Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gaps, gaps, gaps - part 1

Part 2 of this report: Gaps, gaps, gaps 

The financial management of complex military programs is improving, but military capability is being eroded at alarming rate. This is what the NAO Major Project report 2012 exposes. The thick of the cost escalation is due to inflation factors that sit outside the MOD’s possibilities of control. In fact, after five years in which this expenditure voice wasn’t updated, expected fuel costs for the Voyager air tanker’s service life have been revised, and they account for an expected cost growth of 336 million pounds. Fuel cost is not something the MOD can do much to control and dominate, as the NAO itself notes.

In total, there has a net total increase of 637 million pounds over a number of programs, most notably FSTA (Voyager) and the CVF aircraft carriers. Other programs are now under control and costs connected to them are falling, so that the increase in expected expenditure compared to last year is ultimately  worth 468 million.

The Voyager tankers are also incurring a 31 million pounds cost increase due to inflation, 2 million for the implementation of additional safety measures and 24 million due to France stepping out of the frame: it had been hoped that the French air force would buy Voyager services to remedy to the shortage in air to air refueling capability, but an agreement wasn’t found and ultimately France is planning to order this year the first few of its own planned 14 A330 MRTT.  
The FSTA program for Voyager tankers has also achieved savings in other areas, however, with a noticeable reduction of 98 million due to the refinancing of the PFI deal.
The final balance of savings and cost increases, however, puts the Voyager on top of the list of the naughty boys, with a net increase of 257 million.

CVF follows, reporting a 217 million cost increase, in no small part due to the switch from STOVL to CATOBAR. The NAO report covers the CVF situation prior to the switch back to STOVL and F35B, which will be covered in the 2013 NAO report. Until then, it will be difficult to say what the real impact on the program was in terms of potential delays and additional costs. Later this year the NAO will release a new report into the delivery of Carrier Strike, so we might obtain the up to date, valid information from it. There’s many questions still waiting to be answered regarding the CATOBAR saga.

The A400 Atlas C.1 cargo plane program reports a 163 million net increase in costs, mostly due to the Export Levy payment made by the UK as part of the multinational agreement to keep the program alive. The UK share of costs is 175 million.
In theory, EADS will hand the money back if export orders are won in the future, but we’ll see how it actually goes. The MOD has prudently decided to consider this money as a cost increase. If it'll return at some point in the future, all the better.

Importantly, the NAO also observes:

In recent years we have reported several times that the Department has had to slip projects or cut equipment numbers to bridge the gap between estimated funding and the forecast cost of the defence budget. These decisions were not value for money and meant that new capabilities were not available on time. There are no such instances recorded this year, though difficult decisions may still be necessary as part of the Department’s drive to keep the Equipment Plan in balance.

If financial management is showing improvements and discipline is starting to have a beneficial effect on accounts, the situation for military capability is however dire in several areas. Particularly worrisome are Air-Air-Refuelling, airlift, embarked AEW and Amphibious support helicopters.

At various points to 2017, there will be critical gaps in air transport and air-to-air refuelling capability. From 2022, there will be approximately a one-third shortfall in tactical transport aircraft against the stated requirement. On the ability to move passengers and cargo by helicopter, the Department has accepted that while there will be a shortfall against the full requirement, it believes that current plans will deliver a sufficient capability, and the risk will be reduced by using other defence capabilities.

Main contributors to the reduction of planned expenditure are Typhoon, Type 45 and Astute (boats 1 to 3) which have been able to hand back the major part of the 169 million pounds recapped in 2011/12 over the programs examined in the report.
This money was contingency funding that proved not necessary and could be put back in the central money pot.

The entry in service of several capabilities, however, has slipped to the right by a combined 139 months. An enormity, with the Brimstone 2 and Meteor missile programs being the biggest contributors, with twin 23 months delays to report.
CVF reports a 9 months slippage, but as we said, the "photograph" of the NAO has been in this case been made outdated by the switchback to STOVL: construction of the ships as of now seems to be going strong, several milestones have been hit earlier than planned on the assembly of Queen Elizabeth and i'm consequently willing to guess that the NAO report 2013 and/or Carrier Strike report will rectify this particular data. 

