Tuesday, 24 April 2012
With the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier and F-35 decision grabbing all the headlines, the rest of the Royal Navy's fleet is being left to 'wither on the vine', argues maritime consultant and former Royal Navy officer David Mugridge
It is hard to imagine a defence procurement project more inept in construct and scandalously administered than the MoD's current handling of Britain's new aircraft carriers. The almost daily headlines about cost over-runs, in-service delays and ridiculous ever-changing equipment decisions are over-shadowing more important defence and security issues like the erosion of effective national maritime security.
For over a decade the Royal Navy has staked its future on the operational employment of these carriers. It has decimated other hard-won capabilities like amphibious warfare in the process and now finds "flat-top nirvana" still as elusive as ever because cost over-runs and the need for last minute design changes make these platforms unaffordable to a cash-strapped Britain. As important as the carrier debate is, I would argue the rest of the fleet is withering on the vine because of it. By the time these sacred cows are operational and equipped with a viable air group there will be so little left of the Royal Navy to support the type of operations envisaged by Admirals and politicians alike, Britain's already compromised maritime security will be lost.
Because of today's media-fest, we hear nothing of the "battle royal" within Whitehall, which is raging over the Type 26; a modest future escort which trades traditional war-fighting capabilities to moderate its platform cost. The loss of the Royal Navy's once world-renowned amphibious capability is lucky if it grabs an inch of headlines as both sides of the carrier debate trade headlines in the hopes of carrying the ill-informed media day. Astute and Daring have both proved at best limited operational successes, while their platform costs contributed greatly to the financial haemorrhage that was the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010.
Even though we continue to sit on the UN Security Council and rely upon Italian national debt to keep us in the G8, the diplomatic future of the UK is not encouraging. We all now accept Great Britain and today's Royal Navy no longer rule the waves but too few realise our growing weakness in defence and, in particular, maritime defence costs and will cost this nation dearly. For many decades we have been a country of diplomatic influence and clout; a transatlantic power broker, who when words failed was not afraid to use force to intervene around the world. From the South Atlantic, West Africa, the Middle East to the mountains of Central Asia we have possessed a Royal Navy which could respond effectively across the full spectrum of defence and diplomatic missions. That hard-won ability and focused, operational excellence has been squandered on the altar of CVF, and for what? At best a hollow platform we cannot afford to operate effectively for a perfidious Royal Air Force which continues to out-manoeuvre the Naval Staff at every turn on the issue of carrier based air power or for a vulnerable platform which we cannot defend without additional escorts from other countries.
Power projection without a robust landing force is an empty threat. Shock and Awe did not win the Iraq war. In its wake it left a bloody counter-insurgency campaign which the coalition lost. One operational carrier can only achieve so much defence diplomacy or regional engagement. Only having one operational carrier means you have to be incredibly risk-averse in its employment or be prepared to create a political storm of epic proportions if it is lost to enemy action. The CVF decision was wrong in 1998 and, because of Whitehall incompetence and Portsmouth ego, continues to distort the recovery of Britain's armed forces in the wake of SDSR. Enough of trading ill-conceived tabloid headlines, can we please sort out the future Royal Navy and Britain's maritime security needs with some careful consideration and realistic planning? After all, those who threaten our national maritime security will not be countered by a single show-boat on exercise in the Wash, but they will be by a gunboat, deployed to their back yard, and some fighting spirit.
The Pentagon has finally released a report about what went wrong when its Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2) failed just minutes into a test flight last year and barreled into the Pacific Ocean.
The unmanned, arrowhead-shaped aircraft, which one day could allow the US to strike anywhere across the globe in less than 60 minutes, was strapped to a rocket and launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base last August.
The drone coasted at speeds of 13,000mph (21,000kmph) -- 20 times the speed of sound -- through the Earth's atmosphere for less than three minutes before ultimately failing and switching into abort-mode just nine minutes into the flight. It splashed down short of its intended target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said an analysis of the crash showed that high speeds peeled off larger-than-expected portions of the vehicle's skin.
'HTV-2's first flight test corrected our models regarding aerodynamic design.'
Officials anticipated some of the outer shell would gradually wear away, but rapidly-forming gaps on the skin created strong shock waves around the HTV-2 and caused it to roll abruptly, the report said.
