A look at Canada’s capabilities. In essence, the same as every navy smaller than the USN… augmenting the American force with the key focus on interoperability.
The Royal Canadian Navy in the Pacific – a look at capabilities
By David McDonough
Canada could benefit from expanding its military presence in the Asia-Pacific. As I described in a previous Strategist post, the government faces certain budgetary constraints likely to limit the size of its future naval presence and capacity for maritime diplomacy. Yet such a challenge isn’t insurmountable. To ensure sufficient fleet funding, Canada has the option of placing greater priority on the capital portion of the defence budget—even if it comes at the expense of personnel and operations/maintenance spending.
Such a move would offer Ottawa some leverage to join the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus. More importantly, Canada would have a means to help augment America’s naval power in the region, which is expected to be under increasing strain as a result of defence cutbacks—at a time when China is expanding its own naval fleet and showing greater assertiveness in its maritime disputes with its neighbours.
Other like-minded countries have already begun to focus on their own maritime forces. For example, Japan has strengthened its naval fleet with advanced (e.g. air-independent propulsion) submarines, helicopter destroyers, and plans for helicopter carriers, with a keen eye for possible amphibious operations to protect its vulnerable south-western approaches. Australia has also been eager to deploy a more formidable naval presence with its planned acquisition of Aegis destroyers and replacements for its Collins-class submarines. Both platforms are expected to have the high-end command, control, communications, and weapon systems necessary to ensure operational interoperability with the US Pacific Fleet.
Like the Australian navy, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) also has a strong tradition of interoperability with its American counterparts, to the point where Canadian warships can also be seamlessly integrated into US naval task forces (PDF). It would serve the RCN well to ensure that its future naval platforms can continue to be integrated with the US and other regional navies. Much depends on the capabilities offered by these naval platforms, which should be designed to complement America’s efforts at maintaining operational access to the Western Pacific.
The RCN needs to maintain some of its high end maritime war fighting capabilities. Of particular relevance is area air defence (AAD), a capability that should be retained and upgraded on its destroyer replacements—much as Australia has done with upgrades to its Anzac frigates and the Aegis equipped destroyers. Indeed, the United States, Japan, and other allies have become increasingly wary of China’s advanced anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities, from shore-based aircraft and missiles to an undersea and surface fleet heavily armed with anti-ship cruise missiles—a concern reportedly also shared by the RCN, at least according to drafts of its unreleased Horizon 2050 naval strategy.
For the RCN to maintain interoperability with its key regional partners, Canada should also ensure that some of its next-generation Canadian Surface Combatants incorporate the Aegis combat system—joining other regional powers including Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the US Navy. Importantly, Aegis can also be upgraded to provide a mid-course and terminal ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability. Both the United States and Japan have proven eager to expand their BMD fleet, due to China’s development of a much feared anti-ship ballistic missile. Other countries may soon follow suit.
An anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability would also be highly valued in a region where many countries are expanding their submarine inventories. Much of the concern is on China’s undersea fleet, as a possible ‘assassin’s mace‘ capable of challenging American and allied sea control in this maritime theatre. For this reason, the US Navy has already been increasing its ASW assets in the region, with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) operating a formidable fleet that specializes in undersea and surface ASW.
The RCN already has a long history of ASW operations. Indeed, with its fleet of Victoria-class submarines, the RCN would be better placed for these missions than in the past, when it largely relied on surface ASW and escort duties. It also provides the natural locus for cooperation with regional navies, like the JMSDF. Of course, ASW isn’t necessarily cheap. Canada would eventually need to replace its fleet of Aurora maritime patrol aircraft and Victoria submarines. But, given the growing demand for ASW, we shouldn’t underplay the benefits that could be accrued by returning to this specialisation.
With such capabilities, the RCN would be well placed to support American and allied efforts to ensure sea control in the Western Pacific. If required, Canada would also be able to join in defensive missions envisioned in the US Air-Sea Battle concept, while avoiding its more offensive plans to disrupt and destroy A2/AD systems at their source.
