Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The news

LB03 on its way - Since moving out of the shipbuilding hall at Govan two weeks ago, LB03 has had workers  working constantly on it to complete final preparations, including sea fastening, to ensure the block is ready for her departure from the Clyde. Today, the block left on the massive badge, and over the next five days, the block will travel around the north coast of Scotland before arriving into Rosyth on Sunday 21 August.

A week later, on Monday 29 August, the team will undertake a complex operation to sink the submersible barge, allowing the hull section to enter into the water for the first time. It will be the first part of QE entering the water, indeed. Lower Block 03 will then be manoeuvred into position in the dry dock where approximately 350 Govan-based employees will rejoin the block as they work in partnership with employees at Babcock to complete the outfitting and assembly phase on this section of the ship. At that point, assembly of the enormous ship will begin for real in Rosyth.

British Forces News gives us a video report of the barge moving down the Clyde, and also reports that: "Both vessels will be converted to accommodate Joint Strike Fighter jets."
I certainly hope so, but this is actually not yet certain. The confused sequence of announcements regarding this important factor is covered in the Carrier Vessel Future page.

Minister Gerald Howarth seems to suggest that they are effectively looking at fitting both ships, but does not go far enough to provide any assurance. Video. 

Eurofighter news - The Typhoon is active also in Saudi Arabia now, since last July.

Meanwhile, after a year of self-financing the programme, Euroradar reports that the AESA Captor-E (also known as E-scan) radar for the Typhoon has now received funding from the four partner countries, and will be ready for appearing on Tranche 3A planes from 2015. This is a welcome news, and an indispensable boost to the plane in the export arena, especially as India's tender gets closer and closer to its fatal announcement: Typhoon or Rafale?

Meanwhile, between 5 and 8 July, the heads of the industries part of Eurofighter, leaded by BAE systems and with the UK government as main intermediary, had the first meeting with the heads of Japan's Self Defence Forces, to promote the Typhoon for their fighter jet (F-X) requirement, aimed at the replacement of the remaining old F4s. The press agency Kyodo, of Japan, meanwhile reported that the F35, considered as the most dangerous rival of the Typhoon, might be cut out of the competition, since the japanese government has been deeply displeased by the delay (to 2017) of the F35 IOC. Their requirement is far more urgent, with the F4s being a good 40 years old.
The F35 is also single-engined (the requirement calls for 2 engines), but this was seen as balanced by the stealthness, (another japanese requirement), sector in which is the Typhoon the one that loses out.
The exclusion of the F35 might the prelude to an historic first triumph for european defence industry in Japan, traditionally an american feud.

Meanwhile, Eurofighter has officially presented its concepts for the "Eurofighter 2020", indicative of what will be available for export and for Mid-Life upgrades in the coming years.
Available already from 2015, the Eurofighter 2020 is built on the Tranche 3A fuselage, but has AESA Captor-E radar, thrust-vectoring nozzles option, Conformal Fuel Tanks, much greater array of available weapons, improved and updated self-protection suite (DASS), improved communications, and potentially an "F35-style" Advanced Helmet Mounted Symbology System which, as in the F35, will do the work of the HUD, allowing for its removal.
The LERX extension of the wing root trialed with success in Germany (see Eurofighter Typhoon page) is also offered, improving turning ratio by a good 5%, and of course a whole range of software and electronics updates.

Argentina is out shopping - The announcement of their plan for a SSN is still hot and recent, along with several other plans and projects. Now they also plan for a Light Attack/Scout helicopter addition: AgustaWestland has signed an agreement to refit and upgrade around 20 AB206 JetRanger helicopters (the base of the much more famous and readily-recognized Kiowa Warrior, the military scout variant used by the US forces) ex-italian army.
These AB206 are to be armed with Minigun pods and 70 mm rockets, and will be used as Light Attack and Scout helicopters, alongside a number of Kiowa Warriors ex-US also recently acquired.

Another "Global Power" attack - Six GR4 aircraft flew another long-distance sorties from RAF Marham in East Anglia, to conduct an eight-hour, 4 Air-Refueling round-trip mission over Libya last Wednesday night.

Group Captain Pete ‘Rocky’ Rochelle, Station Commander RAF Marham, said: "This mission has, once again, proved the GR4’s capability at long range.

