All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

Navy patrol ship

The fifth and final new Royal Navy patrol ship – at the vanguard of the UK’s renewed global aspirations – is at sea for the first time.

HMS Spey (P234)
HMS Spey (P234) sailing from Scotstoun

HMS Spey (P234) has sailed from BAE Systems’ yard at Scotstoun on the Clyde to begin Contractor Sea Trials.

A mix of Royal Navy sailors, BAE employees, contractors, inspections authorities and civilian sailors are crewing the 2,000-tonne warship for the key tests and assessments off the west coast of Scotland.

The sea trials are a significant milestone in Spey’s short life to date and are designed to thoroughly test the capability and integrity of the vessel.

Her systems will be tested to the max and will include live firing of her weaponry (including her main 30-mm gun), pushing the ship’s engines to their full power and testing her top speeds before the ship returns to Scotstoun.

Her maiden voyage comes just weeks after the first sailors of her ship’s company moved on board and ahead of her journey to Portsmouth later this year when she will officially join the Royal Navy fleet.

HMS Spey (P234) is last of five new River-class ships and will join her older sisters HMS Forth (P222), HMS Medway (P223), HMS Trent (P224) and HMS Tamar, all of which are now operational.

When trials and training are complete next year, HMS Spey (P234) will operate as part of the navy’s Forward Presence programme, stationed around the world for several years at a time, with the ship’s company changing on a regular basis.

High Energy Laser

Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S), a Raytheon Technologies business, delivered the next high-energy laser weapon system to the U.S. Air Force. It will be deployed overseas for operator training and experimental testing and evaluation. Following the completion of the Directed Energy Weapon Initial Operational Employment Review and Approval Process, High Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) is now certified for use in combat.

HELWS
Raytheon Intelligence & Space delivers another Air Force laser system ready for operational use

«HELWS builds directly on the feedback we received from operators in the field», said Annabel Flores, vice president of Electronic Warfare Systems at RI&S. «We’ve made the system more rugged. We improved its accuracy and overall efficiency based on real-world lessons learned in an operational environment».

This system features a number of improvements, including ruggedized enhancements to ensure transportability and survivability in a wide range of operational environments; a new beam director for more accurate targeting; and a robust power system for additional magazine depth – the ability to fire the laser for a longer period of time.

«You can take down dozens of drones on a single charge», said Flores. «And if you are plugged into a generator, you have deep, rechargeable magazines».

Mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, HELWS uses a variant of RI&S’ Multi-spectral Targeting System, an electro-optical/infrared sensor that detects, identifies and tracks unmanned aerial threats.

A prior version of HELWS was deployed in a forward operating environment earlier this year and recently passed 1,000 hours of operations. RI&S is contracted to deliver another further improved system to the Air Force later this year.

Bulgaria selects AMRAAM

Bulgaria became the world’s 40th Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) user when the European nation recently signed an agreement to purchase the missile from the U.S. Air Force through a foreign military sales contract. This letter of offer and acceptance allows the U.S. government to begin contract negotiations with Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, for production of an undisclosed quantity of missiles.

AMRAAM
Bulgaria selects AMRAAM missile to bolster its air-to-air defense capabilities

«AMRAAM delivers unprecedented air superiority to pilots, giving them a decisive advantage in the sky», said Paul Ferraro, vice president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense’s Air Power business. «The weapon will significantly improve Bulgaria’s ability to defend against advanced threats».

The AMRAAM is a dual-role missile, offering operational flexibility in air-to-air and surface-launch engagements. In the air-to-air role, the weapon’s advanced active guidance section and mature seeker design allow it to quickly find targets in the most challenging environments.

AMRAAM is the world’s most sophisticated, combat-proven air dominance missile. With more than 30 years of design, upgrades, testing and production, the AIM-120 missile continues to meet warfighter requirements in all weather and beyond visual range engagements. Its capabilities have been fully demonstrated in over 4,800 test shots and more than 10 air-to-air combat victories.

