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31 Jan 19. Hornet RWS family reaches final development stage. France’s Arquus confirmed that development and testing for its Hornet family of three remote weapon stations (RWSs) is soon to enter production for the French Army at the company’s Marolles facility. The Hornet RWS family shares common elements to reduce through-life cycle costs, and is expected to become the largest RWS programme in Europe with over 2,000 expected to be built for the French Army alone. The Hornet RWSs are to be fitted to the French Army Nexter Systems/Thales/ Arquus Jaguar 6×6 reconnaissance vehicle, Nexter Systems/Thales/Arquus Griffon 6×6 armoured personnel carrier (APC), and the Nexter Systems/Texelis Serval 4×4. These are all part of the French Army SCORPION network-enabled programme that is being run by France’s Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA).
All of these Hornet RWSs have common features including electrical firing, automatic cocking, round counter, and expended cartridge case and links recovery. They are connected to the electronic architecture of the platform and have an embedded simulation compatibility. Details of the sensor package have not been released by the DGA. However, more generally, Arquus said the most sophisticated of this RWS family is the Hornet S, which weighs 165 kg, is fitted onto the roof of the Jaguar, and has a Safran Paseo gyro-stabilised high-definition (HD) colour day TV camera and thermal sight incorporating a laser rangefinder in the middle. The thermal camera has a continuous zoom from 1.9 to 15.2°. A 7.62mm machine gun (MG) is mounted to the right and provided with 550 rounds of ready-use ammunition; it can be laid onto the target while the platform is stationary or moving.(Source: IHS Jane’s)
31 Jan 19. USN seeks to tackle mine warfare shortfalls. The US Navy (USN) is working on a new mine warfare plan to address emerging threats that could be ready for leadership review during the first quarter of this year. In particular, the USN wants to accelerate the development of automated and unmanned systems to incorporate them into mine countermeasures (MCM) operations, said Major General David Coffman, USN director of expeditionary warfare. The service also wants to develop greater offensive mining capability, he said on 15 January during the Surface Navy Association (SNA) annual symposium. The mine warfare revamp and update is needed to address the growing mine threat as a result of greater peer competition with Russia and China, Maj Gen Coffman contended. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
30 Jan 19. US Navy to develop China Lake to support CPS weapon testing. The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) issued a sources sought notification on 22 January to solicit potential tenders for the upgrade of the Launch Test Complex (LTC) at Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, California, to support the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon programme.
CPS is the US Navy (USN) segment of a US Department of Defense (DoD) defence-wide initiative to advance research and development of technologies for conventionally armed hypersonic long-range strike weapon systems to support its Prompt Global Strike mission, which is essentially the capability to strike targets anywhere globally in short time, without relying on forward-based forces. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
29 Jan 19. Leonardo testing upgraded M109L SP artillery system. Italy’s Leonardo Defence Systems has developed and tested an upgrade package, aimed at the export market, for the M109L 155mm self-propelled (SP) artillery system. The standard M109L is fitted with an Italian-built 155 mm/39 calibre ordnance that is the equivalent to that fitted to the 155 mm FH-70 towed artillery system still deployed by the Italian Army. The latest upgraded M109L has a 23 litre chamber and meets the Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU). It is also fitted with a fume extractor and a new pepper box muzzle brake. The recoil system and equilibrators were modified to take into account the increased recoil and weight of the 155mm/52 calibre ordnance. The breech mechanism is of the screw type, and a flick rammer is fitted with an adaption on the stroke of the rammer to fit with the longer chamber. Maximum range depends on the projectile and charge combination, but firing a standard 155mm M15A2 high-explosive (HE) projectile a maximum range of 30 km can be achieved, or an extended range ammunition could reach 40km, according to Leonardo. The most significant range improvement would be firing the latest Leonardo Volcano 155 mm Ballistic Extended Range (BER) artillery projectile, which was type classified by the Italian Army and is ready for quantity production as soon as orders are placed. Volcano features a sub-calibre fin-stabilised airframe that is loaded with an Insensitive Munition (IM)-compliant HE with patented tungsten rings. This is fitted with a nose-mounted multifunction fuze that can be set for altitude, impact/delayed, time, or self-destruct functions. This airframe has sabots that fall away after firing, and the 16kg fin-stabilised projectile is 90mm in diameter. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Jan 19. China touts capabilities of DF-26 as ASBM. Images broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) of the locally designed and developed Dong Feng-26 (DF-26) intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) during recent exercise firings show that the missile is highly manoeuvrable and “capable of targeting a moving aircraft carrier”, according to a 27 January report by the state-owned Global Times newspaper. The Global Times report, which showed images of the missile’s guidance and warhead section, focuses on the scepticism that has been expressed by some Western analysts concerning the missile’s capability to effectively function as an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) because no evidence has emerged of it being trialled against a moving target at sea.
