Author Archives: QuillorCapture

Random thoughts from Avalon

Guest blog from Damian Kemp

  • Oz def min introduces Growler, meets growler

Australian Minister for Defence Marise Payne did a presser for the local media and the more jaundiced trade hacks on the first day of the Avalon air show, taking a walk around the RAAF’s first EA/18 Growler to look at the pointy things and pods slung underneath.

There were guard dogs there as well, presumably to prevent a maverick journalist hurdling over the fence (although looking at most of the journos present, it would be awkward clamber and fall) and making a run (resembling a slow jog) to touch the lovely, lovely plane.

At one point a blue shirt did think he should open the gate and let the journos in. He was soon put straight.

The minister also took the time to have a chat with one of the four dogs. It was a private conversation and I’m sure the handler had the dog under control but I don’t think it is the kind of situation where the phrase “Who’s a good doggie? Does doggie like his belly scratched? I bet doggie likes his belly scratched!” would be used.


I refuse to apologise for the photo quality, it is meant to be like that, it is called art you heathens.

  • South Australia, twice winners of the Rugby World Cup

First it was the Oscars with La La Land and Moonlight but at the Australian Air Show one speaker confused South Africa with South Australia.

Now sure, both places produce cracking wines. Few people would turn down a dozen of Clare Valley’s finest or a glass of Breede River Valley’s best.

However, the speaker began going on about his company’s close connections with South Africa, South Africa this and South Africa that before abruptly changing to his company’s presence in South Australia, a theme returned to at a later press conference.

Meanwhile in Madison Square Gardens: “It is great to be back performing in Detroit, we get the best crowds here ….”

  • BAE Systems, everyone’s “before anyone else”

The Australian Air Show is sort of in Melbourne where espresso coffee is religion. Burning the milk is a capital offence, Starbucks virtually gave up (but now seem to be making a comeback) and debates about which machines provide the best bar pressure have resulted in massive street riots.

There is a sectarian divide between the drinkers of flat whites and those who have the less educated café latte palate and even further to the agnostic heathens who drink instant.

At the air show, several stands fire up the machines and bring in their own baristas, offering all espresso types to their stand workers and often to the wider hall monsters. They’ve done this for the past three shows.

One hip cool young barista was chatting about how BAE Systems wasn’t offering coffee to the wider population, pronouncing BAE as ‘bay’, which of course in modern parlance is the person you put ‘Before Anyone Else’.

There’s a marketing opportunity here people, although maybe very short term and in fact it may have already passed in the past 24 hours.

Paint protest at Eurosatory

The truism runs that even the best laid plans don’t survive first contact with the enemy – despite immense security at day one of Eurosatory, protestors managed to spray and daub a mighty Leclerc main battle tank something other than military green.

As the smell of wet paints and aerosols hung heavy in the air it appeared that the tank, as well as another armoured vehicle on the French Ministry of Defence stand, was picked out for some special attention from the unknown assailants.

Camouflage netting was used as an initial way to cover up the smears of red and yellow emulsion and one supposes that a few unlucky people will have to work long into the night getting everything ship-shape for the morning and day two of what is promising to be a busy show.

The once pristine carpet is a write-off I might add, no amount of scrubbing is going to clear that out.

One can only hope then there are not further caches hidden elsewhere in the Parc de Expositions Villepinte, which actually feels so far away from the centre of Paris to be near the Belgian border.

Rest assured should another grown up Tonka toy fall victim to similar tactics, we’ll be all over it like hand prints on wet paint.

It’s that most wonderful time of the year…

As spring turns to summer, it can only mean one thing – air show season is upon us. That means that the esteemed Farnborough International Air Show (FIA) is around the corner.

With that in mind members of the UK’s Independence Defence Media Association (IDMA) made their way to the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) in London for lunch and a chin-wag about what to expect at this year’s event.

