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05 Mar 20. The US Navy’s top officer declares support for basing 6 destroyers in Spain. The US Navy supports, and is anticipating, sending an additional two destroyers to Rota, Spain, which would bring the total number to six DDGs based in Europe. The move, which Navy leaders have opposed in the past on the grounds it pulls ships away from carrier strike groups, has been picking up steam as it has drawn congressional interest. U.S. European Command has been calling for more destroyers for years now.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday told lawmakers he supported sending the two extra destroyers to respond to EUCOM demands.
“We support the additional two DDGs to Spain,” Gilday said. “Right now, we are working with U.S. European Command. They are working on their strategic laydown of the theater. And when that is complete, you’ll be briefed up here in the Congress.
“Then in parallel, we’ll be working up through the office of the Secretary of the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, coordinating with the State Department and the government of Spain, so we can get those additional destroyers to Rota.”
In recent testimony, EUCOM head Gen. Tod Wolters told lawmakers he wanted the two destroyers to be able to spread sensors to every corner of Europe’s coast, if needed, and increase deterrence of Russia.
“Those two additional DDGs would allow us the opportunity to continue to improve our ability to get indications and warnings in the potential battlespace and also dramatically improve our ability to better command and control,” Wolters told the panel.
The destroyers Ross, Carney, Porter and Donald Cook have been crisscrossing the European theater since their arrival in 2014. With a primary mission of ballistic missile defense for Europe, the ships have done everything from strikes on Syria and naval-gun fire support in Libya to missile tests off the Scottish coast and Black Sea patrols.
But the first four ships are due to rotate back to the states soon — the plan was to rotate back for dry docking after six years. Sources familiar with the maintenance arrangements in Spain told Defense News this week that Navantia’s dry docking facilities in Cadiz could support maintenance overseas instead of burdening an already over-taxed U.S. dry dock system.
When asked by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, if the infrastructure in Spain could support two extra DDGs right way, Gilday responded positively.
Adding two extra destroyers is a policy supported by the host nation as well, Gilday said.
“We are very supportive and right now our understanding is that the Spanish want us there in greater numbers,” Gilday said, “and certainly the commander of U.S. European Command does.”
As they await a decision in Washington, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid told Defense News they are following the playbook to swap out the four destroyers already there with new ships. That rotation is slated to begin this year when Roosevelt replaces Carney. (Source: Defense News)
05 Mar 20. Underwater warfare top of Royal Navy agenda, First Sea Lord tells conference. The Royal Navy has awarded a contract for a large autonomous underwater vehicle, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin revealed at the Underwater Defence and Security Conference.
Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd are to provide the senior service with a 30-metre underwater vehicle, which has a range of up to 3,000 nautical miles.
“I am really excited by the possibilities that this offers to increase our reach and lethality, improve our efficiency and reduce the number of people we have to put in harm’s way,” said Adm Radakin.
He went on to tell the Southampton conference that the underwater environment had always been defence’s biggest problem.
“For my entire career we have been talking about oceans becoming transparent,” said Adm Radakin. “And yet they remain opaque. We continually horizon scan, analyse new developments, look at the capabilities that we and our adversaries possess – and there is nothing.
“On the land, in the air, increasingly even at sea, there is nowhere left to hide. But underwater remains impenetrable.
“This is good for us. The Royal Navy has the huge responsibility of delivering the nuclear deterrent on behalf of the nation, and still the cheapest, most secure and most effective means of doing this is by submarine.
“Last year, we celebrated 50 years of continuous at sea deterrence. That is a remarkable achievement. And I am delighted that this will continue, with the Dreadnought replacement for the Vanguard-class submarines already under construction. In 2019 we saw the highest Russian activity in the North Atlantic for over 30 years. Submarines are getting quieter, more capable and harder to detect.”
Adm Radakin said he was happy with the future of the Royal Navy.
“We are growing for the first time in 70 years. And between 2015 and 2025 our tonnage will increase by nearly 30 per cent. The world is changing at a startling rate, and technology and innovation are moving faster than they ever have before. We need to remain ahead of our adversaries. This is why the Royal Navy is currently undergoing a period of transformation.
“We are focusing on five main areas: increasing our operational advantage in the North Atlantic; becoming a Carrier Strike Navy; increasing our Forward Presence; modernising our Royal Marines into a Future Commando Force; and embracing Technology and Innovation in a much better way. And you will recognise that two of these – the North Atlantic, and Technology and Innovation – are closely linked with the underwater domain.”
Adm Radakin also spoke about defence’s investment in new equipment, including the Dreadnought-class submarines, the Type 26 and 31 frigates, the P8 Poseidon aircraft, upgrades to infrastructure, including a new submarine training school.
