RAF VALLEY

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DAMOCLES MAY HAVE TO RETRIEVE HIS SWORD FROM VALLEY

RAF VALLEY - CAN COURAGE BE CONTRACTED OUT?

NEW T2 JET BRING 60 NEW JOBS TO ANGLESEY

MP CALLS TO BAN LOW-FLYING RAF PLANES



RAF Valley - Mona


DAMOCLES MAY HAVE TO RETRIEVE HIS SWORD FROM VALLEY

February 8 2011


I am quite certain that many of you would have deeply concerned over the Coalition Government’s intention to sell of the United Kingdom’s Search & Rescue service.

It was stated that the multi-billion pound sell-off would have undermined the common ethic that underpins RAF Search & Rescue:

To venture into the most dangerous of situations to preserve life and recover the injured.

As an Island, Anglesey is immensely proud of RAF Valley 22 Helicopter Squadron. And rightly so.

The news that was revealed today about the alleged mis-conduct of Soteria in pursuit of purchasing the service has been greeted warmly and with great relief.

It appears that Soteria, the preferred bidder is under investigation on how it came across very significant and commercially sensitive information that would have proved valuable in its negotiations with the Ministry of Defence.

Soteria is a multi-corporation consortium consisting of the Canadian Helicopter Corporation, Thales, Sikorsky and, strangely, the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Until this matter is fully investigated the plan to sell-off has been shelved. It is not known yet whether this privatisation project has been shelved or scrapped.






ALBERT OWEN MP EXPRESSES A VERY STRONG VIEW


During an interview with BBC Wales this morning Albert Owen, the Anglesey Member of Parliament shared his continuing concerns over the Government’s intention to pursue full privatisation.

The previous Labour Government had already proposed a partial sell-off of the service in order to bring more finance into a very expensive service.

“The money that had been invested in Valley as an RAF base,” said Albert Owen, “and its location, made it strategically important in whatever service that was provided.

He continued: "I was not a great fan of any sort of privatisation but I understand the need to update.

"What we need now is certainty. There has been a lot of investment at RAF Valley and I want that to remain.

"That's not the way we should be planning search and rescue, which is why I would like it taken out of the frame of privatisation and real investment go into it.

"We're talking about the lives of people on land and sea. Let's not put private money into this, and competition, as the basis. Let's put safety as the basis, let's put expertise as the basis."






ANGLESEY COASTGUARDS IN DANGER OF CLOSURE


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PRINCE WILLIAM STEPS INTO THE FREY?


It has been rumoured that Prince William, who is himself a serving Search & Rescue at RAF Valley, has lobbied Prime Minister, David Cameron on this very same issue.

In the past the Plaid Cymru MP for Merionethshire, Elfyn Llwyd has uttered some quite inappropriate statements about the pilots of RAF Valley; however, this time he has struck-the-nail on the head.

Mr Llwyd said: "I remain very concerned about the UK government's privatisation agenda - their reckless plans to selling off the search and rescue services were dangerous to begin with.

"We do need to ensure that we have modern equipment and effective helicopters to carry out operations - but I fear that by privatising off this essential service, corners will be cut in order to make a profit."






A POLITICAL RESPONSE FROM SOTERIA


For its part Soteria released the statement:

"Soteria is disappointed to learn that the UK government has announced the cancellation of the SAR-H program.

"We remain confident that Soteria was designated as the preferred bidder for the SAR-H programme as a result of the value, expertise, dedication, excellence and exceptional technical solution that Soteria can provide in leading search-and-rescue efforts across the UK.

"Soteria is evaluating the government's decision and if given the opportunity is confident that it is capable of delivering the SAR-H program and stands ready to work with the UK government."


For more information on the deal scroll down to my December 2010 news item.

If you have comments to share then scroll down to my COMMENTS SECTION

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CAN COURAGE BE CONTRACTED OUT?

December 14 2010


I can imagine that the civilians and personnel at the Royal Air Force Base at Valley must be incredibly worried by the latest news to come out of the Ministry of Defence.

It is proposed – read definitely – that the Search & Rescue helicopters and rescue services are going to be sold off to a private consortium, partly French and Canadian called Soteria.

The private consortium will take over the entire Search & Rescue fleet from 2012 as part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal that will eventually be worth somewhere in the region of £7 billion.

Though Soteria has the initial contract there will be a sale of all facilities ad it is expected a new helicopter (probably a Sikorsky) will be introduced to carry out Search & Rescue cover.






A PRIVATE FINANCE INITIATIVE INITIATIVE


Reasonably good news is that each Search & Rescue unit will remain where it is. However, it has already been mooted that RAF Chivenor will have its cover of the Devon/South Wales area reduced from 24/7 to 12 hours a day.

There has been no formal announcement of the full project from the Ministry Of Defence, though a statement was expected today (Tuesday).

According to a statement to BBC Wales by aviation journalist, Jim Ferguson,

"We were expecting a statement to the stock market on Tuesday saying a consortium - partly French, partly Canadian - based in Aberdeen - will be taking over the UK search and rescue fleet starting from 2012," he told BBC Wales.

I understand that the current Search & Rescue will continue in its present form with RAF pilots providing the cover until at least 2016.






MOUNTAIN RESCUE APPREHENSION


Now, it is from 2016 onwards that coastguard MCA, mountain and cliff rescue teams express grave concern.

The pilots will then be civilian. How on earth do you write in courage, risk into any contract? Considering substantial commercial interests are involved, will there be ‘team orders’ about what is acceptable or not.

Mountain Rescue teams have already expressed the gravest concerns over future Search & Rescue assistance.

I remember a conversation with a previous RAF Station Commander in which he stated that the Search & Rescue service is primarily directed toward the recovery of air force personnel.

