Friday, 26 October 2012

The Grytviken Air Force - The two helicopters were dismantled at Grytviken and crammed into shipping containers and sent to the UK for servicing at the workshops of Police Aviation Services in Staverton.

The two BOLKOW-105 helicopters, used for aerial baiting in Phase 1 of the South Georgia Heritage Trust  Habitat Restoration project to remove introduced rodents from South Georgia. They are being brought back into flying condition by the South Georgia Heritage Trust for the start of Phase 2 in 2013,      Logistic and operational requirements for the aerial baiting work to the north end of South Georgia require another aircraft, so they will be accompanied by a third helicopter which is currently being purchased. Four pilots and two helicopter engineers form part of the Habitat Restoration team travelling to South Georgia in February, ready to start Phase 2 baiting at the beginning of March.

The most experience in the sort of flying required to aerially bait in South Georgia is found in New Zealand, so it is no surprise that of the four pilots three are Kiwis and these three will concentrate on the baiting work.      Four pilots are needed to ensure that any good weather can be used for baiting without pilot fatigue, and to cover in the event of illness.        The three helicopters are expected to fly at least 650 hours between them in the coming season.    So in four months the aircraft will fly the equivalent of what a UK air ambulance flies in a year.     The engineers will be working in the field at the forward operating bases most of the time, though the shed in the whaling station at Grytviken will be used as a helicopter workshop and garage once again.
Rolls Royce to Design Ships - Rolls-Royce has broadened its capability in ship design with the establishment of a new team dedicated to the development of naval ship designs.    It will develop vessels for navies, coast guards and other maritime agencies.    The design team will focus on offshore patrol vessels, survey ships and support vessels, rather than combatants.     They will include variants of the award winning Environship merchant ship concept, including a replenishment ship for refuelling and supplying naval fleets that features a wave piercing bow and hybrid electric propulsion system and is  available in the 9,000 to 25,000 dwt range.
South Georgia - Who Visits, How Many ? - A small increase in cruise ship visitors to South Georgia compared to the previous season bucks the trend of the Antarctic region.    In the 2011/12 season tourists to the Antarctic fell by 22%, whereas in South Georgia they increased 8%.    Putting numbers to percentages it is estimated that a total of 10,000 people visited South Georgia during last season, a figure that includes 5,831 passengers and 578 staff from cruise ships, and 101 people on yachts. The others would have included crew from the cruise ships, people travelling on military and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and those working and travelling on research ships and the Fishery Patrol ship.

A total of 51 cruise ship visits were made, five more than the season before, and passenger numbers were up a few hundred on the previous season.     This is the first upturn since cruise ship visitor numbers started declining in 2008/9.     Cruise ship visitors are still well down on the 2007/8 and 2008/9 seasons when around 8,000 visitors arrived that way.      There is a similar pattern in the Antarctic region with last season being the fourth consecutive year in which Antarctic tourism has declined, but the region is expecting an upturn in the season ahead.   

Back to percentages - More people from the USA visit South Georgia on cruise ships than any other nationality (25%) closely followed by Germans (22%), and 49% of the cruise ship visitors are from English speaking countries.      People from 50 different countries came, though 22 of those had less than ten of that nationality visit in the year. Although still only around 1- 2% of cruise ship passengers, there is a developing trend for more visitors to come from China and a possibility of an all Chinese charter on one of the larger vessels in the coming season.    Most cruise ships visiting South Georgia (72%) bring between 50 and 150 passengers, and most ships visit two sites around the Island each day. The smaller ships tend to stay longer at South Georgia than the larger ones.    There were very few yacht visits in the 2011/12 season. Seven yacht visits were made by five different yachts, all but one on charter. Six military or RFA vessels visited, and six visits were made by research vessels.

The season ahead (2012/13) looks broadly similar to the last for cruise ships, with 51 visits currently booked with a capacity for 6,330 passengers - which should translate to around 5,500 visitors for the season depending on occupancy.     It was an early start to the new season with the 85 passenger vessel USHUAIA visiting Grytviken in October, with three other cruise vessels due before the end of the month. There will be a lot more yachts than last season though, with 14 visits on the schedule and others known to be planning a visit.
Bermuda Posterity – Sixty years of Naval crests have been removed from the old Bermuda Dockyard, which is to be redeveloped, that translates into some 200 “ship’s crests” from Royal Navy and other visiting warships.      Hand painted by generations of visiting sailors as a lasting memento of their stay in Bermuda, they have now been photographed for posterity.

Corsican Lion- the major Anglo-French naval exercise in the Mediterranean has now ended and proved to be the first real first test of the British and French Navies plan to create a combined task force ready to respond to global events.      The two week exercise saw a British Task Group, lead by the Assault Ship BULWARK was joined by the French Assault Ship MISTRAL and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Landing Ship RFA MOUNTS BAY.   The main force was provided by the Aircraft Carrier FS CHARLES de GAULLE, and the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS.   The Type 23 Frigates MONTROSE and NORTHUMBERLAND joined the French Frigate JEAN BART provided the escort.

The main training element of Corsican Lion was provided by the French who provided the aerial striking power, whilst the British choreographed the landings on the eastern shores of Corsica.    From 2016 there will be a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force at 30 days’ notice to sail to respond to an international crises and remain on station for up to three months.
WESTMINSTER Skyfall - Sailors from the Type 23 Frigate WESTMINSTER and the Royal Marine Band Portsmouth provided the music making a very visible Royal Navy presence at the world premiere of the new 007 film Skyfall in London.    The WESTMINSTER was of course an 007 ship, staring as HMS CHESTER, HMS BEDFORD and HMS DEVONSHIRE in the 1997 Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies”.

Naval Carriers Face Being Without Jets for Most of Year - The headline from a recent SUNDAY TIMES seem to prove that we will never learn from our own recent history.   Almost within living memory of some the Fleet Air Arm (the of the Royal Air Force was formed in 1924) but on the 24th May 1939 the Fleet Air Arm was returned to Admiralty control under the “Inskip Award", a Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, and a lawyer by trade.    The Sunday Times said in October 2012 went on to claim that the QUEEN ELIZABETH Class aircraft carriers may regularly be without aircraft because of a 'row' between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force over how to operate the jets.   The MoD were quick to rebut the article claiming it misrepresented the reality.    This however seems to fly in the face of our recent experience with the HARRIER.    

The MoD were on to say that “Both Services have a long-agreed approach to the joint operation of this highly capable, fifth-generation stealth aircraft. Lightning II will be operated by both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as part of the UK's carrier strike capability and as a replacement for the GR4 Tornado. The first UK test aircraft have been delivered and are undergoing flight trials in the US.    The aircraft will conduct initial flights off HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH in 2018, which will routinely deploy with Lightning II jets embarked with pilots from both Services, providing a step-change in capability compared to the Harrier fleet.

Somehow I think that Thomas Walker Hobart Inskip, 1st Viscount Caldecote CBE, PC, KC would not believe that, and neither so it seems does the SUNDAY TIMES!!

Upgraded Phalanx 1B Systems for Royal Fleet Auxiliary – five further PHALANX systems for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary have been ordered under a £40m contract with Raytheon.   The PHALANX system is reportyedly currently installed on 14 Royal Navy vessels.    The PHALANX is currently fitted on the Type 42 Destroyer EDINBURGH, the six DARING Type 45 Destroyers and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships – the three “BAY” Class Landing Ships, the two “WAVE” Class Fleet Tankers plus the Replenishment Ship RFA FORT VICTORIA.   That is thirteen ships and presumably the missing one is from the sistership the RFA FORT VICTORIA, the decommissioned RFA FORT GEORGE currently languishing unwanted at Liverpool.

The PHALANX is the Close-In Weapon System, with a rapid-fire, radar and electro-optical guided gun, designed to defeat anti-ship missiles and a range of surface threats.   The 20mm gun is capable of firing armour piercing bullets at up to 4,500 rounds per minute.

