Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Updates to Navy's frigates and destroyers

Type 42 destroyer HMS Liverpool will live on for another 4 years after a £6 million contract was signed to maintain her.

Meanwhile Type 23 HMS Montrose will receive a new command system, DNA(2), which is based on the system employed on the new Type 45s and relays sensor and tactical information to the crew and to "direct weapon engagements" (shoot the guns and missiles in other words). The ship will also receive the Seawolf mid-life update. The ship's small calibre guns and IT system will also be upgraded.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Common missile launcher component for next generation UK and US SSBNs

General Dynamics Electric Boat Corporation has been contracted to design a Common Missile Compartment (CMC) for the Vanguard replacement SSBNs for the Royal Navy and the USN's Ohio replacement. Both future boats are to use the same Trident missile so it makes sense to pool design costs, the CMC will design the missile tubes and launch systems for the goodies that will be carried in those tubes.

Although both navy's current SSBN fleets won't need replacing until the 2020s the work needs to begin now to develop the next generation, hopefully the mess-up that has surrounded the Astute programme won't happen again.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New support deals for UK Gazelle, Puma and Sea King helicopters

A number of support contracts have been signed to keep parts of the UK helicopter fleet going for the next few years. Royal Royce will provide 10 years more service for the Gnome turboshafts powering the 96 Sea Kings used by the RAF and RN. The contract covers overhaul, servicing and replacement. Eurocopter will provide support for the Puma HC1 and Gazelle AH1 and may also upgrade some of the Pumas to HC2.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

UK sells stake in AWE

The government has sold it's remaining stake in the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston to the US company Jacobs Engineering who join fellow Americans Lockheed Martin and UK Serco in owning the facility that builds the warheads for the UK nuclear deterrent. An interesting move, the government arn't saying how much they are getting for this. Opposition parties have criticised the move saying it weakens the UK's independent nuclear deterrent though lets be honest if the evil Americans said they were not going to build nuclear warheads at the AWE any more the government wouldn't just say "Oh OK then!" Well you would hope not anyway. The MOD say "strategic interests" were taken into account such as "if the President of the US says he can launch then we launch, this makes things easier!"

"Don't touch that button!" "This one? Too late!" "Oh sh-"

The always excellent Arms Control Wonk site has some interesting information about the independent British nuclear deterrent.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Endurance engine room flooded

HMS Endurance has suffered an engine flood whilst off the coast of Chile and has been left without main power or propulsion. The flooding has been stopped though and the ship is currently anchored in the Strait of Magellan. The Chilean Navy is assisting including evacuating a civilian film crew. The cause of the flooding is currently being investigated.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Confirmation : CVF delayed

I already reported it but the government has confirmed that the new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy will be delayed by a year or two. Construction will start on time but will proceed more slowly. What annoys me is crass stupidity like this though, yes the current fight is in Afghanistan but who knows where the fight will be tomorrow. For example how many people before 1982 had ever heard of the Falklands?

Anyway other details in the defence review were largely as expected, 12 Lynx Mark 9s will be upgraded with new engines for use in Afghanistan, Future Lynx survives and priority will be given to the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme and the FRES Scout vehicle in favour of the FRES Utility Vehicle (i'm not all that familiar with Army stuff, these guys are the place to go for that kind of thing). What didn't pop up before was the likely delay in the fleet tanker part of MARS and it looks like the whole programme will be looked at again.

Paveway IV deployed in Afghanistan

Following it's entry into service last month with the RAF the Paveway IV guided bomb has now been deployed to units serving in Afghanistan. The weapon has already been used against insurgents according to the MOD. The bomb has a 500lb/227kg warhead which is half the size of the Enhanced Paveway II already used. Paveway IV has been delayed for a year because of problems developing a new fuse.

The new bomb will also be more resistant to jamming, lower drag and be safer (though not to people it is dropped on of course).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daring to be handed over to Royal Navy

The first Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring will be handed over to the Royal Navy next month after successfully completing sea trials.

Monday, December 8, 2008

First Sea Lord threatens to resign over FAA

The First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the head of the Royal Navy, is threatening to resign over RAF plans to "get rid of" the Fleet Air Arm. The RAF are trying to save money by scrapping the 75 Harriers in the joint-force shared between the RAF and RN early in 2013. The RAF is arguing that most military operations in the next decade are going to be over Afghanistan so carrier-borne aircraft are not needed. A decade is an epoch in international affairs though. Scrapping the Harriers 5 years early would save £1 billion apparently.

Falklands left "undefended"

The Falklands are being left undefended by any RN warship for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982 apparently. A RFA ship will be there instead (i thought HMS Endurance is at South Georgia too annoying the penguins plus don't forget HMS Clyde, the Falklands patrol ship). The lack of a warship though is cited as the result of the run down of the RN to just 22 destroyers and frigates which means, with only a third of the fleet available at any one time, there simply arn't enough ships available to cover commitments. This is where the patrol boat the C3 is badly needed though as a frigate or destroyer is probably overkill for the Falklands job. RFA Largs Bay is the ship that is there instead.

