Sunday, December 20, 2009

Army to get new uniforms

The British Army is to adopt a new uniform style using MTP Multi Terrain Pattern which is designed to be as effective in temperate areas as well as desert zones. It is hoped the uniforms will be effective in Afghanistan where troops can find themselves in totally different kinds of terrain within minutes. The camouflage design was originally developed by MultiCam for the US military though they decided not to adopt it in the end, the final MTP style was developed in conjunction with the MOD and incorporates some elements of the old camouflage. It will be rolled out to units from 2010 to 2016. Of course it was made in... China.

More photos and information.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Roebuck and Walney to be cut

The Royal Navy's share of the defence cuts is to lose a survey ship and a minesweeper, we should just assume the threat of mines hitting expensive ships or them running aground has been reduced somewhat. Survey ship HMS Roebuck will be retired next year (4 years early) and HMS Walney, a Sandown class mine hunter will also go. It could be worse. In the current environment the saddest fact of UK defence is that "it could be worse" is the best we can hope for.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

If the Afghan war is to be funded properly then it will be so the MOD says, but at a cost. Money will be taken from elsewhere in the defence budget from "low-priority projects" to afford extra equipment for the front line including 22 more Chinook helicopters. The RAF seems to be going to bear the brunt of the cuts elsewhere according to reports with an air base to shut and the Harrier, Tornado and Nimrod fleets to be cut. MOD jobs could also go. Though the rumours about one of the Queen Elizabeth carriers being sold to the Indians won't go away. A survey ship and minesweeper will be retired early.

Update 10:38 : RAF Cottesmore is the base to be closed according to the BBC with a Tornado squadron being cut and Harriers retired early.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A400M to fly today

The Airbus A400M is due to take off for it's maiden flight today (within minutes of writing this if i have my times right). The first test flight will be from Airbus' factory in Sevilla in Spain. To rather dampen the joy Airbus have said the price of the plane has increased by 3%  which customers "have to accept".

Update : its up! Check out the video.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Typhoon could link up with Baracuda

The Barracuda UAV demonstrator could link up with the Typhoon fighter in a ground-attack demonstration. In the demonstration the Barracuda will illuminate targets and provide targeting data to the Typhoon. If the contract is signed then the demonstration could take place in 2011.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sea Viper fails

The Sea Viper, the principle weapon of the new Type 45 destroyers of the Royal Navy, has suffered a setback after a failure in what was supposed to be it's last qualification test firing. Sea Viper (a.k.a. PAAMS) failed in a two target engagement, for reasons not yet known, which is likely to mean the T45 will be basically crippled for some time yet. Though in happier T45 news the second ship, Dauntless, has now been delivered to the RN.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Britain under cyberattack daily

Britain is under constant cyberattack mostly coming from China and Russia it has been reported. GCHQ's Office of Cyber Security works around the clock to defend government computer systems and vital parts of the national infrastructure. Over 300 attacks have been recorded on public sector systems over the last year. MI5 believes the attacks are state-sponsored and as well as gathering information they could also be attempts to infect key infrastructure like the national grid with computer viruses to shut them down.

Friday, November 27, 2009

UK to not get JCA source code after all?

Despite apparently signing a memorandum of understanding that the UK, as the only Tier 1 partner, would get access to the source code of the F-35 JCA it now appears that no one will be getting access. Instead a reprogramming facility will be set up in Florida to develop and monitor upgrades. Maybe the US is afraid the British will lose the code on a bus? Well it seems they have a few problems hanging onto the JCA's secrets itself.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

UK Chinooks to be upgraded

The UK's Chinook HC2/2A helicopters are to be upgraded in 2 separate contracts. 21 new Titan 385ES-HD sensor turrets and to upgrade 4 existing turrets to HD standard. The turrets include "a High-Definition SLX Merlin medium waveband infra red camera" and other electro-optical sensors. Meanwhile additional cargo handling equipment will also be fitted to the Chinooks. Low friction rollers allow for more rapid unloading (which of course means the Chinook will on the ground and vulnerable for a shorter time).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RN King Airs arrive in UK

The 4 King Air 350ERs which will replace the Royal Navy's Jetstream trainers have arrived in the UK and will now receive their mission equipment. This equipment will include a Telephonics 1700 search radar and a tactical mission training suite. The King Airs will enter service in 2011.

