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05 Nov 21. Ajax fix in sight? Storm in a teacup? Sources suggest that GDUK has fixed the Ajax vibration and noise problems and are presenting a vehicle to MoD on November 16th. ATDU had sent out a list of twenty items requiring fix or change under Capability Drop One, some of which were believed to have been overlooked or ignored, these are now fixed the source said,. One fix was tightening the track as they slackened it to allow the reversing angle to improve but it caused huge vibration issues. There is also a Programme for new Army headsets being undertaken by such firms as Vitavox. Once the automotive, vibration and noise issues have been resolved at Millbrook, the next stage will be to resume firing trials to tackle the failure to get the second round on target. The whole Ajax fiasco shows that it was a crass and expensive decision by the MoD to have a new vehicle, turret and canon contracted without building a prototype and setting the design in stone, prior to letting a manufacturing contract. Top level heads at DE&S should roll, but don’t bank on it!
04 Nov 21. General Dynamics’ Europe team dips into remote-controlled vehicles, ground robots. General Dynamics European Land Systems presented a new ground robot at the FEINDEF 2021 defense exhibit in Madrid, part of the company’s foray into remote and autonomous vehicle operations. General Dynamics European Land Systems has rolled out a remote-driving concept for its vehicle lineup that the company presented on its ASCOD light tank at the FEINDEF defense exhibit here.
The feature is meant to give operators the ability to command nearby vehicles via remote-control panels, effectively turning them into pilotless platforms at the push of a button. The capability works with vehicles already equipped with a drive-by-wire architecture as well as those that boast a traditional, manual-steering setup, GDELS engineering director David Lugo told Defense News.
The company presented an ASCOD here equipped with two control panels capable of steering both fellow tanks and a newly developed unmanned ground vehicle sporting a gun turret. One of the panels is solely dedicated to that vehicle’s weapon, whereas the other controls movement, per the Spanish Army’s requirements, Lugo explained.
Paid for from the company’s own coffers, the setup will enable GDELS to tap into the growing market for the remote and autonomous driving of vehicles, large and small.
“The system has already been successfully installed on an ASCOD tracked platform and is being tested for various use cases,” a GDELS statement read. “This project is being carried out in collaboration with SENER and the University Institute for Automotive Research (INSIA), part of the Polytechnic University of Madrid.”
As it stands, the system boasts no “brains” that would enable autonomous route navigation or a follow-me type of mode, but those features are next up for development, said Lugo.
The remote-driving concept could be implemented in the British Ajax lineup, for example, which is based on the ASCOD, he added.
The robotic vehicle displayed at the company’s FEINDEF booth came with a six-wheel drive chassis, though tracked versions are possible, according to company officials. The 12.7mm remote weapon station can be swapped for a cargo bed, for example, making the robot a potential multipurpose wingman on the battlefield.
Powered through electric propulsion, the robot’s maximum payload is 500 kilograms in the eight-wheel drive configuration, according to a company statement. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
02 Nov 21. Nigerian Army unveils Chinese APCs. The Nigerian Army revealed that it has received 60 tracked armoured personnel carriers from China when it invited television journalists to a commissioning ceremony at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry (NASI) in Jaji on 28 October.
In his speech NASI commander Major General Maude Ali identified the vehicles as “VP1 Type 89 ZSD” APCs. The Chinese company Norinco uses VP1 as the export name for the ZSD-89 (previously designated the Type 89) APC that is in service with the Chinese military.
Maj Gen Ali said the APCs were received over three months ago and that more than 100 personnel have since been trained to operate them. He described the vehicles as “dearly required” by the army and said they would “aid the infantry in clearing objectives without stress”.
Major General Victor Ezeugwu, who represented the chief of the army staff at the event, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for providing the APCs and other equipment that he said would help tackle Nigeria’s security challenges. “Something very dangerous for the enemy is about to happen,” he said.
The VP1 has a combat weight of 14.5 tonnes and can carry 13 soldiers in addition to the driver and commander. All the Nigerian ones appeared to be APC variants with protected weapon stations for heavy machine guns, which were not fitted during the commissioning ceremony. (Source: Jane’s)
02 Nov 21. USMC working on ACV changes, surf zone operations still halted. The US Marine Corps (USMC) has said it anticipates that it will once again be able to use its new fleet of amphibious combat vehicles (ACVs) in surf zones some time in ‘early’ 2022. However, the vehicles’ prime contractor, BAE Systems, first needs to make material and design changes that enable the vehicle to be safely towed in the water.
