Sunday, 14 April 2024
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aircraft carriers

joseph.fallonIn the undeclared war in the Red Sea and Yemen, the U.S. has misjudged the Houthis, "part of the Bakil confederation, the largest tribal group in Yemen", as it previously had misjudged the Taliban. In doing so, Washington has provided the Houthis, as it did the Taliban, an opportunity to "bleed' America of money and material, undermining an aging U.S. military machine already overstretched, underfunded, undermanned, and lacking the means to successfully fight wars simultaneously in Europe and Asia. This is the real threat Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea pose to U.S. national security, writes Joseph E Fallon.

In "Who are the Houthis and why are they attacking Red Sea ships?," January 15, 2024, the BBC reported "Following the start of the war in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis started firing drones and missiles towards Israel. Most have been intercepted. On 19 November, the Houthis hijacked a commercial ship in the Red Sea and have since attacked more than two dozen others with drones, missiles and speed boats. US-led naval forces thwarted many of the attacks. The Houthis say they are targeting ships which are Israeli-owned, flagged or operated, or which are heading to Israeli ports. However, many have no connections with Israel."

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(Editor's note : This post also contains the full Parliamentary exchange when the announcement was made)

By Nick Watts, Great North News Services

The decision, announced today, to press ahead with the purchase of the F35B is instructive. Coming as it does shortly after the MOD's White paper on Technology, Equipment and Support for UK defence and security it tells us much about the UK's ability to provide sovereign capability. The obvious headlines about U turns miss the wider point.


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Diesel generators have now been installed on the first of the new aircraft carriers. Both ships will have two Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines and four diesel generator sets. The generators – provided by Converteam – provide a total power of 109 megawatts. The latest edition of Desider indicates that power will be generated to distribute electricity throughout the vessel powering anything from the propulsion system to crew members' laptops.

Another £33 million worth of contracts have also been recently awarded. These include:

- An £18 million contract for storage facilities to Wincanton.
- A £15 million contract for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services for the installation of cables on modules being constructed at Govan before final integration at Rosyth.
- A £44,000 contract for Edmundson Electrical to provide component parts used to pack and make airtight cables running throughout the vessels
- A £137,000 contract to Jetway Associates to supply hose baskets, which form part of the ships' fire fighting equipment.

According the Aircraft Carrier Alliance around £1.25 billion worth of contracts have been placed throughout the UK, which in turn are supporting thousands of jobs in almost every region.

Regional involvement in the development of the carriers was further enhanced as the final shipyard in the programme started its part of the construction work. Birkenhead-based Cammell Laird will build tow sections of the ships' flight deck. The work is worth over £44 million pounds and will keep a workforce of 1,200 busy until 2012. Upon completion the flight decks will be the size of three football pitches.

Commencing construction was especially significant for Cammell Laird as it marked the return of shipbuilding to the yard after a 17 year hiatus. Yet the company is by no means a stranger to carrier construction, having provided three throughout its illustrious 182 year history.

The Birkenhead shipyard joins five others – Govan and Rosyth in Scotland, Portsmouth, Devon and Newcastle in England – in the massive construction project. Work currently supports around 10,000 jobs at the shipyards and throughout the supply chain.

Despite the increase in debate over the cost of the aircraft carriers in the run-up to the publishing of the Strategic Defence and Security Review work continues unabated.


Articles taken from Flight International magazine

First F-35 completes flight test program
The first F-35, known as AA-1, conducted its 91st and final flight on December 17th - three years and two days after it first took to the skies. Test pilot Jeff Knowles flew the aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, where it will undergo live-fire testing. During its flight test program, AA-1 was flown by six pilots, including US Air Force and Marine Corps pilots. The aircraft was the first F-35 to break the sound barrier, flying at Mach 1.1 with a full internal weapons load of more than 5,000 pounds.

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Articles taken from Flight International magazine

Lockheed Martin unveils Navy's first stealth fighter

On July 28th, Lockheed Martin rolled out the first F-35C, the third and final variant of the Lightning II, designed for the U.S Navy's large-carrier fleet. Adm. Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations for the U.S Navy, expressed his enthusiasm for the F-35, saying the plane "will top anything that comes its way". the F-35C, designed to replace the F/A-18, will bring 5th generation fighter capabilities like advanced stealth to the Navy for the first time.

