Various media report that Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious will retire from service when she arrives in Portsmouth for the final time later today.
Various media report that Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious will retire from service when she arrives in Portsmouth for the final time later today.
On Friday, ITV News reported that a new inquest has been ordered into the death of soldier Private Cheryl James who died at Deepcut barracks in 1995. | On Saturday, The Times published a piece by Deborah Haynes looking at the balance of power between generals and politicians in Britain, saying that military men want 'action now' whilst politicians will wait as long as possible before acting. | The Telegraph looked at the British victims of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, one of whom was a former RAF search and rescue co-ordinator. | The Times reported that the Royal Navy's new Wildcat attack helicopters are to be fitted with next-generation precision missiles following a new contract agreement with Anglo-Italian defence company AgustaWestland. | The Guardian reported on how MOD is running a multi-million-pound project looking at how the beliefs of internet users can be influenced via social media and other psychological techniques. | On Sunday, the Independent reported that the new Defence Secretary has accused Russia of 'sponsored terrorism' in supporting pro-Moscow separatists, who have been accused of bringing down the Malaysian Airlines jet carrying 298 people. | The Sunday Telegraph published an opinion piece by new Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in which he calls for a thorough investigation into the cause of the crash of flight MH17 and says that getting to the bottom of incidents such as these 'underscores the continuing value of NATO'. Mr Fallon goes on to say that now MOD has tackled the multi-billion-pound black hole in its spending and put redundancies behind it, it can move forward making investments in new equipment and preparing the armed forces for a new era post-Afghanistan. | The People reported that almost 9,000 personnel have been medically discharged from the armed forces in the last 5 years after sustaining injuries in Afghanistan. The MOD position is carried in the piece saying that figures are up because MOD has improved the process and introduced tailored recovery plans to ensure personnel leave the forces when it is right for them to do so. | Today, the Guardian reports that Afghanistan's deal to resolve its presidential election crisis fell into jeopardy at the weekend when an audit was halted days after it began. | Various papers report that at least 100 Palestinians were killed as Gaza endured the bloodiest day of the 2-week conflict between Hamas and Israel on Sunday.
A piece in this weekend's Sunday Mirror criticised the lack of integration between the Army's regular and reserve forces.
It was only this time last year that we set out to radically reform our reserves, and we know that we still have a long way to go. However, by investing £1.8 billion in better training, equipment and integration with the rest of the armed forces, we are confident we can achieve our plans for growing our reserve forces.
We also recognise that growing our reserves is not something that we can do alone. As a result, we are improving our engagement with employers, working in partnership with them to give them the support they need and showing them that, in turn, their reservists can give a lot back too.
In addition, a recent survey of our reservists showed that 91% are proud to serve their country in their spare time and 82% would recommend signing up to their friends and family.
Compensation for injured veteran
The Sunday Mirror also ran a story about a soldier who was attacked with a cricket bat being asked to give back his compensation payout from MOD.
Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, compensation will be paid for illness or injury if it was caused by service in the armed forces.
However, we have a duty to the taxpayer to ensure that public money is used appropriately, and, where mistakes happen, we have a responsibility to reclaim the money.
Service personnel have access to the Criminal Injuries Compensation (Overseas) Scheme, which is similar to the Ministry of Justice's equivalent UK scheme, providing victims of violent crime overseas with compensation where evidence is available to support their claim.
There was coverage this weekend in the Sunday Times of allegations of racism and bullying made by a Fijian soldier.
Whilst we can't comment on individual cases, there is no place for racism or bullying in the Army. All allegations are taken extremely seriously and thoroughly investigated.
It is only right that any criminal allegations contained within a service complaint are investigated first, as criminal allegations rightly have precedence over a service complaint.
This means that the service complaint can also only move forward once the initial service police investigation has concluded. Unfortunately, this can create unavoidable delays in the progressing of service complaints.
In addition, this particular complaint is a complex one, involving many witnesses split over several countries with several heads of complaint.
