Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RAF wants to extend Typhoon life

The RAF has begun looking into the feasibility of extending the life of it's Typhoon fighters beyond 6000 flying hours. This would extend the type beyond it's OSD of 2030. The RAF are confident it can be done citeing the Tornado which has been extended to 8000 hours. Oddly enough but not really surprisingly the UK flies it's Typhoons more than the other builder nations Germany, Italy and Spain yet has ordered the least amount of spares.

Tornado GR4/4A Mid-Life Fatigue Programme (MLFP)

A £28 million contract has been signed for the Mid-Life Fatigue Programme (MLFP) for the Tornado GR4/4A fleet to keep them flying into the 2020s (planned OSD is 2025). Work will be carried out at BAE Warton and EADS in Germany. The contract will see the design and installation of strctural modifications to a trial aircraft which could be followed with a next phase with modifications to up to 40 aircraft.

Chinook HC3 scandal down to MOD incompetance

Among all the scandals involving UK defence procurement the Chinook HC3 scandal has to be the worst of the lot, £500 million for 8 helicopters that can't be used. The problem is said to come from the MOD not requesting the software codes when it signed the original contract and later on not wanting to use software from Boeing at a cost of £40 million. Instead they said they would get it elsewhere for less. Boeing said it would not work and guess who was right? While Boeing's stubborness was also a factor you just wonder how such a scandal, that wastes hundreds of millions of pounds can take place without any apparent comeback?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We've blown the defence budget

Robert Fox writes on the massive scandal that is defence procurement in the UK. A theme often returned to recently but needs to be repeated again and again until something is done. Fox asserts that of equipment currently on order only 2/3 can be afforded. Even a large increase in the defence budget will not fill that gap (not that that is likely to happen). Amazingly the MOD Civil Service is 87,000 strong, larger than the RAF and RN combined. What exactly do all these people do?

Dear MOD, why oh why oh why...

Michael Yon reports (or tweets) that he is to be no longer embedded with British forces in Afghanistan, an amazing about-face coming just a few days after the MOD tweeted itself about how good his dispatches were. He suspects it is because he was about to write about how the MOD is underreporting casualties or it could be because of some Google maps he used in a recent dispatch (though you would think it would be easier for the Taleban to look out of their window to see where the soldiers were not use the internet). Whatever the reason it is rather shortsighted in my view. Michael Yon's dispatches were more or less the only news coming out of Afghanistan reporting what British troops were actually doing out there.

Now we are left with contextless casualty reports and bland press releases from the MOD. And maybe "they" will wonder why so many British people do not understand and support the mission there even if they support the troops, if all they ever read about is "our boys dying" but not what "our boys are doing there" then is it any wonder? Of course the British media should be stepping up to the plate and explaining what the British troops are doing there but do not hold your breath. That would be difficult and it is much easier staying in London and rewriting MOD press releases and PA news reports.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

British lose a Chinook in Afghanistan

One of the precious Chinook helicopters operated by the British in Afghanistan has been destroyed after a possible Taleban attack. The helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing over Helmand after the engine caught fire. None of the crew were harmed and they were rescued. The Chinook was destroyed to prevent it falling into enemy hands. That was an 1/8th of the British Chinook force in Afghanistan lost in 1 go.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cornwall breaks record for distance travelled in a month

The Type 22s may be getting on a bit but they certainly are worked hard. HMS Cornwall has broken the record by travelling 7008 nautical miles in July. The frigate is working on anti-piracy duties off Somalia and that involves plenty of chasing of suspect vessels.

MOD releases more "UFO files"

The MOD has released more details of UFO sightings from the early 1980s up to the mid 1990s. The files released to the National Archive include details of over 800 sightings. Despite this the MOD does not believe there is an evidence for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Of most interest are the files released on the Rendlesham incident in 1980 where US service personnel at a nearby airbase reported strange sights and goings on for a number of days.

The advanced Hubcapite Federation pay us a visit

The files show that the-then Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine said if the sightings were to be dismissed then it was potentially very serious for NATO as it showed a large number of US service personnel at bases in Britain were capable of "serious misperception, the consequences of which might be grave in military terms".

Victorious launches Trident missile

HMS Victorious has launched a Trident missile off the coast of the US, though it was an unarmed one to complete the submarine's Long Overhaul Period and Refuel (LOP(R)). Usually LOP(R) ends when the submarine leaves port to begin it's sea trials but in this case the contract was extended up to the Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO). In more acronym news the LOP(R) also included Strategic Weapons Systems (SWS) operations to test the correct operation of all systems. Vigilant is now having it's LOP(R) and they may also extend this to the DASO too.

"You did launch #3 right? That was the unarmed one."
"Uh oh..."

Monday, August 10, 2009

New contract to maintain Navy and Air Force torpedoes

BAE has secured a £370 million 10 year contract to maintain torpedoes for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Eleven support contracts will be rolled into one with a resultant 20% cost saving or £65 million. BAE will maintain Spearfish and Stingray torpedoes and upgrade the former.

90 years of RAF military pilot training

Some nice photos celebrating the 90th anniversary of RAF military pilot training. A number of events were held to celebrate this at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

Friday, August 7, 2009

MOD to make about face on CTOL for CVF?

There have been reports (though denied by the MOD of course) that they are considering ditching the STOVL F-35B and buying the F-35C instead. This of course would mean the Queen Elizabeth carriers would need to be equipped for CTOL operations. Buying the F-35C is, i feel, the best option anyway as a CTOL carrier means you have greater opportunity for interoperability with the USN and French Navy and can operate "proper" AEW and COD aircraft. The C also has a greater payload and a longer range. The MOD will also like the fact that it will be £2.25 billion cheaper. You have to ask do we need to replace the Harrier with a similar STOVL aircraft or is that a relic of Cold War thinking?

Of course there is the problem of fitting the carriers with catapults, EMALS which is the next-generation electric catapult system being used by the USN on their new generation of carriers has some problems, number 1 being it doesn't actually work yet! The MOD would of course hope and expect it would be fixed by 2020. Of course like anything we'll believe it when we see it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

RAF Typhoon fleet "cut by a third"

The RAF will now only receive 160 of the 232 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters it had originally planned for. Contracts were signed for the third and final tranche of Typhoons by the four original customers in Munich but the UK will now buy 40 instead of 88 and 24 of the planes already bought have been sold to Saudi Arabia. The RAF are expected to operate a fleet of 120 Typhoons with the rest in reserve.

Jetstreams to be replaced

The Royal Navy's Jetstream T2 trainer aircraft are to be replaced from 2011 by Beechcraft King Air 350ER. Though 9 Jetstreams will be replaced by 4 King Airs so they must be very good. The aircraft provide training for observers destined for the Navy's Lynx, Merlin and Sea King helicopters.

Helicopters sent to Afghanistan can't be used in combat

Six Merlin helicopters sent to reinforce the UK helicopter pool in Afghanistan cannot be used, according to RAF sources, in combat operations because they lack armour to protect them from gun and RPG fire by insurgents. The MOD however insist they are fit for use. Fitting the required kevlar armour to each helicopter is estimated to cost £100,000 so we are not talking about a huge amount here, equal to the average MP's lunch budget perhaps. And certainly cheaper than replacing a shot down Merlin never mind the human cost.