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14 Nov 19. Thailand to modernise ageing F-5 and Alpha Jet fleets. The Royal Thai Air Force is to upgrade its fleets of Northrop F-5 and Dornier Alpha Jet aircraft under plans announced by an official on 14 November. Speaking under the Chatham House Rule, the official said that the F-5s that were first received in 1980 will be modernised with updated avionics and a structural upgrade to give them another 15 years of operational service. The Alpha Jets, 16 of which were received second-hand from Germany in 2000, will receive new avionics only.
As the official explained the F-5 effort will include a radar “that can see beyond 40 miles” and a beyond visual-range missile. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
13 Nov 19. DOD Expects Significant Progress on Critical F-35 System. Nearly 460 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft have been delivered to military organizations around the world — including the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as to a handful of partner nations. But a critical component of the F-35 program, the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, has proven less stellar than the aircraft itself. Defense Department officials say that’s going to change soon.
The F-35 manufacturer bills ALIS as the “IT backbone” of the F-35 system. ALIS is meant to be involved in aircraft sustainment, maintenance, planning and support. For example, both operators and maintainers would use it for work orders and automatically ordering spare parts. The F-35 has a wide array of sensors that can upload data into ALIS after it lands. The system can analyze how the jet performed and identify parts that might be wearing out — and then order them.
“Sadly, as presently constituted, ALIS is not delivering the capabilities the warfighter needs,” Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said today during a joint hearing of two House Armed Services Committee subcommittees. “The problems with ALIS are ones we can and must solve.”
Lord told lawmakers the Defense Department has a plan to make ALIS work the way it was intended.
DOD has assigned ALIS issues to specific individuals with dates that they need to meet, she said. “What we are doing is re-architecting ALIS to make sure it meets the needs of the warfighter while making good use of taxpayer dollars, and we are working on a detailed plan right now as to when that capability will be delivered,” Lord said.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric T. Fick, the F-35 program executive officer, said the version of ALIS in the field now is 22.214.171.124, but that version 3.5 is being fielded now. “That will bring about 300 stability fixes to that baseline functionality to allow it to be a better system for the users,” he said.
Fick said he expects “significant progress” on ALIS by fall of 2020, when existing “squadron operational units” — the individual ALIS systems used by units that operate the F-35 — might be shut down in favor of a new version.
Ongoing efforts by the Air Force, aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and DOD will coalesce into a “single new version of ALIS marching forward that leverages an underlying data architecture that’s expandable with the expanding fleet in ways that the current ALIS is not,” Fick said. (Source: US DoD)
13 Nov 19. The Pentagon plan to save the F-35’s logistics system hinges on whether Lockheed will relinquish data control. The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin are at odds over how much data the military can have access to for its own jet, the F-35, and that’s creating renewed friction in the fight to fix longstanding issues with the automated logistics system vital to keeping it flying.
Both the Pentagon and Lockheed say a relaunched version of the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, should be ready to start sending to squadrons by September 2020, both the military’s top acquisition official and the F-35 program manager expressed frustration to lawmakers at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing Tuesday with how much control Lockheed asserts over crucial data for the system.
ALIS is an off-board system that runs the maintenance and logistics system for the F-35.
“One of the key elements of coming up with a new ALIS architecture, data standards, and all the other parts that would make a very good system is understanding the data set as it exists today — what all the algorithms are — and we are still in the process of going through that with Lockheed Martin,” said Ellen Lord, the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. “But understanding where all the intellectual property is and making sure the government has access to what it has paid for is a key part of rearchitecting ALIS.”
The fight over intellectual property stems from the original concept for the program, which gave Lockheed Martin sweeping control over virtually every major aspect of the F-35, from design and fabrication to maintenance, parts and logistics. But in recent years, dissatisfied by rising costs and delays, the Pentagon has sought to wrest more control back from Lockheed. Intellectual property rights and disputes over proprietary data, however, have often tripped up such efforts.
