Wednesday, April 25, 2012

As Europe falters Asia's defence spending grows and grows

North Korea, the US estimates the country's defence spending to be nearly a quarter of the size of its economy - compared with less than 3% for South Korea, or just 1% for Japan. Overall military spending in Asia has been growing while the West has been cutting back.

Especially in Europe, and here in the UK we have seen mass Army redundancies and the scaling back of our RAF and Royal Navy. Asia's top spender, China, has more than trebled its official defence expenditure over the past ten years.

Why is this happening? Don't we live in a world governed by the UN and diplomacy? Militarism has been dead for 70 years, it doesn't work. So why the arms race? Who is China threatened by? India and Pakistan have Nuclear Weapons, Iran wants one now too; China is feeling the pressure...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A turning point for the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan

Cpl Jake Hartley, 20, Pte Anthony Frampton, 20, Pte Christopher Kershaw, 19, Pte Daniel Wade, 20, and Pte Daniel Wilford, 21, of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment died with Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33, of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, when their Warrior was blown up in Afghanistan.

Names assuredly that will live on for a long time, remembered with regret. Rightly so. Time will tell if their deaths were a watershed moment, a turning point for the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

Probably not. Everyone knows we are committed to the campaign until 2014 and despite the loss and grief many in the York's community feel about this campaign, we should see it out until the end.

What many do not realise is that the media are only briefed by the MoD on the terms of the government. We only find out about what occurs in Afghanistan via press leaks or from the ingenuity of the press itself. As a rule, the MoD never comment on operations, and certainly never breaks the cardinal rule of not reporting on Special ops; Much the same way the Admiralty never disclose the whereabouts of the Royal Navy's submarines.

Therefore, the only news that often comes out of Afghanistan is negative. This tactic is often manipulated in favour of the enemy as propaganda to demonstrate the weakness of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), which we will feel in Britain.

In addition in the UK, a feeling of being under siege can be exacerbated by supporters of Islamist terrorism whom use seemingly negative news about the conflict in favour of their warped views on Islam to call into question Britain’s role in Afghanistan.

However, because Britain, as a substantial rule on reporting of conflicts, says little about its Armed Forces, it cannot be accused of propaganda by its enemies. The same rule applies to the abduction of British nationals – the UK government does not negotiate with pirates, kidnappers, nor terrorists.

It takes real nerve and strength to have this policy; often stuck between a rock and a hard place of international and domestic criticism, traditionally British governments have been doing this for a century, by nature becoming very adept.

The aphorism goes: don’t take a Brit, it won’t get you anything.

Because of the death of the 6 soldiers recently, and public opinion running so high, some little positive news did come out of Afghanistan via the MoD only days after their deaths. Although it was little reported by the mass media, naturally, it can give a modicum of succour to the bereaved.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's the ECHR that needs reforming from the inside

Britain leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and creating its own Bill of Rights (The Conservatives have a commitment on this policy) may not be the right move forward for future generations.

ECHR is out of date. That's for sure. When the victim's rights are ignored in favour of the criminal something is wrong. One only has to remember illegal immigrant Mohammed Ibrahim who killed Amy Houston, whom should have been deported but wasn't; not to mention the farce over Abu Qadata. The list is endless.

However, now that hundreds of ex-servicemen exposed to radiation in British nuclear weapons tests have lost a Supreme Court bid to launch damages claims against the MoD, it means they can take their case to the ECHR.

If we pulled out of it, the sailors would have no chance.

The ECHR has done some good though - not to forget the old couple whom had never been apart were placed in different care homes by their local council but took their case to the ECHR and won; or the cancer patients refused drug treatment by the NHS also won their ECHR case.

It's the ECHR that needs reforming from the inside. It was created from declarations written in 1949; it's out of date.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Heritage Organisations Form Action Group to Save Our War Memorials

Seventeen heritage organisations, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Imperial War Museum, and English Heritage, have been invited to join an "action group".

