Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Dutch Contribution to Ocean Shield Expanded – The Dutch are to add a second helicopter (a COUGAR) and an unmanned aerial vehicle to their contribution to the NATO’ counterpiracy operation, Ocean Shield.     A submarine will once again also be deployed for this task.      The units will leave for the Horn of Africa on board the landing platform dock HNLMS ROTTERDAM in the second half of this year.  Onboard the ROTTERDAM, apart from the two (2) COUGAR helicopters will be a special unit of Dutch Marines to carry out boardings and rescue operations.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Splice the mainbrace  - HM The Queen praised the men and women of the Royal Navy for their Diamond Jubilee efforts – and ordered the monarchy’s age old thank you to the Senior Service: splice the mainbrace.    HM The Queen also stated “Please convey my warm thanks to all those who serve in the Royal Navy for their kind message of loyal greetings, sent on the occasion of my official birthday and the 60th anniversary of my accession to the throne".   “In this Diamond Jubilee year, Prince Philip and I send our good wishes to you all.
REAPER For Falklands ? – In a Post Afghanistan world what are we going to do with the REAPER UAV (Unmanned Ariel Vehicles) that will soon equip 13 and 39 Squadrons (RAF) which are based at Waddington (Lincolnshire).   Currently 39 Squadron have their REAPER aircraft flying in Afghanistan but they area actually flown on missions from Creech (Nevada).   The additional REAPER units on order will equip 13 Squadron which was form this year.   The Guardian reports that the REAPER aircraft deployed in Afghanistan fired more than 280 HELLFIRE missiles at insurgents.     As at 31 May 2012, UK REAPER “aircraft” had flown more than 34,750 hours on operations, the majority of which were in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role, put another way that is equal to nears four years of continuous flying time.    REAPER operations started in Afghanistan in November 2007 and that translates into have one REAPER airborne at all times for almost five years!   REAPER aircrew have also deployed 281 weapons in response to requests for support from commanders on the ground.   REAPER is not an autonomous system and the aircraft do not have the capability to deploy weapons unless commanded to do so by the flight crew. The rules of engagement used for REAPER weapon releases are strictly defined and no different to those used for manned combat aircraft, with all weapons being precision guided.

One cannot help but think that the deployment of 13 Squadron to Ascension Island post 2016 would add greatly to our maritime capability in the South Atlantic, especially so that if from our scrapped NIMROD MR2 and MR4 fleets enough sensors had been “salved” to make a maritime pod that can be hung from a HELLFIRE missile point.   With Mount Pleasant able to act as an emergency or relief landing ground these “maritime” REAPERs the maritime security of the South Atlantic could move into a new phase.
Image of the Day : 19 June 2012 - The movements of submersibles are not generally reported so we need to seek other sources for information such as the MoD daily photo image.   The Fleet Submariner TRIUMPH is seen silhouetted against a golden sunset whilst deployed on operations in the Middle East.  The image is appropriate as the TRIUMPH tour of duty “East of Suez” is nearing an end.
Please Sir – Can We Have Our HARRIERS  Back ? – The Daily Express reports that the once frontline of Britain’s strike force, now lie abandoned.  The skeletal row of fighters – minus wings and sophisticated nose-cones – stand propped up on wooden pallets in “The Bone yard” near Tucson, Arizona.   The 74 HARRIERS were retired eight years early and sold last year for £ 116 million to the US Marine Corps for spares.       The sale came as the planes were undergoing a £ 500 million upgrade to their avionics and weapons systems.    The move was part of a Ministry of Defence decision to replace the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers with ships that would deploy US fixed-wing Joint Strike Fighters.

Would is not be an option worthy of consideration to buy back the HARRIERS and refurbish say 48 of them (again) for service on the QUEEN ELIZABETH from 2016 when the aircraft carrier is due for delivery.   That then leaves to decision on the US Joint Strike Fighters open to question and maybe our approach should be more muscular with the option to commission BAE Systems to design and build 100 SUPER HARRIERS for the Fleet Air Arm, the be funded from the monies saved from the buy American programme.   That would be a shot in the arm for the UK manufacturing industry and play a significant part in rebalancing our economy.   That would seem a sensible approach to a myriad of problems that beset our current defence policy.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Found After 94 Years - the wreck of the submarine E14 has been found the sea bed in the Dardanelles Straits (Turkey) and would appear to be intact, suggesting the remains of the crew are inside.   The reprt in the Daily Telegraph noted that the E14 was (is) the only one in which two captains won the Victoria Cross for their exploits aboard.    The E14 sank in January 1918, with the loss of 25 lives, after she was sent around 20 miles into the heavily fortified Dardanelles, the narrow straits between modern day Turkey’s European and Asian coasts, to torpedo the flagship of the Ottoman Empire’s navy.   The E14 had navigated through dense minefields and past a string of enemy forts on both shores but when her Captain, (Lieutenant-Commander Geoffrey White), found that his target was not where it was expected to be, he instead attacked another enemy vessel in their path, however, one of the torpedoes exploded prematurely, damaging E14 and alerting Ottoman forces along the coast to the submarine’s presence.     The submarine headed back down the straits towards safety but was eventually forced to surface the craft after her controls became unresponsive and the air on board began to run out.    The E14 was instantly battered by intense bombardment by guns from both sides of the straits.      Realising that the submarine could not reach the open sea made for a nearby beach, in an effort to save the crew. A survivor recalled that the Captain’s last words were – “We are in the hands of God”, uttered moments before he was killed by a shell and the submarine went under.    For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the VC, only seven of submarines 32 crew managed to escape from the stricken craft.

