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19 Dec 19. Italian Navy logistic support ship starts sea trials. The Italian Navy’s new logistic support ship (LSS) Vulcano (A 5335) embarked on its first sea trials in the Gulf of La Spezia in early December, marking a significant milestone for the programme.
The LSS was built by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri under a contract awarded by European defence procurement organisation OCCAR in May 2015 on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Defence.
Vulcano was launched in June 2018, and was planned to be delivered in September 2019. However, progress slowed after a fire broke out on the LSS in July 2018, causing major damage to the superstructure aft and flooding spaces below. (Source: Jane’s)
19 Dec 19. Babcock iSupport360 brings smart insight to naval asset maintenance. At DSEI 2019, Babcock launched its digital iSupport360 solution which supports ship operation and maintenance by providing data on asset performance, material condition and optimisation opportunities. Harry Lye and Berenice Baker explore at the system’s capabilities.
Systems onboard modern naval vessels produce a massive amount of data. The concept behind Babcock’s iSupport360 is to process the data specific to each asset’s technical capabilities and usage in order to offer customers bespoke advice. This could include suggesting better maintenance regimes and technical adjustments that can make platforms more reliable in service, and could even inform training regimes and what spares vessels carry.
“The iSupport concept brings together things that Babcock is really good at, optimising maintenance regimes for the platform so that they maximise availability and lower cost,” explains Babcock International chief executive for marine John Howie.
“We tie that together with our expertise in inventory optimisation to make sure they’ve got the right spares carried with them at sea and onshore, and helping them with the way they train operators and maintainers so that they understand how to maintain the things that statistically are most likely to break. We support that with a worldwide network of waterfront support in locations where we can provide direct support to the customer in a secure environment.”
How iSupport 360 works in practice
Programme director for iSupport Andy Burch tells us more about the platform’s capabilities and applications.
“We’ve run some really interesting trials with the Royal Navy on one particular platform,” he explains. “iSupport gives you the ability to say to the customer, you’re going to deploy the ship for nine months; statistically the following pieces of equipment are going to fail while you’re on deployment. Would you like us to replace them now, do you want us to give you the skills to allow you to maintain them when they fail? Or would you like us to arrange one of our overseas partners at their own locations to do the maintenance for you, dependent on where in the world you are?
“So we can offer the customer some options rather than just saying ‘we’ll wave you off, then when your ship breaks we’ll get some people onto a plane to fix it’.”
While it makes use of the latest digital technology, iSupport360 can also integrate with older naval assets that were built in the pre-digital era.
“One of the key differentiators of what Babcock can offer is for assets that weren’t designed in a technological age,” Burch says. “We’re able to apply our technology to those, retrospectively integrating them into this digital solution. We work with newer assets where data and digital is amazing, but also with these older ships – Type 23s and so on – and we’re able to retrospectively bring them into this type of programme.”
Babcock International managing director for technology Jon Hall concludes that Babcock’s experience of managing its own assets gives the company a unique insight into how best to support its customer base.
“We’re operators of assets and networks ourselves including a big aircraft fleet – helicopters and fixed-wing – and we operate communications networks,” he says. “So we’ve got a good degree of understanding of what it’s like for international navies to run their big fleets of assets; ships, submarines and specialist equipment. We think of it like they do, and help them make better decisions, which is a huge amount of what iSupport technology was ultimately about; working with our customer to make better decisions.”
Babcock’s iFrigate ship intelligence system
Part of the iSupport360 suite of business applications, Babcock’s iFrigate is designed to ‘digitally enable in-service support’.
Building on knowledge from systems developed to support the Type 23’s extended life cycle, iFrigate works as an operational support tool for the vessel it is installed on, measuring in real-time what the ship is doing. The aim is to reduce through-life costs and improve availability and readiness.
The tool, tested on the HMS Sutherland, lowers through-life cost by predicting maintenance requirements and giving engineers instant access to the data they need to maintain a steady ship.
Babcock’s engineering director for warships Ian Cowper said: “This at-sea predictive analysis of equipment is the first trial of its kind for the Royal Navy and brings together Babcock’s engineering know-how, technology provision, systems integration and through-life support experience.
The system was trialled on-board the HMS Sutherland for six months, using a suite of sensors and systems developed under the iSupport umbrella. The data collected was fed back to an onboard analytics hub as well as to Babcock’s engineers via a secure connection, giving both land-based and at-sea support teams a fuller picture of the operational state of the frigate.
The overarching mission behind iSupport and iFrigate is to ‘predict the future maintenance requirements of some of the most sophisticated equipment on the planet’, which is becoming a priority for a lot of naval forces, not just the UK. As the Royal Navy’s fleet has shrunk over the years, keeping ships at sea longer will be a key factor in maintaining its presence on the world stage.
Navy Command trial sponsor Captain Matt Bolton echoed this saying: “The Connected Platform trial is in direct support of the Royal Navy’s Maritime Support Information Exploitation (MarSIX) strategy and is helping to deliver against the Naval Engineering Strategy which is seeking to enable, empower and equip the Royal Navy maintainer.”
