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21 Sep 23. Systematic Integrating intelligent fires.
Joint fires – in the form of artillery, mortars, air- and sea-based support, and more – can be the critical decider on the modern battlefield. Delivering a weight of fire in a battle is a key function of a fire support function. Precise, targeted fires can be more important – reducing an enemy’s capacity or capability before it makes it to the frontline by combining intelligence with a kinetic effect.
Being able to fire efficiently is a core part of modern fires, particularly as the ability to field accurate counter-battery fires has significantly increased on the modern battlespace. With the time taken to identify targets of interest shrinking as sensors proliferate, the need to sort planned and dynamic fires is critical to ensure the maintenance of a battlespace advantage.
Spinning in your seat
Typically, the staff of a joint fires cell will sit with two systems in place – a fires planning and execution system that helps with the targeting and conduct of fires missions, and a higher echelon C4ISR system that provides access to intelligence, situational awareness, plans, and orders.
Operating across these two systems requires a very active swivel chair, and a fires cell staff that can track intelligence streams and the disposition of friendly forces that are constantly being updated. Digitialisation of the fires process helps to significantly reduce the co-ordination burden, improve the efficiency of fires missions, and increase accuracy.
The delivery of intelligence data into a command post environment also gives more users the ability to gain a greater appreciation of the battlespace, and identify enemy forces and locations more quickly. Leveraging inorganic intelligence feeds that are not operated by an artillery formation means that the likelihood of finding high-value targets of opportunities is greatly increased.
For dynamic and time-sensitive fires missions, the ability to respond to these targets can allow for a degradation of an enemy’s force multipliers. Exploiting time-critical intelligence into the fires chain requires superior intelligence gathering, alerting, and collaboration skills.
The SitaWare solution
Users of SitaWare have the ability to integrate their fires operations into the command environment. Deploying the SitaWare Fire Support Module with SitaWare Headquarters allows joint fires cells the ability to integrate their operations with the staff of a command post. In using the same battle management platform, actors within the command post can interact more easily, exchange information and intelligence more readily, and reduce the burden on fires and operations staff.
Plans for fire support missions can be created and shared with fires teams, as well as with operations staff and other users across the battlespace. The drafting, formatting, and delivery of plans can be done using standard templates. Their digital delivery directly into the BMS environment means that there are significant improvements in transparency about the delivery of kinetic effects, reducing the risk of friendly fire incidents as situational awareness in improved.
The SitaWare Fire Support Module can also be deployed with the tablet-based SitaWare Frontline in vehicles, with gun teams, and by forward observers. Utilising the same operating environment, planning and operations staff within a headquarters are also able to track the position, availability, and inventory of their fires assets, ensuring that the best effect can be delivered. Plans, fire missions, and the common operational picture (COP) can also be readily shared and updated to disparate fires units, ensuring improvements in operator safety.
From a force protection standpoint, being able to share a COP means that fires assets can be more mobile. As counter-battery effects on the battlefield improve, the need for mobility increases. Greater mobility enables greater safety of fires assets and improves their longevity as a resource. Automatically calculating and calibrating each fire mission to an asset’s location further ensures that mobility does not create an accuracy trade-off.
Leveraging the full power of the intelligence cycle
Systematic’s newest product, SitaWare Insight, can further help unlock intelligence to deliver operational efficiencies for the fires workflow. Working in a headquarters’ operations and planning cycles, SitaWare Insight helps to deliver the intelligence cycle’s products rapidly and efficiently to a command staff, while deploying technologies such as computer vision and big data analysis to identify enemy assets, positions, and intentions.
Staff working within a Joint Fires Cell can leverage these intelligence products to maximise the utilisation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, and further find targets of opportunity on the battlefield. Alerts based on the detection of possibly enemy equipment or formations can help commanders and fires teams understand the threat landscape and work to further impede an opponent’s capabilities or frustrate their freedom of movement.
Operating a single C4ISR platform such as SitaWare has a number of other benefits – from a common user interface and simplified training, to secured communications and interoperability. Integrating intelligence, operations, manoeuvre, fires, and planning allows for a more efficient battlegroup, improved combat effectiveness, and an operational advantage over an opponent.
21 Sep 23. UAE Loitering Munitions Integrated on a European UGV. The European robotics and autonomous systems developer Milrem Robotics unveiled a new THeMIS Combat Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) equipped with loitering munitions that allow engaging targets farther behind enemy lines.
The new system is equipped with Hunter 2-S tactical swarming drones by Halcon and features artificial intelligence that offers frontline forces the ability to locate, track and accurately eliminate soft targets, light vehicles and armoured vehicles from safe distances in challenging battlefield conditions.
“Units can manoeuvre the THeMIS Combat with Hunter 2-S drones closer to the enemy line. This allows them to engage closer targets faster or venture farther behind the lines to find suitable targets,”
explained CPT (res) Jüri Pajuste, Defence R&D Director at Milrem Robotics.
The Hunter 2-S is able to autonomously follow a flight plan to an intended target area, coordinate with other drones in the swarm and loiter while seeking and classifying targets until engagement by a man-in-the-loop.
