Tag: UK

HMS Ocean in Pictures

HMS Ocean is due to be decommissioned in March 2018. Ocean is an amphibious assault ship, the UK’s helicopter carrier and the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force. She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan on the River Clyde and fitted out by VSEL at Barrow-in-Furness prior to trials and subsequent acceptance in service. She was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port HMNB Devonport, Plymouth. HMS Albion and Bulwark (Landing Platform Dock ships) and the Bay-class Dock-Landing Ships, RFA Mounts Bay, Lyme Bay and Cardigan Bay in addition to the Aircraft Carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of wales and to some extent the Tide-class Royal Fleet Auxiliaries will now be responsible for amphibious operations.

HMS Bulwark (L 15) with HMS Ocean (L 12)


More than 3,500 troops to take part in Silver Arrow 2017 international military drill

Canadian troops compare equipment with Latvian, UK and Danish NATO Allies during Exercise SILVERARROW in Latvia 2016

RIGA, Oct 13 (LETA)

More than 3,500 troops will participate in Silver Arrow 2017 international military drill held in Latvia – Adazi, Ape, Gulbene and Aluksne regions – on October 16- 29, the Latvian Defense Ministry reported.

Countries participating in the drill include Albania, the US, Estonia, Italy, Canada, Latvia, the UK, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Germany. Also about 200 home guards and 30 reserve troops will participate in the exercise.

The goal of the drill is to improve cooperation of the National Armed Forces with the allies, train the ability of units to plan and conduct defense operations, the ministry said.

Alongside, National Armed Forces mobilization drills and reserve troops exercise will be held.

The ministry reminded that initially Silver Arrow was a national military exercise, but since 2014 it has growing into an international exercise with cooperation of allies and partners.


HMS Northumberland welcomes crew for sea trials after upgrade

HMS Northumberland is a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy.

Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland has welcomed her crew back following a major refit at the frigate refit complex in Devonport.

Justin Mills, ship project manager, handed over the Type 23 frigate to the new Commander Alexandra Pollard.

This is Pollard’s first command having previously served as the executive officer aboard HMS Richmond.

Now that the ship has been delivered to the crew by shipbuilder Babcock, it is set to undergo a series of sea trials and training evolutions before returning to operations.

The ceremonial handover included the raising of the White Ensign on board.

In addition to upgrades to her weapon systems, infrastructure and navigation equipment, HMS Northumberland received four new diesel generators and associated upgraded power distribution delivered by Rolls-Royce subsidiary MTU. The new generator equipment, being manufactured in Germany and Austria, is being installed at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport during planned upkeep periods. All frigates are set to receive them by 2024.


Estonia: Kaitseliit to hold exercise with allies over weekend

NATO battle group led by the British in Estonia

TALLINN, Sep 29, BNS – A training event of the South national defense district of Estonia’s Kaitseliit (Defense League) volunteer corps that began on Monday will on Saturday transform into a large scale exercise titled Sibul (Onion) that will be joined by personnel from the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia.

On the first day of the exercise the staff and company and platoon commanders assembled at the defense forces’ central training ground. The next to arrive were squad commanders and specialists, whereas on Thursday the rest of the personnel arrived at the central training ground, spokespeople for Kaitseliit said.

The assembly part ends on Friday, and on Saturday the training exercise will start in the course of which Kaitseliit volunteers from South Estonia will hone their skills in conventional warfare with the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia.

According to the scenario of the exercise, Kaitseliit’s battle and logistics companies will conduct defensive activities and will be attacked by light infantry companies supported by the NATO battle group.

Lt. Col. Kalle Kohler, head of the Tartu region of Kaitseliit and commanding officer of the exercise, said that the exercise summarizes the three-year training cycle of the Kaitseliit regions of South Estonia and will prepare staffs and units for the Siil (Hedgehog) large-scale exercise of the defense forces to take place next spring.

In addition it offers an excellent opportunity to rehearse cooperation with the NATO combat units stationed in Estonia.


