Author Archives: alicebudge

The world according to Shephard: Week 33

The glorious carrier?

This week UK defence news was dominated by the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier the Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth. For many it was a day of celebration and festivities that included a speech from the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

QE BAE

However for Richard Thomas, editor of IMPS, the arrival of the carrier was met with a more measured tone. In an analysis of the costs and benefits of the carrier he asks ‘is it a waste of space?’ and investigates the sacrifices that have been made elsewhere in the navy for the colossal vessel.

Meanwhile, Beth Maundrill discusses the potentially embarrassing event in which a hobbyist drone landed on the deck of the £3 billion platform. The landing of a small, commercial (potentially a DJI Phantom) on the carrier raised serious questions relating to the security of the carrier against small unmanned threats.

 

The battle for maritime dominance continues

In other maritime news, this week the US Navy commissioned a replacement to the ageing Afloat Forward Staging Base Interim USS Ponce in a ceremony held at Khalifa bin Salman Port, Bahrain. The new Expeditionary Sea Base has been designed to provide logistics movement from sea to shore to support a range of maritime operations.

Is America’s maritime dominance under threat? Wendell Minnick took a look at the implications of China’s first overseas military base and naval support facility in Djibouti which he believes represents a challenge to American dominance in the region. Read Wendell’s full analysis here.

DJIBOUTI-PLA-ARMY SUPPORT BASE-OPENING

China’s new base comes at a time of increasing maritime insecurity, as new offshore oil and gas finds off Africa’s coastline are drawing closer attention to the state of maritime security in the region.

 

Up, up and away

There has been surprisingly little sign of financial instability in the rotary industry as the largest helicopter OEMs have defied pessimists with steady Q1 and H1 results. While the industry still faces significant challenges and hurdles, such as gas price volatility and currency fluctuations, the four largest OEMs remain positive.

Helen Haxell takes a look at why we should all be feeling better about the future of the rotary industry. In her blog, Helen analyses some of the latest models coming onto the market and predicts a buoyant second half of 2017, with ‘good rotary times ahead.’

erickson-firefight

One case study is that of Erickson, which has emerged from bankruptcy with energy and currently have their S-64 Aircranes deployed around the world fighting wildfires in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

 

Acquisitions abound 

The Philippines have acquired six ScanEagles as part of a $7.4 million from the US Department of Defence.

While in the Middle East, Lebanon took delivery of the first batch of M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles at a ceremony addressed by the US Ambassador to the country. The delivery comes at a time when the Lebanese army is on the offensive in the North of the country to oust ISIS fighters currently occupying territory in the barrens of Arsal.

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Finally, it’s all about the C-130 

This week it was announced that Honeywell will partner with Taiwan on the C-130 upgrade with technology transfer options from Honeywell to Taiwan’s state-owned AIDC for the air force’s C-130H Avionics Modernisation Programme.

There is also growing international interest in Lockheed Martin’s proposed C-130J-SOF export variant, which will be tailored to different operator’s requirements. Read more about the C-130J-SOF here.

Yokota Airmen are ready to the mission going

The world according to Shephard: Week 32

Despite August’s title as the ‘silly season’ it has been anything but that for Shephard Media as the world of aerospace and defence shows no signs of slowing down.

Out with the old, in with the new

The New Zealand Defence Force is seeking replacement explosive ordnance disposal robots. The new UGVs and neutralisation systems will be used for civil, military and counter-terrorism scenarios by the New Zealand Army’s EOD detachment, or ‘Bomb Squad’.

NZ bomb squad

Meanwhile the Brazilian army has received its first VBTP-MR Guarani 6×6 amphibious armoured vehicle equipped with a 30mm remote-controlled weapon station. The army’s 15th Mechanised Infantry Brigade became the first active unit to receive the vehicle and is part of a new tranche of 1,580 Guarani vehicles now being delivered.

New unmanned technology is currently being developed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and IAI. The new unmanned MMMWV was publicised in a video released by the IDF. Beth Maundrill spoke with IAI about the new technology. Read Beth’s blog here.

