Type-31 Frigate Key to U.K. Royal Navy’s Growth – USNI news

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Steel for the U.K. Royal Navy’s first new Type 31 frigate was cut on Sept. 24, raising hopes that the service may secure a larger fleet of frontline warships in the long term.

With the fall in the total number of in-service frigates and destroyers in the Royal Navy, the service is expected to reach a record low of 16 to 17 hulls by the mid-late 2020s. The five Type 31 ‘Inspiration-class’ frigates are part of the drive to push the total back to more than 19.

The first ship, to be named HMS Venturer, is due to launch by 2023, with the next four on a drumbeat of one per year starting in 2024. Deliveries of all five ships are expected to be completed by 2028. Prime contractor Babcock is building the ships at its facility in Rosyth, Scotland.

During the steel cutting event, Second Sea Lord Vice Adm. Nick Hine tweeted optimistically: “They said we couldn’t do it – together with Babcock, conceived as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, contracted in 2019, steel cut in 2021 and all 5 delivered in under a decade.”

Given that most defense procurement programs experience some kind of cost increase and schedule delay, the projected timeline may not come to fruition. However, the Type 31 has made good progress in the last two years given the troubled start of the project – it failed its first attempt in July 2018, when no bidders could meet the $336 million unit price.

The Type 31 was conceived in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) once the U.K. Ministry of Defence realized it could not afford to replace all 13 of its Type 23 Duke-class frigates with the new specialist anti-submarine warfare Type 26 City-class. Instead, it split the buy and only ordered eight Type 26 ships, with the five Type 31 designated as general purpose frigates.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) that Hine referred to is the U.K. MoD’s attempt to move away from relying on a single naval construction company in BAE Systems. BAE Systems is building the Type 26 and has delivered most of the Royal Navy’s existing inventory, but the increasing cost of the Type 26 and the earlier Type 45 Daring-class destroyer led the MoD to try and diversify the industrial base.

The £1.25 billion contract with Babcock for the Type 31 was awarded in November 2019. The contract still has a unit price of $336 million, but with the more costly equipment requirements removed. The actual price per ship is likely to be much higher.

New P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft arrives in Scotland – UK Defence Journal

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RAF Lossiemouth have welcomed their newest Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, ZP806.

The submarine-hunter, named ‘Guernsey’s Reply’, is the sixth Poseidon aircraft to arrive at the Moray base and will operate as part of the re-established 201 Squadron.

The Royal Air Force say here that the aircrafts name honours the close bond between 201, the island of Guernsey and Jurat Herbert Machon OBE who named his Mk XVI Spitfire ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ during World War II.

Wing Commander Smolak, Officer Commanding 201 Squadron, was quoted as saying:

“I am thrilled to welcome Guernsey’s Reply to RAF Lossiemouth.  Not only does this mark a further increase to our maritime air capability here at RAF Lossiemouth but it is also a fitting tribute to the association between 201 Squadron and Guernsey. 

Everyone on 201 Squadron is very proud of this long-standing association and the history which it represents. As we move forward, we must continue to foster the links which brought us to where we are now, and I am personally grateful to be able to play my small part.”

Poseidon is equipped with sensors and weapons systems for anti-submarine warfare, as well as surveillance and search and rescue missions. It features an APY-10 radar for high-resolution mapping, an acoustic sensor system, an electro-optical/IR turret and electronic support measures.

Nine Poseidon MRA Mk. 1 aircraft have been ordered.

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Scottish shipyards to build 24 warships between 2015-2035 – UK Defence Journal

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With the recent news that Rosyth will build a warship for Ukraine, the total number of warships being built in Scottish shipyards between 2015 to 2035 now stands at 24.

In addition to the now built 5 Offshore Patrol Vessels, there are plans for 8 Type 26 Frigates, 5 Type 31 Frigates, 5 Type 32 Frigates and 1 Ukrainian warship to be built in Scotland.

Ukraine previously signed a memorandum with the UK to secure £1.25 billion in funding to build new military vessels for the Ukrainian Navy, the first ship will be constructed in the UK and the remaining 7 vessels will be built in Ukraine.

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RAF Lossiemouth’s £100m Poseidon facility named the ‘Atlantic Building’ as base marks double milestone – The Northern Scot

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RAF Lossiemouth marked a double milestone today as its £100 million Poseidon Strategic Facility was officially named as the “Atlantic Building” and a new Standard was presented to CXX Squadron.

