06 Aug 20. GAO Questions Army’s $62bn Cost Estimates For Combat Vehicles. The US Army estimated the OMFV troop carrier would cost $46bn and the MPF light tank would cost $16bn. The GAO has doubts. The US Army will conduct alternative cost estimates and additional engineering reviews for its future armored fighting vehicles, prodded by a GAO report out today. By GAO’s count, the service has wasted $21.8bn in the last 20 years on earlier, failed armor programs.
Eager to update its armored force against the Russian threat, the Army is using the accelerated Middle-Tier Acquisition process to develop both the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), a heavily armed troop carrier to replace the M2 Bradley, and the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) vehicle, an air-deployable light tank to support paratroopers and other infantry. (Both programs fall under the modernization team for Next Generation Combat Vehicles). BAE and General Dynamics have already built competing prototypes for the MPF, while the OMFV program was recently rebooted and is awaiting new industry proposals for designs.
Mid-tier acquisition, also known as Section 804 after the legislation that created it, skips many of the steps in the usual, laborious Pentagon process, reducing bureaucratic delay but at the price of raising the risk should a flawed assumption go uncaught.
On both programs, the Army has started work with some component technologies less mature than GAO would recommend, the report says. On both programs, the Army skipped an early “systems engineering review” that the traditional process would have required. On the OMFV program in particular, the Army’s schedule didn’t explicitly include such reviews at critical points in the future, either. (MPF’s plan was more detailed, since it started life as a traditional procurement before shifting to an 804). On GAO’s recommendation, the Army agreed to conduct the systems engineering reviews “at key decision points” to come. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
06 Aug 20. OTT Technologies takes over LMT. South African armoured vehicle designer and manufacturer OTT Technologies has acquired LMT, which has been in business rescue since September 2019. The acquisition closed in July, OTT Technologies business development manager Chris Gildenhuys told Janes on 5 August. The value of the acquisition is not being disclosed at this time.
According to Gildenhuys, the acquisition of LMT Products “is a strategic move for OTT Technologies to expand on its own range of proven mine-protected armoured vehicles”. LMT designs and manufactures a variety of protected products, ranging from protected cabs for Mercedes Benz to the LM8 and LM13 vehicles.
“The LMT Products division of OTT Technologies will, for the foreseeable future, continue to operate under the LMT Products brand and the vehicles will retain their respective designations. The merger will obviously bring about branding and structural changes in future. The first priority is to get the LMT division back on track in as far [as] the personnel component, manufacturing, and sound day-to-day management,” Gildenhuys said.
When LMT went into business rescue there were still some incomplete contracts, including one with a Middle Eastern customer, Gildenhuys added. That particular contract will now be honoured and completed.
Denel had been the majority shareholder of LMT Holdings since it acquired its stake in 2012, with the underlying business with LMT Products. LMT Holdings was 51% owned by Denel, 29% by Pamodzi, and 20% by the founding members, and included LMT Products, LMT Engineering, and LMT Properties. (Source: Jane’s)
04 Aug 20. Canadian Army’s first ACSV to roll off production line in December. General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (GDLS-C) has begun producing its first Armoured Combat Support Vehicle (ACSV) for the Canadian Army, and is expected to complete the vehicle by the end of the year.
The army is replacing its current M113 Tracked Light Armoured Vehicle (TLAV) and LAV II Bison fleets with the new vehicle line, and the Department of National Defence announced on 4 August that the first ACSV will roll off the production line in December. The military will then conduct testing and training activities before it begins to field the vehicle to troops in 2022. If all goes as planned, the company will continue producing and delivering the new vehicles to the service through February 2025.
“These vehicles will form the backbone of the army’s combat support fleet and be used on a wide range of operations including domestic disaster relief and international peace support missions,” Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said in the announcement. In September 2019 GDLS-C secured the CAD2bn (USD1.5bn) contract to produce 360 ACSVs, along with initial spare parts, technical manuals, and training. Under the deal the company will produce eight ACSV variants that will provide services such as ambulances, vehicle recovery, engineering, mobile repair, electronic warfare, troop carrying, and command posts. (Source: Jane’s)
05 Aug 20. Spanish VCR 8×8 DRAGÓN Live-Fire Trials. In late July the Spanish Army VCR 8×8 Dragón, the latest derivative of the GDELS Piranha V, successfully concluded its first live-fire trials.