Military researchers, however, were hopeful that they could learn from the mistakes of the failed flight, especially after the first HTV-2 mission in April 2010 -- which also terminated early -- prompted successful adjustments to the craft's aerodynamic design.
"HTV-2's first flight test corrected our models regarding aerodynamic design within this flight regime," Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. "We applied that data in flight test two, which ultimately led to stable aerodynamically controlled flight."
Schulz added that data collected during the second test flight "revealed new knowledge about thermal-protective material properties and uncertainties" for flights at such a high speed in our atmosphere. Going forward, that data will be used to modify how the vehicle's outer shell responds to heat stress, DARPA said.
|1918||H23||Submarine HMS H23 completed|
|1918||R1||Submarine HMS R1 launched|
|1918||R2||Submarine HMS R2 launched|
|1941||P311||Submarine HMS P311 laid down|
|1956||Porpoise||Submarine HMS Porpoise launched|
|1979||Trafalgar||Submarine HMS Trafalgar laid down|
|1916||HMS E22||HMS E22 was on surface passage in the North Sea. At just after 1150 a torpedo fired from the German submarine UB18 struck the vessel sending her immediately to the bottom. Of the crew of 33 only two survived having been picked up by U18 and taken as Prisoners of War.|
|1940||HMS Trident||HMS Trident fires two torpedoes against the German merchants Palime and Pelikan about 30 nautical miles south-west of Lindesnes, Norway. Both torpedoes missed.|
|1941||HMS Upholder||HMS Upholder torpedoes and sinks the Italian Antonietta Lauro, near Kerkennah Buoy #3, Tunisia.|
|1945||HMS Sea Scout||HMS Sea Scout sinks a Japanese coaster with gunfire off Sumbawa Island, Netherlands East Indies.|
Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Muhammad Asif Sandila has said that Pakistan Navy is fully prepared to counter any challenge threatening Pakistan’s sovereignty or the security of the country’s waters.
He was speaking as chief guest at the commissioning ceremony of PNS Azmat, Pakistan’s first fast attack craft (Missile) at Xingang Shipyard in Tianjin, China on Monday. The second fast attack craft “PNS Dahshat” would be inducted in Pakistan Navy by end of the year.
The induction fast attack craft is part of deal with China, which also involved four F-22P frigates, six Harbin Z-9EC helicopters (already delivered to Pakistan Navy) and ammunition for the frigates.
According to report received from Pakistan embassy in Beijing, Admiral Sandila said the induction of PNS Azmat would supplement Pakistan Navy’s combat potential. Terming it a milestone in defence and strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China. He said, “This ship will undoubtedly be a very welcome addition in PN fleet, which would indeed provide synergy in defence of our sea frontiers. Its immense firepower coupled with stealthy features makes it a real versatile platform, which would not only prove vital for ensuring effective presence in our area of operations, but would also bring a new dimension of operation of stealthy platform of this tonnage.”
The naval chief said the commissioning of PNS Azmat concluded the construction of fast attack craft (Missile) in China and the construction of second craft will be completed in Pakistan by the end of 2012. He appreciated the hard work and professional competence of the designers, engineers, technicians and workers who were associated with this project. The PNS Azmat is equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry and sensors. Addition of this ship will strengthen the Pakistan Navy’s fleet with advance naval warfare capability and prowess. Work for the construction of two FAC (M) ships was started in June 2010.
On its way to Pakistan the ship will stop over in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. PNS Azmat is the first of Azmat class fast attack craft (Missile). Contract for construction of two fast attack craft (Missile) was signed on the basis of Transfer of Technology (ToT).
Russia signed a deal with Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday agreeing the rent Russia will pay for using military facilities in that country.
The deal was signed following a meeting between Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his counterparts from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in Beijing on Tuesday, Serdyukov’s spokeswoman Lt. Col. Irina Kovalchuk said.
“During a meeting with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Major General Taalaibek Omuraliev a protocol on rent compensation for the use Russian military facilities in Kyrgyzstan was signed. Work to resolve the problems which occurred with payables on rent was completed,” Kovalchuk said.
“The signing of the protocol legally sets out the debt,” she said
The Russian and Tajikistan Defense Ministers sides signed an intergovernmental agreement on Tajikistan citizens attendance in the educational institutions of the Russian military.
“It creates the necessary legal and regulatory framework for the training of Tajikistan citizens in the Suvorov schools and cadet corps of Russian Defense Ministry,” Kovalchuk said.
