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18 Oct 18. Doubts arise over South Korea’s ‘Sea Bow’ missile interception ability. South Korea’s indigenous close-in weapon system, currently in the final development phase, will be unable to thwart incoming missiles based on test evaluations, according to military and industry sources. Nicknamed “Sea Bow,” the Korean surface-to-air anti-missile (K-SAAM) has been in development since 2011 to replace Raytheon’s Rolling Airframe Missile and provide close-in defense for warships. The state-funded Agency for Defense Development is in charge the $140m project to produce the medium-range, ship-based missile in collaboration with LIG Nex1, a precision-guided missile manufacture. The project hit a snag, however, as the development period was extended by two years following test failures in 2016, when two of the five missiles missed their respective targets.
In a fresh round of operational tests that began last year, the missile successfully hit nine of the 10 targets, the developers said. But the test results are in dispute since the criteria for the tests were set too lenient to address real-world threats, said a source with knowledge of the evaluations.
“Of the 10 missiles, only two missiles are known to have hit targets being flown low to the sea, while others hit incoming targets as high as over 30 meters above the sea,” the source told Defense News, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That means the K-SAAM has not been proved fairly enough to respond to sea-skimming missiles fired by enemy forces.”
“An even bigger problem is that the missile flew just around Mach 0.5, far slower than an average speed of anti-ship, guided missiles run by neighboring countries,” the source added. “Simply, the tests were not realistic to evaluate the performances of the close-in weapon system.”
The source referred to North Korea’s Kumsong-3 subsonic anti-ship missile as an example of a real-world threat. A derivative of the Russian Kh-35U missile, the Kumsong-3 can fly as fast as Mach 0.8 with a cruising altitude of 10-15 meters, and with a terminal altitude of 4 meters.
In comparison, China, for instance, has the CM-302 supersonic air-launched anti-ship missile with a speed of Mach 2 to Mach 3, while Japan has the Type 90 ship-to-ship missile that can fly Mach 0.9 at an altitude of 5-6 meters.
Russia operates the 300-kilometer-range Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile with a speed of Mach 2.5 to Mach 4.5. It can cruise at an altitude of 10 meters and at a terminal altitude of 1 meter.
The K-SAAM developers insist the evaluations met the required operational capability, or ROC. “The operational tests were appropriate to meet the ROC,” a Navy source involved in the K-SAAM evaluations said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the evaluation process.
“The close-in weapon system is designed to address various types of threats, so we proceeded with the tests at different angles and altitudes,” he said. “It’s not true we have lowered the standards for the passage of the evaluations.”
But Shin In-kyun, head of the Seoul-based private think tank Korea Defense Network, has doubts.
“Should the tests be conducted in line with the ROC, I believe the ROC was set incorrectly,” Shin said. “Moreover, the close-in weapon system is the last line of defense against enemy attacks, so the evaluations of the system should be stricter than any other system to protect the lives of our soldiers on the front lines.”
The 3.07-meter-long K-SAAM is scheduled to be fitted in new FFX-II/III frigates and the second 14,500-ton amphibious landing ship, named Marado, which was launched in May. The missile is to be housed in a four-cell vertical launch system, four of which are intended to be fitted to the warships, providing 16 missiles per ship. (Source: Defense News)
18 Oct 18. New hypersonic missiles to deploy in ‘months’ — Putin. Russia’s army will receive a new hypersonic missile system in the next few months, president Vladimir Putin has said, adding that Russia’s nuclear program was the most advanced in the world. In his re-election campaign this spring Mr Putin disclosed new nuclear missile programs in development, including the hypersonic, nuclear-armed Avangard system that could have the capability to avoid existing missile defence infrastructure. “We are improving our attack systems in response to the construction of a missile defence system by the United States. Some of them are already in service, and some will be supplied in the near future,” Mr Putin said. “The Avangard system [will be deployed] in the next few months.” “It is a fact of life that we are ahead of all our partners and competitors in this sphere of high precision, hypersonic weapons,” he said. “No one else has that . . . In that sense we feel very comfortable, very safe.” Experts say talks between the US and Russia on the future of non-proliferation and missile defence treaties are imperative, given that a pack to reduce nuclear arms expires in 2021 and both Moscow and Washington have accused the other of breaking the existing agreements limiting intercontinental missiles. (Source: FT.com)
17 Oct 18. Northrop Grumman readies Hatchet for all-up testing. Northrop Grumman is set to conduct the first live end-to-end test of an all-up Hatchet miniature precision strike munition by the end of this year. Developed with internal research and development (IRAD) funding, Hatchet was originally unveiled in April 2012 as a low-cost gravity-dropped weapon concept to equip unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).
The Hatchet development programme has now picked up pace. The weapon system has since evolved in design and concept of operations, and is now optimised as a precision-guided low-collateral-damage glide munition, designed to be launched from all airborne platform types – fixed wing, rotary wing, and UAS – in a close air support role (CAS) against soft-skinned targets, light structures, and personnel.
A series of tests in the past 24 months – including flight trials and arena/height of burst testing – culminated in full guide-to-hit trials in early October. “These were company-funded guide-to-hit trials using two inert rounds against threat representative targets, both of [which] were successful,” a company spokesperson told Jane’s. “The trial also successfully demonstrated the release sequence, including deployment of wings and control surfaces, flight stability, and GPS guidance.” The height of release and range to target data for both munitions in the guide-to-hit trials were not disclosed
The spokesperson said that for the live test at the end of the year – which is also company-funded – a semi-active laser (SAL) seeker will be incorporated into Hatchet to demonstrate the munition’s capability against a moving target. The live test milestone will mature Hatchet to Technical Readiness Level 7, the spokesperson added.
