India launches new aircraft carrier as China concerns grow

By Ashok Sharma, AP

India commissioned its first home-built aircraft carrier Friday as it seeks to counter regional rival China’s much larger and growing fleet, and expand its own indigenous shipbuilding capabilities.

The INS Vikrant, whose name is a Sanskrit word for “powerful” or “courageous,” is India’s second operational aircraft carrier, joining the Soviet-era INS Vikramaditya that it purchased from Russia in 2004 to defend the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal.

The new 262-meter (860-foot) carrier, designed by the Indian Navy and built at the Cochin shipyard in southern India, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the country’s commemoration of 75 years of independence from British rule.

More than just adding to the country’s naval capabilities, Modi stressed the importance of India now being only one of a handful of nations with an indigenous carrier program.

“It’s a historic day and landmark achievement,” Modi said. “It’s an example of the government’s thrust to make India’s defence sector self-reliant.”

The carrier is the largest warship to be built in the country, and can carry a crew of around 1,600 and operate a fleet of 30 aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters, the Navy said.

More than 75% of India’s new aircraft carrier’s components are indigenously procured, with half a dozen major industrial firms and more than 100 smaller businesses providing equipment and machinery, according to the Defence Ministry.

A delay of six years caused a six-fold price overrun to 200 billion rupees (U.S. $3 billion) at present, according to defence experts.

The 47,400-ton warship will be fully operational by the end of 2023 after first undergoing landing trials with India’s Russian-made MiG-29K fighter aircraft.

India plans to equip the carrier with more than two dozen new fighters, with the Rafale-M from France’s Dassault and the F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet built by American firm Boeing currently under consideration.

Until then it will rely on the Russian aircraft borrowed from India’s only other carrier, said Rahul Bedi, a defence expert.

F-22 Raptors welcomed to RAAF Base Tindal

The advanced fighter aircraft have arrived in Australia to participate in a joint military exercise.

United States Air Force (USAF) F-22 Raptor aircraft have arrived in the Northern Territory to take part in the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) program.

The aircraft touched down in RAAF Base Tindal in preparation for several weeks of military training activities during the EAC program.

The program, which commenced in 2017, aims to further enhance interoperability between Australia the United States.

This builds on previous joint training activities, which recently included the deployment of B-1 Lancer aircraft from RAAF Base Darwin and B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers from RAAF Base Amberley.

Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie, Air Commander Australia, noted the importance of enhancing bilateral defence ties as part of the United States Force Posture Initiative.

“It is testament to how well our two Air Forces assimilate, that these incredible aircraft are able to visit our bases and utilise our infrastructure and support services, so we can all train closely with one another,” AVM Goldie added.

AVM Goldie went on to welcome USAF counterparts to the Top End.

“Dry season in the Northern Territory is always a busy time for our Air Force, as you just cannot beat the training opportunities our ranges in the Top End present,” he said.

“I welcome the visiting United States personnel and hope they get as much out of working with us as we do with them.

“It is always an exciting opportunity to be able to work with and integrate with such a capable aircraft.”

The EAC program coincides with Exercise Pitch Black, which involves over 100 aircraft and 2,500 personnel from 17 different nations.

The exercise is designed to enhance interoperability and defence relationships between the participating nations.

Participants include Australia, France, Germany, Canada, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, New Caledonia, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

The exercise is scheduled to run from the 19th of August to the 8th of September.

Defence Connect

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL FLAG DAY

September 3 September 2022

This year’s Australian National Flag Day, on 3 September 2022, marks 121 years since the Australian National Flag was first officially flown in 1901 at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne – the site of Australia’s first Parliament.

Australian National Flag Day is an opportunity for all Australians to observe this anniversary by flying or displaying the flag.

The date of 3 September also marks Merchant Navy Day. It is an opportunity to remember the service and sacrifice of thousands of Australia’s merchant mariners during wartime operations. Organisations and individuals commemorating Merchant Navy Day may fly the Australia red ensign. When the Australian red ensign is flown along with the Australian National Flag, the Australian National Flag should be flown in the position of honour.

Additional information on how to acknowledge Australian National Flag Day and the protocols for flying the flag can be found on the Department’s website at https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/australian-national-flag.

 

 “Unprecedented”

Here we provide some more details of HMS Prince of Wales’ recent mechanical breakdown, plans for repairs and how HMS Queen Elizabeth’s programme is being altered in response.

