Tag Archives: navy

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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The world according to Shephard: Week 43

Pick of the week

While all eyes have been fixed upon North Korea, Uldduz Larki looks into NATO’s decision to host its most recent ballistic missile defence exercise in the Atlantic theatre, a sign that Russian deterrence remains a strategic priority. Read more of Uldduz’s report on the alliance’s inaugural Formidable Shield exercise here.

The bumpy road to agreement

After a series of lengthy pauses in the development of Germany and Israel’s submarine programme, the two nations moved a step closer to agreeing the purchase of three new submarines.

The vessels, which will be supplied by TKMS will replace Israel’s three Dolphin-class diesel electric submarines. Germany’s TKMS is also hopeful of future sales within Europe as the country has agreed to partner with Norway and has received similar interest from Italy.

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Meanwhile details are emerging about the Franco-British collaboration on a Future Combat Air System as the programme readies for the transition from planning to development.

Alongside work on the Anglo-French unmanned combat demonstrator is an investigation of open-system mission architecture. The latest announcement means that high-level concepts are now in the process of being turned into detailed requirement sets.

Elsewhere, Scott Gourley and Richard Thomas were at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vagas this week. Find all of the latest news from the show floor online

Finally, Boeing has reaffirmed its commitment to the UK despite souring relations with the government following the US Department of Commerce’s decision to place a preliminary 219% trade tariff on Bombardier. In a conversation with Shephard a Boeing spokesperson was keen to downplay any tension between the two parties following a number of attacks on the company from UK politicians.

Maritime insecurity

The future of the UK’s amphibious capabilities looks increasingly uncertain as the defence minister suggested it may no longer be a strategic priority.

Speaking at a meeting of the UK’s defence committee, Michael Fallon denied that the MoD had entered into conversations with Brazil and Chile over a potential sale of the HMS Albion and Bulwark which would put UK amphibious capabilities in jeopardy. MPs voiced their concerns that the MoD’s budget cuts are placing the UK’s security at risk.

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Saab’s Q3 results indicate the Swedish company expects to gain from increasing submarine activity in Europe and Asia. Reporting a 10% growth in sales over the first six months of 2017, the company is reaping the rewards of rising European and international defence spending.

Russia continues to bolster its muscle on the sea’s surface, ordering four Project 21980 Granchanok patrol boats. The main use of the boats will be to provide security to the Kerch Strait Bridge, currently under construction, which will eventually connect Crimea with mainland Russia.

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New-generation land warfare has arrived

Russia’s military investment are not just ocean bound as it appears Russian Land Forces units will be trialling the new-generation assault rifles of Kalashnikov dubbed AK-12 and AK-15. The new assault rifles have undergone testing within the frame of the Ratnik future soldier programme which will deliver new-generation high performance personal equipment to a range of Russian forces.

Following a significant boost to its defence budget, Romania continues to invest in modernising its land forces and has signed a MoI for the licenced manufacture of the Piranha IFV, a de facto act of selection of the new-generation wheeled IFV. Talks will take place on the firm delivery contract for an order of 227 Piranha Vs with an 8×8 wheel drive formula.

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Helicopters bought and sold

Remaining in Eastern Europe, the Czech Air Force is expected to receive 12 Bell Helicopter UH-1Y Venoms from the US DoD as part of a $575 million FMS deal. The aircraft are to be reserved for domestic service missions. The announcement suggests the current stock of Mi-8/17s and Mi-24/35s will most likely be retired.

This week Gordon Arthur reported that US Army Apaches stationed in South Korea will hook up with the General Atomics Grey Eagle MALE UAVs over the coming years, as well as boost their cooperation with the new Apaches of the Republic of Korea Army. Read more about Gordon’s visit to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek here.

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While attention turns to Future Vertical Lift as the US Army’s next-generation of aircraft, the AH-64 Apache remains a key platform to the service’s fleet and remains integral to Boeing’s future international sales. With a prospective sale of six Apaches to the Indian Army in the works, the AH-64E is projected to remain in service until at least 2016.

 

 

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 41

Shephard’s AUSA team has had a fantastic week in Washington DC, reporting on all the latest military technology, innovations, conferences and much more. Find all Shephard’s AUSA coverage here.

Uncertain times

It was a ballistic start to the week as the US announced it had approved a potential sale of THAAD systems and support services worth $15 billion to Saudi Arabia. The region is no stranger to instability and political uncertainty but with civil wars in Yemen and Syria raging on, a diplomatic rift between Gulf nations and an increasingly bellicose Iran, Saudi Arabia is taking no chances.

The sale would boost Saudi Arabia’s missile defence capabilities and emerges at the same time as the country seeks to close a deal with Russia for the delivery of the S-400 (SA-21 Growler) long range air and missile defence system as part of a wider $3 billion arms package.

