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05 Aug 20. UK DASA launches competition to enhance explosive and weapon detection. The UK Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has launched a £2.8m ($3.6m) competition seeking advanced technological solutions for enhanced detection of explosives, weapons and illicit drugs.
The cross-governmental programme, called Innovative Research Call (IRC) 2020 for Explosives and Weapons Detection, has sought proposals from industry and academia for the screening of people and/or their possessions, goods, vehicles, and buildings and areas.
DASA delivery manager Laurence Bickerton said: “We are looking for the best innovations to keep our communities safe from the deadliest threats we face.
“To tackle this challenge, we are looking for new concepts and advances in current technology, and we are appealing far and wide for the best ideas and innovative solutions to help create a safer future for all.”
The IRC competition is run on behalf of government departments and law enforcement agencies, including Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), Department for Transport (DfT), Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Home Office’s Office of Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT), Metropolitan Police Service, US Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate, and UK Border Force.
Being conducted in two phases, up to £1m ($1.3m) is available for proposals under Phase 1. During this phase, proposal bids of £70,000 ($92,000) will have six months to develop a proof of concept.
The competition will consider proposals of a higher value only if they are ‘appropriately justified’ under Phase 1.
The deadline for proposal submissions under Phase 1 is 28 September 2020.
However, proposals with higher technical readiness that do not require funding under the first phase will still need to be submitted in this phase in the expectation of receiving funding under Phase 2.
Proposals under Phase 2 can avail funds of up to £1.8m ($2.3m).
This phase will require project development and evaluation of prototypes and demonstrators by September 2023.
Previously conducted in 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016, this is the fifth run of IRC. (Source: army-technology.com)
04 Aug 20. MDA pauses defensive hypersonic missile design to refocus plan. The Missile Defense Agency has paused its effort to design a defensive hypersonic missile and wants to refocus its plan of attack by concentrating on near-term options that could feed into a more “elegant” solution, according to Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the organization’s director.
The agency tapped industry in January to design and build an interceptor capable of defending against regional hypersonic weapons threats, releasing a draft request for proposals to build prototypes.
The request directed industry to submit whitepapers by March 19 to build a Hypersonic Defense Regional Glide Phase Weapons System interceptor. The plan then was to select at least one prime contractor to build prototypes that would culminate in a flight test, according to the draft RFP.
But last month, the agency updated its posting on the federal government’s contract opportunities website and said the final solicitation was under review. It also said the agency was assessing COVID-19 impacts, technology maturation efforts, threat analyses, and empirical data from the recent joint Defense Department hypersonic testing in March “to accurately establish the technical baseline and future end-state for hypersonic missile defense and the (RGPWS) effort.”
Agency leaders said they expect to complete the review by the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2021.
“One of the reasons we took the pause and said, ‘We’ll get back to you later in the year,’ is we want to see what we can do in the very near-term, and I’ll define the near-term as the mid-20s, and then feed the science and technology investments going so you can get to that farther-term, more elegant solution,” Hill said at the virtual Space and Missile Defense Symposium Aug. 4.
“But we want to get that capability out there as soon as possible to defend against the hypersonic threat and we want to continue to build out that capability and we believe the glide phase, further back in that trajectory, is always better than the terminal systems that we got today,” Hill added. He noted that the capability to take out threats in the terminal phase of flight is still critical. But, “you will want to move back that trajectory as far as you can,” he said.
Achieving “glide phase” defensive capability could come through a variety of technologies, he said, including different warhead types, different effector types and what kind of propulsion is used to get there.
MDA is on a long-term path to achieving hypersonic defensive capability, but it is focused first on its Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS), according to Hill. “That is number one, we have got to be able to sense, detect and get tracking and fire control information down to the shooter,” he said.
As the agency went through its analysis of alternatives for a defensive hypersonic interceptor, “we recognized there are two paths you can take to get to a weapon system,” Hill said.
MDA is going to build off its command-and-control battle management and the effectors it has in place, Hill said, adding the agency can take advantage of terrestrial-based and mobile sea-based sensing today to get tracking data and push it where it needs to go.
