Sailors from the U.S. Navy conducted missions from Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall during exercise Saxon Warrior, Aug. 1-10.
Bringing with them two C-2A Greyhounds, the 48-strong team from the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VCR) 40 participated in the multinational exercise.
The exercise provided the U.S., U.K. and other countries the opportunity to conduct training designed to sharpen joint warfighting skills and enhance the capacity to conduct combined, multinational maritime operations. The U.S. routinely trains with allies and partners in exercises like Saxon Warrior to ensure mission readiness and interoperability.
VRC-40 used RAF Mildenhall as their forward-operating base to carry out their missions to deliver supplies and personnel to and from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
During the exercise, the George H.W. Bush hosted British personnel aboard, working alongside their American counterparts as part of the U.K.-U.S. Long Lead Specialist Skills Program, which qualifies them in U.S. carrier operations. This vital partnership and training occurred in preparation for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and to bolster the British carrier strike capability.
“Our squadron, the VRC-40 Rawhides, stays based in Norfolk. But every time a carrier strike group goes out, they attach two [carrier onboard delivery] to the carrier air wing part of the strike group,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Joshua Gallaher. “We make sure the aircraft are good to go at all times so we’re prepared for whatever mission is required of us. That way, when the ship requires high-priority parts for the aircraft on board, we coordinate through the Beach Det., our supply system on land, to get those parts out to the ship as soon as possible. Or if they need to get people out to the ship, we’ll take them. We perform a variety of missions.”
Gallaher said this is the first time he has worked out of an Air Force base during this type of deployment. He said they usually operate out of Navy bases such as Souda Bay, Greece or Sigonella, Italy.
“Working as the U.S. Navy, alongside the U.S. Air Force, builds a camaraderie between the two branches overall,” said Gallaher. “I think the Air Force operates differently from how the Navy does, so for them to be able to help us, knowing we would do the same for them, builds a bridge between the two. Being in England, the Air Force has already created a relationship with the locals, so when we come here it means we don’t have any issues.”
Saxon Warrior involved the U.S. Navy assisting the Royal Navy by providing the platform on which the U.K Carrier Strike Group staff were able to operate.
“The strike group staff are currently operating those assets; the Destroyer Squadron 22 and embark Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Light, VRC-40, Det. 2 officer in charge. “The RAF are pretty much running our operations right now, in terms of logistics. When you look at the whole exercise, they’re running the entire air wing through a notional work-up cycle.”
The carrier on board delivery detachments are shore-based and fly out to the ship every day. Light said that there hasn’t been a carrier on board delivery based in England since 2009.
“Our experience with RAF Mildenhall has been fantastic,” Light said, thanking the members of Team Mildenhall for all the support they provided.
The Russian government approved a draft protocol to the agreement between the USSR and the UK signed on July 15, 1986.
The Russian government approved a draft protocol to the agreement between the USSR and the UK signed on July 15, 1986
The draft protocol was prepared by the Defense Ministry and was discussed with the UK side, the portal reads. The Defense Ministry jointly with the Foreign Ministry will have negotiations with the UK to sign the agreement on behalf of the Russian government.
The draft protocol contains changes, which update with 1986 agreement, including in the list of actions, the countries’ ships should not undertake against each other.
For example, the agreement’s provision, which reads “Ships of the Parties shall not simulate attacks by aiming guns, missile launchers, torpedo tubes and other weapons in the direction of passing ships of the other Party” is now amended by a ban for using lasers in a manner, which may hinder health or equipment.
Similarly to this, additional regulations are applied to the actions of aircraft as they approach ships of aircraft of the other party.
A short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning II aircraft took off from the ski jump loaded with Paveway IV and ASRAAM missiles for the first time, BAE Systems announced.
Installed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the ski jump is similar to that which will be used on the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
According to BAE Systems, aircraft BF-02 was piloted by the company’s test pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, the same pilot who was the first to launch the F-35B STOVL variant from a ski-jump.
The aircraft load-out was a UK-specific one as both ASRAAM and Paveway IV are in service with UK’s Tornado and Typhoon fleet of aircraft.
The F-35B is the most expensive of the three aircraft variants and the UK is planning on acquiring close to 140 of them. The acquired aircraft will be used by both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
Ship-borne trials of the aircraft aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth are expected to start in late 2018 with initial operational capability slated for 2020.
Once it is fully operational, HMS Queen Elizabeth will doubtless be the most heavily protected vessel in the Royal Navy. For now, however, it seems the £3bn pride of the British fleet is so lightly defended that a £300 drone can be landed for an unauthorised visit to the aircraft carrier’s decks.
