August 2015

The Kaga: Raised from the Dead

Kaga

It is not uncommon for a warship’s name to be used over and over again across the lifespan of several ships. In the case of the Enterprise, the US Navy has re-purposed the name for seven different warships, going as far back as 1799. It even serves as the basis for an entire science fiction series should the name soldier on into the future.

For the Japanese Navy, the Kaga has equally special meaning, since it was one of the aircraft carriers that launched a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and was subsequently sunk at the Battle of Midway some six months later. Now some seventy odd years later, the Kaga sails again, this time around serving as a 24-000 ton helicopter assault ship (DDH-184). According to USNI News, “The ship follows JS Izumo (DDH-183) which entered service in the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) in March.”

While the ship is designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and could render humanitarian relief to stricken areas, the ship can quickly be converted for offensive purposes should the Japanese decide to purchase the short takeoff US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which can operate off of a helicopter assault ship. Likewise it can also handle the US V-22 Osprey, which has a much further range and greater carrying capacity than any of the helicopters intended to operate from the Kaga.

Somehow, all of this serves as a strange twist of fate for a ship that helped to start hostilities between the Empire of Japan and the United States over seven decades ago. Godspeed Kaga.

 
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The Pentagon’s “Pacific Pivot” Picks Up Speed

MSLV

In line with the so-called “Pacific Pivot” espoused by Pentagon planners who foresee a possible war in and along the Pacific Rim, the military has requested plans for a new family of military landing craft to be used by both the US Army and US Navy for water borne delivery of heavy assets. According to Defence News, the new Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), or MSV(L), will be required to transport either one M1 Abrams main battle tank, two Stryker infantry combat vehicles or up to four Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. The MSV would replace the current fleet of aging Landing Craft Mechanized that are still in service with both branches of the military.

“The Army plans to issue a request for proposals before the end of the year, make an award later in 2016, have a prototype in 2017, and be testing in 2018 and 2019,” says Defence News. “A 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract would cover three years of engineering and manufacturing development, two years of low rate initial production and five years of full production.”

Separately, the Pentagon cancelled a new amphibious assault vehicle a couple of years ago that was aimed at replacing the fleet of aging Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVPs) currently in US service. At the time, the Pentagon claimed there was no need to make a “forcible entry” onto a well-defended beach since the Marines and US Army haven’t had to wage an assault from the sea in over 60 years. Updates to a number of aging weapons platforms are currently underway across the entire spectrum of military vehicles, and with a potential conflict looming against certain East Asian countries, it remains to be seen if the Pentagon decides to re-open the matter and follow-up on a potential beach invasion candidate.

 
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The Successor to the Vanguard is, well, the Successor

Successor

Ordinarily, new weapons programs are steeped in secrecy and receive their names in accordance with mythical creatures, fabled leaders, landmarks, and even symbolism. In the case of Britain’s newest ballistic missile carrying submarine, someone came up with the idea to name it Successor, which is aimed to carry on the forty year-old tradition of having a nuclear deterrence sailing beneath the ocean’s waves.

According to UK Defence Journal, the Successor will be massive in size, so much so that Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited at Barrow-in-Furness, the shipyard tasked with building the trio of submarines, must itself undergo a refit and refurbishment this fall so it can set about the job of building the mighty under sea warrior. Britain’s requirement is to have the first Successor put to sea by 2021, which is five years beyond the current service life of the Vanguard class of missile submarines. As a stop gap measure, the four Vanguard class submarines will have to be updated and retrofitted, thereby enabling them to remain seaworthy until the Successor comes on line.

“While details remain sketchy at best regarding the currently titled ‘Successor class’, one of the key features the new boats will have is a Common Missile Compartment (CMC),” says UK Defence Journal. “CMC aims to define the missile tubes and accompanying systems that would be used to launch new ballistic missiles, successors to the current Trident II/ D5 missile fleet used by the USA and Britain.”

