Friday, 29 April 2016

News story: British Forces support Gabon’s fight against elephant poachers

The British Army training team will help step up anti-poaching training with local park rangers and trackers, which includes sharing operational experience, surveillance and analysis, and the collection and use of criminal intelligence to support successful prosecution of the gangs responsible for the slaughters. The 14-strong team, led by Northern Ireland based 2 RIFLES, and ...

The post News story: British Forces support Gabon’s fight against elephant poachers appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

35480 – Warships: Shipbuilding (Answered)

Chris Stephens To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the terms of reference are for the National Shipbuilding Strategy; and if he will make a statement. Mr Philip Dunne The National Shipbuilding Strategy is intended to place UK shipbuilding on a sustainable long-term footing. It will look at how to build a new ...

The post 35480 – Warships: Shipbuilding (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

35479 – Warships: Procurement (Answered)

Chris Stephens To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what plans his Department has to procure ships under the Military Afloat Reach Sustainability programme; and if he will make a statement. Mr Philip Dunne The Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) programme covers the four Tide Class Tankers which were ordered in 2012 and ...

The post 35479 – Warships: Procurement (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

HL7785 – Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft (Answered)

Lord West of Spithead To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) F35, and (2) F35B, aircraft are currently flying in the US; how many F35B aircraft owned by the UK are currently flying in the UK; and how many F35B aircraft in total (1) have been purchased by the UK to date, and (2) ...

The post HL7785 – Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

News story: Versatile Vikings’ £37 million upgrade completed

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced in September 2012 that 99 Viking vehicles, used extensively by the Royal Marines, would be regenerated under a new £37 million contract with BAE Systems. The revamp of the Viking Fleet has seen the vehicles fitted with new mine blast protected Hulls designed to offer additional defence should they ...

The post News story: Versatile Vikings’ £37 million upgrade completed appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Correspondence: Defence Secretary response to a letter on Type 26 Global Combat Ship project press coverage

Secretary of State for Defence response to a letter from Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, regarding press coverage on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship project. from Ministry of Defence – Activity on GOV.UK

The post Correspondence: Defence Secretary response to a letter on Type 26 Global Combat Ship project press coverage appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

HL7815 – Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Answered)

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in the development of the Ajax-tracked reconnaissance vehicle as part of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme. Earl Howe The Ajax and the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) are separate programmes and different vehicles, albeit they share the same 40mm cannon. The ...

The post HL7815 – Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

HL7778 – Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Answered)

Lord Moonie To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many Ajax vehicles are to be procured for the British Army; and of those, how many will be assembled in Spain, and how many in Wales. Earl Howe The British Army will receive 589 Ajax vehicles which will come in six variants. A total of 100 vehicles ...

The post HL7778 – Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

The warship preservation scene

The state of warship preservation in the UK is a very mixed. Established naval museums are thriving, benefitting from significant investment while more recent attempts to save naval vessels have failed miserably. Preserving our naval heritage is important as a ‘living history’ to remind us of past sacrifice, endeavour and achievements. Many lessons from Britain’s extraordinary naval history remain applicable to the Royal Navy and the exercise of sea power today.

Established maritime heritage goes from strength to strength

British naval preservation work has received a huge shot in the arm with several multi-million pound grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund given to the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) which manages many preserved naval vessels. The NMRM is a public body whose reach has expanded over the years and now has responsibility for 5 naval museums, 11 major historic vessels and around 100 aircraft. Portsmouth in particular has benefited from new facilities for the Mary Rose exhibit as well as major conservation and restoration projects for HMS Victory, HMS Alliance, the monitor HMS M33 and LCT 7074. The NMRN site in Portsmouth alone attracted over 1 million visitors in 2015.

The main image above shows light cruiser HMS Caroline in Belfast, the last survivor of the WWI battle of Jutland and only officially decommissioned in 2011. She is undergoing a major refurbishment and will re-open as a museum ship to be managed by the NMRN in time for the Jutland centenary commemorations in June 2016.

WWII cruiser HMS Belfast has been on public display since 1971 and remains in the top 100 visitor attractions in the UK, with over 300,000 visitors in 2015. Together with HMS Victory, she is the most recognised preserved ship in Britain and a great success story.

Since Chatham Naval Base closed in 1984 it has been divided into a commercial port, housing development and the Chatham Historic Dockyard which now gets around 160,000 visitors per year. Steeped in maritime heritage, there are many historic buildings and the Trust that runs the dockyard is applying to become a World Heritage Site. HMS Cavalier and HMS Ocelot are both well presented with good access for the public to explore a WWII era destroyer and Cold war conventional submarine.

