Chapter Two

201. This Chapter describes, against the headings of the relevant Military Tasks, notable events and activities undertaken by the armed forces and the Department since last year's Statement. A brief description of each task can be found at Annex A.

Provision of an Effective Independent Strategic and Sub-strategic Nuclear Capability

202. The United Kingdom's strategic and sub-strategic nuclear capability is currently provided by a force of three ballistic missile submarines and Royal Air Force Tornado aircraft equipped with the WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb. HMS Victorious, the Royal Navy's second Trident submarine, joined HMS Vanguard in operational service at the end of last year. The last of our Polaris submarines will be withdrawn from service later this year when Trident will fully take over the strategic deterrent role. The third Trident boat, Vigilant, will enter service in 1998 and the fourth, Vengeance, around the turn of the century.

203. The Royal Air Force's WE177 bombs are being progressively withdrawn from service. This process will be completed by the end of 1998, when the sub-strategic role will be wholly undertaken by Trident. With the entry into service of HMS Victorious, Trident now provides a continuously-available sub-strategic capability; this will become fully robust when Vigilant enters service. The four boat Trident fleet will ensure that we can maintain continuous strategic deterrent patrols and a continuously-available sub-strategic capability throughout the life of the Trident force. More information on the Trident programme is provided at [refer].

Figure 2: Nuclear Weapon Holding States: Strategic Nuclear Forces [14k]

Provision of a Nuclear Accident Response Organisation

204. In March, the Department published the second edition of its document "Local Authority and Emergency Service Information on Nuclear Weapon Transport Contingency Plans" (known as the LAESI document). This edition has benefited from significant input from local authority associations and representatives of the emergency services. As part of the process of amending the first edition, two major seminars were held for elected members of local authorities and their officials.

Military Aid to the Civil Power

205. Last year's Statement described the initial consequences for the armed forces' presence in Northern Ireland of the terrorist ceasefires announced in 1994. In the period between the ceasefires and publication of the Statement, considerable progress was made towards a return to entirely civilian policing in many areas, as the reduction in the terrorist threat enabled the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to operate progressively without routine military support. The Statement also emphasised that our capability to respond to a breakdown in the ceasefires and any subsequent requests from the RUC for support would not be diminished by the measures introduced as a response to the improved security situation, and that the importance of ensuring the safety of the people of Northern Ireland would always remain paramount.

206. The ability of all terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland to return to violence anywhere in the United Kingdom with little or no notice was demonstrated by the bomb attack mounted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) at South Quay in Docklands in February, which killed two people and injured approximately a hundred others. The atrocity came just over an hour after the PIRA had announced an end to its seventeen-month ceasefire. The RUC responded to the subsequent increase in the terrorist threat in a measured way, introducing a number of precautionary measures for which they requested limited military support.

207. Force levels in Northern Ireland are kept under continuous review to ensure that they remain in line with the terrorist threat and enable the armed forces to provide whatever support the RUC require. Force levels during the ceasefires reflected the absence of large-scale terrorist attacks and the reduction in the threat. In December, it was decided not to replace a battalion on completion of its six-month emergency tour, which brought to three the number of major units relocated from the Province since the ceasefires. But replacements for all three units remained available to return to Northern Ireland at short notice in the event of a deterioration in the security situation. Following the Docklands bomb explosion and the ending of the PIRA ceasefire, for example, two of the relocated units returned to the Province as a precautionary measure.

208. At the end of February, total force levels in the Province stood at 17,500 personnel, with approximately 500 additional troops of the remaining relocated unit being held at their home base outside Northern Ireland. The total included seventeen battalions, comprising six on accompanied tours of up to two years, five serving six-month unaccompanied emergency tours (one of which was a Royal Marines Commando) and six Home Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, which included 3,000 full time and 2,100 part time soldiers. Additional support was provided by 270 Royal Navy and Royal Marines and 1,100 Royal Air Force personnel. The Royal Air Force provides essential helicopter support together with a search and rescue capability; and a field squadron of the Royal Air Force Regiment provides security at RAF Aldergrove. The Royal Navy, supported by the Royal Marines, patrols Northern Ireland's inland waterways and coastal waters. With the introduction into service of a further seven Sandown Class Mine Countermeasures Vessels (MCMVs) which are currently on order, we plan to replace the River Class patrol craft which are currently used in support of security operations in Northern Ireland with Hunt Class MCMVs. The Hunt Class vessels will be modified and equipped, and their crews trained, especially for the task. Unlike the River Class ships, which were also originally MCMVs, the Hunt Class vessels will retain a mine countermeasures capability and could be reconfigured for this purpose if this should prove necessary. We plan to begin the replacement programme in the summer of 1997 and to complete it in 1998. The River Class vessels will be paid off as they are replaced.