Hatchet is a guided glide munition featuring a tri-form fold-around mid-body wing and deployable aft control surface arrangement. The munition weighs approximately 2.72kg (6 lbs), is 60mm (2.4 inches) in diameter, and approximately 30.1cm (11.9 inches) in length. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
17 Oct 18. Brazilian Army eyes acquisition of 155mm towed howitzers. The Brazilian Army is considering the purchase of 155 mm towed howitzers to progressively replace its 42 M114 and 33 M114A1 155mm guns. To move forward with this effort it has recently approved operational, technical, logistics, and industrial requirements to procure a howitzer and associated towing, ammunition resupply, and troop transport/fire centre high-mobility trucks. The project is currently in its initial phase, with quantities, schedules, equipment, and accessories pending definition, the army recently told Jane’s. However, the acquisition will depend on budget availability, it added. A procurement process is currently being formulated after studies were conducted on the prospect of finding equipment that meets the requirements, the army told Jane’s. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
17 Oct 18. US Army tests Spider networked munition system. The US Army’s 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is testing an upgrade to the Spider munition system used to defend perimeters and support offensive ambushes and situational obstacles. The Spider Increment 1A networked munition system is being tested at Ft Campbell, Kentucky, to assess how effective, suitable and survivable Spider will be during real-world operations. The Spider networked munition provides the same munition field effectiveness as antipersonnel landmines, but without the residual life threatening risks after hostilities end or troops withdraw. Each munition is controlled by a man in the loop, allowing for more precise lethal or non-lethal responses. It uses a remote control station to monitor the system, while controlling every munition system networked to it. It can be safely and rapidly deployed and recovered, and allows the safe passage of friendly forces. It also eliminates the possibility of an unintended detonation through early warning and selective engagement.
By the end of the test, the units will have employed the Spider Increment 1A network munition system during defensive and offensive force-on-force engagements each day for 16 straight days of tough, realistic training in the highly vegetative environment of Fort Campbell. (Source: Shephard)
16 Oct 18. US Army is updating its missile defense strategy with Russia and China in mind. The U.S. Army is in the throes of updating its air-and-missile defense strategy to align with the Pentagon’s conviction that the military must modernize and overmatch its near-peer adversaries Russia and China. Missile defense plays an important role in the new National Defense Strategy released earlier this year. The head of the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, told Defense News at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference that the organization is currently updating the strategy. He also noted that the service’s current investments and road map for missile defense is aligning with the goals set forward in the NDS.
“We’ve got a great defense budget right now,” he said. “The investments we are making right now, that are in line with what that strategy [is], will eventually roll out.”
The last AMD strategy was crafted in 2012. In 2015, the command updated the document, Dickson explained, but since then much has changed, including the NDS, the establishment of a new four-star command — Army Futures Command — tasked to more effectively and rapidly modernize the force, and the formulation and refinement of multidomain operations as a concept.
“We now see threats that we didn’t see necessarily back in 2015 as near peer, and so we’ve had to adjust our strategy or tailor our strategy to make sure that we account for that,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson had said early in 2018 that the strategy would roll out in the summer, but that was before the NDS was released. He would not comment on when the strategy might come out.
The strategy will likely focus on the need to move to an integrated, tiered and layered missile defense architecture, Dickinson said.
“We’ve got some wonderful systems that we have, and have developed over many years, that are very capable and very lethal,” Dickinson said. “We need to make sure that we build those capabilities so that they are integrated together and that they are tiered. And what I mean by tiered is that you have more than one capability that can defeat a certain threat or certain threats.”
There’s no silver bullet to handling all threats when it comes to missile defense, Dickinson noted. “But you have many that you can employ to make it very confusing for our adversaries in how we are defeating that particular threat,” he said.
The Army is currently working to tie together two of its key AMD systems — the Patrtiot medium-range missile defense system and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system — to detect and respond at greater ranges but also to supply flexible defeat options to commanders.
The service is also developing an Integrated AMD system to replace Patriot that will have a new command-and control system and a new, more capable radar. Additionally, the Army is working to address the cruise missile threat through its Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 program and may bring on an interim capability to get after the threat before IFPC Inc. 2 is ready. With all of these plans, the Army is moving faster than some previous efforts and has drastically reduced timelines on its major lines of AMD modernization goals. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
16 Oct 18. Rosgvardiya tests new Kalashnikov firearms. The Rosgvardiya, Russia’s national guard, is testing new small arms designed by Rostec’s Kalashnikov Group, a military source has told Jane’s .
“The Rosgvardiya has started the operational evaluation and testing of the newest Kalashnikov AK-200 series of assault rifles, which is replacing the venerable AK-100 family. The service is also testing the Lebedev PL-15 9 mm (Para) pistol developed by the Kalashnikov Group,” the source said.
A Kalashnikov representative told Jane’s, “In 2019, Izhmash [Mechanical Plant, a Kalashnikov subsidiary] will launch serial production of the [PL-15] pistol”.
The Rosgvardiya has already received an initial batch of AK-200-family 5.45mm firearms. “The service has procured 476 AK-200 (6P34-1) 5.45mm assault rifles and 60 AK-205 (6P47-1) 5.45mm carbines,” the military source said, adding that the Rosgvardiya was also considering the acquisition of AK-200-family firearms chambered for 7.62×39, i.e., the AK-203 assault rifle and AK-204 carbine. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
16 Oct 18. Iran says its land-to-sea missiles can now travel 700 km. Iran has extended the range of its land-to-sea ballistic missiles to 700 km (435 miles), a senior Iranian military official said on Tuesday amid rising tensions with the United States over Tehran’s missile programme. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, saying the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
Iran, which says its missile programme is purely defensive, has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the United States tries to strangle Iranian oil exports.
“We have managed to make land-to-sea ballistic, not cruise, missiles that can hit any vessel or ship from 700 km,” Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ air space division, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.