Since the start of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 10 years ago the rise in incidents of vandalism and desecretion of war graves and monuments in the UK has risen. According to the Imperial War Museum the number described as being in a "poor" condition has risen by 79 per cent in the last two years alone. The attacks have been for various reasons and not just the one everyone thinks. Many civic monuments have had metal stolen from them, a lucrative business to scarp metal yards; until recently of course now that the law has changed. But still many vandals are avoiding justice so more needs to be invested into protecting not only our hisotical monuments but our cemertaries too.

This new action group has been set up by the Heritage Lottery Fund in response to a campaign that calls for more Lottery money to be spent on memorials and a relaxation of funding rules.

The groups will look at the problems of protecting and restoring memorials. In two years it will be the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. There are hundreds of memorials built in commneration of the end of that war that require protection and restoration. So action it seems is required now to understand the situation and to raise the necessary funds to protect our heritage. The government seems to be inept at doing this.

Interestingly, the organisation will review what information is available on the location and condition of monuments, to make this more available and to raise public awareness of all the issues affecting the monuments.

What the government and the law courts seem to be ignoring (as usual!) is that public opnion over this issue is extremely strong and many have been calling for action for several years now. There have been many calls for stronger protection for memorials in the local planning system; the prosecution of anyone caught damaging a war memorial, and stronger sentences for those convicted.

That is not the case at the moment.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Six soldiers from Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiments killed in Afghanistan

It has been reported that 6 soldiers have been killed in a Warrior when it was involved in an explosion in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan. It is 5 soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment and one from 1st Duke of Lancasters.

It is the biggest single loss of British military pesonnel at one time in Afghanistan since a Nimrod crash killed 14 in 2006.

Please leave your messages of condolence and remembrance for the troops whom have served and been killed in service.

Heart, you were never hot
Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail:
Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

Wilfred Owen

Monday, March 5, 2012

George Galloway - "Give Argentina the Falklands"

Galloway in red leotard on Celeb BB
On a BBC politcal show, This Week broadcast Thursday 1st March, Andrew Neil interviewed George Galloway about Argentina's false claim over the Falkland Islands. Galloway said that we should give the Islands up or share them with Argentina.

Galloway is not averse to making outrageous public announcements, his entire career has been one long attention seeking exercise to obtain as much exposure as possible. He has apologised to the House of Commons for saying the wrong thing and been investigated by select committees, had spats with the speaker. The list is long. He is the failed politician (he's lost elections in both London and Glasgow) remembered for trying to lift a sinking career by appearing on celebrity Big Brother in a red leotard. Take note people, he is the only politician to have appeared on it, that tells you something.  He is jumping on the Sean Penn bandwagon by ingratiating himself with the President of Argentina whom he constantly refers to as 'beautiful'. Unbeknowest to George many call her the 'Queen of Botox' in Argentina. His taste in women is as bad as his judgement.

His remarks on This Week are ridiculous and childish - he makes them, forgetting that the Falkland Islanders have the right to self-determination. If there are millions of barrels of oil beneath the Islands then by god we should not share it since the UK has been the only invester in those Islands for the past 150 years.

There's no debate. Argentina just can't claim what they never had any right to. Why George makes this claim is for the reason pointed out above - to gain friends in Argentina as he has none here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

How long can we tolerate the rise in inflation while our Armed Forces salaries are capped and allowances slashed?

More Nimrod were scrapped
How long can we tolerate the rise in inflation while our Armed Forces salaries are capped and allowances slashed? It just seem terribly unfair that unemployment benefit and disability living allowance have increase by 5.2 per cent.

Many Military campaigners blasted Osborne for ruining morale among troops at a time when the Army, Royal Navy and RAF are already facing crippling cuts. Most of this occurred last year and here we are in 2012 totally powerless and impotent to do anything about it.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is trying to save £5 billion from the Ministry of Defence budget by axing battleships, fighter jets, spy planes, tanks and jobs. There is no way now we can commit to any military action in Syria.

The tax free bonus paid to personnel in Afghanistan seems a small tonic when inflation is quickly outpacing the current standard of living. The government tried to deflect attention away from the pay freeze by pointing out this tax break - but a very poor break it is.

