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14 May 20. United States Army Awards AeroVironment $146m Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems (LMAMS) Contract Funded at $76m for First Year of Switchblade Systems Procurement.
- AeroVironment’s combat proven Switchblade with patented wave-off feature provides operators with increased lethality, reach and precision strike capabilities with low collateral effects
- First year of funding approved through Joint Urgent Operational Need Statement, reflecting high-priority requirement and strong user demand from the frontline
- AeroVironment provides full system solution, including Switchblade systems, operator training, support and logistics
AeroVironment’s Switchblade is a back-packable, rapidly deployable, loitering precision strike missile designed for use against beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) targets, from either mobile positions in the field or from fixed defensive positions for base security.
AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), announced the receipt of a one-year, $75,930,901 funded contract award on April 30, 2020 from the United States Army for procurement of the company’s Switchblade® loitering missile system. The contract award was funded for the first year of procurement through a Joint Urgent Operational Need Statement from the United States Army Tactical Aviation and Ground Munitions (TAGM) project office. Start of deliveries is anticipated by September 2020. Two additional one-year options, currently unfunded, would extend the period of performance through April 2023 on a sole-source basis.
“For nearly a decade, AeroVironment’s Switchblade has delivered unmatched force protection and precision strike capabilities at the battlefield edge to the U.S. Army,” said Brett Hush, AeroVironment senior product line general manager of Tactical Missile Systems. “We will continue to enhance the capabilities of this battle-proven product, and stand ready with a proven supply chain and customer support system in order to respond effectively to U.S. and allied customers’ needs.”
AeroVironment’s combat proven Switchblade is back-packable and rapidly deployable from ground platforms including a 6-pack launcher, providing warfighters with rapid-response force protection and precision strike capabilities up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) from its launch location. Its high precision, combined with specialized effects and patented wave-off feature, results in Switchblade’s ability to minimize or even eliminate collateral damage.
Northrop Grumman is a key partner on the Switchblade system, providing single purpose and multimode warheads for the program.
08 May 20. Air Defence Challenges in the New Decade. Air defence is coming to the fore of Western military planning after being neglected in the 20-plus years of permissive campaigns since the end of the Cold War.
The low-threat operating environment in Afghanistan and Iraq lulled defence chieftains into a false sense of security, but the increasing use of low-observable, massed capabilities in the form of cruise missiles and/or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are making them sit up.
Cruise Missiles Threats
The threat posed by cruise missiles is well-established and yet they have been able to circumvent modern air defences time and again. These legacy weapons usually fly on a nap-of-the earth profile to evade ground-based sensors, and this challenge is exacerbated by the stealthy features incorporated by some of them.
To illustrate, the Russian KH-101 travels at a terrain-hugging attitude of 30 metres and its composition of radar-absorbing material makes it hard to detect. And because cruise missiles fly at such low levels, the detection time for air defences is rather short. Against a notional terrain-hugging KH-101, the response time for the defender may be a matter of just minutes. In such circumstances, not being on the highest alert makes interception of the weapon an uphill task.
Moreover, modern cruise missiles have surgical precision given that many of them incorporate inertial navigation system and/or satellite-based navigation for guidance. Indeed, the KH-101/102’s accuracy is such that its circular error probability is reportedly six metres. With more cruise missiles being capable of supersonic speeds and perhaps in the not-so-distant future, hypersonic speeds, anti-air warfare managers will have their work cut for them in the coming decade.
UAVs are the up-and-coming threat air-defence planners are grappling with. These platforms have been largely used in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) role until the first decade of the 21st Century, where they took on limited strike missions in permissive environments. The democratisation of technology and the availability of commercial off-the-shelf drones mean that non-state actors are embracing the UAV as an asymmetric weapon against their more powerful state foes. Think the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its fleet of weaponised drones toting “shuttlecock bomblets”.
Various observers have contended that such makeshift armed UAVs are of meagre tactical utility owing to their limited payload and navigation capability. However, events in recent years have rendered this argument problematic.
To illustrate, in January 2018, Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base in Syria came under attack from a drone swarm, which was the first of its kind in history. Photographs taken of the aftermath show rudders of fighter planes being torn, in essence rendering these aircraft ‘mission kills’. Not a bad deal indeed to trade improvised drones wrapped in plastic sheet and with parts held together by tape for mission-killed multi-million-dollar combat jets.
Traditional air defences are not particularly well-equipped to deal with UAV swarms. Firstly, the air defences of most advanced nations are designed largely to deal with higher-end threats like conventional aircraft and ballistic missiles. Like cruise missiles, drones are hard to detect owing to their small size and concomitantly minuscule radar cross-section.
