Today’s Defence news is dominated by the sad news that an RAF Puma Mk 2 has crashed at the Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, resulting in the death of five personnel including two members of the RAF. The Ministry of Defence can confirm that the crash was an accident and not the result of insurgent activity.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of the deceased at this extremely difficult time, as well as those other military personnel who were on board the aircraft during this tragic incident. This is a stark reminder that our brave Service Personnel continue to work night and day in a hostile and challenging environment.
This is a very sad time for the men and women of RAF Benson and UK personnel in Afghanistan. Although the UK’s combat mission has ended, the dedication and professionalism of our men and women is essential as we continue to support the Government of Afghanistan as they seek to build a peaceful and prosperous future for their country.
Newspapers, including the Daily Express and the Guardian, also highlight yesterday’s news, that a UK convoy of military vehicles in Kabul is believed to have been targeted by a Taliban bomb which struck the convoy and damaged the front of one of the three Foxhound armoured vehicles. Reports stress that no British troops were injured and that the Taliban claimed the blast was in retaliation for recent US air strikes in the northern city of Kunduz.
The Times and Daily Mail follows up on the Star on Sunday’s front page yesterday which suggested that RAF pilots have been authorised to shoot down Russian warplanes in the Middle East. Today’s article reports Russia’s ‘fury’ over the RAF’s apparent threat to Russian jets, reporting that the Kremlin summoned the British military attaché for a ‘dressing down’ and "to provide an official explanation" of reports RAF Tornados in Iraq had been fitted with Ashram heat-seeking missiles, which are designed for aerial combat. The Ministry of Defence can confirm that there is no truth in this story about RAF aircraft. Our primary focus currently is to ensure that coalition aircraft continue to fly safely over Iraq on operations against ISIL, RAF Tornado aircraft of course have the ability to carry air-to-air missiles but those operating over Iraq have not been loaded with this capability.
Today sees the launch of the Sun Military Awards, with the paper highlighting the categories that Military personnel can be nominated for.
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton said:
Combat operations in Afghanistan may have ended last year but our soldiers, sailors and airmen remain active around the globe. Whether fighting Ebola, attacking ISIL, rescuing migrants, or protecting Baltic and British airspace from aggression, they continue to keep us safe.
In a more dangerous and less predictable world we will increasingly rely on the service and sacrifice of our brave personnel, so the Millies gives the British public a unique opportunity to express its thanks for their courage, selflessness and determination.
I very much look forward to seeing this year’s nominees – both individuals and units – receiving the recognition they so richly deserve.
The Daily Telegraph and The Sun have reported on an interview with the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. Speaking to Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio Five Live yesterday, Mr Grieve is reported to have warned that the Defence budget is “far too low” and “well below” where it should be in the UK. The article in the Daily Telegraph suggests Mr Grieve went on to warn that the upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review will be "very important" in determining the country's future position in the world.
There are further reports in today’s papers that at least 50 Labour MPs are thought to vote for Britain to join military action in Syria, if it is to protect civilians and not just to attack ISIL bases. This comes ahead of an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons today on the ‘Protection of Civilians in Syria.’
Writing in today’s Financial Times Philippe Sands of University College London writes that we need a Syria strategy, not ‘half-baked reasons to drop bombs’. Mr Sands goes on to write that ‘like it or not’, the Prime Minister will have to engage with the important ‘actors’ in this war, including Russia and Iran.
Meanwhile, a leader in today’s Daily Telegraph talks of the ‘strategic necessity’ of destroying ISIL and calls on the EU and Nato to make it clear that they ‘expect more’ of Turkey in the war against the insurgents. Meanwhile, the paper writes that the British government is ‘moving towards’ a parliamentary vote to authorise British military action in Syria, that that no one should ever rush into military action abroad, especially in the Middle East.