27 Aug 20. British Army’s construction vehicles boosted by £240m contract. The military’s fleet of bulldozers, cranes and forklifts will soon be refreshed thanks to a £240m maintenance contract.
The fleet – known as MITER – is a valuable asset in peace time activities and operations around the world. In recent years the equipment has been used to help with recovery following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Dorian in the Caribbean, during major flooding incidents in the UK and supporting the military response to COVID-19 by loading and off-loading vital medical supplies from distribution centres.
Now a new seven-year contract has been awarded to AmeyBriggs to maintain, manage and support the MOD’s fleet of construction and mechanical vehicles.
Vehicles in the MITER fleet include excavators, bulldozers, cranes and forklift trucks and meet the MOD’s need for earth-moving, engineer construction and mechanical handling capabilities.
Offering MOD £136m in savings over the next 10 years, the contract will also sustain jobs across the UK.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: Our Armed Forces deserve the best equipment for their vital operations, both in the UK and right across the world. From humanitarian support to keeping our country safe, construction and mechanical vehicles are a key asset for defence.
This contract is the result of excellent industry collaboration, and I am pleased that we are continuing to support jobs across the country.
The contract was negotiated by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the MOD. MITER sees three existing contracts – Defence Mechanical Handling Equipment, Protected Engineering Equipment and C-Vehicle capability – brought under one umbrella contract.
This is part of defence’s “Whole Force” approach, which puts equipment, personnel for military tasks, new information systems and infrastructure support under one arrangement.
Simon Herrington, who led the DE&S team securing the contract, said:
This has been a culmination of five years hard work with a small dedicated project team assisted with subject matter experts and a very good working relationship with the Army as lead customer.
This hard work and collaborative working has resulted in the project being able to declare a £136M efficiency for DE&S and the Army, a really great achievement.
AmeyBriggs is a new joint venture between infrastructure support service provider Amey plc and Briggs Defence, a specialist division of asset management and engineering services provider Briggs Equipment.
Under MITER, AmeyBriggs will not only manage and maintain this key equipment, but also provide support for military personnel to ensure safe and effective use.
Major General Simon Hamilton CBE, Army Director Support said:
I’m particularly enthusiastic about Project MITER. We have taken three previous overlapping mechanisms for provision of Mechanical Handling Equipment, Construction and Protected Plant and melded them into one to achieve efficiencies.
Moreover, we have designed-in contractual innovation and flexibility by integrating a fleet of military, leased and hired equipment; this means we only pay for what we need when we need it, but can scale-up quickly as necessary; we will also benefit from emerging technologies as they develop. Importantly, MITER embraces a Whole Force Approach, presenting opportunities for enhancing the skills of both regular and reserve personnel.
To manage the contract, around 180 staff and supply chain partners will be transferred into AmeyBriggs from the current support teams which brings together a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience.
Chris Bushell, Director General (Land) at DE&S said:
The successful contract award for MITER is an excellent example of DE&S and industry working closely together to deliver an innovative solution. This will provide the Armed Forces with a key capability, to deliver operational effect all over the world, on time and at a price that represents great value for money. (Source: U.K. MoD)
27 Aug 20. Google Cloud and STS to Automate U.S. Navy Maintenance Inspections Using AI and ML Technology. Google Cloud AutoML, deployed by STS, will remotely inspect Navy assets via drone-captured images.
Google Cloud and Simple Technology Solutions (STS)—a Google Cloud partner and small business specializing in multi-cloud solutions for the federal government—today announced they are working with the U.S. Navy to modernize the maintenance and repairs inspection process for Navy vessels and facilities.
STS will use Google Cloud artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies on inspection drone-captured images to detect, prioritize, and predict its maintenance needs. The work was awarded to STS as a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research project due to the technology innovation and potential for commercialization.