“There is a great deal going on here. But I am confident that we are heading in the right direction, pursuing modern solutions, modern ways of working, delivering solutions to traditional problems in a modern way. And we will continue to evolve, both nationally and in company with our allies,” he added. (Source: Royal Navy)
04 Mar 20. Coronavirus fears cause halt at Japan, Italy F-35 facilities. The global spread of the coronavirus is impacting work at two key nodes in the global supply chain of the F-35, a top Pentagon official revealed Wednesday.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that “just this morning” she learned that workers for Lockheed Martin in Italy had been directed to work from home over concerns with the virus. In addition, Lockheed is restricting travel to the Italian facility under state department embassy travel alert guidance. The Pratt and Whitney engine team in Cameri have been directed to telework as well.
Italy this morning announced plans to shut down all schools and universities for the next two weeks in order to halt the spread of the disease, also known as COVID-19.
Meanwhile, work at a Japanese final assembly and check out facility, run by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has been paused for a week, Lord revealed at the McAleese/Credit Suisse conference.
Still, “right now, it doesn’t look like it is affecting deliveries” of the F-35, Lord said. “Right now we have not seen any effects.”
In addition, an industry test pilot who had planned to travel to Italy for flights is remaining in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
Lord noted that a group led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Ken Rapuano is keeping an eye on all aspects of the virus’ impact, including “scenario planning” on potential impacts.
The F-35 is perhaps the most globally integrated supply chain in military equipment history, with pieces built around the world sent to Lockheed’s Ft. Worth, Texas facility. However, jets for some foreign partners are assembled at the two FACO locations, one in Cameri, Italy and the other in Nagoya, Japan.
“Combating the Coronavirus remains a top priority for the department, and Secretary Esper meets weekly with senior leaders to discuss how we’re taking care of our men and women in uniform around the world,” said DoD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews. “The department remains fully engaged with the defense industrial base on all programs, including the F-35, and stands ready to respond when needed.”
Lockheed spokesman Brett Ashworth said that the Fort Worth location “remains unaffected at this time” by the virus.
“We are working with our customers and partners to mitigate any impacts to F-35 international FACO operations in Italy and Japan. The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority. We advised employees to avoid travel to, through and from northern Italy in alignment with U.S. State Department guidance,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
03 Mar 20. Former MOD gliders to be used by charity to change lives. Motor gliders used to train thousands of RAF Air Cadets will get a new lease of life and bring joy to people with disabilities and injured ex-military personnel. The MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation has sold 63 decommissioned Vigilant T1 aircraft to Aerobility, a charity which provides flying experiences to those who might otherwise never get a chance to take to the skies. The first batch of 10 gliders will be modified and refurbished by German company GROB Aircraft SE – the original manufacturer and Design Authority – to meet civil certification standards. The remaining aircraft will be engineered and recertified in the UK, where the charity has identified a qualified engineering partner in Southern Sailplanes, based in West Berkshire.
Hampshire-based Aerobility will initially more than double its fleet with eight Vigilants thanks to a grant from the Department for Transport (DfT); meaning they will be able to help about 2,600 people into the air every year compared to 1,000 currently.
Clive Walker, head of the Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA) in DE&S, said: “I am very pleased to see the RAF Vigilant T1 gliders move on to a new lease of life, in particular supporting the excellent work of Aerobility in creating flying experiences and opportunities for those who might otherwise never get the chance to fly.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “General aviation is the engine room of the entire aviation sector, so it’s vital that people from all backgrounds can access it. Some of our most successful pilots learnt to fly in a glider and I’m encouraged to see the work of charities like Aerobility offering similar experiences to people who may otherwise miss out.”
Glider modifications will include new engines, propellers and refurbished cockpits, and the charity hopes the first glider will be ready to fly in the summer of 2021.
Aircraft that aren’t used for flights will be refurbished and sold to generate revenue for the charity, pay for the ongoing costs of their operational fleet and help them branch out into other parts of the British Isles.
Aerobility’s CEO Mike Miller-Smith said: “Acquiring these aircraft will help us transform the lives of an even greater number of disabled people by giving them the unrivalled sense of freedom through the magic of flight. We are extremely grateful to the Ministry of Defence, Department for Transport and our various partners for supporting us in this ambitious project. Not only will it help us build capacity for our future operations, it will enable us to expand the charity to support more disabled people and to do so at additional locations around the UK.”
The sale will create four full-time engineering jobs, one project management role and one administration position at the charity. They will also need a full-time co-ordinator and a part-time flying instructor, with all positions being filled by candidates with a disability where possible.