The hot topic was of course the F-35, five of which are set to appear at FIA 2016 – assuming no repeat of the 2014 shenanigans.

In fact the first two F-35As touched down in the Netherlands at Leeuwarden Air Base on 23 May. This made them the first two F-35s to cross the Atlantic east-bound. In 2014 the US Marine Corps suspended the first flight of this kind following an engine fire which grounded the fleet of aircraft. F 35 landing in NL

While there are people on both sides of the arguments as to whether investing in the F-35 is the best way forward, it is what the UK has ended up with.

While Lockheed is the main contractor, raising concerns that the UK has not investing fully in its domestic industry, there is plenty of UK-based industry involved in the manufacture of the aircraft, including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and GE Aviation.

One consideration for the UK looking to the future is how to keep a high-specification industrial base alive as it looks to the relationship with the US for more of its equipment.

And speaking of the UK buying US equipment, the P-8 Poseidon will also be making itself known at the show after the UK committed to buy nine aircraft through a sole-source procurement.


A foreign military sale has been agreed upon will sees the cost of each aircraft and all the added services set to be around £250 million each. 

Beyond that what can we expect? Well the Airlander is set to make an appearance. If you want my personal views check out my blog on the beast. I will say no more.

Also expect chatter about future unmanned capabilities. As Farnborough will occur after the UK EU referendum it will be interesting to see how we are placed with our partnership with the French on the unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).

It is almost certain that in the future we could expect to see a mixture of F-35, Typhoon (which will be taking to the skies at FIA) and UCAVs making up a fighter capability.

To date the UK and France have agreed upon a £1.5 billion investment in UCAV development.

Things I’m personally going to be looking out for at Farnborough include the presence of the newly-named Leonardo (the artist formally known as Finmeccanica), Boeing celebrating its centenary at the event and whether I can wangle my way into an aircraft for a flight!

As I post this there are just a mere 47 days to go. So if you want to wear-in some comfy shoes for the event my advice would be to buy them now…

Follow: @gunshipgirl

Type 26 GP variant: Back to the drawing board

Guest blog from @ForcesReviewUK

The 2015 National Security Strategy (NSS) and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) provided more questions than relief for the Royal Navy’s surface fleet. Instead of the minimum 13 Type 26 frigates, the review pledged:    Type 26 Global Combat Ship (2)

‘eight advanced Type 26 Global Combat Ships, which will start to replace our current Type 23 frigates in their anti-submarine role. We will maintain our fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers. We will also launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible general purpose frigates so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of frigates and destroyers. These general purpose frigates are also likely to offer increased export potential.’

At first glance, some military analysts would scream betrayal since only eight frigates will be ordered and the remainder will not appear until an unknown period of time later. Other analysts have cheered that this review proposed a larger number of warships but it is back to the drawing board for the shipbuilders.

There will be lots of ideas about what this ‘new’ frigate could look like and there are a lot of details yet to be released, however, here are some speculative options.

Type 26 Global Combat Ship (1)The quote in the SDSR stated the need for a lighter and more flexible warship. Flexible is quite dubious a word so let’s start with lighter. The Type 26 is supposed weigh around 6,500t to 8,000t at full displacement. Making it lighter would mean ripping away some systems and structure.

A first possible area is the hangar/flight deck. The existing design will have a helicopter deck large enough for Chinook to land and embark troops alongside a hangar bay large enough for two Wildcats or one Merlin. Decrease that flight deck and hangar a little and you may get a lighter ship. But the disadvantage is you won’t really get a ship with full-spectrum capabilities.  MR1501337


In this General Purpose variant could instead reduce the size of the mission bay. This might not be as detrimental as a smaller hangar and flight deck, but it will still mean less capability, especially during combat-centred operations. A lighter frigate also suggests a smaller ship with reduced length and beam, which also means smaller compartments and well, less comfort.

