Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Exercise Black Alligator Royal Marines from Kilo Company, 42 Commando RM have carried out live firing exercises in California.       The training for the men of 42 Commando RM took place at one of the world’s biggest live-fire ranges, the US Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, 932 square miles of desert/mountainous terrain – that’s nearly twice the size of Greater Manchester.

Last Arrival at Malta ? – The Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, before continuing on as part UK Response Force Task Group, paid a four day visit to Malta – the previous ship of the name played a famous part in the battles for control of the Mediterranean and thus the ship is affiliated with three Maltese cities.    The other ships of UK Response Force Task Group were also visiting the port but all eyes were on the ILLUSTRIOUS.      The ILLUSTRIOUS is due to pay off in 2014 so this could be the final visit to the George Cross island by the present ship.
Western Balkan ExercisesExercise Albanian Lion, in many ways the most important part of the COUGAR 12 Deployment of the UK Response Force Task Group played out around the southern port city of VlorĂ« in Albania.    Amphibious Assaults (by sea and air), Fast Attack Craft Raids, Divers clearing mines, plus urban warfare training and civilian evacuation made up the agenda for the exercise.     Albania if you did not relaise it is the newest member of NATO.     The UK Response Force Task Group comprises the Fleet Flagship, the Assault Ship BULWARK, the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, the Type 23 Frigates NORTHUMBERLAND and MONTROSE all of which were in attendance as were the Landing Ship RFA MOUNTS BAY and the civilian Sealift Ship HARTLLAND POINT.   All were fresh from Exercise Corsican Lion the UK Response Force Task Group was given a good work out.

Royal Marines and Army Commandos were put ashore in small boats from the Type 23 Frigate MONTROSE and were subsequently recovered, meanwhile sixteen frogmen from Fleet Diving Unit 2 - the Royal Navy shallow water experts embarked on the Landing Ship RFA MOUNTS BAY to allow the follow on assault with landing craft.    Following that, W, Y and Z Companies of 45 Commando RM made an amphibious assault with Albanian forces on Sazan Island during Exercise Albanian Lion.    The training took place near Vlore in Albania and demonstrated the Royal Marines' pre-landing force capability when deployed as an advance force.   Albania is of course the newest member of NATO, and at sea, the Albanian Navy provided patrol boats to simulate fast inshore attack craft and acted as smugglers so the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS could test the ship’s embarked boarding team.

Once ashore, pushed 68 miles inland from their beachhead by road and air and then fell back towards Vlorë to provide cover for a large scale civilian evacuation like those the Royal Navy has carried out in Lebanon and Libya in recent times.
BLYTH Leads – The Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessel BLYTH lead a NATO exercise in the Bay of Izmir (Turkey) which successfully locating dummy mines while coming under simulated attack.   The BLYTH is currently the command platform for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2, leading warships from Turkey, Greece, Italy and Germany through several weeks of maritime security operations and exercises.    The BYTH deployed the ship’s embarked ship's divers and the advanced SEAFOX mine disposal system to detect drill mines laid in her area of operations.    Before arriving in Turkish waters the BLYTH was at the centre of a major salvage exercise in the Aegean Sea involving a simulated fire and flood on board, the scenario was designed to draw resources and personnel from other task group ships and test their responses.     The BLYTH is due home Faslane in early December.

MONMOUTH Off to the Gulf – the Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH and have been exercising their operational skills prior to being deployed “East of Suez” to police busy shipping lanes in the Gulf, crucial to maritime trade in order to disrupt and deter piracy and other illegal activities at sea.   En route the MONMOUTH spent a period in the Eastern Mediterranean which allowed the Weapon Engineering Department to take advantage of a NATO training exercise in Crete and prove the accuracy of all sensors and weapon systems on board.     This also allowed the ship's Royal Navy and Royal Marines boarding teams to participate in multiple boarding exercises with Greek forces.

