24 Feb 21. Hanwha Defense delivers third batch of K56 ammunition supply vehicles to RoKA. South Korean company Hanwha Defense has completed delivery of a third batch of K56 automatic ammunition supply vehicles to the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA), according to a 23 February announcement by the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
Delivery of the latest batch of these tracked vehicles, which supply the RoKA’s 155 mm K55A1 tracked self-propelled howitzers (SPHs), was completed in December 2020, with the platforms now being deployed with self-propelled artillery units in the western region.
The army is expected to receive two more K56 batches by 2025. A KRW383bn (USD345.5m) contract for the fourth batch was announced in June 2020.
That said, the number of vehicles comprising each batch has not been revealed.
Development of the K56 was completed in October 2011 and the vehicle is believed to have entered service by 2015.
The DAPA announcement comes after Hanwha Defense secured a KRW137.4bn (USD124m) contract in December 2019 for the production of the fifth batch of K55A1s. The SPH is the upgraded version of the K55, which is the South Korean variant of the US-made M109A2.
According to Hanwha Defense, the K55A1 weighs 27 tonnes, has a maximum firing range of 32 km, a rate of fire of 4 rounds per minute, features semi-automatic loading, and can carry up to 36 rounds. It features the same fire-control and navigation systems as the locally designed K9 SPH, which is also made by Hanwha. The company also produces K10 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles for the K9. (Source: Jane’s)
24 Feb 21. Despite growing pains, KC-46 tanker will begin ‘limited operations.’ The U.S. Air Force is preparing to offer some new KC-46 tankers for operational use as early as this year, although continued technical issues will keep the aircraft from combat missions.
Under the new plan, announced by Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost on Feb. 24, the Air Force will commit a certain number of KC-46s to execute operational missions tasked by U.S. Transportation Command, which manages how the U.S. military transports people and equipment around the globe.
“You may be surprised to know that the KC-46 is already executing four to six missions daily in support of service and joint training missions. In fact, since last October, the KC-46 executed more than 650 missions across the globe,” Van Ovost told reporters during a roundtable.
“For example, today the KC-46 may provide aerial refueling for F-16s participating in a U.S.-based training exercise,” she said. “Under this new approach, if AMC is tasked to provide [aerial refueling] support for an operational coronet mission to move F-18s overseas or an operational B-52 mission, the KC-46 is on the table, which frees up KC-135s and KC-10s to execute other combatant command deployments that the KC-46 is presently unable to support with its existing deficiencies.”
Air Mobility Command is still finalizing the conditions that must be met before KC-46s become available to Transportation Command. Van Ovost said that “until these measures are met, the KC-46 will not be cleared to provide operational support for a particular mission set or a milestone.”
The Air Force has yet to determine how many tankers will be presented and when, said Brig. Gen. Ryan Samuelson, who leads the Air Force’s KC-46 cross-functional team, which coordinates the continued development and fielding of the tanker. However, the team hopes the new aircraft reaches limited operations later this year, he told reporters during a Feab. 23 event at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
“As we looked at all of its mission sets — cargo, air refueling, aeromedical [evacuation], passenger movements — what we realized is over the last year the crews are becoming more seasoned, the system is getting more primed to support the aircraft and our confidence level is gaining that we actually have operational capacity out there that we can provide for the joint force,” he said.
“Every mission set that this aircraft can take off of those older tanker fleets, that’s more capacity back to the combatant commands, and it relieves that stress on our current tanker fleet,” he added.
The Air Force currently has 44 KC-46s of the 179 it plans to buy over the program of record. By the end of 2021, that number will be up to 60 tankers, Samuelson said.
However, there are a number of missions that the KC-46 will not be permitted to perform until its critical deficiencies are resolved and the Air Force deems it fully operational, Van Ovost said. Namely, it will not be allowed to perform wartime missions in the Middle East for U.S. Central Command, nor will it be tasked for missions in U.S. European Command or U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
It will also be restricted from refueling stealth planes such as the F-35, F-22 and B-2, which all feature a low-observable coating that protects them from radar detection, Samuelson said. Air Force officials believe the KC-46 is at higher risk of damaging stealth coatings with its refueling boom because of longstanding issues with the Remote Vision System, a collection of cameras and infrared sensors used by operators to steer the tanker’s boom into a fuel receptacle.
