NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the UK as a key ally in talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday, focusing on preparations for the NATO Summit on the 14th of June.

The Secretary General said:

“It’s great to be back in London and thank you so much for your strong personal leadership on strengthening our transatlantic bond. The bond between Europe and North America. And the United Kingdom is really a staunch and highly valued NATO Ally. You invest a lot in our common security. And I had the pleasure of visiting the HMS Queen Elizabeth off the coast of Portugal last week and that is really an impressive aircraft carrier, demonstrating the commitment of the United Kingdom to our common security, to our collective defence.

And we need that commitment because we live in a more unpredictable world, with more global competition and therefore we need to strengthen our Alliance and that is exactly what we are going to do when I’m looking forward to welcoming you and all the other NATO Leaders to our Summit in Brussels in June in two weeks time where we will demonstrate our strength, bold and forward looking agenda, and demonstrate our commitment to standing together. The transatlantic bond, not only in words, but also in deeds. So once again, thank you much.”

He also thanked the UK for showing leadership on defence investment.

Looking towards the NATO Summit, Mr Stoltenberg stressed that the gathering of Allied leaders will demonstrate the Alliance’s strength and transatlantic unity at a time of increased global competition.

THE NAVY has tested artificial intelligence against supersonic missile threats for the first time at sea as it ushers in a new age of autonomous defence.

The live-fire drill test of the state-of-the-art fleet’s naval air and AI missile defence capabilities has been playing out off Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and Norway’s Arctic coast this week.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) say the Royal Navy trial is part of Nato’s Exercise Formidable Shield, which runs until June 3.

HMS Dragon leads the group equipped as a dedicated air defence destroyer designed to shield other vessels with her Sea Viper missile system.

Using her Sampson radar – the spinning ‘spiked egg’ atop her main mast – the Portsmouth-based warship has the ability to detect and follow a missile’s progress from launch to ‘splash’ when it is destroyed.

The research is being led by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) scientists – with the AI also being tested on frigate HMS Lancaster and Argyll.

The ships all have capability to destroy missile threats travelling an mindblowing 12,000mph – 16 times the speed of sound.

They can also knock out sea-skimming drones simulating missiles, weaving at high sub-sonic speeds in a bid to outfox the radars tracking them.

The MoD said the AI improves the early detection of lethal threats and gives Commanders rapid assessments.

The trial is testing two AI systems, Startle and Sycoiea. The first provides live alerts to sailors monitoring the air for threats and latter identifies the threat to advise on the best weaponry and manoeuvres.

HMS Lancaster’s Weapon Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Commander Adam Leveridge said: “Observing Startle and Sycoiea augment the human warfighter in real time against a live supersonic missile threat was truly impressive – a glimpse into our highly-autonomous future.”

In one crucial test HMS Dragon’s Sea Viper missiles are tested to intercept a Firejet target drone, racing over the Atlantic at more than 400mph but just 20ft above the waves.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “It’s vital that our brave and highly skilled armed forces stay ahead of the game for the security of the United Kingdom and our allies.

“The Royal Navy’s use of AI for the first time at sea is an important development in ensuring readiness to tackle threats we may face.

The AI-based applications are also being tested to ensure they work alongside existing radar and combat management systems.

DSTL’s programme manager Alasdair Gilchrist said: “DSTL has invested heavily in the systems that are installed at the moment, but it’s imperative that we continue to invest to make sure that the Royal Navy remains relevant now and in the future.

“Being able to bring AI onto the ships is a massive achievement, and while we can prove the AI works in the labs, actually getting Navy personnel hands-on is brilliant.”

Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has left its home in Portsmouth ahead of its first operational deployment.

The £3bn warship was waved off by crowds who lined the city’s harbour walls on Saturday afternoon.

It will lead the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, which is taking part in an exercise off Scotland before departing for a tour of the Indo-Pacific region.

The ship began sea trials in 2017, having replaced HMS Illustrious which was scrapped in 2014.

It has eight RAF and 10 US Marine Corps F35B stealth fighter jets onboard and will be accompanied to Asia by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

Earlier, other members of the strike group, destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, also left the naval base in Hampshire.

They will be joined by US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen while carrying out visits to India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Commodore Stephen Moorhouse said: “This is an amazing capability and pulling that all together with our international partners is a real statement that the Royal Navy is very much in the premier league.

“The deployment takes us through the Mediterranean, the Middle East then operating with key partners in the Indo-Pacific just shows the Royal Navy has an ambition to be active on the global stage and operate wherever our politicians may feel fit.”

Colonel Simon Doran, the senior US representative, said the deployment had been in planning for more than 10 years.

