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13 Aug 21. Challenger 3: Could Tank Upgrades Be Cancelled Like Warrior’s? Britain’s main battle tank requires similar changes to the armoured vehicle programme recently put in reverse.
The British Army’s battle tank is going under the knife, with 148 Challenger 2s set to be transformed to Challenger 3s by the end of the decade. Both excitement and concern surround plans for a new turret in a fully-digitised vehicle, in the wake of long-awaited upgrades to the Warrior armoured vehicle being cancelled.
Warrior had been promised a new turret for a decade when plans to scrap the project were published in the Defence Command Paper this year.
Forces News asked Dr Jack Watling, Research Fellow for Land Warfare at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), whether Challenger 3 could meet the same fate.
“The scope of the project is similar – so the upgrade to Challenger 3 is to build a new turret, with a new gun, and to integrate it into quite an old set of hulls,” he said.
While fear the programme could “go along similar lines” to the Warrior is “understandable”, Dr Watling suggested there were unique flaws to the hulls of the armoured vehicle, which is itself two decades older than the Challenger 2.
A stronger starting point with the Challenger 3 prototype gives defence cause for optimism, while speedbumps in the Challenger’s life extension will be treated by the Army as “valuable” lessons learned due to the project’s broader relevance to future vehicle design.
Dr Watling said “ironing out the kinks” with the new tank will inform programmes surrounding the next generation of armoured fighting vehicles like the Warrior’s replacement, the Boxer.
UK engineers have not developed a battle tank for years, and troubleshooting on the Challenger 3 will be deemed less of a burden than the woes of the Warrior, Dr Watling explained.
What might the problems be?
Fitting brand new, mass-manufactured components into older and worn hulls, is one hurdle.
The Warrior was manufactured when turrets were “serialised to the hull” and had to be fitted individually rather than being “dropped into each vehicle” – so the outlook for the modern Challenger 3 is brighter here.
Failure to export the tank to other countries could also see the unit cost tank rise and drive the budget up, the expert said.
Dr Watling described a “tall order” in convincing those outside of the UK and Oman to buy the tanks – Challenger 3 “unlikely to surpass the competition”.
The lack of an autoloader in the upgraded platform means one crew member must still load the gun, leaving “fairly limited crew capacity to do some of the things the Army would like the crew to be doing” like controlling drones from inside.
High protection on board the Challenger 3 “risks it climbing towards 80 tonnes,” said Dr Watling – adding that the competition is hitting upper limits of 50 tonnes.
A newfound focus on a digital backbone for UK heavy armour is unlikely to delay manufacturing, but could hinder their use.
The architecture of the upgraded tank would allow the new systems to effectively ‘plug in’ when ready.
Although Dr Watling had concerns over the budget and timescale now the Challenger 3’s surgery is under way, he believes the UK’s “crippling deficiency in firepower” is a primary reason not to cancel the project.
“If Challenger 2 went to war today its rounds would not be knocking out its targets, and so it would likely be destroyed,” he said.
Britain has “too few guns at almost every calibre” he continued, stating that Challenger 3 would be “one of the few things in the Army that could reliably kill things it comes up against… apart from higher-end, modernised main battle tanks”. (Source: forces.net)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that a parts shortage could extend the C3 contract to a 15 year timeframe.
13 Aug 21. South African APCs sold to Mozambique. Mozambique, battling an Islamist insurgency in its Cabo Delgado province, took delivery of two South African built armoured personnel carriers (APCs) earlier this year along with what is only described as an “attack helicopter”.
The value of the rotorcraft is listed at R2m in the second quarter report of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), chaired at that time by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola.
When he announced changes to his Cabinet earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa named Mondli Gungubele to replace acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. She took the place of Jackson Mthethu, who died in January. defenceWeb asked The Presidency if Gungubele will chair the NCACC, but there was no response at the time of publication.
The APCs are not named, as is standard operating procedure (SOP) for government’s conventional arms control body, but are given a value of just over R7m.
Other continental buyers of South African APC expertise in the second quarter of the current year are Mali (10 valued at R60m) and Somalia (two, valued at just on R17m).
Two hundred and twenty-four light South African weapons, no further information supplied, valued at R3,6 million were sold to Angola with Djibouti buying six worth R50m.
When it comes to ammunition exports South Africa, the NCACC second quarter report states, the country exported more than R1bn’s worth using 137 authorised export permits to 39 countries. On the other side of the ledger, South Africa imported ammunition valued at R57m.
