Thursday, September 25, 2008

Superb bows out

Swiftsure class nuclear submarine HMS Superb will de-commisson this week at Plymouth after 30 years of service. Superb entered service in 1976 and became well known during the Falklands War when it was supposed to be in the area after being spotted sailing from Gibraltar (though in fact was not in the area but the press speculation was useful to the RN). Superb also was involved in an accident in the Red Sea earlier in the year which probably prompted the slightly earlier de-commissoning than intended (was due to be in 2009 i believe).

Ocean returns to ocean

Royal Navy amphibious warfare ship HMS Ocean has returned to the sea following her £35 million refit. Intensive sea trials will be carried out to test the equipment and the personnel. Ocean has had her accommodation improved for crew and soldiers being carried. Communications, weapon defence and aviation handling equipment has also been improved to support types like the Apache.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New equipment shown off

New equipment procured for the British efforts in Afghanistan have been shown off on Salisbury Plain including UAVs, vehicles and small arms. The equipment has been procured using the Urgent Operational Requirements (UOR) process, a £3 billion fund for needed equipment that comes from the Treasury separate to the defence budget (which is likely to be pounded later on to get the money back, probably from the Navy). Equipment includes the Desert Hawk 3 UAV, the Mastiff patrol vehicle and new sniper rifles.

"No i don't feel daft at all..."

More drug busts, this time closer to home

The Royal Navy has caught another boat carrying drugs, this time of the Cornish coast however and not in the Caribbean. In a joint operation between the Navy and the Serious Organised Crime Agency HMS Argyll and 2 Customs boats caught the yacht Ronin carrying 100KG of cocaine. Pity they can't sell it to afford another Type 45.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Daring into action

Although not in service yet the first Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring has been called into action to come to the rescue of a fishing boat that ran into trouble off the island of Arran. The destroyer picked up a distress call from the Irish trawler Paloma at the end of August and went to give assistance while waiting for the arrival of life boats from Arran and Troon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

British troops in Zimbabwe?

The new Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which is signing a power sharing deal with Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF today, apparently wishes the return of a British Army team to help train the Zimbabwean army. The MDC no doubt wishes to temper the actions of the army which has often been involved in violence against the MDC. It would be a tough call though considering the antagonism between Mugabe and Britain lately and his claims Britian wished to make Zimbabwe a colony again.

"I'm all for it as long as they give us some toys too, a squadron of Typhoons and a division of Challenger 2s should suffice."

BAE review Astute programme

The troubled Astute SSN programme will be reviewed by BAE Systems following the discovery of further problems that could delay the introduction of the submarine into service, the review will attempt to miminise the impact of the problems. Rising costs and technical problems have created a rift between the MOD and BAE but BAE are still confident Astute will make it's "timetable of 2009".

Friday, September 12, 2008

TU-160s into Venezuela

Two Russian Air Force Tupolev TU-160 Blackjack strategic bombers have made the flight over to Venezuela for "military maneuvers". Its the first time Russian bombers have landed in the western hemisphere since the Cold War, but despite the rising tensions we arn't quite at Cold War 2.0 yet. NATO fighters escorted the 2 bombers on their flight over the Artic and Atlantic oceans, the Russians are not saying if the bombers are carrying live weapons.

Venezuelan President Chavez was delighted of course, "The Yankee hegemony is finished," he said. So there.

A tale of 2 AWACS upgrades

Boeing has completed flight systems testing of the Block 40/45 E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft. The upgrade includes a new computer architecture replacing the existing mainframe with open system network servers. The new system also includes better data linking and an improved user interface, well lets hope this new system is up to the job, so often "old iron" is replaced by fancy new boxen which cause no end of trouble, or is that just the software engineer in me talking. The USAF are also looking into upgrading the actual aircraft themselves (Airframe Modernization Program (AMP)) with glass cockpits and maybe new engines.

Meanwhile Russia has started testing a modernisation upgrade of it's A-50M Mainstay AWACS, as with the Sentry the focus of the upgrade has been in replacing legacy analogue systems with digital ones.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Army trucks head to Helmand

40 of the UK's latest support vehicles have embarked on a transport ship for deployment to Afghanistan where they will support 3 Commando Brigade. The new trucks have better protection, are more reliable and have better air conditioning (important for operation in Afghanistan's deserts). The vehicles are part of a £1.3 billion procurement in 7000 vehicles and 200 of these vehicles will be deployed to Afghanistan.

