetails, with the airborne early warning and control aircraft possibly becoming the first confirmed victim of the government’s upcoming integrated defense review.

Negotiations between Boeing and the Ministry of Defence have been underway since mid-summer over a possible reduction in Wedgetail numbers from five to three, or possibly four, aircraft as part of a wider cost-cutting exercise.

Newspapers here have recently been full of leaks about possible capability cuts and delays to equipment like armored vehicles, artillery, surface warships and support ships and fighter aircraft.

All of the leaks have been brushed off by the MoD as speculation, even though some of the leaks were likely inspired by the MoD itself to test the waters of political and public acceptability.

This time, though, the response from the MoD was different. Replying to a tweet in The Times Sept. 22 an MoD spokesperson pretty much confirmed the cuts were under consideration.

“We regularly discuss equipment programs with our partners, particularly when it comes to making savings and cutting costs, where appropriate,” they said.

A Boeing spokesperson in London said the company “doesn’t comment on commercial matters.”

Defense consultant Howard Wheeldon of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory said leaving the RAF with just three Wedgetails would leave the UK seriously short of aerial command-and-control and situational awareness capability.

“Personally, I regard this as little short of insanity. … To guarantee 27/7 capability requires that the UK has a minimum of five airframes. Potentially reducing the number to three would have very serious consequences and if this really has already been decided it needs to be reconsidered very quickly. Assured 24/7 AWACS capability is not just an option – it is an absolute necessity,” said Wheeldon.

A potential reduction in Wedgetail numbers is not the only ISTAR capability cut in the cards.

The RAF remains on track to take out of service next year its Raytheon-supplied Sentinel battlefield surveillance aircraft.

In early 2019 the MoD controversially signed a deal worth £1.5 billion – without a competition – to supply five of the Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft to the RAF with deliveries starting in 2023 and the final platform being handed over in 2025.

The aircraft will replace the RAFs increasingly ancient Sentry E-3D’s, whose capability has been limited by under-investment going back years.

The deal with Boeing was meant to restore high-quality airborne early warning to the RAF by the mid 2020s.

Last year the company signed a deal with STS Aviation to modify the 737NG commercial aircraft used for Wedgetail to an AEW configuration at a hangar on Birmingham airport in England.

Early work on stripping out two second-hand airliners has already got underway in the US ahead of the aircraft being transferred to the UK where the modification effort will create jobs.

Wedgetail is not operated by the US military but has secured Australia, Turkey and South Korea as export customers. Much of the equipment for the RAF aircraft are due to be supplied by Australian industry.

The move to reduce Wedgetail numbers comes as the government moves closer to taking the wraps off what it has promised to be a “fundamental” review of British defense, security, foreign policy and overseas development.

Led by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his chief advisor Dominic Cummings, the review is looking at pivoting defense away from conventional sunset capabilities to more sunrise technologies in areas like space, artificial intelligence, cyber and undersea warfare.

The trouble is Britain’s Brexit- and Covid-19-battered economy is unlikely to find much, if anything, in the way of additional resources for an MoD which already has significant funding issues.

To make room for costly future technology programs the armed services are going to have to make sacrifices elsewhere.

The procurement process is likely to be in Cummings cross hairs along with conventional capabilities like main battle tanks and army personnel numbers. When the review is published, possibly around mid-November, it’s likely to be a bloody affair.

One industry executive here, who asked not to be named, said he thought the outcome was likely to be worse than the 2010 strategic defense and security review, which stripped out capabilities like aircraft carriers, fast jets, maritime patrol aircraft and personnel.

Wheeldon said by now nobody should imagine the integrated defense review is about building Britain’s defense capabilities, but quite the reverse.

“If anyone really is still under the illusion that the underlying intention behind the 2020 ‘Integrated Review’ process – that of forming a soundly based long-term strategic decision making process of where the UK wants to be in the future, why and what defense and security capability will be required to meet those ambitions – let them now understand that the reality is that what eventually emerges will primarily have been about further cutting of UK defense capability at a time when others, including our adversaries and would-be enemies, are increasing their expenditure in the sector.”
 

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USS The Sullivans deploys to join HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group

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The destroyer USS The Sullivans deployed for the North Atlantic Ocean on Monday to participate in the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group.
Photo by MCS Seaman Chelsy Amalina/U.S. Navy

April 19 (UPI) -- The USS The Sullivans was deployed to participate in the strike group led by the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the U.S. Navy said on Monday.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer departed Mayport, Fla., on Monday and will join a multinational force led by the aircraft carrier.

Beginning in May, the strike group will travel from the North Atlantic Ocean, to the Mediterranean Sea and through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean before arriving in the Indo-Pacific region.

It will be the first major tour of duty for the aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in 2017.

In March, the British Defense Ministry announced that the frigate HNLMS Evertsen of the Royal Netherlands Navy will join the strike group for the duration of the deployment, which will include operations and training with NATO allies and partner nations.

"It is an honor to sail in this elite multi-national strike group on the frontline demonstrating a fully integrated force that showcases the special relationship that our countries have," said Cmdr. David Burkett, commanding officer of the USS The Sullivans, in Monday's Navy statement.

In March, the U.S. destroyer participated in a successful Composite Unit Training Exercise, or COMPTUEX, with the U.S. Marine Corps' Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The drill employed NATO procedures and communications formats and involved about 3,700 Marine and Navy personnel.

In 2020, the USS The Sullivans also participated with the HMS Queen Elizabeth's carrier strike group in a pre-deployment exercise.

The USS The Sullivans is the second U.S. Navy ship to carry the name of the five Sullivan brothers, enlisted Navy sailors who died together when their ship was sunk by a torpedo in World War II.
 
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