So presumably the unit of the EDINBURGH will be recovered when that ship decommissions in 2013, so with the existing “spare”, plus the five new units gives a total of seven.   The Aircraft Carriers QUEEN ELIZABETH and PRINCE of WALES will account for two units but there are only four new tankers on order for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – so what have this reporter missed ?   Is there a further order for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary expected – I think we can safely say no
Royal Marines Reserves Guard Edinburgh Castle a new light on the prospect of an independent Scotland was on show recently in the Scottish capital.     Members of the Royal Marines Reserves Scotland have formed the Guard at Edinburgh Castle for the first time.     The restructuring of the Army several years ago means there is no longer an “Army Guard” other than on special occasions.    The occasion was to mark the amalgamation of two RMR units - Scotland and Tyne - and the relocation of the new headquarters to Edinburgh (from Govan in Glasgow).     It was also in celebration of the 348th birthday of the Royal Marines Corps.

These changes to the Royal Marines Reserves are part of the wider reorganisation across the UK,     RMR Scotland has taken the opportunity to relocate the headquarters to the Scottish capital which brings a range of advantages in operating in an efficient way being now located directly next to the Naval Supporting Staff in Scotland and is now closer to the key civilian authorities.

Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability Tanker Power – the four RFA tankers to be built in Korea by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering are to use GE drive technology, or rather the technology that GE acquired when it purchased Power Conversion (then known as Converteam) in September 2011.     When completed in 2016, the four, 37,000 dwt MARS tankers will be the next generation of large, fast fleet tankers that will deliver fuel and fresh water to Royal Navy vessels around the world.

The GE’s drive train will be installed as a key part of the ships’ hybrid propulsion configuration that is inherently more fuel efficient than conventional propulsion which combine electrical and mechanical propulsion technology to turn the ship’s propeller throughout its operating range of speeds.      When the ship operates at moderate and low speeds, the propeller shaft is turned using GE’s electric motor and variable speed drive controller system. Meanwhile, at high speeds, the diesel engine, or gas turbine is connected directly to the propeller through a gearbox.
Fishermen 'Attacked by French' – the Royal Navy was asked to assist for the first time in twenty years when the French claimed British vessels are taking advantage of local conservation measures.    Seven or eight boats surrounded a British boat in international waters 15 miles off Caen in a dispute over scallop beds.    French fishermen were accused of trying to damage fishing gear and a French fishing protection vessel reportedly refused to intervene.      Up to forty French boats surrounded five British vessels who appeared to be fishing legally, albeit in French waters.

The (UK) Maritime and Coastguard Agency contacted their French counterparts  who sent a patrol vessel to the area and said the French authorities were "continuing to monitor the situation".    The French Government says there is nothing it can do to stop the British boats, because they are in French waters perfectly legally.
Firmin Sword of Peace - at a presentation ceremony 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group, working in Afghanistan received the Firmin Sword of Peace.   It was said that the work of 15POG has made a very significant contribution to fostering positive relations with local Afghan communities, and building vital understanding of our role and the role of the Afghan Government.      The Commanding Officer of 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group is a Royal Navy Commander (Steve Tatham).

US Navy Spy Boats to Have ROLLS-ROYCE Power ROLLS-ROYCE has been picked to power new unmanned spy boats for the US Navy.    The engineering firm will develop a new water jet with a diameter of just 10cm to propel the craft at up to 25 knots on secret yet “tedious and repetitive” missions.    The deal comes two days after ROLLS-ROYCE broke new ground with a contract to power military hovercraft in the USA.
Black Duke Deploys – The Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH has started a seven month deployment to the Gulf, the ship carries the handle “Black Duke” a reference the dissolution of the title and the blacking out of the Coat of Arms of the Duke of Monmouth in 1685 following the Monmouth Rebellion against King James II of England.   The 'Black Duke' is the only ship in service with the Royal Navy that has its name painted in black and flies a plain black flag in addition to the ensign.

The MONMOUTH has deployed with 210 personnel, including Royal Marines, not the usual 185 for which the ship’s were originally designed for.   The frigate has been conducting intensive training in preparation for her deployment, covering the full range of operations from test firing weapons to providing humanitarian relief.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

DEFENDER Defends – The fifth of the Type 45 Destroyer DEFENDER hosted a LYNX HMA8 during the first period of trials and training off the South Coast.   The DEFENDER carried out many other elements of the trials and training package.   The DEFENDER expected to enter full service in March 2013, and in effect will replace the last of the Type 42 Destroyers, EDINBURGH.
QUEEN ELIZABETH Takes Shape - A team of 40 moved the 11,300 tonne aft section, known as Lower Block 04, across the specially reinforced tarmac at the BAe Systems Govan yard in less than three hours, using 450 remote controlled transporters.   The Block will then be loaded onto one of the two biggest seagoing barges in the world, which will take it the 600 miles to Rosyth.

