Wednesday, 29 February 2012

February 2012

Clockwork JHC – is located 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, and is where to be found the British Joint Helicopter Command training base at Bardufoss (Norway).    The base, known as Clockwork JHC, provides survival and operational training and support facilities that enable aviation capable units to survive, operate and fight in extreme cold weather environments.    In the inhospitable terrain, with extreme weather conditions and temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees celsius make Bardufoss the ideal location for cold weather warfare training.    Some 200 naval personnel in the Commando Helicopter Force (The 'Jungles') from Yeovilton, are currently deployed to Clockwork to undertake training and make preparations for Exercise Cold Response which takes place in northern Norway in mid-March.    This exercise involves 2,000 Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel, with the nation's flagship, the Assault Ship BULWARK in the vanguard among other ships.    Some 13,000 troops of NATO nations will be participating in Exercise Cold Response.
February 2012

SPAG Trains for Submarine Rescue in Gibraltar - members of the Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) drawn from all three services have been putting their parachuting skills to the test at Gibraltar with the Group's main task is to deploy a team of people with escape and rescue knowledge to the scene of a submarine in distress - and to do so as quickly as possible.     They are usually are on six hours' notice to take-off, twenty-four-hours-a-day, all-year-round, and, at RAF Brize Norton, there is always a HERCULES transport aircraft available in the event of a submarine emergency.

The exercise has seen a tri-service mix of medics, logistics specialists, radio operators, engineers, divers, and even trainee parachute instructors, taking part.       Exercise Gib Splash is also an important training event for the aircrew themselves as they need to learn how to fly as low as 1,000 feet over a precise target, and with parachutists jumping from the tailgate, and the exercise allows the boat crews on the water to gain additional water safety qualifications as Gibraltar is ideal for this kind of training.   The next part of the SPAG training will come in July when they rehearse the other part of the operation - that of building a floating triage and medical centre.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

February 2012

Royal Navy Diving Expertise It is usual for the Fleet Diving Squadron to have two divers always on ten minutes notice to deploy anywhere for explosive ordnance disposal, and within 24 hours a five man team can be sent anywhere in the world for fleet maintenance and repairs.    The Fleet Diving Squadron is a 150 strong team from its HQ in Horsea Island, Portsmouth, with assets located in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Faslane.    The Northern Diving Group (based in Faslane) is primarily responsible for providing bomb disposal teams and underwater engineering capability whilst the Southern Diving Group is one of two Fleet Diving Squadron Area Diving Groups under the command of the Fleet Diving Group whose mission is to deliver Maritime explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Force, Protection, Diving and EOD to the Fleet.

It was not surprising therefore that the Italian authorities asked for and were given the services of “Scotland's top Royal Navy diver (Lieutenant Commander Kevin Stockton) who flew to for multinational discussions on the best way to recover remaining bodies trapped in the capsized cruise ship COSTA CONCORDIA.    Experts from Italy, Germany, Sweden and Denmark discussed the options available to divers in what is now the sixth week since the liner keeled over off Isola del Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany, Italy, on 13 January 2012.

The Northern Diving Group in December 2011 the Group won the Royal Navy's 2011 Diving Unit Effectiveness Trophy after responding to 120 explosive ordnance device call outs in the year, including carrying out crucial forensic work as part of the Celtic Football Club parcel bombs investigation. In that case, they dismantled the packages by hand, photographing and x-raying them before handing them over to scientists and detectives.   In another incident, a team of divers from the unit were airlifted to a nuclear submarine in the Atlantic and worked for 36 hours non stop to free a fouled propulsor unit, enabling the submarine to return to its patrol duty as quickly as possible.
February 2012

New Royal Navy Sea Survival Training Centre - The new training centre was officially opened at Horsea Island (Portsmouth) to give current and future Navy personnel the best preparation if the worst thing were to ever happen at sea.     The £2.4m project has replaced the old facility established in 1982 following the introduction of the statutory requirement for all Royal Navy personnel to undertake initial and subsequent regular refresher training in ship abandonment and sea survival procedures.   During the 1982 Falklands Conflict, Her Majesty's ships COVENTRY, SHEFFIELD, ANTELOPE and ARDENT were lost together with Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels SIR GALAHAD and SIR TRISTAM which were damaged to such an extent that personnel were required to abandon ship.