Serdyukov is in Beijing to attend a meeting of Defense Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which will be held on Tuesday.
During his visit to Moscow in February, Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev criticized Russia for not paying the rent for its military base in Kant and questioned the rationality of allowing Moscow to keep a base on Kyrgyz territory.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Omurbekh Babanov said on Tuesday the country’s authorities were planning to decide whether to extend the U.S. lease of the Manas air base near Bishkek by taking into account the opinion of partner states within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The United States began operations at the Manas base in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to support military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It remains a key supply facility for the ongoing military campaign there.
When Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev assumed his post last November, he stated that Kyrgyzstan would not prolong the lease contract with the United States, which expires in 2014, saying that he did not want a third country carrying out a retaliatory strike against the civilian airport. Pentagon officials have since been trying to persuade the Kyrgyz authorities to change their mind.
The Navy defended a controversial new warship on Monday amid reports of leaks and equipment failures, saying the problems had been corrected and did not represent long-term issues. A government watchdog group, however, warned that the ship could be unsafe.
The Project On Government Oversight said in a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that it had obtained internal Navy reports documenting problems aboard the littoral combat ship USS Freedom. The San Diego-based Freedom is the first in a new class of small, fast, modular warships that carry the hopes of a Navy brass eager to grow a shrinking, aging fleet.
Despite Navy leaders' enthusiasm about the Freedom specifically and LCS generally, POGO's letter said the Navy's own reports show the ship has endured almost nonstop problems since it entered service. It had equipment failures two of every three days over three years until it entered dry dock; it lost power for a time in a "darken ship event" that left it adrift; and it may have design problems that could plague the subsequent ships of its type, POGO said.
All these issues meant Navy commanders had to restrict the ship's speed and the sea conditions in which the Freedom could operate, POGO said, raising questions about its utility as a warship.
"These problems merit explanation from the Navy," wrote POGO's executive director, Danielle Brian. "We hope questions related to the issues we raise in this letter are incorporated into your annual oversight of the Navy's budget request and programs."
Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said the Freedom's leaks had been "well reported" when they happened and had since been repaired during its prolonged visits to dry dock. The limitations on speed and sea state were in effect only until the ship entered the yard, he said, and today the Freedom "is approved to operate within the full scope of its designed operating envelope."
As for subsequent ships in the class, Johnson said the Navy making sure the Freedom's problems do not reoccur aboard the USS Fort Worth or the USS Milwaukee.
Service leaders reaffirmed their support of LCS last week at the Navy League's annual trade show outside Washington. Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work told attendees that LCS remained the ship the Navy needs for its future -- it would make the crews aboard potential small enemy vessels fear coming out to sea, he said, "because it will kick their ass -- and you can quote me on that."
But POGO's letter argued that the Freedom's leaks and equipment failures suggest there are bigger problems with the class, and that the ships could even pose a risk to their crews on missions down the road.
"These cracking issues and the limitations [of speed and sea conditions] are indicative of a larger problem with the ship," Brian's letter said.
"A darken ship event during counter-drug trafficking operations is a dangerous failure, but had this occurred while the LCS was pursuing any of its other missions, such as anti-submarine warfare or surface warfare, this failure could have been fatal. The cracking, and many of the equipment failures on the ship, endanger the lives of all personnel who board it."
At very least, Brian said, POGO's documents show the Freedom is not ready to take its next "trial deployment" to Singapore, now scheduled for next year. The Obama administration plans to forward-deploy LCS ships there to save the need for a long transit across the Pacific from Hawaii or the west coast.
LCS has been controversial since it was first proposed -- the 3,000-ton ships are favorite targets of acquisition reformers who object to their delays and cost overruns. And they have been the subject of intense debate inside the naval world, where skeptics worry about the complexity of their interchangeable mission gear; the heavy workload for their small crews; and the Navy's conscious decision to field a relatively thin-skinned warship that cannot trade punches like a heavier destroyer or cruiser.
Navy leaders -- including Work, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and others -- insist the Navy of tomorrow needs a new kind of warship that LCS represents. Decoupling the vessels from their mission equipment opens up more possibilities for what they can carry, officials say, and using unmanned aircraft, boats and submarines lets sailors stand safely away from danger.
