Extra funding for service charities as veterans’ support is increased

The Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) and the MOD have announced that 100 Armed Forces charities will benefit from nearly £6 million of extra funding to support serving personnel, veterans and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

This is part of a package of support announced by the Chancellor in April to ensure charities can continue their vital work during the pandemic.

The charities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that are benefitting from this funding range from smaller local charities to bigger, more well-known names.

The charities provide support to veterans and serving personnel in a range of different areas, including employment, mental health and wellbeing, physical health, and recovery and support for service families.

As part of the government’s commitment to supporting service personnel throughout their military and civilian lives, next month a consultation will also be launched on employers paying no National Insurance contributions on the salary of any veteran they take on during their first year of civilian employment.

This delivers on the government’s manifesto commitment to encourage businesses to further utilise the immense skills and experience that veterans can bring to businesses.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: “Today we mark and give thanks to our veterans for the outstanding service which they have given to this country. To show our appreciation we’re advancing veterans issues across government, through the Office for Veterans’ Affairs. I’m delighted as well to confirm extra funding for service charities to help them through the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “If it wasn’t for the brave servicemen and women who serve and protect our country, we would not have a United Kingdom to call our home.

“That’s why we must continue to do everything we can to support our veterans through these challenging times.”

Under the plans announced in this year’s Budget, an employer taking on a veteran earning £25k will save around £2,000 in NICs.

Employers currently pay Employers’ National Insurance contributions of 13.8% of the employee’s salary. Under this measure, they will be able to save this cost on an employee’s salary up to the Upper Earnings Limit (£50,000).

Recently the OVA announced the launch of a study to look at whether COVID-19 has had any specific impact on the veteran community in the UK. This in turn will allow policy makers in government to understand potential issues affecting veterans and respond accordingly based on expert advice and evidence.

The OVA, which was created last year, is ensuring that the whole of government is delivering better outcomes for veterans, particularly in areas such as mental health, employment and housing. It is working in partnership with government departments, the Devolved Administrations and charities to coordinate activity across the United Kingdom.

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RAF flights to take UK aid-funded supplies to Africa to tackle coronavirus

The first of a series of Royal Air Force flights taking medical supplies to Africa to help fight the coronavirus pandemic departed at the weekend.

The RAF C-17 took off from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire on a journey funded by the Department For International Development. The transport aircraft was carrying a field hospital, which will be used as a backup facility for frontline aid workers in the region. Aid workers from around the world are playing a crucial role in West Africa working to improve health systems, prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

It comes after the UK responded to a request by the United Nations (UN) to NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. The UN is leading global logistics efforts to make sure medical supplies reach those who need them most during the pandemic.

With commercial flights disrupted and the cost of cargo flights having escalated, the UK’s support is crucial.

The UK-aid funded field hospital has been organised by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and will have the capacity to care for up to 92 people.

The UK has previously announced £15 million of support to the WFP to support its coronavirus response.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “This field hospital will play an important role in the global battle against coronavirus.

“Aid workers are on the frontline of the coronavirus response, and it is critical they are protected so they can continue their life-saving work.

“This is the best of British – the UK military and UK aid – working together to solve a global problem for the benefit of all of us. No one is safe until we are all safe.”

The field hospital, which weighs approximately 130 tonnes, the equivalent of seven buses, will be transported to Accra in up to five flights. It will then be built to support the coronavirus response where the need is greatest.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The RAF and NATO are always here to help our Allies, friends and those in need around the world. I’m proud that while dealing with coronavirus we are able to provide such support to Ghana and other countries.”

The World Food Programme’s Executive Director, David Beasley, said: “WFP is incredibly grateful for this support from the UK Government in transporting essential humanitarian infrastructure and medical supplies to Africa. Commercial transport is massively disrupted.

“This kind of action allows humanitarian and health staff to stay and deliver at their duty stations on the frontline to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”

image © MOD Crown Copyright

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Dstl release research on stability of COVID-19 in the air

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has published a research paper on the stability of the COVID-19 virus in the air through the Emerging Microbes and Infections journal.

