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13 Feb 19. The US Army’s upgunned Strykers have some serious firepower — and one critical weakness. The Army may have festooned its Stryker fighting vehicles with a slew of new armaments as part of the Pentagon’s relentless pursuit of lethality, but the upgunned infantry carriers are apparently hobbled by a major deficiency that makes them especially vulnerable in a fight against Russia or China. The Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons that are currently flexing their muscles with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in eastern Europe remain vulnerable to cyber attacks, so far that “adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in contested cyber environment,” accordingto the Pentagon’s operational testing and evaluation report released last month.
Even worse, the report notes that “the exploited vulnerabilities predate the integration of the lethality upgrades,” suggesting that the the Army spent too much time slapping new weapons systems like Stryker ICV-D’s 30mm autocannon onto the new vehicles and not enough time fixing a major design flaw.
“Cyber attacks against computer networks supporting any of the Stryker Dragoon’s onboard systems could have had a second-order effect on the vehicle’s ability to use those capabilities,” The War Zone reports. “There have been a string of reports from U.S. government watchdogs warning about serious cyber vulnerabilities across the U.S. military.”
Who exactly those craft “adversaries” are remains unclear. As The War Zone notes, they could simply be “opposing force” units tasked with testing the Stryker’s capabilities, and a spokesman for the Army’s 7th Army Training Command declined to elaborate on the foe mentioned in the Pentagon report.
But given that upgunned Strykers were fielded to in eastern Europe in late December 2017 as part of a response to Russia’s 2015 annexation of Crimea, chances are that it’s Russian cyberattacks the Pentagon is worried about.
In recent years, NATO countries and regional allies like Norway have reportedly experienced alleged Russian cyberattacks in the form of jammed GPS signals and hacked cell phones, tactics the U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Raymond Thomas indicated last year that Russian military has refined in Syria.
“Right now in Syria we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Thomas stated at the GEOINT Symposium in April 2018. “They are testing us every day, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etcetera.”
While the Pentagon assessment recommends the Army “correct or mitigate cyber vulnerabilities,” the exploitation of the Stryker systems detailed in the report, if actually carried out by Russia, would constitute a “significant escalation” in cyber warfare in eastern Europe, as The War Zone put it. And with concerns over cyber attacks on the rise around the world, that threat probably won’t go away anytime soon. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://taskandpurpose.com)
14 Feb 19. Hawkei program approaches full-rate production. Following final testing of the first 100 Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicles-Light (PMV-L), the Australian Defence Force is closing in on Stage Three of the program. Defence Connect can confirm that the ADF has successfully completed a series of trials in Stage Two of the Hawkei program, with full-rate production due to start at Thales’ Bendigo facility later this year. A defence spokesperson told Defence Connect that the Hawkei has completed several “key elements of the testing regime”, including:
- A blast test of the two-door vehicle was undertaken on 2 March 2017 at Proof and Experimental Establishment Graytown, followed by the blast test for the four-door vehicle on 17 March 2017. Both tests were successful. A two-door vehicle successfully underwent additional blast testing on 17 May 2018.
- A two-week user trial with Army and Accredited Test Services was conducted at Townsville Field Training Area from 6-17 February 2017 employing prototype Hawkei vehicles. A second user trial, employing low-rate initial production Hawkei vehicles that are more representative of the final build state, was also conducted with the 3rd Brigade in Townsville from 8-25 October 2018. Feedback from the user trials is being incorporated into the vehicle design.
- A successful external air lift trial was conducted over June-July 2017 in Townsville on both the two-door and four-door vehicles in various load states.
- Defence conducted a formal trial involving the deployment of two Hawkei vehicles to Iraq and Afghanistan from December 2017 to August 2018. The key trial objectives included the identification of operations and support issues and evaluating the deployment considerations for the Hawkei capability.
Stage Three of the program is “full-rate production”, with the remaining 1,000 vehicles and 958 trailers to be delivered to Defence by 2022.
The government signed an agreement with Thales Australia in October 2015 for the acquisition and support of 1,100 Hawkei vehicles and 1,058 companion trailers, for use in “command, liaison, utility and reconnaissance roles”.
