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15 Aug 19. US Navy Virginia-class submarine upgrades delayed by weld problems. The US Navy has had to again delay upgrades for the Virginia-class submarine after BWX Technologies delivered defective missile tubes to the programme.
This marks the second time the upgrades have been set back this year; the company also delivered faulty missile tubes to the navy’s Columbia-class submarine programme.
General Dynamics is leading the upgrades, which are intended to dramatically increase the offence capabilities of the Virginia-Class submarines raising their missile capacity from 37 to 65.
The company sub-contracted submarine work to BWX and BAE Systems, which are sharing work on the construction of missile tubes for the US Navy, with BAE Systems set to build most of the tubes for the Virginia-class submarine.
The ongoing issues have led BWX to signal they will stop manufacturing missile tubes after their current contracts run out in 2021.
BWX Technologies president and CEO Rev Geveden told analysts in an earnings call: “There is a pathway to stay in the [missile tubes] business if we want to do it. I think the ultimate customer, the Navy and NAVSEA, would want more than one supplier.
“We’re not interested in the future orders unless we do have a way to make money on these orders.”
BWX Technologies in the past paid $27m to cover repairs and replacements after delivering faulty components to the Columbia-class submarine programme.
Delays in either the Virginia or Columbia class submarine programmes will have ramifications for both programmes due to their shared construction schedules. Both programmes receive components from the same suppliers.
The US Navy is set to receive a new block delivery of Virginia-class submarines and is set to build two Virginia-class submarines for each Columbia-class submarine starting in 2021.
The navy’s Columbia-class submarine is set to enter service in 2031 and will replace the ageing Ohio-class ballistic submarine, which has been in service since 1981. The Virginia-class submarine entered service in 2004, with the US Navy so far receiving 17 of a planned 66 vessels.
The Columbia-class submarines will become the main naval carrier of the US nuclear triad.
The Virginia-class submarine has faced repeated delays in upgrades and the building of new boats, in part due to constricted budgets and a push to build three new submarines a year.
BWX also produces nuclear reactors for the US Navy alongside components for commercial nuclear purposes. (Source: naval-technology.com)
14 Aug 19. USAF completes A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft wing replacement project. The US Air Force (USAF) has completed a programme to install 173 new wings on A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft. The Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base completed the installation of new wings on the last A-10 in the project. The A-10 Enhanced Wing Assembly replacement programme started in 2011.
Built by Fairchild Republic Company, now a part of Northrop Grumman, the A-10 is nicknamed ‘The Warthog’. The aircraft has a wingspan of 17.42m, length of 16.16m, and height of 4.42m.
While the Ogden ALC’s 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AXMS) replaced wings on 162 A-10 aircraft, the remaining 11 were installed at Osan Air Base in South Korea.
571st AXMS director Stephen Zaiser said: “From a warfighter point of view, bringing this programme to a successful conclusion was a significant accomplishment for the entire enterprise team.”
As part of the replacement project, new parts were created for the fuselage. In addition, the team had to procure other A-10 parts from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, US.
Zaiser added: “At the end of the programme, making sure we had all the pieces and parts that we needed to make that happen required a really significant team effort.
“I think the fact that we produced the aircraft so successfully is a testament to the whole team, the special programme office, Boeing and others that were a part of making it all work.”
The new wings will have a lifespan of up to 10,000 equivalent flight hours without a depot inspection. The project also created an improved wire harness design to enable easier wing removal.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft can fly close to the ground in support of friendly ground troops. It can also drop heavy loads of weapons and attack armoured vehicles or tanks.
The replacement of some of the A-10 fleet’s wings is aimed at maintaining the airworthiness of the weapon system and to ensure the aircraft remains operational into the late 2030s. In 2007, Boeing received a contract worth $1.1bn to build replacement wings for the aircraft. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
13 Aug 19. TP Aerospace goes paperless: Leading the way for greater digitalization in the MROs. With recent approval from EASA, TP Aerospace becomes a frontrunner in MRO digitalization as they ditch paperwork and implement paperless processes throughout their inhouse MRO shops. The new system enables digital sign-off of work orders, digital tasks lists, as well as increased efficiency through time optimization and reduced risk of human errors. Finally, it brings improvements to quality controls and safety protocols. The initial phase of the paperless project began in 2018 along with the launch of the Green Sunrise strategy – an ambitious growth plan for increasing proximity to airline customers worldwide and provide the best possible wheel and brake support, wherever in the world their aircraft may be. A result of the Green Sunrise is a continuously increasing network of in-house MRO facilities, and thus, it has become vital to develop a stronger data foundation to sustain the growth and ensure that all MRO facilities within the TP Aerospace network continues to meet and exceed the highest standards in the market.