Hajizadeh said the Guards focused on extending the land-to-sea missile’s range after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked the military a decade ago about the possibility of “hitting ships” with ballistic projectiles. He did not give details on the previous range of the missiles. In 2008, Iran displayed a ground-to-sea missile that it said could travel about 290km (180 miles).
On Monday, the U.S. special envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, said that Tehran’s ballistic missile programme was exacerbating tensions in Yemen, Iraq and Syria. “We are accumulating risk of regional conflict if we do not do more to deter Iran’s missile proliferation in the Middle East,” Hook said.
The Islamic Republic’s government has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities and dismissed U.S. assertions that its activities in the Middle East are destabilising.
Hajizadeh said some short-range Iranian missiles had been used over the past two years in Syria’s civil war, in which Iranian forces have fought in support of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels and militants.
He also said Iranian drones had carried out 700 attacks on Islamic State militant positions in Syria.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have sent weapons and thousands of soldiers to Syria to help shore up Assad during the more than seven-year-long conflict there. (Source: Reuters)
16 Oct 18. Avibras delivers ASTROS vehicles to Brazil. Avibras has delivered the third batch of ASTROS vehicles to the Brazilian Army, the company announced on 11 October. The Brazilian Army has now received eight ASTROS MK6 vehicles: two fire control units that coordinate and control rocket launching procedures; three mobile meteorological stations that carry out the meteorological survey to maximise precision of the rockets; and three mobile combined workshops, which provide maintenance for missiles and rockets.
The new vehicles are part of the ASTROS 2020 programme that aims to develop the AV-TCM tactical cruise missile and the AV-SS-40G guided rocket, and modernise the vehicle fleet of the 6th GMF (Grupo de Mísseis e Foguetes – Missiles and Rockets Group).
16 Oct 18. Saab Unveils Surface Launch RBS15 Gungnir at Euronaval. Saab will unveil the surface launch version of RBS15 Gungnir, the next generation anti-ship missile system at Euronaval, stand G18-H23, 23-26 October in Paris. A press briefing on the new system will be held at 14:00 on Wednesday 24 October, at the Saab stand. The surface launch version of RBS15 Gungnir uses the all new RBS15 Mk4 Surface missile. This provides greater range, enhanced defence penetration and electronic protection as well as a more advanced target seeker, allowing it to engage any target, in all conditions.
The RBS15 Mk4 Surface missile is used in both the sea system and the land system of RBS15 Gungnir. It is designed to provide commonality through easy integration on both land- and sea-based platforms of almost any size. The system is fully backwards compatible, so an investment in Mk3 today opens a smooth path to transition into Gungnir tomorrow.
“With the RBS15 Gungnir we continue to build on the success and knowledge we have gained from the previous generations of RBS15. The surface launch version is a highly flexible missile system that can be integrated with existing command networks and on a wide range of the ships available on the market today”, says Görgen Johansson, Senior Vice President and head of Saab business area Dynamics.
The development and production programme, valued at 3.7 BSEK, was contracted in March 2017 with the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV). This next generation of the RBS15 system is named RBS15 Gungnir by Saab and is now being offered to the market as a complete missile system solution for air, sea and land based platforms.
The RBS15 missile family is jointly produced by Saab and Diehl Defence GmbH & Co. KG and serves with various navies, coastal batteries and air forces from Sweden, Finland, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Thailand and an undisclosed country.
15 Oct 18. German SMArt 155 munition programme to start again. Due to an additional demand for Sensor-fuzed Munition for Artillery 155 mm (Suchzunder Munition fur die Artillerie im Kaliber 155 mm: SMArt 155) artillery projectiles, the German Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded Gesellschaft für Intelligente Wirksysteme mbH (GIWS) an initial Step 1 contract to start the progamme again. SMArt 155 is designated the DM702 by the German Army. GIWS is a 50/50 joint venture company formed by Diehl Defence and Rheinmetall Weapons and Munitions to design, develop, and manufacture the SMArt155 artillery projectile. More than 12,000 SMArt 155 artillery projectiles were manufactured for Germany and Switzerland, followed by Australia and Greece with final deliveries in 2006.
The Phase 1 contract was awarded in December 2017 and runs to June 2019; it aims to source the elements that are required to initiate production again. The next phases are to update and re-qualify the production lines. Serial production is planned from 2024, and new rounds will be identical in form, fit, and function to the currently deployed rounds.
There will be parallel studies that are expected to explore new payloads to engage a wider range of target types. It will also be insensitive munition (IM) compliant. SMArt 155 can be fired from towed and self-propelled (SP) 155mm artillery systems using a modular charge system (MCS) or an older bag charge type propellant system. The thinned-walled carrier projectile contains the expulsion unit and the two submunitions. Each of the two top attack munitions has a heavy metal explosively formed penetrator (EFP) warhead and a multi-mode nose-mounted sensor that includes infrared (IR), millimeter wave (mmW) radar, and mmW radiometer sensors. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
16 Oct 18. French Forces clear MMP 5th generation land combat missile for Desert Operations. From August 25 to September 22 2018 in Djibouti, the French Army Technical Service (STAT), the French DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement), with the support of MBDA, achieved the evaluation campaign of the MMP 5th generation land combat missile system. The objective of this operational evaluation was to check the suitability of the MMP weapon system for use in semi-desert condition.
For this purpose, nine firings were achieved with all the missiles reaching their target. The results confirm the reliability of the weapon system in hot environment as well as its performance in operational firing scenarios.
Two firings have been performed by Navy commandos from the Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat ECUME (Embarcation Commando à Usage Multiple Embarquable – embarked multi-purpose commando boat): a first firing from the sea on a land target and the second one from the sea on a sea target. MMP is the first weapon system of this class of performance whose implementation on ECUME has been made possible. In Djibouti, French Forces have a training environment with climatic conditions similar to those encountered in the current zones of engagement in the Sahel-Saharan belt. The results achieved during this campaign in hot conditions fully allow the deployment of the MMP weapon system as part of Operation Barkhane, in the coming weeks.
15 Oct 18. South Korea’s K9 self-propelled artillery production to roll into 2021. Production of the South Korean Hanwha Land Systems K9 Thunder 155mm/52 calibre self-propelled artillery system and its associated K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle (ARV) has now passed 2,000 units for the home and export markets, and production is expected to continue to at least 2021. The K9 Thunder was originally developed to meet Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) requirements for significantly increased range and firepower compared with its large fleet of locally manufactured BAE Systems 155mm/39 calibre M109A2 SP artillery systems. In addition to being in service with the RoKA, export sales of the K9 Thunder have been made to Estonia (12 refurbished systems to be delivered), Finland (48 refurbished systems to be delivered), India (first complete systems were supplied new from South Korea, followed by local production), Norway (24 new systems to be delivered), Poland (hulls for local Krab), and Turkey (a locally built version called the Firtina). Hanwha Land Systems confirmed that trials of the K9 Thunder SP artillery system have also been undertaken in Australia, Egypt, Malaysia, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Later this year a K9 Thunder will undergo firing trials at Yuma Proving Ground in the United States using the recently type classified NAMMO 155mm High-Explosive Extended Range (HE-ER) projectile fitted with a Northrop Grumman Armament Systems Precision Guidance Kit (PGK).
The NAMMO 155mm HE-ER has a screw-on base bleed (BB) unit that enables a maximum range of 40km (25 mi).
Future improvements to the K9 Thunder will have two phases. The first phase is to install an auxiliary power unit (APU) that enables the sub-systems to be run when the main diesel engine is off. There will also be improvements to the computerised fire control system (FCS). (Source: IHS Jane’s)
15 Oct 18. China’s Z-19E helicopter ready for series production, says report. The export version of China’s Harbin Aviation Industries (Group) Company (HAIG) Z-19 Black Whirlwind armed reconnaissance/attack helicopter is ready for series production, according to a 13 October report by the state-owned Xinhua news agency. Citing HAIG’s parent company, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the media outlet reported that the helicopter, which is called Z-19E, “has undergone professional scrutiny regarding its performance tests and passed verifications, demonstrating the model is capable of entering the production phase”.
However, the report made no mention of any potential customers for the platform, which underwent 40-day trails in April and early May 2018, according to a 16 May statement issued by AVIC.
The tests involved the live firing of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, unguided and guided rockets, as well as of the platform’s podded gun systems, AVIC said at the time without providing further details about the tested weapons. The trials also served to verify weapons integration and the fire-control system, the company added.
The narrow-body, tandem-seat Z-19E, which made its first flight on 18 May, is China’s first export-oriented attack helicopter.
With a maximum take-off weight of 4,250kg, the Z-19E is a light armed helicopter providing advantages in cruising speed, climb rate, and usable ceiling, according to its developer. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
15 Oct 18. A new cutting-edge air defence missile system is on target for full-time use by both the Royal Navy and the British Army – with its innovation supported by experts from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), who have been at the heart of its development since conception. The 20-year project resulted in a multi-million pound contract awarded to MBDA to build the next-generation Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), which has the capability to defend against anti-ship cruise missiles, aircraft and other highly sophisticated threats.
In May, the Royal Navy completed its acceptance firing trials, resulting in an initial operating capability for HMS Argyll, with the Army land system also recently completing a successful firing from a pre-production launch vehicle. Sea Ceptor will provide local-area air defence to the Type 23 and Type 26 frigates, replacing Sea Wolf; Land Ceptor will replace the Rapier missile to deliver a state-of-the-art ground-based air defence capability.
A representative from Dstl’s Air Defence Weapons team, said:
“Since its conception, Dstl and its predecessors have been involved throughout the development and procurement of both the Sea and Land Ceptor. Initial studies were conducted to define future capability needs, followed by a series of technology demonstrator projects, with Dstl providing technical direction to help ensure the end product was exploitable into the Ceptor projects. As these moved into their Demonstration and Manufacture phases Dstl continued to provide independent technical advice to Defence Equipment and Support and the front line commands in order to ensure that the solutions met their performance requirements.”
Richard Smart, Director Weapons at Defence Equipment and Support, said:
“The DE&S Weapons project team has working closely with Dstl colleagues to develop Sea Ceptor and Land Ceptor; vital air defence systems which will protect our Armed Forces personnel on operations against current and future threats.”
“Together with industry we will continue to support the front line commands as this world-beating equipment enters service in defence of our national security and interests.”
Sea Ceptor and Land Ceptor use innovative seeker and datalink technology to achieve a high degree of accuracy. The associated radar systems track the threat and the datalink is then used to update the missile with the location of the threat. The CAMM’s own active radar seeker can then take over the missile guidance. The missiles are designed to provide 360-degree coverage with a high degree of manoeuvrability.
By employing innovative technologies to enable a common solution across land and maritime domains, CAMM/Ceptor delivers approximately £1bn worth of through-life savings within the complex weapons pipeline. Further savings are expected through export, for which two customers have already been confirmed.
13 Oct 18. Future Weapons: Inside the Army’s Pursuit of a High-Tech New Round. This week, U.S. Army leaders revealed a much clearer picture of the service’s plan to replace its M249 squad automatic weapon and M4A1 carbine with weapons that share an advanced 6.8mm round. For more than a year, modernization officials have offered few details about the Next Generation Squad Weapon program. But over the past three months, the service has taken tangible steps to advance the effort from concept to prototype.
The Army released a vague Oct. 4 draft solicitation describing its plans to award future deals to companies to build prototypes of the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle, or NGSW-R, and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle, or NGSW-AR, chambered for a newly designed, “government-provided” 6.8mm cartridge.
The solicitation followed an announcement in July that the Army had awarded five contracts to gun makers to develop prototypes of only the auto rifle.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier, explained how the solicitations work together at the 2018 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exhibition.
The prototypes from the contracts awarded in July are scheduled to be delivered to the Army next June for evaluation, he said.
The release of the Oct. 4 solicitation is designed to get feedback from the defense industry about making adjustments to the Army-developed 6.8mm round so it works efficiently in both the rifle and auto rifle versions of the NGSW, Potts explained.
“The rationale for doing that is we truly want to get to a common cartridge,” he said. “You want the engineers that are developing these weapons to be able to optimize both concurrently. If you put the AR out first, then they are going to optimize that round for the AR; [if] you put out the rifle first, then they are going to optimize it for the rifle. The round might be too heavy and too big for the rifle, and one might get you a round that’s not quite enough for an automatic rifle.”
The Army’s interest in developing an advanced 6.8mm round to make the squad more lethal emerged out of a 2017 Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study, said Brig. Gen. David Hodne, director of the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team.
“One of the foundations of that was probability of incapacitation,” he said. “Previously, it was good enough to hit something; probability of hit drove a lot of our requirements. We are now looking at energy and range … critical factors that drive the direction of the Next Generation Squad Weapon in both the automatic rifle and the rifle.”
Setting ambitious goals for creating a “leap-ahead” weapon system that features an integrated fire-control system and specialized ammunition is nothing new for the Army.
The Punisher and other attempts
Army engineers worked with industry in the mid-1990s to develop the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, or OICW, a dual weapon system that feature a 20mm airburst weapon mounted overtop a 5.56mm carbine. A high-tech fire-control system allowed soldiers to program 20mm rounds to explode over top of enemy behind cover.
The OICW, weighing 18 pounds, proved too heavy and bulky for the battlefield, so the Army attempted to develop the airburst weapon separately. The XM25featured a 25mm round for increased lethality.
The weapon was sent to Afghanistan for operational testing, and combat troops nicknamed it the Punisher, Army officials said.
Problems with the program started in February 2013 when the XM25 malfunctioned during its second round of operational testing in Afghanistan, inflicting minor injuries on a soldier.
A month later, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment refused to take the XM25 with them for a raid on a fortified enemy compound in Afghanistan because they were concerned its limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, sources familiar with the incident said.
Last year, the Army canceled its agreement with Orbital ATK Inc., which led to the end of the XM25 program.
There have been other slow-burn efforts, such as the Lightweight Small Arms Technology, a program the Army has invested in during the past decade to develop weapons that fire special case-telescoped ammunition.
Last year, Textron Systems officials showed off their latest offshoot of the LSAT, the Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm on the AUSA exhibition floor.
The 6.5mm case-telescoped ammunition weighs 35 percent less and offers 30 percent more lethality than 7.62mm x 51mm brass ammunition, Textron officials said.
The company chose to use the 6.5mm CT round while the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, was developing the actual projectile, Textron officials said.
A new, long-range caliber
Now the Army is touting a new 6.8mm round that has an “accurate range far in excess of any existing, known military rifle today,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said at AUSA on Monday.
Military.com asked the Army to clarify information on the extended range of the new 6.8mm, but Hodne would say only that it “will go beyond 300” meters, the maximum range for M4/M4A1 qualification.
One aspect of the new NGSW program is different from past programs such as the OICW or the XM25. It’s the first time Milley, who was sitting beside Army Secretary Mark Esper, said that the service is “committed to a new rifle and a new squad automatic weapon.”
Another difference: Army officials plan to issue these new weapons only to soldiers in infantry and other close-combat units, instead of trying to convince Congress to buy enough to equip more than one million active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers.
Despite the energy behind the effort, the future of the NGSW is still uncertain. Congress did not grant approval for the Army to start the program in fiscal 2019, Potts said.
“We did not get approval to … start a combat rifle program, next gen squad automatic rifle program in 2019,” he said, adding that the Army hopes to officially start the program in 2020.
“Perhaps Congress reconsiders allowing us to start this year. If not, we start next year and that will drive the timelines,” Potts said (Source: Military.com)
12 Oct 18. South Korea to buy ship-based interceptors to counter ballistic missile threats. The South Korean military has decided to buy ship-based SM-3 interceptors to thwart potential ballistic missile attacks from North Korea, a top commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff revealed Oct. 12.
“The decision was made actually during a top JCS meeting in September last year,” said Maj. Gen. Kim Sun-ho, the head of Joint Chiefs of Staff’s force buildup planning bureau, in response to a lawmaker’s question about the SM-3 missile procurement.
“The type of the ship-based anti-ballistic missile to be procured is an SM-3 class,” Kim said during a parliamentary audit of the JCS. “The interceptor will be responsible for shooting down an incoming ballistic missile in the upper tier of the KAMD system.”
KAMD refers to the Korea Air and Missile Defense network designed to take down low-flying missiles in the terminal phase. For lower-altitude interceptions, American-built Patriot missiles and locally developed medium-range surface-to-air missiles, dubbed M-SAM, have been deployed in the field.
To augment the low-tier, terminal-phase missile defense shield, the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system was deployed last year in the southern part of the country.
“The JCS set an operational requirement of intercepting an incoming ballistic missile at an altitude over 100 kilometers,” a JCS sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is no ship-based interceptor with an interception altitude of 100 kilometers or higher other than the SM-3.”
The SM-3 is designed to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The hit-to-kill missile is known to be capable of shooting down targets at altitudes of 150 to 500 kilometers, while its newest variant, the SM-3 IIA, can hit targets at an altitude of up to 1,000 kilometers. The SM-3 interceptor’s “kill vehicle” hits threats with the force of a 10-ton truck traveling 600 mph, according to manufacturer Raytheon.
The South Korean military believes SM-3 interceptors will be effective against an electromagnetic pulse attack originating from a high altitude.
The timetable for adopting the SM-3 has not been laid out, according to the JCS. In the meantime, a preliminary study on the procurement of SM-class interceptors is underway.
Iron Dome for South Korea
The JCS also disclosed its plan to develop its own defensive system to counter threats from North Korea’s long-range artillery deployed along the Demilitarized Zone. The system is modeled after Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, the JCS said in a report to the National Assembly.
“We’re seeking the deployment of a weapons system that meets our country’s operational environments to minimize the damage from a potential salvo of the North’s long-range artillery attacks,” the report said. “After the review of the Iron Dome’s efficacy, it was found that its defense capability is markedly lowered when the North fires a volley of long-range artillery shells.”
As a means of destroying North Korea’s artillery systems, the South Korean Army will soon deploy an up-to-date short-range ballistic missile system known as the Korea Tactical Surface-to-Surface Missile.
The missile that the system launches, dubbed “artillery killer,” has a range of more than 120 kilometers and can hit targets with a 2-meter accuracy, according to JCS officials. The system can simultaneously launch four missiles from a fixed launch pad, and the missiles can penetrate bunkers and hardened, dug-in targets several meters underground.
According to the 2016 Defense White Paper, North Korea has some 8,600 towed and self-propelled artillery, as well as 5,500 multiple-launch rockets; 70 percent were reportedly deployed near the border.
North Korea has 340 forward-deployed long-range guns that can fire 15,000 rounds per hour at Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area. (Source: Defense News)
11 Oct 18. Decision on the German Army’s next assault rifle is postponed to 2019. A German Army lieutenant colonel has revealed to Jane’s that a decision on the German Army’s next assault rifle has been postponed but disclosed that a final decision should be made during the first half of 2019. According to the officer, who wished to remain anonymous, the deferment of the decision is due to ‘political rather than practical’ reasons. Furthermore, the officer stated that given the past issues with the service’s current G36 assault rifle, the army feels that it needs to be extra cautious in its decision-making process to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Meanwhile, a senior source in the German defence industry told Jane’s that the main reason for postponing the decision is “a fire that broke out at the German Army’s rifle testing range”, where the competing assault rifles were being tested. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
11 Oct 18. Image shows China’s Z-10 attack helicopter featuring additional armour and cockpit areas. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has equipped one of its Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) Z-10 attack helicopter with additional armour. An image released in late September by state broadcaster CCTV shows a PLA Z-10 at a Chinese airfield featuring extra armour panels that have been externally attached to the helicopter. The image shows that the panels, which are presumably on both sides of the tandem-seat helicopter, are present in three areas. The first two panels can be seen just below both of the cockpit’s side windows, with the one located under the front cockpit window being the larger of the two. The third panel, which is the largest of the three, covers the lower middle section of the housing for the helicopter’s WZ9 turboshaft engine. A 10 October report by the state-owned Global Times newspaper quoted Beijing-based military analyst Wei Dongxu as saying that the additional armour panels are likely to be made of a strong and light material supposedly based on graphene.
“Chinese helicopters, including the Z-10, did not have extra armour because their engines could only lift a certain weight,” Wei was quoted as saying, adding that the choice for graphene was made to solve the weight issue. It is unclear, however, how many have of the Z-10s operated by the PLA’s ground force aviation units have been fitted with the additional armour. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
16 Oct 18. Japan developing vehicle-mounted IED detection system. Japan is developing a vehicle-mounted system designed to remotely detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along roads in urban and suburban areas. The Ground Systems Research Center (GSRC) of the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA) unveiled a prototype of what it described as a “high-speed IED detection system” on 6 October in the city of Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture, where the GSRC is located. The system, which was shown mounted on a Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) utility vehicle, uses microwave and millimetre-wave radars coupled with infrared (IR) cameras to detect IEDs ahead of the vehicle: either on the road surface or buried in the ground. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
11 Oct 18. General Dynamics’ Lightweight Medium Machine Gun undergoes substantial modifications. General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems’ (OTS’s) Lightweight Medium Machine Gun (LWMMG) has undergone a substantial number of modifications to its internal and external components. The weapon is intended to fill the capability gap between the 7.62×51 chambered light and .50-calibre heavy machine guns in US Marine Corps (USMC) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) service. Jane’s has learned the LWMMG has fired at least 25,000 rounds without a single part failure and is to be evaluated by the SOCOM and USMC in the next year. The latest iteration of the LWMMG, which has still not been unveiled to the public, features a redesigned handguard and a new pistol grip and trigger guard assembly. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
11 Oct 18. SIG Sauer unveils .338 Norma Magnum-chambered MMG. SIG Sauer unveiled a new medium machine gun (MMG) chambered for the .338 Norma Magnum cartridge at this year’s Association of the US Army symposium (AUSA), held in Washington, DC, from 8 to 10 October. The weapon is thought to be a direct competitor to the General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Lightweight Medium Machine Gun chambered for the same round. The exact system of operation of the latest SIG Sauer MMG is unknown, but Jane’s believes that it is probably gas cycled. Company representatives who spoke to Jane’s at AUSA were unwilling to reveal any particular details regarding the weapon, claiming that its system is “unique and novel”.