The U.S. Navy currently spends billions per year on maintaining and repairing its fleet of vessels and other platforms like aircraft and facilities. It is a largely manual, labor-intensive process. STS will train Google Cloud AI and ML models on tens of thousands of images to identify corrosion as part of the first phase with the Navy. Using imagery and Google AI/ML technologies, STS will seek to drastically reduce the labor burden and safety risk associated with maintenance inspections.
How it works:
- STS will leverage public domain and inspection drone images to build a high-quality AI/ML model using Google Cloud AutoML, a simple, secure, and flexible ML service that allows organizations to build custom vision models.
- STS will collaborate with the U.S. Navy corrosion subject matter experts to label and train the data using Google Cloud’s AI Platform Data Labeling Service.
- STS will iteratively train and validate the model using custom inspection drone flight data, which will be uploaded using Google Cloud Storage for processing. The models will continually improve and update themselves based on the newly ingested data.
“This is about automation, saving time and money, and keeping inspectors out of harm’s way,” said Aaron Kilinski, chief technology officer, STS. “The initial goal for Phase I is to build a model that detects corrosion in drone images with a very high degree of accuracy. The ultimate goal, however, is to move from detection to prediction by expanding the subjects and sensors, and eventually integrating with Navy systems. We selected Google Cloud AutoML because it allows our engineers to train and test high-quality models quickly. Google Cloud provides an unrivaled degree of specification to meet tough business objectives in compliance with FedRAMP High.”
“The manual inspection of Navy ships and vessels is a time-intensive, costly process that can drive up costs and slow down deployment,” said Mike Daniels, vice president of Global Public Sector, Google Cloud. “We’re proud to work with the U.S. Navy and empower them with Google Cloud technology to transform corrosion inspections for greater efficiency and safety.”
Google Cloud has previously worked with customers in a wide range of industries to support AI-enabled object detection for maintenance and safety, from helping power company AES assess damage to its hundreds of wind turbines, to working with the City of Memphis on automatically detecting potholes in city streets.
Simple Technology Solutions (STS) is an 8(a) & HUBZone company specializing in multi-cloud engineering and applied AI/ML. STS delivers automated (everything-as-code), scalable, and secure solutions in all layers of the cloud technology stack. They are expert at leveraging and augmenting cloud native services to maximize business and mission value, and apply a library of proven, cloud-agnostic accelerators to reduce application migration, provisioning, and team onboarding timelines. In 2019 STS was voted a “Best Place to Work” by Washington Business Journal, ranked #429 on the Inc 500 list and #2 on G2Xchange’s list of fastest growing private companies – D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.
About Google Cloud
Google Cloud provides organizations with leading infrastructure, platform capabilities and industry solutions. We deliver enterprise-grade cloud solutions that leverage Google’s cutting-edge technology to help companies operate more efficiently and adapt to changing needs, giving customers a foundation for the future. Customers in more than 150 countries turn to Google Cloud as their trusted partner to solve their most critical business problems. (Source: PR Newswire)
28 Aug 20. Taiwan unveils F-16 maintenance hub as China tensions build. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed on Friday to defend the island with a “solid” air force as she launched a U.S.-backed maintenance centre for the island’s fleet of upgraded F-16 fighters amid rising tensions between Taipei and Beijing.
Frequent Chinese and U.S. military exercises in the region are raising fears of conflict touched off by a crisis over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.
“It takes solid defence capability, not bowing and cringing, to defend the sovereignty of the Republic of China and maintain regional peace and stability,” Tsai told a ceremony unveiling the island’s first maintenance hub in the central city of Taichung for its most advanced F-16s.
The Republic of China is Taiwan’s formal name.
Tsai said the hub marks a milestone in her years-long drive to build up Taiwan’s defence industry.
“The time needed for jet maintenance will be greatly shortened and availability will be boosted significantly, ensuring the Air Force’s combat power at the front line,” she said.
Tsai has complained of increased Chinese military drills and on Thursday warned of the risk of accidental conflict.