It certainly has, but why was it done? It was expected and understandable in the first days of Ellamy, when the RAF hadn't yet been cleared to base forwards in Italy, on Gioia del Colle airbase. Now, with some 14 Tornado and 8 Typhoons forward based, it is harder to see the need for such a long and complex air sortie type, which happens to be incredibly expensive.

I enjoy such demonstrations of power and welcome it if there was a rationale for it, but then again, i'm forced to hope that this was a serious operation and not a political-encouraged (or worse Service-encouraged) demonstration of the "usefulness" of Storm Shadow and Tornado GR4.

Please, tell me that it wasn't a "hey, look, we are the RAF, we do not need no aircraft carriers!" stunt, because that would be really, really lame.

Congratulations to crews and ground personnel on a job well done, in any case.


  1. Hi Gabriele,

    In my opinion that sortie from Marham was so "hey, look, we are the RAF, we do not need no aircraft carriers!" and a bit of please don't scrape the Tornado too!
    But there's going to be much more please don't cut that, when the axeman starts on the army.
    The cutting of at least 6 battalions to the infantry, is going cause a lot of pain to some regiments. it seems 1 battalion will go from the Scottish Regiment, taking it down to 4 regular, which I assume will be the multi role brigade based in Scotland? I am thinking that 2 or 3 of the other 5 will be from merging some of the 2 battalions regiments into 1 regiment of 3 battalions. Maybe the Rifles will loose a battalion? But I am not sure about how 6 regular battaions will be found to cut. Dare I mention the Guards?
    1 and 2 RTR seem set to merge. But to make the numbers, it seems to me that the Royal Engineers, Royal Signals and logistics are going to take a big hit?
    But that's all going to be kept hush hush, until 2014. No one wants to send a unit on tour, that knows it's to face the axe on it's return.

    Hope all's going well Gabriele.


  2. You get that same feeling, i see.

    I read a report on Transformational Army Structures that puts the Future Force 2020 "restructuring" (read: CUTS) at

    "The removal of one war fighting brigade (19 Light) from the structure will see the reduction of a brigade headquarters and signal squadron (209 Sqn, i guess), 4 infantry battalions (both 4th and 5th Battalions the Royal Regiment of Scotland have reported as being in serious danger; further reports saw the Coldstream Guards in peril), an engineer regiment (38 RE, i'm guessing), an artillery regiment (40 Regiment RA, as i already reported in other articles and as has been announced by the British Army itself) and a logistic regiment. An additional 2 engineer regiments will be removed from other areas of the Force."

    I expect something more will have to give, too, due to the new wave of cuts announced, so 6 battalions, i think, is definitely not unrealistic.
    I also have obvious fears for 1RTR as well.

    Thank you, and yes, i guess things are going well enough. Busy and tiring and complex, but the moving is progressing. I hope to be able to get working on a few new serious posts soon.

    Till' then

  3. Hi Gabriele,

    Well I expect there to be a lot of rumours, plots, smoke and mirrors over which infantry battalions will face the axe. I think the rumour about the Coldstreams is a bit of double bluff by those at Horse Guards! Added to all the usual inter regimental and external political pressure, is the added element of possibility of Scotland leaving the union, which Dr Fox says has to be planned for.
    As you have a said, the required number of infantry battalions is;
    20 multi role brigades.
    4 16 Air Assault Brigade
    1 3 Commando Brigade
    2 Public duties
    1 Cyprus
    On paper a reduction of 6. My view on how this can, or maybe achieved;
    The Guards; Should really be reformed to a 4 battalion regiment. But I cannot see this happening!
    Instead, I think they will trade in there 3 extra companies, to keep all 5 ‘Regiments’, with 3 being on public duties.
    SCOTS; 4th and 5th Battalions to merge, to form a 4 battalion regiment based in Scotland. This would form one of the multi role brigades, solving the Scottish problem.
    PWRR and R ANG to merge to form a 3 battalion regiment.
    LANCS and RRF to merge to form a 3 battalion regiment.
    RIFLES reduced to 4 battalions.
    GURKHAS reduced to 1 battalion. (Based in Brunei)
    YORKS to remain 3 battalions
    MERCIANS to remain 3 battalions
    ROYAL WELSH to remain 2 battalions
    ROYAL IRISH to remain 1 battalion
    PARA to remain 3 battalions.
    However, I am not sure how fixed those figures for cuts are, after the reserve forces review, and the fluid nature of the cuts to army numbers are. In my view there is no reason why the 2 battalions allocated to public duties could not be in a multi role brigade.
    Also, 2 and 3 PARA could join 1 PARA in the Special Forces Support Group role. 16 Air Assault becoming 16 Light Brigade. Which would get the MoD out of the ridiculous situation of having an Air Assault Brigade, with parachute trained gunners and engineers, with no aircraft to drop them!
    But I am trying to think logically and trying to be fair to all the regiments, so I fear I will be way of the mark with my views!

