Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Video : 40 Commando Royal Marines on boat patrol at Kajaki

Royal Marines from 40 Commando in Afghanistan don't often have to call on their skills as an amphibious unit. But around Kajaki, their ability to operate on the water as well on the land makes them an especially useful force...

Briefings : Pakistani F-16s, Illustrious, French MALE

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New armoured vehicles for Army in Afghanistan

The MOD has announced that British troops in Afghanistan will be getting some new armoured vehicles. 140 additional Jackal 2s and 28 Wolfhounds will be bought. The Jackals, which will take the total ordered for the Army up to 500, will be of the 2A model with improved cab protection. The Wolfhound order will take the total orders for the tactical support vehicle up to 125.

Briefings : Atlantic, T-X, KC-10

  • The German Navy has retired it's last Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft. Second hand P-3C Orions are now operated instead.
  • One of the next big aircraft procurement programmes is a new advanced trainer for the USAF to replace the T-38 Talon. The winner of the T-X programme would also likely perform well with other trainer procurement programmes worldwide so the stakes are high. Contenders include the T-50 Golden Eagle and the Hawk 128.
  • Boeing have won a $216 million contract to upgrade the cockpits of the USAF's fleet of KC-10 tankers. The upgrade includes a new communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system to allow the planes to operate and comply with forthcoming civil aerospace organisation standards.
  • Sweden will buy 2 new submarines.

Amphibious force joins Auriga

The Royal Navy's amphibious task group has left port to join up with US and French naval forces off the east coast of the US to take part in the Auriga deployment. HMS Albion and HMS Ocean will join in exercises with the US Navy and USMC. 3 Commando RM will take part in some exercises at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. HMS Ark Royal is already with Auriga (acting as flagship) and has embarked 12 USMC Harriers (we don't have many left of our own). FAA pilots will be flying USN F-18s however in preparation for flying the JSF (one day - we hope).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Government will move ahead with Trident but look at costs

The Defence Secretary in a parliamentary debate said that the UK would definitely move ahead  with a continuous sea-based nuclear deterrent though value for money will be looked at in all areas. These comments came as Fox was talking about how he intended to restructure the MOD to make it more efficient and leaner (P45 printing commence!)

RN submarines to have female crew

Women will be allowed to serve on the Royal Navy's fleet of submarines after research showed the air and proximity of the nuclear reactor on board the submarines would not adversely affect pregnant women. The first female crew are likely to be 5 officers who will join one of the Vanguard ballistic missile submarines. The Guardian meanwhile lauds the UK armed forces for their efforts on diversity and equality.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Briefings : Agamemnon, KC-X, K-8

Work has begun on the 5th Astute class submarine for the Royal Navy (to be named Agamemnon) though it will be part of the coalition's strategic defence review. But then again most things will be these days.

The KC-X next generation tanker deal for the USAF is expected to be announced in November. EADS and Boeing are both bidding in the long-running and troubled competition. The US Army is experimenting with fuel cell technology on an M1 Abrams tank. The tank's auxiliary power unit will convert diesel into hydrogen and then generate electricity using a fuel cell.

China's K-8 jet trainer / light attack plane is a popular buy at the moment. Myanmar have ordered 50 of the planes which will be supplied in part-form and then assembled in the country.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Briefings : SAR-H binned?, F136 to be binned?, LEMV

The SAR-H next generation UK search & rescue service announced earlier in the year has been suspended as part of a £10 billion series of cuts announced by the government today. The PFI contract will now be reviewed. Some design work for the Trident replacement programme will also be delayed.

While the JSF programme looks ever shakier, the alternative engine F136 programme for it looks to be on foundations of mash potato. US Defence chief Gates has said funding the F136 would be a serious mistake. Bad news for Rolls Royce.

Good news for fellow UK company Hybrid Air Vehicles however who will design the platform to be used in the Long-Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) programme, an unmanned surveillance airship intended for use in Afghanistan. The airship is a hybrid design which gets 40% of it's left from aerodynamic lift. Northrop Grumman will build the airships.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Briefings : J-6, US defence cuts, South America

The PLAAF has officially bid farewell to the J-6, it's version of the MiG-19 Farmer. The type remained in production long after the Soviet Farmer had ceased production and indeed up until the 1990s was the core type in China's air force. The J-6 was retired from combat duties in 2005 and now withdrawn from it's remaining duties too.