On display at the show next to the MMG was a new kind of .338 Norma Magnum (NM) ammunition. SIG Sauer representatives were again unwilling to disclose any particular details, although one executive did confirm to Jane’s that the casings of the new .338 NM cartridge are made of polymer to reduce the overall weight of the round, with a ‘steel head’ at the base. Jane’s understands the new MMG prototype has an approximate effective range of 2,000m, weighs under 20lb (9.1kg) unloaded, and is in the early stages of development. The weapon on display was not fitted with a bipod. It featured a Bravo left-side folding telescopic butt of the M4 carbine series style made by B5 Systems, a folding charging handle on the right-hand side of the receiver, and an ambidextrous safety lever positioned on the receiver, above the pistol grip. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
12 Oct 18. Profense confirms minigun testing success. Small arms manufacturer Profense has confirmed that testing of its PF556 minigun has been successful and the company is now setting its sights on low rate production and customer orders. Modifications on weight and range of the gun are yet to be finalised but the company is ‘still working on [targets of] 100lbs [45kg] for the gun and 400 rounds of ammunition per minute,’ according to Kyle Fagin, project manager at Profense. In terms of range, 800-1000m is likely from the 5.56mm gun. Predominately aimed at the land market, there is potential for air operators to integrate the weapon on light attack helicopters and early discussions have already taken place with a number of rotorcraft sources. Part of the appeal for the aviation market, according to Fagin, is the ability of the smaller calibre weapon to provide a small footprint with a long range capability. Complete with a fully digital gun control unit and customisable target display, with rate of fire triggers, the gun also contains a brushless motor enabling accurate round counts. Sales are set to commence during the first quarter of 2019 following the completion of testing in Arizona. Single round and six round belt fires have now been completed.
‘We are expecting the gun to be extremely accurate, based on testing for our M134 which over-exceeds military specifications,’ Fagin said.
‘By using an aeroclamp, it helps pull the barrels in and ensure the ammunition is in a tight group…because this is a mechanically operated weapon you’re not losing any of your gases or inertia to the mechanism, it’s all going out to the weapon.’
First unveiled at AUSA Global in April 2018, the PF556 is designed to fire linked 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition and is a successor to the M134. (Source: Shephard)
12 Oct 18. AFRL assigns X-60A designation to GOLauncher1 hypersonic test vehicle. The US Air Force (USAF) has assigned the experimental ‘X’ series designation X-60A to the GOLauncher1 (GO1) hypersonic flight research vehicle being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division. Being developed by Generation Orbit as an affordable and flexible hypersonic testbed to trial a wide range of high-speed technologies, the GO1 is an air-launched vehicle powered by an Ursa Major Technologies’ ‘Hadley’ single-stage liquid rocket engine (which utilises liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants). Launched from a Gulfstream III carrier aircraft, the system “is designed to enable affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8 to a wide range of payloads for fundamental research, technology development, and risk reduction,” said the AFRL. Generation Orbit was awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract by the AFRL in July 2014, with a Phase II award following in August 2015. A Phase II Extension was placed in 2016 to enable wind tunnel and integrated hot fire testing of the GO1 hypersonic testbed. A Follow-On Phase II SBIR contract was received from the AFRL in April 2017 for development and flight testing of the GO1. A first flight test is scheduled for late 2019, with the X-60A vehicle planned to achieve a speed of Mach 6 within the atmosphere. GO1 Inert Test Article (ITA) captive carry flight testing was performed in December 2017 using a NASA C-20A (Gulfstream III) aircraft. Three flight tests were conducted, successfully completing all test objectives including clearing the operational flight envelope of the C-20A with the GO1-ITA (mounted on the centreline hard point), as well as demonstration of the unique launch manoeuvre designed for air launch of the GO1 on operational flights. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
11 Oct 18. US Army Building 1,000-Mile Supergun. While the Strategic Long-Range Cannon will hit targets at ranges comparable to bleeding-edge hypersonics missiles, Army officials emphasized the cannon is built on proven principles, just bigger. Why is the Army confident it can build a Strategic Long-Range Cannon to shoot with precision more than one thousand miles? Because the superweapon will be essentially supersizing proven technologies found in the existing 155 mm howitzer and rocket-boosted artillery shells from the 1980s.
“I don’t want to oversimplify, (but) it’s a bigger one of those,” Col. John Rafferty told reporters here. “We’re scaling up things that we’re already doing.”
Soon to be a one-star general, Rafferty is the Army’s modernization director for Long-Range Strategic Fires, the service’s top priority, which covers everything from revolutionary hypersonic missiles to longer cannon barrels for the venerable 155mm. While the Strategic Long-Range Cannon — SLRC, pronounced (unfortunately) “Slorc” — will hit targets at ranges comparable to the bleeding-edge hypersonics, Rafferty emphasized the cannon is built on proven principles, just bigger. How much bigger are we talking about? Will it just look like a scaled-up M109 Paladin howitzer, I asked, or more like a World War II railroad cannon, or even Saddam Hussein’s infamous never-finished “supergun“?
It’ll be “pretty big,” one of Rafferty’s officers said, but it’ll be “mobile” — or, he added after a pause, at least “movable.”
“Relocatable,” another officer suggested.
The Reason Why
If this is so doable, why has the Army never done it before? “It’s never been done before (because) before, we haven’t been pushed,” Rafferty said. “We haven’t had a role in strategic fires.”
Today the Army relies on the other services’ planes and missiles for long-range strike, with airpower available almost on-demand for ground troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. But as the Pentagon turns from fighting guerrillas to deterring great powers, war planners are increasingly anxious that advanced Russian and Chinese anti-aircraft systems may make the skies a killing zone with nowhere to hide, forcing the US to rely on ground weapons that can be hidden from the enemy in tunnels, forests, and other terrain.
The problem is today’s artillery just isn’t up to it. Badly neglected for the last 15 years of guerrilla warfare, to the point a famous essay by disgruntled officers called it a “dead branch walking,” US field artillery is “outranged and outgunned” by its Russian and Chinese counterparts, as former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster told Congress in 2016. So in 2017, at last year’s AUSA conference, the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, officially made Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) the service’s No. 1 modernization priority.