The events of 1982 and the subsequent lessons learned brought the training requirements into sharper focus and indeed the dedicated Sea Survival Training Centre at Horsea Island was established in Portsmouth     Construction was completed on the new facilities in December 2011, slightly ahead of schedule, and was managed by the Royal Naval Infrastructure Organisation (RNIO), with the contract being delivered through a partnering relationship between Babcock (formally VT Flagship) and the principle contractor Mansell Construction, supported by a design team from Gifford Consulting.
February 2012

Underwater Climate Change Research - Data collected by Royal Navy submarines, as part of standard operations, is set to provide clues on Arctic climate change.    Little is known about the areas of water underneath the Arctic ice, as sensors are difficult to place for the long term. Now environmental researchers are to be presented with previously unavailable information, courtesy of the Ministry of Defence.      Environmental data such as water temperature and salt content are routinely monitored by all Royal Navy vessels, so submarine missions can provide a snapshot of conditions under the ice and shed light on the changes taking place in the Arctic.    The MOD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory is working with the Natural Environment Research Council and the UK Hydrographic Office to prepare data for the benefit of environmental researchers.

February 2012

Korean MARS - The order for the next generation of support tankers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary are seemingly  to be built in South Korea by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering who have become the preferred bidder to build the four (4) 200m 37,000 tonne (displacement) vessels costing £452 million.   Each tanker will have three replenishment facilities (two starboard/one port) with the ability to add a fourth later at the stern.    There is also a flight deck and an maintenance hanger for a MERLIN sized helicopter, something unknown of LEAFs and ROVERs in service.  The Koreans were successful by default as although a number of British companies took part in the competition, none submitted a final bid for the "build contract".    UK firms will however benefit from associated contracts - including the provision of key systems and equipment - worth £150 million. The winning design for the ships is by the British company BMT Defence Services.

The four Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) tankers will are due to enter service in 2016 and will replace the two “ROVER” Class (BLACK ROVER and GOLD ROVER) and the larger ORANGELEAF and hopefully the fourth vessel will represent a recovery of lost capability of the BAYLEAF following the SDSR.   Of the £ 150 million said to be “won” by British companies this is made up of £90 million for actual equipment contracts (for equipment, systems, design and support services), and a further £60 million of investment in the UK to allow customising the vessels for the military service, trials and specialist engineering help.
February 2012

UK Commando Raids on Pirate Bases  - it was reported on the SUN (so it must be true!) that the Attorney General has given the green light for commando raids on pirate bases in Somalia.   The SUN reported that the attacks are to be launched from the aircraft carrier (journalistic licence ahoy ?) OCEAN and will involved the APACHE helicopter gunships.    Detailed plans have been drawn up (at the end of last year) for the military raids along Somalia's coast, and this was discussed at a full meeting of the UK National Security Council where senior “Whitehall officials” argued against the plans, fearing they could stir up more trouble in the region.

Behind this story was the wider issue of the Somali pirates who in 2011 attacked 400 international ships hijacking more than 100 and who since 2008 have taken thousands hostages.    The British Prime Minister hosted an international summit in London aimed at finding solutions to the Somalia crisis and the US Secretary of State and UN Secretary General joined leaders from 56 countries.   The British have a full “Captain” designated Commander of the UK Counter-Piracy Task Group,    The advent of Somali piracy in 2008 caught people by surprise, and there was a strong sense that nothing could be done to defeat the pirates.     With no obvious solution to the problems of Somalia ashore, the huge distances involved made it difficult for military forces to protect merchant vessels effectively.   Attacks on merchant vessels are down by 80 per cent and today there are only a handful of vessels held captive off the Somali coast.  Most merchant vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden are now employing armed and unarmed security teams, along with other protection measures. Collectively this description of merchant ship self-protection goes by the mundane name of 'industry best management practice'.     But there is an even bigger strategic picture. The pressure put on pirates by military success has created headroom for those tackling the more intractable issues of governance ashore in Somalia. This week's Somalia Conference in London marks the next stage in restoring calm to the Indian Ocean.
February 2012

