Today (04/09/17) the Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin announced the successful first firings of the Sea Ceptor air defence system.
In a visit to defence company MBDA’s site in Bristol, the Minister revealed the major milestone for the Royal Navy. HMS Argyll fired the Sea Ceptor missiles off the coast of Scotland earlier this Summer that will be used to protect the new aircraft carriers.
A thoroughly fascinating and horrifying look at the state of British civil defence in 1980 hosted by a strikingly young Jeremy Paxman. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 triggered a new age of fear in the west about the possibility of a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union with Europe sandwiched in the middle. This in turn sparked questions about Britain’s preparedness for such an eventuality as well as inspire a new wave of anti-nuclear protests.
Those who have seen the BBC’s Threads docudrama will see a lot of familiar scenes only this time acted out with the people who would have really carried out those roles had war broken out. Threads used both this program and a later program made by the BBC in 1982, QED – A Guide to Armageddon, to formulate its frighteningly realistic script before it aired in 1984.
The documentary makes note of the relatively small amount spent on civil defence compared to the immense sums of money spent on the nuclear deterrence itself. It also makes clear the belief that if the deterrence remains effective then the need for a permanent civil defence force is negated.
For those with an interest in both history and nuclear weapons, this is well produced and must-see program from that troubled time which hopefully has now passed.
The Royal Navy has begun a two-week military exercise devoted to the demonstration and testing of new unmanned systems. Having been several years in the making, the exercise will help define the service’s use of unmanned vehicles over the coming decades with a number of industry contracts expected upon its conclusion.
Among the industry products being tested is a new version of the Royal Navy’s current Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), the ScanEagle which has been deployed from surface vessels in the surveillance role but will be phased out next year. Built by Insitu, a subdivision of Boeing, the ScanEagle was a military development of a commercial UAV designed for fish spotting use by trawler and fishing fleets in Alaska. It is highly portable being very small and is launched from a catapult allowing it to take off from the helicopter deck of a typical frigate. The new version the Royal Navy will be testing over the next two weeks will combine the range and endurance of the current ScaEagle with a significantly improved multi-sensor intelligence gathering capability.
Another fascinating type on test is the Leonardo Helicopters SW-4 Solo Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV)/Rotorcraft Unmanned Air System (RUAS). Based on the Polish PZL SW-4 light helicopter, the SW-4 Solo has been developed with funding from the UK and Italian defence ministries and will be used as a technology demonstrator during Unmanned Warrior. The aircraft will utilise a wide array of sensors to establish exceptional levels of situational awareness for either a pilot or a ground operator if operating in unmanned mode.
The RAF intercepted coded messages between airline pilots discussing the plans for the attacks in the week following last year’s Paris attacks. The Arabic transcripts were then passed to GCHQ where intelligence operatives established that they were talking about carrying out attacks on London, Bath, Brighton and Ipswich. The pro-ISIS pilots were discovered using an emergency channel in the belief it was not being monitored however that was exactly what the RAF were doing.
It is believed that the pilots were preparing to smuggle in bombs or chemical weapons from the Middle East and either deliver them to ISIS supporters in the UK or carry out the attacks themselves possibly using their airliners. The discovery of the plot raised the terror alert in the UK and the Army has now launched Operation: Templer which involves up 10,000 soldiers being deployed to support British law enforcement and emergency services in the UK.
The aircraft were flying from Amsterdam to the Middle East and therefore no effort was made to intercept the aircraft. Contact with the pilots have been lost but their voice samples are now on file allowing intelligence services to identify them if they try to enter UK airspace. Their identities have also been put on a watch list for terror suspects and their airline has now been listed as having known ISIS sympathizers in their ranks.
Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon which is currently undergoing a 12-month refurbishment programme has been refloated at Portsmouth naval base for the first time since July of last year. The refit programme is the warship’s first major maintenance period since the ship was launched in 2008. Upgrades made to the ship include deep maintenance of the electric propulsion system and an enhancement of the ship’s dual-purpose gun, sensors and communications systems. In the grandiose traditions of the Royal Navy, Dragon has also received a fresh coat of paint.
Commander Joe Allfree of HMS Dragon said to the press:
In addition to overhauling and upgrading the various propulsion and weapon systems, we have made significant improvements to communal spaces and living quarters, which will make a real difference to Dragon’s sailors once we return to sea.
The destroyer is expected to rejoin the Royal Navy’s surface fleet in June when it will be subjected to sea trials before the crew are retrained in operating the vessel and its newest features.
Leading Logistician Scott Furber, 29, who had been accused of filming a sexual encounter with a crewmember aboard a warship without her permission has been acquitted by a panel of three senior officers after a two-day trial at Portsmouth Naval Base.
The pair could still be punished for breaking the navy’s “no touching” rule.
On August 27th the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced that the UK have requested the remanufacturing of the British Army Air Corps’ fleet of WAH-64D Apache AH.1 aircraft to a standard equivelent to the US Army’s AH-64E Guardian. The current British aircraft are built to AH-64D Block-I standard and to bring them up to the new standard the aircraft will receive refurbished AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sights (M-TADSs), AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors (PNVSs), Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 mast-mounted fire control radars and additional flight systems. The WAH-64D’s powerplant, the Rolls-Royce RTM 322, will be replaced by the General Electric T-700-GE-701D which is what powers the American aircraft.
The Army Air Corps’ current fleet of 50 WAH-64D helicopters have increasingly suffered obsolescence issues due to many of the aircraft’s transistor chips no longer being in production. To retain its attack helicopter capability to the planned out-of-service date of at least 2040 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) instigated an Apache Helicopter Capability Sustainment project that looked at several options including procuring new build AH-64E Guardians. Now however the UK looks set to have their aircraft completely rebuilt to the new standard which has raised a few quizzical eyebrows in Washington. Boeing offered new build AH-64E Guardian’s to the UK earlier this year at a unit cost of $31m however current estimates at the cost of remanufacturing the UK’s existing fleet of aircraft look set to be double that figure. While at this early stage it is unclear why the MoD seem to be taking the more expensive option it has been suggested that there are long term savings to be made this way.