VIDEO: Carrier trials of SEPECAT Jaguar M on FS Clemenceau (July 1970)

Carrier trails of the SEPECAT Jaguar “M” prototype aboard the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau in July 1970.

From Wikipedia:

An “M” prototype flew in November 1969. The “M” had a strengthened airframe, an arrestor hook and different undercarriage: twin nosewheel and single mainwheels. After testing in France it went to RAE at Thurleigh for carrier landing trials from their land based catapult. In July 1970 it made real take offs and landings from the French carrier Clemenceau. From these trials there were doubts about the throttle response in case of an aborted landing; the shipboard testing has also revealed problems with the aircraft’s handling when flying on one engine, although planned engine improvements were to have rectified these problems. The “M” was considered a suitable replacement for the Etendard IV but the Aeronavale would only be able to purchase 60 instead of 100 aircraft.

Furthermore, the Jaguar M was expensive, limiting the size of the force the French Navy could afford. In 1971, Dassault proposed the Super Étendard, claiming that it was a simpler and cheap development of the existing Étendard IV, and in 1973, the French Navy agreed to order it instead of the Jaguar, although rising costs of the Super Étendard meant that only 71 of the planned 100 aircraft were purchased. The M was cancelled by the French government in 1973.

Clear evidence of French culpability in Argentine Exocet attacks on HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor

A “must listen” BBC documentary uncovering clear culpability of the French government and (state-owned) defence contractor Dassault in Argentine Exocet attacks on HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor.

Document – French Involvement in the Falklands War

Mike Thomson returns with Radio 4’s investigative history series, examining documents which shed new light on past events.

In the first programme of the new series, Mike investigates the role played by the French Government and defence industry during the Falklands War.

30 years on, it’s well documented that French President Francois Mitterrand was supportive of the British war effort – not least in the memoirs of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Yet Mike discovers papers which suggest there was a deep split within the French government.

BBC Radio 4
Producer: Laurence Grissell
Original broadcast date: 05/03/2012

How long before China acquires blueprints for the X-47B?

“What R&D breakthroughs are required to give China a carrier-borne UCAV?” Seriously? Nicking the plans for the X-47B would do it. Certainly overcomes all the obstacles that the article claims need to be overcome. Has China suddenly developed an aversion to industrial espionage? Doubtful.

What R&D breakthroughs are required to give China a carrier-borne UCAV?

Military experts are currently speculating on whether China’s aircraft carrier may be equipped with unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV). This has not only increased public interest in these new “robot fighters”, but also led China’s military devotees to wonder whether China’s forthcoming self-developed aircraft carrier will similarly be equipped with shipborne UCAVs.

The technical threshold of the unmanned air vehicle is relatively low. A company that can manufacture sophisticated model aircraft has the technology to develop a UAV. However, the threshold of a UCAV is more than 10 times higher than that of a UAV. The combat capability of UCAV requires particular abilities in target identification and autonomous attack. Thus the requirements of the observing and targeting system (eyes), the control system (brain), and the communication system (mouth and ears) of a UCAV are very high. On the one hand, the UCAV should be able to detect the target that is to be attacked, while transmitting images to remote controllers; on the other hand, the UCAV should be able to receive remote directions based on human judgment, and then launch attacks or engage in combat under remote control.

Shipborne UAVs were not manufactured specifically for aircraft carriers. It is already the case that some advanced modern destroyers and surface vessels have been equipped with shipborne UAVs.

But the greater platform size of an aircraft carrier creates the opportunity for large-scale UAVs with combat and attack capabilities. However, this presents a technical difficulty – carrier-borne UCAVs need all the functions of ordinary UCAVs, but also require an independent capacity to take off from and land on aircraft carriers. The requirements of carrier-borne UCAVs include not only attack and combat capability, but also the delicate maneuvers of ‘intelligent’ aircraft.

Therefore the development of a carrier-borne UCAV involves extremely high research costs and a complex development process. If China intends to commission UCAVs similar to the US carrier-borne X-47B, five technical breakthroughs must be made.

The first is advanced aerodynamic design. It can be seen from the shape of the X-47B that these designs improve stealth, increase flight range, and respond to the demands of air attack and combat. The X-47B, the UK “Taranis”, and France’s “Neuron” all feature a recessed rear inlet and flying-V wings.