Where to Next for the UK Response Force Task Group – with the British Foreign Secretary urging more involvement by the International community is Syria, shortly after the Chief of Defence Staff was quoted as saying that the MoD was making “very limited contingency plans” for military action.   With the Cougar 12 Deployment about to culminate in seaborne landings in Turkey later this month, the UK could find itself very much in the front line of any intervention.    The exercise off Turkey which will involve some 16,000 troops will involve forces from Canada, France, Holland, Sweden and the United States, so the UK Response Force Task Group will be in good company if deployed.

Houston Do We Have A Problem ? – both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph (so it must be true) have reported the apparent problems of the new Fleet Submarine ASTUTE which is still on “Sea Trials”.     The issues that have come to light are all being addressed and it is said that this is all normal and expected for first of class trials.   However the media made a number of separate claims about ASTUTE:-
       The lead used for reactor instrumentation was not of sufficient quality – to which the MoD stated that the full assessment concluded that the material has no effect on the accuracy of any readings and no impact on the submarine's operation.
       There was incorrect installation of electronic switchboards – to which the MoD stated that the work of rectification has been completed and conforms to naval engineering standards.
       Failure following the flooding incident during trials last year due to a leak - to which the MoD stated that an investigation found one small part which had not been made of the correct material and which had corroded. A replacement was fitted at sea and the submarine continued with the trials - the ingress of water was in the order of tens of litres.
       The subject of an apparent propulsion problem affecting the speed of the ASTUTE met with an MoD frosty “The MOD does not discuss submarine propulsion or speeds”.
       Corrosion problems on both the ASTUTE and sister ship AMBUSH (also on trials) - to which the MoD states the obvious that all Royal Navy submarines are subject to a continuous, thorough assessment of their components to minimise the risk of corrosion.    Apparently the cause for concern was the cosmetic problems with the paint finish inside the submarines which has been identified and rectified.
All of which might be expected as part and parcel of ship construction to a high order EXCEPT the mention of the propulsion problem.       One source quoted by the media likened the problem to that of having “a V8 engine with a Morris Minor Gearbox” – if true that is a design fault and not so easy (or quickly) able to be rectified.   The Nation awaits the truth, and may have to wait a very long time!  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

ARGUS Goes Dutch – the Aviation Support Ship RFA ARGUS on Hurricane Watch in the Caribbean joined forces with the Dutch Karel Doorman Class Multi-Purpose Frigate HNLMS VAN AMSTEL for a spell fighting the War on drugs, designated Exercise Carib Venture.     This was a six day Dutch led operation to detect, distract and disrupt the trafficking of illegal narcotics between the islands of the Caribbean.   The RFA ARGUS is in the final stages of the sojourn on the North Atlantic Patrol (North), which in recent weeks has been focused on the war on drug trafficking and support for British Territories in the Caribbean.     RFA ARGUS is due home in the UK in December 2012.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Armed Forces Cuts Attacked by Defence Chief - General Sir David Julian Richards, GCB, CBE, DSO, ADE Gen, the senior British Army officer, and currently the Chief of the Defence Staff, the professional head of the British Armed Forces has spoken!   General Sir David Richards says the Defence cuts have left the Armed Forces unable to carry out all the tasks that Ministers demand of them and highlighted that he was worried that the Royal Navy did not have enough warships to fulfill its orders properly, and warned that cuts in the number of officers would reduce Britain’s world influence.

In a public lecture, General Sir David Richards said that Ministers had cut the Armed Forces’ numbers and resources without reducing their demands for operations, and suggests that the situation was unsustainable.   The General was speaking in a lecture to Oxford University’s Department of Politics and International Relations and addressed about 70 students, academics and members of the public.

He made an interesting summary of the defence budget and in the Naval context said :-
·         The Navy has no working Aircraft Carrier
·         The surface fleet is based on six Destroyers and thirteen Frigates and was particularly worried about the size of the fleet and suggested that a shortage of ships meant resources were being allotted to the wrong tasks citing Operation Atalanta (Counter piracy in the Indian Ocean) where the military are forced to use the most advanced warships for relatively simple operations.