Anyway, delays and gaps. This is where the pain comes. Let's look at the military capability, and see what the situation is.

A400 Atlas C.1

Entry in service still expected in March 2015, no further delays on the horizon.

The plan is to hit IOC in 2015 with 70 Squadron RAF fielding the first 3 Atlas cargo planes.
Full Operating Capability will be hit over 2017/18 with 12 airplanes operational.

The first UK airplane, MSN16, is expected to be delivered in 2014. It will the 16th production A400 aircraft, but the UK took the conscious decision in previous planning rounds to be patient and wait a little, in order to receive all aircrafts at production standard and with software SOC 1.5: this standard means the aircraft is fully ready and cleared for all kind of airdrop operations and is ready for the Air Tanker role, although the RAF so far does not plan to procure AAR kit for the Atlas.

The early planes, delivered to France and others, come at standard SOC 1, which is very much an early release, with some limitations.

SOC 3, expected in 2018, will add the full capability for low-level tactical flying and Special Forces role.

It is also confirmed, as announced for the first time in 2008, that the madness of not having fuel-inerting system on the RAF A400 has been terminated: the MOD has paid some 6 millions to have fuel inerting pipes installed and has invested to add a Portable Removable On-Board Inert Gas Generation System. This greatly improves safety.

The installation of full Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) has also been brought forwards, and the full range of countermeasures, including Directed Infra Red Counter Measures (DIRCM) will already be on the first airplane delivered.
As of now, however, it would appear that DASS is funded for the first 9 airplanes only. Obviously, this is unacceptable, and it will have to be corrected as soon as possible in the next planning rounds. 

22 airplanes remain planned for entry in service by 2022, when the C130J is expected to retire. The NAO however reports that the Atlas alone are insufficient, with a one-third shortage in tactical airlift capability anticipated. Not a case that, prior to SDSR 2010, the C130J's OSD was 2030, and not 2022.

In the immediate future, the situation is just as complex, with measures urgently needed to improve availability of C130Js and a further delay having been imposed to the retirement of the last 8 C130K to October this year, at a cost of 16 million. The end of the old C130Ks has had to be delayed several times in a row now, and this of course has a cost.

The Urgent procurement of 2 BAE 146 Quick Change tactical cargo aircrafts cost 47 million pounds.


The procurement of 3 Rivet Joint airplanes for COMINT and SIGINT tasks is on track, but reports a 4 million cost growth due to exchange rates variation.
At full operating capability, the Rivet Joint force will consist of 3 airplanes, 4 trained crews, 2 deployable ground stations for data processing, ground infrastructure for support (at the Main Base, RAF Waddington) and a ground intelligence analysis and exploitation facility (to be built at the Joint Services Signals Unit, RAF Digby base).

C17 number 8

Cost for the 8th C17 was 215 million.

There's no mention in the NAO report, but rumors are circling about the incoming purchase of UK9, a 9th C17 strategic cargo aircraft. A 10th serial number is also reserved for an eventual 10th aircraft.
The ambition to have 10 machines has been there for some time, and the lease or purchase of a further 2 C17s was reportedly on the table lately, also because the withdrawal from Afghanistan will require powerful air transport capability. The NAO believes that there will be Strategic Airlift capability in excess of requirement from 2016 onwards, but i do not quite agree: this is one of these capabilities that very rarely, if ever, can be in excess of requirements.

Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft - Voyager

The Voyager is currently operative as a transport and aeromedical evacuation platform only. It entered active service on April 4, 2012, and by December 2012 (when the third Voyager airplane arrived at Brize Norton) 16.000 personnel and other one million kgs had been airlifted in well over 1000 flying hours.

Of course, though, the main mission of Voyager is refuelling other airplanes in flight, and this is currently not yet validated due to leaks that were detected in various parts of the AAR flight envelope. Corrective measures have been agreed and are being implemented.

Air to Air refuelling IOC should be achieved within September this year, with one airplane fitted with both Wing pods and centerline fuselage station.
Air Tanker and the RAF, following problems in trials with the Cobham-designed High Speed-Variable Drag Drogue (HSVDD) fitted to the hoses of the Voyager have taken the decision to remove the HSVDD from the wing stations of Voyager tankers, reverting to the old Sergeant-Fletcher-designed drogue present on Tristar and VC10.

