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28 mars 2014 5 28 /03 /mars /2014 20:50
Merlin Mk2 off the Lizard photo Ian Harding, Air International

Merlin Mk2 off the Lizard photo Ian Harding, Air International


04/03/2014 Royal Navy


The Royal Navy’s new submarine-hunting helicopters will face their greatest test yet when they head into the Atlantic this June in the biggest exercise of its kind this century.


Probably not since the days of the Cold War have so many Royal Navy helicopters been sent to sea on an aircraft carrier for the purpose of hunting submarines as on Exercise Deep Blue in the Western Approaches.

Nine Merlins from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall will join HMS Illustrious to practise skills which were once the mainstay of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier operations at the height of the tensions with the Soviet Union.

It’s the first time the latest version of the Merlin – the Mk2 – has been tested en masse.

After more than a decade on the front line, the Merlin fleet – based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall – is in the midst of a £750m revamp which will help to keep them at the forefront of naval warfare until the end of the 2020s.

Two of the four Merlin squadrons have already been converted to the improved helicopter – which looks the same outwardly, but inside is a completely new box of tricks – including the first front-line unit, 820 Naval Air Squadron.

It will spearhead Deep Blue, with eight new Mk2s due to join the Portsmouth-based carrier, plus one Mk1 – the largest concentration of submarine-hunting helicopters in recent memory, and the largest ever concentration of Merlins at sea.

Nine Merlins on one carrier is a sight no-one has seen – and one no-one involved will ever forget,” said Cdr Ben Franklin, Commander of the Royal Navy’s Maritime Merlin Force.

“We’re looking forward to it big time – the younger guys especially. They’ve heard all the stories about what we did back in the days of the Cold War because, if the balloon goes up, this is what we do.”

A couple of next-generation Merlins from 820 NAS have just returned from a NATO anti-submarine exercise off Norway, Dynamic Mongoose, where they clocked up 60 hours in the skies over the North Sea.

For the first time a Mk2 tracked a boat using both its active ‘dipping sonar’, lowered into the Atlantic to look for boats, and active sonobuoys – which are dropped into the water to do the same.

Dynamic Mongoose was a ‘toe in the water’. Deep Blue is on a far grander scale.

For three Merlins to hunt submarines continuously around the clock – using either their dipping sonar, or passive sonobuoys (‘underwater ears’) listening for them – nine helicopters are needed, hence the size of the operation.

It will also demand the efforts of around 200 personnel, including 18 aircrew – two pilots, one observer and one aircrewman each.

After a week and a half’s training around the UK by day and night, Illustrious and her helicopters will move out into the expanse of the Atlantic for Deep Blue itself, which reaches its climax in mid to late June.

Nine Merlins on one carrier is a sight no-one has seen – and one no-one involved will ever forget

Commander Ben Franklin, Commander of the Royal Navy’s Maritime Merlin Force

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26 mars 2014 3 26 /03 /mars /2014 08:50
Putin, Crimea and US Land Forces In Europe


Mar 25, 2014 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Lexington Institute; issued March 24, 2014)


A specter is haunting Europe; it is the specter of land war. The emerging conflict in Europe is about nationalism, the control of territory and the domination of populations, precisely the kind of fight we were told was passé in the 21st century. The massing of Russian forces along that country’s border with Ukraine is reminiscent of the lead up to Soviet aggression throughout the 40-year-long Cold War. Like that period, the security of the Ukraine and the easternmost members of NATO cannot be guaranteed by airpower alone.


Fortunately, the Russian Army is a faint shadow of what it once was under the Soviets. At the height of the Cold War, the Red Army consisted of about 200 divisions, including more than 40 tank divisions. Around a quarter of these were sufficiently manned and equipped for a relatively rapid conflict and most were deployed in Eastern Europe and the Western military districts facing NATO. There were 20 Soviet divisions in East Germany alone, two in Poland, five in Czechoslovakia and four in Hungary. Non-Soviet Warsaw Pact countries added some 24 divisions to this total. Backing up their land forces was an artillery park consisting of tens of thousands of artillery pieces and rocket launchers, an Army aviation park of thousands of utility and ground-attack helicopters, an Air Force deploying literally thousands of ground-attack aircraft and light bombers and an air defense force with masses of advanced fighters and highly capable surface-to-air missile batteries.