Lower Block 04 comes only 34 months after the first steel was cut on the section in January 2010.     The Block stands over 20 metres high and 80 metres long and is the largest hull section equating to around 20% of the overall weight of the ship, and is the final hull section to arrive in Rosyth.     Approximately 250 BAe employees from the Clyde will follow the Block to Rosyth where they will work in partnership with employees at Babcock to complete the assembly phase of this section of the carrier.

Meanwhile, production on both Lower Block 03 and 04 for the PRINCE OF WALES continues to progress at Govan, while the aft island for the first ship is underway at the Scotstoun yard.     BAe Systems is also manufacturing sections of hull at its Portsmouth facility. Additionally, the company is responsible for the design integration and testing of the ships’ complex mission and advanced communications systems.

Just Like Old Times - Gibraltar Harbour hosted four of the six ships of the Cougar 12 Deployment recently, with the resident Fast Patrol Boat SCIMITAR o hand the escort them in.   The visiting force comprised the Assault Ship (and Fleet Flagship) BULWARK, with the Type 23 Frigates NORTHUMBERLAND and MONTROSE, plus Landing Ship RFA MOUNTS BAY.    They spent three days in port before moving into the Mediterranean and Corsica for major exercises with the French and Albanian navies.   On departure the Cougar 12 Deployment is heading to Exercise Corsican Lion, which involves training with the French lead their Aircraft Carrier and Flagship FS CHARLES de GAULE.  

ALLIANCE - Periscopes Removed - in a £6.75m revamp for preserved 67 year old Patrol Submarine ALLIANCE both periscopes from the submarine were removed as part of the revamp underway.    The 40ft scopes have not moved on the boat since the submarine was decommissioned in 1973.   ALLIANCE is on display at the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport.     The two 40ft scopes – one general, one attack – are due to be lifted from the hull and both will undergo a complete overhaul by Babcock in Faslane, and will returned in good working order.
VICTORY Handed Over - A special ceremony has taken place on board the 104 Gun First Rate Ship of the Line VICTORY at Portsmouth was formally handed over from the newly appointed Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral David Steel, to the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.   It was as Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command that the Second Sea Lord flew his flag from VICTORY.      The re-organisation of the MoD has meant that the title of Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command no longer exists. As the First Sea Lord retains full command responsibility for the VICTORY will now become the Flagship for the First Sea Lord.
EDINBURGH Visits Lisbon – The Type 42 Destroyer EDINBURGH, on the last deployment of the Class, visited Lisbon en route to the Caribbean where the destroyer will relieve the Type 45 Destroyer DAUNTLESS.    The EDINBURGH will then take the anti-drug patrol and make visits to the USA and various Caribbean ports before retuning “home” and decommissioning in March 2013.

DIAMOND Stars – the Type 45 Destroyer DIAMOND took part in Exercise Falcon Warrior working with the UAE Frigate MURAYJIB.  DIAMOND was able to demonstrate Board and Search exercises, which included the embarked the LYNX HMA.8, the Royal Marines and the ship’s 40 knot sea boats.
Wither the Type 26 ? – the “progress” on the Scottish Indpendence referendum raised serious concerns about the future of the Type 26 Frigate programme.   With the referendum set down for later in  2014, and with Scottish shipyards pressing for work, now that the Type 45 Destroyer programme in nearly at an end, the Type 26 should slot into the gap.    But can a “British” Government really commit to a major shipbuilding programme running into the late 2020’s in what by then could be a foreign country ?   Would a Westminster Parliament provide the funding required ?

Surely the answer would be to start the programme off building the Type 26 Frigates at Portsmouth, and thus secure the future of this “English” shipyard and trust that the newly independent Scottish Government, should it come into existence, find work for the Scottish shipyards on the Clyde.