    Hope the house move going to plan, and you have caught your breath!


  4. The Mintcake MakerAugust 22, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Hi Gabs

    I’ve just posted this link over at TD however I thought you might like it on here as well. It seems to confirm like several of us have been saying, just like yourself, that it will be PoW that is converted first to Cat “n” Traps and then possibly QE later if the money can be found. However the article does sound promising and at least it looks like the MOD might actually be sorting out the carrier mess.
    Here is to hopping :-)

    Also have you heard any more on the story that CDG will not be able to operate F-35c’s? I think this is quiet a serious issue that has been overlooked by some.

    Keep up the good work with your Blog, it is always a great read and source of info.

    The Mintcake Maker

  5. Thank you for coming over, and for sharing that immensely interesting link. I'm not surprised to hear that it is PoW the one that gets cats and traps from the beginning: despite the babbling of "decision making" and announcements in 2012, it is AT LEAST since 2005 that there's been a plan for having PoW completed as CATOBAR, with QE initially completed as LPH/STOVL and converted later: the plan first emerged after the 2004 troubles with the F35B and in 2005 gained new strength as the RAF asked to buy F35C due to the Tornado replacement programme being cancelled, leaving a perceived hole in deep strike that the F35B was not judged able to close.
    Of course, back at the time there was not going to be a gap: the idea was that QE would have operated Harriers until PoW and F35C came into service, and then she would have been converted as well during refit.

    And the Rafale rumor is... official, confirmed stuff, not a rumor or a simple "story".
    The CVF will be perfectly capable to operate Rafale, but a war-loaded F35C WILL NOT be able to operate (and in particular it won't land) on CdG. It was confirmed during Parliamentary Defence Committee hearings by MOD officers.

    It is obviously a complication in the matter of cooperation. BUT it might be what saves the CVFs. The talk of fitting both hulls out is not casual. There are political reasons (how you do justify QE mothballed NEW and kept in reserve but unable to do anything even if an emergency dictated bringing her out in a hurry???), recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee, cooperations reasons, and military reasons: France will be able to take full benefit from CVF, but the UK will not get much from CdG. If the UK has a single CVF, and during an emergency the ship is not available, CdG CANNOT fill the hole, other than fighting with her Rafales a british war.
    Can you see it happening...?
    I can see it only in World War III, and in World War III we'd all want QE to be active, CdG availability or not.

    So, yeah. I guess we can and must hope.

  6. 'Please, tell me that it wasn't a "hey, look, we are the RAF, we do not need no aircraft carriers!" stunt, because that would be really, really lame.'

    Rumours, (nothing more) point to political problems, rather than any service driven plot or any logisitcal/operational reason.

  7. "Rumours, (nothing more) point to political problems, rather than any service driven plot or any logisitcal/operational reason."

    I'm guessing political hostility of Italy to Storm Shadow raids on Libya...? Never heard anything on the like, and it sure would be an absurd complain to make when supporting the campaign and the bomb dropping.
    I just can't understand what "political problem" could inspire the decision of doing all the Storm Shadow raids from the UK.

    Italy uses the Storm Shadow as well, too, so there's no risk related to, say, the kit being particularly sensitive/classified or anything.

    I just honestly don't get it.
    All Storm Shadow raids have been launched from the UK. From Gioia, only Brimstones and Paveways. Why?

  8. Like I said just some rumours, I'm honestly not well connected enough to know what political reasons. It seems unlikely to me, but the most likely reason.

    The other reason seems even less likely, it wouldn't get past PJHQ.


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