Tuesday, September 29, 2009

UK to buy new Chinooks?

Following the loss of 2 Chinooks in combat operations over Afghanistan the MOD is trying to raise funds to buy some replacements. However the MOD are hoping to buy more than 2 new Chinooks.

Contract signed to upgrade 28 Pumas

A £300 million contract has been signed to upgrade 28 RAF Puma HC1 helicopters. The upgrade to HC2 standard includes new cockpit avionics, communications and flight control. The engines will be replaced with the more powerful Turbomeca Makila 1A1. Defensive aids will also be improved. The first aircraft will be returned to the RAF in 2 years with the rest completed by 2014.

RAF unveils Brimstone precision strike missile hit

The RAF have released a video of the first combat firing of the Brimstone precision strike missile. In the video an insurgent hiding in a wall was successfully hit by the missile which demolished part of the wall, the Guardian reports, though left the rest standing. The attack took place last year, the missile being fired by a Harrier.

Defence Technical College to go ahead

The DTC at St Athan in Glamorgan is to go ahead, and will be the biggest PFI deal ever. The DTC or Defence technical College will consolidate 9 different sites to provide technical training to soldiers from all 3 services. The cost of delivering these services is £12-14 billion (depending on source) over the next 25 years. The first intake of students is planned for 2012 with full operational status by 2017. One should add that this training to be carried out in a partnership with private firms is for technical skills like engineering not combat training.

Bulldog aircraft of South Wales UAS based at St Athan.

The project is not without some controversy of course, PFI deals themselves have been criticised a fair amount over the years. The Liberal Democrats might cancel the contract, not that they are likely to ever be in a position to carry that out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chinooks to be upgraded

The RAF Chinook fleet is to receive a substancial upgrade designed to improve performance in Afghanistan. A £128 million contract will see the Chinook fleet re-engined with Honeywell T55-L-714A engines which are up to 20% more powerful than the existing engines. The helicopters will apparently also be able to fly further as well as higher. Another contract, worth £208 million, will see the helicopters fitted with new glass cockpits to help in low-light conditions. There is no word yet as to when these upgrades will be completed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Typhoons sent to Falklands

4 Eurofighter Typhoons have arrived at the RAF Mount Pleasant base on the Falkland Islands to take up air defence duties over the islands replacing the Tornado F3s. Argentina is raising a bit of a fuss of course but probably mostly for internal consumption.

Britain will cut Trident boats to 3

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the UK will cut it's number of Trident nuclear missile submarines from 4 to 3 as Britain's part in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. And we all thought it was going to save costs too! How naive we all were. Having a fleet of 3 SLBMs (and we assume the PM is talking about the Vanguard replacement programme) is probably fine, it doesn't enable you to ensure a boat on station at all times but then again we are not in the Cold War anymore always minutes from a Soviet missile attack so 3 boats will be good enough... as long as they don't crash into other submarines.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RN Sea King ASaC in use over Afghanistan

The Royal Navy's Airborne Surveillance and Control Sea Kings have been in action over Afghanistan, a major change from their original and main role of providing AEW for the RN's carriers. When the helicopters were upgraded with Searchwater 2000 radar their role began to change as the new radar enabled them to track maritime and land targets as well as aerial, a new capability first used in the 2003 Iraq war. Now they are playing a key role over Helmand detecting insurgents and keeping commanders informed about what is going on. The SeaKing ASaC7s were upgraded with new engines, defensive aids and extra armour for Afghanistan and will soon receive improved rotors.

A400M on track for first flight by end of year

Some good news on the much troubled and delayed A400M project. Flightworthy engine control software is expected to be received by Airbus Military this week which will help keep the air lifter on schedule for it's first flight before the end of the year. The full-authority digital engine control (FADEC) software has contributed to much of the A400M's delays but is now finished... more or less. Ground runs of the engine could begin in November.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Labour commit to Trident... for now anyway

Bob Ainsworth (who? The defence secretary! What do you mean, who?!) has said the £36 billion defence budget will be "overhauled" (whatever that means). Trident would stay though they are now seriously looking into maintaining the deterrant with 3 boats instead of 4. The ongoing operations in Afghanistan would be the "principal commitment for as long as it takes".

So now we are in the peculiar position where Labour would maintain the nuclear deterrant and the armed forces (to some sort of extent) yet the Conservatives would cut... well anything. I don't believe either of them to be honest.

Vote Tory get defence cuts?

George Osborne, the man who would be the next Chancellor, has said that if the Tories win the next election they would hold an emergency budget within weeks and there would have to be big cuts in spending. Of course the defence budget is always the easiest target and Osborne pointed to Eurofighter, A400M and CVF as being prime candidates for cuts.