TERRA NOVA Found - The wreck of the Expedition Ship TERRA NOVA, that carried Captain Robert Scott, RN on his expedition to the Antarctic has been recently been discovered off the Greenland coast by the Research Ship FALKOR of the Schmidt Ocean Institute’.   The FALKOR was testing the echo-sounding equipment aboard, and one of the scientists noticed an unidentified feature during sonar mapping of the sea bed.    Team members then noted that the length of the feature matched the reported length of the TERRA NOVA.    A camera package called SHRIMP was sent down to film the wreck and camera tows across the top of the target showed the remains of a wooden wreck lying on the seabed.      Footage from the Shrimp also identified a funnel lying next to the ship.

The TERRA NOVA, the name is Latin for Newfoundland, was built in 1884 for the Dundee whaling and sealing fleet was a “sealer” proving her worth in this hazardous activity before being called upon for expedition work, being was ideally suited to the polar regions.       In 1903 the TERRA NOVA sailed in company with fellow ex-whaler MORNING to assist in freeing from McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea (Antarctica) the DISCOVERY of the National Antarctic Expedition, lead by Robert Falcon Scott.    After returning to Newfoundland in 1906, the TERRA NOVA resumed sealing duties with her owners, C.T. Bowring & Co. of St. John's and Liverpool.       In 1909 the TERRA NOVA was bought for the sum of £12,500 from her owners by Captain R.F. Scott RN, as expedition ship for the British Antarctic Expedition 1910.  Work was put in hand to reinforce the ship from bow to stern with seven feet of oak, to protect against the Antarctic ice pack, the TERRA NOVA she sailed from Cardiff in June 1910 under the overall command of Captain R.F. Scott who described her as "a wonderfully fine ice ship.... As she bumped the floes with mighty shocks, crushing and grinding a way through some, twisting and turning to avoid others, she seemed like a living thing fighting a great fight".

After wintering at Cape Evans on Ross Island, a party lead by Scott set out on a race to be the first men at the South Pole using tractors and Mongolian ponies, but the final 800 miles was to be on foot.    Reaching the South Pole in January 1912, they found that the Norwegian expedition had beaten them by thirty four days.        Worse was to come, as all five men died on the return journey. Tent, bodies, and journals were found the following summer.     After returning from the Antarctic in 1913, the TERRA NOVA was purchased by her former owners and resumed work in the Newfoundland seal fishery.      In  1942 (when 58 years old) the TERRA NOVA was chartered by Newfoundland Base Contractors to carry supplies to base stations in Greenland in September 1943 the ship was damaged by ice and sank off the southwestern tip of Greenland; the crew were saved by a United States Coastguard Cutter (SOUTHWIND).   Letter the figurehead was removed in 1913 and sent to the back to the UK (Now in the National al Museum of Wales).   The ship’s bell is kept at the Scott Polar Research Institute, part of the University of Cambridge being gifted to them in October 1952.    The bell is rung every weekday, at 10.30 and 16.00, when everyone within the Institute is invited to gather for coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.    It is rung in the manner of a ship's watch, five bells in the morning and eight bells in the afternoon.   The Binnacle of the TERRA NOVA is currently on display in the Pierhead Building at Cardiff Bay.
Royal Bahamas Defence Force - Re-Equipment - The Bahamas Journal reports that the Bahamas Government, a British Overseas Territory, intends to spend up to USD 200 million in order to make physical and equipment changes to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.     The Defence Force is seeking the acquisition of four classes of vessels comprising eleven (11) craft, estimated to cost USD 119 million, these include :
·         Four  70 foot inshore patrol vessels
·         Four 108 foot coastal patrol vessels
·         Two 140 foot offshore patrol vessels
·         One 170 foot landing craft utility

