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11 Oct 19. General Dynamics to unveil latest Stryker at AUSA. General Dynamics Land Systems will unveil the new Stryker A1 Medium Calibre Weapon System variant at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition. The new variant features a 30mm cannon that was successfully lived-fired last month. In May of this year, the US Army selected five companies – General Dynamics, Kollsman, Leonardo, Raytheon and Pratt & Miller – to integrate the increased firepower cannon on the Stryker.
General Dynamics described the new medium calibre Stryker as ‘the next generation of the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle Dragoon (ICVD)’ which is currently in use with the US Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment based in Vilseck, Germany.
In a press release, the company said: “It provides a solution for the army’s operational need for greater lethality in the Stryker fleet. This low-risk, proven solution is ready to meet the army’s programme timelines.”
The US Army has been looking to increase the strength of the Stryker, including integrating different non-conventional weapons platforms. This push for an upgraded Stryker has also seen vehicles testing directed energy weapons systems.
The upgrade of the Stryker fleet became necessary after Russian military involvement in Ukraine posed a threat to NATO allies in Eastern Europe. Equivalent Russian vehicles in the region outgunned the US Stryker creating the need for boosted capabilities.
The Stryker first entered service in 2002 and has been used heavily by the US Military ever since, being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and by Special Forces in the fight against IS. Around a third of the US’s infantry forces use the Stryker.
Speaking at the 2019 Maneuver Warfighter Conference US Army Colonel Syd Hills said upgrades to the platform would help it keep up with ‘near-peer’ competitors.
The US Army also previously said: “Strykers have seen extensive service in the post-9/11 era, but the army has seen a need to prepare them for the battlefield challenges they’d face in combat against near-peer military adversaries.”
The eight-wheeled vehicle has seen numerous variants since its first deployment including anti-tank, infantry carrying, reconnaissance, and mortar variants. The new General Dynamics system will use a ‘double-v’ hull to increase protection from mines and improvised explosive devices.
Other systems General Dynamics is set to showcase at AUSA include the Iron Fist Light Active Protection System (APS) to defend vehicles from incoming threats, and the XM1113 Rocket Assisted Projectile (RAP) which will increase artillery range to up to 40km. (Source: army-technology.com)
11 Oct 19. Arms and Security 2019: Infocom displays new Scorpion combat UGV. Ukrainian company Infocom unveiled its new Scorpion combat unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) at the Arms and Security exhibition held in Kiev on 8–11 October.
The tracked UGV has been designed for combat operations and is described by the company as a mobile, multifunctional, unmanned fire, and tactical reconnaissance device.
The platform can reinforce dismounted troops and three used together can provide a fire system for the active defence of a squadron. Scorpion is fitted with a PK machine gun with a 250 7.62×54 mm R round ammunition box with two rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) tubes.
Various levels of autonomy are offered, including ‘follow me’, waypoint navigation, and ‘return home’. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
11 Oct 19. Airbus and LM Industries Join Forces to Create Mobility Startup, Neorizon. and LM Industries, the world’s first and only digital manufacturer, have announced the formation of Neorizon to provide disruptive and innovative products with an initial focus on local mobility and autonomy. The Neorizon microfactory will build products at unprecedented speeds through the combination of co-creation and cutting-edge technology. Its efficiency will allow products to be iterated regularly to match customers’ needs and preferences.
“Every local and state government is faced with challenges such as rapid urbanization and congestion, inefficient and pollutive transport, and ever-changing and evolving technology,” said Jay Rogers, CEO and founder of LM Industries. “Current transport infrastructure and existing mass manufacturing are too inflexible and capital intense to service evolving technology trends and changing consumer demands.”
Neorizon brings together the flexibility of professional digital manufacturing and the expertise of one of the world’s leading aerospace and defense companies in a venture unlike any other to answer the globe’s most pressing mobility and manufacturing concerns. With access to the technological innovations of both partners – such as LMI’s open, AV shuttle platform and Airbus’ positioning system for drones enabling easier and safer take-off and landing – Neorizon employees and customers can imagine and create solutions unforeseen to anyone else such as urban cargo.
“We’ve been working with LM Industries’ team at Local Motors since early 2016 when we realized the unique value proposition surrounding direct digital manufacturing and open-source design,” says Peter Weckesser, Digital Transformation Officer of Airbus Defence and Space. “Both parties recognized the commercial opportunities for pooling resources and expertise, specifically combining LM Industries’ digital manufacturing with Airbus’ materials expertise, metal 3D printing and additive manufacturing, and prototyping and serial production capabilities.”
Neorizon’s headquarters and microfactory will be built at Airbus’ Ludwig-Bölkow-Campus near Munich, Germany in conjunction with an Innovation Campus including a new Technical University of Munich Campus. The microfactory will bring 150-200 high tech jobs along with design and engineering apprenticeship opportunities for those still pursuing or without completed formal education. To facilitate consistent engagement and brainstorms, the microfactory comes complete with a built gathering space and an “innovation coffee shop” for Industry 4.0 leadership. (Source: Google/Yahoo!)
11 Oct 19. Arms and Security 2019: Roboneers displays new Camel UGV and upgraded Ironclad. Ukrainian company Roboneers unveiled its new Camel unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) at the Arms and Security defence exhibition held in Kiev on 8-11 October.
Camel is similar in appearance to the Ironclad UGV but is designed entirely for logistics operations. It is similar to the Ironclad, except weighs much less.
The 4×4 platform weighs 500 kg and can carry a 400 kg payload. It can operate for up to 11 hours at a time when carrying a normal load. When running entirely on battery power, the unit can operate for up to two hours. The hybrid power reserve covers a range of up to 130 km.
Camel can achieve speeds of up to 20km/h and a maximum gradient climb and side slope of 35˚. The unit has a length of 2.8m, width of 1.7m, and height of 1.3m. It has a ground clearance of 40cm and a towing capacity of up to 1,000kg.
