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22 Aug 19. Eastern Europe mounts tank inventory push. Most Eastern European countries are focusing their efforts to maintain and strengthen their armoured vehicle inventories. This is being undertaken in accordance with geopolitical ambitions and the availability of funds in defence budgets.
‘What we see there are some ambitious efforts, deemed to be components from long-term re-armament and upgrade programmes of Soviet-era weapons systems. In general, these actions are beefing up the defence potential at the NATO eastern flank,’ Angel Naydenov, former Bulgarian defence minister, who is currently the head of Sofia-based TsIOS independent defence think-tank commented to Shephard.
Poland for instance is investing heavily in the recapitalisation of its sizeable MBT inventory. In late July 2019, the Polish MoD and state-owned Polish Armaments Group (PGZ) inked an agreement covering the overhaul and a small-scale upgrade of 300 T-72M MBTs in the active inventory of the Polish military.
Poland is also upgrading its Leopard 2A4 inventory to the Leopard 2PL standard, with the first tanks delivered in December 2018. This is a deep upgrade effort, which is being undertaken jointly by PGZ’s Bumar-Łabędy and Rheinmetall to cover 128 2A4s. In 2018, another upgrade contract, this time covering 14 more MBTs, was inked for upgrading 2A4s to the 2PL standard.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic signed a contract in July 2019 worth CZK1.5 billion ($60 million) for a total of 33 T-72M4CZ tanks to be upgraded by state-owned VOP CZ company, with completion slated for 2023.
The upgrade works will be centred on the sighting and communication system. In addition, the Czech MoD has disclosed plans for the purchase of new MBTs in the second half of the next decade to replace all the T-72s in the sole tank battalion of the country’s land forces component.
As Naydenov noted, some East European countries have completed an evaluation of the effectiveness of their defence investments which prompted them to go-ahead with the upgrade of the existing defence equipment inherited from the Soviet-era, while other counties in the region have elected to invest in new platforms.
For example, Hungary inked an agreement with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann in December 2018, covering the purchase of 44 Leopard 2A7s plus 12 second-hand Leopard 2A4s for training to replace existing T-72Ms.
Serbia is expecting to received 30 T-72B3 by the end of 2019. These second-hand MBTs will be provided free of charge from Russia, taken from the surplus stocks.
Naydenov said that Serbia has succeeded to materialise its good political relations with Russia, as it is struggling to invest in the procurement of new heavy weapons systems within the context of the permanent crisis of its relations with Kosovo.
Romania is still considering giving a go-ahead of an MBT procurement programme to replace the current TR-85 (a license-built T-55 version) inventory. In July 2019 Romania joined a European Defence Agency project, together with Cyprus, Greece and Spain, calling for the joint procurement, upgrade and operation of Leopard 2 MBTs.
The Romanian MoD has noted that only technical negotiations have been held so far on this project.
In 2018, the Bulgarian defence minister, Krasimir Karakachanov, claimed that the county is set to upgrade a proportion of its T-72 inventory, but no further details have been released. In December 2018, the Bulgarian MoD inked an agreement with state-owned TEREM Holding company for the overhaul of 13 T-72s worth BGN13.6m ($8m). (Source: Shephard)
21 Aug 19. Gabon parades VN1 armoured vehicles. Gabon’s elite Republican Guard (GR) displayed Chinese-made Norinco VN1 8×8 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for the first time during the independence day military parade on 17 August. The commentator for the television coverage of the event said the IFVs are part of the Scouting, Reconnaissance, and Combat Squadron of the GR’s Armoured Intervention Group. The five VN1s that appeared in the parade were not painted in the GR’s standard camouflage, suggesting they were delivered recently.
The IFV variant of the VN1 is a fully amphibious vehicle weighing 21 tonnes with a two-man turret armed with a 30 mm main gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine-gun. It can carry seven dismounts in addition to three crew. It has already been exported to Thailand and Venezuela, with Gabon being its first known operator in Africa.
A pair of Dongfeng EQ2050 vehicles fitted with multiple antennas and cameras also took part in the parade. The television commentator said both are configured for tactical ground-to-ground and air-to-ground communications, with high frequency, VHF, and UHF capabilities.