Some of Lockheed’s intellectual property assertions have bordered on ridiculous, according to Fick, but getting a handle on what data the military needs to do its job is crucial, he said.
“We still have concerns, there still are roadblocks as we go to execute,” Fick said. “Everything from something as simple as U.S. government documents that get uploaded into a system and come back with Lockheed Martin proprietary markings on it. That is a frustrating occurrence, but not one that prevents us from doing work.
“What we’re working to do is to figure out where are the places at which intellectual property assertions actually prevent us from doing the kind of work that we intend to do. … We’re getting to a place where we don’t need all the data, but the data that we need — it’s important that we pursue it.”
Lord told lawmakers that the key to getting a successful system was breaking Lockheed’s grip on the logistics data infrastructure and housing more of it in a government cloud.
“One of the challenges we have is that fact that a lot of the ALIS data and functionality works back through Lockheed Martin computers,” Lord said. ‘So, what we need to have in a newly rearchitected ALIS to is have that in a government cloud and accessible. So, this deconflicting of Lockheed data and government data will become much more clear.”
The Pentagon would like to leverage more of its internal software development capabilities to get after a newly reconstructed ALIS system, specifically inside the Air Force, Lord said, but resolving the intellectual property disputes is the key.
Lockheed, for its part, says it is investing significant company resources in developing solutions to both improve the current ALIS system, known as ALIS classic, but also in the redesigned “ALIS Next.”
“We are spending about $50m of internal funds to improve classic ALIS,” said Gregory Ulmer, Lockheed’s general manager of the F-35 program. “We’re also implementing additional company funds in the order of $120m to support new architecture investments.”
Fick told lawmakers that the latest software release for ALIS is expected this month. He predicted “significant progress” by September 2020 toward four different efforts to improve ALIS, including software upgrades, rearchitecting the system itself and Lockheed’s internal research and development work.
Though the ALIS software release in the fall of 2018 met the required-capabilities threshold for its design and development phase, Fick acknowledged the system needs “significant additional improvements” and noted that combat coded squadrons require 12 system administrators to maintain deployed operations and that training squadrons require eight.
Lawmakers at the hearing expressed their own frustrations with the program, saying the program was wasting too much taxpayer money and not delivering results.
“As we look ahead to the next few decades of F-35 service, failing to create an effective and cost-efficient sustainment system would diminish readiness, squander taxpayer resources, and discourage the services and our partners from continuing to purchase the F-35,” said Readiness Subcommittee Chairman John Garamendi, D-Calif. “This would create unacceptable risk for the program and would be an abdication of the trust and investment of the public and our allies.”
Underscoring lawmaker frustration with the complexity of problems with the expensive program, Norcross at one point asked Lord how metrics like cost-per-flight-hour can be standardized between the F-35 and other platforms. “Apples to apples, the metrics that we’re using seem to move,” he said.
The Pentagon hired the Boston Consulting Group to examine all the costs per flight hour, towards its goal of spending $25,000 per flight hour by 2025. The firm found $3,000 per flight hour “that we couldn’t clearly trace back to Lockheed Martin as to the origin of those costs,” Lord said. “We are working closely with Lockheed Martin to understand it, and it’s the fundamental basis of some confusion we have.”
Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, told lawmakers that copies of the F-35, despite improvements in availability and mission capable rates, are “breaking more often than planned and taking longer to fix.” The operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains at a level below service expectations. But after several years of remaining relatively stable, several key suitability metrics are showing signs of slow improvement in 2019, he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
13 Nov 19. Angola to send naval vessels to Namibia for maintenance. The Angolan Navy is to send two naval vessels to Namibia’s Walvis Bay for dry dock maintenance and support.
Namibian company Namdock will perform undisclosed work on the vessels in a contract that has been under negotiation since 2017. The company is hoping to extend the services contract with Angola into 2020 and perform maintenance on other naval vessels.
