This week’s main UK defence news – and indeed news in general – has been the result of the 2015 General Election, which has been the shock election of a Conservative majority government. We have provided further details on this result and what it means for the MDP and DPF in a separate document.
Meanwhile, with the General Election dominating proceedings, there have been relatively few domestic news stories with regards to defence. As a result, this monitoring will be slightly shorter than usual. However, once a new government is in place, the debate over the next Strategic Defence and Security Review will begin in earnest.
Analysis suggest that the UK may soon be one of few European countries cutting defence spending
New research by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has suggested that the UK may soon be among only a handful of European nations reducing defence expenditure. Last week, France joined a growing number of European nations including Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland in increasing defence spending. Furthermore, a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) looking at defence budgets for 2015 suggests this trend is much broader. Only seven out of the twenty-two European nations examined have planned any real term defence spending decreases in 2015, and that the number will drop even further in 2016 when France and Germany start to boost their spending. The revision of military spending plans by key European allies prompts questions for the UK’s own military spending and broader defence policy.
Royal Navy rescues 110 refugees in Mediterranean
The Guardian reports that the Royal Navy’s flagship has rescued 110 refugees adrift in the Mediterranean in its first mission since being deployed in the region. HMS Bulwark was despatched to the Mediterranean on Monday as part of David Cameron’s promise to help tackle the migrant crisis, which has cost the lives of nearly 1,800 people this year. The 19,000-tonne assault ship picked up the 110 migrants on Thursday after inspecting a suspicious rubber boat. With the help of the Italian coastguard, the migrants were taken to land. The ship was supplied on 23 April, before an emergency EU summit to discuss how European countries could cooperate to prevent the deaths of thousands this summer.
Report that Saudi Arabia has twice as many UK-built aircraft at combat readiness than RAF
The Daily Telegraph reports that Saudi Arabia has twice as many British-made warplanes at its disposal for its bombing campaign in Yemen as are available for the entire Royal Air Force. British-made Tornado GR4 ground attack fighters and Eurofighter Typhoons are playing a central role in the Royal Saudi Air Force’s bombing campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi military sources say they have an estimated 100 combat warplanes taking part in bombing operations against Houthi positions on an almost daily basis.
By contrast, British military experts estimate that the RAF, which has seen the number of front line combat squadrons cut from about 30 at the time of the First Gulf War to seven, could muster just 36 Tornado GR4 bombers if it had to undertake a similar air campaign. Meanwhile, delays caused by budget cuts to the RAF’s planned upgrade of its fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters means it does not yet have the range of capabilities necessary for bombing operations.
Rape trial of Libyan Army trainees underway
The Daily Telegraph reports that a court has heard that two Libyan soldiers being trained in the UK by the British Army preyed on a drunk man “like hunting dogs” before raping him in a city centre park. Moktar Ali Saad Mahmoud, 33, and Ibrahim Abugtila, 23, were among 300 militiamen undergoing infantry training at Bassingbourn Barracks near Cambridge when they are alleged to have carried out the attack. The rape was one of a series of sexual assaults and crimes allegedly carried out by the Libyan contingent. Libyan cadets refused to obey orders and extra British troops were drafted in to keep order at the barracks. The attacks led to the training being cancelled and the troops being sent home early.
New faculties open at Harrogate Police Treatment Centre
The Harrogate Informer reports that a cycling studio and outdoor gym has been opened at the Harrogate Police Treatment Centre (PTC) by Matt Stephens, former serving police officer, professional road racing cyclist and Olympian. The Police Treatment Centres is a registered charity supported by voluntary donations from serving police officers primarily in the northern forces of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but also from British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the MDP.