BAE Systems win contract for next stage of FSC

BAE Systems has won a £3.4 million contract to progress the design of the next generation warship for the Royal Navy, the Future Surface Combatant (FSC) which will replace the Type 22 and 23 frigates in the long run. Some more details about what exactly will be built will be welcome though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Astute gets under way

Astute has begun it's sea trials by heading off to her home port of Faslane. Astute looks quite different to previous Royal Navy SSNs, compare here to the Trafalgar class it will be replacing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A400M begins final pre-flight checks

Final pre-flight checks are being carried out on the A400M prototype ahead of an expected first flight next month. Engine run-up tests, taxi tests and aborted take-off tests will be carried out over the next few weeks.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lynx Wildcat makes first flight

The next generation light transport and maritime strike helicopter for the UK the Lynx Wildcat has made it's first flight. ZZ400 took off from AgustaWestland's Yeovil site yesterday, two more test aircraft will join it next year. Entry into service with the Army is 2014 and the Navy 2015.

Astute prepares to go to sea

The first of the new Astute class of nuclear attack submarines is undergoing final checks and preparations before it heads out into the open sea for the first time. Astute will leave Barrow and head to Faslane which will be it's home port when it is a commissioned submarine. The trip will also be the start of sea trials which will last a number of months.

Mantis takes to the air

BAE's Mantis UAV prototype has taken to the air for the first time. The demonstrator, part of a joint BAE/MOD project, took off from the Woomera test range in Australia. Mantis is a "UK alternative" to the Predator/Reaper design and could carry out the reconnaissance and strike roles. The project will built confidence in a UK MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAS (unmanned aerial system) to use all the current acronyms.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918 the guns finally were silenced in what was to be the end of the "war to end all wars". Of course it did not prove to be that way, indeed the fighting continued in Eastern Europe for a few years more as the 3 great Central & Eastern European empires collapsed. And in 1939 the world went to war again.

There has scarsily been a period of peace since then, somewhere in the world the guns rumble on. This year the British forces have lost more troops than at any time since the Falklands War. On this day we remember the fallen of the First World War and those who have served and fallen and been affected in conflicts ever since including those left behind to grieve and cope with the aftermath of warfare.

Trafalgar comes to the end

HMS Trafalgar, lead ship of the nuclear attack submarine class, has returned home for the last time following 26 years of service. The boat will now be decommissioned, the first of the class to be so. Trafalgar was the first British submarine to circumnavigate the globe and the first to fire a Tomahawk cruise missile. Much of the ship's company are likely to be assigned to HMS Ambush, one of the Astute class submarines which are replacing the Trafalgar class.

UK to buy 30 Chinooks

The MOD is to buy 30 Chinooks it has been reported in order to increase the number available in Afghanistan. The number of Chinooks in theatre will be increased to 20 if the overall fleet can be raised from 38 to 68. Just two minor problems remain, one being the MOD haven't yet said where the money will come from (which means something else may have to take the hit) and the second being the US will have to be persuaded to let the British "jump the queue" and take Chinooks intended for the US if they are to be got into service within 2 years. A change in strategy means the UK helicopter will be reduced to 4 types in the longer term (which makes sense) : Chinook, Merlin (which will all be "marinised"), Lynx and Apache. A competition for a new medium lift helicopter has been abandoned in favour of Chinook.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

HMS Talent completes LAMP

Nuclear attack submarine HMS Talent has been returned to the fleet on time following a 20 week maintenance period (LAMP - Long Assisted Maintenance Period). For the first time major work on the submarine's MG rotor and batteries was carried out while the submarine was berthed and not in dry dock as has happened before. This thus meant systems were still live while the systems were being worked on or replaced. Work was also carried out on the gearbox to fix a defect and some other updates. HMS Talent will be available again for deployment before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SAR network to be restored to old strength

The UK's Search & Rescue network of stations is to be restored back to 28 after being cut to 26 earlier. There had been plans to reduce the stations to 24 but this would have left coverage too light so the decision to reduce the network has been reversed. The extra 2 bases will be restored by next Summer. What is the catch? Well some bases will be closed to night-time operations to enable day-time coverage to be maintained. So if your ship decides to sink best make sure it happens in the daylight! Still overall a good news story, for a change.

