Thursday, April 30, 2009

Upgraded Lynx AH9 to fly in the Summer

The British Army's upgraded Lynx AH9 will first fly in July. The AH9A Modification Programme is an urgent programme to replace the engines in 12 Lynxes with the LHTEC CTS800-4N to be used in the Lynx Wildcat. The new engines will allow for a 1t increase in payload in hot and high conditions for operation in Afghanistan. The first 4 Lynxes are expected back in Army hands this October and all 12 Lynxes are expected to be back in service by November next year.

The rest of the fleet could also be re-engined, talks with AgustaWestland are currently on-going.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Defence Intelligence hub to be established

A new defence intelligence hub will be built at RAF Wyton in Huntingdon. This will relocate and collect together the "Headquarters Intelligence Collection Group from Feltham, JARIC - the National Imagery Exploitation Centre - from RAF Brampton, as well as Headquarters Joint Aeronautical and Geospatial Organisation and 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic) from Denison Barracks in Hermitage and Ayrshire Barracks in Germany, to RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire".

New purpose built facilities and accommodation will be built at Wyton, Other non-intelligence units at
RAF Brampton will be moved to Wyton allowing the closure and sale of Brampton. The move is expected to be completed by the Summer of 2013.

Nuclear submarines could be moved to Faslane

According to a confidential MOD report, which was released because of a FOI request, the three nuclear submarines based at Devonport could be moved to join the rest of the fleet at Faslane in Scotland. Frigates could also be moved from Devonport to Portsmouth which indicates the future of Devonport is in doubt though so close to an election the government are not saying anything about that! The loss of these vessels would put the future of the port at risk and could mean the loss of 10,000-24,000 jobs (depending on which article you read) which would hit Plymouth very hard but of course save the MOD a lot of money.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Future Lynx becomes Lynx Wildcat

Future Lynx, the next version of the Lynx which has already survived it's first battle - against cancellation due to the current economic and budgetary chaos, will be known as the AW159 Lynx Wildcat in RN and Army service (and AW159 internationally where Agusta Westland are hoping to pick up a lot of sales).

Lynx Wildcat will perform a variety of different roles for the Army and Navy but aircraft will be able to switch between the services because of the high degree of commonality. Which of course means Paul can rob Peter.

P-8A Poseidon makes first flight

The US' next generation maritime patrol and ASW platform, the P-8A Poseidon has made it's first flight. It is based on the Boeing 737 of course. Perhaps with hindsight the UK should have bought this instead of keeping the Nimrod going though it won't be ready for the USN until 2013 and other customers later.

Exercise Red Alligator (Taurus 09)

Exercise Red Alligator was a joint training exercise between UK and Saudi Arabian troops and naval forces. Royal Marines from HMS Bulwark and RFA Lyme Bay made amphibious landings alongside Saudi units north of Gizan. Saudi and RN warships also worked side by side including the refuelling of T23 HMS Somerset by a Saudi oiler.

Royal Marines prepare to fire a Javelin medium range anti-tank weapon

A full gallery is here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Argentina claim rights to seabed around Falklands

Argentina has submitted 40 volumes of documentation to the UN stating it's claims to 660,000 square miles of South Atlantic seabed surrounding the Falkland Islands and other British territories. Argentina also challenged the "the illegitimate British occupation of the southern archipelagos". At stake are potential rich oil and gas fields. The British government has until the 13th of May to make it's own rival claim.

BAE to maintain Harrier fleet for rest of it's life

BAE Systems has been awarded a £574 million contract to maintain the RAF/FAA fleet of Harriers for the remaining 9 years of their lives (when it is planned/hoped they will be replaced by JSF). The combined Harrier fleet is 76 aircraft and BAE must make sure 52 are available at any one time (which is quite a tough target for such a maitenance intensive aircraft like the Harrier). The fleet will be looked after at RAF Cottesmore in a joint team of RAF/RN and BAE staff. The contract will save the MOD £70 million, which in the current climate is very welcome.

It's replacement, the STOVL version of the JSF, meantime is doing well with it's hover tests with vertical thrust exceeding targets.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

£2 Billion cuts for next year

Next year's MOD budget has been reduced by £2 billion to £36.7 billion. So the question is now what will be cut and how will the MOD cover the shortfall in cash just when it really needs it. The MOD is likely to try and sell off what it can such as the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency, which are oil pipelines run by the MOD. More cuts and delays are expected on new equipment thus further increasing the strain on equipment and personnel rapidly wearing out by New Labour's insane policy of trying to fight 2 wars on a peace budget.

A400M could be cut as well as a reduced number of JSF. Though as British engineering jobs could be at risk on both of these programmes that is a tough call. Suffice to say more Type 45s and SSNs are about as likely as Alastair Darling performing the next budget in a pink tutu.

Update : Having downloaded the PDF version of the Budget report one can see (Chapter C Table C11) that the cut in the budget appears worse because of the increase in the budget this year. The estimate for 08/09 is 37.9, budget for 09/10 is 38.7 and 10/11 36.7. So it is still less than 08/09 but not as bad as it first looked. But the military is still seriously underfunded for the commitments being placed on it. However considering the damage made to the British economy by New Labour maybe anything is a blessing at the moment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

JSF hacked

Hackers have broken into Pentagon computers and downloaded terabytes of data on the F-35 JSF project relating to the JSF design and electronics it has been reported. The most sensitive information on JSF was not on internet connected computers though but the information that was gained could help defend against the JSF. Former US officials say the cyberattack appears to have originated in China though China has denied they engage in "cyber crime" (of course) and it is fairly easy to mask the true location of a hacker anyway. Recently the MOD ordered it's first 3 JSFs for the initial evaluation of the type which will serve with the RAF and FAA.

