29 Jul 21. Revealed: How Many Royal Navy Vessels Are Unavailable. The Government has admitted that numerous Royal Navy ships are unavailable, due to maintenance being carried out. A defence minister has confirmed the number of Royal Navy ships currently out of action and undergoing maintenance.
Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin was answering a written parliamentary question from Conservative MP Mark Francois on the number of vessels operationally available, where he provided a breakdown of the current status of different classes of ship.
Last month, HMS Monmouth left service bringing the total of Type 23 frigates to 12, of which four are at present undergoing maintenance, leaving eight operationally available.
The figures released by Mr Quin also showed that of the six Hunt-class mine countermeasure vessels at the navy’s disposal, two were also unavailable.
Two of the seven Sandown-class vessels in the Navy are undergoing maintenance, while of the two assault ships HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion, one is operationally available.
All River-class and River-class II offshore patrol vessels are ready for operations, while there are several Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships undergoing a period of upkeep.
With the news last week that HMS Diamond had to detach from the Carrier Strike Group 21 mission after suffering “technical issues”, it was confirmed this month there was only one of the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers operationally available.
However, HMS Duncan’s crew has this week returned to the Type 45 destroyer after an 18-month refit at Portsmouth naval base. (Source: https://www.forces.net/)
28 Jul 21. Japanese firms sign $225m deals to maintain Ospreys for Navy, USMC. The U.S. military has signed two Japanese firms to maintain its V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft across the Pacific under contracts worth $225m. Under the contracts, NIPPI Corp. and Subaru Corp. will compete for individual, depot-level maintenance orders to “provide the best value to the U.S. Government,” according to a news release Tuesday from Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka. Depot maintenance involves major repairs, overhauls or complete rebuilding of aircraft systems.
The Yokosuka logistics center partnered with Fleet Readiness Center Western Pacific to let the contracts. The Yokosuka logistics center provides service and support for all U.S. military services in the 7th Fleet’s area of operations. Fleet Readiness provides support for naval aviation units on ships and on land in the Western Pacific and sometimes the Middle East.
The five-year contracts allow four one-year extensions and one six-month extension if terms are met. With all extensions the contracts expire Dec. 31, 2030. Both firms have proven records with the U.S. military or with Osprey maintenance, Navy Capt. Edward Pidgeon, commander of Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka, said in the release.
NIPPI has worked alongside the U.S. government since the early 1950s, and in June 2019 contracted with Fleet Readiness Center Western Pacific, based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, to increase its capacity to maintain F/A-18 Super Hornets fighters, and H-1 Venom/Viper and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters across the region. That contract is worth at least $52m to NIPPI over a potential seven years.
NIPPI has worked on more than 14,000 aircraft for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, according to the release.
Subaru will use its Kisarazu facility to repair the U.S. aircraft, Andrew Grage, spokesman for the fleet readiness center, told Stars and Stripes by email Tuesday.
NIPPI has several facilities in western Japan, including one in Yamato just outside of NAF Atsugi in Kanagawa prefecture.
“Securing two proven aircraft firms like NIPPI and Subaru will be vital to the continuity of V-22 maintenance support in [the Indo-Pacific Command] for years to come,” Capt. Edward Pidgeon, commander of Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka, in the release.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.stripes.com/branches/navy)
29 Jul 21. Growing demands on Afghan Air Force take toll on aircraft fleet. As the fighting in Afghanistan intensifies, the Afghan Air Force’s (AAF’s) aircraft are being overtaxed owing to an increase in close air support operations as well as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and aerial resupply missions now that the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) largely lack US air support.
In his latest quarterly report to the US Congress published on 29 July, US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko quoted the Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air (TAAC-Air) under the ‘Resolute Support’ mission as saying that all AAF airframes have been flying “at least 25% over their recommended scheduled-maintenance intervals”, noting that this is “exacerbating supply-chain issues and delaying scheduled maintenance and battle-damage repair”.
Although the report – which covers from 1 April to 30 June – provided no details about the number of daily sorties being flown by the AAF, the Afghan government claimed on 29 June that the service had carried out 491 attacks on Taliban positions within a month.
Meanwhile, crews remain “overtasked due to the security situation in Afghanistan” amid an increase in the tempo of operations, said TAAC-Air, according to the SIGAR. Moreover, once the US military mission in Afghanistan officially ends in late August, Afghan mechanics will be forced to operate with far fewer maintenance contractors who not only used to provide training and mentorship, but also could repair aircraft in emergencies. (Source: Jane’s)
28 Jul 21. Leidos participates in Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore exercise. An autonomous landing craft was deployed for the first time outside the continental US. JLOTS was conducted in support of multinational exercise Defender Europe 21 in Albania.