Watchkeeper could be armed

The British Army's forthcoming new UAV, Watchkeeper 450, could be armed with a lightweight weapon. The UAV made by Thales UK and Elbit could enter service next year. The MOD is looking into the possibility of arming it with a weapon like LMM (Lightweight Multi-role Missile). Each precision-guided LMM weighs 13KG including a 3KG warhead.

Work begins on first JCA

Work has begun on the first F-35 JSF, or JCA in UK usage, for the UK. It is the first of 3 F-35Bs intended for the UK for use in testing and initial evaluation. Delivery is expected in 2011. As to how to build a JSF Flight International have this handy flowchart.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nimrod crash report damns MOD

An independant report into the Nimrod crash in Afghanistan in 2006 that claimed the lives of 14 service personnel has blamed cost-cutting by the MOD which contributed to a culture that sacrificed safety. Charles Haddon-Cave's report blasted the MOD, BAE Systems and QinetiQ for the poor job it made in conducting a safety review into the Nimrod MR2. Haddon-Cave blamed an "organisational trauma" in the MOD as a result of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review which caused cost and not safety to be the top priority.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has admitted the MOD failed and apologied to the families of those who died when XV230 crashed. Meanwhile the head of QinetiQ has resigned though it is claimed to be unrelated to the Nimrod report. QinetiQ were blamed in the report for failing to check BAE Systems work on the Nimrod and their claims as to the aircraft's safety.

XV230 caught fire while being inflight-refuelled when leaking fuel came into contact with a hot air pipe. A safety review conducted a year before the crash was said to be riddled with errors and did not identify design flaws which led to the accident.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Return to MARS

The MOD is returning to the MARS (Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability) programme to replace the tanker fleet just 6 months after ending the previous attempt at the programme. Up to 6 new tankers were planned for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary by around the mid-part of the next decade under the old plans.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Government to U-turn on TA cuts?

Following the ridiculous decision to cut training for the Territorial Army to save £20 million many of the reservists said they would leave the TA and warned that they would not be adequately prepared to serve in Afghanistan where they make up up to 10% of the British troops serving there at any one time. Now the MOD has found a few million to retain drill nights. Much training has already been cut back though, for the sake of a rather small saving in the whole scheme of things. It honestly does begger belief.

Update (27/10/09) : And indeed the government has made a total U-turn on these cuts. Of course the question is now who is going to lose out instead.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Defender launched

Defender, the latest Type 45 destroyer, has been launched into the Clyde. The fifth T45 will now be completed and begin sea trials ahead of an expected entry into service with the RN in 2012. That just leaves one T45 outstanding to be launched. If only it was 12 that was going to be built as originally decided.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jetstreams perform flypast as replacement arrives

After 30 years of service the Royal Navy's Jetstreams are due for replacement by King Air 350s by 2011. But to celebrate 30 years of service the RN's observer training aircraft performed a flypast at RNAS Culdrose.

The first of the replacements has already been delivered. The first of 4 King Air 350s (which will replace 9 Jetstreams) was unveiled at Culdrose. The King Airs will have enhanced training facilities thanks to Tactical Mission Training software which can overlay "virtual" targets on the real targets displayed on student's screens.

CVF progress

Rolls-Royce have delivered the first parts in it's £96 million contract to supply equipment for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. A pair of Neptune stabilising fins were delivered to BVT's shipyard in Govan. Rolls Royce will also be supplying the MT30 gas turbines and propeller sysyem as well as the rudders.