Several Panhard VBL light-armoured vehicles, Arquus Bastion armoured personnel carriers, and a pair of Nexter Aravis APCs from the Armoured Intervention Group’s Support and Combat Squadron also featured in the parade. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Aug 19. KBR Collaborates with NASA and Amazon Web Services to Stage a Race of Fully Autonomous Vehicles.KBR (NYSE: KBR) has collaborated with NASA and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to successfully stage the “DeepRacer” event where racers operated fully autonomous vehicles using an advanced machine learning technique called reinforcement learning.
NASA and KBR interns and other employees faced off at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Aug. 8 to see whose machine-learning models could propel an AWS DeepRacer vehicle around a track the fastest. Their models rewarded vehicles for speed and accuracy for staying on the course, allowing each vehicle to autonomously make short-term decisions to achieve long-term goals.
KBR intern Minh Nguyen’s winning vehicle circled the track in 13.14 seconds.
At one-eighteenth the size of a normal car, the AWS DeepRacer allows reinforcement learning models built in virtual environments to be tested in the real world, which presents an accessible opportunity for exploring artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
KBR worked with AWS and NASA to organize this event, as well as a pre-race, four-hour workshop with an AWS DeepRacer expert to help interns build, test and fine-tune their reinforcement learning models.
“KBR understands the importance of investing in tomorrow’s workforce. We are proud to have played a key role in an event that fueled interns’ imaginations and developed their AI skills,” said Byron Bright, President, KBR Government Solutions U.S.
“The DeepRacer event also provided an opportunity for NASA to experiment with autonomous systems for future exploration missions and showcased how the private and public sector can collaborate to leverage and advance technology,” he continued.
As one of the world’s largest human spaceflight support organizations and as NASA’s second largest support services contractor, KBR has employees at 11 NASA sites who are helping solve the agency’s biggest challenges. The company is forging the future through technology, innovation, and unmatched expertise, which includes intelligent robotics and autonomous systems, machine learning and AI.
20 Aug 19. Robotic Research Unveils First Multidomain, Transformable, Autonomous Vehicle for Air and Ground. Robotic Research LLC, a leading provider of autonomy and robotic technologies to federal and commercial customers, today at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems —Defense, Protection, Security conference unveiled Pegasus™, a first-of-its-kind transformable unmanned autonomous vehicle (hybrid UAS/UGV) that delivers greater flexibility and performance to reconnaissance and combat operations, while creating a stronger shield for military forces. The new multidomain robotic system is on display today and tomorrow at the AUVSI USDPS show in Booth No. 2 in Washington, D.C.
“We’re excited to be presenting Pegasus to the world today, as the first transformable robotic system — it’s a whole new category of robots,” said Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “Nothing before Pegasus has had the reach or versatility of this system. We look forward to sharing this with our customers in the U.S. military, as well as within commercial sectors and areas such as public works.”
Pegasus is equipped with artificial intelligence that can perform obstacle avoidance and full 3D mapping in any environment, and is operated by a common controller built within the ATAK/Netwarrior application.
The Pegasus robotic system was developed to address intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives missions. Features include:
- Autonomous operations in air or ground modes.
- 20 minutes of operation in flight mode or four hours in ground mode.
- Supporting up to a two-pound payload (ISR and CBRNE payloads available).
- Operating with or without GPS.
- Ability to create a 3D map of its environment.
- First AI system capable of autonomously controlling ground and air mode capabilities.
AUVSI USDPS is the most comprehensive event in the unmanned systems industry, bringing together military leadership, defense experts and the supply chain serving those markets to dig into how unmanned and autonomous systems are changing the landscape of military and intelligence operations and what that means for procurement, technology development and interagency collaboration. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
21 Aug 19. Russia’s Military Industrial Company looks to buy tracked vehicle production facility. Russia’s Military Industrial Company (VPK), which is responsible for production of the country’s Tigr 4×4 protected mobility vehicles and the BTR-82 armoured personnel carrier (APC), is reportedly looking to acquire one of Russia’s tracked vehicle manufacturers to expand its competencies in this area.
“We are carrying out 17 development projects … these are vehicles in new weight categories, on new chassis, including tracked ones,” VPK General Director Alexander Krasovitsky told the TASS news service on 13 August.