The vehicles are being specifically developed to meet the ADF’s requirements for survivability, mobility, payload, communications, useability and sustainability.
“The Hawkei delivers an entirely new capability for the ADF, providing a level of protection comparable to the Thales Bushmaster at around half the weight. These vehicles can be utilised independently or as part of a combat team and in co-operation with existing Bushmaster and Medium Heavy Capability vehicles in combat, combat support and combat service support missions,” the defence spokesperson said.
“The Hawkei will provide a high level of protection for soldiers against blast and ballistic threats, with superior off-road mobility to enable it to operate in high-risk areas. It will pioneer a next-generation, open-architecture Integral Computing System so the battle management system, radios, sensors and weapon systems can all be managed through a common interface.”
Final tests are still being carried out on the vehicles, but are due to enter full-rate production later in 2019. (Source: Defence Connect)
12 Feb 19. Bulgaria delays armoured vehicle tender. The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has delayed the competitive procurement of 150 new wheeled armoured vehicles to equip three battalion-size battlegroups for a mechanised brigade. The delay was apparently caused by the MoD’s failure to complete the technical specifications because of a continuing lack of clarity regarding some important design parameters. A request for proposals originally planned for the end of 2018 was never issued. Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov told reporters on 6 February that much work had to be done by his ministry on the armoured vehicle tender paperwork and that it would have taken a serious effort for the tender to be launched by the end of the year. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
12 Feb 19. Ukraine receives upgraded T-64s. The Ukrainian Army has received at least 100 upgraded T-64s from the Kharkiv Armour Plant since 2018, according to an 11 February Facebook post by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The post reads, “The best combat capabilities, modern thermal imagers, secure digital communications, satellite navigation, and new dynamic protection – all of this was gained by our tank crews thanks to the specialists of Ukrainian defence.”
The vehicles are referred to as the T-64 2017 and enough of the upgraded tanks have been delivered to equip an entire brigade.
An 11 February press release from Ukrainian state enterprise UkrOboronProm explains that “the upgrade of the T-64 to the 2017 model allows a significant expansion of its combat capabilities, and the time required to integrate the new equipment allows it to be carried out during routine maintenance”.
The press release also details how the vehicle is fitted with third-generation night vision equipment, which utilises existing fittings to minimise changes and reduce costs.
Furthermore, “the gunner’s sighting system has an integrated thermal imager, which detects, identifies, and engages enemy 125 mm guns at any time of day and in all weather conditions.” This appears to refer to the Russian T-72s used by separatist and Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Other improvements include a satellite navigation system from Orizon-Navigation integrated into a digital battle management system, as well as Lybid K-2RB digital radios with a range of 70 km supplied by Dolya & Co. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
11 Feb 19. US Army explores JLTV noise reduction and visibility changes. The US Army is evaluating solider and marine feedback to reduce the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) noise level and improve visibility before moving forward with a full-rate production decision. In a recent email to Jane’s , an army spokesperson discussed why the service opted to delay its scheduled December 2018 production decision until the March–May time frame. While soldiers and marines were testing and evaluating the JLTVs’ performance, he said they identified “a limited number of improvements” that would make the vehicles “easier to use”.
“None of these areas impact the vehicle’s basic payload capacity, protection level, or mobility performance, but army leadership valued the soldiers’ feedback and asked for additional information about options to improve visibility, mitigate noise, and allow for optional seats in the utility variant,” the spokesperson added. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
10 Feb 19. JLTV Is Tougher and Faster, but Troops Will Still Ride Into Battle on Humvees. Army and Marine Corps combat units are starting to receive brand-new, high-performance Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. But if war with a major power ignites in the near future, the bulk of U.S. ground forces will go into battle with the same Humvees that struggled to survive the last war. Today, the formidable-looking JLTV – which promises vastly improved crew protection and enhanced performance – is ready for battle. But it will take the military more than a decade to field roughly 58,000 of them to the Army and the Marines.
Even then, tens of thousands of Humvees will remain in service.