The service announced in early September that it had suspended ACV waterborne operations due to a towing mechanism problem. It resumed ACV activities within “protected waters” later that month, but it is still not using the vehicles in surf zones, Barb Hamby, a spokesperson for the USMC Program Executive Officer (PEO) Land Systems, wrote in a 1 November email to Janes .
“Should an ACV become disabled in the water, it is designed to be towed by another ACV using two tow ropes rigged through a device called the sea tow quick release (STQR),” Hamby explained. “During water-towing training, marines identified that the STQR may become permanently deformed while towing through the surf zone, the most dynamic portion of water operations.”
When this “deformation” occurs, it can cause an unintentional release of a tow rope and/or an inability to operate the STQR, she added. (Source: Jane’s)
02 Nov 21. Barys 8×8 completes four-year trials in Kazakhstan. The Barys 8 infantry combat vehicle, produced by Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering (KPE), has concluded a four-year series of trials conducted by the Ministry of Defence of Kazakhstan, bringing the vehicle closer to its first production order. KPA, the joint venture between Paramount Group and one of Kazpetromash, said the Barys (‘Snow Leopard’ in Kazakh) is the localised version of Paramount Group’s Mbombe 8 infantry combat vehicle (ICV) and was unveiled for the first time at the KADEX Exhibition of 2016.
Over the span of four years, the Barys was tested throughout the mountainous terrains of Southern Kazakhstan, across forested and savannah-like steppe and the salt marshes of Central Kazakhstan. The campaign came to its conclusion upon the sands of Mangistau, near the Caspian Sea, covering a total distance of 25 000 km, KPE said.
In addition to testing the vehicle’s mobility, more than 5 000 rounds of 30 mm and 7 000 rounds of 7.62 calibre ammunition were fired during the course of trials.
The Barys 8×8 had previously undergone testing in adverse weather conditions across Central Asia, withstanding temperatures between +45º and -60ºC during summer and winter trials.
The Barys 8×8 is manufactured in Kazakhstan, at the 15 000 square metre KPE armoured vehicle production facility in Nursultan. Operated by over 200 Kazakhstani employees, the facility has for years manufactured vehicles for Kazakhstan’s Special Operations Forces and its Ministry of Defence, including Arlan (Marauder) vehicles.
John Craig, Executive Chairman of Paramount Land Systems Group, stated, “The Barys 8×8 has undergone uniquely challenging and extensive testing over the course of the past four years. Its successful completion of this campaign is an important milestone in the success story of Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering. This further demonstrates the advanced potential of Kazakhstan’s defence industry, offering state-of-the-art facilities and high level skills for the development of indigenously manufactured defence technologies to the wider region.
“The Barys 8 is a breakthrough for the region and one that allows us to perpetually integrate next-generation technologies that will ensure the platform remains on the cutting-edge of the defence and security landscape, meeting the demands of regional armed forces. The Barys 8×8 is also a testament to the exceptional capabilities of our partners at Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering.”
The Baryx has a gross weight of approximately 28 tonnes, kerb weight of 19 tonnes and payload of 9 tonnes which covers weapon system, ammunition, crew and supplies. It is powered by a 6 cylinder turbo charged diesel engine driving a six speed automatic transmission and giving a top speed of 110km/h. Range is 800 km.
Eight dismounts can be accommodated in addition to three crewmembers. Ballistic protection is to STANAG 4569 Level 3+ and blast protection is to STANAG 4569 Level 4a and 4b. The anti-mine flat bottom of the Barys 8 allows its silhouette to be reduced to 2.4 metres.
Special ‘anti-mine’ seats have been designed and equipped within the Barys 8 to prevent injury to the crew during extreme acceleration, which can take place due to the effects of an explosion near or directly under the vehicle.
The Barys 8 is fitted with the Ansar manned combat automatic system, wholly produced in Kazakhstan: a remotely controlled turret variant with a 30 mm 2A72 automatic gun equipped with stabilizing barrel support, a twin 7.62-mm PKT(M) machine gun, ammunition storage, feeding and loading system, and 81 mm smoke grenade launchers. The installation of anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launchers can also be provided.
The vehicle’s retractable searching and tracking system is equipped with a television camera, thermal imager, laser rangefinder, night vision devices and a weather station. In addition, a missile guidance unit can be installed, capable of addressing low-flying aerial targets. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
03 Nov 21. Shaken and stirred: British Army’s Ajax troubles cast a long shadow. General Dynamics’ land systems operation in Spain has already built half of the hulls for the British Army’s Ajax armored cavalry program, even as the future of the vehicle is threatened by noise and vibration problems. Responding to questions from Defense News, General Dynamics Land Systems UK has given a breakdown of its progress in producing Ajax at its factories in Wales and Spain as part of a firm-priced deal with the British signed in 2014 to produce 589 vehicles at a cost of up to £5.5bn (€6.5bn or U.S. $7.6bn).