However, it can't all be blamed on Tory policy as the Armed Forces engaged in no less than four military conflicts under New Labour - and remember Labour did not bother to have any defence reviews.
Politics aside, the question now is, what is the future? How are we going to cope with international security, how can we afford to? How do we protect the salaries and pay of our Armed Forces? It looks like the electorate will answer with their feet in 2 years time...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Premise of the Celebrity and War

HMS Sheffield, scuppered but not sunk in the Falklands
Celebrities are there to do our bidding. We pay for their massive oversized salaries. The loss of privacy and freedom is the price they pay for stardom; some rise and succeed, but many fall is a blaze of drug and alcolhol abuse. Celebrities can't blame the public - it's the public that pay for the labour of the celebrity and whether this is in the film or music industy the mediums of demand are the same.

Certainly, the mass media play a big part (it is they that do the hacking not the public). However, it's the media that report what idiotic statements these celebrities say. So they can be forgiven the hacking for the moment. And many do say idiotic things. Who can forget some of the quips said by the Duke of Edinburgh or the recent drunken anti-semitic rant by John Galliano?

Anyway, the worst idiotic statements are political ones. Surely celebrities should stay out of politics? After all we have paid them masses in revenue to be entertained; not to be patronised. Watching rock stars (remember what being a proper 'Rock Star' involves, right?) chat politics with Nelson Mandela is sickly and slighty hypocritical not to mention Tony Blair sharing a glass of Champange with Noel Gallagher in No.10.

And how can we forget Sean Penn's latest endorsement of the basket cased Argentine government's claim to the Falklands Islands? If you've got a minute look up Penn on google, he's been a right unsavory character down the years. A real hypocrite - vacuous, bland, docile, biased, and unintelligent.

We all know what he says is idiotic but the problem is with him being a celebrity - he brings an unbalanced and incorrect view to this undebate and many young or impressionable people latch on to these things and take it as gospel. Being a celebrity, Sean Penn should maintain his skills at acting and entertaining, then be grateful to a public that put him where he is by staying out of foreign affairs and politics.

And like Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, stop insulting the sacrifice of those soldiers who died defending the Falklands Islands against an invasion.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What are your experiences of looking for a job, is it something you feel you had support with?

Get your CV sorted
How long did it take for you to gain employment, when you left the Armed Forces?

The transition back to civilian life can be a daunting one, more so for someone having served 20 years. However, for others it's a straightforward process. Therefore how much is the MoD really responsible for someone leaving and isn't it ultimately the individual's responsibility to get out there and network and research?

Many veterans say they end up studying or working self-employed despite getting good resettlement after a period of service (the wisdom seems to be that the longer you serve, for example 12 years, the better support you get; serve 3-5 years and the support is rubbish) for awhile but most do find full-time employment. But the length of service is not an issue for everyone. Some say they got good resettlement only after 6 years' service. Then again, some people talk honestly about their resettlement horror stories in which they got no help; and those are many.

Looking at what people posted on our advice boards on the website, the general advice is don't rely on the government to help you:

1. You have to have a contingency plan set before you leave
2. Start the ball rolling BEFORE you leave
3. Keep looking and don't give up
4. It's about Blowing Your Own Trumpet
(this comes from someone working in the Recruitment industry!)
5. Get a CV sorted out

If you're looking for more career advice have a look at our discussion boards online.

Monday, February 27, 2012

NHS Help? Think Twice before Serving in the Armed Forces

What happened to David Cameron's promise on delivering the Armed Forces Covenant?

We now learn that the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has decided that disabled war veterans will have to pay to park their cars while attending appointments – BUT – those living on benefits will NOT be charged.

Makes you proud to be British doesn't it? Yet another example, to join the current 100's, of how well we treat our Armed Forces Veterans in this country.

Irony aside, it is appalling. What is happening in this country? It look like an agenda from somewhere to maltreat our military in the worst possible way in desperation at the Hartlepool Trust having neither the courage nor the political will to challenge the current status quo. Why not charge those on Income support? If they need to raise funds there are other ways of doing it. To target veterans is abhorrent. Armed Forces personnel pay their taxes like everyone else so they should also receive at least free parking in view of their service.

It makes one wonder how one'll be treated years after any service. Like the scrapping of the winter cold payments and the TV licence for over 75's, our pensioners are being attacked left, right, and centre.