Refueling the A-10 Warthog is also off the table due to the stiffness of the boom. The Air Force is financially responsible for fixing this issue, as it approved Boeing’s boom design in 2016. The service awarded the company an additional $55.5m in 2019 to design a new boom actuator to solve the problem. Van Ovost stressed that the KC-46 would only be permitted for limited operational use as long as efforts to fix remaining critical deficiencies do not slow down.
“I remain confident that accepting the KC-46 with known deficiencies offers the fastest route to fielding a fully operational weapon system,” she said. “That said, serious deficiencies and restrictions remain with the KC-46 weapon system, and Boeing is still responsible for installing Remote Visual System 2.0 and redesigning the boom telescope actuator.”
Van Ovost, Samuelson and others recently briefed Transportation Command leaders about the plan to make the KC-46 available for operational missions. Van Ovost characterized the command officials as “receptive” to the plan.
They also briefed acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown and several members of Congress — all of which flew aboard KC-46s this week during orientation flights meant to showcase the performance of the tanker and its ability to refuel aircraft like the F-15 and F-16. It also served as an opportunity to give those stakeholders more information about the tanker’s ongoing challenges.
So what sort of missions will the KC-46 be allowed to perform as it moves into an operational status?
Samuelson said that remains undecided, but would likely include demonstrations and exercises, aerial refueling missions that use the tanker’s centerline drogue system, stateside coronet flights where the KC-46 refuels fighter jets as they traverse large distances, and potentially overseas activities. (Source: Defense News)
24 Feb 21. US Navy Tests Autonomous Aerial Supply Drone from Supercarrier. The US Naval Air Force Atlantic conducted a test of a logistics Unmanned Air System prototype over Naval Station Norfolk on Feb. 21, 2021. The long-range cargo transport, dubbed Blue Water UAS, is designed to operate with Naval Forces that typically operate in heavy winds over open water and require aircraft to land on pitching vessels at sea.
The technology demonstrator vehicle can operate in some of these conditions and further development will be required to meet the full Naval requirement.
Naval Air Force Atlantic conducted a test of a logistics Unmanned Air System prototype over Naval Station Norfolk on Feb. 21, 2021. The long-range cargo transport, dubbed Blue Water UAS, is designed to operate with Naval Forces that typically operate in heavy winds over open water and require aircraft to land on pitching vessels at sea. The technology demonstrator vehicle can operate in some of these conditions and further development will be required to meet the full Naval requirement.
“The Ford Blue Water UAS supply demo is a first step in revolutionizing logistics support to maximize operational availability and lethality for these critical capital assets,” said Capt. John Bush, Director, Aircraft Material and Engineering, Naval Air Forces Atlantic.
The proof-of-concept test was successfully conducted by transporting light-weight logistical equipment from the Mid Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC), Naval Station Norfolk on board USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) while the Ford-class aircraft carrier was in-port.
“This UAS demonstration leverages cutting edge technology to enhance our logistical efficiency across the Naval Air Force.” said Rear Adm. John F. Meier, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic. “We have come a long way in integrating unmanned systems in Naval Aviation and the lessons learned today will help to accelerate this capability to the fleet.”
Historic data from Navy casualty reports show that warships that move to non-mission capable or partially mission capable status often do so due to logistics issues like the need for electronic parts, 90 percent of which are logistical deliveries weighing less than 50 pounds. Currently, aircraft like the MH-60 helicopters and MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft fly these missions. Blue Water presents an opportunity to cut the cost and inefficiency of these flights.
“Carrier logistics is a complex and diverse problem set,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer. “Sometimes getting a small part delivered to the ship has a big impact on the availability of an embarked system or aircraft. Having UAS like Blue Water may improve our ability to quickly meet specific logistics needs where payload and ship’s location permit.”
The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) will continue to work with its industry partners to enhance the UAS in-house with developments like folding wings for better handling and ship storage, and consider alternative air vehicle designs with advanced propulsion systems to provide greater range and payload performance, optical and infrared collision avoidance and landing systems, and navigation systems not only dependent on GPS.
“Deterring, fighting, and winning future conflicts will require more from us,” said NAWCAD Commander, Rear Adm. John Lemmon. “Developmental platforms like our Blue Water UAS are important for exploring opportunities to maintain a competitive edge with top-tier technology and improve the logistical support of America’s Sailors and Marines.”
