Friday, 8 March 2013

Some links and videos 08/03/13

Today I'm going to try something a little bit different. I'm using a new font called "Georgia". I used this font at the end of my last post and noticed two things about it; 1) it shows up much darker on the finished page, so it should be easier to read and 2) it appears much bigger on my editing page, so I won't have to strain as much to see the screen. And on that note, let's dive into this weeks links and vids. It's a big 'un.

There will be a partial theme to this week, but there's a few interesting things that I want to draw your attention to first.

We start with the Royal Navy hydrographic survey vessel HMS Enterprise. As she passed through the Red Sea, having left the Egyptian port of Safaga, Enterprise discovered and surveyed an under sea canyon. The images that she was able to create with her multi-beam echo sounder are truly fantastic and well worth a look. The link to the story is here.

Next up, the Royal Navy's latest Astute-class nuclear attack submarine has been commissioned into service. Ambush has now formally become HMS Ambush, and pending the completion of her sea trials she'll be handed over to the Royal Navy later this year. Link here.

Sticking with the Royal Navy for a little longer, the Ministry of Defence is looking into the feasibility of creating an anti-ballistic missile capability on the Type 45 Destroyer. This is a capability that some warships around the world have now acquired, with Japanese Destroyers having "live fire" tested their ability to shoot down satellites as a demonstration of their ability to track and engage high speed orbital objects. One of the first things to be investigated on Type 45 is whether its radars can do the same. Full story here.

Now we're going to start getting into the nitty gritty of today's post.

The theme (of sorts) picks up from where I left off last time I did one of these links and videos posts; training. Accept today we're introducing an international flavour to things.

Recently over at Think Defence I was taking part in a discussion that led me to sharing some of my recent thoughts on defence cooperation between the UK and its international allies. For me, and considering the reductions that are taking place in the armed forces, working with foreign partners will only become more - not less - important. So I was pleased to find a number of links around the web that pick up on this theme.

One of our most important partners at the minute is France, reaping the fruits of recent defence cooperation treaties signed between our two countries. The evidence of this partnership is already beginning to show as demonstrated for example by Exercise Steel Sabre, conducted on the Otterburn ranges in Northumberland. 

French artillery gunners have been practising alongside UK soldiers to improve cooperation and interoperability. The following two videos give you an excellent run down of whats been happening, including a look at a rather fancy facility for artillery spotting;

But it's not just the army getting in on the act. A Royal Navy Lynx from 815 Squadron has been on anti-piracy patrol in the Indian Ocean as the on board helicopter for the French frigate Surcouf, which is ironic given that the vessel is named after a French officer who made his fame and fortune as a corsair attacking British merchant shipping in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Full story here.

Jet aircraft will also be getting a run around, starting on Monday, as UK and French forces take part in a two week exercise in the South of Wales as part of the work up to prepare the two countries for the formation of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force. 

Three squadrons of French naval combat aircraft - including two squadrons of Rafales - as well as French paratroopers and forward air controllers, will be working alongside British forces to practice the coordination of air support into fire plans involving things like mortar and artillery fire.

The bombing and strafing runs will take place at two training areas. The first is the ranges at Castlemartin. If you go to Google maps and type in "Mount Sion covert" then the map should zero in on the middle of the extensive range area. The Pembrey range is to the east. If you type in "Pembrey airport", then the strafing range is right next to it amongst the sands, although Pembrey is now largely an electronic range.

Here's a link to the full story about that.

Moving away from operations alongside the French, British forces have also been conducting a number of exercises around the world with other partners. 

Out in the Gulf, four minehunters, an RFA Bay-class landing ship, and a pair of Frigates, have been taking part in a mine warfare exercise alonsgide sailors from the US. More details here. Also, Merlin helicopters from 814 and 829 Naval air squadrons have been taking part in a major NATO anti-submarine exercise off Sicily, combating both Italian submarines and Italian volcanoes as part of exercise "Proud Manta". Article here.

British forces have also been training in climatic extremes, as B Squadron of 1st The Queens Dragoon Guards have been in Brunei testing their Jungle skills alongside the Gurkhas. Read more here

Which brings us to the end of today's piece. My hope is that at some point over this weekend I can sit down and put fingers to keys on a more detailed explanation of my thoughts regarding international cooperation, where I think we could focus, and why, fleshing out some of the details of the thoughts I first laid down on the forums of Think Defence.