Aviation Week explains:

The HSVDD is designed to refuel aircraft at between 180 and 300 kt., a much wider speed range than previous drogue systems. However, a series of flight trials in 2011 found that the drogue or basket was venting and separately spinning, causing hose oscillation.

Although those oscillations were solved by mid-2012, results of trials with Tornado GR4 were still not satisfactory. The return to the Sergeant-Fletcher drogue has instead resulted in success with both Tornado and Typhoon.
The HSVDD will be maintained on the Centerline Fuselage Station, which is mostly intended for use in refueling of large aircrafts: trials have successfully been completed to validate AAR with C130J, and in 2014 the trials will be carried out with the E-3D Sentry AWACS.

FOC for FSTA is the provvision of a full fleet of 9 "core" tankers, 7 of which will be fitted for centerline refueling station and 5 fitted with it. The expected date for achievement of FOC is May 2014.
The centerline fuselage station is essential to provide Day and Night air refuelling to large aircrafts such as Sentry, C130 and, in future, A400 Atlas. The other 5 tankers, as known, are "on call" and might be released when not needed to serve as passenger airplanes on the civilian market. In reality, it has long dawned on the MOD that this is unlikely to happen, while it is more likely that european partners could buy Voyager AAR hours and services in the future. As mentioned earlier in this article, it had been planned that France would buy Voyager hours, but this plan did not go ahead.

To remedy to the potentially dramatic gap in AAR capability, the old Tristar tankers will serve beyond their planned OSD of July 2013, being in service until March 2014 at an extra cost of 7 millions.
The VC10 was expected to cease service in March 2013 but the RAF will try and operate them for at least a few months longer, out to September, but the closure of the maintenance line at St Athan will be the deciding factor: at one point, not far into the future, it'll be simply impossible to keep the VC10 flying any longer. 
The 3-point Voyager tankers (2 Wing stations plus centerline fuselage station) are known as Voyager KC3, the others as KC2. 
All aircrafts are fitted for a full DASS fit of electronic countermeasures and, following a 124 million measure in PR11 they are being fitted for platform protection (cockpit armor and other survivability features) for use in war theatres.

Astute-class submarines

The NAO report confirms that Astute has been trialing the installation and use of a "payload bay", which is actually the CHALFONT dry deck shelter for carriage of Special Boat Service operators and equipment, all the way up to the Swimmers Delivery Vehicles.

Planned expenditure for boats 1 to 3 reduced by 94 million pounds between April 2011 and March 2012.
Astute boat 4 and 5 had a significant cost growth connected to the slow-down of production connected to the delay of the Successor SSBN program to 2028. 

The NAO certifies that the delays imposed to the delivery of the 7 Astute submarines is preventing the Navy from achieving the planned availability of deployable SSNs.

The NAO reports that Astute boats 1 to 3 are forecast not to meet their Top Speed requirement, but all other requirements to be met. There is also an element of hope in the fact that the NAO notes that

initial trials in Boat 1 have been deliberately constrained but unrestricted trials will be conducted prior to Operational Handover.
so that HMS Astute could still demonstrate it can be as fast as the Navy hoped.

Boat 4 and 5 are expected to meet all requirements, but there are still risks, mainly due to some elements of planned capability not having been given the final go ahead and funding. In detail:

- Spearfish torpedo upgrade is now funded and on the way, with excellent progress to date
- An integrated communications and radar solution for Astute Boat 4 is now funded
- Naval Extremely/Super High Frequency Satcom Terminal approved by HM Treasury in December 2011 (not clear if the approval is for fitting at build only from boat 5 onwards, report is contraddictory as the same element is not funded in the Boat 4 table and funded in Boat 5 table)
- Astute Capability Sustainment Programme still awaiting HM Treasury approval

Despite the drama kicked up by the Guardian's articles, the Astute submarine program seems to be actually in good shape, and things appear to be improving.


