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Exercise Vigilant Knife: British troops take part in cold weather training with Swedish and Finnish armed forces | UK News

British troops have taken part in Exercise Vigilant Knife, an exercise with Swedish and Finnish armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence said the manoeuvres, which offered a strengthening of “inter-operability” as both Sweden and Finland bid to join NATO, took place in Rovaniemi and Rovajarvi in northern Finland.

The exercise was staged against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, which has sharpened minds across Europe about security on the Continent in the face of Russian aggression.

In July, it emerged the RAF had sent four Typhoons and two F-35Bs to Finland and Sweden for joint training exercises.

Finland signed a mutual security assurance declaration with the UK in May, and is also a member of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, a coalition of 10 nations.

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Undated handout photo issued by Ministry of Defence of British troops taking taken part in Exercise Vigilant Knife alongside Swedish and Finnish Armed Forces. The short notice command-post exercise took place in Rovaniemi and Rovajarvi, northern Finland from 29 August to 2 September 2022 and built on the success of Exercise Vigilant Fox which took place in July. Issue date: Sunday September 4, 2022.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Whilst there is war in Europe, it is more important than ever to strengthen our international partnerships.

Undated handout photo issued by Ministry of Defence of British troops taking taken part in Exercise Vigilant Knife alongside Swedish and Finnish Armed Forces. The short notice command-post exercise took place in Rovaniemi and Rovajarvi, northern Finland from 29 August to 2 September 2022 and built on the success of Exercise Vigilant Fox which took place in July. Issue date: Sunday September 4, 2022.

“We welcome Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO and will continue to exercise together, so we are ready to face shared security challenges.

“Exercise Vigilant Knife is an invaluable opportunity for UK personnel to develop their skills and experience of war fighting in cold weather conditions, enabling them to be effective on the battlefield alongside their Finnish and Swedish counterparts.”

Ben Wallace: Defence secretary orders audit of military flying training as RAF leadership in ‘tailspin’ over leaks | UK News

The defence secretary has ordered an internal inspection of the UK’s military flying training after Sky News revealed the system to generate RAF pilots is in crisis, it can be revealed.

The move by Ben Wallace is an embarrassing blow for Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the Royal Air Force (RAF), a defence source said.

Mr Wallace gave his chief of the air staff the task of fixing the RAF’s problem-plagued flying training pipeline as his only priority more than two and a half years ago.

However, leaked documents exposed by Sky News last Friday showed that nearly 350 trainee pilots – more than half of the total pool of RAF, Royal Navy and army trainee aviators – were in limbo as of May.

They are either holding for a slot on a flying training course to open-up or taking a refresher course.

The Royal Air Force's Typhoon Eurofighter jets are made by BAE Systems

It can also be revealed that these so-called “holdies” have effectively been warned the leaking of the documents that shed light on their predicament might even worsen their situation rather than improve it.

A message, which has since been seen by Sky News, was distributed widely throughout the RAF, warning against leaking information to the media.

RAF leadership in ‘tailspin’ over leaks

The author of the official-sounding note said they suspected Air Chief Marshal Wigston and the rest of the senior RAF leadership “are in a total tailspin about this”.

“They will feel let down and disappointed,” the note said.

“They will now be less likely to view the student cohort’s predicament favourably, too.

“Would you, in their position. The military is all about trust, if you betray that knowingly by leaking reams of official information (it’s not exactly a small slip-up in a personal post on social media!), then you can expect that betrayal will have consequences.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson confirmed Mr Wallace had instigated the internal inspection, known as a Defence Operational Capability (DOC) audit.

“At the direction of the defence secretary, the MOD is conducting an internal audit of flying training, in recognition of continued challenges with the training pipeline.”

The scope of the audit is still being defined, it is understood.

Four Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 have arrived at RAF Akrotiri after transiting from the UK. UK’s substantial contribution to NATO’s uplift in Eastern Europe is strengthening the Alliance’s Defences on land, sea and air, amid ongoing tensions with Russia. Issue date: Wednesday February 16, 2022.

Hundreds of DOC audits taken place in 30 years

The DOC mechanism was set up in 1995 when Malcolm Rifkind was defence secretary.

It is a tool a defence secretary can use to secure what is meant to be impartial analysis on a topic.

The team of personnel that conduct the audit will sit outside the chain of command of whatever is being inspected, giving it more independence.

