Sunday, 30 December 2012

Thursday, 27 December 2012

PENZANCE For Refit – The Sandown Class Minecountermeasure vessel PENZANCE is now at Babcock/Rosyth to undergo a multi-million-pound revamp.    The ship will be out of action for five months and when the ship emerges among other upgrades, the PENZANCE will be the first Sandown class with an enhanced 30mm cannon.     The ship enters refit just weeks after the sistership GRIMSBY emerged from the same yard.    After trials and training post refit the PENZANCE is due in the Autumn 2013 is to join a NATO force.
South Georgia Visitors – There are few more remote places than the British Overseas Territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean known as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.   This inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands, known as the South Sandwich Islands has no native population.   The South Sandwich Islands lie about 320 miles southeast of South Georgia.       The present inhabitants are the British Government Officer, Deputy Postmaster, with various scientists, and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey who maintain scientific bases at Bird Island and at the “capital”, King Edward Point, as well as museum staff at nearby Grytviken.

In November 2012 it proved a busy month for Cruise ships with 13 vessels visiting, with unusually two of them, both operated by One Ocean Cruises, visiting together to mark the first anniversary of the interment of the ashes of polar explorer Frank Wild in the cemetery at Grytviken.     There were also several four yacht visits bringing small tourist groups, two of which were specialist photographic groups, and two straightforward private yachts.   Other visitors were the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands own Fishery Patrol Vessel PHAROS SG (a former Northern Lighthouse Board Lighthouse Tender), and another regular visitor put in an appearance in the form of the Falkland Guardship, the Patrol Vessel CLYDE.     There is no fishing activity at the moment.

The main Base Resupply was in November when the British Antarctic Survey vessel RRS JAMES CLARK ROSS to deliver all the food and other goods needed to run the station for the next year.     This is always a big day with everyone, with the ship working cargo until late into the evening to move the cargo to the appropriate stores.     The ship then anchored overnight and briefly came alongside next day to off load a shipping container, quad bikes, and other larger equipment.

Arctic Convoy Veterans Recognised At Last – in one of the greatest injustices done to fallen hero’s at last, sixty seven years after hostilities ceased the Arctic Convoy Veterans are to get the medal so justly and honourably earned.   The Arctic Convoy Star will awarded to veterans of the Arctic convoys that supplied Russia with vital fuel, food and munitions during the Second World War.

More than 3,000 seamen were killed during 78 convoys that delivered four million of cargo.    Eight five merchant ships and 16 Royal Navy vessels were destroyed and it is thought 66,500 men sailed on the convoys, but only 200 are alive today.
Royal Navy’s Global Christmas Presence :  One in seven of its men and women of the Royal Navy/Royal Marines/Fleet Air Arm/Royal Fleet Auxiliary will be on duty this festive season – more than 4,800 men and women in all.   For the record they were deployed as follows:

Strategic Core:
Staff/Northwood Maritime Operations Centre.
Strategic Patrol:                           Strategic Submarine (V Class)

Atlantic Patrol (North}:
Fleet Submarine:                           Fleet Submarine (T Class)
Western Approaches: :                   Frigate or Destroyer (Fleet Ready Escort)
Station Tanker:                            RFA Vessel

United Kingdom (Home Waters):
Search and Rescue/771 Naval Air Squadron/Culdrose
Search and Rescue/Gannet Flight/Prestwick
Bomb Disposal Teams/Plymouth, Portsmouth and Faslane
RN Medics/Working Shifts/NHS Hospitals

40 Commando RM (at HMS PRICE/Helmand)
857 Naval Air Squadron (SEA KING AScC7)
Specialist Helicopter Repair Team/1710 Naval Air Squadron
Bomb Disposal Experts/Fleet Diving Unit

East of Suez:
UK Maritime Component (HQ Bahrain)
Duty Submarine:                 TRENCHANT
Maritime Security Patrols:  MONMOUTH       NORTHUMBERLAND (Type 23 Frigates)
Surveying:                         ENTERPRISE        SCOTT (en route)
Stores and Fuel:                 RFA FORT VICTORIA
Minehunters (Bahrain) :       RFA CARDINGAN BAY (Support Ship)/Forward Support Unit 2
                               ATHERSTONE      QUORN      SHOREHAM     RAMSEY
Embarked Teams/43 Commando RM (Fleet Protection Group) (en route)