12 Aug 21. Milrem Robotics Demos Off-road Autonomy. The European leading robotics and autonomous systems developer Milrem Robotics exhibited their Intelligent Functions off-road capabilities at the first demonstration of iMUGS, the project to develop the European standard unmanned ground vehicle. The autonomy demonstration was performed using two THeMIS unmanned ground vehicles. First, one THeMIS UGV followed a human operator walking along a path with various obstacles. Second, the operator took control of the first UGV using Line of Sight (LoS) control and set the second THeMIS to follow the first one from waypoint A to B. After a successful performance, the second THeMIS was commanded to return home via Milrem’s Intelligent Functions Integration Kit’s (MIFIK) Mission Planner. While en route, the operator stepped in front of the UGVs path to trigger its obstacle detection and auto-stop feature. After the operator had passed through the UGVs path, the vehicle continued its way to its home point.
“Intelligent functions are a crucial part of unmanned systems as they allow soldiers to concentrate on their mission rather than focusing on operating the system. Unmanned ground systems with follow-me, return home, and point-to-point navigation functionalities considerably enhance the fighting capability of units,” said (reserve Captain) Jüri Pajuste, Defence R&D Director at Milrem Robotics.
Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics added: “MIFIK will be delivered to several THeMIS users around the world already this year. Starting from 2022, certified autonomous and intelligent functions will be part of THeMIS’ basic configuration. THeMIS + MIFIK users will receive annual updates with new capabilities and enhancements.”
The autonomy demo was performed with the first demonstration of the iMUGS project that aims to develop the European standard unmanned ground system.
During the iMUGS demonstration, the projects consortium partners showcased how the THeMIS can be deployed onto the battlefield using common Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) and teamed with unmanned aerial systems. The specific technology used was the Boxer APC by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and a tethered drone by Acecore Technologies. A multirotor drone by Atlas Dynamics was also part of the scenario.
Altogether two scenarios were played out in cooperation with the Estonian Defence Forces.
In the first scenario, the THeMIS integrated with Acecore’s tethered drone was operated Beyond the Line of Sight (BLOS) by the soldiers and used to detect, and target an enemy position. After determining the target indirect fire was ordered and an after-action review was performed using the drone footage.
The purpose of the second scenario was to retrieve a casualty from a crashed vehicle and afterwards retrieve the vehicle. Both actions were performed with the THeMIS UGV while the Boxer towed the UGV into the mission area and Atlas’ drone provided overwatch and situational awareness. The requirements for the standardized UGS have been set by seven EU member states Estonia, the leader of the project, and Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, and Spain. (Source: ASD Network)
11 Aug 21. Rheinmetall conducts demonstrations of new Mission Master SP modules. The demonstrations included two Mission Master SP A-UGVs equipped with EM&E sensors and weapons systems. Rheinmetall has completed a series of demonstrations of two new modules for the Mission Master SP autonomous uncrewed ground vehicles (A-UGV). The company exhibited two Mission Master SP A-UGVs equipped with Escribano Mechanical & Engineering (EM&E) sensors and weapons systems at the latter’s new facilities in San Juan del Viso in Spain. The demonstrations were attended by several Spanish government officials and international delegations.
One of the A-UGV- Mission Master SP – Fire Support carried the Escribano Guardian 2.0 Remote Weapon Station (RWS).
The other uncrewed vehicle, Mission Master SP – Surveillance, was equipped with the Escribano OTEOS sensor package.
During the demonstrations, the Mission Master SP – Surveillance detected a threat using the mast-mounted OTEOS and automatically shared its location with the Mission Master SP – Fire support, triggering a slew-to-cue.
In a statement, Rheinmetall said: “For Rheinmetall Canada, this series of demonstrations in Spain marks the first integration of an EM&E payload on its Mission Master SP A-UGV and its first collaboration with a Spanish company.
“This success underscores Rheinmetall’s mastery of system integration and the growing capabilities of its Mission Master family.”
Rheinmetall Mission Master is a line of A-UGVs developed by Rheinmetall Canada to support military troops in different missions.
These A-UGVs can be used for reconnaissance and surveillance operations, fire support, medical evacuation, and communication relay, among others.
The Mission Master family currently includes Mission Master SP A-UGV and the recently introduced Mission Master XT vehicles. (Source: army-technology.com)
11 Aug 21. ABC News in Australia reported today that the $5.6bn Australian Boxer armoured vehicle fleet faces lengthy delays over multiple technical issues. An overweight weapons system is threatening to delay a multi-bn-dollar army project, prompting alarm across government, the military and defence industry.