Two of the five Spanish Army prototypes of the VCR Dragón version of the GDELS (General Dynamics Europe Land Systems) Santa Bárbara Sistemas Piranha V 8×8 participated in the July firing tests on the Álvarez de Sotomayor ranges on the northern edge of Almeria. Each participating prototype was fitted with a different turret configuration; D1 sported the Navantia Tizona version of the Elbit Systems UT30MK2 unmanned turret and D2 the RAFAEL / PAP Tecnos Samson 30. In this Spanish Army video both the 30mm ATK cannon and 7.62mm machine guns can be seen firing and SPIKE anti-armour missiles are launched by Spanish Legion crews from King Alfonso XIII Brigade. See videos on: https://www.joint-forces.com/videos/34830-spanish-vcr-8×8-dragon-live-fire-trials (Source: joint-forces.com)
05 Aug 20. Bushmaster Electronic Warfare Vehicles for Dutch Army. In early July, the Dutch Army took delivery of its first new Bushmaster electronic warfare vehicle, paving the way for the possible retirement of existing EW platforms.
The Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Netherlands Army) has one electronic warfare unit, the 102nd EW Company, which forms part of the multi-service Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Command. The 102 EW Company supports the 13th Light Brigade and 43rd Mechanised Brigade, the army’s two manoeuvre formations.
In 1991 the force received the first of 18 Daimler-Benz TPz Fuchs-1 series electronic warfare vehicles, some of which were converted to support nuclear, chemical and biological defence. These vehicles were delivered in a similar configuration to those used by the Heer (German Army).
Open sources state that the 102 EW Company possesses two EW platoons. Each of these platoons is believed to have four TPz Fuch-1A1 Eloka Communications Intelligence (COMINT) gathering vehicles, and two TPz Fuchs-1A1 Hummel platforms tasked with electronic attack. A truck-mounted command and control system coordinates these assets.
Details on the capabilities of the TPz Fuchs-1A1 systems remain scant. It is reasonable to assume that the TPz Fuchs-1A1 Eloka can detect and locate Very/Ultra High Frequency (V/UHF) transmissions across wavebands of at least 30 megahertz to three gigahertz, and possibly also decrypt complex tactical communications waveforms.
Their accompanying TPz Fuchs-1A1 Hummel platforms will probably perform electronic attack in these wavebands. Sources continue that the TPz Fuchs-1A1 Eloka vehicles have a jamming mast 19 metres (62.3 feet) high. This may enable the detection of V/UHF transmissions at ranges of up to 17 kilometres (eleven miles) for ground-based tactical radios.
On 5 July, the Dutch army received the first of an undisclosed number of Thales Bushmaster four-wheel drive protected mobility vehicles configured for electronic warfare. Sources close to the acquisition have told Armada that a total of twelve vehicles will be delivered. These will be drawn from the army’s existing fleet of Bushmasters. The force procured a total of 104 Bushmasters between 2006 and 2009.
Published pictures of the new vehicle appear to show it equipped with a High Frequency (HF: three megahertz-30MHz) antenna. This implies that the platform can detect and locate HF transmissions, as well as V/UHF traffic. This would be a qualitative increase vis-à-vis the TPz Fuchs-1A1 vehicles which were not thought to have any capability to detect or attack HF traffic.
Moreover, the Bushmaster seems to include a set of antennas to counter drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). These could be used to electronically attack the radio frequency link connecting a UAV to its ground control station. Drones and UAVs use 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequencies reserved for this purpose by the International Telecommunications Union.
Both the counter-drone/UAV system, and the vehicle’s HF and V/UHF antennas are mounted on extendable masts. A cursory examination indicates that the platform could have an effective detection and electronic attack range for ground-based V/UHF emitters of circa 17 kilometres (nine metres) when the mast is fully extended.
The Dutch Army was contacted during the preparation of this article to obtain more details regarding this recent acquisition, and the capabilities of the EW Bushmasters, but received no reply prior to the publication of this article. (Source: Armada)
03 Aug 20. Pandemic lengthens delay in US Army’s M113 vehicle replacement program. The coronavirus pandemic has caused another delay for the U.S. Army’s plagued M113 replacement program, which has struggled with manufacturing problems as the BAE Systems-made Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle entered low-rate initial production, according to the company’s second quarter fiscal 2020 earnings briefing released last week.