So much for the Armed Forces Covenant...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Can we not for a change keep our noses out of Syria?

We never learn...
The question on everyone's lips is Syria. Have we not learned lessons from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? These are expensive ventures for the taxpayer. In all fairness we are economically not up for this fight, despite what internationalists and the UN and the EU tell us.

No one wants to see more heart broken bereaved families losing sons in a Syrian campaign; and if there's any fighting to be done, we must put British interests first, which means defending the Falklands.

Yes, we all know the Armed Forces do their duty when called upon. Nobody is questioning their power and bravery; time and again the British have shown it and are a great example to the global community. However, the Armed Forces do not take political decisions - the Commons and Executive do. Both are fallible and sometimes take the wrong decisions. Let's not have another War like the Iraqi one after innocent Brits were needlessly killed. The Syrians are much better trained and equipped than Afghans, Libyans and Iraqis.

We kid you not.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Royal Navy cuts are evident but the fleet is still one of only 3 global BlueWater Navies. How far will the cuts go?

It's an enduring question what the devil is going to happen to our glorious Royal Navy. Arguably the best trained and equipped in the world.

HMS Daring Type 45 Destroyer
Only the US Navy trump us with their size. As one member said on our Facebook board, "This government is going to leave us defenceless...". But who are we threatened by? Our country is more at threat from Islamist terrorism, and the pirates would not dare to venture in European waters.

So what's all the fuss about? Argentina seemingly springs to mind. The consensus seems that we need a decent Navy to defend the Islands.

Its not all bad news, as another member pointed out - we've 4 new fleet tankers on the way, Type 22 and 23 refits to carry on until the building of Type 26's. There're more Type 45's nearing completion and Astute Subs well towards completion.

"A better streamlined and effective navy with better kit, and a new Super Carrier will bring new roles and perspectives for RN."

But will that be enough in the face of future aggresion from South American or China?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Royal Marines

Originally named the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot the Corps of Royal Marines can trace their origins as far back as 28th October 1664. As the first unit of English Naval Infantry they were commonly known as the Admiral’s Regiment because the Duke of York was the Lord High Admiral.

In 1704 approximately 2000 British and 400 Dutch marines attacked the Rock of Gibraltar to prevent Spain from reinforcing the fortress. For their action the Battle Honour ‘Gibraltar’ was bestowed upon the Corps by King George IV who decreed that the word ‘Gibraltar’ should appear as part of their crest in representation of the numerous honours they had earned. To the current day the Royal Marines maintain a close relationship with the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps.

Although members of the Corps were soldiers they also undertook the duties of sailors and as such played a big part in establishing the British Empire. The motto of the Royal Marines, ‘Per Mare Per Terram’ which translates as ‘By Sea By Land’, is believed to have been used for the first time at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775 during the Siege of Boston in the American Revolutionary War and reflects the Royal Marines ability to fight both at sea and ashore. It is little known that in 1805 nearly 3,000 marines took part in the Battle of Trafalgar.

In the early 1900’s all vessels classed as destroyers and above in the Royal Navy had a Royal Marine detachment embarked as part of the ships company and at least one of the main gun turrets, and secondary armament, was manned by the detachment.

Read on! However, if you are interested in joining the Royal Marines see our articles on joining information Am I Eligible to join the Royal Marines?

World War I

During WWI Royal Marines took part in the April 1915 ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) amphibious assault of Gallipoli and in April 1918 the Royal Marines led the Zeebrugge Harbour Raid that successfully blocked the harbour entrance for the final months of the war.

Demobilisation after WWI saw the Corps reduced in strength from 55,000 to approximately 15,000 – with even talk of the Corps being entirely disbanded! Eventually reduced to an establishment of 9,500 it was impossible for the Corps to retain two separate branches - Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) and the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI). As a consequence both branches were amalgamated in June 1923 to form the Corps of Royal Marines with the respective ranks of Gunner and Private being replaced by that of Marine.