“Deploying robotic systems across enemy lines is considerably faster and more efficient than using manned units for the same task,”
Pajuste said and added that using loitering munitions also enhances a unit’s situational awareness and ISR capabilities.
Hunter 2-S is the first UAE-made drone with swarming technology in which each drone can share data and communicate with the others, and had been expected to enter production in 2025. Halcon is one of many subsidiaries of the UAE defense conglomerate EDGE Group.
Hunter 2-S drones carry a payload of 2 kg each, can reach a cruising altitude of 500 m and cruise at an indicated airspeed of 25 m/s with a total available flight time of 45 minutes.
The mission-proven THeMIS UGV, which is part of robotics programs in 16 countries, is intended to support dismounted infantry units. It comes equipped with MIFIK – Milrem’s Intelligent Functions Kit that allows for independent mobility of the system, including point-to-point navigation, follow me, obstacle detection and avoidance. (Source: UAS VISION)
20 Sep 23. Lockheed in ‘late-stage’ talks with solid-rocket motor partner. Lockheed Martin is in “late-stage negotiations” to partner with an unnamed rocket propulsion supplier, according to CEO Jim Taiclet.
Taiclet told lawmakers that discussions are ongoing with the unnamed firm. A Lockheed spokeswoman declined to provide further details about the deal — including the identity of the supplier and the nature of the partnership — saying the company is in a “quiet period” in the lead up to its third quarter earnings release next month.
“We are endeavoring . . . to create another supplier,” Taiclet said during a House Armed Services Cyber, Information Technologies and Innovation subcommittee hearing Sept. 20. “We’re in late-stage negotiations with a company that can actually pull this off, we believe.”
Lockheed’s Chief Operating Officer Frank St. John told Defense One in June the company was “actively investing and looking to partner” with a solid rocket motor source and expected to announce its “way forward” by the end of the summer.
Defense firms L3Harris and Northrop Grumman own the only major U.S. suppliers of solid rocket motor propulsion systems. Northrop acquired rocket company Orbital ATK in 2018 and in July L3Harris closed a $4.7 billion deal to purchase Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Lockheed previously attempted to acquire Aerojet, announcing a $4.4 billion potential deal in 2020. However, following a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission seeking to block the merger due to antitrust concerns, Lockheed walked away from the purchase in early 2022.
Taiclet framed the company’s new partnership attempt as an effort to diversify the solid rocket motor industrial base with a new supplier. He pointed to defense technology firm Anduril’s June acquisition of rocket propulsion supplier Adranos as another example of expanding the market.
Anduril CEO Brian Schimpf, also a witness at the hearing on defense innovation, said the company’s foray into the solid rocket motor business came from a thorough analysis of the industrial base.
“One of the most critical gaps we saw was production of solid rocket motors,” he said. “We’ve heard it from the primes, we’ve heard it from the government that this is a major gap in our ability to produce and scale weapons that we critically need.”
Anduril is “investing heavily” in Adranos but is looking to government for additional resources. Schimpf said.
“Anywhere we can create leverage to accelerate the capacity we can bring to market, that’s absolutely critical,” he said. “It’s an area where I think Congress can add very specific emphasis into the U.S. industrial base and grow it very, very quickly.”
The Pentagon has made some recent investments to support rocket motor industrial base modernization and replenish its ammunition stocks. In April, it awarded Aerojet $215 million to make improvements to its manufacturing facilities in Arkansas, Alabama and Virginia, which support production of key weapon systems. (Source: Defense News)
20 Sep 23. Canadian frigate AEGIS capability to be tested at US site. The Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC), which is intended to deliver a fleet of 15 frigate to the Royal Canadian Navy, will feature the AEGIS system.
Lockheed Martin has been awarded a near $64m (C$85m) contract for the establishment of the AEGIS Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) land-based test site in New Jersey, USA, funded through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) from Canada.
The award is the latest step in the development of the CSC programme, which is intended to deliver new multirole frigates to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). In 2019, the BAE Systems Global Combat Ship design was chosen, which is also being used for the UK’s own Type 26 frigate class currently under construction, and the Royal Australian Navy’s Hunter class warships, also under development.
In May 2021 the US State Department approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Canada of the AEGIS combat system for an estimated cost of $1.7bn, in a deal that would see four shipsets of AN/SPY-7 solid state radar components, among other equipment.
In a notice detailing the State Department’s FMS approval, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the proposed sale would increase Canadian maritime forces’ interoperability with the US and allied forces, as well as their ability “to contribute to missions of mutual interest” by delivering the first AEGIS-capable Canadian Surface Combatant.
“This will significantly improve network-centric warfare capability for the US forces operating globally alongside Canada,” the DSCA stated at the time.
Although originally designed for naval warfare, the AEGIS system has been used effectively as a part of a land-based missile threat detection network in the United States, Poland, and Japan. The creation of a land-based test site for the CSC programme will enable critical system to be tested and understanding gained by the would-be new operators.