The Navy's planned fleet of 55 LCS ships forms a major chunk of its planned surface fleet, which has shrunk and aged despite the era of record defense spending since 2001. Despite the appearance of problems with both types of LCS, the Navy has decided to stick with its program and adapt to the ships, rather than the other way around. For example, Work said last week LCS crews would be sent on four-month deployments, rather than the six-month cruises assigned to legacy ships, to accommodate the smaller LCS crews.
The first ten Rafale Marine fighters delivered to the French Navy in the early 2000s will be upgraded from their current F1 standard to the latest F3 standard, according to Christophe Carpentier, head of the French defense procurement agency’s “Operation Rétrofit F1-F3”.
Carpentier says that his mission is to monitor contracts related to this modernization effort, and coordinate the work of different stakeholders. These include Dassault Aviation, MBDA, Thales, Sagem, and government agencies such as the aviation industrial service (SIAé), the Navy and the integrated structure for operational maintenance of defence ministry aviation equipment (SIMMAD).
The first ten Rafale Marine aircraft delivered in the early 2000s were “standard F1” aircraft. They were qualified only for air-to-air operations and for in-flight refueling.
The retrofit operation will radically transform these aircraft, and give them the same operational capabilities as the latest Standard F3 aircraft, which are currently in production.
Specifically, this will translate into new operational capabilities and missions, which will include ground attack, reconnaissance, and the capability for nuclear strike.
One of the challenges of the project is the control of key events, such as the entry of an aircraft into the retrofit program, or the completion of airframe modifications by the SIAé. Keeping control of the schedule is paramount considering that the final assembly of retrofit aircraft will be integrated into the main Rafale assembly line.
Each phase must thus be perfectly timed and carried out so as not to disrupt the entire industrial production of Rafale. This requires a lot of anticipation and constant management of risks and imponderables.
Non-essential operations with the UK Royal Air Force's Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft remain suspended on safety grounds, with no date yet established for returning the surveillance type to routine duties.
"Following the discovery of faults in the radome supports of two aircraft, we have temporarily suspended non-operational routine flying," UK minister for defence equipment and support Peter Luff said in response to a parliamentary question on 19 April.
Describing the action as a precautionary step, rather than a grounding order, he said: "The force remains at readiness to meet UK and NATO commitments, and operational flying will continue as required. On 23 April, Luff confirmed: "The aircraft in the current forward fleet have been checked and show no sign of a similar fault.
"No timescale has yet been set for the resumption of routine flying. We are engaging with all stakeholders, including industry, to address the issue as quickly as possible," Luff said. Northrop Grumman holds a whole-life support programme contract to sustain the E-3D fleet for the UK.
Based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and flown by 8 Squadron, the Sentry aircraft provide the UK's contribution to the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force. The E-3Ds were not committed to supporting any Alliance operations, Luff said.
The E-3D's fuselage-mounted radome houses a Northrop APY-2 surveillance radar, which the RAF says can detect a medium-altitude aircraft from a range of more than 518km (280nm). Each of the service's Boeing 707-based examples is flown with a typical crew of 18 personnel.
Brazil wants the US to eliminate barriers to the transfer of military technology, an issued that will be addressed on Tuesday April 24, in Brasilia when US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta meets with his peer Celso Amorim.
Panetta will have much to discuss if it wants to convince Brazil of purchasing US fighter jets Panetta will have much to discuss if it wants to convince Brazil of purchasing US fighter jets
“It is of great significance that there are no obstacles in the purchase of equipment with high military technology content” said Amorim in statements to Folha de Sao Paulo.
Amorim and Panetta will be meeting on Tuesday in Brasilia to open the new “Cooperation Dialogue in Defence” subscribed during the recent visit of President Dilma Rousseff to Washington and which Brazil hopes it contributes to end with restrictions to technology transfer, according to the Sao Paulo influential daily.
The Brazilian minister recalled the restriction imposed by the US in 2006 to the sale of 24 Super Tucano turbine training aircraft to Venezuela. The Super Tucano is manufactured by Brazil’s leading air industry Embraer but some of its avionics is US made.
Washington then managed to stop the sale because of the US components but it has been an experience very much recalled by Brazil which is currently negotiating a major purchase of 36 fighter jets (several billion dollars contract) with bidders France, Sweden and the US, and for Brazil the priority is the transfer of technology.
Besides, the recent cancelling by the Pentagon of a 380 million dollars contract with Embraer to supply light aircraft for the Afghan Air Force was very much criticized by Brazil, particularly since the decision allegedly was reversed to favour a US company.