Evreux Squadron

Florence Parly, the Minister of the Armed Forces, and her German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, laid, Thursday, September 17 on the air base 105 of Evreux (Eure), the first stone of the building which will house the first Franco-German air transport squadron. The ceremony was followed by a trip by the two ministers across the Rhine to the Airbus Defense and Space site for a status update on the advancement of the combat system of the future (SCAF). «Defense Europe» is on the move.

Evreux Squadron
The Franco-German Evreux Squadron, a «Revolution» for European Defense

«The birth of this squadron embodies the «Defense Europe» in the most beautiful and concrete way», said Florence Parly, laying the first stone, with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German Minister of Defense, of the building that will house the future Franco-German C-130J tactical transport squadron on Air Base 105 at Evreux.

A major asset for European defense, this squadron will be unique in Europe. «This is a first, a real revolution», explains Florence Parly. «For the first time, French and German pilots, mechanics and airmen will train, operate and accomplish missions together, sharing daily life in the same squadron».

This binational squadron will be made up of ten aircraft (four French and six German) by early 2024. This fleet of Super Hercules, multi-role par excellence, considerably strengthens the capabilities of the Air and Space Force in the field of tactical air transport. It is also resolutely part of the ramp-up of helicopter in-flight refueling capability, particularly for the benefit France’s H225M Caracal helicopters.

 

Parly: «Giving substance to ideas we pushed with strong political will»

To welcome these new aircraft, the Air Base 105 at Evreux had to undergo a transformation. Large-scale works have been undertaken for the construction of aircraft parking lots and operational areas. From summer 2021, 260 French and German soldiers will gradually transfer to the air base.

A training center with a simulator and training aids will also be set up within three years. This ramp-up of the Evreux air base is also fully in line with the Family plan of the Ministry of the Armed Forces with the integration, at the local level, of military families in terms of housing and education.

The Franco-German squadron, which will be commanded by a French officer and assisted by a German counterpart, shows a common desire to go further in building a strong, united Europe with the capacity for autonomous action. For this, the Franco-German relationship is the foundation in the field of Defense.

Proof, once again, that Defense Europe is not just a concept but well and truly a reality, Florence Parly and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer traveled to Manching (Bavaria) on Thursday afternoon, to the Airbus Defense and Space site.

This was an opportunity to take stock of the development of the Future Air Combat System (FCAS, French: Système de combat aérien futur, SCAF) and the Eurodrone, two structuring projects for Defense Europe. «For each of these Franco-German projects, the efforts made on both sides of the Rhine are colossal. And it is a source of pride to see our teams working together with ardor to give shape to the ideas that we have brought forward with a strong political will», notes Florence Parly.

 

Weapon systems of the future

Particularly close, this Franco-German cooperation notably enables the development of ambitious and innovative programs. This is particularly the case with SCAF, in which Spain is also a stakeholder.

The objective of SCAF? Allow collaborative air combat. Clearly, the aim is to make national military capabilities (Rafale for France, Eurofighter for Germany and Spain, drones, surveillance and air refueling aircraft, command systems) interoperable with future capabilities, like the New Generation Fighter (NGF).

Ultimately, all of these vectors will be interconnected as part of the weapons system of the future (Next Generation Weapon System – NGWS) for which France is leading the project.

At the end of a full day, marked with the seal of European Defense, Florence Parly reaffirmed her «will» and her «determination» to bring Franco-German friendship to life through concrete advances to benefit of a «stronger and more sovereign Europe».

Spearfish

The world’s most advanced torpedo is on the cusp of entering service with the Royal Navy after extensive trials in Scotland.

Spearfish
Navy’s new torpedo on cusp of front-line service after trials in Scotland

The upgraded Spearfish – the principal weapon of the UK’s Submarine Flotilla against enemy ships and submarines – was ‘fired’ repeatedly at frigate HMS Sutherland (F81) as scientists, engineers and sailors study its performance.

Over four days on special ranges near the Kyle of Lochalsh, the improved weapon was put through its paces, testing both software and hardware enhancements – while the Plymouth-based frigate did its utmost to fend off the torpedo’s attacks.

Spearfish has been the Silent Service’s weapon of choice since the early 1990s, though it has never been fired in anger.