Namdock has been increasing its work with the Angolan government, performing maintenance on vessels operated by the Angolan Ministry of Fisheries. The company has also been pursuing work with the Namibian Navy (NN). The NN was created in 2004 following the commissioning of the Namibian Defence Force’s maritime wing into a naval force. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
13 Nov 19. Delaying the inevitable spend? Sources close to BATLESPACE suggest that the denial of the need for a drydock (See PQ below) for the UK’s carriers is a holding operation to delay the inevitable requirement in a few years when a drydock will be required for deep maintenance. The source said that the French had offered the L’Orient facility in Brest which has been used for years for their carrier but this was turned down. The most likely site for a drydock for the carrier would be Portsmouth. This denial comes at a time of continued discussion over the need for the multi-billion drydock for the Astute submarines and an urgent requirement to sort the problem of the laid up nuclear submarines languishing in Devonport.
Asked by Stephen Morgan
Asked on: 31 October 2019
Ministry of Defence
HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when he plans to announce the location for a new dry dock facility capable of housing HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Answered by: Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Answered on: 05 November 2019
The Ministry of Defence has no current plans to construct a dry-dock facility for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
Plans for a long-term in-service support solution for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are under consideration as part of the Common Support Model for complex warships. However, on current plans, routine scheduled repair and refitting of the two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, other than dry-docking, will be conducted at her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth and will sustain jobs at that site.
Grouped Questions: 8279 | 8280
Babcock are the owners of Devonport Dockyard – the site was originally sold to DML prior to Babcock’s interest. The contract for the maintenance of the submarines is negotiated periodically with the MoD and includes a programme of refits – the duration of the contract is 5 years. I believe there are also longer term commitments relating to facility readiness and future pipeline so that Babcock is incentivised to invest in their facilities. Major project investments related to submarine refit facilities are negotiated back to back with the MoD. There is no competitor submarine refit capability in the UK so the procurement is single sourced. Projects relating to surface ship work are competed and investments are funded by Babcock CAPEX. Specifically Babcock has recently signed the Maritime Support Delivery Framework (MSDF) contract with the MoD, which is a single contract spanning operations at both HMNB Devonport and HMNB Clyde. This new contract, extending over 5 years until March 2020, cements Babcock’s long term partnering relationship with the MoD and Royal Navy. Babcock is the sole provider of deep maintenance, in-service maintenance and infrastructure support for the UK fleet of conventional and nuclear powered submarines. Babcock is now involved in all current and future programmes, spanning the next fifty years, with the Devonport facility being identified by the MoD as a Centre of Excellence for deep maintenance and infrastructure support (Devonport is the only dockyard in the UK with facilities for nuclear submarine refit operations).
12 Nov 19. US Navy completes repairs to aircraft carrier Harry S Truman. The US Navy has announced that the electrical malfunction previously reported aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) has been fixed.
The carrier underwent repairs after an electrical issue was identified as the ship was preparing for a deployment originally planned to take place in September this year.
Following the completion of the repairs, the USS Harry S Truman will soon return to sea to conduct operations.
During the maintenance, the navy worked with industry partners to replace damaged components and perform tests.
The US Navy said in a statement: “An engineering analysis, coupled with inspections aboard several aircraft carriers, show that this was a localised issue and not a class-wide concern.”
Naval Sea Systems Command commander Vice Admiral Thomas Moore said: “Returning HST to full functionality was a team effort with a tremendous amount of work and collaboration by NAVSEA, our industry partners, shipyard workers and the crew of HST to overcome a very challenging technical issue.”
The navy stated that it is now focused on preparing the carrier, air wing and sailors to go on operational deployment.
According to USNI News, the escort ships from the Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group departed for deployment in September without CVN 75 due to the electrical issue suffered by the aircraft carrier.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration shelved plans to decommission the USS Harry S Truman two decades early.
