MOD reels as speculation about defence cuts grows
Rumours of discontent in MOD came to the fore this week, with reports that the forthcoming National Security Capability Review will favour investment in cyber security and the UK’s intelligence agencies over the armed forces. Mark Sedwill, the National Security Advisor, is leading the review from within the Cabinet Office and has reportedly told defence chiefs not to expect any new funds. This despite long-running rumours that MOD will be unable to deliver the Defence footprint envisaged in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review within their current budget. MOD’s head civil servant, Stephen Lovegrove supposedly had to ‘dress down’ Senior military officers due to leaks about the savings measures being considered as part of the upcoming review. Meanwhile, rumoured cuts to the manned strength of the Army led to speculation that Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood MP could resign from his position in protest. Responding to the speculation, Britain’s largest union, Unite urged the Government to protect the UK’s defence capability when it gave evidence to the Defence Select Committee on 28 November. Meanwhile, the Royal United Services Institute this week published a measured response to the lack of any financial settlement for Defence in last week’s budget, setting out the potential constraints and options for upcoming review.
Government publishes Industrial Strategy
On Monday the Government published its long awaited, Industrial Strategy white paper, which aims to set out a long term plan to boost UK productivity and create an economy ready to thrive beyond the UK’s membership of the European Union. The paper, which was largely previewed during last week’s budget, is based around five ‘foundations’ which align to the Government’s vision for a transformed economy; ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment, and places. Commenting on the publication of the Government Industrial Strategy, Terry Scuoler, outgoing Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said that the introduction of a new industrial strategy is key to supporting efforts to improve productivity and invest in not just current industries, but those of the future which are set to radically change the ways in which people live and work. The white paper acts as a good foundation for a new partnership with industry where Government and business can ensure consistency in policy thinking and implementation to ensure the UK is a world leader in these new technologies. And by introducing independent scrutiny of the progress of these plans, the government is signalling there will be a strong focus on measuring delivery which boardrooms will recognise and welcome. The White Paper had little to say on the defence and security sector specifically, though the MOD’s soon-to-be-published industrial policy refresh is expected to echo the same themes within the specific sectorial context. A sector deal for defence, being led by industry through the Defence Growth Partnership, is in production.
BAE Systems and Qatar agree terms for Typhoon export
Speaking to the Defence Select Committee on Tuesday, BAE Systems’ Managing Director for Military Air & Information, Chris Boardman, confirmed that negotiations with Qatar for the purchase of 24 Typhoon and 6 Hawk aircraft are complete. The two sides are now looking for a suitable date to sign the deal. In September, then Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced he had signed a statement of intent on the proposed purchase with his Qatari counterpart. The value of the deal is unknown, but it will run into the billions of pounds for the British aerospace industry as well the European partners in the Eurofighter consortium. The deal will extend Typhoon production at Warton from 2022 to 2024, though Mr Boardman urged the British government to provide clarity on its vision for combat air requirements in a post-Typhoon era. It is hoped that a strategy for the UK’s combat air sector, similar in intent to the National Shipbuilding Strategy, will be commissioned by the upcoming National Security Capability Review. During the evidence session, BAE Systems also provided an update on future Typhoon exports to Saudi Arabia.
Asked about progress made on implementing the National Shipbuilding Strategy and procuring the Type 31e frigate, including timelines for procurement and likely components and subsystems, the Minister replying answered that, during the pre-procurement phase, MOD has received expressions of interest from 22 companies against the requirement for an initial order of five ships at a maximum average price of £250 million per ship. The competitive process will begin in 2018 and award of a single design and build contract in 2019, allowing trial and acceptance of the first of class into service in 2023. The systems and equipment for the Type 31e Frigate will be defined at the main investment decision point.
Asked, what assessment MOD has made of the potential merits of the use of 3D printing for equipment maintenance for operations, the Department replied that he impact of 3D Printing on defence is being studied thoroughly, through research programmes, international collaboration and trials. Areas of study include the potential impact on logistics, in-field repair, reducing equipment development times and enhancing the performance of defence components.
MOD publish DE&S annual report and accounts 2016/2017 (Ministry of Defence)
UK Armed Forces to test space-based intelligence gathering (Defense News)