Victoria Cross: Paratrooper Joshua Leakey becomes Britain's first living holder of UK's highest honour from war in AfghanistanA paratrooper has become Britain’s first living holder of the Victoria Cross from the Afghan war. Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey was given the nation’s highest decoration for valour for “complete disregard” for his own life to safeguard others during an ambush in Helmand, Afghanistan. L/Cpl Leakey, 27, was part of a patrol of British soldiers and US Marines attacked by the Taliban south of Nawzad in August 2013. In the ensuing firefight he manned a machine-gun with insurgent bullets ricocheting off its frame. Despite being the youngest member of the squad he took charge of the situation, driving off the enemy and giving first aid to a US captain who was shot in the shoulder. Two posthumous Victoria Crosses have previously been awarded in the Afghan campaign. A relation of the L/Cpl, Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey was a recipient of the honour in 1945 in East Africa.L/Cpl Leakey, who has seen three tours of duty in Afghanistan, said he was “deeply honoured”, but the award also belonged to his comrades. He said: “The only thing I was really scared of was letting my cap badge down. That’s why I joined the Army – to be a paratrooper. I’m lucky, I’m here, I’ve got all my limbs, my health, I’ve got my friends and my family.”David Cameron said: “L/Cpl Leakey epitomised valour with his actions on that hillside in Helmand.”
The Gurkhas, who will celebrate their 200-year anniversary for service to the Crown this summer, will be targeted as part of further defence cost-cutting measures which may see the British Army shrink to as few as 60,000 troops.Those affected will be the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles, as well as 600 Gurkha specialists.Former SAS commander Major-General Mark Carleton-Smith has been drafted into Whitehall to shape future strategy and decide where cuts to the British Army should be made. The plans, if implemented, will see around 1,500 Nepalese soldiers taken off the Order of Battle “within three years”. However the second Gurkha battalion, funded by Brunei where it is deployed, will not be included in the cull.
12th Armoured Infantry Brigade in Live Fire DemonstrationThe 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade has been showing off its effectiveness in a live-fire demonstration on Salisbury Plain.Exercise Tractable has seen more than 1,600 troops and 500 vehicles practising their manoeuvres over the past two weeks.
The loss of a British Army AgustaWestland Lynx AH.9A utility helicopter over Afghanistan in 2014 was in large part caused by 'procedural drift' on the part of the operating unit as the conflict began to wind down, an official investigation has found.The redacted Military Aviation Authority (MAA) investigation report, which was released on 16 July, found that while controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) was the ultimate reason behind the loss of aircraft ZF540 and its five crew members on 26 April 2014, poor procedures were contributing factors."I [the president of the investigation board] therefore support the Panel's findings that the accident was a controlled flight into terrain event caused by the aircraft being established in a descent from which it was not fully recovered prior to impact with the ground (…) Of note, the accident occurred during a period of reduced operational tempo as the campaign approached its culmination, and there was no undue operational pressure on the Lynx Detachment at the time (…) Whilst no single factor led to this accident there were disappointing aspects, including planning, briefing, authorisation, supervision, currencies, training, and adherence to checks and procedures," the report noted.The crash of ZF540 occurred during a two-ship training flight into a weapons range called the Bowling Alley, some 20 km south of Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan. Specifically, the report pointed to one of the pilots not getting much sleep the night before the incident and possibly being fatigued; the helicopter making a rapid descent into the Bowling Alley, possibly to provide a thrill for the passengers; the passengers being allowed to fire the Crew-Served Weapon (CSW), or door gun, without proper approval; the pilots perhaps being distracted by trying to establish visual contact with the second Lynx in the flight; and the radar altimeter (RADALT) not being used in the proper manner.According to the report: "The difficult question as to why a competent and experienced crew, on an excellent weather day (with the sun behind and only a light headwind), would inadvertently fly their serviceable aircraft into the ground is compounded by the fact that they did not recognise their impending situation until just before the aircraft impacted the ground (...) On the face of it, this was a relatively simple flight profile for the crew."By way of conclusion, the investigating board made a number of recommendations related to the correct use of the RADALT; authorisation and supervision; a review of roles and responsibilities for senior commanders; a review of regulations for Joint Helicopter Force passengers; as well as a specific direction for passengers firing the CSW. This incident was the first fatal loss of a UK helicopter in 13 years of operations in Afghanistan, and was the first (and so far only) time that an AH.9A-variant Lynx had crashed since the type entered service in 2009.The Lynx AH.9A was upgraded specifically for Afghanistan, with 22 AH.9 helicopters being fitted with the more powerful new LHTEC CTS800-4N turboshaft engines (producing nearly 40% more power than the standard Rolls-Royce Gem 42 engine) to better cope with the 'hot and high' conditions. In addition, the helicopters were fitted with an updated instrument panel, digital displays, as well as a modified gearbox and rear structure to accommodate the new powerplant. A door-mounted FN Herstal M3M (GAU-21) 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) heavy machine gun, along with the standard 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun and improved surveillance equipment were fitted also.An undisclosed number of AH.9A helicopters operated out of Camp Bastion, Helmand province, from May 2010 through to the end of combat operations in late 2014. With the war in Afghanistan concluded, the AH.9A is being replaced in army service by the Lynx Wildcat.
A Lynx AH.9A helicopter similar to this crashed while on a routine training mission in southern Afghanistan. According to the accident report, 'procedural drift' had a large part to play in the event which resulted in a controlled flight into terrain by the pilot. Source: Crown Copyright
David Cameron knew UK pilots were involved in US-led bombings missions of Isis targets in Syria, even though parliament had expressly rejected British military involvement in the country in 2013. The prime minister's spokeswoman said on Friday that up to a dozen pilots had been involved since September, but they were not operating under a British chain of command. "The PM was aware that UK personnel were involved in US operations and what that they were doing " She said it was a long-standing for the UK to embed forces with other countries and this was not different. But she was not able to point immediately to any written or oral statement setting out that British air crew were involved in bombing missions in Syria. (...) The House of Commons voted against military action in Syria in 2013 (...)
The British Army retired from service the last of its AgustaWestland Lynx AH.7 utility helicopters during a ceremony on 31 July.The ceremony at the Army Air Corps' (AAC) operating base at Middle Wallop saw 671 Lynx Conversion Squadron perform a final flypast of the type that has been operational since 1987 (although the AH.1 airframe on which it is based first entered service in 1978).During its 37 years, the Lynx has been deployed throughout the world on operations, most notably in Northern Ireland where it provided the backbone of the British Army's helicopter support services through the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s.While the AH.7 variant has now been retired, the Lynx will continue in the AAC in the guise of the AH.9A (out to 2018) and the Lynx Wildcat, which is just now being introduced into service.