Podcasts & Specials

War of the playground

13/06/2024

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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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 £75m 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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The new Wider Service Medal – good or bad idea?

28/03/2024
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From submariners at sea for months at a time, to soldiers living and working on Russia’s doorstep, the new Wider Service Medal is intended to recognise “crucial operational impact” without the risks to life faced in combat. 

Some say it’s long overdue, others call it a medal for “just turning up”. We ask a former head of the Army, General Lord Dannatt, whether this is devaluing medals or valuing people.

Amid warnings we need to be ready for war Sitrep’s James Wharton explains how Iraq shaped the Army of today, and Professor Michael Clarke assesses whether counter-insurgency has bent our warfighting capability out of shape.

And as the Apache mark-1 retires we reflect on two decades of service from this attack helicopter which looks like a giant menacing insect, and hear what its successor can do.

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Inside the Navy’s ‘999 centre’ for the Red Sea

21/03/2024
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Emergency calls from any vessel under attack in the Red Sea are handled thousands of miles away, in Portsmouth, by a Royal Navy supported control centre.

Sitrep’s Tim Cooper is one of the first ever journalists to visit the UKMTO, where calls have soared by 475% as missile and drone attacks from Yemen are launched on average once every two days.

Also on Sitrep, after the Defence Secretary’s plane had its navigation system jammed by Russia, we explain the risks from electronic warfare and what we can do about them.

And the Army’s teamed up with McLaren to learn from Formula 1 electric vehicle technology. We ask former Defence Sustainability adviser Lieutenant General Richard Nugee whether electric vehicles really could rule the battlefield.

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Wargaming to win

14/03/2024
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Wargaming is about as old as war itself, but in a time many describe as “pre-war” how can it help us be ready for the worst, if it happens?

Sitrep talks to the UK’s Assistant Head of Defence Wargaming, Captain Eugene Morgan, who’s charged with building British wargaming capacity and capability “to make better decisions for defence”

He explains how it’s already used, and what the future may hold, while former US Army soldier Anna Nettleship shares wargaming stories from her new career as a leading researcher in the field.

Plus Sitrep’s James Hirst tries his hand at some simple wargaming with students at Kings College London.

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Germany’s embarrassing leak – could it happen to us too?

07/03/2024
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Russia has published the recording of a meeting between senior German air-force officers, revealing military and political secrets about British, French and German support to Ukraine.

Former Army intelligence officer Colonel Philip Ingram tells Sitrep it comes down to people being the weakest link, and that we shouldn’t dismiss it as “just a German problem”.

United Nations peacekeeping troops have now been in Cyprus for 60 years. Professor Michael Clarke explains why hundreds of British soldiers still serve on that operation, while Sitrep’s Sofie Cacoyannis takes her father back to where he lived when the peacekeepers arrived.

And we talk to Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss-Gorman about her journey to becoming the world’s only female Chief of Defence Staff and the Jamaica Defence Force’s close ties with the UK.

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Extra – The world’s only female Chief of Defence Staff

07/03/2024
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Every single country in the world allows women to serve in at least some military roles, but only one has a woman at the very top of its Armed Forces.

Jamaica’s Chief of Defence Staff, Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss-Gorman, was appointed in 2022 and is only the second woman in history to hold such a role (Slovenia appointed a female chief of defence for two years in 2018).

Rear Admiral Wemyss-Gorman talks to Kate Gerbeau about her rise through the ranks across three decades, how male military leaders around the world react to her, and how the UK can learn from her approach to changing culture.

She also shares memories of her officer training at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (cold apparently), and the value she places on the Jamaica Defence Force’s close ties with the UK.

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