  • HMS Belfast

    Berthed in an iconic central London location, HMS Belfast is part of the Imperial War Museum. She demonstrates that on display in the right place, visitor numbers can support the preservation of even a very large vessel. Image: Dmitry A. Mottl via Wikipedia

  • HMS Alliance at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport. Completed major £3.4M refurbishment in 2014 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund

    HMS Alliance was laid down during WWII has been on display since 1981 at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport now part of the NMRN. She completed a major £3.4M refurbishment in 2014.

  • Image: Swpmre via Wikipedia

    Preserved in Chatham Historic Dockyard, HMS Cavalier was built during WWII and became a museum ship in 1978. She is officially designated as a war memorial to the 142 RN destroyers sunk during the war and the 11,000 men killed on those ships. Image: Swpmre, via Wikipedia

  • Image: Oast House Archive via Geograph

    HMS Ocelot decommissioned in 1991 and has been preserved in Chatham Historic Dockyard where she was originally built. Image: Oast House Archive, via Geograph

  • World War 1 Monitor HMS M33

    World War 1 Monitor HMS M33 is part of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard collection managed by the NMRN and has recently undergone a £2.3M refurbishment. She was opened to the public for the first time in 2015 in time for the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign in which she served. Image: Dogboy, via wikipedia

  • HMY Britannia

    Decommissioned in 199 HMY Britannia is on display alongside the redeveloped Ocean Terminal in Leith, Edinburgh A highly successful museum, conference and party venue, she has is now considered Scotland’s top tourist attraction. Image: Graham Hogg, via Geograph

The HMS Illustrious saga

Stung by the outcry at the scrapping of HMS Ark Royal and HMS invincible, the MoD promised HMS Illustrious would be preserved when she decommissioned in 2014. Although a fine ship that served us well, she was always an odd choice for preservation. Lacking the Ark Royal’s iconic name she did not have an exceptional operational history or particular place in the public consciousness.

The MoD cannot quite admit it yet, but HMS Illustrious is very likely to be scrapped as no realistic bids for her preservation have been submitted. The last remaining option of a home in Gibraltar collapsed in March 2016. Put simply, a ship the size of Illustrious needs a suitable large berth with good access and most crucially, would need to generate a considerable sustained revenue stream to cover hefty maintenance and running costs. Hull City Council spent £500k on examining options and a bid to host the ship but ultimately concluded it was not economically viable. The MoD was rather unwise to offer Illustrious for preservation in the first place and scrapping her is now the most dignified remaining option.

With hindsight perhaps HMS Illustrious should have been scrapped in 2014 and the money invested in properly preserving HMS Plymouth. HMS Ark Royal was sold for £2.8 million in 2013 but scrap prices have since fallen (thanks to the Chinese flooding the market with cheap steel) so Illustrious will be worth considerably less. It is too late for HMS Plymouth but any money raised from scrapping Lusty should be donated to other warship preservation projects.

Looking back – the HMS Plymouth debacle

HMS Plymouth gallant actions in the Falklands War made her a good candidate for saving. A frigate is an ideal size warship for public preservation. Large enough to be iconic if the right berth is found and able to cope with peaks in visitor numbers, but not so large that the financial overheads are unsupportable. Her namesake city was the obvious home for HMS Plymouth but both the City Council and the MoD utterly failed to make the most of what would have been an excellent visitor attraction. After decommissioning in 1988 she was opened to the public in Plymouth’s Millbay Docks which was something of backwater at the time but a better home should have been found for her in the increasingly under-utilised Devonport South Yard. Plymouth would have had a great tourist attraction and the MoD would have helped preserve a good example of 1950-60s frigate design. The ship also served as a kind of living memorial to the navy’s decisive contribution to the Falklands campaign.

In 1990 she was moved to Glasgow and subsequently to Birkenhead where the Warship Preservation trust put her on display together with submarine HMS Onyx, minesweeper HMS Bronington and a WWII U-boat. The venue was never ideal or the dock owners not very supportive but the attraction was modestly successful until the WPT closed in 2006. By default the ship became property of the Mersey Docks Company and subsequently Peel Ports. There was a plan to return her to Plymouth but in 2007 Associated British Ports reneged on their offer of a berth which did not fit with their vision to redevelop Millbay. Developing old docksides into luxury flats is apparently far more lucrative than preserving maritime heritage, although with imagination the two need not be incompatible. There were numerous abortive plans to save the ship but all floundered for lack of money and she decayed slowly in Birkenhead until Peel Ports sold her for scrap in August 2014.

  • HMS-Plymouth

    HMS Plymouth finally went the way of so may RN vessels, here being towed out of Birkenhead for scrapping in Turkey. Photo: Phil Owen.