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Meanwhile, the heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula are starting to stir concerns among members of UK Parliament, who this week questioned leading academics on what role the UK could play in the crisis. Speaking at the House of Commons Defence Committee, Nicholas Kitchen, LSE, offered some enlightening parallels with the Vietnam War.

Looking to the east, where European nations continue to formulate their response to Russia’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric and activities. Romania’s approach has been to significantly increase its defence budget establish a Special Operations Command, part of a wider effort to enable Romanian SOF to respond more rapidly to situations emerging from the ‘frozen conflict’ in eastern Europe.

Romanian forces, public 'Open Gates' to US Allies

The highs and lows of autonomous technology  

NAVSEA has had a change of heart regarding its Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic Systems (AEODRS) programme, cancelling solicitations for Increments 2 and 3 sighting changing requirements and budget restraints.

In a speech at the RAeS, president of Hélicoptères Guimbal, Bruno Guimbal made his opinion of the likes of Uber and Airbus’ unmanned helicopter taxi ventures very clear, describing them as ‘purely marketing and promotion’.

Instead, he believes the VSR700, derived from his company’s Cabri G2, could well be the first certified autonomous light helicopter.

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India’s Central Reserve Police Force has issued an expression of interest and RfPs for 150 mini-UAVs and 300 micro-UAVs on an urgent basis to be used for surveillance, reconnaissance and detection as Indian police forces tackle border incursions and a home-grown insurgency.

The peacekeepers’ new Guardian

Malaysian peacekeepers in Lebanon will see their fleet of 46 4×4 Condor APCs replaced with IAG Guardian APCs. Nine Guardian APCs will arrive in Lebanon in mid-December and be operational by the new year in the first step towards replacing the entire Condor APC fleet in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Army publicly displayed a prototype of the Kaplan medium tank for the first time at the 72nd anniversary parade of the armed forces. The medium tank is being developed under a joint venture between Turkey’s FNSS and Indonesia’s state-owned PT Pindad.

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OPVs, LSVs and LCS

Frigates and OPVs took centre stage at the Pacific International Maritime Exposition in Sydney last week, with Project Sea 5000 and Sea 1180 shortlisted to three contenders each. The three frigate contenders, BAE systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship, Fincantieri FREMM-A and Navantia F-5000, each presented their designs during a conference at the event.

Lockheed Martin and Austal USA have been awarded contract modifications to build additional littoral combat ships (LCS) for the US Navy. Both contracts are valued according to the congressional cost cap of $584 million per ship; however, the specific award amount has not yet been made public.

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And in Honduras the logistics support vessel (BAL-C) FNH-1611 Gracias a Dios built for the Honduran Naval Force was launched. The vessel is based on the Amphibious Landing Vessel designed and built for the Colombian Navy and was constructed in just ten months.

A fake news radar?

Reports of an apparent breakthrough in anti-stealth radar technology in Chinese-language media in Hong Kong and China turn out to be no more than a work of fiction. Wendell Minnick looked into the reports and found that the new ‘terahertz radar’ is probably not quite what it seems.

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 40

 

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The Shephard team has had a great week reporting from Helitech International 2017 on the ups and the downs of the commercial rotorcraft industry. Full coverage of the exhibition is available here

The team is now preparing to jet off to AUSA which will take place in Washington DC next week. Keep up with all the latest developments here

 

Chinese plots and Taiwanese arms 

‘How viable are the Chinese invasion plans laid out in a new study published earlier this week,’ asks Wendell Minnick.  The study, entitled ‘The Chinese Invasion Threat’, uses Chinese-language government papers, many written by members of the People’s Liberation Army, on how to unify the ‘renegade province’ of Taiwan into China.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has announced it will initiate a research process to upgrade its M60A3 TTS MBT fleet. The decision to pursue its secondary option of modernising its M60A3 comes after a long and fruitless period of seeking US-built M1 Abrams tanks.

Around the world in armoured vehicles 

Taiwan has also ordered a total of 285 30mm cannons from Orbital ATK to be installed on an IFV variant of the domestically manufactured Clouded Leopard 8×8 armoured vehicle. The $112million contract is for the MK44 Bushmaster II 30mm cannon.

In Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy has begun deploying its new HMV-150 4×4 armoured vehicle to the country’s southern province of Narathiwat for patrols and other security operations.

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While new Tiger 4×4 vehicles have been delivered to the Somali National Army from China as part of a sweetener deal from Beijing to increase their influence in the Horn of Africa. The initial instalment of 32 light armoured vehicles is part of a gift from China which is reported to also include a considerable cash donation, according to Tim Fish in Mogadishu.

Armoured vehicles are not just on the move in Asia, as Latvia received its first examples of second-hand M109 self-propelled howitzers from Austria and will take part in the country’s annual military parade on 18 November.