Presumably it is within the budget of General Sir David Richards to finance to cost of recommissioning the four Type 22 Frigates which are currently still awaiting disposal and the Fleet Tanker RFA FORT VICTORIA.   That will resolve the immediate problem relatively inexpensively.   The question of the working Aircraft Carrier could also be solved relatively inexpensively by buying back the HARRIER Jump Jets from the Americans for the same price they were sold for and operate them from the decks of the ILLUSTRIOUS and the soon to arrive  QUEEN ELIZABETH.    For a Government able to finesse a U-Turn over the pasty tax that should not be a impossible ask!
The TIDES Are Returning – The four new tankers being built in Korea to sustain to Royal Navy’s global operations are to revive the historic TIDE Class tanker names.    The new ships are to be called TIDESURGE TIDESPRING, TIDERACE, and TIDEFORCE.  The TIDEFORCE is a new name!   These new 37,000 tonnes ships will begin to enter service in 2016 and the names of three are revivals with the original class being the first purpose designed and built replenishment tankers for the Admiralty and incorporated lessons learned from the Second World War, especially operations with the Pacific Fleet Train and a need for a fast replenishment tanker that could keep up with a task force.    The original class comprised :
·         RFA TIDE ASTRAL (1955-1962), ordered by the Royal Australian Navy and commission as HMAS SUPPLY in 1962 and served until 1985)
·         RFA TIDESURGE  (1955-1976)
·         RFA TIDERACE    (1956-1975) (renamed 1958 was originally TIDEFLOW)
·         RFA TIDEFORCE  (1963-1991)
·         RFA TIDESPRING (1963-1991)   ,
The names TIDEFLOW, TIDEPOOL and TIDEREACH will remain dormant.
Japanese Helicopter Carriers – recalling the British “Through Deck Cruisers” (the INVINCIBLE Class), the Japanese has their own answer, the “Helicopter Destroyer”.    The Helicopter Destroyer HYUGA has recently commissioned being 610 foot long, 18,000 ton warship and operates up to 11 (mostly SH-60 SEAHAWK helicopters from a full length flight deck.    The flight deck is capable of operating “Jump Jet” aircraft such as the HARRIER, though the Japanese Self Defence Force have no such aircraft. The primary function is anti-submarine warfare, but the Helicopter Destroyer gives Japan its first real power projection capability since 1945.

The HYUGA, which commissioned in March 2009, is the largest warship built in Japan since the Second World War and the Japanese constitution forbids it to have aircraft carriers, which explains the term Helicopter Destroyer.   The HYUGA is armed with 16 Mk41 Vertical Launch cells for anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles.    There are also two 20mm PHALANX anti-missile cannon and two triple 12.75-inch torpedo mounts.    There is a crew of 350.    A second “HYUGA”, the ISE went into service on March 2011  and a third is planned.   These two ships were built to replace the two 7,000-ton HARUNA Class Helicopter Destroyers.

Why is the relevant ?   Well at the present Japan and China are in dispute over some island territories and the Chinese commission their first Aircraft Carrier earlier this year.   Watch this space.

Learning AgainRoyal Navy Meteorologists are re-learning skills by joining American nuclear powered Aircraft Carrier USS HARRY S.TRUMAN currently undergoing training in the Atlantic,   The three month spell onboard the Carrier by the two meteorologists is another piece of the huge jigsaw preparing the Royal Navy for its future carriers.   It highlights differences in outlook - the US Navy produces a main 72 hour forecast to a range of 50 nautical miles from the ship, whereas Royal Navy forecasts look at the next 12 hours – but to a distance of 100 miles!
DIAMOND IKE – The Type 45 Destroyer DIAMOND, servicing East of Suez, has been getting into practice again with the designed role for which the ship was intended by joining an American Carrier Strike Group 8 lead by the nuclear powered Aircraft Carrier  USS DWIGHT D.EISENHOWER.   This was the second time that the British Destroyer has linked up with the American super-carrier.    It is as well to remind ourselves of the Air Group of one of the large NIMITZ Class Carriers which carry eight squadrons – four F-18 HORNET (strike fighter), one HAWEYE (eye-in-the-sky), plus one an Electronic Warfare Squadron, a Transport Squadron plus an Anti-Submarine Helicopter Squadron.  Up to 90 aircraft in all, supported by more than a staggering 5,500 crew.
Corfu Channel Incident Remembered – the Fleet Flagship, the Assault Ship BULWARK was in attendance at Corfu to mark the British war buried in the British Cemetery on the island.    The setting being the last resting place of personnel from both World Wars and the oft forgotten Corfu Channel Incident. 