South Atlantic:
Antarctica:                       PROTECTOR  (Ice Patrol Ship)
Atlantic Patrol (South):      EDINBURGH (Type 42 Destroyer)
Falkland Guardship:            CLYDE            (Patrol Ship)
Station Tanker:                 RFA GOLD ROVER

Gibraltar Squadron:            SABRE           SCIMITAR (Fast Patrol Boats)

SKYNET 5 Gets Another Satellite – the Royal Navy is of course a big user of satellite technology and thus news that the MoD now has a fourth satellite of the SKYNET  5 Project all put into space 2007 under a £4bn Private Finance Initiative programme with Astrium, a subsidiary of EADS.    The new satellite was launched into space from French Guiana in South America.     The latest satellite will provide extra lines of communication for troops deployed in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, including the Falklands, Cyprus and on ships at sea.
DIAMOND Home – The Type 45 Destroyer DIAMOND has returned home to Portsmouth from a maiden deployment “East of Suez” in time for Christmas (2012), the last returnee before the festive season.   The DIAMOND clocked up more than 31,000 miles on security and counter-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Oman and Gulf.   During the deployment, apart from being a sea the DIAMOND visited Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Gibraltar and Crete plus the cities of Athens and Barcelona.

The embarked 208 Flight/815 Naval Air Squadron (LYNX HMA8) had flown home to Yeovilton the day before the ship docked.   The flight comprised two aircrew, eight maintainers, a controller and two Royal Marines commandos to support their comrades in the DIAMOND’s sea boats.    The LYNX made well over 100 sorties during the six month deployment.
SEA KING Survival Contract – the MoD has awarded a £285 million contract to AgustaWestland to support a fleet of “search and rescue helicopters” said the headlines in media.     This will provide technical and maintenance support to the ninety strong fleet of SEA KING helicopters on charge, which first entered service in 1969.    The fleet includes the Fleet Air Arm helicopters used to carry troops and provide airborne surveillance – it is an extension to the “Skios agreement” which the MoD originally signed with Yeovil based AgustaWestland in 2005.   This final phase of the contract will see maintenance provided until the SEA KINGs until they are retired from service in 2016.    The media reports that the SEA KING will be replaced by the MERLIN helicopters.

The only problem is that the position is unclear from the MoD press release – the SEA KING is currently in service with:-
Royal Air Force - Search and Rescue Units
22, 202 and 203 (R) Squadrons  SEA KING HAR3/3A
Fleet Air Arm - Search and Rescue Units
771 Squadron and Gannet Flight SEA KING HAR5
Fleet Air Arm – Commando Air Wing Units
845, 846 and 848 Squadrons     SEA KING HC4
Fleet Air Arm – Airborne Early Warning
849, 854 and 857 Squadrons     SEA KING ASaC7

Only the Commando Air Wing SEA KING helicopters are scheduled for replacement in 2015-2016 by the 28 Royal Air Force MERLIN HC3/3A aircraft.    No other plans for SEA KING replacements have been announced.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Destroyer Shortage Solved – the original order for the Type 45 Destroyers called for twelve units of the class and by a dint of politicking we saw six enter service.     Now AIRFIX have produced a new plastic highly accurate scale model, some 350 times smaller than the real thing.   How many of the units has the MoD ordered ?   I think we should be told.

Doing What Comes Naturally – the Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH on duty “East of Suez” has been doing what comes naturally to any frigate leading the British input to a five day exercise demonstrating how the region’s naval forces can safeguard merchant shipping.     The MONMOUTH was charged with protecting two supertankers from mock terrorist attack during Exercise Lucky Mariner 13, working alongside US warships and air power.     Over five days, the MONMOUTH joined forces with the Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL supported by American air forces for Lucky Mariner – an annual exercise involving the military and merchant shipping to show how the two can work together to ensure safe passage on the high seas.   The MONMOUTH recently relieved the Type 45 Destroyer DIAMONDEast of Suez”.

