14 Jan 21. UK RAF C-17 practises operating from austere airstrips. A UK C-17 Globemaster transport has for the first time trained to operate from austere airstrips as part of a drive to expand the operational envelope of the eight Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft of the type. The aircraft from 99 Squadron carried out a series of landings on and take offs from a dirt strip in the United States to give crews experience operating in this new environment, RAF Brize Norton, the home base of the UK’s C-17 fleet, reported on the RAF website on 8 January. RAF sources told Janes on 13 January the exercise took place at the Geronimo landing zone at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, on 26 December 2020.
The RAF has operated the C-17 since 2001 but until the recent training in the US the service has always operated them to move outsized cargo into established airfields with paved runways. The semi-prepared runway operations (SPRO) exercise is designed to allow the RAF C-17 fleet to operate in a wider array of tactical scenarios from airstrips constructed from non-permanent materials, such as gravel, dirt or even packed ice and snow, according to RAF Brize Norton.
“Developing a UK C-17 SPRO capability allows the RAF to exploit the existing capability of the C-17, opening up a new area of operation for defence now and for the future,” RAF Brize Norton said. “The strategic effect that this capability provides gives the UK flexibility to provide a rapid military response where it is needed in conflict or during humanitarian aid operations anywhere in the world.” (Source: Jane’s)
14 Jan 21. £76m contract boosts F-35 Lightning fleet support. A £76m aircraft support contract, supporting more than 170 jobs, will maximise the availability and capability of the UK’s F-35 Lightning stealth jets, ensuring they are ready for combat operations across the globe. Signed by Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office, the Lightning Air system National Capability Enterprise (LANCE) contract will provide additional expertise on aircraft maintenance, bespoke UK training courses for pilots, groundcrew and engineers, and logistical and technical support for the fleet.
Providing additional experienced technical personnel at existing facilities, the contract will also allow three new capabilities to come into operation. These include an ejection seat maintenance workshop, a ‘Pilot fit facility’ to fit aircrew equipment, and component spray facility to transfer coatings onto aircraft components.
Giving the UK more freedom to operate its fleet of F-35s, it will also increase the number of flying hours available, alongside delivering important mission planning, training and maintenance capabilities.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said, “The Lightning Force forms a key part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group and plays a central role in protecting our interests at home and abroad.
This investment will help ensure that this world-class fleet, and their crew, are ready to deploy wherever and whenever required.”
Based at RAF Marham, home of the UK Lightning Force, the investment reflects the increasing size of the UK’s F-35 fleet and will create and secure 172 jobs mainly at the Norfolk base.
The contract will provide support for 25 months, with an option for a further three months. The majority of the work will be carried out by subcontractor BAE Systems.
Air Commodore David Arthurton, Combat Air Force Commander, said, “I welcome the opportunity LANCE provides to build upon the Lightning Force Element’s already close relationship with our industry partners. The new contract will deliver an enhanced level of performance whilst also providing welcome stability to all involved with the programme. Furthermore, it will underpin our participation in the United Kingdom’s inaugural Carrier Strike deployment later this year, and provide an excellent foundation for future land and maritime operations as Lightning matures towards Full Operating Capability.
The support provided by the contract will be crucial in ensuring the fleet is ready and prepared when they sail with HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group ‘21 deployment.”
Vice Admiral Rick Thompson, Director General Air for DE&S, said, “I am delighted that we have secured LANCE for the UK’s Lightning Force. This is a critical support contract that shows a significant maturity in the platform’s capability.”
The UK currently has 21 fifth-generation F-35s, having received three new jets on 30 November 2020. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
11 Jan 21. Duqm Naval Dockyard (DND), the Joint Venture between Babcock International and the Oman Drydock Company (ODC), has successfully completed a four week fleet time support programme (FTSP) for the UK Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose. The maintenance period enabled the DND team to complete essential repairs and performance improvements, ensuring an on time on cost turnaround of HMS Montrose back to operational duties in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
This contract underpins Babcock’s response to the Royal Navy’s commitment to forward-deployed Task Groups. Putting greater emphasis on global partnerships and digitally enabled support solutions, Babcock’s investment with ODC to develop the Duqm Naval Dockyard for international navies, ensures it is well placed to provide sustainable support to customers. Its regional capability in the Gulf is a key component and the success of the FTSP at Duqm demonstrates Babcock’s global support to customers.
The programme incorporated repair and maintenance activities throughout the ship, with more than 250 critical elements in the scope. Extensive surveys determined a schedule of ship-wide pressure testing and maintenance, including air weapons handling systems, fire systems and ventilation. Activities extended to the hangar, flight deck and bridge, as well as throughout living quarter areas. All had to be undertaken under strict COVID regulations applying at the dockyard.
Alastair Stangroom, Managing Director for Babcock Oman, said: “DND’s presence in the Middle East positions us well to support critical missions and assets, enabling us to service our customers’ need for fast, effective turnarounds with global reach-back to our extensive network of expertise. Despite the obvious constraints of strict COVID restrictions, the Joint Venture team delivered HMS Montrose back to sea on time, ensuring maximum benefit in terms of cost and quality.”
Strategically located outside the Gulf of Arabia, DND offers customers a competitive, comprehensive facility with a full suite of modern waterside infrastructure. Its 2,800 metres of quayside, complete with new-build workshops and specialist-manufacturing facilities, operate alongside two 480m graving docks capable of supporting Ultra Large Crude Carriers and large Warships, allowing the most complex of programmes to be efficiently delivered. Established as an Omani company in 2017, DND combines the ship repair skills and dockyard infrastructure of ODC with the naval design, engineering and programming expertise of Babcock, firmly putting our customers’ requirements at the heart of our operations.