Time permitting, as ever.

Don't forget if you want to share this article on twitter or Facebook, there should be some buttons down below that will let you do that. Or you can copy and paste the web address at the top. 

As Tesco are fond of saying; every little helps.


  1. I hope someone's keeping an eye on all these French on UK soil. I'm stringing my longbow, just in case.

  2. @WiseApe,

    Worth a deeper read than Wikipedia on this:

    Also, given the fact that potential conflict over Gibraltar has taken a terrifying leap from measurably impossible to merely absurd (near-thirty percent unemployment in Spain will do that sort of thing), a quick read about the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719 is worth a visit also :)

    @ Chris,

    Finally got round to reading that open-thread comment of yours down the local about cooperation. Good you've planned an article over here. Yes, French first; whenever the German-speakers, as they so often do, turn inward, Les Froggies should of necessity be the first place to turn. Other than them, I would say at sea Canada and the Netherlands (also Portugal), and on land Norway and Denmark. (If the Dutch hadn't foolishly axed their Leopards, without even buying a few CV90-120 for heavy-gun overwatch of their recce cavalry, I would nominate the Netherlands first and France second, followed then by the Scandies. Likewise if the Dutch had bought a BPE when they were cheap, and F-35B for the Konijklike Luchtmacht, punting Hr. Ms. Rotterdam to the Indonesians. Oh well-- horses, for wishing beggars, the riding thereof.)

  3. And that's just Europe, of course -- in retrospect, except that it made a "clean break" (clean break? FPDA anyone?) for east-of-Suez, the UK should have held on to Soqotra when South Yemen became independent, as a British Djibouti (and a far more defensible alternative to the Cyprus SBAs, tops on my list of "imperial legacies that need their craniums examined.") Instead I'd nominate Masirah, and really, FPDA very much considered, I think gearing up for any kind of presence, even non-military, east of Masirah is a fool's errand. Cutting to the cloth, to me, means concentrating on the length and breadth of the Atlantic, plus Africa (including thereby the western edges of the Indian Ocean and the coastal states thereof.) Plenty to do there, plenty of import for Britain, and I fear plenty of crises ahead. All this happy guff about "Europe the peaceful backwater" is I fear getting slowly shredded by the twin pincers of austerity and demographic paranoia on both sides of the Mediterranean (e.g. the European right's terror of a brown Europe and the Maghribi/Levantine establishment's terror, born out in more practical terms than the European rightists' by things like Libya and Syria, of their overpopulated and disaffected youth.) Those uncannily blue waters of the Med might as well be made of gunpowder instead: there's economic and demographic crisis abroad in Algeria, Spain, Libya, and Eygpt; Syria is the new Bosnia; who knows what the Turks plan to be up to down the line; Greece and Turkey are about one-and-a-half financial crises each away from open war with each other (keep an eye on the Golden Dawn, that's a red sky in the morning if ever there was); Spain is far, far closer now to a hot mess than anyone is physically or emotionally able to admit to themselves; "Libya" has been a foreign invention since the Romans and will continue to prove that fact with intermittent bloodshed; and are the Balkans ever doing more than taking a breath for water and stretching during an on-field substitution?

  4. @ Jackstaff,
    I can agree with a lot of that. I think perhaps Europe is a little safer though. Important for Europe is the level of economic integration that makes conflict inside the region difficult (perhaps the sole use of the EU), especially because of the closer military ties that many of us have now, such as the Franco-German brigade.

    We have scars on our collective psyche, the legacy of fascism. Luckily now everytime that begins to gain traction somewhere, cooler heads tend to prevail and shut it down. Disorder in Europe? Maybe. I'm not sure war is a major worry.

    The periphery is another matter though.

    This is why I need to sit down and write a full bore post on it, so I can splurt out all my ideas onto one page.

    @ WiseApe,
    Sleep with a dagger under the pillow as well. They can be sneaky these French.

  5. Hi chris

    For current exercises don't forget about Red Flag, we've got XI Sqn and 12(B) Sqn out at Nellis now.

  6. Aye, I was watching that video you put up on Think Defence and then another that the same fella posted which gives an excellent run down of some of the details of what they do at Red Flag.

    Air Boyd has also just put a video up of an F-35 arriving at Nellis. Heard anything about what it's doing there?