The “Black Duke” (MONMOUTH) was given the task of providing close in protection to two large tankers alongside several US Navy and Coast Guard patrol ships, a USNS Supply Vessel in addition to the WINSTON S. CHURCHILL which always by tradition has a Royal Navy navigator aboard.   The embarked LYNX on the MONMOUTH was used to deliver the Black Duke’s Royal Marines Boarding Team by rapid roping on to one of the tankers while the Frigate’s sea boats delivered the rest of the boarders.     

SUTHERLAND Home – The “Fighting Clan”, the Type 23 Frigate SUTHERLAND which was recently relieved “East of Suez” by sister ship NORTHUMBERLAND, has returned to home waters in time for Christmas (2012).

PORTLAND Back – The Type 23 Frigate PORTLAND has completed a £27 million 50 week refit at Rosyth (Babock) where a total of 19 major system and capability upgrades have been undertaken including the installation of new anti-submarine warfare sonar, full upgrade of the ship’s computer systems, an overhaul of the SEAWOLF missile system, replacement of guns, refurbishment of the galley and upgrades of accommodation.    PORTLAND will now undertake a three month period of sea trials and training before returning to the fleet.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

TRIUMPH Crew Honouredthe officers and crew of the Fleet Submarine TRIUMPH which launched TOMAHAWK missiles during the Libyan crisis have been awarded NATO medal, the Unified Protector medal.        It is the first time any submariner has received the medal and they are the only submarine crew who will be in receipt of the Operation Ellamy medal.
OCEAN – Refit – The Helicopter Carrier OCEAN will receive a £65 million fifteen month upgrade at Devonport Royal Dockyard.    The upgrade will be the largest upkeep programme of its kind to be carried out for more than 20 years.     The contract has been awarded to Babcock, and some 70 contractors or more.     The refit upgrades and improvements will be made to the ship’s radar, gun, command system and living quarters.   In addition, around 1,200 metres of new pipework will be laid and around 100,000 litres of paint will be applied.
British Fleet Arrives in Antarctica – A British Fleet has arrived in Antarctica lead by the Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR accompanied by the TERRA NOVA, AURORA, NIMROD and JAMES CAIRD IV.   These five vessels are actually all one, as the TERRA NOVA is a 8.5m Workboat carried on the PROTECTOR, which the AURORA and NIMROD are the names for the ship’s two RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) whilst the JAMES CAIRD IV is a Survey Motor Boat carried onboard. 

The PROTECTOR (and the embarked “Fleet”) will undertaken four distinct work periods this Austral Summer, the first being a Treaty Inspection Period which will be conducted by (British) Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Antarctic Survey officials and their counterparts from Spain and the Netherlands.   Under the Treaty unannounced Base inspections are made with the first being the Comandente Ferraz Base (Brasil) and then they will move on to the Henryk Arckowski Base (Polish).   In February this year (2012) the PROTECTOR came to assistance of the Comandente Ferraz Base following quite severe fire.

UAV Marine – The trial of Unmanned Aerial System in a maritime environment is underway according to the media (well The Times), who report that Britain will consider flying an Unmanned Aerial System from the new QUEEN ELIZABETH Class Aircraft Carriers.   The MoD (or rather one of their Minsters) say this as a misleading representation – saying "We are about to embark on a concept of use demonstration trial to see whether for surveillance purposes a maritime system could be deployed in the future. It is not presently anything past a demonstration phase. I think it is perhaps not a surprise that we are thinking of some trialling, some capability for future use."

This statement refers to an ongoing trial of a small, generic, UAS platform in the maritime environment. The trial involves flying the platform from a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel to assess the capability of a small surveillance UAS in the maritime environment and assist the MoD to become a better informed customer for any potential future requirement. An initial flight from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel has taken place and was successful.    This trial does not involve aircraft carriers, is not assessing whether the UAS could be flown from aircraft carriers specifically, and there is no current programme for this system to be bought.   This is quite a sad reflection on the limited outlook of our “thinkers” at the MoD.