The paper “Experimental aerosol survival of SARS-CoV-2 in artificial saliva and tissue culture media at medium and high humidity”, written by a team of Dstl scientists, outlines the research completed on the stability of the COVID-19 virus in the air. It also supports the scientific advice provided to the Government on COVID-19 control measures.

The findings indicate that the COVID-19 virus may remain viable in the dark for at least 90 minutes under certain conditions, if produced within small-particle aerosols. These findings provide direct, corroborating evidence that will help inform how the virus behaves within healthcare environments.

Coughing and sneezing generally produce large particles of saliva, but smaller particles will also be produced. Small particles are also produced during routine activities such as talking and breathing. Smaller aerosol particles may be of concern because they may stay buoyant in the air for longer, travel further and be able to penetrate further into the respiratory tract when inhaled.

Dstl, the science inside UK national security, has used its capability to investigate the generation of virus-containing particles to study the survival of the virus under different conditions. The research paper has also been shared with the Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and can be viewed here.

Tim Atkins, OBE and Senior Scientist at Dstl said: “These scientific findings will contribute to international scientific understanding of the virus, and therefore help to resolve this global crisis. The more scientific research undertaken across the world the more enriched the understanding of how Coronavirus behaves. This will be critical moving forward to ensuring we give the best advice to people on how to stay safe.”

Elbit Systems wins T-6 Trainer contract with the Israeli Air Force

Elbit Systems has announced that it was awarded a contract valued at approximately $38 million from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to provide operation, maintenance and logistic services for the Textron T-6 trainer aircraft (“T-6”) fleet of the Israeli Air Force (“IAF”).

This contract award follows a decade during which Elbit Systems has provided the IAF with operation and maintenance services for the T-6 fleet, meeting the IAF’s standards of service, availability and flight safety.

The contract will be executed over a five-year period, with an option for an additional five-year period.

The T-6 fleet is used by the IAF for cadet test flights during the basic training phase of the Flight Academy course. Elbit Systems also provides logistic services and training technologies to two other fleets of the IAF Flight Academy, the M-346 trainer jet fleet and the GROB G-120A trainer jet fleet. In addition, a joint venture of Elbit Systems UK and a subsidiary of KBR, Inc, provides procurement, operations and maintenance services for three aircraft types of the UK Army Flight Academy.

Yoram Shmuely, General Manager of Elbit Systems Aerospace Division, said: “We are proud to have been trusted with the continuation of our services that support the IAF’s operational and economic objectives. We believe that our proven experience and strong reputation in this area position us well to cater to the needs of additional Air Forces as they increasingly seek to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of training operations.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne hits milestone on THAAD weapon system

Aerojet Rocketdyne has delivered the 600th Boost Motor and the 600th Divert and Attitude Control System (DACS) for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system, one of the United States’ primary defences against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles.

A land-based element of the Missile Defense Agency’s Missile Defense system, built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, THAAD shields deployed US and allied forces and critical infrastructure from missile attacks. The system has a 100% success rate in intercept tests – 16 intercepts in 16 tests – since production began.

The THAAD solid rocket boost motor is now manufactured at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s rapidly growing facilities in Huntsville, Alabama and Camden, Arkansas. The DACS, a highly-responsive thruster system that keeps THAAD’s kinetic kill vehicle on target during the latter stages of an intercept, is manufactured in the company’s Los Angeles, California facility.

Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president, said: “I am proud of our team’s vital role on this important program. Over the past two years they have successfully transferred production from our Sacramento, California site, supported the Missile Defense Agency’s successful THAAD flight test, and delivered the 600th Boost Motor and 600th Divert and Attitude Control System.”

image Copyright © 2020 BAE Systems

GD Electric Boat wins modification For Columbia-class submarines

The US Navy have announced that General Dynamics Electric Boat has been awarded a contract modification for the design completion, engineering work and design support efforts for the Columbia Class of Ballistic Missile Submarines.

An option valued at $9.47 billion supporting the construction of the first two ships of the Columbia class is established as part of this modification. Electric Boat is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics.

Electric Boat is the prime contractor on the design and construction of 12-ship Columbia class, which will replace the ageing Ohio class of ballistic missile submarines. Electric Boat will manage numerous vendors and suppliers to do this work. Advanced construction began in 2017 at the company’s facility in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Final assembly and test of the Columbia class will take place starting in 2024 at Electric Boat’s shipyard in Groton.

General Dynamics is investing $1.8 billion in capital expenditures to construct and expand its facilities to support the construction of the Columbia class, the world’s most advanced strategic missile submarine. The company’s three primary locations are in Groton and New London, Conn.; and Quonset Point, R.I. Its current workforce is more than 16,000 employees.

General Dynamics Electric Boat president Kevin Graney, commented: “The shipbuilders of Electric Boat recognise the responsibility and welcome the opportunity to deliver the Columbia class. Columbia is our nation’s top strategic defence priority and, as the prime contractor, we will provide the safest and most capable class of submarines in the defence of our nation.

“As we move toward full scale construction later this year, Columbia’s design is more advanced than that of any previous submarine program.

“We stand ready to execute on this critical program and have made extensive preparations by hiring and training the next generation of skilled shipbuilders, expanding and modernising our facilities and strengthening our supply base.”

image courtesy of US Navy


SBIRS missile warning satellite completes thermal vacuum testing

The US Space Force’s fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO-5) has successfully completed Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) testing at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California satellite manufacturing facility.

Completing TVAC was a significant milestone for the first military space satellite to be built on one of Lockheed Martin’s modernised LM 2100 satellite buses. During TVAC testing, the satellite – with its sophisticated electronics performing full operations – faced waves of heat and cold in a depressurised atmosphere similar to the drastic environmental changes experienced in space.

“The completion of TVAC can be attributed to a tremendous effort from the Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Aerospace Corporation, and supporting contractor teams,” said Tucker White, SBIRS GEO-5 Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations Lead from the Government Program Office. “The teams worked around the clock and finished on schedule to their original projection. This test phase is vital to any space vehicle test regime and takes GEO-5 one step closer to providing enhanced missile detection to our warfighters.”

SBIRS GEO-5 will join the Space Force’s constellation of missile warning satellites equipped, with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors, which protect our nation 24-7. These sensors collect data that allow the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

“In SBIRS GEO-5, and our next satellite GEO-6, we’re introducing game-changing enhancements to address the needs of our nation’s space warfighting force going forward,” said Tom McCormick, Vice President for Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Missions at Lockheed Martin Space. “The threat posed by ballistic missile technology continues to spread exponentially around the world. In 2019, SBIRS detected nearly a thousand missile launches globally, which is about a two-fold increase in two years.”

image © Lockheed Martin


Sodexo employees join mentor scheme to help ex-services personnel

Sodexo has extended its support to SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity with HR director, Rachel Evans and HR business partner, Marc Vincent joining its mentoring programme aimed at helping service personnel leaving the Armed Forces transition into civilian life.

SSAFA’s mentoring programme was launched as a trial in 2018 at Catterick Garrison to support the transition of individuals returning who were, in some way, wounded, injured or sick (WIS) and, because of this, had been discharged from military service.  In 2020 the programme was expanded to include other service leavers and rolled out nationwide.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and restrictions imposed to fight the virus has not halted the programme.  Service personnel have continued to be discharged from all three services and still require support with their transition to civilian life. In some cases more support is needed now more than ever due to the uncertainty of the future as the lockdown eases and the country adapts to a new normal.

SSAFA has adapted the mentoring programme to ensure it meets the continued demand and support needed by those who need it most across the UK and have gone the extra mile to ensure support is provided in line with lockdown restrictions. SSAFA’s mentoring team have also been working with its crisis team and have been able to access funds from SSAFA’s Emergency Response Fund for those in most need.

