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Westminster News

Hunt promises bigger Navy after Iran incident
The Ministry of Defence said Iranian boats tried to impede a British oil tanker in the Gulf, before being seen off by a Royal Navy ship. Now, Jeremy Hunt says he will reverse cuts to the Navy's budget.

Mr Hunt has already pledged to spend an extra £15bn on defence over the next five years. And, writing in the Daily Telegraph today, says "we have run down the Navy too much". 

Hunt's leadership rival, Boris Johnson, has also committed to increasing the defence budget but his plans appear to be more modest. 

MOD to develop cutting-edge laser and radio frequency weapons
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces.
This significant investment demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our Armed Forces operate at the forefront of military technology.

The state-of-the-art weapons systems, known as Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), are powered solely by electricity and operate without ammunition.

The systems could be fueled by a vehicle’s engine or a generator, significantly reducing their operating costs and providing unprecedented flexibility on the frontline.

In a Prior Information Notice (PIN) published this week, the MOD announced it is seeking to develop three new DEW demonstrators to explore the potential of the technology and accelerate its introduction onto the battlefield.

The Ministry of Defence is developing cutting-edge laser and radio frequency weapons which have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield.

The new systems are expected to be trialled in 2023 on Royal Navy ships and Army vehicles but, once developed, both technologies could be operated by all three services. The Armed Forces will use these exercises to get a better understanding of DEW, test the systems to their limits and assess how they could be integrated with existing platforms.
The MOD aims to invest up to £130m in this package of Directed Energy Weapons, including the construction of the demonstrators, the creation of a new Joint Programme Office and the recruitment of personnel to manage the programme.

These demonstrators are part of the MOD’s “Novel Weapons Programme” which is responsible for the trial and implementation of innovative weapons systems to ensure the UK remains a world leader in military technology. They are expected to reach the frontline within 10 years.

Chinooks to stay in Mali to help in fight against violent extremism
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

Increasing instability across the Sahel is causing pain and suffering to local communities and posing a real threat to European security.
It is right that we extend our commitment to the counter-terror operation in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. By providing essential support to our French partners our Armed Forces are helping to build stability and deny terrorists a haven from which to plan attacks.

The Prime Minister has announced that the UK’s Chinook helicopters and personnel currently stationed with the French counter-terrorism operation in Northern Mali will extend their tour by a minimum of six months.

Three Chinook helicopters and almost 100 service personnel have been deployed to the French-led operation in Mali since 2018. On a visit to Northwood Headquarters in North London, the Prime Minster announced that UK forces would be staying in the region.

The UK’s helicopters bring a unique logistical capability to the operation, allowing French ground forces to operate more effectively across the Sahel including in Niger and Burkina Faso. 

Parlimentary Questions
Contingent Liability within the Extended Design Authority Case Telescoped Cannon and Ammunition Contract: the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew replied that:

I am today laying before the House a Departmental Minute to advise that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has received approval from Her Majesty’s Treasury to recognise a contingent liability associated with the Design Authority Support for Case Telescoped Cannon and Ammunition (CTCA) contract extension.

The Departmental Minute describes the continued contingent liability that the MOD will incur as a result of signing an amendment to the CTCA contract. This amendment extends the exclusion to the contractor’s liability for indirect and consequential losses until March 2021. Due to the value of the contract it is not acceptable for the industry participants to incur such a risk, the value of which cannot be quantified.

For completeness, in addition to the clause outlined above, the contract contains a limitation of liability against contractor’s personnel at Government establishments and an overall limitation of liability linked to the value of the contract (£4.8 million). After completing a robust risk assessment these have been found not to create any further contingent liabilities.

Finance:Commons asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of funding allocated to her Department, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

The UK has committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence. We are the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO.
The Ministry of Defence has a £39 billion core defence budget which will rise by at least 0.5% above inflation in every year of this Parliament. Any future funding decisions will be taken at the upcoming spending review.

Armed Forces, Germany:  asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what progress has been made in establishing a joint bridging unit in Germany, Minister of State for Defence replied that Mark Lancaster said:

In October 2018, a Joint Vision Statement was signed, reaffirming the continuing importance of close defence co-operation with Germany. This committed the UK to a combined river crossing capability with shared facilities in Minden. Elements of an Engineer Squadron are already operating at Minden, alongside our German partners. We continue to grow the UK elements of this capability and anticipate that the wider battalion will be fully operational within the first half of the next decade.

