Military to support the testing of thousands of students in England

UK Military personnel will provide planning and training support to secondary schools and colleges with testing at the start of the spring term.

The personnel are on standby to support secondary schools and colleges across England to roll out COVID-19 testing to students and staff as the new term begins in January.

The armed forces deployment across England builds on successful school testing pilots conducted in November and December. Personnel supported thousands of tests being carried out at pilot schools, demonstrating the value of lateral flow devices rapidly testing students in a school environment.

1,500 UK Armed Forces personnel are being made available to support the Department for Education and Department for Health and Social Care to ensure that students and staff can return as safely as possible to secondary schools and colleges across England.

The majority of personnel will form local response teams, providing support and phone advice to institutions needing guidance on the testing process and set-up of the testing facilities.

This will be done predominantly through webinars and individual meetings, but teams will also be on standby to deploy at short notice to provide in-person support to resolve any issues in the situations where testing would otherwise not be able to go ahead. Schools and colleges will shortly be provided with further information on how to request additional support if needed.

A small team of planners is embedded in the Department for Health and Social care who are supporting the Department for Education to help coordinate the support. The majority of personnel will be on task from this week as they start to conduct training.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The UK Armed Forces are stepping up once again this holiday. This week I have authorised over a thousand Armed Forces personnel to assist schools returning after the Christmas break.

“They’ll share considerable experience of testing across the country and the successful school pilots conducted this autumn.

“We are grateful for the professionalism and commitment they and our colleagues in teaching are showing to get students back into the classroom and on with their education.”

Every secondary school and college in England is being offered testing, with £78 million funding for schools and colleges to support this offer.

As well as additional funding, the government will provide schools and colleges with the kit they need and have introduced a staggered return at the start of term.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “It is a true cross-government effort to make sure secondary schools and colleges have the support, guidance, materials and funding they need to offer rapid testing to their staff and students from the start of term.

“I am grateful to the armed forces personnel, and all the school and college staff, leaders and volunteers working to put testing in place. This will help break chains of transmission, fight the virus, and help deliver the national priority of keeping education open for all.”

Students will be expected to swab themselves in the vast majority of cases, under the supervision of a school staff member or volunteer who has been trained for the role. Teachers are not expected to take a role in the testing process.

This support is being provided through the Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) process. There are currently around 2914 personnel committed to 55 tasks to support other government departments and civil authorities with the response to coronavirus. This includes support with community testing across the UK, the provision of ambulance drivers in Wales and testing support for hauliers in Kent.

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Saab receives follow-on contract from United Arab Emirates for GlobalEye

Saab has received a follow on contract with the United Arab Emirates regarding the sale of two GlobalEye systems, Saab’s advanced airborne surveillance system.

The order value is USD 1.018 billion and the contract period is 2020-2025.

The original contract with the United Arab Emirates for GlobalEye was signed in 2015. This contract is an amendment to that signed in 2015.

“We are proud that the United Arab Emirates continues to show great trust in Saab and our solutions. It shows that Saab remains on the cutting edge regarding advanced technology. The GlobalEye program is running according to plan and we have an efficient cooperation with the customer”, says Micael Johansson, President and CEO Saab.

The work will be carried out in Gothenburg, Linköping, Arboga, Järfälla and Luleå in Sweden and in Centurion, South Africa.

The contract was signed by the customer on the 30th of December 2020, hence the order was booked during the fourth quarter 2020.

GlobalEye provides simultaneous air, maritime and ground surveillance. It combines sophisticated radar technology with the ultra-long range Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier.

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Over 5,000 Armed Forces deployed in support of the Covid response

Over 5,000 Armed Forces personnel are currently deployed to support the response to the Coronavirus across the UK, working on 70 different tasks ranging from schools testing to the rollout of vaccines.

This is more than at any previous point in the pandemic and the biggest homeland operation the UK has ever seen in peacetime. Thousands more are supporting efforts through their day jobs in military planning, Defence Medical Services, Defence Science and Technology Laboratories and elsewhere.