“The question is how long do you stay in the science and technology world? You should also take a look at a quick development path and that is what we are looking at now,” Hill said. (Source: Defense News)
04 Aug 20. American trucks land in Israel to support Iron Dome testing ahead of US Army delivery. A Ukrainian cargo plane that landed in Israel Aug. 3 carried trucks that will be used to support Iron Dome battery testing ahead of delivery in the United States, U.S. Army Futures Command confirmed. The Ukrainian plane was used to transport the trucks because of its capability to meet load requirements and delivery timelines, an AFC spokeswoman told Defense News.
The U.S. Army has bought two Iron Dome batteries to fill a cruise missile threat gap as an interim solution while it continues to shape its future Indirect Fires Protection Capability being developed to battle against not just cruise missiles but unmanned aircraft threats, rockets, artillery and mortars.
Congress mandated the Army buy and field two batteries no later than the end of fiscal 2020.
The Oshkosh vehicles will be mated with the Iron Dome system and then be delivered to the United States in that form following factory acceptance testing in Israel.
The first battery is expected to be shipped to the United States in December and the second in February, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch, the U.S. Army’s program executive officer for missiles and space, said at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium Aug. 4.
While the Army has said it will not buy all-up Iron Dome systems as part of the IFPC program, officials developing the capability are considering incorporating parts of Iron Dome in the final solution.
The service will conduct a shoot-off of best available options for integration into an enduring IFPC solution in the third quarter of fiscal year 2021.
Rasch stressed the Army won’t throw away its Iron Dome systems when IFPC comes online, but instead the service will continue to use the systems because it plans to ensure the batteries are interoperable with U.S. command-and-control capabilities.
The Army plans to field Iron Dome by the end of the year, but it will still take time to train troops on the system before deployment. Some lawmakers are urging the Army to rapidly deploy the systems to the Middle East, arguing U.S. and coalition forces there need the protection from Iran and its proxies.
As equipment to complete U.S. Iron Dome batteries arrived in Israel, American firm Raytheon Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have formed a joint venture to build the Iron Dome missile defense system in the United States.
Under the name Raytheon Rafael Area Protection Systems, the partnership is being set up to build a first-ever Iron Dome “all-up-round” facility stateside. The facility will build Iron Dome systems, the Tamir interceptor and launcher, and the SkyHunter missile (the U.S. version of Tamir). (Source: Defense News)
04 Aug 20. US Army Starts Construction On Prototype Lasers. Contractors are already “bending metal” on components for both 50-kilowatt and 300-kW lasers, Army scientist Craig Robin said.
After years of lower-power field tests and more than one thousand hours of soldier feedback, the Army is on track to field-test two different types of high-energy lasers in 2022: a 50-kilowatt weapon to destroy enemy drones and incoming artillery rockets, and a 300-kW weapon that could potentially shoot down cruise missiles.
Key components are now under construction for both systems, the directed energy chief at the Rapid Capabilities & Critical Technologies Office said. And, Craig Robin told me ahead of today’s Space & Missile Symposium, the service plans many more “soldier touch points” to come on both programs, especially once the prototypes are built and available for field tests.
Furthest along is the 50-kilowatt laser, to be mounted on an 8×8 Stryker armored vehicle. It’s known in Army jargon as DE-MSHORAD (Directed Energy – Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense). Four prototype laser Strykers – a full platoon – will be fielded to an actual combat unit in 2022.
“That’s real hardware being built now,” Robin said. “The laser weapon hardware exists now; we expect to have them integrated on the vehicles by the end of December.”
As CMMC, the DoD cybersecurity compliance program, continues to evolve, will prime contractors and their subcontractors be ready for assessment and certification?
In fact, there are two competing lasers being built for DE-MSHORAD, one by Northrop Grumman and the other by Raytheon. Each of those lasers will be integrated onto a different Stryker for a “shoot off” – officially, a “performance characterization” – at Fort Sill, Okla. in May 2021, when real soldiers will put both weapons through their places in a realistic combat scenarios.
Earlier Stryker-mounted lasers successfully shot down drones in prior field tests with real soldiers. Troops’ input in field tests, brainstorming sessions, and reviews of CAD designs, Robin told me, helped refine everything from the user interface controlling the weapon, to how equipment should be installed inside the Stryker so the crew wouldn’t hit it scrambling in and out. Power output has also risen rapidly in recent years, from just two kilowatts in 2016 to five, to 10, to the 50 kW weapons now being built.
Prime contractor Kord Technologies will integrate both the Raytheon and Northrop weapons, plus a power & thermal management system by Rocky Research, onto the Stryker, with assistance from the vehicle’s original manufacturer, General Dynamics Land Systems. The laser-armed DE-MSHORAD will operate alongside the Leonardo DRS IM-SHORAD variant of the Stryker – now in testing – which wields a more traditional anti-aircraft armament of guns and missiles.
The Strykers, being off-road armored vehicles, are intended to follow the frontline M1 tanks and Bradley troop carriers. At the same time, the Army is also developing a second echelon of larger lasers mounted on heavy trucks, which trade Stryker’s mobility and protection for sheer carrying capacity. This HEL-IFPC (High Energy Laser – Indirect Fire Protection Capability) will work alongside a missile-armed IFPC variant and a high-powered microwave variant – probably based on Air Force experiments – to defend forward command posts and other key sites.
Starting with a truck-mounted 10-kilowatt weapon in 2012, the Army first proposed a 100-kW model and then – boosted by a collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Defense – decided to go for 300 kW.
“We’re on track to demo the 300-kW system at the end of 2022,” Robin told me, probably around August or September.
Critical Design Review is complete and “we’re starting to bend metal,” he said. “We’re moving out and starting to build that demonstrator now, along with OSD.”
OSD’s assistant director for directed energy, Thomas Karr, is leading a multi-service push to scale up laser technology to 300 kW and beyond, enough to kill incoming cruise missiles. Karr has multiple contractors developing competing approaches, but under his aegis, the Army specifically is working with aerospace titan Lockheed Martin to build the laser itself and with Dynetics to integrate it onto an Oshkosh 10-wheeler truck, the Palletized Load System.
If the 2022 demonstration shots go well – and the soldiers’ feedback is positive – the Army plans to build and field four HEL-IFPC laser trucks as a combat unit in 2024. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
04 Aug 20. Big Money for Next-Gen Munitions. Pentagon spending on munitions is more tilted toward next-generation systems compared with other investment areas, according to big data analytics firm Govini.
The Defense Department is pursuing new technologies across its capability portfolios to maintain its edge over advanced adversaries. But older systems are still eating up a large chunk of the budget, Govini analysts said in a recent report titled, “The 2020 Federal Scorecard,” which tracks past, current and future government spending trends.
“Investment in next-generation platforms — and DoD’s transition to a more lethal and resilient force — is slowed by continued investment in legacy platforms,” the study said.
However, “more rapid progress is occurring in munitions … with funding totals more closely matching legacy munitions.”
From fiscal years 2016 through 2025, the Pentagon is expected to spend about $237 bn on next-gen platforms and $377bn on legacy platforms, according to Govini.
However, during that same period, spending on advanced munitions and hypersonic weapons are expected to total $39bn and $18bn, respectively — significantly more in total than the $48bn projected for legacy munitions.
During the forecast period, investments in hypersonics and advanced munitions have a projected compound annual growth rate of 21 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
Hypersonic weapons are one of the Pentagon’s top three research-and-development priorities, and the military is investing in air-, ground- and sea-launched variants. The systems are expected to travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, be highly maneuverable and capable of overwhelming enemy air-and-missile defenses. Plans call for acquiring them in large quantities.
The department is also pursuing a variety of other advanced weapons such as the precision strike missile and the long-range anti-ship missile.
Although munitions are primarily delivered by traditional defense companies, small businesses are still a critical part of the sector, the report noted.
“The importance of small businesses in these subsegments should not be overlooked as they often perform critical roles within the supply chain,” it said. “Small businesses are most prominent in RDT&E contracts that support next-generation systems development.”
That small vendor base is now in jeopardy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the study noted.
“Leap-ahead technologies are especially vulnerable as the role of small businesses is substantially higher,” it said. “The short-term disruption of COVID-19 may have impacts that are felt years, or even decades, into the future if vendors developing revolutionary technologies are hampered or put out of business.” (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)
04 Aug 20. 130mm Cannon for Future Battle Tanks? As western Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) are not known to be capable of safely eliminating all potential threats such as the T14 ARMATA, one way to counter such vehicles is to increase the calibre of the MBT’s cannon. Following the first hardware presentation of a 130 mm/L51 cannon at Eurosatory 2016, Rheinmetall released a video on 31st July 2020 showing the weapon integrated into a current MBT. It weighs three tons, 1.4 of which is for the 6.63 m barrel and thanks to the larger calibre and design improvements, a higher initial velocity can be achieved, which in the case of kinetic projectiles is a decisive factor in determining the penetration capability, while new types of ammunition have also been developed to take full advantage of this.
The 130 mm gun is not only suitable for retrofitting existing MBTs but also as the primary weapon for the Main Ground Combat System, on which development work has begun with Franco-German studies. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
03 Aug 20. Iron Dome Is Coming To US; Can The Army Plug It In?Israel’s Rafael will soon ship the first missile defense battery to the US and wants to build a factory here. The really hard part: connecting Iron Dome to US Army command networks.
Earlier today, a giant Antonov 225 jet transport landed at Ben Gurion Airport, carrying US-made Oshkosh military trucks. Israeli armsmaker Rafael will mate those heavy-duty vehicles with its Iron Dome missile defense system before shipping the first battery of the weapon to America this fall.
Rafael and its US partner, Raytheon, are so confident in the future of the program that, this morning, they announced a joint venture to manufacture Iron Dome at a location to be determined in the US. (New financial incentives to spend US aid in the US also play a role). But the two batteries the Army has so far committed to purchase will be built in Israel. The really hard part is yet to come: figuring out the knotty technical details of how to connect the Israeli system to the American networks that command, control, and coordinate US forces.
“Right now … the first battery should arrive in the United States no later than the end of December,” Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, the Army’s modernization director for air & missile defense, said in an interview last week with Breaking Defense ahead of Tuesday’s SMD conference. (Click here for the first half of that interview). After integration, testing, and training, the unit should be ready for real-world operations by September 2021. A second battery arrives in the US in February next year and will be combat-ready by the end of 2021.
That’s all the Army plans to buy, for now, to serve as an “interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability” against artillery rockets and cruise missiles. The “enduring” IFPC will likely be a completely different system, although it may include components of Iron Dome. The US plans to hold a “shoot-off” of potential missiles for IFPC at White Sands Missile Range next year, between April and June, and to select a single vendor by the fall. The Army’s urged Rafael and Raytheon to enter Iron Dome’s Tamir missile in the competition, but all entrants must show that they’re compatible with the service’s new IBCS network.
While Gibson tactfully declined to say so, US Army leaders were reluctant to buy the Iron Dome – it was forced on them by Congress as a stopgap after IFPC encountered problems and delays – and they’ve repeatedly, publicly questioned how well the Israeli system will exchange data with American equipment. Iron Dome’s advocates counter that the Marine Corps managed a successful demonstration last year with the system linked to their G/ATOR radar, so why couldn’t the Army make it work just as well?
The US soldiers operating Iron Dome batteries will have their usual secure radios and other means to talk with other units. But voice communications are far too slow and imprecise to pass detailed tracking data on incoming threats, let alone targeting data, which requires split-second precision to shoot down an enemy missile or rocket in flight – without shooting down a friendly aircraft by mistake. That’s the kind of information that must be shared machine-to-machine. Getting US Army computers to talk to foreign ones can be a true technical challenge.
“The voice side of communications I’m not concerned about,” Gibson told Breaking Defense. In the two “Interim IFPC” batteries using Iron Dome, he said, “we’ll be able to have access to our voice communications nets, both secure and unsecure, just like any other US unit.”
“The data side, we still don’t know we can integrate it,” he said. “That’s part of the effort that’s in front of us.”
Gibson is looking at three different levels of integration. In layman’s terms:
- Side-by-side screens: At the minimum, the Army will put a new tactical display inside the Iron Dome command posts, a terminal plugged into the Army’s real-time “combined air picture” showing the locations of friendly, neutral, and hostile objects, from planes to missiles. But the Army terminal showing the “air picture” would be separate from Iron Dome’s built-in displays showing the view from Iron Dome’s own radars. To get the complete picture, the human operators will have to look from one screen to the other and back again, which raises the risk of a lethal mistake.
- Machine-to-machine interoperability: What the Army, Rafael and Raytheon really want is to connect Iron Dome directly to other Army systems, so they can exchange at least some data automatically machine-to-machine, without human intervention. The more tracking and targeting data that can go directly to Iron Dome, the more complete the picture that the operators get at a glance. The Marine Corps reportedly managed to connect Iron Dome with their G/ATOR radar in this way.
- IBCS integration: Ideally, the Army wants to fully integrate Iron Dome with its future Integrated Air & Missile Defense Battle Command System, known as IBCS. This network pulls in data from a wide range of different Army radars that don’t currently connect – and potentially from non-Army ones like the Air Force F-35 as well – and compile it into highly accurate targeting data that can be used by any Army anti-aircraft or missile defense system.
IBCS is now in testing in at White Sands Missile Range, where it will fire Patriot missiles at live targets this month. New Army systems like the LTAMDS radar will be IBCS-compliant from the start, but it will take years of effort and millions of dollars to backfit existing US systems, let alone foreign ones.
“We’re, as a bridging solution, going to install a suite of data communications capabilities,” Gibson said, “[but] we intend, though, to not stop there and see if we can in fact integrate it with IBCS.”
How integrated can Iron Dome get? “We don’t know yet,” the head of Army Futures Command, Gen. Mark Murray, told Breaking Defense in March. “My assessment right now is, it would be — and I hate to ever use the word ‘impossible’ — but exceptionally difficult to integrate Iron Dome into our layered air defense architecture [and] to get Iron Dome talk to other systems, other radars, specifically the Sentinel radar.”
Iron Dome’s defenders would argue that the US Army has so far only looked at technical data and has not gotten their hands on a working Iron Dome system and learned what does and doesn’t work. That opportunity will come once the first battery is delivered this fall.
Iron Dome is highly regarded for its success shooting down unguided artillery rockets launched by Hezbollah and Hamas. But the US also wants to test its capability to intercept cruise missiles, a much harder target. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
03 Aug 20. Lockheed dives into next-generation missile defense interceptor competition. Lockheed Martin said it will compete to build the Missile Defense Agency’s Next-Generation Interceptor designed to protect the homeland against intercontinental ballistic missile threats from North Korea and Iran.
The company is “excited to confirm that we are putting in a bid for the Next-Generation Interceptor,” Sarah Reeves, Lockheed’s vice president of missile defense programs, told reporters Aug. 3.
Bids were due July 31.
Boeing and a Raytheon-Northrop Grumman team have already announced their intentions to compete to develop and field the agency’s new interceptor following the cancellation of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle meant to replace the warhead on the current Ground-Based Interceptors. Those missiles are part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System, which is operational at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The RKV program was paused in May 2019 and then abruptly terminated in August 2019 due to insurmountable technical issues resulting in delayed schedules and cost increases. The Defense Department announced at the time that it would embark on an entirely new program to field a future interceptor.
MDA now plans to downselect to two companies, which will then compete for the right to build the interceptor.
While MDA struggled with RKV, Lockheed invested the last two decades on multi-kill vehicle technology,” Reeves said.
Lockheed had one of three small contracts to design a kill vehicle that could take out multiple warheads several years ago that would lead to a program that would replace the RKV called the Multi-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV) program. Raytheon and Boeing had won the remaining two contracts.
Reeves stressed the need for the new interceptor to be able to go after threats that disperse multiple objects including decoys.
