Thursday, 27 March 2014

News and Stuff

So I haven't been on twitter (@defencewithac) in a while, except to post links to articles, but having had the chance to sit down and go through it I saw some interesting links that I thought I'd share.

Firstly, the MoD has announced a £500 million round of funding by the British and French governments for the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) FASGW(H). Produced by MBDA, the 100kg missile will be carried by Lynx helicopters and primarily be used to provide Royal Navy vessels with the ability to hunt and engage surface targets well beyond the ships radar horizon, with the ability to engage land targets as well. Britain will contribute £280 million to the project, and the investment is believed to protect 200 jobs at three sites across the UK. 

While good news for the Royal Navy it is a little worrying that the main thrust of the piece posted by the government is around the jobs aspect. I understand that we're in a period of economic uncertainty and that this aspect of the piece is good news, especially because of the high quality nature of the jobs, but it does seem odd that the military aspect of the weapon was left till the end for a brief mention.

Taking a decidedly more military tone, it's time for another Joint Warrior exercise. As the piece on the MoD site points out this exercise will involve all three services working alongside one another, and a number of allies, to conduct large scale naval warfare exercises. I think exercises like this are just the sort of thing the UK needs to maintain during a period when people are worrying about the decline of the armed forces. It shows off a range of our capabilities and our commitment to working with our allies. Joint Warrior is around 30 years old now. Let's hope it makes it to at least 60.

Next an article from the RAF about the training of new reservists. Aside from looking a bit like the black and white minstrels in that first picture, a couple of things that were brought up concerned me. 

The first is that there is a very low percentage cap on the number of police officers that are permitted to become reservists. Supposedly the metropolitan police won't be able to cope if more than half a percent of its numbers join up for reserve military roles. Considering the size of the met and the unlikelihood that all of its reserve members would be called up at once (not least because of its ability to appeal against call ups if such a circumstance did occur), I don't see how the met can be allowed to enforce such a low cap.

Large employers are - in my opinion - crucial to helping the government meet its ambitious target for the new reserve numbers. Such employers have far more flexibility to move personnel around to cope with absent employees, and through cooperative initiatives between the government and the employer they could potentially be a source of a considerable number of candidates. Yet another example it would seem of the government not really taking this whole reserves business quite as seriously as they claim.

The second thing that struck me was the point made that reserves are not entitled to the same medical, dental or accommodation benefits as the regulars. While at some point a line has to be drawn between what is offered to reserves, there should still be a package in place that is roughly commensurate with that offered to the regulars, especially if you're hoping to recruit a few extra thousand of them across the services by 2020. The government really hasn't thought this one through fully, have they? 

(Yeah, you're right. They don't think anything through properly.)

Last but not least then, a video from the Red Arrows. Specifically, on board with them. Some nice shots, but I think my own opinion on the matter would begin with the word "f**k" and end with the words "that for a lark".  Here's the video they linked to on twitter. And here is another video from YouTube, focusing on the synchro pairs.

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  1. MOD press pieces about equipment always start with the amount of money and the number of jobs, because that's what Ministers and SPADs think gets votes and attention. The fact that there's another reason (military capability) for why we buy things one sometimes gets the impression they regard as a minor detail. I remember one a couple of years back where you had to read almost to the end before finding out what we'd actually bought.

    1. Sadly a state of affairs that reflects the general attitude by parties and government towards defence. Not "how does this affect the nation?", more "how does this affect the polls?".

  2. You are right about the reservist issues. Supporting them at the moment thankfully isn't an issue, getting them through the door is. I think the Army is at about ~35% of where they are supposed to be for recruitment. I think we are in a better place but not brilliant, however the numbers are smaller so small improvements/failures can scue the figures.

    My own personal feeling is the army never really wanted a large number of reservists. I think the plan has been 'head in sand' and hope the government have some huge u turn and all will be well.

    I do support your idea about a better link and similar terms of service, this will hopefully be tied up with the New Employment Model as and when it's fully released.

    1. Hey Topman,

      We can only hope this all goes well as so much now seems to ride on the success of the reserves. I was reading a thread on Arrse the other day about reserves in the army, seems to be a lot of ill feeling kicking about and many, many, many ideas about how it could be done better.

      The bit about the dental plans etc strikes me as a classic case of the government being penny wise and pound foolish. It's not going to be a huge extra expense vs what is already funded under the NHS and yet it makes the reserves not only more attractive, but also gives that feeling of being valued on a par with the regulars.

      Case of crossing our fingers and hoping for the best at this point it seems.