Tuesday 17 May 2022

An exceptionally significant Defence appointment

The name won't mean anything to you, but the new Commander of UK Strategic Command is Lt Gen Sir James Hockenhull.  It's a significant straw in the wind.  

Hockenhull was previously Chief of Defence Intelligence, and is now risen to greater seniority than any member of the Intelligence Corps before.  (There had previously been only one 2-star general, the norm being a one-star in that Corps.)

His latest step up, I can tell you, comes as a result of the stellar performance of Defence Intelligence over the past 6 months in particular.  Quite encouraging, I find this.  

Needs a haircut, though.



Anonymous said...

For the first time - and they're not in NATO! - I saw a Swedish Air Force plane doing big loops (SIGINT style) over eastern Poland this morn. Someone in the Swedish forces is really sucking up/taking a realist view/YMMV.


The DHL plane which went Dover AFB-> Rzeszow is on its way back to the states via Amsterdam, currently over Tyrone.


Anonymous said...

Anon for Air Vice Marshal!

Bill Quango MP said...

Continuing on from the 91,000 because .. ( I don’t want to write my own piece ..)

Pace of change has accelerated beyond the ability of the governing agencies to manage it.

Working from home is obviously a brilliant idea. It’s the magic key that electricity was to the steam era factories. Huge improvements in safety, pollution, size, efficiency, costs, maintenance, noise etc.

It would assist the government in so many ways.

Efficient, productive, WFH Would probably be single biggest driver and reason for a government to achieve its productivity and other self set targets.

Climate change
Deprived regions
Local regeneration
Latch key kids
Cooking over ready meals
Family Leisure time
Performance monitoring
Health care Diagnosis.
Child care
Road and rail commuting bubbles.
Massive potential talent pool.
Borderless employment
Commercial space saving
Remote policing

And on and on and on.

The idea of not having to attend a fixed place could rapidly change the country in the manner and speed that the industrial Revolution and the building of the canals and railways.

Economic and social change on such a vast scale would be akin to deindustrialising in the 1970s. Finance deregulation in the 1980s. Equality for women and equal pay in the 1990s and mobile phones and the internet in the 2000s.

Working from home would generate by necessity the industries in power, fibre and tech required for the 21st century. Would set the new standard for house sizes with built in multi use office/spare/ storage planned in. The end of cash and office hours, in the post WhatsApp era

Sadly, seems to have come about at least ten years before the authorities, who would benefit the most, can even conceive of it.

The government isn’t worried about about a few sandwich shops at Canary Wharf going under. They will re-emerge locally.
They are worried about the national train service being unfunded. The bus service. The lack of internet provision outside the metropolitan areas. All those new housing projects approved in unnecessary areas. The regulations for converting commercial space to domestic. The empty high streets and more importantly, the local government parking/ rates/business charges income disappearing and being replaced with bugger all.
The insurance market and lending market when commercial domestic are same building. ( currently these commercial use domestic building mortgage, small business, needs a 25% deposit and sometimes 33%. And attracts a higher borrowing interest rate. And needs all kinds of additional insurances.)
How does HR deal with its issues.
How does legal ensure its compliances in the workplace, far above domestic buildings, is being adhered too?

So back to work you all must go.

We just ain’t ready.

Anonymous said...

When I am at work my employer pays to keep me warm. How will that work next winter if we are all at home?

Meanwhile the Guardianistas are having trouble with their new guests


Anya Abdulakh, from Families4Peace, a charity helping Ukrainians in north London, said she was recently contacted by a woman who came to the UK with her daughter to live with a woman she met on Facebook. But when they arrived, the host was going through a divorce and it transpired that she was a strict vegetarian who did not want meat in the house – leading to tension. “The situation now is that she [the host] wants her to move as quickly as possible,” she said.

(Friends have a family in their attached cottage, normally let to tourists - "they fry everything")

Anonymous said...

