dijous, 20 de desembre de 2012

Britain: A Long-Term Contract to Support the Royal Fleet Auxiliary *

The UK Ministry of Defence’s concerted effort to reform its defense support operations continues. Overall, “future contracting for availability,” rather than paying for parts and labor hours, remains the overall direction. The Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, which provided a number of services in and around the Royal Navy’s major ports, wasoutsourced to Serco in a GBP 1 billion December 2007 contract.
Now, a deal that could last for 30 years is providing provide through-life support for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of Britain’s oilers, supply ships, and landing ships.
  • RFA: The Fleet
    • A New Support Model for the RFA
  • Contracts & Key Events
  • Additional Readings

RFA: The Fleet
RFA Largs Bay & Cruise ship
RFA Largs Bay -
now HMAS Choules
(click to view full)
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is a civilian-manned fleet, owned by the Ministry of Defense, which supports Royal Navy ships around the world with fuel, ammunition and supplies. The USA’s MSC uses a combination of civilians and Navy personnel, while RFA personnel are uniformed civil servants employed under the UK Merchant Shipping Act. They are structurally aligned with the Royal Navy and have a high level of specialist military training.
Britain’s RFA operates 6 Point Class 23,000t roll-on/roll-off sealift ships, operated under a Public/Private Finance Initiative.
Its stores/ dry-cargo ships include 2 Fort Rosalie Class 23,384t vessels, and the 33,675t RFA Fort Victoria. All 3 are expected to be retired in favor of 3 MARS Fleet Solid Stores ships, to be ordered over the next 10 years.
The 4 MARS Tide Class tankers ordered in 2012 will replace the RFA’s 2 current Rover Class 16,160t oilers, and the 37,874t RFA Orangeleaf. In truth, the 4 ships new ships are replacing 5, because another 2 Leaf Class oilers were retired between the original 2008 RFA support contract and the MARS Tide Class deal: Brambleleaf (2009) and Bayleaf (2011). Overall tonnage remains about the same.
The RFA’s 2 Wave Class 31,500t oilers will continue to serve for many more years, alongside the Tide Class.
The 28,000t RFA Argus was originally purchased as an aviation training ship, but following a refit, its main role these days is as a hospital ship.
When the new contract arrangements began, the RFA had 4 Bay Class 16,160t amphibious assault ships, built on the same base “Enforcer” design as the Dutch Rotterdam family and Spain’s Galicia Class. In 2011, the UK’s budget difficulties forced the RFA to sell Largs Bay to Australia very early in her service career, and the ship departed these support arrangements when it because HMAS Choules. The other 3 ships of class remain in the RFA.

A New Support Model for the RFA

RFA Bayleaf
RFA Bayleaf, 1982-2011
(click to view full)
The winning contractors under the new model will maintain ‘clusters’ of ships that are assigned according to their duties and capabilities. Their responsibilities involve the necessary refueling and refit work for the RFA vessels throughout their service lives. The Navy and Minister of Defence will work closely with the contractors to improve their understanding over time, and also help them forecast their workload farther into the future.
This kind of predictability is critical to the maritime industry, which often suffers when order swings and uncertainty make it difficult to maintain a core workforce of skilled and experienced people. This BBC quote is an excellent illustration of the phenomenon, which is not at all unique to Britain:
“Trainee engineer Fred Hawkey, who found work at the docks after a succession of short-term jobs, said: “Employment is a bit hit and miss down here. You may only get work for the summer so if it means I will have regular work for the foreseeable future that would be good.” “

Development & Updates

RFA Wave Ruler
RFA Wave Ruler
(click to view full)
Dec 3: Next phase. Britain’s Ministry of Defence issues the next phase of maintenance contracts. These are expected to be worth GBP 349 million, even though the fleet under care has declined from 16 ships to 13 ships. The oilers Brambeleaf and Bayleaf were retired, and Largs Bay was sold to Australia. The contract is touted as supporting around “800 jobs in the UK maritime sector”, and the companies involved are:
  • A&P Group Ltd’s ship repair facility in Falmouth
  • Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders Ltd. in Birkenhead
  • Hempel UK Ltd, based in Cwmbran
  • Lloyd’s Register, based in Bristol
  • Trimline Ltd, based in Southampton
*Article publicat a Defense Industry Daily. Tot i no ser tant coneguda com el Military Sealift Command nordamericà, la Royal Fleet Auxiliary compleix un vital paper en suport de la Royal Navy. Creiem important seguir-ne la evolució.

dimecres, 12 de desembre de 2012

No hands on deck – arming unmanned surface vessels*

Armed unmanned surface vessels lag far behind their aerial equivalents in terms of technical capability and deployment, but that may be set to change with a new US Navy programme to develop ocean-going drones into mobile missile launchers. Berenice Baker reviews recent international interest in weaponising naval drones and examines how they could be used.

