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13 Apr 20. Indonesia seeks more Russian BT-3F amphibious vehicles. Indonesia is eyeing a second batch of up to 79 Russian BT-3F tracked amphibious infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) worth up to $289m for the Indonesian Navy’s (TNI-AL’s) Korps Marinir (KORMAR, or Marine Corps).
KORMAR is already operating 21 BT-3F APCs, which are derived from the BMP-3 IFV, acquired at a cost of $67.2m from state-owned defence exporter JSC Rosoboronexport in April 2019. Indonesia is also the first international customer of the BT-3F.
The BT-3F is manufactured by Tractor Plants Concern and is optimised for naval infantry operations. According to company specifications, the vehicle measures seven metres long and over three metres wide with a combat weight of 18.5 tonnes. It is operated by a three-person crew and can accommodate to 14 fully-equipped troops sat on blast mitigation seats.
A 500-horsepower engine enables it to attain a road speed of 70km/h and a swimming speed of 5.4 knots (10km/h) out to an unrefuelled range of 600km, and can be protected to NATO STANAG 4569 Level 4 standards which provides the crew and troops ballistic protection from 12.7mm calibre heavy machine gun rounds.
The BT-3F can be fitted with the DPV-T remote weapon station (RWS) and armed with a range of weapons including the 7.62×54mm PKTM Kalashnikov, 12.7mm 6P49 Kord and 14.5mm KPVT machine guns, as well as the 30mm AG-17A and 40mm AG-40 automatic grenade launchers. The vehicle can also be equipped with smoke grenades launchers, combat management system, and a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protection system.
Other countries such as Cyprus, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have expressed interest in acquiring the BT-3F.
KORMAR also operates the earlier BMP-3F amphibious IFV manufactured by the Kurganmashzavod Joint Stock Company, which is armed with a 100mm main gun, 30mm coaxial gun and 7.62mm machine gun. It has a crew complement of three and can carry seven troops. (Source: AMR)
16 Apr 20. Nigerian Army receives Chinese weapon systems. The Nigerian Army has received a consignment of Chinese armoured vehicles and artillery systems that included Norinco VT4 main battle tanks (MBT), ST1 tank destroyers, and self-propelled howitzers.
Nigerian Army Chief of Policy and Plans Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun told local TV news during the unloading of the equipment at Lagos docks on 8 April that it was part of a large consignment ordered from China that included two types of “artillery heavy guns”. He added that the initial consignment included 15 40-ft containers of spares and accessories.
The Nigerian Army did not identify the type or numbers of platforms being procured, although the media reported that 17 were delivered in this consignment, which is the first under a USD152m contract signed in 2019 that also includes support and training. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Apr 20. UK procures Rheinmetall Mission Master – Cargo. Her Majesty’s Armed Forces have ordered four Rheinmetall Mission Master robotic vehicles. Configured for transporting cargo, these unmanned ground vehicles will form part of the United Kingdom’s Robotic Platoon Vehicle programme. This programme is designed to determine the extent to which unmanned vehicles can boost the combat effectiveness and capabilities of dismounted troops at platoon level. The four Mission Master – Cargo vehicles will be delivered throughout the spring of 2020. In addition, the scope of supply comprises two stretcher systems that can be integrated into the cargo vehicle in just 60 seconds. The order, which was placed at the end of 2019, also includes training and service support, as well as spare parts. The vehicles will be supplied by Rheinmetall Canada, with Rheinmetall BAE Land Systems providing on-location support services in its capacity as cooperation partner. Robotics is already changing the modern battlefield. A modular unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), Rheinmetall’s new Mission Master enhances the combat performance of soldiers deployed on the ground in numerous ways. The Mission Master’s artificial intelligence and robotic brawn mean that it can execute a multitude of dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks that troops would otherwise have to perform themselves, letting them get on with the most important thing of all: their core mission.