Finally, this week the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) said a farewell to its Heron, as it flew its last mission ahead of its withdrawal from service. The RAAF’s No. 5 Flight which was responsible for the Heron mission in Afghanistan will be disbanded at the end of the year. The RAAF is acquiring a replacement capability through Project AIR 7003 which is scheduled to be delivered after 2020.

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Up in the air

This week Helen Haxell looked into the ups and downs of the military and civil helicopter markets for the first half of 2017.

Helen reported that the last six months in the civil helicopter sector have witnessed significant recovery with flight returns, concept aircraft and new platforms dominating the commercial market. She commented that ‘if last year was the ‘annus horribilis’ for the civil helicopter sector that notion has definitely not crept into 2017.’

As for the military helicopter sector it has been a frantic year so far. As progress has continued across US military helicopter programmes, the Black Hawk has garnered the majority of headlines with developments in the Middle East and across Asia-Pacific.

Black Hawk Landscape

Plain sailing?  

In the UK, preparations for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth ramp up as vessels and personnel from the navy and Royal Marines take part in the NATO Exercise Saxon Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

Across the Atlantic in South America, the Mexican Navy has continued its patrol vessel fleet expansion as it strives to tackle a wide range of challenges from cartels and narcotics activities to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Richard Thomas looks into the navy’s latest Tenochtitlan-class patrol vessel, the ARM Bonampak which is well suited to operations in the littorals and EEZs.

While in the Arabian Gulf, US Navy patrol ships assigned to Patrol Coastal Squadron One have carried out proficiency fire testing of their MK 60 Griffin Missile Systems. Five vessels launched surface-to-surface Griffin missiles at moving target sleds to demonstrate their ability to hit surface targets such as small boats.

Coastal Patrol Ships Conduct Test Fire of Griffin Missile System in Arabian Gulf

The world according to Shephard: Week 31

Ruling the waves

It’s been a busy week for naval and maritime news across the world with international deals signed, modernisation programmes announced and capabilities questioned.

Beginning in North America where US Navy CNO Adm John Richardson asked how the US Navy could restore its ‘agility and competitive edge to maintain superiority?’  He also emphasised the importance of producing more capable ships and the creation of a networked fleet to enhance naval power.

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In Europe, Germany will upgrade its eight-strong P-3C fleet in a five-year, $158.5 million, programme that will maintain the aircraft as the backbone of the country’s maritime patrol capability.

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri has had a week of ups and downs, after a thwarted attempt to purchase STX France was followed by the successful conclusion of a €5 billion deal for the construction of naval ships for Qatar.

Type 45 Dragon

Over in the UK Beth Maundrill reported from Portsmouth on BAE System’s progress to provide the Royal Navy with 60 Pacific 24 Mk 4 RIBs. Watch Beth’s video here.

After some delays in production, the 30th hull is currently on the production line. On the blog, Beth also discussed Portsmouth’s preparations for the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, Ian Keddie questioned the capability of China’s new domestically produced ocean gliders, describing China’s claims as ‘overhyped’.  Read the full story here.

Helicopter highlights

This week has also seen a flurry of activity in the rotorcraft industry, as Boeing was awarded a contract for three CH-47F Chinook Block II for the US Army.

As the Brazilian Air Force’s Black Hawk fleet reached 30,000 flight hours, Shephard noted that the Brazilian Army is expected to begin the process of replacing its incumbent fleet of Cougars and Black Hawks.

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In more Black Hawk news, Sikorsky Australia secured a A$63 million contract to refurbish ten ex-US Army UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters for firefighting and disaster relief operations in Australia.

However, a Tiger attack helicopter crashed south of Tabankort, Mali. The helicopter belonged to the German Helicopter Detachment based in Gao, Mali.

The stimulus of instability

In the wake of another North Korean ICBM test, a new report in the US urges aggressive sanctions against the country and recommended warning China that the US is willing to use military force.

