May 24, 2021
Fleet Solid Support ships competition launched, Content with flat budget, anti-ship missiles the top priority in 2022, USMC Commandant says, DARPA eyes nuclear power for spacecraft, Not about ‘killer robots’: Britain must exploit competitive edge in AI, says Army cyber chief, Russia and China will ‘behave responsibly’, First Sea Lord says, as Carrier Strike Group sets sail.
HERE ARE THE TOP INDUSTRY AND WORLD STORIES
Fleet Solid Support ships competition launched (MoD)
• Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has launched a competition to build three new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships to provide vital support to Royal Navy operations across the world.
• These crucial Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will provide munitions, food, stores and provisions to support carrier and amphibious based Task Groups at sea.
• Building on the commitment made in the recent Defence Command Paper to create a shipbuilding renaissance, the competition will help revitalise British shipbuilding by requiring a significant proportion of the build and assembly work to be carried out in the UK.
• With a £24 billion multi-year settlement to modernise our Armed Forces, the competition is an exciting moment for UK industry to design and deliver a world-leading capability, securing highly-skilled jobs and boosting homegrown skills.
• Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:As Shipbuilding Tsar, I am delighted to launch the competition for these crucial Fleet Solid Support ships.These vessels embody our commitment to a truly global presence by supporting the Royal Navy’s operations around the world.The competition reaffirms our dedication to invest in shipbuilding and support jobs across the UK maritime industry.”
• Designed to challenge the shipbuilding industry, Defence Equipment and Support have issued the contract notice inviting companies to register an interest in participating in the tender for the design and build of the ships, which will incorporate next-generation technology.
• The successful bidder can work in partnership with international companies but would be required to integrate the ships in a UK shipyard.
Content with flat budget, anti-ship missiles the top priority in 2022, USMC Commandant says (Janes)
• US Marine Corps (USMC) Commandant General David Berger did not publicly bemoan the prospect of a relatively flat budget over the coming years when he spoke about progress in transforming the force for operations in the Pacific region at an 18 May Brookings Institute event.
• “My anticipation was that it was going to be flat [budget] and we were not going to be on a climbing trajectory for the next four or five years,” the four-star general. “I think we are set up okay.”
• Over the past year, the USMC has moved ahead with its Force Design 2030 plan that redefines how the service will fight in the future, in part by becoming smaller and more nimble in support of naval expeditionary warfare operations.
• “You need a very forward expeditionary, fairly light, fairly mobile force all the time in the right areas,” Gen Berger said, noting that this will allow the service to conduct reconnaissance operations.
• ”Somebody has to paint a picture of what in the world is going on in front of us and you need a force forward to do that,” he added. “I think satellites and everything else contribute, but there’s great value in being forward.”
• Gen Berger said the USMC would act as a “deterrence” to China if based around the Indo-Pacific region.
• ”Not just deterrence by punishment, or the threat of punishment, but actually deterrence detection, meaning they will have to change their scheme because they believe we can pretty much see what they’re doing all the time,” the commandant added.
DARPA eyes nuclear power for spacecraft (Shephard News)
• Recently introduced reforms could enable the first demonstration flight of a nuclear thermal propulsion rocket in 2025.
• A new DARPA programme focused on nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP)-powered spacecraft has significant implications for the domain, helping support the development of platforms with far greater agility and manoeuvrability in cislunar space between the Earth and the Moon.
• DARPA awarded several contracts for the first phase of its Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) programme in mid-April 2021. The aim is to demonstrate an NTP system above low Earth orbit in 2025.
• USAF Maj Nathan Greiner, programme manager for DRACO, said that NTP systems offer a combination of high thrust-to-weight, leading to better acceleration and high specific impulse (known as Isp), equivalent to petrol mileage and the efficiency at which propellant is burned.
• Existing space propulsion methods rely on chemical or electric systems, Maj Grenier said. These either have high thrust-to-weight and low Isp (in the case of chemical systems) or low thrust-to-weight and high Isp (in electrical systems).
• A chemical system could provide similar agility and manoeuvrability to NTP only if it were prohibitively large, while an electric system is very slow, taking months to conduct a manoeuvre that an NTP equivalent could achieve in a matter of hours.
• NTP technology itself was not a constraint to this point, Maj Grenier explained; indeed, such systems were built in the 1960s and 1970s through the US Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Applications (NERVA)/Rover programme.
Not about ‘killer robots’: Britain must exploit competitive edge in AI, says Army cyber chief (Telegraph)
• General Sir Patrick Sanders, head of Strategic Command, says of all the world’s new technologies, AI is ‘the one ring to rule them all’.