However, we are committed to improving and speeding up the service complaints process and have set out new proposals to dramatically strengthen the system; a new bill is currently working its way through Parliament.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Afghan security forces yesterday thwarted an attempt by Taliban militants to attack Kabul's international airport. | The Telegraph has published a picture of Yeoman Warder Crawford Butler laying the first of 888,246 ceramic poppies in the dry moat of the Tower of London, each of which represents a British or Colonial soldier killed in the First World War. | Various papers report that the UK's biggest warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, has been successfully floated out of the dock at Rosyth in which she was assembled.
Various papers report that the government has said that the forthcoming NATO Summit in Wales will focus on the situation in Afghanistan, the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the future role of NATO. | Various papers report that Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that specialist accommodation for military veterans who have lost their sight or their limbs is one of eight projects to be part-funded by fines on banks. | Various media report that the Royal Navy's helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is to be retired next month after 32 years of service.
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
The Times claims that the UK should not be buying the F-35 aircraft because of the recent technical problems that have prevented the aircraft flying to the UK this month. The article implies that the issues that have been identified during development tests will prevent the aircraft being able to fly from the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The F-35s have been cleared to return to fly following the recent grounding, and while it is disappointing that the aircraft were not able to take part in UK air shows we do not expect the recent issues to have a significant impact on the programme.
The UK remains fully committed to the Lightning II aircraft, which is a step-change in capability compared to the Harrier. It is the most advanced combat jet in the world, with unprecedented stealth capability as well as state-of-the-art sensors and weapons. It is not unexpected that issues will be identified during the rigorous development test phase for a new aircraft.
We are on track for the UK's aircraft to achieve their initial operating capability in 2018 and begin flight trials from HMS Queen Elizabeth later that year.
Various media continue to report on the Prime Minister's Cabinet reshuffle, including Michael Fallon replacing Philip Hammond as Defence Secretary, as Hammond becomes the new Foreign Secretary. | The Telegraph reports that new Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said that he will make sure Britain's armed forces remain the 'best in the world' amid growing fears about further cuts. | The Telegraph also reports that the Pentagon has said that Britain's £70 million F-35 stealth fighter will not take part in the the Farnborough Air Show at the weekend. | The Daily Mail reports that a military bomb disposal team was called to a beach in Essex after a family found three unexploded Second World War grenades at low tide. | The Telegraph reports that the Ministry of Defence's plan to boost the Army Reserve has made an 'extremely poor start' according to an independent scrutiny report produced by a team of largely retired officers.
Various papers report on the Prime Minister's latest Cabinet reshuffle, including the appointment of Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary. | Various papers report that yesterday the Prime Minister pledged £1.1 billion to strengthen the UK's Armed Forces. | The Times reports that chiefs at the US Department of Defence have said that the new F-35 Lightning II aircraft could be ready in time for the public display at the Farnborough International Air Show on Sunday. | The Daily Express reports that the Red Arrows shrugged off fears about their future to stage a stunning display at the Farnborough International Air Show yesterday. A MOD spokesperson is quoted as saying there are absolutely no plans to disband the Red Arrows. | Various papers report that MOD has instructed property agency GVA to begin marketing the Old War Office in the autumn.
Service Complaints Ombudsman
A story in the Times suggests that the Armed Forces Service Complaints Ombudsman would be powerless to force MOD to produce documents that could incriminate the Department.
It is incorrect to say that the new ombudsman would be 'powerless'. We have in fact been working with the current Service Complaints Commissioner, Dr Susan Atkins, to strengthen the role of the Service Complaints Commissioner into that of an ombudsman.
In future, the changes would mean the ombudsman would have the power to request all the information and evidence required, as well as the ability to certify a potential act of contempt to the High Court, if the ombudsman is not provided with material that has been asked for and there is no lawful reason for it to be withheld. These powers in respect of contempt are in line with those enjoyed by other public sector ombudsmen.
In addition, if the Defence Council does not accept recommendations made by the ombudsman, they must provide reasons and can ultimately be challenged by judicial review.
These significant new powers will give the Service Complaints Ombudsman a powerful independent voice in our complaints process.
On Saturday, various papers reported that Warrant Officer Class 1 Patrick Hyde, who was blown up 17 times during tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, described being in harm's way as an 'occupational hazard' as he was awarded the Military Cross at Buckingham Palace. | The Sun on Sunday reported that the RAF's fleet of 5 Sentinel aircraft will not be 'scrapped' next year following a decision by MOD to extend their service to 2018. | Various papers report that the Prime Minister David Cameron will pledge £1.1 billion to assist the Armed Forces in the fight against cyber terrorists.