The US Navy had announced plans in the FY 2020 budget proposal to scrap the ship’s planned mid-life refuelling. (Source: naval-technology.com)
12 Nov 19. Maintainers under pressure to keep ‘Doomsday plane’ flying after flood wreaks havoc. Earlier this year, the sole hangar for the E-4B Nightwatch airborne command post at Offutt Air Force Base was submerged in water after floods hit Omaha, Nebraska. Months later, the hangar is now usable but not fully operational, creating a challenge for the maintainers charged with keeping the E-4B ready to fly.
Nicknamed the “Doomsday plane” due to its ability to withstand a nuclear blast, the iconic blue and white E-4B serves two purposes: to provide a secure and survivable command center in the event of a nuclear war and — until recently — to transport defense secretaries around the world.
The U.S. Air Force only operates four E-4Bs, all based at Offutt, and at least one of those aircraft must be on alert 24/7 year-round. As one E-4B is usually going through a yearlong depot maintenance period and another is typically receiving modifications, two aircraft are left to fulfill mission requirements. But because of the high number of maintenance activities currently ongoing, the Air Force has temporarily stopped using its E-4Bs for VIP transport , Defense One reported earlier in November.
The flood has made it difficult to keep at least one those planes functional, said Maj. James Hodges, who leads the 595th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Hodges arrived at Offutt on March 18, during the period when the flood hit the base, causing what may add up to $1bn in damage, according to the Omaha World Herald.
“There’s a beautiful change-of-command photo with the hangar underwater in the background,” he joked during an October interview.
The 595th AMXS was able to move its equipment and tools to the north side of the base before the flood covered some parts of Offutt in up to 8 feet of water. None of the Nightwatch planes were damaged by the flood, but in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the squadron was displaced, often having to fly to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to conduct heavy maintenance.
Now, half a year later, maintainers are back at work repairing E-4B aircraft at Offutt, including changing out engines and performing most of the heavy maintenance, Hodges said.
“We do what we can on the ramp. Now the flood waters have receded, so while the buildings still need some work as far as repairing electrical stuff, [the hangar] still works as some overall cover,” he said. “We’re probably, I’d say, about 50 percent capable with that facility now.”
But the hangar isn’t yet fit for all maintenance work. Tasks requiring a temperature-controlled environment — like isochronal inspections that occur every 220 days, take 24 days to complete, and require personnel to crawl through the jet and inspect wires, re-lube components and wash the aircraft — must still be done at Wright-Patterson.
“It just makes the scheduling more important,” Hodges said. “Because when it’s time to do that inspection, we’ll send up to about 60 guys … to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with the jet to do that inspection. So while those 60 bodies are there, I have 60 less bodies here to do day-to-day care and feeding.”
The 595th AMXS is comprised of 260 personnel, but 40 of those are either permanently located at Wright-Patterson or focused on scheduling, leaving a core cadre of 220 maintainers. Transferring more than a quarter of them to Ohio for weeks at a time adds another layer of difficulty to an already complicated task. Furthermore, the squadron is already undermanned and lacks the optimal number of experienced maintainers.
But the Air Force is taking steps to correct the situation, Hodges said. After a study found that the 595th AMXS was short by 130 maintainers, 30 were added to the squadron during this summer.
“While that helped bolster the numbers, those 30 bodies have to be trained,” he said, adding that it takes six months to qualify a trained maintainer on the E-4B and another year for them to gain the experience necessary to know the plane.
Meanwhile, the funding to hire the remaining 100 maintainers needed is unavailable, but Hodges hopes that gap will be filled by 2021.
The future of the E-4B
The E-4B was introduced in 1974, and a replacement for the Boeing 747 derivative is still years, perhaps decades, into the future.
In 2018, the Defense Department released a solicitation signaling its interest in recapitalizing the E-4B, E-6B and C-32A platforms and asking industry for information. The NEAT program could replace all three aircraft types with a common airframe or family of planes. NEAT is short for the military’s name for the missions conducted by those platforms: National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), Executive Airlift, Airborne Command Post (ABNCP), and Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO).
An industry day was held in April, however it’s unclear if the effort will materialize into a program of record.
