15 Jul 21. Contracts awarded to enhance Army Engineers with autonomous wet gap survey systems. Three SMEs have won contracts to develop semi-autonomous reconnaissance and survey systems to help the military cross rivers, streams and bogs. The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has awarded contracts worth £2m during Map the Gap: Phase 2, a competition which aims to develop semi-autonomous reconnaissance and survey systems that help the military cross obstacles such as rivers, streams, bogs and other so-called ‘wet gaps’.
Map the Gap, run on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), sought ideas from industry and academia to help reduce the risks to troops when surveying multiple crossing sites at the forward edge of the battle.
By replacing manned reconnaissance with a remote, beyond line-of-sight system, the threat to life is not only reduced, but it will also offer the ability to survey multiple crossing sites in a far more timely and efficient manner.
The ability to survey crossing sites by gathering data about the river banks will provide greater choice to ground commanders and offer more opportunities to out-manoeuvre opponents. It has the potential to be a force multiplier for next generation bridging systems.
Big wins for SMEs
Three small and medium-sized businesses have been awarded Phase 2 funding to fast-track their innovative solutions and test with the British Army. The organisations are:
Digital Concepts Engineering Ltd
Their solution is to develop a low signature, autonomous unmanned air and ground system with a capability to deploy sensors to collect the desired gap measurements.
Their product, Argonaut 2, is an autonomous and amphibious, kinematic survey vehicle. Their modular survey sensor package includes LiDAR, Sonar, Current Profiler and electric cone penetrometer. Autonomy is also enhanced by implementing AI Machine Learning technology.
ISS Group Ltd
Their solution is a UAV rotorcraft equipped with 3-D photogram metric, EO/IR and downward viewing IR cameras, Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) sensor, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Bathymetric / Topographic LiDAR.
Reducing danger to Royal Engineer reconnaissance troops
These solutions will assist the military in identifying suitable locations to cross obstacles such as rivers and streams. Currently, the only way of identifying suitable crossing points is to send Royal Engineer reconnaissance troops to survey both banks of a river – exposing them to danger which also risks compromising the rest of the operation.
Colonel Sam Stuthridge OBE, Assistant Head Manoeuvre Support and C-CBRN, Capability Directorate, Army Headquarters said of the Map the Gap Phase 2:
Phase 1 of Map the Gap has given us an insight into how novel technologies might enhance our future river reconnaissance capabilities.
Under the Future Soldier programme, the British Army is driving ahead with the early adoption of technology to deliver competitive advantage; Map the Gap, and the technology it showcases, has the potential to increase the tempo, scale and accuracy of river crossing operations in the future.
For Phase 2, we have elected to take forward three UK contenders into the next phase of the study. We aim to accelerate the selected technologies through further trials and experimentation to achieve a world-class product which has utility within manoeuvre support but also across wider Defence capabilities.
The potential offered by this technology will significantly reduce risk to our soldiers while at the same time enhancing our ability to out-manoeuvre potential adversaries. Map the Gap will directly support Project TRITON – a next generation amphibious bridging system being jointly procured with the German Army.’
Phase 2 funding:
- Digital Concepts Engineering Ltd – £982,791
- ISS Group Ltd. – £514,727
- Ultrabeam Limited – £498,075
What happened in Phase 1?
This follows on from Map the Gap: Phase 1 in which five SMEs were awarded contracts worth £1.2m in August 2020. Read more about it here.
Robert Hammond-Smith, DASA Delivery Manager for Map the Gap said:
The international reputation of Dstl helped attract proposals from as far away as the United States and Norway, as well as the UK. We had about 20 proposals and we took forward five of these with different approaches to the problem, both in terms of delivery platform and sensor suites.
Our competitions attract the top minds in industry, academia and the military. Often we are key in turning a concept from an SME into a reality. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
14 Jul 21. This Is How Many F-35 Fighter Jets Are Down for Engine Repair. The active-duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings conducts an F-35A Combat Power Exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan. 6, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)
Dozens of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are down for engine repairs, top military officials disclosed Tuesday, as the services grapple with an engine shortage that has afflicted the Pentagon for more than a year.
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, who runs the F-35 program, disclosed that his service has been the hardest hit by the shortage.
As of July 8, the Air Force had 41 aircraft in what’s known as “Mission Impaired Capability Awaiting Parts,” or MICAP, status, for engines. That means the planes can’t be used on missions until they’re fixed. The service accepted its 283th F-35 in May.
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Fick said there are five other F-35s waiting for the repairs.
“I have three partner aircraft, I have one Marine Corps aircraft, and I have one U.S. Navy tail that are MICAP for an engine,” he said during the hearing.
Some of those 46 aircraft are awaiting miscellaneous spare parts or are in need of upgraded F135 engine power modules, a component that improves the aircraft’s thrust and performance, Fick said.
