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Military experts write to oppose UK Navy cuts

February 25th, 2011 by David No Comments

A group of senior retired military experts and academics have written a letter to the UK government to oppose the scrapping of the country’s Harrier fast jet carrier aircraft under the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) announced last year.

The letter to prime minister David Cameron criticises the retirement Joint Royal Navy / Royal Air Force Harrier Force of 70 aircraft, which has operated from the aircraft carriers Ark Royal and Illustrious. The two ships are scheduled for retirement this year and 2014 respectively.

The grouping’s letter criticises the effect the loss of a fast jet carrier air group could have on UK national security until the arrival of the new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, currently under construction, and the Harrier’s replacement, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

“Continuity of operations is highly desirable if the new carriers are to be brought into operational service quickly, with the right experience and supporting elements such as flight deck crews, command and staff officers at all levels,” says the petition.

“The first is the deprivation of fixed wing carrier-borne air capability for at least a decade. This not only removes a very important component of the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Fleet but also undermines support of the Army and of the Royal Marines in their amphibious role. This valuable operation can no longer be attempted even against a lightly armed aggressor without considerable risk,” adds the letter.

The letter was signed by several veteran Falklands War commanders, including admiral Sir John ‘Sandy’ Woodward, major general Julian Thompson and admiral Sir Jeremy Black. Academics listed as signatories include naval historians Nicholas Rodger, from Oxford university, and King’s College London’s Andrew Lambert.

The letter provides three alternatives to scrapping the Harrier force, including the retainment of a smaller amount of the aircraft alongside the RAF’s Tornado fighter aircraft, which was retained over the Harrier force in the SDSR.

The letter notes that the Tornado is more expensive to operate than the Harrier and has been itself partially replaced in RAF service by the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The letter highlights the increased operational flexibility provided by the Harrier over the Tornado, and says keeping on 40 Harriers and 40 Tornadoes would save £5bn over 15 years.

As a further option, the experts suggest maintaining 48 Tornados, 30 harriers and buying or leasing 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole carrier-borne combat aircraft.

“It should be noted that the F/A-18 Super Hornet is better at air defence than the Typhoon, better at ground attack than Tornado and Typhoon and around one third to one fifth of the cost of the Typhoon,” says the letter.

“This F-18 squadron would not be difficult to form due to existing partnerships and training which the Royal Navy has, and is expected to continue to have, with the United States Navy. Furthermore, Britain would not be buying a substandard aircraft, as the Super Hornet is a very capable aircraft now being procured by the US Navy and the Australian Armed Forces,” adds the letter.

Libyan Mirage pilots defect to Malta

February 22nd, 2011 by David No Comments

Two Libyan fighter jet pilots have defected to Malta, by landing without permission on the runway of the island’s commercial airport.

The pilots, who are reportedly both colonels in the Libyan Air Force, are claiming asylum, after allegedly refusing orders to bomb protestors in Benghazi.

The aircraft, which landed at 16:30 local time, are French manufactured Dassault Mirage F-1 fighters.

The Mirage pilots reportedly only made contact with the airport control tower after they had landed on the commercial runway.

Protests in Libya have escalated since the removal of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, strenghening popular resolve against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Hundreds of civilian protestors have been killed in clashes with pro-government forces in Tripoli and Benghazi within the past week, according to media reports.

The Mirage F-1 entered French service in 1973, and is still in French service today. It was also exported to Libya, Spain, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and several other countries.

The F-1 jet aircraft is a second generation, Mach 2.2 capable, fighter aircraft, which was originally developed in the 1960s.

Two French-registered Super Puma civilian helicopters also landed in Malta, around the same time, reportedly carrying seven French employees of an Italian firm working in Libya.

All the passengers, who have landed without permission, are being temporarily held within Malta’s airport.

Iranian warships in Suez Canal

February 22nd, 2011 by David No Comments

An Iranian frigate and an accompanying replenishment vessel have entered the Suez Canal, en route for the Mediterranean, according to Egyptian officials.

Iran says the two ships, named Alvand and Kharg respectively, are headed for Syria, to carry out naval training exercises with friendly forces there.

Israel has condemned the deployment as a “provocation” designed to increase regional tensions in the weeks following Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power in Egypt and anti-establishment protests across much of the Arab world.

The Iranian vessels entered the canal at 05:45 local time (03:45 GMT), according to Suez Canal officials.

Iran said the ships do not carry military equipment, nuclear materials or chemicals, according to Egypt’s defence ministry.

COMMENT: US Navy deploys EA-18G Growler

February 22nd, 2011 by David No Comments

The US Navy has deployed its EA-18G Growler aircraft for the first time, according to Boeing. The deployment, presumably supporting operations in Afghanistan, comes after the updated fourth generation fighter aircraft was first sent to US Navy squadrons in 2008.

The EA [electronic attack] aircraft is the new version of the combat-tested F/A-18 Hornet fighter / attack aircraft, which has seen service in successive versions with US Navy aircraft carrier squadrons since 1983.

US Air Force and US Navy budgetary constraints on delivery numbers for the next generation of US F-22 and F-35 fifth generation fighter aircraft programmes are making it is more likely that aircraft types already in service, such as the Super Hornet, will continue to be updated for decades to come.

Boeing says the EA-18G is the only air combat platform to delivers full-spectrum airborne electronic attack (AEA) capability, adding fourth generation capabilities to the well-worn targeting and defence capabilities of the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet.

Boeing says the aircraft is a derivative of the two-seat F/A-18F Block II, and maintains the ability operate from the decks of aircraft carrier or from airfields.

The EA-18G is replacing the US Navy’s current AEA platform, the veteran EA-6B Prowler, which has been in service since 1971.

Indian Navy to get four amphibious assault ships

February 17th, 2011 by David No Comments

The Indian Navy will receive four Landing Platform Docks (LPDs), according to procurement plans from India’s Ministry of Defence Ministry, according to India Defence Online.

The ships could dramatically increase the Indian Navy’s strategic reach and amphibious warfare capabilities, greatly adding to its fleet’s status as an upcoming blue water force at sea.

The deal falls under the ‘Buy and Make Indian’ category, requiring private and public sector shipyards will need to make deals with foreign shipyards to partner them for the building of the LPD vessels.

The ships will reportedly measure 200 metres long and will be capable of transporting main battle tanks, heavy trucks, armoured personnel carriers and heavy equipment.

They will also operate the Indian Navy’s heavy-lift helicopters, while using a point missile defence system and a close-in weapon system for anti-aircraft defence and missile defence.

The Indian Navy has reportedly been working on the design of the LPDs for at least a year, with the project costed at $ 3.5bn.

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