“As of 1 September 2021, 20 percent of the Ajax fleet are built and have been delivered, or are pending delivery, to the British Army; a further 30 vehicles are undergoing assembly, integration and test (AIT) in Merthyr Tydfil [Wales] and 50 per cent of the 589 hulls are built,” said General Dynamics Land Systems UK.
Twenty-five vehicles were delivered to the British Army by June 2021, but have yet to be accepted into service due to a number of issues related to noise and vibration.
Ajax production is continuing, according to the company.
All hulls for the Ajax are being fabricated and painted at the General Dynamics European Land Systems site at Trubia in Spain.
Other elements of the Ajax build and test program have been initially centered on Spain for the first 100 vehicles but gradually switch to Merthyr Tydfil, where General Dynamics currently employs 350 people.
“General Dynamics Land Systems UK will undertake the assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of 489 Ajax platforms at Merthyr Tydfil. A further 100 platforms would undergo AIT at General Dynamics European Land Systems’ facility in Seville, Spain. … AIT takes place concurrently across both facilities,” said the company.
The Lockheed Martin UK-built turret for the Ajax reconnaissance variant, including the CTAI 40mm cannon and other systems, are delivered to either Merthyr Tydfil or Seville for installation, whichever is relevant at the time.
Based on the General Dynamics European Land Systems ASCOD infantry fighting vehicle, developed for the Spanish and Austrian militaries, the Ajax family includes a turreted reconnaissance vehicle, the ARES armored personnel carrier, and various support platforms.
The problems with noise and vibration have pitched Ajax at the centre of a controversy here, with some issue experts comparing the procurement with the decision to cancel the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft in 2010.
An uncertain future
Procurement minister Jeremy Quin has made two statements to Parliament regarding the problems with the Ajax family in a little over two months.
Ajax vehicles should have been in service by now, but Quin told Parliament recently that until a long-term solution was found it was “not possible to determine a realistic timescale for declaration of initial operating capability or the later introduction of Ajax vehicles into operational service with the Army.”
In June MoD officials reported the program had swallowed up £3.2bn of the £5.5bn set aside for Ajax.
At least one Parliamentary Defence Committee member has called for the program’s cancellation.
At one point the MoD halted trials work, and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace questioned whether the program had a future unless a solution could be found to the problems.
One defense source, who asked not to be named, said that while Wallace was continuing to work with the contractor to fix the problems, safety issues for soldiers had remained a top priority.
“The defence secretary has continued to put pressure on General Dynamics to fix the problems. While our focus remains on working with General Dynamics for its delivery, the welfare of our personnel comes first,” said the source.
Several hundred personnel have had to undergo possible hearing and vibration injury tests related to the Ajax trials.
Scrambling for fixes
After having been halted, some trials have resumed using General Dynamics UK personnel rather than British Army crews. The MoD, along with General Dynamics, are now ramping up efforts to find a fix for the issues with the addition of another vehicle to the trials program crewed by the contractor.
Following the authorization of an MoD safety panel, a second ARES armored personnel carrier variant of the Ajax is being added to the small fleet of vehicles now gathering data in an effort to resolve the problems.
The addition of the vehicle to the trials fleet was announced to Parliament on. Oct 18 by Quin as part of an update on the troubled program. At that point, though, the MoD was still awaiting the safety panel’s green light. The addition of a second ARES to the trials program is aimed at providing additional baseline data to cross-check across multiple platforms, including the turreted Ajax version, increasing the efficacy of the baseline data.
The current trials only relate to the noise and vibration issues, and broader testing of the vehicle remains on hold.
Some moves are already being made in addressing the current shortcomings.
For one, trials are being planned jointly by the MoD and General Dynamics to validate and verify the efficacy of proposed measures to reduce vibration.
In addition, Quin said in his Oct. 18 statement that noise reduction efforts also continue with the design of an in-line attenuator.
“We are now validating its effectiveness to address the noise transmitted through the communications headsets,” said the procurement minister. (Source: Defense News)
01 Nov 21. Boeing delivers first KC-46A refueling tanker to Japan.
Boeing Co (BA.N) delivered its first KC-46A aircraft to Japan, the company said on Sunday, the first delivery of the aerial refueling jet to a customer outside the United States, as growing tensions with China spur Japan to ramp up defense spending.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) took delivery of the jet under a contract first signed in 2017. Boeing in a statement called the delivery a “significant milestone” for U.S.-Japan cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
The U.S. Air Force and JASDF initially awarded a contract for one KC-46A, but have since exercised options for three more of the jets. Boeing touts the aircraft as its most state-of-the-art refueling tanker, equipped with advanced sensors and capable of carrying cargo and passengers as it refuels other planes.
Still, the KC-46 line used by the U.S. Air Force has run into performance snags, including defects with an on-board video system.
Sunday’s delivery comes at a tense time for Japan, as it looks to counter China’s military assertiveness in Asia.
The country’s ruling party – which defied expectations by maintaining a majority in Sunday’s parliamentary election – has pledged to double defense spending as public sentiment grows increasingly wary of China.
Japan’s military strategy is focused on defending territory along the edge of the East China Sea, where it is locked in a dispute with the Chinese government over a group of uninhabited islands. (Source: Reuters)
01 Nov 21. Australian Army trial proves metal armored vehicle parts can be 3D printed and certified in the field. The Australian Army have proven it is possible to 3D print and replace armored vehicle parts in the field during Exercise Koolendong, an annual bilateral military exercise between the Australian Army and the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin. Various parts for the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier were replaced with metal parts manufactured on site, using technology developed by Australian company, SPEE3D. Parts were identified, 3D printed, certified and then subsequently installed on vehicles.
The Australian Army is rapidly developing their metal manufacturing capability with SPEE3D’s award-winning metal 3D printing technology. The company’s WarpSPEE3D Tactical Printer uses patented, cold-spray technology that enables significantly faster and more cost-effective metal part production than any other process. It can print large metal parts up to 40 kilograms at a record rate of 100 grams per minute.
SPEE3D has been working closely with the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy to bring this capability to the Australian Defence Force with world-first field trials designed to test the feasibility of deploying metal 3D printing as a capability, both in barracks and in the field. A number of field trials in 2020 resulted in over 50 case studies of printable parts and demonstrated that SPEE3D’s WarpSPEE3D printer was robust enough to operate in remote, Australian bushland. The program was extended in 2021 to verify initial results.
In 2021 SPEE3D has been helping train the Australian Army’s first military Additive Manufacturing Cell (AMC) technicians who specialize in the production of metal 3D printed parts, from design, printing, machining, heat-treatment, through to certification. In the remote bushland of Bradshaw Training Area in the Northern Territory, the AMC and SPEE3D recently tested the WarpSPEE3D Tactical Printer as part of its toughest trial yet. The printer was transported in a round trip over 1200 kilometers, over rough terrain, to operate in hot and dusty conditions for three weeks.
During the trial the AMC produced more than a dozen different replacement parts for the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, a vehicle that has been used by the Australian Army for over 40 years. The trial aimed to prove metal 3D printing can produce high-quality, military-grade parts that can be validated and certified for use in the field. One of the parts produced was an M113 wheel bearing cover, a part which is often damaged by trees when driven through bushland. The two-kilogram wheel bearing cover was printed in just 29 minutes at a print cost of $100 USD. The team were able to 3D print, heat treat, machine, test and validate the parts in the field as well as redesign and fortify some parts, reducing the risk of future damage.
SPEE3D’s CEO, Byron Kennedy, commented “This is a great example of how expeditionary Metal 3D Printing can improve Defence readiness. Field trials conducted in 2020 proved SPEE3D technology was deployable. This year’s trial extension was bigger, longer, and more remote, making it the worlds’ toughest and longest metal 3D printing trial so far.”
The success of this trial demonstrates that additive manufacturing can play an important part in the future of Defence readiness. The AMC will explore more components that can be repaired using metal 3D printing as an alternate solution, having parts at the ready in the field.
More information on SPEE3D’s technology, including videos and case studies are available at: https://spee3d.com/
29 Oct 21. Patria delivered the first vehicles to Latvia. The Finnish-Latvian joint 6×6 vehicle programme proceeds on schedule as Patria delivered the first Patria 6×6 armoured wheeled vehicles to Latvia. This first vehicle handover of the whole joint programme is a remarkable milestone for all participants.
