UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
20 Jan 22. £1.3m competition launched to find next Telexistence technology. A cross-industry competition to find cutting-edge Telexistence technology has moved to the next phase with up to £1.3m funding available. The Telexistence programme is a joint initiative between the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
It aims to develop and demonstrate innovative technologies and novel solutions that allow a human operator to perform complex tasks and operate equipment from a safe distance.
As part of phase 2 of the competition, applicants will now be able to submit proposals that could be awarded up to £400,000 each. It will also be open to applicants from the first round of the competition.
Three focus areas have been set which must be included in entry proposals:
Entrants will then be asked to focus on one case theme in which to apply their technology, including Specialist Nuclear Decommissioning Tasks, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Defence and Security Medical applications.
Those who make it through to the next stage will have to develop and demonstrate their proposals.
Andrew Gray, Innovation Delivery Manager at the NDA, said:
“We’re excited to be working alongside DASA, on the Telexistence phase 2 competition and building on the great results from phase 1.
“Advancing these technologies and our knowledge of what is possible through the Telexistence competition, will help us deliver our decommissioning mission in different ways while ensuring humans are away from harm.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what creative solutions are put forward by the supply chain.”
Submission deadline: Midday on Wednesday 6 April 2022.
19 Jan 22. UK notes ‘considerable interest’ in soon-to-be-surplus Hercules airlifters. The United Kingdom has received “considerable interest” in its fleet of soon-to-be-retired Lockheed Martin C-130J/C-130J-30 Hercules airlifters.
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson told Janes on 19 January that the sales campaign being run for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) one remaining short-bodied C-130J C5 and 13 long-bodied C-130J-30 C4 variant Hercules airlifters has attracted a wide range of potential buyers.
“The situation on C-130J sales is that [the Defence Equipment Sales Authority] DESA continues to lead on a very active sales campaign with considerable interest being expressed by a wide range of interested parties,” the MoD said. (Source: Janes)
19 Jan 22. UK Royal Navy’s Project Vampire – a Low-Cost, Fixed-Wing UAV. The UK Royal Navy (RN) is moving forward with plans to procure a low-cost fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as an initial increment of its Future Maritime Aviation Force (FMAF). Dubbed Project Vampire, the acquisition aims to assess uncrewed or autonomous air systems for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electromagnetic operations, and threat simulation. The release of an invitation to tender (ITT) by Navy Command Headquarters on 17 January comes four months after initial demonstrations of the Banshee Jet 80+ aerial target vehicle from the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales. Managed by the Develop Directorate within Navy Command, the FMAF programme is exploring the transition of a number of aviation roles – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, communications, lift, and strike – from crewed to uncrewed air platforms. As one strand of FMAF, Project Vampire aims to address a number of capability problem sets utilising a low-cost, fixed-wing UAV as a means for the development of operational concepts, payload types, and associated communication and digital architecture.
According to Navy Command, Phase 1 of Project Vampire is intended to last up to four years. Key deliverables include up to four air vehicles based on a mature design, a single launcher, a single ground station with aerials, operator and maintainer training, and technical, management and safety data to support military registration and airworthiness. (Source: UAS VISION/Janes)
18 Jan 22. £1.3m available for cutting-edge telexistence innovations. DASA seeks innovations to develop a complete telexistence system, integrating telepresence, robotic and haptic technologies on to a single platform. The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is pleased to launch Telexistence Phase 2, on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Telexistence technology has the potential to give those working in hazardous environments the capability to undertake tasks without physically being present, which can decrease risk and reduce the logistical burden associated with dangerous operations.
This is achieved using a remotely-operated system, and relies on integrating:
- telepresence, which enables the operator to see and hear as though in the remote environment
- robotics / wearable assistive technologies, which enable the operator to interact with the remote environment
- haptic feedback / sensors which enable the operator to touch / feel the remote environment
Key dates and funding
The total funding available for this competition is £1.3m. We expect to fund several proposals with a maximum value of £400k per proposal.
Submission deadline: Midday on Wednesday 6 April 2022 (BST).
Do you have an innovative idea? Read the Competition Document now and submit your idea.
What telexistence innovations are we looking for?
We are looking for innovators to develop a complete telexistence system. This will involve the integration of telepresence, robotic and haptic technologies on to a single platform. Solutions must enable the user to experience and interact with the remote environment as if they were physically there.