Broken coupling

The reason HMS Prince of Wales could not begin her planned deployment is that an external SKF coupling that connects the outer propellor shaft to the drive shaft from the propulsion motors failed. This is a rare event and a situation described by the First Sea Lord as “unprecedented” as few marine engineers can remember an instance of this happening. Random unpredictable failures are uncommon but can still occur even if equipment is well designed, maintained and operated.

However, unconfirmed sources suggest HMS Prince of Wales was already experiencing some significant problems with her starboard motors and under pressure to sail, required special permission to leave on Saturday with a known defect. Her sailing had already been delayed by 24 hours and she put to sea with civilian staff from the original equipment manufacturer (GE Power Conversion) onboard, presumably confident the motor could be repaired while underway. Whether the coupling failure was related to the motor issues is unclear. She appears to have sailed using only the port shaft and her propellors did not strike the sea bed as has been rumoured. Press reports that the breakdown was caused because RN engineers “forgot to grease the shaft” are contemptible nonsense. (The external bearings are sea water-lubricated for starters).

Repair in Rosyth

The ship will return to Portsmouth in the next couple of days to offload some stores and a temporary fix will have to be applied to lock the faulty shaft to prevent damage while she on her way to dry dock. Tidal windows that allow the carriers to pass under the Forth Bridges and over the dock sill are only available every few weeks but Rosyth will be the destination. Despite rumours she might use dry docks in Amsterdam to save time, Rosyth was always by far the most likely option for the repair. Babcock has a contract to keep the facility ready for unplanned dry docking of the carriers at their secure site with personnel already experienced working on the ships. This will not be a quick fix and expect PWLS be out of action for some time. It is possible her 5-yearly Lloyds Naval Ship Rules hull inspection which was due next year anyway will be brought forward and combined with the repair work, allowing more availability for her in future.

Building large aircraft carriers was the right decision in almost every respect but comes with the downside of requiring bigger infrastructure. This incident highlights the unfortunate fact that there is no dry dock large enough to accommodate these vessels in their home port of Portsmouth. To construct such a facility in Pompey has been estimated to cost around £500M, funding the RN simply does not have. Rosyth with all its constraints remains the only viable option for the foreseeable future.

Photo: The port tail shaft being fitted to HMS Queen Elizabeth during her construction in dry dock at Rosyth in 2014. In these large ships, the length of the shafts requires them to be made of sections that have to be connected together with couplings. Note the rudder is offset inboard to allow the shaft to be slid in (or out) of the stern tube (Photo: Aircraft Carrier Alliance).

Sister act

Demonstrating the advantages of having two aircraft carriers and subject to final ministerial approval, HMS Queen Elizabeth will take over some, but not all, aspects of her sister’s programme. QNLZ was due to commence a 4-month deployment to the Baltic and Mediterranean with embarked F-35 jets. Instead, she will sail next week for the east coast of the US with her escorts HMS Defender, Diamond and Kent. She will perform some of the defence engagement tasks that were planned for PWLS, in particular hosting the Atlantic Future Forum in New York (28-29 September). HMS Richmond and RFA Tideforce were originally scheduled to accompany PWLS and will likely also continue on the deployment as planned.

QNLZ has not been fitted with all the kit required for the flight testing that was going to have taken place on PWLS and with limited time available, developmental flying will have to be severely curtailed or cancelled. Details of the programme are obviously still evolving but she is likely to re-cross the Atlantic to resume operational tasking in the Mediterranean, leaving some of the escorts behind to continue the diplomatic visits.

That’s life in a blue suit

As ever, the RN is able to respond flexibly to unforeseen events but people behind the scenes are having to put in lots of extra work to rearrange plans at short notice. Spare a thought for HMS Prince of Wales ship’s company who will be threaders, while those serving in her sister ship can instead look forward to the ship making her second visit to New York. This is a very unfortunate and regrettable way for the RN to begin its busy Autumn programme and the negative headlines, media pile-on and misinformed speculation has been rife. At least the video updates presented by Rear Admiral Moorhouse have shown the RN trying to be more proactive on the communications front.