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Articles taken from Flight International magazine

F-35B in-flight STOVL operations begin

The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter engaged its STOVL propulsion system in flight for the first time January 7th near Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, and again on January 9th. The aircraft slowed to 150 knots, entering semi-jet borne flight with both the propulsion system and the wings providing lift. Pilot Graham Tomlinson of BAE Systems reported that the aircraft flew smoothly during STOVL-system engagement. The aircraft is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 engine driving a Rolls-Royce LiftFan®.

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US House of Represntatives Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton today released the following statement on the Department of Defense's update of the Joint Strike Fighter/F-35 competitive engine cost-benefit analysis:

"Yesterday, I was finally provided with a copy of the 'business case' upon which Secretary Gates based his decision to oppose the development of the competitive engine for the F-35. While the committee is still reviewing the analysis, it appears that the Department's approach focuses on near-term costs to the exclusion of what the committee sees as the long-term benefits of this program. The costs of the second engine in the next few years must be balanced against the fact that life-cycle costs of having two engines are comparable to having only one. The Department's analysis does not consider the risk that a single engine would present not only to our fighter force, but to our national security, given that the F-35 will account for 95 percent of our nation's fighter fleet. With this program, as with all others, we cannot use near-sighted vision when long-term security is at stake. I look forward to continuing the dialogue on this program with my colleagues and the Department of Defense. But I remain unconvinced that terminating the alternate engine program makes sense."


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has  recently announced the next steps on a number of projects. These announcements build on the package of adjustments to the Defence Programme announced to the House on 15th December 2009. The projects include:

An interim Partnering Agreement with MBDA (UK) Ltd to take forward the Government's strategy for the UK's Complex Weapons sector as originally set out in the Defence Industrial Strategy.  The Agreement builds on the successful Team Complex Weapons Assessment Phase that commenced in July 2008.  The MoD has placed a contract valued at £330 million to demonstrate and manufacture both the Fire Shadow Loitering Munition which will be able to be used in operations by the British Army in Afghanistan and, using a development of the current Brimstone anti-armour weapon, the second element of the Selective Precision Effects at Range (SPEAR) programme for use by the RAF on Harrier GR7 and Tornado GR4 including on current operations.  The contract also includes further work on the Future Local Area Air Defence System and on future components of the SPEAR programme.

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By Andrew Mok

The latest round of cost increases and delays for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme brings further ill tidings for the UK's replacement for the carrier-based Harrier: the F-35B. Last week, a report from the Pentagon to the Congress officially declared a critical "Nunn-McCurdy breach," which means that the average unit costs have grown more than 50% since 2002. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates told the Congress on March 30 that despite previous "overly rosy" cost estimates, he was confident the latest set of cost increases will also be the final ones. In the UK, the Chief of Defence Materiel, General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, told the Commons Defence Committee that after 2015, F-35 deliveries "will come off quickly" in line with the completion of the new Queen Elizabeth class carriers. These assurances, however, seem very optimistic as well because of a high risk of further delays and cost overruns. Along with uncertainty about when the fighter will actually become operational, the rising costs mean the UK's MoD may wind up with less carrier-based fighters than originally planned. Or perhaps it may wind up with a different plane than the F-35B. And that could be quite a wise decision.

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Northrop Grumman begins centre fuselage for first international F-35
Northrop Grumman Corporation has started the centre fuselage for the first international F-35 Lightning II, and F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant for the United Kingdom. The centre fuselage is one of the core structures around which the F-35 aircraft is built. The assembly process began at the company's Palmdale, California, manufacturing centre with the loading of an all-composite air inlet duct into special tooling structure.

Lockheed Martin flies optimised conventional F-35
On Nov. 14th, the first optimised conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35 made its inaugural flight, the fourth F-35 to begin flight operations. Piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot David "Doc" Nelson, the Lockheed Martin F-35A, called AF-1, climbed to 20,000 feet, performed 360-degree rolls and flew at angles of attack up to 20 degrees during the 89-minute flight. AF-1 features a production-representative structure and was built on the same assembly line as the 31 Low-Rate Initial Production aircraft now in assembly.

F-35B flies to Maryland test site, supported by Automated Sustainment System
The first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter, BF-1, arrived November 15th at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, where its first hovers and vertical landings will be conducted. The F-35 Autonomics Logistics Information System (ALIS), the aircraft's computerised maintenance management system is currently monitoring BF-1 from its sustainment operations centre in Fort Worth, Texas. BF-1 is the first test aircraft to be supported solely by the fleet's Autonomic Logistics Global Sustainment (ALGS) System. ALGS was developed in parallel with the F-35 and is a key driver of the financial affordability equation of the F-35 compared to the legacy aircraft it is replacing.

Based on paid-for updates in Flight International magazine.


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