The 1,500 kg Ironclad has been upgraded. The front section has been enlarged to incorporate a larger 12.7 mm remote weapon station (RWS), as well as to be able to fit new liquid cooling systems to enable use of the platform in hot conditions. The RWS has 400 rounds of ammunition. It has a 360˚ view, day and night vision, as well as thermal imaging. The Ironclad is equipped with various sensors for collecting and transmitting data, as well as guidance and tracking purposes. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
09 Oct 19. ARQUUS presents its new logistics 8×8 truck. Exhibitor at the Forum Enterprise Défense currently taking place in Satory, ARQUUS presents its vision of the logistics truck for the armed forces. This 8×8 is the first element of a fully new ARQUUS logistics range, specifically developed to meet the military needs.
ARQUUS’ story is also the story of troop and equipment transport vehicles which have been serving in the French Army for more than a century.
Supplier of the first motor vehicle of the Army (the 1898 Panhard), of the Berliet and Renault Trucks of the Voie Sacrée, vital to the defense of Verdun, and the Latil tractors, ARQUUS is also the manufacturer of the lengendary VLRA, which have been serving on all theaters of operations. The company has also been supplying the GBC 8KT and GBC 180, as well as the TRM, which have been the workhorses of the armies or decades, and which still take charge of a large part of the Army logistics.
Supporting the armies, ARQUUS still supports and modernizes these fleets, many of which have been in service for more than 40 years.
The 8×8 base for this new ARQUUS logistics truck is manufactured in France and has been specifically designed for military applications. Its innovative driveline has been developed on own equity by ARQUUS with the Group’s support and know-how.
The vehicle benefits from an electronic management system for the driveline, the ATC (Automatic Traction Control). This new generation system automatically switches on and off the forward axles’ motricity. It also manages the differential locks on all axles.
The vehicle thus benefits from optimal mobility on all grounds, while also limiting the tire wear and the fuel consumption. This feature reduces the needs for maintenance and support.
Versatile, this 8×8 truck is available for all kinds of missions for the armies, from logistics and strategic transport to tank or systems transport, as well as breakdown truck missions. Depending on these missions, ARQUUS can offer two different versions for the cabin: unprotected, and protected against ballistic and mine threats according to STANAG 4569.
The 8×8 can accommodate a ring-mounted weapon, or a remote-controlled weapon system as the Hornet Lite, weapon of choice for self-defense. The new 8×8 has also been designed to accommodate new generation information and communication systems. It is notably Scorpion-equipment ready.
It can be equipped with all the automation solutions developed within the Group, notably the platooning solutions. It is also ready for the most advanced technologies regarding energy management and maintenance. These proven solutions, first developed for important civilian duty trucks, are available for the armies, thanks to ARQUUS’ experience in terms of dual technology militarization, adaptation and integration.
ARQUUS’ historical know-how in the fields of support, based on long-term support for wide kinds of fleets, allows for significant cuts in maintenance costs and optimized availability. In order to get closer to the armies, ARQUUS also benefits from its logistics network, in France as all over the world.
10 Oct 19. Jankel launches their Next Generation Seating Solutions for AUSA 2019. Jankel, a world-leader in the design and manufacture of highly specialized defense, security and NGO protection systems, will be launching its next generation seating solutions in parallel to this year’s Association of the United States Army (AUSA) exhibition, the largest Land Warfare tradeshow in North America taking place in Washington DC, 14-16 October 2019.
Jankel brings to the market its most extensive range of specialist seats for military applications yet: the latest range of blast-mitigating seat products, alongside the launch of lightweight non-mitigating seats for troop transport and tactical requirements. This seating range has been designed to push ergonomic boundaries in order to deliver increased occupant safety, enhanced personnel comfort and incorporates properties that reduce the harmful vibrations experienced by a seated occupant.
Jankel first chose to develop its own seating solutions to mitigate the effects of IED blasts when they were unable to find any seats on the market that met their challenging standards. To date, Jankel has delivered over 100,000 blast attenuating seats worldwide and is on most of the Tactical Vehicle Platforms and Mine-Resistant Ambush Resistant (MRAP) vehicles around the world.
US-based Jankel Tactical Systems, part of the global Jankel group of companies, is excited to be offering this enhanced range of seat products, delivering a further leap forward in comfort as well as continued reduction in weight for their already world-leading blast-mitigating seats. The Lightweight Mesh Seat has, in particular, been developed to specifically support tactical operations for Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) requirements, where weight reduction and improved crew comfort is a necessity.
Cody Baker, CEO Jankel Tactical Systems said: “Our Next Generation Seating Solutions are really exciting and should position Jankel well to meet the current and future needs of the military for years to come. We’ve invested extensively in innovative seating technology and believe that this latest range of seats will ensure that Jankel remains the premier choice for all military seating applications”. He added: “This new range is being released alongside AUSA on the back of successful live fire blast testing and down selection on recent programs. The Jankel team will be at AUSA and look forward to discussing this new generation of seating and welcome the opportunity to network with global OEMs as well as existing customers to discuss their requirements in detail.”
10 Oct 19. DVD2020: Dates Announced For The UK’S Biggest Defence Land Equipment Event. Today, Army Headquarters and DE&S Land Equipment have confirmed that THE EVENT for those involved in equipment and support for the UK’s Land Forces will return to Millbrook on 16 and 17 September 2020.
DVD2020 will showcase the latest innovations and developments, and for the first time will look beyond Defence capabilities to explore the technologies and equipment used by other sectors and commercial industries. The leading stakeholder event will bring together acquisition teams and the Defence industry, focusing on future requirements and opportunities over two days of informal discussions, engagement with users, briefings, seminars, demonstrations and live displays.
Those attending will be able to see a wide range of equipment on display, from industry and the military, including everything from specialist vehicles to the equipment and services necessary to support land-based military operations.