“We are also working closely with our industry and the Joint Strike Fighter organic engine heavy maintenance facility at Tinker Air Force Base [Oklahoma] on the depot repair recovery efforts,” added Jay Stefany, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. Tinker is home to the Oklahoma City-Air Logistics Complex, which oversees the repair work.
Those efforts include reducing the time jets sit in depot by adding more maintainer shifts to expedite the power module replacement, he said.
But some problems are related to a surface coating on the turbine blades that overheats, causing the blades to crack. A defense official first told Bloomberg News earlier this year that the engines require maintenance earlier than planned, taking them out of service sooner and exacerbating the shortage across the services.
Fick said Tuesday that there has been no setback in aircraft deliveries despite the engine shortage, adding that his office realized it was facing the problem early last year after repairs took longer than expected. The blade cracking presents an intricate issue, creating a backlog of aircraft needing attention, according to a report from Defense News.
As a direct impact of the engine shortage, Air Combat Command, which oversees fighter aircraft units, earlier this year decided to scale back its 2021 air show schedule for the F-35 to make sure the aircraft were available for deployments and training.
“There are two reasons — COVID disruptions and [engine production] quality findings,” Matthew Bromberg, president for military engines at Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, said in April.
He cited “COVID, Turkey, learning curve disruptions” as reasons the company needs to better manage its engine and spares production.
In 2019, the Pentagon officially booted Turkey from the F-35 program over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system; as a result, the Defense Department also began phasing it out of the supply chain.
Turkish industries produced roughly 1,000 parts for the F-35, including 188 associated with the engine, Bromberg said at the time.
A spokesman for Pratt & Whitney said the company has made significant progress in recent months to reduce the amount of time it takes to repair its engines and is on track to produce double the number of power modules than it did in all of 2020.
In an email sent to Military.com after this article’s initial publication, the spokesman said that a lack of repair depot space is driving the delays, “NOT the reliability of the engine.” (Source: Military.com)
14 Jul 21. Cubans put 11 000 plus SA military vehicles back on the road and more. What started as an initiative to refurbish military vehicles, particularly Samil trucks, morphed into an almost SA National Defence Force (SANDF) wide maintenance and repair operation, the response by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to a parliamentary question showed.
Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Nomsa Tarabella Marchesi was told Cuban expertise is now used in the SA Air Force (SAAF), SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) as well as the SA Army. The landward service was the first SANDF component to employ Cuban skills six years ago when mechanics and technicians from the Caribbean Island nation’s military arrived in South Africa to refurbish and repair Samil and similar vehicles, apparently because the national defence force was charged excessively by local companies for doing the work and there was insufficient in-house capacity. While doing refurbishing and repairs the Cubans would also mentor and provide mechanic-type training to SA Army technical personnel.
The vehicle side of the Cuban involvement has grown to include maintenance and repair of A, B, C and D-vehicles for all services and divisions; preservation of A and B-vehicles for the Army and SAMHS; de-activation of B-vehicles for the same services; stocktaking, organisation and management of Army warehouses; maintenance and repair of components and spare parts for vehicles of different services and divisions; maintenance and repair of transport aircraft and helicopters for the SAAF as well as maintenance, repair and manufacturing test benches and avionics components for the airborne service and maintenance and repair of SAMHS medical equipment.
Additionally, Cubans are helping SAMHS with medical services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as, on the other side of the coin, doing research, development, manufacturing and installation of combat driving and shooting simulators and automated shooting ranges.
Justifying the Cuban involvement in vehicle repairs, Mapisa-Nqakula said at Army Support Base (ASB) Western Cape, at the beginning of Project Thusano, vehicle serviceability was 35%. At present serviceability of vehicles at the Cape Town base is 84%.
Marchesi’s party colleague Kobus Marais, whose brief it is to keep a watch on defence and military veterans matters, was told by the Minister more than 11 000 vehicles were repaired by Cubans in the six years Project Thusano has been running.
Cost-wise Mapisa-Nqakula told him just over R9.5m will be paid to Cuba this year for the contract. This is considerably down on spend of over R274m in 2018, R252m last year and R170m plus in 2017. The Cubans on detached duty to the SANDF have VIP protectors whose accommodation and food costs for the six years to date of Thusano has been R2.6 m.
The Cuban contingent has, in addition to its numerous taskings across three services, also done skills transfer. This, according to the Ministerial reply, saw 1 386 SANDF personnel forming part of the project’s skills transfer component with 319 of them receiving “official qualifications” and 483 transferred back to and working at their original units.
