November's top stories: UK’s Type 26 construction in 2017, USMC’s F-35B testing

The first steel cut for the UK Royal Navy’s next-generation Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) will be held in summer 2017, the USMC’s F-35B Lightning II aircraft undergoing testing aboard the USS America and a new report finds the UK Royal Navy has "woefully low" level of operational vessels. Naval-technology.com wraps up key headlines from November.


First steel cut for UK Navy’s Type 26 GCS to take place in summer 2017

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed that the first steel cut for the UK Royal Navy’s next-generation Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) will be held in summer 2017.

The Type 26 programme is a multirole warship development programme jointly undertaken by BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to replace the navy’s Type 23 frigates.

Under the project, eight anti-submarine Type 26 GCSs will be built to focus on three core roles, warfighting, maritime security and international engagement.

USMC’s F-35B Lightning II aircraft to begin testing aboard the USS America

The US Marine Corps’ (USMC) seven F-35B Lightning II aircraft are scheduled to start testing aboard the US Navy’s amphibious assault ship, USS America (LHA 6).

Two F-35Bs will undergo the third shipboard phase of developmental test (DT-III) and five are scheduled to conduct operational testing.

F-35 Patuxent River ITF Government Flight Test director assigned to VX-23 Lieutenant colonel Tom Fields said: "It is exciting to start the execution phase of our detachment with VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1) on USS America."

New report finds UK Royal Navy has "woefully low" level of operational vessels

A UK Defence Committee report said that the Royal Navy has a "woefully low" number of operational vessels, and lacks the required personnel to renew them.

The report stated that "the current number of frigates, destroyers and personnel inadequately reflects the potential threats and vulnerabilities facing the UK and its interests overseas."

According to the report, the navy’s forces have shrunk to "dangerously low levels", from 13 destroyers and 53 frigates in 1980 to six destroyers and 13 frigates today.

US DARPA funds second Tern technology demonstrator

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started funding the development of a second test vehicle under the tactically exploited reconnaissance node (TERN) programme.

Tern, a joint programme between DARPA and the US Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR), is aimed at forward-deploying small ships such as destroyers and frigates as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

DARPA programme manager Dan Patt said: “Adding the second technology demonstrator enhances the robustness of the flight demonstration programme and enables military partners to work with us on maturation, including testing different payloads and experimenting with different approaches to operational usage.”

BAE receives funding to support Cuttlefish system development for RAN

BAE Systems received funding from the Australian Government to support the development of a counter-surveillance capability, Cuttlefish system, for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to enhance its defence capability.

The $4.9m funding follows a three-year, $32m contract awarded to the company in October this year to provide an improved anti-ship missile test capability, the future advanced threat simulator (FATS), an airborne radar system for the RAN.

BAE will support RAN’s Cuttlefish project, which aims to provide RAN with the capability to create, disrupt and block an adversary’s surveillance and protect its platforms in real-time.

DCNS wins support contract for French Navy's Le Triomphant-class submarines

The French Navy Fleet Support Department contracted DCNS for the routine maintenance of the Le Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).

The through-life support contract requires DCNS to maintain four Brest-based SSBNs, Le Triomphant, Le Téméraire, Le Vigilant, and Le Terrible, for a period of nine years.

The latest deal is a direct follow-on to the previous SSBN routine maintenance contracts, DCNS said in a statement.

RNoN successfully tests Kongsberg’s one-shot mine disposal weapon system

The Royal Norwegian Navy (RNoN) successfully tested Kongsberg Defence Systems’ latest one-shot mine disposal weapon system, Minesniper MkIII, aboard the RNoN’s mine countermeasures (MCM) vessel.

The live-firing event, which was part of the system’s sea acceptance test, was conducted outside Ramsund Naval Base in northern Norway.

During the test, the mine disposal system successfully fired two Minesniper MkIII weapons against a moored mine and a bottom-laid mine.

Indra and UPM partner to develop sensors for the Spanish Navy’s F110 frigate

Indra agreed to partner with the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) to develop and integrate sensors for the Spanish Navy's future F110 frigate.

Under the partnership agreement, which has been reached under the Industrial Plan for the PROTEC F110 programme UPM will collaborate with Indra on analysis, design and development of features for the identification friend or foe (IFF) system.

Additional areas of collaboration include the X-band radar for the surveillance of surface and low-flying aerial targets, and the radar electronic support measures (RESM) system.

Airbus delivers first three Panther helicopters to PT Dirgantara Indonesia

Airbus Helicopters delivered the first three AS565 MBe Panther helicopters to industrial partner PT Dirgantara Indonesia during a ceremony held at its headquarters in Marignane, France.

The delivery is part of an agreement under which Airbus will supply 11 AS565 MBe helicopters to its Indonesian industrial partner, which as the design authority will carry out reassembling and outfitting of the rotorcraft in-country.

The outfitting is expected to cover the installation of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) suite, such as dipping sonar and torpedo launch systems. The ASW suite will enable the Indonesian Navy to carry out demanding missions.

Indian Navy commissions newest Kolkata-class destroyer INS Chennai

The Indian Navy commissioned its indigenously-designed new Kolkata-class (Project 15A) guided missile destroyer, INS Chennai, at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai, enhancing the nation’s defence capabilities.

INS Chennai represents the third and last of the Kolkata-class destroyers built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders, Mumbai.

Construction of the three Kolkata-class destroyers was approved by the Indian Government in May 2000 and INS Kolkata was the first vessel commissioned in 2014, followed by INS Kochi in 2015.