Monday, August 22, 2005

Off the Wire, 8/22

Failed Rocket Attack Against USN Ships

Source: US Navy

No US sailors or marines were injured in an apparent rocket attack Aug. 19 that missed two US Navy ships in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, Jordan, officials reported.
"At approximately 8:44 a.m. local time, a suspected mortar rocket flew over the USS Ashland's (LSD 48) bow and impacted in a warehouse on the pier in the vicinity of the Ashland and the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)," US 5th Fleet officials said in a statement. "The warehouse sustained an approximate 8-foot hole in the roof of the building."
According to news reports, a Jordanian soldier was killed and another severely wounded when the rocket hit the warehouse. A second rocket hit near a Jordanian hospital, and a third partially exploded, damaging a road and a car. A third rocket reportedly landed in the nearby Israeli city of Eilat, with no casualties and only minor damage.
The ships were in Aqaba supporting the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) training with the Jordanians, fleet officials said. The two ships, which appeared to be undamaged by shrapnel from the building, have left the port. Ashland is an amphibious landing ship; Kearsarge is an amphibious assault ship that also serves as command ship of an amphibious ready group.
The US military said the attack is currently under investigation. News sources cite a Jordanian government release that states three Katyusha rockets were fired from a warehouse in Aqaba, close to the port.
Information available on the Web said the Katyusha was originally a World War II-era Soviet rocket. However, references now to the weapon mean not just one type of rocket but a whole range of different artillery rockets, whether from old Soviet or other-nation stock. The Katyusha reportedly has been used in a number of insurgencies, including those in Iraq.

For more on this, see my post Much Ado About Nothing.


Canada Begins Phase II in Repairing Sub

Source: Canadian Department of National Defense

Phase II of the repairs to HMCS Chicoutimi has begun with the award of an $9.73-million contract to Irving Shipbuilding of Saint John, New Brunswick, at its Halifax Shipyard facility. This phase involves detailed materiel surveys and assessments, as well as the development of the engineering and job specifications needed to begin Phase III, the repair, and other concurrent work. Phase II is expected to be completed by the end of 2005.
“The Victoria-class submarines are a key capability for the Navy,” said Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham. “This ongoing work continues to offer a significant opportunity for Canadian companies to gain invaluable experience working on a modern weapons system and will facilitate further transition to Canadian in-service support of the submarines.”
“The repair of HMCS Chicoutimi is progressing in conjunction with 'Canadianization' and previously scheduled maintenance,” said Vice-Admiral Bruce MacLean, commander of Canada's Navy. “We are looking forward to getting HMCS Chicoutimi back to sea where she is needed.”
The repair of HMCS Chicoutimi is being conducted in three phases. For the recently completed Phase I, the planning phase, Irving Shipbuilding was contracted to prepare and dock the submarine, and to develop a plan for Phase II, the survey and assessment phase.
The Canadian Department of National Defense has worked closely with the contractor to develop well-defined plans for Phase II of the repair process. These plans – which include quality management, material control, survey and assessment, and engineering processes – will assist in defining the scope of work required for Phase III and ensure the most efficient execution of the repair work. During Phase II, the contractor will remove damaged equipment and equipment being replaced under Canadianization and other engineering changes. Phase II will include some of the repair work that has already been defined, as well as maintenance and preservation of the submarine and its systems.
Phase III, the final execution phase, involves the repair work, implementation of Canadianization and other engineering changes, and testing and trials. The completion date for this phase is dependent on the results of the survey and assessment phase, but it is anticipated to be completed within two years.
Victoria-class submarines are vitally important to the security and defense of Canada, providing deterrence, surveillance, and interdiction in maritime approaches.

For more on the Chicoutmi incident, see Fire Onboard Canadian Sub, Chicoutimi to Return to Canada, and Canadian Subs Begin Return to Sea.


