Today’s defence related news includes the RAF and Virgin Orbit’s selection of an RAF pilot to be seconded to the company’s ground-breaking small satellite launch programme and the Times’s coverage of a social media post made by the Army on Black History Month.
RAF pilot seconded to Virgin Orbit space programme
The partnership between the RAF and Virgin Orbit was unveiled at the Air and Space Power conference in July. Following a tough selection process, Air Vice-Marshal Simon Rochelle and Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart have announced that Flight Lieutenant Mathew ‘Stanny’ Stannard has been selected.
Flt Lt. Stannard is currently a Typhoon pilot with one of the RAF’s test and evaluation squadrons and is expected to join the pioneering Virgin Orbit programme next year.
The selection has been covered widely this morning, with pieces in the Daily Telegraph and The Sun, as well as coverage online across BBC News, ITV News and Sky News. Coverage was carried on Radio 4’s Today Programme.
The Telegraph quotes Flt Lt. Stannard’s comments that he’s “flown Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets in the RAF but being involved in Virgin Orbit’s space programme is a truly unique opportunity”. The Sun states that he has seen action in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan flying Tornado and Typhoon jets and quotes saying he feels “very privileged.”
On the Today Programme, the BBC’s defence correspondent covered the announcement, noting that “these are the first small steps for the RAF in space, but it’s a giant leap for Flight Lieutenant Stannard”. The report notes that this is a part of the RAF’s space programme which will eventually lead to “a constellation of UK-built small satellites” to be launched next year.
Defence Minister Annie-Marie Trevelyan said:
The UK and the US already have an incredibly close defence relationship and now we’re working together to forge new frontiers in space.
This exciting partnership will see Virgin Orbit benefit from the skills and expertise of our personnel while propelling the RAF’s space ambitions to new heights.
Black History Month
The Times reports on the British Army's social media coverage of Black History Month.
The Times coverage quotes the University of Birmingham which said that “over the years the focus of Black History Month has expanded its coverage to include the history of African, Asian and Caribbean peoples and their contribution to Britain’s ‘island story.”
Ian Thomas, a spokesman for the body that facilitates Black History Month, was also quoted in the piece, saying, “the contribution of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities can’t be ignored."