Pre covid I worked for TUI.
Working from home had already been replaced with working from elsewhere WFE
Teams were all over the world.
Conditions were you initially met up with the team in person, but after that video conference, email, team’s message was encouraged. Periodic in person meetings were then the future.
Salaried you did your work

I now work for local government. Work is 148hrs over a 4 week period. Core hrs 0700-2000.
Although we often have out of hours maintenance.
Average is 7hr24m per day. You decide how you make it up. You are expected to attend invited meetings.

All my work is done in the ‘cloud’ in data centres somewhere in the EU region.
I have no need to meet colleagues in person.

Compared to the late 90’s when I travelled 2 hours into London Bridge and back again every day including some weekends. Life is much more productive.

E-K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E-K said...

BQ - The railways simply can't survive a 3 day week. Not without huge taxpayer subsidy.

Too many residual debts, leasing and maintenance contracts with foreign companies.

There will be cuts in staff and services. All they will do is make Tues, Weds and Thurs horrendous to travel on. The rest of the time too.

dearieme said...

I thought the haircut was the best thing in the photo.

Or, maybe the best thing is his set of medal ribbons (if that's what they are).

I compare them with the fruit salad we see on Yanks, and used to see on Soviet generals, and I applaud such restraint.

Sobers said...

WFH is great for those doing it. Not so great for the customer though......but hey, just like when every country debases its currency, who gives a sh*t about the customer when everyone is providing equally cr*p service?

Anonymous said...

BQ - A really thoughtful piece and if I was to take anything away from it, it would be that our government(s) are incapable of responding to the changes that are coming down the line. Instead they appear to want to drag us back to a time and place where they are comfortable and will use all the means in their power and a few other tricks to keep us there.

We've become a "nanny state" ruled by politicians that have been raised by nannies - the hand that rocks the cradle. We need rid of this outdated system and outdated politicians.

Anonymous said...

My ‘customers’ are my colleagues.
I support IT systems. Pre covid I never needed to meet my ‘customers’ my tools are computers.

We were already moving our data centres from on prem (premises) to high availability cloud provision.

Just because you can’t understand what I do doesn’t mean I’m crap.
Whether I sit at a company desk, home, or anywhere in the world doesn’t change the fact you would not know if I’m being productive.
However if I fail to deliver projects, resolve business as usual BAU issues it will become apparent to the project and service delivery managers.
@karate Kev
Travelling on trains was crap pre covid. Myself and my peers gave up going daily into Town many years ago.
Supply and demand. A season ticket costs me £5k with no guarantee of a seat.
Let them fail.

E-K said...

Anonymous - "Let railways fail."

And they will. I understand that they may be obsolete now (why HS2 ???) Be aware of the consequences. There will only be WFH with no hybrid working in the end and no railways to provide trains to sporting, racing, festival, arena events etc - all an offshoot of commuter services.

As for myself ? Well. I've climbed the property ladder, raised the kids invested as best I can in various pensions. I'm hanging out for redundancy otherwise I'd go now.

(I gave up Karate some while ago. I spend my time walking the dog, doing crossfit and making love to my gorgeous yoga expert missus.)

Nick Drew said...

dearieme the best thing is his set of medal ribbons ... I compare them with the fruit salad we see on Yanks, and used to see on Soviet generals, and I applaud such restraint.

yes, it's very striking. In the early frantic days of the work-up of Op Desert Shield 1990 we were pooling everything with the Americans, sharing doc of all sorts. I came across a US Standing Order which stated: "Every opportunity will be taken for the award of medals". I'm guessing they issued that order in around 1941 and never looked back

the most Brit medals I ever saw on a single individual was, bizarrely enough, on the chest of a pacifist (sic). He was a first-rate pilot at the outbreak of WW2, and refused to fly warplanes: but when the unarmed reconnaissance Spitfires were introduced he was OK with that. He flew recce on every front across Europe & N.Africa, & copped every campaign medal (+ a couple of RAF flying-specific medals) of those theatres

E-K said...

ND - A Tank Regiment friend of mine told me the Americans even give out medals for competitions. One was awarded for Coke drinking.

I don't know how true that is.

E-K said...

