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19/07/2019

WESTMINSTER NEWS

Defence Secretary outlines ambitious space programme:

At the annual RAF Air and Space Power Conference in London yesterday, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt outlined an ambitious space programme, committing £30m to fast-track the launch of a small satellite demonstrator within a year. This includes the UK becoming the first partner nation to join Operation Olympic Defender, a US-led international coalition formed to strengthen deterrence against hostile actors and seconding a RAF test pilot to Virgin Orbit’s small satellite programme.To bring all this work together, the Defence Secretary announced that Joint Forces Command, the organisation design to coordinate activity across the Armed Forces, will be transformed into Strategic Command and given a greater strategic role across the five war-fighting domains: Air, Land, Sea, Cyber and Space. Ms Mordaunt said:

…we show the sky is no longer the limit for our Armed Forces with a multi-million-pound investment in the launch of a small satellite demonstrator, supported by a new transatlantic team of defence personnel.

In the face of evolving threats from hostile actors in space, we are acting more closely than ever with our international allies through Five Eyes, NATO and now Operation Olympic Defender.

Faced with the evolving threats posed by grey-zone warfare, our transformed Strategic Command will provide the structure and coordination our Armed Forces need across all five domains.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt speaks about the Royal Air Force and the space domain

Defence Secretary keynote speech at the Air and Space Power Conference 2019.

Delivered on: 18 July 2019 (Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)

Second F-35 Lightning squadron arrives in UK:

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster has welcomed the arrival of a second training squadron of F-35 Lightning jets to RAF Marham.  The arrival of 207 Squadron will see all training on the next-generation jet conducted in the UK for the first time.  Six aircraft took the 10-hour flight from MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina. The formation included the UK’s 18th Lightning fighter jet, with a purchase of 138 aircraft forecast over the life of the programme.  207 Squadron will formally stand up on 1 August 2019 and the first F-35 pilot course at RAF Marham is due to commence in early-September.  Engineers are already trained at RAF Marham’s Integrated Training Centre, part of a £550m investment in the Station which has also seen the resurfacing of runways and the addition of new landing pads to allow the jets to land vertically.  Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster said:

The arrival of 207 Squadron represents another milestone in the progress of this world-beating aircraft.

As we welcome 207 Squadron home from our US allies, the transatlantic military relationship continues to be the strongest and deepest of any two nations in the world.

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

Defence Fire and Rescue Project:  Minister of State in the House of Lords (Earl Howe) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

I am announcing the outcome of the Defence Fire and Rescue Project which has been examining potential improvements in how Fire and Rescue Services are provided to the Ministry of Defence, both in the United Kingdom and overseas.

In June 2018, I announced the Ministry of Defence’s intention to award the Defence Fire and Rescue Project contract to Capita Business Services Limited and I can today confirm this to be the case. Following a competitive bidding process Capita’s bid was deemed to deliver the best technical solution and the best value for money for Defence. The 12-year contract is worth £525 million and will mark a step change in capability for Defence’s Fire and Rescue capability.

The project will deliver a range of benefits whilst sustaining our worldwide fire and rescue capability. These benefits include improved safety for firefighter personnel and those they protect as well as fire risk management for the Department. This will be achieved through the investment in new equipment, technology and training which the contract will enable to happen faster than it otherwise would. In addition, we expect the contract to deliver significant financial savings over the course of its lifespan; money which can be reinvested into other areas of the Defence budget.

I can assure Parliament that these proposed contractual arrangements with Capita have been subject to thorough scrutiny and due diligence processes conducted across Government, including in the Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. These assurance processes included the financial sustainability of Capita and tested their technical expertise to deliver the contract in a sustainable and resilient manner. Safeguards are in place to ensure there is no break in service provision. Capita have experience in delivering Fire and Rescue service provision as they already operate the internationally recognised Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh.

Initially, around 560 MOD Civil Servants, mainly firefighting personnel, are expected to transfer under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations to Capita as the contract is implemented over the next few years. Fire station managers, their staff and Trade Union representatives of the civilian workforce have been consulted throughout the project and are being formally told of the contract award today. I would like to pay tribute to the work they have and will continue to undertake for Defence. The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy will continue to employ firefighters. Over time there will be a reduction in the number of firefighters in the Royal Air Force due to the introduction of new technology and there may be opportunities in the future for some roles becoming Sponsored Reserves.

I can confirm that existing fire and rescue services provided to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, the Defence Science and Technical Laboratory in Porton Down and at US visiting forces bases in the United Kingdom are unaffected by these changes. The Defence Fire Training and Development Centre at Manston will close in due course with training transferred to Capita’s existing fire training facility at Moreton-in-Marsh. The award of this contract will enable the Ministry of Defence to vacate large elements of the Manston site which will be released to support economic development, potentially including housing, in the local area.

This has been a complex procurement with a delay in the award of the contract following a legal challenge from Serco Ltd, the other final bidder. We have now mutually agreed an out-of-court settlement of £10 million which provides better value for money for the tax payer than an uncertain and costly court case. I can confirm that the MOD’s Accounting Officer has commissioned an independent review to ensure we learn from this acquisition process. This will be led by Tony Poulter, a non-executive director at the Department for Transport. The findings of the review will be published after the summer.

Guided Weapons: Procurement: asked how long it would take, and at what cost, for MOD to procure a Brimstone missile, the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew said that: 

The lead times for replenishing missiles is typically between 18 and 36 months depending on the munition type. Procurement costs are regularly reviewed and are dependent on the quantity of missiles being procured, customer priorities and market conditions at the time. I am withholding specific details of lead times which would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces and forecast cost estimates which are commercially sensitive.

The PGM 2000 missile system is not a UK defence capability.

HMS Prince of Wales: asked whether the HMS Prince of Wales will be placed into the service of the Royal Navy, Mr Andrew said that: 

Yes. HMS PRINCE OF WALES is structurally complete and on current plans will commence contractor sea trials in late 2019. Her first entry to Portsmouth will take place during those sea trials and her commissioning into the Royal Navy will follow their completion. Both of these dates have yet to be determined.

EU Defence Policy:Commons: asked what assessment has been made of the potential effect on parliamentary accountability of the EU defence structures that the UK has joined since the EU referendum in 2016, Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster said:

The Government continues to ensure that parliamentary accountability for UK-EU defence cooperation is maintained. In addition to the public speeches made by the Prime Minister and the white paper of last July, the Government provided further clarification in September, in its response to the House of Commons Defence Committee report, on its proposals for a future security partnership with the EU. The Government has also participated in parliamentary debates or hearings on Permanent Structured Cooperation last April, Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Operation Sophia last June, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme last November and on CSDP missions and operations in May this year. The Government will continue to provide regular updates to both European Scrutiny Committees in Parliament.

OTHER NEWS

British military scrambles to speed up work on hypersonic engines, weapons

UK, US militaries join forces to keep the upper hand in space

Belgium Chooses Thales for Onboard Intelligence and Future Data Capabilities of its Land Forces

Italy’s defense spending rises in 2019, but procurement drops

The first British P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft has flown on a test flight

Turkey officially kicked out of F-35 program, costing US half a billion dollars

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