More military personnel are being deployed to support community testing in:

  • Manchester – 800 personnel providing community testing support to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority
    • Kent – 390 personnel will support community testing
    • Swadlincote, Derbyshire – 130 personnel to establish and operate four lateral flow testing sites
    • Kirklees, Yorkshire – 75 personnel to establish and operate four lateral flow testing sites
    • Lancashire – 420 personnel to support asymptomatic testing

In Manchester another large scale task is now underway, with 800 personnel deploying from nine regiments across the British Army at the request of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), through the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

These personnel will prepare to work across all ten local authority areas of Greater Manchester to carry out targeted asymptomatic testing of specific populations that may be at a higher risk of infection including social care staff, key workers, public facing occupations such as bus drivers, and those in high risk environments such care homes and shared accommodation for the homeless.

The task builds on lessons from previous asymptomatic community testing in Liverpool, Lancashire, Merthyr Tydfil, Medway, and Kirklees.

In addition to community testing, military personnel remain on-task testing hauliers in Dover and helping to establish ten new testing sites to improve the flow of traffic across the Channel.

1,500 Armed Forces personnel have also been provided to support schools testing, with local response teams providing virtual support and phone advice to institutions. Personnel also on standby to deploy at short notice to provide in-person support. Testing will continue as planned with two rapid Lateral Flow Tests available to all secondary school and college students and staff at the start of term to identify asymptomatic cases, break chains of transmission and beat the virus.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The new year will see new levels of Armed Forces support to overcoming this pandemic. Thousands of service personnel are working throughout the United Kingdom, wherever they are needed to assist the civil authorities.

“Manchester is the latest of those tasks and will be an important contribution to protecting the highest risk groups as the city seeks to recover. As a North West MP I am acutely aware of the considerable time many of us have been labouring under some form of lockdown and I hope our soldiers will help us get to the day when these restrictions will start to lift.”

Lt Gen Sir Tyrone Urch KBE, Commander Standing Joint Commander UK said: “I am incredibly proud of all the servicemen and women who have worked tirelessly for most of this year on Operation RESCRIPT, the military effort in support of the government’s campaign to tackle COVID-19.

“In recent weeks, our amazing staff have deployed at short notice to set up and staff community testing centres across the country in support of the NHS, DHSC, Devolved Nations and local communities. They have conducted a successful testing pilot in schools and contributed to vaccine rollout planning. Both Regular and Reservist personnel stepped up on Christmas Eve to help clear the backlog of trucks in Kent, setting up testing facilities overnight when they would otherwise have been spending the festive period with their families.

“I am humbled by the sacrifice and dedication of all our people from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force as we continue to contribute to our nation’s fight against the coronavirus.”

The MOD has deployed 10 military planners to assist the Vaccine Task Force, with over 150 personnel deployed across the UK to support organisational and logistical components of the Deployment Programme. Two separate military planners are seconded to support the Vaccine Task Force Director. Additionally, 20 personnel are assisting with regional vaccine planning, end-to-end logistics and delivery.

From 11th January a Vaccine Quick Reaction Force is being established, with their training for the role beginning today. This will initially be 21 teams of six personnel assigned to the seven NHS England regions, able to provide surge support to the vaccine roll-out if required by local health authorities.

In Wales, 90 service personnel are deployed to support Health Boards in rapidly establishing and operating vaccination centres. For the first-time trained defence medics will also support the administering of the vaccine. Ninety-four military personnel, including medics and drivers, have embedded with the Welsh Ambulance NHS Trust to support them by driving Ambulances.

In Scotland, military planners are supporting the testing and vaccine programmes. Earlier during the pandemic Armed Forces personnel supported healthcare professionals to deliver testing at Glasgow Airport, and RAF Puma helicopters were deployed to Kinloss Barracks in Moray to provide emergency assistance to NHS boards and trusts across Scotland. In Northern Ireland the Defence Estate is being loaned to the PSNI for their use and the Armed Forces have placed medevac capabilities on standby for Covid-19 patients when needed.

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Meggitt awarded $27.4 million liquid palletized system contract from US Navy

Meggitt PLC has been awarded a follow-on, fixed-price contract valued at $27.4 million by the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, for the supply of thirty two liquid palletised cooling units for the P-8A aircraft.