In May 1946 two British Cruisers, the ORION and SUPERB had crossed the Corfu Channel following a prior inspection and clearing of the strait.     While crossing they came under fire from fortifications situated on the Albanian coast but the ships suffered no material damage and no human casualties occurred, Britain issued a formal demand for an immediate and public apology, but this was not forthcoming, with the  Albanian Government claiming the British ships had trespassed in Albanian territorial waters.  

A second incident was by far the most serious when in October 1946, a Royal Navy Flotilla lead by the Cruisers LEANDER and MAURITIUS with the Destroyers VOLAGE and SAUMAREZ was ordered northward through the Corfu Channel with the express orders to test the Albanian reaction to their right of "innocent passage", with the instruction to respond if attacked.    When passing close to the Albanian coast in what was considered to be a mine free zone with the MAURITIUS leading the SAUMAREZ, followed closely by the LEANDER accompanied by VOLAGE.     Near the Bay of Saranda, just prior to 3 p.m., the Destroyer SAUMAREZ struck a mine and was heavily damaged, and the VOLAGE was ordered to tow the damaged ship to the safety of Corfu harbour.    At approximately 4:16 p.m., while towing the VOLAGE struck a mine and also sustained heavy damage – both ships' bows were completely blown off and adverse weather conditions in the straits made the towing effort exceedingly difficult.   Both ships sailing stern first, and after twelve hours both ships managed to reach the Corfu harbour.     Forty four men died and forty two were injured in the incident.    The SAUMAREZ was damaged beyond repair but the damage to the VOLAGE was deemed repairable (and was).

The third and final incident in the sequence was the following month (November 1946) when the Royal Navy carried out Operation Retail, which was an additional mine sweeping operation in the Corfu Channel, under the direction of the Allied Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean.     The mine sweeping operation took place within Albanian territorial waters, but without authorisation by the Albanian Government, and had the additional purpose of using the mines as corpora delicti to prove that the British were acting in self defence by attempting to clear hazards to navigation.    Twenty two contact mines were discovered and cut from their undersea moorings. The placement of the mines was such that the minefield was deemed to have been deliberately designed and not simply a random aggregation of isolated mines. Two of the cut mines were sent to Malta for further examination.    It was then discovered that the mines were of German origin but they were free of rust and marine growth but they were also freshly painted and their mooring cables were recently lubricated.   It was concluded that the minefield was laid shortly before the incident involving the British Destroyers.

Tristan da Cunha Survey – for the first time in forty years the remote island of Tristan da Cunha has had its waters mapped.      The Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR, en route to Antarctica, during a three day spell off this volcanic island (nearly 1,750 miles west of Cape Town), did the work, though much of this was done by the embarked 30m Survey Motor Launch JAMES CAIRD IV.    The PROTECTOR is too large to berth in the small harbour at Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, ‘capital’ of the island, so the ship had to remain a few hundred yards offshore, with the Sea Boat used to put a small party ashore on the island to assist the JAMES CAIRD IV.   The JAMES CAIRD IV is fitted with multi-beam echo sounder, used especially to map the Edinburgh anchorages and the only such survey using modern techniques.