The Mission Master – Cargo system reduces the combat load soldiers have to carry, boosting their mobility and efficiency. Its flexible stowage concept and robust design let the Mission Master – -Cargo shoulder a payload of up to half a ton of supplies, tactical kit, or medical equipment. Ready for action, the Mission Master can operate in autonomous or semiautonomous mode as a fully-fledged member of the combat team. The Mission Master platform is designed for maximum flexibility, and can be readily adapted for a wide variety of different missions thanks to modular build-ons specially engineered for quick installation. Potential applications include surveillance, protection, evacuation of casualties, firefighting, and CBRN reconnaissance and detection. It can also serve as a mobile radio relay station.
Speed, scalable autonomy, and proven high mobility in all types of terrain combine to make the amphibious Mission Master a powerful, highly reliable comrade of dismounted forces operating in small groups.
16 Apr 20. Germany awards 159 MUSD vehicle contract to GDELS. General Dynamics European Land Systems has been awarded a contract by the German procurement agency BAAINBw for the delivery of 80 highly protected EAGLE 6×6 vehicles for the German Army`s ambulance corps. First vehicle deliveries will start in 2021 and continue throughout 2024.
The EAGLE was selected in a competitive tender process under the medium protected ambulance vehicle program (“mittleres geschütztes Ambulanzfahrzeug”), which will close the gap between the user´s light and heavy ambulance vehicle fleet. The EAGLE 6×6 is the latest and largest member of the proven EAGLE family of vehicles.
In its 6×6 configuration, the vehicle provides a more spacious user compartment and more payload. Reduced cost of ownership is achieved through its high degree of commonality with the 4×4 version, its maintenance-friendly design, and proven support solutions.
Germany is the 2nd customer for this new EAGLE version after the Swiss Army. “We would like to thank the German Army very much for its confidence in our EAGLE vehicle platform. As a reliable partner to the Bundeswehr, GDELS is fully committed to deliver the vehicles on cost, quality, and schedule,” said Dr. Thomas Kauffmann, GDELS Vice President for International Business & Services.
GDELS will manufacture the EAGLE at its sites in Switzerland and Germany. For the German program, a significant part of the production will be completed in Kaiserslautern and Sembach with the involvement of dozens of German suppliers.
“This contract will further strengthen our capabilities as a leading vehicle OEM and will result in a multimillion investment into our German vehicle maintenance hub in Sembach” said Dr. Christian Kauth, Managing Director of GDELS-Deutschland.
The German Army and German Federal Police operate a fleet of close to 700 EAGLE vehicles; the vehicle has proven its superior performance and reliability in various national and international missions.(Source: Armada)
15 Apr 20. Jordan receives donation of APCs from Qatar. The Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) has received eight APCs which were donated by Qatar to reflect the strengthening of Jordanian-Qatari relations and to enhance bilateral military cooperation. They include the Nomad and Thunder MRAP vehicles. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Major General Yousef Huneiti attended a ceremony in Amman alongside Qatar’s Ambassador to Jordan, Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser Bin Jassim Al Thani. The delivery is part of a wider package which will see a total of 44 APCs provided to the JAF. (Source: Shephard)
15 Apr 20. Norinco’s Sharp Claw I UGV in service with Chinese army. The China North Industries Corporation’s (Norinco’s) Sharp Claw I unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) has entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF). In an announcement made on 13 April via its Sina Weibo account the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command confirmed an 11 April report by the China Central Television 7 (CCTV 7) channel stating that the tracked, combat, and reconnaissance UGV was now in service with the Chinese military.
No information was provided as to when exactly it entered service, the number of platforms being acquired, or which PLAGF units will deploy it.
The UGV, which was first unveiled at the Airshow China 2014 exhibition in Zhuhai, weighs 120kg, is 60cm high, 70cm long, and has an operational range of 1km, according to Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Logistics, Support & Unmanned. The platform, which can be carried in the cargo bay of the larger Sharp Claw II UGV, has been designed for use in remote areas unsuitable for personnel to detect and attack targets “in all weather conditions during the day and at night”, according to the manufacturer. The platform, which Norinco claims can operate autonomously, can be armed with a 7.62mm light machine gun.