The company had to delay delivery of the first LRIP vehicles by roughly four to six months, moving delivery from March to July.
But as BAE prepared to move ahead on delivery, the pandemic hit, bringing with it another delay of roughly a month, which pushed the vehicles’ delivery date to August.
The AMPV program entered LRIP in January 2019, but the program office indicated last year that delivery of the first vehicles would be delayed by two months and the completion of production qualification testing would be delayed by seven months due to tooling and assembly line challenges at BAE’s facility in York, Pennsylvania.
Because of the issues, the Army’s AMPV budget request in FY21 showed the program took a hit. The service indicated it would buy 32 vehicles instead of the 143 planned for the fiscal year, and the program’s budget was cut from $445m to $193m.
The Army and BAE developed “a production approach that would allow us to incorporate efficiencies during LRIP that modernize manufacturing and increase the overall throughput of the program,” Amanda Niswonger, a BAE spokeswoman, told Defense News in an Aug. 3 statement.
“This included installing new technology and processes such as robotic welding, digital X-ray, and advanced machining. And we worked closely with the Army to update and refine manufacturing processes to incorporate the most modern weld and inspection technology,” she said. “These changes had an impact on our delivery timeline which was not reflected in the original delivery schedule, but continues to meet the Army’s fielding schedule.”
The service and BAE had formalized the schedule change just as COVID-19 hit the U.S., which affected a large number of manufacturing facilities and supply chains globally.
“We have worked tirelessly to mitigate the impacts from COVID-19 with our employees, supply network, and customer base to keep our manufacturing sites operational and continue to receive parts as needed,” Niswonger said. “Unfortunately we could not overcome all the challenges and our first delivery has slipped one month.” (Source: Defense News)
03 Aug 20. US calls off rescue mission for missing marines. The US has concluded a search and rescue operation for seven marines and a sailor missing at sea for days after an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) sank during an exercise.
Missing members are presumed dead after the leadership determined that there is little probability that they are alive given the circumstances of the incident. The operation will now be shifted to recover the remains of the missing service members. The marines involved in the accident belonged to Camp Pendleton-based 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
15th MEU Commanding Officer Colonel Christopher Bronzi said: “It is with a heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort.
“The steadfast dedication of the marines, sailors, and coast guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”
The incident happened late last week when an AAV sank during a routine training exercise off the coast of San Clemente Island, California.
A total of 16 members, including 15 marines and one sailor, were on the vehicle. Eight were rescued, with one later dying.
During the 40-hour rescue mission, helicopter, ships and watercraft searched more than 1,000 square nautical miles.
The circumstances that led to the incident are currently being investigated.
Bronzi added: “Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our marines’ and sailor’s families during this difficult time.
“As we turn to recovery operations we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing marines and sailors.” (Source: naval-technology.com)
03 Aug 20. USMC moving ahead with ground vehicle divestiture. The US Marine Corps (USMC) has retired 200 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, M88 armoured recovery vehicles, and armoured vehicle launched bridges, and is planning to transfer them over to the army.
Over the past few weeks, the USMC has been standing down various ground vehicles as part of Commandant General David Berger’s Force Design 2030 plan. On 6 July, for example, the service announced that the last tank assigned to 1st Tank Battalion had departed the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.
The service is now consolidating the vehicles at a logistics base in Barstow, California, and recently announced that its Railhead Operations Group staff is now verifying that everything is in order before sending the vehicles on to army depots in Herlong, California, and Aniston, Alabama.
“We have Marines from several units here to assist with the offload, on load, and securement of the equipment,” Chad Hildebrandt, the railway operations supervisor for the logistics base, said in a 30 July announcement. The loaded cars will be stored on base until we have all tanks loaded and secured, then they will all ship out to the army at the same time”.
