18 Mar 21. General details next step for US Army’s future attack recon helicopter. The U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program is heading into a major requirements review next month, during which service leaders will determine if industry designs are ready for a fly-off at the end of 2022, according to Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen, who is in charge of the Army’s future vertical lift development.
The FARA program is to fill a critical capability gap currently covered by AH-64E Apache attack helicopters teamed with Shadow drones following the retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The service has tried and failed three times to fill the gap with an aircraft.
The Army wrapped up its final design readiness review for FARA in December, Rugen told Defense News in an interview earlier this year. In April, the Army Requirements Oversight Council will review those new design iterations from the two companies competing to build the aircraft, Rugen said March 17, and the industry teams have already been bending metal to build prototypes for months (if not several years) in order to get the aircraft ready for flight by the end of next year.
“What we saw back on the final designs from industry were impressive to the government team. Industry really did more. I think that gets into talent management, to use an Army term, because they had a cheat rep with [Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration],” Rugen said. “The industry teams have really been better than we thought they would be on this design work.”
Lockheed Martin and Bell are in a head-to-head competition to build prototypes and fly them beginning in November 2022. The Army will pick which one it wants to build for the force following the competitive fly-off period.
The two companies already have experience in such a process with the Army’s other Future Vertical Lift project to procure a future long-range assault aircraft, or FLRAA. A Lockheed-owned Sikorsky and Boeing team as well as a Bell team built and flew technology demonstrators ahead of the program of record to inform requirements for the future aircraft. Those aircraft have been flying for several years and are still undergoing testing and evaluation as part of a competitive risk-reduction activity.
It is expected those two teams will compete against each other for FLRAA with offerings closely based on Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration systems. According to Brig. Gen. Rob Barrie, the program executive officer for Army Aviation, the FLRAA request for proposals is expected in the third quarter of fiscal 2021. The draft RFP was issued at the end of 2020.
For the FARA effort, Sikorsky has pitched a coaxial rotor blade design based off of its S-97 Raider that it is calling Raider X; and Bell unveiled its design — the 360 Invictus — at the AUSA annual conference in 2019.
As the Army pushes ahead with both future aircraft programs, Rugen was again adamant that the service has no choice but to proceed with both FARA and FLRAA, even if future defense budgets are flat or shrink. And he stressed that procuring both relatively simultaneously is possible.
He alluded to naysayers who often point to the failure of the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche program, which was abruptly canceled in 2004, as a sign that things could go awry with future vertical lift endeavors, arguing there are differences when it comes to the circumstances surrounding the failure of the Comanche program and the process the Army is currently using to field future helicopters.
The Army, he added, was also trying to modernize its fleet of operational helicopters across the board at the same time. “That’s where the portfolio just labored — under that modernization effort for then a current fleet [while simultaneously] trying to jump to the future,” he said.
The service’s current fleet is modernized, Rugen said, so now the Army is focused on the two future aircraft. Additionally, industry has “significant skin in the game” this time around,” he said, because the service is flying aircraft before it is choosing to buy them.
The Army is also more efficiently spending money in the development process, partly because industry is investing so heavily. The service spent about $9bn (adjusting for inflation) on two prototypes for the Comanche program, he said. “We’re a little over $7bn to get 18 prototypes out on FARA and FLRAA.”
When Defense News asked which aircraft program he’d choose to advance if future budgets didn’t allow for both at the AUSA event, Rugen said: “It’s not a ‘want to have,’ it’s an imperative. Modernization is an imperative, so as long as that remains the Army priority, which I believe it will, then we’re going to continue to find ways to execute these programs. … I don’t see it as a choice.” (Source: Defense News)
17 Mar 21. Jet packs are on their way to a battlefield near you. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is eyeing jet packs. It’s 2021, and although I thought by now there would be flying cars, cities on the moon and the ability to teleport from my bed to my couch instead of walking, I guess I’ll settle for a jet pack, or as DARPA is calling it, a “Portable Personal Air Mobility System.”
According to a solicitation first reported by Task & Purpose, “These platforms could serve a variety of military missions, enabling cost effective mission utility and agility in areas such as personnel logistics [and] urban augmented combat.”
