Thursday, April 17, 2014

UK business buoyed by £5 million Royal Navy refit

A Plymouth-based company has been awarded a £5 million contract to overhaul the interiors of all the Royal Navy's ships and submarines.

A craftsman at work in Lang & Potter's Plymouth workshop (stock image) [Picture: Copyright Lang & Potter]
A craftsman at work in Lang & Potter's Plymouth workshop. Picture: Copyright Lang & Potter.

The investment by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to refurbish chairs, mattress covers, bed linen and curtains across the fleet will secure more than 200 jobs at Lang & Potter.
New materials and colours schemes will be used to improve recreational and living areas for crews, who can be at sea for up to 180 days at a time.

Junior rates' sleeping quarters
Junior rates' sleeping quarters onboard Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring. Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Amanda Reynolds.

The MOD’s Chief of Materiel (Fleet), Vice Admiral Simon Lister, said:
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the living conditions at sea. The quality of the ship’s furnishings is important to keep crews safe and comfortable whilst deployed around the world.
Supporting this British small business will create more jobs, and keep morale high both in Plymouth and at sea.

Upholsterers at work
Upholsterers at work in Lang & Potter's Plymouth workshop. Picture: Lang & Potter.

Lang & Potter will provide new soft furnishings to the Royal Navy over the next 4 years. The contract will enable them to recruit and train new staff adding to a team of over 200.
David Potter, Managing Director at Lang & Potter, said:
We are extremely pleased to have won this contract to deliver highly specialised textiles that meet the Royal Navy’s stringent requirements whilst helping men and women at sea feel as much at home as possible. It’s a challenge we are very much looking forward to, and we hope to bring some innovative ideas that provide both value for money and improved practicalities.
Winning this contract will safeguard existing jobs at Lang and Potter and will enable us to recruit and train new staff.

Sailors watching TV in a junior rates' mess
Sailors watching TV in a junior rates' mess onboard HMS Illustrious. Leading Airman (Photographer) Gary Weatherston.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kaman New Zealand SH-2G(I) Achieves First Flight

Bloomfield CT April. 15, 2014-- Kaman Aerospace announced today that the first New Zealand government NZ SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite helicopter began production flight testing at Kaman’s Bloomfield, Connecticut facility. After production flight tests, this aircraft will be used for maintenance and aircrew training. The program is on track with deliveries of all ten aircraft scheduled to be complete in mid-2015.
The first New Zealand government NZ SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite helicopter began production flight test ...
The first New Zealand government NZ SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite helicopter began production flight testing at Kaman's Bloomfield, Connecticut facility. (Photo: Business Wire)
“This milestone is significant for the program and our continued commitment to the New Zealand Maritime Helicopter Capability project,” said Drake Klotzman, Kaman’s Director, AVMRO Programs.
Peter Lowen, New Zealand Defence Force Project Manager, stated, “This flight of a NZ SH-2G(I) with a ‘Kiwi’ roundel represents a major milestone. The effort invested by the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force in cooperation with Kaman is now paying off.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

William P. Doyle Surveys Construction Sites of Expanded Panama Canal; Provides Latest Updates

Commissioner William P. Doyle with U.S. Ambassador to Panama, Jonathan D. Farrar
Commissioner William P. Doyle of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission surveyed the construction site on the Pacific-side of the expanded Panama Canal during the week of April 6, 2014.
Commissioner Doyle stated: "I would like to thank Jonathan D. Farrar, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Panama and his staff for working with my office organizing meetings with the various agencies and stakeholders in Panama." He continued, "I really appreciate the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) executives and staff taking the time to explain the mechanics of the existing canal and for walking me through the construction sites of the expanded Canal—special thanks to Ilya R. Espino de Marotta, Executive Vice President Engineering & Program Management ACP, and Esteban G. Saenz E., Executive Vice President, Executive Vice Presidency of Operations ACP."
FMC Commissioner William Doyle and Ilya Espino de Marotta EVP Engineering & Program Mgt. Panama Canal Authority
Based on viewing construction sites of the expanded Panama Canal and the information provided by ACP executives and staff, Commissioner Doyle reports the following:
As of the beginning of April 2014 the completion percentages are as follows:
  • Pacific access channel 82% complete
  • Pacific Entrance dredging 100% complete
  • Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut dredging 86% complete
  • Design and construction of the third set of locks 67% complete
  • Atlantic entrance dredging 100% complete
  • Raising Gatun Lake's maximum operating level 69% complete
The Panama Canal is about 48 miles which connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
The vessels passing through the Canal enter the channels and are raised through a lock system up to the level of the man-made Gatun Lake. By opening the gate at one end of the chamber, the water levels between the lock and the connected body of water equalize, allowing the ship to pass from one water level to another.
The Panama Canal requires three chambers in each lock complex to achieve balanced water levels for ship passage. Once the vessels travel across the lake and reach the other side of the Canal, the process of equating the water levels is reversed so the ships may return to sea level and be released into the Ocean.