Some 220 audits of various issues have taken place over the past nearly three decades.

On flying training, the MOD has already acknowledged that there are challenges to the training pipeline and said that the number of pilots being held now is less than in 2019.

The length of the holding time for trainees can vary from months to even years.

The reasons for the delays are multiple, including most recently a fault with the Rolls Royce-made engine on the Hawk aircraft used to train fast jet pilots.

Four Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 have arrived at RAF Akrotiri after transiting from the UK. UK’s substantial contribution to NATO’s uplift in Eastern Europe is strengthening the Alliance’s Defences on land, sea and air, amid ongoing tensions with Russia. Issue date: Wednesday February 16, 2022.

Ukraine war has put pressure on RAF pilots

Demands on the RAF to fly more missions to defend NATO allies in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine also put pressure on the small pool of pilots that are qualified to fly operationally and to instruct trainees.

In addition, a sweeping review of defence last year made changes to the types of aircraft needed on the frontline, which has reduced the number of places available for trainee pilots.

More broadly, pilot training has been under chronic strain since the mid-1990s as successive governments repeatedly cut chunks out of the size of the armed forces, including the RAF, and contracted out large parts of the flying training system to industry.

Under pressure from the Treasury to make as many efficiency savings as possible, the RAF then designed its contractor-run flying training pipeline to meet a minimal requirement rather than include spare capacity to be able to absorb shocks if things go wrong.

Government diversity training ‘riddled with left-wing views’, says Suella Braverman | Politics News

Diversity training across government departments is “riddled with left-wing views”, claims Suella Braverman.

The attorney general says she is “all for a diverse workforce… meritocracy [and] inclusion”, but tells Sky News there has been a “takeover by HR teams [and] campaign groups” in the civil service, which has “propagated a political ideology when it comes to identity politics”.

She is backing plans from Conservative leadership contender Liz Truss to scrap the diversity and inclusion roles in Whitehall, which the foreign secretary claims will save £12m a year.

The policy was part of the candidate’s plan to “wage war on Whitehall waste” announced earlier this week, which led to a huge U-turn on how to save £8.8bn on public sector pay.

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Ms Truss had wanted to introduce regional pay boards to set salaries dependent on where people lived, but it sparked fury from Tory MPs worried it could hit the likes of nurses, teachers and police officers in less affluent areas.

Less than 24 hours after the plan was announced, Team Truss scrapped the regional element, but indicated they would be sticking with other parts, including the removal of these Civil Service roles.

Ms Braverman – who ran for the leadership herself, but got behind Ms Truss after she was knocked out – says there has been “thousands of hours” of diversity and inclusion training within government departments at “a huge cost to the tax payer”.

“It’s been divisive, not inclusive,” she told Sky News. “It’s been patronising, not empowering.

“It’s based on an assumption that me as an ethnic Asian woman from working class roots must be a victim, necessarily oppressed. That’s a misassumption. And I think it creates division.

“It’s tearing up society, breaking down the fabric of our country. And I think it’s a waste of money.”

‘Divisive nature’

The attorney general also claimed the way it is taught is “indoctrinating”, adding: “The training materials that I’ve seen used in the civil service is riddled with left-wing views on race and gender, things like white privilege.

“Civil servants are taught about micro-aggressions. They’re taught about white fragility. They’re taught about how to be a straight ally. I don’t think those are objectively impartial when it comes to politics.

“And I don’t think they are good value for money. And I don’t think ultimately that’s what taxpayers want their civil servants or their government lawyers to be spending their time on.”

Ms Braverman denied her views – and Ms Truss’s policy – were “anti-woke”, instead saying they were “against identity politics and the divisive nature of all of this”.

But she also admitted it was not the “biggest issue of the day”.

“It comes to civil service efficiency, it comes to government delivery,” she says.

“And if we can reduce the cost of civil service to reduce the cost of government, that’s only not only good for the economy and public spending, it’s also really good for efficiency and public service delivery for individuals.”

The issue may well arise at Sky News’ Battle for Number 10 programme at 8pm tonight.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak will take part in back-to-back questioning from a live studio audience at Sky Studios in west London – made up of undecided Conservative Party members – before facing an in-depth interview with Kay Burley.

‘The Battle for Number 10′ will be broadcast live for 90 minutes and for free on Sky News channel 501, on Freeview 233, on Sky Showcase channel 106, and across Sky News’ digital channels.