Dragonfire research leads to laser melting mortar in seconds!

Early testing of laser capability at DSTL is already melting mortars. This research will feed into the Dragonfire programme – creating a laser capable of becoming an alternative to missiles – used for downing drones and cutting through the hulls of aircraft and armoured vehicles. The technology is not yet ready to deploy, with another 5 to 10 years of research on the cards – and it won’t be a thing of sleek, space age beauty, looking more like a fridge on a truck than a thing of science fiction! But while it might not look the part, its capability will be incredible.

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Gloster Goral

Born in war, the immediate post-war period was both a time of optimism and frustration for the new born Royal Air Force. On the one hand, military aviation had been firmly established as an indispensable tool of war but the concept of an air arm independent of both army and navy was seen as an unnecessary expense in peacetime. Coupled with the tightening of the national purse, it meant that after 1918 the RAF had to fight for every penny from the government and make the most of everything they had not only keep the service viable but alive.

Airco DH.9AThroughout 1918, numerous companies were developing new and more advanced aircraft ready for the front in 1919 but the armistice on November 11th 1918 saw many of these projects curtailed. The RAF were thus left to operate the best picks of their wartime inventory from 1918 among them of which was the Airco DH.9A. The DH.9A was an excellent light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft and when its performance is compared to the Avro 504s and Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2s that the Royal Flying Corps went to war with in 1914 it becomes strikingly clear how quickly military aviation advanced in just four years of fighting.

Peace in Europe however did not translate in to world peace and the RAF went back to war almost immediately supporting the anti-Bolshevik “White” Russians in the Russian Civil War. The RAF also flew intensive operations policing the British Empire which now included former Ottoman Empire territories that were resentful of their new British masters. The DH.9A proved adept in these theatres being rugged and reliable but over time it became clear that they needed replacing and in the mid-1920s the RAF began to seriously look at its options. Under Air Specification 26/27, the RAF told Britain’s aircraft manufacturers that in order to reduce costs the winning design would have to make the maximum use of DH.9A parts that were readily available. Emphasis would also have to be placed on suitability for policing the Empire with all the harsh and primitive operational environments that entailed. With the relative drying up of government orders in the 1920s, the aircraft manufacturers were quick to respond to the specification. Eight companies drew up plans for an aircraft to meet the RAF’s requirements including Bristol, de Havilland, Fairey Aviation, Gloster, Vickers and Westland.

The Gloster submission was headed up by two well respected aircraft designers namely Captain S. J. Waters who had previously worked for Fairey and H. P. Folland who had worked for the Sopwith company during the war. The resulting design was essentially the mating of a new oval-shaped, all-metal frame, fabric-covered fuselage with the wings from a DH.9A. Careful consideration was given to the need to make repairs in the field and so the aircraft was designed to allow key metal components to be replaced with wooden ones should the need arise. In theory, the aircraft could have been manufactured with an all-wooden frame and this was offered as an option to potential export customers. The fuselage was essentially built in three whole main sections that could be quickly separated if the aircraft needed to be transported by sea or rail and then reassembled relatively quickly. With humidity being a constant problem in parts of the Empire such as India a great deal of rust proofing was incorporated in to the frame.

Gloster Goral J8673 Bristol Jupiter

The aircraft had a crew of two with the pilot sat under the wing trailing edge with a cutout above his head for vertical visibility. The gunner/observer sat behind him in a position raised several inches higher and had a single 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis machine gun mounted on a ring to provide defensive firepower and to complement the pilot’s own 0.303 Vickers machine that was synchronised to fire through the propeller arc. The aircraft had provision for carrying a variety of light bomb configurations up to 460lbs total.

The Air Ministry specification had originally highlighted the Napier Lion 12-cylinder ‘broad arrow’ W12 engine as the preferred choice to power the winning design because it was readily available. Developed for military purposes in 1917, it was the most powerful Allied aeroengine when it entered service and had seen considerable use in civilian and racing circles. However, Gloster defied this requirement and went with the newer and more advanced Bristol Jupiter series of radial engines. They had briefly considered the even more complex Siddeley Jaguar 14-cylinder, two-row radial engine but this was seen as too risky to propose to the conservative RAF. The Jupiter was a nine-cylinder, single-row, air-cooled radial engine that despite having a lengthy development period that even saw its original manufacturer, Cosmos Engineering, go bankrupt had developed in to a fine powerplant that was seeing increasing use in both military and civilian aircraft. Gloster was not alone in this choice with Bristol themselves and more notably Westland selecting this engine for their own similar aircraft.

