Britain ‘one of few’ able to deploy carriers globally

By George Allison – The Defence Select Committee recently heard evidence on the operational readiness and challenges of the British Armed Forces.
The session featured discussions with Admiral Sir Ben Key, First Sea Lord, and Rear Admiral Steve Moorhouse, Director Force Generation of the Royal Navy, highlighting the strengths and areas for concern within the Royal Navy.

A significant issue addressed was the decline in readiness levels across the Armed Forces. Committee member Gavin Robinson MP expressed dissatisfaction with the provided data on readiness, stating, “the aggregate data doesn’t give you any sense when it gets down to individual ships, or effective readiness.”

Admiral Sir Ben Key elaborated on the concept of ‘sustainment’ in the context of naval operations. He defined it as “an ability to remain deployed and effective,” which involves considerations like “the onboard holdings that you have; the holdings that you have available in the locality or task group; what your supply chain looks like and whether it can ensure that you remain deployed and readily capable.”

Speaking about the Royal Navy’s current sustainment capabilities, Admiral Key pointed out the advancements with newer ships: “With the new ships—the Type 45s coming through PIP and all the rest of it—we are moving into an increasingly better position.”

He acknowledged the difficulties in maintaining older vessels, praising the naval engineers for their resilience and skill, but also noting that “The old 23s are very demanding ships to maintain, and their supply chains are under a huge amount of pressure.”

Rear Admiral Moorhouse highlighted the Navy’s unique global deployment capabilities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, “We are also one of the very few nations in the world that could deploy a carrier task group to the other side of the world in the middle of covid with very little host nation support anywhere, and sustain that for seven months.”

The session also addressed the challenge of a national shortage of engineers, which impacts the Navy’s operational capabilities. Admiral Key remarked, “I think it is down to the fact that the nation is short of engineers.”

Copyright and all rights reserved – UK Defence Journal


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Russia’s submission to China Putin’s homage to Xi Jing Pi

Russia’s submission to China

Putin’s homage to Xi Jing Pi

​By Frederick Lauritzen

Russian_ambassadors_in_China.jpgPutin claims Russia is a vassal state to China. He said on the 4th November 2023:

“After all, he [Alexander Nevsky] went to the Horde, bowed to the Horde khans, received a label to reign, including, and above all, in order to effectively resist the invasion from the West. Because the Horde behaved arrogantly, cruelly, but they did not affect the main thing: our language, traditions, culture, which was claimed by the Western conquerors. […] He thought about saving the Russian people. Much the same thing is happening today.”[1]

Putin is presenting himself as a new Alexander Nevsky, Grand Prince of Kiev (1246–1263) and Grand Prince of Vladimir (1252–1263). He has submitted to China and therefore has preserved Russian culture, just as his predecessor had submitted to the Mongols. The resistance against the West refers to the fight of Alexander Nevsky against the Teutonic Knights and specifically to the battle of Lake Peipus (5th April 1242) during which the heavily armoured Prussian knights rode their horses over the frozen lake. The ice broke, they sank, drowned, and died. The scene was admirably depicted in the film “Alexander Nevsky” by Sergei Eiseinstein (1938). The film is part of the Soviet personality cult of Stalin. Putin is thus presenting himself as a new Stalin and Alexander Nevsky. This is not new.

The idea that the Golden Horde protected Russian culture is new and revolutionary. Putin claims the same is happening today. He is thus referring to China as the new power in Asia, as the Golden Horde, the Mongol Empire, had been in the thirteenth century.

A vassal is someone who has autonomy but not independence. Russia now, according to Putin, can define internal matters, but not foreign policy. He is not alone in this rose-coloured view of such medieval past. Pope Francis had referred to the Pax Mongolica during his visit to Mongolia on 4th September 2023.

The reality was not rosy. A near contemporary historian, subject of a Mongol kingdom, records the words of Gengis Khan, ruler of the Mongols: “The greatest enjoyment of a man is to overcome his enemies, drive them before him, snatch what they have, to see the people to whom they are dear with their faces bathed in tears, to ride their horses, to squeeze in his arms their daughters and women” (Rashid Ad Din Hamadani, Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh).

