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A persistent pattern of behaviour is becoming more pronounced, says defence secretary.
And no one has any idea what to actually do about it The UK defence secretary has accused Russia of using hacking to destabilise the West.…
He's bound to say that.

Truth is, it'll get worse before it gets better Comment Admiral Sir Philip Jones, head of the Royal Navy, has written how "you'd be forgiven for thinking that the RN had packed up and gone home" in response to the kicking the naval service has received in the press recently. In an open letter published on the RN website, the admiral wrote: "Sadly the world is less certain and less safe.

But our sense of responsibility has not changed.

The Royal Navy may be smaller than in the past but has a strong future so this is no time to talk the Navy down." On 21 November the Defence Select Committee published a swingeing report into naval procurement, which concluded: "The MoD is embarking on a major modernisation of the Royal Navy surface fleet. Notwithstanding the Committee's concerns that the number of ships is at a dangerous and an historic low, it is a programme which has the potential to deliver a modern navy with a broad range of capabilities." Meanwhile, HMS Duncan, a Type 45 air-defence destroyer, had to be towed back into port after her unreliable Rolls-Royce WR-21 engines* broke down, as they tend to do on all Type 45s with worrying frequency – so much so that the RN has started a dedicated initiative, Project Napier, to add extra diesel generators to the Type 45 fleet.

This involves cutting large holes in the hull of each ship. Royal Fleet Auxiliary** tanker Wave Knight, currently deployed on Atlantic Patrol Tasking (North) in the Caribbean on anti-drugs patrol duties, broke down in St Vincent with Prince Harry aboard.

APT(N) used to be carried out by an actual warship rather than a refuelling tanker, but cuts to destroyer and frigate numbers left the Navy with no option. Last year a naval offshore patrol vessel, normally employed to stop and search fishermen's boats and their catches, was trialled on APT(N). A few weeks ago it was revealed that the RN will, from 2018, be left without any anti-ship missiles on its frigates and destroyers. Then there's the Type 26 frigate programme, which continues to stagnate as MoD officials lock horns with vastly more experienced BAE Systems negotiators over contracts.

The Type 26s are planned to partly replace the UK's current fleet of thirteen Type 23 anti-submarine frigates.

There will be fewer Type 26s than Type 23s, however, with the final five Type 23s set to be replaced with Type 31 "general purpose frigates", a cheap 'n' cheerful concept intended primarily for export.

The government, having initially pledged a like-for-like replacement of Type 23 with Type 26, later changed tack and cut the planned order of Type 26s, presumably because of the spiralling costs. A perfect storm for the naval service So what did the First Sea Lord have to say in defence of the RN? Type 45 destroyers are "hugely innovative" and "money is now in place to put this right".
Indeed, "if they weren't up to the job then the US and French navies would not entrust them with protection of their aircraft carriers in the Gulf." A strong point: for all their electrical flaws, the Type 45s are world-leading air-defence destroyers. The Harpoon anti-ship missile was cut partly because it "was reaching the end of its life" – though the admiral's attempt to claim that last month's Unmanned Warrior robot naval boat exercise featured anything capable of replacing a dedicated anti-ship capability was fanciful at best and downright disingenuous at worst.

That said, the admiral is duty bound, for better or for worse, not to embarrass his elected political masters. Admiral Jones also mentioned the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and their F-35B fighter jet air wing, due to enter service in a few years.

As previously reported on El Reg, the F-35 will not be ready for true carrier deployment for another five years minimum and even when it is, we won't own enough of them to put to sea without borrowing half the fast air wing from the US Marines. Moreover, each carrier will need, at the very least, both a frigate and a destroyer as escorts; the frigate to detect submarines, the destroyer to maintain an anti-aircraft screen. Will we be able to spare these two ships from all the other standing tasks, let alone training and maintenance requirements? On the whole, the Royal Navy is in very poor shape.
It cannot meet all its standing patrol tasks (as detailed in the Defence Select Committee report) without resorting to small patrol vessels and mostly civilian tankers to do so.

The Fleet Air Arm will not be a credible force capable of deploying overseas at even minimal strength (12 F-35Bs) until the middle of the next decade.

The frigate force is capable but ageing and due for retirement soon.

The destroyer fleet will be plagued by engine problems for another five years. On the other hand, the carriers will enter service.

F-35B will enter service.

Type 26 will start entering service from the mid-2020s.

The RFA will receive its new Tide-class replenishment ships to support the carriers.

Three new offshore patrol vessels are under construction and will be delivered in the next few years. New nuclear deterrent submarines are now under construction and will enter service in the coming years.
In terms of fighting strength, ability to put to sea and ensure freedom of navigation and lawful commerce, the Navy will improve. The tough part is that we will not hit rock bottom and start climbing out of this well of impotence for at least the next three years. What those three years bring – Brexit, more Russian sabre-rattling, possibly even a new Middle East flashpoint – could stretch the RN to breaking point or even beyond. While the First Sea Lord has publicly defended his service, ultimately it is the politicians of all flavours who starved the Navy of the funding for new ships and equipment that it desperately needed ten years ago, leading to today's situation where so many demoralised personnel have left that ship deployments were lengthened from six to nine months. The next time the Defence Secretary pops up to recycle tired old announcements that amount to nothing new, remember that. ® Bootnotes *The two gas turbines themselves are OK – it is the intercooler-recuperator assembly which lets them down.

Briefly, the intercooler-recuperator recovers heat from the turbines' exhausts and uses it to pre-heat the fuel/air mixture being fed into the engine.

This reduces wasted heat while increasing fuel efficiency and electrical output.

Due to a design flaw, the intercooler-recuperator tends to drop out without warning when operating in warmer waters (reportedly as low as 30C).

