Tag: Royal Navy

UK F-35Bs ready for take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth

A Royal Navy Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II

UK’s F-35B fighter jets are now cleared for take-off from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after they passed land-based ski-ramp trials.

This was announced by UK defence minister Harriett Baldwin who spoke on Tuesday before the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.

“Successful ski-ramp trials mean the F-35 is cleared to fly from the carrier as the momentum continues for this game-changing jet,” Baldwin said. “This milestone comes as our pilots and planes prepare to return from the States, ready for next year’s unforgettable flight trials from the deck of the nation’s new flagship.”

One of the other questions addressed at the Defence Select Committee were concerns raised in a Times report which said the UK F-35Bs would be too heavy to land vertically on HMS Queen Elizabeth under full load. During the hearing, Lockheed Martin UK CEO, Peter Ruddock assured MPs that the F-35B was capable of landing vertically with a full internal weapon and fuel load.

The UK currently has 12 F-35 jets out in the United States where they are being tested ahead of flight trials from the Royal Navy’s 65,000 tonne carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, next year. Two more aircraft are set to be delivered by the end of the year.

During today’s Select Committee session, the Defence Minister announced that the  Integrated Test Force,, has now successfully completed ski ramp trials. That milestone clears the aircraft for take-off from the deck of the Carrier.

Speaking about the jet, Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, part of the F-35 Integrated Test Force which includes five British pilots, said: “The launch of the F35s from the HMS Queen Elizabeth is a once in a generation historical event. To be the first to fly off the carrier, to have a front row seat, would be an absolute privilege. It wouldn’t just be about the pilot – there are hundreds of people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen and the honour will be theirs too.”

There are already 150 UK personnel out in the US working with the jets.

The new home of 617 squadron, RAF Marham, continues to build towards the arrival of the jets next year, moving a step closer earlier this month when the runway intersection resurfacing was completed. 617 Squadron will be the first operational British F-35 unit.


HMS Ocean in Pictures

HMS Ocean is due to be decommissioned in March 2018. Ocean is an amphibious assault ship, the UK’s helicopter carrier and the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force. She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan on the River Clyde and fitted out by VSEL at Barrow-in-Furness prior to trials and subsequent acceptance in service. She was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port HMNB Devonport, Plymouth. HMS Albion and Bulwark (Landing Platform Dock ships) and the Bay-class Dock-Landing Ships, RFA Mounts Bay, Lyme Bay and Cardigan Bay in addition to the Aircraft Carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of wales and to some extent the Tide-class Royal Fleet Auxiliaries will now be responsible for amphibious operations.

HMS Bulwark (L 15) with HMS Ocean (L 12)


Why the Royal Navy needs HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark

HMS Albion L-14 Landing Platform Dock
HMS Bulwark L-15 Landing Platform Dock

As reports emerge that the Royal Navy could see amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark taken out of service, Forces Network has been looking at their accomplishments.

It’s said the move, which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has described as “pure speculation”, could strip the Senior Service of its ability to attack enemy-held beaches.

But what operations have the two Albion-class warships been used for in the past?

HMS Bulwark

Entering service in 2005, Bulwark left Britain early the next year for her first deployment, a six-month tasking East of Suez.

She was involved in counter-terror and counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa, before heading for the Persian Gulf to provide security for Iraqi oil platforms.

In summer the next year she was diverted from near Spain to support operations evacuating British citizens from the conflict area of the 2006 Lebanon War.

On July 20, she evacuated approximately 1,300 British nationals from Beirut – the largest evacuation conducted by the UK.

Bulwark helped evacuate British nationals after the outbreak of the 2006 Lebanon War. Picture: M Asser.

Bulwark underwent her first refit in 2010 before rejoining the fleet the following year, when she took over from Albion as fleet flagship.

She carried out this role until June 2015, when it was assumed by HMS Ocean, which is to be decommissioned in spring next year.

One of her most prominent operations came about that year though, in response to the European migrant crisis.

Assisted by three Merlin helicopters from 814 Naval Air Squadron, she played a key part in the search and rescue operation off the Italian coast for migrants crossing from Libya, rescuing over 2,900 migrants from the sea.

