Waiting for the DSEI show in September, which will see the land-segment launcher truck of the CAMM missile and undoubtedly many other interesting things, the current "big thing" on the schedule is Paris Air show going on in these days.
Several news have come out so far worth of mention:
Watchkeeper - The first Watchkeeper will go live in Afghanistan in December, with further ones starting service along 2012, with the lease for the current Hermes 450 drones finally ending as the definitive system comes online, even if at least 10 months later than planned.
Not for the first time, there's also news of a real interest in arming the Watchkeeper to give the Army not just a "spotter" but a sniper at the same time. The most likely weapon to be fitted is LMM: small, low collateral damage, not powerful enough to make the RAF bitch about the army getting its own fixed wing attack platfrom (because, with all respect, they would), no recoil, little weight. All good things, since the Watchkeeper isn't too much of an heavy lifter.
The article from Defense News contains a confusing: "The British Army recently became the launch customer for the missile in a land-based role."
As far as i'm aware, the contract for 1000 missiles is for the Navy Wildcat helicopters as solution for Future Attack Surface Guided Weapon (Light) and not for the Army Lynx, which are apparently expected (at least at the beginning) to use only door-mounted M3M machine guns, despite having excellent capability to carry and use rockets, gunpods and missiles.
The suggestion in this article is the first one about the Army using the missile as well. If it is true, it is more than welcome, to say the least: i've been arguing for armed Army Wildcats for a long time, and since the Stores Management System of the helicopter is the same in both variants, once the missile is integrated, both users can (and should) make the best possible use of the missile.
Telemos UAV - The collaborative BAE/Dassault MALE UAV is "present" at the show in the form of a BAE Mantis mock-up, and while the structure of the drone will be indeed very similar, the mock-up is likely to give just an idea of the effective drone that will emerge from development.
France defence minister's has announced that the UK and France will now take from 12 to 18 months to define a list of requirements to pursue (and to avoid the hopeless mission of fitting new expenses in already stretched budgets...!). This will disappoint industry, which hoped for a quick order within year's end, in order to be ready to deliver the drone in 2015/16. It is highly unlikely that the collaborative UAV will be operative earlier than 2018, the date indicated by the UK in SDSR.
It is quite a long stretch of time, and the Telemos will have to incorporate some good technology and at least a bit of innovation to hope in a share of export orders by then.
One also has to hope that the UK and France, both having/planning CATOBAR aicraft carriers, will issue a requirement for carrier compatibility for Telemos: it will push the price up, but still be cheaper than design and acquire, once more, a dedicated "Land" and later a "Sea" fleet of assets.
Look at the success of the ship-compatible Apache AH1: that is the way to go.
The Reapers of the RAF are officially expected to retire in 2015, being still considered an Afghanistan UOR, but the RAF is already planning a "Reaper extension", which will probably bring them into the core budget at least until the new MALE UAV comes online as replacement.
Scalp Navale - June 8 saw the first submarine test launch, and all went accord to plans.
The naval cruise missile, a derivate of the Scalp/Storm Shadow air-launched weapon from MBDA, will arm the FREMM multimission frigate from 2014 and Barracuda nuclear attack submarine from 2017.
The DGA signed a 2006 contract with MBDA in 2006 for 200 naval cruise missiles, 150 for the FREMM, 50 for the submarine. Initially, 250 had been planned for purchase. The contract value was 910 million euro, a shocking 810 million pounds, or 4 million pounds per missile.
Scalp Navale for Type 26? No thanks!!! TLAM all the way, thank you very much.
Brimstone Dual Mode is the hero of the day - its great performances are making it attractive to France, US, India and many others, and a 9 Squadron RAF Tornado crew at the show told the audience of their positive experience with the missile in recently flown missions in Libya.
They also provided some more clarity about the Libya missions: four Tornados from 9 squadron flew their first Libyan missions from Marham on March 19, each armed with two ASRAAMs and two Storm Shadows.
“All eight Storm Shadows were released, resulting in eight direct hits,” said Tornado pilot flight lieutenant James Cooke.
The flights were also the first RAF combat missions for the ASRAMMs, though none was fired.
Cooke said missions had run to 7.5 hours, using 30 tons of fuel from three refuelings, making them the longest strike missions flown by the UK since World War II.
Two days later, Tornados moved to Gioia Del Colle Air Base in southern Italy, 90 minutes’ flying time from the Libyan coast.
Export orders for Brimstone would be undoubtedly welcome.
F35 Joint Strike Fighter - The program of test flights proceeds well, but the Helmed Mounted Display is source of concerns (see JCA page on this site, Lockheed Martin is thinking of changing supplier and BAE is a bidder for such a scenario, with a development of the Striker HMD used on the Typhoon) and software development remains the biggest challenge.
