This week’s main security and defence news has been that British assets will be sent to help defeat people smugglers in the Mediterranean. The Daily Telegraph reports that the MoD will be deploying the amphibious landing ship RFA Mounts Bay as part of NATO action in the region. The ship, which carries a Wildcat helicopter, is expected to start operations in the coming days, spotting smugglers taking migrants to Greece and passing the information to Turkish coastguards so they can intercept the boats. Two Border Force cutters will also join the operation, along with a third boat, the chartered civilian vessel VOS Grace, which is already in the Aegean. RFA Mounts Bay will join naval vessels from Germany, Canada, Turkey and Greece as part of NATO's first intervention in the migrant crisis.
- Faslane workers exposed to radiation
- One per cent pay rise recommended for Armed Forces members
- UK Royal Marine unit ditches the SA80 for Colt C8
- New head of MoD civil service appointed
- 450 sex attacks recorded in Armed Forces over last five years
- Crash pilot’s altitude alarm ‘set too low’
- MoD to be sued for negligence over Libyan cadet attack
- UK military bases may be used to house migrants
Faslane workers exposed to radiation
The Herald Scotland reports that submariners were guilty of a “prolonged and repeated failure” which resulted in twenty workers being exposed to radiation at the Faslane nuclear base, according to an internal investigation by the MoD. In the most serious incident, in August 2012, MoD contractors were repairing a leaking tank on a submarine moored at Faslane, unaware that a nearby nuclear reactor was being operated for prolonged periods. They were reassured about safety, even though their team leader had queried the controls in place. The report said: “There was a prolonged and repeated failure of the SS [ship's staff] to understand and control the radiological hazard they were creating.”
The MoD report has been heavily redacted and does not reveal the level of radiation each worker was exposed to. The SNP said the reports raised more questions about safety at the Faslane base. Defence spokesman Brendan O'Hara said: ''The MoD – once again – stands accused of a very poor approach to radiation safety at the Faslane base.” The MoD said safety at the base was paramount and none of the events described in the reports caused harm to the health of any member of staff or to any member of the public.
One per cent pay rise recommended for Armed Forces members
The Daily Telegraph reports that the failure of ministers to give the Army a “reasonable” wage is undermining morale, soldiers have told the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, as a one per cent public sector rise was announced. Soldiers said they were effectively getting a pay cut due to rising food prices and urged ministers to link their pay to private sector increases. Chancellor George Osborne capped public sector pay rises at one per cent last year despite the economy growing.
An MoD spokesperson: “We fully recognise the importance of our Armed Forces and their pay is reviewed regularly to ensure it remains fair. The Government has accepted the independent Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body’s proposal for a one per cent increase.”
UK Royal Marine unit ditches the SA80 for Colt C8
HIS Jane’s reports that a high-profile UK Royal Marine unit has been re-equipped with the Colt Canada C8 carbine to enhance its ability to protect the Royal Navy's nuclear deterrent submarine base and nuclear weapon convoys. The move makes the unit the first British non-special forces unit to completely drop the bullpup L85A2 (SA80) rifle used by the rest of the regular forces. Details of the re-equipment effort were revealed by the commander of 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, Colonel Graeme Fraser, in a briefing document to service members distributed in February.
The logic behind the move was because the L119 has “reduced ricochet, limited collateral damage” features. Both the L119 and L85A2 are chambered in the NATO-standard 5.56×45 mm round, indicating that 43 Commando will be using a low-velocity round for its L119s. The Royal Navy said this was a “one-off” purchase and was not a signal that the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade was going to be re-equipped with new weapon.
The unsuitability of the SA-80 for use amongst civilians at close range means that any Army unit that took over guard duty from the MDP would likely need to re-equip with and be trained to operate an alternative personal weapons system, further increasing the cost of such a move.
New head of MoD civil service appointed
Defence News reports that the top civil servant at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is moving over to the MoD as its new permanent secretary. Stephen Lovegrove, the permanent secretary at DECC for the past three years, replaces John Thompson, the official credited with sorting out the MoD’s chaotic finances during his tenure.
One consultant, who asked not to be named, said Mr Lovegrove will face a major challenge to avoid an overheated budget in the next couple of years. “The priority issue for him is the budget and the funding of the capability aspirations included in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) last November. Actions to keep the budget in balance could bite during the financial year 2017-18,” he said.
450 sex attacks recorded in Armed Forces over last five years
The Daily Mirror reports that 450 Armed Forces sex attacks have been reported to military police in five years. The Army recorded the most – 290 against women and 90 against men – and 30 alleged sex attacks on children by soldiers. The Royal Navy logged 10 alleged sex assaults against men and 30 against women. In the RAF, 30 alleged cases of sex assault were reported by women. The figures do not show how many cases were pursued, or the number of convictions.
Details of Islamic State membership leaked
The Guardian reports that British, US and German intelligence agencies are looking for potential leads in thousands of documents purporting to list Islamic State volunteers, while admitting that much of the information has been overtaken by events and that many of those named are dead. Many of the 14 Britons whose details appear in the documents had already been identified publicly as fighting for the Islamic State and most appear to have been killed.
The documents are questionnaires for would-be Islamic State recruits, listing their real names, their fake names, who introduced them, their countries, experience of jihad, education, date and place of birth, date of arrival in Syria, route, phone number and family. The three British intelligence agencies – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – are still working their way through the cache to assess the value and significance of the hoard.
Crash pilot’s altitude alarm ‘set too low’
The Times reports that the crew of a military helicopter that crashed in Afghanistan, killing all five men on board, had only half a second’s warning that they were close to the ground because an altitude detector was set too low, a court has heard. The inquest into the crash of the Army Air Corps Lynx helicopter in southern Kandahar province opened at Oxford coroner’s court this week, almost two years after the men were killed in one of the worst single losses of life during combat mission in Afghanistan. Spencer Faulkner, the commander of the helicopter, died with Thomas Clarke, James Walters, Oliver Thomas and Rakesh Chauhan in the crash in April 2014. The inquest continues.
MoD to be sued for negligence over Libyan cadet attack
The Guardian reports that a wedding guest raped by two trainee Libyan soldiers based at a British army barracks is suing the MoD for compensation. The man is claiming for negligence and breach of human rights following the attack in Cambridge city centre in October 2014. The two Libyans are serving 12 years in prison for rape. A second claim has been lodged by a woman over an alleged sexual assault by other Libyan trainee soldiers on the same night.
More than 300 cadets were brought for training at Bassingbourn barracks in Cambridgeshire in 2014. But many left the barracks unescorted during their stay and one weekend several went into Cambridge where they committed a string of sexual attacks. The MoD could be forced to pay tens of thousands of pounds in compensation and the cases look set to increase the government’s embarrassment at the handling of the training programme, which ended with the cadets being flown home and British troops being deployed to keep order.
UK military bases may be used to house migrants
The Daily Mail reports that British military bases will become migrant camps under plans being examined by defence officials. Hundreds of asylum seekers could be housed for months – if not years – on bases across the country. Officials from the Ministry of Defence have visited dozens of bases across the entire estate to see whether they could take in migrants following an urgent request from the Home Office. It is understood the Department asked the MoD to look at both land availability and bed space.
They have ruled out certain bases, including military barracks currently in permanent use by soldiers. However, they have identified a handful of bases that could accommodate large numbers. The bases that have been chosen include ones currently being used by soldiers on a temporary basis for training exercises, vacant barracks, and brownfield sites.