It was a busy year for Bulwark. Between November and December, she helped to provide security for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Malta.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, she was mothballed, at the same time Albion emerged from refit to take on the ‘high readiness’ role.

As part of cost-cutting measures, it was decided during the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that Albion and Bulwark would alternate between high and ‘extended’ readiness throughout their service lives.

This led to Albion being placed into a state of ‘extended readiness’ – or mothballed – in 2011.

It’s been estimated that it costs £300,000 per year to keep one of the ships at extended readiness, while high readiness costs from £18-£39 million.

HMS Albion

Albion on exercise in Norway in 2004.

The ninth ship to carry the name Albion (an ancient name for Great Britain), stretching back to a 74-gun 1763 warship, this modern warship was deployed on a multinational exercise for the first time in 2004.

She was declared fully operational after taking part in Exercise Joint Winter off Norway (see above), during which time she completed her cold weather sea trials.

It wasn’t long before she was sent on operations for real.

Albion assisted in the 50-hour evacuation of British citizens from Ivory Coast later that year after the outbreak of civil war in the country, alongside a company of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, RAF Hercules aircraft and troops from 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.

The Ivory Coast football team was ultimately credited with helping to secure a temporary truce when it qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, bringing warring parties together. Picture: Bjorn Laczay.

In 2010, Albion was sent to Santander, Spain during the air travel disruption after the volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

As part of Operation Cunningham she rescued 450 stranded forces personnel and around 280 British nationals, before heading to Portsmouth.

The following year she was deployed to waters off Libya to provide assistance to NATO’s military intervention in the country, which was ultimately to lead to the death of its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.

She then continued on to the Indian Ocean to help with anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa, before being mothballed as her and Bulwark swapped roles.




HMS Northumberland welcomes crew for sea trials after upgrade

HMS Northumberland is a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy.

Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland has welcomed her crew back following a major refit at the frigate refit complex in Devonport.

Justin Mills, ship project manager, handed over the Type 23 frigate to the new Commander Alexandra Pollard.

This is Pollard’s first command having previously served as the executive officer aboard HMS Richmond.

Now that the ship has been delivered to the crew by shipbuilder Babcock, it is set to undergo a series of sea trials and training evolutions before returning to operations.

The ceremonial handover included the raising of the White Ensign on board.

In addition to upgrades to her weapon systems, infrastructure and navigation equipment, HMS Northumberland received four new diesel generators and associated upgraded power distribution delivered by Rolls-Royce subsidiary MTU. The new generator equipment, being manufactured in Germany and Austria, is being installed at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport during planned upkeep periods. All frigates are set to receive them by 2024.


UK-led international exercise Joint Warrior begins

Albion-class amphibious transport dock (L-15) HMS Bulwark

Warships taking part in the UK-hosted multinational drill Joint Warrior got underway on October 1 for a fortnight of exercises off the coast of Scotland.

This is the second time this year the biannual drill is being held.

The first one took place in March and featured or incorporated Information Warrior, an event aimed at demonstrating and developing information warfare.

The fall edition of the drill will focus on inter-operability development and standard evolutions.

Joint Warrior is designed and led by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) in the United Kingdom.

35 ships and a number of aircraft from 14 nations are set to take part in the drill.

The Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS De Ruyter F804, will be taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior

The Exercise will feature:

  • Thirty-five naval units from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US, supported by 11 rotary wing aircraft.
  • RAF Lossiemouth and HMS Gannet in Prestwick hosting international aircraft from Canada, France, Norway, the UK and US.
  • Cape Wrath Weapons Range in the North of Scotland being used for joint fires activity.

Exercise Joint Warrior will also incorporate elements of another major exercise, the ballistic missile defence drill Formidable Shield, running from September 21 to October 18.


RFA Tiderace reaches UK waters after two-month voyage

RFA Tiderace arriving in Falmouth. Photo: Crown Copyright

Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Tiderace has reached UK waters after getting underway almost two months ago from Okpo, South Korea, where she was built by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME).

The second of four Tide-class ships started her voyage on August 3 and arrived in Falmouth in the morning of September 25. Now that she is in the UK, the 39,000-tonne RFA Tiderace will begin a program of customization which will see her receive armor, self-defense weaponry and communications systems.