Another important issue in the defence bilateral talks between Panetta and Amorim figures the resurgence of the US Fourth Fleet with an area of influence which includes the South Atlantic and Brazil and the rest of the region want to see “free of foreign military presence”.
The US Fourth Fleet is a command of the United States Navy in the South Atlantic, operating as a component of the joint US Southern Command and US Fleet Forces Command.
The Fourth Fleet is based at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida and is responsible for US Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean, and Atlantic and Pacific Oceans around Central and South America.
The Fleet began operations again in the summer of 2008 but was not fully staffed until 2009. According to the US State Department the Fourth Fleet's aim is to assist in narcotics interdiction efforts, humanitarian and goodwill interventions, and joint training with regional security partners.
However Brazil considers the South Atlantic strategic and refers to it as the “blue Amazon”, an area which must be limited to the coastal states and no foreign influence.
Panetta will also be talking about coordination of efforts to help combat organized crime and drug trafficking in Central America which seems to be ever increasingly under the influence of the cartels, mainly from Mexico where President Felipe Calderon offensive has forced many of the main groups to move out of the country.
A series of errors contributed to the grounding of a nuclear-powered submarine off the west coast of Scotland more than two years ago, a report has found.
HMS Astute was on sea trials when it became stuck near Skye on October 22, 2010 and ended up marooned for several hours.
Its commander Andy Coles, 47, was later removed from command of the vessel.
A service inquiry into the grounding, published today, found there were a variety of causes for the incident.
The report said: ''The root causes of the grounding were non-adherence to correct procedures for the planning and execution of the navigation combined with a significant lack of appreciation by the Officer of the Watch (OOW) of the proximity of danger.
''However, a number of additional causal factors were present, including some deficiencies with equipment.''
Rear Admiral Ian Corder, head of the Submarine Service, said that the organisation had learnt from the incident.
HMS Astute was on sea trials when it became stuck on a shingle bank on the west coast of Scotland on October 22.
The vessel ran aground off the coast of the Isle of Skye but it was freed by the evening of the same day when the tide began to rise.
But it was later damaged after a collision with the Coastguard tug the Anglian Prince, which was sent to free it.
It is believed a crew transfer from the shore to the submarine was being carried out when the incident happened between the Isle of Skye and the mainland.
In June 2007 the mammoth nuclear-powered HMS Astute was named and launched by the Duchess of Cornwall.
A contract worth £3.5 billion was signed for the first three boats in the Astute class but there is no specific figure per submarine.
In August last year, HMS Astute was welcomed into the Royal Navy during a commissioning ceremony at Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde.
The submarine weighs 7,800 tonnes, equivalent to nearly 1,000 double-decker buses, and is almost 100 metres (328ft) long.
Its Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles are capable of delivering pinpoint strikes from 2,000km (1,240 miles) with conventional weapons.
The submarine's nuclear reactor means that it will not need refuelling once in its entire 25-year life and it makes its own air and water, enabling it to circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface.
Built by defence giant BAE Systems at Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, it is the first in a fleet of six which will replace the Trafalgar class submarine.
As the base port of all the Navy's submarines from 2016, Faslane will be home to the whole Astute class.
The accident happened almost exactly 50 years after the UK's first nuclear submarine was launched. HMS Dreadnought was launched on October 21 1960 by the Queen.
The Austrian Defense Ministry has reiterated its decision to cut its heavy equipment inventory by two-thirds.
About 750 armored vehicles -- out of the current inventory of 1,150 -- will be retired by 2014, it said. The retired vehicles will be sold, scrapped or used for spare parts.
Also being retired from service are the army's inventory of Kurassier tank destroyers, the M-578 armored recovery vehicles and armored personnel carriers of the Saurer-Reihe series.
The Austrian army has about 48 Kurassier tank destroyers in operation, with more than 60 in storage.
The Defense Ministry said the number of its Leopard 2 main battle tanks will be reduced by half and three-quarters of its fleet of M-109 self-propelled howitzers will be retired.
The government said the reductions in inventory take into account possible future threats the country may face. They will also save money.
More than $19 million in operating costs will be saved in the medium term and long term, it is estimated. The selling of unneeded equipment or its scrapping is expected to generate about $22.4 million in revenue by 2014.