As Jane’s reported, Norinco displayed an improved variant of the Sharp Claw I at Airshow China 2018. The newer version features several upgrades – including an improved short-range electro-optical payload, machine vision, and lighting suite, as well as a refined magazine box and ammunition feed mechanism – aimed at enhancing the platform’s reconnaissance and combat capabilities.
CCTV 7 also reported on 11 April that the PLA Rocket Force is receiving a “large, crane-like robot that can be used in lifting and loading missiles onto transporter-erector launchers”, thus enabling more missiles to be launched from the same launcher within short intervals. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Apr 20. Russian MoD receives first T-90M tanks. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has begun receiving upgraded T-90M main battle tanks (MBTs), the Western Military District’s press department announced on 13 April.
“In April a Western Military District Guards tank army, which is deployed in five Russian regions, has begun receiving the modernised T-90M MBTs,” said the press department.
Lieutenant General Sergei Kisel said a batch of T-90M MBTs had been delivered to the Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division. “The land systems have been fitted with a new turret, [a] more powerful engine, and [a] new multichannel day/night sighting system,” said Lt Gen Kisel, adding that the T-90M is capable of sharing combat information with other vehicles in real time. (Source: Jane’s)
10 Apr 20. OMFV: Army Revamps Bradley Replacement For Russian Front. Survivability in battle is priority No. 1. Transportability by aircraft? It’s been demoted to a subitem under priority No. 7. designs are due in 2023, physical prototypes in 2025, and operational vehicles by 2028.
Last night, with face-to-face meetings shut down by the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Army posted 14 pages of in-depth answers to industry’s questions about the rebooted Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program.
Just in case anyone didn’t understand just how thoroughly the Army has changed course, the document released yesterday spells it out: “No requirements from the first RFP [Request For Proposals] remain valid. This is a new RFP.”
The Army cancelled that first attempt at OMFV back in January when no bidder could meet its ambitious schedule and technical requirements. OMFV is meant to replace the Reagan-era M2 Bradley troop carrier with a “transformational” war machine boasting extensive automation, tactical networking, and other cutting-edge technologies.
Two critical details of the “programmatic narrative” stand out: the emphasis on survivability over transportability, and the more realistic demands on industry for both timeline and technology. The revised vehicle is now even more clearly focused on combatting the Russian threat in Eastern Europe.
For the first time, the Army unequivocally makes survivability the top priority, ahead of air transportability.
Now, that’s survivability against enemy Infantry Fighting Vehicles like the Russian BMP,-3 armed with anti-tank missiles and mid-calibre weapons, not against main battle tanks with 125 mm high-velocity cannon: “The OMFV must protect its crew and infantry from enemy IFVs,” the narrative states. But survivability is nevertheless central to the Bradley replacement’s mission statement (emphasis ours): “The OMFV will serve as the Army’s Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) tasked to maneuver through the enemy’s disruption zone and deliver Soldiers to their dismount point unharmed.”
The new document even puts survivability (priority No. 1) slightly ahead of ground mobility (priority No. 2). While weight isn’t as big a factor on the ground as in the air, heavily armored vehicles over 50 tons – like the M1 Abrams main battle tank – can’t safely cross most bridges in Eastern Europe.
By contrast, the Army’s original Request For Proposals required two OMFVs to fit on a single Air Force C-17 jet transport. That meant they could be no heavier than a late-model Bradley, even though they were supposed to be much better armored.
The new document makes clear that, in the vast majority of both historical and projected conflicts, heavy armored units rarely move by plane. “The Army anticipates that Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT) will continue to deploy primarily via water and rail, but must maintain the ability to transport via air as an option for commanders,” the programmatic narrative says. “The C-5 and C-17 will be the primary aircraft used to transport the OMFV.”
Two crucial pieces of context here. First, the C-5 is a much larger Air Force transport than the C-17, able to carry twice the load. Second, even though the C-17 is still an option, there’s nothing about fitting more than one OMFV aboard.
