Following the Sea Vixen’s display at the Duxford Air Show yesterday, the Cold War-era naval fighter suffered an hydraulic failure which prevented the lowering of the landing gear. Skillfully piloted by Commander Simon Hargreaves RN, the aircraft performed a wheels-up landing, scraping along the runway at Yeovilton before coming to a stop. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the malfunction but in the meantime the Sea Vixen has understandably been withdrawn from its immediate upcoming events.
While the UK and French governments continue to mince words regarding the Brexit negotiations, for their respective military forces working together it seems its business as usual. The French Navy amphibious assault ship FS Mistral left Toulon earlier this week to begin the service’s anuual five month Jeanne d’Arc deployment. Joining the ship’s air wing of transport helicopters were two Royal Navy Merlin HC.3A helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm’s No.845 Naval Air Squadron. The British contingent includes up to sixty personnel to operate and maintain the aircraft in support of French forces during the deployment.
Speaking on the deployment, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
France is one of our closest allies and our world class maritime forces are combining to show we can operate together effectively. Whether deployed together at sea, striking Daesh from the air, or contributing to NATO deployments in the Baltics, Britain and France will continue to work hard for our shared security.
Other aircraft deployed aboard the Mistral include a French Navy Dauphin to provide SAR and light utility duties and two French Army Gazelle light observation helicopters. Ground forces onboard will include the French Army’s Embedded Tactical Group. The deployment will take the force to Japan, Guam, Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Australia. Barring the vessel is not called to respond to a major incident, the FS Mitsral is expected cover some 24,000 miles.
As well as exercising France’s foreign policies the deployment will provide intensive training for those onboard with the French Navy outlining;
The Jeanne d’Arc mission also integrates elements from other armies and services. Among them were Saint-Cyrians, doctors from the army health service, commissioners of the Armed Forces Commissariat, pupils of the Directorate-General for Armaments and pupils administrators of maritime affairs. A plurality which gives this mission a significant and formative joint dimension for all these young future cadres.
It is within this operational framework that 137 French and foreign pupil officers of the promotion EAOM 2017 make their first operational deployment of long duration.
Tests 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.
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.
The history of the Royal Navy includes a number of quite famous cats. It has long been customary to have a cat amongst a ship’s company in order to hunt down rodent stowaways that threatened the crew’s food supplies. In many cases, these cat’s exploits became legendary such as when the cat aboard HMS Prince of Wales, known as Blackie, was photographed with Winston Churhill during his historic meeting with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another Royal Navy cat who served in World War II was Peebles, ship’s cat aboard HMS Western Isles who was said to greet visitors to the ship by offering them a paw in the way of a handshake.
Now, another moggie looks set to join the Royal Navy’s long line of famous felines and he made an epic journey in order to do so. Lieutenant Nick Grimmer serves with the Fleet Air Arm’s 814 NAS (whose emblem is actually a tiger!) and after driving to RNAS Culdrose from Birmingham Airport, he opened the boot to his prized BMW and heard a strange noise coming from the back bumper. He tried to find the source of the noise and was forced to call in some of the groundcrew to help.
Much to his disdain, he had to watch as the groundcrew removed the bumper of his BMW to reveal a tiny kitten with a tiger striped pattern on his back. It appears the kitten was using the car as a shelter in Birmingham when Grimmer returned to his car and drove the 300 miles south to Culdrose in Cornwall. Frightened by the noise of travelling in the car it climbed further inside the bumper until it became stuck.
Given the name Tigger by the personnel at 814 NAS, an effort has been launched to find if he has an owner but it appears nobody is in any hurry to send him back and he has already been offered the role of squadron mascot. It seems he is quite content sleeping in Lt. Grimmer’s flight helmet.
Not long after arriving in the UK, the RAF’s first F-35B Lightning II to cross the Atlantic made two symbolic flypasts yesterday. The first was over RAF Marham which will be the type’s primary base when it becomes operational in 2018 while the second was over HMS Queen Elizabeth II, one of two aircraft carriers under construction that will take the F-35 to sea with the Royal Navy. The flypasts were carried out by the RAF example and a USMC example both of which are variants of the Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) version of the F-35.
The two aircraft were accompanied by a BAe Hawk T.1 to photograph the events while over RAF Marham a Panavia Tornado GR.4 (below) joined in the formation. The Tornado remains the RAF’s most potent strike platform until it will finally be replaced by F-35s and strike-oriented Typhoons by the 2020s; nearly 40 years after it entered service.
The commander of the RAF’s F-35 project, Air Commodore Harv Smyth, told ITV news yesterday;
The beauty of the F-35 is that it can do many, many, many missions. Unlike our legacy platforms that may have been fought to be a fighter or a bomber, this airplane can pretty much do any everything, including intelligence gathering. So it’s a jack-of-all trades, but it’s exceptionally good at them all.
A collection of images of the Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan (D37) and AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat HMA.2 ZZ376.
All images taken on May 21st 2016
All photographs kindly contributed by Dave Taskis (please take time to visit his blog by clicking here).
HMS Duncan (D37)
HMS Duncan, the sixth and final Type 45 destroyer, was the most complete at launch in October 2010. She will be the first of the Type 45 class to be capable of deploying the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile. This was the first time the vessel had visited London.
If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to email@example.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.