Author Archives: Beth Maundrill

Port of Rotterdam makes a splash

Last week I took a trip over to Rotterdam for the inauguration of a new patrol boat into the fleet of vessels for the Port of Rotterdam, the RPA8.

Rotterdam is one of the largest ports in Europe as well as being a fantastic Dutch city.

However, I did not bet on my trip coinciding with one of the deadliest storms to hit Northern Europe. Gusts of up to 140km/h (90mph) saw Schiphol airport close its doors for most of the day and the Dutch rail network ground to a halt.

Driving through the port the damage and disruption was clear to see with water taxis forced onto their moorings, cargo containers tumbling from their stacks and Dutch cyclists batting against the high winds.

Despite this, the show must go on and I was able to take a look on board the RPA8 Patrol Boat which entered service with the Port of Rotterdam Harbour Master on 18 January following its official christening ceremony.

The boat is one of the most advanced designs of vessel the port authority has in its fleet now.

The RPA8 was constructed by Dutch Shipyard Kooiman, representing the first time the shipbuilder has constructed a patrol boat, and designed by Dutch Naval Architects Van Oossanen.

The integration of Hull Vane technology from Van Oossanen, essentially an underwater spoiler, has allowed energy saving on the boat, reduces wave making and assists in noise reduction

One feature that could be applicable to the future use of Hull Vane is that can enable pitch and yaw damping, stabilising the boat, allowing for weapon systems to be more accurate and assist in helicopter landings on larger vessels through the improvement of the core stability.

While to-date the Hull Vane has a modest portfolio of ships it has been integrated on the possibilities appear significant both for retrofit and new builds.

Typically navies and fleet operators tend to trust proven designs, with new vessels using the Hull Vane this presents an opportunity for the maritime community to see the technology in action.

The company is now testing the Hull Vane on the Holland Class OPV to see what advantages it can bring to large naval vessels. The market for the Hull Vane is typically large vessels with high speed requirements of around 25kt.

If the Dutch navy is seen to adopt this technology it could open the floodgates for Hull Vane. Pardon the pun.

Naval gazing into 2018

With the Surface Navy Association symposium underway, the start of 2018 has kicked off with a naval flare, both in the US and abroad, and many nations are now firmly fixed on enhancing their fleets.

Last year saw two incidents involving the US Navy’s USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald, the navy has gone on the record to say that these incidents were in fact preventable. The USN is now looking to learn from these harsh lessons and will start 2018 by trying to address some of the demands that come with a reduced fleet coupled with personnel working long hours.

Meanwhile, the plan for the USN going forward is looking to grow into to a 355-ship fleet from around 275 today. The Pentagon is set to release its FY19 budget request in February, it remains to be seen as to whether the navy will get what it wants.

Across the pond in the UK, the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, touched water for the first time as its dry dock was flooded. The state of the UK’s Royal Navy remains a contentious issue and a recent criticism has come about as the MoD plans to sell HMS Ocean to Brazil not long after a recent, costly, refit of ‘Britain’s biggest warship’.

As the UK continues to work towards strengthening its fleet this week saw industry make another move on the UK Type 31 with Babcock and BMT announcing the Team 31 which now includes Thales, Ferguson Marine and Harland & Wolff shipyard. The team will bid for the UK’s Type 31e frigate project.

The MoD is hoping that the light frigate will eventually have export potential and it is continuing to work with BAE Systems on the export of the Type 26 global combat ship to potential customers including Canada and Australia. To date the UK has had little success in its naval export endeavours.

Finally, it has been noted that Chinese naval ambitions can no longer be ignored and the USN must face up to them

A recent report makes the case that the USN must address its weaknesses in the face of a China capable of destroying US ships and aircraft with its anti-access/area denial strategy.

In addition, it appears that China could be using foreign-held US debt to enhance its own capabilities. China will certainly be one to watch during 2018 as it continues to rapidly develop its defence capabilities.

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2017: a Shephard year in review

It has been quite the year for the Shephard Media editorial team and we have all certainly racked up the air miles.

We’ve also expanded the team, welcoming Alice Budge and Tim Martin on board as new reporters. Expanding our presence in the US we’ve also named Ashley Roque as North American Editor.

Now there’s time to take a look back at some of the news highlights from 2017 across the defence and aerospace world.