Theresa May: Britain committed to defence of Europe

The UK is unconditionally committed to the defence and security of Europe, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

She was speaking to British troops based in northern Estonia with Nato, ahead of an EU summit in the country.

Mrs May is hoping to build a new security partnership with Brussels and offer UK expertise in combating cyber threats as Brexit preparations continue.

She will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the talks.

Some 800 troops have been in Tapa since April, alongside Estonian and French forces, as part of a Nato effort to reassure eastern European nations fearful of Russia’s increasing assertiveness.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas joined Mrs May in visiting the troops, who will be joined by forces from Denmark in the new year.

Addressing the troops, Mrs May said: “While we are leaving the European Union, as I have said many times, we are not leaving Europe so the United Kingdom is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security.”

Speaking ahead of her visit, Mrs May said: “From terrorism to cyber-crime, illegal migration to Russian aggression, the threats we face as Europeans are increasing in their scale and complexity.

“Now more than ever, it is in all our interests to confront them together.

“With the largest defence budget in Europe, a far-reaching diplomatic network, world-class security, intelligence and law enforcement services, and our position at the heart of Nato, the UK’s role in Europe’s defence has never been more vital.

“As we prepare for Brexit, I want to build a bold, new security partnership with the EU.”

She will make it clear that the UK is ready to continue contributing troops, equipment, expertise and money to EU operations, and to align foreign policy with Brussels where appropriate.

On Thursday, Brexit Secretary David Davis said “decisive steps forward” had been made in the latest round of UK-EU talks.

Mr Davis was speaking at the end of the first talks since Theresa May’s speech in Italy last week, in which she said the UK wanted a two-year transition.

But EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there were still “big gaps” on some issues, adding that it could take “weeks or months” before the two sides could agree to move to the next stage of talks.


Polish Ministry discloses details of Dragon 17 exercises

Warsaw: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland has published details of Exercise Dragon 17 and the countries that are taking part from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as their allies from Georgia and Ukraine.

“The training and combat readiness drills of Dragon-17 are proceeding well. Dragon-17 is being attended by 17,000 soldiers from nine NATO countries, as well as Georgia and Ukraine, “the ministry said.

In addition, according to information from the Polish Foreign Ministry, 3,500 units of equipment are involved in the exercise. The exercise is to be held in Poland from 20 to 29 September.

Among the NATO countries taking part in Dragon 17 are Poland, USA, Germany, Great Britain, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Italy, Bulgaria, as well as their allies from Georgia and Ukraine.



U.K.’s Fallon Says Russian War Games Aimed At ‘Provoking’ West

UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, MP. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has said Russia’s upcoming military maneuvers with Belarus are aimed at “provoking” NATO and “testing” its defenses.

“Russia is testing us and testing us now at every opportunity,” Fallon said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on September 10. “We’re seeing a more aggressive Russia. We have to deal with that.”

Under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rules known as the Vienna Document, states conducting maneuvers involving more than 13,000 troops must notify other nations in advance and be open to observers.

Russia and Belarus say the Zapad (West) 2017 exercises, which are set to be held in Belarus and parts of western Russia on September 14-20, will involve about 12,700 troops.

But Western military officials and experts say that the true numbers could be far higher, with as many as 100,000 military personnel involved.

Russian tanks move east by rail in preparation for exercise Zapad 2017.

Russia charges that Western concerns about the exercises are unfounded, saying the war games will be defensive and pose no threat to Russia’s neighbors, NATO, or the West.

“This is [Russia’s] biggest exercise I think for four years — over 100,000 Russian and Belarusian troops … on NATO’s borders,” Fallon said. “This is designed to provoke us, it’s designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong.”

NATO says it will send three observers to Belarus and Russia to monitor Zapad 2017, but it has repeatedly called on the two countries to allow broader monitoring of the drills.

The alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, called on Russia to be “fully transparent,” telling the BBC on September 10 that Russia has a history of “under-reporting” the number of troops in its exercises and “using loopholes in international agreements to avoid international observation.”