First MH-60R Helo Delivered

Source: Sikorsky Aircraft

Sikorsky Aircraft (Stratford, CT) celebrated the delivery of the first new production MH-60R helicopter in a ceremony held at its Stratford facility.
The first production MH-60R first took to the skies July 28 at Sikorsky Aircraft. The aircraft flew a total of 1.5 hours and performed the entire flight-acceptance profile – which included flight-control checks, vibration measurements, and engine power checks – without incident.
The MH-60R is the next-generation submarine hunter and surface-attack helicopter. It will replace the US Navy's legacy SH-60B and SH-60F aircraft. The Navy is expected to order as many as 254 MH-60R aircraft through 2015, with production quantities increasing to 30 aircraft per year.
After the ceremony, the aircraft was to be flown to Owego, NY, where the mission-equipment package will be installed by Lockheed Martin, the mission-systems integrator for the MH-60R.
Lockheed Martin also provides the digital Common Cockpit avionics suite, which is common to all MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters. Sikorsky designs and manufactures the MH-60S and MH-60R aircraft and is responsible for the mechanical and electrical modifications on the airframe.
The MH-60R program is a department within the Multi-mission Helicopter Program Office (PMA-299), headquartered at the Naval Air Systems Command (Patuxent River, MD). PMA-299 is administered by the Program Executive Office for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault, and Special Mission Programs.

For more on the MH-60R program, see USN Helos to Get Anti-Sub Gear and High-Speed Data for MH-60R Helos.


Multinational Exercise to Protect Panama Canal

Source: US Navy

In August, staff from US Navy Commander, Strike Group (CSG) 6, working with South and Central American counterparts, were responsible for directing the operations of seven maritime-patrol aircraft participating in Panamax 2005, a multinational exercise designed for the defense of the most important waterway in the region.
Argentinean, Colombian, Chilean, and Panamanian aircraft patrolling the Caribbean and Pacific approaches to the Panama Canal flew 116 hours in five days, collecting crucial information for the combined force tasked with protecting the Panama Canal.
“They provided persistent long-range surveillance, turning in imagery and positioning data of all contacts of interest,” said LCDR James Anderson, a member of CSG 6 supporting Panamax.
Maritime-surveillance assets operating out of the National Air Service (SAN) base in Tocumen, Panama, included P-3s from Argentina and Chile, along with one CASA 212-300, two T-35s, and one Bell 212 from Panama. In addition, two Colombian CASA 235s operated out of northern Colombia, extending the surveillance area.
Directing the operations of all these assets was the Combined Forces Air Command (CFACC), also at Tocumen and led by Panamanian Lt. Col. David Ramos and Capt. Kevin Hutcheson, CSG 6 director of operations and CFACC deputy commander.
“This exercise is all about cooperation and coordination. It’s the only way we can do it,” said Hutcheson.
The CFACC held a daily air-tasking-order meeting to address the needs of ships afloat, and the day ended with “a meeting of analysis and evaluation of the exercise,” said SAN Chief of Operations Col. David Ramos.

For more on the UN Navy's priorities, see US Navy Sizes Up Future.


B-1B Demonstrated at Russian Air Show

Source: US Air Force

Because of its ability to rapidly deliver massive quantities of weapons against any adversary in the world, the capabilities of America ’s B-1B Lancer may have once been feared by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. Now it has made history by demonstrating its capabilities during the Moscow International Air Show and Space Salon held Aug. 16-21 at Ramenskoye Airfield in Zhukovsky, Russia.
The Lancer, the backbone of America's long-range bomber force, was initially developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52, an aircraft designed to deliver nuclear bombs into the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Demonstrating the B-1B’s capabilities in front of a daily crowd of hundreds of thousands was a symbol of the friendship and international cooperation between the US and its once-adversary, said Capt. Steve Jones, one of the B-1B pilots at the air show from Ellsworth AFB, SD.
“We’re parked approximately 300 feet from Russian weapons systems, some of which were designed primarily to shoot this aircraft down, and here we are parked right next to them at their air show,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
With the appreciation comes an inquisitiveness about the aircraft’s strength, said Capt. David Black, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge of overseeing the B-1B’st maintenance. “With it’s capability to go more than 900 miles per hour, the Lancer is considered to be one of the premier fly-over jets. It represents American horsepower and makes the most noise,” Captain Black said.
Although the B-1B and its crew normally averages about 14 or 15 air shows a year, that didn't make their participation in this year’s Moscow show any less exciting, said Captain Black.
This was the second time the US has displayed military aircraft at the air show; the first time was in 2003. In 2001 the US Department of Defense participated with a technology booth. Other US aircraft showcased during the Moscow air show included the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16C Fighting Falcon, KC-10 Extender, and KC-135 Stratotanker.

For more on the B-1B, see USAF Upgrading B-1 EW After DSUP Termination.

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