Earlier this year, Gen Berger unveiled his vision for how his service should be manned and operating by 2030 to compete with China and Russia. One of his ultimate goals is to design a smaller force that is more nimble to support naval expeditionary warfare operations, and to achieve this the service is funnelling dollars away from legacy systems and towards modernised ones. (Source: Jane’s)
31 Jul 20. Ukraine tests new firepower options for BMP-1 fleet. Ukraine is conducting comparative tests of four remote weapon systems (RWSs) on its BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced on 22 July.
The announcement was made following a visit by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel General Ruslan Khomchak, to one of the training grounds in Chernihiv where the tests were being conducted with specialists from State Research Institute for Testing and Certification of Arms and Military Equipment.
The systems under consideration include the BM-7 Parus, which is used by Ukrainian forces equipped with the BTR-4 8×8 IFV, and the KBA 105A Shkval, which arms the BTR-3s in service with Ukraine. Parus is manufactured by the state-owned Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau and the Zhytomyr Armoured Fighting Vehicle Plant, and Shkval comes from the Construction Bureau of Artillery Armaments.
Other contenders are the Stilet, which is a modernisation of Zhytomyr’s Shkval, and the Spys RWS from private Ukrainian company TechImpex.
Each contender carries similar armaments. They are equipped with the ZTM-1/ZTM-2 30mm automatic cannon, 7.62 mm PKT coaxial machine gun, 30 mm automatic grenade launcher, and anti-tank guided weapons from the Ukrainian Luch Design Bureau. They are also equipped with thermal imaging cameras or an infrared night channel.
According to Janes Firepower, Survivability & Mobility, Stilet is 460 kg lighter than Shkval. Zhytomyr completed a full cycle of factory tests of the RWS fitted onto a BMP-1UMD in 2018. The module, however, has not seen active service with any armed forces. TechImpex fits the Spys RWS to its BTR Varan, a prototype 8×8 developed for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. (Source: Jane’s)
31 Jul 20. Pakistan Army inducts first batch of Al-Khalid-I MBTs. The Pakistan Army (PA) officially inducted into service its first batch of Al-Khalid-I main battle tanks (MBTs) in a ceremony held on 28 July at the facilities of state-owned defence manufacturer Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) in the Rawalpindi District of the Pakistan’s Punjab Province.
In a statement issued that same day, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistani military, said that several units of the tank, which is an improved variant of the in-service Al-Khalid MBT, were handed over to the PA’s Armoured Corps. The video shows at least 20 Al-Khalid-Is lined up at the ceremony.
During the ceremony, which was also attended by Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the platform displayed some of its capabilities, including “mobility, speed, bi-axis gun stabilisation of the control system, and use of smoke screen to mask movement”, said ISPR, adding that the new tanks will be handed over to formations that have a “critical and decisive role during war”.
The Al-Khalid-I is part of a joint venture between Pakistan, China, and Ukraine, and is believed to be intended to replace approximately 300 Type 85 and 320 T-80UD MBTs. Compared with the Al-Khalid, the first units of which entered service in 2001, the upgrade is comprehensive and appears to be angled at making the design competitive with the Indian Army’s fleet of T-90S MBTs. (Source: Jane’s)
31 Jul 20. Hanwha ships Redback IFV test vehicles to Australia. South Korea’s Hanwha Defense has shipped two prototype AS21 Redback infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for testing by the Australian Army as part of its Project Land 400 Phase 3 procurement programme.
Hanwha Defense announced held a rollout ceremony for the two prototype vehicles at its factory in Changwon on 24 July, it announced two days earlier. The vehicles left Pyeongtaek Port on South Korea’s west coast on 28 July and are expected to arrive in Melbourne, Australia, in late August. A third prototype is expected to be delivered by November 2020.
Project Land 400 Phase 3, also known as the Mounted Close Combat Capability, aims to deliver up to 450 IFVs and 17 manoeuvre support vehicles to replace the army’s upgraded but increasingly obsolete M113AS4 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) – which first entered service in the mid-1960s – at an estimated cost between A$10 and A$15bn.
The prototype vehicles are being delivered under a A$50m Risk Mitigation Activity (RMA) contract signed in October 2019.
Hanwha Defense noted that RMA testing is expected to commence in November and comprise a 10-month period of operationally relevant testing that will prove out the Redback’s lethality, survivability, mobility, and transportability. One of the prototypes will be tested to destruction. (Source: AMR)