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19 February 2016

UK Reassessing Role in SE Asia

We are looking at the major regions of the world in terms of how we can contribute [to their security] and how we can position ourselves to do that,” said Philip Dunne, the UK Minister for Defence Procurement who visiting the Singapore Airshow in a regional visit that also took in meetings in Malaysia.

The UK’s Gulf strategy in the Middle East, witnessed by the siting of a Royal Navy (RN) facility HMS Juffair in Bahrain, will have a roll-on effect in that the UK can now reconsider its deployment strategies further east. “We are re-assessing what role we can play in SE Asia,” said Dunne. The UK’s introduction of two new aircraft carriers, the largest ships of their type to be commissioned into the Royal Navy would, said Dunne “put us [UK] back into the position where we have carrier strike capability which will deploy internationally.”

Commenting on the airshow, he explained that the 25 exhibiting companies from the UK represented the largest group to attend this regional event to date. Steven Phipson, the Head of the UK’s Defence Services Organisation (DSO) headed British exporters while the senior military delegation was headed by Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford and Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, deputy commander of Combat Operations at RAF Air Command.

The UK’s commitment to spending two percent (2%) of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) in line with the minimum required from NATO nations, in addition to last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) regarding the capability of the UK’s Future Force had, said Dunne, led to a renewed emphasis on capability for the RAF and RN.

Dunne added that the UK’s commitment to the Five Powers Defence Agreement (between Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Britain) established in 1971 “is at the heart of our engagement in SE Asia.”

The threat levels that we face as a nation are darker and more dangerous today, so we have made a conscious decision to reinvest in defence and security and to have a growing budget again,” explained Dunne. “That is an important change of posture by the UK government and we have recognised that through our engagement and training [internationally].”

We are facing common threats, whether counter terrorism or, if at state level,” which he said laid to more opportunities for joint training and exercising around the world.

Stephen Phipson commented on the importance of joint ventures where international companies could partner together to deliver new capability. The UK’s purchase of over 100 ST Kenetics’ Bronco all-terrain tracked carriers (ATTC), renamed Warthog by the British Army, in December 2008 met an urgent operational need in Afghanistan by offering increased survivability and higher payload capacity.

Commenting on Japan, Dunne said that the UK considered it one of the nations noted in the SDSR where the UK wished to do more in defence cooperation. “We have a number of science and technologies initiative…and equipment opportunities we are talking to them about.”
We share an interest in taking advantage of each others technological leads and technology transfer, in electronics they are particularly strong and we welcome the fact that their constitution change allows their forces to engage in international humanitarian and other activities in an integrated way.”

Andrew Drwiega