  • HMS Bronnington

    HMS Bronington, once commanded by HRH Prince Charles and formerly of the Warship Preservation Trust sinking due to neglect in Birkenhead Docks, March 2016.  Image: Phil Owen

  • Former Cold War era nuclear submarine HMS Courageous is berthed in Devonport and open to visitors periodically

    Former Cold War era nuclear submarine ex-HMS Courageous is berthed in Devonport and opens to visitors periodically.

  • Devo

    Devonport Naval Hertage Centre has a fine collection of warship models and naval artefacts.

Plymouth is very much the poor relation when compared with the world-class attractions in Portsmouth. The Devonport Heritage Centre is staffed by volunteers and opens periodically deserves an honourable mention. They have a collection of models, images and artefacts, offer visits to the decommissioned nuclear submarine Courageous and guided tours of the naval base.

Around the UK there are now many fine historic naval vessels on display to the public, in many cases presented in superb condition and with great imagination as visitor attractions. However there seems to be a more limited public appetite and finance available for adding new vessels their number. In contrast, aviation heritage is booming with projects to restore historic aircraft increasing every year. It is interesting to note the grounding of the Avro Vulcan display aircraft was cause for national mourning while the scrapping of HMS Plymouth was largely ignored.

There is understandable sadness at the passing of long-serving warships but we cannot keep them all and must select very carefully. As well as HMS Plymouth, recent attempts to preserve Type 42 destroyers HMS Liverpool and HMS Edinburgh in their namesake cities quickly floundered due to lack of funds and sufficient sustainable income. There is even a campaign to save HMS Monmouth as a tourist attraction in Newport, although she is not due to decommission until at least 2026. There are now few obvious vessels that will be candidates for preservation coming available in the near future so perhaps it is time to concentrate on making the most of the excellent collection Britain’s already has.

*This article focuses mainly on the major preserved naval vessels of the 20th and 21st Century. There is also a variety of older ships not least, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, HMS Gannet & HMS Trincomalee as well as many minor war vessels and small craft that are officially listed in the National Historic Fleet.
Main image: Gareth Jones, via Geograph


from Save the Royal Navy

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

34411 – HMS Elizabeth (Answered)

Douglas Chapman To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what analysis his Department made of alternatives to the MSI-DSL 30mm gun for deployment on HMS Queen Elizabeth. Mr Philip Dunne In December 2003 a competition was launched to provide the Royal Navy with an improved defensive anti-surface warfare capability with the preference being for ...

The post 34411 – HMS Elizabeth (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

HL7677 – Defence Sixth Form College (Answered)

Lord Touhig To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the annual operating cost of the Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College. Earl Howe The annual operating cost for the Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College for academic year 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2016 is £14,532,603. from Filtered Feed for Question and Answers:

The post HL7677 – Defence Sixth Form College (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

HL7484 – Warships (Answered)

Lord West of Spithead To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 23 March (HL7168), whether they will now state whether there will be more or fewer Royal Navy ships in commission by 2025 than the 57 currently. Earl Howe On current planning assumptions there will be at least the same ...

The post HL7484 – Warships (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

34498 – Army Reserve: Deployment (Answered)

Andrew Rosindell To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the number and location of overseas deployments of Army Reserve personnel were in the last 12 months; and what assessment he has made of potential increases in the number of such deployments in the next 12 months. Mr Julian Brazier The number and location ...

The post 34498 – Army Reserve: Deployment (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

HL7675 – Army: Training (Answered)

Lord Touhig To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the total cost, per successfully trained recruit, of (1) Phase One and Two training at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, (2) Phase One training at the Army Training Centre Pirbright, and (3) Phase One training at the Army Foundation College Harrogate, including trainee salaries and associated ...

The post HL7675 – Army: Training (Answered) appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

Monday, 25 April 2016

Retired sailor, 81, served in the Royal Navy and as a firefighter but is now struggling to find work after discovering his state pension is not enough to live off

He served his country in the Royal Navy and saved lives as a firefighter before moving into a range of other jobs.
But Jack Smith has struggled to get back into employment at the age of 81 after discovering his state pension is not enough to live off.
He has visited his local job centre, 14 different employment agencies and sent off dozens of job applications, but no one has taken him on.
A desperate letter to his local newspaper about his predicament delivered a lifeline when a member of the public set up a crowdfunding page which has so far raised £545.
But he is still unable to find work and believes his lack of IT skills is counting against him.
‘I am still fit, healthy and active. I am looking for anything at all, anything I can turn my hand to,’ said the widower from Plymouth, Devon.
‘I am looking for anything I can handle. Obviously I cannot do the building trade like I did before, going up and down ladders. But I have got money problems and the only way I can solve it is to get work.’
Mr Smith, who retired when he was 71, admits his ‘serious financial problems’ are of his own making.

Read more: