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17 Sep 20. Lockheed Aims For Laser On Fighter By 2025. How do you keep a laser focused on a target moving at hundreds of miles per hour? The answer is crucial to Lockheed lasers being fitted on Army trucks and Air Force fighters over the next few years.
“Lockheed Martin is working to fly a laser on tactical fighters within the next five years,” Lockheed laser expert Mark Stephen told reporters yesterday afternoon. “We’re spending a lot of time to get the beam director right.”
That beam director, which keeps the laser beam on target, is a crucial but easily overlooked component of future laser weapons.
The Air Force Research Lab’s SHiELD program aims to put defensive laser pod on fighters to defend them against incoming anti-aircraft missiles. An offensive laser to shoot down enemy aircraft would have to hit harder and at longer distances, so it’s a more distant goal: Such weapons are envisioned for a future “sixth generation” fighter — like the NGAD prototype now in flight test — to follow the 5th-gen F-35, while the SHiELD pod will go on non-stealthy 4th gen aircraft like the F-16, as in this Lockheed video.
But the company’s new beam-director design is actually getting its first workout on an Army system, the truck-mounted IFPC Energy Laser, which will defend against artillery rockets, drones, and, potentially, subsonic cruise missiles.
The first unit of IFPC-HEL prototypes, already under construction, will be operational in 2024. That’s a year ahead of Lockheed’s timeline to put a laser on a fighter. And the fighter-pod project isn’t trying to field an operational prototype, either; It’s just trying to demonstrate the technology can actually work, with a formal requirements document and acquisition program of record to follow in the mid-2020s, when the Army plans to already have IFPC-HEL in mass production.
Why the difference in timelines? It is much, much easier to mount a working weapon on a truck than on a fighter jet. For one thing, the truck isn’t moving at hundreds of miles an hour, and having that stable firing platform makes aiming much simpler.
The truck also has a lot more room for power generation and cooling systems than a pod that fits under a fighter. IFPC-HEL will produce 300 kilowatts of power; SHIELD’s output is TBD, but it’ll probably be under 100 kW, allowing the fighter to charge the laser without installing a whole new power generation system.
Now, it’s easy for discussions of laser weapons to boil down to counting kilowatts, and power output is important – but so is precision. Sure, more power lets you do more damage, more quickly, at longer ranges. But you have to actually hit the target first. And that’s especially hard because most laser weapons in development, like SHIELD and IFPC, are intended to defeat fast-moving threats like rockets, missiles, and drones.
Then you have to keep hitting the target long enough for the laser beam to heat it up enough to hurt it, even if that’s just a fraction of a second. (Lasers are less like explosions or bullets, which apply their kinetic energy in the instant of impact, and more like blowtorches, which apply heat energy over time). In fact, precision can trump power, up to a point, because the more precisely you can hold the laser beam on the exact same spot, the faster it burns through.
Getting the laser precisely on target and keeping it there is the job of the beam director. It has to pull in sensor data on the current locations of both the target and the firing platform. Sophisticated software predicts exactly where the beam needs to go and adjusts specially designed mirrors to bounce the laser light in just the right direction. And the beam director has to keep making those calculations and adjustments many times a second.
Can you really achieve this kind of precision from an aircraft in flight, which is not only flying at hundreds of miles an hour but vibrating?
Lockheed’s been doing it for decades, Stephen said. It makes the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod widely used on US and allied aircraft since 2006. Sniper uses multiple sensors – including lasers – to pinpoint targets for precision-guided airstrikes.
“It has lasers inside of it that have to be maintained onto a target during high speed maneuvers,” Stephen said. “They’re laser designators, not weapon-class lasers,” he acknowledged, but that’s a difference in power level, not precision.
“They still have to maintain the position on the target to deal with the vector in the weapon that they’re guiding. So the technology and the algorithms, developed over the last 40 years on those types of electro-optical systems with laser designators in them, are directly applicable from a pointing and jitter control standpoint,” he explained.
Lockheed beam-control development didn’t stop with Sniper. “We conducted 62 flight tests over an eight-year period to optimize laser focus and stability,” Stephen said. “We have established a new directed energy system integration lab” in Orlando, Fla. that will be testing lasers up to 50 kW next year and up to 150 kW by 2024.
And to build the precision systems at the scale and cost required for a practical procurement program, he said, “we’re investing over $20m in our Orlando-based optical components center to expand the manufacturing footprint by 40 percent.”
Lockheed is supremely confident in their laser tech. As another exec, Paul Shattuck, boasted on an earlier occasion: “Our beam control technology enables precision equivalent to shooting a beach ball off the top of the Empire State Building from the San Francisco Bay Bridge.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
17 Sep 20. US Army tweaks Integrated Fire Control System requirements for M3E1 MAAWS rifle. The US Army is once again looking for vendors to provide an Integrated Fire Control System (IFCS) for its M3E1 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) recoilless rifle but with a few changes.
In a 16 September market survey, the service updated a 2018 sources sought notice for an IFCS with two “major revisions”. First, it can now be a digital only solution and not just a direct-view optic, and, secondly, it now must have an integrated night vision capability.
“Warfighters require a fire control device to increase probability of hit…and decrease engagement time when using the M3E1 MAAWS against both static and moving targets,” the army wrote. “The fire control device described provides target acquisition, gun sighting, range to target, and an in-scope ballistic firing solution. The IFCS shall be used for engagements of targets in both day and night conditions, adverse weather, obscured visibility, and dirty battlefield conditions.”
Saab Dynamics’s 84 mm Lightweight Carl Gustaf rifle currently fills the army’s M3E1 MAAWS programme. The recoilless rifle designed to engage lightly armoured targets at ranges out to 500 meters and soft targets out to 800 meters.
By adding an IFCS to the weapon, the service wants users to be able to recognise and acquire range to vehicle-sized targets out to 1,300m in the day and 800m at night and be able to track targets moving up to 20km/h. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Sep 20. Project Convergence 2020: US Army hosting kill chain demonstration. The US Army is embarking on a month-long effort to assess portions of its modernisation portfolio and determine what steps it needs to take to successfully link sensors and shooters to down targets.
Between 11 August and 18 September, more than 500 people will be participating in Project Convergence 2020 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, with the goal of demonstrating specific “threads” within an “artificial intelligence (AI) enabled kill web” with a “two-sensors, two-shooters, and two-targets” framework, Army Futures Command (AFC) spokeswoman Robyn Mack recently told Janes .
“The demonstration serves as the foundation for learning and establishing a base architecture for artificial intelligence at the tactical edge for brigade and below,” she explained in a 10 September email. “Further, this demonstration will benchmark the current capabilities of network infrastructure to support the warfighter in real time.”
Project Convergence is centered around five core elements — people, weapons systems, command and control, information, and terrain — and the army is looking to demonstrate that it can combine arms data exchange for faster decision making, currently available AI, and networked lethality capabilities to support requirements development, and that various weapons portfolio developments are synchronised.
As for the event structure, the army has broken it up into three phases with the first one aimed at penetrating strategic and operational standoff by detecting, identifying, and destroying high value targets with long-range fires.
“Our sensors will be national technical means and Prometheus passing target information to an Extended Ranger Cannon Artillery (ERCA) firing the XM1113 munition,” Mack wrote. (Source: Jane’s)
14 Sep 20. ABMS Onramp 2 Sees Second MQ-9 AIM-9X Shot and Other CMD Tactics Development. From employing an AIM-9X from an MQ-9 to improving AGR-20 cruise missile defense tactics from the F-16, units across the 53d Wing played a critical role in the Advanced Battle Management System Onramp #2 from August 31 to September 3, 2020. A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron successfully employed a live air-to-air AIM-9X Block 2 missile against a target BQM-167 drone simulating a cruise missile. The crew received off-board cueing information, found and tracked the target, then maneuvered to validly employ the AIM-9X against the surrogate cruise missile.
The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, alongside Developmental Test partners, the 26th Weapons Squadron, and industry partners collaborated to plan and execute this event, validating a concept emerging from the Weapons School. Connecting the squadron operations cell and the ground-based cockpit to the ABMS network to enable the MQ-9 to target the BQM-167 was a significant effort that required resolution to the numerous technical challenges to provide this connection.
Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) provided critical data to the MQ-9 and crew for timely and accurate target information. The network integration and cross-domain solutions proven during the ABMS demonstration significantly decreased the total time from target discovery to engagement to battle damage assessment.
“This truly was a combined effort to make this demonstration a success,” said Lt. Col. Michael Chmielewski, commander, 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron. “While early in development, this successful test opens the door to further explore integration opportunities the aircraft and cockpits could provide to JADC2, as well as counterair capabilities and roles beyond the typical counter-terrorism role assumed by the MQ-9.”
The ABMS demonstration served as the second MQ-9 AIM-9X employment since the first air-to-air shot in November of 2017 against a target drone. Since 2017, the MQ-9 community has investigated and proven the efficacy of the MQ-9 in a counterair role utilizing the AIM-9X and future non-kinetic effects. The combined test, weapons school, and industry team since 2009 has demonstrated the capability to integrate the MQ-9’s effects in major combat operations across a variety of missions during large scale exercises at the USAF weapons school, integrating with Naval assets, and flying in numerous combatant commands.
“This test, and others like it, can shape the future of the MQ-9, as we continue to increase its relevance in great power competition and support the National Defense Strategy,” said Chmielewski. “I am extremely proud of the squadron’s efforts to make this a success.”
In addition to the MQ-9 efforts in ABMS, the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron also continued the 53d Wing’s work in developing tactics, techniques and procedures for cruise missile defense. Working with mission partners, the 422nd TES overcame countless obstacles to plan and execute the first overland Air-to-Air AGR-20A Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) live fire test.
The AGR-20A is a fraction of the cost of the AIM-120 missile commonly used for cruise missile defense. Additionally, the AGR-20A can be loaded faster than an AIM-120 and an aircraft can carry two-to-three times the number weapons, directly supporting the National Defense Strategy’s priority of reform the Department for greater performance and affordability. Through this test in the AMBS Onramp #2, the team generated valuable test data that will be used to work through critical sensor and other limitations that will ultimately move the U.S. Air Force forward in developing this tactic.
Furthermore, the 82nd ATRS’s QF-16s played vital roles in other experiments during the Onramp.
“We often say the 53rd Wing is responsible for bringing the future faster, so it makes sense that our squadrons play such a vital role in ABMS,” said Col Ryan Messer, 53d Wing Commander. “Like all experiments, this Onramp required countless hours of work and planning to make execution possible, and our teams are filled with the experts and professionals required to help bring a vision such as ABMS to reality.”
ABMS is the top modernization priority for the Department of the Air Force with a budget of $3.3bn over five years and will be the backbone of a network-centric approach in partnership with all the services across the Department of Defense. That broader effort is known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). When fully realized, senior leaders say JADC2 will allow U.S. forces from all services—as well as allies—to receive, fuse and act upon a vast array of data and information in all domains at the speed of relevance. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Air Combat Command)
14 Sep 20. C.G. Haenel MK556 Wins German Army Tender to Replace G36. After almost six decades with Heckler & Koch, the German Bundeswehr appears to have selected a new supplier for its assault rifle. TFB has followed the process closely and while the decision had been delayed, we knew that a decision from the was due this autumn. We also knew that regardless of the outcome of the German Army’s choice the result would be of great importance for decades to come.
According to several sources the German Ministry of Defense has chosen C.G. Haenel GmbH to supply the next German Assault Weapon. The initial report came from the German Press Agency (DPA) and has been widely quoted. At the time of writing neither the Bundeswehr nor Haenel have made official statements. Haenel is already supplying the Bundeswehr with the Haenel RS9 sniper rifle (designated the G29 in German service), which we reported about on 2016. Despite this they have long been seen as the underdog in the Bundeswehr’s search for a new service rifle. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/The Firearms Blog)
14 Sep 20. Royal Navy’s new torpedo on cusp of front-line service after trials in Scotland. The world’s most advanced torpedo is on the cusp of entering service with the Royal Navy after extensive trials in Scotland. The upgraded Spearfish – the principal weapon of the UK’s Submarine Flotilla against enemy ships and submarines – was ‘fired’ repeatedly at frigate HMS Sutherland as scientists, engineers and sailors study its performance.
Over four days on special ranges near the Kyle of Lochalsh, the improved weapon was put through its paces, testing both software and hardware enhancements – while the Plymouth-based frigate did its utmost to fend off the torpedo’s attacks.
Spearfish has been the Silent Service’s weapon of choice since the early 1990s, though it has never been fired in anger.
The warhead is a good six times more powerful than that carried by the smaller Sting Ray torpedo, fired by ships like Sutherland or launched from Merlin and Wildcat helicopters.
It can break the back of frigates, destroyers and similar-sized warships, and take out any underwater threats.
The Royal Navy is investing £270m in upgrading Spearfish, fitting a new warhead, new, safer fuel system, an enhanced electronic ‘brain’ and a new fibre-optic guidance link with its parent submarine to improve its accuracy and lethality.
A team of around 100 engineers and experts from BAE Systems in Portsmouth have spent nearly six years working on the improved torpedo, which will be introduced to front-line hunter-killer and nuclear-deterrent submarines over the next three years – and in service into the 2050s.
The latest trials are the fourth involving Sutherland – which is purpose-built to hunt down hostile submarines – to help introduce the new Spearfish into service.
For the latest workout at the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre – a stretch of water between Skye and the Scottish mainland which is ten kilometres long, six wide, up to 200 metres deep and peppered with state-of-the-art sensors – the frigate was assessed to see if she could defeat the new-look Spearfish, using a mix of evasive manoeuvres to evade the torpedo and advanced acoustic counter-measures to lure it away from Sutherland.
Anyone expecting tell-tale submarine wakes streaking through the waters was disappointed as Spearfish was set to ‘run deep’ for safety reasons – so the ‘battle’ was played out on the displays in Sutherland’s operations room, where the shrill sound of whistles announced a torpedo in the water.
“During the trial this week we have put our elite training into action, using a variety of underwater sensors to locate and track the weapon,” said 23-year-old Able Seaman Matthew Brown from Perth, one of the underwater warfare specialists who’s been tracking Spearfish.
“Having one of the most advanced and capable torpedoes in the world fired at you certainly puts the pressure on.”
Weapon Engineer Officer Lieutenant Commander David Tinsley added:
“This is not the first time Sutherland has contributed to Spearfish trials, and we’re glad to be supporting a small part of a larger Defence programme which will deliver a world class weapon into Service.
“A range of military and industrial partners have come together to deliver an efficient trial which in due course will deliver another exciting capability for the Royal Navy.”
Following the torpedo trials, Sutherland moved on to join the Americans, Norwegians and Danes on exercise in the Arctic.
A final trial of Spearfish will take place at BUTEC later in 2020 before the weapon is declared operational and begins being delivered to the submarine fleet. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
14 Sep 20. Russia, India to Launch New Brahmos Missile Capable of Downing Aircraft with AWACS System by 2024. Russia and India have adopted a plan for their joint BrahMos project, meant to create a new cruise missile capable of downing aircraft equipped with AWACS systems (an advanced Airborne early warning and control).
According to the Russian director of the venture, Alexander Maksichev, the missile will be ready for launch by 2024. He noted that it will have different target-seeking equipment but will use the same platform.
He previously said that the Indian light-weight fighter Tejas will be used as a carrier for the missile. The BrahMos venture was established by Moscow and New Delhi in 1998 and develops hypersonic missiles —naval-, underwater-, shore-, and air-based. It has recently faced a major surge in demand, with an additional $1bn increase in orders in six months since the beginning of the year despite the coronavirus pandemic. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Sputnik News)
14 Sep 20. US VNG soldiers complete training on CROWS system. Virginia Army National Guard (VNG) soldiers in the US has completed a training on the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) system. Virginia Army National Guard (VNG) soldiers in the US has completed a training on the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) system.
The training was designed to familiarise soldiers with the M153 CROWS, which allow gunners to engage targets without leaving the armour protection.
The system can be mounted with the 40mm MK19 grenade launcher, the M2 Browning 50-caliber machine gun, the M240 Bravo machine gun and the M249 machine gun, as well as other vehicle platforms.
Additionally, the CROWS system features four-axis targeting and colour day and thermal cameras to enable the operator to engage targets while on the move or stationary, as well as at night.
Tank Automotive Command contractor and instructor Donald Nelson said: “The CROWS keeps the soldiers inside safe.
“They can identify and lase their target, giving them a distance to where the target is, allowing the weapon station to either elevate or depress for the strike of the round.”
Training included a basic introduction, safety description and familiarisation with the CROWS operation.
Subsequently, the personnel learnt about weapons configuration and installation.
116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team First Lieutenant Walter Best said: “This is essential for us. We have three CROWS systems we are signed for that my squad has and we need people who know how to use them.”
“The whole idea is to train the trainer. Anybody who goes through this course, at the end, should be able to give a course and help train up the platoon or company. That is the goal at the end of this.” (Source: army-technology.com)
14 Sep 20. Large explosions seen near military facility in Jordan. A series of large explosions were seen near a military ammunition depot in Zarqa, one of the largest cities in Jordan. A series of large explosions were seen near a military ammunition depot in Zarqa, one of the largest cities in Jordan. Initial investigations indicate that an intense heatwave in the country caused thermal expansion of the mortar shells stored in the facility triggering the blasts, Reuters reported citing local Jordanian Army spokesman Brigadier General Talal al Ghobain.
Images circulating social media showed that large flames engulfing the night sky followed by multiple explosions. However, there are no reports of fatalities or injuries.
This month, temperatures soared to 45°C (113°F) in Jordan breaking decades of records.
The blast site is located within a high-security zone, which hosts major US-equipped army bases.
A local resident Nabila Issa was quoted by Reuters as saying: “We felt like an earthquake had struck. Our windows shook and glass shattered. My kids started crying.”
Following the blast, security forces sealed the city to control the situation.
State media quoted Jordan Army chief of staff major general Yusef al Huneiti as saying that the swift response in dealing with the explosions had reduced losses.
Several bases and depots are located in Zarqa, a city located around 25km from the capital of Amman with a population of around 1.5 million.
A few days ago, Jordan restored military service for unemployed men within the age group of 25-29, reported AFP. This came after unemployment surged due to the Covid-19 crisis. (Source: army-technology.com)
10 Sep 20. Target Gone In 20 Seconds: US Army Sensor-Shooter Test. This fall’s first Project Convergence exercise aims to feed targeting data from satellites to artillery so fast that gunners can unleash precision fire in much less than a minute. And that’s just the start. Army experiments have shortened the kill chain remarkably – from the time a satellite or drone detects a target to the time an artillery unit opens fire – to “less than 20 seconds,” the head of Army futures Command said this afternoon.
When you’re fighting an enemy like Iraq, “it was probably okay to take tens of minutes between identifying a target and actually putting round on that target,” Gen. Mike Murray told a Center for a New America Security webcast. But in a future fight against “our near-peer threats, both Russia and China… it’s not going to be tens of minutes.”
The Army’s Project Convergence wargames at Yuma Proving Ground will test a kill chain this fall combining Army and non-Army assets, Murray said:
- Sensors: Targeting data will come from satellites in Low Earth Orbit – “not Army-owned, [but] joint and really interagency,” Murray said – as well as Army Grey Eagle drones and sensors on the ground.
- Command & Control: That data will flow into a C2 hub at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, where it’ll be processed and analyzed by what Murray called “a developmental program” – almost certainly some form of artificial intelligence able to sort through information far faster than human staff officers. (McChord is also home to the Army’s first-ever Intelligence, Information, Electronic Warfare, & Space (I2CEWS) battalion, whose raison d’être is long-range targeting for both physical and cyber weapons, though Murray didn’t say whether or not they were involved). The C2 node then calculates the best weapon to destroy that specific target.
- Shooters: “We’ll put rounds on target from either a [M109] self-propelled howitzer, or from a Grey Eagle, or from a ground platform,” he said.
From beginning to end, satellite to shots fired, Murray said, “right now, we have some success doing that in less than 20 seconds.”
As head of Army Futures Command, Murray oversees development of 34 high-priority systems programs across six broad portfolios: long-range precision artillery, high-speed aircraft, armored vehicles, the tactical network, air & missile defense, and soldier gear. Project Convergence stems from the Army’s realization last year that, since all of these weapons need to work together on the future battlefield – and preferably as much more than the sum of their individual parts – Futures Command needed to start testing how they’d work together as early as possible in their development.
“We have… almost no programs of record at Yuma,” Murray said. “These are very immature technologies that we’re piecing together to understand potential, to understand what soldiers can do and really what commander can make out of these tools.”
It’s a tremendous work in progress. “Part of the magic out at Yuma is there are people recoding software every night to fix problems — and I see that on a future battlefield,” Murray said. “Brigade commanders and division commanders – if we [still] have brigades and divisions — are going to have kids in their command posts that are able to re-code software to solve problems they came up with that day.”
As the director of the Joint AI Center told me in a recent interview, software can adapt to new threats and opportunities vastly faster than you can upgrade your physical weapons. So in this software-driven way of war, constantly changing your code isn’t a bug – it’s a feature.
It’s not just the Army that needs to connect this way, either. All the services are striving to link together in a single Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) meta-network, an idea of increasing interest to US allies as well.
While the inaugural Project Convergence this fall will be largely Army, with the significant exception of the LEO satellites, observers from the Air Force and Great Britain will be present. Project Convergence 2021 will be “very much focused on bringing the joint force in,” Murray said, and 2022 will bring in foreign partners. “The UK is signed to participate in ’22 and they will be there this year [observing],” he said. “The Australians are talking about participating in ’22.”
But the new network will never be omniscient and omnipresent, Murray warned, not just because of real-life technical limitations but because enemy jamming and hacking will actively attack its communications links.
“JADC2 [has] been described variously as all sensors, all shooters, all C2 nodes,” the general said. “I think it’s a little more narrow than that, because we’re going to be in a contested environment, restricted bandwidth. We just won’t have wide open pipes to push data through.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
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.
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