Tuesday, 29 January 2013

MALI  Ferry ? – the UK as part of its new European Union mission in North Africa the Prime Minister has offered our French Allies:
·         Up to 200 UK personnel for a wider mission to Africa, outside Mali, to train troops from other African nations who will then go into Mali
·         70 UK personnel are already staffing a SENTINEL R1 “spy plane” based in Senegal.
·         The offer of UK facilities for Britain’s “allies” – (ie : the United States) – to mount air-to-air refuelling operations
·         About 20 RAF crew operating a C-17 transport plane, which will remain in Mali for three months
·         An offer of a roll-on, roll-off ferry to ship French equipment by sea to Mali – presumably one of the Sealift Logistic Ships based at Marchwood ?
Out of interest the adjective francophone means French speaking, which for the record includes France (of course), Belgium, Luxembourg, Lebanon, Switzerland, Haiti, the French West Indies and several countries in Africa, including Congo (DRC), Burundi, Madagascar and Rwanda, that are former French or Belgian colonies.    Colonial France, where there if of course a residual francophone association include Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, and the east African coastal enclave of Djibouti (French Somaliland).   New maps do I hear the cry in the corridors of power!
First WILDCAT - Maiden Flight - The first WILDCAT HMA.2 attack helicopter to be delivered to the Fleet Air Arm has successfully taken its first flight at Yeovil in Somerset.     The WILDCAT HMA.2 will carry STINGRAY torpedoes, a door mounted 0.5-inch heavy machine gun and new light and heavy variants of the future anti-surface guided weapon missiles.     The maritime WILDCAT attack helicopter will be used in anti-surface warfare, force protection and counter-piracy - It will also be able to carry out an anti-submarine role.    The MoD signed a £250 million contract with AgustaWestland last year to provide support and training for the Fleet Air Arm and British Army’s 62 strong fleet of WILDCAT helicopters of which 28 maritime attack helicopters, which will begin operations across the globe from 2015 and replace the existing LYNX HMA.8.
Shackleton Epic Expedition - two members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines sailed out of Elephant Island quietly tacked their little boat near Point Wild, and set sail, bound for South Georgia some 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean, following in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton and his men almost 100 years before.   They are using the “Alexandra Shackleton” a 22.5’ whaler and an exact replica of the JAMES CAIRD.     The goal to become the first to authentically recreate what is acknowledged as the greatest journey of survival, honouring the legend of Shackleton as the centenary of his expedition, on the ENDURANCE (1914-1916).
QUEEN ELIZABETH – Engined Up – the Aircraft Carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH, completing at Rosyth has had installed the first (of two) Rolls-Royce MT30 marine gas turbine - the world's most powerful marine gas turbine.    The two Rolls-Royce MT30, at 36 megawatts each (around 50,000 horsepower each) when fitted will provide two thirds of the 109 megawatts needed to power the 65,000-tonne ship - enough electricity to power a town the size of Swindon.    The power generated will meet the carriers’ demand for energy, which includes the propulsion motors, weapons and navigation systems as well as the entire low-voltage requirements for lighting and power sockets.    The MT30s are being installed as part of a gas turbine alternator which also includes an alternator and gas turbine enclosure, weighing a total of 120 tonnes.
SUPERDRONEs Are Go - named after the Celtic god of thunder, and flying faster than the speed of sound the TARANIS is Britain’s latest pilotless combat aircraft,  which will make its maiden flight in the next few weeks.    The TARANIS is capable of flying from British bases to attack targets worldwide.   The Superdrone”, is manufactured by BAE, is the result of a 2006 MoD decision to develop and fly an uncrewed aircraft that goes one better than current US systems by using a customised Rolls-Royce jet engine rather than a propeller.     When its sleek design was first unveiled in 2010 it was accompanied by boasts from its designers that TARANUS could strike at the heart of Britain’s enemies without risking British lives.    No mention yet of any maritime reconnaissance application but with then drawdown in Afghanistan about to start where will be use the present REAPER drones and what will the TARANUS be used for ?
TURBULENT Cleared – The Fleet Submarine TURBULENT was accused of being involved in the sinking of a French Trawler causing the death of the five crew in January 2004.    The sinking happened a day before a NATO exercises began in the area.    Families of the dead crew believed the vessel was dragged under by a submarine caught in fishing gear, and blamed the British submarine.   The Royal Navy has consistently stated that it had no involvement and now following further inquiries the submarine has been found to be 'Definitely in port' at this time of the incident.   There had been an "unprecedented co-operation to the exhaustive French investigation" which stated that a "submarine was not to blame", and hopefully that will be the end of the matter, finally.
Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron Update – the Clyde based Squadron has changed vessels handing in the Batch 1 ARCHER Class Patrol Boats DASHER and PURSUER for the later Batch vessels RAIDER and TRACKER.   The RAIDER and TRACKER have undergone an upgrade package which saw them fitted with ballistic protection and weapon mountings so that they are now fully fledged armed patrol boats.    The RAIDER and TRACKER have more powerful and faster engines, are able to cruise at over 20 knots and are armed with three General Purpose Machine Guns.   Both DASHER and PURSUER are to return to their training role, though PURSUER will remain based at HMNB Clyde supporting Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities’ Royal Navy Unit.