• Artificial Intelligence isn’t about ‘killer robots’ and Britain would be ‘mad’ not to try and be a world leader in the technology, the UK’s military’s cyber chief has said.
• General Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of Britain’s Strategic Command, said artificial intelligence (AI) will be central to emerging technologies such as quantum computing, biotechnology and the military’s use of cyberspace.
• Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph in Estonia as he visited Nato forces, Gen Sanders said: “If you crack AI…you can master the mechanism to exploit and enhance technology at the pace you need.”
• Noting that Britain is the third ranked cyber power in the world and a global leader in AI, he said “it would be madness if the UK didn’t try to exploit these”.
• “Of all the new technologies, the one ring to rule them all is AI.”
• Machine learning, whereby computers learn through exposure to data to spot patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention, is of particular interest to the armed forces.
• “It gives you the opportunity for better decision making, it gives you the opportunity to begin to develop autonomy,” Gen Sanders said.
• “There’s a lot of concern out there about killer robots and ethics. Actually the real use of AI is to support humans, to be under command of humans.
Russia and China will ‘behave responsibly’, First Sea Lord says, as Carrier Strike Group sets sail (Telegraph)
• Russia and China are expected to “behave responsibly” and not respond recklessly to Britain’s aircraft carrier, the First Sea Lord has said, as Britain’s Carrier Strike Group sets sail on its first deployment.
• Britain’s new flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, left Portsmouth on Saturday night to lead six Royal Navy ships, a Royal Navy submarine, a US Navy destroyer and a frigate from the Netherlands in the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.
• The seven-month global deployment is the UK Carrier Strike Group’s maiden operational deployment.
• The nine ships, plus 32 aircraft and 3,700 personnel, will route through the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean and on to the Indo-Pacific.
• Given the proximity to Russian forces in the Black Sea and Beijing’s assertive claims to disputed areas in the South China Sea, international tensions could be inflamed.
• Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord, said he expected Russia and China to “behave responsibly”.
• “I don’t expect to see the recklessness that we’ve seen of Russian behaviour in the past. I don’t expect to see aggression from China when UK forces with their allies are going about activity in a very legal and clear manner. We’ve got to put an onus on these countries to behave responsibly. We’re behaving responsibly and we will expect other nations to behave responsibly as well.”
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Anger after Ryanair flight ‘hijacked’ by Lukashenko to arrest dissident (Times)
• Britain said that the dictator of Belarus faced “serious consequences” after he scrambled a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight carrying a fugitive critic to land in the capital yesterday.
• The plane, carrying 171 passengers from Greece to Lithuania, was nearing the end of its journey when its crew was warned by Belarusian air traffic control that there had been a report of a bomb on board. The pilot of the MiG-29 ordered to intercept the airliner signalled that it should land in Minsk. When it did, the opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, was arrested by state security service officers.
• He could face the death sentence after being accused of organising protests against President Lukashenko. Lukashenko, 66, who has ruled the former Soviet state for 26 years, has been a pariah since he ordered a crackdown on protesters angry over his rigging of last August’s elections.
• “This outlandish action will have serious implications,” Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, tweeted. Raab today said that Britain and its allies are working on a response involving “further sactions” against Belarus.
• He also called for the International Civil Aviation Organisation council to meet urgently “to consider the regime’s flouting of the international rules safeguarding civil aviation”.
• Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, today called for all civilian airlines to cease flying over Belarus and described the incident as an act of “air piracy”. He told Times Radio: “We need to stop any aircraft overflying Belarus . . . This is an act of air-piracy, combined with hijacking, and eventually linked to kidnapping.”
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
Priti Patel unveils ‘radical plan’ to stop illegal immigration (Times)
• Only a radical overhaul of the immigration system that “slams the door on dangerous criminals” will meet the demands of the British people, Priti Patel will say today.
• The home secretary will promise to deliver a “wholesale reform” of immigration rules and border controls. She will pledge to create “the world’s most effective border system” by implementing a “fully digital border” by 2025.
• All visitors to the UK will have to pay about £9 for a US-style electronic travel authorisation (ETA) to ensure that the authorities can carry out security and criminal checks before they arrive.
• The digital revolution of borders will enable the government to count the number of people entering and leaving the country.
• A new policy statement will outline plans to simplify the application process for work visas for migrants and employers. It will set out details of how the government will simplify more than 500 pages of immigration rules.
• The Home Office said that a streamlined document would make it easier to access and understand the 21 legal visa routes into the UK. It would set out the requirements a migrant must meet to come to or stay in the UK, which ministers hope will make it easier for government lawyers to fend off long and repetitive legal challenges.
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