On Thursday 5th July 2012 at 4.15 pm, the town of Wallingford paid tribute to the men and women of Royal Air Force Benson as the Air Station exercised its freedom of the town; freedom which was first bestowed on RAF Benson on 12th August 1957. RAF Benson has only exercised†its Freedom of Wallingford twice in the last decade and since the last parade in 2009 much has happened. The RAF Merlin Force, based at RAF Benson, is now into its third year of continuous support to†the campaign in Afghanistan where the Merlin helicopters are playing a vital role. RAF Benson is also the home of Puma helicopters which will be used during the forthcoming Olympic Games. During the Olympics, the Pumas will be used as part of a comprehensive, multi-layered Air Security Plan which will provide both reassurance and a powerful deterrent. ?The Merlin and Puma helicopters based at RAF Benson continue to play a key role in the Defence of our Nation. Whether supporting the Army on the battlefields of Afghanistan

London, UK – 10 August 2012

By Robert Densmore

United Kingdom civil-military relations

The way in which service members’ remains are handled may often be interpreted as an accurate reflection of the relationship between civil society and the military. This week, the MoD admitted that they had retained “forensic material” belonging to UK combat personnel killed in action without the express permission of soldiers’ families. It does not pose a threat to security, nor does it have any bearing on the wider scope of military operations. A similar flashpoint was exposed with the US Air Force’s handling of remains of US troops killed in action in Afghanistan. The reaction in the media, and among the American public, was of epic proportions, and overwhelmingly negative. And while this similar British incident – this government oversight – has little effect on kinetic operations carried out at “the tip of the spear,” it has angered many in the British public. On the one hand, it comes across as an indictment of the military’s poor housekeeping abilities, but also – and probably undeservedly – it leads the public to believe that the military (the MoD, the establishment, No. 10, etc.) does not care about the lives entrusted to them. It will be a message that the establishment will have to fight against, as recent unfortunate events seem to echo this sentiment in the public’s eyes – from the last minute drafting of the military to act as Olympics security to the removal of repatriation from Wootton Bassett to RAF Brize Norton’s less public “side route.” While decisions will have been made for a multitude of reasons, the perceived political divide between British troops and the government seems to be widening, especially in the wake of sizable manpower cuts to the Army.

Measuring China’s economic stability

Analysts are still trying to unpack reports on China’s economic growth. Recent figures show inflation to have been checked, but growth has been slower than expected. Some months ago, economists told us that the Asian giant’s industrial production curve was not as steep as some thought, with the potential for US manufacturing to overtake its eastern competitor. The scales tipped once again last month with the Chinese takeover of Hawker Beechcraft’s corporate jet side of the house. Close scrutiny will continue, as critics try to determine how strong China’s recovery against the US dollar and euro will be.

Turkey battles PKK

The wires have reported an upswing in Turkish anti-government violence, as PKK insurgents continue to destabilise the southeastern quadrant of the country. Insurgents attacked a military bus, killing one and wounding at least 11. PM Tayyip Erdogan also claims that Syria is aiding the “terrorist group” by supplying them with weapons. PKK and Syrian sister organisation PYD form a bastion of resistance that spans across the mountainous Turkey-Syria border.

Afghanistan’s internal security upset

Fractious Afghan forces appear to be struggling with an expanding security role in Afghanistan as US forces prepare for withdrawal. The wires reported this week that three US military personnel were shot and killed by what appears to be a rogue Afghan national army soldier. The style of attack is not new to Nato forces who have been repeatedly targeted by Taliban posing as Afghan military or by Afghan soldiers who have turned against Nato forces – even assassinating two senior US military officers within the Afghan interior ministry in February. This week’s attack came on the heels of Tuesday’s dismissal of Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak. His removal, along with that of police head Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, complicates hopes of a smooth transition by the end of 2014. US media report that thousands of US troops will remain after that date. US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been criticised for not providing enough detail of his party’s plans for Afghanistan post-2014.

Morsi purges Egyptian leadership

Egypt’s newly elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi is carrying out a purge of senior government offices under what appears to be the pretext of failed security operations in the Sinai. The New York Times reported that Morsi’s targets included the head of the military police, several Interior Ministry officials and the head of the presidential guard. Prior to Morsi’s election, Egypt’s military was continually criticised for stifling democratic reforms during the Arab Spring movement in Egypt this year.

DefenceReport’s weekly recap is a multi-format blog that features opinions and insights from DefRep editorial staff and writers. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own and are separate from DefRep reports, which are based on independent and objective reporting. 

By Robert Densmore

Robert is a former US Naval Flight Officer and frontline journalist. He specialises in aerospace technology, drone warfare, military ethics, just war theory and combat related mental health.