Third Set of Locks—Water Saving Basins

Water Saving Basin Intake - Discharge Feeds to the Culverts
The new locks, constructed on both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides, will use less water than the existing locks. Each complex will feature three chambers with three water-saving basins per chamber, a lateral filling and emptying system and rolling gates.
Inside the Chamber Culvert Commissioner Doyle Receiveing Construction Update from EVP Engineering & Program Mgt Ilya Moretta
The existing locks on the Canal do not utilize water saving basins. Thus, the filling and emptying system works through a series of ports (manholes) located at the bottom of the chambers. As the locks fill and empty, the excess water used to fill or empty the chambers are supplied or discharged back into the lake or the ocean.
The new locks on the expanded canal are designed to operate with a system of lateral ports, called culverts, which are located in the chamber’s wall. These massive culverts are wide enough to allow the transit of two railroad lines. The new lock system will operate by gravity feed (the existing locks are gravity fed as well). These water-saving basins are the same length as a chamber -- 1,400 feet. However, the depth of each basin is 8 feet. These water savings basins, once operating, will be the largest in the world. And, it is anticipated that with this system, the lock operations will reuse roughly 60% of the fresh water that is consumed. The existing Canal utilizes about 2 billion gallons of water per day—so the water saving basins are needed because the consumption rate for the expanded Canal will be double the existing Canal’s usage.
According to the Panama Canal Authority, with the lateral filling system, each lock chamber will be able to fill in 10 minutes when the water-saving basins are not in use and 17 minutes when in use.

Rolling Gates

Rolling Gate Recess Pacific Side Expanded Panama Canal Project
The rolling gates for the new locks move in and out of gate recesses. They will roll on two sets of wheels that travel along supports and crane rails located along the recesses and the bed of the lock. The wheels are located diagonally opposite each other and support about 10% to 15% of the weight of the gate. The rest of the weight will be "floated" in buoyancy chambers.
In all, the new locks will require 16 rolling gates. The gates are operated by a winch and motor system. Thick wire ropes are used to pull the gates in and out of the recesses. Importantly, the new rolling gates do not need to be removed and transported to dry-dock for maintenance and repairs (unlike the gates on existing canal). The ability to roll in and out of recesses in the chamber allows for greater flexibility in the ACP’s maintenance program. The sealed recesses create their own dry-dock per se where maintenance and repairs can be conducted on the gates. In addition, having a pair of gates in each chamber provides a safeguard for lock operations. While one gate is being repaired vessel traffic can continue through the functioning gate.

Excavation of the Navigation Channels

To connect the new locks with the current Canal channels, a 2-mile access channel is required on the Atlantic side. The Pacific side requires two access channels in order to connect the lock with the channel to Gatun Lake, as well as to the entrance from the sea. To accommodate larger ships, the width of each channel is 715 feet. Furthermore, the existing channels must be dredged to accommodate the larger vessels. The sea entrances on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides will have to be widened to at least 740 feet and deepened at least 51 feet below the level of the lowest tides.

Pacific Access Channel

Excavation of a new channel to connect the new Pacific locks with Culebra Cut is required. The project will result in the excavation of nearly 1.7 billion cubic feet of material. This project was divided into four phases. The first three phases have been completed.
With respect to the fourth phase, the required depth for the navigation channel has been reached. Construction continues on a 1 ½ mile long dam necessary to make up for the 23-foot level difference between Miraflores Lake and the Pacific Ocean.