02 Mar 20. Foreign aid cash to pay for Royal Navy hospital ship. Vessel could be used for humanitarian relief and assisting military operations. International development minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan wants to broaden the use of her department’s budget. The British government is exploring using its international aid budget to purchase a multimillion pound hospital ship that could be used for humanitarian relief and assisting military operations. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, minister for international development, has ordered officials to examine ways of broadening the use of her department’s budget, which represents 0.7 per cent of national income, to better chime with the aims of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government. One option officials are investigating is the purchase of a “hospital ship” to improve the UK’s humanitarian relief capabilities, while also having the potential to assist the Royal Navy in military operations, according to one senior insider. Britain is one of only a few countries to meet the OECD target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product on aid, but Conservative MPs have called on the government to widen the use of the budget to cover other priorities, such as the BBC World Service and peacekeeping. Mr Johnson backed these calls last year, stating “we could make sure that 0.7 per cent is spent more in line with Britain’s political commercial and diplomatic interests”.
The Department for International Development is considering the possibility of procuring a ship similar to the US’s Mercy-class of vessels, which were converted from oil tankers in the 1980s. Each ship has 1,000 patient beds with a basic crew of 70. They provide assistance to American military personnel and respond to natural disasters. Recommended UK defence spending Funding crisis raises concerns on armed forces readiness One of the Royal Navy’s current ships, the RFA Argus, is equipped with 100 beds and was used during the Falklands War, but does not meet the Geneva Convention’s definition of a hospital ship. It is due to be taken out of service in 2024 and there are no current plans to replace it. One of Ms Trevelyan’s predecessors, Penny Mordaunt, investigated a similar plan. But Whitehall insiders said it was scuppered by officials who were concerned it would not fall within the OECD’s definition of overseas aid. Last year, Ms Mordaunt wrote to then defence secretary Gavin Williamson to propose establishing a joint working group” which would examine “the option of a jointly managed UK Hospital Ship”. Tom Tugendhat, chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee, said the Royal Navy had “always been on the frontline of Britain’s defence of humanitarian values” and welcomed the idea. “A hospital ship would be a practical addition to the fleet and offer us the ability to help more people and promote our soft power and humanitarian reach,” he said. A DFID spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring UK aid reaches the world’s poorest people, achieves value for money for the taxpayer and works in our national interest.” (Source: FT.com)
02 Mar 20. HMS Prince of Wales to begin F-35 trials in January 2021. Captain Darren Houston said F-35 trials would start aboard HMS Prince of Wales in January 2021. The Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, will begin fixed-wing trials with the F-35 in January 2021, the ship’s commanding officer has told Naval Technology.
Speaking on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier while docked in Liverpool on Saturday, HMS Prince of Wales’ commanding officer Captain Darren Houston outlined the timeline for the ship’s future trials, including when fixed-wing aircraft would begin trials on the ship.
Rotary wing aircraft, like the Merlin helicopter, will be trialled first before progressing to the F-35. Basic sea trials will continue with the ship through autumn, clearing the way for further operations.
Houston told Naval Technology: “This year is really about generation of the ship itself, the internal aspects but also the external. The first part is really making sure we are able to take helicopters and we build up the deck experience and also the pilots and the aircrew as well.
“So we’ll have the Merlin helicopters a bit later on, but later on this year we will do some more work with them and then into the autumn we commence our basic sea training and that tests every aspect of the ship. That’s all about the fight, the float, the move, the self-protect and the aviation parts of our business.”
Houston, who was number two in command during HMS Queen Elizabeth’s flight trials last year and served previously on HMS Illustrious, went on to say that these initial trials will progress the ship towards embarking and trialling F-35 aircraft on board.
He said: “That then leads us into fixed-wing trials which are beginning in January 2021. That is when we will go out to the United States, to the East Coast, and we will embark our F-35s.”
He added that while they will be putting the F-35s ‘through their paces’, the crew would be doing the same with the ship to train for all weather conditions to build difficult datapoints for operations in high sea states and heavy winds. Houston said the trials would take the aircraft and the ship to the ‘highest end of its envelope’.
The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are the only ships in the world built and designed around F-35 operations, earning it the moniker of a ‘fifth-generation’ ship among its crew. Operating two vessels makes the UK’s Royal Navy the premier European carrier force within NATO.
Asked if, as some critics have complained, the ships were a waste of money and if aircraft carriers were obsolete, Houston said that if China is building its own carriers, they are still relevant.
He explained: “For those that say no, they are an outdated thing, I’d look very carefully why China has just built a second one and has another in service. We need to be able to react, and be on the world stage.”
HMS Prince of Wales was in Liverpool for a visit named Operation Heartland, during which some 30,000 visitors are expected to be welcomed on board. The ship is affiliated to Liverpool and Bristol.
The second-in-class ship is seen by its crew as the ‘biggest and fastest’ in the Royal Navy, being four metres longer and as much as three knots faster than its sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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