Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The new number of DESIDER contains some interesting update regarding the Terrier, replacement for the FV180 Combat Engineer Tractor, better known as CET.
66 Terrier vehicles are on order, with much-delayed entry in service planned for 2013. In the meanwhile, CET was retired (2008) and the JCB High Mobility Engineer Excavator was acquired by UOR as an interim solution for Afghan needs. The HMEE is well known for being part of the Talisman route-clearance squadrons.

Three Terrier vehicles are undergoing user evaluation trials with the Royal Engineers, who are putting the new piece of kit through its pace, across the whole spectrum of missions it'll be asked to accomplish. On 18 July the Terrier faced its amphibious operations qualification by 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, 11 Amphibious Trials and Training Squadron at Instow in Devon.
Controlled freshwater diptank trials were followed by the vehicle driving onto and off a LCU MK10 landing craft anchored off the beach at 1.5m deep. The vehicle was fitted with a fording kit including a snorkel to protect the engine cooling vent designed by 11(ATT) Squadron.

Armoured Fighting Vehicle Training Group, Bovington, was next, putting the Terrier through simulated battlefield days, including a five days exercise. During its two month trials phase, it is expected that the Terriers will have traveled some 3300km, split between road, track and cross country, also while towing the AVRE
Trailer laden with two fascines. The vehicles were also involved in ‘special to role’ activities that
included obstacle and surface clearance (with use of the full-width mine plow and safe-lane markers)  and route denial. 

The Terrier excavated some135 pits for Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and 39 firing pits for AS 90 self-propelled howitzers; moved 15,500 tonnes of spoil, dug 142 fire trenches and anti-tank ditches.
Very importantly, during trials the remote-control capability of the vehicles is demonstrated, guiding operations remotely via a remote control system and radio link, an important capability that keeps the crew safe even when the mission is to be carried out in the most hazardous areas. 

Terrier weights 30 tons, and will be air portable in the A400 and C17 airplanes. It represents a fundamental capability for the Royal Engineers. 

The journal also reports that Trojan and Titan are receiving upgrades worth 350 millions, bringing all of the vehicles (33 and 33) to the latest standard, including all improvements related to Afghan experience. The Trojan in particular has been gaining a true reputation of battle winner for itself in operations in Afghanistan, with the US reportedly very happy to have it in support. 

3 Trojan were urgently deployed to Afghanistan, carried by chartered An124 Condor cargo planes. The three deployed Trojans were fitted with a Theatre Entry Standard kit of additional protection and improvements, and logistical support for them was made available deploying 2 Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle (CRARRV) at operation TELIC standard. One Trojan sustained some IED damage during ops, but was not penetrated nor extensively damaged, and was soon back at work. 

It is nice to see that both fleets, to their totality, are being kept up to date. Reassuring. 
On the maritime front, it is now planned that HMS Iron Duke will be the first of the Type 23s getting the new ARTISAN, Type 997 for the Royal Navy, radar fit. It will receive it during her planned refit, next year. In the meanwhile, trials of the new radar are ongoing: ARTISAN is about to start tracking trials, following successful testing of the antenna sub-system in the Cowes antenna test facility, a radar assessment and calibration chamber built to enable fullpower testing of systems in a controlled environment. Now a complete Artisan system will be moved to the land-based test site in Portsmouth where the radar will be integrated and tested with the rest of the Type 23’s combat systems, tracking commercial flights, including those from regional airports, and passing shipping. A final exam before replacing the earlier Type 996 radar on the Duke. 

Meanwhile HMS Defender, penultimate of the Type 45s, is starting her first stage of sea trials, with the first three destroyers all planned to enjoy their first operational deployment next year. Daring, Dauntless and Diamond lead the way! HMS Duncan, last of the 45s, is being fitted out, and will be out at sea in the new year. The age of the Daring class really is starting, and by 2013, the age of the 42s will be over.

We all remember how the First Sea Lord was bashed for saying that the RN would be stretched hard by the Libya operational needs. Well, he was just saying the truth, unsurprisingly. The UK has been left without a Fleet Ready Escort (one of the most important Standing Tasks of the Navy, consisting in having a warship in home waters, at high readiness, ready to respond to emergencies) due to the challenges of posting a ship in all of the other slots. Ever since 3 October, and until 7 November, the UK is without a posted warship in home waters, at high readiness. 
It might well be the first time ever that such a thing happens. But it is already one time too many.  