As construction of the first prototype was nearing completion it was fitted with the Jupiter VIA which developed 425hp and drove a two-bladed propeller 12ft in diameter. The prototype was given the serial J-8673 and was christened the Goral after a type of mountain goat found in northern India which reflected its planned use to police the Empire. The prototype took to the air for the first time on February 8th 1927 and once it was proven airworthy it was handed over to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Martlesham Heath for evaluation. Over the coming months, it was joined by other contenders for Air Specification 26/27 including Westland’s design which had been christened the Wapiti. The prototype was returned to Gloster at least twice to have the design tweaked and the engine replaced with the more powerful Jupiter VIIIF that churned out 480hp but it was to no avail and the Wapiti was declared the winner.

Gloster Goral J8673 Bristol Jupiter A&AEE

Compared to the Wapiti the Goral was faster, had a greater service ceiling and a longer range while the Wapiti had a marginally higher bomb load. However, where the Wapiti won was that it shared a much higher degree of commonality with the DH.9A which was one of the key points of the Air Ministry’s specification in the first place. Westland had a distinct advantage over the competition in that they had produced DH.9As under license and were far more familiar with it. In October 1927, the Air Ministry placed an initial order for 25 Wapitis confirming that the Goral had no future with the RAF but Gloster kept the aircraft on the books hoping to attract foreign interest.

Despite some passing enquiries, nothing really materialised until 1931 when an Argentinian purchasing commission which had set up an office in Brussels sent a request for information on the aircraft to Gloster. The commission confirmed their interest but expressed concerns that the aircraft was unsafe and believed this was why the Air Ministry had rejected it. The Air Ministry responded by sending the Argentinians a detailed letter outlining that the aircraft was not only safe but well suited to the Argentinian requirements. Unfortunately, the Argentinians didn’t resply to the letter and a short while later they placed an order with France for the Breguet Br.19; an aircraft of similar performance and configuration.

Thus the Goral was lost to history.

SPECIFICATION

Gloster Goral

  • Role: Two seat light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft
  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 31ft 6in (9.4m)
  • Wingspan: 46ft 7in (14.19m)
  • Height: 11ft 4in (3.3m)
  • Empty weight: 2,796lbs (1,268kg)
  • Gross weight: 4,441lbs (2,014 kg)
  • Powerplant(s):
    (i) 1 × Bristol Jupiter VIA 9-cylinder radial (425hp)
    (ii) 1 x Bristol Jupiter VIIIF 9-cylinder radial (480hp)
  • Maximum speed: at 5,000ft (1,524 m) 136mph (218km/h)
  • Maximum Range: 750 miles (1,207 km)
  • Service ceiling: 21,500ft (6,552m)
  • Armament:
    1× synchronised forward firing 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun
    1× 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun mounted on ring in gunner’s cockpit
    Up to 460lbs of bombs

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.

New OPVs to be fitted with Servowatch management systems

batch-2-river-class-offshore-patrol-vessel-opv-tamar-spey-royal-navy

Five new Batch 2 River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) to be built for the Royal Navy by BAE Systems’ Glasgow shipyards will be fitted with Servowatch’s Integrated Platform Management Systems (IPMS). Servowatch made the announcement that it had been awarded the contract by the MoD this week. The IPMS provides propulsion, electrical and auxiliary systems management from multi-function workstations with a high degree of automation to reduce demands on the crew.

Andrew Burns, Sales and Marketing Director at Servowatch said in a press release;

With military vessels increasing in complexity, systems integration is key to ensuring the functionality of critical components. Servowatch has introduced its most powerful IPMS solution allowing more commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) product integration. It reduces platform cost, integration time and commissioning, whilst retaining the survivability and power of the original Servowatch product.

The new Batch 2 River-class vessels will be modified versions of a similar class built for the Brazilian and Royal Thai navies. They will feature greater storage space, improved accommodation facilities and a flight deck capable of operating the Merlin naval helicopter. The first four ships of the class are already under construction with the fifth due to start this year.

Originally there were to be three ships in the class but in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review it was announced that another six vessels would be built. However, in 2016 it was confirmed that the order would be five.

Russian ECM targets British weapons over Syria

RAF Tornado GR4 Laser guided bomb paveway

The Sunday Express newspaper has run a story claiming that on three known occasions, British weapons employed by RAF aircraft over Syria have been deliberately interfered with by Russian electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment. The article states that sources close to frontline forces have revealed that two Tornado missions and one Typhoon mission was directly interfered with by Russian ground equipment which tried to jam the GPS guidance system fitted to the RAF’s Enhanced Paveway precision guided munitions (PGMs).