DPRK sanctions

As geopolitics continues to be unpredictable the level of global military spending is on the rise again. This week has seen a plethora of investments and contracts that demonstrate the importance of force modernisation and expansion for militaries across the world.

Romania has passed an endowment plan that allocates the necessary funds to reach NATO’s 2% of GDP target for defence spending. The plan provides €9.8 billion for force modernisation and procurement over the next nine years to bolster the country’s defence against a resurgent Russia.

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In Ankara Cengizhan Çatal analyses Turkey’s growing defence industry, which has reported an annual turnover of $6 billion in 2016. The industry’s growth has been driven by increasing demand from customers across the Middle East and Asia.

On the blog this week, Gordon Arthur expresses his frustration with the organisation of this year’s Talisman Saber exercises forcing him to concede that it may be his last.

The week according to Shephard: Week 30

Ripples in the South China Sea

Vietnamese-Chinese relations have been brought to the fore again, as reported Wendell Minnick who also investigates US attempts to navigate political relations and military cooperation with Vietnam.

Wendell analyses the barriers preventing greater US-Vietnamese military cooperation and Vietnam’s complicated relations with China and Russia. Read the full story here.

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The Vietnam People’s Navy operates Russian built Gepard-class frigates

The ups and downs of procurement

Furthermore, Gordon Arthur reported that that this week Vietnam announced it has ordered 64 T-90S/SK main battle tanks from Russia as part of the Vietnam People’s Army’s efforts to upgrade its tank fleet.

Moving across the South China Sea, Gordon also reported that the Philippine Air Force’s second quest to acquire a pair of maritime patrol aircraft met with failure after all contenders were disqualified for various reasons. Find out more here.

 In North America, the US Coast Guard has run into a budgetary dilemma as it continues to lack a clear fleet modernisation plan and it remains unclear if the service can afford all the new assets it requires.

Antarctic Icebreaking 2017

USCGC Polar Star

The trouble with modernisation

The US Army is looking to possible M113 upgrades as a recent announcement seems to indicate that the service is still struggling with the future of the M113 personnel carrier and its related family of vehicles.

The Canadian Army is expecting to take delivery of a new soldier electronics suite, reports Grant Turnbull, a sign that the service’s long-delayed soldier modernisation effort is now back on track.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy’s UH-3H Sea Kings have reached the end of the road as the aircraft are reported to be riddled with deficiencies after 55 years of operation. Read more about the problems facing the platform here.

India Sea Kings

Indian Navy Sea King helicopter

Electronic Warfare

The US Army’s increasing focus on electronic warfare continues as it prepares to conduct an EW ‘excursion’ reports Scott Gourley from Texas.

Meanwhile, industry is looking to the future of military-level protection for smartphones as Privoro released its Privacy Guard which has caught the attention of the US special forces community.

As militaries across the world increase their EW capabilities Grant Turnbull looks into some of the developments that are changing the character of war.  

Russian EW exercise - Russian MoD

Russian troops during a recent electronic warfare exercise (Photo: Russian MoD)

Unmanned systems fill the skies

Five Additional ScanEagle UAS will be heading to the Afghan National Security Forces following a $19.6 million award from the US DoD.

However, the proliferation of unmanned systems is not restricted to recognised military forces, as Andrew White writes. While UAVs in the wrong hands represents a significant threat, the defence and security sector continues to mature technology capable of detecting and countering them.

UAVs in the wrong hands

ISIS has adopted unmanned systems into its asymmetric operations (Photo: Screen grab)

Special forces

In an interview with Shephard, the commander of Poland’s Special Operations Component Command discusses the threats faced by Poland and the role its special forces can play in countering them.

On the blog this week read about the Special Operations Forces operators who will be let loose on powerful jet skis in the San Diego Bay.

Poland Special Forces

Polish Special Forces

Special forces get wet ‘n wild

If being a highly-trained Special Operations Forces (SOF) operator wasn’t cool enough, up to 20 personnel from Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Command are to be let loose on powerful jet skis in the San Diego Bay.