MONTROSE at Tristan de Cunha – The Type 23 Frigate MONTROSE on Atlantic Patrol (South) duty sailing through sea mist in the South Atlantic, visited the four islands group which make up the British Territory of Tristan de Cunha.      Found 230 nautical miles south east of Tristan, Gough Island part of the Group, has special naval connections he being named after Captain Charles Gough, who carried out a similar patrol here for the Royal Navy in 1731.
February 2012

Drones Are The Latest ‘Must Have’ Weapon Systems – And there seems to be the start of a “drones gold rush” – whether this will see the Fleet Air Arm equipped with a suitable UAV to replace the lost aircraft carrier, HARRIER, and the NIMROD surveillance aircraft capability is a moot point
The UK and France will jointly develop a new armed unmanned drones and it is important they say, that the UK keeps up with the USA and Israel in this key market.      Early figures from the MoD indicate that the new drone could cost the UK around £2 billion but other estimates are much higher.     In November 2010 the UK and France Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty included a commitment to work together on nuclear issues and armed drones.     The two countries have agreed to build a new armed drone and BAE Systems and Dassault have joined together to offer the proposed TELEMOS drone to fulfill this ‘need’.      All indications are that the new drone will be based on BAe’s MANTIS drone, although Dassault have also been working on a drone called NEURON.     EADS, meanwhile, the other giant of the European military industry is fighting its corner for its own drone, known as TALARIONbut early indications are that France is apparently going to choose the BAE Systems/Dassault proposal.   
February 2012

Books Balanced for the First Time in Four Decades – the new Secretary of State has clearly been cracking the whip with this news.   The alleged £38 billion “black hole” in MoD finances has been “dealt with” and the “hand to mouth existence will come to an end,”   Some £2.1 billion has been found which has been earmarked for several major spending projects to be announced in the coming weeks.   All three Services will benefit from the new found cash that will be known as Planning Round 12 and for the Navy look for news on:-
·        The Commando Air Group upgrade is to be confirmed with all 22 of the RAF MERLIN HC2 to be brought up 
          to RM Commando/Fleet Air Arm standards
·         Funding to start build the fleet of advanced Type 26 Frigates will be announced soon
There is to be a development of the Anglo-French Drone project (See separate item)
·         MARS Tankers ?
February 2012

BULWARK Baltic Visit – The Assault Ship BULWARK paid an unexpected visit to Kiel, the home of the German Navy after winter weather thwarted efforts for a planned visit to Hamburg due to ice on the River Elbe - indeed, the cold snap dominating northern Europe meant few of Germany's ports were open - but Kiel was open!    Thus the BULWARK transited the Kiel Canal with the local media at Kiel promptly dubbeing the ship as the Eis-Flüchtling (ice refugee) and celebrated the appearance of 'a behemoth in Tirpitz Harbour'.   The ship’s embarked Royal Marines Commandos took it upon themselves to go for a run around the city in T-shirts (more sensible members of the ship's company donned warmer attire for their keep fit sessions).    The BULWARK continues the Baltic sojourn with a visit to Gdynia (Poland, on the western shores of Gdansk Bay), in preparation for Exercise Cold Response, the NATO's winter war games in the fjords and valleys of northern Norway, where the "Helicopter Carrier" ILLUSTRIOUS will also feature in the British contribution.
February 2012