The year started off with the launch of a new helicopter concept in March as Bell Helicopter revealed the FCX-001 at Heli-Expo in Dallas. The new medium twin-sized aircraft, positioned as slightly bigger than the Bell 412 in length and in width. It will be interesting to see how Bell incorporates technologies from the FCX-001 into future designs and new aircraft.

Meanwhile, Turkish Aerospace Industries was flaunting its T129 at every opportunity, with appearances at Paris Air Show, Dubai Air Show and Defense and Security in Bangkok.

Speaking to Shephard at the Paris Air Show, the manufacturer of the T129 Atak and the T625 multirole helicopter said it is looking towards next year and considering the introduction of new platforms.

Meanwhile at sea, the UK designated 2017 as the year of the Royal Navy. With the first steel cutting of the Type 26 BAE Systems and the UK Government are now looking to export the vessel to the likes of Canada. The government is also focusing its efforts on export with the new and ongoing Type 31e (e for export, who’d have guessed) which will see the Royal Navy commission some new light frigates.  

Of course we could not ignore the developments of the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier. As the first of the two vessels has been commissioned questions surround the spend on the vessels and what this means for the future of shipbuilding. 

In the unmanned arena there has been progress on a couple of major military efforts, the first being the US Navy’s desire for a tanker refuelling UAV, known as the MQ-25 Stingray, in an unexpected announcement Northrop Grumman said it would no longer pursue the programme. Despite this Boeing recently unveiled its design for the programme.

On the ground the US Army continues to look for a load carrying robot under its Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) programme. The army ended the year by announcing that four UGVs would enter Phase II of SMET, which will begin in 2018. You can read full details of the final four here. 

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This year the team made its annual jaunt over the Washington DC for the AUSA Annual Meeting in October. Focuses for the US Army this year included the evolution of active protection systems with the service looking to speed up the acquisition of such a system for the in-service M1A2 Abrams tank.

Meanwhile, the French Army continued its revolution as it continues to make gains with the Scorpion modernisation programme. In the summer, Shephard got a close up look of the prototype during a visit to Nexter Systems facility in Satory, near Paris.

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Speaking of revolution, a quiet one may be underway in the defence industry as some of the largest players are beginning to adopt blockchain technology. This year saw the digital ledger technology increasingly being touted as the answer to challenges faced by ever more data-reliant and connected military establishments.

In the simulation and training arena we saw Northrop Grumman drop out of another programme, the US Air Force’s T-X effort to find an Advanced Pilot Training (APT) aircraft. Boeing, Leonardo DRS and Lockheed Martin remain in the race and 2018 should bring further developments.

Of course this just skims the surface of what the team has covered during 2017 and the events we have attended. All of the news content, magazines and videos from 2017 can of course be found on the Shephard Media website and we look forward to seeing you in 2018.

Defence spending: the boom times are back

Spending in the military world may once again be on the uptick after five consecutive years of decline according to a new report by SIPRI.

Over the past few years we’ve all heard the defence industry rumblings about sequestration, budget squeezes and cost efficiency but it seems that these terms might be in the past, for now.

You only have to look at some of the ongoing regional tensions to guess why defence spending might be increasing, that accompanied with various major national weapons programmes and ongoing military operations.

Recently, there have been reports of the US Military conducting operations in almost every African nation. Tensions in Eastern Europe have led to nations neighbouring Russia to increase their military capabilities and in Asia tensions over the South China Sea and North Korean aggression continues to help spur on defence spending.

Specifically SIPRI looks at the top 100 arms-producing companies from 2016 with sales totalling $374.8 billion for the year.

In line with increased spending the report found that arms sales by US-based companies in the top 100 rose by 4% in 2016 to $217.2 billion.

With a belligerent neighbour to the north, South Korean companies in the Top 100 increased their arms sales by 20.6% to $8.4 billion in 2016.

Moreover, the Ukraine, with its ongoing Russia issues, saw its national defence developer, Ukroboronprom, increase arms sales by 25.1% in 2016. This is primarily a result of high local demand as a result of conflict in the east of the country.

As for the companies themselves, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, all for the US, come in the top three. Followed by the UK’s BAE Systems at four and Northrop Grumman in at number five.

Lockheed Martin increased its arms sales by 10.7% in 2016, reaching $40.8 billion, according to the report. Notably, the company is lead in one of the largest international programmes, the F-35 stealth fighter, which has seen increased order and the company’s acquisition of Sikorsky has helped bolster its profits.

