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23 Jun 19. MoD retreats on Warrior upgrade. The upgraded armoured vehicles were due to enter service next March. Defence chiefs are considering an about-turn on a delayed £1.6bn project to upgrade the army’s Warrior armoured vehicle.
After spending eight years and more than £400m trying to refurbish the hull of the 30-year-old vehicle, army officials are considering buying new hulls instead. Tracks, engines and a new cannon would then be fitted.
The Warrior upgrade is one of the Ministry of Defence’s most troubled programmes. Last year, the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority said that “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable”.
The American defence giant Lockheed Martin won the contract to overhaul the Warrior in 2011, but it is still testing vehicles and has yet to sign a manufacturing contract.
The upgrade has been dogged by problems fitting a new 40mm cannon and turret to the refurbished hull. The gun is meant to be capable of firing on the move. Sources said the tired state of the vehicles had also caused difficulties. The upgraded Warriors were due to enter service next March, but last year MoD permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove said the project was 3½ years late. The MoD has not confirmed numbers, but about half of the 769-strong fleet was expected to be overhauled.
Lockheed Martin said: “We continue to meet our contractual schedules and programme commitments to our MoD customer.” (Source: The Sunday Times)
21 Jun 19. US Army approves JLTV Full-Rate Production. Dr. Bruce Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, approved the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program’s transition into Full-Rate Production yesterday.
The approval follows an Army decision in December 2018 to begin fielding the new platform with the Army’s 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia, in April. The 1-3 ID became the Army’s first unit equipped with JLTVs in April 2019, after receiving more than 300 vehicles.
Fieldings to the Ordnance School, Fort Lee, Virginia, the 84th Training Command, Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, California, as well as the School of Infantry-East, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, have also been completed.
“Thanks to tremendous teamwork across two services on requirements, resources, program management, testing, and other areas, this is a great modernization success story. JLTV shows how teams focused on stable requirements, mature technologies and the right incentives can deliver meaningful capability advancements in a cost-conscious way,” said Jeffrey White, Jette’s principal deputy.
The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict, giving commanders an improved protected mobility solution and the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.
“Getting an improved capability into the hands of Soldiers and Marines has been our team’s driving focus throughout this program, said Michael Sprang, Project Manager, Joint Program Office, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. They are why we do what we do, and I’m so proud of the hard-working team that brought us to this point.
“We are also grateful for Soldier feedback on new features and enhancements,” he continued. “The Soldiers of the 1st ABCT, 3rd Infantry Division provided valuable input on enhancements such as increased situational awareness, reduction of system noise, a troop seat kit, and a companion JLTV trailer. Their assessments helped bring us all to a successful Full-Rate Production decision.”
The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget to replace a significant portion of the Army’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle fleet. The JLTV comes in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle. The U.S. Navy and Air Force also plan to field JLTVs in much smaller quantities.(Source: US Army)
From George Mansfield, Vice President and General Manager of Joint Programs for Oshkosh Defense: “The full rate production decision is a key milestone for the JLTV program, closing out the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) phase, which began in 2015. Important insights from manufacturing and rigorous developmental and operational test during LRIP contributed to shaping the vehicle’s current configuration. The program remains on schedule and on budget, and ensures our troops have the protection, connection, and extreme off-road mobility they need today for current and future battlefields. The JLTV is the only light tactical vehicle being fielded today that can maneuver within combat formations.” (See: BATTLESPACE ALERT Vol.21 ISSUE 14, 22 June 2015, US Army approves JLTV Full-Rate Production)
20 Jun 19. ARQUUS presents its Scarabée for the very first time at the Paris Air Show. European leader of protected land mobility, ARQUUS is present at the Paris Air Show 2019 at Le Bourget. In the framework of its work on air transport, the company notably exhibits its Scarabée. It is the very first time the vehicle is presented to the general public.
Arquus’ firstborn, the Scarabée is a light, armored 4×4 vehicle designed for reconnaissance, scouting and support, at the contact of the enemy or behind the lines. Developed by a small team of experts from ARQUUS, the Scarabée was designed in partnership with French SMEs and start-ups (95% French suppliers).
First natively hybrid military vehicle, the Scarabée changes all standards for mobility and energy. The vehicle’s hybrid drive allows for a “boost” mode which combines the thermal and electrical engines, and an “all electrical” mode. This stealth mode enables a tactical approach without thermal or acoustic signature, or a long, silent watch with all systems on.