“It sends a message to potential adversaries, but also to our allies to reinforce should they ever be needed, we will be there, we generally always fight together so to deploy together really helps strengthen our relationship,” he said.

In my home city of Perth proudly stands the Black Watch Museum. It commemorates the history of that great regiment: “from Fontenoy to Fallujah with Ticonderoga, Waterloo, Alamein and two World Wars in between, the Black Watch has been there when the world’s history has been shaped.”

It’s a reminder that for over 300 years Scotland and England have defended freedom side by side; together we’ve fought fascism and aggression in Europe and terrorism across the globe. Scottish soldiers, Scottish airmen and women, Scottish sailors have helped keep these islands safe. But they have done so much more: together they’ve helped to advance our values – of freedom under the law and respect for international order – across the world.

Today our aircraft carriers, launched from Rosyth, are sailing the globe to help keep the peace alongside our allies. Scottish pilots are flying RAF Typhoons to police Baltic airspace against Russian incursion. Scottish troops serve in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to help underpin fragile democracies and protect our European security. These operations, always in support of international law and multi-lateral treaties, put the liberal values of the Scottish enlightenment into practical and humanitarian effect.

Britain has the strongest defence forces in Europe and is the fifth biggest defence power in the world. That strength and power, second only to the United States amongst the democracies, is for the common good. And it’s only possible because Scotland and England together, with Wales and Northern Ireland, are so much more than the sum of their parts.

Scotland plays a central part in the defence of the British Isles. The Royal Navy’s base on the Clyde hosts all its submarines, not just the Trident boats, and employs 8,500 people. Orders for nine new frigates are being placed with shipyards on the Clyde and the Forth, employing thousands more. RAF Lossiemouth, employing another 2,200, hosts half the RAF’s Typhoon squadrons and will house the UK’s nine P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. Thousands of troops, including the 51st Infantry Brigade and five battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, are stationed across Scotland, always ready to help out whether it’s flooding or the Covid vaccination programme.

British defence combines the best of each nation. Those aircraft carriers were built block by block in both Scottish and English shipyards. Our RAF Typhoons are assembled in Lancashire with sophisticated avionics from Edinburgh. Every regiment in the British Army would be poorer

without its Scottish men and women. Scots have always served at the very highest ranks in the British military. Many of Wellington’s generals were Scots. Admiral Duncan from Dundee saved us from the Dutch at Camperdown; Admiral Cochrane from Hamilton helped lead Brazil, Chile and Peru to independence; Admiral John Paul from Kirkcudbright is recognised as “the Father of the American Navy”.

Our defence of these islands is successful because it is interwoven. The RAF holds fighter jets at instant readiness at both Lossiemouth in Moray and Coningsby in Lincolnshire to intercept Russian aircraft entering our air defence zone and to prevent a 9/11-style attack on any of our cities, in Scotland or England: those jets, with tanker support, must cover the whole of our flight information region in minutes. Terrorist hijackers won’t ask permission to overfly any Scottish border.

The Royal Navy protects fisheries around Scottish coasts but also the key transatlantic cables that are so vital for the commercial centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Our Vanguard submarines are on constant patrol from Faslane to deter any potential nuclear attacker from targeting Scottish as well as English cities. The P-8 maritime patrol aircraft at Lossiemouth and the new anti-submarine frigates being built on the Clyde in turn protect the deterrent.

A separate Scotland would undermine all this. Small-scale Scottish-only forces would have to be constructed from amongst those who were willing to transfer from each of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Army and UK Strategic Command. The Nationalists propose a Scottish military comprising just four warships, a couple of RAF squadrons, and an army brigade. To keep Scotland safe such a small force would necessarily have to contract out some key defence functions such as air policing, cyber security, and the use of enablers such as helicopters, just as the Irish Republic relies on the RAF to police its own airspace.

But size isn’t the only issue. An independent Scotland would have to develop a separate defence policy. And here the difficulties begin: the separatists haven’t yet started to think this through. The SNP submission to the UK government’s Integrated Review comprises just seven pages on defence; there’s not a single costing for the hundreds of millions of pounds involved in the dismembering of our Armed Forces and the loss of so many defence jobs across Scotland.

The only defence policy they do put forward shows the poverty and insularity of separatist thinking. The SNP wants us to forget about “out of area operations of dubious benefit” and focus instead just on the Arctic Circle and the “High North”. This ignores the real world threats from international terrorism, from a nuclear-armed Iran, from Russian and Chinese aggression, and from growing instability in Africa. To counter the increasing danger of cyber-attacks – of the kind we’ve already seen on Scottish companies, on our NHS, on Parliament – the Nationalists’ only answer is to propose an “ambassador for hybrid affairs”. To stop President Putin interfering in our country – remember the Salisbury poisonings – they suggest that we only need to reform the funding of political parties to curb foreign donations (which are already illegal).

These aren’t real world answers. In fact, they would weaken our security and leave us less safe. An independent Scotland would mean a weaker NATO; a fractured Britain would be more vulnerable to Russian aggression, more exposed to Islamist terrorism, less able to counter Chinese interference. In the real world our adversaries would welcome a weaker Britain. Look how Russia has preyed on the instability of the Balkans; China takes full advantage of over-indebted countries; cyber warriors won’t be deterred by an “ambassador for hybrid affairs”.

Let’s look at that defence policy in detail. First, the Nationalists propose that Scotland joins NATO in its own right: Scotland would take its place around the NATO table next to Slovakia and Slovenia. But NATO is a nuclear alliance: its members accept that they come under the nuclear umbrella, the protection provided by the US and UK nuclear deterrents. To quote NATO: “The supreme guarantee of the security of the Alliance is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance”. Each new member of NATO (and an independent Scotland would be a new member) has to accept this on joining. Even when they don’t have nuclear weapons of their own, NATO members support NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement under which many members provide dual-capability aircraft and the bases from which they can fly. All NATO members (except France which has its own nuclear forces) take part in NATO nuclear planning, including Canada and Norway. Even if a separate Scottish government rejected our Vanguard submarines and closed their base at Faslane, Scotland in NATO would still be unable to opt out of nuclear protection.

Second, the SNP proposes that Scotland (and indeed the UK) should no longer commit to “out of area operations”: instead, a separate Scotland would restrict its NATO contribution to its north-western boundary: the Arctic Circle and the High North. There are indeed growing tensions in NATO’s north, as the climate warms and the northern trade passage opens up. But those countries most concerned, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states, are looking to strengthen, not break up their partnerships with larger neighbours. Norway is working with the United States and the UK on Atlantic patrolling, and the Nordic and Baltic states have joined the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).

But the threats to the security of our islands are not just European. Since the beginning of this century they have been increasingly international. Adversaries such as Russia and China, Iran and North Korea, breach international treaties and directly threaten our way of life. The Skripal poisoning could have occurred in Stirling as easily as in Salisbury. Sputnik broadcasts Russian propaganda from an office in Edinburgh. Chinese hackers steal intellectual property from companies north and south of Hadrian’s Wall.

And then there is terrorism, the biggest international threat of all. Daesh, Al Qaeda and their offshoots remain very dangerous to any of us in the West. The NATO mission in Afghanistan and our coalition protecting Iraq aren’t just about defending their democracies: they’re there to defend ours. Scotland – like England, like France, like Spain – is in the firing-line. Islamist extremists attacked Glasgow Airport the day after they planted car bombs in London in 2007. Four of the Britons slaughtered by Islamist terrorists on the beach in Tunisia in 2015 were Scots.

Dealing effectively with terrorism means dealing with it at source, and certainly “out of area”. British troops – Scots battalions amongst them – have served tour after tour in Afghanistan to restrict safe havens from which attacks in British and European cities can be directed or inspired. Scottish RAF pilots and army trainers, including 3 Rifles from Edinburgh, are part of the 75-nation strong coalition driving the Daesh out of Iraq. Those airstrikes and that training have helped to reduce attacks on British and European cities: to their shame, the Scottish Nationalists in Parliament voted each time against joining our allies in those UN-backed operations.

Protecting us from terrorist attacks and “grey zone” interference also depends upon intense intelligence and co-operation with our closest allies. Britain in particular relies on its membership of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing partnership between the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. If it were outside the protection of GCHQ (including our world-leading National Cyber Security Centre) and no longer part of the new UK National Cyber Force, Scotland would obviously be less able to forestall cyber-attacks on its citizens and its companies.

A separate Scotland would also be retreating from the world. Through the United Kingdom Scotland shares one of the five permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council and one of the seven seats at the annual G-7 economic summit. These leadership positions matter when it comes to upholding the rules-based international order on which Scotland’s security and prosperity ultimately depends. If you believe that international borders should not be changed by force, then you must respond to Ukraine’s call for equipment and training to resist Russian aggression. If you believe in upholding the treaty safeguarding Hong Kong (much of its success owing to Scottish finance and expertise), then you have to stand up to Chinese bullying. Effective deterrence and defence involve deploying our military power – ships, troops and aircraft – across the globe alongside our allies.