The Army hasn’t decided whether it will upgrade its existing Humvees with improved protection and performance, a move the Marines have decided against. While there are risks associated with leaving the Humvee as it currently is, military experts question whether a major war with Russia or China will present threats that the vehicle can’t handle. As policy makers push for more armor and greater survivability on all platforms, some say military leaders must make the choice to be honest with the American public about the reality of warfare: that too much armor protection can hinder performance and that ground troops will die no matter what vehicle carries them into battle.
The venerable Humvee was first fielded to combat units in the mid-1980s. It had impressive mobility; it was fast and extremely reliable.
But beginning in 2004, the vehicle that was designed for the European battlefield began to struggle when it faced a determined Iraqi insurgency that fought with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Soon, images of burnt-out, twisted Humvees became a symbol of America’s struggle to cope with a new, horrific type of warfare.
While many short-term efforts to protect troops were launched, the Pentagon was determined to develop a lasting solution. It first approved the JLTV as a program of record in 2006.
U.S. military leaders are eager to tout the JLTV program as a success story, but seem reluctant and uncertain regarding how the Humvee will be used alongside the new vehicle in future warfare.
In September, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller acknowledged to Military.com that the “Humvee is going to be around for a while,” but said where they are used will depend on “what the threat is.”
Humvees belonging to 1st Platoon, 153rd Military Police Company, appear near the Arc of Triumph (Crossed Swords) at the Green Zone in Baghdad, Dec. 12, 2007. (Brendan Mackie/Army National Guard)
“Obviously, you have concerns about any lightly armored vehicle and what the adversary might have, as far as direct fire and even indirect fire, IEDs and mines,” Neller said. “We are not going to put any Marine in a vehicle in an environment that we don’t think they have a great chance of accomplishing the mission and being survivable at the same time.”
Since then, the Army and Marine Corps have declined formal interview requests from Military.com to discuss the future of the Humvee.
The Army’s plans to purchase and field just over 49,000 JLTVs “extend into the mid-2030s,” spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Military.com.
Those Humvees not replaced by JLTVs will make up the remaining bulk of the Army’s light tactical vehicle, or LTV, requirement of 117,000 vehicles.
“The objective of the Army’s light tactical wheeled vehicle (LTV) strategy is to enhance survivability of soldiers,” Taylor said. “The Army’s primary goal is to transition to an LTV fleet that is capable of scaleable protection for existing vehicles, while simultaneously investing in new, more modern vehicles. The JLTV is the next-generation LTV, designed to provide increased protection, performance and payload.”
The Marine Corps currently plans to buy roughly 9,000 JLTVs – an increase over its original purchase plan of 5,500 – and field them “through the 2020s,” according to a statement to Military.com from Marine Corps Capabilities Development Directorate.
“The total number of [Humvees] we have now will not be replaced by JLTVs,” according to the statement, which added that the overall Marine Humvee “requirements are less now than they were a decade ago.”
For operational security reasons, Marine officials would not reveal how many Humvees the service currently has. But the 9,000 JLTVs fielded over the next decade will replace about 60 percent of the Humvee fleet, according to the statement.
Discussing the Humvee is likely a sensitive subject with the services because of the political backlash military leaders had to endure in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, when Humvees where being blown up on a daily basis.
A destroyed Iraqi army humvee is left behind outside of the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, more than two weeks after the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic Sate of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over the country’s second largest city. (AP Photo)
According to Defense Department numbers, 3,481 U.S. service members were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom through the entire conflict, a relatively low number compared to past U.S. wars.
But beginning in 2004, soldiers who survived IED attacks often came home missing arms, legs and sometimes faces – a reality that enraged members of Congress and led to many emotional hearings in which lawmakers accused military leaders of failing to provide adequate battlefield protection to deploying U.S. service members.
“The problem comes down to a disconnect between current understanding of war, expectations of war, and the reality of war – not only among the American public but certainly here on Capitol Hill, among members of Congress and even members of the military,” said Dakota Wood, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and now a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
“Why was everybody caught by surprise when the enemy used landmines – you know, roadside bombs, IEDs – why was it a surprise when the enemy used explosives to blow up vehicles carrying American soldiers?” Wood asked, arguing the Humvee, made by AM General LLC, was never designed to survive blasts capable of destroying a tank. “And yet, when this started occurring on the battlefield, you would have thought we had already lost the war, that the military was negligent in providing adequate protection.”
