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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Lady Olga Maitland hosts Literary Dinner for my "Sonia Gandhi" biography at the Defence and Security Forum

Lady Olga Maitland, President of the Defence and Security Forum, hosted a wonderful Black Tie literary dinner last night- with a sumptuous three-course meal and candles to a packed room - for what was the very first official outing of my biography of Sonia Gandhi published by Palgrave Macmillan in America on September 13, 2011.

I was in distinguished company because Lady Olga knows everyone- from British cabinet members and prime ministers to foreign heads of state. Previous speakers at the Defence and Security Forum include Sandy Berger, Adviser to President Clinton, HRH Prince Michael of Kent,and author Frederick Forsyth.

She had read a proof copy prior to last night as the book has only just been published and finished copies are only now available. She was so complimentary and enthusiastic I was quite overwhelmed. Lady Olga had placed a wonderful collection of people on our table,and after my 23-minute talk some great, piercing questions were asked- all under Chatham House rules. While her aristocratic ancestors smiled down at us from their large gold -framed portraits on the walls, the conversation flowed and there was clearly a lot of interest.

It is wonderful to see the first responses to the book after a year and a half of hard labour on this challenging project.

The upcoming speakers for the Defence and Security Forum include His Excellency Sir Mark Lyall Grant, KCM UK, who is the British Permanent Representative to the U.N., and General Sir David Richards, GCB, CBE, DSO, British Chief of Defence Staff.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

British armour steel deal inked with Tata Steel and Ministry of Defence


The UK now has its own onshore supply of high-performance armour steel, thanks to a UK invention and a new manufacturing agreement.

Known as super bainite, the new armour steel has been developed to have outstanding ballistics properties and, in tests, it has performed better than ‘normal’ steel armour.

The Ministry of Defence has signed a licensing agreement with Tata Steel to manufacture the steel in the UK.

Showcased at Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) today, the material was invented and developed in the UK, with production ear-marked to take place in Port Talbot, South Wales. Under the agreement the steel will be turned into seven different items, including perforated armour plates that could be used on future frontline armoured vehicles.

Visiting the UK Capability Showcase at DSEi, Minister for Defence, Equipment Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said:

“This cutting-edge UK invention and the manufacturing agreement mean that the UK now has its own onshore supply of high-performance armour steel. Super bainite has both military and civilian applications providing Tata Steel with important export opportunities.

”The application of new, battle-winning technologies is what gives our troops the edge. This demonstrates, once again, that investing in research and development, in partnership with industry, means that our troops can have the latest innovations in frontline equipment.”

Super bainite was invented by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) Professor Peter Brown, Professor Harry Bhadeshia, Tata Steel Professor of Metallurgy at Cambridge University and Dr Carlos Garcia-Mateo, previously at Cambridge University and currently at the National Centre for Metallurgical Research, Madrid.

The outstanding protection properties of super bainite are down to unique production processes. Traditionally, steel is covered with water to get it to room temperature quickly before structural weaknesses can form. But with super bainite, a whole variety of cooling methods, using air or even molten salt, are used throughout production. Combining drilling and hole-punching during the cooling process results in ultra high-hardness perforated plate.

Dstl’s Professor Brown said:

“The ballistic performance of perforated super bainite steel armour is at least twice that of conventional rolled homogenous steel armour. This is because the introduction of perforations creates a large number of edges which disrupt the path of incoming projectiles, significantly reducing their potency.”

Dstl owns the patents relating to the chemical composition and processing of super bainite. The licence agreement was signed between Ploughshare Innovations and Tata Steel. It allows Tata Steel to manufacture and process super bainite in the UK and in Europe and to export it globally.

Dr. Paul Davies of Tata Steel hoped defence equipment manufacturers, especially armour systems specialists, will recognise the steel’s potential for appliqué up-armouring applications. He said:

“Tata Steel has spent significant effort developing this unique product and we are delighted with its performance. We have outlined our market strategy. Tata Steel is well positioned to support the market, both in the UK and across the remainder of European markets by exercising existing infrastructure to produce and process the material for future customers.”

Monday, 12 September 2011

British Foreign Secretary talks about Britain's new diplomatic thrust

Thursday September 8, Foreign Secretary William Hague outlined Britain's new foreign policy outlook in a speech at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London. I have picked out the most interesting points from his talk; strikingly, the admission of Britain's waning influence across the world.

"We are significantly increasing our diplomatic presence in India and China, the world’s two emerging superpowers by increasing the number of frontline staff in each country by 30 and 50 positions respectively, and focussing on their fastest growing cities and regions in each country, some of which have GDPs larger than whole European countries.

We are substantially expanding our diplomatic strength in Brazil, Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, South Korea, North Korea, Mongolia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines and our presence in Taiwan, maintaining the strength of our delegations to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, NATO and the European Union and keeping our network of Consulates General across the United States.

We have made a firm pledge that this Government will not close any of the existing 140 UK Sovereign Posts overseas - which means Embassies or High Commissions - during the lifetime of this Parliament; and we will open six new Embassies and up to seven new Consulates General in the emerging economies, including one in Recife in Brazil.

Our new Embassies are in South Sudan, where we opened our new Embassy the day that new state came into being;

In Kyrgyzstan, where our new Embassy will open later this year;

In Côte D’Ivoire, where I announced this week that we will re-open the Embassy that was closed in 2005;

In El Salvador and Madagascar where we are also reopening posts closed by the previous government;

And in due course, we hope to open a new Embassy in Somalia. It is not possible now because of the security situation, but we will be ready as soon as we judge that circumstances permit, and in the meantime we will set up an Embassy for Somalia in Nairobi.

This effort is aimed at preventing what I call the strategic shrinkage of Britain’s influence in the world.

In the countries where Embassies had closed that we are now re-opening, we are sending a signal that Britain is back in the business of serious diplomacy with them. Where we are increasing the numbers of FCO staff and consulates, we are able to build deeper diplomatic relationships and do more for British business and British citizens."