Russia to centralise production of amphibious aircraft

I have a weakness for flying boats i admit, the fact Russia is setting up a single centre for the development and production of flying boats and amphibious aircraft made me smile. The centre will include Beriev of course and the Tavia production plant with a testing base at Gelenzhik on the Black Sea. Production initially will be of the A-42 Albatros, Be103 and Be-200 and newer designs. As well as new aircraft the facility will maintain, repair and modernise existing aircraft. This is all part of the re-organisation of Russian aircraft production as the United Aircraft Corporation.

A-40 "Mermaid"

Be-200 Altair


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

France to submit ideas for future European defence

France are to submit a number of proposals at the December EU summit to strengthen the military capabilities of the 27 country union (not cutting defence budgets would be a great start). The French proposals will include creating a pool of A400M transports and common evolution of aircraft and surface escorts for the aircraft carriers operated by 4 EU navies, the UK government will love that as they can then say only having 6 Type 45s is fine as we can rely on France and Spain to protect our CVFs.

Other proposals will include re-organising joint EU forces to allow them to be deployed to hotspots, a 6 nation satellite surveillance project, a common coastal surveillance system and a heavy-lift helicopter.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More Reapers for RAF and Puma upgrade

Funds have been granted for a further 2 Reaper UCAVs to join the 3 currently in service (a 4th crashed). The Reapers, made by General Atomics, have proven to be "vital assets" in Afghanistan. Funds have also been found to upgrade 30 Puma helicopters to HC2 standard which will keep them in service beyond 2020. The avionics will be upgraded and engines and obsolete equipment will be replaced to keep them in service until 2022.

Russians to beef up GLONASS

Russia plans to double it's number of GLONASS communications satellites over the next 3 years. GLONASS is the Russian equivalent of GPS and the upgrade could be due to the fact Russian aircraft reported they had difficulty finding their targets in the Georgian war.

The plan is to increase the number of GLONASS-M satellites to 30 from an originally planned 24 and also develop the next generation GLONASS-K.

New Mastiff 2s ordered

A £60 million contract has been awarded for Mastiff 2 armoured vehicles for the British Army. The vehicles, made by NP Aerospace, have improved axles and suspension, improved thermal imaging equipment for the driver and improved armoured protection for the people inside. The vehicles are based on the South African Cougar AFV with the base Cougar being fitted out with British armour and electronics at Coventry based NP Aerospace.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A400M delay could cause RAF airlift gap

There is still a lack of strategic airlift in the RAF despite the order of 6 C-17s the RAF is warning. The RAF wishes to get a further 2 C-17s which are working hard in supporting British operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fleet is apparently working at 122% of it's planned flying rate. However the ageing Tristar and VC-10, retirement of C-130Ks and the delay to the A400M are causing concern. The RAF are due to receive 25 of the Airbus airlifter from 2010 but the A400M has yet to make it's first flight and the RAF are considering what to do if A400M is delayed further including life extensions to the 40 year old C-130K.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Operation Eagle's Summit

Around 2000 British and 2000 others from other NATO and Afghan allies have delivered a hydro-electric turbine weighing 100s of tons through 180 miles of hostile Taleban infested territory. The turbine, delivered to a Kajuki dam will help provide electricity to 1.5 million Afghans and improve irrigation. The British tricked the Taleban with the oldest trick in the book, they made it look like they were going to go to the dam one way, along Highway 611, but instead took another route taking a secret path across the desert.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hawk 128 released to service

The latest version of the venerable BAE Hawk, the Hawk 128 will receive it's release to service with the RAF. This means the RAF can begin conversion training with the new aircraft with 28 on order. The aircraft are expected to enter service with RAF and replacing Hawk T1/1As in mid-2010. The Hawk 128, part of the MOD's AJT deal has a glass cockpit and other technologies to allow training for the RAF's latest and forthcoming jet fighters the Typhoon and F-35.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Navy assists in Gustav's wake

Two Royal Navy ships are in the Caribbean to provide rescue and humanitarian assistance in the wake of Hurricane Gustav which has been wrecking havoc across the area and is now hitting the continental United States. Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke and and fleet auxiliary RFA Wave Ruler are sending helicopters to western Cuba to assess the situation and offer aid to victims, they will also try and restore local infrastructure. Iron Duke has been in the Caribbean since June conducting anti-narcotic patrols with the US Coast Guard and had to cancel a port visit to Trinidad because of the storm. Prince William is apparently no longer aboard.