Navy News came out with a wonderful article updating info on the progress of the Replenishment At Sea training installation being built at HMS Raleigh. Cutting-edge technology which will, from 2014, prepare the Navy's personnel for the difficult and precious art of RASing.
It will also prepare the fleet for a massive improvement in capability that is hoped will enter service in the 2020s when the Fort II class of stores replenishers will be replaced by new vessels (hopefully 3, under the next branch of the MARS project): the improvement, courtesy of Rolls Royce, is a new RAS kit which is capable to transfer 5-ton pallets. Today, no one in the world transfers pallets weighting more than 2 tons (which is indicatively saying a 20-shell pallet of ammo for a frigate's MK8 main gun, less than a minute worth of fire).
The aim is to:
[...] transfer 25 five-tonne loads every hour for five hours across a 55-metre (180ft) gap separating two – that’s one pallet every two minutes and 24 seconds, or 625 tonnes of stores in all. Even with fully-honed teams on both ships, the best you could hope for presently would be 200-250 tonnes.
Obviously, the main beneficiary of the improved RAS capability would be the Strike Carrier on tasking, which would be able to replenish ammunitions and spare parts and stores much more rapidly, enabling a faster operational pace.
The improvement is also considerably relevant because of the introduction of F35 as embarked jet fighter. The US Navy has been scratching its head over how the hell they could forget adding in the requirements measures for ensuring that replacement power packs could be delivered to aircraft carriers at sea.
The F35 engine as of now is too big and too heavy for delivery at sea: it won't fit the current USN Carrier On Board delivery airplane, the Greyhound, and at 9400 pounds (over 4250 kg), the container weights too much for replenishment at sea.
Luckily, the RN and Rolls Royce have a ready for service solution.
Which might well carry interesting export potential with itself for the future.
Far less pleasant news are the confirmation of the deaths of six british soldiers in their Warrior vehicle. The IED this time was just too big, and even the updated TES armour kit couldn't stop the tragedy from happening. No doubt there will be cries on the press about inadequate equipment, about long-delayed Warrior upgrades which only recently were given the go ahead, and a lot of words will be said, most of them useless and many ill informed, no doubt on it.
Unfortunately, even the final Warrior coming out in 2018-2020 timeframe, upgraded and improved, would have probably not been enough, because it must have been simply a huge bomb.
Perhaps a heavier IFV, and i mean something real heavy, such as a Namer, would have saved them. But the sad reality is that building bigger, heavier and more expensive vehicles to pursue invulnerability is a dead end approach which would eventually prove an expensive failure. Mobility would be hampered, forcing the vehicle progressively on more predictable routes, and these would eventually be saturated with bigger bombs, which are easier to build than protected vehicles able to resist to them.
There is no easy solution.
My thoughts go to the families in this terrible, terrible time. Words, in these cases, are futile.
Another bad news is that of the failed raid in Nigeria against terrorists which held prisoner by more than 10 months a british and an italian nationals, both sadly dead, killed by the terrorists during the assault of the Nigerian forces, reportedly aided by Special Boat Service personnel.
As cynic as i undoubtedly will now sound, the truth is that this kind of operations is incredibly dangerous, and not everytime things will go the right way.
Italian puppet politicians now are of course protesting, because they were not timely informed, because an italian person is dead while he would perhaps still be alive, albeit prisoner, had nothing been done.
I find the lamentations excessive and largely unjustified. We were all all too happy when british soldiers saved the day in the Somali waters freeing an italian ship not so long ago. We cheered in other occasions when italian prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan were saved by US or British intervention.
Now, stomping our feet is pathetic, first of all because it stinks of ingratitude, and second because the sad truth is, that the italian prisoner was in terrorist hands by more than 10 months, negotiations went nowhere, and he could have been still prisoner ten years for now, without anyone in the Italian political circus having the guts of at least trying to bring him out.
I wish my government would think for once, before making stupid noises.
Again, i can only give my personal, sincere condolences to the families.
And say it out clearly that, was i ever to be hostage, i'd personally much rather have force used in an attempt of salvatage, with all the risks connected to it, than be abandoned to hopeless "negotiations" and forgotten.
And indeed, i'd be grateful for the fact that there is people ready to risk their own life to save another person.