In fact, Scotland has always looked outwards. The prosperity of our islands was largely built on Scottish merchants and entrepreneurs, trading across the globe. Inside or outside the United Kingdom the Scottish economy depends on trade with the rest of the world: it’s always been in Scotland’s interest to keep those trade routes open, whether it’s the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, the Bab-el-Mandeb in the Red Sea or the Strait of Malacca in the Pacific. Leaving the United Kingdom would not enable Scotland to opt out the global economy; nor morally could Scotland leave international policing of its trade routes to everybody else. That’s why there’s an Australian frigate operating in the Gulf, far from home.

Finally, those forces that a separate Scotland would try to retain would be further weakened by two extraordinary reforms that the SNP proposes. First, that servicemen and women should be allowed a trade union, described as a “representative body”. That trade union would have pay-bargaining rights and the ability to take up disciplinary concerns: this would completely undermine the chain of command. Second, 17 year-olds, though adult enough to be given the vote in a Scottish referendum, would now be barred from joining up until they were 18, thus making recruitment more difficult.

Reducing Scotland’s role in the world and dismembering our Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force would leave us all less safe. It would weaken NATO and would play into the hands of our adversaries, especially those in Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang and Tehran who wish us harm. But it would also come at a huge economic cost. There’s no pricing in the SNP’s policy for the millions to be spent on re-organising and re-basing each of our armed forces.

Nor have they considered the impact on employment and Scottish industry. It isn’t just the jobs at military bases in Edinburgh, Leuchars, Arbroath, Lossiemouth and Faslane that would be under threat. Defence is a major industry with over 10,000 high-value jobs across Scotland depending on £1.75 billion of UK defence spending annually. And it’s a significant exporter: over 20 major defence companies have manufacturing, research and other facilities in Scotland.

There would be immediate employment consequences from partition: Royal Navy warships are only built in UK yards, so could no longer be ordered from the Clyde. Babcock’s construction of the common missile compartment for the UK Dreadnought and US Columbia submarine programmes would have to be moved from Rosyth. RAF Typhoons and maritime patrol aircraft would leave Lossiemouth.

But there would be longer-term consequences too. Major contractors such as Thales in Glasgow, Leonardo in Edinburgh and Raytheon in Fife would have to re-assess their locations. These are high-value white collar jobs closely linked to Scottish universities. Scotland would also lose its share of the UK’s £2.5 billion space programme, including the spaceport planned for Sutherland.

We need to consider all this with our eyes wide open. Scotland could pull out of the United Kingdom’s defence and minimise its role and influence in the world. Scotland could reduce itself to the likes of Slovakia and Slovenia: small countries can join NATO. Dismembering our long-standing Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force would be complicated, painful and extremely costly. The question that the separatists must answer is, would all this be really worth it if the result is a Scotland much less safe than it is today?

And morally this is very different from any economic argument. Some Scottish voters could indeed choose to risk becoming poorer, at least in the short-term, in return for the perceived gains of independence. But to decide wilfully to make Scotland less safe – at a time when the threats to our security are agreed to have significantly increased – would be perverse.

And there’s something else. Scots have never opted out of our own defence. Nemo me impune lacessit – nobody attacks me with impunity – is the Black Watch regimental motto. Scotland has never left its defence to others. It shouldn’t do so now.

Sir Michael Fallon is a former Secretary of State for Defence.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will depart for its first operational deployment next month in a mission that will “fly the flag for Global Britain”.

The £3bn aircraft carrier will head for Asia, with eight RAF F35B stealth fighter jets on board and accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “When our Carrier Strike Group sets sail next month, it will be flying the flag for Global Britain – projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow.

“The entire nation can be proud of the dedicated men and women who for more than six months will demonstrate to the world that the UK is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st century.”

During the 28-week deployment, ships from the group will visit more than 40 countries for more than 70 engagements, including an exercise marking the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

New figures unearthed by Diedre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, reveal that just over 6,000 people are directly employed at Faslane and Coulport.

The figures came to light after Member of Parliament Diedre Brock asked a series of questions relating to employed at HMNB Clyde.

Deidre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, asked via a Parliamentary written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many and what proportion of uniformed Royal Navy personnel based at (a) Faslane and (b) Coulport are Scottish taxpayers.”

James Heappey MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, responded:

“At 1 January 2021, 3,624 uniformed Royal Navy Service personnel were stationed at locations in Argyll and Bute, comprising the Faslane and Coulport sites. Of these, 1,393 personnel were Scottish taxpayers, which translates to 38.4% of the total.”

Brock also asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many and what proportion of civilian employees who are not contractors based at (a) Faslane and (b) Coulport are Scottish taxpayers.”

