Podcasts & Specials

“Don’t be Jack” -- the veterans who’ve become MPs

11/07/2024

Award winning Sitrep brings you discussion and analysis on defence, foreign policy and the stories affecting the British Forces.  

Presented by Kate Gerbeau, with expert analysis from Professor Michael Clarke.

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Around one in twenty of the UK’s MPs have military experience, but what do they bring to the job and does it help them make a difference?

Sitrep talks to the new MP for Derbyshire North, Louise Jones, and Jonny Ball who hosts the Veterans in Politics podcast and has mentored several of the new intake to Parliament.

India’s Prime Minister claims to be neutral on the war in Ukraine, but he’s been pictured hugging President Putin on a visit to Moscow.  So what’s Narendra Modi up to, and should we be worried?

And Colonel Rosie Stone shares her “moment that made me” – conversations about motherhood, gardening and football while under fire, for the first time, in Afghanistan.  She tells Kate Gerbeau how it led to her new career as an expert in gender and human security.

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EXTRA - The Allied Reaction Force (and Britain’s role) explained

08/07/2024
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The Allied Reaction Force is the new “tip of the spear” for NATO’s military power. It’s  described as a strategic, high-readiness, force-generated, multi-domain and multinational capability.

The ARF replaces the NATO Response Force and Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), as part of a radical update of military structures and plans since the invasion of Ukraine.

The idea is to pack more military punch more quickly, and significantly the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) has been delegated authority to deploy the ARF without having to wait for NATO’s decision-making committees to give approval.

General Sir James Everard, a former Deputy SACEUR, explains why the ARF matters, how it will work, and the UK’s part in this new force that sits at the very top of NATO’s plans to be able to mobilise up to 300,000 troops if needed.

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Defending Europe – what does NATO need to do?

04/07/2024
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75 years since NATO was created to defend Europe, Sitrep asks what’s needed to do that job properly today.

From organising hundreds of thousands of troops, to digging ditches and ensuring bridges can carry tanks, the challenges are explained by Professor Michael Clarke and Oana Lungescu, a former senior advisor to the NATO Secretary General.

Part of the jigsaw is the new Alliance Reaction Force. It’s commander, Lieutenant General Lorenzo D’Addario tells Sitrep how the ARF plans to pack more punch more quickly.

And former Royal Navy Commander chooses his ‘moment that made me’, when an engineering mistake flooded his ship and threatened to sink it.


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The Black Sea mine threat

27/06/2024
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Two Royal Navy minehunters, given to Ukraine last year, are still in UK waters because they can’t get into the Black Sea while the war continues.

But Ukraine’s Navy is using them to prepare for when they can start clearing the hundreds of explosives lying on the sea-bed. Sitrep’s Simon Newton has been watching some of that work on Exercise Sea Breeze in Scottish waters.

Mark Rutte has been appointed as the next NATO Secretary General, so we ask a former alliance insider what the job involves and what the new leader will bring to the role.

And another veteran shares the moment that made them. Professor Neil Greenberg tells Sitrep how hearing a radio interview by chance led him from young medical student to a world respected authority on military mental health via many Royal Navy ships and submarines.

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Who’s promising what for the Armed Forces?

20/06/2024
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Sitrep analyses the main party manifestos for the general election in which defence has had its highest profile in decades.

AI and data collection are promised to bring a revolution to military capability.  But they could also make it harder to work with partners and allies by creating a new “language barrier”, so how do we avoid that?

And the 2am phone call ordering a Brigadier to take his men to an unexpected war within days.  Julian Thompson, who led 3 Commando Brigade, in the Falklands shares his story in the first of our new interview series “The Moment That Made Me”.

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War of the playground

13/06/2024
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While North Korea sends hundreds of balloons, loaded with rubbish and manure, across the border, South Korea is setting up giant speakers to blare K-pop music for miles into the North.

Sitrep assess the risk of a playground scrap going out of control, and explains why many heavily armed nations indulge in childish tactics when they don’t want an all-out fight.

Ukraine has been trying out experimental AI drone technology on the battlefield to lock onto targets by identifying their voice, or avoid Russian jamming.  Olivia Savage from Janes tells us what she’s seen and heard.

And former RAF Officer Mike Murtagh shares stories from his time spying on the Kremlin in the 1990s, including fake firefighters, honeytraps and a bear on the loose.

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The art of deception

06/06/2024
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From the wooden horse at Troy to rubber tanks in Dover military deceptions have been central to war for thousands of years.

In the lead up to D-Day the allies convinced Germany their assault would be 150 miles away from Normandy. Professor Michael Clarke and Sitrep’s Claire Sadler explain the complex web of deceptions involving radar interference, wooden planes and King George VI.

Former Royal Signals commander John Kirby tells Sitrep how he helped deceive Saddam Hussein’s forces during the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, and General Sir Richard Barrons explains how deceptions can still happen in the transparent battlespace which revealed Russia’s invasion plan for Ukraine months before it happened.