Cowper added: “By enabling enhanced decision support and optimising planning, it will ultimately improve the availability of the asset, reduce maintenance costs and safety risks, and equip Royal Navy personnel to make informed real-time maintenance decisions at a systems level.”
Going forward, iFrigate is set to become an integral part of the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate programme, as Babcock plans to embed the system into its winning design for the ship. By building data analytics and smart maintenance into future ship designs on a fundamental level, the iSupport360 platform aims to create a step-change in how navies look at their vessels. (Source: naval-technology.com)
18 Dec 19. Field Aerospace completed the US Forest Service SD3-60 avionics upgrade on the sixth of 10 aircraft 17 days ahead of schedule, with 100 percent quality compliance. Implementing efficiencies and lessons learned from the previous Sherpa flight deck integrations shaved off 17 days from the planned integration schedule, garnering kudos from the US Forest Service.
The forest service found no quality issues during the acceptance inspection and said they are pleased with the modification. They flew the Sherpa from Oklahoma City to Rapid City, SD, for refueling, then to home base in Missoula, MT, on Dec. 13.
“The US Forest Service team was extremely happy with the quality of the work and early delivery,” said John Taylor, vice president and general manager of Field’s Oklahoma City operations, adding “Field is pleased with the progress we’ve made modifying this important forest service aircraft. We delivered the latest Sherpa in record time, beating our schedule by 17 days.”
Field Aerospace expects the next four Sherpa modernizations to follow the compressed modification schedule as well.
Field Aerospace obtained the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for this avionics upgrade, which modernizes the aging smokejumper’s flight deck and improves its mission capabilities, in September 2018. Field Aerospace developed and integrated the modernized flight deck, conducted FAA-witnessed ground and flight tests, and completed the STC certification. Field’s FAA-authorized Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) issued the STC for the first Sherpa.
The next aircraft is currently in work at Field’s Oklahoma City facility. Field Aerospace previously completed five Sherpa upgrades, four as part of the original base contract and one for the current option contract. Three additional aircraft will be modified, for a total of 10 on the base and option contracts.
“The modernization extends the life and improves the operational capabilities of this aging aircraft for future firefighting efforts. The upgrade is a challenging integration of modern digital avionics into an older analog-based aircraft that yields a functionally advanced and aesthetically pleasing cockpit system,” Taylor said.
Field’s modification integrates an intuitive, modernized avionics suite with a Garmin G950 system. The new flight deck includes new features and safety-enhancing capabilities, such as a glass cockpit, weather radar, digital audio system, VHF-FM tactical radio, large-screen Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT), Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out, Traffic Avoidance and Collision System (TCAS), Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS), Mode S extended squitter, and Localizer Performance (LPV). The enhanced Sherpa aircraft support wild land fire operations, including smokejumper, passenger, and cargo missions.
18 Dec 19. AIDC and Lockheed Martin to build F-16 maintenance centre in Taiwan. Taiwan’s state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) and Lockheed Martin have signed an agreement to establish an F-16 fighter jet maintenance centre in Taiwan. The agreement paves the way for the construction of a facility to cater to the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) requirements of the People’s Republic of China Air Force’s (RoCAF) F-16 combat aircraft fleet. However, the plan to build the maintenance hub is subject to approval from the US Government.
The centre is also expected to meet the maintenance needs of other F-16 aircraft users in the Asia-Pacific region.
AIDC entered a memorandum of understanding with Lockheed Martin for enhanced cooperation in MRO.
The RoCAF operates around 142 F-16 A/B fighter aircraft and is looking to expand its fleet.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration backed the sale of 66 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan under an $8bn sale.
The US State Department informed Congress in August about the government’s decision to proceed with the proposed sale, despite opposition from China.
Taiwan requested to buy 66 F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft and related equipment. The country is also upgrading its existing F-16 fleet to the F-16V Block 70 configuration. Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract in 2012 to deliver the upgrades. AIDC is assisting Lockheed Martin in the modernisation project. The RoCAF received the first upgraded aircraft in October last year. The remaining deliveries are expected to be completed by 2023. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
18 Dec 19. Pentagon planning “sea train” unmanned fleet for cargo transport. The US Department of Defence is looking to Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) to transport equipment and cargo. The “Sea Train” programme or Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) is comprised of powered and unpowered platforms that can be assembled from different modules to complete a variety of missions under the direction of the US Navy and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. (DARPA)
In documents, DARPA said: “The Sea Train programme seeks to enable extended transoceanic transit and long‐range naval operations by exploiting the efficiencies of a system of connected vessels (Sea Train). The Sea Train programme will demonstrate long‐range deployment capabilities for a distributed fleet of tactical unmanned surface vessels (USVs).”
The programme aims to overcome the range limitations of medium unmanned surface vessels (MUSVs and will operate by either physically connecting vessels or by sailing in collaborative formations, according to DARPA.
DARPA programme manager Andrew Nuss told The Times that the vessels would look like existing ships but would be able to complete “independent long-duration deployments” without having to interact with human-operated vessels or ports.
DARPA is today holding a Proposers Day to provide further information on the project to potential developers ahead of a planned agency announcement.