An amateur enthusiast has told how he overflew the largest – and most expensive – warship ever built for Britain’s armed forces with his Parrot Bebop drone before briefly landing on its vast flight deck as it sat, apparently unmanned, on Cromarty Firth in the Scottish Highlands.
The ability of a hobbyist to take a private and unchallenged remote-controlled tour of “Big Lizzy” will raise difficult questions about security surrounding the vessel – as well as throwing into sharp relief the fact that the carrier will not have its own complement of aircraft for authorised take-offs and landings for several years to come.
The drone pilot, who asked not be named, posted footage on Facebook of a series of flights over the carrier while it was docked at Invergordon during ongoing sea trials before it is due to arrive at its new home port of Portsmouth as early as next week.
The enthusiast told the Inverness Courier: “I was amazed that I was able to land on the aircraft carrier for two reasons, the first being that there was no-one to prevent it from landing, although there were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone.”
The amateur flier said he had been forced to land on the deck of the ship after a warning of high winds on the control panel of his drone. He added: “I expected the deck to be steel, which would send the drone’s electronic landing systems haywire, but I was able to touch down OK and took a couple of shots.
There was absolutely no-one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship.” The 65,000-tonne flagship, one of two super-carriers being built for the Royal Navy, has not yet been formally handed over to the military as it continues to be fine tuned by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the consortium that is building both vessels.
Trials with the carriers’ American-built F35B “Lightning” aircraft are due to begin next year but the Queen Elizabeth is not due to be fully operational until 2021. The drone pilot said he had been so concerned about his visit to the carrier that he drove to the dockyard in an attempt to explain in person to the crew what he had been doing but was told there was no-one available because all personnel were ashore at dinner.
The hobbyist added: “The ship has not been commissioned by the Royal Navy yet and doesn’t have aircraft, so I don’t think its defence systems that could block radio signals will be fully operational. If they were, there would be no way I would get within a mile of this vessel. “But it is worth a lot of money and I suppose I could have been a Talibani or anything.”
The incident is the latest security scare involving drones, which have been involved in multiple near misses with commercial jets landing at airports as well as criminal uses such as delivering drugs and weapons to prisons.
A Scottish MSP said he was considering tabling a question in the Edinburgh parliament about the incident. Liberal Democrat Jamie Stone said: “I think the moral of this astonishing tale is that there is a serious question about security for the Royal Navy for it would have been quite easy for someone of evil intent to do something quite serious.
Even a drone crashing into its radar could cause damage.” The Ministry of Defence said it had tightened security on the carrier following the incident.
An MOD spokesperson said: “We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously. This incident has been reported to Police Scotland, an investigation is underway and we stepped up our security measures in light of it.”
Experts from the United Kingdom and Norway will conduct an observation flight over Russia under the Open Skies Treaty on August 24-28, Russia’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center head said Monday.
The plane and the equipment onboard have passed international certification, eliminating the use of technology not covered by the treaty. Russian experts will control the adherence to the treaty during the flight.
“During the August 24-28 period, a mission from Norway and the United Kingdom will conduct an observation flight over the Russian territory on a Romanian AN-30 [NATO reporting name Clank] observation plane within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty,” Sergei Ryzhkov told reporters.
The 34-nation Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 in Finland and currently applies most NATO member states, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and Sweden. The treaty establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territory of its participants with the aim of boosting transparency of military activities.
The Queen Elizabeth is now in British waters to take part in the training exercise known as Saxon Warrior, where it is hosting 60 members of the British Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The training began on August 1.
The British carrier was on its way to Portsmouth after more than two months of sea trials in the North Sea.
The UK has 10 F-35 fighter jets, a Ministry of Defence spokesman told Business Insider UK, but none is in the country. The US contractor Lockheed Martin built them, and they are scheduled to be delivered to the UK in 2018. The earliest they could fly live combat missions is 2020.
The ministry expects to have 138 F-35s in the 2020s, the spokesman added.
With the Royal Navy growing and Britain’s flagship carrier now set to enter her new home, Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin has announced a £48 million contract for next-generation workboats which will support both British ships and British jobs.
The fleet of up to 38 workboats will assist Royal Navy ships from UK bases and on operations all over the world.
With Britain’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier set to enter her new home in Portsmouth in under two weeks time, tasks to be carried out by the boats will include transferring personnel to and from both of the UK’s carriers. Able to carry up to 36 passengers at one time, the workboats can be stowed inside the Carriers and winched to and from the water using on-board lifting equipment, allowing them to support the enormous ships either in port or on operations.
Building and supporting the boats will also sustain 60 British jobs, including 15 at Atlas Elektronik UK near Dorchester in Dorset where the boats will be built. A further 45 jobs will be sustained across the supply chain, including at E P Barrus in Bicester, KPM-Marine in Birmingham and Mashfords in Plymouth.
Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin said:
From the south coast to the banks of the Clyde, British shipbuilding is ensuring that our growing Navy has the reach it needs to protect our interests around the globe. These cutting-edge workboats will support the likes of our iconic new aircraft carriers and the Type 26 frigates, as well as sustaining 60 British jobs. This is another step in our £178 billion plan to provide our Armed Forces with the very best equipment to keep our country safe.
Ranging in length from 11 to 18 metres, the boats will also perform other tasks including officer and diver training, Antarctic exploration and explosive ordnance disposal.
They are highly adaptable to operational demands thanks to their cutting-edge modular design elements. For example, if the Royal Navy wished to quickly redeploy a boat from hydrographic survey duties to support diving for explosive ordnance, the survey module can be quickly lifted out of the boat and replaced with the diving module containing the high pressure air required for that task.
The contract will enable the design and construction of up to 38 boats as well as in-service support for the fleet for a further two years after the final boat is accepted. The first boat will enter service next year.
Chief Executive Officer of Defence Equipment and Support, the MOD’s procurement organisation, Tony Douglas said:
These boats use modern materials and have been designed from the keel up to provide the Royal Navy with unparalleled flexibility and adaptability.
DE&S is proud to maintain excellent working relationships with partners across UK industry, ensuring our Armed Forces continue to be provided with the equipment they need while also maintaining vital British skills and jobs.
The boats will all feature glass-reinforced plastic hulls and advanced twin waterjet propulsion. Despite their varying roles, they will all have the same steering and control system, reducing the need for training and making them simpler to operate.
Germany is emerging as a major defense player in Europe. With the UK leaving the EU, Germany and France are now leading Europe’s efforts to secure the continent. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Stephen Szabo, a senior fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, about Franco-German defense coordination and Germany’s new heightened role in European defense.
The Cipher Brief: At this year’s Aspen security conference, German Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Wittig talked about how Europe can get a lot more bang for its buck if it synchronizes its defenses in support of NATO, and he also mentioned that Germany and France recently decided that common defense procurement is the way to go. Are there any concrete plans or examples of recent defense procurements between Germany and France?
Stephen Szabo: Last month, Germany and France unveiled plans to develop a European fighter jet, although they haven’t decided on joint procurement yet.
TCB: And would that be the first of this kind of agreement between these two countries?
Szabo: I’m not sure about this specific kind of Franco-German project, but the Europeans have the Eurofighter, for example. The Eurofighter aircraft began with a multinational collaboration program between France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain and was designed and manufactured by a consortium of European defense companies.
TCB: So is this idea not really new, but rather it’s being discussed more now because of the Trump administration and concerns over Trump’s policy toward Europe and NATO?
Szabo: Exactly. The Europeans have been talking about this for 20 years. They set up a common procurement agency, the European Defence Agency, in Brussels in 2004 to supposedly enhance European defense because of the reasons that Ambassador Wittig pointed out: they’re wasting their money on duplication of assets. So they’ve been talking about this for a long time, but it never goes very far, partly because people want to protect their own defense industries to the extent that they can, so they try to buy German or buy French, for example. And that makes it more difficult to get common procurement.
A couple years back there was a discussion about having a merger between Britain’s BAE Systems and Airbus parent EADS, but that fell apart because German Chancellor Angela Merkel basically vetoed it because she was afraid of losing jobs in Germany if they went through with this. The big player has been the UK; BAE is still the biggest player by far because they are one of the few European contractors that can do business with the U.S. and with the Pentagon.
That has hindered a joint European procurement effort because the American market is much bigger than the European market on defense. That might change a little bit if people actually start spending more on defense; but I think the problem has been that the biggest player is the UK. With Brexit, the UK’s role in European security is now questionable, which will have implications for European defense.
Another issue with the Germans is that they’re losing out on technology and technological spinoffs that come with developing your own systems. They’re way behind the U.S. in a lot of respects. The Transatlantic Academy just came out with a report, where we had an idea in there that the Germans ought to create a DARPA within the Germany defense ministry. We were trying to make the case that there is a lot of positive development and spinoffs from defense spending; it’s not a zero-sum game. You get not only technological spinoffs, but also you create jobs.
This is an old story that has not gone very far over the many years the Europeans have talked about it. Of course, there are different factors now that are new. I already mentioned Brexit. Another new factor is Russia and the shock with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And the final new factor is the election of President Donald Trump in the United States. With these three developments, the Europeans are talking more seriously now about this.
TCB: Do you think that this confluence of factors – the UK leaving the EU, Russian aggression, Trump’s election – is going to provide the necessary impetus to actually move procurement and other defense cooperation forward?