209. For more than 26 years the armed forces' primary role in Northern Ireland has been to support the RUC in the maintenance of law and order. We all hope for the day when the police will be able to operate without military assistance and our troops will be able to return to their peacetime role, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom. But we will not reduce our force levels in the Province in large number until we are certain that it is safe to do so.

210. From last year's Statement to the end of January, there were no security forces' deaths as a result of terrorist attacks. However, one RUC officer died from injuries sustained in a terrorist attack in 1973 which had left him permanently hospitalised. 200 RUC officers and 13 armed forces personnel were injured in disturbances. Paramilitaries have continued to subject civilians to violent beatings and some punishment shootings - 359 civilians were injured in disturbances and paramilitary attacks.

211. The services of the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams have continued to be required. From last year's Statement until the end of January, EOD teams were called out on 283 occasions, neutralised 5 devices and recovered nearly 5.7 kilograms of explosives. In addition, 124 weapons were recovered and 435 people charged with terrorist offences, compared with 264 and 349 respectively for the same period last year. In Great Britain, four people were arrested and convicted of procuring weapons for the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force, and imprisoned for up to ten years; in the Republic of Ireland, a vehicle-borne device containing 1400lb of home-made explosive was intercepted in November by the Garda as it was being taken towards South Armagh.

212. The dedication and bravery of members of the armed forces in Northern Ireland was recognised in 213 awards for gallantry and meritorious conduct.

213. During 1995, Service bomb disposal teams were called to investigate 3,608 incidents outside Northern Ireland. Of these, 3,241 involved conventional munitions disposal, 37 were improvised explosive devices and 330 were false alarms or hoaxes.

Provision of Military Assistance to Civil Ministries in the United Kingdom

214. In August, troops were deployed to Merseyside to provide an emergency fire service in the event of strike action by local firefighters. A series of stoppages of nine and later 24 hours' duration began on 17 August. Stoppages were repeated over the following months. After a short spell of training in firefighting, soldiers of four successive Army battalions operated the Home Office's 'Green Goddess' emergency appliances and worked alongside a contingent of professionally-trained Royal Air Force Fire Rescue Teams, supported by civilian Defence Fire Service Advisers. Each strike day was covered, typically, by the deployment of some 500 troops.

Photo 6: Soldiers firefighting on Merseyside, operating the Home Office's 'Green Goddess' emergency appliances.[52k]

215. From January, the Fishery Protection Squadron has, in support of the Fisheries Departments, undertaken the additional task of monitoring fishing activity in the Irish Box, following Spain's full integration into the Common Fisheries Policy. The role of the Squadron in these waters, as elsewhere within British fishing limits, is to enforce fisheries legislation and ensure that all vessels can go about their lawful fishing activity.

216. The Directorate of Naval Surveying, Oceanography and Meteorology and the Hydrographic Office provide expert hydrographic survey and charting advice to the Department of Transport Marine Safety Agency. In 1995, 26 surveys were undertaken around the coast of the United Kingdom using a total of six ships, including ships provided from the civil sector, charter vessels with small Naval specialist teams embarked and Royal Navy survey vessels.

Figure 3: Deployment of the Armed Forces, April 1996

Provision of Military Aid to the Civil Community

217. In February, at a time of adverse weather conditions in Scotland and many parts of England, Regular and Reserve forces turned out to give medical assistance and to deliver supplies to isolated dwellings, some of them by helicopter. Vehicles, mainly ambulances and Land Rovers, were loaned in several areas to social and ambulance services and to police forces.

Provision of a Military Search and Rescue Service

218. The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy currently operate Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters from eight locations around the British Isles. Maintained primarily for military purposes in peace and war, they are also available to assist the civil authorities. During 1995, these helicopters and other Service assets, including Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Teams and Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, were called out on 2,274 occasions and rescued or assisted 1,650 people, of whom 1,524 were civilians and 126 were military.

219. Following the transfer of Flag Officer Sea Training from Portland to Plymouth in September, the military requirement for SAR cover from Portland ceased and the Royal Navy Sea Kings from HMS Osprey were relocated to meet current operational tasks, being replaced on a provisional basis by a Coastguard helicopter.

220. The Department has participated in a Department of Transport-led inter-Departmental review of the national requirement for SAR helicopters and how this might be met most efficiently and effectively. The review is expected to conclude shortly.