The agency’s registration page for the proposer day gives more details on the project adding: “DARPA will develop and demonstrate approaches to overcome the range limitations inherent to medium unmanned surface vessels (MUSVs) by exploiting wave‐making resistance reductions.
“DARPA envisions sea trains formed by physically connecting vessels with various degrees of freedom between the vessels, or vessels sailing in collaborative formations at various distances between the vessels.”
The US is investing in the development and research of unmanned vessels as part of its push to a 355 ship navy by 2030. USVs enable ships to be at sea for longer while also being cheaper as they do not need to house crew.
Under the agreed National Defence Authorisation Act for 2020, the US Navy will receive funding for the production of number of USVs including one large unmanned surface vessel (LUSV) and two medium unmanned surface vessels (MUSV).
The majority of the tasks USVs will fulfil are known as 3D missions, meaning they are dull, dirty or dangerous.
Earlier this year in August the US Navy unveiled plans for a 10-ship fleet of corvette-sized large unmanned surface vessels (LUSV) to be built over the next five years as part of its wider push for more unmanned vehicles. (Source: naval-technology.com)
13 Dec 19. Repair work on extending life of B-1 Lancer nears completion. The US Air Force (USAF) is nearing completion of the maintenance and repair work being carried out on the B-1 Lancer heavy bomber to increase the life of the aircraft.
The USAF intends to keep the B-1 Lancer bomber fleet in operational service for the next 20 years through the structural repair work being performed at the Tinker Air Force Base (AFB).
The 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group (AMXG) at Tinker AFB worked in partnership with B-1 Systems Program Office to prepare for the maintenance programme.
B-1 Systems Program Office director Bill Barnes said: “It’s been flown past its certified service life and as such, it’s developed numerous structural issues and we’ve been working on repairs for over the last four or five years.
“We have those repairs developed, we know what aircraft tail numbers those repairs apply to. In our quest to get those repairs made to the fleet and to make the fleet healthy so it can continue to serve the airforce until 2040, we’ve teamed up with AMXG to stand up a dedicated repair line just to repair B-1 structural issues.”
The first B-1 aircraft arrived in October to undergo maintenance at the dedicated repair line.
The USAF has identified ten aircraft with high flying-hour requirements with priority to go through the structure line in the initial phase.
The maintenance team will work on urgent tasks and other structural issues with 5,000 hours of repairs being carried out on aircraft. Work is expected to be completed in around 30 days under a fly-in, fly-out programme.
Barnes added: “The B-1’s been a great plane over in the desert. We’ve flown it hard, worked it hard and now it’s time for a little downtime to get some repairs made so we can have the aircraft ready to deploy when necessary to support the needs of the nation.”
After the completion of the first phase of structure repairs, the programme will move to phase two, which will start in April 2020.
The second phase will see the bombers coming through each year for the maintenance work. Under this phase, the team will perform 14,000 hours of repair on each B-1. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
13 Dec 19. The case for developing joint US, UK and Australian nuclear refuelling facilities. With plans of a growing US and Royal Navy presence in the Indo-Pacific, increased numbers of nuclear-powered vessels will be standard for Australian port visits and forward deployed force rotations – recognising this and the limitation and vulnerability of existing suitable infrastructure in the region presents an interesting opportunity for allied collaboration.
Prompted by increased dialogue between respective counterparts, Australia, the US and UK have sought to focus the ‘special relationship’ on developing greater levels of interoperability and burden sharing in tactically and strategically sensitive regions of the world.
This relationship has seen Australian, American and British forces fight side-by-side in virtually ever major conflict of the 20th century – beginning in the Middle East and southern Europe, through to combating the threats of communism during the early years of the Cold War.
The triumvirate Australia, US, UK relationship has also proved critical to the development of Australia’s defence capability throughout the years, with key technologies and platforms operated by both nations forming a critical part of the Commonwealth’s unified defence capability.
This focus on interoperability is driven largely by shared platform acquisition, dominated by conversations about the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail and Aegis combat systems each providing the allies with a growing level of tactical and strategic interoperability and commonality at the most intrinsic levels.
Despite this, the rapidly shifting geo-political, strategic and economic paradigm – driven by the emergence of China as a still tentatively ‘peaceful’ hegemon has prompted a major realignment for the three nations, with both the US and UK beginning to transition their focus towards countering peer and near-peer competitors from the large asymmetrical focus of the last 20 years. (Source: Defence Connect)
About Oshkosh Defense
Oshkosh Defense is a leading provider of tactical wheeled vehicles and life cycle sustainment services. For decades Oshkosh has been mobilizing military and security forces around the globe by offering a full portfolio of heavy, medium, light and highly protected military vehicles to support our customers’ missions. In addition, Oshkosh offers advanced technologies and vehicle components such as TAK-4® independent suspension systems, TerraMax™ unmanned ground vehicle solutions, Command Zone™ integrated control and diagnostics system, and ProPulse® diesel electric and on-board vehicle power solutions, to provide our customers with a technical edge as they fulfill their missions. Every Oshkosh vehicle is backed by a team of defense industry experts and complete range of sustainment and training services to optimize fleet readiness and performance. Oshkosh Defense, LLC is an Oshkosh Corporation company [NYSE: OSK].
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