Britain’s new aircraft carrier is now afloat, but the total forecast cost of £6.1 billion ($10.4 billion) still threatens to sink other defense projects in the UK. To this cost must be added the forecast near-£2.5 billion ($4.28 billion) being contributed by the UK to development and initial test and evaluation of the F-35s that will fly from her decks, plus perhaps another £5 billion ($8.56 billion) for their production. However, the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are taking their cue from H.M.
Royal Air Force
With four maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) in the static park at this week’s Farnborough Air Show, and much talk about British requirements in the chalets, it might seem that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is about to take action to rectify its most glaring “capability gap.” But British defence procurement minister Philip Dunne told journalists at the show on Wednesday that no decision to reconstitute the capability will be taken until after next year’s strategic defense review.
The contract to begin full integration of the MBDA Storm Shadow long-range precision attack missile with the Eurofighter Typhoon is expected to be signed today. Philip Dunne, UK Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, announced the signing while speaking at Farnborough yesterday.
The contract is between Eurofighter and NETMA, the four-nation Eurofighter management agency, and is worth €150 million ($205 million).
Monday’s announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that the RAF’s Raytheon Sentinel R1 fleet will be extended in service until at least 2018 has breathed new life into the program, and sparked real interest in further development.
One of the key features that could be added is a greater maritime capability. While the RAF is quick to stress that a maritime-capable Sentinel is not a maritime patroller, it could be used as a gap-filler in certain scenarios, and has considerable applications in littoral operations, such as amphibious landings or humanitarian missions.
In response to increased scrutiny of armed UAV operations by human rights groups, British legislators and the United Nations, the British Ministry of Defence (UK MoD) has stepped up efforts to reassure the public. Late last year, it allowed media (including AIN) access to the Royal Air Force Reaper ground control station (GCS) at RAF Waddington for the first time. New documents describing UK operational procedures, including targeting, have been released. The UK is one of only three countries to have fired weapons from UAVs in combat, the others being Israel and the U.S.
The Red Arrows teamed up with four of their European counterparts for this unique formation, flown last Friday over the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford. Britain’s finest are celebrating the Red Arrows’ 50th anniversary this year. They were joined over the Cotswold countryside by the leaders of four other teams appearing at RIAT: the Breitling Jet Team (L-39 Albatros); Frecce Tricolore (MB-339); Patrouille de France (Alpha Jet); and Patrouille Suisse (F-5E).
The UK’s new military air safety regime has contributed to the delayed entry into British service of some new platforms, such as the Airbus A330MRTT Voyager tanker, the Thales Watchkeeper UAS and the L-3 Integrated Systems Airseeker (the UK version of the USAF’s RC-135 Rivet Joint SIGINT aircraft). As a result, some UK aerospace industry managers have expressed dissatisfaction with the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), in off-the-record comments to this editor and others.
Advanced Jet Training at RAF Valley was the first “training service package” to be signed by Ascent–the contractor that is taking over the UK Military Flying Training System–with the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Another to train the Royal Navy’s rear aircrew (“observers”) followed. It was implemented in 2011-12 at RAF Barkston Heath on the MoD’s pre-existing contract-provided Grob 115E elementary trainers, and at RNAS Culdrose, where four King Air 350ER twin turboprops acquired by Ascent are based.
Fast-jet pilot training in the UK has been thoroughly modernized, thanks to the introduction of new simulators, courseware and the BAE Systems Hawk T.2 trainer. Ascent, the contractor that is taking over the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS), says the new set-up is “affordable, and demonstrably good value for money.” Still, there are grumblings from those opposed to the commercial provision of British military flying training, on either philosophical or practical grounds.
Airbus Defence and Space Military Aircraft is scheduled to deliver the first of 22 A400M airlifters to the Royal Air Force in September. The delivery of aircraft MSN15 not only will mark the start of operations by a third country, but also represents the introduction of new capabilities as an important step along the type’s development roadmap. To get those capabilities into service has necessitated an intensive flight-trial campaign in the first part of this year.
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