In terms of sensors and systems a GP variant might also see fewer of these compared to the existing Type 26 design. Let’s start with the VLS strike cells. Current plans call for 24 Mk 41 cells. These 24 plus whatever missile is inserted into them equals a heavy load.

Te_Kaha's_Anti-Air_Missile_ArmamentTherefore the GP variant could have fewer VLS cells, maybe 16 or as low as eight. Or instead of VLS cells, they could be switched to a system using launchers, such as the Naval Strike Missile from Kongsberg. This might fit into the standard required, but some capability would be lost. Therefore the burden of any long-range naval or land-attack mission would still fall on the eight ASW variants.

Altering the main gun from the proposed BAE 5 inch Mark 45 gun might lighten the displacement and could be replaced with something like Oto Melera’s 76mm gun, which has been in service with other navies and is quite an effective gun. The range is would be less and so would the impact of the calibre. It may still be worth a switch, provided that the Royal Navy has finances for two different guns.  1434650118856Nansen-oto75mm-2006-07-03

You could also reduce the number of Sea Ceptor cells, say 24 instead of 48. This reduction might not drastically reduce the load, but could free up space for other uses. But again it still means that in a task group situation, secondary air defence would fall to the eight ASW variants.

sea-ceptor--1327933210See ThinkDefence for a full description of the Type 26 sensors and systems and you can compare that to get a lighter and cheaper frigate, some of these might be reduced or even removed, in a cost/weight/capability trade-off for the final design.

The picture is clear: This proposed GP variant would likely see a reduced size with fewer systems. It might even push the variant into the ‘corvette’ category or ‘sloop’ for warship and impact the prestige of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet, even though it could mean more ships overall.

A new design has been proposed to suggest the probability of an increase in the size of the surface fleet. This variant, whatever it comprises of, has to appear quickly and be launched along side the original variant. This would ensure that the Royal Navy maintains its ‘at least 19 ships’ numbers. All eyes are now on those working on this new design.



Down & Out in Le Bourget

The Quill or Capture team always tries to do its best, we really do. But for some reason, covering the annual defence/aerospace show in Paris each year always results in many moments of amusement/disaster.

So, in the tradition of last year’s Eurosatory top ten, we give you the unadulterated truth about the Paris Air Show.

51eme salon international du Bourget. Visite officielle du president de la republique.The François Hollande experience

Chaos hit the Pairs Air Show first thing Monday morning – and before the Quill or Capture team even reached Le Bourget. The roads were manic (validating our excellent decision to walk to the site rather than bus it) with the imminent arrival of the French President, François Hollande.

Whistles were being blown, traffic was being directed – poorly – and the place was a semi car park. The motorcade that arrived was something to behold.

While at the show the madness ensued and one reporter had51eme salon international du Bourget. Visite officielle du president de la republique. the misfortune of being at France’s largest defence company’s pavilion as the president swept in.

Surrounded by a horde of reporters, TV crew, security, and other hangers-on, he entered the pavilion, had a gander at things and was on to the next thing before you could say Watchkeeper. Then everyone relaxed and resumed normal duties. It was quite the experience – oh, and he’s a lot shorter than he appears on TV.

The coffee bomb

One Quill or Capture staff reporter was on video duties for the air show and managed to make it through most of the week without incident, which is surprising for the reporter concerned.

However, a long week running around with camera and tripod eventually took its toll. One of his last tasks of the show was to interview the French Army’s NH90 test pilot. Tired, and a little sweaty, the dishevelled reporter was offered a strong French coffee at the NH Industries’ chalet. It was gladly accepted with the knowledge that it would perk him up for the coming interview.

The young waiter handed over steaming hot coffee in a cup and saucer. With one hand gripping his trusty tripod, the reporter excitedly took the coffee in his spare hand.

But the sunburn, the exhaustion and dehydration had taken over by this point and in an effort to put the saucer down to add some sugar, the whole thing spilled over the drinks 2015-05-20 13.44counter. No part of the counter was spared and even the waiter, in his crisp white shirt, was splashed with coffee. It was at this point the clumsy videographer was escorted outside and, safe to say, was not offered another drink.