The Scarabée is designed specifically to facilitate the collaborative work. Its interior layout, designed to accommodate four people, is intended to allow optimal communication between crew members, reinforced by the Battlenet vetronics system. Seated in a forward central position, the pilot benefits from a 270° direct vision.
The Scarabée’s architecture was specifically thought to facilitate the maintenance in operations, with an easily removable power pack and a simple access to all components for all-day operations.
The Scarabée is equipped with an evolutive, ballistic and mine protection depending on the mission profile. Designed for collaborative combat, the Scarabée is able to carry a wide array of systems such as multi-purpose RCWS, multi-caliber cannon, RGL cameras, MMP (or MILAN) launchers, anti-drone systems, radar…
The Scarabée is able to operate with two different clearance levels: high, for off-roads mobility, and low, for stand-by or air transport. It is equipped with an independent rear drive, which allows for a minimal steering radius and offers extreme mobility in urban environment, or in combat in cluttered zones. It is capable of moving in “crab” motion, offering several unprecedented tactical options.
19 Jun 19. What’s happening with Stryker active protection? Congress wants to know. Congress wants to know why the U.S. Army hasn’t been able to find an appropriate active protection system for the Stryker combat vehicle — even if that solution is something hybrid in nature.
Both the House and Senate have asked for reports on what is happening with the effort to protect a critical asset, particularly in Europe, from anti-tank-guided missiles and rockets.
In the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the draft defense policy bill filed June 12, lawmakers are requiring the service submit a report by the beginning of October on its efforts to assess possible active protection systems, or APS, for integration onto the Stryker.
The report should include the effectiveness of the systems tested last fall. Those systems were Rheinmetall’s Active Defense System and Rafael’s Trophy VPS system, a lighter version of the APS equipped on a number of M1 Abrams tanks.
The Army should also include plans for future testing, proposals for future development and a timeline for fielding an APS on a Stryker, the report states.
Defense News reported last week that the Army wouldn’t move forward with either Rheinmetall’s ADS or Rafael’s Trophy VPS due to limitations and challenges associated with Stryker as a platform. But the service said it will continue evaluating those two systems for other vehicles and that — through further testing — technology associated with those systems could prove appropriate for Stryker.
The Army is equipping Abrams tanks with the Trophy and has decided to outfit the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle with Israeli company IMI’s Iron Fist APS.
The service evaluated Herndon, Virginia-based Artis LLC’s Iron Curtain APS for the Stryker, but decided in August 2018 that it would not move forward with the integration. Because of the decision, the Army decided to hold a demonstration in November to evaluate both Rheinmetall’s ADS and Rafael’s Trophy VPS, which was demonstrated on a Bradley in Israel earlier in 2018.
Signals that the Army was struggling to find the right system for Stryker came in April, when Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowksi, the military deputy to the Army’s acquisition chief, testified before that SASC’s Airland Subcommittee that it would take another year to make a decision on an APS for the Stryker following the demonstration.
“It’s going to take about a year, quite frankly, in order to put those systems on the vehicles, characterize them and make a determination as to whether or not to move forward with either one of the two vendors,” he told lawmakers.
According to the Stryker project manager, Col. Glenn Dean, the Army could consider solutions to protect the vehicle that aren’t a sole off-the-shelf system. He added that the service is looking into a number of options.
House Armed Services Committee members want the Army to look at “hybrid” solutions that would not only incorporate an APS, but would also include passive protection technologies “such as improved armor,” according to its version of the defense authorization bill, released earlier this month.
The committee wants a report by Nov. 29 that lays out the Army’s requirements and acquisition strategy for near-term and long-term APS efforts to include technology, schedule and funding requirements on combat and tactical vehicles.
The report asks for specifics on Stryker APS testing to date and “an analysis of the relative merits of hybrid protection technologies.”
According to several industry and Capitol Hill sources, it’s of particular interest to Congress how the $25m appropriated in 2018 for the nondevelopmental testing of an additional APS system for Stryker was spent, in addition to a full report on the test results.(Source: Defense News)
18 Jun 19. Union and SPD Threaten Temporary Freeze of Fighter Jet Project. The two parties that make up Germany’s governing coalition, the center-right CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Socialist Party, have threatened to block the billion-dollar development of a German-French fighter jet because of continuing disputes over the work-sharing between Germany and France on a parallel joint program to develop a new tank.
