Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Briefings : Castle, F136, Club-K

Two ex-Royal Navy Castle class patrol ships are to be refitted, overhauled and upgraded for the Bangladeshi Navy. The deal will secure 100 jobs at the A&P Tyne shipyard.
Ex-HMS Leeds Castle, one of the ships bound for Bangladesh

GE & Rolls Royce have improved their price offer for the troubled alternative engine for the JSF which has often been threatened with termination. The price of the F136 engines delivered in FY2014 and 2015 will now be cut. The new price deal could cut the cost to the Pentagon by a billion dollars over the next couple of years.

A new Russian "super weapon" could put the world's navies under serious threat apparently. The Club-K system is an advanced cruise missile and is said to be able to destroy an enemy aircraft carrier 300 miles away. The Russians themselves say the threat of the missile has been exaggerated especially claims the missile could be hidden in shipping containers and end up in the hands of terrorists, which is all a bit James Bond to be honest.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Briefings : Ash damage (or not), Trident, X-37B

Checks on the engines of Finnish air force F-18s which were contaminated by ash from the Icelandic volcano indicate no significant damage was caused to the engines. The RAF has also said no damage was caused to the engine of some of it's Typhoons which ingested some ash. Typhoon training flights have thus resumed.

The issue of replacing Trident came up again in the second of the debates between the leaders of the three main parties in the UK general election (though little else on foreign affairs in what was supposed to be a debate dedicated to it). The Liberals say they will not replace Trident but will seek to maintain Britain's nuclear deterrent through other cheaper means. The other parties attacked their stance. The BBC asks if there is a cheaper alternative.

The USAF's X-37B space plane has successfully been launched into space for the first time. How long the X-37B will stay in orbit is apparently unknown even to the USAF.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Briefings : Northumberland, Argentina, X-37B

Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland has deployed to the Middle East on a 7 month mission.

Argentina is to buy 2 Mi-171E helicopters from Russia, the first time Argentina has bought weapons from the Russians.

The US' new space plane, the X-37B, could be launched into space for the first time today. The X-37B can spend up to 9 months in orbit and will conduct some classified experiments while up there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Briefings : Albion, VXX, Iran

HMS Albion has arrived in the Spanish port of Santander to bring home British troops returning from Afghanistan who could not fly into the UK because of the current restrictions as well as some civilians. Ark Royal and Ocean are also on standby to bring home Britons from Channel ports (though the current ferries seem able to cope at the moment).

Earlier reports that NATO F-16s had suffered engine damage after flying through the volcanic ash cloud are now being thrown into doubt.

The US are relaunching it's VIP helicopter programme after the horrific cost overruns that scuppered the VH-71. The new VXX could see a new joint bid by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky though that probably means the airframe won't be a European design which angers some Americans (though of course they don't mind Europeans buying American aeroplanes).

Iran showed off it's military hardware though are these SA-20s or oil drums on the back of a truck?

Video : Watchkeeper first flight

The first flight of the British Army's new UAV Watchkeeper.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Briefings : Volcano, Choenan, Portland

HMS Ark Royal, Albion and Ocean have been deployed to help bring British people trapped abroard home. They are heading to Spain and other ports in the English Channel.

The Finnish air force have released pictures of potential damage caused to the engines of one of it's F-18s by flying through an ash cloud from the erupting Icelandic volcano that has largely closed European airspace.

South Korea is investigating the possibility of the corvette Choenan being sunk by a North Korean Shark class mini-submarine. Two of the Sharks at a DPRK naval base are unaccounted for at the time of the sinking.

Type 23 frigate HMS Portland set sail for the South Atlantic last week to replace the destroyer HMS York. As it's remit includes the Falklands then Portland has a potentially interesting deployment.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Royal Navy to bring Brits home?

With the closure of European airspace continuing and the prospect of restrictions continuing for some time the UK emergency committee COBRA is to meet tomorrow and there was an emergency cabinet meeting today. One idea is apparently to fly as many people as possible into Spain which still has some of it's airspace open and then bring people home using Royal Navy and chartered merchant ships. A British Airways 747 is among a number of European airliners which have made test flights today.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ash cloud halts military training

As well as civilian flights the ash cloud from the erupting Icelandic volcano has bought a stop to RAF military training flights and the majority of all military flights. Forces taking part in the Joint Warrior exercise taking place off Scotland have also been affected. SAR helicopters are still expected to operate as normal because they fly at a lower altitude.

Watchkeeper makes first flight

The UK's future ISTAR UAV the Watchkeeper 450 has made it's first flight in UK airspace (luckily before the Icelandic ash cloud closed the airspace).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Briefings : CMWS support, SSBN(X), Cold War exhibits

BAE Systems has won a £16 million contract to support and service countermeasures systems currently operated by UK fixed and rotary wing assets over Afghanistan. For the next 5 years they will support the AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems fitted to 120 UK aircraft.

Nimrod MR2 XV250 has made it's final flight into retirement and will now live at the Yorkshire Air Museum.