This consolidates a solid year of defence sales for Meggitt PLC.

The contract will be supplied by Meggitt’s specialist defence division in Irvine, California, and directly supports the P-8A aircraft, with follow-on awards anticipated for future lots and spares. Meggitt provides several other thermal management products for the P-8A and other military-airborne platforms around the world.

Meggitt’s innovative liquid palletized solution provides essential cooling to critical mission equipment and sensors ensuring safe flight operation.

Gerry Janicki, Vice President Strategy for Meggitt Defense Systems Inc, said: “As large complex airborne sensors and equipment technology advances, demand for processing power and power generation increases, cooling becomes mission critical. We are proud to supply Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, with this solution that helps to protect our servicemen and women around the world.”

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Dstl scientists and military advisers receive New Year’s Honours

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has announced that two of its scientists and two military advisers have received awards in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

Dr Phillippa Spencer has been awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), in recognition of her support to the UK’s decision makers by her application of maths to deliver consistent, assured data to prevent the loss of life through exposure to COVID-19, Novichok and Ebola.

Dr Spencer said: “I am genuinely overwhelmed by the honour. The award recognises not only me, but an incredible team of people who provide vital support to so many collective efforts. I am beyond happy to have been nominated.”

Dr Joanne Thwaite has been awarded the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), which recognises her service to the NHS during COVID-19, in particular her selfless dedication carrying out repeated and sustained deployments to Hospital laboratories where she supported NHS staff dealing with an unprecedented increase of workload.

Using her scientific skillset, Dr Thwaite worked within diagnostic laboratories, from the very onset of the pandemic.

On her award, she said: “I am humbled and excited to be nominated for this honour which also represents the dedication and professionalism of a team of other Dstl specialist microbiologists. I am proud to be a part of that team and that I could help NHS colleagues deliver life-saving care at this time of acute national health response.”

Dstl Military Adviser Lt Col Gareth Walker Royal Engineers (RE) also received an OBE in recognition of his performance in command of 66 Works Group with responsibility for Defence’s specialist water, fuel and materials infrastructure capabilities. During a two and a half year period he led vital military support to natural disasters in the British Caribbean and extreme flooding events in the UK, as well as myriad operations and tasks worldwide.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted to be receiving this most prestigious award, and am incredibly grateful to those that nominated me. It is a privilege and honour to work in this amazing organisation that is home to some of the most talented people I have worked with. Dstl engineers, scientists and analysts are dedicated to developing and improving capabilities that are vital to the UK’s defence and security, and it is exciting to be part of a team that is redoubling its efforts to meet the future challenges and threats that we face.”

Warrant Officer 1st Class (WO1) Ian Conolly has also been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. Ian works as the Senior Acoustic Analyst within the Underwater Group at Dstl Portsdown West. The MSM is a very old medal, first established in the 1840s; there is a strict limit on the number of annual awards and it is now only awarded to non-commissioned officers who have provided unbroken “good, faithful and meritorious service.” The Royal Navy may recommend its award to no more than 49 recipients annually.

Dstl’s Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead, said: “I offer my sincere congratulations to all those awarded. It gives me great pride to see our people recognised in this prestigious way. The awards are deserved recognition of dedication, professionalism and technical excellence.”

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Building Electrical Resilience in the UK Defence Industry

Writing for Defence Online, Peter Selway, Marketing Manager at Schneider Electric, examines the importance of building electrical resilience in the UK Defence industry.

The UK’s defence infrastructure is truly unique, made up of large disparate estates with everything from ports to factories. This creates several management challenges that are compounded by an ever increasing need to reduce costs and become more efficient. Alongside the MoD’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 (NZ50), the next few years will also see a shift toward resilience and robustness as the nation looks to protect itself against both seen and foreseen threats.

No industries will be greater impacted than those critical to safe and healthy society – namely; healthcare, defence, grids and data storage facilities. In these sectors, where the stakes are highest, resilience is no longer important, it is critical.

We all understand the inconvenience of outages at home, whether it’s the internet cutting out or a fuse going, turning off the lights. However, for critical applications outages lead to lost revenue, bad service, and in some scenarios, loss of life. The UK defence industry needs a smart, reliable and efficient power distribution system, which can proactively mitigate and prevent all potentials risks.

To create a sufficiently robust architecture, we must first understand the immovable foundations upon which it must sit.

Factoring Simplicity into Infrastructure

The growing complexity of digital technology and electrical systems adds to potential risks. As well as the struggle in managing such an infrastructure, the danger of outages, shocks and fires increases due to incorrectly installed appliances. The current scale and nature of the MoD’s electrical infrastructure make its management a unique challenge, both from a safety and efficiency perspective.

One key issue is ensuring all smart components with a distribution board are connected. Modern connected tools can help automatically detect all smart devices contained within a panel, whether they are working together and how any additions could affect the installation. Incompatibility is also a major issue causing potentially disastrous circuit issues. Managers must opt for applications that enable electricians to save their progress digitally, to ensure their work can be accessed and understood at any point after installation.

Prevention Better than a Cure

When it comes to outages, attention is generally, and understandably, focused on the rules and procedures once the issue has arisen. Clearly, an outage that has or is taking place is far more visible that those yet too and will likely draw more attention from external parties.

However, in critical applications, being reactionary is simply not an option. Outages at a defence base have wide-ranging, even life-critical, implications. It’s not enough to have a response plan – there must be a comprehensive strategy that utilises the latest technologies for preventative detection and proactive response.

The only means to shutdown risk, minimise damage and optimise output is to integrate passive and active protection prevention technology and develop a prevent first culture. New technology has been introduced which not only acts as a barrier to electrical issues, but also helps to prevent causes from originating, through trip status and real-time measurement updates.

Culture also plays a crucial role. Developing and auditing electrical safe work practices policy, conducting a risk assessment and safety training, and strategies for mitigation is crucial and cannot be overlooked.

Predictive Maintenance

Due to their impact, outages are frequently thought to be the symptoms of large-scale technical issues, such as power generation failure or unforeseen peaks in demand. In reality, most are caused by existing equipment performing at a sub-standard level.

Many components become increasingly prone to breaking and failing, resulting in the gradual decline of an estate’s efficiency. Indeed, budget reductions force building owners to manage building systems with fewer resources, an issue which is further exacerbated by older systems becoming inefficient over time. Even with the budget, maintenance is time consuming, difficult and can be demoralising for staff. These maintenance issues combined with the cost of downtime, points toward a new predictive approach.

Smart connected digital devices enable managers to have insight into the earth leakages, predict maintenance timeframes, and help prevent any issues before they arise. These devices have become responsible for controlling more than a single mechanism. They now measure and collect data and provide control functions. Furthermore, they enable facility and maintenance personal to proactively see faults before they occur and minimise outages.

Within a power network, intelligence is embedded inside equipment, such as the trip units of circuit breakers. These smart breakers can provide power and energy data, as well as information on performance, including alarms and alerts. Hardware has evolved to include new digital capabilities, including communicating and sharing with the building analytics software to build greater intelligence and make predictive maintenance a reality.

Enhancing Capacity

While network capacity is frequently referenced as a productivity and energy efficiency perceptive, it plays a vital role in mitigating downtime. As discussed, the complexity of systems can lead to increased electrical risks. To mitigate these risks, managers need the technology to accurately identify energy use and avoid power demand failures.

In a spralling and critical environment like defence, managers must have complete visibility into network performance and have the ability and tools to continually optimise. Doing so will not only improve performance and reduce costs, but it will help prevent the overstressing of the network which will lead to degradation and, over time, outages.

Vital to successful visibility is the integration of building software. Only by bringing together all and simplifying power systems can energy usage and electrical network health be monitored, whilst power quality information is analysed. Ultimately, the more holistic and granular the data that can be pulled, the better the decision-making process that can safeguard assets, maximise operational efficiency, ensure business continuity and maintain regulatory compliance.

Outages aren’t Inevitable

Underlying all the other fundamentals principles of fighting outages is connectivity. In a modern infrastructure, all systems and solutions must be easily monitored and controlled from a single digital application.

Load levels, leakage, energy consumption, power quality, warnings, alarms and notifications on events, stand as the backbone of any effective strategy. Innovative solutions ensure effective communication between a system and enable root cause investigation and power restoration action to be taken before damage can be done.

Outages are never an inevitability. In critical applications such as defence bases, the right approach combined with the best tools, any challenge can be met before they have the chance to begin. From a technology standpoint, the key remains the Introduction of digitally connected technology that enable managers to predict maintenance needs, optimise network capacity and ultimately avoid electrical overloads. On the ground, managers need to employ a culture of openness – any issue is a chance to learn, develop and improve. By implementing a culture of advancement, outages can be stopped before they take place. Not only will this create a more resilience and productive environment, it will go a huge way to helping the MoD efficiently meeting its commitment of carbon neutrality by 2050.

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RAF surveillance fleet to be based in Moray

RAF Lossiemouth will be the new home of the UK’s fleet of E-7 Wedgetail surveillance aircraft, bolstering Scotland’s key role in UK and NATO defence and security, Defence Minister Baroness Goldie announced.

Delivering a step change in capability from the current E-3D Sentry, the E-7 Wedgetail is capable of simultaneously tracking multiple airborne and maritime targets, using the information it gathers to improve situational awareness and direct assets such as fighter jets and warships.

The Wedgetail has previously been used by the Australian Air Force Royal on operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

The Wedgetail will be co-located with the new Poseidon fleet, with the first four submarine-hunting aircraft already providing essential operational support in the area.

Operating both fleets of Boeing 737 type aircraft from the same location will further harness RAF Lossiemouth’s strategic location and take advantage of the new £100m state-of-the-art facility and the recent £75m runway upgrade. The decision is also expected to support hundreds of jobs and provide a boost to the local economy.

Minister of State for Defence, Baroness Goldie said:“Scotland’s proximity to the waters and skies of the North Atlantic is of crucial importance to the UK’s and NATO’s security – this is why important military bases such as HMNB Clyde and RAF Lossiemouth are located here.

“Defence’s latest decision to base the E-7 Wedgetail at RAF Lossiemouth demonstrates our commitment to investing in Scotland, and will complement and expand upon the success of Typhoon fast jet and submarine hunting Poseidon operations.”

The arrival of the Wedgetail in 2023 will also mark a return to RAF Lossiemouth for 8 Squadron, after an absence of 30 years.

RAF Lossiemouth is already home to half of the UK’s operational Typhoon fast jet fleet, which conduct Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) to protect the UK’s airspace, and complete NATO air policing duties on behalf of our allies.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack added: “The UK Government has invested £470m in RAF Lossiemouth over the past two years, including a new £100m strategic facility, housing the UK’s new fleet of nine submarine-hunting Poseidon P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, which has been built by Elgin-based Robertson. Indeed this firm is also building the new shipbuilding hall for the Type 31 Frigate programme at Rosyth in Fife demonstrating just one of the many ways that UK Defence benefits Scottish business.

“The arrival of the Wedgetail capability in Scotland will provide clear additional security and economic benefits to Scotland. The Poseidon programme brought £470m UK Government investment in the coastal RAF base, creating and sustaining jobs and boosting the local economy. It is anticipated that basing the Wedgetail fleet will bring further investment and civilian and military jobs to Moray.”

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Indra and Thales offer tactical communications to Spanish armed forces

Indra and Thales have signed an agreement to work in partnership to offer a next-generation tactical communications system to Spain’s Armed Forces.

The new communications system will notably enhance interoperability during international missions, and ensure Spain’s full sovereignty and technical autonomy over strategic military communications.

Superiority over the enemy in today’s theatre of operations depends on the rapid, agile and secure exchange of information. Platforms and vehicles are becoming increasingly intelligent, equipped with extremely accurate sensors, which collect a high volume of information and operate in a network with other systems.

Joint action with forces from other countries brings even greater technological complexity to the theatre: software-defined radio (SDR) represents a key factor for success for the modern army in such a scenario. The most cutting-edge forces will turn to SDR in the coming years for its transmission capability, speed, secure information exchange and flexibility to interoperate with other allied forces.

