Category Archives: Rearview Mirror

DSEI video highlights

The recently concluded DSEI exhibition brought us new robots, boats and vehicles and the Shephard news team caught it all on video.

If you missed any of the action here are some of the video highlights from the week.

The UK based consortium led by MBDA and Leonardo showcased its Dragonfire capability for a laser directed energy weapon system.

Rheinmetall came to the show with a weaponised UGV.

On the water Supacat unveiled and demonstrated a new RIB, the SC12.

Back on dry land Harris was awarded a contract by the UK MoD for its T7 Counter IED UGV.

Finally, our very own Grant Turnbull gives us a rundown of some of his highlights from the event.

For all the coverage and even more video content from the show head to the Shephard Media website.

Diving deep into submarine tech

In the latest issue of International Maritime and Port Security magazine I had the pleasure of cover the thriving diesel-electric (SSK) submarine industry.

Editor, Richard Thomas, investigated this sector previously in the subsea warfare market report and found a sector experiencing a relative boom time, even in regions (such as Europe) that are experiencing a general contraction in naval significance and industrial output.

A series of SSK programmes in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Norway is keeping that region active for both operator and industry alike. In Asia requirements for India and Pakistan attract significant interest and industrial cooperation inside those countries, while Asia-Pacific rivals also seek to expand their subsurface fleets in a continual game of defence one-upmanship.

A Swedish Gotland Class submarine currently going through mid-life upgrades with Saab.

China is emerging as a defence influencer in the region having agreed a series of submarine procurement programmes with neighbours, while Japan and South Korea try to challenge this with their own domestic and international efforts.

We introduce submarines then into this magazine in recognition of the role that smaller SSKs play in maintaining security in the EEZs and littorals, conducting special operations against target coastlines or surveillance missions to gather valuable intelligence.

The industry supporting the demand is global, with boat builders from West to East all pursuing rich contracts and new markets. Indeed, SSKs are perhaps one of the most adaptable and effective platforms that a navy can operate, particularly because most of the time potential rivals don’t know they are being surveilled in the first place.

The U-32 is the second Type 212A submarine used by the German Navy.

Technology in propulsion and battery technology is pushing back against one of the limiting factors that SSKs have to contend with – the need to surface and run its diesels to recharge capacitors. The boats fitted with such capabilities can now stay underwater for significantly greater periods of time and maximising their use to the fleet.

Helicopters defy Harvey havoc to rescue thousands

When hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on 25 August thousands of residents sought refuge on higher ground as rescue services from the coast guard, military and volunteer organisations streamed in to help with the evacuation.

Helicopter crews were among the first responders, with the first sortie deployed by the US Coast Guard Air Station Houston on 26 August, in a mid-storm assessment operation.


Although Harvey was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm it loitered over Texas, dropping 51 inches of rain in one area.  At this point the evacuation and SAR effort intensified, becoming increasingly urgent as strong winds were replaced by rapidly rising flood waters in residential areas of Houston.

It is in these adverse conditions that helicopters demonstrate their unique capabilities, flying, hovering and landing in conditions that other aircraft would struggle or find impossible.

Large scale SAR operations rely on the long range endurance of aircraft like the AW139 to operate around the clock to pluck people (and often animals) stranded in the water or sheltering on rooftops for safety.

Harvey rescue

US Northern Command deployed 73 helicopters for the SAR and evacuation effort, alongside the US Coast Guard’s fleet of MH-65D and AW139 helicopters and HH-60s deployed by the Air National Guard.

Singaporean CH-47 Chinooks also participated. The four Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aircraft were deployed from the Peace Prairie detachment in Texas, arriving on 31 August to assist with disaster relief operations.

Chinook cattle

The Chinooks transported evacuees and delivered vital equipment and supplies, working alongside three Chinooks from 2nd Battalion 501st Aviation Regiment which, among other things, was responsible for providing emergency hay bales to stranded herds of cattle.

As the SAR and evacuation operations are wound down and the flood waters begin to recede the helicopter teams returned to their bases. However, they are unlikely to rest for long as preparations are under way for hurricane Irma which is expected to make landfall in Florida at the end of the week.

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The world according to Shephard: Week 35

​This week procurement, modernisation and deliveries dominate European defence news as the Shephard team gears up for MSPO, which kicks off in Poland on 5 September.

Turning to modernisation first, the Polish Army is embarking on a decade-long effort to modernise its artillery units, making them a pillar of the nation’s security. One of the most ambitious programmes is the procurement of Krab 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers.