64 Apache helicopters. A C-5 (left column) can carry twice as much. SOURCE: Lockheed Martin
Yes, the Army is giving up some strategic flexibility here. The service has struggled for eight decades to square the circle of an armored vehicle heavy enough to survive and light enough to transport by air. The resulting compromises ranged from partial successes to total failures: the little-used M22 Locust of World War II, the problematic M41 Walker Bulldog of the 1950s, the breakdown-prone M551 Sheridan used in Vietnam and Panama, the cancelled Future Combat System of the 2000s, and the ongoing Mobile Protected Firepower program.
But while the Air Force can fly a few tanks almost anywhere on short notice — which could be decisive against a lightly armed adversary — there just aren’t enough planes to deploy and supply multiple armored brigades, which is what you’d need against a foe like Russia.
Fortunately, while lightly armed adversaries could and do pop up unexpectedly around the world, we know exactly where Russia is and what countries its armored legions can reach. That’s why the US is prepositioning warehouses full of armored vehicles and other equipment in Europe.
We also know where China could strike, but the Western Pacific, with its scattered, rugged islands, is poor terrain for tanks. While the Army and Marines plan to deploy missile launchers on Pacific Islands, any Chinese landing force sent to dig them out would have to come by ship or plane, limiting the weapons it could bring.
If you know where the war you’re worried about will be, the best time to get there is before the shooting starts. By choosing to optimize the OMFV for Eastern Europe, rather than make it a jack-of-all trades for crises worldwide, the Army makes the program’s problems much more solvable.
More time, more money, more leeway for bidders
The tentative schedule released yesterday (above) starts with an extensive period of back-and-forth between industry and the Army, already underway, about what the new vehicle should look like.
- A formal Request For Proposals based on these discussions won’t come out until April 2021.
- In October 2021, the Army will kick off the first round of competition, picking up to five of those proposals it will pay industry to develop into “initial digital designs.” The Army will then evaluate those virtual vehicles in computer models and simulations.
- In April 2023, the Army will narrow the field further, to at most three competitors, which will get government funding to refine their designs and build actual working prototypes by July 2025.
- The Army will test those prototypes through 2026 and pick one winner in January 2027. The winning vehicle will Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) later that year, and a full battalion of OMFVs should be operational by September 2028.
By contrast, the original Request For Proposals, released in March 2019, demanded each bidder build a working vehicle at its own expense as and deliver this “bid sample” by Oct. 1st last year. Most potential manufacturers didn’t even try, and only one competitor, General Dynamics, managed to meet the deadline. Then the Army disqualified GD’s vehicle anyway for not meeting the (arguably impossible) requirement to combine heavy armor with air transportability.
This time around, “the Army is not requiring any bid samples prior to contract award,” yesterday’s release makes clear. “The Army is still drafting the M&S [Modeling & Simulation] test plan which may require vendors to build early surrogate platforms” (emphasis ours), but any “surrogate” will be only “a low-level mockup (e.g., digital, wood, etc.),” not anything nearly as expensive as an actual drivable vehicle.
As with air transportability, the Army is giving up something it wanted: time. While the original plan would have put operational OMFVs in a combat unit by 2026, the new schedule adds two more years. Fielding enough to fight the Russians in Eastern Europe will take even longer.
There is a strategic risk to not having the new vehicles in time. But there is an equal danger of taking on too much too fast — and failing. Then you might not get any new vehicles at all – which is what happened with the Army’s last two attempts to replace the Bradley, the Future Combat System and the Ground Combat Vehicle. The service can’t afford another failure, which means realism has to trump ambition.
That’s why yesterday’s release also doubles down on a key feature of the rebooted OMFV approach first outlined in February: Instead of requiring bidders to meet rigid technical requirements, which may or may not be feasible, the Army is laying out broad “characteristics” and asking industry how best to achieve them. (Those characteristics were first spelled out in February, but they weren’t explicitly put in order by priority until now). Only after years of dialogue, digital design work, and simulations show what’s really feasible does the Army plan to lock down technical requirements.