Dinner in the dark

An often under-appreciated perk of the industry can be the after-hours dinners, functions and events where the hacks get a chance to meet industry reps on neutral ground and talk shop. This is a time when reservations are made and people behave perhaps more as they might in the real world, rather than keeping professional decorum foremost in the mind.Flir view of paris

Now imagine how free one of the Quill or Capture team felt when combining this with the apparent anonymity of dining in the dark. And you might imagine what drove one redoubtable member of the press corps to recite several verses of Hamlet to an unseen but no less present audience, bringing silence to what was once a noisy arena and now hushed with the solemnity usually reserved for more formal occasions.

Death by parasol

On the final day, the Quill or Capture team made its way back to Le Bourget for a last bit of filming and some schmoozing. While watching the air display and keeping up some social media duties at a company’s media chalet – we won’t name names – life flashed before the eyes of one reporter.

A gust of wind had lifted one of the weighty umbrellas from the main chalet next door into the air, did a summersault in the air and proceeded to land right on top of the unlucky journalist.

The StandOne of the company’s press relations team was at her aid straight away – probably thinking he had just inadvertently sacrificed a reporter to the air show gods. The poor reporter had a bit of a fuzzy sensation, but on reflection can’t be 100 per cent sure that was the knock to the head or the champagne.

The Quill or Capture air show awards

Among the multi-billion dollar orders, new programme launches and innovations on display at the Paris Air Show, for the discerning journalist there were also some important questions to answer.

Which company has the best media chalet, who is providing the best breakfasts and where is the best place to steal a moment with a glass of wine?

So, obviously without wishing to overly trivialise the serious nature of the aerospace industry, ahem, the Quill or Capture hospitality awards go to:

  • Best media chaletAribus Photo Paris Le Bourget

Normally a tough category but made a lot easier this year by the number of companies which stayed away. The Quill or Capture team sampled many chalets during the week but for the sheer ability to always find somewhere quiet to work, the award goes to Thales and its well-catered chalet right on the flight line.

  • Best breakfast

Another one that is normally hotly contested but that saw fewer serious candidates vying for the top spot this year. The runway winner was Bell Helicopter and its bacon and sausage bap, complete with English brown sauce – although this did result in our esteemed editor doing his best Ed Miliband impression during the F_46ff9b62281f91302d6dd0aac2c7547554dc816e5a9b3interview with Bell CEO John Garrison.

  • Best lunch

After a week of rich French food, you start to crave something a little spicy. The organisers of the Singapore Air Show provided the solution in their chalet in the form of an amazing Asian spread. Sometimes noodles are the best answer.

  • Best wine

While we can’t say we sampled every bottle available on ever chalet (hic), the selection at the CAE chalet was ‘pretty impressive’, in the words of Quill or Capture’s resident wine expert. The selection included an amazing Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux, a bottle of which is now securely stashed in the bottom of one editor’s wardrobe.

Boots on the ground

The Russia-Ukraine crisis has raised the sombre spectre of a return to Cold War relations between NATO and the great bear, and the security situation in Eastern Europe has deteriorated so rapidly that the US-led defence alliance has barely had time to collect its wits.

NATO has been engrossed in preparations to finalise its withdrawal from an unsatisfying, unpopular, and prolonged overseas mission in Afghanistan. However, once again it must turn its eyes to the East and attempt to contain the threat – real or perceived – of its old nemesis and raison d’être, Russia.

The Russiaoutbreak of civil war in the Ukraine, thanks to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and support for Russian-speaking separatists, has prompted the Eastern European nations bordering the conflict to seek reassurances from NATO that Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is worth more than the paper it’s written on.

Poland and other former Soviet bloc states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are set to air their concerns about the security implications of the crisis at the upcoming NATO summit, scheduled to be held in Wales on September 4-5.