The warhead is a good six times more powerful than that carried by the smaller Sting Ray torpedo, fired by ships like Sutherland or launched from Merlin and Wildcat helicopters.

It can break the back of frigates, destroyers and similar-sized warships, and take out any underwater threats.

The Royal Navy is investing £270 m in upgrading Spearfish, fitting a new warhead, new, safer fuel system, an enhanced electronic ‘brain’ and a new fibre-optic guidance link with its parent submarine to improve its accuracy and lethality.

A team of around 100 engineers and experts from BAE Systems in Portsmouth have spent nearly six years working on the improved torpedo, which will be introduced to front-line hunter-killer and nuclear-deterrent submarines over the next three years – and in service into the 2050s.

The latest trials are the fourth involving Sutherland – which is purpose-built to hunt down hostile submarines – to help introduce the new Spearfish into service.

For the latest workout at the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre (BUTEC) – a stretch of water between Skye and the Scottish mainland which is ten kilometres/6.2 miles long, six/3.7 wide, up to 200 metres/656 feet deep and peppered with state-of-the-art sensors – the frigate was assessed to see if she could defeat the new-look Spearfish, using a mix of evasive manoeuvres to evade the torpedo and advanced acoustic counter-measures to lure it away from Sutherland.

Anyone expecting tell-tale submarine wakes streaking through the waters was disappointed as Spearfish was set to ‘run deep’ for safety reasons – so the ‘battle’ was played out on the displays in Sutherland’s operations room, where the shrill sound of whistles announced a torpedo in the water.

«During the trial this week we have put our elite training into action, using a variety of underwater sensors to locate and track the weapon», said 23-year-old Able Seaman Matthew Brown from Perth, one of the underwater warfare specialists who’s been tracking Spearfish. «Having one of the most advanced and capable torpedoes in the world fired at you certainly puts the pressure on».

Weapon Engineer Officer Lieutenant Commander David Tinsley added: «This is not the first time Sutherland has contributed to Spearfish trials, and we’re glad to be supporting a small part of a larger Defence programme which will deliver a world class weapon into Service. A range of military and industrial partners have come together to deliver an efficient trial which in due course will deliver another exciting capability for the Royal Navy».

Following the torpedo trials, Sutherland moved on to join the Americans, Norwegians and Danes on exercise in the Arctic.

A final trial of Spearfish will take place at BUTEC later in 2020 before the weapon is declared operational and begins being delivered to the submarine fleet.

Builder’s Trials

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Ingalls Shipbuilding division announced on September 14, 2020 the successful completion of builder’s sea trials for the U.S. Coast Guard’s newest National Security Cutter (NSC), USCGC Stone (WMSL-758). The ship spent three days in the Gulf of Mexico testing propulsion and auxiliary equipment, as well as various shipboard systems.

National security cutter
National security cutter, USCGC Stone (WMSL-758), spent three days in the Gulf of Mexico testing propulsion and auxiliary equipment, as well as various shipboard systems (Photo by Lance Davis/Huntington Ingalls Industries)

«Every successful sea trial is a major accomplishment for our shipbuilders, but this set proved to be a particularly substantial undertaking», said Jay Boyd, Ingalls’ NSC program manager. «Since the year began, our team has persevered through every challenge. Learning through each obstacle presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NSC team has worked tirelessly to ensure the Coast Guard receives another high performance cutter to help protect our nation».

In the weeks preceding NSC-9 builder’s trials, safety precautions were put in place to minimize the potential risk of COVID-19 to participants while at sea. The number of shipboard riders was reduced by one-third to allow for adequate social distancing. Those allowed onboard were tested for COVID-19 one week prior to sail, and were screened the morning of departure. Masks were required at all times, food services were staggered, and in addition to the cutter’s regular cleaning regimen, each individual received their own personal supplies to clean their way in and out of spaces onboard the ship.

Ingalls has delivered eight Legend-class NSCs with two more under construction, and one additional under contract. USCGC Stone (WMSL-758), the ninth NSC, is scheduled for delivery later this year.