Yet it would all be for naught if Canada lacks the logistics for sustained operations in the Pacific, therefore raising the issue of operational sustainment. Sadly, little attention has been paid to the future of the RCN’s auxiliary oiler replenishment fleet. Indeed, it’ll now have to settle for the acquisition of only two Joint Supply Ships, thereby increasing the chances that Canadian warships will be unable to be deployed for sustained operations abroad—unless an ally provides at-sea replenishment, which can no longer be guaranteed given the growing demand for such logistics ships.
In such a situation, the RCN might find its emphasis on Pacific operations curtailed, even if it otherwise enjoys high-end capabilities well-suited to that region. But, more importantly, it could also find its historic role as a blue-water fleet possibly endangered. Such an outcome would be doubly unfortunate, and is an important reminder not to ignore the logistical tail.
David S. McDonough is a SSHRC post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Political Science, University of British Colombia and a research fellow in the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Image courtesy of Flickr user U.S. Pacific Command.
On face value it would be tempting to dismiss this article as a hatchet job by a Texan blogger. I’m sure that many American readers of Foreign Policy are going to reblog it with glee. (Because, you know, ‘Murica showed up in two world wars and saved Yurop’s ass, right?) But I genuinely don’t think that was Beckhusen’s intent. He’s merely cataloging facts that any observer of British naval policy already knows. He’s cataloging those facts for an audience (Americans) that might not be paying that much attention. They’ve got their own budget battles, procurement snafus, ship decommissionings and operational overreach to worry about. So if, charitably, 1% of the article’s American readership actually pays attention to what Beckhusen is trying to point out, then that’s a bloody good thing. The other 99% can repeat the hackneyed trope of “savin’ Yurop’s ass” and we needn’t worry about them. So… here’s the article:
Here Are All The Things the British Military Can’t Do Anymore
In late September, the Royal Navy unveiled its latest nuclear-powered Astute-class submarine, HMS Artful, and also “christened” the hefty but sleek Daring-class destroyer HMS Duncan — the sixth and last of its class. Aside from the United Kingdom’s aircraft carrier program, these represent the two most significant naval shipbuilding programs happening in Britain at the moment. And two of the most controversial.
The vessels are impressive on the surface, but each ship originates from troubled development programs which — although coming with creature comforts and advanced technology — turned out to be less than impressive when put to the test.
New submarines running aground, older subs breaking down and destroyers put into service without adequate defenses against enemy submarines. It’s not completely surprising. The Ministry of Defence’s budget is half that of 30 years ago.
Perhaps more troubling for the Royal Navy: the vessels tasked with carrying Britain’s military into the 21st century have sacrificed key systems needed to defend against attacks, while suffering limitations in their ability to strike back at enemy planes and missiles.
Meanwhile, Royal Air Force ocean patrol planes that once buzzed the ocean scooping every signal they could detect have been cut altogether, meaning the surface ships are sailing blind — and Britain’s nuclear-missile force is sailing without escorts.
Here’s what Britain’s military can’t do. Or if it does do it, it doesn’t do it well.
Absent frigates and troubled destroyers
This is the Daring-class destroyer. It is one of the most embarrassing military programs in the British armed forces.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. Intended to replace the Type 42 destroyer which first entered service in the 1970s, the Daring class was envisioned as an 8,000-ton, 152-meter-long vessel with anti-air and anti-submarine capabilities par excellence. The centerpiece: an anti-aircraft system called Sea Viper with a Sampson dual-band radar capable of tracking 1,000 objects the size of a tennis ball as far away as 400 kilometers.
The system also has two different types of anti-aircraft missiles: the Aster 15 medium-range missile and its long-range cousin, the Aster 30, which can travel up to an impressive 75 miles. There’s also a 4.5-inch main gun for surface targets.
The Royal Navy is acutely aware of its need for robust destroyers with advanced anti-aircraft systems, principally owing to the Falklands War. Two Type 42 destroyers, the HMS Sheffield and Coventry, were sunk during the war by low-flying Argentinian aircraft. The Sea Viper system is also a big improvement over the Type 42’s radar.
But the Royal Navy built a ship with major weaknesses where it should be strong. For one, Sea Viper’s planned inter-ship communication system was to be added later, meaning one destroyer can’t share information via a satellite network with other ships. The complexity of all the new electronic systems and shoddy oversight also led to repeated delays and ballooning costs.