For those involved in Land Equipment for Army, DE&S, other Front Line Commands and the Defence Academy, DVD2020 provides an ideal opportunity to explore new and emerging technologies and develop ideas for how this tech could benefit the UK’s Land Forces in the future.
DLE explains: “We are excited to announce the dates for DVD2020 and look forward to returning to Millbrook again in September. Now in its 14th year, the event will continue its evolution, bringing together the UK Defence Sector to deliver cutting edge battle winning equipment to our Land Forces.
DVD2020 will give the Land Environment community the opportunity to enhance our shared understanding of the challenges that we face and seek the opportunities that collaboration and innovation can offer. I look forward to engaging in these conversations with many of you at DVD2020”.
Providers of equipment and support for the UK’s Land Forces and industry that specialise in hybrid, electric and automated technology who would like to exhibit at DVD2020, are encouraged to register their interest at www.theevent.co.uk.
08 Oct 19. Who Will Build 651 Parachuting Trucks For The Army Auto giant General Motors is the outsider in a competition against two teams of companies with decades of defense experience. Three very different teams are vying to build the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle, a truck tough enough to parachute out of an airplane and then drive away cross-country with nine heavily armed infantrymen. By Nov. 13th, each team owes the Army two vehicles for testing, with the winner getting a contract for 651 ISVs next year.
Let’s meet the players.
The Oshkosh-Flyer team is the closest thing to an incumbent in the competition. The Army had earlier picked the Flyer-72 as an interim air-droppable transport, the A-GMV, and Flyer is offering an upgraded version for the follow-on program, ISV. Actual mass production will be done by Oshkosh, which makes a host of Army trucks — most prominently, the beefed-up successor to the Humvee, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), which the Army and Marine Corps plan to buy over 50,000 of in the coming decades.
What’s more, Oshkosh plans to build the 5,000-pound ISV on the same assembly line as all its other vehicles, from the 14,000-lb JLTV to 10-ton FMTV dump trucks. (The earlier version of the Flyer-72 was mass-produced by General Dynamics). The ISV will be the lightest vehicle on the Oshkosh line, VP George Mansfield told me, but the company is confident it can build the air-droppable trucks more affordably than Flyer could — and at least as well. In fact, Mansfield said, he expects the Oshkosh-built version to be more reliable. That’s in part because of Oshkosh’s manufacturing expertise — it won the JLTV contract in large part because its offering broke down less than half as often as uparmored Humvees — and in part because of Flyer’s extensive field experience with the earlier versions built for the Army and Special Operation Command.
For a half century, DRS has provided military forces around the world with advanced technologies and capabilities to meet their mission needs. Here are some highlights.
As a team, Mansfield told me, “we’ve learned a lot about reliability, we’ve learned a lot about life-cycle cost, that now we can take here at Oshkosh with our extensive knowledge of all the other product lines we sell to the Army.”
Polaris and SAIC both have plenty of defense experience. Polaris’s DAGOR did lose the earlier A-GMV contest to Flyer, but numerous DAGOR variants are in widespread service with Special Operations Command, the 82nd Airborne Division (shown in the video above), Canada, and other foreign customers the company can’t disclose.
“The DAGOR is already certified” — by the Army itself — “for all of the transport requirements that the Army is looking for, whether that’s internal air transport, sling-load transport, or air-drop,” Polaris VP Jed Leonard told me. And each of those prior customers required tweaks to the platform or special mission equipment — heavy weapons, sensors, radios — that the DAGOR could easily accommodate.
Integrating such high-tech kit is SAIC’s core competency. While not a manufacturer itself, SAIC has done decades of integration work for the military, most extensively on the MRAP program, fitting other companies’ vehicles with the sophisticated electronics that turn a truck into a weapons system. It also provides extensive maintenance and other support worldwide.
The two companies have worked together on and off, on small projects, for years, as various customers bought Polaris vehicles and then asked SAIC to equip them for specific military missions. But the current partnership is a big step up for both.
The odd man out is GM Defense, which giant General Motors created — in a sense, re-created — not quite two years ago after selling off most of its defense programs back in 2003. GM Defense president David Albritton just came aboard a year ago and has spent much of his time working with “Mother GM” on potential joint projects and spin-offs, from self-driving car technology to hydrogen fuel cells, he told me in an interview. “I’m not reporting any revenues at this point,” he said, although GM Defense does already have some contracts he can’t disclose.
GM’s offering is the only contender without a prior track record in the military. But their ISV is derived from the Chevrolet Colorado, of which US customers have bought more than 100,000 a year of since 2016, giving GM staggering efficiencies of scale no competitor can match. Specifically, the GM ISV a beefed-up, militarized version of the Colorado’s offroad racing variant, the ZR2, with which it shares 70 percent of the same parts — parts that are available from Chevy dealers worldwide. GM builds over 10,000 ZR2s a year: a rounding error for General Motors but a megaprogram for the Army.
GM’s scale advantage is not just in production and parts. It’s also in engineering. The company spends over $7bn a year on R&D, Albritton told me, and its ISV offering includes advanced suspension systems like jounce shocks and dynamic spooling. GM’s challenge is overcoming its inexperience in the defense sector — especially, proving it can integrate military electronics onto its civilian-derived vehicle.
The Big Picture
Overall, ISV is an especially interesting competition because none of the contenders is a classic defense prime:
- Oshkosh and Polaris both have lots of civilian customers alongside their extensive military business.
- Flyer is a subunit of a modest aerospace and defense components-builder called Marvin Group.
- SAIC is a systems engineering and service firm rather than a traditional Original Equipment Manufacturer.
- And GM of course is one of the biggest civilian manufacturers in the country. “We make upwards of nine million cars a year,” Albritton told me, each put together out of roughly 30,000 different parts.
Compare and contrast the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program, which is de facto down to a single competitor — defense industry stalwart General Dynamics (which bought GM’s previous defense business back in 2003). ISV shows the kind of variety that the Army wants to encourage and needs to infuse innovation and competition into its programs.