World War II

WWII saw a resurgence in the Royal Marines with over 80,000 members eventually serving on land and at sea with 40 Commando being the first commando unit to be raised and eventually taking part in the infamous Canadian led raid on Dieppe in August 1942. Because of the success of earlier operations the Marine Division was disbanded in late 1942 and reorganised into eight commandos. In March 1944 the 4th Special Service Brigade was formed from Royal Marine units but in early December 1944 was re-titled 4th Commando Brigade – to ‘rid’ it of the title Special Service which was being compared with the German SS. Similarly the 1st Special Service Brigade was renamed the 1st Commando Brigade at the same time.

On D-Day, 6th June 1944, Royal Marine Commando units of 4th Special Service Brigade, comprising 41, 46, 47 & 48 Commandos, took part in the landings on Sword, Juno and Gold Beaches with the 1st Special Service Brigade – commanded by Brigadier The Lord Lovat - consisting of 3, 4, 6 & 45 Commandos landing at Ouistreham on the extreme easterly flank of the D-Day landing zones. It is estimated that in total some 16,000 members of The Corps were involved in Operation ‘OVERLORD’. At the time of the D-Day landings 40 Commando were operating with the 8th Army in Italy.

The 3rd Special Service Brigade, comprising 1, 5, 42 & 45 Commandos, was formed in 1943 and deployed to the Far East on operations in the war against Japan. As occurred with the 1st & 4th Special Service Brigades the 3rd Brigade was renamed 3rd Commando Brigade in early December 1944. In January 1945 3 Commando Brigade were involved in securing the Myebon Peninsula and Kangaw before moving to India to prepare for the amphibious assault of Malaya, but, with the Japanese surrender the Brigade was diverted to Hong Kong to secure the colony.

In 1946 the Army Commandos were disbanded, leaving the Royal Marines to continue the Commando role. There are still Army elements serving with the Royal Marines in a supporting role.

All personnel, with very few exceptions, have completed either the Commando Course at the Commando Training Centre, Lympstone or for Army ranks, the All Arms Commando Course.

Completion of either of these courses entitles the individual to wear the coveted Green Beret.

Have you got what it takes to become a royal marine?

If you are interested in the Royal Marines see below for our comprehensive list on all the current brigades, and we also have a section illustrating the current Ranks in the Royal Marines. So click on the link and have a look.

3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines (3 CDO BDE RM) Units

40 Commando Royal Marines

42 Commando Royal Marines

45 Commando Royal Marines

30 Commando IX (Information Exploitation) Group Royal Marines

Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (FPGRM)

539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines

Commando Logistics Regiment

Attached Army Units Under Command of 3 Commando Brigade

Commando units not under command of 3 Commando Brigade RM

Royal Marines Non-Commissioned Officer Rank Structure

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Royal Navy Ships

HMS Bulwark is the current Flag Ship
Although the UK has a proud naval heritage the Royal Navy has long been under the microscope as far as manning and royal navy ships are concerned.

However, with the 2010 SDSR (Strategic Defence Review) and the 2004 White Paper, Delivering Security in a Changing World, there are signs that Royal Navy ships will be severely reduced to a smaller and more capable fleet (arguably reducing the quantity of royal navy careers too...) with the most modest naval procurement programme since the end of WWII.

Part of this procurement programme is the provision of two 65,000 ton Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, scheduled to enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

In 2002 the surface fleet of the Royal Navy was reorganised into two flotillas, one each at the naval bases of Portsmouth and Plymouth. The vessels listed below make up the flotillas and other naval organisations with the Royal Navy.

Royal Navy Ships

The Royal Navy has a long heritage: It's History

See our Short History of the Royal Navy and Aircraft Carriers of the Royal Navy

Aircraft Carriers
HMS Illustrious

Assault Ships
HMS Ocean
HMS Albion
HMS Bulwark

Type 22 Frigates
Type 23 Frigates
Type 26 (FSC) Frigates

Type 42 Destroyers
Type 45 Destroyers

HM Submarines
Vanguard Class SSBN
Trafalgar Class SSN
Astute Class SSN

Naval Air Squadrons
Royal Navy Non-Commissioned Rating Structure

More Sections: 
RAF Squadrons and Regiments

Next section:
The Royal Marines

UK Armed Forces Pay Rates for all Services: April 2011 – April 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why did Bin Ladin live in Pakistan?