Three years earlier, during the Gallipoli Campaign the same vessel conducted a daring raid through the Straits, past dense minefields and deep into enemy territory, in the Sea of Marmara.   Once there, the submarine dodged hostile patrols and caused havoc among enemy shipping for several days, sinking an Ottoman gunboat and a former White Star liner converted to a troop ship, and disabling another warship.    For that 1915 mission, the skipper, Lieutenant Commander Edward Boyle, was awarded the VC, he went on to make at least two more tours of the Sea of Marmara on E14, during the boat’s distinguished career.

New Reactor Cores for the Royal Navy Nuclear Submarines – the MoD has secured a supplier to produce new reactor cores for the Royal Navy's nuclear submarines and to upgrade the plant where they will be built.    The nuclear reactor cores will be used to power the seventh and final ASTUTE Class submarine and the first of the Royal Navy's next generation of nuclear deterrent submarines, known as the Successor Class.       The investment, awarded to Rolls-Royce in a £1.1bn contract, will also fund an eleven year refurbishment of Rolls-Royce's plant at Raynesway in Derby, extending its operating life by more than 40 years.      The contract, which secures 300 jobs at Rolls-Royce, will see construction of new buildings to replace existing facilities that have reached the end of their useful lives.   Replacing the existing infrastructure with the advanced nuclear reactor core production facilities will cost around £500m. A further £600m will be spent on producing new reactor cores for the ASTUTE and SUCCESSOR Class submarines.
Deer Plucked from Plymouth SoundThe Type 23 Frigate SUTHERLAND saved the life of a deer as it struggled to paddle across Plymouth Sound.    The animal was spotted by the bridge team of the frigate and a boat was put in the water to pluck the roe out of the water and ferry it back to shore, where it was returned to the wild.   The SUTHERLAND is mid-way through pre-deployment training for her impending East of Suez deployment.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Royal Guard of Honour – The Royal Naval Reserve provided the Royal Guard of Honour at the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.   The guard paraded the Queen’s Colour of the Royal Naval Reserve in the Queen’s presence for the first time since it was presented in 2003, the year following her Golden Jubilee.
The Royal Guard of Honour greeted HM The Queen when she left the Royal Barge (SPIRIT OF CHARTWELL), as she arrived at HMS PRESIDENT, the London Headquarters of the Royal Naval Reserve, just by Tower Bridge.    Her  Majesty was escorted on board HMS PRESIDENT by the First Sea Lord (Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope GCB OBE RN), and the Commanding Officer HMS PRESIDENT (Commander Eugene Morgan RD RNR).

RFA FORT ROSALIE Visits Cuba – in a surprise visit, given the American policy of Cuba the RFA Support Ship RFA FORT ROSALIE made a rare visit to Cuba to strengthen counter narcotics collaboration work between UK and Cuban authorities.        The visit to Havana coincided with Cuba's British culture week and the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Havana when British forces laid siege to the important colonial outpost at Havana in June 1762 during the Seven Years' War with Spain, as it was an important colonial military base.
Telegraphists Air Gunners – the Fleet Air Arm Memorial at Lee-on-Solent hosted the Annual Telegraphists Air Gunners Association Memorial Service.    Telegraphist Air Gunners flew in Fleet Air Arm aircraft from 1922 flying from aircraft carriers both large and small, being trained as gunners and provided the all important Morse code communication link.   The Branch had a 28 year life span and disbanded in 1950, and during this period 495 were lost to enemy action, the majority during World War Two.