Another unpleasant news came today from Rosyth, when a fire had to be fought aboard LB03, the massive 8000 tons section of Queen Elizabeth being assembled in the dry dock. Thankfully, it appears to be nothing worrisome
On the Carriers argument, the last few days gave us another pretty official confirmation of the fact that, as i've long been saying, Prince of Wales is the one ship getting the catapults at build. This time the confirmation comes from David Downs, Aircraft Carrier Alliance Engineering Director: 
Away from the massive progress being made with shipbuilding, work is progressing with the programme to convert the second of class HMS Prince of Wales to fit Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) for the operation of the F35C fast jet aircraft. The steering group had a very useful trip out to the USA where we visited the Lakehurst facility for a meeting with NAVAIR and General Atomics. We were also able to see an EMALS catapult installed into the runway and adjacent buildings where initial shore based testing of the catapult with aircraft is carried out. The technology and the power and acceleration of the catapult take your breath away, the armature of the electromagnetic catapult accelerating from stationary to 180 knots in just 3 seconds and then being electro-magnetically braked to a stop in just 24 feet.

Read more: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/blog/of...#ixzz1c02zJR5t
For the ones who still had doubts, this is a quite authoritative confirmation. 

Of greater "gossip" character is this observation that i just have to make: 

In addition, more work will be carried out on the two navies' aircraft carrier programmes, enabling British aircraft to fly from the Charles de Gaulle and French aircraft to operate from HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales when they enter service towards the decade's end. 

This juicy statement appears in a MOD article about the planned, joint maxi-exercise that will next year see the french Charles de Gaulle's carrier group working together with the Response Force Task Group amphibious force that the UK will field, centered on HMS Bulwark and an embarked Commando battlegroups. 
The statement impressed me because it is the very first time that the MOD talks in these terms. Normally, we would read of the "Queen Elizabeth class" or "Queen Elizabeth carriers", but never before had i seen such a specific mention of aircrafts working from QE and PoW. 

Of course, it is speculation and optimism. But it is a new signal of hope for having both ships properly kitted out in the future. 
Meanwhile, Libya operations are over. Pilots have returned home from a job well done. The RAF final tally is of some 3010 sorties, around 2000 of which were strike ones, a part of which ended in effective engagement, with the destruction of some 640 targets. By 6 October, the UK had expended 1470 guided ammunitions over Libya (from Storm Shadow to Tomahawk, including Paveway and Brimstone). To this, Army Apaches flying from HMS Ocean added 110 "direct fire" weapons fired (16 CVR7 rockets and 99 Hellfire missiles) plus 4100 rounds of 30 mm gun, "killing" some 107 targets. 
However, the Army has admitted that the Apache story is not just success: of 44 sorties planned, around half had to be cancelled due to to insufficient intelligence information and the threat posed by anti-aircraft systems, said Lt Col Paul Tennant, commanding officer of the AAC's 3 Regt. 
Even more worrisome, the Apache proved... quite not navalized enough. Several shortcomings of the Apache for embarked operations have become evident, such as its current main rotor brake design, which was not strong enough under high wind conditions, and the lack of I-band transponder to navigate the way back to the ship (a tricky thing to do, especially at night!) and insufficient battery reserve (just 6 minutes of electrical power in case of global system failure). Crews expressed concerns about the likely outcome of any ditching event, should they be unable to make it back to the ship.

Tennant said the AAC will not be in a position to sustain an enduring Apache presence onboard ship until 2015 (assuming that the changes proposed are made, possibly during the planned but not yet finalized Block III upgrade to the fleet), but that it could repeat a short-duration action such as that required over Libya.

A tombstone on the argument of politicians and commenters who said that the UK had not lost so much capability of power projection from the sea with the Harrier GR9 retirement. Limited as the GR9 was in air defence role, it was argued that Apache would make for a fine enough stopgap. 

It is not quite true. And the Apache experience is there as a reminder that working helicopters and airplanes over the sea, aboard ships, really is different, and really adds challenges and risks. That's why we have the FAA to do it, with the proper kit, training, experience and mindset. 
And saying that the RAF or AAC can do it in their place, is, again, not quite true.

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