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Please take the time to look through these web pages to find out more about how I can help you identify and understand key issues in the confusing and complex world of defence or enhance your existing coverage and content.
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Russia’s intervention in Syria in September 2015 caught the world by surprise. Since then Russian bombers, fighter jets, drones, warships and special forces troops have helped turn the tide of the brutal Syria civil war in favour Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus.
As the war enters its endgame, Tim Ripley’s new book, Operation Aleppo, looks at how the Russian intervention unfolded, and its implications in the Middle East and further afield.
Vladimir Putin at Khmeimim air base in Syria in December 2017.
Drawing on a wide array of sources – including satellite imagery of Russian forces in Syria, as well as live online monitoring of Russian, Syrian and Iranian aircraft and ship movements – Operation Aleppo gives an unprecedented insight into the most ambitious Russian military campaign since the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Tim Ripley has reported on the Russian intervention in Syria for The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Intelligence Review since its start in 2015. He has travelled extensively across the Middle East, reporting on conflicts in the region for more than 25 years.
• Operation Aleppo to be published in April 2018. Find out more here
Syria is perhaps the most “reported on” conflict in the modern era. There is just a “torrent” of news reports, video, still pictures, social media posts, Skype interviews coming out of the country.
Every Syrian soldier and fighter has a smart phone to film their exploits ‐ but there are few “independent international journalists” on the ground. The only other places that is comparable is Yemen. How do you make sense of all this information when every faction or international player puts its own spin on events?
• Read my Syrian Conflict Briefing – April 2017 (PDF)
The Syrian Air Force has been an independent service in the Syrian armed forces since its formation in 1948 but is distinct from the Air Defence Force, which controls Syria’s network of air defence radars and surface‐to‐air missile batteries.
• Briefing April 2017: Assad’s Air Force (PDF)
A flare firing over a Type 45 destroyer in 2013. The British ships have been beset by engine problems. DAVE JENKINS/CROWN COPYRIGHT/PA
Britain has been left with gaping holes in its defences, with warships so noisy that Russian submarines can hear them 100 miles away, drones costing £1bn that have not entered frontline service 12 years after being ordered and light tanks that are too big to fit into transport aircraft.
A Sunday Times investigation has uncovered equipment failures and bungled procurement deals as concerns grow that the armed forces would be unable to defend Britain against a serious military attack.
• Read my article on The Times web site (written with Mark Hookham and John Collingridge) – Subscription Required
Experts believe Britain could now deploy little more than a brigade of 5,000-10,000 troops. Photo: David Moir
Defence cuts have “effectively removed” Britain’s ability to “deliver and sustain” an effective fighting force against a “competent” enemy such as Russia, according to the army’s think tank.
Years of squeezed budgets have resulted in the “hollowing out or deletion of the army’s deployed capabilities”, a paper from the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research (CHACR) says. It warns that the risk of the army’s one remaining fighting division being wiped out in an afternoon will “weigh heavily” on commanders.
• Read my article on The Times web site (written with Mark Hookham) – Subscription Required
Operation Telic by Tim Ripley is now available in paperback as well as for Kindle. Go to amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com and search for “Tim Ripley Operation Telic Paperback”.
• More about Operation Telic at http://operationtelic.co.uk
• Download the High Resolution Cover
The Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) has been an independent service in the Syrian armed forces since its formation in 1948 but is distinct from the Air Defence Force, which controls Syria’s network of air defence radars and surface‐to‐air missile batteries.
Russia’s Tupolev Tu-214R ISTAR platform, now operational in Syria.
It has a long tradition of political involvement in the government of Syria, supporting the nationalist and secular Syrian Ba’ath Party. President Bashar al Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, was a former commander of the SyAAF in the 1960s and 1970s.
The SyAAF’s Intelligence Directorate is one of Syria’s most powerful security agencies. It played a major role in crushing the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the 1980s and in 2011 was in forefront of attempts to put down the “Arab Spring” uprising.
• Read my briefing document on “Assad’s Air Force” here (PDF)
The choirmaster Gareth Malone is planning to recruit wounded military veterans to sing at Prince Harry’s Invictus Games in Florida.
The progress of the Choir for Heroes will be followed in two BBC television programmes to coincide with the games in May.
This is expected to be the biggest international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick military personnel, attracting more than 500 competitors in 10 sports including archery and wheelchair rugby.
• Read my story on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required to read the full story)
A team of British military and intelligence officers last week undertook a secret reconnaissance mission to Libya to plan RAF airstrikes against Isis militants in the strife-torn north African state.
Six RAF officers flew to an airbase in eastern Libya, controlled by pro-western militia forces, along with a group of MI6 operatives, diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US and French military personnel.
Their mission, near the coastal city of Tobruk, was to build up intelligence on the location of Isis fighters and draw up potential targets for possible British and coalition airstrikes.
• Read my full story (written with Mark Hookham) on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required)
Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo
The RAF is to set up an elite Top Gun-style squadron to hone the dogfighting skills of its fighter pilots.
After two decades of mainly carrying out bombing missions against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders have decided pilots need to boost their aerial combat skills to counter any potential threat from new Russian fighters that patrol Syria and eastern Europe.
The move is part of the expansion of the RAF’s fleet of Typhoon jets, from five to seven squadrons, announced last November.
• Read my article in full on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required for full story)