Saturday, March 28, 2009

Exercise Cape Bayonet 09

Just to remind the world and especially Argentina that the British are still going to defend the Falklands the latest joint-operation exercise Exercise Cape Bayonet has been held on the islands. The exercise involves all 3 services and T42 destroyer HMS Manchester represented the RN and provided fire support for Army troops using it's main gun. It also directed RAF Tornados to "targets" in support of ground forces.

The PM meanwhile will be meeting his Argentine counterpart as part of his South American tour but said that sovereignty of the islands would not be up for discussion. Thing is, if Gordon Brown said night was dark i'd want to check for myself first so who knows what will happen?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Audacious gets its keel

The fourth Astute class SSN has received it's keel though the question at the moment is how many Astutes will finally be built. The government are promising 7 though that would leave the attack submarine fleet smaller than the MOD has said it needed once the existing S and T class boats are retired over the next few years. Because of the need to get started with the replacement SSBNs it may be more than 7 Astutes could not be built even if the government wanted to, unless they can squeeze some more life out of the Vanguards and squeeze an 8th Astute in.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sceptre returns to service

HMS Sceptre, the oldest sea-going vessel still in service with the Royal Navy (though built in 1978 so its not exactly ancient) has returned to service following a refit or to be precise it's RAMP - Revalidation and Assisted Maintenance Period. The work will ensure Sceptre can safely operate for it's final couple of years of service. Weapons and electronic systems were also upgraded though the MOD press release doesn't say how exactly.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taurus 09 line up

Taurus 09 is the largest Royal Navy deployment for some time so of course there was a ship line-up photo-op in the Mediterranean Sea to show off a bit. Taurus 09 is led by HMS Bulwark and includes exercises in the Med and through to the Far East.

A full gallery is available here.

UK buys first 3 JSFs

The UK has kept to it's word and ordered it's first 3 F-35B JSFs (Joint Combat Aircraft JCA in UK parlance) for initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) work. The aircraft should be delivered in 2011 and will be drawn from the third initial production batch. The aircraft will be assigned to a joint test team in the USA, maybe joined by the 2 aircraft the Dutch have also ordered. The UK is expecting to spend £2 billion on this initial testing phase.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trident warhead refurbishment delayed by Fogbank problems

The refurbishment of W76 warheads used by UK and US Trident nuclear missiles has apparently been delayed because the US has "forgotten" how to make Fogbank, a mysterious material used in the manufacture of the warheads. Fogbank is classified naturally but is thought to be an aerogel or foam that acts as an interstage between the fisson and fusion stages of the bomb. A new facility had to be built in the US to make the material as the old facility had already been demolished. The Fogbank problems are said to have delayed the warhead refurbishment by a year and cost an extra $67 million.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nimrod fleet to be withdrawn for safety modifications

The Nimrod reconnaissance fleet is to be withdrawn from overseas operations so it can have modifications to improve it's safety. Following the crash of a Nimrod in 2006 it was recommended the fleet have replacement fuel seals and engine bay hot air ducts. "Technical experts" have said the planes should not fly after the end of March until those hot air ducts have been replaced. Overseas operations will be halted to speed the progress of the modifications.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Troubles returning to Northern Ireland?

The shooting of 2 soldiers in Northern Ireland by unnamed paramilitaries will be a shock to people who thought the "troubles" belonged in the past. The soldiers were the first murdered in NI for 12 years and it is thought the attack was made by renegade republicans (possibly the Real IRA who have shown signs recently of rearming and whom tried to detonate a car bomb last year) out to try and derail the troubled peace process. 4 others were also injured and taken to hospital following the attack at Massereene Army Base, home to 38 Engineering Regiment, in County Antrim.

The truth is though the violence has continued in Northern Ireland since the end of the bombing campaigns of the likes of the IRA. Sectarian violence has continued with punishment beatings common. Bombings may have ceased and shootings reduced but the violence and potential for violence has remained as seen by the above sad events. 15% of MI5's total intelligence gathering resources are still dedicated to fighting terrorism in the province. Undercover surveillance soldiers from the Army's Special Reconnaissance Regiment recently revealed to be operating in NI again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chinook Mk3 fiasco condemned by government committee

The Public Accounts Committee has condemned the fiasco that is the Chinook HC3 which has wasted millions of pounds and may have led to the deaths of British troops in theatre who had to travel overland because of a shortage of helicopters. Despite costing £422m the 8 Chinooks have hardly been used as, because of MOD bungles, the helicopters cannot fly at night or in adverse weather. The MOD did not get the software code that would enable them to get an airworthiness certificate for the type. Now the plan is to downgrade the new Chinooks back to HC2 standard so they can finally be used and relieve the tension on the rest of the fleet in Afghanistan.

Typhoon Availability Service contract signed

BAE Systems have received a £450 million contract for the maintenance and support of the RAF's fleet of Typhoons for the next 5 years in a joint partnership deal with the service. Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) will, it is claimed, maximise Typhoon availability in the most cost-effective manner. We'll see.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Vigilant gets £300 million weapons upgrade

HMS Vigilant's refit began last year but today the MOD announced that the SSBN would receive a £300 million upgrade during it's 3 year refit. As well as a new reactor core Vigilant will receive upgrades to it's self-defence and Trident missile systems as well as improvements to the accommodation and mess areas and an improved safety system. Some information on Vanguard class upgrades can be seen here.

Military to use new gel that stops bullets

A small company has developed a new gel which hardens when it it hit at high impact. d3O locks into a solid form when it is hit absorbing the kinetic energy from the hit. The MOD has awarded the company £100,000 and it is hoped the gel can be applied to the inside of soldier's helmets to reduce the chance of bullets or other projectiles penetrating them. It could be also be employed elsewhere on a soldier's armour.