- Dozens of combat reconnaissance vehicles face serious technical issues, posing a threat to the $5.6bn project
- The vehicle’s turrets are vulnerable to missile attacks as they are too heavy to add anti-missile protection
- Defence privately threatened manufacturer Rheinmetall with listing the CRV as a project of concern
The ABC can reveal the automatic cannon turrets for Australia’s new “Boxer” combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV) are too heavy, and various other headaches with the massive program are emerging.
Other concerns about the Australian Army’s largest project to date include the CRV fleet only being able to fire German-made ammunition and requiring bespoke European-produced tyres.
In 2018, German company Rheinmetall was awarded the lucrative $5.6bn LAND 400 Phase 2 contract to construct 211 new light armoured vehicles, mostly in Queensland.
The initial block of 25 vehicles, including 12 Boxers that are configured with a turret and 30mm main cannon, was assembled in Germany and arrived in Australia this year.
Australia’s remaining 186 Boxers will be constructed at Rheinmetall’s Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) in Queensland.
However, numerous figures across Defence, government and industry have expressed deep concerns to the ABC about the project.
‘Overweight’ turret unable to include anti-missile protections
Military insiders say integrating the Lance turret is proving far more complicated than first anticipated because crucial anti-missile and anti-drone countermeasures are making the weapons system too heavy and unstable.
A Rheinmetall Defence Australia (RDA) spokesman said “there are no known weight or stability concerns regarding the Lance turret and its integration” on the already delivered “Block 1” Boxer CRV vehicles.
“RDA is not contracted to integrate an active protection system (APS) onto the Boxer CRV [but it] continues to work with Defence in identifying a sufficiently mature APS solution for future integration,” a company spokesman told the ABC.
However, sources inside the LAND 400 Phase 2 project warn there are now growing problems with the Lance Block 2 turret which will be integrated with the Spike 2 anti-tank missile and the Iron Fist Active Protection System (APS).
“It is the Lance Block 2 turret that is overweight — it’s unable to integrate the missile and APS without making the vehicle too heavy,” a Defence official, who declined to be identified publicly, told the ABC.
The German-owned supplier confirmed Australian taxpayers were supporting the costs of the “ongoing development” of integrating the Lance turret on the Boxer CRV.
“RDA is contracted by the Commonwealth to manufacture, integrate and deliver the Lance turret onto Boxer for the requirements of the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract,” the company said.
Boxers threatened to be put on ‘projects of concern’ list
A government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, said Defence informally threatened to put the program on the department’s “projects of concern” list at the end of last year.
“They (Rheinmetall) were told at Christmas that they could go on the list and then there was a meeting in March that headed off that listing,” the official told the ABC.
Rheinmetall has flatly rejected the suggestion it has received any cautions from government, and insists it is on track to meet all of the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract obligations.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, RDA remains on track to deliver all of the LAND 400 Phase 2 vehicles to the initial and final operational capability schedule milestones,” a spokesman said.
There are also concerns inside Defence that the LAND 400 Phase 2 project could be vulnerable to unreliable overseas supply chains because the new Boxer vehicles rely on European-made tyres and ammunition.
Rheinmetall confirmed the Boxer CRV used “a tyre exclusively manufactured at a facility in France” but argued “such an arrangement is commonplace in military applications.”
Similarly the company confirmed the German ammunition manufactured by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition Schweiz was the “only ammunition qualified” to be fired by the cannon on the Boxer.
“Rheinmetall has not been asked to qualify ammunition from other manufacturers,” a spokesperson said.
Earlier this year, the head of the Defence Department’s Armoured Vehicle Division, Major General David Coghlan, said “gun jamming” was one of the “technical issues” on the CRV.
Major General Coghlan told a June 1 Senate estimates hearing the army’s first 12 turreted vehicles were “going through verification and at this stage the turret is performing safely”.
“We are not at the end of that process yet. Once they are safe we will issue them to the unit.”
The Defence Department declined to respond to detailed questions from the ABC about the LAND 400 project. (Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Clarification, in our BATTLESPACE ALERT Vol.23 ISSUE 48, 11 August 2021, Australian Boxer fleet faces lengthy delays, we said that, ‘As the Ajax has a turret based on the Lance, these issues will multiply given the heavier weight of the CT40 canon and the 20,000lb recoil.’ We should have said that the Ajax turret was ‘conceptually’ the same as the Lance turret as it shares the same citadel, but it is not a Lance turret. BATTLESPACE understands that GDUK had to strengthen the Ajax turret due to these issues which would thus cause more weight on the chassis and a possible cause of the vibrations. There is also the question of the 7 tonne ISR package on the turret.
