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British army sets up brigade to fight social media war

The British army is setting set up a specialist brigade that will be expert in the use of social media in the digital age, according to reports.

The new brigade, which will be made up of reservists and regular troops and based in Hermitage in Berkshire, is expected to be officially operational in April following a recruitment drive in the Spring.

The new 77th Brigade will be equipped to fight wars in the digital age. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/PA

An Army spokesman said the unit would "play a key part in enabling the UK to fight in the information age" and that it "consists of more than just traditional capabilities".

He added: "77 Brigade is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare.

The new brigade is being named the 77th in tribute to the Chindits,a British guerrilla force led by Major General Orde Wingate against the Japanese in Burma during WWII, which used unorthodox tactics.

Former defence minister: Army could be cut to 60,000

The Government is already planning to cut the army to 82,000 troops by 2020. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials are examining proposals for an army of 60,000 soldiers, former coalition defence minister Sir Nick Harvey has said.

Sir Nick said paper exercises were going on to examine further cuts to troop numbers due to the impending "financial crunch" faced by the MoD.

The Government's existing Army 2020 plans envisage a shrunken regular force of 82,000 with the number of reservists rising to 30,000.

Sir Nick told MPs: "There are already paper exercises going on in looking at what an army of just 60,000 would look like because of the financial crunch that the department is going to be facing."

The Liberal Democrat MP was speaking in the Commons during a debate on Trident renewal.


Military experts clash over move to lift fighting ban

A military historian has spoken out against the MoD's recommendation to lift the ban on female soldiers fighting on the front line.

Colonel Mike Dewar, who served in Cyprus, Borneo, and Northern Ireland, told the BBC that senior generals he has spoken to think the move is "complete and utter and total madness" and is "politically driven."

The senior military sources cited by Mr Dewar also insist that "99.9% of women do not have the upper body strength to pass the infantry physical examination or carry an injured soldier from the battlefield."

However, a war photographer who served with the RAF in Iraq and Afghanistan said that gender does not matter in a firefight.

Alison Baskerville, who is also a reservist photographer with the British Army, and is writing a book about women in the armed forces, described the decision as "a step forward" which could be "the start of a new era for British infantry".

Labour welcomes move to let women fight on front line

Labour has welcomed the Government's recommendation to end a ban on allowing women to fight on the front line, pending further research.

The party's shadow armed forces minister Kevan Jones pointed out that many of the British Army's front line medics, engineers, intelligence officers, fighter pilots and submariners are women.

We should be proud of the role played by women in our armed forces.

Many of them already serve on the front line as medics, engineers, intelligence officers, fighter pilots and submariners.

Labour had called for the ban on women serving in combat roles to be examined with a view to it being ended, and any moves towards that are welcome.

– Labour MP Kevan Jones

Additional British troops to be sent to Iraq on training mission

File photo dated 09/12/06 of British Army soldiers Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

An extra deployment of British troops numbering in the "low hundreds" will be sent to Iraq next month to help train local military units battling Islamic State militants, the Defence Secretary has announced.

Michael Fallon said details of the contribution to an international mission were still being finalised but would probably include a small protection contingent of combat-ready British soldiers at four US-led "safe" centres.

RAF planes have been heavily involved for several months in air strikes and reconnaissance missions across Iraq which have forced IS fighters to switch tactics and lay low in towns and villages - requiring a ground offensive, Mr Fallon told the Telegraph.

The move represents a significant swelling of the 50-strong British force presently engaged in preparing Iraqi and Kurdish fighters for a new phase of the fight to retake swathes of territory seized by the jihadis.

A big element of the UK contribution will be passing on the experience gained during the 13-year war with the Taliban in Afghanistan in dealing with roadside bombs and other explosive devices, Mr Fallon suggested.

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