And there’s a problem with the missiles. The Aster 15s are fine for a lone incoming anti-ship missile — the Aster 15 is highly maneuverable and functions as a both short- and medium-range defense weapon. But the missiles take up a lot of space and can’t be “quad-packed” into a missile tube.
This reduces the number of available Aster 15s to a mere 20 missiles compared to the 96 missiles carried by the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The number is even fewer than the advanced (but much smaller) Sachsen-class frigates of the German navy, which carry 32 missiles — and that was already on the low-end. In the event of an enemy saturation attack — like a blitz but with anti-ship missiles instead of linebackers — the air-defense-focused Daring class could be in serious trouble.
Radar-guided Phalanx guns, which throw up a wall of 20-millimeter rounds as a last resort against incoming missiles, were not installed on the lead ship of the class until this year. Oh, and unlike the Type 42, the destroyer has no torpedo tubes to defend against attacking submarines. This job is left for the destroyer’s helicopters and — either a single Merlin or a pair of Lynx choppers — and a torpedo decoy system. The ship has no missiles for attacking land targets.
The Royal Navy has also built fewer Darings than it ever did for the now-retired Type 42. Cost-cutting measures forced a trim to the number of planned destroyers from 12 to eight ships, and then to a final number of only six ships. (The Royal Navy built 14 Type 42s.) So the Daring class is an anti-aircraft ship that’s fewer in number than its predecessor, with several major anti-air weaknesses and the ship has a major weakness against submarines.
The total price for the ships is now $10.35 billion?-?$2.4 billion more than anticipated — and was enough for one U.S. Naval War College report to describe the Daring class as “a symbol in the United Kingdom for mismanagement of procurement.”
That’s not all. The Royal Navy has retired the anti-submarine Type 22 frigate and doesn’t have the money to replace it. Also first dating to the 1970s, none of the 14 Type 22s are still in service — the last four of the line were sold for scrap in 2011. Thirteen Type 23 frigates are still in service, though.
But the Type 22 was Britain’s primary anti-submarine warfare ship. The Type 22 also doubled as the Royal Navy’s ship-based signals intelligence force. The ships contained the “only combination of systems enabling wide ranging monitoring of the frequencies and wavelengths of the Electromagnetic Spectrum of the sea,” Parliament’s Defense Committee noted in 2012. Now that’s gone.
Maritime reconnaissance planes turned to scrap
Let this sink in for a second. The United Kingdom has no dedicated maritime patrol planes.
That’s a pretty big deal. Patrol planes are more or less a requirement for a navy worth its sea-faring salt, and many coastal countries without sizable navies have at least some planes for ocean patrol missions. Even Denmark and Peru have maritime patrol planes.
They’re the eyes and ears of a fleet, and use a combination of radar, sonar buoys and other sensors to detect enemy ships or conduct search and rescue missions. The U.K. has also long used maritime surveillance aircraft to track Russian submarines navigating north of Scotland, peeking on naval maneuvers in the Arctic Sea and escorting the Royal Navy’s own ballistic missile subs.
For much of the Cold War, the Royal Air Force tasked this mission to the Nimrod MR1 and MR2 planes, which first entered service in 1969. An advanced aircraft for its time, the older Nimrods were eventually retired in 2011 to be replaced by the modern Nimrod MRA4.
The new Nimrod was supposed to be a major upgrade, and entailed rebuilding the plane from the inside out. There was going to be new engines and larger wings. New sensor systems would let the MRA4 see from longer distances, and the design enabled it to travel up to 2,500 miles further than its predecessor.
Upgrading the Nimrods proved to be an impossible task for an absurd reason. The planes are based on the de Havilland Comet, a 1950s-era commercial airliner which had been transformed over several generations during military service. But the Comet was never built to a standard — they were custom made. This means each plane is slightly different than the others, and thus exorbitant to upgrade when installing millions of dollars worth of advanced electronics.
Only one MRA4 was ever built. “The single MRA4 aircraft that had been delivered to the RAF was so riddled with flaws it could not pass its flight tests, it was simply unsafe to fly,” Liam Fox, the former British Secretary of Defence, wrote in the The Telegraph in 2011.