Quoting “military experts”, the report states that the recent exercise “demonstrated the missile’s capability” and that the four control fins around the nose section “provide super manoeuvrability” so that “the missile can greatly adjust its position mid-flight to accurately attack a moving aircraft carrier”. However, no details were provided of the missile’s flight nor the target it engaged. An unnamed source was quoted in the article as stating that “an information network connected to the warhead, which possibly includes satellites, ground, and naval radar, in addition to radar on the missile itself, will constantly update the location of a moving target, informing flight control where to guide the missile”.
On 9 January the Global Times reported that a People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) brigade had deployed its DF-26 missiles to northwest China. Analysis undertaken by Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, identifies the location of the training area as Jilantai in Inner Mongolia, where he also identified more than 100 launch pad sites used during exercises. The DF-26 has a range of 4,000 km, according to the China Military Power published on 15 January by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in January. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Jan 19. Mine Countermeasures Mission Package Completes Integration Testing of Unmanned Vehicles. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mission Module Program successfully completed shipboard integration testing of two unmanned systems aboard USS Independence (LCS 2), Jan. 14. The two systems — the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) and Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) — are part of the Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (MCM MP), which uses a system-of-systems approach to target specific portions of the water column and segments of the MCM detect-to-engage sequence.
During these integration events, both the Knifefish and UISS successfully verified the communications link between Independence and the unmanned systems, as well as executed multiple launch and recovery evolutions from the ship. These test events mark a critical milestone for the LCS Mission Module Program, having now successfully tested each vehicle in the MCM MP – that is, an MH-60S helicopter, MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, UISS and Knifefish UUV – aboard an Independence-variant LCS.
In addition to UISS and the Knifefish UUV completing integration tests, the program has certified all the aviation modules for the MCM MP for deployment on Independence-variant ships. These airborne MCM systems provide combatant commanders the ability to rapidly deploy systems that can detect near-surface mines, as well as neutralizes mines in the water and on the bottom without requiring Sailors to sail into the minefield. Additionally, the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis system, which is a vertical-take-off unmanned aerial vehicle payload, provides a much-needed beach zone mine-detection capability in support of the amphibious assault mission.
These tests are a subset of a comprehensive test program that encompasses shore-based system testing to characterize individual systems prior to completing final integration on an LCS. The LCS Mission Module program office will continue to incrementally deliver MCM MP systems to the fleet in advance of the formal MCM MP initial operational test and evaluation events beginning in 2021.
PEO USC is affiliated with the Naval Sea Systems Command and provides a single program executive responsible for acquiring and sustaining mission capabilities of the littoral combat ship class, from procurement through fleet employment and sustainment. (Source: ASD Network/US Navy)
28 Jan 19. Trump’s new nuclear weapon has entered production. A new low-yield nuclear warhead, created at the behest of the Trump administration, has officially entered production. The first production unit of the W76-2 warhead is underway at the Pantax Plant in Texas, according to a statement from the National Nuclear Security Agency.
“NNSA is on track to complete the W76-2 Initial Operational Capability warhead quantity and deliver the units to the Navy by the end of Fiscal Year 2019,” an agency spokesman said. The spokesman noted only the IOC units will be delivered this year, but declined to say how many warheads make up that total.