BULWARK Efficiency Pennant – the Fleet Flagship, the Assault Ship has been presented with a  Efficiency Pennant by the Flag Officer Sea Training at a ceremony on board the ship - in so doing it reflected the efforts of the ship in maintaining a high level of operational capability and the consistent and outstanding contribution to maritime operations.     During 2012, BULWARK had conducted the NATO Arctic exercise ‘Cold Response’, played a key role in the maritime element of the 2012 Olympics security plan and led the major UK Response Force Task Group Cougar 12 Deployment to the Mediterranean.    In 2013 the BULWARK starts a similar high tempo programme, including operational sea training, Exercise Joint Warrior (off Scotland) and a subsequent overseas deployment.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Black Knight Flight 215 Tests Defences in the Gulf – the Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH (known as the Black Knight) tested its flare defence system.   The LYNX HMA.8 (known as the Black Knight) was testing one of the box of tricks that makes up the helicopters defensive aid suite… in this instance Infra Red Counter Measures (flares to the uniniated).     These are installed to decoy incoming heat seeking missiles – fired either by other aircraft, or ground-based threats such as shoulder-launched MANPADS (small hand-held surface-to-air missiles) – drawing them away from the helicopter’s engines on to a much hotter target.
PRESIDENT To The Fore - Royal Naval Reservists were at the heart of some recent international exercises in the closing months of 2012.    A Submarine Control Team participated in Exercise Joint Warrior in the northern UK waters and Exercise Noble Mariner (a deployment to the Mediterranean with the French Navy in the waters off Toulon and Marseille).
PROTECTOR Frees FRAM – The Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR has rescued the Norwegian Cruise Liner FRAM which was risk of becoming trapped in thick ice off the coast of Antarctica and was guided to safety in a two hour operation at speeds of just two knots.   The FRAM, of 11,647 GRT dates from 2007 and is owned by the Hurtigruten Cruise Line has accommodation for 318 passengers.     The PROTECTOR broke through the densely packed ice which had surrounded the FRAM and blocking the path of the liner trapping the bow, as she ship proceeded through the Antarctic Sound.   The FRAM followed the PROTECTOR through the gaps in the pack ice after being surrounded by a number of fast moving floes.      The PROTECTOR immediately turned back to help, approaching the FRAM from astern and breaking up the ice - which was up to four metres thick.    The Patrol continues.
TRIDENT – No Need For Like o Like Replacement – So says the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat) stating that there are 'credible and compelling alternatives', and will thus save the country billions of pounds at a time of national austerity.     The Chief Secretary is now in charge of the Cabinet Office led Trident Alternatives Review, said: "Given all the financial pressures across the whole of the public sector, all the things the government has to do and wants to pay for, and all the pressures in different areas, I just think the idea that somehow, out of thin air, we can carve a multibillion pocket to pay for this, that is not financially realistic."

The Chief Secretary went on to say “MPs from all parties and senior officers in the military should accept there are "credible and compelling alternatives" to continuous at-sea deterrence, stating that the Treasury did not have "a magic pot of money" to pay for a new generation of Successor submarines”.   The Chief Secretary then went on to say “that the world had changed, and so had the defence assumptions that underpinned the position since the cold war”   He described as a "non-starter" the idea that the Treasury could find new cash to help the Ministry of Defence pay for new submarines, which is the privately held assumption of some Conservative MPs and officials at the MoD.    He went on to say “We are in a position where the costs of the Successor have to be paid for from within the MoD budget.    He also stated that as a Government,we have been very clear about that. Certainly myself and the chancellor.    "That very financial imperative is one of the reasons why I think this review is so important. We have already set out that it is going to take another three years to deal with the deficit. That means budgets across the board naturally have to be squeezed, including defence."