FINALS for the MERLIN Mark 1 – Eighteen trainee pilots, observers and aircrewmen from 824 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose are spending five weeks flying on, off and around the Aviation Training Ship RFA ARGUS to complete their training on the Mark 1 version of the MERLIN before the MERLIN Mark2 joins the Fleet Air Arm later this year.    The trainees on the RFA ARGUS go from the very basics of landing on and taking off from a flight deck at sea, to practising search and rescue drills, through to the tactical missions such as hunting submarines or surface ships.
February 2012

Seychelles Islands Ahoy The Survey Ship ECHO, East of Suez, has been working with the Seychelles Coast Guard to prevent piracy in the Indian Ocean and make the area safer for all seafarers.   The combined efforts of the Royal Navy and the Seychelles Coast Guard over recent months have seen successful disruption of illegal activities and the capture of suspected pirates operating in the Indian Ocean.     The ECHO recently visited Port Victoria at Mahé and hosted nine personnel (a mixture of officers and ratings) from the Seychelles Coast Guard for a day of fire fighting training alongside.   The Seychelles Coast Guard team also embarked on the ECHO’s Pacific 22 sea boat for some high speed sea boat operations.
February 2012

SOMERSET – Red Sea Mission – The Type 23 Frigate SOMERSET, near the end of the current tour on East of Suez duty, (more correctly described as maritime security operations in the Middle East), had the contingent of embarked Royal Marines training with the Maritime Border Unit (of Saudi Arabia) during a recent stop at Jeddah on the current Red Sea mission..    SOMERSET has visited the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Tanzania and the Seychelles on the current six month deployment, to which list Saudi Arabia must now be added.
February 2012

Dirigibles - The Future ?  - Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd of Cranfield (Bedfordshire) have produced a design for a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligent Vehicle, based on an airship with a 60% helium/40% air mixture (the Zeppelin’s  of the past were filled with hydrogen), and a 50 tonne payload.     With a speed of 90 knots it can be flown remotely and in a civil passenger configuration some 200 passengers could be taken across the Atlantic in 36 hours, or indeed  the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligent Vehicle could perform persistent surveillance and reconnaissance for a “patrol” of up to three weeks duration.    The quoted price per basic vehicle is in the region of £ 60 million which make them a very cost effective solution to ocean patrolling in distant areas such as the South Atlantic or just drifting over the waters of the North Sea.   The possible use of these Long Endurance Multi-Intelligent Vehicles would seem to be endless – taking heavy lifts to vessels at some distance offshore, ISTAR (Intelligence, targeting, surveillance, reconnaissance) services, not to mention anti-piracy duties.    It is stated that these airships are far less vulnerable than their predecessors with bullets and even missiles being able to pass through the balloon without igniting the gas mixture.   How daft is this idea ??      Three have been sold to the US Army for service in Afghanistan at a cost of £ 315 million.
February 2012

Ice Patrol Update - The new Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR has proved a success on the first deployment down south.    Sailing through the Lemaire Channel, (along the Antarctic Peninsula), on a four hour transit the ship broke ice for the first time in British naval service, witnessed by admiring seals and penguins from the passing ice floes..    At Deception Island, a stunning water-filled volcanic caldera that is one of just two in the world, the PROTECTOR sent the small Survey Boat JAMES CAIRD IV (with multibeam echo sounder equipment) to survey the area known as 'Neptune's Bellows'.   (It was here that in 2007 the cruise ship NORDKAPP ran aground and was assisted by the old Ice Patrol Ship ENDURANCE).  

PROTECTOR then moved on to Port Lockroy, a historic British base manned by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, bring much needed resupply of stock, loaded in Portsmouth for the base and  Post Office.  The PROTECTOR’s Work Boat TERRA NOVA delivered the supplies and then transferred building waste back to the PROTECTOR to comply with the Antarctic Treaty and environmental protocols.    The museum (at Port Lockroy) featuring preserved living conditions from the 1940s and 1950s complete with handwritten notes and other memorabilia. Cold weather experts from the PROTECTOR were deployed in the form of the Royal Marines, to complete their cold weather training.    A team of four spent two nights at an abandoned Admiralty base, facing gale force winds with 55 knot (100km/h) gusts to both collect information, used for chart making and satellite positioning, and to record the tidal range, with precise GPS measurements taken on land to make sure the tide gauge was level. Some of the crew of PROTECTOR visited the Spanish Antarctic station Gabriel de Castilla,     The patrol continues.
February 2012