It is a joint Army-Navy exercise involving the movement of vehicles, supplies, and other warfighting equipment. JLOTS is aimed at the rapid deployment of combat-capable forces.
Leidos demonstrated its next generation capabilities as part of US Marine Corps (USMC) Warfighting Lab programme Autonomous Littoral Connector (ALC).
The ALC programme is an extension of the Sea Hunter and Seahawk autonomous vessels.
It has an autonomous LCM-8 and LCU that are currently part of the US Navy’s Assault Craft Unit TWO.
Leidos’ autonomous capabilities helped increase the LCM-8’s existing mission.
According to Leidos, the ALC programme demonstrated its existing and future ship-to-shore capabilities while operating autonomously as part of a deployed littoral group.
A sailor remotely moored the vessel to the roll-on-roll-off deployment facility during the exercise. In addition to autonomously beaching itself, the vessel even carried a load to the pier from the Sealift Command ship. The entire demonstration was monitored by the mission control system in the events command tent. It also provided situational awareness and assigned tasks to the craft. Upon the completion of the exercise, ALC’s autonomous LCU will be prepared for deployment with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). In April, Leidos successfully delivered a medium-displacement uncrewed surface vehicle (MDUSV) to the US Navy designed to deliver enhanced naval capabilities. (Source: naval-technology.com)
28 Jul 21. Embraer begins KC/C-390 unpaved runway tests. Embraer announced on 23 July that it would start unpaved runway tests with its KC/C-390 Millennium transport aircraft. The company said on Twitter that it would use a 1,800 m runway at Gavião Peixoto in Brazil and that assessments would be performed over the coming weeks to analyse the aircraft’s operation. An unpaved runway is any runway used for take-off and landing where the surface layer is not a paved smooth hard surface. Embraer had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. The KC/C-390 is a twin-jet short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft with a T tail and rear loading ramp. It is intended for the medium (5–10 tonne payload) and heavy (10–20 tonnes) market sectors, which were previously dominated by turboprops. The aircraft can operate in Antarctica and from semi-prepared airstrips containing holes up to 40 cm deep on California Bearing Ratio (CBR) 4 surfaces, according to Janes All the World’s Aircraft: Development & Production. (Source: Jane’s)
27 Jul 21. Il-112V to replace Soviet-time military transport aircraft — chief designer. Russia’s latest military transport plane, Il-112V, will help to upgrade Russia’s fleet of military transport aircraft, currently dominated by Soviet-made An-26, said Sergei Ganin, the chief designer of the Ilyushin aircraft maker (part of the United Aircraft Corporation).
“Il-112V is a light military transport plane that can replace turboprop aircraft, such as An-24 and An-26. But, in this regard, it is important to note that Antonov aircraft were created back in Soviet times, in accordance with tasks and requirements of that era. Il-112V is an aircraft of the present day, which fully corresponds to requirements for its equipment, engine, environmental norms and noise level,” Ganin said.
In his words, all of the plane’s spare parts, systems and equipment are fully Russian-made.
“We are working only with domestic supplies, and this gives us <…> an important commercial advantage,” Ganin said.
According to the chief designer, ongoing trials show that the prototype corresponds to technical specifications of the project.
“We are now confirming characteristics stipulated by the technical assignment,” he said. “Those requirements include further development with regard to future modifications.”. (Source: News Now/TASS)
26 Jul 21. RAAF redefines role of C-27J Spartan fleet to focus primarily on HADR operations. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has redefined the role of its 10 Leonardo C-27J Spartan tactical airlifters, designating them as primarily meant for use in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.
The Department of Defence (DoD) in Canberra said in a 25 July news release that the Spartans’ new role will “enhance Australia’s humanitarian and emergency response to natural disasters in Australia and our near region, regional engagement across the Indo-Pacific, including through ‘Pacific Step-Up’, and the Australian Defence Force’s military logistics and air-mobility capability”. Both Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld and the head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, praised the Spartan’s performance, highlighting domestic bushfire relief and regional assistance, without giving any explanation for the amended role.
The announcement follows the failure of the twin-turboprop aircraft to achieve full operational capability (FOC) in December 2020: a milestone that had already been delayed by four years. It also comes after the platform had been identified as a DoD “project of interest” in March 2020 following its failure to meet key performance, availability, and project schedule requirements.