We are fortunate that the Trident Alternatives Review is in such objective hands.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Last of the 42s – During the early part of 2013 we will mark the passing of the Type 42 Destroyers – the backbone of the Royal Navy since the mid 1970s – with the last ship of the class, the EDINBURGH pays off this spring.   The EDINBURGH returns from a final deployment to the South Atlantic and is scheduled to conduct a ceremonial farewell tour of the UK before a final last entry to Portsmouth and decommissioning in May 2013.

The first Type 42 was the SHEFFIELD, ordered in late 1968 and sixteen were built with the SHEFFIELD and the COVENTRY both lost in the Falklands in 1982.    The EDINBURGH is scheduled to take part in 70th anniversary of the Battle of Atlantic commemorations in London and Liverpool, and will also visit Leith to end the long association with the Scottish capital.
Thunderbird 2 – The media has reported the astonishing airship set to revolutionise haulage, tourism and warfare.   The AERSOCRAFT, heavily backed by the U.S. Military, it is now at the prototype stage and is set for its first test flight.    It is capable of vertical takeoff and landing and does not need a landing strip.    The AEROSCRAFT can carry three times more than the biggest military cargo planes over thousands of miles and it looks uncannily like the Thunderbird 2 craft from the classic TV show, hence the headline.

A concept of the airship on the battlefield, where it could be used to transport tanks and soldiers directly onto the front line, it could also have major implications for cargo haulage, and almost everything now laboriously transported by boat, train and lorry or the skies.      California based aviation Worldwide Aeros Corporation has been developing their revolutionary AEROSCRAFT concept for several years, and it is now in its final stages, they have built a prototype which they hope will finally prove the concept works in practice.   At 250ft in length, it is just half the size of the final model, but has been built with the same rigid structure, flight control systems and landing gear.   The AEROSCRAFT ML866 has a planned 20 tonne lifting capacity, and the announced a 60 ton ML868 and the 500 ton ML86X are in the pipeline.

As well as its horizonal propellers, the rigid airship has six downward pointing turbofan jet engines for vertical take-off and landing.     The craft also uses Dynamic Buoyancy Management, a novel technology which controls buoyancy by compressing its helium gas into pressurised tanks while taking air from the surrounding atmosphere into the vacant space inside the rigid structure, thus creating negative buoyancy. Releasing the compressed helium into the gas bags expanding inside the structure displaces the air and creates positive buoyancy.   These systems make the AEROSCRAFT capable of landing on rough or snowy terrain, or on water.      The manufacturer envisions commercial use as a cargo carrier which could deliver a large amount of merchandise from a centralised location.       The half size prototype is preparing for its first flight in 2013 and the planned full scale version, but will incorporate the same structure and avionics  will fly in 2016 and will have a 3,000 mile range and a 66 ton cargo capacity; with a top speed of 140 mph and a service ceiling of 18,000 ft.

What are the maritime applications for an AEROSCRAFT rigid airship ?   It would also be able to reach isolated communities, including many remote islands in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans but for example the current range quoted would not allow the machine to take over the Air Bridge role between Ascension and the Falklands which is an obvious application with great potential.
Australian Type 26 Frigates and ASTUTEs ? – if you wondered why the Foreign Secretary was in Australia when the Algerian crisis started, then this will explain as there is now a new treaty to formalise defence co-operation with Australia.      He was accompanied by the Defence Secretary and the new defence treaty will provide a framework for the many strands of co-operation between the two countries.   It covers areas such as cyber security, defence reform, personnel exchange, equipment, and science and technology.

With both Great Britain and Australia due to build new frigates in the near future (near in defence terms can mean a decade) it was agreed to explore co-operation over mutual design work for the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Global Combat Ship - a design that could meet the needs of the Royal Australian Navy.

But the more interesting speculation relates to the submarine question.    The signing ceremony was held in Perth (Western Australia) where one of examples of the closer relationship is evident as Fleet Base West (HMAS STIRLING), the base for Australia’s submarine fleet is adjacent to the local shipyard, now owned by BAE Systems.     This visit led to a discussion relating to the sustainment and development of Australia’s submarine programme, and future shipbuilding.    Australia of course operated six OBERON Class submarines (built in the 1960’s and 1970’s) and were originally based at Sydney but following the move to a “Two Ocean Navy” policy the submarines were moved to Fleet Base West (HMAS STIRLING) from 1987.     The final OBERON was decommissioned in December 2000.