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) Air BranchHRH Prince Michael of Kent visited the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) Air Branch at the Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton.    HRH Prince Michael is the Honorary Rear Admiral Royal Naval Reserve and Commodore-in-Chief of the Maritime Reserve, the RNR Air Branch continue to be involved in all aspects of naval flying operations both in the UK and abroad. Many are veterans of recent operations in the Middle East, and, further back, the Adriatic, Northern Ireland and the Falklands.     At Yeovilton there are 220 Air Branch Reservists with another 100 people, mostly at Culdrose.
A Beach Near Plymouth - Royal Marines from Yankee Company, 45 Commando, RM, along with Royal Marines from Assault Ship BULWARK conducted a beach assault landing rehearsal in Carlyon Bay near St Austell prior to departing for the Mediterranean as part of the Cougar 12 deployment.    This is/was the largest Royal Navy amphibious exercise this year.    The ‘wader exercise’ – a landing in slow time – tested the ability of the force with rotary elements made up of a CHINOOK helicopter which lifted parts of a bridge from the Logistic Ship HARTLAND POINT to the shore where Combat Engineers from 24 Commando Engineer Regiment RE attached to 3 Commando Brigade, RM pieced the sections together.    Also participating in the exercise were the artillery of 29 Commando Regiment RA and the landing craft from 4 Assault Squadron RM working from the Assault Ship BULWARK.    The Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS was also present with APACHE Gunships and SEA KING HC4 Commando. Transport helicopters operating carrying units of 45 Commando, RM ashore.
DARING Visits Guernsey – the Type 45 Destroyer DARING made a first visit to Guernsey, which is the ship’s affiliated island.    The DARING took part in commemorations for a wartime naval tragedy during a three day visit, anchored in the waters off St Peter Port, the destroyer being too large to be accommodated in the harbour.

The most poignant naval date for many Islanders is the annual weekend honouring the dead of the Light Cruiser CHARYBDIS and the Hunt Class Destroyer LIMBOURNE in World War Two.    The two ships were sunk whilst attempting to sink a German blockade runner.    Some 464 men lost their lives in the encounter, with 21 of the dead subsequently washed ashore in Guernsey.    In an act of defiance, 5,000 locals ignored the island’s Nazi overlords and attended a funeral of the fallen Sailors and Royal Marines.

91 Years Ago – the Type 45 Destroyer DAUNTLESS marked an anniversary that was out of the ordinary when in American waters   174 Sailors and Royal Marines aboard new destroyer (of the 200) recreated an historic ship’s company photograph from 91 years ago when they assembled on the forecastle as their forebears did 91 years ago under solemn circumstances on the 19th September 1921 in New York harbour,

The Light Cruiser DAUNTLESS had the sombre duty of sailing across the Atlantic to repatriate the dead of the airship R38, which had been designed for the Royal Navy, but sold to the Americans at the end of the Great War.   The airship was the largest in the world – nearly 700ft long – with a crew of 49, and was intended to carry out six day long patrols scouting for enemy submarines and, if necessary, attacking them with bombs and machine guns.   On the fourth test flight, the R38 suffered structural failure over Hull, exploded in mid air, sixteen (of the seventeen) American crew and twenty eight of the thirty two Britons aboard the airship were killed.

The Type 45 Destroyer had just completed Exercise UNITAS – billed as the largest and longest-running naval exercise in the Northern Hemisphere – involving thirteen warships from seven nations, operating from Key West (Florida).   The DAUNTLESS is now conducting anti drug running patrols as part of the international clampdown on the narcotics trade in Caribbean waters, before returning to the UK at the end of the month.
PEMBROKE Aloft – The Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessel PEMBROKE has been lifted out of the water at Faslane on the ship lift facility.    The PEMBROKE has just returned for a three year deployment to the Middle East and now undergoing two months of maintenance.
NORTHUMBERLAND Next – The Type 23 Frigate NORTHUMBERLAND is the next vessel to go to the Middle East on an eight month deployment.     The NORTHUMBERLAND will relieve the sister ship SUTHERLAND after spending a short period training with the COUGAR 12 deployment training with French and Albanian maritime forces.      NORTHUMBERLAND has recently completed an extensive nine month period of regeneration, including refit, trials, numerous capability upgrades and an intensive operational sea training programme.
APACHEs Embark – Joining the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, on COUGAR 12 deployment to the Mediterranean was a detachment of APACHE AH1 Gunship helicopters from 656 Squadron, 4 Regiment, AAC at Wattisham (Suffolk).     As part of the Response Force Task Group, that deploys as COUGAR 12, these APACHE will spend three months on exercise providing the aviation strike capability from the former Aircraft Carrier.
Upgraded Bridge Simulator at Dartmouth – The newly upgraded simulator at Dartmouth, which covers all the Royal Navy’s key harbours, has now been installed and is operational.    This is the most advanced ship simulator in service and featuring photo-realistic recreations to train bridge teams.    There are four bridge simulators which the Royal Navy use to train navigators and bridge teams – two at COLLINGWOOD (Gosport) and one each at Dartmouth and Faslane.
MERLIN 2 Arrives – The upgrade of the MERLIN Anti-Submarine helicopters moved to a tangible form with the arrival of the first MERLIN 2 on the deck of the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS.    The ILLUSTRIOUS spent twelve days, before joining the COUGAR 12 deployment, hosting the 34 strong Trial Team in exercises in the Western Approaches.   There are thirty (30) airframes that are being upgraded to MERLIN 2 standard at a cost of £ 750 million.    Outwardly there are few visible differences between the MERLIN 1 and MERLIN 2 which hopefully will confuse our enemies as well those interested observers of our own.    The Trials of the MERLIN 2 are being conducted at Boscombe Down (Wiltshire) and the Team on the ILLUSTRIOUS was drawn from the Fleet Air Arm as well as Lockheed Martin and Augusta Westland.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