The offer from Indra and Thales comprises the development of new high-technology products and solutions in Spain, based on a proven Thales solution. The new products will be based on Thales’ SYNAPS radio product family, enhanced with new features to be developed jointly with Indra.

Indra and Thales’ extensive radio hardware and software expertise, as well as their experience in operations, mean both companies will be able to provide services support to the Spanish Armed Forces throughout the product lifecycle.

The industrial plan included as part of the offer is designed to boost the specialisation of Spanish companies in higher value-added activities, going beyond manufacturing and assembly of third-party solutions. If implemented, it will enable Spanish companies to better compete on the international market and support sustainable employment in the country, while strengthening Spain’s technological know-how and autonomy.

The partnership will bring significant mutual benefits for both companies, strengthening Indra’s solutions portfolio, and consolidating Thales’ industrial footprint in the defence sector in Spain.

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Airbus quantum computing challenge helps advance sustainable flight

Airbus has concluded its global Quantum Computing Challenge (AQCC) announcing the winning team of the competition.

The Italian team at Machine Learning Reply – a leading systems integration and digital services company part of Reply Group – won the quantum computing challenge with their solution to optimise aircraft loading.

Airlines try to make the best use of an aircraft’s payload capability to maximise revenue, optimise fuel burn and lower overall operating costs. However, their scope for optimisation can be limited by a number of operational constraints.

By creating an algorithm for optimal aircraft cargo loading configurations, taking these operational constraints -payload, centre of gravity, size and shape of the fuselage- into account, the winners of the competition proved that optimisation problems can be mathematically modelled and solved through quantum computing.

“The Quantum Computing Challenge is testament to Airbus’ belief in the power of the collective, to fully harness and apply quantum computing technology to solve complex optimisation challenges facing our industry today,” said Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer, Airbus. “By looking at how emerging technologies can be used to improve aircraft performance and boost innovation, we are addressing the advanced flight physics problems that will redefine how the aircraft of tomorrow are built and flown, and ultimately shape industry, markets and customer experiences for the better.”

The winners are set to start working with Airbus experts, as early as January 2021, to test and benchmark their solution in order to assess how the mastering of complex calculations can tangibly impact airlines, enabling them, as predicted, to benefit from maximised loading capabilities.

With operations being made more efficient, the overall number of required transportation flights could be reduced, having a positive impact on CO2 emissions, thereby contributing to Airbus’ ambition for sustainable flight.

The AQCC was launched in January 2019, to drive innovation across the full aircraft life-cycle. By developing strong partnerships with the global quantum community, Airbus is taking science out of the lab and into industry, by applying newly-available computing capabilities to real-life industrial cases.

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Saab delivers upgrade Gotland-class submarine to Sweden

Saab has delivered the second submarine of Gotland-class to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) after a Mid-life upgrade.

Saab has conducted a Mid-life upgrade of HMS Uppland. Taking all necessary measures to ensure the submarine’s operational availability, the upgrade includes new sensors and navigation systems, giving the vessel enhanced capabilities. The delivery of HMS Uppland was conducted today at a ceremony in Karlskrona, Sweden.

HMS Uppland is the second submarine in the Gotland-class to have gone through major changes and is now operational again.

“The Gotland-class submarines have an international reputation that many other submarines would wish for, with a stealthy ability and endurance beyond the ordinary. Sweden’s ability to develop world-class submarines is a result of the close cooperation between industry, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration and the Swedish Royal Navy. We at Saab are proud that the latest cutting-edge underwater technology is now operational on-board both HMS Uppland and HMS Gotland, says Lars Tossman, head of Saab business area Kockums.

HMS Uppland has had 50 new systems installed or modified, of which 20 are new systems that in the future will be used in the next generation of submarines, the Blekinge-class. This means, for example, new possibilities to analyse the boat’s surroundings with a so called Optronic Mast, replacing the traditional periscope and associated management system.

The Gotland-class submarines were built in 1990-1997. The submarine class consists of three submarines, all which have gone through minor modifications during the first part of their lifetime. HMS Gotland was the first boat to go through a Mid-life Upgrade. The submarine was split into two parts to be able to carry out larger changes.

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