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that the U.S. military has considered affixing a rocket or wings to the backs of service members and shooting them into the atmosphere. In 2019, Special Operations Command sought to develop “individual lift devices” and found a partner to make it happen.
California-based JetPack Aviation is working on an ILD turbine engine system that is expected to carry special operators 200 miles an hour, for up to 10 minutes, so they can fly from base to battle, hair whipping and lips flapping in the wind. Exhilarating.
Luckily, the DARPA request also gives me some hope that a system for civilians could one day follow, particularly this line: “When deployed, the platform will be designed with simplified operations in mind, so that someone unfamiliar with the platform could be educated in its safe and effective use with relatively little training.”
Is there anything more American than a bunch of untrained hooligans attempting to commute via sky to their offices post-COVID? (Source: Defense News)
REST OF THE WORLD
17 Mar 21. Canada issues Royal Canadian Navy ISTAR UAS request for information. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) on 29 January issued a request for information (RFI) for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) programme that has an estimated funding range of USD40–80m.
The RCN requires an alternate airborne platform that can be operated from a Halifax-class frigate to provide near-realtime, over-the-horizon ISTAR information that will enhance its situational awareness out to the ship’s effective weapon engagement range, according to the Department of National Defence (DND). This should generate an operational advantage for commanders without compromising the safety of frigates, maritime helicopters, and their crew in support of operations up to, and including, multithreat warfare. The RCN seeks a mature technology solution via a competitive procurement process to acquire the UAS and sustain its capability over 20 years. One-on-one meetings are scheduled through roughly May 2021, a draft request for proposal (RFP) is expected for the third quarter of 2021, and an RFP is anticipated for mid-2022. The system must be able to operate the unmanned aircraft and payloads as far as 50n miles from the location of a control station while operating at below 5,000 ft above sea level (ASL). The system should operate the aircraft and payloads beyond 50n miles from the control station while operating at below 5,000 ft ASL. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Mar 21. DIN 2021 Sandpit Workshop 23 March. The Sydney-based Defence Innovation Network (DIN) invites researchers to join it at the DIN Sandpit Workshop 2021 on 23 March, 1400-1700.
This virtual event will feature several problem pitches delivered by the DIN that the audience will challenge during the workshop. Discussed problems will form the basis of a subsequent call for proposals funded up to $150,000 by the DIN Pilot Project Grants.
2021-22 Pilot Project Problem Statements:
- Collision avoidance between UUVs and surface vessels
- UAS swarm search strategies
- Navy Operations Heads Up Interface
- Selection and training of an elite military population
- Defence acquisition optimisation using quantum algorithms.
- (Source: http://rumourcontrol.com.au/)
15 Mar 21. New investment and R&D arm to accelerate NSW economy and jobs target international and local businesses through a new body, Investment NSW, designed to attract billions of dollars into the state and drive the economy to recovery. It will also incorporate a new section, R&D NSW, following the launch of the NSW R&D Action Plan in January to boost the future pipeline of ideas and companies. This will allow the government to work strategically and in a coordinated way on attracting investment to the state and in creating new jobs.
Investment NSW aims to take advantage of NSW’s successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the State’s position as a safe place to do business. It reflects the government’s central focus on jobs, skills and investment, which forms part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said as the State moves toward the next stage of the COVID-19 recovery, Investment NSW presents a timely opportunity for businesses both internationally and domestically.
“Our economy now presents a great opportunity for investors as we continue to rebound from this pandemic,” Ms Berejiklian said. “Investment NSW will be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the private sector. The new initiative will become an important arm for the NSW economy, focusing on growing both jobs and investment in the state,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Investment NSW will partner with key areas of the NSW Government to ensure the best possible investment outcomes for NSW.
In an interview with online publication InnovationAus, Gabrielle Upton MP, Parliamentary Secretary to Premier Berejklian, explained that the NSW government is retooling for new levels of public investment into ‘soft’ infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on building the state’s research translation capability.
Ms Upton led the taskforce investigating pathways to boosting R&D translation in NSW as a collaboration with the state’s Chief Scientist and Engineer Hugh Durrant-White. The resulting NSW Accelerating Research and Development Action Plan was released earlier this year. This is a signpost for a new emphasis on future industries, and future job creation opportunities. It includes as core recommendations structural changes inside government that would oversee the research translation outcomes, including the vreation of R&D NSW.