East of Suez – in a timely reminder of the deployed fleet at this time of year news comes of three of our warships “East of Suez”.    The Type 23 Frigate NORTHUMBERLAND is starting a five month stint in the Indian Ocean.   Embarked on the NORTHUMBERLAND is a MERLIN HM1 Helicopter, Boarding Teams from 43 Commando RM who will use the frigates two 40 kt Sea Boats to advantage The ship has just completed her first port visit spending east of Suez, three days in the Omani capital of Muscat.   The NORTHUMBERLAND has relieved sister ship SUTHERLAND and one of the “two” Destroyers/Frigates based “east”.

With a touch of Nelson comes news that the Fleet Submarine TRENCHANT and a Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH met up at sea for a day east of Suez as they temporarily broke off from their respective patrols to give their crews a taste of life ‘on the other side’.

All three will be about their duty over the festive period.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

BLYTH Heads Home – The Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessel BLYTH is heading home after a six month NATO deployment in the Mediterranean.     The BLYTH commenced Operational Sea Training in February 2012 before deploying.     The BLYTH served with the Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group 2 as the 'command platform' during exercises in the region, leading ships from the Turkish, German and Italian navies in all parts of the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea.

The BLYTH deployed in June 2012 and has conducting numerous exercises in mine hunting, surveillance, maritime security operations, since arriving in the region at the end of July, and transited through the Istanbul Straits to the Black Sea, visiting Romania and Bulgaria.        From there the BLYTH proceeded to Italian waters visiting Augusta and Sardinia.     Port visits to Sicily, Albania and Greece followed, after which the BLYTH once again took charge, this time for a major mine hunting exercise in Turkey's Bay of Izmir.
771 Naval Air Squadron Award – the Winchman, Corporal Justin Morgan, Royal Marines, serving 771 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose (Cornwall), received the Outstanding Sailor/Marine of the Year Award at the fifth annual Sun Military Awards held at the Imperial War Museum London. The award was given for Corporal Morgan's part in the rescue of a yachtsman from French yacht the RAOUL PASTERQUE in August 2012.
New Royal Navy Fleet Commander – The MoD has announced the appointment of its new Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff at a handover ceremony in Portsmouth.    Vice Admiral Philip Jones has taken over from Admiral Sir George Zambellas.      Admiral Sir George Zambellas will continue in his NATO role, Commander Maritime Command, at Northwood

Birmingham University Unit Goes Inland – The Patrol Boat EXPOLIT, based at Penarth (South Wales) and operated by the Royal Navy’s Birmingham University Unit recently spent a weekend visit to Sharpness in deepest Gloucestershire, and about as close to Birmingham as it is possible to get by a seagoing vessel.

Anti-Terror Sweep – A small party of Royal Navy personnel at Bahrain have overseen a concerted effort to tackle terrorism and piracy in the seas East of Suez       Over five days, an international force of warships and coast guard vessels focused their attention on either side of the crucial 11 mile wide Bab-el-Mandeb Strait separating the Arabian Peninsula from Africa.    There is no Royal Navy warship here - the two British Type 23 Frigates assigned to the East of Suez maritime security mission, (NORTHUMBERLAND and MONMOUTH) were elsewhere carrying out similar policing duties.   But five vessels in Combined Task Force 150 were directed by the British party of Sailors and Royal Marines, choreographing Operation Wenlock - as the five day sweep was codenamed.

Among the warships participating in Operation Wenlock were the Canadian Halifax Class Frigate REGINA operating in the southern Red Sea with Yemeni personnel embarked, while the Australian Anzac Class Frigate ANZAC in the Gulf of Aden with Djiboutian Navy and Coast Guard personnel on board.    Supporting the operation in the Gulf of Aden were Djiboutian patrol craft,    The Pakistani Zulfiquar Class Frigate SHAMSHEER and the French Anti-Submarine Frigate DUPLEIX with the US Navy Tanker PATUXENT in attendance.
The First Battle of the Falklands Remembered – the Falkland Guardship, the Patrol Vessel CLYDE joined islanders on the Falklands to commemorate the First Battle 98 years ago.   The CLYDE provided a guard and Colours party at the anniversary.