Mini Typhoon Weapon Station
Designed for anti-tank warfare, possibly the last place you'd expect to see a Rafael Spike fire-and-forget guided missile would be at sea, let alone on a robotic boat, but they may offer a step towards revolutionising sea warfare. The US Navy has for the first time launched six Spike missiles from an unmanned surface vessel precision engagement module (USV PEM), successfully hitting a floating target as far away as 3.5km.

The demonstration was carried out by the Chief of Naval Operation's Expeditionary Warfare Division and the Naval Sea Systems Command's Naval Special Warfare Program Office as part of efforts to develop an arsenal that could successfully engage armed small boat swarms.

The USV PEM platform is an 11m-long inflatable hulled vessel armed with a 0.50 calibre gun alongside the missile launcher. Remotely operated by shore-based sailors at the US Navy's Patuxent River base, the PEM aims, fires and updates the missile in flight.

The Spike missile uses electro-optic and infrared sensors to identify and lock onto the target and send updated targeting information back to the operator through an ultra-thin fibre optic tether.

"The USV PEM project was developed in response to recent world events which have increased the concern over swarms of small attack craft, as well as threat assessments outlined in recent studies conducted by the Naval Warfare Development Command," said Naval Special Warfare Command assistant programme manager Mark Moses.

"The study punctuates the effectiveness of these swarm attacks against both military re-supply ships and naval vessels. Technology demonstrated in this project can provide a capability to combat terrorists who use small low-cost vehicles as weapons platforms."

Israel's pioneering Protector USV

Given its pioneering and market-leading approach to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) it is perhaps little surprise that Israel is ahead of the game in armed USVs too.

Made by Rafael Defense Systems, the Protector Unmanned Naval Patrol Vehicle was deployed as far back as 2005 by the Republic of Singapore Navy, which is continuously plagued by pirates in the Strait of Malacca.

The rigid-hulled inflatable boat has since seen action supporting coalition forces in the Persian Gulf and protecting shipping from pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Fitted with a remote-controlled, stabilised Mini Typhoon Weapon Station that can operate a range of small-calibre guns, its anti-terror mission payload includes a search radar and Toplite electro-optical pod to enable detection, identification and targeting.

UK to move from underwater to surface

Royal Navy's Type 26 Global Combat Ship
Royal Navy's Type 26 Global Combat Ship

In August 2012 the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced new plans for a fleet of armed maritime drones, including USVs, to reduce costs and carry out dangerous and repetitive tasks in support of Royal Navy operations.
Papers published by the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) sought help from defence manufacturers to develop vessels which could provide greater support to maritime operations, such as mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and missile defence.

The document identified that USV technology could be used to track ships and provide intelligence to maritime forces, particularly in combination with other types of drones and in support of covert operations.
"A range of unmanned systems including UUVs, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) may be used to support these maritime tasks and could be expected to perform a number of roles, including, but not limited to, remote sensing, communications relay, delivery of effects such as the deployment of weapons or countermeasures," the report said.
Demonstrating the Royal Navy's support for robotic vessels, its future warship, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, is specifically designed to launch and operate aerial, underwater and surface drones.

Canada considering USV technology

In June, Canada announced that the Royal Canadian Navy was also seeking a fleet of maritime drones, including USVs. Defence Minister Peter MacKay told The Canadian Press that while USV technology was in its infancy compared with aerial drones, they could have a role to play in the near future of the Canadian Navy.
"We're surrounded by water," he said. "Unmanned vessels, like unmanned aerial vehicles, give us reach and capability without the same risk. It allows you to keep harm at a distance, so there's a lot of interest."
In May, the Canadian Ministry of Defence awarded Rolls Royce Naval Marine Canada a C$3m contract as part of a project to automate the deployment of USVs, for everything from detonating mines to checking for oil spills.

Ecuador combating pirates with USVs



Not all armed USV development is in the hands of the big spenders, some is driven by necessity, such as the Ecuadorian Navy's bid to beat piracy in its waters. In February, it tested its prototype USV, B.A.E. Esgrum, on the Guayas River.

Developed for coastal patrol and jungle operations, the Esgrum is less than two metres-long, has a range of five kilometres and comes with an on-board sensor suite, CPU, camera and communication system.
Its weapons system consists of an electronically-ignited assault rifle with no moving parts and a rocket launcher operated by a fire control system.