“We have seen before that Russia has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbors,” Stoltenberg also said. “That happened in Georgia in 2008 when they invaded Georgia, and it happened in Crimea in 2014 when they illegally annexed [Ukraine’s] Crimea [region].”

Speaking on September 7 in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, the French and German defense ministers condemned the Zapad 2017 exercises, saying Moscow is seeking to show off military might on the borders of the EU and NATO.

“It is particularly important in this context that we reaffirm our presence in the face of…this demonstration the Russians are making which is a strategy of intimidation,” France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly said.

“It is undisputed that we see a demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said. “Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of the participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than 100,000.”

German German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The Russian Defense Ministry said on September 9 that it was “bewildered by the statements of Ursula von der Leyen, publicly talking through her hat and making arbitrary allegations about 100,000 Russian troops …and about hidden threats to Europe.”

On September 7, the ministry said that Russia’s Armed Forces General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov used a meeting in Azerbaijan with the chairman of the NATO military committee, Petr Pavel, to reassure him about the war games.

Gerasimov told Pavel that the joint exercises with Belarus were “long-planned and defensive” and “not aimed against any third country,” a statement carried by Russian news agencies said.

NATO said the September 7 meeting in Baku “demonstrates a clear mutual interest to maintain the military lines of communication,” but did not give any details on what was discussed.

Russia holds the Zapad exercises every four years, rotating them with drills in three other parts of the country.

Belarus borders NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, as well as Ukraine. The area the upcoming exercises are due to take place also includes the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s military actions in Ukraine have increased concerns about Moscow’s intentions in NATO nations, particularly former Soviet republics or Warsaw Pact satellites of the Soviet Union.

Russia occupied and seized the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and backs separatists whose war against Kyiv’s forces has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April of that year.

Those actions have prompted NATO to step up its defenses in the east, deploying four multinational battle-groups in the three Baltic states and Poland — totaling approximately 4,500 troops.

With reporting by Bloomberg, AFP, and Reuters


Operation Open Spirit: How NATO is Minesweeping The Baltic Sea

Lithuanian minesweeper Kuršis (M54) (former Royal Navy Hunt-class, HMS Dulverton), leads a flotilla in the Baltic Sea

British forces have taken part into Operation Open Spirit, an annual multinational operation to clear Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) in the Baltic Sea.

This year’s operation, led by the Latvian Naval Force, cleared a total of 20 square kilometres of the Baltic.

Expert teams from Latvia, Estonia, Norway and Canada and the UK identified 38 objects and destroyed two mines.

Commander JG Armands Ronis said:

“There are thousands of mines laid during those periods. Your job is to find the mine, to identify it, to put a charge and to blow it up.”

The Baltic Sea was heavily bombarded during the First and Second World Wars, both via air and submarine warfare. As a result, unexploded ordnance remains in some areas.

The operation aims not only to reduce the risk of mines for civilians, but also to foster relationships with defence partners in the region and exercise naval mine countermeasure operations in a challenging environment.

Open Spirit is part of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), a bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries – such as Canada – and NATO.

The program was established in 1994 to enable its 21 partners to build an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities.


UK Armed Forces Minister of State Mark Lancaster met Undersecretary of MoD Tomasz Szatkowski for Cooperation Talks

Photo: LT Robert Suchy

During the meeting Deputy Minister Szatkowski thanked Minister Lancaster for UK involvement in the implementation of the NATO Summit in Warsaw decisions, including the participation of the British company in the NATO battlegroup stationed in Poland.

The interlocutors positively assessed the cooperation in the framework of NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). This year the VJTF is led by the United Kingdom and the Polish Armed Forces assigned a component to them. In 2020 Poland will be the VJTF framework state and the British battalion will participate. Mr. Szatkowski expressed his hope for further deepening of the Polish-British cooperation in strengthening NATO’s eastern flank and security in the region.

Ministers discussed issues related to the preparation of the new Polish-British Defense Cooperation Treaty. They also discussed further NATO military adaptation and matters related to the development of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), also in the context of the ‘Brexit’.