Ninety eight years ago the Battle Cruisers INVINCIBLE and INFLEXIBLE were despatched to the Southern Ocean to hunt down and destroy a marauding German Squadron which had been the victors at the Battle of Coronel off the Chilean Coast which saw the Cruisers GOOD HOPE and MONMOUTH lost on the 1st November 1914.       The ships of Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee’s German East Asia Squadron  approached Stanley in the Falklands aiming to destroy the Royal Navy’s coal stocks and were surprised to find the old Battleship CANOPUS firing at them, and the British “Fleet” under the command of Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, giving chase.   The German Squadron, save a Light Cruiser and an Auxiliary were destroyed with the loss 1,800 German lives.    Only ten died on the British side,  and no Royal Navy ships were lost.

Each year Falklanders have marked the 8th December as ‘battle day’ with a parade and ceremonial wreath-laying in the capital Stanley.   The Band of the Royal Marines School of Music started the parade with a service at the Cathedral and after the service with the Guard from CLYDE, the White Ensign ceremonial party, and the Falklands Islands Defence Force and Stanley Sea Cadets marched to the 1914 War Memorial where further prayers were read and wreaths were laid.    A Search and Rescue SEA KING of the RAF’s 1564 Flight provided the fly past.
Maritime Drones - The MoD has confirmed that it was looking at whether unmanned drones, which are used in Afghanistan to fire on insurgent fighters and relay live video images to bases, could be used above water.    Plans to deploy drones at sea might be ready early next year but some of the proposals will probably be kept secret, the Government has said.

With the advancing of the withdrawal of British ground forces from Afghanistan the RAF Drones operated by 39 Squadron, RAF, soon to be joined by 13 Squadron RAF will have some spare capacity.  The aircraft, which can stay airborne for much longer than conventional aircraft planes and fly almost silently, could be used in a variety of roles, including fighting piracy, search and rescue missions and protecting Royal Navy ships by providing early warning of enemy planes or vessels.    Indeed they could replace the much lamented loss of the NIMROD capability which was such a vital part of our maritime defences and for which we are “enjoying” a “capability holiday” following the 2010 SDSR.

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee has announced plans for an inquiry into Britain's use of drones, as the RAF's REAPER programme (the RAF Drone) has achieved the milestone of providing more than 10,000 hours of armed overwatch in support of UK and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

AUDACIOUS Spin - You would think that the news of the construction of the Fleet Submarine AUDACIOUS was actual news with the bally ho that came with the news that MoD has signed the latest stage of the contract (valued at £1.2 billion) for the vessel.   If fact the long lead items for AUDACIOUS were ordered on 28th August 2006 although the actual order was not placed until 21st May 2007.   The vessel was thus finally ordered when the Prime Minister Tony Blair was clearing his desk shortly before his resignation.   The AUDACIOUS will in fact halfway through the build programme as of December 2012 and cancellation is unthinkable – as would be the cancellation costs!!

The AUDACIOUS is in fact a Batch 2 ASTUTE and will have improved command, navigation and sonar systems using a shared computer environment for the different systems, common consoles and cabinets, and commercial "off-the-shelf" hardware and software, to reduce costs and improve maintainability.   These changes have been “back-fitted” to Boat 3, (ARTFUL) and the eventual aim is to “back-fit” the "Common Combat System" to Boats 1 and 2 (ASTUTE and AMBUSH).

More interesting – though received scant media coverage – was the news that the MoD confirmed that a further £1.5 billion has been committed to the remaining three submarines in the class.     This has enabled early build work to start on the next boat (ANSON) and long lead items to be ordered and bought for the as yet unnamed boats six and seven.   The go ahead for ANSON was in fact given on the 25th  March 2010 when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister and about to fight a General Election in May that year.

The MoD also seemingly has forgotten the names announced for Boats 6 and 7 (AJAX and AGAMEMNON); and the statement quote
"This funding demonstrates our commitment not only to a key Royal Navy capability but also to the submarine industry in Barrow which will play a vital role in Astute for decades to come."    Unquote
is frankly fatuous.  The Coalition Government learned (at heavy cost to the taxpayer and the capability of the Royal Navy) that when messing about with shipbuilding contracts for the Carriers that cancellation is not really an option.