Plus Christian Andrews, from the cast of Operation Mincemeat, tells us how one of history’s most audacious military deceptions has been transformed into an Olivier Award winning musical. 

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An insider’s guide to the NATO summit

30/05/2024
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Presidents and Prime Ministers have big decisions to make in Washington about how to better defend Europe, deter Russia, and support Ukraine.

But how does it work behind closed doors, away from the choreographed photo ops, and who is actually making the decisions?  Lord Peter Ricketts, former UK Ambassador to NATO, lifts the lid on how some of the world’s most powerful people really behave and why.

Amid ever louder chatter about allowing Ukraine to strike Russian sovereign territory with US missiles Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the Army’s former assistant-director of ISR, explains what would be on the target list and how much such strikes could change.

And 80 years since D-Day Professor Michael Clarke reviews your suggestions for the best books and films to tell that story.

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Is it time for western boots in Ukraine?

23/05/2024
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Russia has the momentum in Ukraine right now, so is it time for a radical rethink of how we help?

James Heappey, who served four years as Armed Forces Minister, tells Sitrep we should be thinking about putting a training mission into Western Ukraine along with air defence support.  Professor Michael Clarke explains the potential risks and benefits of shifting our red-lines.

They also discuss the general election and whether it will mean a shake-up or continuity for defence.

And former RAF Hercules pilot Scottie Bateman shares stories of incredible service across more than half a century by the swiss-army-knife of tactical airlift, and its crews.

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EXTRA – Hercules: first in, last out

23/05/2024
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For more than half a century the C-130 Hercules was the backbone of the RAF.

It’s played a key role in daring special forces and counter terror mission, supported combat operations from the Falklands to Afghanistan, delivered disaster relief, and carried out evacuations in some of the most challenging of environments.

Named after the mythological Greek hero with exceptional strength, Hercules was intended simply to be a cargo aircraft but its adaptability and versatility turned it into the swiss-army-knife of tactical airlift.

Now the life story of the plane, also known affectionately as Fat Albert, is told by one of its former pilots in a new book simply titled ‘Hercules’.  Scott Bateman tells Kate Gerbeau some of the many tales of service by Hercules and the people who flew on board.

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What Course Ahead For The Royal Navy?

16/05/2024
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Sitrep looks at the future shape of the Navy as the government talks of a new ‘golden era in shipbuilding’ and assesses what it can learn from current conflicts. Expert analysis from Commodore Steve Prest who’s just left the service and former Naval warfare officer Professor Peter Roberts from RUSI.

Sitrep’s Simon Newton reports from Poland on Exercise Immediate Response, designed to reinforce the Alliance’s Eastern Flank and deter Russia, with 2,500 UK troops taking part and we hear from the Telegraph’s Colin Freeman in Ukraine. 

Finally, Sitrep discusses how soldiers should balance taking ground in conflict with the duty to protect historic sites and artifacts with Dr Peter Caddick-Adams and the Commander of the Cultural Property Protection Unit Roger Curtis.

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The forces payroll hack – what you need to know

09/05/2024
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The cyber-attack which potentially exposed names and bank details of more than 270-thousand people is certainly embarrassing, but what might a “malign actor” do with that information?

The founding Chief Executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, tells Sitrep the hackers haven’t got any “crown jewels”, but that statements of “no evidence” that data was compromised offer little reassurance.

Professor Michael Clarke explains how it might be part of a Chinese effort to “hoover up data” about UK citizens for future use, and former intelligence officer Colonel Philip Ingram tells us the red flags to watch out for if your data has been taken.

Sitrep hears from Georgia amid mass protests from citizens who say it’s turning towards Russia and away from its partnership with NATO.

And we delve into the history of the pocket tools carried by troops, as bladeless versions of the Swiss Army Knife are introduced.

(More information about the MoD data breach, including contact information for support, is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/advice-on-the-armed-forces-pay-network-compromise)

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Naval hide & seek in Norway’s fjords

02/05/2024
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Sitrep goes on board a Royal Navy P2000 patrol boat, on exercise Tamber Shield, off the coast of Norway.

David Sivills-McCann gives us an insight into the action, and Professor Michael Clarke explains why these boats, some of the smallest Royal Navy vessels, are key to defending the UK.

A prototype of the RAF’s next generation fighter jet, Tempest, is expected to fly in just three years time. Air Commodore Martin Lowe, who leads the programme for the RAF, tells us how the journey from concept to reality is going.

And the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace & Security, Irene Fellin, tells Sitrep how the new Allied Reaction Force must not just be ready to fight, but also to protect civilians.

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EXTRA – Tempest, turning sci-fi concepts into flying reality

02/05/2024
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Tempest will be the RAF’s next generation fighter jet, and the heart of the new Future Combat Air System.

After a decade of conceptual development work is now underway to turn it into reality, with a first prototype due to fly in around 3 years.

Will it really be equipped with laser weapons or brain scanners in the pilot’s helmet? That’s still secret, but Sitrep has been told the much of the initial design is now locked down.

