NEW AIRCRAFT CARRIER FOR BRAZILIAN NAVY

The French defence giant DCNS is to help Brazil with the latest stage in its plan to create a navy to match its rising economic power and global status. News that Brazil is to construct an aircraft carrier emerged shortly before it was revealed France has given up its own ambitions to field the same kind of conventionally powered ship.

It was thought a variant of the PA2 design would one day partner the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle but the latest defence white paper released by Paris has firmly rejected that aspiration. Across the Atlantic, defence sources in Brazil said the nation’s fleet intends replacing the carrier Sao Paulo in 2025. A conventional aircraft carrier with catapults and arrester wires (cats and traps), she is the rather elderly former FNS Foch (launched in 1959 by France and commissioned into the Brazilian Navy in late 2000). At 60,000 tonnes (approx) a new PA2 design vessel would be around twice the displacement and able to carry a larger, much more capable, naval strike wing. The current Embarked Air-sea Group of the Sao Paulo is spearheaded by AF-1 Falcao (A-4KU Skyhawk) jet bombers, currently in process of being updated by Brazilian firm EMBRAER. The Sao Paulo hasn’t deployed properly for some years and it is unlikely that she will ever sail again. The exact configuration of the new Brazilian aircraft carrier is totally bound up in the type of aircraft the Brazilian Air Force procures to replace the AF-1s. The three options still believed to be on the table are the US-origin F/A-18, the Rafale (France) and Gripen (Sweden).

 

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LASER WEAPON TO BE DEPLOYED

Senior US Navy officers have announced their service intends fitting an advanced and operational solid-state laser in one of its ships in fiscal year 2014. The date is two years earlier than expected due to a series of technological breakthroughs. The shipboard laser programme is one of the most high priority science and technology projects currently being undertaken by the USN. It aims to deliver an affordable response to asymmetric threats. Platform for the deployment is the Austin Class amphibious transport dock USS Ponce, which was recently reactivated after conversion to a sea base and sent to the Gulf. The laser is part of a wider endeavour to field such directed energy weaponry on air, land and sea platforms. Due to a range of tests and trials onboard warships and against unmanned aircraft, potential shipboard directed energy weapons have become more rugged and powerful. The increase in the power and quality of the laser beams generated has allowed for a doubling of their effective range. Lasers complement kinetic weaponry as part of a layered defence capability against small boats or aircraft. Their flexibility will allow a range of responses, from disabling to destroying any targets. A similar weapon was deployed in British warships during the 1991 Gulf War and kept very much under wraps. Its destructive energy was believed to be limited and was more likely to be used as a means of dazzling, and temporarily blinding, hostile aircraft pilots.

 

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ASSAULT SHIP BASES IN PACIFIC

The Russian Navy has revealed its intention to base new amphibious vessels at Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky when they enter service. The ships, which are due for delivery in 2014 and 2015, are of French origin. While two of the four vessels are for the Pacific Fleet, the others will be assigned to the Northern Fleet, operating in Arctic waters. Highly capable assault carriers, they can launch troops via helicopter and landing craft, plus also operate attack helicopters.

 

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COLLINS REBOOT FOR RAN?

Australia unveiled its latest Defence White Paper last month (May) in which a plan to acquire 12 new submarines to replace the current six Collins Class boats was confirmed. However, the option of acquiring an ‘off-the-shelf’ design has been dropped. This was the cheapest and perhaps easiest option available that would have taken an existing design and made some changes to make it suitable for Australia’s requirements. This leaves an evolution of the existing Collins design or a totally new design as the remaining options. The submarines will be built in South Australia where the core of the nation’s shipbuilding industry is based. Despite speculation, and strong arguments in favour of doing it, there will not be a fourth Hobart Class destroyer. Building an additional Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) would have considerably increased Australia’s naval capabilities and reduced the strain on the vital assets that are likely to be in great demand once in service. However, it is not a cost to which the current Australian administration wants to subscribe.

• There is a closer look at the Defence White Paper in the July edition.

 

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ANGLO-KUWAITI EX

The Kuwaiti military has conducted a series of manoeuvres with the British Duke Class (Type 23) frigate HMS Monmouth. Staged in the northern Gulf, the Kuwaiti Um Al Maradim (Combattante I) Class missile vessel Al-Ahmadi joined Monmouth in ship handling manoeuvres, such as Officer of the Watch exercises to test the ship handling and signalling capabilities of the respective bridge teams. Kuwait’s air force also participated with a pair of its AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopters carrying out simulated low-level air attacks on Monmouth. An AS332 Super-Puma Search and Rescue helicopter later carried out winching exercises from the frigate’s flight-deck as a demonstration of inter-operability. Monmouth has since handed over Gulf patrol duties to the Daring Class (Type 45) destroyer HMS Dragon.

 

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SUBMARINE DELAYS

Already running years behind schedule, the Indian Project 75 submarine construction programme has reportedly been hit with a further setback.

The US $5 billion programme for six submarines – French design Scorpene SSKs under construction at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai – entails a high degree of technology transfer through partnership with local industry players. It had been hoped the first boat would be launched at the end of 2013 and commissioned in 2015. However, the latest assessment of progress has indicated a delay of a further 18 months. France is vying for a follow-on order for a larger variant of the Scorpene to meet a further Indian requirement for six more submarines, though cuts in defence spending appear to be forcing slowing of the pace across the board in naval Indian programmes.

Seafarers UK

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