“The magic here is keeping broad characteristics and slowly refining them over time,” Army Futures Command’s director for armor modernization, Brig. Gen. Richard Ross Coffman, told me back in February. “We won’t lock requirements until we absolutely have to.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
13 Apr 20. OMFV: Can Army Exorcise The Ghost Of FCS? The ongoing reboot of the Bradley replacement program reminds many in Congress and industry of the disastrous Future Combat Systems. The Army has changed a lot since FCS – but has it changed enough?
“The Army learned nothing from FCS,” one industry official told me in January, after the service cancelled its third attempt in two decades to replace the Reagan-era M2 Bradley troop carrier.
But just weeks later, the service outlined out a new plan for the Bradley replacement program. Unlike the infamous Future Combat System cancelled in 2009, the short-lived Ground Fighting Vehicle cancelled in 2014, or the initial Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle competition cancelled this past January, the revised approach to OMFV has no rigid, government-specified technical requirements. The focus, instead, is on nine broadly defined “characteristics” and a new-found humility about asking industry for advice on how to achieve them.
This time, the same official told me, “they finally get it.”
Last week, the Army released extensive new details on the still-evolving OMFV program. “It’s a big improvement over their previous attempt,” the official said told me. “It’s a great start, and I’m cautiously optimistic.”
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As the program figures out a new set of requirements, the official warned, “what to watch for is the KPPs” – non-negotiable Key Performance Parameters – “and what is tradable. What’s hurt their programs in the past is 200 must-haves with no ability to optimize through trade-offs.”
“While there’s always going to be tension between schedule and requirements,” the industry official said, “I believe requirements will always be the reason an Army program will fail.”
Has the Army figured out how to fix this longstanding problem? OMFV is a crucial test case, not just for one program, but for the entire Army effort to overhaul its infamously dysfunctional acquisition bureaucracy.
Greenwalt: ‘The Jury Is Still Out’
Some of the experts I interviewed for this article – all battle-scarred veterans of past acquisition disasters – shared the industry official’s guarded optimism. Others did not.
“I think the jury is still out as to whether the Army has learned anything,” former Hill and DoD staffer Bill Greenwalt told me after the initial OMFV competition was cancelled in January.
Last week, when the Army released details of the revised approach, Greenwalt grudgingly told me, “that outline makes more sense.”
Getting rid of the often-unrealistic technical requirements “could eliminate most of the unobtanium,” Greenwalt allowed. “They are at least doing market research by asking what industry thinks they could do. The problem is they should already know this from the last go-around.”
The other big problem? “I think they could go faster,” he said, “and they will run up against funding constraints if they don’t…as fiscal pressures intensify due to the trillions of dollars we are now spending that we don’t have.”
The revised schedule adds two years and multiple rounds of competition to the original plan. The original plan demanded bidders build prototypes at their own expense and deliver them to the Army last October. Just one company met that deadline, only to be disqualified anyway for not meeting the technical requirements. The new plan, by contrast, is to pay up to five vendors to develop “initial digital designs” from 2021 to 2023, then pick three to build competing physical prototypes by 2025, with one final winner receiving an initial production contact in 2027. The first combat battalion of OMFV should be ready in 2028, the Army’s target date to be fully prepared for war with Russia.
“Five digital designs is good, but a year-and-a-half to pick one to go to prototyping seems a long time,” Greenwalt told me. “Then, I know they said ‘up to three’ in the prototyping phase, but there’s the risk of the old Army reasserting itself and just doing one due to funding constraints. I think they do need at least three to prototype – but then 2.5 years to build them, and another year to test, seems excessive.”
“They don’t seem to be in a real hurry,” Greenwalt said. “I sense no urgency in this acquisition plan. They have to get over paralysis by analysis. Sometimes you just need to buy stuff, test it, and see if it works – and that may need to be done in larger quantities than current prototyping efforts.”
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Greenwalt wasn’t the only observer worried by the revised timeline.
“2028 is a long way away, so how do they keep this relevant in a rapidly changing technology world?” one industry expert asked me. “It looks like the old way of acquiring complex combat vehicles. Seven years before they get to the Milestone C [production] decision? By that time the technology they pick will be outdated, and the non-traditional defense companies don’t have the patience or the money to wait that long.”
