Jeremy Hunt Promises to Increase Defence Spending
As the Conservative Party Leadership debate continues, there has been a statement this week from Jeremy Hunt that if he was to become Prime Minister he would work towards ensuring that the UK raises the amount that it spends on defence from a current 2% equivalent of GDP to 2.5% by the middle of the next decade, suggesting this would equate to an additional £15Bn over the period. The MOD is of course still working to align the capability aspirations of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review with the realities of a stretched defence budget, an objective the 2018 Modernising Defence Programme failed to achieve in entirety. This will be one of many priorities for the incoming Prime Minister. The other leadership contender Boris Johnson has yet to make a mention of his views about defence. The result of the ballot of party members will be announced on 22 July.
History made as UK F-35s complete first operational missions
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:
“The F-35s are the most advanced jets our country has ever possessed and will form the backbone of British air defence for decades to come.
They have passed every test their training has thrown at them with flying colours and their first real operational mission is a significant step into the future for the UK.”
F-35s have flown alongside Typhoon aircraft on operational flights over the skies of Syria and Iraq, as part of the ongoing fight against Daesh, the Defence Secretary has confirmed.
It follows a successful training period in Cyprus, known as Exercise Lightning Dawn, aimed at building capability for the aircraft and supporting elements.
Due to the exceptional performance of the aircraft, pilots, and support staff during this time, it was decided that they were ready to make their operational debut from RAF Akrotiri, alongside the Typhoons.
The first RAF F-35B operational sorties were flown on Sunday 16 June in support of Operation Shader, the UK contribution to the Global Coalition’s counter Daesh mission in Iraq and Syria. The two aircraft conducted a patrol over Syria, and UK F-35s have flown a further 12 sorties since then.
The F-35 is the first aircraft to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings.
The Lightning force is jointly operated by the RAF and Royal Navy. With the ability to operate from land and sea, the F-35 forms a vital part of delivering a ‘carrier strike’ capability to the UK when combined with Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
Later in the year, 617 Squadron will embark in HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time. The UK jets will conduct Operational Tests, alongside 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron, onboard the carrier in the USA during the WESTLANT 19 deployment, proving their capability at sea. This is vital step on the path to the first Carrier Strike Deployment planned for 2021.
MOD appoints first female Chief Scientific Adviser
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has announced that Professor Dame Angela McLean will be the MOD’s next Chief Scientific Adviser.
She will be the first female to hold the role and joins the Department as a distinguished academic with a commitment to science-driven policy. The MOD’s Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) oversees the Department’s core research programme, leads technology strategy, and works closely with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to develop battle-winning capabilities.
UK reaffirms commitment to Western Balkans security on 20th anniversary of NATO Kosovo intervention
Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster has announced that the UK will continue its contribution to the NATO KFOR mission in Kosovo.
The UK was a key contributor to the UN-mandated force, known as KFOR, which entered Kosovo to bring peace and stability following the conflict of the 1990s.
Two decades on, the UK’s commitment to security in the region remains steadfast and the Armed Forces Minister yesterday evening announced at The National Army Museum that the UK will continue its contribution to the NATO KFOR mission.
The Minister also announced that the UK would be continuing its support to the EUFOR mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of its commitment to supporting stability and security in the Western Balkans.
Since their deployment, UK troops have enhanced KFOR’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability, significantly increasing its situational awareness. KFOR began as a peacekeeping force in the late 1990s and now acts as one of the main security providers in Kosovo. Troops are contributed by some 30 nations including, Italy, Turkey, Poland and the US, as well as the UK.
British Steel: Insolvency: asked what assessment the Government made of the effect of British Steel's recent insolvency announcement on the Fleet Solid Support contract and other defence-related contracts, the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew replied that:
Steel for our major defence programmes is generally sourced by our prime contractors from a range of UK and international suppliers and that remains the case. This Government is committed to creating the right conditions in the UK for a competitive and sustainable steel industry. It publishes its future pipeline for steel requirements, together with data on how Departments are complying with steel procurement guidance at the following link:
This enables UK steel manufacturers to better plan and bid for Government contracts.
It is too early to comment on the sourcing of steel for the Fleet Solid Support ships.
Future Large Aircraft: Asked what estimate MOD has made of the cost of the programme to improve the airworthiness of the RAF's A400M fleet; and whether any of that cost is being being borne by (a) the RAF, (b) Airbus and (c) a combination of the two, the Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew replied that:
The A400M aircraft is fully compliant with all UK safety and airworthiness standards. A modification programme is under way to improve the reliability of aircraft systems to increase availability. This programme of work is fully funded by Airbus and their subcontractors under the terms of the contract.