The OBERONs were replaced by the COLLIN Class submarines, built in Adelaide (the first Australian built submarines) and entered service between 1996 and 2003 but the required extensive trials and modifications before being declared successful.     These submarines were enlarged versions of the Swedish VASTERGOTLAND Class submarine of a Kockums design, and were originally known as Type 471.   Under current Royal Australian Navy doctrine, the Submarine Service has the following responsibilities:
·         intelligence collection and surveillance;
·         maritime strike and interdiction;
·         barrier operations;
·         advanced force operations;
·         layered defence;
·         interdiction of shipping;
·         containment by distraction; and
·         support to operations on land
The COLLINS class submarines will begin to reach the end of their useful life from 2026, and to meet that in service date the advance design work on the next generation of Australian submarines should begin in 2014–15.     At this very early stage, it appears probable that the submarines will be Australian built conventional submarines equipped with air independent propulsion and advanced combat and communications systems.   The timetable for the new boats planned if for a contract to be signed in 2014 or 2015 with the first new submarine entering service in 2025 and it is expected that they will be built in Adelaide.

Question ?
Could the UK and BAE Systems be making a pitch for Australia to go nuclear in its future submarine programme  ?   Australian ASTUTEs would be a step change for that Nation but with the wide Indian and Pacific oceans to patrol the long range options provided by nuclear powered submersibles may make such a change cost effective.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Bell Boeing V-22 OSPREY – The Answer or the Question ? - is the American multi-mission, military, tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing and short takeoff and landing capability.     It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long range, high speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.     The team of Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopters were awarded a development contract in 1983 and the V-22 OSPREY first flew in 1989, with the United States Marine Corps beginning crew training in 2000, and fielded the first unit in 2007.    

The V-22 OSPREY is powered by Rolls-Royce engines – the T406 (designation AE 1107C) which is a turboshaft engine which delivers 6,000 shp (4,470 kW).  In April 2012, the US Department of Defence ordered 70 AE 1107C engines for the OSPREY with options for up to 268 engines, and has now signed a support contract for the engines with Rolls-Royce.      The Fleet Air Arm will need AEW (airborne early warning) and COD (carrier onboard delivery) aircraft to support the new Aircraft Carriers and the V-22 OSPREY has been considered for this and an immediate “of the shelf” purchase of say at least 28 airframes - half (?) the cost coming back by way of Rolls-Royce - would seem to meet our urgent requirements, and be a cost effective answer to many questions about or Carrier Strike capability.

In USMC service the OSPREY is supplementing and will eventually replace the CH-46 SEA KNIGHT by 2019.    The other V-22 OSPREY operator, the U.S. Air Force, which fielded the version in 2009, and since entering service the airframe has been deployed in both combat and rescue operations over Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.     In September 2005, the Pentagon formally approved full rate production for the V-22 OSPREY with the  plan to produce between 24 and 48 a year by 2012, and of the 458 total planned, 360 are for the U.S. Marine Corps, 48 for the US Navy, and 50 for the US Air Force at an average cost of US$ 110 million per aircraft (including development costs)    The OSPREY had an incremental flyaway cost of US$ 67 million per aircraft in 2008, but it is hoped to shave about US$ 10 million off that cost after a five year production contract in 2013.

In July 2007 an MV-22 OSPREY landed aboard the Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS in the Atlantic Ocean and was the first time that any V-22 had landed on any non U.S. vessel.    The USMC have found that the V-22 OSPREY's speed and range make it a good operational match for fast jets and in Afghanistan some 100,000 flight hours +  were completed and the V-22 was reported as being (become) "the safest airplane, or close to the safest airplane” in the Marine Corps inventory.   The USMC further claim that the cost of a flight hour had fallen from US$ 12,000 to US$ 8,300 in January 2012, averaging US$ 10,000, with the required mission capable rate set 82%, but the average for the period 2007-2010 was 53%.

