Following the Cabinet reshuffle yesterday the MoD’s member of the Cabinet remains unchanged as Ben Wallace retains his position as Secretary of State for Defence. That Mr Wallace has kept his post likely caused a sigh of relief at a ministry that has recently seen a high turnover of defense secretaries. Elsewhere however as the Prime Minister rounded out his reshuffle yesterday evening it was announced that Jeremy Quin MP (Conservative, Horsham) has been appointed to the MOD as a Minister of State. While initially it appeared the appointment would be a straight swap for Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who has been promoted to be Secretary of State for International Development, it was subsequently confirmed by MOD that Quin will assume responsibility for the defence procurement brief, with incumbent James Heappey moving to the vacated Minister for the Armed Forces role.
This was an unexpected move given Heappey had only been in post since 16th December 2019. At present, no reasons have been given for the switch in responsibilities. However, it seems likely it is to do with the perceived logic of having an ex-Serviceman in the Min AF role, a job primarily responsible for operational planning and international military engagement strategy. Quin on the other hand does not have a military background, though his previous experience in the finance sector might be considered more relevant to the Min DP role.
First UK night flights land on HMS Queen Elizabeth
Four F-35 Lightning jets have completed night landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth flying over UK waters on operational training. Exercise Lightning Fury training over the North Sea is aimed at ensuring 207 Squadron achieves essential carrier flying and Landing Signals Officer (LSO) supervisory qualifications.
The exercise builds on successful trials completed on last year’s ‘WESTLANT 19’ Carrier Strike Group deployment off the East Coast of the USA. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
Few countries in the world have the capacity and technology to deploy fighter jets from an aircraft carrier in the North Sea. These trials put the UK at the helm of 5th generation warfighting and cement the UK as a Tier 1 military power.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will be the first aircraft carriers in the world to be designed specifically to operate the Lightning jet. The ‘Short Take Off and Vertical Landing’ (STOVL) Lightning represents a step change in capability. With its advanced sensors, and stealth technology, the Lightning will provide the UK with a world-beating combat aircraft, which will be jointly manned by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.
UK further commits to NATO and European Security
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace underlined the UK’s leading role in the NATO Alliance as he met fellow defence ministers in Brussels.
At the first NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting of the year, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced a series of contributions the UK will be making to the Alliance that has protected Europe for over 70 years.
Alongside the six other NATO members who are in the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) – Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – Mr Wallace signed a Readiness Declaration that commits the JEF to making an enduring and substantial contribution to NATO’s Readiness Initiative.
This contribution includes land capabilities as part of a UK-led brigade and in the maritime domain through a UK Carrier Strike Group.
Mr Wallace also announced that this summer four RAF Typhoons will deploy to Lithuania where they will patrol NATO skies alongside allies as part of the NATO Air Policing mission.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
A Global Britain will continue to play a leading role in NATO, working with multiple Allies and contributing a range of capabilities, cementing the UK as a Tier 1 military power.
That was clearly demonstrated today with the declaration that the Joint Expeditionary Force will contribute to the NATO Readiness Initiative, including through a UK-led land brigade and the UK Carrier Strike Group.
While at NATO Headquarters in Brussels the Defence Secretary met a number of counterparts from across the Alliance – including US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper – as well Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Maritime Patrol Aircraft: Antisubmarine Warfare: asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of the procurement of nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft on UK anti-submarine warfare capability; and if he will make a statement, Minister of State for Defence, James Heappey stated;
The P-8 Poseidon joins an integrated UK force of ships, submarines and helicopters in the anti-submarine warfare role. Poseidon's introduction marks a significant upgrade in the UK's ability to conduct anti-submarine operations, combined with a weapons system to counter these threats. The Poseidon is designed to conduct long range patrols providing extended surveillance missions at high and low altitudes. It is equipped with cutting-edge sensors which use high-resolution area mapping to find both submarines and surface vessels. It will also integrate seamlessly with our NATO allies. This will maintain operational freedom for our own submarines and apply pressure to those of our potential foes.
Boeing: asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what commitment Boeing has given to maximise UK workshare on future projects, Minister of State for Defence, James Heappey stated;
As part of the strategic prosperity relationship between Her Majesty's Government (HMG) and Boeing, the company has committed to growing its UK footprint and to increase research and development and UK supply chain spending. The company funds an Office of UK Industrial Capability to identify potential suppliers and provide training to increase the success of UK companies in bidding for work. Boeing and HMG have carried out a series of trade missions to the US, each of which has attracted around 30 companies from across the UK, who have had an opportunity to showcase their capabilities to senior programme managers. As part of investments in Sheffield - the first Boeing owned production facility outside of the US - and Lossiemouth, the company has placed work with a range of local supply chain companies.
Maritime Patrol Aircraft: Sonar: asked the Secretary of State for Defence, which sonobuoys will be integrated into the nine new P-8 aircraft; and whether those sonobuoys will be supplied by a UK-based company, Minister of State for Defence, James Heappey stated;
The RAF P-8A Poseidon aircraft is being delivered in the same configuration as that operated by the US Navy. This was an important consideration in the investment decision for the project as it delivers economies of scale from being part of a larger programme and helps ensure interoperability with close allies. Consequently, RAF aircraft will be equipped with the same Mk 54 torpedoes and range of sonobuoys as US Navy aircraft. These are not manufactured by UK-based companies.