We all know about Pakistan but all for the wrong reasons, not to mention our war inside its nearest neighbour - there are a million British living in the UK of Pakistani origin whom remind us that in recent years the name Pakistan has become deeply synonymous with Islam and terrorism. It's a country now synonymous with Bin Laden as well.

It now turns out that Pakistani authorities knew that he was living there in relative comfort. They've always denied it of course. Since the attack, carried out on 2nd May 2011, Pakistani leaders continue to deny any knowledge that Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad – despite revelations that he ‘had been hiding there for at least five years.’

Why on earth did Osama Bin Laden choose to live in Pakistan of all places?

It's not a great country to live in - it assassinates its own politicians; stones women to death; geographically sits in a flood basin and is arguably overpopulated which compels a public spending deficit. It's NUCLEAR defence budget is extraordinarily larger than its education budget. It's a country with several territorial disputes; its northern regions has been overrun by militant Islamists. Security is poor. The last few British Pakistanis to visit have either been kidnapped or murdered in so called 'Honour Killings', and the country is crawling with Islamists trying to get into the United Kingdom. Even the Pakistani Cricket Team (that has a deserved reputation for match-fixing) dare not play its matches there which is a shame for its people as Pakistan is a very sporty nation.

NO wonder when Bin Laden was found at his compound in Abbottabad, he had surrounded himself with Western pleasures.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Falkland Islands: Cameron Chairs National Security Council Summit

It has been reported in various newspapers that the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) amid renewed threats by Argentina that they are ‘plotting a mock fishermen’s invasion’ and, in an escalation of the verbal tempo, David Cameron accused Argentina of ‘colonialism’ in the ‘run-up’ to the 30th anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in April 1982.

It is in light of Argentina’s increasingly belligerent stance on the Falkland Islands that ‘contingency plans’ to reinforce the standing military force on the islands have been reviewed by the Ministry of Defence. It is expected that troop reinforcements would be ‘effected’ by air with flights staging through Ascension Island.

General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, has assured the Prime Minister that Britain can defend the islands.

In response to the plans drawn up by the MoD the Argentine Interior Minister, Florencio Randazzo, stated on 18th January 2012 that “It is absolutely offensive especially in the case of Britain. History clearly shows what its attitude to the world was.”

During the NSC meeting it appears that Mr Cameron was made aware of intelligence that ‘warns’ of a possible landing by Argentine fishermen on the islands and South Georgia to ‘plant’ an Argentine flag – actions reminiscent of the South Georgia landings in 1982 that led to war between the two countries. The Prime Minister was also warned that the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, will use the anniversary as the pretext to ‘raise the temperature’ while a Government source stated:

“Kirchner is highly unpredictable. The meeting was designed to make sure we are totally plugged into where the threats might come from. We think there will be a further push at interfering efforts from Argentina.”

Commenting on the NSC meeting the Prime Minister said:

“The NSC discussion was held so we could make sure our defences and everything else is in order. It is important for Britain to send a clear message that as long as people in the Falklands want to remain British, we respect that right of self-determination.

“The reason for holding a National Security Council is to make sure nobody is in any doubt that Britain supports that right of self-determination, and we will go on doing so for as long as people in the Falklands want to continue in that way. I think it is important that everyone understands that.”

Forces currently located on the Falkland Islands include four Eurofighter Typhoons and 150 troops with the Type 23 Duke Class frigate HMS Montrose, offshore patrol vessel Clyde and survey ship HMS Protector patrolling the seas surround the islands.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘Could’ Reduce Western Terror Threat

A study, released by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), has stated that a less visible security presence in Afghanistan could reduce extremist attacks - but it would appear that Britain and America will both have to pay between £4.7 and £8billion a year for over a decade to keep Afghanistan from sliding back into chaos.
The study, named ‘Afghanistan: To 2015 and Beyond’ comes at the end of two years of research by IISS military and intelligence experts who have studied the probable repercussions of what ‘will happen’ when Western troops withdraw in 2014. The study paints a disturbing picture of the two most probable outcomes where either ‘slow uneven progress’ or ‘a relatively rapid descent into disorder’ will eventually occur.