Imagine for a moment that the Air Group of the QUEEN ELIZABETH in 2018 could comprise:
Squadron (8 machines) APACHE Gunships (taken from the redundant Army Air Corps machines
  in a post Afghan world)
Squadron (4 machines) OSPREY AEW (off the shelf purchase of airframes with the CROWSNEST
                                                        radars fitted)
Squadron (4 machines) OSPREY SAR/COD (off the shelf purchase of airframes)
Squadron (8 machines) MERLIN HM.2 (Anti-Submarine)
Squadron (8 machines) MERLIN HM.3 (Commando/Special Forces)
The is 32 machines, and that is before you add the LIGHTNING which realistically cannot be in Squadron service by 2022 ?   It is a possible.   Imagine if we had the courage to do this ?
AMBUSH Commissions – the Fleet Submarine AMBUSH has commissioned as a warship and formally joins the Fleet having completed a series of successful trials.   Built by BAE Systems at Barrow the AMBUSH is the second of the Silent Service’s new hunter killer submarines the “boat” was “launched” at the end of 2010 and arrived on the Clyde in September 2012.    The AMBUSH is now undergoing a maintenance period before returning to sea in the spring to resume trials and training ahead of entering operational service.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

SOMERSET Back at Sea – the Type 23 Frigate SOMERSET has returned to sea for the first time in nine months following an extensive £20 million docking and revamp at Devonport Naval Base.   The warship’s fighting capability is now among the most advanced in the world, while the living arrangements and main machinery have been improved and overhauled, and a new coat of paint on the hull increases its streamlined efficiency, economy and speed.    Enhancements to the ship’s SEAWOLF missile system, installation of an advanced electronic communications system, and significant improvements to operations room functions have made the Frigate more versatile and agile. In addition, substantial galley improvements will make life at sea more comfortable for the sailors aboard.
The Navy’s Here – The Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER and the Fisheries Protection Vessel SEVERN helped prevent a tug, the CHRISFOS XXII from sinking in the English Channel during a dramatic rescue off the Devon coast. Sailors from the two ships struggled in dark, freezing conditions to plug a hole in the damaged hull of the tug and pumped out tonnes of water to save the vessel.     The leak was plugged by hammering wooden wedges into the foot-long gap caused when the vessel the tug was towing crashed into it at Hope's Nose near Torbay.
DUNCAN Up and Running – the last Type 45 Destroyer DUNCAN now has a full ship’s company with the vessel due to arrive in Portsmouth in March 2013.   Not all of the crew on the DUNCAN are onboard as some are dispersed among the other members of the class for familiarisation.   The DUNCAN in the final stages of fitting out at BAE’s Scotstoun yard following two spells of sea trials last year.

The destroyer takes her name from Admiral Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, who routed the Dutch fleet in the North Sea in 1797; the tactics he used are believed to have inspired Nelson’s actions eight years later at Trafalgar.    Seven ships have been named DUNCAN the first being an East Indiaman, the CARRON purchased upon completion in 1804 and the fourth ship of the name was a Battleship launched in 1901, lead ship of a class that saw action against German installations on the Belgian coast during World War I, and sold in 1920.      In 1932 a new D class Destroyer, which was scrapped in 1945.    The previous DUNCAN was a Type 14 Frigate in service from 1957 until 1985.

Of the Type 45 Destroyers the status is :
            DARING - just emerged from maintenance
            DAUNTLESS - recently back from deployment
            DIAMOND – recently back from deployment
            DRAGON – shortly to make a maiden deployment
            DEFENDER – completing trials and training - ahead of her commissioning on March 2013.
Carrier Costs Rise By £ 217 – so said the headline – this increase has occurred in the past 12 months as reported by the National Audit Office – this rise in the cost of the Royal Navy’s future carrier programme is attributed to industry better understanding the risks involved in completing the two Carriers.     Both will also enter service later than planned and when ordered in 2008, the price tag for the two carriers was £3.5bn - the figure now stands at £5.3bn.

The National Audit Office looked at sixteen (16) major MoD projects, including:-
       ASTUTE Fleet Submarines – good news some £ 62m has been saved on this programme
       QUEEN ELIABETH Aircraft Carriers – see above
       Type 45 Destroyers – more good news as £ 108m has been saved on this programme
       LYNX WILDCAT – the cost of introducing the airframe to both the Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps will cost an extra £19m and is running about seven months behind schedule
RFA FORT VICTORIA on Station – The RFA Replenishment Ship RFA FORT VICTORIA, the largest ship in Naval Service, has taken over the support mission in the Middle East, fresh from refit in Dubai (UAE).   The RFA FORT VICTORIA has relived the Fleet Tanker RFA WAVE RULER which has returned “home” to Portland.    The RFA FORT VICTORIA is on a four year deployment “East of Suez”.