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Russia has launched a large-scale BMP-2 and BMD-2 upgrade programme. The Russian MoD and KBP signed a contract covering the upgrade and refurbishment of around 540 tracked IFVs and will include the integration of the new B05Ya01 Berezhok turret developed by KBP.

US military tests and invests

The US military has awarded a spate of contracts for unmanned systems in recent weeks, including a $100 million firm-fixed-price contract with Endeavor Robotics for the Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II. The programme will see the US Army provided with a medium-sized common robotic platform.

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At the Modern Day Marine exposition in Quantico, Virginia, companies such as BAE Systems and HDT Global have been discussing and displaying their latest military products. Read more news from the exposition here.

Headline products include a command and control variant of BAE Systems’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle, which is currently in engineering and manufacturing development, and a new Lightweight Expeditionary Bridge designed by HDT Global. The company has a few prototypes currently in testing with the US Marine Corps and has also shown the design to the US Army.

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Aviation ambitions

Staying in the US, the CAE Dothan Training Centre located at Dothan Regional Airport in Alabama is preparing to undergo the final phase of development after opening in March 2017. Today, 260 US Army and 70 US Air Force students have graduated from the seven courses provided by the company.

A senior Taiwan military delegation visited Washington to present a high-level briefing to the US government on Taiwan’s need for the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning fighter. The briefing was requested by the US government to clarify past enquiries by Taiwan for its need of a stealth fighter.

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Patrolling the seas

Gravois Aluminium Boats, through its Metal Shark subsidiary has been awarded a near $30 million contract for the construction of up to 50 patrol boats for the US Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). Gravois and Metal Shark competed against six other offers for the contract to produce the US Navy’s next generation patrol boat, the PB(X).

The Nigerian Navy is also expanding its maritime security capabilities after it commissioned into service two new FPB 72 Mk II patrol vessels built by French shipyard OCEA. The vessels underwent sea and acceptance trials in France before being handed over to the Nigerian Navy as part of an effort to crackdown on illegal activities at sea.

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The world according to Shephard: Week 36

This week Grant Turnbull and Richard Thomas have been in Poland for MSPO. You can read all the latest news from the event here

Helicopter orders fly in

MD Helicopters was awarded a huge $1.38 billion contract for 150 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters. The initial 30 are bound for Afghanistan to boost the air force’s current fleet of 27 Cayuse Warriors. This comes as the Afghan Air Force, under guidance and funding from the US DoD, is undergoing a transition from Russian-built helicopters to US-manufactured aircraft.

Another significant helicopter deal this week was received by HAL for 41 Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), primarily destined for the Indian Army. The deal is worth $951 million and includes 18 Dhruv-WSI armed variants. However, the Dhruv has suffered a number of crashes in recent months, the latest occurring on the 5 September.

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On the blog, Helen Haxell provides some insight into the recent return to strength of the civil helicopter sector. She takes a look at the impressive recovery of platforms such as the H225 and the Bell 525 Relentless, as well as discussing the new technology OEMs have been experimenting with.

The tanks roll in

Russia is continuing to invest in land modernisation as the Russian MoD inked several high value contracts for new or upgraded equipment in late August, report Alex Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev in Sofia. Twenty-three contracts were signed with as many as 17 Russian defence companies receiving new orders worth an estimated $2.9 billion. The biggest share of new orders was given to main battle tank (MBT) manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, for the delivery of newly-built T-90M MBTs.

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Meanwhile, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGDF) has been showing off its land capabilities at the Fuji Firepower demonstration. The JGDF performed a mobility demonstration of one of its new BAE Systems AAV7A1 amphibious assault vehicles for the first time.

Also on show was a prototype of the new Type 16 Manoeuvre Combat Vehicle (16MCV). The Ministry of Defence is procuring 99 vehicles by March 2019 with the aim of deploying the vehicle in rapid deployment regiments by March 2018.

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US Special Forces out and about

The Science and Technology Directorate at US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has identified future SOF C4 needs. It’s vision is ‘to discover, enable and transition technologies to provide asymmetric advantage for Special Operations Forces (SOF).’ Specific technology areas of interest have been identified in an effort to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the SOF warfighter. Read more about SOF’s ambitions here.

In the Philippines, US SOF forces have been assisting the Philippine military in their battle against Islamist insurgents in Marawi. Gordon Arthur reports that the US closure of Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines in 2015 appears to have been premature in light of the vicious months-long fighting against the Maute separatists who are linked with ISIS.

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China acts, ASEAN talks

Staying in the region, an agreement was reached in August for a ‘framework’ Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea  during the 7th East Asian Summit Foreign Minsters’ Meeting. Described by Wendell Minnick as lacking fortitude, the COC is a code for state behaviour pending the settlement of disputes over sovereignty of land features and the delimitation of maritime zones. He added commented that, ‘all ASEAN and China did was reiterate general principles that they had already agreed to 15 years ago.’