With the Atlantic Building as a backdrop and flanked either side by two submarine-hunting Poseidon aircraft, 60 personnel from CXX Squadron formally paraded for the first time since re-forming last year.

The personnel on parade were accompanied by the RAF Lossiemouth Pipes and Drum Band as families, guests and local dignitaries looked on. VIP guests included Bill Robertson, CEO of locally-based Robertson Construction, which built the Atlantic Building.

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UK military opens first space command centre – BBC news

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NATO Secretary General praises UK role in alliance – UK Defence Journal

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the UK as a key ally in talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday, focusing on preparations for the NATO Summit on the 14th of June.

The Secretary General said:

“It’s great to be back in London and thank you so much for your strong personal leadership on strengthening our transatlantic bond. The bond between Europe and North America. And the United Kingdom is really a staunch and highly valued NATO Ally. You invest a lot in our common security. And I had the pleasure of visiting the HMS Queen Elizabeth off the coast of Portugal last week and that is really an impressive aircraft carrier, demonstrating the commitment of the United Kingdom to our common security, to our collective defence.

And we need that commitment because we live in a more unpredictable world, with more global competition and therefore we need to strengthen our Alliance and that is exactly what we are going to do when I’m looking forward to welcoming you and all the other NATO Leaders to our Summit in Brussels in June in two weeks time where we will demonstrate our strength, bold and forward looking agenda, and demonstrate our commitment to standing together. The transatlantic bond, not only in words, but also in deeds. So once again, thank you much.”

He also thanked the UK for showing leadership on defence investment.

Looking towards the NATO Summit, Mr Stoltenberg stressed that the gathering of Allied leaders will demonstrate the Alliance’s strength and transatlantic unity at a time of increased global competition.

Royal Navy test artificial intelligence against supersonic missile threats off Scots coast – The Sun

THE NAVY has tested artificial intelligence against supersonic missile threats for the first time at sea as it ushers in a new age of autonomous defence.

The live-fire drill test of the state-of-the-art fleet’s naval air and AI missile defence capabilities has been playing out off Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and Norway’s Arctic coast this week.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) say the Royal Navy trial is part of Nato’s Exercise Formidable Shield, which runs until June 3.

HMS Dragon leads the group equipped as a dedicated air defence destroyer designed to shield other vessels with her Sea Viper missile system.

Using her Sampson radar – the spinning ‘spiked egg’ atop her main mast – the Portsmouth-based warship has the ability to detect and follow a missile’s progress from launch to ‘splash’ when it is destroyed.

The research is being led by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) scientists – with the AI also being tested on frigate HMS Lancaster and Argyll.

The ships all have capability to destroy missile threats travelling an mindblowing 12,000mph – 16 times the speed of sound.

They can also knock out sea-skimming drones simulating missiles, weaving at high sub-sonic speeds in a bid to outfox the radars tracking them.

The MoD said the AI improves the early detection of lethal threats and gives Commanders rapid assessments.

The trial is testing two AI systems, Startle and Sycoiea. The first provides live alerts to sailors monitoring the air for threats and latter identifies the threat to advise on the best weaponry and manoeuvres.

HMS Lancaster’s Weapon Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Commander Adam Leveridge said: “Observing Startle and Sycoiea augment the human warfighter in real time against a live supersonic missile threat was truly impressive – a glimpse into our highly-autonomous future.”

In one crucial test HMS Dragon’s Sea Viper missiles are tested to intercept a Firejet target drone, racing over the Atlantic at more than 400mph but just 20ft above the waves.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “It’s vital that our brave and highly skilled armed forces stay ahead of the game for the security of the United Kingdom and our allies.

“The Royal Navy’s use of AI for the first time at sea is an important development in ensuring readiness to tackle threats we may face.

The AI-based applications are also being tested to ensure they work alongside existing radar and combat management systems.

DSTL’s programme manager Alasdair Gilchrist said: “DSTL has invested heavily in the systems that are installed at the moment, but it’s imperative that we continue to invest to make sure that the Royal Navy remains relevant now and in the future.

“Being able to bring AI onto the ships is a massive achievement, and while we can prove the AI works in the labs, actually getting Navy personnel hands-on is brilliant.”