Blue Water UAS can operate from both the ship and the shore. It requires minimal maintenance and control stations are small – about the size of a shoebox or small suitcase – netting near zero infrastructure. Experimentation with the fleet will continue throughout 2021. The results of the experimentation will help the Navy decide whether to transition the technology to support fleet initiatives. (Source: UAS VISION)
23 Feb 21. Lockheed, Government Negotiating New ‘Skinny’ F-35 Sustainment Deal. Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government are working out a down-scoped version of the F-35 Performance-Based Logistics concept the company pitched 18 months ago, but the goal is still to get the fighter’s operating cost to $25,000 a year by 2025, in fiscal year 2012 dollars.
“We skinnied … down” the scope of the PBL concept, Ken Merchant, Lockheed F-35 sustainability vice president, told reporters in an online press conference to coincide with AFA’s virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium. The government is expected to release a sole-source request for proposals to Lockheed in the coming months, but Merchant couldn’t predict when the company could get a contract.
“The sooner we get the PBL enacted, the sooner we’ll see the improvements and savings,” Merchant said. Under a PBL contract, the company guarantees a certain number of aircraft will be mission capable a certain percentage of the time, and can achieve that goal however it sees fit. Bruce Litchfield, Lockheed aeronautics VP for sustainment, said subcontractors on the PBL plan “have the option to do reliability improvements, repair capacity increases, and partnerships with the depots.”
With the down-scoped PBL, overall savings will be lower, Merchant said. He couldn’t speculate as to what the savings will be until the company sees the final RFP, but they won’t be “anywhere near what we had hoped for before.” However, sustainment performance will be at least as good, he said.
The government balked at handing so much authority over to Lockheed to make long-term decisions about how parts and sustainment would be managed, Merchant said. Although other governments—F-35 partners—are comfortable with such deals, such arrangements are relatively rare in the U.S., he said. BAE Systems, for example, manages the Typhoon fighter’s sustainment, and in Australia, contractors get “stewardship” contracts, Merchant noted.
What the two parties ended up with is a “try before buy” arrangement of five years, Merchant said. “If it’s successful, there’s an opportunity to do another five and another five after that. If it’s not, there’s planned to be off-ramps that will allow the government to go other routes,” he explained.
The company has confidence it can deliver on the down-scoped PBL because it has already reduced costs per flying hour by 40 percent, on the items “that Lockheed controls,” Merchant noted. The government controls 49 percent of the cost per flying hour on the F-35, he said, and he quoted the current cost per flying hour as $36,000.
Lockheed has done some PBLs with its own contractors, but can’t go too far in doing so, Merchant said. “I can’t really go out and make commitments for my company that are going to take five years to [see] a return on investment,” he said. “With a PBL, I can make those investments up front and I’m assured … that I’ll get a fair return on those dollars over time.”
“What we’re pressing forward with now is a supply, support, and demand reduction capability,” Merchant said. The company will be focused on spares, ensuring parts bins are full and “the right supplies are in the field where needed.” The company will also be “looking for ways to reduce that demand for spare parts by improving repair capacity across the enterprise” of F-35 users, “as well as keeping parts on-wing longer.”
Merchant said that 92 percent of the parts flying on the F-35 today “are performing at or better than specification.” The other eight percent are being scrutinized for how they can be more reliable, available, and maintainable. Among the approaches is to accelerate the cure time on low observable parts, to turn them faster and get the aircraft back into service.
Lockheed has set up some PBLs with its own suppliers. “Even though we’re on annual contracts” with the government, the company has signed some five-year deals with suppliers and “taken risk” in doing so. BAE was put in charge of electronic warfare sustainment and the move “has brought the right behavior to that supplier in that enterprise.”
Parts are more plentiful, he said, once at 47 percent “fill rate” and now at 97 percent, “and that just over two years out of a five-year plan.” The organic repair capacity for EW systems was also stood up “several months ahead of plan.”
All of this “gives us great confidence” that the PBL can eventually be expanded “to the program level,” Merchant said.
That said, “there’s still a lot of things we need to go fix, and we need more velocity in the repair system,” he said.
Litchfield emphasized that costs per flying hour on the F-35 are coming down, and said the company can “unleash a lot of the capabilities we have, to drive efficiency” on sustainment.
In the field, Merchant said, “maintainers say the jet is King Kong. It’s really starting to improve and … mature.” There was a 13 percent increase in mission capability rates in 2019, and today the fleet average, globally, is 70 percent, he asserted. That didn’t happen because of the increase in the number of aircraft serving—now up to 615 aircraft—but “because we designed in reliability and have worked to improve the performance of those jets.” Lockheed expects to deliver between 133 and 139 F-35s in 2021, he added. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.airforcemag.com/)
23 Feb 21. Pakistani tank upgrade looms for Ukroboronprom. Contract to upgrade T-80UD tanks for the Pakistani Army is signed at IDEX, more than four years after an MoU was announced.