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In the meantime China’s naval expansion continues as the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its largest naval supply ship to date. The Type 901 fast supply ship has a displacement of approximately 45,000t. Gordon said that ‘as the PLAN ventures further afield, the navy will require more capable and larger numbers of such auxiliary vessels.’

Greater clarity has also begun to emerge about the radical restructuring of China’s airborne air force. The airborne formation is a rapid reaction unit held in readiness for expeditionary or mobile tasks within China and increasingly for overseas contingencies. The restructuring is part of an effort to improve manoeuvring capability and extend their reach to ‘destinations in every theatre.’

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Pre-DSEI highlights

Let the DSEI madness commence – take a look at what to look forward to at DSEI next week.

Shephard’s full show coverage throughout the week is available here.

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Let the DSEI madness commence

DSEI is almost upon us and everyone from exhibitors to journalists (and protesters) begin their preparations for the week-long show.

As global defence spending is on track to continue on its upward path, this years’ exhibition is expected to be the biggest yet.

Over 1,600 exhibitors and 34,000 visitors from 120 countries are expected to descend on the Excel Centre and the Shephard journalists’ schedules are packed full.

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The scope of exhibitors continues to expand and this year the importance of innovative technologies, from UAS swarm systems to 3D printing, will be reflected with a new innovation hub forming part of the inaugural Joint Zone, which will be nestled between the colossus land, air and naval zones.

The land zone alone has expanded by 52% and is offering a packed agenda of speakers throughout the event on a wide variety of topics. This includes a keynote address from General Sir Nicholas Carter, chief of the general staff.

Some of the focus in the land zone will be on the continuing threat from Russia and the impact it is having on European defence spending. Many nations are upgrading and bolstering their armoured vehicle capabilities, such as Germany, France and the UK who are all upgrading vehicles or embarking on modernisation programmes, such as the UK’s MBT fleet upgrade.

 

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Over in the naval zone, announcements on new frigate designs are hotly anticipated by Beth Maundrill who expects the industry to be a buzz following Wednesday’s release of the national shipbuilding strategy which could see BMT and Babcock go head-to-head on the design contract.

Seven warships will be on display at the exhibition, including HMS Argyll, the Royal Navy’s Type 23 Duke class frigate; HMS Puncher, a Royal navy Archer class patrol vessel; and BNS Pollux, a Belgian Navy ops vessel.

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The air zone will host a static display of over ten aircraft, demonstrating some the latest advances in avionics. In news celebrated by Shephard’s rotary editor, Helen Haxell, the display will be dominated by defence helicopters, including Chinook, Apache, Wildcat and Merlin.

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In reflection of the current instability that is gripping world politics and the evolving nature of warfare and security threats, the security zone has been expanded to include an exciting cocktail of exhibitions on a wide range of topics.

These include the challenges of mass migration, next generation cyber warriors, cyber intelligence and capabilities, urban warfare and emerging security trends from the IoT to wearable devices.

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We’ve got our comfortable shoes on, notebooks and cameras all set; we’re ready, are you?

You can find Shephard’s full show news coverage online throughout the week.

UK MoD orders 20 more carriers

It so transpires that the UK MoD has awarded a contract for 20 additional flattops ahead of a 31 January delivery next year.

While this might get the navgeeks running for their phones this time around the vessels supplied won’t be 280m, 70,000t behemoths. The decision instead is for smaller scale models destined for apparent distribution among key Foreign Office sites.

A contract award statement confirmed the purchase of 20 Queen Elizabeth carrier models ‘for presentation to British embassies’. The start of the build programme began on 10 August, which leaves a little more than five months to construct the fleet.

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A model of a Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier in the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street (Photo: Creative Commons)

Questions as yet unanswered include how the embassies might receive one of these prestigious models and what criteria any bid process is based on. Is it a raffle, a global game of rock-paper-scissors, or something more grown up?

The winner of the £30,000 programme of work, Wales-based David Fawcett, will see its workshop running to the maritime industrial drumbeat for the next few months in a bid to meet its deadline.

Information available on the company website state that it is ‘committed to providing the very best service’ and work with the latest technologies, including ‘3D CAD software and CNC machines, 3D printing machines and computer-generated photo etching’.

Quill has reached out to the model-maker for comment, although at the time of publishing none had been forthcoming.

A clause in the contract award did state that ‘the contractor shall not and shall ensure that any employee or subcontractor shall not communicate with representatives of the press, television, radio or other media on any matter concerning the contract’.

We might be waiting a while then.

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The new carriers will be strategically placed for maximum global impact (Photo: IMPS image library)

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