Leaders from 45 air forces from around the world gathered in London this week for the annual RAF Air Power Conference, the theme of which was 21st Century partnerships. Representatives from industry, academia and non-government organisations also joined the programme, put together by the Royal United Services Institute. The keynote speech from Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon took an encompassing view of the theme, considering the role of international partnership in terms of manning, equipment and industry. On the latter, Sir Michael called for a reset of the vital relationship between defence and industry to keep ahead of the curve, establishing shared incentive to ensure continual investment in new capability and making best use of the expertise and emerging talent from right across defence in both the public and private sectors. To coincide with the conference, MOD announced a £40 million investment to upgrade the Defensive Aids Sub System for the RAF Typhoon fleet, awarded to Leonardo the contract will sustain 65 jobs at their facility in Luton, as well as 41 jobs at BAE Systems in Warton. Many delegates have now headed to the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford, which runs from today and over the weekend. Military aircraft from at least 18 nations are scheduled to appear. In another announcement this morning, timed to coincide with RIAT, a £110 million contract with Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group to upgrade the Hercules C-130J and will sustain 330 jobs in Cambridge, and a £9.5 million contract with QinetiQ to provide Typhoon pilots with improved cockpit technology.
High Court rejects legal challenge on exports to Saudi Arabia
It was announced on Monday that the High Court has dismissed the case brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) that export licences to Saudi Arabia should be revoked in light of ongoing military operations in Yemen. CAAT had argued that these operations represented a ‘clear risk that arms might be used in a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law’, circumstances under which UK policy demands that licences are revoked or denied. However, having studied both publicly available information and secret material supplied by MOD, Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave rejected the claim, determining that the Government was ‘rationally entitled to conclude’ the Coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians, that Saudi Arabia was respecting humanitarian law, is in ‘constructive dialogue with the UK about its processes and incidents of concern’ and there was no ‘real risk’ that there might be ‘serious violations’ of International Humanitarian Law. The ruling was welcomed by a Government spokesperson, who said that the judgment underscores the fact that the UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. CAAT subsequently announced that they intend to appeal the decision. The judgement will be welcomed by the UK defence industry, whose credibility as exporters requires ongoing confidence from customers of UK Government support.
BAE Systems awards Type 26 manufacturing contracts
Following last week’s announcement that that MOD has signed a contract with BAE Systems for the first three of eight planned Type 26 Global Combat Ships for the Royal Navy, BAE Systems has awarded manufacturing equipment contracts to a further 14 companies for work on the programme. The company expects this to support around 550 jobs across the UK maritime industry and bringing the total investment in the supply chain to more than £500m. The largest of the new contracts are for the procurement of structural steel for the first three ships from UK and European steel mills by Dent Steel Services in Bradford, and sonar components critical to the ship’s anti-submarine warfare role, which are to be manufactured by Thales and Tods Defence. A total of 34 companies across the maritime supply chain are working directly with BAE Systems to deliver the Type 26 Frigate fleet, with many more through the supply chain.
Asked for an assessment of the effect on defence procurement of the UK leaving the EU without having a trade deal, MOD replied that the existing scheme of UK procurement rules, which implement the EU public procurement directives, will be preserved under the Repeal Bill when the UK exits, with relevant adjustments necessary to ensure legal operability. Opportunities offered by Brexit to consider longer-term options for the UK's defence procurement rules will be considered in due course.
Asked whether the Type 26 will be constructed with British steel, MOD said that it anticipated that around 35% of the steel required to build each frigate will be sourced from UK suppliers, reiterating that no UK steel supplier was capable of meeting the specification for some requirements.
Asked whether the Government remains committed to the purchase of 138 F-35B aircraft, MOD reiterated its commitment to that total number of F-35 made in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The first tranche of 48 aircraft will be of the F-35B variant. A decision on the variant of subsequent tranches has yet to be taken.
Asked whether MOD plans to procure a new platform to replace the Sentinel R1, due to retire in 2021, MDO confirmed that work is ongoing to determine the detailed requirements for a future overland surveillance capability. A number of space-based, manned and unmanned aircraft solutions, including the development of a sensor for integration onto P-8A, are being explored as part of this work.
Asked when MOD expects to complete the order for 50 new Apache attack helicopters, MOD replied that, having ordered the first 38 under a multi-year contract with Boeing, it expects the remaining 12 helicopters to be incorporated within the contract by the end of the year.
Type 26 Frigate construction to use 65% foreign steel (UK Defence Journal)
£3M Cyber Security Centre opens in Gloucester (Ministry of Defence)
Defence Secretary announces new Maritime Patrol Aircraft squadrons (Ministry of Defence)