Air Commodore Martin Lowe talks us through the progress so far, and tackles the tough question of whether it can truly be delivered on time and on budget ready for service in little more than a decade.

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The PM’s defence spending spree – what’s it really worth?

25/04/2024
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Rishi Sunak has pledged tens of billions of pounds to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030, but how much will it improve our military capability?

Professor Michael Clarke explains why the extra cash will probably be used to firm up our forces rather than making them bigger, and we fact check how much of the £75bn figure given by the Prime Minister is actually new money.

Months after US military supplies to Ukraine effectively dried up the Washington deadlock is broken. But what will the new $60bn package deliver, when, and how much difference can it make to the war?

And we hear from the London Defence Tech Hackathon where coders, engineers, and businesses had a direct line to Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield as they tried some rapid problem solving for the troops.

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How did the RAF support Israel when it was attacked by Iran?

18/04/2024
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RAF Typhoons fired in defence of Israel as part of a multi-national operation to stop Iran’s onslaught with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones. A former fighter pilot tells Sitrep about the threats posed to pilots.

The Armed Forces put a lot of effort into leadership training. But what about the other side of the coin – followers? The Centre for Army Leadership has been researching a concept called Followership – Sitrep discovers how it could benefit the service.

When a tank was found on the seabed off Devon in the 1980s it brought worldwide attention to a highly secretive but tragic exercise of the Second World War. 

Thousands of American troops trained along Slapton Sands to prepare for the D-Day landings in Normandy but a tragic turn of events meant hundreds of US Army and Navy personnel lost their lives. Sitrep’s Briohny Williams has been there ahead of the 80th anniversary.

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EXTRA – What is followership, and how could it change the Army?

18/04/2024
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The Armed Forces put a lot of effort into leadership training, but have they lost sight of the people who are led?

The Army’s been researching the concept of followership, how it could benefit the service become part of its culture.

But what is followership, is it really different from the results of good leadership, and can it be part of an organisation that relies on command?

Sitrep talks to Lieutenant Colonel Dean Canham from the Centre For Army Leadership, and one of the leading experts on followership, Barbara Kellerman.

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Can ‘broken’ defence procurement be fixed?

11/04/2024
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Defence Procurement minister James Cartlidge tells Sitrep the history of armed forces having “kit that let them down” keeps him awake at night. But he has a plan to fix the problems.

He tells Kate Gerbeau about the changes aimed at delivering equipment on time, and on budget, while Professor Michael Clarke assesses whether it will give troops what they need, when they need it.

We also look up close at one of those big procurement projects, as Sitrep’s David Sivills-McCann visits the under-construction Type 26 frigate HMS Cardiff.

Israel has sacked two officers over the air-strike that killed seven aid workers in Gaza, which it calls a ‘grave accident’. Sitrep explains the process of ‘deconfliction’ that should have prevented it from happening. 

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EXTRA – Minister explains new shake-up for buying military hardware

11/04/2024
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British servicemen and women rely on having the right kit to do their jobs, and protect their lives at the front line, but MPs says the process of buying that equipment is broken.

Sitrep talks to Defence Procurement Minister James Cartlidge about his new plan to fix long delays, multi-billion pound overspends, and hopelessly overoptimistic ideas.

A new integration authority can veto plans that don’t work across all three services, equipment will be put into service earlier in development, and exportability will also be a priority.

But governments have struggled with these procurement problems for decades, so will this plan finally deliver the forces the kit they need, when they need it, or will the “legion stories of kit that let them down” continue?

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Russia’s new push in Ukraine

04/04/2024
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Troops and hardware which Russia’s been holding in reserve have been moved to the 600-mile-long front line, and handful of local armoured offensives point to the start of a wider push.

Sitrep’s Professor Michael Clarke explains how Moscow wants to exploit Ukraine’s ammunition shortages, while Kyiv tries to keep the initiative by forcing Russia’s hand, and journalist Tom Mutch tells us what he saw and heard visiting frontline troops.

RAF airdrops have delivered tonnes of urgent food aid to Gaza in operations that carry risks both for the aircrew and civilians on the ground. Retired Air Vice Marshal Sean Bell explains how it’s done.

And is the mysterious Havana Syndrome, suffered by hundreds of US diplomats and spies, linked to the Salisbury poisonings? Hamish de Bretton-Gordon assesses new findings which claim the same Russian military intelligence unit is behind both.

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EXTRA – A view from Ukraine’s front line

04/04/2024
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Sitrep hears from Kupiansk, celebrated as a significant victory when it was liberated a year and a half ago, but in Russian sights once again as Moscow tries a new push forward.

Ukraine’s troops trying to hold firm are hampered by artillery shortages, they’ve been rationing shells for months, but have turned to small drones to fill at least some of the gap.

Journalist Tom Mutch tells us about his visit to Kupiansk, how the soldiers are coping, what they’re expecting, and how he was surprised by their morale.

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