The AEGIS system in its naval guise is operated by the US Navy, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Spanish Navy, the Royal Norwegian Navy, the Republic of Korea Navy, and the Royal Australian Navy.
Canadian Surface Combatant programme
The CSC project is the RCN’s acquisition programme to build 15 multirole ships which will replace both the retired Iroquois-class destroyers and the in-service Halifax-class frigates. According to GlobalData the programme is estimated to cost between $56bn and $60bn, with the warships being bult by Irving Shipbuilding at its Halifax Shipyard.
Once in service, the CSC will have the capacity to conduct air, surface, sub-surface and information warfare missions simultaneously on both open ocean and highly complex coastal environments. Its AEGIS system will focus on surface-to-air threat detection and interception.
Irving Shipbuilding was appointed as the prime contractor for the CSC project definition and implementation phases in January 2015, with a sub-contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Canada for vessel design in October 2018.
In February 2019, the BAE Systems’ Type 26 Global Combat Ship was selected as the base platform design for the CSC programme.
On 8 August this year the Canadian Government announced that it would invest a further $463m (C$620m) in the CSC project to accelerate construction to ensure timely delivery to the RCN.
Expected to displace around 7,800 tonnes, the CSC will be capable of speeds in excess of 27kt and feature a full spectrum range of weapons systems, including a 127mm main gun and two 30mm secondary weapon systems, MBDA’s Sea Ceptor close-in air defence system, and accommodate missile such as RTX’s SM-2 or Evolved Sea Sparrow in its Mk41 vertical launch system.
Additionally, Mk54 lightweight torpedoes and Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile can also be fitted to the platform.
According to GlobalData’s Canada Defense Market 2022-2027 report, naval vessels and surface combatants are the country’s largest defence market sector, with a value of £22.5bn over the forecast period. (Source: naval-technology.com)
19 Sep 23. Israeli companies showcase drones that take off, land vertically. Israeli defense companies made drone technology with a vertical-takeoff-and-landing capability a focus at this year’s DSEI defense conference in London, unveiling two new systems with customers already secured.
This past year, the tube-launched Hero series of loitering munitions produced by German company Rheinmetall and its Israeli-based partner Uvision have seen great success in Europe, with sales announced to Italy and Hungary.
But this deployment method involves a logistical challenge for operators.
“The challenge of tube-launched loitering munitions in urban warfare environments is that you typically need a certain amount of open space in front of you and a clear path with no personnel in between,” Alon Tamir, senior business development and marketing manager at Israel Aerospace Industries told Defense News last week at DSEI. “It makes where you can launch more complex.”
To solve this issue and provide customers with greater flexibility for launch sites, IAI developed the Rotem Alpha loitering munition, capable of hovering, taking off and landing vertically. Unveiled at DSEI, the system is equipped with a demonstrated anti-tank warhead and was designed based on lessons learned from Russia’s war against Ukraine, according to the company representative.
“Much of the world never thought we would widely see tanks fighting in Europe, yet here we are,” Tamir said. “We knew we had to develop a loitering munition with an anti-tank capability to respond to the demand for customers looking to destroy any type of military vehicle.”
The Rotem Alpha has a range of about 40 kilometers (25 miles) and can carry up to 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of payload. It has secured a launch customer — a NATO country — although the company would not say which one.
Another Israeli company to have launched a new system at the London-based conference is Elbit Systems with the reveal of its Skylark 1 eVTOL drone. It is the latest model of the Skylark family of unmanned aerial systems, which the Israel Defense Forces have operated since 2008.
The company signed a contract to provide the Skylark 1 eVTOL to the IDF’s Artillery Corps. Training operators to use the drone takes on average a few weeks, according to a company official.
Ziv Avni, vice president of marketing and business development at Elbit, highlighted the advantages of VTOL platforms, which he referred to as a clear market trend.
“This capability allows for greater ease of operation where the drone can land or be launched from anywhere, as it is runway-independent and landing is usually more precise, which makes it less likely critical payloads or infrastructure are damaged,” Avni said. “Its ability to hover in place also makes them ideal for operations requiring precise control and stability, such as surveillance.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
20 Sep 23. Seoul progresses vehicle-mounted tactical missile programme. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has said it will invest KRW290bn (USD218m) over the next four years to complete the development of an upgraded version of its guided Korean Tactical Surface-to-Surface Missile (KTSSM). DAPA said on 19 September that funds for development of the new KTSSM-II will be available from September 2023 to December 2027. It said prototype development will be led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), a DAPA subsidiary, with involvement from local industry. The Hanwha group is expected to be named prime contractor to build the prototype. Hanwha developed the baseline KTSSM and has been involved in preliminary KTSSM-II development. Without identifying Hanwha, DAPA said ADD is preparing to sign a contract with a local company to lead production of the KTSSM-II prototype. (Source: Janes)
19 Sep 23. Elbit Systems develops Find-and-Strike control concept. Elbit Systems has developed an operating concept that provides a single point of control for its Skylark unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and SkyStriker loitering munition.
