Virgin Galactic flight trials face delay after crash

Images of Virgin Galactic crash
In an accident last year, the Virgin Galactic craft separated from the carrier aircraft and broke apart

Virgin Galactic's planned commercial space service may still be years away from taking flight, and its chief executive admits, "we've got work to do, that's for sure", in a Newsnight report on the project.

Flight testing suffered a tragic setback last October when Virgin's Enterprise spaceship broke up in flight over California's Mojave desert, killing one of its test pilots.

Newsnight has spoken to several Virgin customers or "future astronauts", two of them on camera.

One, Norwich-based Richard Burr, says he was originally told he would fly in 2007 or 2008, but is sympathetic to the company and has no intention of asking for a refund.

Another, Texas stockbroker BJ Bjorklund, told Newsnight that doubts about Virgin's ability to succeed in getting its customers into space caused him to decide he was "just going to back out of this programme".

Read full article Virgin Galactic flight trials face delay after crash

Is the West losing its edge on defence?

  • 14 April 2015
  • From the section Europe
F/A-18F fighter landing on USS Carl Vinson

Speak to those who are in charge of the West's defence or have recently stepped down, as I did for Radio 4's programme The Edge, and you will find a very worried group of people.

They speak at length about the decline of their own forces, explain the growth of those of their challengers, and worry about the long term consequences for stability in many parts of the world.

Read full article Is the West losing its edge on defence?

How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine?

  • 10 March 2015
  • From the section Europe
Pro-Russian separatist fighters near Debaltseve
Pro-Russian separatist fighters have captured Debaltseve

Western arguments about how to counter President Vladimir Putin's support for east Ukraine separatists are leading to clashes over the question of how deeply involved Russia's military is in the conflict.

The latest salvo between Nato allies came in a German government briefing to Spiegel magazine that accuses the alliance's supreme commander (American Gen Philip Breedlove) of disseminating "dangerous propaganda" on the extent of Russian military involvement, trying to undermine a diplomatic solution to the war.

Read full article How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine?

Lobbyists 'delaying Apache contract'

  • 7 March 2015
  • From the section UK
A UK Apache attack helicopter taking part in a training exercise on Salisbury Plain

A £1bn Army contract to replace its Apache attack helicopters has been delayed due to lobbying by the firm AgustaWestland, Whitehall insiders say.

The BBC has learned the MoD wants to buy a replacement from US firm Boeing, which is offering a cheaper deal for a joint order with other countries.

Read full article Lobbyists 'delaying Apache contract'

On board with the US air crews fighting Islamic State

  • 15 January 2015
  • From the section UK

How is progress measured on board the US aircraft carrier which is playing a key role in the fight against Islamic State?

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, plying the waters of the Gulf, represents a big slice of the coalition effort being used to pound the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq - an onslaught that has been going on for the best part of five months now.

Read full article On board with the US air crews fighting Islamic State

CIA interrogation report: Just what did the UK know?

  • 18 December 2014
  • From the section UK
Mock-up of prisoner in handcuffs

In March 2004, a Boeing 737, registration number N313P, lifted off from Baghdad International Airport with two prisoners on board - captured by the SAS after a shoot-out in the city.

They were on their way to Bagram prison, in Afghanistan.

Read full article CIA interrogation report: Just what did the UK know?

'Morale poor' among UK crews at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus

  • 5 December 2014
  • From the section UK
Tornado GR4 at RAF Akrotiri, in Cyprus
Tornados have been on missions against IS since early autumn

Raids against Islamic State are being conducted from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus "with broken jets and tired and fed-up people", BBC Newsnight has been told.

In a letter, a serviceman said the base was being neglected, morale was poor and ground crews had taken to eating humanitarian rations meant for Iraqis.

Read full article 'Morale poor' among UK crews at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus

HMS Queen Elizabeth: The sensitive aircraft carrier issue

  • 27 November 2014
  • From the section UK
HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth was formally named earlier this year

It's quite likely that the first squadron of fighters to operate from the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier will belong to the US Marines rather than Britain, naval insiders have told me.

Asked about such a scenario on Newsnight, General Lord David Richards, until earlier this year the UK's top serviceman, said it "would make good sense".

Read full article HMS Queen Elizabeth: The sensitive aircraft carrier issue

Syria's war: Stats, graphs and maps

Some estimates suggest about 110,000 people have been killed in Syria's war since 2011. The UN puts the figure closer to 200,000.

About 10 millions Syrians are thought to have been displaced, many of them fleeing into neighbouring countries.

Read full article Syria's war: Stats, graphs and maps

New Nato boss Jens Stoltenberg on alliance's challenges

  • 30 October 2014
  • From the section World

How do you keep Western countries focused on their security and the need to spend more on it at a time of austerity?

That is Jens Stoltenberg's "main responsibility", he says, having taken over as the secretary general of Nato at the start of October.

Read full article New Nato boss Jens Stoltenberg on alliance's challenges