October’s top stories: Railgun prototypes and submarine designs

5 November 2012 (Last Updated November 5th, 2012 18:30)

As the US Navy tested a second prototype railgun, the UK Royal Navy's plan to replace its Vanguard fleet progressed further. Naval-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from October 2012.

October’s top stories: Railgun prototypes and submarine designs

UK-led Joint Warrior 2012 exercise begins

Joint Warrior

The latest instalment of Nato's largest military exercise, Joint Warrior, was held off the coast of Scotland with the aim of improving the capabilities of the armed forces when responding to unexpected worldwide threats.

Participating nations included the UK, US, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France, Norway, Denmark and Estonia, with a range of missions taking place at HM Naval Base Clyde.

Participating units conducted piracy, narcotics and insurgency operations, mine countermeasures and electronic warfare training, as well as tactical intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

US Navy begins second prototype EM Railgun launcher testing

EM railgun programme

Testing has commenced on a railgun prototype developed by General Atomics, the second such prototype to enter testing in 2012.

The Office of Naval Research has placed orders with Raytheon, BAE Systems and General Atomics to develop a pulsed power system designed to launch projectiles with rapid succession, and testing of BAE's prototype was carried out in February.

Managed by the Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department, the long-range naval weapon features advanced composites and fires projectiles using electricity with improved barrel life performance.

ONR Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department EM railgun programme manager Roger Ellis said: "We're evaluating and learning from both prototype designs, and we'll be folding what we learn from the evaluations into the next phase of the programme."

Lockheed team to develop new autonomous technology for ONR

The US Office of Naval Research has contracted Lockheed Martin to develop autonomous technologies to support unmanned vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The $13.5m deal will see Lockheed Martin work on technology designed to enable a human operator to intervene and control the unmanned aircraft system for high-level operations.

Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems and Sensors business Airborne Systems director Roger Il Grande said: "Some of our cutting-edge technology has already been demonstrated on K-MAX for the army's Autonomous Technologies for Unmanned Air System programme, and is now deployed with the Marine Corps on the aircraft in Afghanistan."

Lockheed's K-MAX drone, built in collaboration with Kaman Aerospace, has been designed to perform autonomous or remote-controlled cargo delivery in harsh environments, such as Afghanistan.

China to hold naval exercises on East China Sea

East China Sea

Tensions within the East China Sea increased as China's Navy held naval exercises in the area, close to the location of a set of islands with contested ownership.

Known as Diayou in China and Senkaku in Japan, a number of protests have occurred after Japan purchased the islands last month.

Chinese authorities defended the decision to hold the exercises, releasing an official statement claiming that the exercises were aimed at "improving coordination between the navy and administrative patrol vessels and sharpening their response to emergencies in missions to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime interests".

The statement also claimed that the fishery administration and marine surveillance agency's patrol vessels have previously been tracked, harassed and obstructed by foreign vessels when carrying out missions in disputed waters.

UK Royal Navy's Successor submarine programme moves ahead

UK Royal Navy

The UK Royal Navy's Successor programme, designed to replace the navy's fleet of Vanguard-Class nuclear submarines, progressed with the award of an additional £350m in funding for the next stage of design work.

As part of the latest funding, announced by defence secretary Philip Hammond, BAE Systems will receive an additional £315m and Babcock a further £38m to carry out their respective work on the programme. "This latest expenditure for the next-generation of nuclear-armed submarines is an investment in UK security and the British economy, sustaining high-quality jobs and vital skills," Hammond added.

The four Vanguard-Class submarines currently operational with the UK Royal Navy were planned to be decommissioned in 2022 as part of the strategic defence and security review (SDSR), but their operation life has since been extended to 2028.


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