We will invite successful suppliers to our laboratories to evaluate the capabilities of their systems against a series of tasks that are representative of a use case. Suppliers will choose one use case from the following:
- Specialist Nuclear Decommissioning Tasks
- Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
- Defence and Security Medical applications
Telexistence Phase 2: Open Q & A
Date: 27 January 2022
Join this webinar which provides further detail on the Telexistence Phase 2 competition, and a chance to ask questions in an open forum. Register here.
Telexistence Phase Two: 1-to-1 Sessions
Date: 1 February 2022
A series of 15 minute one-to-one teleconference sessions, giving you the opportunity to ask specific questions about Telexistence Phase 2. Booking is on a first come first served basis. Register here.
Telexistence Phase Two: 1-to-1 Sessions
Date: 9 February 2022
A series of 15 minute one-to-one teleconference sessions, giving you the opportunity to ask specific questions about Telexistence Phase 2. Booking is on a first come first served basis. Register here.
Submit a proposal
Do you have an in-depth understanding of emerging capabilities, technologies, initiatives and novel approaches that may help better our understanding of telexistence technologies? Submit an idea and help inform Dstl and the NDA on developing a telexistence system that operates from a single platform.
Read the full competition document and submit your innovation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/telexistence-phase-2
16 Jan 22. Scottish yards to build 24 warships between 2015-2035. With the recent news that Rosyth will build a warship for Ukraine, the total number of warships being built in Scottish shipyards between 2015 to 2035 now stands at 24.
In addition to the now built 5 Offshore Patrol Vessels, there are plans for 8 Type 26 Frigates, 5 Type 31 Frigates, 5 Type 32 Frigates and 1 Ukrainian warship to be built in Scotland.
A Ukrainian warship?
Ukraine previously signed a memorandum with the UK to secure £1.25 bn in funding to build new military vessels for the Ukrainian Navy, the first ship will be constructed in the UK and the remaining 7 vessels will be built in Ukraine.
The new Type 32 Frigate will be built in addition to the Type 26 and Type 31 Frigates in the hopes of bringing the escort fleet up to 24 vessels from its current 19.
The Defence Secretary previously confirmed that Rosyth will be building more vessels than previously planned, with the Type 32 Frigate going into built at the yard after the Type 31 Frigate build finishes.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, recently stated that Rosyth would be building Type 32 Frigates in addition to Type 31 Frigates.
“We are committed to building the Type 26 in the United Kingdom; it is under construction on the Clyde. In Rosyth, work is ongoing to build the facility needed to build the Type 31s and the subsequent Type 32s. He also knows that I recently recategorised the future Fleet Solid Support ship as a warship. I intend to make sure that, if not entirely, there is a considerable degree of UK build in that process, subject to tender. I have to be cautious about the contract, because the competition is to begin soon—very soon.”
According to the recently released ‘Defence Command Paper’, the Type 32 frigates will be designed to protect territorial waters, to provide persistent presence overseas and to support Littoral Response Groups.
The first mention of a new Type 32 frigate came in the Prime Minister’s 19 November statement. He said: “We are going to develop the next generation of warships, including multi-role research vessels and Type 32 frigates.”
The Defence Command Paper, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’, describes the planned programme:
“Type 32 frigates, designed to protect territorial waters, provide persistent presence overseas and support our Littoral Response Groups.” (Source: https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/)
19 Jan 22. After loss to French firm, Lockheed eyes combat system, corvette deals with Greeks. Formal country-to-country negotiations are expected to begin in the coming weeks, a Lockheed rep said. While the Greek government has moved forward with a French company for the core of its new frigate program, Lockheed Martin is continuing to eye business with the Mediterranean nation for combat systems upgrades and potentially a corvette.
The Greeks had been in discussions with the US as well as a handful of European countries in pursuit of a future frigate, dubbed the Hellenic Frigate. Analysts told Breaking Defense last summer Lockheed, which was offering an adapted version of its Multi-Mission Surface Combatant, was facing stiff competition.
In September the Greek government announced it would pursue a deal with the Naval Group out of France. Then in December the State Department authorized $9.4bn in foreign military sales to the Greek government. Roughly $6.9bn would have come from Lockheed’s ship offering, but $2.5bn remain in weapons upgrades and ship modernization, according to the State Department. Those sales remain up for grabs.
“The Hellenic naval modernization has a lot of parts to it,” Joe DePietro, an executive at Lockheed Martin, told Breaking Defense during the Surface Navy Association symposium last week. “It had a frigate requirement. It had an upgrade to their Hydra class, which is a MEKO-based ship, a midlife upgrade, if you will, to those ships.”