Heappey responded:

“At 31 December 2020, 1,015 civilian employees who are not contractors were employed at Faslane. Of these, 925 were Scottish taxpayers, which translates to 91% of the total. At 31 December 2020, 475 civilian employees who are not contractors were employed at Coulport. Of these, 425 were Scottish taxpayers, which translates to 89% of the total.”

Brock also asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many and what proportion of uniformed contractors based at (a) Faslane and (b) Coulport are Scottish taxpayers.”

Heappey then responded:

“At 31 December 2020, 535 uniformed contractors were employed at Faslane. Of these, 470 were Scottish taxpayers, which translates to 88% of the total. At 31 December 2020, 419 uniformed contractors were employed at Coulport. Of these, 370 were Scottish taxpayers, which translates to 89% of the total.”

The figures show that of the 6,068 civilian and military personnel working at Faslane and Coulport, 4,583 are Scottish taxpayers.

The submarine is named after 18th Century Admiral George Anson who delivered an impressive victory over the French at Cape Finisterre in 1747 and went on to reform the Admiralty.

Anson will enter the water shortly – there’s a basin next to the Devonshire Hall not only large enough to accommodate her, but also to allow a practice dive which almost allows the boat to completely submerge.

Her punch, say the Royal Navy, will be delivered by Tomahawk cruise missiles and the newly-upgraded Spearfish torpedoes being introduced to the Fleet from 2021.

Anson is due to remain in Barrow for completion until 2022 before leaving for sea trials and joining her older sisters at HMNB Clyde, while BAE finish the final two Astute-class boats: Agamemnon and Agincourt, completing the programme in 2025 after a quarter-century of work on the entire programme, say the Royal Navy.

The first section of a new class of Royal Navy warship has been rolled out at a Clyde shipyard.

It took 90 minutes to move the bow of HMS Glasgow from the build hall at BAE Systems’ Govan site.

The ship is the first of the new City Class Type 26 frigates being built for the Royal Navy.

The section, containing the bridge, operations room and accommodation spaces, will be joined to the rear section in the coming weeks.

The Type 26 frigates – also known as the Global Combat Ship – are designed to partially replace the Navy’s 13 ageing Type 23 warships.

Their primary role will be anti-submarine warfare, although they are also suitable for a range of operations including air defence.

Simon Lister, managing director of BAE Systems Naval Warships, said: “The emergence of HMS Glasgow is a very proud day for everyone involved and is testament to the skills and passion of our workforce.

“We have now completed the construction of all units of the ship and in the coming weeks our skilled teams will bring the hull together for the first time.”

Eight Type 26 frigates are expected to be built at BAE’s Govan and Scotstoun yards on the Clyde, with HMS Glasgow due to enter service in the mid 2020s.

Work is under way on the second ship, HMS Cardiff, and construction of the third, HMS Belfast, will begin later this year.

Variants of the design are being produced for the Australian and Canadian navies.

Pat Browning, the Type 26 programme team leader at the MoD’s defence equipment agency, said: “The Type 26 is a highly capable ASW (anti submarine warfare) warship designed for joint and multinational operations across the full spectrum of warfare and will serve at the heart of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet for decades to come.

“The roll out of the forward section of HMS Glasgow; the first of the Type 26 class, hails a landmark moment for this cutting-edge vessel and a huge step forward for the programme.”

It was originally anticipated that 13 Type 26 frigates would be built – directly the Type 23 fleet -, but following the 2015 Strategic Defence Review it was confirmed there would be eight, along with five lighter, general purpose ships.

This cheaper frigate design is now known at the Type 31e, with the contract to build them awarded to a consortium led by Babcock.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council has released the seventh edition of its quadrennial report ‘Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World’.

The report is an unclassified assessment of the forces and dynamics that the NIC anticipates are likely to shape the national security environment over the next 20 years.

“States will face a combination of highly destructive and precise conventional and strategic weapons, cyber activity targeting civilian and military infrastructure, and a confusing disinformation environment. Regional actors, including spoilers such as Iran and North Korea, will jockey to advance their goals and interests, bringing more volatility and uncertainty to the system.”

As for ‘other major powers’ besides the USA and China, the report says that Russia is ‘likely to remain a disruptive power’; while the UK is ‘likely to continue to punch above its weight internationally given its strong military and financial sector and its global focus.

“The United Kingdom is likely to continue to punch above its weight internationally given its strong military and financial sector and its global focus. The United Kingdom’s nuclear capabilities and permanent UN Security Council membership add to its global influence. Managing the economic and political challenges posed by its departure from the EU will be the country’s key challenge; failure could lead to a splintering of the United Kingdom and leave it struggling to maintain its global power.”

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