The Block III software, needed for full operational capability, might only come out for testing in 2014, and be ready only in 2016. It means that a good proportion of the early deliveries of production F35s, included part of those for the UK if orders start as planned in 2013, will likely come online with Block II software, and need an upgrade soon after.
Then again, Typhoon made us all used to this...
In the meanwhile, Norway has committed to 4 F35A as part of the Test phase, and plans for a fleet of 56 to replace its F16 in future.
AW159 Wildcat - First flight of the Wildcat in an air show, and interesting updates and bits about the MOD plans:
The three trials aircraft which first flew in November 2009, October 2010 and November 2010 have now completed over 250 flying hours of a 600 hour integrated flight test programme. The three aircraft are set to undertake a number of proving trials in the coming months. Later this month aircraft #1 will start hot and high trials in the USA and aircraft #3 will undertake Shipborne Helicopter Operating Limit (SHOL) trials in October 2011. Aircraft #2s flight testing has been focusing on the successful integration of the avionics and mission sensors and recently completed chaff and flare firing trials.
The 76 million pounds training contract signed last March is seeing AgustaWestland preparing the bi-serving training facility on RNAS Yeovilton. The facility will provide training courses for Army aircrew and maintainers starting in January 2013, with training for Royal Navy aircrew and maintainers starting in January 2014. The Lynx Wildcat Training Centre will be equipped to provide air crew and maintainer training using a wide range of synthetic training technology including two Full Mission Simulators (FMS), Flight Training Device (FTD) and Cockpit Procedures Trainer (CPT). All devices will be capable of delivering Army or Royal Navy conversion and mission training. Each of the Full Mission Simulators has six degrees of freedom to provide the acceleration sensations associated with helicopter flying together with a visual system that complies with JAR-FSTD-H Level D, to give highly realistic and cost effective training. The maintenance training facility will be equipped with a suite of synthetic training devices covering the aircrafts mechanical, avionic and weapon systems. The training centre will also contain a suite of briefing rooms, integrated electronic classrooms and a learning management system.
AgustaWestland is also working with the UK MoD to develop an Integrated Operational Support (IOS) solution to provide cost effective through life support for the entire fleet of 62 aircraft. Programme is on time and budget.
The composition of the fleet is not yet clear, save for the fact that the Navy has reactivated the 700 NAS with the W letter for "Wildcat". This OCU/OEU will have 5 helicopters.
It has also been suggested that 847 NAS, the Recce/Attack squadron of the Commandos, will get 6 Army Wildcats.
My gut-feeling is that up to four more are likely to go into 2 AAC Regiment (Training) for Conversion To Role training, with the rest distributed to the current Lynx squadrons: the marked reduction in numbers from AH7 to Wildcat might cause the closure or some squadrons, or the reduction in strength of each from 8 to 6 helos.
The NATO AGS "Eye in the Sky" continues to struggle - It had to include an european answer to the american J-STARS radar plane, based on an Airbus321, but that soon got chopped. It had to provide 8 Global Hawk drones, now at most it will have six, to base on Sigonella Air Base, Sicily, Italy. The Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) is a long-endurance, coalition-owned, unmanned Sentinel R1 fleet, to say it in a very simple way. It has to provide surveillance, detection and tracking of targets, moving and stationary.
Because it normally requires four UAVs to keep a 24-hour watch on a given location, the reduction to six means that the fleet will only be able to keep full-time surveillance on one place. To add to the bad news,
Canada, which is a key partner on the program, is planning on leaving the NATO AWACS and AGS efforts as part of a cost-cutting plan. The loss of Canadian participation might effectively torpedo the entire AGS effort.
Other participating allies are trying to persuade the Canadians to stay. The UK is not directly involved in the AGS, and has its own proprietary fleet of E3D Sentry AWACS, which also contribute to NATO efforts. NATO has been talking to the MOD to try and stop the retirement of the Sentinel R1 touted in the SDSR for 2015/when Afghanistan ends.
Sentinel R1 is a capability unique in Europe, and second only to the US J-STARS fleet. The idea of sacrificing it can only be described as "idiotic". Perhaps NATO allies will have better political success in saving the system from the Treasury's axe.
MBDA Perseus - A concept presented by MBDA and shaped by feedback from RN and French Navy, the Perseus is touted as a multimission missile for future replacement of Harpoon/Exocet/Teseo and others, which offers supersonic performances, much increased range, and land attack capability.
The Perseus concept represents several ideas that MBDA believes will be necessary 20 years hence: a supersonic missile the size of today’s subsonic weapons, as well as facilities for quick planning and execution – nominally 1 minute for planning, 8 minutes for command approval, and 7 minutes for weapons delivery at 300 km range.
The weapon also reflects MBDA’s move toward modularity, making a given missile type configurable for sea or land attack. Modularity also allows a missile’s components — seeker package, propulsion system, etc. — to be upgraded separately, prolonging a system’s lifespan to 25 or 30 years and offering significant savings and efficiencies.