On 7 July the NSW Command announced it was searching for a vendor to provide up to 20 of its Basic Training Command staff a five day jet ski course near its San Diego Bay base.

JET SKIS in the Service of Army Special Forces 2 - c

Photo: Hellenic Army General Staff

Incorporating jet ski capabilities into the SOF repertoire is understandable as their high speeds, acceleration and manoeuvrability make the jet ski a viable platform for amphibious operations or operations at sea.

According to the request, the NSW staff will undergo training tailored towards the capabilities of the powerful Kawasaki Ultra 300X Jet Ski, which boasts 1,498cc, 300 horsepower and speeds of up to 100kmh.

Kawasaki

The five day programme includes initial training by day within the bay with later progression to open water ocean training at night.

Also covered will be various day and night rescue procedures and safety procedures regarding near shore hazards and ‘non organic seafaring traffic’.

There are significant limitations to the use of jet skis by SOF such as their inability to cope with high waves, wind and swell. A further issue that could hinder their regular deployment could be the noise level produced by powerful engines.

JET SKIS in the Service of Army Special Forces -c

Photo: Hellenic Army General Staff

Other forces known to utilise jet skis include the Greek Special Forces who have incorporated the platform into their SOF capabilities for the planning and execution of amphibious special operations since 2011. According to the Greek Army, teams on jet skis have the ability to rapidly disperse to different areas and later re-assemble using GPS.

So, as NSW trainees tear it up around San Diego Bay, they can be confident of the fact this is essential, operationally-relevant training.

 

The week according to Shephard: Week 29

British build-up

It was a busy week for UK defence – Michael Fallon, the UK’s Secretary of State for Defence, spoke to reporter Beth Maundrill at the steel cutting ceremony in Glasgow for the Royal Navy’s Type 26 frigates. According to Fallon, HMS Glasgow’s manufacturing in the UK is demonstrative of the country’s ‘global intent’. Watch the full interview here.

Fallon

Moving south, fast jets and military helicopters gathered at the weekend for the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford. The crowds were not disappointed as they enjoyed displays by the Airbus A400M Atlas, the RAF’s Chinook, the US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress and U-2 ISR aircraft. To see the impressive displays, watch the full video here.

Meanwhile, MTSN editor Trevor Nash covered the UK’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) requirement, which has ratcheted up with Cobham Special Missions signing a teaming agreement with Draken International to pursue this high-profile UK MoD programme.

Draken has now left the Babcock-led team and remaining team members are now reassessing the situation.

cobham-draken

Across the Channel, LWI editor Grant Turnbull reported on the new ‘fifth generation’ missile system making its way towards the French Army later this year.

Special forces

In Latin America forces initiated the annual Fuerzas Comando competition in Paraguay. The competition is aimed to improve doctrine, concepts of operation and tactics across the joint operating environment. Read more.

Staying with special forces, our correspondent Andrew White draws our attention to events in the Arctic Circle and high north as he reports on Russian activities in the region and NATO’s response. Read about how NATO is seeking to develop its cold weather capabilities after over a decade of operations in the Middle East here.

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Exercising muscle

Meanwhile, after last week’s visit to Hong Kong by China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, the Chinese Navy is currently en route to the Baltic Sea where it will engage in military drills with the Russian Navy.

China has continued its naval expansion with the mass-production of new classes of fighting vessels, increased presence in the South China Sea and this week the opening of its first overseas military base in Djibouti, strategically located on the Gulf of Aden.

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PLAN’s Jinan in Hong Kong

In Australia, the USMC’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) took part in  Exercise Talisman Saber 2017 where new technologies and equipment were trailed in a large-scale military exercise.

On the blog, a father-son team marked Canada’s 150 years by circumnavigating the world in a Bell 429. The trip is demonstrating the advances in SATCOM technology as the duo share images and videos of their journey in flight as technology companies overcome the disruption caused by rotor blades.

