New Royal Navy minehunting mother ship starts sea trials

by Kate Tringham

Stirling Castle has started sea trials with the RFA after completing its conversion into a mother ship for offboard autonomous mine countermeasure payloads. (RFA Nostalgia)

The UK Royal Navy's (RN's) new minehunting mother ship started sea trials with Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) personnel after completing its military conversion from an oil rig offshore support vessel (OSV).

Stirling Castle (ex-MV Island Crown ) was purchased second-hand from Island Offshore Management for GBP40 million (USD49.3 million) to serve as a host platform for offboard autonomous mine countermeasure payloads.

The ship arrived at His Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB), Devonport, from Norway in late January to undergo its conversion. Modification work has been relatively minimal aside from the installation of specific military equipment for its new role.

The trials and RFA crew training period are expected to continue for the next couple of months, with a view to achieving initial operating capability in July–August 2023. The initial emphasis of trials will be on learning how best to run and maintain the 6,000 tonne vessel, test safety systems, and effectively write the instruction/operators' manual, Captain Ali Clack, the ship's commanding officer said.

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India test-fires extended-range BrahMos on soon-to-be-commissioned destroyer

by Ridzwan Rahmat

Firing of the Brahmos-ER. (Ministry of Defence, India)

India has carried out another test fire of its extended-range (ER) BrahMos PJ-10 supersonic cruise missile from a Kolkata/Visakhapatnam (Project 15A/15B)-class guided destroyer, the country's Ministry of Defence (MoD) disclosed on 27 November.

The missile was fired from the programme's sixth hull, which will be in service as INS Imphal once it is commissioned. It was fired as part of the vessel's pre-commissioning trials, the ministry added.

India's BrahMos PJ-10 is based on the Yakhont (3M-55E) supersonic cruise missile, which is the export version of Russia's domestic P-800 (3M-55) Oniks.

The weapon has been in service with the Indian Navy for more than a decade, and the ER variant of the BrahMos PJ-10 is believed to have a maximum range of in excess of 500 km, which is an improvement over the older variant's estimated range of about 300 km.

Besides the Project 15A/15B vessels, the BrahMos PJ-10 is also deployed from the service's Rajput-class destroyers and Talwar (Krivak III)-class Batch II frigates.

Meanwhile, Imphal

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French DGA orders first seven OPVs for French Navy

by Kate Tringham

Graphic depiction of the French Navy's new offshore patrol vessel. (Naval Group)

The French defence procurement agency, Directorate General of Armament (DGA), has ordered seven new multi-purpose offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the French Navy.

Announcing the milestone on 23 November the DGA said the acquisition covered three contracts totalling EUR900 million (USD985.03 million), which were signed on 17 November.

Under the contract awards, the ships will be built by a temporary shipbuilding consortium comprising Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie (CMN), Piriou, and Socarenam; Naval Group will be responsible for project management and the development and supply of the combat management system; and Thales will supply and integrate the maritime surveillance sensor suite.

Under current planning, the first new OPV is planned to be delivered in 2026.

“The first stage of the offshore patrol vessel programme, based on the acquisition of seven vessels, will fill a gap in the second-tier vessel segment, taking into account the decommissioning of offshore patrol vessels that have already taken place, and will initiate the ramp-up of these vessels on each of the three metropolitan coasts – Brest, Toulon, and Cherbourg,” the DGA said.

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Norway, Germany to pursue joint development of supersonic strike missile

by Richard Scott

The 3SM Tyrfing missile is expected to utilise solid-fuel ramjet propulsion. (Kongsberg)

Norway has disclosed plans to jointly develop a new long-range, high-speed naval strike weapon with Germany.

Announcing the move on 24 November, Norwegian Defence Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said the projected SuperSonic Strike Missile (3SM) – given the name Tyrfing (a magic sword in Norse mythology) – was entering preliminary development pending a more substantive investment decision next year. Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, which has previously developed the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), will lead the 3SM development programme, with the aim to have the new weapon ready for delivery in 2035.

Previously known as the Future Naval Strike Missile (Project 1081), the 3SM programme stems from study work undertaken to define requirements for a common missile development to meet the long-term naval strike needs of both Norway and Germany. “Germany is our most important European partner for co-operation on defence equipment and a majorly important ally in NATO,” said Gram in a statement. “The government is now proposing that a decision will be made to initiate the first initial design phase of the project.”

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The UK Royal Navy's (RN's) new minehunting mother ship started sea trials with Royal Fleet Auxiliary...

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