Looking at events from a wider perspective, the RN is fortunate to have two active carriers and was about to launch simultaneous deployments. Better to break down off the Isle of Wight than on an operational or combat deployment far from home. The temporary loss of one ship can be mitigated by the availability of the other to some extent, although at the cost of some presence in the European theatre. Apart from the PR and repetitional damage, further delay in F-35 SRVL developmental flying is perhaps the biggest single cause for concern resulting from the breakdown.

 

Memorandum of Understanding – NSW RSL

Photo: Ray James OAM JP GAICD, Sophie Ray FAICD, Jon Black, Margot Smith FIML, Josh Landis, Dr George Peponis MB BS OAM GAICD

Veterans will be better supported in the transition back to civilian life thanks to a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between RSL NSW, ClubsNSW, and the RSL & Services Clubs Association.

Signed at the Anzac Memorial today, the MoU commits the parties to exploring how they can support findings of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and sets out a number of industry and policy issues to strive for.

This includes using club facilities as ‘veteran drop-in centres’, supporting clubs to offer free, joint membership to veterans and current-service personnel, and actively engaging younger veterans and their families through social, physical, and employment initiatives.

Navy personnel to train aboard UKs newest nuclear-powered submarine

By: Charbel Kadib

The British government has authorised the training of Australian personnel aboard the nation’s newest nuclear-powered submarine under the AUKUS agreement.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace have announced Royal Australian Navy (RAN) personnel would train aboard HMS Anson — the United Kingdom’s latest Astute Class submarine.

The news was reported at the vessel’s commissioning ceremony at BAE Systems’ shipyard in Barrow, attended by Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, who is currently touring Europe in an effort to further strengthen defence ties with key European partners.

The training agreement aims to equip RAN submariners with the skills to operate Australia’s future nuclear-powered fleet.

The deal comes just months after the US approved legislation enabling Australian military personnel to train with US counterparts aboard Virginia Class submarines.

The UK’s Astute Class and the US’ Virginia Class platforms are currently under consideration by the Commonwealth government’s Nuclear Submarine Taskforce, which is scheduled to select a preferred option in March next year.

Deputy Prime Minister Marles welcomed this latest training agreement with the UK, noting it would help enhance bilateral defence cooperation between the longstanding allies.

“Australia is eager to learn from our counterparts, and who better to learn from than our friends in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“Our countries are working hand in glove on training and building the skills required for our future submarines is an important part of bolstering our Defence Force.

“Today’s announcement of Australian submariners training aboard HMS Anson says everything about our future plans of building the AUKUS partnership.”

During his visit to the UK, the deputy PM also toured the Govan shipyard, where the UK’s Type 26 frigate is under construction.

The Type 26 platform is the base design for Australia’s own next-generation Hunter Class frigates, to be developed by BAE Systems under the $45 billion SEA5000 contract.

“…We have Australian workers – engineers, mechanics and the like – who are learning from their UK counterparts to deliver the high-tech skills required to deliver for our frigate program back home in Osborne, SA,” the defence minister added.

“I have been warmly welcomed during my time here in the UK and I would like to thank my counterpart, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for hosting me.

“The technology, capability and lethality on show is truly impressive and Australia looks forward to progressing our talks through the AUKUS partnership.”

 

NEW REPORT INTO VETERAN WELLBEING

A new report released today shines a light on the positive experience of former Defence Force members in re-joining civilian life and their positive impact on their communities.

The report finds that after leaving service, most veterans have a smooth transition to new employment and civilian life; but it also reminds us that this is not the case for everyone.

Minister for Veteran’s Affairs Matt Keogh welcomed the release of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Understanding the wellbeing characteristics of ex-serving ADF members.

“This is the first report of its kind that provides such detailed analysis of data on employment status, income, educational qualifications, home ownership and family and household makeup of ex-ADF members,” Minister Keogh said.

“This will help us understand how we can best tailor our services and programs to suit the needs of veterans and families.”

The report used data from the 2016 Census and examined experiences from 72,700 veterans who had at least one day of service on or after January 2001 and had transitioned from the ADF as at 31 December 2015.

The report shows nearly 2 in 5 (38 per cent) ex-serving ADF females had a bachelor’s degree or higher, a rate 1.4 times higher than Australian females (26 per cent).  One quarter (25 per cent) of ex-serving ADF males had a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is similar to Australian males (22 per cent).

“Educational qualifications can be indicators of how well ex-serving ADF are able to transition into civilian life,” Minister Keogh said.