Under extreme pressure from Congress, the military overloaded the lightweight Humvee with armor and, in 2007, launched a $47bn program to field much heavier, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to protect troops.
MRAPs, while effective, sometimes weighed more than 20 tons, making them too heavy and slow-moving for many battlefield situations.
It took almost a decade for the JLTV to become a reality but, in August 2015, Oshkosh Corp. was selected over Lockheed Martin Corp. and AM General LLC to build the JLTV for the Army and the Marine Corps, a program that could exceed $30bn to meet the current joint-service requirement.
The JLTV offers increased crew protection, such as MRAP-like underbelly blast protection, blast-protected seats, restraints and technologies designed to absorb and deflect blast — while still meeting the Army’s on- and off-road performance requirements.
The Army is currently studying whether to make additional improvements to the Humvee beyond the upgrades that went into the expanded-capacity vehicle, or ECV, Humvees such as the newer M1151A1 ECV Armament Carrier.
“The service recently conducted a study of Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) vehicle requirements and will conduct an additional evaluation of a mixed fleet of [Humvees] and JLTVs in FY22 or earlier,” Taylor said.
The Corps does not intend to upgrade its existing Humvee fleet, according to the Marine statement, which added that the Humvee fleet “will be managed and maintained in a high state of readiness by disposing of our least ready vehicles at the earliest opportunity as JLTVs are fielded. Those [Humvees] remaining in the inventory will be maintained through normal organic and depot maintenance procedures until they are replaced.”
To retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, the Humvee doesn’t need upgrading to go to war with an adversary such as Russia.
“In a European scenario, for which the Humvee was designed, it’s perfectly fine,” said Scales, a Vietnam veteran who is currently a key adviser to the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force.
Scales remembers that he was an assistant division commander with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea when the Humvee was first fielded.
“The whole division was equipped with Humvees. Given the terrain in Korea, and given the North Korean threat, it was fine,” he said.
It’s unlikely that a future war with Russia or China will involve IEDs like the ones used in Iraq, Scales said.
“The issue with the Russians is not stuff on the ground, it’s stuff flying through the air — the surface-to-surface threat from Russia and, I would presume, China as well,” he said. “So what is important for a vehicle in that type of strike-counterstrike environment is the ability to displace quickly, to be small and difficult to spot and to be able to move about the battlefield to avoid strike and counterstrike.”
Wood said retrofitting existing Humvees with additional protection, as well as enhancing the suspension, engine and other key features to increase performance, will be expensive and increase the weight of the vehicle.
“If I increase armor, I am going to increase weight, which means the trafficability and transportability become more difficult,” he said. “If I increase the size, power, weight and armor that incorporate a JLTV, cost is going to go up.
“People get upset when war costs a lot of money, but then, when you don’t spend the money, you are also criticized for not protecting the force and providing the military what it needs to win in combat. You can’t have it both ways,” Wood said.
Scales agreed that the Humvee wasn’t designed to be a JLTV.
“It wasn’t designed for that. Now remember, in Europe you are going to be – at least in the battlefields that were postulating in central Europe – you are going to be maneuvering hundreds of kilometers. And what is important is fuel efficiency and reliability, and when you start slapping armor in the sides of Humvees…you are going to pay a price for that,” he said.
The JLTV, Scales said, “is designed from the ground up” for missions where more armor protection is needed.
“The key is to concentrate those at the tip of the spear, where their utility for close combat can be fully exploited,” he said.
Wood said he believes the current Humvee is still “very capable.”
“Today’s Humvee fleet is doggone pretty good. It’s going to meet 80 percent of the requirements most of the time. You don’t need everything to be fully up-armored,” he said.
