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JFK Getting Closer to a Reality

The first crew members for aircraft carrier PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) have arrived at Newport News Shipbuilding and the unit has stood up.

The 100,000-ton+ behemoth is the second in the Ford-class and is expected to take to the water later this year at launching. Commissioning is set for 2024, which hopefully is enough time to get the bugs worked out of the series.

LCS finally gets some teeth

From U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs:

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) Oct. 1 (local date) during Pacific Griffin.

Pacific Griffin is a biennial exercise conducted in the waters near Guam aimed at enhancing combined proficiency at sea while strengthening relationships between the U.S. and Republic of Singapore navies.

“Today was a terrific accomplishment for USS Gabrielle Giffords crew and the Navy’s LCS class,” said Cmdr. Matthew Lehmann, commanding officer. “I am very proud of all the teamwork that led to the successful launch of the NSM.”

The NSM is a long-range, precision strike weapon that can find and destroy enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles away. The stealthy missile flies at sea-skimming altitude, has terrain-following capability and uses an advanced seeker for precise targeting in challenging conditions.

Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, who oversees security cooperation for the U.S. Navy in Southeast Asia, said Gabrielle Giffords’ deployment sent a crystal clear message of continued U.S. commitment to maritime security in the region.

“LCS packs a punch and gives potential adversaries another reason to stay awake at night,” Tynch said. “We are stronger when we sail together with our friends and partners, and LCS is an important addition to the lineup.”

The NSM aboard Gabrielle Giffords is fully operational and remains lethal. The weapon was first demonstrated on littoral combat ship USS Coronado in 2014. It meets and exceeds the U.S. Navy’s over-the-horizon requirements for survivability against high-end threats, demonstrated lethality, easy upgrades, and long-range strike capability.

Gabrielle Giffords’ deployment represents a milestone for the U.S. Navy and LCS lethality and marks the first time that an NSM has sailed into the Indo-Pacific region. The successful missile shoot demonstrates value for long-range anti-ship missiles.

Gabrielle Giffords, on its maiden deployment, arrived in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility Sept. 16, for a rotational deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. This marks the first time two LCS have deployed to the Indo-Pacific region simultaneously. Gabrielle Giffords is the fifth LCS to deploy to U.S. 7th Fleet, following USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the currently-deployed USS Montgomery (LCS 8).

Gabrielle Giffords will conduct operations, exercises and port visits throughout the region as well as work alongside allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Its unique capabilities allow it to work with a broad range of regional navies and visit ports larger ships cannot access.

Littoral combat ships are fast, agile and networked surface combatants, optimized for operating in the near-shore environments. With mission packages allowing for tailored capabilities to meet specific mission needs and unique physical characteristics, LCS provides operational flexibility and access to a wider range of ports.

With that being said, I have an invite to check out the newest Independence-type LCS this weekend and will report more on that, later.

Want to buy a flattop?

A Vought F-8 Crusader lines up for landing on the French aircraft carrier Foch (R99). Date and location unknown

Built in the 1960s as the second of the Clemenceau-class light carriers by the French, the Foch remained in nominal NATO service until 2000, even appearing in a cameo in the opening of the film Crimson Tide, before moving to Latin America. She is now for sale, after lackluster service with Brazil.

As noted by Joe Travenik over at The Drive, the Brazilians have placed their Cold War-era French-built light carrier, the ex-São Paulo, up for sale with bids starting at $1.275 million:

Originally commissioned in the French Navy as the Foch in 1963, she was the second of two Clemenceau class aircraft carriers and remained in service in France until 2000. Brazil purchased the ship that same year for the bargain price of $12 million. At the time of São Paulo‘s retirement, there were only two other countries in the world, the United States and France, still operating catapult-assisted takeoff and barrier assisted recovery (CATOBAR) configured aircraft carriers.

More here


In the Donguz training ground in the arid Orenburg region this month, the Russians have been running the division-sized Tsentr-2019 (Centre 2019) military exercise. The Russian Ministry of Defense just did a photo dump showing off the goods, complete with lots of Mi-24 Hinds and T-72B3 tanks.

Sure, they are updated 1980s monsters that scream Tom Clancy, but they still look decidedly wicked and will have you waking up in a Wolverine-style cold sweat.


Sorry, no Peashooter II

The Boeing/Saab T-X was selected on 27 September 2018 by the Air Force as the winner of the Advanced Pilot Training System program to replace the aging Cold War-era Northrop T-38 Talon. The downright cute little twin tail trainer will, in all likelihood, be around for decades provided it is successful.

The USAF currently has some 500~ T-38A/B/C models in inventory, with the newest example coming off the lines in 1972. It is envisioned that some 351 new T-X aircraft and 46 simulators are to be supplied by Boeing as part of the $9 billion program to put the venerable Talon to bed.

