Foreign Secretary Travels To Toronto For G7 Meeting

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson travels to Toronto for a meeting of Foreign Ministers from G7 countries

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Today and tomorrow (22nd and 23rd April) the Foreign Secretary will be in Toronto for a meeting of Foreign Ministers from the G7 countries. During the summit the Foreign Secretary will discuss issues ranging from gender equality and women’s empowerment, to non-proliferation and disarmament, to conflict prevention and stability. For the session on counter-extremism the Foreign Secretary will be joined by Home Office Security Minister Ben Wallace.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

I am proud to represent the UK at this meeting of the top economies and international powers in the world. Last week London hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, and later this week I will travel to Brussels for a NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

The UK and Canada are the only two countries that are members of all these organisations – evidence not just the closeness of the UK-Canada relationship, but of the UK’s influence in the world. Influence that will continue long after we leave the European Union.

The G7 is a group of likeminded partners who work to protect the rules-based international system. I welcome unanimous G7 support in recent week both for the joint UK/US/French action in Syria, and for the UK’s response to the terrible poisonings in Salisbury. I look forward to continuing that work in Toronto this week.

Paving Stones Laid To Remember Attack On Zeebrugge Heroes

Eight British servicemen awarded the Victoria Cross will be remembered by communities in ceremonies across the country

WWI Centenary

WWI Centenary

Eight British servicemen awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for their actions during the heroic Attack on Zeebrugge in Belgium 100 years ago will be remembered by communities in ceremonies across the country on 22 to 23 April.

As part of the government’s First World War centenary programme, the special ceremonies will see commemorative paving stones laid in honour of those that sacrificed so much for our freedom. The memorials will provide a lasting legacy to the bravery of these young men during one of the most daring raids of the First World War, and will allow communities to honour their hometown heroes.

The Attack on Zeebrugge was an audacious attempt to block German U-boat access to the English Channel from where they were causing sustained damage to allied military and commercial vessels.

As night fell on the 22 April 1918, a makeshift armada of modern destroyers, submarines and ships, including 2 Mersey passenger ferries, set sail across the Channel toward the Port of Zeebrugge where they intended to sink 3 cruisers in order to block the canal exit to the port.

The raid failed with a tragic loss of life but is symbolic of the bravery of British servicemen during the First World War. Over 200 men are thought to have been killed and more than 300 wounded.

Marking the centenary of the Attack on Zeebrugge, Communities Minister Lord Bourne said:

In the trenches and upon the seas, British servicemen sacrificed their lives to protect families, friends and communities at home. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.

That is never more evident than when reflecting on the events of the heroic Attack on Zeebrugge 100 years ago and reading the moving accounts of supreme gallantry and courage.

We have a duty to remember all who gave their lives and each memorial will enable residents to gain a greater understanding of how their area and people of all backgrounds contributed to the history of the First World War.

Amongst those remembered will be Lieutenant-Commander George Nicholson Bradford, whose Victoria Cross Paving Stone will be laid alongside that of his younger brother, Brigadier General Roland Boys Bradford in Witton Park, County Durham. The ‘Fighting Bradford’s were the only brothers to be both awarded the medal during the First World War.

His citation reads:

Lieut.-Commander Bradford’s action was one of absolute self-sacrifice; without a moment’s hesitation he went to certain death, recognising that in such action lay the only possible chance of securing “Iris II” – one of the two Mersey ferries – and enabling her storming parties to land.

The 7 further Victoria Cross recipients from the Attack on Zeebrugge were:

Commander (Acting Captain) Alfred Francis Carpenter, RN Able Seaman Albert McKenzie Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Harrison, RN Captain Edward Bamford, DSO, RMLI Serjeant Norman Finch, RMA Lieutenant Percy Dean, RNVR Lieutenant Richard Sandford, RN

A further 11 British servicemen will be remembered with Victoria Cross paving stones throughout April as part of the government’s First World War centenary programme.

Defence Secretary Announces £80m Guardian To Protect The Skies

The Ministry of Defence will invest up to £80 million in a new computer system to boost the RAF’s speed and accuracy in protecting the skies, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced

A Royal Air Force Typhoon

A Royal Air Force Typhoon

Known as Project Guardian, the new Air Command and Control System will support the continued early detection and rapid response to potential hostile or suspect aircraft that pose a threat to UK sovereignty, be that terrorists or state-based actors.

This project will see the current systems at RAF bases in the UK and Falkland Islands replaced with the new technology. It will allow the RAF to exercise command and control of UK and NATO fighters to intercept aggressive or suspect aircraft that are a threat. The RAF routinely intercept, identify and escort aircraft that transit international airspace within the UK’s area of interest and continue to be on call 365 days a year.

Since 2013 RAF jets have launched 68 times to intercept or monitor suspect aircraft in the skies around Britain – half of these in response to Russian planes.

IBM Services in the UK is leading the way to develop and install the replacement system, with work being carried out by a dedicated team of specialists at IBM locations across the country.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

With hostile regimes such as President Putin’s Kremlin ripping up the international rulebook and terrorists still targeting our way of life, this cutting-edge technology gives our RAF the upper hand in the face of rapidly changing and intensifying global threats.

This investment will play a vital role in making sure our fighter pilots are primed and ready to keep Britain safe and to counter aggression from those who seek to cause us harm.

The Air Command and Control System is the computer system that takes in data to generate the Recognised Air Picture – a dynamic, real time depiction of aircraft in the airspace the UK control or patrol, with each being identified as friendly or hostile. The upgrades will continue improving the rapid exchange of real time command and control information and speed and accuracy of decision making.

The announcement comes as the RAF celebrates 100 years since its formation and demonstrates how the service is continuously looking at ways to design and innovate to meet the full spectrum of threats that the UK is currently facing.

The contract, which IBM UK won in competition, is for approximately £60 million with costed options that the MOD can exercise which would take the total value towards £80 million. It represents a continuation of IBM UK supplying the equipment to UK armed forces and includes five years of support services following the installations.

Director Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance, Dr Simon Dakin, of the MOD’s procurement organisation, Defence Equipment and Support, said:

Guardian will provide a new Air Command and Control system connecting the UK’s defence network of radars and radio and delivering several new capabilities to improve communication and interoperability between UK, NATO and coalition aircraft, vital to the protection of the UK’s skies.

Group Captain Steven Blockley, director of the RAF’s Director, National Air Defence and Space Operations, said:

The new system provides a quantum leap in technology and information exchange for the personnel charged with the Defence of the Homeland and will ensure that future homeland operations are conducted with equipment befitting the RAF as it reaches its 100th year. The equipment will ensure that new digital technologies, along with new requirements for future capabilities, will also allow us to seamlessly exchange data and threat information across the new RAF platforms, such as the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and F-35 Lightning II, as well as continue to integrate with our NATO colleagues to ensure the UK National mission to protect our skies and the NATO Air Policing task are met fully.

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