Service to the public in other rescue eventualities is a courtesy.

Though, as he added, it was a vital part of their activities, as it provides an important service to the public while honing the skills of their helicopter pilots and rescue teams.

The important point made by the mountain rescue team leaders is that RAF pilots now go into situations that no civilian pilot would ever risk.

Some of the rescue footage we have seen on television programmes clearly reflects the astonishing skill and courage of our RAF Search & Rescue teams.






COASTGUARD STATIONS CLOSURES DUE


A new component to deepen the apprehension of the public about their rescue services is the news that a significant number the Marine & Coastguard Agency is likely to be closed.

A decision was also due today (Tuesday) from the Ministry of Transport, who like all Government Departments is looking to make savings in the region of about 15%.



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DAVID CAMERON IS PLAYING A BLINDER


The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron is playing an absolute blinder on this one.

Every time a new savage cut in public services is announced it seems to be a Liberal Democrat Minister in front of the cameras sharing the bad news.

Playing Devil’s Advocate here, but, maybe they should be asking question about who’s the political mug here?

It could be that they’re thinking about become Conservatives by the next election or are hoping to emulate Lembit Opik as a ‘Babe Magnet’ and intend to take up stand-up comedy.

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Any Opinions You'd Care To Share?

We'd love to hear from you about the developments at RAF Valley.






NEW T2 JET BRING 60 NEW JOBS TO ANGLESEY

March 2010


In contrast to the usual news of job losses on Anglesey it was very good to learn that the arrival of new £17million jet trainer at Valley will herald 60 new high-skilled jobs.

The Hawk T2s will be replacing the existing Hawk T1s and eventually 38 of these aircraft will be based at RAF Valley. The T2s are state of the art aircraft designed to hone combat flying skills for the various theatres of conflict in which our pilots are currently engaged.

The work of aircraft maintenance at the airbase is carried out for BAE Systems by Babcock and it is with them that 43 new jobs have already been created. During 2010 its envisaged that a further 20 jobs will be created in engineering and maintenance.

Albert Owen MP stated that the progress in developing the RAF airbase has brought about an educational link with the local further education college Coleg Menai. Young people are being trained in the skills that will be required at valley.

RAF Valley is already a centre of training excellence in developing the skills of front-line pilots. The airbase’s engagement with local training agencies by Babcock means that high-skilled local employment will be assured for many years as further investment is made.

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MP CALLS TO BAN LOW-FLYING RAF PLANES

October 22nd 2009


Elfyn Llwyd, who is the Member of Parliament for Meirionydd, has called for an outright ban on all low-flying in Wales.

Mr Llwyd believes that the RAF should conduct all their low-flying training anywhere other than Wales because of the noise and because some people find it upsetting and of the potential risks of accidents.

Mr Llwyd is known for his outbursts on anything that is British rather than Welsh.

He and other members of Plaid Cymru are pacifists and their opposition to all things military acknowledged. Pacifism is a completely legitimate philosophic position to adopt and it is a stance that many people can accept even thought they might not be so inclined themselves. In a democratic society it is acceptable.






CONTRARY PARLIAMENTARY VIEW


However, the Member of Parliament for Anglesey, Albert Owen has reacted furiously to Mr Llwyd’s statement.

The Anglesey constituency is the home of RAF Valley, which has been here since the 1940s and it’s an association which the vast majority of the Island’s population are proud of.

In addition to which it is one of the Island’s largest employers with more than 1,200 people employed in a civilian capacity on the base. RAF Valley is an important component of the Island’s revenue.

It is Albert Owen’s belief, and that of other angry residents, that the low flying training at the Fast Jet Training Centre is a vital part of our British pilots flying skills.

They point to the role of RAF pilots in theatres of conflict such as Iraq and Afghanistan where their low-level air cover is absolutely vital to the safety of ground troops.






INDEPENDENCE


Independence is Plaid Cymru’s main political position, though it’s one that they shy away from talking about openly because it is not a popular ambition of the vast majority of Welsh people.

It is the party’s Achilles Heel and an implausible ambition considering that the vast majority of money that sustains Wales comes from English pockets.

Eighty-five percent of UK people live in England and the revenue Wales generates is a little under £6billion a year, which means that the Wales annual spending is in the mid-£20billions when you consider items such as pensions, disability, employment, housing, council tax, income support benefits to name just a few.

It leaves a deficit of about £20billion that an independent Wales would have to come with.

As I write above in a free democratic society Pacifism is a legitimate political position. In any other society that is not so free it is not so legitimate.

Put the politics to one side and look to other theatres of conflict that the UK has been involved with, including and since the Second World War, then this country has been put itself in a position to be able to defend the rights of others.






INDEPENDENCE & DEFENCE


What is Mr Elfyn Llwyd’s desire on defence if they succeed in achieving independence?

Will they unilaterally declare Wales a neutral state or will they require the rest of the United Kingdom to defend them.

There have been accidents during low-flying exercise and it is a fact that some people are vehemently opposed to low flying in the valleys of Snowdonia.

However, as an extremely angry parent of a front-line RAF pilot who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan told me,

“Do these people not realise that this training is vital not only to the safety of our Armed Forces but of the pilot themselves. What kind of mental world does Mr Llwyd live in where he believes that human nature is anything other than what it is?

Warfare will never end and it is a nation’s responsibility to have not only to a shield to defend itself, but also sharp sword to protect others.”






ALL SILENT ON THE NATIONALIST FRONT


It is believed in Westminster that this is a typical outburst by Mr Elfyn Llwyd, made as a sound-bite for the media and made ‘on-the-hoof’.

It is an ill-thought out observation - yet again - and, as yet, Mr Llwyd has not responded to the loud criticisms.


I'LL KEEP YOU UPDATED.


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