The warhead design is a modification of the W76-1 warhead for the Navy’s Trident ballistic missile, which has allowed NNSA to quickly turn around the design since it was ordered in last year’s Nuclear Posture Review. The warhead is designed to be smaller than the weapon detonated at Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II.
The system is controversial, however, with nonproliferation advocates and many Democrats in Congress arguing that, by their nature, all nuclear weapons are strategic, not tactical. They note that even a low-yield nuclear weapon is incredibly powerful (an estimated 60,000-80,000 people were wiped out by the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima), and they worry having a low-yield and high-yield warhead launched on the same submarine-launched missile creates a situation where an adversary doesn’t know which system is being used and therefore reacts as if the larger warhead has been launched.
As a result, the future of the weapon is in doubt, with Rep. Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, indicating a desire to cancel funding for the W76-2 going forward. (Source: Defense News)
29 Jan 19. Indian Navy test-fires LRSAM missile off Odisha coast. The Indian Navy has successfully test-fired the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) from warship INS Chennai, off the coast of Odisha. During testing, the missile was launched to engage an aerial target flying at low altitude. Jointly developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the Indian Navy, the LRSAM missile directly hit the target and destroyed it. The successful test-firing represents a key milestone in bolstering the Navy’s anti-air warfare capability. According to the Indian Defence Ministry, all the mission objectives have been met during the test-firing.
Congratulating DRDO, Indian Navy and associated team members on the success, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted: “India achieves a significant milestone with successful flight test of LRSAM on board INS Chennai. The missile directly hit a low flying aerial target.”
In December 2015, the LRSAM system underwent its maiden firing on board Kolkata-class guided-missile destroyer INS Kolkata.
The anti-air and anti-missile system also includes a multi-functional surveillance and threat alert radar (MF STAR) for detection, tracking and guidance of the missile.
Also known as Barak 8, the missile can counter-attack aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and incoming anti-ship missiles.
The missiles are developed under a contract signed by India with Israel in January 2006 to jointly develop a new generation LRSAM for Indian Navy ships.
LRSAM is capable of achieving a maximum speed of Mach 2 and has an operational range of 70km.
In a separate development, the Indian Navy commissioned Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur in the Andaman and Nicobar islands as INS Kohassa. It will be the third naval air base in the islands.
Established in 2001 as a Forward Operating Air Base for enhanced surveillance in North Andaman, NAS Shibpur currently operates short-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters for surveillance and rescue missions. (Source: naval-technology.com)
28 Jan 19. Pakistan conducts short-range surface-to-surface missile training. The Pakistan Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC) has conducted the training launch of the short-range, surface-to-surface missile Nasr. Testing involved the launch of ‘quad salvo for desired effects’ and saw the missile validate all the expected technical parameters. During the launch, four missiles were fired from a salvo-mode vehicle-mounted, four-tube missile launcher. The training exercise was conducted as part of efforts aimed at improving the operational efficiency of the country’s ASFC.
Joint chief of staff committee chairman general Zubair Mahmood Hayat said the missile ‘enhances Pakistan’s deterrence capability’ and ‘appreciated the standard of training and operational preparedness of Army Strategic Forces Command’. The location of the training launch has not been disclosed by the Pakistan military’s public relations wing, Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR). A statement published by ISPR said: “Nasr is a high precision, shoot and scoot weapon system with the ability of in-flight manoeuvrability. This weapon system has augmented full spectrum deterrence posture remaining within the precincts of policy of credible minimum deterrence, against prevailing and evolving threat spectrum more effectively, including enemy’s ballistic missile defence and other air defence systems.”
Also known as Hatf-9, Nasr has a range of 60km and is believed to be capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads.