In the next part of the meeting they discussed the prospects for cooperation of the Polish Territorial Defense Force with the Reserve Forces of Great Britain and cooperation  between special forces of both countries.

After the plenary talks, the ministers paid a visit to the NATO battlegroup in Bemowo Piskie where British soldiers serve. They also visited Multinational Division North-East  in Elblag formed as a part of NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).

During his stay in Warsaw Minister Lancaster also met with Marek Magierowski the Undersecretary of State for Economic Diplomacy, American and Asian Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The visit to Poland is a part of the Minister Lancaster journey to the countries in which the British troops are deployed within the framework of the eFP. In next days he will also visit Ukraine.


Defence Secretary salutes Scots troops who keep us safe at home and abroad

The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 Scots)

The Defence Secretary today met Scottish troops who are about to deploy to Iraq as the vanguard of the UK and allied fight against Daesh and international terrorism.

Visiting Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik, Sir Michael Fallon met 2 SCOTS (2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland) where he praised the contribution the troops would make to helping keep the UK safe and highlighted how the range of their recent and forthcoming deployments “spanned continents” contributing to security “at home and abroad”.

In Iraq on OP SHADER, 2 SCOTS’ non-combat role will strengthen the Iraqi Security Forces as they fight to remove Daesh. They will provide the latest training in urban combat, marksmanship and countering improvised explosive devices.

Troops from 2 SCOTS will shortly also deploy on two United Nations’ missions: joining comrades from the Scots Dragoon Guards in Cyprus over the next few weeks, and deploying on Op TRENTON in South Sudan in 2018

Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said:

The men and women of our Scottish-based Armed Forces perform a pivotal role in keeping the people of this country, and our allies, safe.

From Afghanistan to South Sudan to Cyprus as well as recent deployments in the UK, the strength and versatility of 2 SCOTS allows them to operate in varied roles that span continents and project UK influence across the globe.

The men and women who serve here today can be proud of the valuable contribution they make to our security both at home and abroad.

In May 2017, 2 SCOTS personnel deployed on Op TEMPERER to guard key infrastructure sites in order to release 166 civilian Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary firearms officers in Scotland. This was part of the wider UK response which freed an additional 1,000 armed civilian police officers to help protect the UK public, following the Manchester Arena terrorist attack.

Troops from 2 SCOTS will shortly also deploy on two United Nations’ missions: joining comrades from the Scots Dragoon Guards in Cyprus over the next few weeks, and deploying on Op TRENTON in South Sudan in 2018 to protect the UN forces building hospitals and other new infrastructure.

Previously, 2 SCOTS deployed on NATO’s Op TORAL peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan for nine months in 2015-16 where they helped develop the professionalism of the officer cadre passing through the Afghan National Army’s Officer Academy, and protected UK and allied troops in Kabul.

2 SCOTS will again be part of the UK Standby Battalion in 2018, contributing to an additional force of 2,800 military personnel to support civilian police forces, should they request it.

2 SCOTS are a light role infantry battalion based in Penicuik comprised of 414 Scottish infantry soldiers and 35 officers, supported by 53 Army personnel from other regiments and battalions.


Cultural Diversity is Enduring in Canada’s NATO Mission

Canadian Armed Forces members from NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Latvia arrive at Riga International Airport as part of Operation Reassurance on June 10.   Photograph By MCpl True-dee McCarthy

When artillery Sgt. Jayden Cormier gets his morning coffee, the Victoria man, now on a mission in Latvia, stands in a United Nations mix of grinds and brews.

Spanish soldiers show up with a fine-ground coffee, the Italians with something dark and the Canadians with a coarse grind of Tim Hortons’ brand. And every country seems to have a different coffee-making device.

“Everyone comes out in the morning and seems to have their own little method of brewing their coffee,” said Cormier in a telephone interview from Latvia. “But everyone still seems to bond over that morning cup.”