While no details of units are provided by the Minister, she lists eight which received spares and are tasked with maintenance. They are the SANDF mobilisation centre in Bloemfontein; Gauteng regional workshop; 101 Field Workshop, Potchefstroom; 101 Field Workshop, Postmasburg; 35 Engineering Support Regiment, Springs; Army support bases in Kimberly and Cape Town and the Air Defence Artillery School in Ermelo according to her written reply. (Source: DefenceWeb)
12 Jul 21. Indonesian Navy commissions third Teluk Bintuni-class landing ship. The Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL) has commissioned its third Teluk Bintuni-class landing ship tank (LST) vessel.
Named KRI Teluk Youtefa (with pennant number 522), the 120 m-long ship entered service in a ceremony held on 12 July at the naval base at Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, according to a TNI-AL statement issued that same day.
Launched in May 2019 by local shipbuilder PT Daya Radar Utama (DRU), Teluk Youtefa has now joined first-of-class Teluk Bintuni , which was commissioned in June 2015, and Teluk Lada , which entered service in February 2019, as part of the TNI-AL’s strategic sealift command.
Teluk Youtefa is part of a contract for three additional vessels of the class that was awarded to PT DRU in January 2017, with the other two LSTs – Teluk Palu (523) and Teluk Calang (524) – currently in advanced stages of construction and expected to enter service later this year.
Two more vessels of the class were launched in late February of this year. Teluk Youtefa, which has a crew of 120, has an overall beam of 18m, and a hull draught of 3m. The ship is powered by two 4,320kW STX-MAN diesel engines and can attain a top speed of 16kt with a standard range of 7,200n miles at 13.6 kt, according to the TNI-AL. (Source: Jane’s)
13 Jul 21. US AMC approves KC-46A’s Centerline Drogue System as first ICR. The ICR was approved by the Air Mobility Command (AMC) commander general Jacqueline Van Ovost. The US Air Mobility Command (AMC) has approved the KC-46A Pegasus tanker’s Centerline Drogue System mission set as the first Interim Capability Release (ICR). The ICR was approved by AMC commander general Jacqueline Van Ovost and is intended to increase KC-46A’s operational use to meet joint force air refuelling requirements.
AMC noted that the latest decision provides more daily ‘taskable’ operational capabilities to the joint team. It also enables to increase capacity for tanker fleet requirements.
The KC-46A has now operationally proven probe and drogue air refuelling capabilities.
Van Ovost said: “The last six months of operational use and programmatic evaluation indicate conditions have been met for ICR declaration of the Centerline Drogue System mission set.
“This decision reflects a risk-informed, data-driven, constraint-analysed approach to releasing KC-46A operational capabilities to the joint force.”
In February, the ICR plan was announced by Van Ovost to incrementally certify KC-46A’s air refuelling capabilities.
Currently, the US Air Force (USAF) is performing boom air refuelling with fighter, bomber and transport aircraft for a range of operations prior to declaring operational use of the capability.
The service is also working on efforts towards tanker recapitalisation and divestiture.
According to AMC, the KC-46A programme is continuing to progress towards achieving full operational capability (FOC).
Meanwhile, the tanker fleet’s Category-I deficiencies are not yet fixed.
The deficiencies include the upgraded remote vision system 2.0 and a redesign of the boom telescope actuator.
The FOC, which will be achieved in the next several years, is subject to clearance of these deficiencies.
Van Ovost added: “We are flying and operating today with the KC-46A mission sets despite restrictions, including cross-ocean aerial refuelling fighter movements, Aeromedical Evacuation missions, and cargo and passenger movements. The KC-46 is on a positive rate of climb.”
13 Jul 21. Serco will more than double the number of people it employs at RAF Brize Norton with the award of a new contract to continue to provide specialist support services at the base.
The contract, which was awarded by the MOD following a competitive process, is valued at c.£40m over the initial three-year period and there are a further two one-year extension options, bringing the total potential value to c.£65m.
The new contract will see Serco introduce new specialist services at RAF Brize Norton, in addition to the existing roles that it has been delivering at the base since 1997. As a result of this expansion, the number of Serco employees at the base will more than double, freeing up RAF personnel, and a recruitment campaign is underway.
Commenting on the contract award, Gp Capt. Emily Flynn OBE ADC, RAF Brize Norton Station Commander, said: ““As the RAF’s largest Main Operating Base and Defence’s Airport of Embarkation, the Station’s operational tempo is high and this contract provides an exciting opportunity to modernise the way we deliver some of our support services. The Serco team has a long association with the Station and I look forwards to working with them to continue to deliver RAF Brize Norton’s output.”
Paul McCarter, Managing Director of Serco’s Defence business, said: “Serco is delighted to have been awarded the RAF Brize Norton Support Contract. As the UK’s largest military airbase and single airport of embarkation for the UK Armed Forces, Brize has a critical role for the UK and we take great pride in the part our team plays as part of RAF Brize Norton Whole Force particularly during times of high operational tempo. We are excited about the prospect of expanding the services we provide and being able to continue our partnership in the coming years.”