LIVERPOOL – Fleet Ready Escort - The Type 45 Destroyer LIVERPOOL, due to decommission at the end of March 2012, had a final flourish taken up the role of Fleet Ready Escort, and was promptly deployed to Shadow the Russian aircraft carrier ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV as the ship made her way "home" north around British waters.      The LIVERPOOL followed the carrier led Russian task group from the English Channel, off the south west coast of England, to the seas off South West Ireland.     After a handover (from the French 80m Corvette LE HENAFF), the LIVERPOOL took up position between the UK and the Russian task group, shadowing them as they progressed north past Land's End, then onto Ireland.     The task group of two warships and five support ships were making their way home from the Mediterranean to the Northern and Baltic fleets of the Russian Navy.

The role of Fleet Ready Escort was left uncovered during the long Libyan campaign due to a lack of resources ie: Destroyers and Frigates.   Another casualty of the British presence on the Libyan Coast was the Counter Drugs operations (in the Caribbean).
February 2012

Drilling begins in Portsmouth – Not for Oil but Carriers! – work started in earnest for getting Portsmouth ready for the new carrier age with the use of a specialist drilling rig (the 'Deep River'),  starting six weeks of drilling and sampling the seabed.     The tests will pave the way for major dredging work due in two years time and will allow these 65,000 tonne (displacement) vessels to safely and easily enter the harbour.    The new ships are larger by 10,000 tonnes than the EAGLE and the former ARK ROYAL, both decommissioned in the 1970.

The existing channel needs to be widened and deepened and the berths at the Naval Base will need to be excavated and a suitable turning circle provided in the harbour  north - the draught of the new carriers will be 36 feet).     The QUEEN ELIZABETH is due to be launched in 2014 and thus will arrive in Portsmouth two years later.      Next year work will begin to replace telephone cables between Southsea and the Isle of Wight, will be followed in 2014-15 by the major dredging work, with around three-and-a-half million tonnes of seabed to be moved.   The Deep River, which will be brightly lit and will be operating 24 hours a day, will drill 27 bore holes to a depth of 104 feet along various parts of the proposed route including five holes in the harbour entrance which will cause some minor delays.
February 2012

LANCASTER Back – The Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER returns after major 16 month £22 million refit at  Portsmouth and involved the fitting four (4) new diesel generators, as well as all usual refit items, but with special emphasis on making the ship fuel efficient.    Upgrades to weapon systems and sensors included new fully automatic 30mm close range guns (on either side of the ship) and an updated SEA WOLF missile system.   After sea trials and working up the ship will return to fleet duty.
February 2012

Major Falkland Deployment – News that the DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE had deployed to the Falklands was greeted in the Argentine press with much fury and some apparent confusion as the sobriquet WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR was in use in the media.   Who would have thought that a young SEA KING pilot, albeit a future King, would that have much effect, as it he were seemingly an Aircraft Carrier, which we do have, despite him title, and which we not have anything like that capability for another eight (long) years, at least.

The real deployment of interest, announced unusually early, is the despatch of the new Type 45 Destroyer DAUNTLESS in March (2012) to the South Atlantic to rotate and replace the Type 23 Frigate MONTROSE, on station since October 2011.   Previously the Type 42 Destroyers have regularly rotated on South Atlantic Duty, but as these ships are being withdrawn the DAUNTLESS and her sisters are the only available alternative.   As with all new ships when deployed, they represent a capability enhancement, but is hardly the stuff of the media front pages as this is no more than s natural and long planned development – not sabre rattling, though it must be said the timing is very convenient for the UK Interest, but when the DAUNTLESS sails the Duke of Cambridge will have completed his brief tour of duty in the Falklands!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

