This week’s leading UK security and defence news has been the continuing Calais migrant crisis. The Guardian reports that the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond MP, has announced that Britain is to fund an extra one hundred border guards at the Channel tunnel terminal on the French side, and claimed that the Government has “got a grip” on the issue. The guards will be recruited by the French authorities, but will be funded by the UK. Mr Hammond also added that officials from the UK Border Force would start working inside the Eurotunnel control room in Coquelles. Eurotunnel reported that there were a further seven hundred attempts last Sunday night to board Channel tunnel trains.
Meanwhile, Operation Stack – in which lorries queue on the M20 when Channel crossings are disrupted – is expected to continue. MoD sources suggested this week that land could be released for an alternative lorry park to help ease the backlog, but they dismissed reports that service personnel were poised to play any significant role.
· Army told that it can only detain suspects for ninety-six hours
· British soldiers may deploy to Libya in training role
Army told that it can only detain suspects for ninety-six hours
The Times reports that the ability of the Armed Forces to hold insurgents was dealt a blow this week when judges ruled the detention policy adopted by UK forces in Afghanistan to be unlawful. Three Court of Appeal judges declared that the Defence Secretary could not show a lawful basis for the detention of a Taliban suspect for more than the ninety-six hours permitted by NATO. They upheld a High Court ruling last May over an Afghan farmer, Serdar Mohammed, who was held in 2010 on suspicion of being a senior Taliban commander involved in the large-scale production of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
In the High Court, Mr Justice Leggatt found that Mohammed’s arrest and initial detention for ninety-six hours was lawful; but his continued detention on UK military bases for a further one hundred and six days was unlawful. Yesterday, the Court of Appeal agreed, and said that the Secretary of State could not show that the detention beyond ninety-six hours met “the minimum procedural safeguards required by international law”.
RAF Tornado squadron granted further reprieve in fight against the Islamic State
The Daily Telegraph reports that the MoD has granted another reprieve to an RAF Tornado jet squadron because of a shortage of aircraft needed to bomb Islamic State targets. 12 (Bomber) Squadron, which is currently leading strike missions in northern Iraq, had been due to disband in March 2016, but will now be kept flying for another year so the RAF can maintain operations over Iraq. RAF chiefs have warned they are stretched to the limit carrying out operations in the Middle East and Baltic, while the UK’s fighter fleet shrinks to the smallest in its history. The announcement is the second time the Tornado squadron has been temporarily saved to fight Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, also called Isil or Daesh. It came as the Government is soon expected to try to widen Britain’s air war against the militants by seeking Parliament’s permission for strikes inside Syria.
In the wake of the decision to extend the life of the Tornado squadron, City AM has carried a short debate piece asking if recent defence cuts have hit the UK's security. Tom Wilson, a resident Associate Fellow at the Centre for the New Middle East at The Henry Jackson Society think-tank, argued “Yes”, saying that the reduction of the regular Army from 102,000 to 82,000 leaves Britain in a far weaker position and with far fewer options to act on the world stage. Penny Mordaunt MP, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, argued “No”, and ran through a list of Government defence spending commitments and the extent of the military's overseas deployments to support her stance.
British soldiers may deploy to Libya in training role
The Times reports that hundreds of British troops are being lined up to go to Libya as part of a major new international mission to help stabilise the North African country and combat Islamic State. The goal to form a single government, which has seemed impossible since the collapse of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi four years ago, appears close to being realised, according to political and military sources from Britain and Libya. Once this happens, a UN Security Council resolution will be sought to authorise intervention in Libya to help train and advise the local police, army and coastguard, the sources said. There will also be a counterterrorism element, likely to involve British, French and US special forces, although Libyan troops will lead all combat operations.
MoD signs £1.5bn IT contract
Computers Weekly reports that the MoD has signed two contracts costing a combined total of just under £1.5bn for the supply of IT and communications. The government department has split the contracts into two projects: the New Style of IT (NSoIT) project with the Atlas Consortium, which costs £933m and will provide IT services; and the Global Connectivity contract with Fujitsu, which will supply connectivity services and costs more than £550m. The MoD hopes the contracts will help it save £1bn over the next ten years, which it can reinvest directly into its defence budget for new equipment and defence programmes.
Threat of cyber-attack on Royal Navy warships highlighted
The Daily Telegraph reports that the man in charge of building the Navy’s new class of frigate has warned that hackers and cyber-attacks pose as great a threat to Britain's hi-tech warships of the future as missiles and torpedoes. Increasing levels of computer control and automation mean protecting vessels against electronic attack has become a focus of shipbuilding for the Navy. The new Type-26 Global Combat Ship, which is designed to be the workhorse of the Royal Navy when it is built, has been designed to protect its weapons, engines and systems from cyber warfare. Geoff Searle, head of the Type-26 programme at BAE Systems, said cyber-attack “is a real threat, certainly, it’s something we take very seriously, particularly areas of the combat system, communications systems, power and propulsion control systems”.
Earlier this year, academics at Lancaster University warned expensive warships would be rendered useless by skilled hackers employed by enemy states, criminal gangs or pirates. The report, called The Future of Maritime Cyber Security, concluded: “For the first time in maritime history, the positive correlation between capital spent and power is undermined; cyber-attacks are low-cost alternatives to physical attacks, which have the ability to cripple maritime operations.”