Alexander Nevsky accepted a Mongol yarliq, a document of submission, in order to become Grand Duke of Vladimir in 1252. Putin’s claim that the situation is the same today would indicate that he has submitted to the Road and Belt Initiative and that China will define the economy and foreign policy of Russia. Putin will deal with internal matters such as culture. Putin’s visit to Beijing in October 2023 was not to be among equals, but to pay homage to his new ruler: Xi Jing Pi.

Russia is, in Putin’s words, a vassal state to China.

[1] The original in Russian: Ведь он [Александр Невский] ездил в Орду, кланялся ордынским ханам, получал ярлык на княжение в том числе и прежде всего для того, чтобы эффективно противостоять нашествию с Запада. Потому что ордынцы вели себя нагло, жестоко, но они не затрагивали главного: наш язык, традиции, культуру, на что претендовали западные завоеватели. <…> Он думал о том, чтобы сохранить русский народ. Во многом то же самое происходит и сегодня.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



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Ukraine’s Strategic Bridgehead: Rising Tensions Threaten Russia’s Grip on Crimea!

The generally accepted view on the current state of the Russo-Ukraine war is that the Ukrainian summer counter-offensive against the occupiers, which promised much, has actually delivered little. Progress over the last six months has been minimal.

The reasons for this are many and varied and have been written about many times before, but essentially the UkrAF just doesn’t have the means or wherewithal in men and equipment to break the Russian lines. It seems that stalemate now reigns over the battlefields.

Not that those involved in the actual fighting will notice much difference. At unit level combat continues with unabated ferocity along the front. For instance, Russia continues to attack persistently around the town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, and the Ukrainian defenders continue to resist equally doggedly. Little territory is exchanged.

However, there is a distinct possibility that the UkrAF are making small but significant gains in the western theatre of operations, in the Kherson Oblast. According to President Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, his forces have secured a foothold on the east bank of the Dnipro River, the first official acknowledgement that Ukrainian troops have done so.

Russia captured the Kherson region in the early days of its offensive in February 2022, but late last year withdrew from the city of Kherson itself and from the west bank of the Dnipro, shelling the abandoned territory intermittently ever since from their new positions on the east bank.


Hitherto the Ukrainians have been reluctant to comment upon developments as their forces reached the Russian-controlled bank in small numbers, but are being more open now that their lodgement is expanding and stabilising.

Geolocated pictures published on social media show that the UkrAF have now entered the settlement of Krynky, some nineteen miles (roughly thirty kilometres) west of Kherson City and approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometres) south of the Dnipro.

It looks as if they plan to stay, and if the Ukrainians are able to reinforce the bridgehead with sufficient quantities of heavy equipment, no small ask in itself, then the Russians may have a problem here. But whether Kyiv can pour enough troops and equipment across the Dnipro and through the swampy area surrounding Krynky remains to be seen.

As Russian military blogger Voenkor Kitten has written, “If 10-14 days ago on this side of the Dnipro the enemy had 50 to 70 people on the bridgehead, now they have 300 people in the area of Kyrnky. The goal is not a full-fledged offensive, but … to work on the infrastructure of the land corridor to Crimea”.

They are now presented with a growing dilemma; whether to continue their efforts in the east and commit their reserves there, or to use those same reserves to bolster their defences against the new threat in the west.

From the Ukrainian point of view, and with their counteroffensive largely bogged down elsewhere, any advance in Kherson will help relieve the pressure on Kyiv’s forces in Zaporizhzhia by drawing these Russian reinforcements. In addition, any serious advance out of Krynky – located a little more than 40 miles north of Crimea – could benefit Ukraine’s ongoing efforts on the peninsula as well.

I have written before that Crimea is the key terrain, the strategic prize if you like, in the ongoing conflict. He who controls Crimea controls the Black Sea. Both sides are well aware of this, and the Russians who occupy it are highly unlikely to give it up without being forced to do so.

