This week’s main security and defence news has been new research indicating that the fall in the value of the pound following the UK’s vote to leave the EU is likely to leave a gap in the defence budget. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the respected defence think tank, has warned that the cost of buying planes, helicopters and missiles from the US has increased after the Brexit vote. After the EU referendum, the pound slumped to its lowest level against the dollar in more than 30 years, making imports from the US more expensive. RUSI's Prof Trevor Taylor told BBC Radio Four’s World at One that the extra costs of buying US equipment could amount to a £700 million annual shortfall. He noted that Britain had already committed to buying 50 Apache aircraft and 138 F-35 fighter jets, as well as spares and support services for Chinook helicopters and Trident missiles.
Civil servants at the MOD are said to try and “hedge” changes in the exchange rate in an attempt to protect the department from major fluctuations on the market. A government source said that the department hoped the pound would rally and described the problem as a “a headache rather than a catastrophe”.
The renewed pressure on the defence procurement budget may bring with it a need for new initiatives to reduce costs in other areas. With the number of military personnel politically difficult to cut, the MoD may examine further efficiencies in the civilian support arms.
Russian army can outgun British, leaked report warns
The Times reports that the Russian military can outgun British troops on the battlefield, the British Army has admitted in a leaked report laying bare the firepower, hacking technology and propaganda developed by President Putin’s state. The report, seen by The Times, warned that Russian weapons, including rocket launchers and air defence systems, were more powerful than their British equivalents, giving Mr Putin a “significant capability edge”. A planned £3.5 billion fleet of lightly armoured British Army vehicles was said to be “disproportionately vulnerable” to Russian mortar and rocket fire in the event of a war. The report also recommended that soldiers be made more aware of manipulative online tactics used on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and that they should leave electrical devices at home while on exercises.
The publication was produced in March under the direction of Gen Sir Nick Carter, the head of the Army, the newspaper said. It is understood the report is based on a training exercise carried out in Ukraine. An Army spokeswoman said: “The British Army conducts regular reviews of potential scenarios in order to improve its readiness to both protect UK influence and protect our people.”
Whilst there has been speculation that the report was deliberately leaked to help support the Army’s case for funding, the problems it identifies in engaging with Russia’s newly enhanced military are very real and have been widely known about for some time.
Top police officers' allowances and perks boost basic pay by 21%
The Guardian reports that Britain’s police chiefs have their basic pay boosted by an average of 21% by allowances and benefits – many of them undeclared – according to Whitehall’s senior pay advisers. The unexpected scale of the continuing allowances and perks enjoyed by senior police officers will add to the pressure on police forces to reveal how much their chief officers receive in benefits and perks over and above their basic pay. The senior salaries review body, which reviews top public sector pay including for Britain’s 200 chief police officers, has been pressing forces to release full details of their allowances and benefits for more than a year.
Mark Polin, the chairman of the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA), said the system had to strike a balance between value for money for the taxpayer and the need to recruit the best people for the top policing jobs. He said the staff association had long sought clarity on a “national remuneration framework”, including allowances and annual leave. He said: “We favour consistency and transparency on these issues, with investigations and appropriate action against any misuse.”
RAF helicopter crashes in Snowdonia
The BBC reports that an RAF helicopter burst into flames on a Snowdonia peak after being forced to land due to a technical problem. All five people who were on board the training aircraft from RAF Valley on Anglesey have been reported safe and did not need hospital treatment. Emergency services were called at about 13:45 BST to Yr Aran, a mountain peak on a ridge south of Snowdon. An air ambulance was sent to the scene, along with a coastguard helicopter.
An MoD spokesman said the Griffin training helicopter “safely completed a precautionary landing in Snowdonia” following a technical issue. “Everyone on board exited safely, subsequently the aircraft caught fire,” he added. The MoD said five people – four military and one civilian – were on the helicopter at the time, while another person involved in the training exercise was already on the mountain.
UK Special Forces pictured in Syria
The Guardian reports that the first images of what appear to be British Special Forces operating on the ground in Syria have emerged, showing vehicles patrolling near the scene of an attack by Islamic State. The pictures were taken in June. It is believed to be the first time British forces have been photographed operating inside Syria, where they are engaged in relatively small numbers in wide-ranging roles that include surveillance, advisory and combat. The images depict British Special Forces sitting on Thalab long-range patrol vehicles as they move around the perimeter of a rebel base close to the Syria-Iraq border.
The MoD, as is standard with Special Forces, declined to comment on the photographs.
MoD launches new innovation innovative
The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain will spend more than £800m funding next-generation military technology including tiny “dragonfly drones” for gathering intelligence and laser weapons to eliminate missiles. Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, has this week launched an innovation unit which will encourage individuals and companies to pitch ideas to a panel of experts. The best ideas will be fast-tracked with the support of an £800m fund over the next decade. Projects which will be funded include a “micro-drone” with tiny flapping wings inspired by the biology of a dragon fly, which could have a “huge impact” on operations in urban environments.
Mr Fallon said: “This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy, with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries. Backed by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, it will ensure that the UK maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world.”