Poland is also investing in an upgrade of its fleet of 4×4 light all-terrain vehicles with a number of procurement programmes. The aim is to replace legacy platforms with new vehicles within the next few years, which will better serve the needs of infantry, airborne, reconnaissance and special forces units.

Meanwhile, Romania is pursuing large-scale modernisation programmes, following the Romanian Supreme Council for National Defence’s decision to begin large-scale redevelopment of the country’s armed forces with a funding boost of €9.8 billion ($11.69 billion).


Find Shephard’s full MSPO coverage on the show news site.

High in the sky

In rotary news this week, Pakistan’s Army Aviation Corps has received four Mi-35M attack helicopters after ordering the rotorcraft in a $153 million deal in August 2015. Pakistan aircrews are currently training on the aircraft, although it remains unclear what armaments and munitions Pakistan has opted for.

Across the border in India, the country’s fledgling helicopter industry received some reassuring news this week as the Ministry of Civil Aviation promoted helicopter operations in the second bidding phase for the Regional Connectivity Scheme, an attempt to encourage connectivity to smaller and remote towns.


However, helicopter news from Poland is not so up-beat as its helicopter purchases continue, slowly. Despite being labelled as an ‘urgent requirement’, the second iteration of the Polish tender to meet urgent requirements for new helicopters for ASW/SAR and special operations forces has proved to be a prolonged process.

In the deep end

As the submarine market expands, Saab is seeking to tap into this growth as it reveals its new submarine models. Saab Kockums is predicting a demand for 80 new submarines to be replaced over the next 15 years.

Gotland tar sikte på USS Lake Chaplain en amerikansk robotkryssare

Closer to shore, Taiwan’s coast guard outlined a ten-year $1.7 billion buildup plan. The plan will see 141 cutters, including 12 coast guard versions of the Tuo Chiang-class catamaran joint the fleet by 2027.

According to Charles Au, the plan underscores Tsai Ing-wen administration’s intention to accelerate the capability of Taiwan’s maritime forces in the belief that the coast guard will serve as an auxiliary navy beneath the command of the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) in time of war.


And on a visit to the Gulf the UK Defence Secretary secured the use of facilities at Duqm Port, Oman, as completion of the UK Joint Logistics Support Base at the port nears. The port provides Britain with a strategic asset in the Middle East and boasts dry dock facilities capable of accommodating submarines and HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Going ashore

Gordon Arthur reported on Australia’s embarrassing amphibious gap as it struggles to deliver its M1A1 AIM Abrams main battle tanks (MBT) ashore from the Royal Australian Navy’s Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) ships.

Gordon revealed that the LCM-1E landing craft embarked aboard the LHDs is struggling to handle the weight of the Abrams MBT.

Exercise Talisman Saber 2017

Asia tensions escalate

Alarmed by Kim Jong-un’s shenanigans in North Korea, such as the launch of a missile over Japan, the South Korean government in Seoul has announced a proposed boost to defence spending next year by 6.9%.

Over on the blog, Grant Turnbull, editor of Digital Battlespace, takes a look at ballistic missile defence technologies, which are receiving significant investment from the US and NATO. However these systems are not free of costs. Read more here.


Finally, guest contributor to the blog, Sam Bocetta, takes an in depth look at the recent US-Japanese military exercise, Northern Viper, which underlined the close relationship between the US and Japanese militaries.

The world according to Shephard: Week 34

Taiwan shows off defence systems

This week Charles Au and Wendell Minnick have been exploring the wide range of defence systems on display at TADTE 2017 in Taipei. Charles’ eye was caught by NCSIST’s Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) designed to be used for airport and border security.

According to our report, the system is able to block or jam UAV control frequencies so as to disrupt threats in the air at ranges of up to 2km and interfere with GPS signals out to 10km.


NCSIST doesn’t only have UAVs in its sights, as they were also exhibiting a point air defence system. The hard-kill weapon system was inspired by the Skyguard area defence system and is designed to eliminate fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, cruise missiles and anti-radiation missiles.

Charles also discusses the latest developments of Taiwan’s Sea Oryx missile system as the R&D phase of the project is about to be finalised while Wendell reveals details of Taiwan’s interest in the F-35.

2nd LAAD Conducts Stinger Live Fire Training Exercises

However, air defence systems are not a hot topic in Taiwan alone, as Latvia has sealed a deal to acquire a number of Stinger air defence systems from the Danish Armed Forces. Latvia expects to receive the missiles and launcher systems in the first half of 2018 when the deal is to be completed.