Yes, at 651 trucks — at least, in the initial 2020 contract — this is a modest program in both size and technological ambition. It’s easily overshadowed by the hypersonic missiles, high-speed aircraft, and robotic tanks of the Army’s Big Six priorities. By contrast, for the predecessor competition (the one Flyer won) back in 2015, we ran eight stories in three months because there was so little else the cash-strapped and acquisition challenged Army was buying at the time.
But the Infantry Squad Vehicle is still an important piece of the larger Army puzzle. The Army’s infantry brigades — especially its 82nd Airborne parachutists — are its most strategically deployable units, easily packed into aircraft and flown around the world overnight, while heavy armored forces cram two tanks into one C-17 or, more often, go by ship. But once the infantry arrives, it moves on foot. (Although we bet everyone in the 82nd remembers being called a “speed bump” in this Defense Science Board study.)
The idea of ISV is a troop transport light enough to be air-dropped or, more often, delivered by helicopter. That way, the troops can land a long distance from their target — specifically, far enough their transport planes or helicopters aren’t shot down by anti-aircraft missiles — and then advance quickly overnight before attacking on foot at dawn. We expect to see all three competing vehicles on the show floor at the Association of the US Army megaconference next week. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
08 Oct 19. Beetle-like Iranian robots can roll under tanks. On screen, the small robot slides perfectly underneath the textureless tank. It is a modern iteration of an old promise in remote warfare, rendered with all the processing power of a desktop PC from 1994. Can a small, cheap robot prove useful against the vehicles of an enemy at war?
A recent exhibition of unmanned ground vehicles by Iran suggests that the possibility, if not the reality, is already in development.
Designed by the Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization of the Iranian Army, the Heidair-1 is almost certainly bound for life as an expendable battlefield platform.
“There are many countries and forces using small [unmanned ground vehicles] for ISR and other roles — many belligerents in the Middle East have them, including several DIY models made by non-state actors,” said Samuel Bendett, an adviser at the Center for Naval Analyses.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Army Ground Forces, or NEZAJA, shared pictures of the new machine on Twitter Oct. 3. The default body of the robot is a six-wheeled tan box, with a pair of antenna sticking out toward the rear of the machine. Of the six Heidair-1 platforms featured, two were models with assault rifles mounted on top of the little rovers, magazines pointed skyward.
“NEZAJA had an expo in Tehran where it unveiled several concepts, including this small UGV, Heidar-1. It appears to be a proof of concept, and there is no evidence of this UGV taking part in combat,” Bendett said.
In the same video, NEZAJA shows one of the robots driving toward a rough tank-like shape. It explodes, fulfilling the promise of the simulation, and hearkening back to an earlier era of anti-tank warfare. In World War II, Germany fielded thousands of Goliath remote-control anti-tank mines, designed to crawl under parked tanks and detonate through the softer armor below.
“This is the first time we have seen Iran unveil such a vehicle,” said Bendett, a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council. “Equally interesting is their claim that this will be a ‘networked’ system of vehicles that can presumably function in more or less autonomous mode. At this point, however, they are remote-controlled devices.”
In a video demonstration, the rovers are either single-use mines or armed with machine guns. They are shown being used as combined arms with flying multirotor scouts. Whatever the guts of the new rolling rovers, the ability to guide them remotely to targets spotted by drone adds to the range of threats small robots can pose to armored vehicles.
“This Heidair-1UGV may act … as a kamikaze vehicle that may sneak up on its target much faster given its overall small size,” Bendett said. “We may not see this UGV operate in Iranian Army, but we may see such a vehicle operated by Houthis in their campaign against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its aligned forces.” (Source: Defense News)
08 Oct 19. US Army soldiers support GVSC virtual experiment for NGCV. US Army soldiers have participated in a Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) virtual experiment in support of the next-generation combat vehicle (NGCV) development. The virtual experiment was conducted for five days last month. It was supported by 30 soldiers from 4th Infantry Division’s (4ID) 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The testing will inform the NGCV Cross-Functional Team’s (CFT) learning campaign for manned and unmanned teaming.
NGCV CFT director brigadier general Ross Coffman said: “This latest experiment will provide us with an understanding of which technologies are most critical for the robotic combat vehicle to be successful in an operational environment.”
During the experiment, the robotic combat vehicle (RCV) and new technologies were tested against a simulated near-peer enemy in a video game environment.
The RCVs and technologies were tested to help understand their use in offensive and defensive missions in open and urban terrain.
Feedback was gathered on enabling technologies such as smoke generation, tethered unmanned aerial systems, target designator, and signal boost during the event.
Coffman added: “One of the things we are looking at is if a lighter, less-protected RCV can achieve similar battlefield effect as a heavier but more protected one, while both having the same lethality package.”
An infantryman who took part in the experiment noted that the RCVs demonstrated capability to ‘effectively designate targets and conduct target handoff with other RCVs, which executed the target using Hellfire missiles’.
In December, the 1st Cavalry Division will support the next experiment at the Detroit Arsenal.
All these events will support a live soldier experiment to be conducted in March and April.
Coffman concluded: “These soldier touchpoints are essential to how Army Futures Command is executing the army’s modernisation priority.
“Soldiers are at the centre of everything we do, and their insight is crucial to developing these new technologies.” (Source: army-technology.com)
08 Oct 19. Armoured fighting vehicles: which is better, tracks or wheels? Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) get troops from A to B while packing serious firepower. They bring the fight to the enemy on track and on wheels – but which is better?
Wheely good vehicles
When it comes to wheeled vehicles a few stand out as equally advanced as they are fearsome. The General Dynamics Piranha V, Stryker, and the Rheinmettal Boxer are some of most technologically advanced infantry fighting vehicles on the market, but they wouldn’t be able to get around if it weren’t for a Neolithic invention.