The PROTECTOR was also able to renew the past links with the island forged when the previous ship of the name, the converted Net Layer, commissioned as such in 1936, and converted for Antarctic service in 1955.       The "old"  PROTECTOR came to aid the island following the eruption in 1961 which forced the island’s inhabitants to be evacuated to England.     The PROTECTOR also recovered members of a Royal Society expedition which assessed the damage the following year, reporting that the settlement had only been marginally affected, and delivered supplies and mail to Tristan in 1964 after most islanders had returned.    Although Edinburgh remained habitable, the waters surrounding the settlement were badly affected by the volcanic eruption, making them particularly hazardous for navigation.

The "new" PROTECTOR took the opportunity to carry out a fishery protection patrol of the Tristan archipelago – which comprises the main island itself, along with the uninhabited Nightingale Islands and the wildlife reserves of Inaccessible Island and Gough Island.   The Tristan fisheries are home to lobster and crayfish – the key to the modern Tristan economy.

The PROTECTOR is now on passage to the frozen continent for a second season amid the ice mapping waters and supporting Britain’s Antarctic scientists.
DIAMONDS SEA KING AIRBORNE SURVEILLANCE – For the first time a Type 45 Destroyer has embarked a SEA KING ASaC7 – the all seeing eyes of the Fleet Air Arm.   The SEA KING ASaC7 of course had its genesis in the Falklands and the latest version has proved itself in Afghanistan, Libya and earlier in Iraq.   854 Naval Air Squadron, equipped with three SEA KING ASaC7 is currently operating in Afghanistan provided what was an unusual visitor to the flight deck of the DIAMOND operating East of Suez.     854 Naval Air Squadron has built up a wealth of experience over land (Iraq and Afghanistan) and sea (Libya) over the past decade in ground and aerial operations respectively;     Using the techniques honed from these deployments the brief visit to the Destroyer has bolstered the surveillance at sea by demonstrating the complementary capabilities to detect even small contacts at range and report them to friendly units.   The flight deck of a Type 45 Destroyer can host a CHINOOK HC2 so the physical act of landing a SEA KING ASaC7 did not prove too challenging.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The QUEEN ELIZABETH Rear – the final hull and gigantic section of the Aircraft Carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH has sailed for Rosyth from the Clyde onboard the Italian owned giant barge, AMT TRADER – the second largest in the world – towed by an Italian anchor handler tug, CARLO MAGNO.    Both pieces of equipment are owned by the Augustea Group of Naples.    The local Clyde based tugs, the Danish controlled units of the Svitzer Marine (Maersk but any other name) assisted the convoy to the sea.    The 600 mile voyage from the Clyde around the top of Scotland to Rosyth, is now almost routine and has proved one of the least contentious parts of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance which is constructing the two aircraft carriers.   

This section - Lower Block 04 - weighing 11,300 tonnes – was pieced together at the BAE Systems yard at Govan – and is 282ft long and 131ft wide and some 75ft high and will contains the two main engine rooms, the sick bay and quarters for some of the 1,500 sailors and air group personnel.     Depending on how you measure things Lower Block 04 represents about 20% of the completed aircraft carrier.   On its arrival in the Forth, the Lower Block 04 will be floated off the specialist barge and moved into position in the dry dock, ready to join the other sections already in place.

Meanwhile, production on both Lower Blocks 03 and 04 of the sister ship, the PRINCE OF WALES continues to progress at Govan, while the aft island for the first ship is under way at the BAE Systems yard at Scotstoun yard.     Further sections of the hull are under construction in Portsmouth.