DARING Makes First Visit to Oman – The Type 45 Destroyer DARING made a first visit to Oman, making a three day visit to Muscat.   After working again with the aircraft carrier USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN in the Arabian Sea, the destroyer took part in military, cultural and sporting events on her debut in the sultanate.   The destroyer is nearing the end of a maiden deployment, East of Suez and berthed at Port Sultan Qaboos.    Once alongside, a busy programme started, including:-
·         The ship’s company hosted groups on tours of the ship by personnel from the Omani Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, and the Coast Guard. Group, and later attended an official reception onboard.
·         The ship’s football team – playing in the colours of Aston Villa (to celebrate the ties with their affiliated city) – were able to squeeze in a fixture against Muscat Storm FC at the Arsenal Soccer School ground  It was a hard fought match (played in 30+ degree heat) with the home side winning (3-2).
DAUNTLESS in Ghana – The Type 45 Destroyer DAUNTLESS continues the ship’s African odyssey en route to the South Atlantic, with an eight day visit to Ghana.    The ship visited the Ghanaian port of Sekondi (the port for Takoradi) before moving on to the capital Accra.    The DAULTLESS was supporting the ongoing fight against piracy and criminal activity on the high seas.    One of the destroyer’s sea boat teams briefed the Ghanaian military personnel on the Pacific 24 RIB, used for boarding operations, making an impressive “Thunderbird” style launching.  In Sekondi the embarked Royal Marines provided training for Ghanaian Naval personnel focussing on the maritime security aspects of naval operations.   The DAUNTLESS will continue on to the South Atlantic before returning “home” at the end of October 2012.
PENZANCE is in Cornwall – The Minecountermeasure vessel PENZANCE sailed into the Cornish port for a four days visit, which included a memorial service for the previous PENZANCE, a sloop, sunk on convoy duty south of Iceland in August 1940 by the German submarine U-37.     The German torpedo sliced the ship in the half and as PENZANCE broke in two and sank, the depth charges in her stern section exploded, killing some of the survivors, in all just 18 of the 108 officers and ratings aboard the sloop were saved.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

QUEEN ELIZABETH Update - Block LB01 of new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier has been lowered into No 1 Dock at Rosyth.   The massive jigsaw puzzle that is the construction programme continues and is made up the following blocks that will be (or have been) brought to Rosyth:
·         BAE Systems Surface Ships – Govan                     Lower Blocks 3 and 4
·         BAE Systems Surface Ships – Scotstoun               Aft Island
·         BAE Systems Surface Ships – Portsmouth              Lower Block 2 and Forward Island
·         Babcock Marine – Rosyth                                      Sponsons, Mast and Centre Blocks 5 and 6
·         Babcock Marine - Appledore                                  Lower Block 1
·         A&P Group – Hebburn                                          Centre Block 3
·         Cammell Laird – Birkenhead                                  Centre Blocks 2 and 4
30th Falklands Liberation Day Acts of Remembrance – there were of course many, notable and in not any particular order were:
·      HRH The Duke of York attended a service of commemoration at the Fleet Air Arm Memorial Church, at RNAS Yeovilton to mark the 30th anniversary of the Falkland Islands' liberation. The Duke served as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot with 820 Naval Air Squadron onboard the Aircraft Carrier INVINCIBLE during the Falklands War.       Prince Andrew went on to visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum to see the new Falklands Exhibition due to open shortly, he also visited the Royal Navy Historic Flight in his capacity as Patron of the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, where he experienced the open cockpit of the Fleet Air Arm's legendry Second World War carrier based Fairey SWORDFISH.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

RFA ARGUS Visits Norfolk (Virginia) - The RFA Aviation Training and Casualty Treatment Ship RFA ARGUS attended a second major maritime festival in a matter of weeks - Op Sail 2012, commemorating 200 years since the War of 1812 between Britain and the USA.    The RFA ARGUS was but one of scores of warships, sailing vessels and other craft which spent six days in Norfolk, Virginia, for a massive waterfront and seaborne festival.   Onboard the RFA ARGUS was a LYNX Flight from 815 Naval Air Squadron and a 30 strong Disaster Relief Team drawn from Maritime Aviation Support Force at Culdrose, ready for the Caribbean hurricane season.   Away from things ceremonial, the RFA ARGUS has been training with two helicopters from US Navy HSC-2 Squadron which flew from NAS Norfolk to meet the ship off the Eastern Seaboard and conducted a series of landings – a precursor to further training with American helicopters later in the deployment.    Once finished in the USA the RFA ARGUS will continue on into the Caribbean to provide aid to British citizens in the hurricane season.
LANCASTER Remembers - The Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER has completed a succesful post refit visit to Spain is now returning to UK waters to continue weapon training as the Frigate continues her regeneration ahead of Operational Sea Training and deployment next year (2013).     On sailing from La Coruña, the LANCASTER sailed close to the spot where the three year old Torpedo Cruiser SERPENT sank off the Spanish coast in 1890 - a disaster which led to the compulsory issuing of lifejackets to all sailors, a rule still in force to this day.   The SERPENT was bound for West Africa to relieve another vessel when she was wrecked off the Costa da Morte – the Coast of Death – in a storm in November 1890.   Of the 175 souls aboard only three survived and they were the only crew wearing lifejackets that night.    The Cementerio Inglés – the English Cemetery at Punto Do Boi, close to the wreck site contains the bodies of more than 140 of crew who were either recovered or washed ashore and buried.      On sailing from La Coruña, LANCASTER sailed close to the spot where the disaster occurred and the ship’s company attended a short service of remembrance to commemorate the loss.