The company displayed its Find-and-Strike (FAST) Capsule concept at the DSEI 2023 defence exhibition in London. FAST is designed to enable a single operator to launch a Skylark UAV from a catapult, operate it from a ground control station (GCS), and once a target has been acquired, launch a SkyStriker from the same launcher and control it from the same GCS. According to Elbit, this will shorten the ‘sensor-to-shooter’ loop.
Target information can be processed through the Skylark 3 and then sent to the common GCS, the data is then fed to the SkyStriker. Only one operator is required to perform the mission.
Speaking to Janes , Elbit Systems vice-president of marketing and business development for unmanned aircraft system (UAS), Amir Bettesh, said the FAST Capsule is being pitched to existing Skylark and SkyStriker customers. He added that Elbit has received interest from customers, some of whom are not operators of both types. (Source: Janes)
19 Sep 23. Elbit sells SkyStriker loitering munition to mystery European customer. Elbit Systems will supply several hundred canister configuration SkyStriker loitering munitions to an undisclosed European country in a $95 m deal, the Israeli firm announced Monday.
The company declined to identify the customer when asked by Defense News. But based on previous publications by Elbit, it’s likely the country is not a member of NATO, otherwise the business tends to point that out.
Elbit noted its contract with the mystery buyer will last two years.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has brought the weapon type to the foreground, with Russia using the HESA Shahed-136 exploding drones and establishing a factory to manufacture them.
Elbit’s SkyStriker is an autonomous loitering munition that can locate, acquire and engage operator-designated targets.
Elbit has said the SkyStriker can also maintain a human-in-the-loop mode in GPS- and communications-denied environments, and can use several warhead types weighing up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds).
It can launch from a variety of ground and aerial platforms and is equipped with an electrical engine that enables covert operations of up to 2 hours and with a range of 100 kilometers (62 miles).
Elbit unveiled the weapon in the summer of 2017 ahead of the Paris Air Show, and its first operational appearance was a year and a half later in Azerbaijan. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
18 Sep 23. Latest Piorun MANPADS brings new seeker, computing systems. Polish missile and ammunition specialist Mesko is developing a new version of its Piorun manportable air-defence system (MANPADS).
Przemysław Kowalczuk, a member of Mesko’s board, told Janes that the Piorun Next Generation (NG) is intended to improve the system’s effectiveness against modern countermeasures, including jamming, decoys, and laser-based countermeasures. “The biggest improvement is the development of the new multispectral seeker, onboard computer, and missile steering block”, Kowalczuk said.
The new computer has an updated target library and new algorithms that enable real-time, in-depth target analysis, according to the company, and which it says should improve effector performance against fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Mesko is undertaking the first trials of the new components, Kowalczuk said, adding, “The first test launches should take place in six to nine months on one of the Polish military training grounds… the current configuration of the Piorun NG enables testing [to take place, but] it is not final yet”, he added. (Source: Reuters)
18 Sep 23. Thales details small-arms developments. Thales Australia and Lithgow Arms revealed further details of their latest small-arms developments at DSEI 2023 in London. Speaking to Janes, representatives from the companies outlined work undertaken on a range of rifles, including the F90 Modular Bullpup Rifle (MBR). Essentially an improved F90 rifle, development of the MBR began in 2017 with an aim of improving the weapon’s overall ergonomics and functionality. A new ambidextrous magazine release was repositioned on the front of the trigger, allowing for magazines to be released using the control hand’s index finger. The magazine well was redesigned to accept STANAG pattern magazines and enable a drop-free magazine release, and the ambidextrous bolt-release catch was redesigned to work with STANAG magazines. In addition, Lithgow Arms produces an extended rail that features M-LOK interfaces, which is compatible with both the F90 and F90 MBR. This handguard was developed to accommodate modern shooting stances and techniques. (Source: Reuters)
18 Sep 23. BAE Systems offers M109A7 for Taiwan’s howitzer requirement. BAE Systems has offered its M109A7 155 mm tracked self-propelled howitzer (SPH) to the Republic of China Army (RoCA) to meet the service’s howitzer requirement, a spokesperson for BAE Systems told Janes at the Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition 2023 (TADTE 2023) held in Taipei from 14 to 16 September 2023.
The spokesperson said the company is in discussions with the RoCA and the service has also shown interest in procuring the SPHs.
“The RoCA operates nearly 200 M109A2s and M109A5s. The service wanted to buy [the] M109A6 for its requirement of howitzers. The US also approved the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Taiwan of 40 M109A6s in 2021. But the sale was cancelled due to unknown reasons,” the spokesperson added.
Now the RoCA is willing to buy the M109A7, which is equipped with a bigger chassis than the M109A6, the spokesperson said. (Source: Janes)
15 Sep 23. Brimstone-based Project Wolfram could begin live-fire tests early next year. The platform is a joint effort by the UK Ministry of Defence, pan-European missile manufacturer MBDA, and UK-based vehicle provider Supacat.