Technically, the missile is doing well, finally, in development and firing trials with a 3 months reduction in the trials period expected to be needed. However, the MOD was 11 months late in signing contracts and, worse, the Typhoon software development continues to be horrendously slow. The missile will be ready soon enough, but Typhoon won't get the software and the radar improvements necessary to properly employ Meteor in time. The FOC is described as full 6-missile fit, 2-way datalink and cockpit symbology and functionality, but the June 2017 ISD date could end up being valid for just the four missiles in semi-conformal positions under the fuselage.

The result is the slippage from an ISD of July 2015 to June 2017, with a consequent 50 million pounds cost to keep AMRAAM missiles stocks longer than planned. Worse, it might not be enough, and availability of AMRAAM missiles by 2017 risks being dangerously low.

JULIUS and Chinook New Buy 

The MK4 and 4A Chinooks upgraded are now entering in service and the first HC4 has even deployed to Afghanistan. However, the program accumulated several months of delay compared to earlier planned dates.

Delivery of the 14 new Chinooks (HC6) for service has also suffered delays and the MOD has prudently assumed that the IOC for the new Chinooks will take longer than hoped, now expecting it in November 2014, some 6 months later than earlier assumed.

Complex Weapons 

The NAO Report does not cover the Selective Precision Effect At Range (SPEAR) Capability 1 segment, unfortunately. This is relative to spiral development and evolution of the Paveway IV bomb, including the development and provvision of different kind of warheads, including a low-yeld, low collateral damage and a bunker-buster option. Improved capability against fast moving targets and longer glide ranges are also expected to be explored.

In July last year, Raytheon and Qinetiq completed ‘sled trials’ at the UK’s Pendine test range on the bunker-buster warhead, we know.

The Compact Penetrator warhead has the same outer mould-line and mass of the current Paveway™ IV enhanced Mk 82 warhead and has demonstrated a significantly increased penetration capability through the series of target engagement trials. Raytheon UK and QinetiQ have been working closely with Thales under the UK’s Weapon Technology Centre Compact Penetrator programme. The 25 month initiative will also undertake operational environment assessments, such as transportation, handling and air carriage.

Over the course of 2012, three orders for Paveway IV bombs were placed: a 60 million order in April to replenish stocks after operations in Libya, plus a 14 million in July and a further 25 million order in December.

The NAO does talk of SPEAR Capability 2, however: this is the development of the Brimstone missile.
Capability 2 Block 1, specifically, is the Brimstone 2 missile, a major improvement from the current UOR-derived Dual Mode Brimstone.
Brimstone 2 adds improved seeker and Insensitive Munition-compliant warhead and rocket motor, plus other improvements. It was to be introduced this year, but unfortunately trials imposed a 23 months delay as issues with both warhead and rocket motor emerged, the NAO reports. Warhead problems are fixed, lethality is confirmed and Critical Design Review passed, but the motor is still a problem. Seeker and electronics have been validated with 3 successful launches.
In 2013 there is going to be an IOC phase mating the improved seeker and electronics of Brimstone 2 to existing warheads and rocket motors, as an interim capability on the way to full release to service. A "minor concession" on performance has been agreed to enable MBDA to fix the rocket motor, presumably as a way to control costs, instead of wanting every tiny bit of capabilitity no matter what the cost. 

There was to be a SPEAR Capability 2 Block 2, but the decision was taken to delete this point of decision and just continue to spiral-develop the Brimstone 2. It is intended that in the early 2020s the Brimstone 2 or developments of it will replace the US-made Hellfire missile on the Apache attack helicopter. Hellfire OSD is 2021, and the NAO shows that Concept Phase has now begun on preparing Brimstone to act as replacement.
Brimstone 2 will be used on Tornado GR4 and Typhoon. F35 is not mentioned, at the moment. Integration on Typhoon is part of the Typhoon Future Capability Programme 2, for which we have no dates as of now. Almost certainly after 2015, unfortunately.
Tornado GR4 will be retired from service in March 2019, and by 2018 the RAF hopes to integrate Brimstone and Storm Shadow on the Typhoon.

A SPEAR Capability 2 Block 3 remains planned for the early 2020s (2022 or 2024). This could be a replacement missile in the same weight and mass class, or another development of the Brimstone.

SPEAR Capability 3 is a new 100-kg stand-off weapon (100 to 180 km range) specifically thought out for internal transport into the weapon bays of the F35, but we can expect to see it on Typhoon too, one day. The NAO provides a breakdown of the activity done so far, and the list is quite impressive, showing a great amount of progress:

Spear Capability 3
(i) Request for Quotations (RFQ) for seekers released - February 2011
(ii) Initial discussions about demonstration and manufacture/integration issues with Typhoon - May 2011
(iii) Assessment Phase subsystem downselect, Concept Design Review and Phase 2 Gate Review completed - July 2011
(iv) MBDA commenced launcher study because BRU-61 launcher found to be incompatible with chilled airframe design - August 2011
(v) Warhead supplier recommendation endorsed by Portfolio Management Board; Systems Design Review Complete; BAE Systems under contract for Phase 1 of Airframe and Propulsion Flight
Demonstration. Draft System Requirement Document issued - December 2011
(vi) Contract let with Hamilton Sunstrand for Turbojet Technical Assistance Agreement - January 2012

SPEAR 3 resembles the US Small Diameter Bomb and uses the same arrangement, with a launcher/pylon carrying four weapons. It is however a turbojet-powered missile and not a gliding bomb. Each F35B will carry a quadruple pylon in each weapon bay.

Another chapter is Fire Shadow, the loitering munition for the Royal Artillery, which saw the first 25 or more weapons delivered to the Army in March last year. Requirements have more or less been met, and development is continuing, but the MOD decided not to send Fire Shadow in Afghanistan for in-field experimentation and validation as had earlier been planned.
Fire Shadow is now "under review" within the Army, as is the whole of the unfortunate Indirect Fire Precision Attack program of which it is a part: the fear is that this "review" will ultimately be the final, lethal blow to IFPA, which has been so far a near complete failure:

- AS90 upgrade and 52 caliber barrel was cancelled
- Sensor fused 155 mm anti-tank shell was cancelled in 2010 after contract award in 2007
- LIMAWS(G) and (R) for lightweight self propelled gun and MLRS launcher were both cancelled
- Arming the Watchkeeper drone is an option on hold
- Fire Shadow seems to have an uncertain future at the moment
- Procurement of ATACMS (Large Long Range Rocket) for the british MLRS launchers was cancelled in Planning Round 11
- Procurement of a guided 155 mm shell is effectively on hold following deletion of funding in Planning Round 2011, but the intention is to deliver the precision artillery shell by 2018

The list is a graveyard, and makes it very evident that the effort of the Royal Artillery to modernize its kit has been frustrated again and again.

Much better news come from the Future Local Area Air Defence (FLAADS) which is the air defence missile system using CAMM as effector.
The NAO report suggests that not just the Maritime variant could be ready in November 2016, but the Land variant too (intended replacement for Rapier), although, as far as i'm aware, Rapier OSD is 2020.
Notable achievements include:

(i) Acheivement of Demonstration Phase Contract Award to deliver First of Class Platform - December 2011.
(ii) Successful completion of the System Preliminary Design Review - March 2012.
In 2016, FLAADS(M) will replace Sea Wolf on the first of the Type 23 frigates. It will also arm the Type 26 next generation frigates.

Finally, the Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon programme (FASGW) has hit a stumbling block. The Royal Navy and French Navy hope to join forces on FASGW(Heavy) to jointly develop the missile, but France is refusing to committ funding at this stage, and despite british pressure there has not yet been a decision on the way ahead.
The delay in launching the program is resulting in an expected delay of 19 months in entry in service of the new missile, which is needed to replace the old Sea Skua and arm the Wildcat HMA1 helicopter. This way, FASGW(H) will not be ready in 2015, and Sea Skua will have to be used for a longer period, with the very real risk that no money will be expended on integrating it on Wildcat, leaving the new helicopter clawless for the first part of its service life.

The definitive go-ahead has not been given to FASGW(L) either, but the Thales Light Multi-mission Missile is at a far higher technological readiness, and there is still time to order it in time for a 2015 entry in service on Wildcat.