Future unmanned military technologies showcased

MOD staff at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) in Bristol were given a demonstration of some of the latest unmanned vehicle and weapon sight technologies. They included a small wheeled robot with a real-time video camera that can help troops see what is inside a building without putting themselves in harm's way. A remote controlled surveilance helicopter that could send back real-time imagery to a wrist watch monitor was also demonstrated and sounds rather James Bond doesn't it?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Territorial Army to cease training to save money

The Territorial Army is to temporarily halt training in order to save money. Weekend exercises and other training will be halted to save money, when you find out it will save £20 million you wonder just how cash strapped the MOD actually is after all. A six-month halt in training will mean that soldiers will not get paid. The change is because money is needed for operations like Afghanistan but as TA soldiers regularly serve in Afghanistan and thus will presumably need extra training when they go there how can this really save any money in reality?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

AugustaWestland get Apache support contract

AugustaWestland has won a £439 million contract from the MOD for the maintanence of the Apache helicopter fleet. The Apache Project Team based at Yeovil will be looking after the Army's 67 strong fleet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

RAF helicopter in Atlantic rescue

A Sea King SAR helicopter from RAF Valley has made a dramatic pick-up of an injured sailor on a Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal in the North Atlantic. The frigate was over 200 miles west of Ireland in rough weather, the Sea king having to be stripped of non-essential equipment to maximise the range. The sailor was airlifted off the frigate and taken to hospital in Ireland.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Engine fire on Ark Royal

HMS Ark Royal, on trials following a £12 million refit, has suffered a minor engine fire it has been reported within hours of beginning the post-refit trials. The RN say there was no damage (surely there has to have been some damage to something no matter how minor!) and no injuries. The post-refit trials are to iron out any teething-problems a spokesman added.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

UK to buy new Chinooks?

Following the loss of 2 Chinooks in combat operations over Afghanistan the MOD is trying to raise funds to buy some replacements. However the MOD are hoping to buy more than 2 new Chinooks.

Contract signed to upgrade 28 Pumas

A £300 million contract has been signed to upgrade 28 RAF Puma HC1 helicopters. The upgrade to HC2 standard includes new cockpit avionics, communications and flight control. The engines will be replaced with the more powerful Turbomeca Makila 1A1. Defensive aids will also be improved. The first aircraft will be returned to the RAF in 2 years with the rest completed by 2014.

RAF unveils Brimstone precision strike missile hit

The RAF have released a video of the first combat firing of the Brimstone precision strike missile. In the video an insurgent hiding in a wall was successfully hit by the missile which demolished part of the wall, the Guardian reports, though left the rest standing. The attack took place last year, the missile being fired by a Harrier.

Defence Technical College to go ahead

The DTC at St Athan in Glamorgan is to go ahead, and will be the biggest PFI deal ever. The DTC or Defence technical College will consolidate 9 different sites to provide technical training to soldiers from all 3 services. The cost of delivering these services is £12-14 billion (depending on source) over the next 25 years. The first intake of students is planned for 2012 with full operational status by 2017. One should add that this training to be carried out in a partnership with private firms is for technical skills like engineering not combat training.

Bulldog aircraft of South Wales UAS based at St Athan.

The project is not without some controversy of course, PFI deals themselves have been criticised a fair amount over the years. The Liberal Democrats might cancel the contract, not that they are likely to ever be in a position to carry that out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chinooks to be upgraded

The RAF Chinook fleet is to receive a substancial upgrade designed to improve performance in Afghanistan. A £128 million contract will see the Chinook fleet re-engined with Honeywell T55-L-714A engines which are up to 20% more powerful than the existing engines. The helicopters will apparently also be able to fly further as well as higher. Another contract, worth £208 million, will see the helicopters fitted with new glass cockpits to help in low-light conditions. There is no word yet as to when these upgrades will be completed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Typhoons sent to Falklands

4 Eurofighter Typhoons have arrived at the RAF Mount Pleasant base on the Falkland Islands to take up air defence duties over the islands replacing the Tornado F3s. Argentina is raising a bit of a fuss of course but probably mostly for internal consumption.

