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Defence in the media

Defence in the Media: 21 July 2015

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Of defence interest on today’s newspaper front pages, The Times reports that Mr Cameron has outlined plans for housing estates and schools dominated by a single community to become more ethnically mixed to end segregation in Britain. 

This is part of a wide-ranging plan that will put those contributing to extremism “out of action”. The topic is widely discussed across the papers’ leaders, with many praising the tackling of a difficult issue. On the inside pages and running on broadcast news are reports that Chancellor George Osborne is seeking £20 billion in departmental cuts as part of the spending review, which will also include a sale of state land. Coverage claims that the MOD owns around 1% of all UK land.


There is coverage across many outlets of the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s update and statement to the House yesterday on the issue of UK pilots embedded with allied forces in Syria. The Daily Telegraph and the Times report that Mr Fallon has ruled out sending British combat troops to fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria, adding that that Western ground forces would inflame the crisis, but articles say there is a desire for air strikes to be expanded into Syria. The Daily Mirror and the Independent lead with this angle, saying that Mr Fallon has given the clearest indication yet that the Government is preparing to take military action against ISIL in Syria. The Guardian says that “cross-party scepticism” about the UK embed programme in Syria was laid bare yesterday, with MPs warning that Britain has no reliable allies in the country, and bombing might only strengthen President Bashar al-Assad. Mr Fallon said:

More than 60 countries, both within the region and from outside, are part of that international effort, demonstrating the widespread opposition to and abhorrence of ISIL’s barbarous terrorism. There is a well planned, integrated strategy to defeat ISIL that includes: action to cut off its funding; stopping the flow of foreign fighters; humanitarian assistance to both Iraq and Syria; strategic communications to tackle its poisonous ideology; and the military campaign. That strategy is overseen by ministers from all the key nations, including the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi. Our strategy is therefore comprehensive and broader than simply military action.

The full oral statement and debate can be found here.

Saudi Arabia

The Sun has reported this morning that plans have been drawn up to send several hundred military trainers to Saudi Arabia to deepen the UK’s role in the conflict in Syria. This is part of the US-led programme to train and equip screened members of the Syrian moderate opposition as announced here in March. On current planning the UK is not committing several hundred trainers but will contribute around 85 military personnel across the region to instruct opposition members over the next three years on areas such as small arms, infantry tactics and medical skills. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan have said publicly they will host training.

Counter extremism

As part of widespread coverage about Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech yesterday, in which he set out the Government’s plan to tackle extremism and radicalisation amongst young Muslims, the Daily Telegraph says that the RAF could target jihadists in Libya. The article reports that Mr Cameron has opened the door to air strikes in Libya, saying it is his duty to act against Islamist terrorists wherever they may be, if they pose a specific threat to British people. He also said that defeating ISIL will be an "essential" part of overcoming terrorism and that doing so will require troops on the ground - but not British troops. The leaders across many of the papers focus on the speech, with many welcoming his confrontation of the challenge of extremism, but adding that action will speak louder than words.

The Daily Telegraph says the measures only deal with part of the challenge and that the other threat that must be addressed occurs in lawless Muslim countries, such as Libya, where political stability is needed. The Financial Times says that whilst the Mr Cameron’s defence of British values is welcome, his ISIL policy is flawed and defeating the militant Islamist threat is a long-haul project. The Daily Mail praises Mr Cameron’s “guts” to confront the causes of Islamist radicalisation head-on, but adds it is a shame that his plans had not come sooner. And the Sun says that whilst the speech should be applauded, it must also be a game-changer.

MOD land 

Several broadcasters and online outlets, including the Guardian, report that the Chancellor George Osborne is seeking £20 billion in departmental cuts as part of the spending review, which will also include a sale of state land. The MOD currently owns around 1% of all UK land and we keep the size and location of our bases under constant review. Work continues to scope opportunities to significantly reduce the estate by up to 30% over the next 10-15 years to ensure that it is no larger than necessary to meet operational needs. The security of the nation and the requirements of defence are always paramount in our analysis as we strive to improve military capability and provide value for money for the taxpayer. This work follows on from previous MOD site disposals that contributed more than a third of the government’s land release target for 100,000 new homes. 

Scout vehicles

The Times carries a very positive article about the 589 new Scout vehicles which the Army will take start taking delivery of from the end of next year. The piece says that the vehicle could be used to counter threats from ISIL to a resurgent Russia, and includes comments from Chief of the General Staff, Sir Nicholas Carter, speaking at the Royal United Services Institute’s Land Warfare Conference. He says that Scout will provide “new ways on entering theatre rather than just by air or sea”, adding because the vehicle lacks a logistical ‘tail’ for maintenance, the Army will be able to deploy more soldiers at the attack end of a mission rather than in support roles; providing “greater utility at the policy level than we have currently from our locker of capabilities”.

This story is also carried on the Daily Mail website, which says the army will soon use a brand new armoured vehicle equipped with state-of-the-art systems to take soldiers up to 20 times deeper into enemy territory. Designed and built in the UK by General Dynamics, the new Scout SV will be used to counter threats from enemies such as ISIL and it was developed as part of a £3.5billion programme. It will replace the Scimitar light tank, which has been used by the army since the 1970s and most recently saw action in Afghanistan. The Scout is designed to give soldiers the ability to move quicker and further than ever before across a battle ground. It is also the first ever fully digital army vehicle.

Sexual harassment survey

The Daily Telegraph includes a story which reports that a culture of sexual harassment in the Army will harm the country’s ability to protect itself from attack. It follows the publication of a survey commissioned by the Army. The article quotes the report as saying the problem is so bad that it will impact on the Armed Forces’ “operational effectiveness”, with around 90% of women in the Army having been in situation where colleagues told “sexual jokes or stories”. The report also shows that almost 40% of servicewomen have received unwanted comments about their looks or sexuality in the past year, which is also mentioned by a news in brief in The Times. An Army spokesperson said:

The Chief of the General Staff is clear that this kind of behaviour has no place in our Armed Forces - or indeed any workplace. It needs to be stamped out and that is precisely why the Army is taking practical action to tackle it. The survey identified the extent to which both men and women are responsible for inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment. The results do not identify the type of incidents for which women were responsible; they cover the full range of behaviour from inappropriate comments and swearing to sexual assault.

Image of the day

The Prince of Wales Carrier travelling past the Royal Liver Building on the River Mersey
A block of the forthcoming HMS Prince of Wales carrier travelling past the Royal Liver Building on the River Mersey, Liverpool. The section will form part of the centre block of the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, which is under construction for the Royal Navy. It was being transported from Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead to Rosyth.

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