11 Aug 21. Australia rejects reported Boxer CRV roadblocks. A media report alleging new technical issues have prompted delays in the rollout of the next-generation fleet has been rejected by sources from Defence.
On Wednesday (11 August), the nation’s public broadcaster reported that the Commonwealth government’s $5.2 bn LAND 400 Phase 2 program would be facing further delays after technical issues associated with the weight of the automatic cannon turrets were allegedly identified.
It was claimed that the Lance Turret, fixed to the Rheinmetall-built Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV), were “overweight” and unstable, leaving the vehicle vulnerable to missile attacks.
The news report stated that as a result, Defence threatened to list the program as a ‘project of concern’.
However, in a statement to Defence Connect, a spokesperson from the department has rejected such claims, stressing that the program “has not been cautioned” and “remains on track” to achieve both initial and final operational capability in 2022 and 2027, respectively.
“Defence has a process in place to consider placing projects as a project of concern via Independent Assurance Reviews. There has been no suggestion or recommendation that LAND 400 be listed as a project of concern,” the spokesperson said.
“[Twenty-five] Block I Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles have been accepted by Defence. The vehicles are performing well and are currently undergoing planned Verification & Validation and Operational Test & Evaluation activities.”
Defence confirmed it has “not been notified of, and is not aware of” any weight or stability issues associated with the integration of the Lance Turret.
“The vehicle will operate at the upper end of its Gross Vehicle Mass; this has been understood and accepted since the contract was signed,” the spokesperson said.
No additional costs are expected to be incurred from integrating the Lance 2 configuration for the second tranche of vehicles, as suggested by the ABC report.
“It was scoped and budgeted for within the original acquisition contract with Rheinmetall Defence Australia,” Defence stated.
The ABC had also alleged that the Boxer CRV fleet is only capable of firing German-made ammunition. This claim has also been dismissed.
“Rheinmetall Defence Australia is not experiencing any problems with the integration of the Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile onto the turret of the combat reconnaissance vehicle. Defence remains on schedule to conduct testing in 2022,” the spokesperson added.
These reports come just a month after personnel from the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) (2/14LHR [QMI]) conducted live-fire training with the Boxer CRV, testing the vehicle’s 30mm turret at the Wide Bay Training Area in Queensland.
Lieutenant Stefano Rankin, who is helping manage the Army’s transition from the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) to the Boxer CRV, lauded the new vehicle’s accuracy and lethality.
“To fire the turret, it’s quite different to what we are used to. It’s very digitised, as opposed to the ASLAV,” LT Rankin said.
“It is a very capable piece of equipment.”
The first tranche of 25 Boxer CRVs were delivered to the Army in May. Rheinmetall has been tasked with developing a total of 211 Boxer vehicles in different versions, including 131 CRVs, replacing the ASLAV fleet. (Source: Defence Connect)
10 Aug 21. US Army prepares to circumvent potential OMFV design roadblocks. The US Army has tasked five companies to work on Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) concept designs over the next year-plus, and programme officials are vowing to use their work to craft realistic requirements this time around and prepare for potential subsystem delays.
In late July, the service announced that American Rheinmetall Vehicle, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, a Hanwha Defense-Oshkosh Defense team, and Point Blank Enterprises had each received a contract to immediately begin work on M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle replacement designs. Instead of providing the teams with a set of firm requirements to guide this programme phase, the service has outlined nine vehicle characteristics ranked in descending importance: survivability, mobility, growth, lethality, weight, logistics, transportability, manning, and training. It is not until this 15-month modelling, simulation, and analysis period nears completion that the service will draft firm requirements to guide a ‘full and open competition’ for the next two phases.
“The biggest risk is if we attempt to change those [requirements] after those decisions are made,” Director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team Major General Ross Coffman told reporters during a 23 July call. “We need to be steadfast. We need to be solid once we make a decision on our requirements,” he added. “We’re not going to get another bite at this apple.” (Source: Jane’s)
10 Aug 21. Rheinmetall and Escribano demonstrate new modules for the Mission Master SP A-UGV. Rheinmetall and Escribano Mechanical & Engineering (EM&E) have collaborated in recent months in order to demonstrate two new Rheinmetall Mission Master SP modules carrying EM&E sensors and weapons systems. A series of demonstrations took place at EM&E’s new facilities in San Juan del Viso in the presence of Spanish government officials, including the Army chief of staff and international delegations. A demonstration for His Majesty King Felipe VI was also held at Viator in the Province Almería in southern Spain.
