Category: Published Articles

Royal Navy ignored warning of Iranian attack

HMS Cornwall (F 99) transits through the Persian Gulf in 2007. Photo: US Navy

HMS Cornwall (F 99) transits through the Persian Gulf in 2007. Photo: US Navy

Navy top brass failed to act on warnings of Iranian aggression, leaving British sailors vulnerable to a surprise attack that resulted in 15 of them being taken hostage in Tehran, according to a secret report.

The incident in March 2007 was described at the time as a “national embarrassment” after sailors from HMS Cornwall were paraded on Iranian television and then the Ministry of Defence allowed the returning prisoners to sell their stories to a tabloid newspaper.

During their captivity the sailors, including the first British servicewoman to be captured since the Second World War, were forced to make propaganda statements on Iranian television.

• Read my article on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required for full story)

Royals fly free of cuts to get new jets

The RAF is planning to spend millions of pounds on a new fleet of executive jets dedicated to flying the royal family, government ministers and military top brass on trips overseas.

Overlooked in last week’s defence review is a controversial plan to replace four BAe 146 jets that make up the so-called “royal flight”, which is provided by the RAF’s 32 (the Royal) Squadron.

RAF sources say that with a range of only 1,800 miles, the existing four-engined aircraft are unable to fly across the Atlantic and need to be refuelled too often when flying beyond Europe. A trip to Dubai needs one refuelling stop, while a trip to Delhi requires two.

• Read my article on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required for full story)

Ministry of Defence sinks £2bn sub-hunter jet deal

A P8 Poseidon. Image: Boeing

A P8 Poseidon. Image: Boeing

Britain’s Ministry of Defence is understood to have dropped a £2bn plan to buy a fleet of US-made submarine-hunting jets for the Royal Air Force.

The proposed purchase of up to nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft was expected to be the centrepiece of the government’s forthcoming defence review, but sources say the project has been shelved after ministers decided the aircraft were “fiendishly expensive”.

The move has raised fears that Britain’s four Vanguard nuclear deterrent submarines and the navy’s new £6bn aircraft carriers could be inadequately protected.

Senior retired RAF officers argued earlier this year that Britain’s nuclear deterrent has been left vulnerable after plans to update a fleet of Nimrod submarine-hunting aircraft were axed in 2010.

• Read my article on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required for full story)

Chinese ‘spy’ tried to get into Queen’s coach

British and Chinese security engaged in a tense stand-off during the state visit of President Xi Jinping after a Beijing-based “spy” tried to get too close to the Queen.

The Chinese official was intercepted by members of the diplomatic protection squad when he posed as an official interpreter, according to documents circulating in Whitehall.

British officials believe the Chinese agent wanted to join Xi and the Queen in her royal carriage. When the ruse was rumbled it led to heated exchanges, according to three senior figures who confirmed details of the incident.

Read my article on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required for full story)

British sniper rifles used against Assad rebels

High-powered British sniper rifles made by a Portsmouth-based company, Accuracy International, are being used by marksmen loyal to the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack opposition rebels.

Footage of the regime’s marksmen using the weapons, which each cost £4,500 and have a range of just under a mile, appeared last week on Russian television as President Vladimir Putin ordered a series of bombing and missile raids on groups seeking to overthrow Assad.

• Read my article on The Sunday Times web site (subscription required for full article)

Americans in frame to build new Trident submarines?

A Trident Submarine. Image: Crown Copyright

A Trident Submarine. Image: Crown Copyright

Defence officials are considering the appointment of an American contractor to run the construction of Britain’s four new nuclear missile submarines.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed last week that it was looking to shake up the procurement process for the planned £20bn project, which is highly contentious politically.

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RAF squadrons will double to face Isis and Russian threat

RAF Tornado

RAF Tornados

The number of fast-jet squadrons is expected to double, amid fears that years of deep cuts have left the RAF too small to tackle the twin threats of Isis and Russian aggression.

Senior defence sources say the RAF’s senior commanders have made increasing the number of fighter and bomber squadrons from six to 12 a cornerstone of their submission to the government’s forthcoming strategic defence and security review.

The move would be embarrassing for the government, reversing the 2010 defence review which reduced the frontline RAF to its smallest size since the First World War.

• Read my article (written with Mark Hookham) on the Sunday Times web site (subscription required for full article)

Battle of Britain scramble will be largest since 1945

A mass formation of nearly 50 Spitfires and Hurricanes — about 70% of the iconic fighters still flying worldwide — will take to the skies over southern England next month to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Hundreds of thousands of people will see and hear the Second World War aircraft on September 15, commemorating a decisive moment in the battle between “the Few” of RAF Fighter Command and the might of Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

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Dispute threatens to capsize £4bn Clyde warship deal

Computer graphic of the new type 26 Global Combat Ship. Image : BAe systems

Computer graphic of the new type 26 Global Combat Ship. Image : BAe systems

 

A multi-billion pound deal to build a new generation of Royal Navy combat ships on the Clyde has hit stormy waters.

Shipbuilders at Scotstoun and Govan yards are poised to begin work on 13 Type 26 frigates but the £4bn deal is mired in delays because of a dispute over costs between the Ministry of Defence and the contractor, BAE Systems.

Read my report on the Sunday Times web site (Subscription required for full article)

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