An expert at the IISS and former Deputy Head of MI6, Nigel Inkster, states that ‘a reduced US presence, whether the military in Afghanistan or CIA in Pakistan, represents the best option for lowering the temperature and creating circumstances in which the countries of the region can best address the threats they face from militancy.’ He goes on to warn that ‘policymakers will have to assume a different calculus of risk in respect of terrorism and to accept that some residual threat will continue to emanate from Afghanistan and Pakistan for the foreseeable future, particularly towards the US.’

As part of the study the IISS provides an assessment on the survivability of the Karzai Government as opposed to the violent end of the Najibullah regime three years after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The general conclusion is that Kabul would prevail ‘because the central government has probably amassed sufficient power to ensure that the centre will hold.’

The report highlights that despite progress in the south of the country the eastern part of Afghanistan ‘is likely to be an ungoverned territory up to 2014 and beyond’. ‘It is further considered that ‘with control contested between warlord factions it will become a base for attacks on Government controlled territory and a recruiting ground for militants, as well as an area of increasing opium cultivation.’ It is also considered that the area could ‘potentially be a base for international terrorist groups.’

The study also indicated that only 13 of the Afghan Army’s 20 brigades are ‘semi capable’ with the possibility of ‘getting the majority of them acting independently by the end of 2014,’ a task that will probably prove to be a ‘race against the clock for NATO’s trainers.’ Even if the NATO trainers succeed in ‘their race against time’ it is considered Afghan security forces could well split along ethnic lines.

According to Nigel Inkster ‘the key to any peace process is the position of the Pakistani supported Haqqani network of militants that control the eastern approaches to Kabul.’ He described the head of the network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, as ‘al-Qaeda’s main patron’ but added there was ‘little evidence to indicate what Haqqani wants to achieve and what, if anything, the group might regard as an acceptable resolution of the current conflict short of all-out victory.’

Photo © 2011 isafmedia, Flick

Monday, January 16, 2012

Royal Marines Test CB90 Combat Boat

In a never ending search for excellence the Royal Marines of 11 (Amphibious Trials and Training) Squadron are ‘trialling’ the Swedish CB90 Combat Boat. The high speed boats, designed to protect Royal Navy vessels from fast-attack craft, are being evaluated at the Royal Marines base at Instow in North Devon.

Driven by water jet propulsion units and weighing approximately 16 tonnes the CB90 has a top speed of about 50mph. The vessel is similar in size to the smaller landing craft used by the Royal Marines , can carry up to 18 fully equipped Commandos and mounting heavy machine guns can provide accurate and effective firepower. The manoeuvrability of the CB90 is acknowledged to be outstanding and, because of its unique water jet propulsion system, can literally ‘turn on a sixpence.’

When describing the capabilities of the CB90 Combat Boat the Officer Commanding 11 Squadron RM Craft Trials Wing, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Guyer RM, said:

“There’s no real comparison with what we operate at the moment – it’s a completely different beast. It’s a basic boat, you can really throw it about and it keeps coming back for more. That’s the sort of thing we like.”
To date the trials have tested CB90’s basic handling, operation alongside other landing and assault craft currently in use, safe CASEVAC handling and in the Commando assault role.

It is anticipated that trials will not be completed until the end of 2013 by which time CB90 will have carried out exercises with Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels and ‘worked’ in and out of HMS Bulwark’s dock.

Colour Sergeant Ian Gibbons, a Royal Marine with 13 years of landing craft experience, said that the high speed CB90:

“Is very easy to drive – if you can drive an Offshore Raiding Craft, you can drive one of these”.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Falklands are British. No argument

1982 Liberation Memorial in Stanley
"The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the UK, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance."
Margaret Thatcher
This year is the 30th anniversary since Argentina lost the Falkland War, after they mistook British sentiment and invaded. Sadly, they don't recall they were soundly beaten (at the sacrifice of 255 British Soldiers, RIP) and lost 700 of their own.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why are Soldiers Awarded 1% Pay Increase while MoD Civil Servants get Huge Bonuses?

The Daily Mail has reported that at a time when front-line soldiers are facing bullets and bombs in Afghanistan, massive redundancies and only a 1% pay increase for the next two years civil servants at the Ministry of Defence are being paid large bonuses .