“We are looking carefully at the lessons learned from RKV including parts survivability testing which, in that program, was done too late and caused a major system redesign, as well as ensuring early-and-often testing and fly-before-you-buy mentality,” Reeves said.
Lockheed plans to conduct two successful flight tests before going into production, Reeves said, which as an MDA program requirement.
“The time is right now,” Reeves said. “We have significant investments and the technology a couple of decades ago, when this was initially a vision of MDA, wasn’t quite there, but now it is ready to go.”
The company plans to take elements from its existing capabilities such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which Reeves said has had a 100 percent mission success rate, and the Aegis missile defense system. Lockheed also will garner experience from its partnership with the U.S. Navy on its Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile system, which “has to survive these more hostile environments,” she said.
And Lockheed’s experience with space is another asset that will contribute to understanding technology needed for an NGI, which will need to travel through space, according to Reeves.
Lockheed is also optimistic, Reeves said, that it can meet a faster schedule for NGI than currently planned.
Some Defense Department officials said NGI could not be fielded until the 2030s but the MDA director and U.S. Northern Command’s commander believe it is possible to move that timeline to at least 2028 or earlier.
The company plans to use tools such as artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine learning, big data analytics and 3-D printing to “accelerate the schedule and to deliver products faster than we have had in the past,” Reeves said. (Source: Defense News)
03 Aug 20. Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies (RTX: NYSE) business, and RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., an Israeli-based defense technology company, have signed a joint venture to establish an Iron Dome Weapon System production facility in the United States. The new partnership, called Raytheon RAFAEL Area Protection Systems, anticipates finalizing a site location before the end of the year.
“This will be the first Iron Dome all-up-round facility outside of Israel, and it will help the U.S. Department of Defense and allies across the globe obtain the system for defense of their service members and critical infrastructure,” said Raytheon Missiles & Defense Systems’ Sam Deneke, vice president of Land Warfare & Air Defense business execution.
The new facility will produce both the Iron Dome Weapon System, which consists of the Tamir interceptor and launcher, and the SkyHunter® missile, a U.S. derivative of Tamir. Both Tamir and SkyHunter intercept incoming cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems and short-range targets such as rockets, artillery, mortars and other aerial threats.
“We are excited about this new stage in our partnership with Raytheon and proud of our U.S. production,” said Brig. Gen. (res.) Pini Yungman, executive vice president for Air and Missile Defense of RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems. “We have long partnered on U.S. production of Iron Dome and are pleased to increase manufacturing and bring SkyHunter to the U.S.”
29 Jul 20. Russian Navy set to receive hypersonic nuclear strike weapons. The Russian Navy is set to be equipped with a new generation of hypersonic nuclear strike weapons and underwater nuclear drones. The Poseidon underwater nuclear drone is 70ft long and 6.5ft wide and can move at up to 80mph underwater. It can be carried externally by submarines or internally by special carrier submarines. The weapons are capable of crossing continents to reach their target and can dive to a depth of 3,280ft, making them difficult to track and intercept.
Capable of travelling at over five times the speed of sound, the Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile is designed to be deployed on surface ships. The missile, which combines manoeuvrability, speed, and altitude, cannot be tracked and intercepted, reported Reuters. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence (MOD), these weapons are undergoing the final phase of testing.
At the recent annual naval parade in St Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the navy is expected to receive an additional 40 new vessels this year. Putin added: “The widespread deployment of advanced digital technologies that have no equals in the world, including hypersonic strike systems and underwater drones, will give the fleet unique advantages and increased combat capabilities.”
In a separate development, the defence ministry stated that the testing of submarine Belgorod is underway. Belgorod is claimed to be the first submarine equipped to carry Poseidon drones. Testing of these weapons systems is nearing completion, according to the ministry. In May this year, the Russian Navy accepted delivery of the strategic ballistic missile carrier submarine Knyaz Vladimir from the Sevmash shipyard. Laid down at Sevmash in 2012, the vessel delivered is the improved Borei-A class project of the fourth-generation nuclear submarines. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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