Ukroboronprom is to overhaul the Pakistani Army fleet of T-80UD MBTs, the Ukrainian state-run defence conglomerate announced on 22 February during the IDEX trade show in Abu Dhabi.
Apart from this $85.6m contract for its subsidiary Ukrspecexport, signed during IDEX, Ukroboronprom CEO Yuri Gusev said that the two parties discussed new orders for 6TD-1 and 6-TD2 MBT diesel engines (the 6TD-1 is the powerplant for the T-80UD).
According to Shephard Defence Insight, there are 320 T-80UDs in the Pakistani Army inventory, with an out-of-service date of 2041.
As far back as December 2016, Ukrspecexport announced a T-80UD upgrade MoU with Pakistani state-run company Heavy Industries Taxila.
At IDEX, Gusev also met Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to discuss joint projects and priority areas for future cooperation.
‘In the near future we will intensify bilateral military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and the UAE,’ Gusev said.
On 14 February, exactly one week before IDEX began, the Ukrainian and UAE governments signed a collaboration agreement to facilitate the exchange and development of advanced technologies between UAE-based Edge, Ukroboronprom and Ukrspecexport. At the time, Ukroboronprom noted the agreement includes ‘the prospect of investments worth more than $1bn’. (Source: Shephard)
23 Feb 21. Uralvagonzavod offering UBIM engineering vehicles for export.
Russia’s Uralvagonzavod (UVZ, a subsidiary of state corporation Rostec) is now offering its Multipurpose Armoured Engineering Vehicle (Universalnaya Bronirovannaya Inzhenernaya Mashina: UBIM) for export, UVZ Director General Alexander Potapov told Janes on 21 February at the IDEX 2021 event in Abu Dhabi.
“The UBIM has seen its first foreign presentation at the IDEX 2021 defence show. The vehicle has already completed all its trials,” Potapov said.
The platform is designed to conduct engineering works under heavy fire and in contaminated areas. “The UBIM lays down roads, clears obstacles, and tows vehicles that need to be repaired,” said Potapov.
It is built on a T-90M Proryv-3 (Breakthrough) main battle tank (MBT) chassis, and weighs about 55 tonnes. The vehicle features automation that enables the crew to be reduced to two service members.
“The UBIM’s applique equipment is controlled via a remote panel with two sticks. The vehicle is also fitted with an electronic controller of its engineering subsystems,” said Potapov. The basic UBIM is fitted with a 4.5m U-type folding dozer blade, a crane with a bucket, a replaceable hydraulic breaker, and a field engineering kit. It can transport up to three engineers.
The vehicle’s organic tank-level armour protection has been reinforced with applique armour plates and a bank of eight Tucha smoke dischargers on the left. A remotely operated weapon station with a Kord-family 12.7mm heavy machine gun is mounted on the top of the crew compartment. (Source: Jane’s)
22 Feb 21. WFEL now sole bidder for Project TYRO – UK MoD’s Military Bridging Project. The withdrawal of a second contender to supply both Armoured and Tactical Bridging Systems for the British Army’s TYRO project, means that UK military bridge designer and manufacturer WFEL is now the sole bidder. Project TYRO aims to provide UK Heavy Forces with Close Support Bridge (CSB) and General Support Bridge (GSB) capabilities for the British Army’s Royal Engineers (RE) to cross wet and dry gaps, both on the battlefield and in emergency and disaster relief situations.
The TYRO requirements are for Close Support Bridges (CSB) to be deployed, launched and recovered from armoured vehicles (AVLB) and a wheeled launcher (WVLB) and for the General Support Bridges (GSB) to be self-deployed, providing MLC 100 (Tracked) capability in order to support unrestricted crossing by UK Heavy Forces.
The Assessment Phase (AP) of Project TYRO has already been successfully completed by WFEL, with the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) being issued in September 2020. Negotiations for the Demonstration & Manufacture phase will now commence in the summer of 2021.
The bridging solutions offered by WFEL include the DSB Dry Support Bridge – which can be fully deployed by only eight people and a single launch vehicle in under 90 minutes – for the GSB requirement; to meet the CSB requirement, WFEL offers KMW’s LEGUAN Bridge. The LEGUAN’s fully automatic, horizontal bridge-laying capability provides increased stealth with a low silhouette during a five-minute bridge launch and will be adapted to be launched and recovered from the MoD’s already in-service TITAN armoured bridge launchers and a new wheeled bridge launcher.