Today, the Russian military has shrunk to perhaps ten percent of its Soviet-era size. Instead of nearly 200 tank and mechanized infantry divisions, there are some 40 combined arms brigades, some still organized into divisions. Most of the equipment, both ground and air, is Soviet vintage, although the Kremlin has been pouring money into the military over the past five years. Recently, the Russian military has been conducting extensive combined arms exercises that also involved elements of the strategic forces.


Unfortunately, the NATO armies that once stood guard along the Iron Curtain are gone as well. Forward positioned NATO forces once consisted of some 20 German, United Kingdom, French, Belgian, Danish and Dutch divisions. The U.S. contributed an additional two corps (four divisions plus support units) of the best equipped and trained combat forces in the world. Additional divisions were deployed by Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Norway.


Today, NATO stands on the brink of true demilitarization. NATO does not spend enough on its military and what is spent isn’t allocated wisely. Ground forces, in particular, have been gutted. Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark have essentially disbanded their heavy armored formations. The U.K., France and Germany maintain only eight heavy brigades, along with a number of lighter infantry, air mobile and marine formations. Poland has a total of nine armored mechanized and cavalry brigades. The U.S. Army in Europe now consists of two light units, the two-battalion 173rd airborne brigade and the 2nd Cavalry regiment. Two stateside heavy brigade combat teams are the designated regionally-aligned brigades for Europe. That is it! On the ground, NATO may be even weaker than the Russian Army.


Moreover, NATO has only recently begun to conduct large-scale combined arms exercises, something that was standard during the Cold War. Nor has the U.S. done an exercise based on reinforcing Europe in about 20 years. In the near-term, a conflict over Ukraine would be decided by which side first suffered a collapse of its logistics system.


With respect to events in Eastern Europe, the U.S. and NATO should heed the advice of Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak and increase its military presence in Poland and in other NATO members in Central and Eastern Europe. It would be a good idea to return at least two heavy brigades to the European continent.


The irony is that before Crimea, the U.S. and its NATO allies had pretty much decided to exit the business of preparing to fight major conventional land wars. In the FY2015 budget, the U.S. Army cancelled its last new-design armored fighting vehicle program, the Ground Combat Vehicle. In fact, the Army had insisted that it could shutter this nation’s sole tank production facility at Lima, Ohio for four years.


Literally, events on the ground are challenging our vision of future conflicts. They also call into question current proposals to reduce the size of the active Army to 420,000 and to retain significant heavy land and air capabilities in the National Guard. Vladimir Putin may have saved the West from the folly of believing that fantasy could become reality merely by wishing it so.

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16 octobre 2013 3 16 /10 /octobre /2013 07:50
Lavrov stigmatise l'aspiration à revenir à la logique de "guerre froide"

BRUXELLES, 15 octobre - RIA Novosti


La Russie constate que dans les discussions sur la sécurité en Europe, les partenaires occidentaux manifestent leur aspiration à revenir à la logique de la "guerre froide", a indiqué mardi à Bruxelles le chef de la diplomatie russe Sergueï Lavrov.


"On constate en règle générale dans les discussions sur les voies de renforcement de la sécurité européenne un déficit de confiance, l'aspiration à revenir à la logique de "guerre froide": soit avec nous, soit contre nous", a déclaré le ministre, intervenant à l'Institut royal des relations internationales Egmont.


"Mais on oublie l'expérience historique qui prouve avec éclat que les tentatives d'isoler la Russie ont eu des conséquences extrêmement graves, voire tragiques, pour l'ensemble du continent européen. Par contre, de longues périodes du développement pacifique étaient liées à une participation active de la Russie à la résolution des problèmes européens", a souligné M.Lavrov.

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