January 2012

Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron On Display – During the Voyage Out East the Type 45 Destroyer DARING was given Force Protection as she left the “Rock” at the end of her first overseas port of call.    The Fast Patrol Boat SCIMITAR, one of two fast patrol boats based at the Rock, sailed at sunrise on a bright winter's morning to conduct a security sweep of the Western Anchorage.    Accompanying SCIMITAR was one the Gibraltar Squadron's Arctic 24 rigid hulled inflatable boats.     Once the pilot had disembarked, the DARING increased speed south for a departure at pace, with SCIMITAR providing a close proximity escort.    When DARING safely reached the limit of British Gibraltar territorial waters, the SCIMITAR launched a force protection exercise by simulating various attacks on the destroyer.
January 2012

LIVERPOOL Splice – the Type 42 Destroyer recently returned from a seven-month deployment off Libya, where it became the first Royal Navy warship to be fired upon in 30 years and returned that fire in self-defence.    The destroyer has reached the end of her natural life after 30 years' service and visited London as part of a farewell tour.   Alongside at the West India Docks (South Quay) the ship's company performed the ancient ceremony of the Constable's Dues at the Tower of London.   The tradition of the ceremony of the Constable's Dues dates back to the 14th century or before, when the Captain of a visiting Royal Navy vessel must deliver a barrel of grog to the Constable of the Tower in exchange for the protection of the Tower's guns while alongside.    The Royal Marine Band from COLLINGWOOD was in attendance at this ceremony.
January 2012

New NATO Submarine Rescue System – this month the new NATO system was put through its paces over four days.   The divers, doctors, nurses and specialist operators from Britain, France and Norway operated as a team for four days in Exercise Massivex, which replicated an actual rescue timeline, from initial alert response to 18 hours of simulated decompression time.   Costing £130m and with a weight of 360 tonnes it as one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment in the world.    It can dive to 2,000 feet (610m) - deep enough to operate anywhere around the world's continental shelves.  

The NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) is stored and maintained in a giant purpose built hangar at HM Naval Base Clyde. and is always on standby.     During the tests, 25 volunteers were entombed in the NSRS's two giant decompression chambers for 18 hours to see how they would react to the confines and changes in atmosphere and pressure that they would experience during a rescue from a stricken sub.    The NSRS can be on the move within three hours - on 27 lorries.      The whole loading platform can be bolted onto a ship's deck and the system's submersible - with its glass-fronted nose - is ready to be lowered into the water by the giant cranes that are part of the kit.     If a submarine's hull is breached it is automatically sealed and the rest of the hull becomes pressurised. The NSRS's decompression chambers, which can take up to 35 people at a time, are set up and the rescue submersible transfers survivors straight into them.     If the hull of the stricken submarine is still intact, the rescue submersible can do the job on its own, bringing up 15 survivors at a time.    Timing is important because it can take up to four days to get someone fully decompressed - so the rescuers need to get as many people out of the submarine as they can and as quickly as possible.  
January 2012

LIVERPOOL – Libyan Stats : The Type 42 Destroyer LIVERPOOL on station from April 2011, until recently, to support Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR enforcing the no-fly zone and conducting embargo operations to prevent arms from reaching pro-Gaddafi forces by sea racked up some interesting statistics.    The tempo of this mission varied of course, but the ship spent 81 hours at action stations, on 28 separate occasions, and were fired at and returned fire 10 times.  In all the ship fired 211 rounds of illumination and high explosive shells from her 4.5-inch (114mm) gun which lighted up pro-Gaddafi positions for NATO aircraft to identify and destroy.   The ship's company witnessed the siege of Misurata and the fall of Tripoli, Zlitan, Al Khums and Sirte while enforcing the no-fly zone.    The Fighter Controllers onboard spent 360 hours controlling 14 different types of aircraft from a number of NATO countries.   The LIVERPOOL spent much of the time working alongside the Minehunter BROCKLESBY, later BANGOR acting on essentially as a “picket vessels”, a job which would normally have been undertaken by NIMROD maritime reconnaissance aircraft.   After a brief period at Portsmouth refitting the ship will make a formal farewell visit to London and then the ship will take up the role of Fleet Ready Escort.     The LIVERPOOL is scheduled to complete naval service shortly have first commissioned on the 1st July 1982.
January 2012

