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RAF plane lands in Sudan as UK begins evacuations

The C-17 Globemaster was on the ground at the eastern Sudanese port on the Red Sea along with troops who “may form part of a second rescue”…reports Asian Lite News

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said officials have started contacting British nationals in Sudan and he evacuation is to begin from Tuesday.

A team of troops from the UK arrived at Port Sudan on Monday on a reconnaissance mission. The flight comes as the UK government assessed options for an evacuation of British nationals stranded in the crisis-hit country.

The C-17 Globemaster was on the ground at the eastern Sudanese port on the Red Sea along with troops who “may form part of a second rescue.”

It comes after the government was criticized for its evacuation on Sunday of British diplomats from Khartoum, but not other UK nationals.

Alicia Kearns, chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said on Sunday that 3,000 to 4,000 British nationals were still in Sudan, with “well over 1,000” asking for help in order to leave the country.

James Heappey, the armed forces minister, said in a briefing that the UK recognized “the job isn’t done” when it came to rescuing those still stranded.

He added that government plans were continuing “at pace” and that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would be given options to help Britons trapped in Sudan “as and when they arise.”

The UK development minister, Andrew Mitchell, said on Monday morning that he was unable to give a timeline for a possible rescue of British nationals.

“The situation is absolutely desperate and a ceasefire is required,” he said. “The only advice that Britain can give to people is to stay indoors because that is the safe option.”

Rival military factions agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire from Monday night in Sudan, where at least 400 people have been killed in fighting since 15 April.

France evacuates 388 people of 28 countries

As war rages intensified in Sudan, France evacuated 388 people from 28 countries. Evacuation from the capital, Khartoum, has proved intensely dangerous since conflict erupted over the weekend between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, New York Times reported. But after days hunkered inside their homes, often as battle rages in the streets outside, more Sudanese and foreign nationals have sought to flee the city of five million people.

“French evacuation operations are underway. Last night, two military flight rotations evacuated 388 people of 28 countries, including Indian nationals,” tweeted the Embassy of France in India.

Millions of residents are trapped inside their homes, many running low on water and food after the eruption of fighting on April 15 between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group.

It has triggered a humanitarian crisis, killing at least 420 people and leaving behind charred tanks, gutted buildings and shops that have been looted and torched.

The WHO retweeted a post from Sudan’s Health Ministry on Sunday saying at least 420 people had been killed and 3,700 injured in the fighting so far.

Countries scrambled to evacuate their diplomats and citizens from the Sudanese capital on Saturday and Sunday. “Today, on my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to extract US government personnel from Khartoum,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that all US personnel and their families had been evacuated and operations at the US Embassy in Khartoum have been “temporarily suspended.”

The foreign governments began landing aircraft and organising convoys in Khartoum to pull out their nationals. The US said special forces using MH-47 Chinook helicopters swept into Sudan’s battle-stricken capital from a US base in Djibouti, spending just one hour on the ground to bring out fewer than 100 people.

Germany and France announced Sunday that they had begun evacuating their nationals and those from other countries. Other European countries, including Italy, the Netherlands and Greece, also said they were planning rescue efforts, reported Al Jazeera.

Long convoys of UN vehicles and buses were seen leaving Khartoum heading east to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, 850km (530 miles) away by road, carrying “citizens from all over the world”, according to one Sierra Leonean evacuee.

Turkey began rescue operations at dawn Sunday via road from the southern city of Wad Madani. Still, the effort was postponed from one site in Khartoum after explosions near a mosque designated as the assembly area, the embassy said on Twitter.

An Italian air force C-130 that left Khartoum with evacuees landed Sunday night at an air base in Djibouti, the country’s Defence Ministry said.

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RAF completes world-first sustainable fuel military transporter flight

Defence Minister Baroness Goldie said, “The Royal Air Force has flown the UK’s first military air transport flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel on one of their operational Voyager aircraft…reports Asian Lite News

An RAF Voyager – the military variant of an Airbus A330 – took to the skies over Oxfordshire powered entirely by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), paving the way for a range of possibilities for the future of flying military and civilian aircraft.

The flight, which took place on Wednesday, was a joint endeavour between the RAF, DE&S and industry partners Airbus, AirTanker and Rolls-Royce, with the fuel supplied by Air bp.

Sustainable aviation fuel – which is made from waste-based sustainable feedstocks, such as used cooking oil – reduces lifecycle carbon emissions on average by up to 80% compared to the conventional jet fuel it replaces, lessens the RAF’s reliance on global supply chains, and improves operational resilience.