TP Aerospace has managed to use their current ERP system, developed by Component Control, to customize the Paperless System for the company’s specific needs and MRO workshops, making all processes involved in raising, completing and signing off a work order electronic. The new system can process work orders from the introduction of a unit, through the maintenance procedures, and to the end of the final inspection where ARC can be signed off electronically.
The Paperless System is a direct data entry method where no paper is needed on any work processes. It will replace the old barcode scanning system, where barcoding was needed on all tools and hardcopy work orders. With the new system, the number of procedures to be completed are linked to digital protocols. This provides a stronger quality control and reduces the risk of mistakes.
“The implementation of the Paperless System is a strategic initiative supporting our Green Sunrise growth plan. We want to work smarter and be head of class on MRO processes. With the Paperless System, we have developed a modern and efficient method for easing the workflow, reducing risk of mistakes and ensuring the best possible service to our customers worldwide. And with the best people behind it, we are set to handle complex work orders, in a simple way” says Prashan Ambawatta, Group Technical Director of TP Aerospace.
The new system has already been approved by several aviation authorities around the world, EASA, CASA, CAAM, and CAAT, along with other local authorities, who are expected to approve it later this year. TP Aerospace’s Australia facility was the first in line to apply the new system, followed by Malaysia, Bangkok and UK. By 2020, all TP Aerospace facilities are set to be paperless.
13 Aug 19. WA government positions itself to support Collins Class maintenance. Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Defence Issues Paul Papalia have responded to two studies into the Collins Class submarine full-cycle docking maintenance program, which have found significant strategic and economic benefits of moving this work to Western Australia.
Premier Mark McGowan and Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia have welcomed the report findings and will continue to work collaboratively with the federal government to ensure the needs and requirements of the Australian Defence Force are understood and met in Western Australia.
The program of works is expected to contribute an extra $600m to the Western Australian economy each year and bring on thousands of jobs.
Moving full-cycle docking to WA is expected to create more than 3,000 jobs at the program’s peak and generate up to $8.4bn to gross state product over the life of the program.
The PriceWaterhouseCoopers strategic study found that relocating Collins Class full-cycle docking to WA is in the national interest because it will de-risk the Attack Class submarine and Hunter Class frigate programs.
It is proposed that the relocation would reduce the workforce pressure on South Australia, freeing up workers to concentrate on the ambitious build programs.
Premier McGowan, also the Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade, said, “Not only is our state home to the largest naval base in Australia, HMAS Stirling, we also have a highly capable and skilled defence industry and world-class industrial facilities.
“Moving full-cycle docking to Western Australia will grow the defence industry’s capabilities, and it is considered best practice to conduct sustainment activities alongside where the submarines are based,” Premier McGowan added.
Moving the complete maintenance program to WA is critical in securing the Collins Class capability and ensures it is not impacted in the years to come as the workforce is focused on sustainment.
The study also found that the Osborne Naval Shipyard will face significant constraints, while Henderson in WA has the room for an expanded ASC facility. The Acil Allen economic study found that the WA economy would benefit significantly from full-cycle docking.
Premier McGowan said, “WA has a proud history of supporting the nation’s Defence requirements, and my government is committing significant resources to further build our defence industry infrastructure and workforce capacity.”
The key findings were released at the opening of the state’s second annual Indo-Pacific Defence Conference, which promotes WA’s defence industry to national and international delegates. PwC’s key findings demonstrate a strong case that moving full-cycle docking is in the national interest.
These findings were reinforced by the comments of Minister Papalia, who said, “The McGowan government is committed to ensuring the capability of the Collins Class submarines is not compromised in any way.
Already, the McGowan government has created the Office of Defence West, appointed the state’s first Defence Advocate and established the Defence Advisory Forum, launched the Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan, and opened the Defence Science Centre.