The FALCON communications system finally entered service (Increment A for the Army and Increment C with the Royal Air Force signal unit), but it was several months late as well, and its UOR iteration for use in Afghanistan will not be ready in time either. The biggest plan change, however, is a March 2012 decision to distribute FALCON over the regiments of the Royal Signals (presumably the 5 Theatre Support Regiments) instead of concentrating it just in 30 and 22 Regiments.
This is presumably due to the conclusion that Brigade-level communications must be enhanced and FALCON is simply indispensable for all future deployments. This decision will have some impact on infrastructure expenditure in the next years, probably: under Project BORONA, 22 and 30 regiment (and a third regiment To Be Announced) are both due to be based in Beacon Barracks, Staffords, where infrastructure for storage and support of FALCON is to be built.
The NAO notes, in fact:

Whilst a lack of suitable garage space will not impact upon the capability, Army Headquarters is struggling to ensure that all intended locations have suitable secure storage for specialist items.

To enable the Urgent Operational Requirement, Falcon will utilise an Operational Training Equipment Pool and Operational Support Uplift Pool. This will be whole fleet management within 11 Signal Brigade. Not all receiving units will be able to garage Falcon but all units will have secure storage for access restricted items.

The NAO also notes that a series of improvements and interoperability mods to FALCON, developed for the UOR solution, are to be rolled out onto the whole fleet. Good news for once.
There is no mention of work on the next increment of FALCON, however, which is meant to introduce Network on the Move to maneuver forces. The Army's position is that improved communications are one of the most urgent improvements to be made, but at the same time financial realism means that the thick of the improvements will only go as low as to Battlegroup level, while the ambition was to bring network features all the way down to Company level.

The F35 and CVF sections are not of great interest this year as the NAO coverage does not reach the switch back to B and its implications.
It still lists, for example, a 31 million pounds saving from interuption of work on the Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing technique for the F35B due to the switch to C variant, but it has been undisclosed in these days that, as part of the return to B, SRVL activities have restarted.
It has also been announced that this winter the Ski Jump for HMS Queen Elizabeth will be shipped to Rosyth, despite the fact that it has not even been ordered yet. It would be great to have informations on these changes, but they are outside the period covered by the 2012 report.

On CVF we learn that HMS Queen Elizabeth, in the plan that would have seen HMS Prince of Wales fitted with catapults and wires, would have served for just around 9 months for ship trials and validation activies before being mothballed.
It is hoped that the return to STOVL will mean both carriers are kept and put in service.

Regarding Wildcat helicopters, the NAO report confirms that the requirement, following PR11 options exercised, is for 66 helicopters:

30 Wildcat AH1 (Army Helicopter 1 - battlefield reconnaissance)
8 Wildcat LAH1 (Light Assault Helicopter 1 - 4 converted AH1 airframes and 4 additional, new airframes)
28 Wildcat HMA1 (Helicopter Maritime Attack 1 - naval variant)

The reason why we continually hear the ministers speak about 62 helicopters is that funding has currently been set aside in Core Budget for 34 AH1 and 28 HMA1 machines: negotiations and decision-making to include the LAH order in the Core Budget haven't yet concluded. The decision is expected this year.
The LAH is expected to be destined to replace the Lynx AH7 helicopters used by 657 Army Air Corps squadron, which flies in support of Special Forces.
The AAC expects to have four squadrons on the AH1 Wildcat. The squadrons will be all under 1st Regiment Army Air Corps, following the merge with 9 Regiment, as announced in Army 2020. The regiment will be based in Yeovilton, alongside the Navy's own Wildcats and the common training facility.
6 Regiment, the reserve element of the Army Air Corps, expects to stand up a new reserve squadron  to support the Wildcat force. 

There is not yet certainty about the exact composition of the naval order, either: for what i've heard, 4 of the 28 helicopters for the Royal Navy will actually be in AH1 configuration because destined to the Royal Marines of 847 NAS.
The remaining 24 machines, all HMA1, would be distributed 5 in 702 NAS for training and 19 in 815 NAS, to form 19 Small Ship Flights. The Merlin HM2 will, i believe, continue to provide 6 Small Ship Flights for frigates and two squadrons for "large deployments" (up to 6 helos at a time, on carriers or large RFA vessels), even after the reduction to just 30 airframes as part of the upgrade to HM2. 