Under present policy there is always an RFA vessel assigned to CTF53, and during the recent four month attachment to the force by the RFA WAVE RULER the ship was in constant demand.    The tanker clocked up more than 27,000 miles to meet with coalition ships for 52 replenishments at sea.
RFA WAVE KNIGHT to the Caribbean – the Fleet Tankers RFA WAVE KNIGHT has begun a six month deployment on an Atlantic Patrol North tasking in the Caribbean providing aid should a natural disaster affect the region, and has relived the Aviation Training Ship RFA ARGUS in the role.   The RFA ARGUS has now returned “home”.    Both ships of course played/and are playing their part in the international fight against the drugs trade in the Caribbean.

The RFA WAVE KNIGHT has onboard specialist stores to help countries in the event of a natural disaster from DfID (Department of International Development) for humanitarian and disaster relief.
847 Deploys to Afghan for the Last Time – The LYNX AH9A of 847 Naval Air Squadron have begun a five month tour of duty in support of the Royal Marines and other Allied troops in Afghanistan.    While deployed, 847 Squadron will be based at Camp Bastion, from where the helicopters will carry out essential surveillance and reconnaissance missions while also supporting ground troops.

On return from Afghan in the spring to Yeovilton the Squadron will begin converting to WILDCAT.    The WILDCAT, built and designed by AgustaWestland in Yeovil, is due to enter active service later this year, is fitted with more powerful engines - the £ 26 million aircraft has a maximum speed of 181mph and can carry forward-firing rockets, machine guns, door-mounted machine guns. RNAS Yeovilton will become the home of the entire Army and Navy WILDCAT fleet, with a centre-of-excellence training academy.
Playing Pirates – The Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH and Hunt Class Minecountermeasure vessel ATHERSTONE, both operating in the Gulf joined forces to take their skills on patrol to the next level.  The ATHERSTONE played the role a Pirate Mother Ship and MONMOUTH took the Mother Ship down using the Royal Marines of 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group embarked on the Pacific 24 Sea Boats to ‘attack’ the smaller ship.
Arctic Convoy Veterans Disgrace - Some 3,000 servicemen have been offered Ushakov Medals by the Russian Government to recognise their courage in taking part in Arctic missions to support fighting on the eastern front during the Second World War.     But they have been told by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that accepting the medals would break rules in this country as they have already been honoured with the Atlantic Star campaign medal.    Apparently if they had their service had taken place in the last five years they would be eligible.   This is a nonsense.
Argentina Unlikely' to Invade the Falklands – A Defence Minister (Andrew Robathan) has claimed that Argentina lacks the military might it had when the islands were invaded in 1982, and that it is highly unlikely Argentina will attempt to invade the Falkland Islands.   He went on to say that the UK Government retains the ability to increase its military presence on the islands ahead of next month's referendum on whether they should remain under British rule; and confirms that there are :
       Four TYPHOON aircraft
       An Infantry  Company
       The Falkland Guardship. The Patrol Vessel CLYDE.
       The Minister added: "There are also submarines capable of defending the islands", but he would not comment on their exact whereabouts.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Defending the Falklands – The media is full of reports  on this subject, with the Daily Telegraph, as you would expect in the van.   It seems that a series of military options are being actively considered as the war of words over the islands intensifies.     It is understood that additional troops, another warship and extra RAF TYPHOON combat aircraft could be dispatched to the region ahead of the March referendum on the Falkland Islands’ future.    The planners at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood, are no doubt busy are also said to be planning a “show of force”, probably conducting naval exercises in the South Atlantic.     Expect therefore a deployment of the Royal Navy’s Response Task Force Group, or elements of the 16 Air Assault Brigade which has just completed a series of demanding exercises in Spain preparing for “general war”.

Around 1,500 troops are permanently based on the Falklands Islands, along with four RAF TYPHOON Fighters plus anti-aircraft and artillery batteries.   There is an RAF search and rescue helicopter unit based at Port Stanley.    The Royal Navy currently has the last Type 42 Destroyer, the EDINBURGH on duty in the South Atlantic, as well as the resident Patrol Ship CLYDE, the Support Tanker RFA GOLD ROVER and the Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR supporting the two British Antarctic Survey Vessels (JAMES CLARK ROSS and ERNEST SHACKLETON).     To provide deep cover one of our nuclear powered Fleet Submarines is always on notice to move to the region if the diplomatic situation deteriorates.