RFA Tiderace is expected to undergo around four months of customization before beginning a round of final sea trials before entering service next year. Meanwhile, lead ship in the class RFA Tidespring is expected to finish final sea trials in the coming weeks and enter service before the end of this year.

The 39,000-tonne Tide-class ships can carry up to 19,000 cubic meters of fuel and 1,400 cubic meters of fresh water in support of Royal Navy operations all over the world. They have been designed to support the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, arrived in Portsmouth last month.

The Tide Class has a flight deck able to accommodate the large Chinook helicopter and offer significant improvements over previous RFA tankers such as double hulls and greater environmental protection measures.  

Last remaining D-Day landing craft getting overhaul in UK

Photo: National Museum of the Royal Navy

UK’s last remaining D-Day landing craft will be receiving a much needed overhaul after receiving nearly £5million from The National Lottery and its Heritage Lottery Fund.

This overhaul will allow the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth to have an original landing craft tank (LCT) on display.

The D-Day Museum, an affiliate of The National Museum of the Royal Navy, is due to reopen in 2018 following a complete refurbishment also funded by the National Lottery. Offering a more in-depth narrative on the events that took place in ‘Operation Overlord’ on 6 June 1944, The D-Day Museum focuses on the Royal Navy.

Landing Craft Tank 7074 – one of 800 similar vessels charged with ferrying tanks across the Channel and directly on to foreign sand – will take pride of place in the city’s D-Day Museum as part of a multi-million revamp of the memorial/attraction for the invasion’s 75th anniversary.

With an agreement struck between the National Museum of the Royal Navy, who rescued the ship initially and Portsmouth City Council, who run the D-Day Museum, restoration work will begin before the vessel is moved to the Southsea seafront attraction, where historians will explain her role in the landings.

Nick Hewitt, Head of Exhibitions and Collections at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: “This puts 7074 in the city’s heart, engaging a potential 4.5 million annual users of Southsea Common with the story of the ship and her people; it puts her D-Day story – which uniquely links sea and land – in context for museum visitors and ensures she survives for future generations.”


Canadian Navy ‘X-Ship’ frigate arrives in Europe

Canadian Navy file photo of HMCS Montréal

Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montréal arrived in Western Europe on September 18 for three months of exercises with European and NATO partners.

Deploying as part of the Royal Canadian Navy’s overarching deployment Neptune Trident 17-02, HMCS Montréal is to take part in the US-led ballistic missile defense drill Formidable Shield, which is being held in Scottish waters between September and October.

In addition to Formidable Shield, Montréal will join the Royal Navy’s bi-annual multinational exercise Joint Warrior which will involve over 20 warships in addition to aircraft and marines.

During her three months in the North Atlantic, the frigate will also continue her experimentation activities associated with the X-Ship program and initiatives, which are focused on supporting future classes of ships such as the Canadian Surface Combatant.

The experimental ship – or X-Ship – program is designed to advance naval concepts in all areas of warship deployment, crewing and sustainment. Many of the trials conducted will focus on human factors such as variations of crew size and impacts on crew rest and performance, as well as some operational trials.


Countdown to flight trials

The UK Royal Navy’s (RN’s) new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is set to bring the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II on board for trials for the first time towards the end of next year.

Fixed-wing First Of Class Flight Trials (FOCFT) are planned to begin off the US eastern seaboard in October 2018. It is expected that two fully instrumented F-35B development aircraft will embark on the ship for two embarked periods each lasting approximately four weeks.

FOCFT test points are intended to define the safe envelope for the operation of the F-35B from Queen Elizabeth and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales. Test planning for FOCFT is already well underway using BAE System’s F-35B/QEC integration facility at Warton.

A Royal Navy Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II

As well as ski-jump launches and vertical landings, it is expected that next year’s trials will include the first executions of a new manoeuvre known as a shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL).

An SRVL exploits the ability of the short takeoff vertical landing F-35B to use vectored thrust to slow the speed of the aircraft approach to about 35kt of closure relative to the carrier while still gaining the benefit of wingborne lift. The primary benefit of an SRVL is a significant increase in payload ‘bring back’ compared with a ‘standard’ vertical landing.