At present the privately owned VPK’s shareholders are investigating the feasibility of procuring one of Russia’s existing tracked vehicle manufacturers, explained Krasovitsky without stating which company was under consideration. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Aug 19. Taiwan’s Cloud Leopard II M2 prototype breaks cover. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) showcased a prototype of the next-generation 8×8 Cloud Leopard II armoured vehicle development in public for the first time at the 2019 Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) exhibition held from 15 to 17 August.
The M2 prototype is the second of two Cloud Leopard II development testbeds built by the 209th Arsenal at the MND Armament Bureau’s Materiel Production Centre (MPC) in partnership with the Hsinchu-based Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). Both vehicles have been in trials since 2017, with operational testing expected to conclude at the end of 2019 and serial production to commence thereafter should an order be placed by the MND. Specifications provided to Jane’s by the 209th Arsenal on 17 August reveal that the Cloud Leopard II M2 prototype vehicle currently has a combat weight of 24 and is approximately 7.6m long, 3 m wide, and 2.4m high. It is also equipped with a comparable powerpack with the in-service CM-32/33 Cloud Leopard armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and the forthcoming CM-34 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) for the Republic of China Army (RoCA), comprising a Caterpillar C9 diesel engine coupled to an Allison HD4560P automatic transmission, although engine output has been increased from 410hp to 450hp. A major modification carried over from the M1 prototype unveiled at the 2017 edition of TADTE is a new hydropneumatic suspension system, which replaces the double wishbone suspension of the current Cloud Leopard APCs. It is understood that the latter configuration had drawn criticism from RoCA users about its ride quality and responsiveness. Lieutenant Colonel Su Jen-pao, deputy chief of research and development at the 209th Arsenal, told Jane’s that the hydropneumatic suspension system enables the chassis to be raised or lowered by 80mm in each direction, allowing the driver to optimise the vehicle’s ride height. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Aug 19. French Army seeks new utility trucks. After production began for the VT4 4×4 light tactical vehicle (LTV) for the French Army at Arquus’s facility in Saint Nazaire, the French Direction generale de l’armement (DGA) is expected to issue a request for proposals (RFP) later in 2019 for a new fleet of tactical military vehicles (TMVs) at the higher end of the load carrying spectrum, as well as more specialised models. According to French industry sources, up to 7,700 trucks are expected to be procured in three basic configurations to potentially replace some currently deployed vehicles. DGA issued a request for information (RFI) in 2018 for the procurement. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Aug 19. Taiwan readies CM-34 IFV for delivery. The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense’s (MND’s) Materiel Production Center (MPC) is set to deliver the first tranche of 32 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) variants of the 8×8 Yunpao (Cloud Leopard) armoured vehicle family to the Republic of China Army (RoCA) at the end of 2019, officials told Jane’s during the 2019 Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) held from 15-17 August.
Up to 284 CM-34 IFVs (IFVs), as the type is officially known, will be acquired by the MND.
The vehicle is derived from the common 6.35 m long, 2.7 m wide, and 2.2 m high welded steel hull also used by the in-service CM-32 and CM-33 Cloud Leopard armoured personnel carriers (APCs), although the CM-34 has a combat weight of 24 tonnes as opposed to the 22 tonnes of the earlier variants. The vehicle is equipped with a powerpack comprising a Caterpillar C9 diesel engine coupled to an Allison HD4560P automatic transmission, although engine output has been increased from 410hp to 450hp to compensate for the additional weight. Its most distinguishing feature is the protected two-person turret armed with an electro mechanically stabilised Orbital ATK Mk 44 Bushmaster II 30 mm dual-feed autocannon, which is provided with 420 rounds of ready-to-fire ammunition – such as armour piercing (AP), high-explosive incendiary (HE-I), or target practice (TP) – with secondary armament comprising a 7.62mm co-axial gun and roof-mounted T74 7.62mm general purpose machine gun. Six electrically operated smoke grenade launchers are also fitted to either side of the turret and aimed towards the front. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Aug 19. New IFVs top priority for Bulgaria’s Land Forces inventory. The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has commented that its request of new wheeled combat vehicles is one of the most important projects for recapitalisation of the country’s Land Forces inventory.
On 5 August the country’s MoD forwarded an RfP to four pre-selected bidders in a tender set to deliver 90 8×8 wheeled IFVs – armed with a 30mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun and anti-tank guided missiles.