Some 150 members B Company/2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment are to be deployed to the Falklands for a two month tour of duty.    The unit only came “home” last March (2012) from Nahr-e Saraj north, (Afghanistan) where the Taliban remain in force.   This deployment is part of a routine rotation of military personnel to and from the Islands which has seen more than 500 infantry companies deployed there since the end of the 1982 conflict. The Mercians role on this deployment will be to undertake regular patrols protecting key locations and of course they are available to support the regular garrison being ready to protect the islands and reassure people who live there.

In a separate development two British P&O cruise ships have cancelled plans to visit three Argentine ports because of the growing tensions over the Falklands  - the ARCADIA and ADONIA are scheduled to  visit Port Stanley, on the cruises leaving Southampton next month.    This decision is in response to the recent actions of some Argentinean port authorities have refused permission for cruise ships that have been to the Falklands to dock as tensions over the islands continue to simmer.

Ship-in-a-Box Facility - Royal Marines from the Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH, deployed “East of Suez” have been practising their ship-boarding skills to combat pirates and smugglers at a specialist 'Ship-in-a-Box' owned by the US Coast Guard located at Bahrain.     The facility recreates a portion of a ship in which 'room clearance' drills may be practised and perfected with a great sense of realism.

Action Stations - Flight 217 of 815 Naval Air Squadron - The LYNX HMA.8 helicopter from this deployed unit of the Fleet Air Arm is serving on the French Frigate FLF SURCOUF as part of Operation Atalanta, the European Union’s counter-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa.      The LYNX was sent ahead by the French warship to find the suspected pirates after the American Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate USS HALYBURTON operating as part of NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, received a distress call from a merchant vessel reporting she was under attack from six men armed with rocket-propelled grenades.    The merchant vessel, the MSC JASMINE, sailing 260 miles off the Somali coast, managed to repel the attack themselves, a German EU maritime patrol aircraft was scrambled to track the suspect vessel, which was by then towing another boat with several more men on board.

The Fleet Air Arm LYNX sped to the scene and ordered the vessels to stop while French commandos from SURCOUF arrived alongside in a fast boat and quickly boarded, resulting in the suspected pirates swiftly surrendering.     Upon searching the pirates’ boats, the commandos also discovered containers of diesel and water and twelve suspects are now being held on board FLF SURCOUF for evidence collection in order to fully assess the possibility of prosecution.
National Audit Office Report – For a change the annual NAO Report found other fish to fry than the Aircraft Carrier programme.    The failure to deliver new vehicles and equipment on time will leave the Forces short of air-to-air refuelling and transport aircraft and a communications system classed as an “urgent operational requirement” for troops in Afghanistan has also been delayed and will not be available before the British withdrawal.      Despite the problems the auditors’ annual report on major defence equipment projects suggested that the MoD’s management of its procurement plans is improving slowly.

The aircraft carriers do not escape attention as the costs of the increased by £217 million partly due to the Coalition Governments decision to change the type of aircraft they are planned to carry.
Fit for Purpose - A letter in the Sunday Times from the First Sea Lord (Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope) responded to criticism of Carrier Strike by a Rear Admiral (Chris Parry).     The published letter read:

"Far from being 'unfit for sea battle', the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers will be the largest ships the Royal Navy has ever operated, launching the most advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter available ('Dinky toy carriers unfit for sea battle', last week).    Jet-to-jet mid-air refuelling is not a requirement for our operations and is not necessary [to 'attack targets at long range or carry heavier bomb loads']. The carriers will be able to operate within strike range of the vast majority of nations and, in extremis, in conjunction with both UK and coalition air-to-air refuelling aircraft, would be able to support longer range strike missions as required."

The full version of the First Sea Lord's letter also included the following:
"The idea of adding further expense with a jet-to-jet refuelling variant of the Lightning for such a limited payload advantage at this stage of the project is misguided and would simply reduce the number of strike jets available. It is now important that the wider Defence community follows the example of the Service Chiefs in acknowledging the huge success that has been achieved to develop the carrier and jet programmes so far and by working together ensure we maximise and exploit the considerable investment and future potential of both. I am confident we will deliver a world-class Carrier Strike and Littoral Manoeuvre capability."

So know we know – the paraphrase the Great Winston about tools and jobs – we have the Carriers and but need the aircraft and one without the other makes no sense.