Type 31 Frigates: Guided Weapons:Commons  asked the Secretary of State for Defence, whether her Department has plans for the Sea Ceptor missile system to be fitted to the five planned Type 31e frigates, the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew said that:

Final decisions on the weapons specification and fit of the Type 31e frigates will be made at the main investment decision point, taking into account the role of the ship, operating environment and future threats.

:Commons asked the Secretary of State for Defence, whether she has plans to increase defence spending in the next three years, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

Future spending plans will be agreed at the next Spending Review.

The first duty of any Government is the safety and security of the British people at home and abroad. That is why we have committed to spending at least 2% of our GDP on Defence every year of this Parliament.

Apache AH-64 Helicopters: Procurement:  asked the Secretary of State for Defence, when her Department plans to complete its order for all 50 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew said that:

The order for all 50 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters was placed with the US Government in June 2016 and deliveries are planned to be complete by early 2024. The US Government manages the timing of subcontracts to support the required aircraft delivery schedule.
Brexit:  asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what preparations his Department is making for the UK leaving the EU without an agreement; and how much funding has been allocated to those preparations, Minister of State for Defence replied that Mark Lancaster said:

As a responsible Government, we've been preparing to minimise any disruption in the event of a no deal for nearly three years. We are putting in place a range of mitigations, these include a central team who deal exclusively with Defence issues relating to the UK's decision to leave the EU, including preparations for a no deal scenario. This team draws on subject matter experts from across the department and works with colleagues in other government departments on cross-cutting issues.

The Treasury has allocated over £4.2 billion of additional funding to departments and Devolved Administrations for EU exit preparations so far. This breaks down as £412 million over the spending review period for the Department for Exiting the European Union, the Department for International Trade and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Autumn Statement 2016); £286 million of additional funding for 2017-18 (a full breakdown of which can be found in Supplementary Estimates 2017-18); over £1.5 billion for 2018-19 (Supplementary Estimates 2018-19); and over £2 billion for 2019-20 (Main Estimates 2019-20).

This funding is to cover all exit scenarios and is in addition to departmental efforts to reprioritise from business as usual toward preparations for the UK's departure from the EU. Work on no-deal exit preparations cannot be readily separated from other EU exit work, given the significant overlap in plans in many cases.

Shipbuilding: Digital Technology:  asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps her Department is taking to support the development of metal 3D printing in the shipbuilding industry, the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew said that:

The Ministry of Defence recognises the importance of 3D printing in the UK manufacturing sector and is taking into account related research when developing manufacturing policy. We will support the commercialisation of new technologies such as 3D printing and work with defence suppliers to review requirements and develop manufacturing technologies that can benefit shipbuilding.

We judge that 3D printing could have future benefit to the shipbuilding and wider defence sector.

Saudi Arabia Arms Trade:  asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment she has made of the effect of the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia on UK contractors assisting the Saudi-led coalition in Saudi Arabia the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew said that:

We are working closely with our UK industrial partners to assess the possible impacts of the suspension. However, I am withholding further details as this information is commercially sensitive. 

Defence Aerospace Industry:  asked if she will make an assessment of the sustainability of the UK defence aerospace sector the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew said that:

The UK is at the forefront of the defence aerospace industry. The Ministry of Defence is continuing to invest in capability development of aerospace platforms, which will protect highly skilled jobs for many years to come.

The UK’s Combat Air Strategy, launched at the 2018 Farnborough International Air Show, sets out a clear way forward for preserving national advantage and choice in how our future Combat Air capability is delivered.

Other News

MOD to Develop Cutting-edge Laser and Radio Frequency Weapons

UK shoots for new laser weapons against drones, missiles

Australian Defence Market Set to Grow to $72Bn by 2029

New Framework Contract awarded by MoD to Rheinmetall to supplyField of Infantry Ammunition

QinetiQ signs new contract with the Royal Navy to optimise gunnery training

UK Commitment to European Security Unconditional, Defence Secretary Reaffirms

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan in Ukraine for major multinational maritime exercise

Australian Small Businesses Benefit from Global Combat Ship Programme

Sweden to join British ‘Tempest’ next-gen fighter push

Please ensure you visit the NDI stand at DSEI, 10 – 13 September at the Excel London.

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