April 23, 2021
Changing orbit: Russia looks east after quitting International Space Station, Britain faces ‘moment of reckoning’ if we don’t step up cyber security capabilities, warns head of GCHQ, Japan’s first Global Hawk makes maiden flight, Russia continues to reinforce Ukrainian border, begins exercises in Black Sea.
Ministry of Defence
Armed Forces: Training: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many service personnel are assigned to training appointments in the (a) Royal Navy, (b) British Army and (c) Royal Air Force (Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke))
• Answer from James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence
“The requested information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.”
Ranger Regiment: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to draw the personnel for the new Ranger Regiment from all Infantry units of the British Army; what assessment they have made of the additional training resources required for that regiment to be able to operate in complex and high risk environments; and what assessment they have made of the impact on the establishment of such a regiment on (1) extended overseas deployments, and (2) any additional training and advisory agreements made with other nations consequent upon these deployments (Lord Chidgey Liberal Democrat))
• Answer from Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence
“The new Ranger Regiment is part of an Army Special Operations Brigade and will receive a share of a £120 million investment over the next four years. It will initially be seeded from the four Specialised Infantry Battalions and in time will become all-arms units capable of supporting and conducting special operations in high-risk environments.
Under the transformation announced by the Secretary of State for Defence, the Army will be more actively and persistently engaged overseas. This does not mean that all deployments will be lengthy and the impact on individuals and their families will be carefully managed under policy designed to ensure that they are not over-stretched. To complement the Army Special Operations Brigade, a Security Force Assistance (SFA) Brigade will also be established and this will form the foundation of the Army’s contribution to persistent engagement overseas. The Army will use spring and early summer 2021 to refine and test the designs, capabilities and structure of its units before making more detailed announcements later this year.”
HERE ARE THE TOP INDUSTRY AND WORLD STORIES
Changing orbit: Russia looks east after quitting International Space Station (FT)
• The International Space Station, the largest ever global collaboration in science and engineering, has been a cosmopolitan meeting point for astronauts for two decades.
• This month alone a Russian Soyuz rocket lofted a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts to the orbiting laboratory 420km above the Earth’s surface on April 9. Eight days later another Soyuz rocket carried a different American-Russian trio back to Earth — and on Friday, weather permitting, a US SpaceX craft will take two more Americans, a Japanese and a Frenchman up to the 23-year-old station.
• Such varied va-et-vient, however, is coming to an end. Russia announced this week that it will withdraw from the $150bn ISS in 2025, bringing to a close a remarkable period of international co-operation that dates back in its planning to the perestroika period at the end of the cold war.
• Despite rising tensions between Russia and the US over the past decade, the two countries’ space agencies have continued to work closely together, alongside their European, Japanese and Canadian counterparts. According to Nasa, 243 individuals from 19 countries have visited the ISS since 2000.
• “Although there were some difficulties in the early days because the Russian and American space agencies had very different ways of working, we have reached a degree of operational maturity, so that in terms of crew dynamics, I have heard only positive things about astronauts and cosmonauts working together,” said Professor Anu Ojha, director of the UK National Space Academy and an adviser to the European Space Agency.
• In the early years of building modules of ISS and assembling them in space from 1998, the Russians and their western partners depended on each other. “Nasa and Esa could not have built the space station without Russian expertise,” Ojha said. “The Russians were the masters of modular space station construction.”
Britain faces ‘moment of reckoning’ if we don’t step up cyber security capabilities, warns head of GCHQ (Telegraph)
• Britain faces a “moment of reckoning” if we don’t step up cyber security capabilities, warns the head of GCHQ.
• In a speech today Jeremy Fleming will say developing and protecting the technologies of the future will be vital to Britain’s security and prosperity.
• Warning of the “competing values and vision for the future” from countries such as China and Russia, the spy chief will warn how the “global digital environment is under threat”.
• Jeremy Fleming will say: “Cyber security is an increasingly strategic issue that needs a whole nation approach.
• “The rules are changing in ways not always controlled by Government.
• “Without action it is increasingly clear that the key technologies on which we will rely for our future prosperity and security won’t be shaped and controlled by the West.
• “We are now facing a moment of reckoning.”
• Authoritarian powers like China and Russia increasingly use access to the internet as a means of controlling their populations.
• In recent years Western powers have been bombarded by misinformation and industrial-scale hacking activities by malign state-sponsored organisations, such as the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a troll factory run by Putin-associate Yevgeny Prigozhin.
• North Korea was blamed for the 2017 WannaCry cyber attack that caused worldwide chaos, including in the NHS.
Japan’s first Global Hawk makes maiden flight (Shephard News)
• The first of three Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawks for Japan completed its maiden flight on 15 April 2021 from Palmdale, California.
