Saturday, 3 March 2012

Air Blockade Fear for Falklands - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez says she wants to renegotiate an agreement with the UK on flights to the Falkland Islands from South America.   The islands are currently served by weekly flights from Chile and of course by military flights from Ascension.   The Argentine proposal is that the air link to be operated by Argentina's state owned airline Aerolineas Argentinas direct from Buenos Aires.    The Foreign Office said it expected Argentina to honour its commitments under a 1999 agreement allowing flights from Chile.     There have been concerns in the Falklands that Argentina might block the flights operated by Chilean airline LAN, which are the islands' only commercial air link with South America.    On the 2nd April, both nations will mark the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War, which began with an Argentine invasion of the islands and ended in victory for a British Task Force sent to recover them
ASTUTE Home from US Trials – the next generation Fleet Submarine ASTUTE arrived back at Faslane following US sea trials lasting four and a half months.   Working off the eastern seaboard of North America the boats extensive trials saw the vessel firing the main weaponry for the first time with four TOMAHAWK Cruise Missiles targeted at a corner of Eglin American Air Force Base to test for accuracy, and six SPEARFISH torpedoes were launched making the first salvo firing by a British submarine for 15 years.   During the American trials the submarine spent 77 days at sea with 65 alongside, over the course of the deployment sailed 16,400 miles.   As part of these exercises the ASTUTE was pitted against America's newest and best Virginia Class hunter-attack submarine USS NEW MEXICO  and the Americans were suitably impressed as the ASTUTE’s sonar was able to “hold” the American submarine at the range which had the quite taken aback, and “blown away with what they were seeing."  The ASTUTE will now undertake a base maintenance period at Faslane, before returning to sea later in the year for more trials.
PROTECTOR in Action – The Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR helped tackle a ferocious fire which raged through a Brazilian research base for four hour on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands.     Two dozen fire crew personnel from the PROTECTOR helped extinguish the fire at the Ferraz Research Station which claimed the lives of two Brazilian staff at the station.    From the PROTECTOR’s the work boat TERRA NOVA landed a quad bike and trailer so portable pumping and fire fighting equipment could be moved around the base.    The British party were working with Chilean and Brazilian naval personnel.  The Ferraz Research Station is able to support 65 personnel during the southern hemisphere's summer months, most of whom are scientists conducting geological, bio-diversity and meteorological research.    

The PROTECTOR, whilst on Patrol returned to the exact spot where polar explorer Ernest Shackleton saved his men nearly 100 years ago. A team from the PROTECTOR carried out scientific research at Point Wild on Elephant Island  - a remote aThe Patrol continues.
nd forbidding shore where Shackleton's party spent months awaiting rescue in 1916.   The Patrol continues.     

Joined Up Government in Action – It was Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister (1957-1963) who was quoted (though some dispute this) to have said when asked in response to a journalist “what is most likely to blow governments off course” the classic words “Events, dear boy, events”.    Two examples of disjointed Government came on the same day in late February and both may come to haunt our maritime future :-.
·         The F-35 Fixed Wing Fighter jet being built by American Lockheed Martin company is to be the  prime weapon system of the new aircraft carriers and in October 2010, the United Kingdom decided to order the catapult launched F-35C, which will be used by both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The total number of F-35C aircraft to be procured will not be decided until the 2015 Strategic Defence Review however, it will be less than the originally ordered; some reports have suggested a fleet of around 50 but with the new QUEEN ELIZABETH class large enough to support (with catapults and arrestor cables installed) typically 12 F-35Cs with the ability to deploy up to 36.    To sustain 36 operational aircraft all 50 (and more) would be needed with carrier trained pilots but Britain is due to place orders for one squadron, around 20 aircraft, next year (2013) but will not settle on the final number of planes to be bought until in 2015.   Now comes news that the US military are to delay their purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter and Italy slashing its order by more than a third (131 to 90), the British bill for each of the aircraft is set to rise sharply.   The matter will e exacerbated by both Australia and Canada likely to reduce their orders.    As part of a drive to reduce America’s annual military budget, the Pentagon announced earlier this month that it was delaying purchasing 179 aircraft until after 2017, saving the US $15 billion (£10 billion) over the next five years.     Ministers are currently reviewing the “risks” and expect to make an announcement to MPs on the future of the programme before Easter.   When a F-35C fighter lands on a carrier the arrestor cable catches a hook attached to the aircraft, preventing it from overshooting and ditching into the sea.    Early trials of the model   caused major oncerns in the United States after the hook design was found to be flawed.    In January (2012), it was reported that Pentagon documents found that a design flaw in the fighter had caused eight simulated landings to fail.    Development of the fighter is being jointly funded by Britain, the US, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Canada and the Netherlands.
·       Aid to Argentina British taxpayers have helped to fund £452 million in aid to Argentina — despite its threat to the Falklands.  Argentina has drawn £ 452million from an international aid fund, heavily backed by Britain over the last 12 years, where we have contributed £4.66 billion.   The USA sent to London a top level delegation demanding a halt to all future support.       President Barack Obama's administration is reportedly angry that Buenos Aires refuses to pay back nearly £40 billion in loans despite having enough money stashed away in reserves.    Tory MP’s are angry, as are former Falkland veterans.     What do you get for £ 452 million – well by co-incidence the cost of the order for the next generation of support tankers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (to be built in South Korea) for the four 200m 37,000 tonne vessels has been costed at  £452 million.