“There’s no doubt that returning to civilian life after Defence service is a challenge, and we must ensure the best supports and services are made available to transitioning personnel, including in relation to employment, health and wellbeing, submitting compensation claims and rehabilitation to deliver a smooth landing for veterans and families.”

The report shows that 78 per cent of ex-serving males and 76 per cent of ex-serving females were employed in 2016, compared with 67 per cent of Australian males and 57 per cent of Australian females across the general population were employed at that time.

Data also showed ex-serving ADF generally had weekly personal higher incomes in comparison to the broader Australian population. 76 per cent of ex-serving males and 60 per cent of ex-serving females earned a weekly personal income of $800 and above in 2016. By comparison, around half of Australian males (52 per cent) and just over one third of Australian females (34 per cent) earned a weekly personal income of $800 and above.

In relation to veteran families, more veteran families have children under 15 years old (74 per cent) compared with the Australian population (62 per cent). The median age of these children was six and a half years old. This is likely due to the higher proportion of persons aged between 25 and 44 represented in the ex-serving population.

 

“This helps us better understand what veteran families are juggling and what information and support they might need to help them navigate life with young children,” Minister Keogh said.

The report showed the majority of veterans owned their own home, on par with the Australian population.

“Housing plays a major role in people’s health and wellbeing, by providing shelter, safety and security,” Minister Keogh said.

“We understand that a person’s housing needs and preferences change as they progress through different stages of their lives, and it is important to provide adequate funding for services that support our veterans.

“We are committed to investing in research that delivers a better understanding of the veteran community, so that we can provide the services that veterans and families need and having access to the latest data helps us to do that.

“I look forward to next year’s update of this report, which will contain data from the 2021 Census.”

There are many positive findings in this report. However, some individuals and cohorts experience challenges, including those members who transitioned from the ADF involuntarily for medical reasons and those who served fewer years. This report helps government target its work in these areas to where the higher needs are.

If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, help is available. All current and former ADF personnel and their families have access to free and confidential counselling and support through Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling. This life-saving support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 011 046.

The report was produced as part of an ongoing partnership between the Australian Government’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

For more information or to download a copy of the report, visit: www.aihw.gov.au

 

MILITARY SPECTACULAR HONOURS OUR YOUNGER VETERANS

Please let me introduce myself and explain my reason for contacting you.  My name is Russell Paten and I am the Vice-President of the Military Historical Society of Australia (MHSA). This year, MHSA is hosting a Military Spectacular at the Caloundra RSL on the Sunshine Coast from 14 – 16 October. Over two days and two nights, a cohort of high profile military speakers who have served their country will relate personal experiences of their service and provide insights into the future of the ADF.  I have attached a brief summary of the event to give you and your members additional detail regarding the Spectacular. I am contacting you directly to ask if you could distribute the details of this event to your membership to advise them of it and to allow them the opportunity to participate. All  surplus proceeds from the event will be donated to veteran welfare and interest groups.

The website for the event is: https://militaryspectacular.events

Regards

Russell Paten

Vice-President MHSA

0427 207 307

THIS IS YOUR INVITATION

The inaugural Australian Military History Spectacular will shine the spotlight on one of the most demanding periods in our nation’s defence history. In a vibrant three-day extravaganza on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast the Caloundra RSL’s Function Centre and Memorial Gardens will showcase this first-time event from 14th to 16th October. Not seen like this before, untold stories of our military activities since the Vietnam War will honour and commemorate our veterans, past and still serving. You will not have heard these stories before. And there is much more.

 “The Australian people found a new way to love their Navy, Army and Air Force … ordinary men and women, performing with great professionalism, good humour and exquisite compassion.” General Sir Peter Cosgrove (his Memoir p.131)

Eighteen astounding speakers; military police attack dogs; engineer explosive detection dogs; military band of 1st Regiment Royal Australian Artillery entertaining with pop, rock and military music; big guns, small guns and specialist vehicles; the Shadow 200 mega-drone; 155mm artillery gun; defence contractor exhibits; books authored by those who did the job; dinners with keynote speakers; photos and videos of the actions.

A concentrated program of activities and events will bring our recent living history to light to commemorate our service men and women’s courage, professionalism, resilience, innovation and pride. From the Function Centre indoors to the Memorial Gardens, personal story presentations of those who served, demonstrations of military equipment and performances will showcase how the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has lived the past and is preparing for the future. It will trace the key changes that have shaped our society and show how Australia’s national security has evolved in the period between distinctly different wars. These are real stories, not media selectivity. More expansive than a Military Tattoo.