“What has dismayed me about the Army’s approach, is that when they had a set-back, they didn’t just go back 10 spaces, they went all the way back to ‘Go,’ for a full reset,” said retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, now head of national security programs at the Heritage Foundation. “So now they have a one to two-year delay at best, have lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and the program will face a much more challenging environment when it comes back to Congress for funding.”
Now, Spoehr never shared the skepticism about the initial approach that got cancelled back in January. “Maybe some of the requirements, like weight, were too aggressive, but most of it looked about right,” he told me. The bigger problem, he said, was “the program was accelerated to a speed where most of industry could not keep up – and my sense is that people were reluctant to take that message back to senior leaders.”
“Close involvement of Army leadership is one of the important qualities of their new modernization program,” Spoehr said – but that can backfire when subordinates are reluctant to admit such a high-visibility project is having problems.
Too much leadership investment is part of what sabotaged the Future Combat Systems. FCS was the brainchild of then-Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who pushed hard and fast for his very specific vision of the new vehicles, one that constrained their weight for ease of transport on Air Force cargo planes. Today, the four-star head of Army Futures Command and the service’s civilian acquisition chief closely monitor all 31 programs identified as Army priorities, and they report frequently to the Army secretary, undersecretary, chief of staff and the vice.
That said, “I continue to believe they have gotten the formula right with Army Futures Command,” Spoehr told me. “I believe OMFV is an aberration and not indicative of a larger problem.”
New Process, Old Problems
Why is OMFV so hard? Because the basic technology of armored ground vehicles is not advancing anywhere near as rapidly as other areas. Compare the intense skepticism over OMFV with widely-praised programs for virtual-reality training, artificial intelligence, or even Future Vertical Lift aircraft.
Yes, sensors, jammers, and communications networks benefit from Moore’s Law. Computerized, radar-controlled Active Protection Systems can now shoot down some incoming anti-tank projectiles. But the only way to stop a high-velocity tank gun round remains heavy armor, and the only way to move a heavily armored vehicle long-distance remains a huge diesel engine.
“For decades, the Army has hoped for a technology either electronic or in materials science that would allow for more protection at lower weight. Now people are looking at active protection solutions as a potential solution to that problem,” Spoehr told me. “I am more pessimistic. Today, and I think for the next decade, the answer is mostly about steel.”
That argument got support from CSIS acquisition expert Andrew Hunter, a former Pentagon procurement official himself.
“The struggles of OMFV reflect the same challenge that the Army has faced for years with developing a next-generation infantry fighting vehicle,” Hunter told me. “The Army has sought a leap-ahead in technology that can deliver high levels of protection with tactically and strategically relevant mobility. This leap has not been forthcoming, and the tension between what the Army is seeking and what industry can deliver hasn’t been resolved.
“OMFV demonstrates the latest chapter in this story,” he said – but there’s a plot twist: The Army was able to admit the program was in trouble, cancel its first attempt, and start over with a new approach, rather than stubbornly pour good money after bad for years as it did on FCS.
The ongoing reboot suggests the reformed bureaucracy really has started learning from its mistakes, Hunter argues: “OMFV shows an ability by the Army to avoid some of its past errors.”
It’s better to avoid some errors than none. Will it be enough? We’ll have to watch how OMFV evolves. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
15 Apr 20. Ukraine receives additional BMP-1s. The Ukrainian armed forces have received 37 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) from the state-owned entity Ukrspetsexport, UkrOboronProm (UOP) announced on its website on 7 April. This was achieved despite the countries of origin and transit imposing restrictions due to Covid-19 and ahead of schedule, according to UOP. Jane’s sources have indicated that these vehicles were ordered in 2019 and are imported from Poland. The vehicles are provided to Ukraine and serviced by the Zhytomyr Plant, the UOP entity that restores the vehicles to working order before they are supplied to Ukrainian forces. Previously, in 2018, Ukraine received an unknown quantity of BMP-1AKs, a variant of the vehicle that is upgraded to provide greater protection from rocket-propelled grenades, according to UOP. (Source: Jane’s)
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