‘Brize’ is the Main Operating Base for the RAF’s entire air transport and air-to-air refuelling fleets and is the largest station in the Royal Air Force.
During Covid, the delivery of the Station’s services required significant levels of operational flexibility, agility and innovation to maintain the required levels of service while following Government guidelines and keeping people safe. Serco’s practices, experience and full integration into the Station’s tasking, outputs and contingency planning have ensured success throughout this time.
The new contract will see Serco introduce new specialist services at RAF Brize Norton Brize, including airfield services, additional engineering, transport, fuels, logistics, cargo/freight movements, fitness instructors and administration. These are added to the existing roles of RAMP services, engineering, security, IT support services, photography and transport services that Serco has been delivering at the base since 1997.
09 Jul 21. How two F-16s from the US Air Force’s ‘boneyard’ will find a second life as digital models. The U.S. Air Force wants to make a digital twin of the F-16, hoping to cut down the time and money it takes to sustain its most prolific fighter.
Over the next four years, the Air Force will pluck two F-16s from the boneyard, disassemble them, and use “digital engineering” to create an exact digital replica of the airframe and many of its major subsystems. The twin will allow the service to simulate future wear on the aircraft, maintenance and upgrades, as well as provide a path for the service to find new manufacturing sources for F-16 parts.
Wichita State University’s National Institute of Aviation Research, or NIAR, will create the digital twin for a projected cost of $27m. The service intends to award a $19m contract for the first phase of the effort by September, an Air Force Materiel Command spokesman said in response to questions from Defense News.
“Our goal is to create a full-scale 3D model of the aircraft, with the exception of the engine,” said 1st Lt. Connor Crandall, the program manager within the F-16 program office, which will oversee the digital twin effort. “The data will be used to help address future parts obsolescence and mitigate supply chain risks because we won’t have to rely on legacy manufacturing sources and processes. We’ll have the 3D models and designs that we can send to the manufacturers we choose.”
Lockheed Martin, the original manufacturer of the F-16, will receive access to the digital models in exchange for providing models and technical expertise as a subcontractor to NIAR, the command’s spokesman said.
The 1970s-era F-16 makes up the largest part of the Air Force’s fighter inventory, with more than 1,000 jets in service.
The F-16 isn’t typically thought of a problem child in terms of fleet readiness, as its mission-capability rates have held steady in the low 70 percent range over the past several years. However, the Government Accountability Office has noted that — because of the aircraft’s advancing age and continued difficulties in sustaining the aircraft — the F-16 program did not meet annual mission-capable goals from 2011 to 2019.
“Some F-16 aircraft are operating beyond their expected service life with maintenance and supply challenges,” the GAO stated in a November 2020 report. “Planned actions to mitigate these challenges include extending the service life of the aircraft, identifying all parts that need to be replaced during the inspection phase of maintenance, and identifying alternate vendors for parts.”
The service already identified two F-16s — currently in storage at the “boneyard” run by 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona — that will be transferred to Wichita and disassembled.
From there, NIAR will identify and catalogue each part, strip all paint and sealants from components, and then scan them using a high-fidelity laser scanner, the command spokesman said. After NIAR creates a digital model of each part using the scanned data and original engineering models, it will assemble those parts together, creating a digital version of the aircraft.
Although the Air Force will not create a twin of the F-16′s engine, it plans to model some systems that typically require frequent maintenance, such as the fighter’s environmental control, hydraulic and fuel systems.
Having a digital environment where engineers can simulate different ways to update and repair the jet will save money by helping maintainers eliminate ideas that are difficult or impossible to implement, said Capt. Jamee Boyer, an F-16 structural engineer.
“With a 3D model, we can model different solutions in a virtual environment and see if they work, before having maintainers remove parts that may not need to be removed,” Boyer said. “Consequently, this would reduce maintenance workload, provide an innovative tool for engineers and prevent aircraft being removed from the flying schedule.”
The two F-16s disassembled during the effort will not return to service, the command spokesman said. Instead, the service plans on using those parts to sustain other F-16s.
The Air Force is using digital engineering to build new systems like the Boeing T-7 training jet and Northrop Grumman’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent — meant to replace the inventory of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles — from the ground up. But the service also found it can create digital models of portions of legacy aircraft to improve sustainment efficiency, said Darlene Costello, the acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisitions, logistics and sustainment, during a Thursday event with the Potomac Officers Club.
For example, to re-wing the A-10 Warthog, the service made a digital model of a portion of the aircraft. For the B-52 engine replacement program, it modeled the engines, the interfaces and the engine’s integration with the bomber.
“It’s going to be important for us all to be supportive of that and work together … so that we can get to the solution that gives us the speed we need and the agility that we need to meet the war-fighter requirements,” Costello said. (Source: Defense News)