Operations in Afghanistan
Yesterday's Mail on Sunday published several readers' letters responding to their 6 July article which claimed that 'huge swathes of Helmand province are in the hands of the Taliban' and that Now Zad, Musa Qala and Sangin are 'overrun with insurgents'. The letters represent various points of view on operations in Afghanistan and suggest that the mission was doomed to fail.
We are confident that the Afghan forces will continue to take the fight to the Taliban and maintain the security of their country and would draw attention to the comments of Major General Richard Nugee in yesterday's Daily Star Sunday.
The Chief of Staff for ISAF Joint Command in Afghanistan said that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have stabilised the security situation in northern Helmand. Major General Nugee agreed that there had been heavy fighting in certain areas but added that the insurgents had been comprehensively defeated by the Afghan National Army.
Speaking about the speculation that various areas have fallen, he said: "It is damaging because it is inaccurate. Did the Afghans come under attack? Yes. It was a fairly concerted attack by the Taliban. But was it the same as last year, and is it the same as the year before? Yes. It wasn't a disaster. Were some checkpoints taken over? Yes. Were those checkpoints taken back? Yes."
Progress has been made in Helmand, with more goods for sale in the shops, more young people attending school (including a big increase in the number of girls) and an increase in the capacity of the Afghan health service. Major General Nugee added that the ANSF are firmly in the lead for their own security operations.
He said: "The Afghans did that all on their own; they didn't want much support from us. It may take 24 hours but they get their act together and defeat them."
His analysis was supported by an Afghan interpreter with links to the ANSF engaged in Sangin. He said: "The Taliban can be strong but the Afghan army is much stronger and is winning the battle."
The Sunday Express wrongly claimed that the Red Arrows could be facing the axe because the aircraft that they fly are due to go out of service at the end of the decade.
There are absolutely no plans to disband the Red Arrows when the Hawk T1 leaves service with the RAF in 2020. No decision has yet been taken on the replacement aircraft but we continue to evaluate the options available.
Sky News reports that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not make its much-anticipated UK debut today. | Various papers report that the Ministry of Defence has confirmed plans to clean up radioactive particles at Dalgety Bay in Scotland. | Various papers report that the military rehabilitation centre at Headley Court will move to a stately home in the East Midlands.
The BBC reports that the suspension of the RAF Waddington International Air Show has led to a full review of the Ministry of Defence's commitment to all shows. | The Telegraph reports that the Defence Secretary has warned that making deeper cuts to the armed forces would have 'meaningful consequences'. | Various papers report that rehabilitation services for seriously injured soldiers are to be moved to a new £300 million, state-of-the-art centre at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire, funded entirely by private donations. | Various papers report that a full-scale model of Britain's new £70 million F-35 Lightning II aircraft was on display at RAF Fairford yesterday. | The Daily Mirror reports on apprenticeships, saying that a number of organisations provide them, including the Army, which offers apprenticeships to 95% of new recruits. | Various papers report that the Defence Secretary has told MPs that the 'bulk' of British forces in Afghanistan will be pulled out by the end of October if the country's disputed presidential election is not resolved and an agreement put in place. | The Times reports that the biggest issue at the Farnborough Air Show next week is whether an American F-35 Lightning II aircraft will get off the ground.
The BBC reports that ministers are set to acknowledge that Syria received some of the materials used in its chemical weapons programme from UK companies during the 1980s. | The Times reports that more than half-a-tonne of heroin has been seized in the past week amid warnings to police that organised crime gangs are intent on exploiting Afghanistan's record opium harvest. | Various papers report that government figures show that more than 260 Afghan civilians, many of whom worked as interpreters for the military, are awaiting visas to move to Britain. A statement from Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois explains that 269 visas are currently being processed and the first locally employed civilians are expected to arrive in the UK 'later this summer'. | The Daily Star reports that a task force has seized more than 6,000 kilograms of drugs in the biggest-ever Indian Ocean sting. Australian ship HMAS Darwin made the bust as part of the UK-led Combined Task Force 150.