The Successor program is vital to the UK’s thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile strategy, since it is the only remaining tip of the triad strategy that can still offer a nuclear deterrence. “Since the retirement of the last Royal Air Force free falling nuclear bomb in 1998,” says UK Defence Journal, “the British nuclear deterrent has been entirely submarine based. This is intended to deter a potential enemy because they cannot eliminate our ability to strike back in a first strike if a missile submarine remains at sea.” The UK does not possess a land-based nuclear missile program like its compatriot the United States.

 
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Merit Opts to Drive Into Harm’s Way

MIL68605

It’s been an especially long time since we were able to announce a new super-sized, pre-assembled vehicle to our collecting community but happily one seems to have surfaced. Merit International informs us that they plan to release a 1:16 scale Oshkosh M-ATV Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) this fall, fully built, fully painted and fully ready to take on any Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) their customers might have ready for them (MIL68605). The MRAP is one of those vehicles that came out of the Army’s need for a vehicle that could withstand the blast from a roadside explosive device after a number of Humvees and other lighter, less protected vehicles were destroyed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Its also a vehicle many collectors have been after for some time, in any scale, so its especially welcome news that Merit plans on doing it right and in a big way. Priced at just $159.99, this beefy vehicle is expected some time this fall. Due to its size, it does not qualify for our free shipping discount. We will post actual photos of the replica once they are provided to us.

 
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All HALE, Lockheed

U2

According to FlightGlobal.com, Lockheed, the famed designers of several cutting edge aircraft designs, is currently working on a replacement for the aging U-2 high altitude spy plane.

“Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is designing a next-generation high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) surveillance airplane, known internally as RQ-X or UQ-2, as an optionally-manned successor to the U-2 and Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

U-2 programme officials told reporters at the Skunk Works headquarters in Palmdale, California, that its engineers have been mulling designs for stealthy HALE platform that would combine the best of the U-2 and its unmanned rival, the Global Hawk.

The advanced research and development arm of Lockheed is essentially pursuing an improved version of the U-2, which is powered by the same General Electric F118 engine and optimized to fly at 70,000ft or higher. It would carry many of the same sensors, since those are already calibrated for use at that altitude. The biggest difference will be the aircraft’s low-observable characteristics.”

In an odd twist of fate, “Lockheed finds itself in this position partly because its RQ-3 DarkStar, a stealthy unmanned aircraft designed to fly where the U-2 and Global Hawk couldn’t, never made it past flight testing and was cancelled.

These days, though, Lockheed isn’t chasing a solely unmanned design. In fact, the new aircraft would probably be built around the same cockpit as the U-2,” says FlightGlobal.com.

The updated U-2 would have to rely upon stealth characteristics as a means of thwarting detection since Russia’s BUK mobile Air Defense System (NATO code name “Grizzly”) can fire surface-to-air missiles up to and beyond 70,000 feet. A manned aircraft might therefore be required to manually evade incoming missiles.

 
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How Do You Spell Eagle(mas)?

EM043

Every so often we run into a situation where we get short shipped a few items. In the case of Eaglemoss, we learned today that several items in their partworks line that we had been expecting in the August/September time frame won’t be materializing, chief among them the 1:43 scale Bren Gun Carrier. Likewise, we got short shipped the Studebaker truck in CIAB livery, although we will be able to fill a few orders based upon the date we received them. Our distributor hasn’t given up hope, so there’s still a chance that they will locate another cache of these items, thereby enabling us to fill a few more orders and possibly offer the product up for general sale.

Anyway, one of the lessons learned from this unhappy happenstance is that it pays to submit pre-orders early. We fill orders based upon the date we receive them, in a sense rewarding those customers who place their orders ahead of the product being received rather than dallying on the sidelines waiting for a timely opportunity to arise. Again, by using a credit card, you have nothing to lose since we do not charge you until the merchandise is ready to be shipped out. If you decide to pay by PayPal or use a debit card then that’s a different story, since each brings with it its own set of circumstances discussed in detail on our First-Time User Information page.