Defence Minister Baroness Goldie said, “The Royal Air Force has flown the UK’s first military air transport flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel on one of their operational Voyager aircraft. They should be rightly proud of this achievement; it is a breakthrough moment for the RAF and an exciting development for the MOD. Through the RAF’s pioneering spirit, expertise and partnership with UK industry, British science and engineering is leading the way in improving operational resilience and developing future operating capability in a climate-changed world. Different approaches will suit different platforms and environments. As such, a range of alternative fuel options are being looked at to ensure the UK is at the forefront of this developing technology.”

Wednesday’s 90-minute flight from RAF Brize Norton, flown by a combined RAF, Rolls-Royce and Airbus flight test crew, replicated an air-to-air refuelling sortie and was witnessed by senior RAF and industry representatives. It demonstrated the RAF’s potential for its future operational capability, ensuring the ability to contribute to UK defence wherever and whenever required.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said, “Climate change is a transnational challenge that threatens our resilience, our security and our collective prosperity. That is why I have set the RAF the ambitious challenge of becoming the world’s first net-zero Air Force by 2040. The way we power our aircraft will be key to meeting that challenge and the RAF is already thinking about how we will operate beyond fossil fuels. This exciting trial flight of a Voyager from RAF Brize Norton powered entirely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel is an important milestone on that journey, and marks another technological first for the RAF alongside our industry partners. Engineers from Airbus’ Commercial Aircraft and Defence and Space divisions have been working with the RAF, Rolls-Royce and Airtanker testing the aircraft’s performance and handling on the ground and in the air in preparation for the final flight with both engines powered by 100% SAF.”

Aviation Minister at the Department for Transport, Baroness Vere said, “Our Jet Zero Strategy made clear that sustainable aviation fuels are key to greener flight for both military and civilian aviation. This is a win for the planet and a testament to British ingenuity. We have launched the £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund to kickstart a homegrown SAF industry, as well as challenging the sector to deliver the first net zero transatlantic flight next year. This breakthrough test flight is just one of the ways the RAF is actively working to reduce lifecycle carbon emissions produced by flying its aircraft. Other innovations have included a world-first, record breaking microlight flight using synthetic fuel, flying an electric aircraft at RAF Cranwell and creating fuel from genetically modified bacteria.”

In addition to supporting the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the Armed Forces, the Royal Air Force Commander in Chief HM King Charles III has also supported an increase in its adoption in the private sector though the Sustainable Markets Initiative. The SMI is a network of global CEOs from across all industries, working together to accelerate a sustainable future in line with its mandate. Part of the SMI’s work is raising awareness of SAF amongst the business community and encourage greater SAF uptake in corporate travel in addition to increased purchase agreements to encourage demand from the public and private sectors.

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Law will be changed to stop RAF pilots training Chinese

The new tighter regulation is part of the National Security Bill now going through parliament…reports Asian Lite News

The law will be changed to stop experienced RAF pilots taking contracts to train pilots in the Chinese air force.

A defence intelligence threat alert has been issued warning all serving and retired UK military personnel from taking contracts with the People’s Liberation Army. Currently some 30 former UK military pilots are believed to be working for the Chinese forces.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey on Tuesday said the law is to be changed to stop ex-pilots taking up the package offered by the Chinese, worth up to £238,000 a year in some cases.

“We’ve approached the people involved and been clear that it’s our expectation they would not continue to be part of that organisation,” Heappey told Sky News.

“We are going to put into law that once people have been given that warning it will be an offence to go forward and continue with that training.”

The new tighter regulation is part of the National Security Bill now going through parliament.

Approaches to retired and serving RAF personnel have been made by the Chinese military since 2019, defence sources reveal. The 30 currently working in China are retired pilots with experience on aircraft like Tornado, Typhoon and Jaguar. The Chinese have also targeted former military helicopter crew.

The veterans now serving the Chinese forces have not been in breach of the Official Secrets Act, Whitehall officials believe. But they believe the Chinese want to benefit from their knowledge of the tactics, training and procedures of Western forces.

At this week’s Communist Party Congress President Xi Jinping said that China should be a world-leading military power by 2049.

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RAF to probe reports of positive discrimination

Sky News reported that earlier this week the head of RAF recruitment resigned in protest to reaching the “impossible” diversity targets for the current year…reports Asian Lite News

All reports of positive discrimination in the United Kingdom (UK) Royal Air Force (RAF) will be investigated, the Minister of State at the UK Ministry of Defence, James Heappey, said on Saturday.

Earlier, UK media reported, citing informed sources, that the RAF was holding back the recruitment of white men in order to meet diversity targets for ethnic minorities and women. “No minister in the Ministry of Defence and no chief of any service gets to break the law. So if there is evidence of positive discrimination, the people responsible for that will be held vigorously to account,” James Heappey told Sky News.