“But sure as shooting…we will deploy a force, some set of soldiers are going to be moving from point A to point B in a less-than-heavily armored Humvee,” Wood added. “They are going to get hit with a rocket-propelled grenade or some kind of armor-piercing, incendiary round or road-side bomb, and they will get blown up. And that’s where the news is going to carry, and that is when Congress and the media will pounce all over the military about how could you have sent our guys and gals in harm’s way inappropriately equipped. There is no perfect solution, and I think Congress just needs to understand that.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military.com)
08 Feb 19. Aselsan aims for export market with MBT upgrade packages. Aselsan, established as an electronics systems house in Turkey, is aiming to expand to the export market in several areas, including upgrading main battle tanks (MBTs). The Turkish Army received 170 former US Army General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) M60A3 MBTs that were upgraded to an Israel Military Industries design, the M60T standard, armed with a 120 mm smoothbore gun. Most of the conversion work was undertaken by the Turkish Land Forces Logistics Command (TLFLC) at its Kayseri facilities.
To meet an urgent operational requirement (UOR) as a result of combat operations on the Syrian border, late in 2016 Aselsan rapidly developed a kit to enhance the M60T, a company source told Jane’s. To save time, these kits were fitted in the field rather than at the TLFLC factory. It is understood that more than 150 kits were provided, and the modernised MBT is now called the M60TM.
The UOR included installing Aselsan’s Stabilised Advanced Remote Weapon (SARP) armed with a stabilised .50 calibre M2 HB machine gun (MG) mounted on the right side of the turret roof. This replaced the manually operated commander’s cupola armed with an unstabilised 12.7 mm MG.
An auxiliary power unit (APU) was fitted at the rear of the hull on the left side, enabling the sub-systems to be run with the main diesel engine switched off to save fuel. Other enhancements include Aselsan cameras for situational awareness through 360° (the images are displayed at the commander’s station), Aselsan laser warning system, air conditioning system, and spall liners for increased survivability, the source said. Separately, the largest Aselsan MBT upgrade so far is its Volkan computerised fire controls system (FCS) for installation in Turkey’s former German Army Leopard 1 MBTs. Following trials with two prototypes, a total of 171 production systems were supplied with the actual installation work done at TLFLC’s facilities. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
08 Feb 19. Oshkosh Defense, LLC, an Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE: OSK) company, announced today that it has been awarded a $232.7m delivery order from the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) to recapitalize vehicles in the Army’s Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles (FHTV) fleet. Under the contract, Oshkosh will recapitalize a total of 407 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT) and Palletized Load System (PLS) trucks as well as manufacture 601 new PLS trailers. The HEMTT and PLS have been in the Army’s fleet since 1981 and 1990 respectively, and Oshkosh has been performing recapitalization services on these vehicles since 1995.
“As the backbone of the U.S. Army’s resupply and distribution system, the HEMTT and PLS vehicles are heavily relied on to carry munitions and other critical supplies across all types of terrains and in all types of environments,” said Pat Williams, Vice President and General Manager of U.S. Army and Marine Corps Programs for Oshkosh Defense. “We are proud that the U.S. Army has trusted Oshkosh to provide this cost-effective recapitalization service for over 2 decades,” Williams continued. “As the original equipment manufacturer, we know these vehicles inside and out, and we are in the best position to quickly return them to field operations in like-new condition.”
Through recapitalization, vehicles are stripped to the frame rails, rebuilt to the latest configuration and returned to the fleet in zero-mile, zero-hour condition with the same technology, safety features, bumper-to-bumper warranty and life cycle cost advantage of a new vehicle.
In total, Oshkosh has recapitalized over 12,500 HEMTTs and 3,000 PLS trucks since 1995.
Millbrook, based in Bedfordshire, UK, makes a significant contribution to the quality and performance of military vehicles worldwide. Its specialist expertise is focussed in two distinct areas: test programmes to help armed services and their suppliers ensure that their vehicles and systems work as the specification requires; and design and build work to upgrade new or existing vehicles, evaluate vehicle capability and investigate in-service failures. Complementing these is driver and service training and a hospitality business that allows customers to use selected areas of Millbrook’s remarkable facilities for demonstrations and exhibitions.