In the meantime, the Air Force is pressing forward with key upgrades for its E-4B fleet, setting aside about $176m in its fiscal 2020 budget for “enhancements to aircraft structures, [the] propulsion system, fuel system, environmental control system, electrical generation and distribution systems, flight safety and navigation systems” as well as modifications needed to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
Some of the modifications underway or planned include integrating the advanced extremely high-frequency terminal, the low-frequency transmit system and the Mobile User Objective System, as well as technologies necessary to upgrade presidential voice conferencing, according to budget documents.
While the bones of the E-4B are decades old, many of communication and navigation systems have been added or modernized over the years, resulting in a hodgepodge of different equipment that must be mastered by maintainers.
“Typically on a regular jet … we have, let’s say, 20-something odd systems that we have to manage or maintain. But now we have something like 113. So it’s a bit of a steep learning curve because it’s not stuff we’re taught [at tech school]. We have to learn it while we’re here,” said Tech. Sgt. Elden Magnuson, one of the squadron’s approximately 50 communications and navigation specialists.
It takes years to build up expertise on so many systems, so the 595th AMXS tends to retain its maintainers longer than most other squadrons. For example, Magnuson — who previously worked on C-130s and C-17s — has clocked in eight years as an E-4B maintainer.
But every day is a challenge, he said, because new systems are continually added to the aircraft. For instance, when Defense News visited Offutt Air Force Base in October, the Air Force had begun flight tests of a new antenna that trails behind the E-4B.
“One of the challenges we’ve met is when a system comes onboard faster than we are trained to [maintain] it,” he said. That’s part of why the squadron retains such a large number of communication and navigation specialists — to allow the squadron to constantly cycle maintainers through training.
“We’ve done a pretty good job with that,” he said.
11 Nov 19. Czech Pandur II availability suffers from spare parts delays. Meeting with members of parliament (MPs) in Prague on 30 October, Czech generals revealed that 21 of the army’s 107 Pandur II armoured vehicles are inoperable because of problems with spare parts deliveries. General Stefan Muransky, chief of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) support department, attributed this to problems with deliveries from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which take 19 months on average. The Israeli company supplies the Pandur IIʼs Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) 30 and gunsight. “We do not have enough money for Pandur II repairs, there is a long-standing shortfall,” said General Aleš Opata, chief of the general staff of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic (ACR).
The Czech MoD is therefore preparing a new service contract worth CZK2.39bn (USD103.5m) with the Czechoslovak Group (CSG) covering the next four years, expected to be awarded in the next few months. CGS possesses the Pandur II Central and Eastern Europe licence from General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) and its subcontractors include Rafael and Steyr. The Czech Army expects the new contract to increase its stock of Pandur II spare parts. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
07 Nov 19. Boeing Awarded US Military Load Planning and Tracking Sustainment Contract. Integrated Computerized Deployment System supports U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. DOD Customers worldwide.
Boeing (NYSE: BA) was awarded a re-compete contract from the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) to enhance and sustain the Integrated Computerized Deployment System (ICODES). ICODES is a logistics software application that automates load planning and tracks cargo movements across land, air and sea for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
ICODES provides near real-time, end-to-end planning, tracking and forecasting of cargo stowage for aircraft, ships, rail and terminal yards, and supports unit move activities. The system’s ability to interface with multiple transportation and defense information systems enables users to seamlessly exchange critical data across the defense transportation network.
“With ICODES, our customers have a common operating picture for managing global cargo and passenger movements. It helps ensures safe, efficient cargo placement while significantly reducing load planning time and operational costs,” said Debbie Churchill, vice president, Mission Products & Services, Tapestry Solutions. “This award is a true testament of our customer-first commitment and deep domain experience across USTRANSCOM’s Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise.”
Work is being performed by Tapestry Solutions, part of Boeing Global Services, and teammates UNCOMN LLC and Jasper Solutions, Inc.