What we have is no more than a progress report on decisions already made and in hand and announcements such as this are really no more than the re-announcement of news which was a much vaunted “crime” of the previous administration.    It seems that the MoD treats the media (and by extension ourselves) as fools.   Let us hope they do not believe their own press releases.
Submarine Command System Contract - A £46m contract to support and maintain a new sophisticated combat system across the Royal Navy's submarine fleet has been awarded to BAE Systems Maritime - Submarines.    The Design Services Arrangement contract will ensure that the system, which is used to navigate vessels as well as gather intelligence and defend against attacks, is maintained and developed over the next decade – it will be fitted on all three classes of submarine in service (i.e : "V", "A" and "T").
Battle of the Atlantic Honoured – Plans have been announced for a host of warships, large and small – two thirds of them British – are due to converge on the Mersey in late May 2013 as one of the highlights of commemorations marking the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.   Four days of events – from solemn services of thanksgiving to action packed combat displays and a wartime swing concert courtesy of the Royal Marines Band – are planned.

The Battle of the Atlantic was waged from the first day of the war in Europe, starting with the sinking of the liner ATHENIA on the 3rd September 1939) to the last the Norwegian freighter SNELAND torpedoed in the Firth of Forth on 7th May 1945, the day the Germans signed the act of surrender).       There will be events in London, Liverpool and Londonderry, and major conferences by leading naval historians in the capital and on Merseyside – with one eye on the past and another on the present to stress that, as the motto for 70th Anniversary states, the UK is “a nation still dependent on the sea” – and hence continues to need a Royal Navy.    Liverpool, which was home to the Western Approaches HQ during the War will see the muster of ships on the Mersey between 24th May until the 28th May 2013 when the will all sail together for Liverpool.
LANCASTER’s Skye Fall – the Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER has completed a year of training bringing the ship back to life after a 14 month £ 22 million major refit, by taking the Royal Navy’s future navigators around the Scottish Isles, calling at Skye as part of this programme.   The “Red Rose warship” has spent the year undergoing tests, trials and finally two months of Operational Sea Training off Plymouth.    The LANCASTER is likely to deploy to the Caribbean in 2013.

As part of this Scottish Isles programme the LANCASTER passed through the wartime anchorage of Scapa Flow, taking time to honour the loss of the Battleship ROYAL OAK which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in October 1939 with more than 800 souls went down with the ship.    LANCASTER held a Service of Remembrance before a wreath was cast into the now silent waters.

F-35B Fleet Air Arm Pilot – the first Fleet Air Arm naval pilot is now undergoing training to fly the Royal Navy’s future “Jump Jeteven though they are yet to be ordered.    Alongside an RAF colleague, the veteran FAA Harrier pilot, a Lieutenant-Commander is converting to the “stealthy fighter” so that this experience can be passed on to a future generation of British aviators.   The transfer to the (only) ‘fifth generation’ fighter is of course central to the Aircraft Carrier programme.    Six weeks of training at Eglin Air Force Base (Florida) with US Marines Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT-501), will allow the British pair to join a very elite group as only 30 pilots have been, or are in the process of learning to fly F35 – also known (in the UK) as the LIGHTNING 11.  After Elgin the British pair will move to Edwards AFB, (California) where they will form part of a UK Test and Evaluation Squadron tasked with conducting operational tests on the new LIGHTNING 11.

The British Lieutenant-Commander (Ian Tidball) initially trained as a Commando SEA KING helicopter  pilot, before switching to SEA HARRIER clocking up over 1,300 hours flying with all three Fleet Air Arm Squadrons (800, 801 and 899) and from all three Aircraft Carriers (INVINCIBLE, ILLUSTRIOUS and ARK ROYAL).   In March 2006 he took part in the very last SEA HARRIER fly past with 801 Naval Air Squadron when that unit paid off.

The UK’s first test variant of the F35B (LIGHTNING 11) flew at Fort Worth (Texas), during the summer of 2012.   It is expected that the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force will start receiving front-line the new LIGHTNING 11 aircraft, probably operating out of RAF Marham, (near King’s Lynn), where the land based testing and training flights will continue into 2017, with the first test flights from the Aircraft Carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH planned in 2018.
Falklands 'Peril' From BAE Closure – Lobbying to save the shipbuilding yard at Portsmouth moved up a level by claims that it could hit the security of the Falkland Islands.   Local “Right Wing” MPs and Trade Union are right to fight for the retention of this shipyard but to invoke the “Falklands” seems a poor argument to deploy.   See past comment on this subject – the “Scottish” question should be enough to secure the future of Portsmouth!