Fox was attempting to justify the complete scrapping of the program?-?it wasn’t easy. Twelve under-construction MRA4s were disassembled, and more than $6.3 billion went down the drain. The U.K. is now considering buying P-3 Orion patrol planes from the United States to fill the gap.
Rusty and broken submarines
In theory, the Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarine is the most advanced British submarine ever built. In reality it’s underpowered, prone to numerous technical problems and is far behind schedule.
A replacement for Britain’s Trafalgar-class submarines, the 7,000-ton Astute class uses a Thales sonar — touted by the Royal Navy as the world’s best (which it might be) — while packing a combination of 38 Spearfish torpedoes and/or Tomahawk missiles. The sub also does not have a conventional periscope but a photonics mast, like a digital camera capable of seeing in infrared. There have been two Astute-class subs commissioned, the HMS Astute and Ambush. Four more are under construction, and a seventh is planned.
But neither Astute nor Ambush have become operational, owing to a number of problems and delays leaving the Royal Navy with only five aging Trafalgar-class subs in service. These older subs will be gradually decommissioned over the decade, and there’s rarely a time when a single Trafalgar-class sub is operational at any given time due to maintenance issues. HMS Tireless was put out of action earlier this year after a reactor coolant leak.
But what’s the problem with the Astute class? The main problem — and most serious — is that it’s achingly slow.
Designed to travel faster than 30 knots, the sub tops out below that (though how far below hasn’t been revealed). This means it can’t keep up with the ships like the under-construction Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers it’s meant to protect. In battle, that’s a potentially fatal flaw for the submarine and the carrier.
The reason for the trouble is believed to be incompatibility between the sub’s steam turbines which were built for the Trafalgar-class, and its nuclear reactor which was built for the giant Vanguard-class ballistic missile subs, according to The Guardian. Among other problems include corrosion, faulty monitoring instruments for the submarine’s reactor and even flooding during a dive. Astute also quite literally ran aground in Scotland in 2010 and had to be rescued.
Left out of this, of course, is the Harrier force. The Royal Navy’s carrier-launched jump jets were retired in late 2010, meaning the U.K. no longer has fixed-wing jets capable of operating from Britain’s one remaining ski-jump carrier, the Illustrious. However, the Royal Navy has pledged to buy F-35s for the Queen Elizabeth class. It may want to reconsider before more problems arise.
Robert Beckhusen is a collection editor at War is Boring, the site that explores how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world.
The Royal Navy’s Response Task Force Group was established following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The RFTG serves as Britain’s high-readiness amphibious task force and provides a scalable force able to deploy worldwide to meet crises.
HMS Westminster in hunt for USS Dallas
Royal Navy warship HMS Westminster currently on deployment has been putting her submarine hunting skills to the test with a combined UK and US Naval Anti-Submarine Warfare exercise in the Gulf of Oman.
HMS Westminster is part of the UK’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) currently on the Royal Navy’s annual Cougar deployment.
HMS Illustrious, RFA Fort Victoria, RFA Fort Austin, USS Bulkeley and the American Los Angeles Class Submarine USS Dallas also took part in the exercise.
The aims of the exercise is to develop maritime interoperability by exercising Anti-Submarine Warfare tactics with US allies in the challenging sonar environment of the warm and shallow waters of the Gulf region.
The exercise was broken down into three phases. The ships and submarines initially tested acoustic and non-acoustics sensor performance against known positions, gaining useful real life data for the region.
The second phase relied on the ships escorting HMS Illustrious as the Mission Essential Unit (MEU) along a passage whilst evading detection and simulated torpedo attacks by USS Dallas.
In the final phase USS Dallas tried to locate and destroy RFA Fort Austin as the MEU, in a holding box which simulated an anchorage, as the UK and US naval ships provided protection.
Additional helicopter support to the ships was ably provided by the Anti-Submarine sonar dipping Merlins embarked in HMS Illustrious and USS Bulkeley’s Seahawk, with Westminster’s Mark 8 Lynx helicopter providing an additional surface search and weapon carrying capability.
As well as taking turns to practise submarine hunting, the sailors from all ships and the submarine were put through their paces.