The demonstrations involved two Mission Master SP Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles (A-UGVs). For these activities, a Mission Master SP – Fire Support was equipped with the Escribano Guardian 2.0 Remote Weapon Station (RWS), while a Mission Master SP – Surveillance carried the Escribano OTEOS sensor package. Thanks to the mast-mounted OTEOS, the Mission Master SP – Surveillance successfully detected a threat and automatically shared its location with the Mission Master SP – Fire support, triggering a slew-to-cue. Various Mission Master control modes were showcased, including follow-me, autonomous navigation, and convoy modes.
Live firing with the Mission Master SP – Fire Support equipped with the Escribano Guardian 2.0 RWS in the Dillon Aero M134D configuration was conducted using UGV/RWS portable controllers integrated with a safety board architecture, allowing safe wireless firing. As with all Mission Master operations, targets are never engaged automatically. A human in the loop is always required for all kinetic decisions.
For Rheinmetall Canada, this series of demonstrations in Spain marks the first integration of an EM&E payload on its Mission Master SP A-UGV and its first collaboration with a Spanish company. This success underscores Rheinmetall’s mastery of system integration and the growing capabilities of its Mission Master family.
09 Aug 21. Emirati firm signs agreement with Ukrainian Armor on robotic vehicles. Emirati company Milanion Group has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukrainian Armor to give the latter distribution rights of unmanned ground vehicle Agema.
“Ukraine is an important market for Milanion, and having already successfully worked with Ukrainian Armor, we find they have the capabilities, authority and flexibility to create and service any demand for the vehicle while responding quickly to changing market conditions, enabling us to deliver tailored solutions to local preferences,” Milanion CEO Davinder Dogra said.
Milanion exhibited the robotic vehicle at the Arms and Security trade show in Kyiv from June 15-18. Agema was also displayed at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in February 2021 at the Tawazun Economic Council booth.
Agema is designed to support a range of missions, including national and civil defense and security; fire and rescue; logistical support; fire support; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; anti-tank support; medevac; and route inspection and clearance. The platform can also provide encrypted communications.
Additionally, it can be fitted with “a variety of drone detection systems, including frequency jamming and anti-jamming systems,” according to a company description of the product.
The UGV can operate in rugged terrain and amphibious environments, be rapidly deployed by rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, and support static ground and mobile units. Its payload is agnostic and can be equipped with loitering munitions following an industrial partnership with Polish company MSP.
“We are already a well-known supplier of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine’s defense forces, and have the capability and resources to get units of the Agema UGV into ‘active duty’. We find the Agema is a robust and versatile vehicle equipped with world-class technology, yet simple to operate, low maintenance and affordable,” said Ukrainian Armor Director General Vladislav Belbas. (Source: Defense News)
09 Aug 21. Netline to deliver 87 additional C-Guard RJ vehicular counter-IED systems to the Spanish Ministry of Defense, as part of a total project for the provision of 334 systems. The systems, which are due to be delivered in November, have been adapted to suit four vehicle prototypes. This is in addition to 51 systems already delivered for 12 different vehicle prototypes.
Netline Communications Technologies Ltd. – a leading developer and manufacturer of high-end electronic warfare and spectrum dominance systems for defense forces and homeland security agencies – has announced another milestone in its five-year contract with the Spanish Ministry of Defense for the provision of 334 improvised explosive device (IED) jammers with a recently-received order for a further 87 systems. This is in addition to the previous batch delivered in 2020, of 51 systems (in serial production) for 12 prototypes.
Designed to be mounted on vehicles, Netline’s C-Guard RJ is a highly-flexible and resilient modular reactive jamming system. Providing reactive coverage to counter an extensive range of threats, the system constantly scans the spectrum and responds to any detected transmissions by focusing the jamming signal and power to defeat the threat.
Meeting the needs of day-to-day operations, the C-Guard RJ provides on-the-move operation, and is able to withstand harsh environmental conditions. The system has been designed to provide military vehicle crews with ease of operation and maintenance, and simple module replacement, which can be carried out by operating teams (O-level) with nearly zero downtime. The C-Guard RJ can be adjusted for installation and integration into all types of vehicles.
Under the long-term contract, Netline is also providing the Spanish Army with training programs and maintenance.
“This is a large-scale project spread out over time,” says Yallon Bahat, CEO of Netline. “Despite the complex period we are in, Netline is meeting all the project requirements, including keeping to the delivery schedule. The system is designed and adapted to each vehicle according to its specific structure, electrical and mechanical systems and other particulars. We are pleased with the close cooperation with the Spanish forces, and look forward to the continued success of this project, which meets the requirements of forces operating in the field.”
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