Moreover, it simply does not make economic sense to launch expensive surface-to-air missiles (SAM) against such makeshift drones. In any case, most SAM batteries lack the magazine capacity to effectively intercept UAV swarms numbering in the dozens.
Air Defence Challenges
A more ominous challenge for air defences would be an integrated drone-and-cruise missile operation such as the September 2019 strike on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Despite the lavish amounts the kingdom spent on its air defences, none of the 25 drones and cruise missiles used during the attack were intercepted. Arguably it heralded the dawn of a challenging new era in air defence in the 2020s.
An Abqaiq–Khurais 2.0 in the coming decade could see a larger-scale and fully-networked strike involving not just ‘kamikaze’ drones and cruise missiles, but also more combat-capable drones launching their own ordnance. To compound matters, their approach to the target could be coordinated from different vectors to overwhelm the defender. These weapons could also be preconfigured to approach the target where they are least expected. Or perhaps to increase deniability in this day and age where ‘grey-zone’ operations are par the course. While the defender is currently playing catch-up, it is still not too late if the challenge is duly recognised and if authorities could muster the political (and financial) capital to tackle these threats head-on. (Source: AMR)
13 May 20. Bundeswehr issues revised RFP to TLVS JV. The German Ministry of Defence (Bundeswehr) has issued Lockheed Martin and MBDA with an updated request for proposals (RFP) for the Taktische Luftverteidigungssystem (TLVS) ground-based, air-defence programme.
Speaking to Janes on 13 May, a Lockheed Martin programme official said that the issuing of the new RFP to the TLVS joint venture (JV) was an anticipated step in the German military’s effort to field the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), ahead of any contract award.
“The Bundeswehr has now confirmed that it has asked [the] TLVS JV for a revised offer by the summer. This offer will then be reviewed ahead of any contract being awarded,” Lockheed Martin’s communications manager for Germany, Julian Wörner, said.
Lockheed Martin had told Janes that it expected a contract to be awarded in the third quarter (Q3) of this year. Wörner declined to be drawn on what the latest timeline might be but a source with industrial knowledge of the programme who requested not to be identified noted that a contract is expected within the current government’s term, which runs through to September 2021. The source also noted that the current Covid-19 crisis may have delayed the issuing of the updated RFP but was not expected to have a long-term effect on the programme timeline.
Lockheed Martin and MBDA have been working on MEADS since the early 2000s. However, the programme itself is much older than that, dating back to the early 1990s as a means to replace the Lockheed Martin/Raytheon MIM-104 Patriot system in the US, the HAWK in Germany, and the NIKE in Italy.
MEADS is designed to provide a 360° homeland and battlefield intercept capability against airborne threats, including tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and aircraft. (Source: Jane’s)
13 May 20. USS Bunker Hill trials experimental hardkill/softkill integration tool. The US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), operating as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, is testing an experimental Hardkill/Softkill Performance Assessment Tool (HaSPAT) during its current Indo-Pacific deployment.
Developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the HaSPAT prototype is designed to help operations staff understand the planned defensive posture and evaluate combat system performance in advance of an enemy attack. The system also serves to manage weapon resources by advising what effectors are available, and conserving sufficient effectors for individual defence measures.
Modern warships employ both hardkill (guns and missiles) and softkill (decoys and countermeasures) effectors for anti-ship missile defence. (Source: Jane’s)
12 May 20. Belarus highlights Flute MRL at Victory Day parade in Minsk. Belarus took the opportunity at the Victory Day parade in Minsk on 9 May to showcase its Flute 80 mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL). The self-propelled Flute MRL has been developed by BSVT-New Technologies and was unveiled to the public in January.
Field trials of the system are ongoing and are expected to be completed by September 2020, the company confirmed to Jane’s.
The Flute MRL is based on the Asilak SHTS 4×4 armoured vehicle which is equipped with an armoured undercarriage to provide anti-mine protection. The baseline vehicle has a combat weight of 6,970 kg with a 2,150 kg payload capacity.
The Asilak is a Belarusian-licensed version of the Russian Buran family of armoured vehicles made on the chassis of a GAZ-3308 Sadko truck.
The 80-round launcher is configured in a 5×16 arrangement and traverses on an elevating launcher assembly fitted on the rear deck immediately behind the two-person cabin.
The launcher takes up to 60 seconds to enter firing mode and can launch a full rocket salvo within 30 seconds when fully deployed.
The Flute MRL is equipped with the Alliance automated control system, which enables data to be shared with a command centre or other MRLs. This arrangement enables several launchers to be networked together for simultaneous fires.
The ammunition comprises the S-8 family of 80mm unguided rockets with a firing range of 1-3km and a flight speed of up to 750m/s.
The S-8 rocket was originally developed for use by rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. Jane’s Weapons: Air-launched states that the S-8 rocket, developed in the early 1970s by the Nudelman Tochmash design bureau (now Nudelman Precision Engineering Design Bureau ‘KBtochmash’), can include various warhead types such as cumulative-fragmentation, concrete-breaking, high-explosive fragmentation, and tandem-cumulative. (Source: Jane’s)
11 May 20. South Korea conducts first test launch of Hyunmoo-4 ballistic missile. The South Korean military conducted in mid-March the first test-firing of its new Hyunmoo-4 (also spelled Hyeonmu-4) ballistic missile, some two-and-a-half years after Washington and Seoul had agreed to scrap the warhead weight limit for South Korean missiles stipulated in US-South Korean guidelines.
A South Korean military official told Jane’s on 10 May that the first test launch of the 800-km-range weapon, which features a greater payload than previous Hyunmoo-series missile systems, was conducted at the Agency for Defense Development’s (ADD’s) Anheung test site in Taean County, South Chungcheong Province. Two missiles were test-fired but one of them reportedly failed. No information was provided about the cause of the failure.
The original US-South Korean ballistic missile guidelines of 1979 stopped the development of South Korean ballistic missiles. A revision made in 1997 allowed South Korea to develop a ballistic missile carrying a 500 kg warhead with a maximum strike range of 300 km. This missile, initially known as the Hyunmoo-2 (also spelled Hyeonmu-2), is now known as the Hyunmoo-2A.
A further revision of the guidelines in 2012 permitted Seoul to extend the range and/or payload of its ballistic missiles. For instance, it allowed for South Korean ballistic missiles to have a maximum range of 800 km while carrying a 500kg warhead; of 500 km while carrying a 1,000 kg warhead; and of 300 km while carrying a 2,000kg warhead.
This changed, however, after US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, announced on 7 November 2017 that they had finalised a deal to scrap the warhead weight limit for South Korean missiles.
As a result, the Republic of Korea (RoK) military has since been looking to increase fourfold the payload of some its missiles, either by modifying them or developing new ones, said officials. (Source: Jane’s)
12 May 20. Dynetics to Increase Power of US Army Laser Weapons. Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is playing an integral role in the U.S. Army’s weapon modernization initiatives, where the latest directed energy weapon is increasing its power from a 100 kW-class system to a 300kW-class system.
Marking the official transition to the Indirect Fires Protection Capability – High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) endeavor, in January, the U.S. Army modified the existing contract to support on-going efforts to increase laser capability.
In late 2019, the U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) also announced a High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI) contract award by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) that will support the IFPC-HEL effort.
These design initiatives follow the progress made on the High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD), and brings greater capability to our nation’s warfighters.
As the prime contractor for IFPC-HEL, Dynetics is set to demonstrate a 300 kW-class prototype system in FY22. The company will lead final assembly, integration, and testing. The solution will provide continued support to defend against hostile unmanned aerial systems and rockets, artillery, and mortars. The IFPC-HEL prototype will inform the U.S. Army’s effort to field prototype units with residual combat capability by 2024.
“This contract modification proves Dynetics’ agility and responsiveness to warfighter needs,” said Scott Stanfield, Dynetics director of strategic programs. “Scaling these proven technologies puts us on track to demonstrate and deliver the 300 kW-class prototype system and support the delivery of this revolutionary capability to our men and women of the operational Army by 2024.”
Dynetics was awarded the $130m contract to build and test HEL-TVD in May 2019. The HEL-TVD critical design review was completed in early November 2019, signifying the completion of the demonstrator program. (Source: UAS VISION)
Arnold Defense has manufactured more than 1.25 million 2.75-inch rocket launchers since 1961 for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and many NATO customers. They are the world’s largest supplier of rocket launchers for military aircraft, vessels and vehicles. Core products include the 7-round M260 and 19-round M261 commonly used by helicopters; the thermal coated 7-round LAU-68 variants and LAU-61 Digital Rocket Launcher used by the U.S. Navy and Marines; and the 7-round LAU-131 and SUU-25 flare dispenser used by the U.S. Air Force and worldwide.
Today’s rocket launchers now include the ultra-light LWL-12 that weighs just over 60 pounds (27 kg.) empty and the new Fletcher (4) round launcher. Arnold Defense designs and manufactures various rocket launchers that can be customized for any capacity or form factor for platforms in the air, on the ground or even at sea.
Arnold Defense maintains the highest standards of production quality by using extensive testing, calibration and inspection processes.