News, rumours, analysis and assorted ramblings on the strategies, the missions, the procurement of kit and the future of the Armed Forces.
GabyI'm rather more interested in the kit aspect of Signals than the new structure. Apart from the portable Landseeker equipment you have mentioned, is there any other new kit on the horizon? I presume that the Falcon programme is progressing well and that Signals will retain existing equipment such as Reacher, Cormorant, etc. for quite a while.
Reacher for sure, but Cormorant will go when Falcon is fully operative and replaces it. For the future, a new increment of Falcon, introducing some on-the-move communications capability should be on the cards. And we'll see what else Landseeker eventually delivers. The man-portable SEER should only be the first step, after all.
GabyYou mention that your guess is that 32 and 47 Regiments Royal Artillery, together with their UAVs including Watchkeeper will be part of newly formed Surveillance and Intelligence brigade.Is that just a hunch or do you have any more concrete evidence for this? Also, what exactly is happening with Watchkeeper? It appears to have had the longest gestation period in the history of military equipment. Is it in service yet and is there any news on its carrier and support vehicles? I have been trying to find out but am not terribly good on searches.
For now, the UAV regiments assignment to the Surveillance Brigade is only a guess of mine. But i've heard that 47 Regiment could be transfered to Larkhill, alongside 32, to bring the UAV cadre in one place. The accommodations of 47 Regiment left empty at Thorney Island would allow the relocation of 16 Regiment, which would so concentrate Air Defence resources in Thorney Island, alongside 12 Regt which is already based there. Makes a lot of sense, but moving regiments is complex and expensive, so we'll have to see if it gets the go ahead. Watchkeeper, as far as i know, is being slowed down by the complexity of obtaining all certifications for its use in congested airspace. It's the first time ever the UK tries to validate a UAV in this way, so it's somehow to be expected. Besides, if you ask my opinion, the Army is possibly trying not to deploy new stuff to Afghanistan if it is not absolutely necessary, since the drawdown is about to begin and planning for the return of all the stuff is already complex as it is. They might decide that reaching the end of ops with the Hermes 450s supplied by contractors is more cost effective that deploying Watchkeeper only to bring it back in a year's time.
GabyThanks for the reply. Trying not deploy new stuff to Afghanistan might very well be the reason the that Fire Shadow was also not sent there.After the outbreak of the Mali conflict, there has been some talk about the emphasis in future being placed more on drones, precision weapons, etc. Do you think that Fire Shadow, which is a precision weapon, would be useful in that type of conflict.
I personally believe Fire Shadow is a weapon adequate for pretty much any scenario, from COIN to high end warfare. The decision not to deploy to Afghanistan is also justified by the fact that the munitions delivered so far (some 25 in March 2012, i understand) are still developmental examples, and would have been limited to "just" 50 km range and with a lower loiter time. There are still features to be fully demonstrated, and the Army decided to do it at home rather than in theatre. I think it is quite understandable.
Fire Shadow is NOT cost effective. Basically what you have is a small TUAV airframe for one time usage. You can get more bang for the buck with a re-usable weaponized TUAV.
Fire Shadow costs about as much as a GMLRS rocket. A TUAV costs several millions to procure, thousands of pounds to keep in the air, and millions to run through life and man. UAVs do not have pilots on board, but are manpower intensive. And the weapon on the TUAV does not come for free either. You are not going to be able to fund enough TUAVs to do all you'd like to. With Fire Shadow, at a very reasonable cost, you get TUAV-like service. People fossilizes on the fact that Fire Shadow cannot be recovered, but fail to see the actual cost of the armed TUAV solution. To say it all, the Royal Artillery has long been trying to secure funding for arming Watchkeeper too. You know what? It is not cheap, and they have been told in 2010 that for at least 4 years they can forget that.
Everybody can comment on this blog without needing a Blogger account. It is meant to keep the discussion free and open to everyone. Unfortunately, anonymous accounts keep the door open for spammers and trolls, so i'm forced to moderate comments and approve them before they appear. Apologies for the inconvenience.