He confirmed that the ministry did ask the armed forces to look into taking positive action to improve workplace diversity, however, the lowering of standards and operational impact is unacceptable.

“What is definitely not true is that recruitment of white men is in any way being paused. It is definitely not true that women and ethnic minorities are being loaded onto courses now, whilst white men are not,” the minister added.

Sky News reported that earlier this week the head of RAF recruitment resigned in protest to reaching the “impossible” diversity targets for the current year.

The UK government set a recruitment target for all armed forces in 2015 to reach 10% ethnic minority recruits and 15% female recruits by 2020. In March 2021, the RAF announced that it exceeded this target, reaching 20% of female recruits, which was impossible to check according to the RAF statistics, which showed that they recruited only 18.5% of women and had no data on ethnic minorities, Sky News reported, citing military forces.

A RAF spokesperson said, responding to the allegations, that operational effectiveness was of paramount importance to the armed forces and there was never any lowering of standards.

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RAF’s new Protector aircraft takes to UK skies

The UK has ordered 16 Protector aircraft from General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI), all of which will be based at RAF Waddington, the RAF’s ISTAR hub…reports Asian Lite News.

A pre-production example of the UK’s new Protector aircraft has taken to the UK skies as part of preparations for the arrival of Protector to RAF Waddington.

The air station has been selected as the home of the Protector International Training Centre, as part of a £94 million investment into infrastructure improvements to assist with housing the aircraft ahead of its entry into service in 2024.

The UK has ordered 16 Protector aircraft from General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI), all of which will be based at RAF Waddington, the RAF’s ISTAR hub.

Speaking at RAF Waddington, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Today marks a huge milestone in the Protector programme, bringing us one step closer to delivering this world-leading capability to the RAF.”

“This £94 million investment cements RAF Waddington’s place as the UK’s ISTAR hub, ensuring our Protector fleet can operate safely and effectively for many years to come.”

A key feature of the investment at RAF Waddington will be the development of a new campus which will include the Protector International Training Centre.

The Ministry of Defence said that new campus will support many jobs in the local area, with contracts awarded in the coming months for infrastructure improvements at the base.

The campus will feature new Single Living Accommodation for Protector ground crews, a hangar, office facilities, a new road to the Protector area of RAF Waddington and a new taxiway.

Operating this summer from the Lincolnshire station, the SkyGuardian aircraft has undertaken a number of sorties showcasing its impressive capabilities while also providing vital information for personnel at RAF Waddington preparing for the aircraft’s permanent arrival in 2024. SkyGuardian will be known as Protector when it enters RAF service.

According to the Ministry, the investment marks an important step in the development of the revolutionary Detect and Avoid technology, permitting Protector to fly in unsegregated airspace safely – as the world’s first Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, Protector will significantly boost the RAF’s armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said: “The Protector aircraft is a huge leap forward in performance and autonomous technology. It can fly for 40 hours anywhere in the world, providing critical surveillance and precision strike to protect the UK and our allies.”

“As the lead customer for this aircraft, I am delighted the Royal Air Force is once again at the cutting edge of air power innovation.”

Protector will be able to conduct missions of up to 40 hours and fly in non-segregated civil airspace allowing it to respond rapidly and offer flexibility to deliver an array of military missions and support to civil authorities, including search and rescue.

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Boeing to support RAF Poseidon fleet for 5 yrs

These agreements will create 150 jobs in the UK, including more than 100 at RAF Lossiemouth in northern Scotland, the announcement added…reports Asian Lite News.

American aerospace giant Boeing announced that it has signed an agreement with the UK’s Ministry of Defence to support the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft fleet and train the crews that operate them for the next five years.

In a statement on Thursday, Boeing said that it will provide maintenance services, spares and repairs under the aircraft and training support contract valued at $321.6 million, reports Xinhua news agency.

These agreements will create 150 jobs in the UK, including more than 100 at RAF Lossiemouth in northern Scotland, the announcement added.

Boeing employees are already working alongside RAF personnel at the station in Moray, supporting the current fleet of five Poseidons.

“We are excited to see our continued growing presence in Scotland with the creation of these highly-skilled jobs, in addition to our existing footprint of more than 2,500 employees across the UK,” said Anna Keeling, Managing Director of Boeing Defence UK.

The RAF is on contract for nine Poseidon aircraft with five already delivered and the remaining four scheduled for later this year, when around 200 Boeing employees are expected to be based at RAF Lossiemouth focused on maintenance, training and support, the aerospace giant added.

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