Britain will cut Trident boats to 3

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the UK will cut it's number of Trident nuclear missile submarines from 4 to 3 as Britain's part in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. And we all thought it was going to save costs too! How naive we all were. Having a fleet of 3 SLBMs (and we assume the PM is talking about the Vanguard replacement programme) is probably fine, it doesn't enable you to ensure a boat on station at all times but then again we are not in the Cold War anymore always minutes from a Soviet missile attack so 3 boats will be good enough... as long as they don't crash into other submarines.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RN Sea King ASaC in use over Afghanistan

The Royal Navy's Airborne Surveillance and Control Sea Kings have been in action over Afghanistan, a major change from their original and main role of providing AEW for the RN's carriers. When the helicopters were upgraded with Searchwater 2000 radar their role began to change as the new radar enabled them to track maritime and land targets as well as aerial, a new capability first used in the 2003 Iraq war. Now they are playing a key role over Helmand detecting insurgents and keeping commanders informed about what is going on. The SeaKing ASaC7s were upgraded with new engines, defensive aids and extra armour for Afghanistan and will soon receive improved rotors.

A400M on track for first flight by end of year

Some good news on the much troubled and delayed A400M project. Flightworthy engine control software is expected to be received by Airbus Military this week which will help keep the air lifter on schedule for it's first flight before the end of the year. The full-authority digital engine control (FADEC) software has contributed to much of the A400M's delays but is now finished... more or less. Ground runs of the engine could begin in November.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Labour commit to Trident... for now anyway

Bob Ainsworth (who? The defence secretary! What do you mean, who?!) has said the £36 billion defence budget will be "overhauled" (whatever that means). Trident would stay though they are now seriously looking into maintaining the deterrant with 3 boats instead of 4. The ongoing operations in Afghanistan would be the "principal commitment for as long as it takes".

So now we are in the peculiar position where Labour would maintain the nuclear deterrant and the armed forces (to some sort of extent) yet the Conservatives would cut... well anything. I don't believe either of them to be honest.

Vote Tory get defence cuts?

George Osborne, the man who would be the next Chancellor, has said that if the Tories win the next election they would hold an emergency budget within weeks and there would have to be big cuts in spending. Of course the defence budget is always the easiest target and Osborne pointed to Eurofighter, A400M and CVF as being prime candidates for cuts.

But he did admit that he did not know what penalty clauses were in place if he did cancel these projects so his plans are rather moot. Added to that much of these projects has already been paid for, 25% of A400M for example, most of the Eurofighter and CVF has already begun construction. Are they really going to stop a major industrial project in a recession? So basically... blah blah!

Monday, September 14, 2009

F135 problems investigated

Pratt & Whitney are investigating problems with the fan blades of the F135 turbofan which will power the F-35 JSF. The tips of some of the blades broke off damaging the jet engine during a ground test. The tests were on an engine which has already clocked up 8 years of simulated service life. So that should helpfully give P&W plenty of time to fix the problem experts say. That is reassuring huh?

First production Nimrod MRA4 takes to the skies

The first production Nimrod MRA4 has taken off from BAE's Woodfood facilities. Following the flight test the aircraft then landed in Norwich to be outfitted in RAF colours. The aircraft is the first of 9 production MRA4s to be built though the 4th MRA4 to date (of course there was originally going to be 21). The type is close to being ready for the RAF to take over, it will then hopefully begin 30 years service.

Astute prepares to begin trials

The much-delayed Astute nuclear attack submarine is about to leave BAE's facilities at Barrow-in-Furness to begin sea trials pending the completion of final testing. Three more Astutes are currently under construction and parts have been ordered for a 5th. There are likely to be 7 Astutes eventually... or hopefully depending on how bankrupt Britain is in the next decade.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Britain and France to collaborate on anti-ship missile

Britain and France have begun a joint assessment exercise to develop technology for a new helicopter launched anti-ship missile which could be fired from RN Wildcats and MN NH90s and Panthers. The joint assessment will last for 2 years, the project aims to meet the UK's Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) and the French Anti-Navire L├ęger (ANL) requirements.