Built using exclusively commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) materials without technical assistance from other countries, the USV can be remotely operated in remote mode or work in fully autonomous mode to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Navy research director Eduardo Cadena said: "Under ideal conditions, the USV can detect installations occulted by high-density vegetation. Basically, you can't see the robot, but the robot can see you."

* Article publicat a Naval Technology. Compartim amb vosaltres aquest article per l'ampli ventall en matèria d'unitats de superfície no tripulades, un tema de plena actualitat.

dimecres, 5 de desembre de 2012

Gunboat diplomacy: Indian navy ready to set sail to South China Sea*

Indian naval warship INS Ranjit (D53) (AFP Photo / Juni Kriswanto)
Indian naval warship INS Ranjit (D53) (AFP Photo / Juni Kriswanto)

India will deploy warships to the South China Sea if the country’s regional interests are compromised, the Indian Navy commander said. As China bolsters its military, the region has witnessed rising tensions over unresolved territorial disputes.
­India is not directly involved in any of the disputes, but its national interests are tied to the turbulent region, Admiral D K Joshi said on Monday, a day ahead of India’s Navy Day. Delhi may deploy its forces to the region if the situation deteriorates.
“Are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is 'Yes,'” Joshi said.
India’s prime concerns in the dispute are freedom of navigation for all countries, and the extraction of oil by a subsidiary of the Indian Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONSC) off the Vietnamese coast, he explained.
The Indian Navy’s military actions are a bit late, but meant to defend the country’s interests in the region, Sreeram Chaulia, the dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, told RT.
“It's seen as a belated but necessary move by the Indian military to be able to say that if our interests are now so widespread, then we will also need to show our capabilities to defend our interests come what may. And of course, the situation in the South China Sea has been deteriorating in terms of security and a high level of competition and bickering between some ASEAN countries and China,” said Chaulia.
Drill station Scarabeo 9, working in partnership with ONGC Videsh (Reuters / Desmond Boylan)
Drill station Scarabeo 9, working in partnership with ONGC Videsh (Reuters / Desmond Boylan)
­ONSC Videsh operates three oil exploration blocks in the region. The company announced its possible withdrawal from one of the blocks this year over difficult drilling conditions and unclear prospects on returning a profit, but eventually stayed after Vietnam offered to extend the contract.
However, the territory is contested by China, which claims ownership of the area. Beijing has objected to India’s drilling program, but Delhi dismissed the concerns.
“Should there be a need for some protection [to the ONGC], the Navy will be called upon and we will do that,” Joshi said.
Joshi made his remarks as Indian national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon visited China to for talks with Beijing’s new leadership. Delhi aims to bolster its military forces to counter a similar buildup in China.
"We have 44 warships and submarines on order, 42 of them in Indian shipyards. Over the next five years, we expect to induct five to six warships/submarines per year," Joshi said.
In spite of this fact, India’s naval forces are not strong enough to challenge Beijing, Chaulia told RT. 
“I think that India’s naval chief’s statement is more about enhancing on capabilities. He’s saying that we’re trying to be more prepared. Certainly the eastern command of the Indian Navy is no match to the People’s Republic of China Navy… There is no comparison,” Chaulia said.
Vietnam will set up civilian patrols, backed by marine police and a border force, beginning January 25 to stop foreign vessels from violating fishing laws in Vietnamese waters. The move is seen as a response to Chinese media publishing new rules stating that police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan can board and seize foreign vessels in the disputed territories.
The oil-rich South China Sea has seen a number of territorial disputes between nations in the region, including China, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapure, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.
The Chinese naval buildup, which includes the ongoing sea trials of the nation’s first aircraft carrier, have troubled its neighbors, who say that Beijing’s military superiority gives China undue leverage in the disputes.
Joseph Cheng, a Hong-Kong based political analyst, said the latest tensions are about showcasing military might: “Because of domestic nationalism, the Indian government can’t afford to be seen to be weak in dealing with China. Chinese authorities, on one hand, have to satisfy domestic nationalist sentiment, and at the same time, it would like to avoid serious conflict, an escalation of tension with its neighbors.”
Territorial claims by nations in the South China Sea region.
Territorial claims by nations in the South China Sea region.
*Notícia publicada a RT.com . Tot i no descobrir gaire res de nou, creiem bó compartir aquest article per recordar com es mouen les peces al taulell d'escacs marítim del Sud-est asiàtic.