CLYDE Rescue – the Falkland Guardship, the Patrol Boat CLYDE has rescued a British couple and their teenage daughters from a stricken yacht, the MORGAUSE 11 after it hit an iceberg.   The British family, whose round-the-world voyage which started five years ago ended nearly ended when their yacht (a 60ft Oyster Cutter Sloop), struck an iceberg 300 miles north east of South Georgia in the South Atlantic.    The MORGAUSE 11 had left South Georgia heading towards Cape Town and when disaster struck the couple and their daughters bailed water for 20 hours as the CLYDE raced against time to save them.  The CLYDE was alerted to the plight of the yacht by Falmouth Coastguard who answered a distress call by satellite which was answered by email.    All in days work for the Falkland Guardship!
Exercise Suman Protector 12 - A group of British service personnel has taken part in a major “Commonwealth” exercise in the Asia-Pacific region in support of the Five Power Defence Arrangements.   The Five Power Defence Arrangements Headquarters (or Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System) is based in Malaysia.   Some 38 personnel from all three Services, including a number of reservists, deployed to Changi Naval Base in Singapore for the command post exercise, which is held once every five years.     Working alongside their allies the Army, Navy and RAF officers spent nearly three weeks immersed in a fictional environment in the South China Sea, employed in both kinetic and disaster relief operations, in order to develop the knowhow of their Asian counterparts.   The British Team was lead by a Royal Navy Commodore (Clive Walker), a Commander Joint Force Logistics at the Permanent Joint Headquarters, Northwood.    The team was made up of logisticians, and included air traffic control, engineering, fuel, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), legal and media specialists.

The British Armed Forces Team worked alongside a similar number of Malaysians and New Zealanders, and some 80 Australian Defence Force personnel, with the bulk of the numbers coming from the Singapore Armed Forces, who, as hosts, were particularly keen to test their knowledge and military systems, and to learn from their colleagues' operational experience elsewhere in the world.

847 Naval Air Squadron Off to Afghanistan – part of the Commando Air Wing, equipped with six LYNX AH.9 helicopters will deploy to Afghanistan in January 2013.    The Squadron is currently at the US Naval Air Facility at El Centro (California) for the final stages of their pre-deployment training.    The will be the third deployment of the squadron in the last four years to Afghanistan, where the role of the will be much the same as when supporting of 3 Commando Brigade RM, ie: reconnaissance and direction of supporting arms,    The squadron is manned by and Royal Marine aircrew, though the airframes belong to the Army Air Corps.

The New Trawlers and Drifters – In both the First and the Second World Wars to British Fishing Fleet provided the Royal Navy with many trawlers and drifters which were taken up from trade for all manner of differing services.   The demise of deep water fishing fleet is well documented and the remaining fishing vessels are under a great deal of pressure both economic and environmental, though this is not the concern of this record.    What is of interest is the rise of a new coastal fleet of small vessels which may have a military role in the event of a further major conflict.

At present one of the key elements of our coastal defence are the ARCHER Class of Patrol Boats the replacement of which cannot be too far down the track, with the ARCHER, the Training Ship for the East of Scotland Royal Navy University Unit now being 27 years old.   The main characteristics of the ARCHER Class are a length of 20.8 metres and a service speed of 14 knots, though hull was built to operate at 45 knots if a larger engine was fitted.    These vessels have a typical crew of five with and operate with a Training Officer and twelve students and are fitted "for but not with" a20 mm cannon on forecastle.  The two later editions to the class were slight larger and capable of a service speed of 22 knots and currently serve with the Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron.

The new breed of high speed wind farm service catamarans for wind farm support and crew transport are a growing site around our coast and Holyhead Towing Company Limited is but one example.   Holyhead Towing Company Limited (part of the Holyhead Marine Group) has now nine of their “Bay” Class of catamaran type wind farm tenders all of which are 19.1 metres or larger with a service speed of 24 knots and powered by 1,930 bhp (or larger) machinery.   The Holyhead Marine Group have many smaller such vessels as well as various small tugs and workboats and has now ordered four even larger wind farm service craft from the Australian Austral Group, which are to be built in the Philippines and shipped to the United Kingdom as deck cargo.
Falkland Island Landing Craft – the Holyhead Marine Group has a Falkland Island joint venture, Workboat Services Ltd that has a coastal shipping contract with the Falkland Islands Government, that operates the Landing Craft 45.5m CONCORDIA BAY, built in Malaysia in 2006.   The CONCORDIA BAY is used for the contract, ferrying passengers, vehicles and cargo between East and West Falkland and offshore islands around the Falklands.