The UK’s Project Wolfram, a little-known programme to develop a next-generation mobile anti-armour capability utilising the Brimstone missile, could be set to begin live fire tests as early as Q2 2024, in the latest step to provide the British Army with a battlefield-shaping weapon.
As currently envisaged, Project Wolfram is testing the viability of fielding the Brimstone missile, already used by the Royal Air Force in a ground attack role, from a land vehicle, offering a potential shoot-and-scoot capability that has become recognised as critical in lessons being learned from the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Currently managed under the British Army’s Battle Group Organic Anti-Armour (BGOAA) programme, a concept demonstration of Wolfram was seen at the DVD 2022 event at Mibrook proving grounds, where an eight-cell ‘Brimstone’ canister was seen fitted to a flatbed truck.
At present, Wolfram, as it is still a concept, is not part of the British Army’s current equipment programme. However, it could inform the development of requirements for a capability to be brought into the service’s Land Operating Concept, at which point it would most likely be integrated into infantry battlegroups to defeat adversary tanks and armoured vehicles.
As reported by Army Technology at the time, the platform is in fact a joint effort by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), pan-European missile manufacturer MBDA, and UK-based vehicle provider Supacat.
MBDA’s Brimstone missile has proven a success since its entry into service in 2005 and has been mentioned in the US Congress as a capable weapon system. Supacat itself is a significant provider of light mobility platforms to the UK military, such as with the Jackal and Coyote platforms.
In teaming up a combat-proven missile with a relatively inexpensive delivery platform, coupled with a capable but cost-effective delivery platform, the UK MoD could in fact deliver a mobile fires capability into service far sooner than first thought.
The Brimstone missile system is known to have been provided to Ukraine and was seen in social media images in May last year being fired from a flatbed vehicle by Ukrainian forces towards Russian targets. The same month, then UK Defence Minister James Heappey confirmed that hundreds of Brimstone missiles in UK stocks would be sent to Ukraine.
Thought to have a range of around 25km, the Brimstone missile is capable of striking a range of target types, according to manufacturer MBDA, including fast moving vehicles, tanks and armoured cats, bunkers, as well as for anti-ship warfare in the maritime domain.
Brimstone also features an IM-compliant rocket motor and multi-effect, tandem-shaped charge warhead with an impact, delayed or proximity fuse capability. Weighing around 50kg, 1.8m-long missile is guided by a millimetric wave radar and semi-active laser system.
“Wolfram is a mobile Brimstone rocket launcher concept being demonstrated by industry and is one of many ideas being developed as we learn lessons from Ukraine. Wolfram is not yet fully developed as a capability,” an MoD spokesperson said in a statement.
Modularity driving British Army thinking
The need for open architecture systems and modularity is driving much of the British Army’s thinking, with projects such as the Land Mobility Programme, which will drastically reduce the number of platforms designs in service from 16 down to around five, indicative of a move towards host platforms being possible carriers of a variety of capabilities.
Project Wolfram is understood to also fall into this category, and rather than fixing to a specific host vehicle, instead seeing a Brimstone capability that can be swapped out from platforms such as the Boxer 8×8, to a more basic flatbed, as needed. To that end, Wolfram could less indicate a traditional platform-and-weapon-system approach, but rather set it goal in finding the best way to deliver the effect, in this case, the Brimstone missile.
Indeed, the UK military, and British Army in particular, looks to be reshaping itself significantly following lessons being learned from Ukraine’s war against Russia, where mobility and medium- and long-range fires have proven to be decisive influences on the battlefield.
In the 19-months since Russia full-scale invasion against its neighbour Ukraine, the UK has provided huge quantities of its legacy land capabilities to Kyiv, including L118 105mm light guns, AS90 155mm self-propelled howitzers, as well as more advanced capabilities such as the Challenger 2 tank and M270 MLRS.
One of the most significant steps in recent months was the UK provision of Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine, which were recently utilised to apparent significant effect in strikes on Russian-held Sevastopol naval base.
In March this year the UK signed an agreement with Sweden for 14 Archer 155mm self-propelled artillery systems, with the battery expected to be operational by the start of Q2 2024, forming an interim replacement for the 32 AS90 artillery systems the UK “gifted” to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The wheeled Archer 6×6 is equipped with an automated, self-propelled 155mm main gun designed for rapid deployment, with a firing range of 50km using extended range ammunition – doubling the AS90’s 25km range. (Source: army-technology.com)
18 Sep 23. Directed energy weapons making jump from sci-fi to real world. Five Pelican dropships and two Phantom troop carriers glide into view near snowcapped hills on a world with biomes similar to Earth’s. A handful of the warplanes break formation, ultimately bound for farther-flung targets, as volleys of neon green anti-aircraft fire erupt.
Despite some dodging, the fire proves accurate, and one of the Pelicans is hit. It veers violently forward and smacks into another just in front. A cry for help is heard; then, an explosion. A voice over the radio warns of the dicey disembark to come.