The agency would operate in similar fashion to Infrastructure NSW, with a whole-of-government line of sight over major R&D investments across different clusters and agencies. (Source: http://rumourcontrol.com.au/)
15 Mar 21. D.START Ignite open for second round of applications. The DST Group’s D.Start Ignite program is looking for a second round of applications applications from Australian researchers and SMEs who want to connect with Defence and attract the resources they need to translate smart ideas into operational capability.
Applications close 26 March 2021.
Delivered under the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF), D.Start is looking for emerging and future technologies with the potential to provide game-changing capabilities for Australia’s defence and national security.
Through expert guidance from the D.Start facilitation team, participants will be better placed to understand and navigate the complex Defence and Defence Industry landscape, open doors they never thought possible and fast-track their understanding of how to do business with Defence.
Delivered remotely for teams of two to five members it is modelled on CSIRO’s highly successful national science and technology pre-accelerator program ‘ON Prime.’
Delivered by the Department of Defence in partnership with CSIRO, D.Start Ignite combines expert knowledge with powerful connections to help increase opportunity for successful translation.
The program is open to Australian businesses, research organisations and their teams working on science or technology for Defence application.
Teams can apply at any stage of their project and in any discipline. DST Group is particularly interested in teams that have yet to explore Defence as a potential customer for their innovation or are keen to explore new pathways for commercialisation
DST Group is interested in technologies with the potential to address DSTG’s mission-directed STaR Shots (Science, Technology and Research Shots) and deliver game-changing capabilities for Australia’s defence and national security.
Applications for D.Start Ignite are submitted online in DST’s application portal. An application takes approximately an hour to complete.
Applications close 26 March 2021. (Source: http://rumourcontrol.com.au/)
15 Mar 21. Pakistan extends delayed T129 helo deal with Turkey — again.
“We have obtained a six-month extension from Pakistan,” Turkey’s top procurement official, Ismail Demir, told reporters March 12.
But — amid Washington’s enduring opposition to Ankara purchasing the Russian-made S-400 Triumf air defense system — another senior procurement official in Turkey told Defense News that the extension doesn’t imply the deal will ultimately work out.
“This is not a technological or commercial issue,” he said. “It is purely political, and as long as the reasons for the U.S. blockade remain in effect … what looks like a Turkish-Pakistani deal will be a victim of a Turkish-U.S. dispute.”
How did it all begin?
In 2018, Pakistan chose Turkey’s T192 attack helicopters to replace its fleet of AH−1F Cobra gunships that were acquired in the 1980s. Pakistan signed a $1.5bn contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries for 30 T129 helos; however, the company must first secure U.S. export licenses before delivery can take place.
The 5-ton T129 is a twin-engine multirole attack helicopter produced under license from the Italian-British company AgustaWestland and based on the A129 Mangusta. It’s powered by two LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines. Each engine can produce 1,014 kilowatts of output power. The T800-4A is an export version of the CTS800 engine. LHTEC, the maker of the engine, is a joint venture between the American firm Honeywell and the British company Rolls-Royce.
The deal is in limbo because of U.S. hesitancy to issue export licenses for the engine, but a Turkish aerospace official explained that isn’t the only hiccup.
“There are other components the Americans can refuse to issue export licenses for,” he said. “We have the impression that the T129 deal would not go through without a political go-ahead from Washington.”
In January 2020, Pakistan extended the deadline for TAI to deliver the helicopters, but with the sale in jeopardy, the Turkish government tasked Tusas Engine Industries, TAI’s sister company, with developing an indigenous engine for the T129.
“Pakistan has agreed to give us another year [to resolve the problem]. We hope we will be able to develop our indigenous engine soon to power the T129,” Ismail Demir, the head of Turkey’s top procurement agency, said at the time. “After one year, Pakistan may be satisfied with the level of progress in our engine program, or the U.S. may grant us the export license.”
Will the US change course?
U.S. lawmakers have quietly frozen all major U.S. arms sales to the NATO ally to pressure Ankara to abandon its Russian-built S-400.
Separate from the engines, the Biden administration pulled back requests made to Congress to approve sales to Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Presidency of Defence Industries, on which the U.S. imposed sanctions in December 2020 in response to the S-400 purchase.