The second step is advanced flight control technology. This is the real technical challenge for the UCAV. The carrier-borne UCAV requires a full range of capabilities covering takeoff, cruise, combat, withdrawal, and landing. The demands on the electronic take-off and landing systems for the moving deck of an aircraft carrier are significantly higher than the requirements for a land-based airport.

A UCAV’s flight control equipment adjusts the craft in flight. This requires the flight control computer to implement planning and design according to a series of algorithms as quickly as possible after feedback, and update in response to environment changes detected by sensors.

Combat imposes high demands on the UCAV’s flight control system. Whether in aerial combat or an attack on an enemy target, both the UCAV itself and the target can be moving at high speeds. The flight control system must be able to control the aerial maneuvers of the UCAV in response to a dynamic battlefield environment.

Returning to and landing on the aircraft carrier are the steps with the highest accident rate for both manned and unmanned combat aircraft. Therefore, China’s shipborne UCAV will require not only advanced satellite navigation, but also a higher specification of flight control system to achieve a safe landing.

The third element is intelligent attack-defense integrated firing control. The U.S. military classifies UAVs in levels ranging from ACL-1 to ACL-10 (totally autonomous). A relatively complete firing control system begins at level ACL-4. The more advanced generation of shipborne UCAVs such as the X-47B are classified at level ACL-6, that is a UAV with the capacity to deal with sudden threats and targets in the form of multiple drones. At this level, the shipborne UCAV is required to have an autonomous attack-defense integrated firing control system with a significant degree of “intelligence”.

The fourth feature is a high thrust-weight ratio turbofan, achieved at low cost. The turbojet/turbofan engines used on American UCAVs are always derived from civil engines or manned military planes. For example, the X-47B uses the F100-220U turbofan engine derived from the F-100, originally developed for the F-16. The characteristics and combat environment for a UCAV require that its engine should have a low fuel consumption rate, a high thrust-weight ratio, low R&D and purchase costs, convenience for maintenance, and fitness for long-term storage.

The fifth element is information security. Communications between the UCAV and the remote controller are very likely to be targeted for disruption by the adversary. Thus the UCAV must use the most sophisticated network security technology, and error-free self-destruct programs.

Although the UCAV is an excellent weapon, the technical difficulties cannot be ignored. UCAV development experts throughout the world have racked their brains in search of solutions to the problems posed by intelligent flight and firing control systems, and the need to guarantee information transmission security.

In the development of a carrier-borne UCAV, we need to exercise patience. If China intents to research and develop such an aircraft, then high-tech combat attributes should perhaps be considered as a second phase. Functions such as early warning, investigation, and relay-guidance of UAV can be executed as a first priority.

France sells 2 reconnaissance satellites to United Arab Emirates for €500m ($650m)

The French government has signed contracts with the United Arab Emirates to supply two Helios IIA military reconnaissance satellites for over €500m ($650m). France hopes that this is an indication that the UAE may purchase the Dassault Rafale instead of the BAE Systems Eurofighter.

Défense : la France va vendre deux satellites d’observation aux Emirats Arabes Unis

Le satellite d’observation militaire français Helios IIA

C’est le premier gros contrat militaire signé depuis l’arrivée de François Hollande au pouvoir. Le ministre de la Défense Jean-Yves Le Drian s’envole lundi pour Abu Dhabi pour conclure la vente de deux satellites d’observation de type Helios pour un montant de plus de 500 millions d’euros.

Entre les Emirats Arabes Unis (EAU) et la France, c’est à nouveau très, très chaud… pour la signature d’un contrat de deux satellites d’observation militaire de type Helios livrés en orbite par Astrium et Thales Alenia Space (TAS). Un véritable rebondissement quand on se rappelle que la semaine dernière, le ministre de la Défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, et les PDG de Thales, Jean-Bernard Lévy, et d’Astrium, François Auque, étaient repartis d’Abu Dhabi mardi 16 très déçus de ne pas avoir convaincu le prince héritier cheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan de s’engager sur une commande de plus de 500 millions d’euros.

Une très grosse déception à la hauteur des espérances suscitées par ce contrat et qui avait laissé place à des supputations (pressions américaines ?) sur les raisons de la dernière exigence émiratie. Elle avait complètement surpris et pris au dépourvu les négociateurs français. Abu Dhabi souhaitait raccourcir le délai de livraison des deux satellites. Ce qui avait plongé dans l’embarras le camp français et précipité leur retour à Paris.