With Trump in the Whitehouse promising to increase defence spending, amid all the other mentioned global issues, I think defence spending has truly taken a turn and for now spending will only continue to increase.

Stimulating simulation and tantalising training at I/ITSEC 2017

The simulation and training industry’s annual showcase, I/ITSEC, always proves to be a great show for the Shephard team. We are happy to admit that the event does not bring hard-hitting news every year but there is still plenty of updates, opinions and new products for the team to cover and here we’ve selected some of our top stories and videos from the week for you to cast your eyes over.

For the first time this year we saw a fast boat simulator amongst the aircraft trainers and virtual reality kit.

Meanwhile, one of the US Air Force’s most lucrative training programmes, the TX Advanced Pilot Training Programme, continued to see the three main competitors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Leonardo DRS, fight it out.

As part of the TX programme UK company, EDM, showcased a Martin-Baker Mk18 ejection seat. The company is offering training Mk18 seats for the US Air Force’s T-X programme ground based training system element.

Back on the ground, Pratt & Miller Defense debuted the newest addition to its Trackless Moving Targets (TMT) family with a solution that replicates infantry forces moving on the battlefield. The TMT-Infantry variant is currently being funded by the US Army’s PEO STRI office through a Rapid Innovation Fund.

Finally, the show brought a new element to its annual live, virtual and constructive exercise, Operation Blended Warrior, with various international partners, mainly Swedish companies, taking part in the exercise for the first time. 

As always you can catch up on the news at the Shephard Media website and we’ll see you in Orlando for I/ITSEC 2018!

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like I/ITSEC

It’s that time of year again and no I’m not taking about Christmas! The Shephard team will be embarking on the annual jaunt to the sunshine state for military simulation and training’s biggest event, I/ITSEC.

Even though the show starts on Monday we have been giving you an early look at the news and what to expect at this year’s show.

Some of the major projects that we’ll be keeping an eye on include the US Air Force’s T-X programme, the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) Program, TH-57 replacement, C-17 aircrew training system (ATS) requirement, Air Commando Training System and the USAF SCARS project, to name but a few.

The T-X programme has provided us with some twists and turns with Raytheon and Leonardo having decided they will no longer jointly bid on the programme while BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman pulled out altogether. Leonardo continues to pursue the programme with it’s T-100, Boeing has teamed with Saab and Lockheed Martin still in the race.

Meanwhile on the helicopter side of things the CHR programme continues to move forward as it proceeds to assembly, test, and evaluation of the Sikorsky HH-60W helicopter’s training systems.

The C-17 ATS is also opening doors for industry to re-bid for the solution which is currently supplied to the US Air Force, currently held by Link Simulation & Training which was awarded the contract in 2011.

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As well as the big programmes we will be bringing you the latest tech news from image generation to projection technologies.

New players are also set to enter the market such as FoxGuard Solutions, best known for its industrial computing capabilities, which is dipping its toe into the military simulation and training market.

For all the news from I/ISEC make sure you follow the team on twitter @ShephardNews and bookmark the dedicated I/ITSEC show news site.

Drone regulation debacle drags on

‘Hurry up and get on with it’ was the message from one member of the European Parliament (MEP) to the European Commission as she spoke about drone regulation at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference last week.

In 2016 we reported on some of the squabbles over drone regulation in the EU Parliament. Since then some progress has been made but things just are not moving fast enough for some MEPs.

November 2016 saw MEPs back draft EU rules on drones and emerging risks, which would bring drones within the EU civil aviation framework for the first time among other directives.

Part of new EU rules to ensure safety and privacy

The draft rules would also empower the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to issue directives and recommendations to address risks that might arise from unlawful acts or from flight paths that cross regions that are the scene of armed conflict.

But since then progress has been slow.

The European parliamentarian said her message to the European Commission is ‘you need to get a move on…we do need a bit of action I would suggest’.

She also suggested that some regulation should be looked at on a case by case basis. ‘Rather than strict rules that would regulate the industry out of existence.’

One thing that is not helpful to the pursuit of drone regulation are negative press stories including the recent collision between an unmanned platform and small passenger plane over Québec City.

‘Those headlines are not helpful…we do not need the bad publicity,’ the MEP said.

As Europe tries to push forward on rules and regulation some nations are already forward looking. For instance the UK already has rules that are being implemented and is exploring measures to curtail the misuse of drones, including penalty fines.

The current rules and regulations from the European Union can be found here and we will continue to cover developments, if and when they happen.

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