And, as players of Bungie’s smash-hit video game “Halo 3″ regain control of Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, the virtual super-soldier hoists to his shoulder what ms of gamers have affectionately nicknamed the “Spartan Laser,” a hulking, fearsome weapon powered by futuristic battery cells.
When primed with a squeeze and hold of the controller’s trigger, the device unleashes a blast of directed energy capable of devastating multiple targets, virtual infantry and armored opponents. Heat management forces downtime between shots, a nod to the realities that often limit fire in real weapons.
While such immensely powerful devices have long been a staple of computer games, movies and science-fiction novels, success in fielding practical weapons that can zap targets on real-world battlefields has eluded governments, scientists and defense contractors for more than a half-century. At least until recently.
“The hundreds of systems in the field? It’s coming,” Andy Lowery, the chief operating officer of defense company Epirus, a developer of directed-energy and counter-drone systems, said in an interview. “You’ll see tens of bns of dollars, I think, being applied once we get into production, manufacturing and then operations and sustainment.”
State of play
The U.S. Department of Defense is spending an average $1 bn a year on developing directed-energy weapons with the goal of using them to defeat threats including drones and missiles. It requested at least $669 m in fiscal 2023 for unclassified research, testing and evaluation and another $345 m for unclassified procurement, the Congressional Research Service reported.
Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu included directed energy on a list of 14 critical and emerging defense technologies released in February 2022.
Potential applications abound. High-energy lasers, HEL, and high-power microwave, HPM, systems can be used for short-range air defense, SHORAD, and to counter unmanned aerial systems, C-UAS, as well as rockets, artillery and mortars, C-RAM.
“What does a laser do to impart damage on the set target, utilizing directed energy? It just basically heats up and melts, right? Just a ton of energy. There’s no, really, wave interaction,” Lowery said. “With HPM, you’re actually trying to use the electro-magnetics in the air to cease the ability for anything that uses voltage and current to work, and you’re trying to do that as efficiently as possible, because it’s not easy.”
A look at how directed-energy weapons could be used in the field. Incoming drones and missiles are depicted. (Photo provided/GAO)
The weapons now in development come mainly in two forms: high-energy lasers, like Rafael’s Iron Beam, and Epirus’ HPMs. The former focuses a beam or beams of energy to blind, cut or inflict heat damage on a target. The latter unleashes waves of energy that overwhelm or fry electronic components.
Each has its respective strengths and weaknesses.
While HPMs can have a near-instant effect on electronic guts, its efficacy is stunted at greater ranges. And while high-energy lasers can punch holes through all sorts of material, certain atmospheric conditions including fog or wind can impede or distort the shot. Neither needs to be mechanically reloaded, like a rifle or tank, but they are reliant on power production and output, which can be disrupted.
“In very controlled conditions, they seem to perform as they should,” Thomas Withington, an analyst and author specializing in electronic warfare and military communications, said in an interview. The issue, though, is “how do you translate that to the front line in Ukraine?”
The U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are all, right now, attempting to fold directed-energy systems into offensive and defensive capabilities.
The Pentagon’s Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office and the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office in June tapped five companies to demonstrate weaponry capable of taking down one-way attack drones. The get-together at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona featured a Lockheed Martin-made Mobile Radio Frequency-Integrated UAS Suppressor, or MORFIUS, a tube-launched, fixed-wing drone that flies at a target and lets loose a high-power microwave pulse.
The service months earlier awarded a $66 m deal to Epirus for prototypes of its drone-zapping Leonidas device. The tech has since been paired with the Anduril Industries Lattice command-and-control program for the Marine Corps and DroneShield’s sensing-and-jamming DroneSentry system.
Similarly, the Air Force in April tested its Tactical High-power Operational Responder, or THOR, at Kirtland Air Force Base’s Chestnut Test Site in New Mexico. The system looks like a shipping container with a satellite dish welded to the top; its effects, however, are less innocuous.
Adrian Lucero, a program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s directed energy directorate, in a statement at the time of testing said THOR “was exceptionally effective at disabling” its targets. The lab employs approximately 11,500 military, civilian and contractor personnel, and manages a $7 bn portfolio.
“The THOR team flew numerous drones at the THOR system to simulate a real-world swarm attack,” Lucero said. “THOR has never been tested against these types of drones before, but this did not stop the system from dropping the targets out of the sky with its non-kinetic, speed-of-light high-power microwave” pulses.
In December 2021, the Navy announced the successful testing of a high-energy laser aboard the USS Portland while it sailed through the Gulf of Aden. A previous test was done in May 2020, during which a small drone was disabled over the Pacific Ocean.
The service has been at the forefront of trying to deploy practical directed-energy weapons. Both Lockheed’s High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance, or HELIOS, and the in-house Optical Dazzling Interdictor Navy, or ODIN, to tackle small boats and intelligence-gathering systems, have been installed aboard destroyers.
“As the technology moves forward, it will be a technology that is adopted for certain niches. Perhaps ship defense against anti-ship missiles, counter-drone, that kind of thing,” Withington said. “Will it become a replacement for the anti-ship missile? Would it be something that you can sling under the belly of a B-21 and vaporize an air ministry in downtown Damascus? I don’t know. I’m inclined to think in the short- to medium-term probably not.”
A dazzling future
There is often a long lag between the development of technology and its implementation and procurement, a period of time known as the “valley of death” among those in the defense community. Lately, military leaders are voicing a greater sense of urgency about the need to get these systems fully built and deployed.
When asked about directed-energy weapons at a National Defense Industrial Association conference last month, Navy Adm. John Aquilino had two words for investors and builders: “Bring it.”
Aquilino serves as the top man in the Indo-Pacific, a region the Biden administration considers vital to international security and financial well-being. His remit includes China and North Korea, as well as allies Australia, Japan and South Korea.
“I’m very encouraged by the high-energy laser capability that’s being experimented with and utilized,” Aquilino said at the time. The key? Acceleration.
“If that capability exists, and we can deliver in 18 to 24 months, I’m ready to plug it in,” Aquilino said. “I’m ready to experiment with it tomorrow. I’ve got the largest test range on the globe.”
Some big names are digging in: Booz Allen Hamilton last year announced the establishment of a high-energy laser division dubbed HELworks. The defense consultancy unveiled three product lines at the time including a High Energy Laser Mission Equipment Package meant for the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle.
“Between one and five years, you’re going to see an exiting of the AoA, of the analysis of alternatives, and then entering into programs of record,” Lowery said. “And that is going to mark a much bigger spend.”
International markets are also heating up. The U.K. and France are particularly interested in directed energy.
Raytheon UK, a division of RTX, plans to integrate a high-energy laser onto a Wolfhound armored vehicle. During four days of testing in the U.S., the laser system “successfully acquired, tracked, targeted and destroyed dozens of” drones, according to the company, which is opening an advanced laser integration center in Scotland.
And while militaries may be many years away from fielding anything like the fictional, shoulder-mounted Spartan Laser, the technology now being developed is proving itself too important to ignore, according to experts.
“Everybody thinks it’s laser guns and death rays,” Withington said. “I would say there won’t be a ‘Big Bang,’ but it should probably be a ‘Big Zap’ for directed energy weapons.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
18 Sep 23. U.S. Navy and Danish Defense Forces Train Together on SM-6 Missile Launcher. In a demonstration of ongoing commitment to transatlantic security and defense interoperability, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, in conjunction with the Danish Defense Forces, will be conducting advanced convoy protection drills using the state-of-the-art, modular SM-6 missile launcher beginning the week of Sept. 18 in Bornholm, Denmark.
The SM-6 missile system stands as a testament to advanced defense technology. It possesses the capability to intercept airborne threats, including the critical interception of ballistic missiles during their terminal phase of flight. The missile’s dual-capability design ensures precision engagement of both stationary terrestrial targets and dynamic maritime adversaries. The containerized configuration of the SM-6 launcher augments the U.S. Navy’s operational flexibility, facilitating rapid deployment and utilization in diverse theaters of operation, thereby underlining the commitment of the United States to ensure the security interests of itself and its allies.
By conducting these operations from Danish soil, the United States reaffirms the strategic importance of Denmark as a key ally in ensuring regional stability. This exercise further solidifies the enduring defense partnership between the U.S. and Denmark, emphasizing our joint dedication to mutual security objectives and cooperative defense efforts. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ US Naval Forces Europe and Africa)
18 Sep 23. Loitering munitions market predicted to grow massively. Global aerospace and defence company Paramount is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and is confident a study it commissioned will bear out demand for its N-Raven addition to the international loitering munitions market.
Backing Paramount’s bullish outlook is a Defence Insight report on loitering munitions it commissioned and released in London last week to coincide with the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition.
“Our report on the Loitering Munitions market underscores the need for agile, adaptable solutions. That’s why Paramount’s N-Raven is revolutionary – it’s not only a product but a fully -fledged technology transfer platform. It can be produced domestically within a year, fully embracing the idea of portable and indigenous production,” Steve Griessel, Paramount Group Chief Executive Officer, said.
The report highlights multiple, often interlocking, revelations, according to Paramount. Loitering munitions are strategically beneficial due to their versatility and economic efficiency, as seen by participants in the Russo-Ukrainian War utilising low-cost capability to strike high-cost targets at local and national levels.
On the back of these advantages, the loitering munitions market is forecast to expand by 525% between 2020 and 2024, with yearly spending on the capability expected to surpass $600 m in 2023, 2024 and 2025. This growth made loitering munitions the third-largest UAV market in 2021 and 2022 and is forecast to maintain its over eight percent market share of the entire UAV market until 2025.
Regionally, North America is expected to contribute the most expenditure over the decade, with European expenditure on loitering munitions forecast to increase by over 2 000%, rising from 1.39% to 36% between 2021 and 2023. Most spending can be traced to the Russo-Ukrainian War, with nations taking short or long term measures to arm themselves for possible future conflict.
Due to the conflict in Ukraine, short timelines characterise procurements contributing to this expansion.