ST.ALBANS Remembers - The Type 23 Frigate ST.ALBANS on completion of a recent visit to Iceland sailed from Reykjavik in company with the flagship Icelandic Coastguard Vessel THOR, Iceland’s newest and most impressive Coastguard Vessel.       After sailing from Reykjavik (and en-route to Hamburg) the ST.ALBANS mustered the ship’s company on the flight deck in an EIIR formation in order to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of HM The Queen.     The ST.ALBANS also conducted ‘Officer of the Watch’ manoeuvres while her MERLIN helicopter (call sign “Sinner”) conducted winching operations to the deck of THOR.  On completion, ST.ALBANS conducted a memorial service and wreath laying in the fjord Hvalsfordur to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Arctic convoys.

Sardinian Minehunting - the Minecountermeasure vessel LEDBURY helped to blow up a Second World War mine found off Sardinia's busiest port in the Bay of Cagliari.   The operation was a joint effort by the divers from the LEDBURY and their Italian counterparts.     The LEDBURY was on patrol as part of a NATO Task Group (Standing NATO Mine-Countermeasures Group 2) in the Mediterranean and has served with this formation since the beginning of the year alongside Turkish, Spanish, Italian and German vessels, but the six month tour of duty of the British ship is due to finish at the end of the month.      The LEDBURY launched the remote controlled robot mine disposal system SEAFOX, which beamed back a live video feed to the Operation Rooms during the operation.      There was however was so much marine growth on the mine that it needed a firsthand inspection from the specialist mine clearance divers carried on the LEDBURY.
DIAMOND Off East of Suez - the Type 45 Destroyer DIAMOND has set sail for voyage to Middle East on its maiden deployment.   The DIAMOND will make a six month deployment and will replace sister ship DARING carrying out maritime security patrols, including countering piracy.
Junior Leaders' Field Gun Competition - HMS COLLINGWOOD (the training establishment ashore at Fareham) hosted the fifth annual Junior Leaders' Field Gun Competition (similar to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity Field Gun competition).     COLLINGWOOD is the headquarters of the Maritime Warfare School and Surface Stream.       Participating were youths aged 18-25 who have either only recently joined the Armed Forces or have just begun apprenticeships with major commercial organisations including entries from Network Rail, (who were also the event sponsors), BAE Systems, the Prince's Trust, Highbury College, Portsmouth College and Fareham College.
HM Naval Base Clyde completes successful Oil Spill Response Exercise - At HMS NEPTUNE (the shore establishment HM Naval Base Clyde) passed a significant test when the Queen’s Harbour Master at NEPTUNE working alongside Serco Marine Services (who provided the equipment on the day) as part of an ongoing training exercise to maintain readiness, dealt with an imaginary oil spill.   Around 200 metres of boom was deployed manually during the exercise, in response to the scenario of an oil spill from a jetty.     Anchored to a strong point, the boom was used to contain the simulated spill while a ‘butterfly skimmer’ – used to divert or skim oil from the sea surface – was brought into play.    During the exercise, all equipment was functionally tested to prove that it could be used for real and was ready for operations.
829 Naval Air Squadron - the MERLIN HM1 Destroyer and Frigate deployed Flight Squadron remains busy with all five (5) Merlin Flights currently embarked on the Type 23 Frigates away on operations and exercises are:
02 Flight WESTMINSTER - East of Suez
05 Flight NORTUMBERLAND - Sea Trials
     Flight ST.ALBANS – Northern Europe
     Flight ?????
DAUNTLESS Visits Ivory Coast – The Type 45 Destroyer DAUNTLESS, en route to the South Atlantic visited the Ivory Coast and took the opportunity to honour the six (of the 39) souls who died when a Flying Boat Support Ship, s.s. DUMANA  was sunk by a U-boat U515 on Christmas Eve 1943.    The destroyer anchored off the fishing port of Sassandra, where some of the dead were washed ashore.   This was the first British warship to visit the area for a long time and from Sassandra the destroyer proceeded to visit the Ivorian capital Abidjan.
OCEAN - Vintage Air Display - to mark one of the greatest achievements in naval aviation - 60 years ago - a Hawker SEA FURY T.20 performed a fly past of the Helicopter Carrier OCEAN during Families’ Day off Plymouth.  It was 60th anniversary of the piston-engined fighter’s downing of a MiG 15 jet over North Korea – one of the finest moments in Fleet Air Arm history.    Six decades ago, this August (2012) an SEA FURY of 802 Squadron operating from the deck of the Aircraft Carrier OCEAN –the only occasion a British piston-engined fighter shot down a jet.