We’ll wade into the seemingly endless debate of whether wheels or tracks are better by pointing out some of the significant advantages of the former. One of these pros is speed; simply put wheeled vehicles can go faster – albeit surface permitting. Put a tank side by side with a wheeled vehicle on a city street and there is no contest.
The inability of tracked vehicles to get around a city without causing damage came into focus earlier this year in the US, when authorities in Washington, DC said they would destroy the capital’s streets if deployed in a Fourth of July military parade.
Of course tearing up the streets of a city doesn’t matter too much when it isn’t your own city but rather one in a far-flung corner of the globe. However, due to the nature of cities’ tight, close-quarters firing lines, slowly hulking through the streets on tracks makes you an easy target for a combatant with a rocket-propelled grenade. The faster speed of wheeled vehicles, on the other hand, comes into its own in these environments.
A 2017 RAND corporation report commissioned by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group details how this became a problem for the US during the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The report reads: “The heavy American M1A1s and the M2 Bradley IFVs particularly angered many locals because their treads damaged many fields and road systems. Also, the larger vehicles’ inability to navigate urban terrain led to additional casualties.”
The RAND report adds: “Wheeled vehicles have shown better on-road mobility, savings in maintenance, and reduced crew and squad fatigue”.
Maintenance and ease of repair is another positive to using wheeled platforms over tracks. If a tank is hit and the track becomes separated it is rendered immobile, whereas if a tire is blown, thanks to run flat technology, the vehicle can usually travel far enough to get out of danger.
Stealth is another area where wheels work well. Moving a tracked vehicle takes more force due to their larger size, and more force equals more noise, whereas wheels lend themselves to a quieter approach. This sentiment is a focus of a 1998 US report into the merits of both systems saying: “On the plus side, wheeled platforms provide a reduced noise signature while moving, primarily due to less vibration and metal to metal contact on running gear.”
Track to the future
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) Leopard 2A7. Credits: Bundeswehr.
When your mission takes you off the beaten track – as combat so often does – wheeled vehicles tend to run aground.
The US report explains: “From a mobility perspective, tracked vehicles offer the best solution for a versatile platform that is required to operate over diverse terrain, including extremely difficult ground.” Where wheels get bogged down, tracks with their increased surface area and drive provide a better solution.
Another area where tracked vehicles excel is payload, and again this lies in surface area. The amount of armaments and armour a tank can carry is made possible by the vehicle’s capacity to carry it. A wheeled system loaded with a comparable weight would sink and be immovable as soon as it hits even slightly boggy terrain a wheeled system, rendering it useless to the fight.
As the RAND report puts it, “tracked vehicles have shown their advantages in off-road mobility, flexibility in weight growth, and ability to fight and survive on the battlefield”.
Tracked vehicles also have benefit of increased survivability, especially when faced with small-arms fire. A British Army Field manual describes how heavily armoured vehicles negated the use of small-arms fire in Basrah during the Iraq War, allowing troops to be moved safely. With recent combat operations involving Western nations being geared heavily towards counter-insurgency, the ability to manoeuvre while staying protected is a clear advantage of tracked systems.
The merits of survivability are also discussed in the 1998 US report which says: “From a survivability perspective, tracked vehicles offer smaller silhouettes, reduced volume, enhanced manoeuvrability, and better ballistic protection, providing a balance that equates to a more survivable platform.”
This survivability goes a long way to protect the troops inside the vehicle, making tracked vehicles a superior option for getting soldiers from A to B – albeit slower.
Another thing tracked vehicles have in their favour is manoeuvrability when it comes to changing direction. Tracks allow vehicles to turn on the spot making it easier to aim and navigate. This is where tracks juxtapose themselves. While they are slower and heavier in an urban setting, they can navigate tight urban spaces easier due to their pivot-steering.
The ability to turn on the spot and take cover in an alley means that in tight situations, a tracked vehicle can scuttle away while one with wheels could be caught trying to perform a three point turn. This pivot turning is also useful when tight mountain trails, only increasing tracked vehicles’ off-road performance.
A hybrid future?
“The distinctions between vehicle classes are blurring with the introduction of new technologies and systems,” reads one of the key findings of RAND’s report.
This doesn’t mean a WWII style half-track re-entering the fray. But new hybrid systems are in the making, for example in the form of DARPA’s reconfigurable wheel track (RWT) system which asks the question of why not have both? The system operates like a traditional wheel but can instantly transform into a triangular track.This system – fitted on a Humvee, not an AFV– unites the merits of the two approaches giving speed and traction as required. The development is still a long way from being adopted into service, but is part of DARPA’s wider push for mobility under the Ground X-Vehicle Technologies programme to reduce the size and weight of vehicles and make conquering a variety of terrains a feat achievable by most of the US military’s land systems. These technologies, however, are still early in development with no word as to when they may enter service.
Ultimately the decision as to what system is better lies in the question of where you are going. With combat environments rapidly changing, future systems may need to bridge the divide of tracks and wheels to keep pace. (Source: army-technology.com)
07 Oct 19. Bradley Replacement: US Army Risks Third Failure In A Row. With the surprise disqualification of the Raytheon-Rheinmetall Lynx, the Army has effectively left itself with one competitor for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, General Dynamics — unless the Pentagon or Congress intervene. Experts fear the Army has undermined a top priority program, the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, by disqualifying one of the only two remaining competitors for not delivering its prototype on time.
“I cannot believe that is the reason,” said a baffled Thomas Spoehr, a retired three-star who headed the Army’s program analysis & evaluation office. There must be, he told me this morning, some more profound problem driving this decision: “Nobody wants to have this major program go forward with only one competitor.”
The news was broken by our colleague Jen Judson on Friday and confirmed to us by several sources. The Army declined official comment. Manufacturer Rheinmetall could not physically ship their Lynx-41 prototype from Germany to the US — which is strange, since they’ve managed to do so before — by the October first deadline. While some Army officials were willing to offer them an extension, the recently created Army Futures Command refused.