Szabo: It should, but it probably won’t. Recently, the head of the French defense forces resigned because President Macron made substantial cuts in the defense budget in France, which is of course the biggest European military player now with the UK leaving the EU. The Germans are talking about doing more, but they are so far behind in terms of equipment and capabilities that it’ll take them a decade, even if they’re serious about this. And I don’t see a lot of support for this among either leaders or publics in Europe.
You’re right, this is a new strategic situation. But the kinds of security issues the Europeans are looking at go beyond Russia, which is still not a direct threat to core Europe, neither Germany nor France nor Italy.
The big issue for Europe is terrorism and securing the borders. There we’re already seeing the Europeans trying to do more and reinforce their borders. In the Mediterranean, for example, they’re trying to intercept boats that carry migrants coming over from Libya.
That’s where the EU does have to play a role, because NATO is not really equipped to do that, and even though NATO has tried to do a little bit in that area, they’re not the organization for the job. So in that area, we’ll see more action, but it’s not the kind of big ticket defense spending that people talk about.
Cyber is another big area. The Germans are investing a lot more in cyber now, and the Europeans are investing a lot more in cyber capabilities as well.
TCB:How much does Germany’s history still play into its ability or inability to take more of a leading role on defense?
Szabo: If you go to a place like Poland or Estonia and ask if they’re worried about the Germans becoming a stronger military power, they will say no; they’re happy that the Germans are now becoming a more powerful defense force. In Lithuania, the Germans are part of an enhanced forward presence force that NATO put together for the Baltics. So externally, it’s not a big issue.
Inside of Germany, it’s an issue the Germans like to bring up because a substantial portion of the public does not want to spend more on defense or do more militarily; they don’t trust the military, and so they use that as one argument not to do more.
TCB:When you say “they” inside of Germany, do you mean “they” the policy-makers and people working in defense, or “they” the general population?
Szabo: Both, though there has been a slight shift in public opinion in the last two years toward a readiness for more defense spending. The polls show close to a plurality that’s wiling to at least think about more defense spending. But there’s still an awful lot of resistance to it. The Social Democratic leadership has now made this a campaign issue, claiming the increases are being made to please Trump.
TCB:The defense conversation in Europe often revolves around Germany, France, and the UK. Discounting the UK, since it’s likely soon leaving the EU, are there other countries beyond Germany and France that we should be looking at to take more of a leading role in defense?
Szabo: Absolutely. Poland is number one because of the eastern front issues. Poland is spending substantial amounts of money on defense. They want to be a defense player, but they want to do that within NATO and they don’t trust the EU on Russia and on providing security – they still rely on the U.S. for defense against Russia. This is what complicates things. The Poles would definitely be a player in this, but they want to go the NATO route rather than the EU route, and that’s a big issue.
There are other countries that can play niche roles, like the Netherlands and Spain. But of course there are different strategic perspectives with the Spanish, the Italians, and the French to some extent, looking south at the migration problem, and with the Germans, the Poles, and the Baltic states looking more east toward Russia. So that’s another problem.
The different factor here is that the Scandinavians are now much more constricted by Russia. The Swedes in particular, the Finns, to some extent the Norwegians, and the Danes are all concerned about the Baltic area now – and they see NATO as the most reliable deterrent, not the EU.
TCB:Are there any signs of closer defense cooperation between Germany and Poland either within NATO or bilaterally?
Szabo: The fact that the Germans have put this battalion in Lithuania has been welcomed by the Poles. The Germans have also been doing some exercises with NATO in Poland, so there’s been limited defense cooperation there. There is a political problem between an increasingly conservative and authoritarian Polish government and liberal democratic Germany, but I still think we should expect to see more German-Polish military cooperation – as long as the Poles think the U.S. will remain engaged with them, even as Germany increases its engagement.
TCB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Szabo: There are certain defense issues that the EU is very equipped to deal with: counterterrorism and cooperation between intelligence agencies and police agencies within Europe and on border controls. But on Russia and broader issues, they still need the United States.
Also, there’s better infrastructure at this point for defense cooperation within NATO than within the EU. You can create coalitions within NATO that are more effective than EU coalitions because they have better capabilities. You can then plug these into than the EU, which has been limited to small operations in Africa or little crisis reaction operations. NATO has been looked at as an American dominated organization, but actually the Europeans could do a lot with it if they want to.
Dr. Stephen F. Szabo is currently a Senior Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and a Professorial Lecturer in European Studies at SAIS. He served as the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Academy and was Interim Dean and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and taught European Studies at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. He has published widely on European and German politics and foreign policies, including most recently, Germany, Russia and the Rise of Geo-Economics.