Honeywell withdrew the engine export request early last year, but then resubmitted it in August. Yet, according to a U.S. government source with knowledge of the issue, Washington’s stance hasn’t shifted.
“I don’t see that changing. First of all, it’s Turkey. The Hill has not been clearing arms cases for Turkey at all … and the reason is the S-400,” the source told Defense News on condition of anonymity.
If congressional committees did clear the export sale, “it’s very likely there would be a legislative effort to block it, so it wouldn’t be surprising that the Turks, after two years, realized what the situation is and are looking for alternatives,” the source added.
U.S. lawmakers are also concerned that the engines for the attack helicopters could add to Pakistan’s ground attack capability against India, with which the U.S. has been deepening defense and security relationships.
Is there an alternative helicopter?
Defense News contacted Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production, which handles procurement, and the Army through the Inter Services Public Relations media arm about the extension and whether there is an alternative helicopter under consideration if the deal falls apart. Neither responded, nor did TAI to questions about the state of the deal.
Before the T129 was chosen, China sent three of its CAIC Z-10 helicopter gunships for trials in Pakistan, but it appeared they failed to sufficiently impress officials and were returned.
Asked if Washington might clear the tech export as a means of retaining a level of influence over Pakistan amid negotiations with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, former Australian defense attache to Islamabad Brian Cloughley was not optimistic. (Pakistan has historically had influence over the Taliban.)
He also said Pakistan’s military is cautious about using American equipment. “There is wariness in the Pakistan military concerning equipment of U.S. origin or with U.S.-supplied components,” he said, “simply because if the operator engages in hostilities with a more decided ally of the U.S., then delivery of these items could be affected.”
“In the case of Pakistan, it is unlikely that Washington would be prepared to provide such equipment should there be conflict with India,” he added. “The solution for Pakistan seems to lie, yet again, in China. It is likely that the Pakistan Army will evaluate the Chinese Z-10ME attack helicopter.” (Source: Defense News)
16 Mar 21. Insitu Pacific partners with Jayben Group for LAND 129. Jayben Group has joined 20 other local SMEs supporting Insitu Pacific’s LAND 129 Phase 3 bid. Insitu Pacific has signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with Jayben Group — a Tasmania-based firm that specialises in light to medium industrial plant and equipment, which includes design, engineering, manufacture, and domestic and international distribution.
The agreement is aimed at supporting the development and delivery of integrated launch and recovery hardware, as part of Insitu Pacific’s bid to supply tactical unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to the Australian Army as part of the LAND 129 Phase 3 program.
Jayben Group, which has joined a team of over 20 other local SMEs participating in the project, is expected to be involved in the delivery of aircraft launch and recovery equipment that does not require nets or runways.
“Jayben Group has proven expertise in local design, modification and manufacture that can meet bespoke mobility and transport requirements in the production of launch and recovery equipment for the ADF as well as our Asia-Pacific regional customers,” Andrew Duggan, managing director of Insitu Pacific, said.
“Building local capacity has the potential to create prospects for growth of a new technology industry within Tasmania and Royal Park, South Australia, along with sustainable jobs growth.
“It also introduces opportunities to export locally developed technology into new global markets.”
According to Insitu, local production would support a “cost-effective build phase” and design modifications that meet the Australian Army’s specific vehicle requirements and roadworthiness demands.
The firm noted a local industrial base would also provide “rapid support” to deeper maintenance, and flexibility and responsiveness in adapting to future capability requirements.
Allan Johnson, director of Jayben Group, said the Insitu partnership has presented the firm with new opportunities to expand into the defence sector.
“Our team’s expertise, the redevelopment of the Burnie facility in 2020, and a strong local supply chain put Jayben in a strong position to partner for ADF work and export opportunities,” Johnson said.
“We look forward to leveraging our ongoing investment in our local community and building on our relationship with Insitu Pacific to explore opportunities to provide design, build and manufacturing services in support of the ADF.”
Duggan concluded: “Insitu Pacific is committed working with other Australian small-to-medium sized enterprises such as Jayben that can readily support local defence requirements.
“We believe we’ve selected a best-in-class group of suppliers to support our LAND 129 Phase 3 proposal and look forward to building on these capabilities to deliver effective UAS services and generate export potential.” (Source: Defence Connect)