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Defence in the media

Defence in the Media: 18 June 2015

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On the 200th anniversary of Waterloo the media reports widely about last night's Salisbury Plain traffic collision, and there's coverage of the Defence Secretary's visit to the Baltic region.

Exercise BALTOPS

Following the Defence Secretary’s visit to HMS Ocean off Poland and RAF Typhoons based in Estonia yesterday, The Daily Mail, Guardian, The Times and Daily Telegraph, who travelled with Michael Fallon, report that he said Nato will not be intimidated by the President Putin and that the alliance was determined to match his “sabre rattling” with its increasing commitment of military exercises. He said which would show that by sending more troops to participate in the Baltops training exercise, and jets to Baltic Air Policing, Britain is sending a strong message that it would stand shoulder to shoulder with its allies. The papers report that nearly 1,000 UK troops are taking part in the 15-day exercise with participation from 17 countries. Some papers report that the Defence Secretary indicated that Nato was effectively engaging in an arms race with Russia. The Defence Secretary made no mention of an arms race, but did emphasise the UK’s growing commitment to reassurance. He added that UK personnel were at the very heart of Nato’s recent defensive activity. 

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

 The participation of nearly 1000 UK personnel and the Royal Navy’s Flagship HMS OCEAN in these exercises sends the strongest possible message about our determination to defend and support our allies in the face of any threat.

 This exercise is a demonstration of what the Royal Navy does best, and why our Armed Forces are among the most respected in the world; our ability to combat any threat to the security of the UK, to defend and strengthen our partners and to project UK capabilities anywhere in the world. 

Salisbury Plain incident

All outlets today are reporting on last night’s road traffic incident on the Salisbury Plain, which involved British and Indian Army personnel and resulted in 20 people being injured. Articles report that several people have life changing injuries caused by military vehicles colliding. Many of the papers, including the Daily Mail, report that the incident happened around 6.30pm yesterday. 

A joint UK-India statement on the incident, by Brigadier Martyn Gamble, Commander 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales and Brigadier Rajesh Kumar Jha, Military  Adviser, High Commission of India in London, is here.

At 6.10pm yesterday there was a road traffic collision on Salisbury Plain Training Area involving three large troop carrying vehicles near Larkhill. This involved Indian Army and British Army soldiers participating in Exercise AJEYA WARRIOR which is an Indian - UK Army exchange training exercise held every other year. 

A number of soldiers were injured in the incident.  Casualties were treated at the scene and taken by emergency services to Southampton General and Salisbury District Hospitals.  Others were treated at the Army Medical Centre at Westdown Camp.

Six soldiers remain in hospital.  We continue to receive updates on their condition, but will not be commenting further.  The families of those involved have been informed and our thoughts are with all those affected by the incident at this time.

Wiltshire Police is continuing the investigation into the incident, and the vehicles have been recovered.  However again, it would inappropriate to make any further comment about the collision.

The British and Indian Armies would like to thank the emergency services for their outstanding response and the superb care they have administered to our soldiers.

The UK and India share a very strong Defence relationship. This exercise, which includes both Regular and Reserve soldiers builds upon this by integrating an Indian infantry company into a British battalion to share expertise and techniques in demanding combat scenarios. The exercise continues.

Defence Spending

The Telegraph reports that one of America’s most senior Pentagon figures has called on Britain and other NATO countries to end the downward trend in defence spending and to accept that “security does not come for free”. US Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James is reported to have said that NATO is at a crossroads and must increase spending to counter Russian aggression.

Meanwhile, The Sun reports that David Cameron’s former military adviser, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has said that the Prime Minister is “limp” over cuts to the MOD and accused him of “kicking the debate into the long grass”. The short article reports that Lord Dannatt went on to say in the Lords last night that further delays make the UK look “weak and enfeebled”.

Armed Forces Covenant

The Daily Telegraph runs the anticipated article today, reporting on comments from the Local Government Ombudsmen which has said that councils need to do more than just pay lip service to the Armed Forces Covenant. The article states that Devon County Council broke the covenant and failed to support a service family with adequate transport for schooling of an Army medic’s children.

A MOD spokesperson said:

We welcome this decision by the Local Government Ombudsman which reaffirms the duty placed on signatories to the Covenant in meeting their responsibilities to the Armed Forces Community. The Community Covenant recognises the important role that Local Authorities play in supporting the Armed Forces Community, which can be disadvantaged simply by virtue of their service. It is not a one size fits all model, and the Government is committed to working with Local Authorities to explain the needs of the Armed Forces and to help them tailor their support accordingly.

US Air strike 

The Sun reports that Britain avenged the slaughter of six hostages by allowing the US to fly from the UK to kill Algerian al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. 

Navy drugs bust

The Daily Mirror and The Sun report as expected that HMS Richmond has used its drone as part of a £98 million drugs bust off the coast of Africa. 

HMS Richmond’s Commanding Officer Commander Mark Anderson said:

Richmond has played her part in disrupting the narcotics supply routes via Africa into Europe and the UK, working with France, Australia, New Zealand and Tanzanian authorities. It’s a unique thing the Royal Navy can do, deploying thousands of miles from home, working side by side with regional allies and having a direct impact on the supply of narcotics into the UK.

Queen's Guard

The Sun and Daily Mail report as expected about the incident involving a tourist colliding with the Queen’s Guard after a video emerged on YouTube now with over 1 million views. The tourist walked into the path of the soldiers and failed to respond to the call of “make way”.

An Army spokesman said:

We are aware of an incident involving a Guardsman and a member of the public which took place on Saturday following the Queen’s Birthday Parade as soldiers from 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards were returning to Barracks. Every precaution is taken to ensure that members of the public do not impede soldiers on ceremonial duty and the police where present, will clear the route for them. Should individuals be in the way, a verbal warning will be made by the Senior Non Commissioned Officer present. On this occasion the individual did not respond to the verbal warning until the last minute and contact with the guardsman could not be avoided. This is regretted and not something which happens regularly. Apart from some embarrassment, there was no injury to either the tourist or the guardsman on this occasion.

Brecon inquest

The Guardian continues to report from the Brecon Beacon inquest, writing that three Army reservists who died after suffering heat illness on SAS selection would have survived if they had been halted at the last checkpoint they passed through. The article includes comments from heat expert George Havenith who has provided evidence to the enquiry.

RAF Typhoon jets on the Baltic Air Policing mission intercept MiG Foxhound fighters before the Defence Secretary's visit to Estonia and Poland yesterday.

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