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.