The hub, led by U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp and Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), is latest example of military cooperation between Washington and Taipei.
The United States last year approved an $8bn sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a deal that would take the island’s F-16 fleet to more than 200 jets, the largest in Asia.
AIDC’s president, Ma Wan-june, said that the hub would service jets for Taiwan’s air force and that the company plans to expand it as a maintenance hub for F-16s in the region. He declined to elaborate.
The United States has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is the island’s main international backer and arms supplier.
China said last month it would sanction Lockheed Martin for involvement in arms sales to Taiwan. (Source: Reuters)
27 Aug 20. Epsilor Wins Two Contracts to Provide Li-Ion 6T Batteries to South East Asian Armored Vehicle Programs. The company has unveiled a new product line of defense vehicle batteries. The COMBATT line includes four batteries offering the highest energy density available today together with a smart high-current regulator enabling seamless battery integration. Epsilor’s Lithium 6T NATO batteries have been selected by two defense vehicle manufacturers in South East Asia, to be installed in their new tracked infantry fighting vehicles (IFV). The customers will install the batteries in two new armored vehicles designed to carry out demanding silent watch missions. Long silent watch capabilities are considered important in modern vehicle operation and may provide the companies with a competitive advantage as they bid on several international tenders.
Epsilor’s batteries provide significantly higher energy capacity within the 6T form factor than all other batteries currently on the market, and have gone through rigorous on-board testing. Epsilor’s 6T batteries have been already selected by more than 10 other users in West and East Europe, Asia and South America, while being evaluated also by Customers in North America.
The 6T batteries that were chosen by the new clients are part of Epsilor’s new product line of Lithium-Ion defense vehicle batteries, named COMBATT. The COMBATT line of batteries includes four different products for different applications, the widest portfolio of Lithium 6T defense vehicle batteries available today.
The new COMBATT line includes the following batteries:
- Li-Ion NCA 4.2kWh battery, named ELI-52526B, designed for long silent watch missions, offering the highest energy capacity in the world.
- Li-Ion LFP 2.8kWh battery, named ELP-02426, designed for long cycle life, offering the highest energy capacity in the LFP 6T category.
- Li-Ion LFP 2.8kWh battery in a metal case, named ELP-02426-M, designed to meet the ambitious safety requirements of the U.S. Army (the battery will be available beginning of 2021).
- Li-Ion Nano-phosphate 1.5kWh battery for startup and hybrid vehicle applications, named ELP-18029, offering an extremely high power density as well as extra high charge current tolerance.
“The armored vehicle market witnessed a significant change in recent years as modern vehicles operate new weapon, protection, communication and air-conditioning systems. Moreover, hybrid propulsion and regeneration are becoming common in the market,” said Epsilor president Ronen Badichi. “We are ready to support these emerging needs in onboard energy with our COMBATT product line that was designed for advanced armored vehicles,” Badichi added.
21 Aug 20. Exercise demonstrates PLA Army Aviation ability to use commercial ships as temporary flight decks. An aviation brigade of China’s People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) has conducted an exercise at sea showing its ability to utilise a commercial semi-submersible heavy-lift ship as a flight deck: a move that would provide the service with an additional capability to support amphibious landing operations in case of a conflict.
Video footage released on 19 August on the js7tv.cn website of the state-owned China Central Television 7 (CCTV 7) channel, shows Z-19 and Z-8 helicopters landing on and taking off from the vessel’s deck, which was marked with three operating spots.
From the video it is clear that the exercise included serials for aircraft refuelling, using conventional fuel bowser lorries embarked on the ship, and re-arming the attack helicopters with missiles.
The video was edited to conceal the name of the ship involved, but Rod Lee, Director of Research at the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) of the US Air Force’s Air University, identified it as Zhen Hua 28, which is registered in Hong Kong and operated by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC). The ship is 232 m long with a beam of 42 m and a gross tonnage of over 40,000 tonnes.