Soldier’s Wise Words on the Falklands - Sir Michael Jackson gave a startling warning about the Falklands, prompted by the "disagreeable noises coming from Buenos Aires".      He said that should Argentineans gain a foothold on the islands, and in particular to take the Mount Pleasant airfield, the key to the British defence plans, “Britain 'could not reclaim the Falklands”.    If there was to be an invasion - as occurred 30 years ago this April – and the airfield was taken, this time there would be no way back, says the former Chief of the General Staff. Defence cuts mean we can no longer react in the way we did then.    "What if an Argentinean force was able to secure the airfield  ? Then our ability to recover the islands now would be just about impossible.   "We are not in a position to take air power by sea since the demise of the Harrier force."   Private consultants were paid more than a million pounds to broker the sale of Britain's mothballed Harrier fleet, which performed with such distinction in the Falklands.   "Let us hope we don't live to regret that decision."
January 2012

SEA CEPTOR Missile System to Go Ahead - A £483m contract to develop this air defence system - known as SEA CEPTOR has been awarded to UK industry, built around the missile which is capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 3 and will have the ability to deal with multiple targets simultaneously, protecting an area of around 500 square miles (1,300 square kilometres) over land or sea.     SEA CEPTOR will be developed under a demonstration contract with MBDA (UK) that is expected to last for five years and the work will be spread over locations such as Stevenage, Filton and Lostock.       SEA CEPTOR has been designed for initial use on the Type 23 Frigate to replace the SEA WOLF air defence system when it goes out of service in 2016 and it is planned that it will be used on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship.    Its flexible design also means that it could in future be adapted for use by the Army and RAF.      MBDA was formed in December 2001 and is a multi-national group with over 10,000 employees in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the United States.    The three key shareholders are :
            BAE Systems (37.5%)·                EADS             (37.5%)·              Finmeccanica (25%)
January 2012

WESTMINSTER Off East - the Type 23 Frigate WESTMINSTER departed  Portsmouth for a seven-month deployment to the Middle East and Indian Ocean, and will replace sister ship SOMERSET, which will return “Home”.
January 2012

The Most Cost Effective Warship ? - In the modern world it is seemingly "horses for courses" as ever it was and is neatly illustrated by the situation that applies East of Suez at present.  The deployment of the brand spanking new Type 45 Destroyer DARING at a capital cost north of £ 560 million each on essentially Anti-Piracy duties neatly illustrates the matter.   The eighteen year old naval Replenishment Tanker RFA FORT VICTORIA with its augmented civilian crew is giving quite a good account of itself in the very best of naval tradition!

Thirteen Somali pirates were captured on a dhow in the Indian Ocean by a combination of Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel, as dawn broke on Friday 13 January 2012 with the RFA FORT VICTORIA working in concert with a US Navy Arleigh Burke Destroyer manoeuvred towards the dhow with the intention of encouraging the occupants to comply with the counter-piracy forces. This should have been intimidating, given the size of the two vessels, but the pirates were determined to carry on with their activities.   RFA FORT VICTORIA was tasked to take positive action to disrupt the progress of the vessel launching the embarked LYNX HM8 with Royal Marine maritime snipers on board who issued various clear warnings to the suspects to stop.    Despite these measures, the dhow failed to comply with repeated instructions to stop and verify her intentions.   Immediately afterwards, Royal Marines in speedboats approached the vessel and successfully boarded it. The pirates surrendered as the Marines took control of the dhow.