That leaves General Dynamics, offering an all-new design we describe below, as the sole competitor for the Engineering & Manufacturing Design (EMD) contract to be awarded early next year. A crucial caveat: Winning EMD does not guarantee General Dynamics will win the production contract, which will be awarded in 2023 in a competition open to all comers.
But any 2023 contender would have to refine their design at their own expense, without the constant feedback from the Army that comes with being on the EMD contract. That’s a hard risk for a board to justify, given GD’s advantage. And without a second competitor, all the Army’s eggs are in the basket of GD succeeding, with no backup.
“I strongly suspect that [General Dynamics] has done a great job of tailoring a solution, developed over time through successes in other programs, for exactly what the US Army wants,” as expressed in roughly 100 detailed and rigid requirements, said George Mason scholar Jim Hasik. But, he said, that doesn’t mean what the Army thinks it wants is the right solution, or that GD will deliver on budget and schedule.
“I would prefer that two or three contractors were proceeding to some trials of truth at Aberdeen in some months,” Hasik told me. “I do not single out GDLS; I just expect lower likelihood of success in non-competitive contracting. Any given bid may have problems of which even the bidder does not know.”
The timing of this news is particularly painful for the Army, because thousands of soldiers, contractors, and media will be heading to Washington for next-week’s huge Association of the US Army conference. One of the highlights of last year’s show was the Lynx prototype.
Disqualifying the Lynx doesn’t make sense, said Spoehr, who as head of national defense studies at the Heritage Foundation has long urged the Army to replace its M2 Bradley troop carrier and other 1980s-vintage armored vehicle designs.
“I have to believe the Army will take another look at this situation,” Spoehr said.
Or, maybe not. The decision to disqualify the Rheinmetall-Raytheon team for missing the deadline is arguably, “the correct one when you consider schedule is the priority,” an industry source told me. But maybe schedule shouldn’t be the priority, the source went on, because the current timeline — fielding the first combat-ready unit by 2026 — doesn’t permit much innovation. “The vehicle they are asking for will not be significantly better than the current Bradley.” (General Dynamics disputes this hotly, not surprisingly, as we detail later in this story).
“I think the Army is pretty short-sighted,” the industry source said. “Personally, I don’t see how the program survives in future budgets.”
Even before this news broke, skeptical Senate appropriators had already cut funding for Army Next Generation Combat Vehicles in their draft of the defense spending bill, although the House has not. But with the Hill so roiled by impeachment that it’s unclear legislators will even be able to pass the annual defense bills — which were already headed for closed-door conferences in any case — we’ve not been able to get any but the most noncommittal comment from Congress. We’ll update this story or write a sequel when we hear from the Hill.
The underlying anxiety here is that the Army has tried and failed repeatedly to modernize its Reagan-era arsenal over the past 30 years — the problem Army Futures Command was created to fix. Armored fighting vehicle programs, above all replacements for the Bradley troop carrier, have been particularly fraught. The Future Combat Systems family of vehicles, which included a lightweight Bradley replacement, was canceled in 2009, while the Ground Combat Vehicle, a better-armored and correspondingly heavier Bradley replacement, was cancelled in 2014. The Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle is the Army’s third swing at this ball.
That puts tremendous pressure on Army Futures Command and General Dynamics to deliver. Their balancing act is to make something different and better enough it’s worth replacing the Bradley instead of just upgrading it again, without taking on so much new technology that the program risks major delays and overruns.
The Army’s modernization director for Next Generation Combat Vehicles, Brig. Gen. Richard Ross Coffman, spoke to me Friday just before the news broke about Rheinmetall. While he didn’t speak to the number of competitors, he did emphasize that a company that doesn’t win an Engineering & Manufacturing Design contract can still compete for Low-Rate Initial Production.
“The LRIP award is FY23,” Coffman said. “That’s a free and open competition. So let’s say you didn’t have the time or didn’t feel you had the money … to compete starting on 1 October, you can further mature your product, you can test that product, and then enter back in to the competition in ’23.”
We Have A Winner (By Default)?
Assuming General Dynamics does win the production contract in 2023, what will their vehicle look like? It will not resemble the Griffin III concept vehicle that vied with the Lynx on the floor of last year’s Association of the US Army mega-conference, company officials told me. In fact, they said, the GD OMFV shares no major components with the ASCOD/Ajax lineage of combat vehicles, widely used in Europe, on whose proven chassis and automotive systems GD build its Griffin series, including its offering for the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower light tank.
“The suspension is a totally new design. The engine and transmission are totally different. Drive train is different. Exhaust placement is different,” Keith Barclay, director of global strategy for General Dynamics Land Systems, said in an interview. (The core of the engine is the same as MPF, but not the configuration, cooling, or transmission).
That’s remarkable because Army leaders had said they were willing to go with a proven, pre-existing chassis to reduce risk, as long as the weapons and electronics were cutting-edge. As with many weapons programs, the Army plans to field OMFV in successively more advanced increments: Increment 1 will only have to meet minimum or “threshold” requirements, while Increment 2 will go after higher “objective” requirements.
“One of the problems we had with previous ground vehicle programs was we always tried to reach for technology that wasn’t mature,” Coffman told me. “Now we’ve set the objective to those technologies that are on the cusp of maturation, so that if it does mature … we can achieve[it] in Increment 2.”
Barclay and other GD execs told me this morning that the prototype they just delivered to the Army already meets some of the objective requirements for Increment 2, particularly for the gun and fire control. (They declined to offer more specifics). Meeting those requirements was what drove the all-new design.
“It had to be designed from the inside out,” Barclay told me. “Modifying an existing platform would not work.”