Queen Elizabeth is currently alongside in Portsmouth following arrival at her base port on 16 August. The ship is expected to resume trials in October, with handover to the RN before the end of the year.


Lockheed Martin, Elbit join forces on Royal Navy electronic warfare project

Lockheed Martin and Elbit join forces on Royal Navy electronic-warfare project. (RN Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Diamond shown)

UK branches of Lockheed Martin and Elbit Systems signed a teaming agreement to work together on the Royal Navy’s Maritime Electronic Warfare Programme (MEWP).

The MEWP is a project aimed at providing the Royal Navy with improved electronic warfare capabilities.

Delivered in increments, the upgraded system will be fielded on the Royal Navy’s frigates, destroyers and amphibious assault ships, with the program expanding to the wider fleet including submarines in due course.

The partnership between the two companies was announced at DSEI in London.

“By working together, both companies can use their extensive experience in maritime technology and systems integration to provide a highly capable, proven and value for money solution to address the immediate and evolving need for an upgraded Maritime Electronic Warfare capability for the UK’s Royal Navy,” said Paul Livingston, vice president of Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems.

“We are delighted to be working with Lockheed Martin to offer an innovative and comprehensive proposal to meet the Royal Navy’s future requirements, using our complementary skills and experience we believe we are a strong team able to propose a highly attractive solution to meet the program needs,” Martin Fausset of Elbit Systems UK Ltd said


Duchess of Rothesay names HMS Prince of Wales

Duchess of Rothesay names HMS Prince of Wales

The Duchess of Rothesay today pressed a button to formally name the UK’s second new carrier.

The ship’s sponsor – better known south of the border as the Duchess of Cornwall – triggered the launch of a ten-year-old bottle of whisky from the Laphroaig distillery on the Isle of Islay and 65,000-tonne HMS Prince of Wales was officially named.

During an hour-long ceremony in Rosyth, where the leviathan has been pieced together like her older sister HMS Queen Elizabeth, the efforts of the 10,000 souls involved in building the ship were praised; the construction of the carrier has been among the greatest engineering challenges British industry has risen to.

“Wherever Prince of Wales travels – at home or overseas – she will draw crowds to the water’s edge where they will marvel at your achievement,” First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones declared.

The ship, which will not be floated out of the gigantic No.1 dock at Rosyth until next spring, comprises more than 17 million parts. To date, construction the two ships have devoured 51 million man hours – enough to keep one person occupied for more than 5,800 years…

Hoping to take Prince of Wales to sea rather sooner than that is her very first Commanding Officer, announced this week, Captain Steve Moorhouse, who’s previously been in charge of helicopter carrier Ocean and frigate Lancaster.

Capt Moorhouse said, “Seeing our sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth make her debut in Portsmouth last month was an amazing sight and I look forward to one day bringing HMS Prince of Wales home to the same warm welcome.

“Until then the ship’s company in Rosyth will continue to grow and they have much to be proud of in all the work they have done so far, working with our civilian industry partners to bring this ship to life,” he continued.

The 900ft ship will be the eighth in the Royal Navy to bear the name HMS Prince of Wales; it was most recently carried by a King George V-class battleship whose life was brief, eventful, tragic.

In an active career lasting not seven months, she was badly damaged while tackling Hitler’s flagship Bismarck, took Prime Minister Churchill across the Atlantic to meet President Roosevelt, and was sunk in December 1941 in company with battle-cruiser HMS Repulse in a failed bid to thwart Japanese aggression in the Far East.

Only a handful of men are still alive from that fateful encounter; one is Christopher Peacey from Alverstoke, Gosport, now 93 and one of the VIP guests at today’s ceremony who conceded he never thought he would see another vessel to bear his old ship’s name.

But he did – and the fact that he did was, said the First Sea Lord, a signal that Britain was committed to remaining a key player on the world stage.

“If building one carrier is a statement of national ambition; then building two is an unmistakable sign of commitment, to our own defence and that of our allies,” Admiral Jones continued.

“Alone, either one of these vessels would be a formidable expression of military might. But together, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales send a powerful message to friend and foe alike.

“We may live in uncertain times, but the United Kingdom has lost none of its famous resolve. We will protect our interests, we will support our allies, and we will shoulder our responsibilities, wherever in the world they are at stake.”