The tender has an allocated budget of BGN 1.464bn ($830m).
In addition, the tender calls for 60 more support vehicles (equipped for reconnaissance, command and control, medical evacuation and other support roles), which could be offered on 4×4, 6×6 or 8×8 chassis.
According to tender requirements, Sofia expects the first wheeled IFVs to be delivered within 12 months of contract signature.
The offer submission deadline is set at 31 October 2019. Krasimir Karakachanov, the Bulgarian defence minister, told local press that an industry winner should be selected by 20 December, while the contract is expected to be inked in early 2020..
The Bulgarian MoD told Shephard that the 150 vehicles set to be purchased under this project are considered to be enough only for attaining an initial operational capability of the four battalion battle groups, while additional vehicles will be ordered at a later stage.
The RfP has been forwarded to a short list of four bidders – ARTEC of Gemrany, Patria of Finland, Nexter Group of France and General Dynamics Land Systems – MOWAG (GDLS) of US/Switzerland.
Previously, Turkey’s Otokar and Italy’s Iveco – Oto Melara had expressed an interest in participating in the tender, but the Bulgarian MoD decided against their inclusion. The service confirmed that only four companies were short listed following a technical analysis of their products, approved by the Bulgarian government.
GDLS explained to Shephard that the company is going to submit an offer, but declined to provide further details about the wheeled combat vehicle models intended to be proposed to the Bulgarian military. The company used to promote in Bulgaria its Piranha V, outfitted with the Elbit Systems UT30MK2 unmanned turret.
Patria declined to provide comment on its plans for participation, explaining only that there is a tender in progress. The company has promoted to the Bulgarian military its AMV XP model, outfitted with the Rafael Samson Mk II turret.
Nexter and ARTEC did not respond to a request for information about their plans for participation. Both companies have promoted the VBCI and Boxer models respectively to Bulgaria.
In order to trim down the project’s overall price, the Bulgarian MoD has relaxed its requirements for the support vehicles, making possible the use of cheaper platforms. GDLS, however, declined to reveal details on its support vehicle offer, only noting that the company has a large portfolio of wheeled platforms. (Source: Shephard)
20 Aug 19. Russia develops unmanned T-72s. Russian company Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) is developing two unmanned variants of the T-72B3 main battle tank (MBT), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on its website on 12 August. One variant “is a crewless combat vehicle with heavy weapons, the second is a crewless combat vehicle with automatic guns,” the MoD said.
UVZ chief designer Andrei Terlikov showed the robotic vehicles to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu when he visited Workshop 130, which produces all of Russia’s MBTs, on 12 August.
“Robot tanks do not need crews. Robots without human intervention will detect enemy weapons, destroy them, designate targets,” UVZ said in a summary of press coverage of the visit published on its website on 16 August. “Artificial intelligence of machines is able to systematise and analyse intelligence data, [and] make decisions independently.” This indicates that Russia intends to develop an unmanned MBT without the need for a human in the loop. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Aug 19. Taiwan readies CM-34 IFV for delivery. The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense’s (MND’s) Materiel Production Center (MPC) is set to deliver the first tranche of 32 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) variants of the 8×8 Yunpao (Cloud Leopard) armoured vehicle family to the Republic of China Army (RoCA) at the end of 2019, officials told Jane’s during the 2019 Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) held from 15-17 August. Up to 284 CM-34 IFVs (IFVs), as the type is officially known, will be acquired by the MND. The vehicle is derived from the common 6.35 m long, 2.7 m wide, and 2.2 m high welded steel hull also used by the in-service CM-32 and CM-33 Cloud Leopard armoured personnel carriers (APCs), although the CM-34 has a combat weight of 24 tonnes as opposed to the 22 tonnes of the earlier variants. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
16 Aug 19. Canada awards multi-billion contract to General Dynamics as election looms. Canada on Friday announced a multi-billion dollar contract with General Dynamics Corp for equipment that will be manufactured in a region where the ruling Liberals need to do well in an October election.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Ottawa would buy 360 light armored vehicles from General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in a deal worth up to C$3bn ($2.26bn). It is also offering the firm a repayable loan of C$650m. The vehicles will be built in London, in the province of Ontario. The Liberals hold most of Ontario’s seats in the House of Commons and need to retain them to stand any chance of holding onto power in the Oct. 21 election. The deal is the latest in a string of high-profile government spending announcements in politically sensitive parts of Canada. The official opposition Conservatives, tied in polls with the Liberals, accuse their rivals of trying to buy votes. Sajjan spokesman Todd Lane denied any link to the election, saying money for the vehicles had been announced in 2017.