While serving in opposition both the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties stated their intention to ‘deal with the bonus culture at the Ministry of Defence’.

The article states that ‘MoD bureaucrats were paid £38.4million in bonuses in five months in 2011-12 meaning that the cash-strapped department [MoD] is on course to eclipse the £43.5million handed out in the whole of 2010-11’. The article went on to say that ‘figures showed that senior officials shared £505,000, averaging £9,000 each with junior staff being handed a total of £37.9million, typically taking home £697. One civil servant pocketed a £69,459 bonus’.

These bonuses are paid while a new Army recruit risks life and limb on the frontline in Afghanistan for a basic salary of £17,265 and, with an expected ‘pay-rise’ of only 1% over the next two years, the average soldier expects to have less money to spend when taking inflation into account!

The 1% ‘pay-rise’ has led to allegations that the Government – and the Prime Minister in particular - is breaching the Military Covenant by expecting those who place themselves in harm’s way to accept such a paltry pay-rise.
Outrage at the bonus payments has come from across the political divide with Jim Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary, saying ‘any such payments should only be paid in exceptional circumstances’ and that ‘right now our priority must be looking after our men and women on the front-line’. The Liberal Democrat MP and Defence Minister for the Coalition, Nick Harvey, said the pay-outs were ‘scandalous’.

Former Army officer and now Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, said:
“It raises questions about our priorities when bureaucrats get richer on bonuses while those on the frontline are being asked to take what is effectively a pay cut”.

Commenting on the MoD bonus culture defence analyst and editor of the British Army Guide, Major Charles Heyman, said:

“To the soldiers sitting in a hole in Helmand, being attacked by the Taliban day in, day out, it must damage morale to know that someone sitting on swivel chair behind a desk doing a pretty cushy job is getting their pay packet bumped up”.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson’s mother said she was ‘appalled at the payouts’. Ben is considered to be the most severely wounded British soldier to have survived an attack in Afghanistan – an attack that saw Ben suffer horrendous injuries and lose both of his legs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Long Term Sustainability for Injured Personnel in Doubt. It's a con isn't it?

A Commons Defence Committee has said there are doubts over whether the ‘Government has fully understood the scale of demands to be placed on services in the coming years’ when bearing in mind the number of casualties requiring on-going treatment for injuries received in current conflicts.

The Defence Select Committee report on military casualties praised ‘the first class medical treatment’ available but questioned whether it was sustainable bearing in mind the ‘moral obligation’ to support Service personnel as set out in the Armed Forces Military Covenant. It went on to urge the Government to ‘act as a matter of urgency’ to exclude Armed Forces compensation paid to injured personnel from consideration when ‘means-tested’ benefits are assessed.

It was acknowledged by the committee that while the MoD provided ‘outstanding care’ in many areas ‘this cannot always be said for the support it gives to families’. It was also critical about the lack of support given to children following the death or serious injury of a relative and urged the department to ‘look again’ at its support services.

The committee also said that Government reforms of the National Health Service will affect the future care of soldiers injured on the battlefield and requiring on-going treatment.

When discussing the significant contribution made by Service charities the report suggested that charities could well be paying for projects that should be funded by the MoD. The report said it was important for the MoD and charities ‘to work even more closely together to explore ways of ensuring that new capital projects provided by charities can be sustained into an era when current levels of donations may no longer be relied upon [after the withdrawal from Afghanistan]’.

The Defence Select Committee Chairman, James Arbuthnot, said:

“We, as a committee, have seen how determined our injured servicemen and women are to achieve the fullest possible recovery from their injuries. They see it as duty to get better and to return to their units if at all possible.

“And we have been impressed by the brave and skillful personnel, both military and civilian, who are providing the medical care that our Armed Forces need.

“But we need to have the confidence that such specific treatment, for injuries hardly ever seen in the general NHS experience, will continue long after an individual’s retirement and into old age.”

In response the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Andrew Robathan, said:

“There is always more to do and we will consider carefully the committee’s specific recommendations as we strive to fully meet and sustain our commitment to wounded, injured and sick personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.”

*Photo © 2007 Brian Harrington Spier, Flickr*