On topic. The intelligence feed to Ukrainian fighters has clearly been blinding. No one can take that away from Britain.

It's when the head of CBRN gets the job that we know we're really in the shit.

(I keep trying to persuade my boy to join the TA there. He works just around the corner and in that field.)

Elby the Beserk said...


WFH. Well, yes, but again on the public sector side this would require a public sector devoted to public service to not - as it happening now - fleece the taxpayer at all levels.

And that's not going to happen, is it? All bureaucracies end up protecting themselves not those who fund them, and since Blair, this is exactly what the public sector has done.

With the result it doesn't work any more. Literally in the case of many employees.

Sack, sack and sack again.

Anonymous said...

"travelling on trains was crap pre covid"

And the alternative is driving a car (s/h prices up 27%) which you have to fill with fuel (prices up 30%).

Hockenhull is in many ways an odd choice. I can take on trust that his intelligence has been good (although I assume vast amounts of it comes via GCHQ?), but it's been used to appalling effect, to impoverish Europe and the UK.

All NATO had to do was say "No Ukraine in NATO, we recognise Russian fears". But they deliberately pushed for this war and to get NS2 cancelled.

Our elites are evil, that's the only word for them. And Hockenhull is their loyal servant.

CIA Director Bill Burns (then Moscow Ambassador) in 2008 – “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for [Russia]” and “I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests”

Sir Roderic Lyne, former British ambassador to Russia, warned that “[pushing] Ukraine into NATO […] is stupid on every level.. if you want to start a war with Russia, that’s the best way of doing it.”

I try to understand the logic behind what the US are doing and I fail to see it. Can it really just be ethnic hatred by the Nulands of the State Department?

Nick Drew said...

I assume vast amounts of it comes via GCHQ?

and, er ...


DJK said...

I see that Ben Wallace (in a speech on 9th May) has said that "...Putin, his inner circle and generals are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago..." Surely he realises just how insulting that is? One would hope for a slightly more nuanced view from HMG, not this infantile name calling.

It's common in all wars now to compare the opponent to Hitler. (Eden even thought that Nassar was a new Hitler). But the thing that unites Russians is the belief that it was overwhelmingly the Red Army that defeated fascism in the 1940s. One of the stated aims of the current invasion is to de-nazify Ukraine, i.e. to get rid of the armed groups reporting to the Ukranian Interior Ministry, that espouse ethnic hatred (of Russians) and use actual nazi regalia.

Ben Wallace and Liz Truss seem to want to keep doubling down until we're actually at war with Russia. Surely it's tempting for the Russians, if they want to hit back at Nato, to go for the country with the loudest mouth.

Anonymous said...

ND - I'm the anon who watches the flight radars, so I know about the Rivet Joints and all that. I presume our data goes straight to the US.


Still makes zero strategic sense UNLESS you want to pick a fight with Russia, which I don't think is in UK national interests, unless we have an interest in foodbanks. However, given the economic damage the US can do, it's also not in our national interests to piss them off. But if we are going to be their lapdog cos we are afraid of them, maybe that should be made a little more explicit?

Anonymous said...

PS - there's an anonymous Gulfstream G600 just landed at Rzeszow from Luton Airport.

Nick Drew said...

if we are going to be their lapdog cos we are afraid of them...

that's just not the right characterisation. Read about how Macmillan cajoled Kennedy into letting us in on Polaris. And (almost) everything since. It's certainly not a relationship of equals, but we pull our weight and are recognised for it

(also, ahem, CYPRUS ...)

People like Hockenhull are genuinely welcome stateside, our best people are over there a lot: since WW2 the interpersonal relationships and 'cultural' sharing run very deep

(despite Philby & other 'incidents' along the way ...)

Anonymous said...

But in what direction are we pulling our weight? US anti-Russia policy is inexplicable, it's caused a war and is impoverishing the UK and EU. Are they still cheesed off about Russia helping save Assad from "regime change"?

If so that's pretty childish - a country should have interests not enemies. Haven't we forgiven Israel for sending technicians to fit Exocets onto Argentine aircraft DURING the Falklands War?