Poland, which has found itself smack bang in the middle of a potential confrontation between NATO and Russia, has in recent months accelerated its ten-year military modernisation plan, which is one of the largest military expenditures by any European NATO member.

Three tenders for 70 multirole helicopters, 30 attack helicopters, and a short and medium-range missile and air defence system have been given priority status in order to beef up the country’s immediate defensive and attack capabilities.

The overall shopping list for Poland’s modernisation effort is extensive, with air defence systems, UAVs and helicopters to be purchased for the country’s air, navy and ground forces at an estimated cost of 130 billion pln (€31.5 billion).

Poland is taking its security situation seriously, and has made no secret of the fact it would like to see more NATO and American troops and infrastructure stationed within its borders.

The issues of whether NATO will choose to permanently station its forces on the eastern borders of Russia, create a weapons cache there, modernise its existing air bases and ramp up joint exercises and air patrols will no doubt be hot topics at the upcoming summit in Wales.

For his part, UK prime minister David Cameron has advocated a schedule of joint-exercises, the establishment of new military infrastructure, pre-positioning of equipment and supplies, and enhancing the region’s NATO Response Force of up to 25,000 troops.

While the Eastern Europeans are pushing for US and NATO boots on the grounds to act as a visible deterrent to any future Russian aggression, Germany is said to oppose any permanent NATO bases in the territory of the alliance’s eastern member states.

I’ve been everywhere, man. I’ve been everywhere…

We’ve been flat out here at Shephard over the past few months, and if you’re in the defence game you will have likely seen either me or one of my colleagues hitting trade shows in Singapore, Orlando, Berlin, Los Angeles, Dubai, Doha, Nashville, Kuala Lumpur, Tampa, Cologne, and at least one or two others I can’t recall off the top of my head.

Not to mention doing the rounds locally here in the UK. If it happened and it was news, we were there –  chasing lovely new bits of kit, monitoring the financial performance and programme announcements of the aerospace and defence
major leaguers, making sure we covered all the news, trials and tribulations of this ‘quirky little industry of ours’, to quote our dear leader.

For my part there were one or two definite highlights: covering Defense Service Asia (DSA) in Kuala Lumpur was an eye opener, as the whole3cb830ea thing was just so comically chaotic. The complex where the event was hosted was a rabbit warren of disparately sized rooms and corridors, and buildings linked by over-bridges, with no rhyme or reason to the lay out – at least to my eyes.

However, the show ran improbably smoothly, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which tended to crop up quite frequently during press conferences with regional authorities.

By some miracle I was able to find my way around DSA with relatively few issues and talk to some pretty interesting people. The Russians, who rebuffed my overtures early on in the show, eventually relented and agreed to talk to me, and I’m glad they did, as they were not shy about voicing their opinions on the politics of American defence manufacturers.

I had a good chat to companies and delegates from all over the world looking to solicit and cement trade relationships with regional industry, with Malaysia constantly touted as the next big growth opportunity. Whether this is true remains to be seen, but for sure the defence industry in general is taking America’s (perhaps pre-mature?) re-orientation to the Asia Pacific seriously, and indulging in some pre-emptive strategic shuffling.

By contrast, my next venture to the ILA Berlin Air Show revealed a predictably well organised, efficient, logically presented – if somewhat quiet – European defence industry gathering. ILA Berlin happened to follow hot on the heels of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, effectively putting the military capabilities of any nation in close proximity to the Ukrainian crisis under the spotlight, or microscope, depending on your perspective.

The waking of the Great Bear, and the subsequent European disquiet, added a sheen of optimism to the show, asindustry players anticipated a flurry of defence spending by the Ukraine’s worried neighbours. While there were one or two interesting announcements, by and large this expectation went unrealised for a lot of attendees.

Up next is Eurosatory in Paris – and you can expect to see us there as well.