One of Westminster’s Anti-Submarine Warfare specialists, Petty Officer Underwater Warfare ‘George’ Linehan said:
“This was an excellent opportunity to work with our close allies in Anti-Submarine Warfare.
“The Royal Navy has again demonstrated how effective a T23 Frigate can be in a multi-national task group”.
Aside from this Anti-Submarine exercise, HMS Westminster has had a busy period since leaving the Red Sea, including Replenishments at Sea (RAS) with the USS Artic and also a rare dual RAS with HMS Illustrious and RFA Fort Victoria.
HMS Westminster’s Commanding Officer Hugh Beard said:
“It has been a busy period for Westminster since leaving the Suez Canal, with invaluable training and cooperation with our key allies in the region.
“We are now looking forward to contributing to the wider maritime security in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf as part of our ongoing mission.”
HMS Westminster is currently conducting counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics patrols in the Gulf region and returns to the UK in 2014.
The Cougar 13 deployment will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, and Horn of Africa. It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC Royal Navy.
The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required.
HMS Westminster is a Type 23 frigate commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1994. ITS Francesco Mimbelli is a Durand de Le Penne-class destroyer commissioned into the Marina Militare in 1993. ITS Salvatore Pelosi is a Sauro-class submarine commissioned into the Marina Militare in 1987.
HMS Westminster practises submarine hunting skills
A Royal Navy warship on deployment in the Mediterranean has been flexing her hunter-killer technique in an anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Italian Navy. HMS Westminster is working as part of the Navy’s Response Force Task Group which is on an annual deployment to the Med and then the Gulf that tests the flexibility and capability of the force.
Part of their tasking includes working alongside NATO allies – and in Westminster’s case this came in the form of the Italian destroyer Francesco Mimbelli and submarine Salvatore Pelosi.
Taking turns to practise hunting for each other, the sailors from both ships and the submarine were put through their paces in an action packed few days. As well as testing sensors and weapon skills, the exercise also tested the reactions of those on board.
There was also the chance for some of the sailors to experience life on board a partner nation’s vessel. From HMS Westminster, Medical Officer Lieutenant Moira McLellan spent two days on Mimbelli.
“It was a very enjoyable visit and interesting to see the similarities in the day to day workings of both navies.
“However, the culinary differences were very apparent, with pizza being served on Mimbelli’s bridge at 10 in the morning.”
Aside from the anti-submarine exercise, HMS Westminster has been busy preparing for a wide range of tasks including seamanship, flying, gunnery and boarding as part of her Cougar deployment and also in preparation for her operations further afield.
HMS Westminster is due to leave the Cougar force before the end of their deployment and take up station in the Gulf as one of the Royal Navy’s long-standing commitments to the region.
The Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, Captain Hugh Beard, said:
“The ship’s company of Westminster have been working hard as part of our Cougar 13 deployment and also in preparation for our future mission.
“As a former Submarine Commanding Officer, I am a poacher-turned-gamekeeper and I have really enjoyed my experience with the capabilities of Westminster to try to defeat the Italian submarine Pelosi.”
The ships of Cougar 13 will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Horn of Africa.
This annual deployment involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine from the Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark.
The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, made up of ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at five days notice to act in response to any contingency tasking including humanitarian disaster relief or international military intervention.
As well as HMS Westminster there are three other Royal Navy ships – HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious and HMS Montrose taking part as supported by five Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.
Remember this? Ladybird’s ‘People at Work’ book on The Sailor. Yours, at the time, for two an’ six. You’ll have to pay a bit more than half-a-dollar for one on ebay these days. I adored the Ladybird books. This is how children used to learn to read and learn a bit about life at the same time. Sorry, I don’t have images of every page.
Tricky bastards, those Kamarians. You’ve got to watch them.
Exercise TALISMAN SABER fleet prepares for battle
Following aggression by the fictional island nation ‘Kamaria’, Australia and the United States have been called upon to form a combined force to restore peace and security to the region.
Now, a large and highly capable Australian and US Navy fleet is amassing in the Coral Sea to prepare for action against the mythical ‘Kamarians’.
This fictional scenario provides the backdrop for Exercise TALISMAN SABER 2013, a bilateral Australian/US exercise aimed at improving combat readiness and the ability of US and Australian forces to operate together.