The expansion program includes dredging projects on the entrances of both oceans, Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake. The actual deepening and widening activities on the Atlantic and Pacific entrances have been concluded.
Pacific Entry Dredging
This project consisted of the widening and deepening to about 50 feet below mean low water level of the Canal’s Pacific entrance navigational channel. The work entailed dredging 307 million cubic feet of sub aquatic material.
Atlantic Entry Dredging
Dredging the 8.6 mile - long channel for the new Atlantic entrance called for the removal of approximately 606 million cubic feet of material. The channel was widened from its original 650 feet to 740 feet. In addition, the ACP decided to deepen the channel beyond an originally anticipated 51 feet to a depth of about 53 feet.

Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut

This project calls for the removal of approximately 1 billion cubic feet of material to straighten the curvatures of the Culebra Cut. Culebra is the narrowest part of the Canal. Therefore, deepening and widening of the navigational channel in Gatun Lake is necessary.
In 2011, dredging and excavation work to create the north entrance to the new Pacific Access Channel was completed. The flooding of the area was conducted late in the same year. Since, 2011, dredging in the northern reaches of Gatun Lake has also been completed. And, therefore, according to the ACP, the Culebra Cut straightening project has been completed.

Raising Gatun Lake's Maximum Operating Level

Standing in Expanded Panama Canal Chamber Pacific Side Construction Site
Gatun Lake is part of the Canal's shipping channel, serves to generate hydropower, and is a water source for communities located adjacent to the waterway both in Panama City and Colon. Its dam and spillway structures also provide critical flood protection for the canal and surrounding region. The spillway is the primary hydraulic outlet from Gatun Lake to the Chagres River. Its purpose is to control the lake level, meet the water supply and navigation demands and to protect Gatun dam, the Gatun and Pedro Miguel Locks and other facilities around the lake shoreline from flooding. The ACP’s plan is to raise Gatun Lake ´s maximum water operating level from 87 ½ feet, to about 90 feet to improve the Canal ´s water supply. This improvement is intended to increase reservoir capacity by approximately 5.8 billion cubic feet of water. As part of this project, the 14 gates of the Gatun spillway have been extended and two additional gates were constructed.

Next Steps: Finish Construction, Pilotage Training

FMC Commissioner William P. Doyle Exiting from the Culvert Port into the Expanded Canal Lock Chamber
The construction continues. According to ACP officials the expanded Canal is on target to be operational by December 31, 2015.
The Panama Canal Pilots have been training on a full mission bridge simulator since 2011. In fact, in September 2011, the 13,100 TEU containership, Maersk Edinburg, maneuvered into the Canal’s new locks for the first time in a simulation exercise designed to help validate new pilotage and maneuvering procedures. At this time it appears the Atlantic side lock and chamber system will be completed first. According to ACP officials, once completed, the Pilots will perform several months (4-6 months) of actual shipboard transits through locks—into Gatun Lake—and back through the locks into the Atlantic. At this time, Canal Authority officials are looking to secure a size-appropriate training vessel for the program.

Germany – P-3C Aircraft Upgrades and Related Support

The German maritime patrol aircraft of the type P-3C ORION on his last flight in the Horn of Africa.
Official photo

Washington April 11, 2014 – The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Germany for P-3C aircraft upgrades and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $250 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on April 11, 2014.
The Government of Germany has requested a possible sale for the procurement, integration, and installation of hardware and software to upgrade the aircraft mission computer and acoustic systems, and non-integrated simulator equipment on 8 P-3C aircraft. The hardware and software include A (structural and electrical) and B (Weapon Replaceable Assemblies) kits for future integration into the simulator. Also included are the design, development, integration, testing and installation of a ground-based mission support system (which includes the Portable Aircraft Support System and Fast Time Analyzer System); validation and acceptance; spare and repair parts; support equipment; personnel training and training equipment; publications and technical documentation; U.S. Government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $250 million
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the military capabilities of a NATO ally and enhancing standardization and interoperability with U.S. forces.
This proposed sale will update hardware and software to ensure the P-3 aircraft maintain operational capability. The upgrades will enhance Germany’s ability to participate in future coalition operations and will promote continued interoperability. Germany will have no difficulty absorbing this upgraded equipment into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Owego, New York; General Dynamics in Bloomington, Minnesota; Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia; and Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Manassas, Virginia. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. government or contractor representatives to Germany.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

U.S. Coast Guard Orders Four Response Boats-Medium

Response Boats-Medium
The RB-Ms are designed to meet Coast Guard mission requirements for search and rescue; ports, waterways and coastal security; drug interdiction and migrant interdiction. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
April 11, 2014 - The U.S. Coast Guard placed a delivery order with Marinette Marine Corp. (MMC) April 3, 2014, to produce four Response Boats-Medium (RB-M). The order is valued at approximately $9.5 million.