221. Work to set up the National Military Rescue Co-ordination Centre at RAF Kinloss, outlined in last year's Statement, remains on schedule. The new Centre is expected to be established by March 1997.

Maintenance of the Integrity of British Waters in Peacetime

222. The Government has an obligation to ensure the integrity of United Kingdom territorial waters and to protect British rights and activities in the surrounding seas. The ships and submarines of the Royal Navy maintain a permanent presence in British waters, providing reassurance to commercial shipping in general and to British merchantmen in particular. Military activities include sea and air surveillance, and assistance to the civil authorities in dealing with suspicious or illegal activities.

223. It is of paramount importance that all military activities should be conducted safely, including those in the crowded waters around our shores. To this end, a revised Code of Practice governing the conduct of dived submarines in waters frequented by fishing vessels was promulgated in January. The updated Code reflects a number of safety enhancements agreed after extensive consultation with fishermen's representatives, including the appointment by Flag Officer Submarines of a Fisheries Liaison Officer and, when a submarine is exercising with a number of warships, the designation of one of the surface ships as Fishing Vessel Safety Ship, with responsibility for confirming to the submarine commander the position of fishing vessels in the area.

Military Intelligence and Surveillance

224. The provision of intelligence support to the Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) in the former Yugoslavia has been allocated a significant proportion of the resources available to the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS). The DIS runs a full-time Yugoslav Crisis Cell, which can call upon the in-depth expertise of all directorates within the DIS, including military, infrastructure, technical and industries analysts and the embargo monitoring cell. All assessments are rapidly and securely disseminated to British forces operating as part of the IFOR deployment via the Joint Headquarters at the same time as they are passed to the Department. Wherever possible and appropriate, they are sent to Allies operating alongside our own forces in the former Yugoslavia, both through the NATO communications system and via the intelligence liaison staffs resident within the DIS itself.

225. The DIS are also involved in the setting up of the WEU Situation Centre and Intelligence Section. The DIS submits Weekly Intelligence Summaries to the Intelligence Section, supplemented by weekly briefing on the situation in the former Yugoslavia. It has also responded to ad hoc requests from the Section for more detailed briefing on particular areas. The DIS will continue to work with WEU partners to refine current arrangements and to improve the WEU's ability to receive and circulate intelligence.

Provision of HMY Britannia

226. The Government announced in June 1994 that HMY Britannia would be decommissioned in 1997. Work is still continuing on the options for the future of HMY Britannia following her decommissioning. No decisions on a replacement yacht have yet been taken.

227. Over the past year, the Royal Yacht's programme has included the Centenary celebrations of the Kiel Canal; a visit to Lisbon for the opening of the new British Embassy building in October; and a visit to Canada and the United States of America in March and April. A number of business promotion activities have also been undertaken.

State Ceremonial and Public Duties

228. Highlights of the past year's State Ceremonial programme have included a State Visit by the President of the Republic of Finland in October; a visit by President and Mrs Clinton in connection with the Northern Ireland Peace Process in November; and a visit by the President of the Ukraine in December. 26 Guards of Honour were provided at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Downing Street, the Ministry of Defence and other locations. In addition, contingents from all three Services played a significant part in the VE and VJ Day commemorations, described on at [refer] to [refer].

Text Box: World War II Commemorations

The Security of the Falklands and South Georgia

229. Following the trial deployment of elements of the Territorial Army (TA) to the Falklands in 1994 and 1995, a TA platoon will in future regularly accompany Regular Forces on operations in the Falklands. Under current legislation, those serving in the TA on active service must be temporarily enlisted in the Regular Forces; our proposals for new Reserve Forces legislation, described on page [80], would avoid the need for this.

The Security of Hong Kong

230. The role of our garrison in Hong Kong is to assist the Hong Kong Government in maintaining stability and security, and in sustaining confidence in British sovereignty in the territory until 1997, whilst helping to bring about an orderly transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China. The garrison is now concentrated at four core sites within the territory. Planning continues for the final withdrawal of British forces by 30 June 1997. The next phase, including the replacement of the Gurkha resident battalion with one from the United Kingdom, will take place towards the end of the year. Meanwhile, the garrison continues to carry out operations to demonstrate sovereignty, search and rescue missions, and operations to counter illegal immigration and smuggling. Discussions are being held between the garrison and officials of the Chinese Ministry of National Defence on practical arrangements for the transfer of defence responsibility.


We welcome your comments on this site.
Reviewed 1 October 1996