LASER WEAPON TESTED IN THE GULF

A shipboard laser weapon capable of shooting down drones or destroying Fast Attack Craft (FAC) has been undergoing a series of tests by the US Navy. The operational trials aboard USS Ponce have been progressing well in a region of the world where there is a latent threat from various types of asymmetric warfare (potentially emanating from pirates, terrorists, or Iran).

Tehran has invested heavily in drones, FAC and low-flying aircraft presumably to use against larger, better-equipped (more conventional) naval opponents or to attack merchant shipping.

Early tests of the USN laser have been promising, with target drones destroyed. The US $40 million 30 kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LaWS) works by having six solid-state commercial welding lasers converge to focus on a target at a maximum range of ten miles. The laser can either dazzle a target or be set to destroy it. Testing is continuing, and will likely take 12 months. Providing all goes well there are hopes to deploy the weapon across the USN by 2017.

 

DANISH WARSHIPS TO BE ARMOURED

The Iver Huitfeldt Class frigates and Absalon Class support ships of the Royal Danish Navy (RDN) are to be fitted with extra protection supplied by Dutch company TenCate Advanced Armour. It will protect mission critical areas of the ships, with lightweight armour modules fitted in the next few months. The armour is able to withstand a variety of threats that are likely to be encountered during operational deployments and can also weather rough sea conditions.

 

US MARINES TO FLY FROM RN CARRIER?

According to a report broadcast on BBC TV the small number of F-35Bs ordered by the UK in its first batch has provoked a suggestion the US Marine Corps (USMC) should operate from the two new RN carriers.

In the past the USMC has cross-decked its Harriers to operate from Invincible Class carriers of the British fleet, so such a scheme would represent a continuation of that past custom. The BBC report claimed MoD insiders were floating the idea.

If true, it could provide essential training and even front line experience for the Royal Navy. Due to the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) the UK scrapped its strike carrier capability until the two new ships could be commissioned into service, but the introduction into service of British F-35B squadrons is likely to lag behind, creating a further gap.

 

UK STRUGGLES WITH T26 FRIGATE COSTS

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) will miss a deadline to award BAE Systems a contract to build the Global Combat Ship (aka Type 26 frigate) and it is likely to be some months before this can take place. There are reportedly question marks over the affordability of the programme.

It is aimed, however, to make progress ahead of the General Election (May 7 next year). The forthcoming Defence and Security Review (DSR) and possible spending cuts slated for 2016 pose further uncertainty. Whereas previously the end of the year had been targeted for a production investment decision to commence the 13-strong construction programme, some defence experts have suggested the Type 26 should be abandoned altogether in favour of the Franco-Italian FREMM frigate design (already in mass production). MoD officials have, however, dismissed this.

The MoD maintains progress is being made on refining the T26 design. The MoD may not be in a position to approve the programme until at least the second quarter of 2015. The programme is also the focus of an independent cost review by consultants McKinsey. Whether progress is dependent on the completion of this is presently uncertain. BAES has previously stated its desire to cut first steel in 2016 at a £200 million facility it hopes to build at one of its two Clyde shipyards.

In the meantime design work continues and it is still hoped the first Type 26 can be delivered in 2022. Production of the Type 26, should it finally get going, is likely to continue until 2030. The vessel is to provide the backbone of the British fleet alongside the six Daring Class (Type 45) destroyers, and two Queen Elizabeth Class strike carriers.

 

SONAR AGREEMENT

India has signed a long-awaited US $51 million agreement with Atlas Elektronik for six Active Towed Array Sonar (ACTAS) systems for its Talwar Class frigates and Delhi Class destroyers. The deal had been delayed for a number of reasons since the tender was issued in 2008, with the German company beating off rivals from France and the USA. Under the terms of the deal Atlas Elektronik will transfer technology to allow a further ten ACTAS systems to be built in India.

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