• The HALE UAV can fly at altitudes of up to 60,000ft for more than 30 hours and it is designed to carry payloads for ISTAR operations.
• In an official statement, Northrop Grumman’s Vice President and General Manager Jane Bishop said: ‘The unarmed RQ-4B Global Hawk will provide Japan with on-demand intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information supporting the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s missions of protecting borders, monitoring threats and providing humanitarian assistance in times of need.’
• In 2015, the US Government approved the sale of Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft to Japan as a part of an FMS deal.
• The annual Defence White Paper issued by the Japanese MoD in July 2020 highlighted how the country planned its response to regional threats posed by North Korean and Chinese military operations in the Asia Pacific.
• Shephard reported in August 2020, a month after the white paper came out, that Tokyo was considering cancelling the purchase of Global Hawk following the US Air Force’s 2021 budget proposal, which confirmed the retirement of RQ-4 Blocks 20 and 30.
Russia continues to reinforce Ukrainian border, begins exercises in Black Sea (Janes)
• Russia is continuing to deploy troops to Crimea and its Ukrainian border, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba saying on 20 April that Russia would soon have more than 120,000 troops on the border, Reuters reported.
• Satellite imagery has revealed two large staging areas established at the Opuk and Angarsky training grounds in southern Crimea. Satellite imagery also shows the presence of additional Su-27 combat aircraft, Mi-8/17, Mi-24/35, and Mi-28 helicopters, as well as Inokhodets unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Crimea.
• The Black Sea Fleet’s amphibious capability has been further reinforced with four large landing craft from the Northern and Baltic Fleets that entered the Black Sea through the Bosporus on 17 April.
• Meanwhile, an A-50U aircraft of the 144th Airborne Early Warning and Control Regiment has deployed from Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow, to Taganrog airbase in the Rostov region. A-50Us are designed to provide an airborne command-and-control capability and are often deployed to forward airbases ahead of Long-Range Aviation Group flights.
• The T-Intelligence open-source intelligence platform reported on 20 April that Russia had issued notices to airmen and mariners marking danger areas related to training exercises for most of Crimea’s Black Sea coast. Passage through the Kerch Strait will be restricted for “warships and state ships of other countries” until October, Interfax Ukraine reported on 15 April.
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WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
Covid pandemic over in Britain, say experts (Telegraph)
• Britain is no longer in a pandemic, experts have said, as new data showed the vaccination programme is reducing symptomatic Covid infections by up to 90 per cent.
• In the first large real-world study of the impact of vaccination on the general population, researchers found that the rollout is having a major impact on cutting both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.
• Sarah Walker, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford and Chief Investigator on the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey, said that Britain had ‘moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation’ where the virus is circulating at a low, largely controllable level in the community.
• The new research, based on throat swabs from 373,402 people between December 1 last year and April 3, found three weeks after one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab, symptomatic infections fell by 74 per cent and infections without symptoms by 57 per cent.
• By two doses, asymptomatic infections were down 70 per cent and symptomatic by 90 per cent.
• It comes as infections continue to fall in Britain, dropping seven per cent in a week, despite the reopening of schools and shops. Deaths have also fallen by 26 per cent and admissions by 19 per cent over the last seven days.
• New data from the ONS also showed that Covid was no longer the leading cause of death in March, falling behind dementia and heart disease, for the first time since October.
• Prof Walker, said she was hopeful the vaccination programme could keep Covid under control.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
Dominic Cummings is accused of leaking Boris Johnson’s texts with Sir James Dyson (Times)
• Boris Johnson believes that Dominic Cummings is behind damaging leaks including the disclosure of the prime minister’s text messages.
• A No 10 source claimed that Johnson’s former senior adviser was “engaged in systematic leaking” and “bitter about what’s happened since he left”.
• The prime minister was “saddened about what Dom is doing”, the source said as they accused him of “undermining the government and the party”.
• Earlier this week leaked messages revealed that Johnson had texted Sir James Dyson, a Tory donor, offering to “fix” a problem over the tax status of his employees.
• The entrepreneur had gone directly to the prime minister after responding to an appeal to help build ventilators for the NHS at the start of the pandemic.
• Johnson has since defended the messages and said he made “no apology for moving heaven and earth” to secure equipment for the health service.
• A No 10 source claimed last night: “Dominic is engaged in systematic leaking. We are disappointed about that. We are concerned about messages from private WhatsApp groups which had very limited circulation.
• “The prime minister is saddened about what Dom is doing. It’s undermining the government and the party. It might be that Dominic feels bitter about what’s happened since he left — but it’s a great shame. Dyson was trying to do something for the good of the country.”
• The government yesterday announced a leak inquiry into the disclosure of the messages. Allies of Cummings categorically denied that he was behind the leaks and said he had not seen the texts.
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