DUNCAN Excels – The newest, and last, Type 45 Destroyer, DUNCAN has returned to Scotstoun (on the Clyde) after highly successful month long initial trial period.   The DUNCAN was testing the ability to manoeuvre, fire most of the weapon fit and flashed up the combat systems during the four weeks of tests off western Scotland. 

The destroyer reached a top speed of over 30kts (34mph) on speed runs, and a ‘fun’ 16˚ heel to one side during a high speed turn, tested not only the stability of DUNCAN, but the balance of the mixed civilian and RN crew.   The DUNCAN then headed up to the ranges around Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.    A second series of trials is lined up for later this autumn before the team at Scotstoun complete their work on this ship over the winter.   The DUNCAN is due to sail for Portsmouth around Easter time 2013, when the ship is expected to be formally handed over to the Royal Navy and hoist the White Ensign for the first time.
Exercise Joint Warrior (Again)Scotland is set to host largest military exercise in Europe again during October (2012).       The tri-Service, multinational exercise, which is held twice a year, will see participation from 27 separate naval units, 40 aircraft and a variety of UK and allied land forces.   The (UK) Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff will operate from the Headquarters for the exercise from HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane.    Around 150 service personnel, many of them reservists, will set up a Joint Warfare Operations Centre to co-ordinate and manage the massive exercise.     Taking part will be ships from the UK, the US, Belgium, Germany, Holland, France, Norway, Denmark and Estonia with the Task Group leaders being:-
·        Commander Netherlands Maritime Force, onboard the De Zeven ProvinciĆ«n class Frigate HNLMS EVERTSEN
·        US Commander Destroyer Squadron 26 onboard the Ticonderoga class Guided Missile Cruiser USS GETTYSBURG.
The Royal Navy contingent will comprise the Type 23 Frigates KENT and ST.ALBANS and the Minecountermeasure Hunt Class CATTISTOCK and HURWORTH and Sandown Class PENZANCE and BANGOR.  It must be remembered that the bulk of the Royal Navy is deployed currently East of Suez and on the COUGAR 12 Exercise in the Mediterranean.

Land troops will conduct military training across Scotland using Defence Training Estate range areas, commercial ranges, and Highland Agency and private land areas. This will enable training for 16 Air Assault Brigade, 3 Commando Brigade, RM and 3 (UK) Division, as well as troops from the USA, Sweden and Holland.     A feature of these activities will be a GPS denial operation.

Military air participation will also be considerable, with up to forty (40) fixed wing aircraft involved, including a detachment of Swedish JAS-39 GRIPEN jets, and eight (8) maritime patrol aircraft from Canada and France, all operating from RAF Leuchars.   With no maritime patrol aircraft of our own the UK element with be provided by HAWK, TORNADO GR4 and TYPFOON aircraft operating from RAF Lossiemouth,   There will be limited night time and weekend flying during the exercise.