Minister Papalia added, “Defence West is working closely with Defence to ensure WA is ready to meet the current and future needs of the nation. The Indo-Pacific Defence Conference is part of the McGowan government’s strategic plan to promote and grow our defence industry and I am pleased to see delegates from other states and around the world visiting Perth.”
The South Metropolitan TAFE Naval Base Campus in Henderson was also established to deliver the multiskilled workforce to build WA’s naval shipbuilding, maintenance and sustainment capability, to support the needs of the Defence sector.
The state government is working on an AMC Strategic Infrastructure and Land Use Plan. The plan will investigate the short, medium and long-term requirements of Defence to ensure WA can deliver what the nation needs. (Source: Defence Connect)
13 Aug 19. What vessels, aircraft and land equipment does the UK MOD own? The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has released its annual breakdown of the equipment at its disposal, but how strong is the UK military and what does it have ready to defend the UK and its interests?
On and under the sea
As of the 1 April 2019, the UK Royal Navy’s fleet stood at a total of 83 vessels, spanning tankers to nuclear-armed submarines. These vessels are split between the surface fleet of 73 ships and boats and the UK’s underwater force of 10 submarines.
The UK fields a force of six conventional nuclear submarines and the four ballistic nuclear submarines hosting the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent. These are set to be replaced in the coming years by new Dreadnought-class submarines currently being manufactured by BAE Systems.
In surface vessels, the Royal Navy fleet has one aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, six destroyers and 13 frigates, one of which, the HMS Montrose, has been policing the shipping routes off the coast of Iran.
The UK also fields 21 patrol ships, 13 counter-mine ships, two landing platform ships used to transport helicopters, three survey ships and one ice patrol ship. Of the patrol ships, 18 are in-shore and three are offshore, the patrol ships making up the largest proportion of the navy’s vessels.
The Royal Navy has received increasing attention from politicians and the media after former Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood claimed it was ‘too small’ to adequately protect UK shipping from international threats. The fleet is caught between modernisation programmes, and delays in the aircraft carrier and F-35 programmes mean long-planned ships have yet to become fully operational.
The Royal Navy is a shadow of its former size; in 1982 the navy fielded four aircraft carriers, 13 destroyers and 47 frigates, representing a much larger force than its modern-day fleet. Although modern ships like the Type 45 destroyer offer vastly superior firepower to their early counterparts, the Royal Navy is still trying to cover the same ocean area with far fewer ships, a factor that has led many to call for an increase in UK naval shipbuilding.
Outside of the main and auxiliary fleets, the audit also keeps tabs on the number of vessels that could be requisitioned in the outbreak of conflict. Currently, this stands at 176 cargo vessels which could be ‘military-useful’. There are 721 other vessels including passenger and tanker ships which the Navy also could seize if needed.
On the ground
The British Army’s land equipment amounts to just over 4,000 key platforms such as tanks and armoured transport vehicles. The majority of the UK’s land equipment comes in the form of protected mobility vehicles, of which the UK has 1,906.
The most common vehicles in the British Army are the GKN Sankey Bulldog and Warrior armoured personnel carriers, of which the UK has 891 and 769 respectively. The next most common vehicles are the Force Protection Europe Foxhound with 398 vehicles, and the Force Protection Mastiff, with 396 vehicles.
The army only has two designated armoured fighting vehicles in its repertoire. The first is the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, manufactured by BAE Systems, which has been in use since 1998 and saw its first combat use in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The second is the Scimitar combat reconnaissance vehicle, which first saw action in the 1982 Falklands War and has been in use ever since. Overall, the UK fields a total of 428 of both vehicles.
In the artillery category, the British Army fields three different systems; the Vickers AS90, the BAE Systems L118 Howitzer and the Multiple Launcher Rocket System. The most prevalent artillery system used by the Army is the L118 with 126 pieces in the British arsenal. The British Army also uses a range of engineering equipment used for bridging, armoured diggers and mine clearing.
Despite this impressive inventory, the figures for the British Army’s land power do not specify what is in service and what is just in reserve. With a total of 4,093 vehicles, the number that can be deployed may be lower.
In the Air
The Royal Air Force (RAF) has a diverse range of winged aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), and rotorcraft spanning generations and eras. Since 2016 the total fleet of British fixed-wing aircraft has dropped by over 100 aircraft, however, the number of different aircraft in service has increased by four.
