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UK Embedded Forces

Volume 598: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

UK Armed Forces regularly have embeds in the forces of our close partners. Embedded UK personnel operate as if they were the host nation’s personnel, under that nation’s chain of command, but remain subject to UK domestic, international and host nation law. Our partners likewise have personnel operating under UK command.

Embeds allow the UK military personnel to gain direct experience of key capabilities and equipment; make a positive contribution to our defence relationship with our closest allies; and can directly contribute to enhancing the UK’s military capability. Embeds aboard the US carriers have ranged from aircraft handlers to pilots; they have been crucial to developing our own Queen Elizabeth class carriers, and the handling of F35B aircraft.

UK personnel have embedded with other nations’ air forces since the 1950s. In recent years, UK personnel embedded with US air forces have participated in operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, and with the French and Dutch in Mali. The UK currently has over 250 exchange personnel in the armed forces of allies including the US, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany.

Ministerial approval is required for UK embeds deployed with allied forces on operations. Since the international coalition commenced military operations against ISIL last year, up to 80 UK personnel have been embedded with US, Canadian and French forces. They have undertaken a range of roles including planning, training and flying and supporting combat and surveillance missions. A small number of embedded UK pilots have carried out airstrikes in Syria against ISIL targets: none are currently involved in airstrikes.

The convention that before troops are committed to military operations the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate the matter, except in the event of an emergency, applies to the deployment of UK forces. UK personnel embedded within other nations’ armed forces operate as members of that military.