The C-27J had previously been consistently described by the RAAF as a battlefield aircraft to bridge the intra-theatre gap between army helicopters such as the CH-47F Chinook and the RAAF’s C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster III transports. (Source: Jane’s)
23 Jul 21. Senate policy bill rejects Air Force request to send some A-10s in the boneyard. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s fiscal 2022 defense policy bill slapped down some of the U.S. Air Force’s plans to retire legacy aircraft, mandating that the service retain the venerable A-10 Warthog. The bill, approved by the committee on Wednesday, did permit some aircraft divestments. Most notably, it would allow for the retirement of 18 KC-135 aircraft and 12 KC-10 aircraft, enabling the continued bed down of the KC-46.
However, the committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act sends a message that lawmakers have not been wholly persuaded by Air Force officials’ arguments to mothball a portion of the fleet to free up money for cutting-edge aircraft still in development, such as the B-21 Raider and Next Generation Air Dominance program, and will seek to balance risk by retaining certain airframes.
The A-10 Warthog
Over the past decade, the service has attempted to divest some or all of its remaining 281 A-10 Warthog attack planes, which have flown close air support missions for ground troops since the late 1970s.
In FY22, the service had hoped to mothball 42 A-10s, with the goal of reaching an end state of 218 A-10s by the end of 2023. At the same time, it would extend the life of the rest of the aging Warthog inventory with new wings. However, the Senate committee’s proposed legislation would prohibit any reduction of the A-10 fleet.
While the House Armed Services Committee has not yet finalized its own version of the defense authorization bill, the SASC bill signals that the Air Force’s plan may not be palatable to Congress.
In testimony to the Senate Appropriations defense committee on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. David Nahom, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, said the failure to divest A-10s would have “considerable consequences,” including a “significant buyback cost” needed to upgrade and sustain A-10s that the service won’t need to meet future requirements — thus reducing its ability to invest in technologies necessary to compete against China.
Retaining the current number of A-10s could also leave the F-35 joint strike fighter without enough skilled maintainers as 91 new jets are delivered to the Air Force between FY21 and 22, Nahom wrote in the testimony.
“While adding funds could solve the personnel deficit, new recruits require training with a lead time of at least a year (post recruitment), and the most critical billets of experienced maintainers requires years to create and cannot be purchased,” Nahom stated.
Earlier this week, Republican Sen. Mark Rubio — who represents Florida, where Tyndall Air Force Base is located — urged lawmakers to approve the A-10 divestment, thus freeing up manpower to support the basing of three F-35 squadrons at Tyndall.
“It is my understanding that language is included in the chairman’s mark of the FY22 NDAA that would prohibit the divestment of 41 A-10 aircraft at the expense of Tyndall’s F-35 squadrons,” Rubio wrote in a letter to SASC Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., and ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla.
“I urge the committee to remove, or reject, any provision or funding that would jeopardize the strategic basing of three F-35 squadrons at Tyndall,” he said. “Including such language would have significant impact on the Air Force’s F-35 pilot output, our strategic capacity to field F-35s in the event of a conflict, and have grave, long-term implications for the national security of the United States.”
The Senate committee would permit the Air Force to retire 18 KC-135 tankers and 12 KC-10s — two fewer KC-10s than the Air Force requested.
However, even that allowance comes with some stipulations.
The committee included language in the bill that would prohibit the Air Force from developing a follow-on to the KC-46 — which the service has called KC-Y or the “bridge tanker”— until the KC-46′s Remote Vision System is fully operational.
Boeing is redesigning the RVS, a camera system that provides video imagery to boom operators as they refuel aircraft. However, the new system will not be functional until at least 2023. Meanwhile, the Air Force is hoping to get an early start on the bridge tanker program, having released a request for information to industry earlier this week.
Additionally, the Air Force would not be permitted to retire Air National Guard KC-135s.
In the area of tactical airlift, the Air Force had hoped to draw down its number of C-130s from 300 to 255 in FY22. SASC lawmakers have responded by mandating that the service maintain a total active aircraft inventory of 292 C-130 aircraft.
It’s ambiguous whether the proposed legislation would impact Air Force plans to retire a portion of its fighter force.
According to a summary of the bill, the NDAA “extends the requirement to maintain a minimum capacity of Air Force fighter aircraft,” but it leaves unclear whether the Air Force would be able to mothball any of the 47 F-16C/D and 48 F-15C/D fighters as requested.
As part of FY22 budget deliberations, the Air Force also sought the retirement of four E-8 JSTARS aircraft and 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance drones, and while it did not request to retire any of its MQ-9 Reaper fleet, the service opted to end procurement of the General Atomics-made drone.
The bill summary did not detail the fate of those aircraft.
The SASC bill included some language that could limit bomber divestments for years to come. While the Air Force did not request to retire additional B-1s in FY22, the SASC bill would prevent the service from divesting any B-1s until the new B-21 Raider bomber begins fielding in the mid 2020s. (Source: Defense News)