22 Oct 14. QinetiQ and Llanbedr Airfield Estates (LAE) have declared Llanbedr Airfield, North Wales, officially “open for business” in support of test flight operations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). The announcement comes following the completion of infrastructure refurbishment, supported by the Welsh Government, and the successful development and integration of processed and procedures for air traffic management and airfield services as required by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations. Flying is scheduled to start in early 2015, subject to a 90 day notice period for establishing the segregated airspace required to re-link Llanbedr Airfield to the existing test range over Cardigan Bay. A draft proposal for establishing this airspace for RPAS operations from Llanbedr Airfield has already been through consultation and will expand the Wales RPAS Environment capability, already Europe’s pre-eminent instrumented RPAS air/sea/land test range. The airfield has a 7500ft runway enabling the operation of all classes and sizes of RPAS, augmenting the current capability for small/medium RPAS testing at Aberporth, South Wales. The newly expanded Welsh RPAS environment will ensure that the UK maintains a leading role in the development of RPAS in Europe. The development also strengthens Llanbedr Airfield’s position as a prime candidate for hosting the UK Spaceport.
22 Oct 14. China commissions Type 81A MCMV into North Sea Fleet. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned a new Type 81A mine countermeasure vessel (MCMV) into the North Sea Fleet. The vessel, named Yucheng and given the hull number 846, is the North Sea Fleet’s second Type 081A and will be based in Dalian in Liaoning Province, according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. The ship will be tasked with coastal patrol duties and specifically with the protection of the fishery fleet. The Type 81A is an improved variant of the Type 81/Wochi class. Four Type 81 and six Type 81As are currently in PLAN service. Built by the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai and by the Wuchuan Shipyard in Wuhan, the Type 81A is the PLAN’s largest MCMV. It has a full-load displacement of 1,009.5 tons, length of 67.6 m, width of 10 m and is armed with one Type H/PJ14 single tube 30 mm gun on the foredeck.
The PLAN has long suffered from a deficiency in MCMVs, both in quantity and quality. While the issue is well-known in China and is considered a serious weakness in its coastal defensive posture, the construction of MCMVs does not appear to be a priority. Only two new vessels were commissioned in 2014 (including 846), two in 2013 and two again in 2012. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
21 Oct 14. USN swaps future deployment schedules for two carriers.
* USS Harry S Truman and USS Dwight D Eisenhower are swapping maintenance, training, and deployment schedules
* The exchange will help keep the USN’s carrier strike groups on track with a new readiness cycle and allow Eisenhower to complete an extended maintenance period
Two US Navy (USN) nuclear-powered aircraft carriers originally slated for deployments in 2015 and 2016 are swapping assignments in part due to extended maintenance on one of the ships but mainly to increase the navy’s ability to provide ready forces for national tasking over the next several years, US Fleet Forces Command officials told IHS Jane’s on 16 October. Norfolk, Virginia-based Nimitz-class carriers USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) and USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69) are exchanging their training, maintenance, and deployment schedules. Eisenhower had been expected to deploy in late 2015. However Truman, which was originally scheduled for deployment in mid-2016, will now deploy instead of Eisenhower in 2015, said Fleet Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Cate Cook. Only the carriers themselves will switch. Their associated strike groups are expected to stay on the original deployment