The Wildcat AH1 risks being not fully capable because fitting of the Bowman Combat and Infrastructure Platform is not yet funded.
Similarly, the Wildcat HMA1 has not yet been given funding for the installation of the Data Link 22 (which in the next few years will replace Link 11, which works only in Line Of Sight), limiting the capability of the helicopter to share data Beyond Line of Sight.
The Royal Navy is prioritizing surface ships when it comes to funding of Data Link 22, but fitting it to Merlin and Wildcat will be a priority in the near future.

The Wildcat AH1 should be in service in August 2014: this represents a delay of 7 months, due to the training facility having been ordered only recently. The Full Mission Simulator won't be operative before december 2013, the Cockpit Procedures Trainer is only planned to go live in February 2014, the Aircraft Systems Trainer in November 2013 and Weapons & Avionics training solution in February 2014. This of course makes much harder to prepare personnel.
The HMA1 variant should still manage to enter service in January 2015.



  1. Great to hear (even though it only rumours) that 2 more C17 are being considered for the RAF, I have long thought that the fleet should be built up-to 10 airframes total.

    I wouldn't be surprised to hear at some point that a few C130J will be retained beyond 2022, if the prospective one third shortfall in tactical lift becomes a reality then it sounds like one of the better options available.

    Really good news about those 4 'Light Assault' Wildcat's as well!

    1. I'm guessing some of the C130J will indeed end up staying for a longer time myself, possibly with Special Forces role as well, as the A400 might be a bit too large for SF work.

      As for the Wildcat LAH, well, it's not as good a news as i hoped it would be. Their future is not yet ensured, and worse, the 30+8+28 plan represents already a variation of an earlier plan for 70 Wildcat helicopters, which was put forwards but then quickly rejected.

      And in origin, there had to be a good 80 Wildcats... I just hope the LAH is given the definitive go ahead in the new budget cycle.

    2. Hmm, yeah it does seem with Wildcat that the procurement plan was curtailed, only to be increased once again further down the line. Lets hope the LAH will be secured as soon as possible.

      I don't think 66 Wildcat's is too bad a number as long as the AAC keeps it's AH9a for a while and replaces them with some additional orders in the future.

    3. AH9A will be around until 2018 under current plans.

    4. I seemed to think it was 2022, is that my imagination or has the date been brought forward?

      The AAC being left with just 38 Wildcat's seems all wrong to me, hence why I'm still hopefully that additional orders around 2020 aren't completely off the table.

    5. I think the 2022 date circled for a while, but for what i've heard the current plan is 2018. I do hope they remain for longer, though.

  2. Gaby

    "Fire Shadow is now "under review" within the Army, as is the whole of the unfortunate Indirect Fire Precision Attack program of which it is a part: the fear is that this "review" will ultimately be the final, lethal blow to IFPA, which has been so far a near complete failure."

    Yes, the Royal Artillery certainly appears to have been an easy target for the cost cutters. They have had immense difficulties in getting any new kit for almost a couple of decades now. I hope that Fire Shadow survives because it has the potential to become a very useful weapon indeed. My hope is also that IFPA suvives in some form or another.
    All the decisions to cancel programmes that you have listed are very short-sighted as Artillery is a real battle winner. Look at the successful performances of the 105 mm Light Gun and of GMLRS in Afghanistan, for instance.

    1. I share your opinion here, and i hope Fire Shadow goes ahead.

  3. Gaby

    Any Idea on what the Challenger 2 Upgrade Programme aims to do?

    I know its early days but If you have any information I would be greatful.

    1. Will mainly be about electronics, i suspect, but perhaps the change of powerpack to the more powerful, smaller and more efficent MTU will go ahead. Hard to say.

      For sure, the idea of adopting the smoothbore 120/55 gun is abandoned. Gun fits fine, but the NATO single-piece ammunition would be a nightmare to stow inside Challenger, current ammo stowage space no good. It would take a whole new turret...


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.