Unmanned market growth is costly for some 

As the demand for unmanned vehicles continues to expand, the number of platform demonstrations has risen with it. However, demonstrations come at a cost, as Beth Maundrill found out this week when she spoke with a senior campaign leader for autonomy at Qinetiq about ‘unusual and sometimes disruptive’ technologies.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force has indicated that its Hermes 900 UAV, known as Kochav, is now operational following crew and flight integration tests. The test series have seen the aircraft fly over 20 sorties and resulted in the simultaneous qualification of the platform’s squadron.


Bringing things back to earth, it has emerged that the MoD has moved to secure the terrain for its forces in future areas of operations after awarding Harris with a contract for EOD robots. The £55.3 million ($70.6 million) contract will see a number of T7 multi-mission robotic systems produced for the armed forces in the coming years.

Helicopter fleets expand

But it’s not all about unmanned systems this week as it emerged that Boeing has been awarded a contract to deliver eight CH-47F Chinooks as part of a wider multiyear deal with Saudi Arabia. The heavy lift helicopters, which have proved popular with a variety of armed forces around the world, will be delivered to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command.


Turkey is also expanding its attack helicopter fleet and has now taken delivery of 23 of TAI’s T129 ATAK helicopters out of a total of 59. With 36 aircraft still to be received by Turkey’s armed forces, orders are anticipated to be delivered into 2020 at a rate of one aircraft per month.

A TAI spokesperson also informed Shephard that international interest in the aircraft is expected to transform into orders with prospects stretching into the Middle East and Asia.

US Navy makes the headlines again

It was a bruising week for the US Navy which in the wake of a collision involving the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker off the coast of Malaysia has resulted in the Commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet being relieved of his duties and an operational pause called across the Navy.

I look into the wider, geopolitical implications of the incident as it comes at a time of heightened tensions and competition between naval forces across the Pacific.

USS John S. McCain arrives at Changi Naval Base

Across the Atlantic, the UK MoD has awarded a contract for 20 additional flattops to be delivered by 31 January next year. The vessel will be smaller scale models of the 280m behemoths which are currently under construction and will be distributed among key Foreign Office sites.

The UK Border Force is also expanding its fleet with two additional coastal patrol vessels (CPV) expected to be operational by 2018. Once in service the six CPVs will join the Border Force’s four larger cutters and the Protector-class patrol vessel.


Finally, across the Channel in Europe, the green light has been given for Germany and Norway to cooperate on future naval defence equipment, including the procurement of new submarines.

Collision course – what do recent incidents mean for the US Navy?

Admiral John Richardson, the US Navy CNO, has called for an ‘operational pause’ to be taken in all US fleets around the world following the second collision between a US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and a commercial vessel.

The collision between the USS John S. McCain and the Liberian-flagged ALNIC MC oil tanker off the coast of Malaysia was the latest in a series of incidents in the Pacific theatre, which now totals four reported collisions within a year.

The latest collision follows an incident on 17 June in which the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship killing seven US sailors. The S. McCain and Fitzgerald are both part of the US Seventh Fleet stationed in Yokosuka, Japan.

USS John S. McCain arrives at Changi Naval Base

Damaged port side of the USS John S. McCain

An operational pause of all US Navy (USN) fleet activity suggests serious concerns among officials of an emerging trend in the service’s conduct and comes at a time of intensifying competition for naval dominance and power projection between the US and China.

China is placing increasing pressure on US regional naval dominance after opening their first overseas military base and naval support facility in Djibouti on 1 August. The rate at which they are producing naval vessels may soon result in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) overtaking the US as the dominant naval force in the Asia-Pacific region.

This rivalry was clearly on display when in the aftermath of the latest collision as Chinese media outlet China Daily ran an opinion piece claiming the incident demonstrated that the USN is ‘becoming a hazard’ and ‘hindrance to ships sailing in Asian waters’.

The piece goes on to condemn US naval activities, describing them as Washington’s attempt to ‘rebalance’ the region and painted the service as a ‘dangerous obstacle in Asian waters’.

USS Fitzgerald

Damage sustained to USS Fitzgerald

While the investigation into the events surrounding the latest collision are underway, an ongoing investigation into the causes of the incident involving the USS Fitzgerald has already resulted in the removal of the commanding officer, executive officer and senior non-commissioned officer from their posts.

Despite recent events a number of military exercises involving the USN are taking place in Southeast Asia, as some flexibility has been granted to fleet commanders on the timing of their one day operational pause to minimise disruption.

The navy is currently involved in the military drills taking place with South Korean forces amidst high tensions on the Korean Peninsula and on 21 August the service began the annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training exercise (SEACAT) which involves forces from 11 countries from across Southeast Asia.


USS Fitzgerald in drydock



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.


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.


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.’


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.



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

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