Recently the existence of a vast underground espionage network called GhostNet which has infiltrated over 1000 computers in over 100 countries has been reported by the University of Toronto. China has been accused as being behind GhostNet though there is yet no proof on their involvement.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A440M needs more money

The RAF has 25 Airbus A400Ms on order but they are going to have to wait a long time for them, so long in fact the aircraft they are to replace (older Hercules) are going to wear out and need to leave service long before A400M will be available (it hasn't even had a first flight yet). Now Airbus are saying customers need to provide more money. That may be a tough sell considering the already tight status of the defence budget and the fact money needs to be found to bridge the gap. Cancelling A400M is an option.

Russia preparing to invade Georgia?

Are the following signs of imminent war between Russia and Georgia? Or rather, considering the state of the 2 countries' forces a military invasion by Russia we assume to get rid of Saakashvili?
This all comes amid Russia finally pulling out of Chechnya after a 10 year "anti-terrorist" operation. It could just be a reminder to NATO to not accept Saakashvili, extra pressure on the current Georgian regime and/or a bit of sabre rattling to distract Putin's critics from the current economic crisis in Russia. Mind you last year's conflict was a surprise to many so who knows what could happen this time?

Russian military transport planes land in Sukhumi, Georgia last year (from this gallery)

h/t : Information Dissemination, our coverage of last year's conflict

Thursday, April 16, 2009

UK forces finally defeated by invincible foe : New Labour

Despite overstretch, wearing out equipment, a shrinking fleet and soldiers dying because of inadequate equipment in theatre the MOD has had to find savings of £500 million. Lack of investment despite commitments only slowly reducing and manpower shortages are increasing the strain on existing personnel which in turn means more leave earlier than they would otherwise further increasing the manpower pressures. It is a vicious circle the UK forces and especially the Army cannot get out of.

According to the Conservatives Defence spokesman Gerald Howarth MP problems include the RN not having enough technicians to service it's helicopters, the MOD's own report states serious shortages in a number of areas. Some figures really do jump out and grab you like a 57% shortfall in bomb disposal NCOs (not that bomb disposal is something we need to worry about these days of course). I'm still to be convinced the Tories will be much better (though they can hardly be worse, though lets remember that the Falklands War saved the Royal Navy from a destruction far more than Argentine Exocets managed to achieve).

In Afghanistan the British Army has been shown up and the US have had to move in to take charge after overstretched British forces were unable to take and hold territory against the Taleban. A similiar situation that existed in Basra where the US and Iraqis had to restore order while the British stayed in their bases. A lack of investment plus restrictive ROE and politics holding them back.

What Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler tried to do, destroy the reputation and ability of the British Army has been achieved by New Labour (perhaps it was an experiment to see if wars can be fought on a peace time budget, it failed guys.) Well that is a cause for "celebration", if the politicians and media can find time to talk about it of course.

It is not terminal, the armed forces can regenerate. The British Army in the early 1930s, for example, was around the same size as it is now, yet ten years later was fighting the Second World War on many fronts. We just need budget to match commitments...

Exercise Blue Toreador (Taurus 09)

Following on from Egemen the Taurus 09 deployment has split with some ships heading to Bangladesh for training with the Bangladeshi Navy in riverine warfare while others are taking part in Blue Toreador which is an ASW exercise in the Arabian Sea. Merlins from 820 squadron operating from HMS Ocean "hunted" for the RN submarine HMS Talent. T23s HMS Somerset and Portland also "hunted" for the submarine with their active sonars.

HMS Talent is also honing it's attack and evasion skills in trying to avoid being detected and "destroyed". The US destroyer USS Mitscher and RFA Wave Ruler are also taking part in the exercise which lasts until April 25th.

Photo of USS Mitscher taken from the periscope of HMS Talent

Exercise Egemen (Taurus 09)

Royal Navy ships and Royal Marines from the Taurus 09 deployment have taken part (indeed the operation was run by 40 Commando) in the big Egemen exercise off the Turkish coast. As well as British and Turkish forces, Belgian, Dutch and US troops and ships were also involved. The purpose of the exercise was to deploy an entire Commando Unit ashore and maintain it for a number of days, conducting a variety of combat exercises including reconnaissance and fire support, while protecting it in a "multi-threat" environment. Turkish marines also practised non-combatant evacuation.

The exercise completed phase 1 of Taurus 09 which has now moved onto the Indian Ocean for Exercise Blue Toreador (see separate story).

Babcock wins 10 year submarine support contract

Babcock International have been awarded a 10 year £155 million contract to support the Royal Navy's fleet of submarines. The work will include inspecting submarines to see which work is required when they undergo scheduled maintenance.

In a typical piece of MOD-ese the contracts are "performance based against shared goals with greater emphasis placed on managing through-life issues rather than specific tasks." So that is clear.

Friday, April 3, 2009

MOD unveils new troops

The MOD has unveiled some new forces, they combine utter discipline with being cheap and surely are every general's and bean counter's dream? Actually they are toys based on Action Man which have been launched to fill a gap in the market after the original Action Man became a wimp and eventually was withdrawn from sale. The new HM Armed Forces include personnel from all 3 armed forces and they have authentic weapons. So one assumes their land vehicles also blow up very easily and their ships do not have many weapons.

Seriously though these toys look great though i suspect Dads might enjoy them more than their kids...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fire on Ambush

The troubled Astute submarine programme has had another setback, the second of the class Ambush caught fire last night. Workers had to be evacuated from the submarine which is under construction at the BAE Systems yard in Barrow. An investigation has now begun into the cause of the fire which was found to be on the submarine's outer skin and did not cause serious damage. Ambush's reactor is not yet activated. Repairs should just take a week apparently and probably only cost an extra £500 million - OK i made the last bit up.