A committee in US Congress is looking into ways of dramatically cutting US military spending. The Sustainable Defense Task Force plans to cut over a trillion dollars in military spending over the next 10 years with all services in the firing line for possible deep cuts. One programme of course in the firing line will be the JSF with flight tests of the Block 1 aircraft now underway. Another big procurement programme in trouble is the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle for the US Marines who have been asked to justify it.

One place military spending is still ongoing is in South America. Venezuela wants to buy another 22 K-8Ws for the training and light strike roles while Chile wants to modernise it's Hercules transports with new cockpit displays.

The safety of ammunition used by the British Army has raised concerns with a watchdog worrying that the potential for a serious accident. The PM is to tell MPs that the winding down of the British presence in Afghanistan is to soon begin. The Chief of the Defence Staff was removed from his post earlier (or his early retirement announced rather) indicating the PM wants a new chief to oversee the withdrawal. However US government geologists have apparently found vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan so maybe they'll be wanting to stay after all.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Briefings : MALE, Afghanistan, Serbian Typhoons?

The UK and France are to work together on technology studies for a European MALE (Medium-Altitude Long Endurance) UAV. The French are keen on a European solution as the alternative would likely be an American solution like the Reaper which the RAF already operate and which the French are considering as a stop-gap. Italy meanwhile have received their first Reapers.

The number of bomb disposal teams the British Army has deployed in Afghanistan is to be doubled to 20. The Prime Minister wants the allied action in Afganistan to be speeded up and extended to stabilise the country faster so UK forces can be withdrawn. A progress report on Afghanistan will also be published once a quarter (a good move in my view).

Serbia have expressed an interest in buying the Eurofighter Typhoon to replace their remaining Fishbeds and Fulcrums. A plan has also been drawn up for the production of 124 Tranche 3B Typhoons for the 4 partner nations. Syria is to buy Fulcrums, armoured vehicles and other weapons from Russia.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Briefings : Sharpshooter, Trident, Naval operations

Royal Marines from 40 Commando have received the new long range Sharpshooter L129A1 rifle the UK bought earlier in the year as an urgent response to the need for a longer-ranged rifle as the SA80 was struggling with the medium to long range combat being fought in Afghanistan.
The RUSI has warned that trying to replace Trident with an alternative nuclear deterrent will likely cost more than retaining Trident unless the UK is willing to seriously dilute it's commitment to a continuous deterrent presence (which might be an option to be honest). Defence cuts (which are very likely) could affect the Army and RAF mostly with the Army being reduced to it's smallest size since the Boer War (a kind of pointless comparison though to be honest).

The French and US Navies have been conducting some joint exercises involving French Rafales landing on a Nimitz aircraft carrier and also one having it's engine removed and refitted on the US carrier to demonstrate interoperability. USN Hornets also performed landings on the Charles de Gaulle. Meanwhile the USN is asking the public for help in trying to find 4 of it's UUVs which it lost contact with during an exercise.

HMS Daring is undergoing 6 weeks of intense training as it is tested by the Flag Officer Sea Training taskmasters who make sure RN warships are fit for action. Though it can't receive the full FOST treatment as it doesn't have a working Sea Viper system yet of course.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Briefings : Scimitar, VIP helicopter, JSF

The Scimitar has been in service since 1971, so its the same age as me. And like me its starting to feel it's age. The Army's reconnaissance vehicles have been criticised as being past their sell-by date. The FRES programme is intended to deliver a replacement but of course has been plagued by delays. The Army's most decorated soldier WO2 Mick Flynn said the Scimitar's gun often jammed and the light tank often broke down.

Boeing are to offer a licence-built AgustaWestland AW101 in a renewed competition to produce a new VIP helicopter for the USA. The AW101 did win the competition before, that time as part of a joint-bid with Lockheed which eventually was cancelled after huge cost rises.

The carrier version of JSF, the F-35C, has made it's first flight. The JSF is due to start replacing the US Navy's Hornets by around 2016. The USAF and US Army meanwhile has ordered 8 more C-27J tactical transports from Finmeccania.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Briefings : J-15, Dauntless, Bullets

The Russians are annoyed with the Chinese for "copying" it's Su-33 Flanker-D as the J-15 for it's own aircraft carriers which are yet to be completed. The Russians however say that the J-15 is inferior to the Su-33.

The second Type 45 destroyer has joined the Royal Navy as HMS Dauntless. It is of course great news though tempered by the fact 1/3 of the total T45 fleet is now in service.

The MOD has contracted BAE Systems to produce a better bullet. A "higher performance" 5.56mm bullet is being sought after worries the standard NATO rounds are no longer effective against such obstacles as ...er... car windscreens.