The full LRPF portfolio involves not just the strategic cannon but a whole arsenal of weapons with overlapping but successively longer ranges. Rafferty’s team is leading some efforts while supporting others, but he was able to provide new details on almost all of them at AUSA.
For tactical cannon, there’s the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program, which is building a new XM1113 Rocket Assisted Projectile (RAP) and a longer barrel for the standard 155mm howitzer. (Since the exploding gunpowder only pushes the projectile while both are confined within the gun tube, a longer barrel means a longer push, higher muzzle velocity, and hence longer range).
ERCA’s goal is to double the range from 30 km with the current RAP to 70 km. The Army might ultimately almost double the range again, to 130 km, by using more aerodynamic warhead designs or novel propulsion technologies as ramjets. (In US units, that’s going from 19 miles to 44 to over 80).
Rafferty said he’s convinced the next-gen propulsion technology is feasible, but his team is intensively studying whether it’s cost-effective for the additional targets it could reach.
The 70-km version has already been test-fired more than 50 times at White Sands, New Mexico and would enter service around 2023. Whether to pursue the 130-km model, let alone when, is still to be decided.
For tactical missiles, the Army is upgrading its Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) to an extended range version, GMLRS-ER. That more than doubles the range from 70 km to 150 (from 43 miles to 93). Both versions can be fired from either the tracked M270 or the HIMARS truck.
This is a pre-existing program already well underway and set to enter service in 2020, with the LRPF team in support. Rafferty didn’t offer any new details on it at AUSA.
For what it calls “operational” ranges, the service is replacing the existing Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) with a new Precision Strike Missile (PRSM), increasing range roughly 70 percent, from 300 km to 499 (186 miles to 310).
What limits PRSM’s range is not technology but the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which bans ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500-5,500 km. If the INF treaty collapsed — increasingly likely given Russian violations and US threats to develop countermeasures — Rafferty said it would be “entirely possible” to extend the range further.
But that’s just one of many potential upgrade options or “spirals” the LRPF team is studying. Others include improved navigation for warzones where GPS is jammed, loitering munitions that can circle the target area until they spot the enemy, and a seeker warhead to hit moving targets — even ships at sea.
Lockheed Martin and Raytheon got contracts to build prototypes in 2017, their designs are done and they should start test flights next year. The Army plans to pick a winner in 2021, the LRPF team said. Originally set to enter service in 2027, PRSM is now being accelerated so the first few missiles — what the Army calls an “urgent materiel release” — will be available to combat units in January 2023. The PRSM program manger is focused on getting the baseline missile out on time, while Rafferty focuses on getting the upgrades lined up to add as soon as possible afterward.
These new missiles won’t need new launchers, however. Like the ATACMS and the MLRS, PRSM will be fired from the M270 tracked vehicle and HIMARS truck, just from a different container. While a HIMARS can carry one ATACMS and an M270 can carry two, the PRSM will be smaller, despite its greater range, doubling shots to two and four respectively.
All the above systems replace or improve something the Army already has. The strategic fires systems would be something new for the US Army (but not for China): ground-based weapons with ranges normally associated with aircraft.
Unlike the PRSM missile, these weapons would seem to violate the INF treaty even in their basic form, without any upgrades, but Rafferty and his team say they have the legal okay to proceed. “We’re going to play by the rules,” he said, “until we’re told the rules have changed.”
The Army won’t discuss technical details. Our best-informed speculation is that, by using cutting-edge propulsion technologies that weren’t envisioned by the authors of the treaty, the Army’s weapons might technically be neither ballistic missiles nor cruise missiles. But that kind of hair-splitting probably won’t convince the Russians, who already argue that America’s long-range drones violate the treaty, even as they build banned weapons (with nuclear capability) themselves.
The Strategic Long-Range Cannon(SLRC) would probably be the shorter-ranged of the two, according to at least one reliable report, at about 1,000 miles. It would use a cannon barrel to launch artillery shells with built-in rocket boosters that ignite in mid-air. Since the cannon is reusable, this should be significantly cheaper than using one-shot rockets for every phase of flight. Lower price for shot, in turn, allows the Army to take out large numbers of lightly protected targets: truck-borne missile launchers, radar antennas, and mobile command posts, for example.
SLRC is a uniquely Army project, with Rafferty’s team orchestrating a technology demonstration at a date not yet announced.
By contrast, the future hypersonic missilewould be run by the multi-service program office now being created, Rafferty said. The Army LRPF team’s role, he said, is to get soldiers trained and organized to use the weapon as soon as it’s ready.
While probably too expensive to use on large numbers of soft targets — hence the need for the strategic cannon — the hypersonic weapon’s extreme velocity would allow it to penetrate the toughest defenses and smash the hardest targets, such as buried bunkers. It reportedly would have a longer range than the cannon as well, out to 1,400 miles. Specifically, it would be a hypersonic boost-glide weapon, accelerating to enormous speed in the first phase of flight and then coasting — if you can call Mach 5-plus “coasting” — and skipping in and out of the atmosphere like a stone thrown across a lake.
All the services are working together on a Common Hypersonic Glide Body, but they’re customizing it and adding the right booster rocket for their specific launch platform: artillery, aircraft, or ships and submarines. The Navy has the lead because fitting the weapon into a Vertical Launch System (VLS) tube and firing it from underwater is the biggest technical challenge, Rafferty said. By contrast, a land-based launcher is relatively simple. Potentially, Rafferty said, “we can get there the fastest.”
How does the Army find targets at such long ranges, though? It hasn’t had its own long-range reconnaissance aircraft since the Air Force became independent in 1947. It doesn’t run the nation’s high-powered spy satellites. But the intelligence community “is really meeting us halfway,” Rafferty said.
While it won’t be simple to connect Army artillery to the interagency intelligence networks, the data is there. “The more I know,” Rafferty said, “the less I worry about our ability to find the targets.” (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
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