The missile is about five meters long, and weighs 800 kg, quite a lot less than the just-as-long Storm Shadow.
Various attack modes are planned. A high-altitude flight plan with the missile flying at greater than Mach 3; it would use a top-attack mode, with the missile maneuvering, to defeat ship defenses.
Another is a sea-skimming mode with missile flying greater than Mach 2.
The missile can deploy and target two 40 kg effectors with a small warhead. “Spreading the damage is the best solution to mission kill” when attacking ships, MBDA notes.
In addition to the inertially guided, unpowered effectors, which can be ejected seconds before impact, the missile also carries a larger warhead that remains within the missile. The overall lethal package weighs 200 kg. The effectors can also be retained within the missile in certain attack modes.
In future, Perseus could also serve also as a potential Storm Shadow/Scalp cruise missile replacement in the future.
The missile has a multi-mode radio frequency (RF) seeker with an active phased array seeker capable with synthetic aperture radar capability. It also features an augmented laser radar for high-resolution scanning, mainly for land-attack, as well as a semi-active laser seeker. The augmenter laser radar was tested by UK and France since 2006 which project DUMAS, with the aim of shaping the future sensor to use in upgrades to Storm Shadow (planned for around 2025) and for future weapons.
MBDA notes the missile is “super agile” to defeat future air defenses.
Different ramjet-powered motor technologies are still being considered, including a scaled up version of the motor used on the Meteor air-to-air missile.
The technology should be ready in about 10 years for a weapon in 15-20 years. Funding could accelerate the timeframe. The RN has a requirement that can be linked to the Perseus in more than one way: as part of the Novel Air Capability Vision of the MOD, the RN is reportedly pursuing a platform with a strike range of 600 miles, capable to return to the ship after delivering the attack and post-strike damage estimates, and reportedly MBDA has been chosen to work on this system, going under the name of Black Shadow. The missile is said to be derived from elements of the Storm Shadow, but is likely to have much in common with the new Perseus concept.
Indeed, the RN is dreaming a longer-range Perseus which delivers larger, more effective warheads, but does not crash onto the target itself, returning instead to the ship to be refuelled and re-armed. Someone suggested a VTOL is needed for this to be effective, i believe that a splash recovery is more plausible economically speaking.
Planes have landed on the waves for many years, after all. If the Black Shadow could land on the water and be pulled back aboard with a crane, it would be a lot more financially viable than trying to give a cruise missile/drone a VTOL capability.
Whatever happens, the Perseus is undoubtedly very interesting.
HMS Daring gets another piece - Not a Paris Air Show news, but one news that i was expecting from a long time. HMS Daring is to finally get its two Phalanx 1B CIWS turrets.
Babcock has a contract to upgrade 16 of the Phalanx systems of the Navy to 1B standard, which delivers many improvements, included the capacity to engage fast boats and suicide crafs, and adds IR seeking for improved engagement and accuracy. Two updated Phalanx 1B are found on RFA Fort Victoria and two on HMS York. Two more are going on Daring, and the rest are almost certainly going to the 5 remaining Type 45 destroyers.
It is to be hoped that, in future, ships such as CVF and HMS Ocean also get their systems updated. 3 Phalanx turrets have also been removed from Ark Royal as part of her decommissioning. A number of Phalanx turrets in the Navy pool are moved around to be fitted from time to time to ships deploying in dangerous areas: RFA Cardigan Bay normally does not carry Phalanx fit, but she is now sporting two Phalanx CIWSs since they were fitted to give her good protection prior to deployment in the Med as part of Exercise Cougar/operation Ellamy/Yemen rescue effort, the latest being her current whereabout.
The installation on Daring is a First of Class Fit, and as such it is projected to take 8 weeks: 2 for installing the system in Portsmouth and 6 weeks of trials at sea which will also include engagement of a towed aerial target.
A first-of-class fit always involves some challenges, including an unproven ship fit, and working with many installation contractors and ship’s services within extremely challenging completion schedules. This can involve sailing with the ship to complete the set to work process. Future fittings will be far simpler and faster.
Two Lynx on a Type 45. - It is also worth noticing a little known fact: the Type 45 can embark ONE Merlin, or up to TWO Lynx helicopters. HMS Dauntless, now heading for Norfolk, US, for the FRUKUS war games – annual exercises involving the navies of France, Russia, the UK and US (hence the acronym) with the respective nations taking it in turns to host; this year the honour falling to the US Navy - is the first Type 45 doing it, and it is expected that in the wargames this will prove useful and validate concepts. After the FRUKUS, HMS Dauntless is bound for her Hot Weather trials, one of the last steps in validating the Type 45, since soon HMS Daring will be bound for East of Suez deployment.