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Defence in the media

Defence in the media: 11 October 2015

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Broadcasters today are prominently highlighting the news that a convoy of UK military vehicles has been attacked while on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghanistan blast

It is being widely reported today that a loud explosion has been heard in Kabul in Afghanistan, with local television outlets reporting that it was caused by a suicide bombing against a foreign troop convoy. UK broadcasters are reporting that local police say seven civilians have been injured including a women and a child.

An MOD spokesperson said:

We can confirm that at approximately 0910 this morning a convoy of UK military vehicles on a routine road move as part of the NATO Resolute Support Mission in Kabul was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device. There were no UK casualties.

RAF Tornados

The front page of today’s Star on Sunday speculates that RAF Tornados bombing ISIL targets in Iraq are to be armed with air-to-air missiles to protect them from attack and that RAF pilots have been cleared to fire on hostile Russian jets. The Sunday Times features a similar story and quotes a military source who is alleged to have said “up until now there has been no or little air-to-air threat, but the situation has changed and we need to respond accordingly”.

An MOD spokesperson said:

There is no truth in this story.

RAF Northolt

The Sunday Telegraph claims that a classified MOD report states that the airfield at RAF Northolt used by the Queen and the Prime Minister is not safe. According to the paper, the report says the site in West London is surrounded by “substantial numbers” of buildings which “significantly” intrude into the recommended safe zones for taking off and landing.

An MOD spokesperson said:

RAF Northolt’s aerodrome safety standards are fully regulated by the Military Aviation Authority, a recent judicial review confirmed that no changes are required in relation to current aerodrome standards which are fully published and promulgated to civil users who operate at the aerodrome.

Personnel investigation

The Mail on Sunday continues to report on the story that there is "an investigation into a Nato analyst’s bondage sex sessions with married officers”, with the paper claiming a senior US Army officer is at the centre of the investigation.

An MOD spokesperson said:

As has been previously stated, this matter is being investigated. This is on-going and it would be inappropriate to comment further with regard to what action has taken place or to provide details of the individuals reported to have been involved. We would ask that the personal privacy of individual civilian and military personnel is respected.

British sniper rifles

The Sunday Times and Sunday Express write that British sniper rifles are being used by marksmen loyal to the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack opposition rebels. The papers claim that footage of the marksmen using the weapons appeared on Russian television last week. The articles also suggest that firearms manufacturer Accuracy International has said it provided 50 such rifles to Russian special forces, all of them sold legitimately before new controls on arms exports to Russia were introduced after its invasion of Ukraine.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which runs the arms export licensing regime, said:

The UK has not granted export licences for sniper rifles to Syria since 1999. Existing licences for Russia that were not consistent with the sanctions were revoked, and no new licences for sniper rifles have been granted.

Trident Nuclear Missile submarines

The Sunday Times Review features the first extract in the serialisation of Lord Hennessy and James Jinks’ new book, The Silent Deep. The book covers a history of the submarine service since WWII. In this first extract, the paper features comments made by David Cameron as he describes his first days at No 10 as Prime Minister, when he wrote his last resort letters.

An MOD spokesperson said:

The MOD recognises the importance of communicating the work of the Armed Forces to the public and takes a proactive approach to engagement where appropriate.

In recognition of the perception that the UK’s submarine service and the nuclear deterrent are vital yet little understood areas of the military’s operations, the MOD sought to engage with the authors upon becoming aware of the proposed book. This was in the knowledge that the authors’ background and experience made them well placed to write credibly and responsibly on this topic.

All material for this unofficial history was subject to an extensive clearance process in order to maintain operational integrity and appropriate security vetting was undertaken. 

MOD expenses

The Sun on Sunday today writes that the MOD has spent more than £280,000 in expenses on Bernard Gray in the past four years.

An MOD spokesperson said:

Roles such as these carry huge responsibility and the Chief of Defence Materiel needs to travel frequently, including overseas, to carry out his duties and ensure that the MOD budget of around £33bn and the procurement budget of £14bn deliver world-class equipment and good value for taxpayers.

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