17 Aug 16. Iraq and Syria: OP SHADER. The MoD advised (17 Aug 16) that the strategic town of Manbij in Syria has been liberated. The loss of the Northern Syrian town was described as “the latest setback for the terrorist group; which has seen its territory, financial resources and leadership increasingly dwindling.”.
Comment: The FCO advised (19 Aug 16) that the UK is planning to host the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee and international partners in London on 7 Sep 16. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 16/33, 22 Aug 16)
18 Aug 16. ASRAAM: Production Contract. The Defence Procurement Minister announced (15 Aug 16) the award of a contract to MBDA, worth “around
£184m.” for the supply of ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles) to equip the UK’s F-35B Lightning II aircraft.
Comment: MBDA is currently under contract for an ASRAAM capability sustainment programme for the Typhoon aircraft and this new order will see the production of additional missiles. Although the value of the contract has been given (as above), the number of associated missiles remains ‘classified.’
17 Aug 16. Zephyr-S UAV: Order for Third. The Defence Secretary noted (17 Aug 16) the MoD’s order for a third Zephyr-S UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), as part of a £13m contract with Airbus Defence and Space (ADS). Zephyr-S is the latest version of a sophisticated series of ultra-lightweight UAVs capable of flying up to 70,000ft for as long as 45 days at a time. The third Zephyr-S will join the two previously ordered by the MoD in February 2016.
Comment: Built in Farnborough by ADS all three Zephyr-S will form part of an Operational Concept Demonstrator (OCD) to assess Zephyr’s capabilities. The OCD trials to be held in 2017 are designed to inform
“how best to provide next-generation battlefield intelligence to the UK Armed Forces”. The additional Zephyr-S will allow two airframes to be tested simultaneously and demonstrate operational handover to show that the capability could be sustained indefinitely. The Zephyr was originally developed by the UK defence technology company QinetiQ and achieved its first record-breaking flight in July 2010. The programme was acquired by Airbus in 2013. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 16/33, 22 Aug 16)
12 Aug 16. Watchkeeper UAV: Service Inquiry. A Service Inquiry was carried out into the accident involving the Watchkeeper (WK031) Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) at West Wales Airport on 16 Oct 14. Details of the crash and a series of complex computer faults were revealed in a Service Inquiry report (12 Aug 16) by the Defence Safety Authority. Several safety functions that would have prevented the accident were disabled because the (civilian) crew from the manufacturer had activated overrides so that they could rapidly land the vehicle to avoid approaching bad weather. The report clears the crew of fault for the accident.
Comment: Following the above incident another Watchkeeper (WK006) crashed at Boscombe Down. The above Service Inquiry deals with the first accident (WK031) only and any comparison with the second will be made when the WK006 Inquiry is published “later in the year”. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 16/33, 22 Aug 16)
19 Aug 16. HMS TRENCHANT: Back with the Fleet. The RN confirmed (19 Aug 16) that HMS TRENCHANT has rejoined the fleet after undergoing a maintenance
and weapon sensors upgrade in Devonport Naval Base. The upgrade included: a double motor generator change in dry dock; external hull paint; main battery exchange; extensive hull surveillance work; wide-ranging system surveys and a package of maintenance on the reactor system.
Comment: HMS TRENCHANT is due to be decommissioned in 2019, after her sister-boat HMS TORBAY in 2017. HMS TALENT is due to transfer to Faslane in 2019, prior to decommissioning in 2021. Last of Class, HMS TRIUMPH, is due to transfer to Faslane in 2020 prior to decommissioning in 2022.
(Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANA