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MISSILE, BALLISTICS AND SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE

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21 May 20. Northrop Grumman has successfully manufactured and tested the first industry-built Very Lightweight Torpedo (VLWT) for the U.S. Navy. The prototype torpedo is based on the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory’s (PSU-ARL) design that was distributed to defense industrial manufacturers in 2016. Northrop Grumman, which independently funded the research and development, will offer the design-for-affordability improvements to this VLWT as Northrop Grumman’s response for the Navy’s Compact Rapid Attack Weapon program.

Northrop Grumman‘s torpedo design and production legacy reaches back over 80 years to World War II through its Westinghouse acquisition. In 1943, Westinghouse won the Navy contract to reverse engineer a captured German electric torpedo and in 12 months began producing the MK18 electric torpedo, which turned the tide of the undersea warfare in the Pacific. Northrop Grumman has been at the forefront of torpedo design and production ever since, to include the current MK48 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System (CBASS) heavyweight torpedo and MK50 Lightweight Torpedo.

Today, Northrop Grumman is the only company in full rate production of MK54 and MK48 torpedo nose arrays and has delivered over 600 MK54 arrays and over 70 MK48 arrays to the U.S. Navy. Applying its engineering and manufacturing expertise, Northrop Grumman improved upon the VLWT baseline design to replace high-cost components and drive overall affordability, reproducibility and reliability. Those altered sections were built and tested using PSU-ARL’s own test equipment for confidence.

“The successful testing of the torpedo nose on the first try is a testament to Northrop Grumman’s design-for-affordability approach, which will significantly reduce cost without sacrificing operational performance,” said David Portner, lead torpedo program manager, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman assembled the prototype VLWT using a Stored Chemical Energy Propulsion System (SCEPS) manufactured by teammate Barber-Nichols, Inc., (BNI) of Denver, Colorado.

“The nation needs advanced undersea warfare capabilities now more than ever,” said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. “We are ready to support fielding the VLWT which will increase subsea lethality and enable innovative concepts of operations for multiple warfighting platforms.”

Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing plan would span the country by building components in California, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, West Virginia and Maryland.

18 May 20. Quest for ‘Super-Duper’ Missiles Pits US Against Key Rivals. They fly at speeds of a mile a second or faster and maneuver in ways that make them extra difficult to detect and destroy in flight.

President Donald Trump calls them “super-duper” missiles though they’re better known as hypersonic weapons. And they are at the heart of Trump administration worries about China and Russia.

For decades the United States has searched for ways to get ultra-fast flight right. But it has done so in fits and starts. Now, with China and Russia arguably ahead in this chase, the Trump administration is pouring billions of dollars a year into hypersonic offense and defense.

The Pentagon makes no bones about their purpose.

“Our ultimate goal is, simply, we want to dominate future battlefields,” Mark Lewis, the Pentagon’s director of defense research and engineering for modernization, told reporters in March.

Critics argue that hypersonic weapons would add little to the United States’ ability to deter war. Some think they could ignite a new, destabilizing arms race.

A look at hypersonic weapons:

WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT HYPERSONIC?

Two things make these weapons special: speed and maneuverability. Speed brings surprise, and maneuverability creates elusiveness. Together, those qualities could mean trouble for missile defenses.

By generally agreed definition, a hypersonic weapon is one that flies at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Most American missiles, such as those launched from aircraft to hit other aircraft or ground targets, travel between Mach 1 and Mach 5.

Trump occasionally mentions his interest in hypersonic weapons, sometimes without using the term. In February he told governors visiting the White House: “We have the super-fast missiles — tremendous number of the super-fast. We call them ‘super-fast,’ where they’re four, five, six and even seven times faster than an ordinary missile. We need that because, again, Russia has some.”

And last Friday, Trump told reporters, “We have no choice, we have to do it, with the adversaries we have out there,” mentioning China and Russia. He added, “I call it the super-duper missile.” He said he “heard” it travels 17 times faster than any other U.S. missile. “It just got the go-ahead,” he added, although the Pentagon would not comment on that.

HOW THEY WORK

The Pentagon is pursuing two main types of hypersonic weapons. One, called a hypersonic glide vehicle, is launched from a rocket. It then glides to a target, maneuvering at high speed to evade interception. The other is sometimes referred to as a hypersonic cruise missile. Capable of being launched from a fighter jet or bomber, it would be powered by a supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, enabling the missile to fly and maneuver at lower altitudes.

On March 19, the Pentagon flight-tested a hypersonic glide vehicle at its Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. It deemed the test a success and “a major milestone towards the department’s goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s.”

Unlike Russia, the United States says it is not developing hypersonic weapons for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, a U.S. hypersonic weapon will need to be more accurate, posing additional technical challenges.

As recently as 2017, the Pentagon was spending about $800m on hypersonic weapon programs. That nearly doubled the following year, then rose to $2.4bn a year later and hit $3.4bn this year. The administration’s 2021 budget request, which has yet to be approved by Congress, requests $3.6bn.

Although this is a priority for Pentagon spending, it could become limited by the budgetary pressures that are expected as a result of multitrillion-dollar federal spending to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

WHY THEY MATTER

Top Pentagon officials say it’s about Russia and, even more so, China.

“By almost any metric that I can construct, China is certainly moving out ahead of us,” Lewis, the Pentagon research and engineering official, said Tuesday. “In large measure, that’s because we did their homework for them.” Basic research in this field was published by the U.S. years ago, “and then we kind of took our foot off the gas,” although the Pentagon is now on a path to catch up and surpass China, he added.

China is pushing for hypersonic weapon breakthroughs. It has conducted a number of successful tests of the DF-17, a medium-range ballistic missile designed to launch hypersonic glide vehicles. According to a Congressional Research Service report in March, U.S. intelligence analysts assess that the DF-17 missile has a range of approximately 1,000 to 1,500 miles (1,600 to 2,400 kilometers) and could be deployed this year.

Russia last December said its first hypersonic missile unit had become operational. It is the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which Moscow says can fly at Mach 27, or 27 times faster than the speed of sound, and could make sharp maneuvers to bypass missile defenses. It has been fitted to existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat ICBM, which is still in development.

BUT ARE THEY NECESSARY?

As with other strategic arms, like nuclear weapons and naval fleets, for example, hypersonic weapons are seen by the Trump administration as a must-have if peer competitors have them. But critics see hypersonic weapons as overkill and potentially an extension of the arms race that led to an excessive nuclear buildup by the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. There also is worry about these technologies spreading beyond the U.S., Russia and China.

“Their proliferation beyond these three nations could result in lesser powers setting their strategic forces on hair-trigger states of readiness and more credibly being able to threaten attacks on major powers,” the RAND Corp., a federally funded research organization, said in a 2017 report. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Voice of America News)

21 May 20. NAVAIR modifies MALD-N EMD SOW. The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on 20 May announced that it intended to negotiate and award a sole-source contract modification to Raytheon Missiles and Defense (RMD), a Raytheon Technologies business, “to de-scope Early Operational Capability (EOC) and add options for RSS [Radar Signal Simulator] kits, initiator testing, and structural ground testing to the Miniature Air Launched Decoy – Navy (MALD-N) Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) Statement of Work (SOW)”. NAVAIR announced the award to Raytheon Missile Systems, now RMD, of a USD33m 24-month EMD phase contract for MALD-N in January 2019. That award followed a USD46.6m technical maturation and risk reduction (TMRR) contract placed by the command in September 2018. Intended to address the US Navy’s (USN’s) requirement for a network-enabled stand-in jammer to support suppression of enemy air defence missions, MALD-N is an evolution of the US Air Force (USAF) ADM-160C, the datalink-equipped Miniature Air Launched Decoy – Jammer (MALD-J) system – a subscale, turbojet-powered, air-launched decoy/jammer with a maximum range of about 500 n miles (926 km). The MALD-N also benefits from technology advances delivered through the Raytheon MALD-X evolved stand-in jammer development, which incorporates a modular front-end, an improved jamming payload, and a low-altitude capability with the MALD-J airframe. (Source: Jane’s)

20 May 20. Weapons integration hurdles challenge US Army’s IM-SHORAD effort. US Army officials are in a race to field Stryker A1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) inside the European theatre that are outfitted with host weapons to down potential Russian aerial threats. However, their bid to do so is hitting some technological snags associated with the integrating the mission equipment package – which includes a 30 mm cannon and Stinger missile system – into the platform, Janes has learned.

To date, the service has received five out of nine Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) prototypes that it is testing at different US locations and so far the service has determined that it must overcome several integration hurdles to effectively operate the platforms.

“The accelerated nature of the programme, in order to deploy the critical capabilities to the warfighter, presents unique challenges for us to get the capabilities to the warfighter,” Lieutenant Colonel Beau Barker, the M-SHORAD product manager inside the Program Executive Office (PEO) Missiles and Space, told Janes on 18 May.

“A specific technical challenge is integrating mature weapon systems such as the M299 launcher, Stinger missile system and 30mm cannon,” he added. “Even though each component is mature by itself, they have to be integrated to work as a system.”

Lt Col Barker noted that he was seeing “typical software integration challenges”, but, as the programme was on an accelerated timeline, they were cropping up at a faster rate than on a “traditional” programme. To solve some of these problems, engineering and test teams are working to “maximise efficiencies” associated with the testing plan and schedule, he added. (Source: Jane’s)

19 May 20. US Army ARL unveils GLUAS concept. The US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s (CCDC’s) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) revealed details of its Grenade Launched Unmanned Aerial System (GLUAS) concept in late April. The GLUAS is designed to be launched like a projectile using a standard 40mm grenade launcher to gather intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data. The ARL said in a statement that it had filed a patent application for the design in March and expects to start development and testing later this year.

The laboratory also noted that it will develop two GLUAS variants: a paragliding system with folding blade propellers and Mylar paragliding wings, and helicopter-style that hovers on a gimbaling set of coaxial rotors.

The battery powered GLUAS is enclosed within a projectile casing when in the towed configuration. Once launched, it will be able to achieve an altitude of up to 2,000ft (609m), with a range and endurance of 2 km and 90 minutes respectively.

The system comprises a cased UAS that is launched by a propellent. The UAS then separates from its casing once the desired altitude is attained. The UAS extends its wings and parachute and travels at an operator-defined airspeed.

A typical UAS comprises a payload, aerodynamic lifting surfaces (wings and parachute), battery, electric motor, and foldable propellers. Typical mission payloads carried by the UAS are camera and sensors such as accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer for ISR purposes.

The UAS can be remotely operated via a handheld controller or using preprogramed navigational waypoints.

Its equipment fit can also include a GPS receiver and a microprocessor and CPU-based flight controller that supports the audio or visual communication to one or more operators through a ground-control system (GCS). (Source: Jane’s)

19 May 20. RMD, TNO progress initial phase of XM155 ERAP development. Raytheon Missiles & Defense (RMD) is progressing its technology solution for the Phase One development stage of the US Army’s XM1155 Extended-Range Artillery Projectile (ERAP) requirement.

An advanced 155 mm guided-artillery round initiative, XM1155 ERAP is part of a portfolio of development programmes under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) umbrella. ERCA is intended to deliver integrated cannon artillery technology solutions to maximise performance at a system level and regain lethality overmatch for US Army 155 mm indirect-fire systems for operations in emerging battlespaces and near/peer environments. The ERCA is being accelerated under the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) enterprise, one of six modernisation priorities identified by the US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

RMD was awarded a USD7.9 million US Army other transaction agreement (OTA) through the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Armaments Center for Phase One of XM1155 development in July last year. An OTA is not a standard procurement contract or a grant, but a Congressionally mandated vehicle used to engage industry or academia for research and prototyping activities. The CCDC has also awarded OTAs to three other prime contractors – Boeing, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, and Northrop Grumman – for similar Phase One XM1155 ERAP development activities, under the sponsorship of the US Department of Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium OTA and the National Armaments Consortium.

RMD’s XM1155 design envisages a ramjet-powered guided 155 mm artillery round capable of precision engagement of moving and stationary high-value targets on land and at sea in all weather conditions and on all terrain. The Army’s publicly stated objective range for the round is 100km. (Source: Jane’s)

19 May 20. Gold Coast company manufacturing life-saving body armour for Aussie troops. A Gold Coast company has pioneered world-first body armour technology that will provide superior protection and greater comfort for Australian troops.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said Arundel’s Craig International Ballistics will deliver the cutting-edge Australian manufactured soft body armour to the Australian Defence Force.

The initial $1m contract will see the ADF receive 750 soft armour inserts to replace in-service armour.

“Craig International Ballistics is able to deliver this technology through the innovative use of new materials,” Minister Price said.

“The Australian Army will be the first military in the world to be issued body armour made with this new Kevlar material.”

The new armour will deliver greater levels of protection and be significantly lighter than the current soft armour.

Member for Fadden, Stuart Robert said it was exciting to see companies across the Gold Coast realising opportunities in defence industry.

“This world-leading technology, developed right here on the Coast, is an example of the sort of innovation that Australian industry can deliver,” he said.

“The Morrison government is investing in local companies like these to ensure we build sovereign capability to equip and sustain the ADF in its defence of Australia and our national interests.”

Craig International Ballistics employs around 35 people and has been producing Australian-made body armour systems since the late 1990s.

Craig International Ballistics manufactures lightweight NIJ IIIA covert and overt body armour (BRV) for security, military and police use. They also supply aircraft armour panels, armoured vehicles, and structural armour.

19 May 20. Patria and the U.S. Army entered into agreement for a feasibility study of Patria Nemo 120 mm mortar system. U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center and Patria have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to determine feasibility of incorporating a turreted, breech-loaded 120 mm mortar weapon system in U.S. mortar carriers. The scope of the agreement is to assess the capabilities of Patria Nemo mortar system, its compatibility with U.S. mortar carrier weapon platforms and fire control systems as well as to evaluate the use of current U.S. 120 mm mortar ammunition in a breech-loaded mortar, such as Patria Nemo.

This agreement is continuation of U.S. Army’s effort to provide Armored and Stryker Brigade Combat Teams with rapid, precise indirect and direct fire capability where the operating crew is well protected, and their physical burden is significantly reduced. In late 2018 the Army published a market survey to identify capable sources to develop and produce the 120mm Mortar Future Indirect Fire Turret (FIFT). Patria answered the market survey based on Patria Nemo mortar system.

Patria Nemo is a turreted, remote-controlled 120mm mortar system with both direct and indirect fire capability and can execute up to 6 grenade multiple rounds simultaneous impact fire missions. In addition to being highly protected, Patria Nemo is light, compact and easily installable on light, tracked chassis, wheeled armored vehicles or navy vessels.

“The agreement between the U.S Army and Patria exemplifies the capability leap that modern turreted mortar systems can introduce to armed forces and illustrates Patria’s leading role in this technology area. It is also logical continuation to the cooperation between Patria and the U.S. Government that began with Patria Nemo sales to a third country through a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program”, says Jussi Järvinen, President of Patria’s Land Business Unit.  U.S. Foreign Military Sales is a form of security assistance that authorizes the U.S. to sell defense articles and services to foreign countries.

15 May 20. US Army to test hypersonic weapons on this college campus. The Texas A&M University System board of regents has approved the funding to create a new hypersonic weapons test center for U.S. Army Futures Command. On Thursday, the regents voted to spend $79.3m of university funds on the project, dubbed the Bush Combat Development Center. The state of Texas already approved $50m, with the Army kicking in another $65m.

The plan, first unveiled last August, is to develop a kilometer-long enclosed tube that can be used for hypersonic weapons tests, along with testing grounds for air and land combat vehicles on the university’s RELLIS research campus, located an hour outside of Austin, Texas.

The campus will also feature “laboratories, runways, underground and open-air ranges and a resilient network of sensors and systems for experimentation, data collection, analysis and storage,” according to a university release. The RELLIS campus has already been used to test other priorities for Army Futures Command, including autonomous land vehicles.

“Texas A&M and the RELLIS campus will become a nexus for collaboration and high-tech testing in service to our nation’s security,” Elaine Mendoza, chairman of the A&M System board, said in a statement. “Today’s vote will bring hundreds of millions worth of private investment to Central Texas as these facilities come to life. Simply put, this is where American defense contractors will want to set up shop if they want to work with the U.S. Army Futures Command.”

Stood up in July 2018, Army Futures Command has the lead in developing next-generation technology for the Army. Gen. Mike Murray, head of the command, has made it a priority to develop ties with the local tech community and the university structures around Austin.

Hypersonic weapons are capable of flying faster than Mach 5, which is the speed of sound. Their maneuverability makes them incredibly difficult to track with current missile defense systems. The Army and Navy are jointly developing the Common-Hypersonic Glide Body, which in March had a successful first test. (Source: Defense News)

15 May 20. ACV to get Stryker variant of 30mm cannon. An upgunned version of the Corps’ new amphibious combat vehicle will be armed with a lighter version of the Army’s Stryker 30mm cannon, according to Marine Corps Systems Command.

Ashley M. Calingo, a spokeswoman with MARCORSYSCOM, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement that BAE — the manufacturer of the ACV — had selected a version of the Kongsberg medium caliber turret, or MCT-30, for a variant of the new amphib vehicle.

“BAE has also informed the Marine Corps that the MCT-30 version for the Marine Corps will be a lighter weight version of the Stryker system and use the Mk44 gun which is common with US Navy applications instead of the XM813 gun used on Stryker,” Calingo said.

The Marine Corps wants three types of amphib vehicles ― including one with a 30mm cannon.

The MCT-30 — manufactured by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace — said in a news release that it would deliver up to 150 of the MCT-30 remote turret weapon systems as part of a “phased program.”

“The system provides highly accurate firepower for wheeled or tracked combat vehicles. It is remotely controlled and operated from a protected position inside the vehicle compartment for optimized crew safety,” Kongsberg said in a release.

The MCT-30 remote turret boasting the heavier XM813 30mm cannon is currently fielded on a Stryker variant known as the Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoon.

Defense News reported in May 2019 that the Army had decided to equip its Double V-Hull A1 Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles with a 30mm cannon following a review of lessons learned from 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe.

The double V-hull variant of the Stryker was manufactured due to the armored vehicle’s poor performance against roadside bombs.

In early 2019, the Corps announced it was looking at three variants of the ACV — a command and control configuration, a recovery and maintenance setup and ACVs with 30mm medium-caliber cannons.

Kongsberg said test article delivery of the MCT-30 turret for the ACV will kick off in early 2021.

BAE told Marine Corps Times that it evaluated five vendors for the ACV turret which included a live fire assessment with more than a dozen systems.

“Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace (KDA) offered the best balance between performance, meeting the unique integration requirements of a fully amphibious system, and schedule,” BAE said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times.

BAE said the MCT-30 turret selected for the ACV is a version of the 30mm gun on the Stryker.

“Significant modifications to the base design were necessary for integrating into a fully amphibious combat vehicle,” BAE said.

BAE said it would complete an initial integration phase next year and that initial production units are planned for 2023. (Source: Defense News)

14 May 20. Hypersonic weapons test facility approved by Texas A&M. The Texas A&M University System board of regents today approved the funding to create a new hypersonic weapons test center for the use of U.S. Army Futures Command.

The regents approved spending $79.3m of university funds on the project, dubbed the Bush Combat Development Center. The state of Texas already approved $50m, with the Army kicking in another $65m.

The plan, first unveiled last August, is to develop a kilometer long enclosed tube that can be used for hypersonic weapons tests, along with testing grounds for air and land combat vehicles on the university’s RELLIS research campus, located an hour outside of Austin, Texas.

The campus will also feature “laboratories, runways, underground and open-air ranges and a resilient network of sensors and systems for experimentation, data collection, analysis and storage,” according to a university release. The RELLIS campus has already been used to test other priorities for Army Futures Command, including autonomous land vehicles.

“Texas A&M and the RELLIS campus will become a nexus for collaboration and high-tech testing in service to our nation’s security,” Elaine Mendoza, chairman of the A&M System board, said in a statement. “Today’s vote will bring hundreds of millions worth of private investment to Central Texas as these facilities come to life. Simply put, this is where American defense contractors will want to set up shop if they want to work with the U.S. Army Futures Command.”

Stood up in July 2018, Army Futures Command has the lead in developing next-gen technology for the military service. Gen. Mike Murray, head of the command, has made it a priority to develop ties both with the local tech community and the university structures around Austin.

Hypersonic weapons are capable of flying faster at Mach 5, faster than the speed of sound, with maneuverability that makes them incredibly difficult to track with current missile defense systems. The Army and Navy are jointly developing the Common-Hypersonic Glide Body, or C-HGB, which in March had a successful first test. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)

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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.

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