In late 2007/early 2008 the CONCORDIA BAY was adapted for operations in the Falkland Islands, and underwent an extensive conversion.   When working as a passenger vessel there are facilities for up to 30 day passengers but no overnight facilities.  The deck is 30m long and 10m wide and has space for 16 one ton Land Rovers, 8 four ton trucks or a combination of container trailers.    As a cargo vessel the CONCORDIA BAY can carry 10 fully loaded 20 foot containers on deck and can double stack empty containers.  The crane can lift 10 tons when extended to 7 metres or 6 tons at 11m.  The vessel is fitted with a kedge anchor at the stern and the bow has been strengthened to allow the bow ramp to put down on suitable beaches.  The CONCORDIA BAY is able to carry a Sea Truck for deliveries to the islands.   The CONCORDIA BAY will carry 98,000 litres of domestic diesel for delivery to Camp customers and 137,000 litres of bunker fuel but more domestic fuel can be carried in place of bunkers if needed.   The CONCORDIA BAY will also carry 80,000 litres of fresh water and has facilities for carrying frozen and fresh cargos.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Coalition Blues – The posture of the Coalition Government is in some turmoil on the subject of the future of the Strategic Deterrent.    The recent Government re-shuffle saw Nick Harvey shuffled out of office and as a Liberal Democrat was not offered another post, even though he seemingly was well regarded and certainly seemed on top of his brief at a recent meeting of the House of Commons Defence Committee.  It may well be he refused another post but his subsequent knighthood would indicate a new career in the House of Lords follows.

The reason for the manoeuvres over the now Sir Nicholas Barton Harvey, the member for North Devon; and until recently the Minister of State for the Armed Services, and leading proponent for finding and alternative to the replacement for the TRIDENT missile submarines that were not TRIDENT missile submarines is now apparent.   Maybe the announcement earlier this year in May (2012) of an initial £328m design phase contract with BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines was but the start of things.

The now all “Tory” Ministry of Defence has announced that it has awarded to BAE Systems a further £315m for ongoing design work for the replacement to the VANGUARD class submarines.      It would seem the plans are for the VANGUARD Class are to be replaced from 2028, and BAE Systems already has more than 1,000 employees working on the replacement programme, the majority of which are focused on developing the new submarine’s complex design.    
      There is of course the little matter of the 2015 General Election to negotiate before all this can be finalised.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Falkland U-Turn – the Government has performed yet another U-Turn, this time over the future of the Cambridge based British Antarctic Survey which was to be merged with the Southampton Oceanographic Centre – both organisations are part of the Swindon based Natural Environmental Research Council.   Both organisations each have two Royal Research Ships and there was a degree of sense in merging the two ship operating units, and manage them along commercial lines.

Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, among others, warned that there was a danger of “sleepwalking” into another Falklands based on the decision to axe the scientific British Antarctic Survey which would send a signal that the UK is losing interest in the South Atlantic.   The decision was compared with the 1981 decision to withdraw the Ice Patrol Ship ENDURANCE.

The decision NOW to retain the British Antarctic Survey as an independent unit within Natural Environmental Research Council will hopefully still allow some sensible economies which could be achieved by the basing of the two Royal Research Ships of the British Antarctic Survey, the JAMES CLARK ROSS and ERNEST SHACKLETON at the Southampton Oceanographic Centre where the Royal Research Ships DISCOVERY and JAMES COOK are already based.
MOD Oil and Pipelines Agency – the little known Government Agency and their partners including Cornwall County Council, Plymouth City Council and the emergency services, has recently carried out an impressive exercise at the MoD Fuel Depot Thanckes (Torpoint, Plymouth).

