Thursday, February 26, 2009

Endurance to return to UK as deck cargo

HMS Endurance, which came a cropper off Chile last December and suffered a flooded engine room, will be returned to the UK as deck cargo aboard Dockwise's newly converted ship Target. The 8000nm journey is expected to take a month, Endurance should be back in the UK by the end of March. The damage to Endurance's engines meant it could not make the journey back to Portsmouth on it's own. Target, Dockwise say, is a semi-submersible heavy left vessel.

Likely something like this will be used

First wing for future RAF tankers heads to... er... France

The first wing section for the RAF's future fleet of A330-200 tankers has been flown to France from Airbus UK's Broughton plant in North Wales aboard a A300 Beluga. 14 A330-200 tankers will be built by Airbus for the RAF. Well we say RAF, although they will have RAF colours and perform RAF duties the aircraft in of Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) will be procured under a PFI deal and will also be available for commercial duties when the RAF don't need them. Though if we are still in Afghanistan it is unlikely they will have that much free time.

RAF gets it's first Hawk 128s... but there is a hitch

The RAF has accepted it's first Hawk 128s and expects to get 22 of them this year with the other 6 next year. However most of the aircraft received this year will be put into storage because of "logistics issues". It is not that clear what these issues are, the MOD declined to comment in English but instead said "Emerging issues have caused BAE Systems to seek a number of production concessions, and the MoD is working with them to identify the optimum way forward in terms of cost and schedule."

OK whatever but the Hawk T2, as it will be designated, is still expected to enter service in November. However the Hawks will initially be in OC0 standard without embedded simulation capabilities of the final OC2 which should happen by 2012. Training of RAF instructor pilots on the new type has already begun.

The MOD PFI Military Flying Training System (MFTS) could be in trouble because of the global financial Armageddon however. Major lenders are now reluctant to back PFI contracts and this could put a spanner in the works in efforts to procure new fixed and rotary wing training aircraft.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

UK to buy it's first JSF real soon

The UK will take part in the F-35 JSF's initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) says the MOD. There are plans to purchase 3 F-35Bs but despite the meltdown of world capitalism and the forthcoming Armageddon the MOD still seem confident they can get all 3. The UK want to take part in the IOT&E at this stage so they can feed back into the programme and get the best aircraft possible. In the long run the UK could buy up to 138 F-35s which will equip the RAF and FAA.

Meanwhile the future development of the JSF is being discussed. F-35 Block 2.0 will be "the first version that offers connectivity between stealth airplanes". Cool.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Merlins get defensive aids

An undisclosed number of RN Merlins have been upgraded with a new defensive aids system to enhance their ability in littoral and overland warfare. Some Merlins have also been fitted with a new EO sensor pod with video link download capability.

The defensive aids update was carried out by Lockheed Martin who are also working on a more general upgrade for Merlin, the HM2, which is due for a first flight next year. Merlin HM2 will new displays including a digital moving map, open systems computer architecture and improved radar. A lot of work is being put into the human machine interface to reduce crew workload and ease training.

UK and French SSBNs collide in Atlantic

The MOD are staying quiet about it but the French are admitting one of their ballistic-missile submarines, Le Triomphant, has struck another submarine, said to be the lead class of the Royal Navy's Vanguard class of ballistic-missile submarines! Le Triomphant's sonar dome was destroyed in the incident, damage to Vanguard is unknown though both submarines were able to make it back to dock and there was no radiation release.

The incident occurred in "heavy seas" (perhaps the background noise masked the other boat from the passive sensors?) off the French Atlantic coast on the night of February 3rd and 4th in heavy seas. The French have said there were no injuries. The systems on both boats aimed at avoiding such an incident seem to have failed on both boats or maybe rather the stealth of both boats was so good they couldn't be detected by passive sonar.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Iridium-Cosmos collision and what it could mean for all of us

A US commercial satellite owned by Iridium has collided in orbit with an ex-Soviet Cosmos satellite (or part of it anyway) and resulted in a large and growing debris field in orbit. Once we get over the "wow cool!" thought of 2 satellites hitting each other at ultra high speed in space we need to look seriously at how we manage the orbital space.

Quite simply if there happened a large number of such events in space (say a war between the US and China where both sides attacked the other's space assets) then space could be rendered unusable for a long time. New satellites would be destroyed as they were launched and were hit by debris and existing assets would be in danger. As these assets were knocked out or simply wore out then replacing them would be difficult if not impossible. We would slowly but surely have to revert back to pre-space age communications and also lose the other benefits of satellites such as meteorology. Suffice to say humans in space would become impossible.

Well that is a long way off yet of course, an apocalyptic view but certainly possible, but the Iridium-Cosmos event should start people thinking about how we try and avoid these sorts of collisions happening and manage the orbital space. Something that is becoming increasingly important as more and more countries put more and more stuff up there. Although space is big things can still hit each other as we have seen.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Final Sentinel R Mk 1 delivered, successful trial in Afghanistan

Raytheon have delivered the final Sentinel R Mk 1 as part of the Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) programme for the RAF. The programme includes 5 Sentinel aircraft along with six tactical ground station units, two operational level ground station units and other support equipment.

The Sentinel has meanwhile been praised following it's successful trial in Afghanistan last year. Defence Minister Quentin Davis called it a "key element of the modern network-enabled battlefield." So there.

The RAF article gives a good overview of what ASTOR actually does and what it brings to the table.

Monday, February 9, 2009

US using AWE to develop its own nuclear weapons?

According to the Guardian the US is using the facilities at the AWE at Aldermaston to carry out research into it's own next generation of warhead alongside work on the UK's. The AWE is apparently helping with dual axis hydrodynamic experiments replicating the conditions in a warhead as it starts to explode (with computer modelling that is). The UK apparently has facilities in this that the US lacks. To be honest this should be a source for pride and makes sense considering how linked our 2 nuclear weapon programems are but of course the likes of CND and other liberals are calling foul. They are claiming it breaches the non-proliferation treaty.

Jones knew, after the warhead test went slightly wrong, he would have a bitch of a report to write in the morning

This states "Each nuclear weapon state party to the treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices indirectly or indirectly." Computer modelling, if that is the extent of the co-operation, probably leaves sufficient wriggle room.

There is also criticism that the facilities at AWE mean the UK is subsiding the US nuclear weapon programme. But as the US is subsiding the delivery system to an extent (although we buy Trident we didn't have to pay for the development of it) maybe there should be a bit quid pro quo.