Royal Navy – Two Six 60-second news update: Episode 4

60-second news update from the official Royal Navy YouTube page.

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UK joins trilateral partnership centred around P-8 Poseidon

Boeing P-8I Poseidon

The United Kingdom has joined the United States and Norway in outlining the principles of close cooperation between the three nations in operating the Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). The statement of intent was signed on Thursday at a meeting between each country’s respective defence secretaries in Brussels – Sir Michael Fallon of the UK, James Mattis of the United States and Ine Eriksen Søreide of Norway.

The US Department of Defense issued a statement after the signing saying;

Today, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed a statement of intent to lay out guiding principles for a trilateral partnership with P-8A aircraft to address the changing security environment in the North Atlantic.

The agreement among the three NATO countries aims to establish a common framework in operating the advanced aircraft over the strategically significant regions of the North Atlantic and the North Sea. This will concentrate on areas such as maintaining a high of level of readiness and interoperability between them and to share operational experience of the aircraft to better understand how best to utilise the type in future operations.

The P-8 Poseidon is a derivative of the proven Boeing 737 commercial airliner and is developed from the 737-800 series. It is designed for a multitude of long-range maritime missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and reconnaissance missions.

The RAF currently has nine airframes on order to fill the gap left by the retirement of the Nimrod MR.2 and the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA.4 which left the RAF without its own independent fixed wing maritime patrol asset. In order to maintain crew skills, RAF personnel have been serving with their NATO allies aboard their own maritime patrol aircraft and these crewmembers will likely form a cadre of new instructors when the Poseidon arrives.

Manufacture of the aircraft will be carried out across three production lots over a ten-year period with deliveries commencing in 2019 at an estimated cost of £3bn. The British aircraft will initially operate with US weapons and systems until British alternatives become available.

Both Norway and the US are acquiring the aircraft to replace their fleets of ageing P-3 Orions that have served admirably since the 1960s. Norway has five aircraft on order and these are expected to become operational at the same time as the RAF aircraft.

Typhoons deployed to Romania

RAF Typhoon no.3(f) squadronEurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s from the Royal Air Force’s No.3 (Fighter) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby have now deployed to Romania as part of the expansion of NATO’s air policing mission over Eastern Europe. Four aircraft and up to 150 personnel (air and ground crew) deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in south east Romania on Monday with the deployment expected to last up to four months. After a period of acclimation, the aircraft are reported to formally start operations by May 1st.

Images taken of the pilots taking off from Coningsby show that they are using the new £250,000 Striker II helmet which according to BAE Systems’ own website;

Striker II is a fully digital solution that provides today’s combat pilot with exceptional night vision and target tracking technology within a fully integrated visor-projected HMD system.

BAE Systems’ Striker helmet-mounted display system is based on the company’s unique two-part helmet design. It provides comfort, protection, and helmet stability for fixed- and rotary-wing platforms.

The RAF has had a long history patrolling NATO’s border with Russia having led four deployments of fighter aircraft as part of the alliance’s Baltic air policing mission since 2004. In those instances the aircraft have largely been the sole air defence asset for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, Romania has its own fighter force built around the MiG-21 LanceR – an upgraded version of the legendary but increasingly ageing MiG-21 “Fishbed”. The far more modern RAF aircraft will have to integrate in to Romania’s air defence network.

The deployment is part of NATO’s expanded effort to reassure its eastern members that it remains committed to their protection. It has also been reported in the Romanian press that the deployment of NATO fighters to their country is in direct response to a dramatic increase in the number of interceptions carried out by the Romanian Air Force of Russian aircraft over the Black Sea in recent months.

Romania will also host a large scale NATO exercise in July that U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm said in March would include up to 30,000 NATO troops.

Tornado GR.4s participate in Frisian Flag 2017

Panavia Tornado GR.4 No.31 Squadron Goldstars paveway brimstone

The RAF has been putting six Tornado GR.4 aircraft and their crews from No.31 Squadron through the gruelling two-week-long exercise, Frisian Flag 2017, which was held at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands. Beginning on March 27th and culminating on April 7th, the large scale exercise saw aircraft from several NATO members get airborne twice a day for a series of mock battles which saw the RAF aircraft act as the Red Force – the bad guys.

The primary purpose of Frisian Flag 2017, as well as honing combat skills, was to provide the participating units experience in combined NATO operations within a modern threat environment. The RAF Tornado GR.4s were joined by USAF F-15 Eagles, French Mirage 2000s, German Typhoons and an assortment of F-16 variants from several NATO countries. Missions undertaken included air defence and escort missions for the fighter aircraft while strike aircraft such as the Tornados were assigned to attack high priority ground targets and conduct defence suppression operations.

Wing Commander Matt Bressani of No.31 Squadron said;

Working with NATO countries helps us to better understand our own strengths and weaknesses by testing each other’s defences. With the Tornado GR4 going out of service in a few years’ time, this is an ideal opportunity to train our crews for their future beyond this air frame.