But he did admit that he did not know what penalty clauses were in place if he did cancel these projects so his plans are rather moot. Added to that much of these projects has already been paid for, 25% of A400M for example, most of the Eurofighter and CVF has already begun construction. Are they really going to stop a major industrial project in a recession? So basically... blah blah!

Monday, September 14, 2009

F135 problems investigated

Pratt & Whitney are investigating problems with the fan blades of the F135 turbofan which will power the F-35 JSF. The tips of some of the blades broke off damaging the jet engine during a ground test. The tests were on an engine which has already clocked up 8 years of simulated service life. So that should helpfully give P&W plenty of time to fix the problem experts say. That is reassuring huh?

First production Nimrod MRA4 takes to the skies

The first production Nimrod MRA4 has taken off from BAE's Woodfood facilities. Following the flight test the aircraft then landed in Norwich to be outfitted in RAF colours. The aircraft is the first of 9 production MRA4s to be built though the 4th MRA4 to date (of course there was originally going to be 21). The type is close to being ready for the RAF to take over, it will then hopefully begin 30 years service.

Astute prepares to begin trials

The much-delayed Astute nuclear attack submarine is about to leave BAE's facilities at Barrow-in-Furness to begin sea trials pending the completion of final testing. Three more Astutes are currently under construction and parts have been ordered for a 5th. There are likely to be 7 Astutes eventually... or hopefully depending on how bankrupt Britain is in the next decade.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Britain and France to collaborate on anti-ship missile

Britain and France have begun a joint assessment exercise to develop technology for a new helicopter launched anti-ship missile which could be fired from RN Wildcats and MN NH90s and Panthers. The joint assessment will last for 2 years, the project aims to meet the UK's Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) and the French Anti-Navire L├ęger (ANL) requirements.

Q-Sight ordered for RN Lynxes

12 remote sighting systems with Q-Sight displays are to be bought to equip Royal Navy Lynx helicopters (Lynx HAS 8 to be exact). Q-Sight displays imagery from a machine gun's thermal sight on an overlay screen on a weapon operator's helmet.

The displays can work with night vison goggles and the operator can quickly switch between the two. Q-Sight uses holographic waveguides apparently.

Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition [Photos]

All eyes were on the XSR military interceptor special forces speed boat though maybe looks a bit gimmicky to me. Here are some more photos from the expo which is being held at the ExCeL in London.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Defence research budget to be cut by £100 million

The MOD is to reduce it's science, innovation and technology budget in 2010-11 by 20%, its already been reduced by 7% this year compared to last year. Companies like Qinetic have already made 400 people redundant because of the existing cuts. You would think, of course, that cutting money going into technology and innovation (which then feeds through into the defence manufacturing sector, one of the few industries still making stuff for export) would be a bad idea especially at the moment. The MOD unfortunately do not agree. But then again their hands are tied, the Treasury wants cuts and there are higher priorities than helping support companies which earn Britain exports money. Like benefits for the workshy.

Ark Royal returns to fleet

RN carrier HMS Ark Royal has returned to the fleet following a £12 million refit and update. Improvements during the seven month refit include updated IT systems, new exhausts and improved sewage treatment system. The hull has been painted with a new kind of paint called intersleek which apparently reduced fuel consumption. Considering the price of oil these days that update should pay for itself within months. Ark Royal will undergo sea trials and then resume it's role as the RN flagship.

Meanwhile work on it's replacement continues apace. The first sections of HMS Queen Elizabeth have arrived at Rosyth for assembly and £52 million in contracts have been signed for various equipment.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Daring carries out ammunition trials

HMS Daring, lead ship of the Type 45 destroyer fleet, has visited Marchwood military port at Southampton for ammunition handling and loading trials. The MOD are not forthcoming with many details of the trials but helpfully tell us the T45 carries "enough electrical cable to circle the M25 motorway three times". These trials which were carried out during a 24 hour visit are part of the series of trials the ship has to complete before it is accepted into service next year. Maybe even with some armament.

A400M breaks cover

The troubled and delayed Airbus A400M military airlifter has been moved out of the Airbus factory in Seville to begin ground testing. First flight is now being mooted for the end of the year or the start of the next. It was supposed to fly in 2008 of course.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another Chinook bites the (Afghan) dust

The UK has been forced to destroy another of it's precious Chinook helicopters following a "landing incident". There were no injuries reported to crew or the soldiers being carried when the Chinook made a hard landing near Sangin and sustained damage to it's undercarriage, nose and front rotor. Because of the location of the helicopter it was decided the helicopter could not be safely recovered and was destroyed by explosives.