That said, Barclay went on, this is not new unproven tech. “These are very high Technological Readiness Level (TRL) components that have been through quite a bit of testing, and we’ve just packaged them and designed them… into a new configuration.” (Of course, “quite a bit of testing” isn’t the same as actually being deployed on hundreds of vehicles in Spanish, Austrian, and — soon — British service, as was the case for many of the Griffin’s components). While the GD OMFV’s components aren’t the same as those on the ASCOD/Ajax/Griffin series, they do build on that experience, Barclay said, as well as on decades of General Dynamics R&D for the cancelled FCS and GCV programs.
So what are the innovations in the GD OMFV that make it a significant improvement over an upgraded Bradley? Most visible from the outside is the weapon, the one component the OMFV shares with the Griffin III prototype at AUSA last year. It’s a new 50mm quick-firing cannon, largely developed by the Army’s Armaments Center, which is many times more powerful than the 25mm on the Bradley or the 30mm weapons on many Russian vehicles. Whereas the Bradley gunner and commander sit in the turret, the OMFV’s turret is unmanned, remote-controlled from a well-protected and well-connected crew compartment in the hull.
In fact, from the crew’s perspective inside the vehicle, the most visible difference will probably be how much better their visibility is. Traditional armored vehicles rely on narrow viewports and periscopic sights, making them half-blind behemoths on the battlefield. But massive investments by the automotive industry — from backup cameras to self-driving cars — have driven down the cost and size of sensors. GD boasts their OMFV design offers “360 degree situational awareness” from cameras all around the vehicle. The sensor feeds are visible from screens at not only the crew stations but in the passenger area, so the infantry can know what kind of situation they may have to clamber out into.
Currently, the vehicle is configured for three crew and five infantry soldiers, the same as the Bradley and the Army’s minimum requirement for OMFV. (The seats are designed to buffer blasts from mines and roadside bombs). But all eight seats are together in the hull, rather than having some in the turret, and each crew station can control any function, rather than each being specially hard-wired for the commander, gunner, and driver respectively. So GD expects that, as automation technology improves, it’ll be possible to go down to just two crewmembers, freeing up a seat for a sixth passenger.
That ability to upgrade electronics is perhaps the single most important, if subtle, improvement over the Bradley. Designed in the 1970s and repeatedly upgraded since, the Bradley has repeatedly run into the limits of its electrical system. Troops in Iraq often had to turn equipment on and off because they couldn’t run all of it at once. The Army is now increasing the Bradley’s power, and they’re even retrofitting it with an Active Protection System that uses electricity-hungry radars to detect and shoot down incoming anti-tank missiles.
But the OMFV will have Active Protection as standard equipment, rather than tacked on. And the all-new design lets GD build in the power, wiring, and — most crucial — the standardized interfaces (aka a Modular Open Systems Architecture) to make future electronic upgrades much easier, from anti-missile jammers to reconnaissance mini-drones to AI-assisted targeting systems.
“We have looked to the future about what power requirements will be,” Barclay told me. Their vehicle, he said, has “electrical power, both high voltage and low voltage, that will allow myriad capabilities that you could not put onto an existing combat vehicle today in the Army’s inventory.” (See: BATTLESPACE ALERT Vol.21 ISSUE 24, 04 October 2019, Lynx 41 disqualified from Bradley replacement competition) (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
07 Oct 19. RAFAEL will showcase its Suite for Future Armored Vehicles including the revolutionary ‘Transparent Cockpit’ and quantum leap in AI capabilities. RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. is participating at AUSA 2019 in Washington, D.C., October 14-17, 2019.
RAFAEL is a leading international defense contractor with combat-tested and proven systems that are optimized for multi-domain operations, survivability, maneuverability, and lethality.
One such example is the TROPHY, the world’s first and only operational, combat-proven, safety-certified APS, in serial production and in service on the IDF Merkava Mk III and IV MBT’s and NAMER AFV’s, recently sold to the US Army and Marines for the Abrams MBT’s, and integrated on more than a dozen platforms. In total, TROPHY is under contract for some 2000 systems for several users.
Last winter, the US Army decided to procure the Iron Dome air defense system to protect its expeditionary forces and strategic assets. Iron Dome has been widely used by the Israeli Air Force, with over 2000 combat interceptions against a variety of very short and short range threats, including UAV’s.
At the heart of RAFAEL’s systems, are advanced artificial intelligence and deep learning capabilities that optimize performance. These are also at the heart of two of RAFAEL’s leading next generation technologies, that have been integrated into its Suite for Future Armored Vehicles, featuring a Transparent Cockpit and quantum leap in AI capabilities, combining the most advanced subsystems and optionally-manned technologies, and transforming any armored vehicle – including AFVs, APCs and tanks – into an ultra-modern combat system. Another breakthrough system developed by RAFAEL is the FIREWEAVER, a Revolutionary Networked Attack System for the new wave of Land-Based Operations Digitization
In today’s rapidly changing battlefield, the combat helicopter still holds a central and important role. The combat helicopter is a valuable asset for the military commander both in defense and offence missions. RAFAEL is a leading supplier and integrator of a full armament upgrade package, including both 4th and 5th generation stand-off Precision Guided electro-optical (EO) Missiles in different weights and ranges of up to 30 km, EO devices, Guided/unguided Rocket interface, Command & Control interfaces for pilot situation awareness, HMDs (Helmet-Mounted Displays for cueing of SPIKE Seeker and EOS to pilot head orientation) and even heliborne broadband Digital Data-link for continuous communication among the squadron helicopters.
Throughout the years, RAFAEL has signed numerous joint ventures with American companies for joint development, production and marketing of air, land and marine systems. In fact, most of the systems listed above came to the U.S. military via partnership with major U.S. primes, including Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Leonardo DRS.
RAFAEL is proposing solutions for a number of US programs and tenders and will be displaying a variety of systems at AUSA 2019, including:
- SPIKE Family – Precise, tactical, electro-optical, multi-platform fire-and-update missiles, sold to 33 countries, with over 30,000 missiles supplied. SPIKE and its variants (NLOS, ER2, LR2) are being offered for a number of U.S air, naval and land programs.
