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UK could send aircraft carrier to ‘plug a gap’ in Red Sea | Politics News

The UK could send an aircraft carrier to the Red Sea amid the ongoing attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the armed forces minister has suggested.

James Heappey indicated an aircraft carrier could be deployed to the region to replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhower – nicknamed the Ike – when it is returned to America.

Alongside the US, the UK has launched a series of airstrikes against Houthi targets in the region following attacks by the rebel group on commercial shipping interests in the Red Sea.

Middle East latest: Iran warns of decisive response to any attack

The UK warship HMS Diamond is stationed in the Red Sea to protect shipping in the key trading route, while US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the USS Dwight D Eisenhower was sent to the region to “deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel”.

In an interview with the House magazine, Mr Heappey suggested a UK aircraft carrier could be sent to the region to “plug a gap”.

“There’s no real need for more carrier mass – for more carriers to be in the region than the Ike can provide. She’s a very capable ship,” he said.

“So our judgment was that with the Ike on station – the Eisenhower on station – and with jets available from Akrotiri, that we were able to meet the challenge as it is now.”

He indicated the Royal Navy could step in “when the Eisenhower goes home, if we were needed to plug a gap in US deployments, or if the situation deteriorates and we need more”.

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“The fact is the Eisenhower can’t stay there forever,” he added. “And so there’s a thing about just maintaining a carrier presence in the region where we might cooperate with the Americans to provide a capability there.”

The UK currently has two aircraft carriers in service – the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

Earlier this week Rishi Sunak urged Iran to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East after three US troops were killed in a drone strike on a US base in Jordan.

US President Joe Biden has blamed Iran-backed militias for deaths, which have come after months of strikes by the Houthis against US forces since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Police release e-fit image of man found dead in plane undercarriage after aircraft landed at Gatwick | UK News

An e-fit image has been released by police of a man who died on board an aircraft to the UK, as they try to identify the victim.

His body was discovered in the undercarriage of the plane which landed at Gatwick Airport at around 4am on 7 December from The Gambia.

He is believed to be aged in his 20s or 30s and information has been shared with authorities in the west African country.

The Tui flight had been inbound from Banjul after taking off shortly before 10pm local time.

Officers are investigating the case in order to formally identify the man, and are working in partnership with the High Commissioner for Gambia, Interpol, and HM Coroner.

Detective Inspector Darren Lillywhite, of Sussex Police, said: “This was a tragic case, and we are working to establish the identity of the man found deceased.

“Somewhere, this man will have relatives or loved ones who do not know what has happened to him.”

Detectives are hoping to identify the man for an inquest which may provide answers for his loved ones.

Mr Lillywhite added: “In particular, we are seeking contact from anyone in the UK that may have been expecting to meet a friend or family member who failed to arrive in December, as well as anyone in The Gambia or neighbouring countries who may have knowledge about an individual who made travel plans to come to the UK or Europe.”

Anyone who recognises him is asked to contact Sussex Police.

Royal Air Force grounds its entire fleet of fast jet training aircraft due to engine problem | UK News

The Royal Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of fast jet training aircraft because of an issue with an engine, Sky News can reveal. 

It is not known when flying training on the Hawk T2 jets at an air base in North Wales will resume.

The pause will be another blow for a training programme to deliver fast jet fighter pilots that has already been plagued by problems and chronic delays for years.

Sky News revealed last year that an “emerging” problem had been identified with the Rolls-Royce engine on the Hawk jet, used by fast jet recruits for training at RAF Valley.

A source on Wednesday claimed the issue involved engine blades wearing out.

“Now one has broken and gone down the engine,” the source said, asking to remain anonymous.

An RAF spokesperson confirmed that flying on the Hawk 2 jet had been paused “as a precaution”.

“Post a recent issue on the runway involving an RAF Hawk TMk2 engine, as a precautionary measure, flying has been temporarily paused pending the results of the technical investigation,” the spokesperson said.

It is understood that the RAF is working closely with the manufacturer and awaiting analysis on the specific engine.

Flying training will only resume when it is deemed safe to do so.

The problem with the training fleet will not impact the Red Arrows team, which operates Hawk T1 aircraft.

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In an exclusive report last August, Sky News, citing leaked documents, revealed how issues with the Hawk training aircraft and a “damaging drain” of flying instructors quitting for jobs in the industry had helped push the RAF’s fast jet pilot training into a new crisis.

RAF recruits can spend up to eight years passing through the training pipeline. The length of time should be only two or three years.

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, gave Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the RAF, the task of fixing flying training as his only priority more than three years ago.

The Hawk T2 is a single-engine aircraft manufactured by BAE Systems, though the engine is made by Rolls Royce.

Russian jet ‘released missile’ near RAF aircraft during patrol over Black Sea | World News

A missile was released from a Russian aircraft near an unarmed RAF plane on a routine patrol over the Black Sea, the defence secretary has said.

In a statement updating MPs on the war in Ukraine, Ben Wallace said the incident happened on 29 September and that Russia has acknowledged it took place in international airspace.

The RAF RC-135 aircraft was on routine patrol over the Black Sea when it was “shadowed” by two Russian armed SU-27 fighter jets.

Ukraine news latest: Putin ‘likely considering withdrawal’ from parts of south

Mr Wallace said that while it is not unusual for aircraft to be shadowed in this way, “during that interaction however, it transpired that one of the SU-27 aircraft released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range”.

He described the incident as a “potentially dangerous engagement” but said it was not deemed a “deliberate escalation”.

However, he said it did show the Russian military are “not beyond” deciding “the rules don’t apply to them”.

“While this was obviously the release of a weapon, we have seen very, very close flying next to US, UK NATO assets over the last few years,” Mr Wallace said.

“In one event I was aware of, a Russian fighter went within 15 feet of a NATO aircraft. You know that is reckless, unnecessary and puts at risk many people’s lives.”

The Commons heard Russia blamed the Black Sea incident on a “technical malfunction”.

The British defence secretary said: “Our analysis would concur it was a malfunction.”

“The total time of the interaction between the Russian aircraft and the Rivet Joint was approximately 90 minutes,” he said. “The patrol completed and the aircraft returned to base.”

Royal Air Force 51 Squadron Boeing RC -135 Rivet Joint Airborne Early Warning Surveillance Aircraft, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

Jul 2014
A RAF RC -135 Rivet Joint aircraft. File pic

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Mr Wallace raised his concerns directly with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of defence staff in Moscow.

“In my letter I made clear the aircraft was unarmed, in international airspace, and following a pre-notified flight path,” he said.

“I felt it was prudent to suspend these patrols until a response was received by the Russian state.”

UK patrols over the Black Sea were initially suspended, but have now resumed and are escorted by fighter aircraft, Mr Wallace said.

The cabinet minister added that the UK had shared information on what happened with allies, and would continue to carry out regular sorties with the RAF Rivet Joint in international airspace over the Black Sea – which it has done since 2019.

Labour’s shadow defence minister Luke Pollard said the incident was a “serious reminder about the importance of avoiding escalation and miscalculation while continuing the UK’s united support for Ukraine”.

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Two people believed dead in light aircraft crash in Northern Ireland | UK News

Two people are believed to have died after a light aircraft crashed at an airport in Northern Ireland.

Emergency services rushed to Newtownards Airport in County Down on Tuesday evening following a 999 call.

Details about what happened are scarce but it is understood that two people lost their lives in the incident.

The scene has been closed off by police.

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said: “NIAS despatched two emergency crews, a doctor and an ambulance officer to the incident.

“No patients were taken from the scene.”