This morning’s news is dominated by reports that the search continues for the EgyptAir flight that disappeared over the Mediterranean yesterday. It is widely referenced that the RAF and Royal Navy are helping with the search for the missing plane.
There is widespread coverage of the EgyptAir plane crash, with a terrorist act being blamed for the downing of the plane with 66 people on board. Reports suggest that security at the various airports visited by the missing plane in the preceding 24 hours is likely to come under close scrutiny. Most reports reflect that the Defence Secretary has sent both Royal Navy and RAF assets to help with the search.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
Our thoughts remain with the families of those on board EgyptAir flight MS804 as they await further information. To support the ongoing search efforts, I have directed RFA Lyme Bay to the area, and I have also offered a C-130 Hercules aircraft from RAF Akrotiri to support the Egyptian-led effort. We stand ready to offer further assistance should it be required.
It is widely reported that the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers will change the Navy and make enemies 'think twice' about attacking the UK. Reporting in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, The Sun, The Mirror and Mail Online states that Britain's vast new aircraft carriers will be able to launch stealth fighters on up to 108 air strike sorties in a single day and watch skies with radar so sensitive it can track an object the size of a snooker ball at 13 miles. Captain Simon Petitt said the ships will become the UK's "most potent strategic weapon, bar the continuous at sea deterrent".
The Financial Times reports that the new aircraft carriers will have space shuttle technology onboard as Britain's two £6bn carriers will have flight decks capable of withstanding virtually the same temperatures. The piece states that there are concerns the first carrier could be deployed without a full complement of fighter jets. "The Navy is desperate to get this ship to sea," says Captain Simon Petitt.
The Sun reports calls for HMS Illustrious to be saved from the scrapyard and then turned into a Falklands memorial. The Prime Minister has been urged to overrule defence chiefs and put the legendary carrier in a permanent exhibit. The MOD’s statement is not carried in the article and can be seen below in full.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said:
We have done all we can for over two years to find a home for the former HMS Illustrious in the UK, and regrettably no suitable bidder has come forward. While it is a difficult decision, we have announced an open competition for the recycling of HMS Illustrious, while remaining open to heritage options.
Virtus Body Armour
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, and Daily Mail claim that soldiers have complained that new body armour issued by MOD makes it difficult for them to get back to their feet while fighting. The articles suggest that troops have also raised concerns the armour does not have enough room for their equipment and is difficult to put on at night. Military sources say some of the issues may have occurred because troops are not using the armour properly. The MOD’s statement is carried, recognising that the Virtus system is a significant improvement on previous equipment, and where there have been some issues we are working with the supplier to make improvements. The full statement from the officer in charge of collecting feedback on the system can be seen below.
Major Ollie Braithwaite, the officer in charge of collecting the feedback from the Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment on the Virtus system said:
The Virtus system is a significant improvement on our previous equipment. It is lighter and better designed to fit a range of body types, while building on the protection we had before. During recent field testing feedback has been largely positive but as with any new system we have identified some issues. Some of these have already been addressed and we are working with the manufacturer to make further improvements. Virtus is worn differently to traditional body armour and some soldiers are still adapting to this change. We are, therefore, improving the training that is delivered with the system, and have encouraged feedback from the soldiers testing it. Above all, soldiers should be reassured that we have the ability to make these changes.”
The Mirror, The Daily Telegraph and the Sun report that Armed Forces morale has dropped amid rising dissatisfaction over pay and conditions. The articles state that the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey finds that contentment with basic salary levels has plummeted 17 points to just 35% since 2010. A Downing Street quote is carried in the Mirror, stating: "We continue to recognise - and we are grateful to - members of the Armed Forces for their contribution. We value their views and we use this survey as one of the tools to review policies and spending plans for the future. We will consider all the findings in it and see where we go from there." Our statement on this is below.
We realise our Armed Forces do a challenging job and that’s why this Government has done more than any before it to ensure they feel valued and that their contribution is recognised. We enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant in law and have introduced a raft of measures to improve service life for personnel and their families.
In the Daily Telegraph the UK permanent representative to NATO, Sir Adam Thomson, has said that US Presidential candidate Donald Trump is "right" to criticise NATO's European members for failing to "pull their weight" in defence spending. Thomson reportedly said Britain will repeat this message "loud and clear" at a major summit in Warsaw, saying: "The UK feels able to stand up and say this because we are one of regrettably very few NATO countries that has met, and will continue to meet, all NATO's spending targets."
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