July's top stories: HMS Queen Elizabeth, France-Russia Mistral deal

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has christened the UK Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth-class (QE) aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, while France is set to deliver Mistral-class aircraft carriers to Russia as planned, despite objections from key allies. Naval-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from July.


Romeo

HMS Queen Elizabeth christened

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has christened the UK Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth-class (QE) aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, at Babcock's Rosyth dockyard in Fife, Scotland.

Marking 'the start of a new era of British sea power', the christening also represented a key moment in the project to build two new carriers, which has attracted criticism over its £6.2bn cost and height of ambition.

Construction of the vessel involved more than 10,000 people at shipyards across the UK. Upon christening, the navy will begin sea trials for the vessel in August 2016, followed by commissioning in May 2017.

France to deliver Mistral-class vessels to Russia despite protests from key allies

mistral-class

France will deliver Mistral-class aircraft carriers to Russia as planned, despite objections from key allies, the UK and US, over Moscow's reported involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, President Francois Hollande has said.

Speaking to reporters, Hollande was quoted as saying: "The Russians have paid. Should we repay €1.1bn if the boat was not delivered to the purchaser?

"For the time being, a level of sanctions has not been decided that would prevent this delivery.

"The contract was signed in 2011, the boat is almost finished and should be delivered in October."

US Navy admits it cannot meet 30-year funding requirements

The US Navy has admitted that it cannot meet its funding requirements for surface warships and a new class of nuclear-attack submarines between 2025 and 2034, the latest 30-year shipbuilding plan has revealed.

In the congressionally required blueprint, the navy noted that it 'requires funding at an unsustainable level' unless spending on shipbuilding is increased.

Furthermore, the report highlights the challenges of increasing the navy's fleet to 306 vessels from the present 289, while constructing 12 new Ohio-class submarines, which are part of the nation's nuclear triad of air, land and sea weapons.

South Korea and US embark on joint naval drills

South Korea and the US have kicked off joint naval drills off the southern port of Mokpo, amid increasing tensions with North Korea.

Led by the US Navy's USS George Washington aircraft carrier, the joint exercise is aimed at bolstering US and South Korean forces' combined ability to counter maritime special operations force insertions.

The five-day naval drill involves six US vessels, together with several South Korean Navy vessels, in addition to US and South Korean Air Force combat aircraft, both in the seas off the east and west coasts of South Korea.

Australian Navy's Romeo helicopter successfully fires first Hellfire missile

The Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) MH-60R Seahawk Romeo maritime combat helicopter has successfully launched its first AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile in the US, marking a key milestone in the Project AIR 9000 phase eight programme.

Australian Fleet commander rear admiral Stuart Mayer said: "[The] navy's next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter will be the cornerstone of our working navy's aviation combat capability.

"The new aircraft's multi-mission and multi-target precision strike capabilities will increase our versatility and potency as a high-end fighting force."

The missile was launched by RAN's 725 Squadron from Romeo, which is currently deployed to the US Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre off the Florida coast.

HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier nears final assembly

prince of wales

BAE Systems has delivered a large section of hull for the UK Royal Navy's second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales to Rosyth, UK, for the final assembly of the vessel.

Claimed to be heavier than the complete Type-45 destroyer, the 8,000t lower block 03 will form the mid-section of the aircraft carrier's hull, from the keel to the hangar deck.

Upon anticipated structural completion by July 2016, HMS Prince of Wales will start sea trials in January 2019, followed by acceptance in August of the same year.

UK's AW159 Wildcat helicopters to be integrated with FASGW missiles

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The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract to AgustaWestland to integrate future anti-surface guided weapon (FASGW) heavy and light missile systems onto the Royal Navy's AW159 Wildcat helicopters.

Under the £90m contract, the company will integrate, test and install two missiles - the MBDA FASGW (Heavy) / ANL (Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) / Anti Navire Léger) and the Thales Light Multirole Missile (LMM) (FASGW (Light) - onto 28 AW159 Wildcat helicopters by 2020.

UK Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Philip Dunne said: "FASGW state-of-the-art missiles will provide Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters with unparalleled strike capabilities."

Northrop to upgrade US Navy's Mk2 ship self-defence system

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract by the US Navy to provide a full range of engineering services for upgrades on the ship self-defence system Mk2 (SSDS Mk2).

Awarded under the SeaPort-e IDIQ contract vehicle, the $12m task order could reach $61m if all options are exercised over the five-year period.

Designed to offer anti-air defence to US and allies' aircraft carriers and amphibious vessels, the SSDS Mk2 reduces the detect-to-engage cycle by coordinating the existing sensors, self-defence weapons and countermeasures.

Australia to upgrade Nulka active missile decoy launch system

The Australian Government has approved an upgrade of the Nulka active missile decoy defence system, as part of the SEA 1397 Phase 5B project.

With an overall investment of between $100m and $300m, work under the initial development of the updated launch system is expected to be carried out by BAE Systems Australia, and will involve engineering design and risk-reduction activities.

Defence Minister Senator David Johnston said: "I am pleased to be able to announce that the government has approved [the] first pass for SEA 1397 Phase 5B, [the] Nulka launch sub-system upgrade, including around $45m in funding.

"This project aims to update and replace the existing Nulka launch sub-system for Australian ships."

Royal Navy's HMS Ocean completes engineering sea trials

hms ocean

The UK Royal Navy's amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean has successfully completed the initial phase of engineering sea trials, after undergoing a multimillion-pound refit.

The trials, held off the south-west coast, involved testing of the vessel's propulsion plant, auxiliary machinery and steering to the limit, while reaching speeds of more than 20k, the fastest achieved by the vessel since being built.

HMS Ocean senior engineer commander Shane Doran said: "There is a formidable amount to do when you bring a warship out of refit.

"That we have achieved so much in record time is down to the commitment and skill of the ship's engineering technicians."