The 28-year-old reservist from the Victoria-based 5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment is one of 450 Canadians leading a multinational battle group in Latvia. It’s a posting expected to last into 2018.

Most of the Canadians are mechanized infantry drawn from the Edmonton-based 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and are part of a mission the Department of National Defence has called Operation Reassurance.

It’s part of a NATO effort to demonstrate a resolve to stand against any Russian incursions into neighbouring Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and Poland. It was a demonstration agreed at a NATO summit in 2016 in response to Russian interference in Ukraine and a 2008 incursion into Georgia.

Canada leads one of four battle groups in the Baltic states and Poland. The U.K. leads in Estonia, Germany in Lithuania and the U.S. in Poland.

But Canada’s 1,200-strong battle group is the most culturally diverse, with troops from Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Albania. Only the German-led group comes close, and its members are all from or closely allied with the European Union: Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway.

For soldiers such as Cormier, officers and analysts, it’s Canada’s ability to accommodate various ethnic groups and languages that makes it one of the most valued and trusted in the world today.

“We are a multicultural nation, and I think that’s one of our strengths,” said Cormier. “We can bring that multiculturalism we have learned as Canadians to the table and strengthen NATO with that experience.

Christopher Kilford, a military analyst with the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy now living in Victoria, said despite any controversy about military spending, Canada remains a bulwark welcomed all over the world.

Kilford noted Saudi Arabia and South Korea spend more on their armed forces. But neither country is ever asked to lead overseas missions.

Also, besides a reputation for honour and trustworthiness, Canada’s armed forces in particular have always been an expeditionary force.

Other nations will concentrate on missions closer to home; South Korea looks to match North Korea, for example. But Canada’s forces have long expected and been prepared to undertake or support missions overseas.

So Kilford said the Canadian Armed Forces are good at what he calls “exporting security,” a feat that usually comes with more than just arms. It can require analysts, diplomats and aid workers, often non-governmental.

“There are only a handful of countries that can go around the world and make a difference,” he said. “We are able to get people out and in the door just about anywhere, and we do it with a minimum of fuss.

“So when the world needs someone to take charge of a battle group, they will come to Ottawa.”

Kilford also said Operation Reassurance is something of a return to NATO’s traditional role of watchdog on the Russians.

It’s mostly about deterrence.

That Canada leads a force made up of so many different nations adds to the deterrent value: any country that engages with the group risks offending six countries, as well as the NATO alliance.

Kilford speculated any move by Russia would be covert instead of a direct military invasion — economic embargoes, closed borders or clandestine gifts of weapons or explosives to sympathetic forces inside Latvia.

He noted even to be stationed in Latvia will require a level of cultural sensitivity from Canadians. Many Latvians speak Russian, some as their first language. And many might find the presence of NATO to be objectionable.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the Canadian defence staff, warned in February that troops should be on guard against any misinformation or propaganda. At the time of Vance’s warning, a false report had already been circulated in Lithuania contending four German soldiers had raped a teenage girl.

“There are a million ways the Russians could cause problems in Latvia without ever sending a single soldier across the border,” said Kilford.

Canadian Air Force Capt. Dan Mazurek, information officer for the battle group in Latvia, said in a phone call he is aware of the local ties to Russia.

“The other day, I got to see a movie and there was Latvian and Russian subtitles,” said Mazurek. “But I haven’t seen any animosity.”

“So far I’ve enjoyed what I can only describe as a warm welcome,” he said.

He said the battle group is training regularly and maintaining a high level of readiness.

But at the same time, in a spirit of multiculturalism, regular language classes are put on by volunteers from various national units within the battle group, even if English is NATO’s default language.

“It’s been a great feeling out here, right across the battle group,” said Mazurek.

And enlisted people such as Victoria’s Master Cpl. Kathryn Holmberg, a reservist with 39 Signal Regiment, who volunteered for Latvia, is doing what soldiers overseas always do: missing family, hers in Nanaimo.

“I’m having a good time over here,” said Holmberg, 27, in a telephone interview. “But I always miss my mom when I go away.”