As the fictional political scenario unfolds, warships from the Royal Australian Navy and the US Navy’s 7th fleet are gathering together for an initial period of force integration training, designed to get the two navies used to working together before engaging in higher level ‘free-play’ combat exercises.
Training so far has included anti-submarine and anti-air warfare exercises, underway replenishments and coordinated manoeuvres involving multiple ships steaming in formation.
Among the fleet is the Upgraded Anzac Class frigate HMAS Perth, sporting its recently-installed anti-ship missile defences.
Attacks by Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornets have tested the ship’s upgraded sensors and combat system while members of Perth’s 5-inch gun crew have proven their skills in live firing exercises against towed airborne targets.
Perth’s bridge and operations room teams have been put through their paces working in close company with US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung Hoon and Ticonderoga Class cruiser USS Antietam and Australian guided missile frigate HMAS Sydney.
Other members of the ship’s company have participated in several fire fighting and damage control exercises.
HMAS Perth Commanding Officer, Captain Lee Goddard said this initial phase of the exercise training was invaluable, as it set the scene for the next stage of the combined training.
“This initial force integration training aims to bring together a large number of ships that will be working together during the exercise so they can become an effective combined fighting force.
“It gives us the opportunity to establish command and control relationships, refine operating procedures and learn how we can best use the capabilities each ship brings to the task force.
“Once this solid foundation is established, we can safely move into higher level training in a free-play exercise environment where we respond to a rapidly unfolding exercise scenario,” Captain Goddard said.
Perth is participating in exercise TALISMAN SABER alongside other Royal Australian Navy vessels HMA Ships Choules, Sydney, Waller and Tarakan and helicopters from 816 and 808 Squadrons. Also involved in TALISMAN SABER is Spanish combat support ship ESPS Cantabria and ships from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, including the USS George Washington aircraft carrier strike group and an expeditionary strike group led by Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
Exercise TALISMAN SABER will run from 15 July – 5 August, with around 28,000 Australian and US personnel taking part in the 21-day exercise being held in the Coral Sea and in military training areas in central and northern Queensland.
Supporting activities are also underway in the waters of the Timor and Arafura Seas, and throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/TS13-023.
The shiny new Merlin Mk2.
OK… Mk1 modified to Mk2.
Royal Navy receives upgraded Merlin helicopters
The first of the UK’s fleet of next-generation anti-submarine maritime patrol Merlin Mk2 helicopters have been delivered to the Royal Navy.
The 5 helicopters have been handed over to the Fleet Air Arm following an upgrade as part of a £750 million contract with Lockheed Martin.Fitted with advanced glass cockpits and improved aircrew consoles and avionics, the Merlin Mk2 has advanced touch-screen displays and an improved ability to detect and track targets and share data with other aircraft and ships while airborne. These improvements will also enable the helicopters to carry out counter-piracy and casualty-evacuation duties.Thirty Merlin Mk1 helicopters are being converted to Mk2s by Lockheed Martin. Once handed over to the Royal Navy, the airframes will undergo a series of extensive trials. The first helicopters are expected to be ready to deploy on operations by the summer of 2014.Commander Ben Franklin, Commanding Officer of the Merlin Helicopter Force, said:”I am extremely proud to be leading the Merlin Force during this period. The delivery of the first 5 aircraft to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm is a real milestone of this successful programme, which will provide vital support to the Navy as it fulfils its role in protecting UK interests across the globe.” Commodore Andy Lison, responsible for the Merlin, Lynx and Sea King teams in MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said:”I am delighted that we are now firmly in the delivery phase of the project. The Merlin Mk2 is a truly exceptional aircraft and the programme to develop and build this aircraft has brought together the very best of MOD and defence industry to future-proof this vital capability for Defence.” Bob Kramer, Vice President and Group Managing Director, Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems, said:”The Merlin capability sustainment programme represents a magnificent team effort led by Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland, supported by our suppliers, to provide the Royal Navy with unrivalled capability to carry out its anti-submarine patrol and policing requirement.”Merlin Mk1 helicopters have been in service with the Fleet Air Arm since the late 1990s and, after thorough testing and evaluation, have been deployed on operations since 2000.