“Rageant, frustrant”, avait alors estimé l’un des négociateurs français. En même temps, Jean-Yves Le Drian s’était envolé dimanche dernier vers les Emirats Arabes Unis sans aucune garantie de signer un contrat. Surtout, “la France avait encore oublié que l’on n’impose pas un calendrier de signature aux Emiratis, qui n’aiment pas être mis sous la pression d’un Etat étranger dans une négociation”, explique un bon connaisseur de ces dossiers à La Tribune. Aussi simple que cela… Très certainement vrai au vu de la nouvelle tournure des événements.

Le ministre de la Défense de retour à Abu Dhabi lundi

L’échec de la semaine dernière est semble-t-il à ranger au rayon des péripéties d’une négociation. D’ailleurs Jean-Yves Le Drian, qui a beaucoup, beaucoup mouillé la chemise sur ce projet, retourne aux Emirats ce lundi pour signer le contrat en compagnie des PDG de Thales et d’Astrium ainsi que du directeur général délégué en charge de la stratégie et de l’international d’EADS, Marwan Lahoud. Il s’agit de la quatrième visite de Jean-Yves Le Drian aux Emirats depuis son entrée en fonction, en mai 2012.

Pourquoi à nouveau un tel optimisme ? Parce que dès le départ des négociateurs mardi dernier, le contact entre le prince héritier et la France a été maintenu, avec au centre du jeu l’ambassade de France, qui a pleinement joué son rôle dans le cadre de la diplomatie économique voulue par le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Laurent Fabius, à son arrivée au Quai d’Orsay. Mais pas que. Tous les services de l’Etat se sont mis au diapason du ministre de la Défense, notamment la direction générale de l’armement (DGA).

Surtout les négociateurs émiratis se sont discrètement rendus lundi à Paris pour poursuivre les négociations, selon des sources concordantes. Finalement les deux camps topent mardi, Astrium (maître d’oeuvre) et TAS ayant tait une partie du chemin en réduisant un peu les délais de livraison des deux satellites comme exigé par les Emiratis. Un accord est paraphé dans la foulée à Paris.

Restait à organiser la cérémonie de la signature. Ce qui a été arrangé entre Jean-Yves Le Drian et cheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, les deux hommes ayant noué de très bonnes relations de confiance. D’autant que le ministre de la Défense a vraiment tout fait pour décrocher ce contrat, notamment en facilitant un accord de gouvernement à gouvernement dans le cadre de ce contrat dont la signature du contrat est attendu maintenant ce lundi. Ce sera le premier gros contrat militaire conclu depuis l’arrivée du gouvernemernt Ayrault en mai dernier.

Rafale ?

Une fois ce dossier clos, Abu Dhabi devrait passer en rouvrir un autre, celui de l’appel d’offres portant sur l’acquisition de 60 avions de combat. Une compétition qui oppose le Rafale de Dassault Aviation à l’Eurofighter (BAE Systems, EADS et Finmeccanica). En février, lors du salon de défense IDEX à Abu Dhabi, les Emirats Arabes Unis avaient confirmé un nouvel intérêt pour l’avion de combat tricolore. Cheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan était lundi à Londres où il a rencontré le Premier ministre David Cameron, qui se bat pour un succès de l’Eurofighter. Au delà des Emirats Arabes Unis, où cette négociation avec Paris est très suivie par les pays voisins, les satellites d’observation français peuvent également intéresser l’Arabie Saoudite et le Qatar, qui ont de vieux projets qu’ils n’ont jamais concrétisés.

Outre les satellites d’observation et les avions de combat, la France compte également vendre aux Emirats Arabes Unis 700 Véhicules blindés de combat d’infanterie (VBCI) de Nexter ainsi que des radars de défense aérienne 3D tactique multimissions à moyenne portée, le Ground Master 200 (GM200) fabriqués par Thales. La France et les Emirats arabes unis entretiennent de longue date une coopération de défense, notamment dans le domaine de l’armement.

Entre 2007 et 2011, les prises de commandes se sont élevées à 2,1 milliards tandis que les livraisons de matériels ont atteint 1,9 milliard d’euros, selon le rapport au Parlement de 2012 sur les exportations d’armement de la France. Les Emirats abritent en outre la seule base militaire française hors d’Afrique, qui compte environ 700 militaires français.