The UK’s air power is provided by no less than 28 different fixed-wing platforms, with the most common being the Eurofighter Typhoon, with a fleet of 153 fighters, of which 104 are in service. The RAF is set to receive its final deliveries of Typhoon this year, but these will slowly be overtaken as the UK’s most abundant air platform by the Lockheed Martin F-35B. The fighter jet will become the main flying force of the UK across the Navy and RAF. The MOD as a whole has ordered 138 F-35s with 24 earmarked to man the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Outside of training aircraft, the next most common air platform is the UK’s fleet of Hawk aircraft, which first saw flight in the 1970s and is the aircraft most recognisable in the skies as the jet of choice for the Red Arrows display team. In total, the RAF has 70 Hawk aircraft with weaponised and non-weaponised variants.
The UK has 289 UAS, the most common being the small, tactical Desert Hawk-III used for surveillance and scouting by the British Army. The British Army also employs the Thales Watchkeeper UAV for intelligence, surveillance and targeting. The army in 2016 had 52 Watchkeepers although this number has dropped to 49 total, with 24 in service.
The third main UAS used by the armed forces is the General Dynamics Atomics Reaper, of which the RAF has seven in service. The Reaper first saw RAF service in Afghanistan where the first of two crashed. Since then the RAF has used the Reaper in operations against the Islamic State in Syria, including in a strike that killed two British-born Islamic fighters in 2015.
The UK had 160 Black Hornet micro-UAS in service in 2016, but the army retired the platform in 2017 and numbers have since remained at zero. Since then the UAS has seen two new iterations adding night vision and other capabilities, and the MOD placed an order in May to revive its use of the system, but it has not yet re-entered service.
The UK’s overall fleet of rotorcraft has shrunk since 2016 with the phasing out of Lynx and Sea King platforms. Overall the British Armed Forces’ rotorcraft fleet has dropped from 372 total vehicles to 322. The most common rotorcraft is the double-rotor Boeing Chinook support helicopter of which there are 60. The Chinook carries out a wide-ranging mission from troop transport to casualty evacuation and more recently performing emergency repairs on a flood-damaged dam in the UK. The Chinook saw a rocky entry into the UK air fleet with procurement being ordered and cancelled on multiple occasions.
The next most common is the AgustaWestland Apache attack helicopter. The UK’s fleet of 50 saw extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The helicopter can neutralise targets using an assortment of guns and Hellfire missiles carried on pods on the side of the aircraft. It entered service in 2001, forming the backbone of the army’s air firepower ever since. (Source: army-technology.com)
13 Aug 19. US Air Force F-35A aircraft and personnel practise adaptive basing. The F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft and personnel from the US Air Force’s (USAF) 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS) practised adaptive basing methodology.
USAF 4th EFS is assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE, and is on temporary deployment to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing in south-west Asia.
The adaptive basing methodology was practised during Exercise Agile Lightning, which was conducted between 4 and 7 August.
USAF 4th EFS commander lieutenant colonel Joshua Arki said: “Exercise Agile Lightning is a demonstration of the agile basing concepts practised by airforce fighter squadrons from their home bases.
“The ‘Fightin’ Fuujins’ of the 4th EFS successfully deployed a small detachment of aircraft and personnel to a forward location, supporting combat operations from that location for a given period of time and then re-deployed back to our primary operating location.”
Adaptive basing exercises involve small teams of airmen and aircraft from all levels of the squadron.
Exercise Agile Lightning marked the first adaptive basing methodology exercise for the F-35A aircraft in the US Central Command area of responsibility.
Arki added: “By executing the adaptive basing concepts we have only practised at home until now, we increased the readiness, survivability and lethality of the F-35A in a combat theatre.
“The Agile Lightning team worked hard to coordinate with multiple bases and across US Air Force core disciplines such as logistics, munitions, force support, communications, air mobility, Combined Air Operations Center staff, etc to ensure mission success.”
Adaptive basing methodology allows aircraft to adapt and respond to the unpredictable operational environment during untethered operations.
The airforce stated that the methodology is still in its early stage.
The approach will allow the service to defend US and partner interests from almost anywhere in the world within a short span of time. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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