Anonymous said...

There was another Swedish SIGINT plane going up and down the border this morning.

It'll be great to have them in NATO, I well remember how they stood alongside us during those dark days of 1940 ;-)

And I'm sure mothers will be happy to think their kids are defending vital British interests like North Macedonia (but not North Cyprus)

Anonymous said...

An anonymous SOCATA TBM850 is just landing at Rzeszow from Antwerp. NATO people?


Anonymous said...

Maybe there's a meetup of our lot/EU NATO and Ukrainian generals. US must feel very confident to push their (and our - I live near a target) luck like this.

dearieme said...

"despite Philby & other 'incidents' along the way ..."

I think it was Max Hastings who said "I'm fed up of hearing about the Cambridge Five. What about the Berkeley and Washington five hundred?"

That chimes with the story of a senior US intelligence figure decades ago. "At least the British catch them."

P.S. Is there any chance that Philby had been caught and "turned"? That would have been quite a coup. It's all smoke and mirrors, though, isn't it? The outsider hasn't a clue and the insider may not have more than half a clue.

Anonymous said...

Hercules from Brize Norton coming into land at Rzeszow. ZH868.

Can't understand how Ivan hasn't taken out the 2 single track rail lines coming from Rzeszow into Ukraine. Must have some mean air defence there. I guess if I was Ukrainian securing the supply lines would be a #1 priority.

Nick Drew said...

Lots of things Ivan hasn't done ... (aside from ones he's tried and failed)

tells me he's very keen not to burn bridges** with the west (by his own definition & judgement, that is, as opposed to bridges he's actually burning by his own misjudgment)

** not meant as a pun but it works quite well

E-K said...

"Ben Wallace and Liz Truss seem to want to keep doubling down until we're actually at war with Russia. Surely it's tempting for the Russians, if they want to hit back at Nato, to go for the country with the loudest mouth."



Loud. Boorish. Unnecessary. Inflammatory. Vain. Peacocking.

It's one thing standing up to a tyrant but these aren't the people who should be doing it and that's quite clear by their manner.

If we get a kicking we thoroughly deserve it.

Anonymous said...

ND - "tells me he's very keen not to burn bridges with the west"

But the west - our lot - are sending bucketloads of kit which is killing his soldiers. We're the ones burning bridges.

Are you suggesting that Russia has the means to interdict these weapons (by taking out the roads and railway lines inside the Ukraine border), but they're not doing it because they don't want to be in our bad books?

If I thought that was the case I might actually take these "Putin is simultaneously The Dark Lord with a Master Plan and also a man with six terminal illnesses and five psychiatric disorders" theories seriously.

Nick Drew said...

Anon, use your imagination

dearieme said...

I too am puzzled that the Russkis haven't made it much harder to deliver weapons to the Ukes. Are the Russkis fighting a war or not?

Are they showing restraint or being incompetent? Do they lack conventional weapons suitable for bringing down bridges or whatever? One way to bring down a bridge has been known ever since the RAF's successes with Tall Boy and Grand Slam. Another way is presumably with cruise missiles.

There's plenty of puzzles in this war.

Unless ... they don't want to bring down bridges used by Ukraine-Poland links in case they wish to invade Poland next. Say it ain't so.

Anonymous said...

ND, better please spell it out cos I'm thick with no imagination. Are they not interdicting the weapons because they can't, or because they don't want to? If the latter, why? Do they seriously think the US/UK will make nice? Do you?

I am though starting to see a few neocon thinkpieces suggesting that 100% victory for Ukraine is not realistic and that compromise may be necessary


"Kyiv’s right to fight for complete territorial sovereignty does not make doing so strategically wise. Nor should Ukraine’s remarkable success in repelling Russia’s initial advance be cause for overconfidence about the next phases of the conflict. Indeed, strategic pragmatism warrants a frank conversation between NATO and Ukraine about curbing Kyiv’s ambitions and settling for an outcome that falls short of “victory.”"