ICODES was originally developed in 1993 at a California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) research lab in San Luis Obispo and culminated into a small business effort. Boeing acquired the business and later transferred the ICODES program to Tapestry under a contract novation agreement. Today, the Service Oriented Architecture-based ICODES system serves as the DOD’s program of record for multimodal load planning. (Source: ASD Network)
08 Nov 19. New 3D printer to expedite prototyping of revolutionary technologies. The University of Maine’s (UMaine) new 3D printing capability will enable the rapid production of products and prototypes for the US Army. Recently acquired, the world’s largest 3D printer will deliver innovations in defence equipment. Unveiled last month, the printer will see the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Soldier Center (SC) and UMaine work on advancing the 3D printing capability. The capability will allow army engineers to prototype technologies for troops. It will accelerate the process to ensure critical capabilities are delivered to soldiers in less time. The printer will support the development of rapidly deployable shelter systems for the army. UMaine showcased the S-280, a 3D-printed, vehicle-mounted US Army communications shelter last month at the unveiling event of the new printer. The shelter was printed in 48 hours.
CCDC SC military deputy colonel Frank Moore said: “The new 3D Printer will really help drive the collaboration. They are the only facility right now that can print on this size and this scale and do this kind of 3D manufacturing, which will revolutionise how the army prototypes and manufactures shelters, vehicles and other large systems.”
The new 3D printer has the ability to create objects up to 100ft. It will cater to the production of large-scale structures.
CCDC SC Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate director Claudia Quigley said: “This new capability will allow the army to apply additive manufacturing principles to the development of large structures, revolutionising the army’s ability to design and ultimately produce army equipment, such as shelters and command posts.
“There are opportunities to develop new high strength structural composite materials, to optimise designs for new army technologies, to develop new design processes for full-scale manufacturability, and then to rapidly produce army equipment.
“This 3D printing capability for large structures supports army readiness and modernisation initiatives in a multi-domain environment.” (Source: army-technology.com)
08 Nov 19. Mobile Bridge Systems. At the Military Institute of Armoured and Automotive Technology in Sulejowek, near Warsaw General Dynamics European Land Systems and Griffin Group Defence presented a number of mobile bridge systems offered for the armed forces of Poland and several other countries in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region.
According to Rolf Wenning, Senior Manager, International Business & Services Bridge Systems Europe, GDELS, the company is aware of the broad requirement for mobile bridge systems all across the CEE region.
GDELS is particularly focused on countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Romania, which lack modern and proven mobile bridge systems, capable of providing a sustained transport capability for heavy armoured vehicles across water and land obstacles.
The marketing campaign for GDELS bridge systems seems to come at the right time, as NATO has already identified the need to improve troops manoeuvrability throughout the CEE region as part of its enhanced forward presence initiative on the Alliance’s Eastern flank.
Over the past several years NATO organised a series of exercises during which a number of troops and various military equipment, mostly from the U.S. Army contingent in Germany, were transported via Poland and other CEE countries to the Baltic States as part of a show of force against the background of the deterioration of relations between the West and Russia.
During these exercises a number of deficiencies regarding road and bridge infrastructure were identified, which complicated and delayed troop movements or even led to a series of accidents.
Among the systems presented during the seminar at WITPIS was the VIPER modular, lightweight folding bridge integrated with the Jelcz 442 two-axis truck manufactured by the local Jelcz company, a member of the Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, PGZ) holding.
VIPER is made of aluminium modules and is available in lengths of 4, 6 and 8 metres. It is capable to provide river/gap crossing capability for land platforms of different wheelbase, and is designed for maximum loads of up to MLC 40.
The system is equipped with an adaptable launcher, which can be integrated with a wide range of land platforms, such as transport, tactical and specialised vehicles or trailers.
Another system presented was the MAMBA lightweight infantry bridge. It is designed to support operations of infantry and airborne troops during crossing of dry and wet gaps with a maximum width of 30m. The system can be extended by attaching additional bridge modules.
MAMBA can be used for movement of troops, evacuation of injured soldiers as well as transport of supplies and other auxiliary equipment across harsh terrain. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
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