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Father and son duo Bob and Steven Dengler in front of the Bell 429 helicopter they’ll be piloting during their journey as the world’s first Canadian helicopter flight team around the world.

Hot off the press: this week Defence Helicopter has gone to press. Editor Helen Haxell takes a look at the CH-53K and V-22 military programmes as well as training helicopters in this edition. Other features include HMDS and crew safety.

 

 

Around the world in 650kbps

By Alice Budge and Helen Haxell

Establishing and maintaining reliable satellite connectivity is a major challenge helicopter operators continue to encounter.

The disruption between the helicopter and satellite caused by the rotor blades has made developing SATCOM capabilities for rotorcraft significantly more challenging than for fixed-wing aircraft.

However, industry has made significant progress in responding to this challenge. Over the past few years a wide range of products have been released that use technological advancements in satellite connectivity to overcome the rotor blade disruption.

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The C150 Global Odyssey’s Bell 429 helicopter, with connectivity powered by Honeywell’s Aspire 200 satellite communications system and GoDirect Cabin Connectivity.

One such company is Honeywell which has recently had its Aspire 200 satellite communication system certified for installation on the Bell 429 and AW139.

The advances made in SATCOM technology have been demonstrated by the use of the Aspire 200 satellite communications system by the C150 Global Odyssey team, a father-son duo who are circumnavigating the world in a Bell 429 to mark 150 years of Canadian independence. Their route has tested the system’s ability to maintain connectivity in rural areas and cold climates.

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Father and son duo Bob and Steven Dengler in front of the Bell 429 helicopter they’ll be piloting during their journey as the world’s first Canadian helicopter flight team around the world.

Other recent advancements in SATCOM technology include Hughes’ demonstration earlier this year with its ability to use Beyond-Line-of-Sight SATCOM to transmit HD video through rotating blades on a NSA 407MRH.

Blue Sky Network is another company to unveil new satellite communication technology through its portable tracking device in tandem with the company’s HELink app to create a portable satellite tracking solution.

The company has  also developed the iOS SkyRouter app which incorporates smart device capability and enable users to connect to the HawkEye7200 using any Apple device. This will provide operators with the ability to send messages or data when Bluetooth is turned on.

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Formation flying in Iceland. (Photo: Baldur Sveinsson)

Goodman explained that the Aspire 200 system uses interleaver waveforms to compensate for the interference caused by the rotors by spreading information, ‘the zeros and ones, over a longer space of time to deliver a low error connection’.

‘If a piece of information gets lost in the first transmission the odds are very low that it would get lost in a second transmission,’ he added.

The long burst interleaver technology also provides continued connectivity in extreme climates. This has been tested by the C150 team, which has have flown around Northern Canada, Greenland and will soon travel across Russia and Alaska.

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Goodbye, Canada! Next stop: Sisimiut, Greenland. (Photo: C150 Global Odyssey)

This technology has a wide range of applications including for EMS as it will enable the crew to ‘capitalise on that golden hour when a patient is in the helicopter’ and transmit medical data from the helicopter to the hospital to ensure they are prepared upon the patient’s arrival, according to Tom Neumann, VP of operations at BendixKing – a Honeywell subsidiary.

The technology also facilitates VIP clients to utilise real-time video conferencing, Whatsapp and Facebook. This capability has been demonstrated by the C150 Global Odyssey in which the team flying the Bell 429 has been able to provide real-time updates, including images and videos, from the sky.

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Narsarsuaq to Kulusuk in Greenland. (Photo: C150 Global Odyssey)

Goodman emphasised Aspire 200’s capabilities, stating that the C150 team has reported that ‘in some very remote northern towns they’ve been staying in, the connectivity on the helicopter is far superior to what they can get on the ground’.

Honeywell is currently pursuing certification for the Aspire 200 on nine additional platforms including AW139, AS350, UH 60, CH 53, S-92 and the Bell 412.