- SPIKE FIREFLY – Revolutionary Miniature Tactical Loitering Weapon System from the SPIKE Family, weighing only 3 kg and providing behind-cover precision attack capabilities for the dismounted soldier
- DRONE DOME ‒ An innovative end-to-end system designed to provide effective airspace defense against hostile drones. Drone Dome has 360° circular coverage and is designed to detect, track, and neutralize drones either by jamming their communication or destroying them using a laser beam.
- TROPHY VPS (Vehicle Protection System) – the world’s only operational active vehicle protection system, combat-proven in numerous combat scenarios against a large variety of threats. Recently delivered to the US Army Abrams MBT’s, and tested on the Bradley IFV.
- SKYHUNTER – Iron Dome’s advanced interceptor (also called TAMIR). Iron Dome is an active CRAM air defense system, which has to-date intercepted over 2,000 threats in battle.
- FIRE WEAVER – Networked Targeting Control System (NTCS), providing real-time pixel-based target designation and fire coordination, allowing simultaneous, precision strikes on multiple targets within seconds
- SUITE FOR FUTURE ARMORED VEHICLES – RAFAEL’s solution for the future combat fighting vehicle enables two crew members to perform their mission, in a fully protected closed hatch vehicle, with a breakthrough transparent cockpit design, enabling 360 degree situational awareness, using augmented reality for real-time battlefield information and data. This includes targets, Blue Forces, and other Points Of Interest (POI’s), as well as an autonomous mission support system, for autonomous mission planning, driving, and simultaneous operation of all vehicle weapon systems, all based on combat artificial intelligence capabilities.
- BNET – Broadband MANET IP Software Defined Radio (SDR) for transmission of reliable digital information at high data rates among a large number of users. BNet is an integrated C3 system providing position and jam-resistant high-speed Data and Voice (Analogy and VoIP) used for combat communications in a modern battlefield.
04 Oct 19. A New NATO Buyer For JLTV; More Buyers On The Way? In a sign the floodgates may be opening for allies to buy the Army’s newest tactical vehicle, the US appears to be finalizing a $36m agreement with Montenegro to sell them dozens of brand-new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. The tipoff came this morning when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is visiting the country, said the US “offered an agreement to Montenegro for the largest sale of military equipment in the history between our two nations. The United States looks forward to delivering $36m worth of light tactical vehicles to our NATO ally once this agreement is finalized.”
A defense official confirmed the deal is for 67 Oshkosh-made JLTVs.
If the deal goes through, Montenegro would become the fourth NATO ally to express interest or actually buy into the program, though so far Lithuania is the only country to receive US approval after the State Department signed off on a $170m deal with the Baltic nation for 500 JLTVs in August.
Mike Ivy, Oshkosh’s senior VP for international programs, wouldn’t comment on the Montenegro deal, but told me via email the “JLTV was intended from the beginning to be an international program,” pointing out the common systems on the vehicle make it easier for allies to work together in the field.
A vastly larger sale is in the works with the UK, which is considering buying 2,747 JLTVs as part of its Multi Role Vehicle-Protected program. British Army officials acknowledged for the first time earlier this month that Oshkosh has been working on a UK variant. In October 2018, Slovenia also signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance for 38 JLTVs, though no deal has been finalized.
Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, and is a critical part of the Balkan region’s slow turn away from their Russian-dominated past, which Washington and NATO have taken pains to nurture. “It is of strategic importance for Montenegro to have US and EU presence in the Balkans so there would be no space for those countries who do not share the same values,” Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said alongside Pompeo Friday.
The timeline of Leonardo DRS’s 50 years of innovation is peppered with notable technologies and capabilities that have given militaries around the world a warfighting edge. Here’s a look.
Like so many DoD programs, the JLTV has had an exceptionally long and checkered past. The effort kicked off in 2006, eventually enduring a series of fits and starts before being forced to undergo a full requirements overhaul in 2011 after the Army realized the design would need to change to meet demands beyond those of counterinsurgency warfare.
In 2015, Oshkosh was awarded a $6.7bn contract for the initial 16,901 vehicles. In June the Army declared the JLTV was finally ready for full production, clearing the way for the sale of the truck to allies.
Although the program spent 13 years churning through the development cycle, the JLTV has recently come under fire from the Army for being built for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not the potential conflicts of tomorrow against peer adversaries like China and Russia.
In April, then-Army Secretary and now Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the JLTV, like the Chinook helicopter, was “designed for a different conflict,” but could still play a role on the battlefield. That shot came around the same time that the service slashed $800m from its planned JLTV purchases, which translates to at least 1,500 vehicles over the next five years. The cut is only a dent in the massive program’s armor, however. The Army has not backed off plans to acquire almost 50,000 JLTVs over the life of the program, which will run into the 2030s.
The Marine Corps is also slated to buy about 9,100 JLTVs in the coming years. The Army and Marine Corps are planning to buy four versions of the truck, a general purpose model, a turreted gun truck, a TOW anti-tank missile launcher and a two-door utility variant, basically a militarized pickup truck. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
04 Oct 19. Saudi Arabia to recapitalise 4×4 fleet. Saudi Arabia has begun efforts to acquire a new range of 4×4 vehicles for use by multiple government organisations in a significant procurement programme. Speaking to Jane’s, SAMI CEO Andreas Schwer said that “by the end of the year, we will have selected a partner for the 4×4 vehicle and the future demands of Saudi Arabia, covering all the potential user groups such as the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior, [Saudi Arabian] National Guard, and other special services”.
The procurement programme will also cover other user groups, such as the country’s critical national infrastructure security force. SAMI is to act as the system integrator for the new platform, with the Saudi government also working to get the wider supply chain ecosystem into the country. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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.