NSC-9 was named to honor Coast Guard officer Commander Elmer «Archie» Fowler Stone, Coast Guard aviator number one, who made history in 1919 for being one of two Coast Guard pilots in the four man air crew who completed the first transatlantic flight in a Navy seaplane.

The Legend-class NSC is the largest, most technologically advanced ship in the Coast Guard’s fleet, which enables it to meet the high demands required for maritime and homeland security, law enforcement, marine safety, environmental protection and national defense missions. NSCs are 418 feet/127 meters long with a top speed of 28 knots/32 mph/52 km/h, a range of 12,000 NM/13,809 miles/22,224 km, an endurance of 60 days and a crew of 120.

Huntington Ingalls Industries is America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services to partners in government and industry. For more than a century, HII’s Newport News and Ingalls shipbuilding divisions in Virginia and Mississippi have built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. HII’s Technical Solutions division supports national security missions around the globe with unmanned systems, defense and federal solutions, and nuclear and environmental services. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, HII employs more than 42,000 people operating both domestically and internationally.

 

Facts

Displacement 4,500 long tons
Length 418 feet/127 m
Beam 54 feet/16 m
Speed 28 knots/32 mph/52 km/h
Range 12,000 NM/13,809 miles/22,224 km
Endurance 60 days
Crew 120
Equipped with Mk-110 57-mm turret mounted gun
6 × 12.7-mm/.50 caliber machine guns
3D air search radar
2 level 1, class 1 aircraft hangers
A stern launch ramp for mission boats
Aviation carried (2) MCH, or (4) Vertical-Launch Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (VUAV) or (1) MCH and (2) VUAV
Stern launch Two cutter boats (Long Range Interceptor and/or Short Range Prosecutor)
Electronic Warfare and Decoys AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System, Two Super Rapid Bloom Offboard Countermeasures (SRBOC)/2 NULKA countermeasures chaff rapid decoy launcher
Communications HF, VHF & UHF
Sensors and Processing Systems X and S band radar, 3D air search radar, AN/SPQ-9 radar, Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF)

 

Ship list

Ship Hull Number Laid down Launched Commissioned
Bertholf WMSL-750 03-29-2005 09-29-2006 08-04-2008
Waesche WMSL-751 09-11-2006 07-12-2008 05-07-2010
Stratton WMSL-752 07-20-2009 07-23-2010 03-31-2012
Hamilton WMSL-753 09-05-2012 08-10-2013 12-06-2014
James WMSL-754 05-17-2013 05-03-2014 08-08-2015
Munro WMSL-755 10-07-2013 09-12-2015 04-01-2017
Kimball WMSL-756 03-04-2016 12-17-2016 08-24-2019
Midgett WMSL-757 01-27-2017 11-22-2017 08-24-2019
Stone WMSL-758 09-14-2018 10-04-2019
Calhoun WMSL-759
Friedman WMSL-760

 

USCG national security cutter Stone on builder’s sea trials

‘Fires Up’ Engine

Boeing Australia powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft in September, as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight.

Loyal Wingman
Boeing Australia has completed the engine run on its first Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight (Boeing photo)

This milestone comes on the heels of Boeing completing the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year, a major step forward for the unmanned vehicle serving as the foundation for the global Boeing Airpower Teaming System, an artificial intelligence-powered teaming aircraft developed for the global defense market.

«This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team», said Doctor Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. «We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft».

Powering on the engine is part of ground testing and preparations for first flight

Greek Air Force

Greece announced on September 12, 2020 its intention to acquire 18 Rafales to equip its air force.

Rafale
Greece announced its intention to acquire 18 Rafales to equip its air force

This announcement illustrates the strength of the partnership that has linked the Greek Air Force and Dassault Aviation for more than 45 years, and demonstrates the enduring strategic relationship between Greece and France.

Greece ordered 40 Mirage F1 from Dassault Aviation in 1974, then 40 Mirage 2000 in 1985 and finally 15 Mirage 2000-5 in the year 2000; this latest contract also includes the modernization of 10 Mirage 2000 to the 2000-5 standard with a large contribution from Greek industry.

