Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Phalanx Block 1B installed on RN warship; Westminster upgrade

Type 23 frigate HMS York has received a Block 1B upgrade to it's Phalanx CIWS. 16 Phalanx will be upgraded in total in the contract with Babcock. The upgrade adds a Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) to the CIWS to help it engage with low-flying aircraft and surface targets. Meanwhile sister ship HMS Westminster is to receive Seawolf and command system, DNA(2), updates when it undergoes an £11 million refit.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pumas to be upgraded

The RAFs Puma HC1 fleet is to be upgraded and life extended in a £300 million contract. The upgraded Pumas will have new engines (Turbomeca Makila) and avionics (glass cockpit, various new systems) to take them into the early 2020s with a plan to replace it with the Future Medium Helicopter in 2022.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dauntless completes it's sea trials

The second T45 destroyer HMS Dauntless has completed it's sea trials successfully after 4500nm long series of trials in the Clyde and North Channel. Dauntless remains on schedule to be handed over to the Royal Navy in December.

Now defence would be cut by the Tories, protected by Labour?

The general election of course has already begun (even if the election is not until next year) and for a change defence has become part of the battleground and not invisible during the campaign. Personally if being used of a political football helps get the armed forces the funding they require then so be it. The Conservatives have already said that defence would not be exempt from budget cuts if/when they get to power (though international development would be safe, i'm sure core Tory voters love that!) but now the PM (no not Brown the real PM) says defence will be exempt from spending cuts should Labour win the next election. Whether you can actually believe anything Mandleson says is another matter of course. Labour's record on funding the armed forces has not been good over the last 12 years so why should we believe 5 more years would be any better.

RN personnel investigate a pirate dhow, not as some cruel people might speculate an artist impression of the entire Royal Navy in 5 years time

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trident replacement design contract delayed

A design contract for the Vanguard SSBN replacement submarines has been delayed. Originally it was to have been signed in September but now it will be delayed until the non-proliferation treaty conference in New York next year. Possibly a sop to the Communists in the Labour party (which is most of them, including the PM) and of course allows the government to delay committing to spending money so they don't feel so bad about it (rather like the small boy who has broken a window and knows he has to admit to doing it eventually but hides in the corner and puts it off). It will also give them more time to see if they can just build 3 boats instead of 4 of course.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

PMQ clash over helicopters for Afghanistan

Prime Minister's Question Time (yah-boo rubbish usually) had a defence theme this week as David Cameron used the theme of the lack of equipment for the troops in Afghanistan as his theme. He said that only a small amount of the total helicopters available to the British armed forces are in Afghanistan, and the US Marines who have the same number of troops as the British there have far more helicopters. The Prime Minister responded by saying more choppers would be available but they required modification before they could be deployed.

Thats true of course but some of these modifications are taking time. For example 6 ex-Danish (but brand new) Merlin helicopters bought in 2007 for use in Afghanistan but they have still not been upgraded despite the MOD saying it would be done by 2008.

Number of Panthers bought : 401. Number to go to Afghanistan : 67

Only 67 of the Panther armoured vehicles bought by the MOD are suitable to be deployed to Afghanistan. The other 334 (yes that is right, 334) will be used in "pre-deployment training, individual and collective training, and trials and development" according to the government. The problem is the vehicles, despite costing hundreds of millions of pounds, are unsuitable for action and an extra 20 million had to spent getting 67 of them ready for combat. The bad (ok even badder) news is that even with the changes if they get hit by an IED or other insurgent toys they are likely to be permanently damaged.

The changes include ECM, better protection, air conditioning and space for a fourth crew member. Its not known if funds will be available to get the other 334 up to speed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chinook HC3 flies... at last!

One of the most ridiculous cock-ups of the MOD was the procurement of 8 Chinook HC3s in 2002 which then couldn't be flown because the flight software could not be certified and thus became rather large ornaments. Now work is being carried out to get the helicopters usable by, basically, reverting them back in some ways to HC2 standard by replacing the avionics. The first conversion has finally taken to the air and it is hoped all 8 will be in service finally by the end of next year.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Everyone wants a review

The Tories say they will conduct a strategic defence review now Labour say they will do the same after the next election, before that there will be a "root and branch" review of defence policy by the end of this year. The initial review will not look at making cuts to the defence budget, no word on what the strategic defence review would do of course.

However the initial review will "examine defence policy as a whole - its purpose, the way it works, what the services expects, its technological priorities".

Friday, July 3, 2009

Scottish yards to be saved by FSC?

The chief executive of BVT has said that they are close to signing a deal with the MOD for the Type 22/23 replacement frigate the Future Surface Combatant which will keep the 2 Scottish shipyards under threat open after the completion of CVF. Work could begin by as early as 2013 he added and would help guarantee 15 years work for the yards. Seems a bit soon to be honest and what exactly would they be building?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two Navy shipyards could close

Two navy shipyards could close after the conclusion of the CVF contract to build the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers. A leaked memo from BVT which owns yards in Glasgow and Portsmouth says that the MOD is willing to pay for the 1000s of redundancies when the yards close in the middle of the next decade.

After CVF it is thought just 1 yard will be needed for RN work. Its thought likely to be one of the Clyde yards and Portsmouth as the latter is more modern but not big enough for surface ships of the size of the T42 though of course T45 (which has replaced T42) will be in long completed by then and the only naval orders on the horizon in the latter part of the next decade and beyond are likely to be the next generation frigate fleet.