Evidence is emerging, the Paramount-commissioned report states, of some customers moving to longer term acquisitions and programmes more often awarded to domestically produced systems with producers taking market share from incumbent suppliers. This is forecast to happen in Spain, Germany, and France and has happened in Taiwan, India and the UAE (United Araba Emirates).
“This growth, especially in the European sector, aligns with our strategic direction. Paramount has decades of experience in asymmetrical warfare and we’ve been shaping solutions the world is looking for today. We were at DSEI because we’re more than a manufacturer; we’re focused on IP licensing and global partnerships. Our eyes are set on Europe and the UK (United Kingdom) for pioneering these partnerships,” was Paramount founder Ivor Ichikowitz’ take on the future.
Paramount’s N-Raven emerges as a crucial solution when taking the commissioned report’s findings into account. The N-Raven was first announced in 2021. At the time it featured a swept wing and T-tail mounted above the fuselage, but current renders of the propeller-driven munition show a straight wing (with winglets) and V-tail. Paramount said the N-Raven family will feature ‘swarm’ technologies. The N-Raven weighs 55 kg and will have a speed of 180 km/h and loitering endurance of two hours for the electric version, and 4.5 hours for the petrol version, and range of up to 100 km. The munition has a wingspan of 3.6 metres and carries a 13.5 kg payload.
Greek state-owned company Hellenic Defence Systems in May partnered with Paramount to produce its N-Raven as the Irix – this will be the first loitering munition manufactured in the Mediterranean country, for the Greek market as well as export customers. The partnership includes technology and skills transfer for local co-production of Irix as well as Hellenic Defence Systems’ ongoing participation in continued research and development of future Irix system upgrades.
“N-Raven, with its focus on portability and indigenous production, exemplifies our commitment to shaping collaborative defence solutions for today’s rapidly changing scenarios. Our cutting-edge solution provides not just advanced capabilities but also offers economic advantages that align with the findings of our collaborative report,” Griessel said.
In addition to the N-Raven, Paramount offers the Civet, Mwewe and Roadrunner (Meteorite) UAVs. Predecessor company Advanced Technologies and Engineering developed the 75 km range Vulture UAV, which was ordered by the South African Army for artillery spotting and fire control. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
18 Sep 23. US Army’s Dark Eagle hypersonic weapon fielding delayed to year’s end. The U.S. Army will miss its goal to field the Dark Eagle Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon during the government’s fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, but is still aiming to deliver the capability by the end of the calendar year, according to the service’s acquisition chief.
The delay is due to the cancellation of a critical test of the Common Hypersonic Glide Body, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Doug Bush told Defense News in a Sept. 18 interview. The scrapped test planned for this month was going to be “pretty close to an operational test” rather than a developmental test, he said.
“We still have a path with a follow up test to get to a fielded capability by the end of calendar 2023,” Bush said. “It is just what it is, I mean, fact of life, we’re not going to field something until we have some confidence that if soldiers are asked to go use it in combat that it’s going to work and be safe for them to use.”
“We’re finding problems,” Bush said. “It’s actually good we’re finding these.”
Hypersonic weapons are capable of flying faster than Mach 5 — or more than 3,836 miles per hour — and can maneuver between varying altitudes, making it difficult to detect. The C-HGB is made up of the weapon’s warhead, guidance system, cabling and thermal protection shield.
The U.S. is in a race to field the weapon capability as well as develop systems to defend against hypersonic missiles. China and Russia are each actively developing and testing hypersonic weapons.
The Army completed its delivery of the first hypersonic weapon capability to I Corps’ 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state two days ahead of its end of FY21 fielding deadline.
The service went from a blank piece of paper in March 2019 to delivering hardware in just over two years including a battering operations center, four transporter-erector-launchers and modified trucks and trailers that make up the ground equipment of Dark Eagle.
The day prior to the expected LRHW test, when pressed at the Defense News Conference on Sept. 6 in Arlington, Virginia, on what might happen should the Army experience a failed or canceled test this close to the fielding deadline, Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo said, while he couldn’t get into the specifics.
“I’m very confident in the program,” Camarillo said, adding that work to train and equip the first unit with the Dark Eagle capability is “going really, really well.”
A joint test between the Navy and Army, scheduled for March, was also canceled during pre-flight checks.
The Army has spent several years working with industry to build the industrial base for the hypersonic weapon glide body that will be used by both the service and the Navy because the domestic private sector had never built a hypersonic weapon. The service also separately produced launchers, trucks, trailers and the battle operation center necessary to put together the first weapon battery.
Lockheed Martin is the weapon system integrator for the Army’s hypersonic capability that will be launched from a mobile truck.
Dynetics, a Leidos company, was chosen to build the hypersonic glide body for the missile and has been building rounds, but Lt. Gen. Rob Rasch, the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office director, told Defense News last month, that while the service is conducting testing and production at the same time, it needs to be careful not to get too far into production of the rounds without having data from major tests to back up the design to avoid reworking already built hardware.
“We’re using the next test to help drive us to that next phase of production,” Rasch said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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