The threat was contained in a letter from the two parties’ budget and defense spokesmen to Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen that Reuters viewed on Friday, and that was first reported by Handelsblatt, Germany’s financial daily.
Germans are concerned about whether the German firms Rheinmetall and KMW will obtain the industrial leadership for the development of the German-French tank, and fear the German leadership of the project could be diluted because KMW has merged with the French state-owned company Nexter.
German concerns were such that German politicians had even required in advance lists of the names of Airbus and Dassault executives and their positions within the FCAS project to ensure Germany would be able to secure its rights, Die Welt reported, and that it would ensure the industrial imbalance. This obstacle was finally resolved at the last minute; Die Welt reported yesterday.
“The signing of the documents at the Paris Air Show is another significant milestone in [implementing] the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). It is now important, that France and Germany move equally forward with the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) under German leadership. All relevant German companies should be involved,” Matthias Wachter, head of security affairs for BDI, the German industry federation, told Defense-Aerospace.com June 18. The CDU and SPD now want either to force a merger of KMW and Rheinmetall by September 30 or, failing that, a clear decision as to which of the two companies will take over the leadership of the joint-French tank project. Until one of the two has happened, they say they will block any further advance on the FCAS fighter program in parliament. The two German-French projects, which are estimated to cost over €100bn euros, are intertwined: The fighter, which is estimated to absorb about 90 percent of the funds, is led by France with Dassault, with a significant share to Airbus.
Reciprocally, Germany is to take the lead for the main battle tank program, but German politicians have been suspicious for some time that Berlin could be outmaneuvered by the French government and end up with less than its allotted workshare for its domestic industry.
German fears of being dealt out of its promised workshare is such that it even threatened to derail yesterday’s ceremony in Paris marking the signature of by the French, German and Spanish defense ministers of the next phase of the FCAS future fighter program. “Only by decoupling the fighter jet project from the main battle tank project signatures were now possible,” a German insider told Die Welt, which reported that “there is still no agreement as to whether Rheinmetall will join Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and then push ahead with the French arms company Nexter to advance the tank project.”
The German lawmakers’ letter refers to two meetings on May 27 at the Ministry of Defense attended by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, members of the Union and SPD, as well as the heads of the German aerospace and armaments industry. The disagreement between KMW and Rheinmetall had become clear: “Progress in this project is not possible at the present time.” Nevertheless, their letter insists that an “equally balanced progress of the two projects” must be ensured, to preserve the interests of German industry.
The goal is therefore now “a consolidation of the German land system industry” or the award project management to one of the groups with, the letter says.
At the meeting of the Budget committee, the Union and the SPD had agreed to release around 30m euros for a Franco-German concept study for the new fighter jet. However, further steps will only be approved after a clarification of the work-share between Germany and France. (Source: defense-aerospace.com)
17 Jun 19. US Army Buys 9,000 Mini-Drones, Rethinks Ground Robots. Ground robots still lag drones, but the Army thinks both technologies are ready to field to frontline units, just at different levels.
This summer, Army soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan with air support literally in the palm of their hands: the 1.16-ounce Black Hornet mini-drone. New ground robots are entering service too, next year — not to fight but to haul supplies, at least at first — but field tests have convinced the Army to issue these often-cumbersome mechanical mules to specialists and only loan them to frontline troops as needed. By contrast, soldiers are so consistently and unequivocally enthused about the mini-drones that the Army is buying 9,000 systems — each with two drones — over three years to issue to its smallest and historically most vulnerable units, nine-man infantry squads.
The mini-drone and larger robots are all part of a wider revolution in the long-suffering infantry, a revolution sparked in large measure by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The Marines, Mattis’s old service, have issued upgraded 5.56 mm rifles and are adding a specialized drone operator to every rifle squad. The Army is going much farther, developing new 6.8 mm rifles, high-tech targeting goggles, virtual-reality training, and, of course, robots.
Now, none of these unmanned systems is truly autonomous, so they require a human to run them by remote control, which in turn requires a functioning battlefield network that hasn’t been shut down by enemy jamming. The FLIR Black Hornet has a lot of automated functions and only flies short missions, so you don’t need a soldier babysitting it all the time. Ground robots, however, require much more oversight, because they have to avoid rocks, bogs, tree stumps, and other obstacles that no unmanned air vehicle has to worry about and that artificial-vision software still struggles to spot. The Army is eager to improve the technology so that, instead of one soldier remote-controlling one robot, they can have one soldier overseeing a largely autonomous swarm. But even today’s limited autonomy allows for big changes on the battlefield.