«I am delighted with this announcement, which reinforces the exceptional relationship we have had with Greece for nearly half a century, and I thank the Greek authorities for their confidence in us once again. Dassault Aviation is fully mobilized to meet the operational needs expressed by the Greek Air Force, and thus contribute to ensuring Greece’s sovereignty and the safety of the Greek people», said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

4,000 aircraft recoveries

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) logged its 4,000th aircraft launch and recovery on September 10, showcasing the performance capabilities of the ship’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), as part of the aircraft carrier’s 18-month Post Delivery Test & Trials (PDT&T) period.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) logged its 4,000th trap (arrested landing) September 10 with Training Air Wing (TAW) 1 during carrier qualifications

Captain Kenneth Sterbenz, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) program manager (PMA-251) for EMALS and AAG, noted the milestone is a significant achievement for both the ALRE program and the Ford crew.

«EMALS and AAG are consistently performing as expected and standing up to the rigorous testing of PDT&T operations», said Sterbenz. «Reaching 4,000 launches and recoveries is not only an important performance datapoint, but it also represents years of technological development and the dedication, professionalism, and successful work put forth by the ALRE team and CVN-78».

Ford’s EMALS and AAG systems are now more than halfway through the carrier’s test and evaluation period, and the ship’s force remains on track to complete all required assessments and critical system milestones in preparation for CVN-78 to formally enter the fleet.

Shannon Coulter, PMA-251 assistant program manager for Systems Engineering, has been aboard Ford for every fixed-wing launch and recovery, including the first aircraft launch and recovery in 2017.

«It’s been incredibly rewarding for the team to watch AAG and EMALS mature over the past nine months, as Ford’s crew gains significant experience and increased confidence with maintenance and operations», said Coulter. «The NAVAIR and General Atomics programmatic, engineering, maintenance, and logistics team has done an absolutely outstanding job of supporting CVN-78 over the past 4,000 EMALS and AAG launches and recoveries, and we look forward to strong system performance throughout the remaining PDT&T events».

The U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft launch and recovery technology was designed for use aboard Ford-class aircraft carriers, beginning with USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). Land-based test sites, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, enable test, troubleshooting and Sailor training. Managed by the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program Office (PMA-251) and developed by prime contractor General Atomics, EMALS and AAG provide significant technological advancements to the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class aircraft carriers, requiring a smaller footprint aboard the ship, less maintenance, and less manpower than comparable steam catapults and arresting gear aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68)-class carriers.

German pistols

In order to achieve new quality in the Lithuanian Armed Forces and ensure provision of modern soldier equipment, the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence has concluded an agreement with the German company Heckler & Koch and will provide its troops with pistols SFP9 SF Paddle. These pistols were chosen as the ones that best meet the needs of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.

SFP9 SF Paddle
Test firing of Heckler & Koch pistols SFP9 SF Paddle

The decision to purchase new pistols for Lithuanian troops was made in order to abandon using different calibre pistols and change over to the use of uniform calibre 9×19 mm pistol ammunition, leaving still usable ones for reserve and replacing weapons that are running out of resources.

The value of the concluded agreement totals to about 1.57 million euros. The agreement also provides for the possibility of purchasing additional pistols if necessary. It also includes training of personnel to operate the newly acquired weapons.

According to the agreement, the new pistols will be delivered to the Lithuanian Armed Forces by the end of 2021.

The German manufacturer Heckler & Koch’s pistols SFP9 SF Paddle were selected from models of thirteen manufacturers as the most suitable for the needs of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The process of selecting a pistol model also included test firing in various conditions – the firing was performed in shooting ranges of different types, in the tactical field and intervention building.

Currently, the Lithuanian Armed Forces is using Austrian GLOCK 17, American COLT 1911, and Czech ČZ75 pistols, most of which are already running out of resources.

The modernization of the Lithuanian Armed Forces armament and infrastructure is the top priority of the national defence system. After reaching, for the first time since the restoration of independence, the minimum 2% GDP financing provided for in the commitments to NATO, very important projects were launched: acquisition of infantry fighting vehicles, armoured combat support vehicles, installation of modern artillery systems, enhancement of airspace surveillance and air defence capabilities, renewal of military armament and equipment.