 
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Disney Unveils a Galaxy, Far, Far Away

Star Wars Land

Looks like the Mrs. and I have a date with destiny in a few years when we take our grand kids down to Orlando, Florida. At the recently concluded Disney Expo, held in Anaheim, California, Disney Chairman, Robert Eiger, disclosed information concerning their latest theme parks. Dubbed Star Wars Land, at least for now, the new 14-acre theme park to be added to both the Disney Land property in Anaheim as well as the Disney World mega complex in Florida, will be the mecca for all things Star Wars-related, featuring rides, attractions, stores and other venues all tied together within a “space port” like cityscape. Employees dressed in Star Wars costumes will circulate among the park’s visitors, appear in make-shift bands (think the Star Wars cantina scene), and engage in light saber battles, all in an effort to breathe life into the Star Wars saga we’ve all come to know and love. No word as yet as to when the theme parks will be completed, but you can bet Disney will be throwing lots of money at these twin projects as more and more movies, games and merchandise come to the fore.

Meanwhile, other previously constructed venues will be updated accordingly, including Star Tours, while a few existing attractions, namely Space Mountain, will be renamed Hyper Space Mountain, and be spruced up to give it a more Star Wars-esque appearance. No word if a Star Wars-themed Hotel(s) will be erected for park goers, but we’re willing to bet that one or perhaps several are being discussed with the hospitality industry.

 
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Hobby Master has a Remedy for the Winter Doldrums

HA3526

Earlier this week, Hobby Master disclosed what they have in store for January 2016. Several intriguing new liveries are being worked on, including this commemorative 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain scheme adorning a Canadian Cf-18 Hornet (HA3526).

HA4505

Other notable entrants include two Israeli warplanes – one based upon a F-15 Baz flown by the “Knights of the Twin Tail” squadron (HA4505) and an E-2C Hawkeye flown by a reconnaissance squadron (HA4805). All of the new replicas have been listed on our web site and are now available for pre-sale.

 
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The F-35 Looks to the Future

JSF_helmet_F35-GEN III

According to Defense News, “Marking a milestone for the joint strike fighter program, Rockwell Collins this week delivered the first Generation 3 helmet for the F-35.

The Generation 3 Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS), which was handed over to the Joint Program Office Tuesday in a ceremony at the company’s headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is crucial to the F-35’s advanced suite of technologies. It provides a 360-degree digital view of what’s going on around the aircraft, essentially letting the pilot “look through” the cockpit floor and walls. All the information pilots need to complete their missions is projected on the helmet’s visor.

Developed and built by the Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems joint venture, the new helmet includes an improved night vision camera, improved liquid-crystal displays, and automated alignment and software upgrades, according to an Aug. 11 company statement. The Gen 3 helmet will be introduced to the fleet as part of the low-rate initial production lot 7 in 2016.”

The new helmet improves the situational awareness for the pilot, enabling him to see his environment in a more robust fashion rather than confining his vision to a small, forward-looking crystal display. And, as the test pilot in this accompany video indicates, it gives the pilot better interoperability with his wingmen, thereby enabling them to work as a team rather than individual weapons platforms. The new helmet will be used across all three versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

 
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Russia Continues to Eye its Next Bomber

PAK-DA

With the USAF set to announce its proposed Long Range Strategic Bomber (LRS-B) this September, Russia is continuing to develop plans for its own next-generation strategic bomber. Dubbed the Pak DA, the subsonic PAK-DA is destined to replace Moscow’s aging fleet of 63 Tu-95 Bear and 13 Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers.

According to the RIA Novosti, Russia’s Air Force commander insisted that the aircraft will be equipped with advanced electronic warfare systems and armed with new nuclear-capable long-range cruise missiles, and will be able to carry a wide array of conventional precision guided weapons.

With its flying wing shape and radar-evading capabilities, the new plane will enter production stage by 2020 with the first bomber in active service by 2025-2030 timeframe.

The PAK-DA will not be hypersonic (even if it will probably carry hypersonic missiles) as opposed to the American X-51, Falcon HTV-2 and other hypersonic development programs on which U.S.’s perspective strike capability will be based.

A supposed “sixth-generation” pilotless strategic bomber based on the PAK-DA could enter service around 2040-2050, provided Russia can afford its massively inflated defense budget put in place by President Vladimir Putin.

 
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