The TYRO Assessment Phase saw WFEL carrying out comprehensive stress and fatigue testing, to verify MLC ratings and life expectancy of the different bridge types and also allowing WFEL to incorporate future Bridge Fatigue Management Systems.
WFEL and KMW extensively demonstrated the capabilities of their mobile bridging systems against MoD user requirements, with particular emphasis on the systems’ load carrying capability and overall durability.
WFEL’s Dry Support Bridge is one of the world’s most technically advanced, rapidly deployable military bridges of its type. Over 150 systems have already been supplied to the US, Australian, Swiss and Turkish armed forces. Having also been used as temporary infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bridge has been designed and proven for use in both Military and Disaster Relief situations by loads of up to 120 tonnes. This significant installed base of equipment ensures that WFEL’s DSB customers have a high level of confidence in continued through-life support and spares availability.
The DSB launch vehicle is available on the user’s choice of chassis and its adoption by the Australian Defence Force onto Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) 10 x 10 fully-armoured chassis, has further strengthened the DSB’s market dominance, enhancing the system’s compatibility with UK MOD’s current fleet of RMMV vehicles, including HX77 variant, which is already capable of carrying WFEL’s bridge system without modification.
A key requirement for military equipment is interoperability; WFEL’s precision engineering manufacturing techniques ensure that any DSB bridge module is compatible with any other DSB bridge module, independent of the chassis used for the bridge launcher, allowing swapping and sharing of resources during NATO and other joint exercises worldwide.
Already selected by 19 armed forces, KMW’s LEGUAN bridge system is outstanding in terms of modularity, interoperability and load-carrying capacity and is well suited to meet the UK’s CSB requirement. Beyond its core ability to launch a bridge under any condition within minutes, the LEGUAN system provides additional features to enhance its tactical value, including night vision systems, laser range finder, auxiliary power unit and crew compartment cooling system.
The LEGUAN can be used in Military or Disaster Relief operations and, for both MLC80 and MLC100 bridge types at either 26m or 14m length, a life cycle monitor system, and a civilian-use kit – consisting of centre cover plates and handrails – is available. To date, KMW has supplied almost 250 tracked LEGUAN systems, 45 wheeled LEGUAN systems and almost 500 bridges plus 5 ferry and floating kits to some 19 users, with many of these being NATO members.
19 Feb 21. S3 AeroDefense Signs 10 Year Distribution Agreement & Repair License with Honeywell Aerospace. S3 AeroDefense LLC has recently been selected as Honeywell Aerospace’s sole distributor of parts for Power Generation products on C-130, UH-60, S-92, S-70 and AH-64 aircraft, as well as M60 and M1 Abrams land vehicles. This agreement, which is in effect through 2030, includes exclusive distribution of Generator assemblies and detail parts worldwide. The agreement also establishes S3 AeroDefense as a licensed MRO provider for these generator products, while transitioning to sole Honeywell licensee over the next 22 months.
This agreement furthers S3 AeroDefense’s strategy to offer customers world class support, including increased inventory availability, expanded repair capabilities and mission enhancing upgrade solutions. It also compliments our current Honeywell portfolio of agreements, including our exclusive UH60 Air Turbine Starter agreement, D&S Military parts distribution, and licensed repair facility supporting multiple Honeywell products.
S3 AeroDefense LLC, is an industry leading defense support business, focused on providing innovative solutions to military aviation operators worldwide. S3’s agreement with Honeywell will benefit and enhance generator sustainability, while focusing on providing customers with OEM SPARES, high quality SERVICES and technically relevant SOLUTIONS.
For more than a half-century, commercial and military customers have turned to Honeywell Aerospace for reliable aircraft and ground vehicle power generation, including the industry leading UH-60 Blackhawk 60 kVA upgraded generator. Flight crews around the world can rely on Honeywell’s power generation products as they provide higher reliability and increased performance for electrical power needs.
“We are honored to continue to grow our partnership with Honeywell to provide ever higher levels of service and support for our mutual customers,” said Sebastien Imbert, Senior Vice President of Sales at S3 AeroDefense. “This agreement is a testament to the trust that our valued customers have in our relationship with Honeywell and their advanced and reliable technologies.” (Source: PR Newswire)