The original Paveway series of laser guided bombs employed by the RAF during the 1990s such as during Desert Storm, Bosnia and Kosovo relied solely on laser guidance throughout the attack. However, it was found that poor weather conditions had a detrimental effect on their performance and so a new version was developed that once released is fully autonomous even if there is cloud cover over the target which would otherwise obstruct the laser and prevent accurate guidance. In these instances, it is steered to the target using GPS information transmitted by a satellite and it is this signal that it is claimed the Russians are trying to disrupt.

It is known that the Russian forces in Syria have deployed a 1RL257 Krasukha-4 ground-based electronic warfare system to Hmeymim airbase. The Krasukha-4 is a multi-functional jamming station mounted on a BAZ-6910-022 eight-wheel truck. It was designed with both defensive and offensive capabilities and is claimed to be capable of inflicting physical damage on electronic devices that emit radio signals thanks to its own powerful jamming signal.

Former RAF AWACS commander, Air Commodore Dai Whittigham told The Sunday Express;

It entirely plausible that RAF aircraft have been targeted in this way, possibly because they wanted to see what they could do, or possibly to cause collateral damage. The problem with GPS is that the signal is very weak –it comes from a satellite in space – so it is considerably easier to hack or jam. If you interfere with the aiming system of an aircraft you have to be comfortable with the knowledge that it may cause unintended damage. We have seen that Russia doesn’t care about collateral damage in Syria.

Crews are all trained to deal with electronic interference, as these cases have shown, though, of course, the missions were still aborted. In one way, then, they were successful. But fundamentally it shows that the UK is being responsible in taking no chances that ordnance is going to be dropped in the wrong place

Russia has also been accused of deliberately interfering with drones belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation.

 

 

 

 

Gloster Javelin FAW.9R XH892 at Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum

Gloster Javelin FAW.9R XH892 was built in 1958 and served with Nos.23 and 64 Squadrons. Upon retirement the aircraft joined the historic aircraft collection at RAF Colerne before eventually being moved to Duxford. After Duxford, it became the property of the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum where it was restored to static condition and put on display where it remains today. The aircraft carries an “R” in its designation indicating that it was once capable of air-to-air refuelling but the probe is no longer in place.

All photos taken in November 2016 and kindly contributed to Defence of the Realm by Jim Knowles


Typhoon a step closer to replacing Tornado GR.4 as RAF’s primary strike platform

royal-air-force-raf-typhoon-fgr-4-eurofighter-panavia-tornado-gr-4British Aerospace (BAE) and Eurofighter have announced that the next phase of upgrades and enhancements to the RAF’s fleet of Typhoons has entered the operational evaluation stage. The improvements are aimed at allowing the Typhoon fleet to adopt not only the full range of strike and reconnaissance capabilities the Tornado GR.4 is capable of but also improve upon them. The enhancements will also see the initial integration of the Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air to Air missile (BVRAAM) and the Storm Shadow stand-off Air to Surface weapon.

Operating under the guise of Project Centurion, the MoD and the RAF are confident that the Typhoon will be ready to fully replace the venerable Tornado GR.4 by 2018. The Eurofighter consortium issued a press release earlier this week outlining the next phase of the project.

Phase 1 Enhancements Further Work (P1Eb FW) is an evolution of the current Tranche 2 Typhoon aircraft in service with the UK. The P1Eb standard Typhoons entered service last year.

P1Eb FW is the first part of the UK’s Project CENTURION, the package of enhancements which aims to deliver a seamless transition of capability from Tornado to Typhoon by the end of 2018.

The upgrades will bring numerous new capabilities, including additional Human-Machine Interface technologies and additions to the aircraft’s Air to Surface targeting capability.

P1Eb FW has successfully undergone trial installation and Operational Evaluation with 41 Squadron, the Royal Air Force’s Test and Evaluation Squadron at RAF Coningsby, is now underway.

The Panavia Tornado has performed the all-weather day/night interdiction role for the RAF admirably since its introduction in its original GR.1 form in the early 1980s. Like the Eurofighter Typhoon, the aircraft was built by a multi-national consortium established in the 1970s (its origins can be traced back to the aborted Anglo-French Variable Geometry aircraft project in the early 1960s). The Typhoon replaced the Air Defence Variant (ADV) of the Tornado in RAF service in 2011 and will fly alongside the RAF’s Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning IIs once the Tornado GR.4 is withdrawn.