The previous week the RFA FORT VICTORIA participated in the operation to block an attempt by pirates to sail the hijacked Greek chemical tanker LIQUID VELVET from the Somali coast into the Gulf of Aden where they would have used it as a mother ship to launch attacks on passing shipping.   The LIQUID VELVET had  been held to ransom since last November 2011.   The RFA FORT VICTORIA with its Royal Navy Force Protection Team cut off Greek tanker’s progress after she had sailed 90 miles from the coast - forcing her to return to Somalia.    The RFA FORT VICTORIA repeatedly circled the mother ship to push her back and also sent up the LYNX helicopter as both a deterrent and to assess the situation on board.  Once the Greek tanker had returned to her anchorage the RFA FORT VICTORIA stayed in the immediate area to ensure the pirates, who were armed with machine guns and rifles, did not make another attempt to sail out.

In these days of a “cash strapped” MoD, where Frigates and Destroyers are at a premium is there a case for returned the RFA FORT GEORGE to service “East of Suez” to partner the RFA FORT VICTORIA.   Under the 2010 SDSR the RFA FORT GEORGE was withdrawn in March 2011 as was stripped of stores and fittings at Liverpool, where the ship remains decommissioned.   To return the RFA FORT GEORGE to service will cost a lot of money, but if it were to replace a “Type 23 Frigate” or even a £ 560 million “DARING” then that cost would as cheap and chips as some once famously said.
January 2012

Our Other Navies
The disposition of the Our Other Navies on the Government payroll or established by statute at the start of the year was:-
Royal Research Ships (Intel Gatherers)
Ocean Research:           
UK Waters (NERC- SOC-Southampton)
DISCOVERY                JAMES COOK       new DISCOVERY  Under Construction @ Vigo (Spain)
Antarctic Research: Antarctica (NERC - British Antarctic Survey) 
Fisheries Research:     
CEFAS ENDEAVOUR      UK Waters (CEFAS-Lowestoft)
SCOTIA                     Scottish Waters (Marine Scotland)
CORYSTES                  NI Waters (Northern Ireland Government)
Littoral Protection (Intel Gatherers)
Lighthouse Tenders:
English & Welsh Waters (Trinity House)
GALATEA                   PATRICIA             ALERT
Scottish Waters (Northern Lighthouse Board)
POLE STAR                 PHAROS
Emergency Towing Vessels::    
NIL (Last Two - Withdrawn 12/2011 by HMCA)
Fisheries Protection Vessels:
England & Wales (Royal Navy)
MERSEY                    SEVEN                  TYNE

Scottish Waters (Marine Scotland)
MINNA                     JURA                   HIRTA
South Georgia (South Georgia & South Sandwich Isles Govrnment)
PHAROS SG              
Royal Fleet Auxiliary (Military Support Ships)
Aviation Training Ship:       ARGUS                    @ Falmouth – Repairs
Fleet Repair Ship:              DILIGENCE               East of Suez
Fleet Stores Ships:            FORT VICTORIA         East of Suez
                                FORT AUSTIN           @ Birkenhead – Maintenance
                                        FORT ROSALIE          Atlantic Patrol (North)
Fleet Tankers (Large):        WAVE KNIGHT           Arabian Gulf Ready Tanker
                                WAVE RULER             @ Birkenhead – Maintenance
Station Tanker:                  ORANGELEAF             @ Devonport – Operational Training
Fleet Tankers (Small):         BLACK ROVER             @ Portland – Awaiting Tasking (FOST)
                                        GOLD ROVER             Atlantic Patrol (South)
Landing Ships:                    CARDIGAN BAY          @ Falmouth – Refitting
                                LYME BAY                @ Bahrain - Maintenance        
                                MOUNTS BAY            @ Portland Awaiting Tasking (Amph. Ops)
AWSR Ltd (Military Support Ships)  (Under 22 Year Charter to MoD from 2002-2003)
Sealift Ships:
North Atlantic based on Marchwood (Southampton)          
HURST POINT           HARTLAND POINT            EDDYSTONE                                     
Persian Gulf based on Bahrain
On Outside Commercial Charter in North Sea (Transfenica)