The last Tornado GR.4 is expected to be withdrawn from frontline service in 2019 with much of its strike tasking being undertaken by upgraded Typhoons. The Ministry of Defence has also said that the acquisition of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II will be stepped up in order to create an additional frontline RAF squadron by 2023.

Typhoons to be sent to Romania to reassure Eastern European allies

typhoon_2657017bEurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s from the Royal Air Force’s No.3 (Fighter) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby are set to be deployed to Romania. Four aircraft and up to 150 personnel (air and ground crew) will be based at Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase in south east Romania for up to four months beginning on May 1st as part of NATO’s southern air policing mission.

The announcement was made by the British Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon who confirmed that Prime Minister Theresa May had sanctioned the deployment in an effort to reassure the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe who are now members of NATO that the alliance remains committed to their protection. The deployment is speculated to be in response to an increase in Russian air activity over the Black Sea that has kept the Romanian Air Force busy.

Fallon has said;

The UK is stepping up its support for NATO’s collective defence from the north to the south of the alliance. With this deployment, RAF planes will be ready to secure NATO airspace and provide reassurance to our allies in the Black Sea region.

The RAF has had a long history patrolling NATO’s border with Russia having led four deployments of fighter aircraft as part of the alliance’s Baltic air policing mission since 2004. In those instances the aircraft have largely been the sole air defence asset for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, Romania has its own fighter force built around the MiG-21 LanceR – an upgraded version of the legendary but increasingly ageing MiG-21 “Fishbed”. The fare more modern RAF aircraft will have to integrate in to Romania’s air defence network.

Romania will also host a large scale NATO exercise in July that U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm said last week would include up to 30,000 NATO troops.

The deployment comes as news reports circulate in both Romania and Russia that Russian inspectors have today visited a military site in Romania to confirm it is no longer operational. The inspection is being carried out under the provisions of the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and while the location of the inspection has not been disclosed the Romanian Defence Minister insists that the inspection is a “normal” undertaking in relations between the two countries.

 

 

Royal Navy conducts AI and Cyberspace exercises

 

This weekend, the Royal Navy will be conducting naval exercises off the coast of Scotland along with several NATO allies under Exercise Joint Warrior. The exercise will test ships and their crews in a range of scenarios that could be realistically encountered on operations across the globe including countering terrorist activity and piracy. As part of the overall exercise the Royal Navy will also be undertaking Exercise Information Warrior 17 which will be the service’s first large-scale cyber warfare exercise.

Type 45It will also mark the debut of a new artificial intelligence (AI) system called STARTLE that aims to greatly improve situational awareness and response times. STARTLE continuously monitors and evaluates potential threats by utilising the intricate sensor suite aboard a warship and using its own artificial intelligence to effect an appropriate response. The software is actually based along similar lines to the way the human brain works by emulating the human fear response mechanism. In a sense it would act like a digital colleague to the Principal Warfare Officer and will allow the command team to make more informed decisions at a much faster rate thus saving vital seconds in combat.

Speaking about the exercise, Fleet Commander of the Royal Navy, Vice Admiral Ben Key CBE said;

We must use information as a weapon in itself, to deliver effects with greater precision in both time and space; protect our information effectively; better integrate a comprehensive approach to planning; and exploit technology.

Information Warrior 17 will build on experience the Royal Navy gained last year under Unmanned Warrior 2016 and in addition to trialling AI systems it will also evaluate Royal Navy vessels’ abilities to resist cyber attacks. The increasing use of wireless technology to transmit information between military units has opened up a potential new weakness which a sophisticated enemy could exploit either by disrupting the signal thus reducing a force’s overall effectiveness or even sending contradictory information/instructions. With China, Iran, Russia and North Korea all having shown a willingness to manipulate events across the world through cyberspace, the west and NATO in particular have placed greater emphasis on countering these potential adversaries on the 4th dimension battlefield.

Typhoons scrambled against two Russian Blackjack bombers

RAF Typhoon Tu-160 BlackjackThe British newspaper The Independent has reported that the Typhoon FGR.4s were scrambled as the two bombers came in to Britain’s area-of-interest over the North Sea. The aircraft had already been tracked by NATO radar stations before that responsibility was handed over to the RAF at around 1000hrs.

The Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack” strategic bombers are reported to have flown between the Shetland and Faroe islands before transiting down the west coast of Ireland and over the Bay of Biscay. Continuing south, the responsibility for tracking the two Russian bombers then passed to the French and then the Spanish before they turned north back towards the UK as they headed for home.

An RAF Voyager tanker supported the Typhoons as they tracked the Russian planes. An RAF spokesperson was quoted as saying:

We can confirm that quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby scrambled to monitor two Blackjack bombers while they were in the UK area of interest. At no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.