However, holding on to the peninsula is becoming increasingly difficult. With the inflow of western long range precision weapons like Storm Shadow and ATACMS to arm the UkrAF, they now have the means to interdict, disrupt, and destroy Russian military bases and communications there. And they have demonstrated more than once that the Russians main escape route across the Kerch Bridge is vulnerable to attack.


It is a distinct possibility, therefore, that the Russian positions in Crimea will only be sustainable at the expense of heavy losses in blood and treasure. And if the Ukrainians make significant progress towards Melitopol further east their occupation there could well become untenable.

As Ukrainian chief of staff Yermak said; “Step by step [Ukrainian forces] are demilitarizing Crimea. We have covered 70% of the distance. And our counteroffensive continues.”

Who knows what might happen when spring arrives?

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



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Hamas has to release hostages, has to lay down arms, has to surrender.



Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

All the tea in… Cornwall? The English county exporting tea to China

Paul Hawkins in Cornwall, England

ME (English, confused): English tea? You mean the tea we like drinking?
EDITOR (English, irked): No, I want you to go to Cornwall and do a piece on a tea plantation.
ME: *scratches head* What… we grow it as well?

‌After approaching half a century on this planet, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Cornwall: pasties, cream teas, mining, surfing and tourism. I’ve seen it for myself many times.‌

Turns out, I hadn’t seen it all. Certainly not since 1999 when they first started planting tea on the Tregothnan Estate. Fast forward to 2005 and the first crop arrived.

‌”Everyone said you can’t grow tea in England,” admits Jonathon Jones, Tregothnan’s MD of Trading (as he stands in front of a giant teapot with a Union Jack on it).

“And I thought, hang on a minute – we need to put the Englishness into English tea. If any place can do it, that would be Tregothnan.”

‌Eighteen years later, Tregothnan is producing millions of tons of tea every year from more than 20,000 tea bushes stretching over 40 kilometers. That makes it the only place in Europe to produce commercially viable quantities of high-quality tea.

‌So how do they do it?

‌We may be in southwest England but in the September sunshine, surrounded by tea plantations, banana plants and Japanese trees, it feels like I’ve left the UK for warmer climes.‌

“Tea is like a difficult child,” explains our guide John Bennett, as we walk the plantations on the scenic banks of the River Fal.

‌”It doesn’t want it to be too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet. You’ve got to have the right sort of soil. We’ve got that here. They need about 40 inches (100cm) of rain. They get 30 inches and the remaining 25 percent from the morning mist and the dew. That means it’s a perfect place to grow tea.”

But, he explains, only in this very specific area. If you went a few miles away in any direction, you wouldn’t get the ideal microclimate that makes tea possible.

‌‌I’m a little teabot

The company is also incredibly proud of what it claims is the world’s only solar-powered tea-leaf picker, made by the Tregothnan team and called, brilliantly, The Teabot.

In a good year, the plantations can produce up to four crops so the teabot comes in very handy, especially with the UK continuing to experience a labour shortage.‌

“In Japan they’ve got them powered by fossil fuels, and they look pretty good,” Jones explains. “But they usually have a driver on them as well. So it’s quite a breakthrough.”

Tregothnan’s ambitions are, by the company’s own admission, limited by how much can be produced because of the size of the plantations. Instead, the firm produces high-quality tea that’s sold in top-end retail outlets and hotels across the world. You can see the various brews and blends at the International Tea Centre in Coombe village.‌

“Right from the beginning, we knew that we would have to be a luxury tea, but an affordable luxury,” says Jones, who describes Tregothnan tea as “the most British tea ever.”

Even so, the company also makes a Chinese-style white tea that’s quite popular in certain markets and a tea called Gyokuro – for the Japanese Prime Minister, says Jones.

‌”Emerging markets are those that really want to buy into Britishness,” he says. “We work with Brompton bikes and we’re about to supply 13 shops in China with tea grown in England.”

‌His passion for tea is infectious.

‌”We love everything about the Chinese tea culture and to think that this tea has been grown in England and returned to China as part of our shared national obsession with tea… I just love that story.”

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