The Express reports today that the Royal Air Force has recently conducted its largest air defence exercise in over thirty years, in response to the increasing frequency of Russian incursions into British air space and spheres of influence:
Operation Rising Panther, the first of six proposed air defence operations due to take place every year, will “show Vladimir Putin in no uncertain terms” that Britain is ready, willing and able counter increasing Russian aggression should the need arise, say military sources.
More than 30 aircraft, including 20 Typhoons and Tornado fighter jets as well as a range of ED-3, AWACS, Sentinal and Shadow surveillance aircraft took part in the mock attack-and-defence wargames over the North east of England, as well as ground-based command teams.
At first glance, this sounds like a positive development – like maybe the British government has finally woken up to the fact that history did in fact not end at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that future threats to our national interest and national security will remain, and be unpredictable, for many years to come. Given the circumstances, a show of force by the British military might be no bad thing.
And so it is, until you read the small print:
The Ministry of Defence played down Rising Panther’s significance, maintaining that it was merely the first opportunity since the end of hostilities in Afghanistan to hold an air exercise of this scale.
“Due to our continuing commitment to operations overseas, this is the first time we have had the full spectrum of our capability operating together at the same time in a realistic, opposed, environment,” said Wing Commander Andy Coe in the Ministry of Defence-run RAF News.
He added that this was the first time that the RAF had used AWACS and Sentinel together because they have been “in such high demand” in theatres abroad.
It is the facts that are implied, rather than those which are stated, which are most significant here.