Using online ship-tracking data, Lee established that the ship had arrived at the Yellow Sea port of Lianyungang on 5 August and sailed for the exercise on 8 August, with the work required to configure the temporary flight deck undertaken during the period alongside. (Source: Jane’s)
21 Aug 20. Images emerge of Chinese tracked amphibious bridging system. Chinese state-owned media have released video footage showing what appears to be a new tracked amphibious ferry and bridging system for use by the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF).
The footage, which was released on 20 August on the Weibo social media page of the js7tv.cn website, shows two of the tracked vehicles deploying their pontoons before entering the water.
It appears that the platform can provide both a ferry and bridging capability across rivers and other water obstacles. However, the video provided no further details about the system, including its designation and whether it is already in PLA service.
This is the second such system Chinese state-owned media has shown about in a little over a week. On 12 August the state-owned China Central Television 7 (CCTV 7) channel reported about a 4×4 amphibious ferry and bridging system operated by a brigade within the 78th Group Army of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The CCTV 7 report showed the wheeled system deploying its pontoons before entering the water and ferrying what appeared to be a 21-tonne ZBL-09 armoured fighting vehicle. Later on, the system was also shown in the water being attached to a similar platform to form a pontoon bridge and provide a bridging capability, although CCTV 7 did not reveal the system’s carrying capacity.
The media outlet revealed that the wheeled vehicle can deploy its pontoons within three minutes, with the platform then becoming 13 m long and 20m wide. (Source: Jane’s)
21 Aug 20. Lack of runways spurred Japan’s F-35B purchase. Japan’s 2020 ‘Defense of Japan’ White Paper cited the lack of appropriate runways as a driving reason for the country’s decision to acquire the F-35B jet and convert Izumo-class helicopter destroyers for fast-jet operations.
Out of 45 airbases and airfields available to the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), only 20 are long enough to operate jets in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fleet. Of these 20, only one airbase in the Pacific Ocean at Iwo To (Iwo Jima) has a runway long enough to operate the F-35A, limiting operational infrastructure in the region.
Unlike the A variant, the F-35B can take off from a runway of around 100 metres, allowing Japan to operate the aircraft from all of its 45 airbases and airfields around the country, including the converted Izumo-class vessels.
Japan’s White Paper said that taking into account the ‘limited number of runways’ for a small country like itself, the self-defence forces took the decision to introduce the F-35B ‘in order to continuously secure air superiority’.
The F-35B is currently in service with the US Marine Corps, UK Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, as well as the Italian Navy and Air Force. The fighter has also been ordered by Singapore.
As part of Japan’s current Mid-Term Defense Programme – running from 2019 to 2023, the JASDF is set to acquire 18 F-35Bs.
In its White Paper, the Japanese Ministry of Defence wrote: “The neighbouring countries of Japan are making remarkable progress in the modernization of the air forces, for example by deploying the so-called fifth-generation fighter aircraft and the latest models of the fourth-generation aircraft.
“In order to secure the defence of Japan in this situation, it is extremely important for the SDF to develop a system that enables flexible operations, including flying aircraft from more airfields, so that air superiority can be constantly secured through the use of high-performance fighter aircraft.”
One of Japan’s main defence projects at current is the conversion of the JS Izumo to a light aircraft carrier, which will be used to host F-35B operations. The conversion will see Japan added to the list of countries operating F-35Bs from aircraft carriers which include the US and UK.
Japan’s regional neighbour South Korea also recently announced its intention to develop a new light aircraft carrier designed around F-35B operations.
Commenting on the Izumo conversion, the White Paper added: “In addition, in order to deal with the new security environment and to ensure a full-fledged posture to defend Japan’s sea and airspace, which includes part of the vast Pacific Ocean, while securing the safety of personnel, the SDF will refurbish the Izumo-class destroyers, which are multi-function destroyers, so that the F-35B can be operated from them when necessary.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)