The activity was all part of the MOD led exercise to rehearse the emergency plans in the event of a spill from the oil depot with the exercise scenario involving a simulated fuel release from a split hose at the depot.   The diesel fuel oil was initially contained with inflatable booms as it was driven up river by wind and tide towards the River Lynher, but was prevented from spreading into the Lynher.   The thin film of surface oil was then dispersed within the boomed area by the movement of tugs and removed through a combination of a suction machine and soaking floats.    The exercise was headed by Queen's Harbour Master who has the responsibility for ensuring the free and safe operation of military traffic in the port of Plymouth.
DAUNTLESS is Dauntless - ‘One massive experience from start to finish’ was the verdict on the maiden deployment by the Type 45 Destroyer DAUNTLESS returning from the South Atlantic after seven months.    The DAUNTLESS clocked up 30,000 miles visiting eighteen countries across four continents, among them Portugal, the Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Angola and South Africa.    After a short stint around the Falklands, the DAUNTLESS moved to the Caribbean for visits to Columbia and the USA with a final port of call in Boston.
OFSTEAD Approves RALEIGH – the Torpoint (Plymouth) Shore Training Establishment RALEIGH has received a glowing report from the OFSTED education inspectors (Office for Standards in Education).       Torpoint was marked up to ‘outstanding’ – up from ‘good’ on their last visit – as they looked at all aspects of life, training, education and welfare support offered to rookie sailors.      In February 2008, the Hunt Class Minecountermeasure vessel BRECON was taken in hand becoming a static training ship at Jupiter Point, (RALEIGH) where new recruits gain their first taste of life aboard a Royal Navy ship.    Torpoint this year will provide the Senior Service with around 1,500 new ratings, was also praised for the support given to recruits with basic skills needs and other learning difficulties.    In addition the support provided for recruits with personal concerns beyond their training was recognised together with the good access provided to chaplains, counselling services and other support services within the welfare chain.

In summary, the OFSTEAD rated RALEIGH as “Good” for Training, Educational support for recruits, Spiritual/pastoral care, Physical education, Leisure facilities/access to internet, Food, Medical facilities, and whilst the Management were rated as outstanding the Accommodation was only “satisfactory”.
849 at Sixty – the Culdrose based 849 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm marked six decades of vigilance, since its formation in 1952 as an airborne early warning squadron.    Apart from a five year break at the end of the 1970s-beginning of the 1980s, 849 Naval Air Squadron and, for the past six years, its sister squadrons 854 and 857, have acted as the eyes of the fleet in peace and war.      Airborne Early Warning, has evolved to become ‘Airborne Surveillance and Control’.

849 Squadron re-formed in July 1952 at RNAS Brawdy (Pembrokeshire) flying SKYRAIDER and switched to the GANNET in 1960.   The GANNET was last in service afloat on the Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL and when that vessel paid off, 849 disbanded.   The Falklands War (1982) reaffirmed the need for airborne early warning, resulting in SEA KING being rapidly converted to the role in just 11 weeks.     That makeshift remedy became formal in November 1984 when 849 re-formed with the SEA KING AEW2 and eighteen years later, in 2002, the next generation was introduced with the advent of the SEARCHWATER 2000 radar fitted to SEA KING ASaC7 – the current equipment.

SEVEN and the London Poppy Appeal – the Fishery Patrol Vessel SEVEN visited London to launch the London Poppy Appeal with the assistance of London Mayor (Boris Johnson).    The Royal British Legion had hopes of raising £1 m in London inside 12 hours.     The Mayor travelled to and from City Hall by RIB (Rigid Inflateable Boat) to the SEVEN berthed on the South Bank to West India Dock.
TRENCHANT and the Turtles – the Fleet Submarine TRENCHANT, on station in the Indian Ocean, visited of Diego Garcia (a British Overseas Territory) for a six day break, being the first British submariners to call in at the US Naval and Air Base in five years.    Members of the crew helped marine life experts research the giant turtles on the atoll by tagging rare marine life, and celebrating the traditional naval ceremony of Crossing the Line.