“With high-quality cooperation between Latvian companies, our own professionals, and the future users of the vehicles, we have achieved this important milestone together. Staying on schedule and taking a project this size forward so effectively is not always a matter of course, and we do not take this milestone for granted. Hard work has been done on this and will continue to be done. We all get to be proud of ourselves and continue this exceptional joint programme going forward. In addition, I believe that such concrete progress will build even more confidence towards this joint programme particularly outside the programme and hence increase interest in other countries as well.”, says Jussi Järvinen, President of Patria’s Land business unit.
A week before the handover of the vehicles, a user training of the Patria 6×6 vehicle was completed in Hämeenlinna at Patria’s facilities, when soldiers of the Latvian National Armed Forces participated in a two-week user, instructor, and maintenance training course. The focus of the training was to learn how the vehicle works and how to use it – step by step. After the training period, the Latvian soldiers now have a good understanding about the usage and maintenance requirements of the vehicle. They are also ready to receive the first vehicles in Latvia on behalf of Patria, and ready to start operating them safely. In early 2020, Finland and Latvia agreed on a joint development programme to improve the mobility of the ground forces. The aim of the development project has been to develop a new armoured vehicle system based on 6×6 armoured vehicles manufactured by Patria. In late August 2021, Finland, Latvia, and Patria signed a Frame Agreement for production phase management. Latvia and Patria signed a supply contract comprising over 200 pieces 6×6 armoured personnel carriers developed under the joint development programme, also including their support and training systems. Finland and Patria signed a letter of intent on the forthcoming serial order of Finland. The joint programme is open to other countries to join with the mutual consent of the participating countries.
29 Oct 21. RAF conducts aerial refuelling of Atlas C1 (A400M) aircraft. RAF Atlas was recently used for evacuating civilians from Afghanistan. The British Royal Air Force (RAF) has performed the aerial refuelling of an RAF Atlas C1 (A400M) transport aircraft with a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker. This is the first time that an RAF Atlas aircraft was refuelled mid-air in the UK. The milestone was achieved during the recent trials conducted by the RAF Brize Norton based 206 Squadron.
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RAF 206 Squadron commanding officer Wing Commander Woolven said: “Our test pilots have conducted previous flight test campaigns; however, this is the first with this platform in the UK.
“The A400M is unique, thanks to its fly-by-wire flight control system. This makes it much easier to maintain formation to make contact and take fuel. This trial has given us the capability to hand over to front line instructors by the end of the year, which will enable them to roll out to the remaining A400M Squadrons, 24, 30, and 70 Squadrons at RAF Brize Norton.”
RAF Atlas transport aircraft provides tactical airlift capabilities to the armed forces. The aircraft is capable of carrying a 37t payload across 2,000nm.
Recently, Atlas and dual role transport and tanker Voyager were used for evacuating civilians from Afghanistan.
RAF 206 Squadron flight test engineer Flight Lieutenant Crow said: “This is the very first air-to-air refuelling on this platform in the UK. We have undertaken simulation training to make sure we were familiar with how the aircraft would perform. Air-air refuelling enables the aircraft to reach further, fly for longer and lift more weight around the world more effectively.”
Earlier this year, RAF Typhoons completed a tactical refuelling exercise in Norway. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
28 Oct 21. The French Ministry of the Interior has selected the Soframe VBMO to renew its fleet of armoured vehicles for the Gendarmerie Nationale. Today, the Ministry of the Interior has announced that the Véhicule Blindé de Maintien de l’Ordre (Armoured Law Enforcement Vehicle) or VBMO of Soframe has been selected as the result of the competition launched last spring for the replacement of the armoured vehicles of the Gendarmerie Nationale. This vehicle, qualified and approved, is directly derived from the ARIVE family of vehicles, produced in nearly 1,800 units, boosting Soframe as the leading French manufacturer of armoured vehicles between 2017 and 2019.
Soframe is proud that its vehicle answers to the requirements of the Gendarmerie Nationale, a robust and powerful vehicle, which offers safety and comfort for personnel deployed over time. Thanks to its high payload capacity and large useful volume, it can carry all the protection, communication, autonomy, and response equipment required by the Gendarmerie Nationale. Its design makes it particularly suitable for addressing the increased dangers weighting onto our national community, such as terrorism and all new forms of extreme violence.
With this order of 90 vehicles, we are glad that the Ministry of the Interior has thus recognised Soframe’s abilities in its choice, and beyond that, those of the ETIs, industrial companies of intermediate size, recognised and innovative, particularly dynamic and successful on export market. Soframe a subsidiary of the LOHR group, participates in the richness, sometimes unsuspected and unrecognised, of the French Defence Industrial and Technological Base. (Source: Joint Forces)
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Contact: David Parkman