That modernization could include improved electronic warfare capabilities, greater integration of the MH-60R helicopters and the COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System. Formal negotiations between governments for some of these upgrades are expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.
DePietro also said the Greeks have expressed interest in a corvette program, a ship he said might look like “Littoral Comat Ship plus or even lite MMSC,” referring to Lockheed’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant. A corvette is a smaller warship generally defined as being between 500 tons and 2,000 tons.
“The [formal capabilities request] doesn’t specifically ask for that but based on the meetings that we’ve had, they’re talking about corvettes. They’ve asked Lockheed Martin about them while we’re in country and they’re talking to several other countries and vendors about potential corvettes for the future,” he said. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
18 Jan 22. Missile Defense Agency Updating Parts Of IT, Cyber Operations. The Missile Defense Agency, a subagency within the Department of Defense, is working to revamp parts of its information technology and cybersecurity systems with a new contract solicitation posted in late December. Called the Technical, Engineering, Advisory and Management Support-Next program, the new software is not an overhaul featuring a particular IT system. Rather, the MDA is looking for updates within its Advisory and Assistance Services, a category of contracted technical services that will work to streamline the logistics surrounding the department’s project management operations.
Members of the MDA staff and workforce working within the IT and cybersecurity divisions of the agency will be the primary beneficiaries of the new technology, along with the chief information officer.
This individual modernization plan speaks to the Defense Department’s and the federal government’s broader push for more resilient cybersecurity and business software. John Sherman, the chief information officer at Defense, testified in the summer of 2021 about his agency’s plans to implement advanced technologies like cloud services into the agency’s daily operations.
“We continue to deploy secure and agile solutions. All of these efforts must address cybersecurity from the start,” Sherman said at the time.
(Source: Defense Systems)
14 Jan 22. USAF Looks to Small Businesses for Some F-22 Upgrades. The Air Force is looking for a host of F-22 Raptor upgrades and will seek small businesses to offer potential solutions, according to a draft “open topic” on the AFVentures Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) page. No timing was stated for the upgrades.
According to a recent but undated “Focus Topics” summary in the AFVentures system, which is run by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force is looking at 14 potential F-22 upgrades, including:
- Integrating the Thales Scorpion helmet-mounted display/weapon cuing system
- A long-range infrared search-and-track sensor
- Manned-unmanned teaming
- Pilot-assisted autonomy
- A GPS-alternative navigation system
- Simulation of “red air” threats
- Algorithms for “optimized intercepts”
- Combat identification of threats
- Cyber intrusion detection and prevention
- Predictive maintenance
- Synthetic data generation
- Sensor fusion
- Improved sensing
- Real-time debriefing
The Air Force has been evaluating the Scorpion helmet for at least seven years. The F-22 is the only frontline Air Force fighter not to have a helmet-mounted display and targeting system; the F-15 and F-16 both use the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cuing System (JHMCS), and the F-35 has its own unique helmet-mounted display system (HMDS).
For various reasons—mostly budgetary, but also due to the size of the helmet hampering pilot movements under the F-22 canopy—the helmet system has been consistently deleted from planned F-22 upgrades over the years.
The AFVentures announcement says the service is willing to entertain small business proposals to process aircraft data and provide an interface to the Scorpion helmet, not to provide the helmet itself. The “desired functionality” is to include “displays of threats, battlespace lines, aircraft state information, weapon information, and navigation information.” The overall goal is to improve battlespace situational awareness; “usability and processing intensity are considerations.”
Another longtime Air Force goal is to equip the F-22 with an infrared search and track system (IRST), but using one of those available for the F-15 and F-16 has been problematic because of the challenge of integrating them with the jet’s stealth profile. The F-35 uses a stealthy faceted aperture under its nose for various infrared sensing functions. The AFVentures draft didn’t give many specifics, saying only that it’s looking for “novel hardware and software solutions” that would work at long ranges.
An IRST is considered a key sensing capability now that adversary air forces are employing stealth aircraft that have greatly reduced radar cross sections. An IRST would have to be integrated with the F-22’s other sensors—mainly its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar—to provide a holistic view of the battlespace. The AFVentures “improved sensing” subject area speaks to this, saying “methods of interest include machine learning for radar systems, cognitive radar algorithms, radar waveform modernization, sparse sensing, and more.”
In a 2017 interview with Air Force Magazine, Ken Merchant, who was at the time Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the F-22, and more recently headed F-35 sustainment and now has his own company, Life Cycle Solutions, said the F-22’s internal layout does not have the necessary “real estate” available to accommodate an F-35-style electro-optical system. However, he suggested that if the F-22’s early-generation flat panel displays—which are thick and heavy—were swapped out for the latest slim and light versions, then space in the cockpit area might be found for an IRST. At the time, Merchant said only that the Air Force was looking at “other options.”
The F-22 could not use the Lockheed Martin “Legion Pod,” which flies with the F-15 and has been fitted to the F-16 and various drones, because it would require external carriage and defeat the F-22’s low observable features. If the F-22 carried an IRST in its “cheek” internal weapon station, where short-range AIM-9X missiles are carried, it would still require the station doors to open, also negating the jet’s stealth profile and creating asymmetric drag for extended use.
For manned-unmanned teaming, AFVentures is looking for a system to help the F-22 pilot with “monitoring and control” of an unmanned escort aircraft. The application is to take in all available information and provide the pilot with a “god’s eye view of the battlespace;” package and send commands over certain data links; and employ a touchscreen tablet as the user interface.
Likewise, the “pilot assisted autonomy” system would help the pilot by “suggestion actions” based on inputs from sensors, identify immediate risks, “reason about intentions,” and alert the pilot to hazardous situations.
For the GPS alternative, AFVentures said only that it wants “a more layered approach” to navigation and position that can provide “accurate and real-time” position without using GPS. Recent Air Force technology discussions have speculated about using extremely sensitive, nano-scale inertial measurement systems for this purpose.
The “predictive maintenance” system sounds like the F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System/Operational Data Integration Network (ALIS/ODIN), and would automatically monitor all the maintenance calls and aircraft condition reports on the F-22 fleet while providing predictive maintenance recommendations. The product will be evaluated on “accuracy, usability, and effectiveness in improving F-22 maintenance.”
For “synthetic data generation,” the Air Force wants the F-22’s large volume of classified data to be simulated so contractors can develop software for it without accessing secret data. The F-22 system program office wants “a synthetic data generation platform that can generate unclassified data with the same statistical significance as the original classified data for purposes of rapid testing and development;” presumably, of software and hardware being added through open mission systems.
For “optimized intercept,” the Air Force wants a system that will take in all the data available to the F-22 pilot and plot “an optimized pathway to intercept adversary aircraft,” presumably avoiding ground- and air-based radars and threats. The AFRL wants a system that could be flown “by a single Blue fighter against many Red fighters,” with the ability to expand to a four-ship of Blue aircraft. The pilots would need to see a display with a three-dimensional route, which is constantly updated based on sensor inputs.
“Real Time Debriefing” is described as being able to give the pilot immediate feedback on performance during Basic Fighter Maneuver training, rather than having to land and debrief. The envisaged system would compare the pilot’s actions against what the computer calculates as the best tactics to employ.
The Air Force has said it does not plan to retain the F-22 beyond around 2030, due to the advance of counter-stealth systems and the F-22’s small fleet size, but it will continue to upgrade the aircraft to keep it relevant against the toughest threats until the Next Generation Air Dominance system is fielded. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Airforce Magazine)
REST OF THE WORLD
20 Jan 22. Indonesia will purchase F-15EX jets from Boeing and Rafale fighter aircraft from France between 2021 and 2024, the head of its air force said on Thursday. The country will also buy C-130J transport planes and medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicles, Marshal Fajar Prasetyo, chief of staff of the Indonesian Air Force, said at the annual Air Force Leadership Meeting. According to the meeting’s summary document, Indonesia plans to buy 36 Rafale and eight F-15EX jets, with six of the latter expected to arrive by 2022. Along with the new additions, the air force will also modernize its existing combat aircraft this year, Prasetyo said. He said Indonesia’s defense procurement plans have undergone several changes in view of global conditions and the country’s capacity.
“Despite having guidelines for posture, strategic plan, and Minimum Essential Force, the implementation is very dependent on various factors and conditions that keep changing dynamically,” Prasetyo said.
He explained that all stakeholders, including the Defense Ministry and the Indonesian Air Force, had analyzed and discussed plans to solve procurement issues.
“This is solely to facilitate our steps in obtaining the best defense equipment that meets operational requirements, commonality aspects, obtaining the transfer of technology, in line with the state’s capability and the condition of the Indonesian Air Force,” he said.
* Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in Jakarta. (Source: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific)
20 Jan 22. Tenders out for support of two SAAF aircraft types. Armscor tenders to supply product support for two aircraft in the SA Air Force (SAAF) fleet currently await response from prospective bidders. One tender, to ensure 21 Squadron’s pair of Falcon business jets remain airworthy and ready for VIP use, was issued on 10 January with a closing date of 4 February. The tender is in two parts: the first for maintenance and support for the French designed and built Falcon 50 (ZS-CAQ) and the Falcon 900B (ZS-NAN), with the second covering ground support and testing. The second product support tender is for a supplier to ensure 41 Squadron’s complement of Cessna 208 Caravans keep flying and product service systems (PSS) are properly in place and operational. Given there are more aircraft – eight – involved than the pair of bizjets, more time was allowed by the State-owned defence and security acquisition agency for bidders to respond. The tender was issued on 14 December and bids have to reach Armscor by 3 February. The SAAF C208 fleet started out as 12-strong with four written off. When they were acquired in 1988 they operated with civilian registration numbers, later changed to SAAF tail numbers (3001 to 3012). The fixed landing gear, single engine workhorses are short haul regional and utility aircraft. Some were fitted with a daylight reconnaissance system which, in 2007, saw 11 C208s modified to meet Project Koiler specifications with Argos 410-Z day/night observation pods. The now 33-year-old aircraft compare – age-wise – with the Falcon 900B (31 years in service) and the first Falcon 50 to enter the SAAF fleet 40 years ago. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
17 Jan 22. No midlife refits coming anytime soon for SAN frigates and submarines. National Treasury has stated that there is little scope for additional funding for the mid-life refit of the South African Navy’s frigates and submarines, in spite of pleas from Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans and warnings that the non-availability of naval platforms due to a lack of maintenance is affecting the ability of the Navy to fulfil its constitutional mandate.
In its Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) from the end of November 2021, the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) said it was aware of the fiscal constraints facing National Treasury and noted its previous response to the BRRR that no funds were available for a ring-fenced allocation to fund the midlife upgrades of SA Navy vessels, but the PCDMV again recommended funds be reprioritised to upgrade the frigate and submarine fleets in the coming years.
“The non-availability of naval platforms due to maintenance requirements results in the SA Navy not achieving its targets for coastal patrols and sea hours, thus affecting its constitutional mandate to ensure the territorial integrity of South Africa. Additional funding over the medium-term for the midlife upgraders are therefore essential,” the BRRR stated.
The mid-life upgrades on both the SA Navy’s frigates and submarines are currently on hold due to a lack of funds. “The fact that these midlife upgrades have been put off for multiple years not only impact the SA Navy’s operational capacity, but may well result in more expensive upgrades being required in the long-term.”
According to a response to the PCDMV by Armscor, there will be no mid-life upgrade of the frigates until at least 2033 while there will be no mid-life upgrades for the submarines until 2035.
The BRRR recommended the minister of finance should consider an additional ring-fenced allocation to fund the midlife upgrades of SA Navy vessels in need of such upgrades, but the minister noted there is little scope for additional funding and instead advised departments to identify areas of reprioritisation, including by improving their internal efficiency.
In August 2021, the Department of Defence told the PCDMV that for the 2021/22 financial year, the SA Navy’s vessel refit as well as maintenance and repair full cost requirement of R1.470 bn was only 53.4% funded, with R786 m allocated.
Due to historic and current funding shortages, only one of the four frigates, SAS Amatola, was partially refitted in 2014/15 and only one of the three submarines, SAS Manthatisi, was refitted in 2013/14. Funding for the refit of the remaining three frigates (SAS Isandlwana, SAS Spioenkop and SAS Mendi) and for the Submarine SAS Queen Modjadji I was not available since they became due for refits, the DoD said. Queen Modjadji I is overdue for a refit.
SAS Manthathisi is currently operational and was scheduled to undergo further scheduled maintenance and repairs in the second half of 2021. Additional funding to complete the refit of the SAS Charlotte Maxeke by the end of 2023 has been made available by the SA Navy.
SAS Spioenkop is operational while the SAS Mendi recently started sea trials after eight years of maintenance.
According to the Department of Defence, the average cost estimate for a frigate refit amounts to R687 m and that of a submarine refit amounts to R660m. Pending the conduct of the outstanding refits, the SA Navy’s current focus is to prioritise essential maintenance and repair of the frigates SAS Spioenkop and SAS Mendi, the combat support ship SAS Drakensberg and the Submarine SAS Manthatisi to ensure their expedited operational availability. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)