RAF 100 Flypast

Coverage of the RAF centenary flypast of Buckingham Palace including the F-35B Lightning II.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth & F-35B Lightning CGI Tour

Take an animated tour of the fifth generation F-35B Lightning and the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the largest ship to be ever constructed in Britain for the Royal Navy.

700 crew take up residence aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth

After months of familiarisation and training, the ships company of HMS Queen Elizabeth can finally call the ambitious aircraft carrier home. 700 of the ship’s crew have taken up residence aboard the vessel which will become the Royal Navy’s future flagship and the epitome of Britain’s continued commitment to influencing world events.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is now in the advanced stages of her test and commissioning phase which will include her maiden sea trials scheduled to take place this summer. During this period the 65,000 ton aircraft carrier is expected to undertake “simple” air operations involving helicopters such as the Wildcat and Merlin.

HMS Queen Elizabeth UK F-35 Lightning IIThe first operations involving the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II will not take place until the summer of 2018. Even then it will likely consist of a number of United States Marine Corps aircraft and crews until the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force comes up to strength on the type. Given the present acquisition rate, the UK will be able to deploy 24 of the maximum number of 40 F-35Bs onboard the ship some time in 2023 according to the ship’s commanding officer, Captain Jerry Kyd.

However, the whole carrier project continues to draw worried glances from observers regarding manpower shortages within the Royal Navy. This emerged in the wake of a savage cutting of over 4,000 personnel in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Royal Navy has engaged in a recruitment drive in recent months to address the problem with some success but the concern is that putting the aircraft carrier to sea will result in other ships being confined to port. In 2015, there were rumours that the navy was even considering advertising for personnel in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

According to the Admiralty, the vessel is planned to sail to her future home base of Portsmouth by the end of the year.

 

 

RAF Typhoon pilots training with French and US colleagues at Langley AFB

RAF Typhoon Rafale F-22 RaptorThe United States Air Force is hosting a multi-national exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia dubbed Atlantic Trident 17. The exercise will begin on April 12th and will continue until the 28th. It will be hosted by the resident 1st Fighter Wing of the USAF equipped with the F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter.

British and French combat aircraft will participate in the exercise in the form of Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s and Dassault Rafales respectively. The RAF have committed 175 personnel to the exercise with the first contingent having already arrived. Among the US aircraft deployed will be a number of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs which the RAF has on order in its Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) F-35B Lightning II guise along with the Royal Navy.

The exercise will be focused around combat experience the three air arms have gained over Syria and Iraq in recent years but will add an airborne threat element which the pilots will have to defeat in order to complete their strike missions.

USAF Colonel Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander said in a press conference;

This exercise was designed to encourage the sharing and development of air combat TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) with our French and UK partners, against a range of potential threats leveraging US Air Force fifth-generation capabilities. This is not only an opportunity to share the capabilities of the aircraft, pilots and maintainers between our nations, but to build friendship, trust and confidence that will improve our interoperability as we go forward.

 

Typhoon and F-35 demonstrate new datalink capability

lockheed-martin-f-35b-lightning-ii-eurofighter-typhoon-fgr-4-royal-air-force-rafTests have been carried out of a new interoperability system that allows the fourth-generation Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II to share tactical data with one another. Developed by US Company Northrop Grumman, the Airborne Gateway system was tested on the two aircraft over the course of two weeks in the United States under a Ministry of Defence trial dubbed Babel Fish III.

The tests demonstrated that the Airborne Gateway could successfully convert messages from the F-35B Lightning II’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) into a digital language that could be read by the Typhoon’s Link 16 datalink. The F-35B could already communicate certain information with the Link 16 system which is used on a wide array of frontline US aircraft such as the F-15, F-16 F/A-18 and E-3 Sentry AWACS as well as the RAF’s Typhoon but it couldn’t share all of its tactical data afforded to it by its fifth generation systems.

The two-week trial was conducted in airspace over the upper Mojave Desert in California as part of the RAF’s Exercise High Rider. Northrop Grumman said in a press release;

This is the first time non-US fifth- and fourth-generation aircraft have shared MADL-delivered data, and is an important demonstration of interoperability as the UK moves closer to initial operating capability of its F-35 Lightning II force in late 2018. Being able to network sensor data between fifth-generation and fourth-generation fast jets and other battlespace assets in a stealthy manner is critically important to enabling the full capability offered by fifth-generation aircraft.

F-35 Lightning II Queen Elizabeth 2 aircraft carrier

The F-35B Lightning II and the Typhoon FGR,4 will form the backbone of the RAF’s fast jet combat force from 2019 onwards as the venerable Panavia Tornado GR.4 is finally phased out of service. The F-35B Lightning II will also be fielded by the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm who will operate the aircraft from Britain’s new aircraft carriers. The ability for the F-35B to communicate with the RAF’s aircraft in such an intricate way will give both services a degree of interoperability that previous generations of aircraft in both services could only dream of.

Royal Navy’s new carriers will deploy to Pacific to exercise freedom of navigation

HMS QE 1

British ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, has told a Washington think tank that despite Britain’s current focus on the Middle East combating Daesh in Iraq and Syria there will be increased focus on the Pacific region as the two new carriers become operational around 2020. Speaking at an event in Washington attended by the Japanese ambassador to the US, Kenchiro Sasae, he said that Britain will play its part in maintaining the security and stability of the Pacific region with emphasis on maintaining the right to freedom of navigation.

Certainly, as we bring our two new aircraft carriers on stream in 2020 and as we renew and update our defence forces, they will be seen in the Pacific…And we absolutely share the objective of this U.S. administration, and the next one, to protect freedom of navigation and to keep sea routes and air routes open.

The first step in this renewed British military interest in the region has already been taken. In October this year, four RAF Typhoon FGR.2s from No.II(AC) Squadron landed at Misawa Air Base in Northern Japan to participate in Exercise Guardian North 16 with Japanese and US forces. The aircraft then flew to South Korea for exercises with Korean and US forces.

The Japanese ambassador added that during a meeting held at the Pentagon in Washington at the time of the exercise, the UK agreed to increase the level of naval cooperation with Japan and the US in the South and East China Sea as tensions continue with Beijing regarding territorial claims in the region. The ambassador said that Tokyo welcomed Britain’s increased focus on maintaining regional stability.

Darroch’s words come on the eve of President-elect Donald Trump taking up office in Washington on a pledge to build up the US military. Regarding China whom Trump has been deeply critical of, his advisers have said that the new US President will pursue a policy of “peace through strength” in the Pacific to challenge China’s efforts to assert its own authority over the region.