The T-X could also go on to be a sweet little scooter for budget air defense/COIN if given underwing hardpoints, after all, Saab runs the Gripen and in the past developed the Viggen, Draken, Lansen, and Tunnan, which all had a solid pedigree.

The T-X does look pretty sweet though.

Both of the current two Boeing T-Xs in flight.

While I suggested “T-60 Peashooter II” as a name update, in honor of Boeing’s last cute little combat-ish trainer, I have been overruled and the U.S. Air Force has named it the T-7A Red Hawk to honor the Tuskegee Airmen who famously flew the red-tailed North American P-51 Mustang in World War II (after working their way through P-39s, P-40s, and P-47s). The “Red Tails” of the 332nd Fighter Group were renowned for their work plastering Axis ground targets and successfully escorting B-17s and B-24s in the ETO in 1944 and 1945.

Which is better than the Peashooter II anyway.


Everyone wants a peak at a Blackjack or two

A pair of Russian Tupolev Tu-160 (NATO: Blackjack) heavy strategic bomber this week took a cruise around the Baltic Sea. Dubbed the “White Swan” by the Russians, just 14 or so of the big variable-wing aircraft, with their 177-foot wingspan, are in service– all with the 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment in Saratov– making one, much less two of the planes airborne at the same time, a rare sight.

Therefore, the sortie was well-attended by NATO and Baltic state fighters.

From the Russian MOD:

Two Tu-160 strategic missile carriers performed a scheduled flight over the neutral waters of the Baltic sea.

The flight duration was more than 7 hours.

At some stages of the route, long-range aircraft were escorted by F-16 fighters of the Belgian [on a NATO Air Policing Mission out of Lithuainia], Danish and Polish Air Force, F-18 of Finnish Air Force, JAS-39 Gripen of Swedish Air Force. After the flight program, the crews of the Russian Aerospace Forces returned to the airfield.

And of course, state-owned Russian media played it up, shocked at the fact that people come out on the porch whenever you have a parade along their front lawn.

Farewell, Lata

You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but this humble police patrol boat has seen a lot.

When the British assumed control over the Solomon Islands in 1889, they recruited a small force of local police under what later became known as the Solomon Islands Protectorate Armed Constabulary. Never a very large organization, it was equipped with a modicum of surplus Martini-Henry rifles and later Short-Magazine-Lee-Enfields. During WWII, the force assisted first the Royal Australian Navy’s Coastwatchers and later the U.S. Marines, with Constabulary Sgt. Maj. Jacob C. Vouza, a 25-year veteran of the force, pitching in with both and earning a silver star (presented to him personally by MG Alexander A. Vandegrift), a George Medal, and becoming a knight of the KBE.

Sir Jacob Charles Vouza, an Island scout and local police sergeant major, in his USMC HBT fatigues, wields a captured Japanese sword.

Post-war, the constabulary became the British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force and was requipped in the 1960s with SLRs (inch-pattern semi-auto-only FALs) and Sterling SMGs. After independence in 1978, the force was renamed the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

In 1983, the new country formed its de facto blue water navy/coast guard in the form of a single 82-foot GRP-hulled patrol boat, RSIPV Savo (02). Then, in 1988, came new Australian-built 103-foot Pacific Forum-class patrol boat RSIPV Lata (03) followed by her sistership, RSIPV Auki (04), in 1991. Mounting a pair of .50-cal Brownings to go along with a small arms locker, they carried a crew of 20, large enough to send a 6-10 man landing force ashore when needed. Alternatively, they could also transport a squad-sized element of the RSIPF’s Special Operations guys, should they be needed.

Lata and Auki were instrumental in cracking down for the first time on poaching vessels from Vietnam, China and elsewhere who were encroaching on the Solomon’s EEZ. Other missions, like destroying masses of encountered UXO and mines left over from WWII, tangling with pirates and rustling smugglers, were constant.

Then came the Solomons civil war in 1999 between the so-called Malaita Eagle Force (MEF), along with its allied Solomon Islands Field Force, and the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army, which boiled and simmered in the archipelago until international involvement in 2003. Lata had the unenviable record of being seized in June 2000 by the MEF, who sailed the patrol boat around Guadalcanal and turned her .50 cals on rival forces near the capital of Honiara.

Eventually, a multi-national force headed by Australia moved in and disarmed not only all of the rebel groups but the police as well.

Fast forward to this month and Lata, now aged 31, is being put to pasture. Her armament today is restricted to some Glocks and other small arms. Her crew this week lowered her white ensign and sailed her back to Australia for retirement. 

She is being replaced by a new 130-foot Guardian-class patrol boat later this year under the Australian Regional Defence Cooperation Program while Auki will be replaced in 2023. A new, longer wharf is being created at the country’s Maritime Aola Base to operate the larger vessels.

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