This delivery order brings the total number of RB-Ms under contract to 174. To date, 152 RB-Ms have been delivered to the Coast Guard. Boats are currently under production at facilities in Green Bay, Wis., and Kent, Wash.

The RB-Ms are designed to meet Coast Guard mission requirements for search and rescue; ports, waterways and coastal security; drug interdiction and migrant interdiction. The RB-Ms are replacing the Coast Guard’s 41-foot utility boats and other large non-standard boats with a standardized platform offering enhanced capabilities to meet the Coast Guard’s operational requirements. 

Coast Guard Concludes Last Phase of Small Unmanned Aircraft System Demonstration

The Insitu ScanEagle “takes off” during the Coast Guard Research and Development Center’s demonstration of a small unmanned aircraft system at Wallops Island, Va., in February. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.

At the conclusion of its seven-hour sortie, the unmanned aircraft “lands” via a “SkyHook” recovery system. On an earlier demonstration aboard a National Security Cutter, the retrieval arm was located to allow the aircraft to fly beside the cutter to enhance crew safety. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.
Wallops Island April 11, 2014 - The sunshine promises warmth, but the wind is brisk and biting. The grounds of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore are wet from early morning rain, but there is no sign of the snow that fell on Washington overnight. The weather conditions underscore the importance of the simulated mission: in the frigid water beyond, there are three stationary targets, “victims” in need of Coast Guard assistance.

The small unmanned aircraft – an Insitu ScanEagle – is catapulted into the sky and quickly disappears. It loops in and out of sight, a recognizable “airplane” for only a moment before it vanishes again.

Minutes pass. Eyes scan the sky, hoping for a glimpse of the elusive aircraft. Then attention goes to the video screen, where a dark spot can be seen amid the churning water. The camera zooms in, revealing an inflatable raft. The aircraft transmits position data to the ground control station – information that in an operational scenario would direct rescue crews to the distress scene.

Demonstration Provides Insight 
into sUAS Capabilities, Needs

The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) conducted the third and final demonstration of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) Feb. 10-21.  This phase of the exercise focused on physical configuration constraints and operational effectiveness of a representative sUAS under a range of operational scenarios.

Earlier phases of the demonstration plan were conducted on board Coast Guard Cutters Stratton and Bertholf. The initial shipboard demonstration on Bertholf was designed specifically to see how daily operation of an sUAS could be integrated with NSC crew routines, said Cmdr. Al Antaran, Aviation Domain lead with the Office of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation. “The demonstration really showed how little of an impact operation of the sUAS system had on the other work the crew had to do on the ship.”

The demonstration also highlighted another benefit of the sUAS versus manned flight time. “With a helicopter, you are using hundreds and hundreds of gallons of fuel,” Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Vajda, sUAS sponsor representative, said. Comparatively, the ScanEagle can generally complete a 12-hour flight on a single gallon.

The demonstration at Wallops Island was conducted to get a better picture of “the efficacy of capabilities the industry can provide to the Coast Guard for missions over a maritime environment,” Antaran said. “Industry is mainly concerned with the land-based UAS. We are concerned mainly with new technologies to provide detection capabilities over sea.” The NASA facility provided the necessary maritime environment without the limitations of actually being at sea. “We didn’t have to take time away from any of our Coast Guard missions to do this testing,” he said.

One of the newest technologies being demonstrated is an auto detection capability for the surveillance video provided by the sUAS. “When the system detects a pixel that is an anomaly, it alerts the crew,” Vajda said.

The key to the auto detection system’s usefulness is in selecting the right camera for the sUAS, Vajda said. “It is very dependent on the quality of the camera. You need a certain level in order to be able to identify what you are looking at. But if the quality of the camera is too good, it will pick up too many anomalies, which negates the benefit.”

The just-concluded phase of the demonstration included both stationary and moving targets with different payload configurations. Rain, a low cloud ceiling and wind all restricted the sUAS’s functionality.

The RDC is planning to submit a final report encompassing all three phases of the demonstration to the project sponsor, CG-7, in August 2014.

