Tag Archives: US 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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US Navy reduction in San Juan recovery reminder of submarine rescue challenges

The news in late December that the US Navy will begin to draw down its operations to assist in the search for the ARA San Juan serves as a salutary reminder that simply having a capability does not equate to a guarantee of success.

At the height of its support in search for the stricken Argentinian submarine, the US Navy stated that its contributions included three specialised aircraft, over 200 SAR personnel, four submersibles, one underwater rescue unit, one surface vessel and the deployment of more than 400 sonobuoys.

International support was also provided from a range of sources, including the UK’s ice patrol vessel, HMS Protector. Still, despite the vast range of scanning, support and rescue assets available, there has been (at the time of writing) little indication that the search will result in success.

The dangers of submarine operations have been chronicled by services and historians for as long as such platforms have been used, and despite the best effort to ensure the safety of crew, when things go wrong under the ocean waves the results are often terrible.

The sheer difficulty in simply operating at often significant depths in such an environment brings a unique set of challenges that would not exist on where there is breathable air. One could say that it is incumbent on services to have some sort of rescue capability, with many navies looking to add this to their repertoires.

In example, the Swedish Navy considers it an obligation to operate a submarine rescue vessel and recently concluded an extensive upgrade of its capability. However, with the service mainly operating in the littorals, it recognises the limitations that any rescue capability has when the depths run into the hundreds of metres.

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Which brings us back to the start of this missive and the loss of the San Juan and crew. Mounting a recovery effort in deeper oceans has to be tempered with the knowledge that it is one matter to find the submarine and another equally difficult to enable a rescue if and when it is found.

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!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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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 Royal Navy’s new carrier – is it a waste of space?

 

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Beyond the hyperbole and hysteria that will greet the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth to Portsmouth, it’s worth bringing up its use as a platform and what has been sacrificed elsewhere in order to achieve this milestone.

Pushing around 70,000t at full load with a full complement of crew and aircraft, the carrier is without question the largest naval vessel ever to serve in the UK Royal Navy and a benchmark for the country’s return to maritime power.

Or not?

The two carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, have topped the £6 billion mark to build and will soak up hundreds of naval service personnel from a hugely diminished pool. Capital ships being decommissioned are being cannibalised of their own crews to make up the numbers, while destroyers and frigates take it in turns to become alongside training ships on account of manpower shortages, equipment removals and engineering failures.

Capable as they are, only six T45 ADDs have entered service, down from 12 planned. These vessels have not been without their own controversies.

The 13 Type 23 frigates will be kept on beyond planned working lives because of delays to the Type 26 programme. Eight T26 will enter service, and be augmented by a yet-to-be designed and barely conceptual T31(e).

There has been no proper response from the UK MoD to Sir John Parker’s National Shipbuilding Strategy report.

Harpoon missiles fitted to the T23s and T45s will be retired next year leaving a national navy, that purports to be a blue water service, without ship-based ASuW capability. The scenes recently showing the Brazilian Navy dispatching the former HMS Brazen in a sinkex with a range of kinetic systems will be beyond replication by the RN from 2018.

The hard-used Ocean will leave. Albion and Bulwark take it in turns to sit mothballed. The SSN fleet will fall to six hulls as delays impact the planned one-out, one-in replacement of the Trafalgar’s with the Astute’s.

Embarked unmanned capabilities were removed this year from the frigate fleet amid cost crunches, a notion that the RN has done little to deny.

The new River Batch 2 OPVs will have to shoulder more of the maritime policing and low-end participatory duties the navy has to cover.

RFA Diligence, the only forward repair ship able to service RN ships, is unlikely to be replaced. One of the four Bay-class landing ship docks was sold after the 2010 ‘review’.

What has been missed after 2010 is an opportunity to mould the RN for the challenges of the 21st century. Can it create that onion-layer of security that a carrier strike group can work within? Will the carriers have the embarked capability necessary to fulfill their roles?

The navy has fewer hulls. Less amphibious capability. No ship-to-ship missiles. Fewer personnel. Less innovation. All for two big ships.

The carriers will slot into the US Navy’s demands, moving into the gaps created by its own CVN replacement programme and emerging challenges elsewhere. It’s an instrument of policy and bombast that could cause more harm to its service than good.

The service seems stripped of its core. Is it now an unbalanced bobblehead of an organisation standing on some pretty unsteady ground?

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