The sudden spike in electrical demand overwhelms the ship's two auxiliary Wärtsilä diesel generators and causes the entire electrical system, propulsion, weapons and all, to trip out, leaving the destroyer dead in the water as frantic marine engineers rush to reset it all. **The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is a uniformed but civilian branch of the naval service. Officially classed as civil servants sailing civilian-registered British ships, their personnel man the tankers, replenishment ships and general duties vessels, which increasingly find themselves used as actual warships, such as on the APT(N) deployment or as the mothership for the British minehunter contingent in the Persian Gulf. Sponsored: Customer Identity and Access Management
Middle path between cheek-turning and all-out war Microsoft Decoded Britain will strike back against nations launching cyber attacks on the UK’s critical national infrastructure. Chancellor Philip Hammond promised retaliatory measures against state-sponsored hackers while unveiling an expanded $1.9bn, five-year national cyber security strategy. Crucially this isn’t new money - Hammond’s predecessor George Osborne had announced this in November 2015, during the last spending review. What was new was the pledge Britain would go on the offensive against attackers and not simply turn the other cheek.

The alternative, Hammond, warned was armed war. Also new was a sharper focus, announced by Hammond, around tactics and strategy around cyber security to protect the nation’s critical national infrastructure and business. In October defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said Britain had used cyber warfare against ISIS as part of the bid to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul. “We will deter those who seek to steal from us, or harm our interests,” Hammond told Microsoft’s Future Decoded conference in London on Tuesday. “We will strengthen law enforcement to raise cost and reduce rewards,” he said of criminal attackers. He promised the UK would “continue to invest in cyber defense capabilities - the ability to trace and retaliate in kind is likely to be the best deterrent. “If we don’t have the ability to respond in cyberspace to attack that takes down power networks or air traffic control systems we would be left with the impossible choice of turning the other cheek or resorting to a military response - that’s a choice we don’t want to face.” “No doubt the precursor to any state-on-state conflict would be a campaign of escalating cyber attack. We will not only defend ourselves in cyberspace but will strike back in kind when attacked.” Moments before Hammond, who chairs the Cabinet’s cross-department cyber-security committee, had listed high-profile cyber attacks against other nation’s critical infrastructure. He didn’t name those responsible, but many attendees inferred the attacks were sponsored by Russia. He referenced the April 2015 takedown of French TV network TV5 initially blamed on ISIS but subsequently attributed to a group of hackers with links to the Kremlin.

A power blackout in the Ukraine following an attack on power utilities has also been blamed on Russia-based hackers. Moscow has backed separatists in the former Soviet republic seeking the reunification of the USSR. Hammond asked that suggestions as to who might be behind those attacks should be written on a postcard and posted to No. 11. Under the new cyber strategy, Hammond pledged a five-year plan to “work to reduce the impact of cyber attacks and to drive up security standards across public and private sectors.” This would involve ensuring government networks are secure and see UK government “taking a more active cyber defence approach” using tactics such as automatic protection to secure UK users “by default”. He pointed to the recent rollout of software to cut to zero an estimated 50,000 fraudulent emails a day from hackers purporting to be from HMRC offering tax refunds in order to obtain people's bank details. Hammond promised “increased investment” in the “next generation” of students and experts and talked up the formation of a virtual link-up between universities to secure laptops, tablets and smartphones. The Chancellor also laid responsibility for greater security at the feet of Britain’s chief executives. Having name-checked TV5 and the Ukraine, he referenced last year’s TalkTalk attack - which is almost certainly not the work of a nation state.

Altogether five suspects, all based in the UK, have so far been arrested in connection with the 2015 hack. That breach saw details of 156,959 customers sprung with TalkTalk fined a record £400,000 by the Information Commissioner. “CEOs and boards must recognise they have responsibility to manage cybersecurity,” Hammond said. “Similarly, technology companies must take responsibility for incorporating the best possible security measures into the technology of their products.

Getting this right will be crucial to keeping Britain at the forefront of digital security technology.” ®
And we'll attack you back, promises Defence Secretary Britain is splurging £265m on military cyber security – and that includes offensive capabilities, according to Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute yesterday, Sir Michael said the investment into the Cyber Vulnerability Investigations programme would “help us protect against these threats”. “The average cost of the most severe online security breaches for bigger companies starts at almost £1.5m, up £600,000 from 2014,” said Sir Michael, adding: “It’s only a matter of time before we have to deal with a major attack on UK interests.” So far Britain has managed to avoid the sort of targeted large-scale hacks that have seen big US tech companies such as Yahoo! see 500 million user accounts compromised, or the Target hack which saw millions of credit card and debit card details as well as names and addresses leaked into the hands of cyber-criminals. It seems, from Sir Michael's speech, that Blighty is gearing up to proactively attack any cyber-villains with designs on British internet infrastructure. Lauding various government security initiatives, including the National Cyber Security Centre in Victoria, London, the Defence Secretary said: “This cannot just be about our defence.
It must be about our offence too.
It is important that our adversaries know there is a price to pay if they use cyber weapons against us, and that we have the capability to project power in cyberspace as elsewhere.” Given that most large-scale hacks tend to be backed by states such as China and Russia, it seems that Sir Michael's speech is a public shot across their bows, warning them not to target Blighty – while simultaneously urging NATO to treat the Article 5 collective defence provisions as applying to cyberspace. Originally, Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which founded NATO, was intended to ensure that any westward expansion of the Soviet Union would trigger World War Three by dragging Britain and America in, thereby keeping the Soviets and the Eastern Bloc's expansionist aims firmly under control. It is unlikely that many countries would take Article 5 seriously in the context of cyberspace, given that many NATO member states effectively ignore the treaty requirement for them to spend two per cent of GDP on military spending. ®