The US have started looking at their next generation ballistic missile submarines to replace the Ohio class in the late 2020s. Some commentators are already considering the SSBN(X). The US and UK (who will be replacing their Vanguards in a similar time frame with the Successor submarine) are already working on some joint measures. Meanwhile the US has revealed they have, or are close to having, conventionally armed ICBMs.

In Lithuania you can have a taste of the cold war, or rather a Soviet concentration camp in a new tourist attraction.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Briefings : Election defence plans, Watchkeeper, J-10

The Tories say they will cut the MOD's costs by a quarter in their election manifesto. One area of savings could be to cut co-operational on EU defence initiatives. The Tories also plan to retain Trident, set up a National Security Council and a homeland defence command. Hang on i thought they wanted to reduce bureaucracy? Labour meanwhile will conduct a strategic review and are committed to the aircraft carriers, they will also give a free ID card to veterans and also cut MOD waste. The Liberals will not renew Trident and improve pay and conditions for troops. Sadly finding defence in the parties' manifestos takes some time, its well down the list of priorities.

The UK could extend it's stop-gap Hermes UAV operation in Afghanistan for another 6 months while it continues to get the Watchkeeper 450 ready for service. Hermes 450 have now logged over 30,000 hours in theatre providing the bulk of British ISTAR.

China has been showing off it's J-10B with some nice aerobatics (video in link well worth seeing).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Briefings : Nuclear summit, USAF, Trident replacement

A summit by 47 leaders in Washington is discussing nuclear weapons and nuclear security. The key issue appears to be trying to stop rogue states and terrorist groups like al-Qaeda getting ahold of nuclear weapons or the material to make a device. France meanwhile says it will not give up it's nuclear weapons though the Ukraine is going to get rid of it's enriched uranium. Iran, North Korea and Israel are not attending for various reasons.

The USAF may convert some F-15Cs into radar jammers. These would be F-15Cs upgraded with AESA radar which would allow them to be fitted with a radar jamming pod. The USAF may retire 20 C-5s instead of modernising them to save money and because they have received more C-17s than they originally wanted.

HMS Monmouth has returned from a 6 month tour of service in the Middle East where it's main task was protecting Iraqi oil platforms. Labour have ditched their plans to only build 3 new SSBNs and have pledged to build 4 if they are re-elected next month.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Briefings : Tornado engines, RAF Jackals, Cyber attack

Rolls-Royce have won a 15 year contract to support the RAF's fleet of Tornadoes RB199 engines up until the planned retirement of the Tornado in 2025. The RAF Regiment meanwhile has taken delivery of it's first Jackal 2 armoured vehicles to replace Land Rovers in Afghanistan.

China is suspected as being behind a cyber-attack on India. Files on Indian missile projects and other military information are said to have been taken in the attack in which a number of Indian military computers and those of related agencies were attacked. The first mission-system equipped F-35 has entered flight testing, though the first flight of this first F-35 equipped with sensors, including APG-81 AESA radar, is a year late.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Briefings : Carrier contracts, NPR, Choenan

A final set of contracts for the CVF aircraft carriers worth £20 million have been signed before the general election and the MOD has a snooze. The contracts include tactical communication systems and internal equipment and machinery. The British Army meanwhile has a new "cultural unit" to help train troops in better understanding Afghani and expecially Helmandi culture and society.

The US has published a new Nuclear Posture Review which states how and when the US will use it's nuclear weapons. It says it will no longer use nukes against a state that does not have nuclear weapons even if that state causes mass US casualties (of course this is rather moot, if 10s of 1000s of Americans are killed by chemical weapons for example the NPR may become just yet another piece of paper). The US will also not deploy any new nuclear warheads but will refurbish and re-use existing warheads. The Triad, despite speculation the bomber arm could be disbanded, will be kept.

No clear link between North Korea and the sinking of the South Korean corvette Choenan has been found. Instead the sinking may have been due to metal fatigue though naval divers have apparently found that the ship was hit from below perhaps by a torpedo. Basically no one knows yet.

UK General Election

After months of electioneering the general election has begun and on May 6th the British people will decide on a new government. As a political junkie i shall be enjoying the chaos and mania of course though the MOD will be on a virtual freeze so there may not be a great deal of UK defence news over the next few weeks. Unfortunately defence itself is unlikely to be much of an issue in the election despite the crocodile tears about "Our Boys" the media and (to an extent) the public like to shed. Want to improve the kit to the troops? Yes! Want to pay more taxes to afford it? Er... no!

We are likely to have a strategic defence review after the election no matter who wins. And likely defence cuts because of the economic problems. That will be true if Brown, Cameron, Clegg or Lord Bucket Head are the PM on May 7th.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Video : AgustaWestland Lynx AH9A

From the MOD, but mostly because the Lynx is my favourite helicopter!

Oman to buy Typhoon

Oman is to buy an unspecified number of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters it has been announced by the UK. They were in talks about buying 24 a couple of years ago so it is presumed the order will be for around this number.