“This is about taking care of our women and men in uniform,” he said by telephone.
The contract will help preserve jobs at the General Dynamics plant amid continuing uncertainty over the fate of a separate $13bn deal to sell light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Critics, citing concerns over Riyadh’s human rights record, insist the contract be scrapped. Ottawa is still studying whether to tear up the deal, which it says would cost millions of dollars in penalties. (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
15 Aug 19. USMC to Increase JLTV Buy to 15,000 to Replace its Humvee Fleet. The US Marine Corps is nearly doubling the number of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles it plans to buy to replace its fleet of aging Humvees, officials said this week. The planned increase — up to about 15,000 from the 9,000 the service initially planned to buy — comes as the Marine Corps recently declared the JLTV has reached initial operating capability and is ready to deploy with Marines into combat. The JLTV is the result of a joint effort by the Army and the Marine Corps to field a more capable tactical vehicle after seeing how the Cold War-era Humvee could not protect troops from the powerful, homemade bombs enemy forces used on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Corps had originally planned on buying just 5,500 JLTVs but later increased that number to 9,000. Even with that increase, the Marines maintained earlier this year that the JLTV would replace only about 60 percent of the service’s Humvees over the next decade.
The Marine Corps currently has 15,390 Humvees in its inventory, according to Barbara Hamby, spokeswoman for Program Executive Officer Land Systems.
Military.com asked the Marine Corps to explain a recent statement that the service will replace its entire fleet of Humvees with JLTVs. Officials with Marine Corps Combat Development Command said they originally planned to buy 9,000 of the new vehicles, but that changed once the service evaluated the rest of its light fleet.
“We subsequently completed the evaluation and presented the information to the commandant, at which time he concurred with replacing the remainder of the light fleet with JLTVs,” the command said in a statement. “The total number of JLTVs will be dependent on future force size and composition, but we are planning for an acquisition of approximately 15,000 vehicles.”
It is unknown whether the Army will change its plans for the JLTV as well. The Army originally planned on buying just over 49,000 JLTVs. The remainder of Humvees not replaced by JLTVs would make up the bulk of the 117,000-vehicle requirement for the service’s light tactical vehicle fleet, Army officials said in February.
In April, however, then-Army Secretary Mark Esper said that the 49,000 JLTV requirement was first decided on before the new National Defense Strategy directed the U.S. military to focus more on near-peer competitors such as Russia and China and made the Middle East a lower priority. Esper, who has since become defense secretary, said it could take a year to 18 months for the Army to complete an evaluation that will decide how many JLTVs will be necessary to support the service’s new warfare strategy. Military.com reached out to the service, asking whether that timeline has changed, but did not receive a response by press time. (Source: glstrade.com/Military.com)
16 Aug 19. Poland orders support vehicles for Rak mortars. The Polish Armament Inspectorate signed a PLN129m (USD32.8m) contract with Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW) on 13 August for the delivery of 24 Artyleryjski Wóz Amunicyjny (AWA) ammunition supply vehicles for Rak M120 self-propelled mortar companies in 2019–20. “I hope that in the third quarter of this year another contract will be signed ordering more Rak mortars,” Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak announced at the contract-signing ceremony. The AWA vehicle is based on the Jelcz 882.52 8×8 chassis, featuring a STANAG 4569 level-1 two-man armoured cabin and platform-equipped with six pallets for 120mm mortar ammunition.
A Rak company comprises eight M120 Rak mortars, four Artyleryjski Wóz Dowodzenia (AWD) artillery command vehicles, two Artyleryjski Wóz Rozpoznania (AWR) artillery reconnaissance vehicles, three ammunition supply vehicles, one Artyleryjski Wóz Remontu Uzbrojenia (AWRU) artillery repair vehicle, and one Ciężki Kołowy Pojazd Ewakuacji I Ratownictwa Technicznego (CKPEiRT) recovery vehicle. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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