Drones For Everyone
The palmtop Black Hornet — dubbed Soldier-Borne Sensor (SBS) by the Army — is already in the hands (literally) of a brigade of the elite 82nd Airborne that’s about to deploy to Afghanistan. The second unit scheduled to get the mini-drone, starting this fall, is the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, which has already served in Afghanistan.
For the first time, a squad leader will have the ability to scout ahead by air beforeexposing human soldiers on the ground. The SBS has sensor options for both night and day, and it can fly about 20 minutes before needing to recharge.
But the squad-level mini-drone is just the entry model. Larger units will get larger, more capable, but also more expensive and more maintenance-hungry drones.
“Our vision is every echelon has unmanned aerial systems,” said Don Sando, civilian deputy to the commander of the Army’s infantry and armor center at Fort Benning, Ga. “The question is, how many?”
While squads get the Black Hornet SBS, platoons will get the slightly larger Short-Range Reconnaissance (SRR) drone, Sando and other Army officials told reporters in a conference call last week. A series of tests this month, September, and January will whittle six SRR competitors down to one that will enter service in April 2020. The winner must weigh three pounds or less, fly for 30 minutes, and be able to “perch and stare,” landing in a vantage point overlooking a target area so it can keep watch without burning through its flight time.
Companies will stick with the current RQ-11 Raven, which is still small enough that soldiers launch it by picking it up and throwing it.
Battalions currently use the Raven as well, but the Army plans to develop a new Long-Range Reconnaissance drone for them to use. The LRR isn’t an official program yet, however.
Brigades currently have the RQ-7 Shadow, but that aging system needs a catapult to launch and a runway to land. It will be replaced by the Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (FTUAS), which takes off and lands vertically like a mini-helicopter, starting in 2021.
Divisions currently use the Grey Eagle, a variant of the venerable Predator, but the Army is experimenting with potential Advanced UAS drones to replace it too.
Ground Bots For Some
The Army is also fielding ground robots, but these machines are still much clumsier and harder to work with than aerial drones, so they’re being issued only to specialist units. That includes what was formerly called the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport but is now renamed the Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport, because it’s not going to belong to an individual squad.
The SMET, by either name, is still a small unmanned ground vehicle, about the size of a golf cart, designed to trundle along with the foot troops, hauling supplies and gear like an old-fashioned pack mule. It must carry 1,000 pounds of supplies and gear over 60 miles in 72 hours, trundling along with foot troops, and provide three kilowatts of power to recharge batteries for night vision goggles, radios, and other electronics.
Howe & Howe Grizzly
Four competitors remain in contention: the Polaris MRZR, Howe & Howe Grizzly, HDT Wolf, and General Dynamics MUTT. “They’re all viable candidates. They all met the standards of range, offloading power, silent watch capability, payload carrying,” Sando said. “Soldier feedback on all of them was very comparable with regard to what missions they’re good for — and what conditions they’re not appropriate for.”
The Army plans to field the winner starting next year to selected training centers, combat brigades, and support companies — but not infantry squads. “We found out in the operational tech demonstration [that] it can best be supported now at the battalion level,” Sando said, which is the lowest echelon of an infantry unit to include technical specialists such as a heavy weapons company. The Army’s objective is to incorporate the new technologies without adding personnel to take care of them.
The issue with SMET is not just the maintenance the robots require — though that can be a large burden for a squad of nine — but also their limited mobility. “There are places where we ask our soldiers to go where nothing else can go… jungle terrain, steep embankments, water, and dense urban environments,” Sando said. “There are areas soldiers can walk and crawl and climb that we just couldn’t put a vehicle of this size with them.”
The SMET remains very useful for long marches with heavy loads, the bane of infantry soldiers increasingly overburdened by body armor, ammunition, and electronics. Being able to recharge gear from the robot instead of carrying several days’ worth of batteriesfor every item of equipment is itself a significant reduction in weight. Future SMET variants, Sando said, might carry long-range sensors, communications relays, or even weapons.
But when foot troops have to go places you can only go on foot, they need to be able to leave the robot vehicles behind and let someone else take care of them. By contrast, Sando said, “the Soldier-Borne Sensor is smaller than a pack of cigarettes, [so] I can use it when I need it, I can put it back.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
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