2 of the Tornadoes currently based at the Falklands

Before we go too over the top though lets remind ourselves that the Falklands, even with forces reduced as they are now, are still far better defended now than they were in 1982. And if you think the RN has suffered over the years just wait till you see the current state of the Argentinian armed forces.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pic of a penguin

On a more light-hearted note while reading the Jack Speak RN blog site i came across this story of HMS Endurance in South Georgia with this rather endearing picture. Looks like a great place to be, even though i do hate the cold!

CVF to be delayed

The government are out to save money again (well the country is hurtling towards bankruptcy anyway so why bother?) The new aircraft carriers due to arrive in 2014 and 2016 may now be delayed for a year or two. JSF is already going to delayed so this might not be too big a problem considering Harrier will be on it's last legs by the end of the next decade there might not be any aircraft around anyway. The scary thing is what else might be in the "cost cutting plans". Future Lynx apparently will survive but may be cut in numbers "slightly".

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Protester Removal Team (PRT) vehicle

The MOD police at HM Naval Base Clyde have taken delivery of a specially designed Protester Removal Team (PRT) vehicle. Its apparently not just an everyday patrol vehicle but optimised for countering the blockade tactics of protesters. Unfortunately it does not seem to be covered in spikes or have tear gas cannister launchers.

Instead "[I]t has an electrical inverter which powers tools without the need for a generator, purpose-built storage racks and an array of external spotlights to illuminate the area around the scene of an incident. It will be a great advantage to our team and will help keep the base free from disruption and better able to achieve our day-to-day business." I feel somewhat disappointed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

End game approaching for Mugabe in Zimbabwe as soldiers fight police?

Could the writing be finally on the wall for Bob Mugabe and his Zanu-PF regime as the sole power in Zimbabwe? The country has been gradually collapsing in chaos over the last few years but there are signs now the end point has been reached beyond things cannot get much worse if the country is still to operate. Cholera is rampant in the country, not helped by the fact the capital Harare has had it's water supply cut off because the authorities do not have the chemical to treat the water anymore.

However these things do not spell a possible end, the economy has been so bad for so long that inflation cannot be measured in any meaningful way and the currency has to be reprinted every few days as notes become worthless. What could finally spell the end are signs that the loyalty of the army is beginning to unravel and without the army even Mugabe will struggle to remain in charge. In Harare troops who had queued all day for money were denied it by the bank and then joined civilians in protest. When riot police turned up to disperse the protest the soldiers then fought the police. Groups of soldiers have also been looting shops and robbing passers-by.

First high power test for USAF laser cannon

The Boeing YAL-1 airborne laser laboratory has carried out it's first high power test, albeit parked in a hangar at Edwards AFB. The laser is a megawatt class chemical laser fitted in a Boeing 747-400F. Boeing are seeking funds to build a second YAL-1 based on the 747-8F (well they need every sale they can get) and also increase the role for the airborne laser to "multirole" though the USAF are only interested in the ABM role so far, that may change after an actual "shootdown".

Sapienta Vincit Tenebras

A little known part of the Royal Navy is 792 squadron, responsible for aerial targets (though i have covered UK aerial targets before). This article on Navy News offers a glimpse into the squadron's work. The title of this blog posting? Its the squadron's motto, which means "Wisdom Conquers Darkness". Indeed.

More information on the Mirach 100/5 as used by 792 (and pictured above) is here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

More British troops to be sent to Afghanistan next year?

British troop numbers in Iraq could be dramatically reduced from the current level of 4000 in Iraq soon but it is likely more troops will be going to join the 8000 odd already in Afghanistan fighting Terry Taliban. The UK defence chief has said there will be no 1-1 transfer though Obama is planning on an Iraq-like surge in Afghanistan and NATO allies including Britain will be expected to add more troops to the 20,000 extra the US are planning to send.

But just like the TV adverts used to say its not all fighting, British troops in Afghanistan have helped open an orphanage, a nursery and a women's centre. Now we guess the troops will be needed there to stop the Taliban from knocking them down.

ASTOR makes operational debut

The RAF's Airborne Standoff Radar (ASTOR) has made it's operational debut in Afghanistan after a 2 year delay. This is the UK's counterpart to the US' JSTARS and will support ground operations with it's synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication sensor. The 2 Sentinel R1s plus ground sites entered operational service today. The RAF has 2 other Sentinels with a 5th due to be handed over by Raytheon before the end of the year (which is close!) The system was supposed to enter service in November 2006 but has suffered a number of delays as is common with all MOD projects.