Moving Forward to the Acquisition Phase

While the ScanEagle was used for each phase of the demonstration, the Coast Guard currently is reviewing proposals that might fit its strategy for unmanned surveillance from the National Security Cutter (NSC) class.

Maritime air surveillance is a critical component to Coast Guard cutters’ capabilities to secure, safeguard and provide effective stewardship of activities in the maritime domain. Studies have documented significant gaps in the Coast Guard’s ability to meet air surveillance targets, and embarked air assets are critical to extend cutters’ information, surveillance, reconnaissance and communication capabilities.

The NSC project’s Operational Requirements Document and Acquisition Program Baseline include a key performance parameter of 12 hours of unmanned flight time. “Unmanned flight really cuts to the heart of the issue,” Vajda said. “It is imperative that we provide air surveillance, but it should be accomplished at minimal impact on the (NSC) crew. That is impossible to do with a manned aircraft.”

The sUAS also can be flown in conjunction with manned helicopter flights, Vajda said. “You can dismantle it and get it into the hangar in around 15 minutes, to make room for the helicopter. In a real emergency situation, you could push it over the side. That is one of the benefits of it being unmanned, you are never putting personnel at risk.”

The first milestone of the sUAS for the NSC project was reached Aug. 27, 2013, when it was designated a non-major acquisition and moved to the analyze-and-select phase, said Steve Kellogg, UAS project manager. The next milestone will come when alternatives are identified and the Acquisition Directorate moves to acquire an initial system for testing, he said.

The sUAS will address the NSC’s immediate need for a persistent airborne surveillance capability, said Vajda. The sUAS will support all missions, including search and rescue, defense readiness, drug interdiction and other law enforcement, migrant interdiction and marine environmental protection.

The sUAS procurement involves nine complete systems, Vajda said, one for each of the eight NSCs and one for the shore-side support center. A system consists of the unmanned aircraft, a ground control station, launch and recovery equipment, associated link equipment and a support kit. Cost and performance tradeoffs of having one versus two aircraft per system are being evaluated.

Commonality with existing DHS and DoD systems is one of the key acquisition requirements, Vajda said. Other requirements include ability to remain airborne for at least 12 hours, operation by a single pilot seated at a single-person ground control station and a payload consisting of an electro-optical moving video sensor, infrared moving video sensor, aeronautical transponder, VHF/UHF communications relay, non-visible infrared marker and a 50 percent growth margin.

The Coast Guard recently conducted market research through a Request for Information for UAS capabilities that could meet the above requirements.  Numerous responses were received, and initial evaluations are being conducted. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Russian Aircraft Flies Near U.S. Navy Ship in Black Sea

140414-N-KE519-017 CONSTANTA, Romania (April 14, 2014) The forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) approaches Constanta, Romania, for a scheduled port visit. Donald Cook, the first of four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to be forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is serving on a scheduled patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility as part of the president's european phased adaptive approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III/Released)

April 14, 2014 – A Russian attack aircraft repeatedly flew near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Black Sea on April 12, a Pentagon spokesman said today
USS Donald Cook was patrolling in the western Black Sea when an unarmed Russian Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft repeatedly flew near the Navy ship, Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters.
“The aircraft did not respond to multiple queries and warnings from Donald Cook, and the event ended without incident after approximately 90 minutes,” Warren said. “This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries.”
Two Russian aircraft were present, but only one took part in the provocative actions, Warren said. The aircraft flew from near sea level to a couple of thousand feet, he added, but never overflew the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
“The Russian plane made a total of 12 passes,” he said.

File:Sukhoi Su-24 inflight Mishin-2.jpg
SU-24 via Wikipedia

The wingman stayed at a considerably higher altitude, Warren said.
Officials later said the aircraft approached within about 1,000 yards of the ship. The USS Donald Cook was never in danger, Warren said.
“Donald Cook is more than capable of defending itself against two Su-24s,” the colonel said.
Warren said he does not think this is an example of a young pilot joyriding. “I would have difficulty believing that two Russian pilots, on their own, would chose to take such an action,” he said. “We've seen the Russians conduct themselves unprofessionally and in violation of international norms in Ukraine for several months, and these continued acts of provocation and unprofessionalism do nothing to deescalate the situation in Ukraine, which we called on the Russians to do.”
Donald Cook arrived in the Black Sea on April 10. The ship is now making a port call in Constanta, Romania.