From peacekeeping in the Africas, Europe, the Middle East and Pacific, to conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, nursing officers, doctors, infantry and special forces, naval and submarine officers, dog handlers and airmen will step forward painting a colourful picture and adding vital knowledge about our military heritage. The real-world experiences of veterans who have shaped our recent history will be captured through professional audio-visual recordings ensuring their service and stories are preserved for future generations with dignity.

The fascinating line-up includes the first female Executive Officer of a submarine; the female General who commanded a mixed force of 600 UN police and military in Cyprus; the Captain of HMAS Darwin in the Persian Gulf; the infantry force commander and female doctor awarded the Medal of Gallantry in Rwanda; the Bush Tucker Man; a Commando officer; the RAAF officer supervising the extraction from Afghanistan who was ‘last man out’; and many more.? Their stories have rarely – if ever – been told in public but are crucial to our military heritage.

The Military Spectacular will give locals and visitors alike a real understanding of Australia’s modern wartime heritage through the eyes of those who lived and created our history. This is an ambitious event being organised by the Military Historical Society of Australia’s Qld Division, a not-for-profit association. All proceeds will be donated to a variety of Veteran welfare and assistance groups.

TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE www.militaryspectacular.events where you can get. early bird specials and group discounts. Enquiries can be directed to the Convenor, Neil Dearberg at [email protected] Trade and exhibitor enquiries are welcome.

 

 

Retrospective legislation set to revoke access to administrative justice

By Mark Schroffel

Draft legislation prepared by the Department of Treasury is expected to be tabled in parliament in early September that is likely to disadvantage more than 10,000 veterans and former Commonwealth officers by changing the laws dealing with the taxation of their superannuation and compensation benefits.

For thousands of veterans, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Measures for a later sitting) Bill 2022: Taxation of military superannuation benefits is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The legislation has been dressed up and presented as a measure to ensure veterans will not be adversely impacted by the decision of the 2021 Douglas Federal Court Case, whereby three disabled and medically retired veterans (Douglas, Walker and Burns) argued that the invalidity benefits they received should be treated as “superannuation lump sum” payments rather than the more highly taxed “superannuation income stream” benefit.

It’s a complex matter with likely consequences that reach into all manner of issues that can be impacted by the classification of income, such as taxation, family law and eligibility for concessions and the like.

Some veterans, perhaps justifiably, believe that their human rights are being threatened by measures that retrospectively removes avenues of legal argument that would allow them to redress what they believe to be years of misadministration of their pensions and invalidity entitlements.

Veterans on invalidity pensions such as Peter Thornton and Bradly Campbell have been doing their best with limited resources to fight for their rights, and the rights of thousands of veterans and former Commonwealth employees in the same situation. Their ability to do so is about to be revoked with the seemingly benign changes to the law that are being lined up by departmental officials for the Governor General’s big rubber stamp.

The veterans who have taken this up are also struggling with illness and the disadvantage that comes with being on an invalidity pension. They have little chance against the machinery of mighty government bureaucracies such as the ATO and Department of Treasury.

Ian Lindgren from the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association says that he is concerned that the legislation can be interpreted differently by every department that has to apply it. Lindgren explained that “this was a major issue to those who discussed it with Treasury and the Minister’s Office, however, all were advised that the interpretation issue was not in-scope of those drafting the legislation”

While Lindgren is offering to assist anyone who is able to prepare a ministerial brief on the issue, he is concerned that the complexity of the matter and the varying circumstances of each individual affected make it difficult to present a universal case.

Much like Robodebt, this legislative tidy-up serves to disempower already vulnerable people in an attempt to avoid the liabilities of the government’s past mistakes.

Will Minister Keogh take a second look at this legislation and gives these veterans a sporting chance to make their case? Or is the Albanese Government destined to repeat the history of similarly inspired ventures?

Mark Schroffel is the Editor-in-Chief of Australian Veteran News. Mark is a veteran and has a day-job as strategy consultant and researcher interested in veteran support policies and transition programs. He designed and led the Melbourne Legacy sponsored ShoutOUT research initiative to gather insights and stories about post-1991 veterans and their families. Mark can be followed on twitter @MarkSchroffel