Both Rachel and Marc have already engaged with their respective mentees from the programme and despite not being able to meet face-to-face all have embraced the adapted programme and are using a variety of IT services to ensure the valuable support the programme offers continues.

Rachel Evans, commented: Mentoring is a fantastic way to give something back to the service leaver community both personally and as an organisation. It’s not about advising or telling people what to do, it’s about providing guidance and empowering people to make their own decisions, find their own solutions, and give them the confidence to make a difference by themselves.”

Prior to March 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic, SSAFA’s programme had already seen the charity’s trained mentors help 560 individuals and their family members through holistic, one-to-one, face-to-face support for up to two years post service. Its aim is to motivate, support, build resilience and empower service leavers to fulfil their potential in their new lives outside the military and has been set up to help provide reassurance and support at what could potentially be a daunting time.

Sir Andrew Gregory, Chief Executive of SSAFA said: “This programme is incredibly important to those leaving military service. While most make the change successfully, adjusting to civilian life can be hard for some.  Having organisations such as Sodexo supporting this scheme, including with mentors like Rachel and Marc, will make a real difference.  I thank them for their time and dedication to the programme.”  

Results of the mentee questionnaires completed those who participated in the 2018 Catterick trial showed a significant improvement in seven of the ten outcome areas amongst the service leavers on the trial. The results reveal that mentees experienced a 31 per cent increase in feelings of self happiness, 35 per cent reduction in social isolation, and more than 20 per cent improvement in their financial and housing stability.

image courtesy of Sodexo

British Army’s UBVT keeps social distancing soldiers sharp

The British Army’s Unit Based Virtual Training (UBVT) has been used to combat the conundrum of effectively sharpening soldiering skills while adhering to strict social distancing measures.

Delivered as a managed service by training and simulation specialist NSC, the technology allowed personnel from 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment to train collectively despite the constraints of operating during the coronavirus crisis.
Run on a network of laptop computers with exercising troops communicating via headsets, the all-arms system negates the need for the close proximity and physical contact commonly associated with traditional field training and other fixed simulation capabilities.
UBVT, which immerses troops in a high-fidelity synthetic environment, was deployed to 1 YORKS base at Battlesbury Barracks in Warminster for a three-week period and saw the Armoured Infantry Battalion’s platoons rotate through a series of virtual exercises without having to travel.
In addition to physically separating participants and the use of personal protective equipment where necessary, a remote exercise control setup was among a raft of safeguarding measures introduced by the Army’s chain of command and NSC to ensure the health of soldiers and directing staff was not put at risk.
“We have rapidly evolved the system’s delivery to enable troops to return to training with confidence during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained UBVT project manager Nick Brown. “Current events highlight the benefits afforded by a means of training that can be delivered at a commander’s point of need and has a minimal logistical burden.
“One of UBVT’s great advantages is that units can rehearse tactics, techniques and procedures without constraints such as the availability of vehicles, training estate or ammunition and concerns over safety, and in this case its flexibility helped to enable collective training that would not otherwise be possible.
“The system can be used at scale – as demonstrated during Exercise Virtual Eagle last year, which saw the largest single deployment of the MoD’s Defence Virtual Simulation to date – but also tailored to service small groups and minimise physical contact.” 
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Joint Statement from Five Eyes defence ministers’ meeting released

The defence ministers from the Five Eyes nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) met via videoconference on 22‑23 June.

The Ministers from the Five Eyes nations reaffirmed their commitment to advance defence and security cooperation on matters of common interest to support and defend a stable, rules-based, global order, that is increasingly being challenged.

Ministers recognised the role of regional partners and institutions in shaping globally and across the Indo-Pacific a stable and secure, economically resilient community, where the sovereign rights of all states are respected.

Ministers also discussed new opportunities for Five Eyes partners to further strengthen their relationship, build resilience, address challenges to international rules and norms and advance cooperation across key lines of effort in an increasingly complex and challenging geostrategic environment.

There was a commitment to meet regularly as part of efforts to address existing and emerging security challenges, and to advance their shared values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights.

image from Shutterstock