Monday, 3 December 2012

MOD Extends Five Maintenance Contracts – the MoD has extended maintenance contracts with the following companies :
·         Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders Ltd/Birkenhead
·         A&P Group Ltd/Falmouth
Plus the related Lloyd's Register/Bristol (Classification),Trimline Ltd/Southampton (Accommodation Outfitting) and Hempel UK Ltd/Cwmbran (Paint Supply and Application).     The five year extension to existing contracts cover the long term maintenance for the 13 strong fleet of naval support ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Flotilla.   These contract extensions in no way impact of the shipbuilding yards that face an uncertain future.
Warshipbuilding Axe Looms - BAE have said that one of their major shipyards is likely to close, with a decision expected before Christmas 2012.    BAE needs to reduce its footprint and part of that might actually be the cessation of manufacturing at one of its sites, which are at Portsmouth and the two Glasgow yards of Govan and Scotstoun.    The decision will depend on future workload in the warship shipbuilding industry, and there is a “gap” in the British programme expected once the two Aircraft Carriers are completed but before the Type 26 Global Combat Ship programme begins.

The Coalition Government has yet to order a new “Warship” and when they make a move in this direction they order ships from the wrong sort of shipyard ie and overseas one.    The Fleet Tanker replacement orders are well within the capacity of many British shipyards but none quote for the work and there must be a reason for this ?    Was the decision making process along the lines of what has being going on at Department of Transport where trains are ordered “overseas” and franchise calculations seem to be made, incorrectly, and the back of someone else’s envelope.    It is precisely to meet these gaps that orders for the Fleet Tankers should not have been allocated to a Korean shipyard and one can wonder whether the cost benefit analysis took into account of the closure costs of shutting one of the these shipyard – by closure costs these are the tax saving that the shipyard owner can make by closing a facility AND the ongoing Benefit Claims of the employees who face long periods unemployed.

The need is for orders in the short term and there are several options available:-
·         The Ice Patrol Ship ENDURANCE is still on charge in a damaged condition.    The PROTECTOR has been chartered for three years as a replacement.    Surely an order for a new Ice Patrol Ship could be conjured up and work on plans for and ENDURANCE replacement must exist ?   It should lead on the decisions about the future British Antarctic Survey Research Ships.  The RRS JAMES CLARK ROSS is now twenty two years, so a second ship of this type could easily be contemplated.  
·         The wisdom of using Type 45 Destroyers to monitor and chase pirates in fast motorised rubber boats is questionable and certainly not economic sense.    Why not order a series of three “CLYDEPatrol Boats for he specific use “East of Suez” as Destroyer and Frigate replacements – the plans exist and would be simple and expedient use of Government funds which would save money!
BULWARK Home – The Fleet Flagship, the Assault Ship BULWARK is home from the Cougar 12 deployment in the Mediterranean.   The BULWARK had sailed fully loaded with 550 Sailors, Royal Marines and Commander United Kingdom Task Group staff officers, 62 Land Rovers and armoured vehicles and eight amphibious landing craft ready to grasp every opportunity available on the exercise to train and prove the capabilities of the ship.
When Will We Ever Learn ? – the Mail on Sunday reported that new Aircraft Carriers will sail without crucial radar technology for five years stating that MoD sources revealed that radar technology which warns commanders of incoming enemy warplanes and missiles may not be ready until five years after the first of the £7billion warships enters service in 2017.   The ageing SEA KING ASaC7 helicopters, which currently provide the fleet’s Airborne Early Warning will be retired in 2016.

The MoD states that CROWSNEST (the replacement AEW package) quote
.... has not yet reached its main investment decision point, and the contractor for the project has not yet been selected so it would be inappropriate to comment on its in-service date.  Following the withdrawal of Sea King, maritime surveillance will be provided by a number of platforms and capabilities that will work together in a layered approach and we will also work closely with our allies and partners.  unquote