The 6m-long, single-stage solid propellant weapon system was first tested in 2011 and the latest launch follows a test firing carried out in July 2017. (Source: army-technology.com)
24 Jan 19. Pentagon’s Iron Dome buy raises questions on US troop protection. The Pentagon’s decision to acquire Israel’s US-funded Iron Dome system to defend American troops is raising questions from military experts about whether the missile defense batteries can handle emerging threats from Russia and China. Inside Defense first reported the Army’s decision to acquire Iron Dome earlier this month. The move comes after Congress, which has long praised the system’s decadelong record of fending off rockets and mortar attacks, called on the Pentagon to take steps to obtain defenses to stop increasingly capable cruise missiles from Russia and China that could threaten US forces deployed overseas. In a statement, defense contractor Raytheon said it was ready to support the Army’s purchase of Iron Dome.
“Raytheon is ready to support the Army, as it realizes the full operational capabilities of Iron Dome in a US operational environment,” Chris King, the company’s director of Israeli programs, told Al-Monitor in a statement. “We’re here to put our extensive expertise to work and support the Army’s needs for integration.”
The Pentagon now has a September 2020 deadline to field and deploy two Iron Dome batteries as an interim cruise missile defense, according to requirements in the US defense authorization bill signed by President Donald Trump in August.
Army Assistant Secretary Bruce Jette told Al-Monitor the service was considering integrating Iron Dome into the US missile defense arsenal, but Army officials did not respond to further requests for comment on the program. In December, Pentagon leadership told lawmakers it would need a stopgap capability to shoot down cruise missiles fired at US troops.
“As outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, we must develop layered regional missile defenses to deter aggression by near-peer adversaries,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, the Pentagon’s No. 3 official, wrote to Congress in December. “The Army should field an interim capability to meet this need.”
The potential for an American purchase of Iron Dome gained momentum in the last Congress when House lawmakers wrote a provision in annual defense legislation calling for the Pentagon to spend $30m to field and test system components. Raytheon’s King told Al-Monitor that the company manufactures more than two-thirds of the parts for Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptor missile across 26 states in the United States.
The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, first called on the Army to test Iron Dome’s capability for protecting US troops in a draft of the defense law last year. He said the Israeli-manned system served as an example of a battle-ready missile defense system.
“We have real needs and we did not tell them to use Iron Dome,” Thornberry said. “We just said, ‘Looks like it’s working pretty well to us, you all go investigate this as a part of meeting the Army’s needs.’ And so I think that’s a reasonable, useful way to approach this.”
Raytheon’s King told Al-Monitor that Iron Dome is uniquely flexible in its ability to handle air raids and missile attacks, reportedly intercepting 1,700 projectiles with a 90% success rate since it was first deployed in 2011.
But the short-range Iron Dome system has worked mostly against rockets, artillery and mortar shells fired by Hezbollah and Hamas. As US adversaries such as Russia and China re-stock supplies of high-tech cruise missiles, experts are not convinced it’s an adequate stopgap until the United States can field a long-term cruise missile defense.
Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptor “was not originally designed for cruise missile defense,” said Rick Berger, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Senate staffer. “The short-term nature of this buy can’t be emphasized enough, and the Army may change horses again for the next two batteries.”
The decision to field Iron Dome comes as the US and Israeli defense industries are growing more intertwined. On Tuesday, the US Missile Defense Agency announced that the Pentagon and the Israeli air force successfully tested the Arrow-3 weapons system in central Israel, which the Pentagon called “a major milestone.”
The United States and Israel inked a fresh memorandum of understanding in 2016 that includes $500m in US missile defense aid each year. And the Pentagon’s new Missile Defense Review calls on the Defense Department to “take advantage of Israeli research and development efforts for similar US defense missions.”
Acquiring Iron Dome may also give the United States access to its sought-after software. But when it comes to dealing with more advanced threats that could impact US troops, such as the scud missiles fired into Yemen by the Houthi rebels, it’s not clear the system will prove effective.
“Iron Dome’s interceptors do not have the reach or speed to engage successfully a scud warhead, or any other missile with a range greater than 50 kilometers [30 miles],” said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/www.al-monitor.com)
25 Jan 19. Nammo’s latest 155mm ammunition begins production. Latest Nammo 155mm IM HE-ER (NM 269) artillery projectile can be fired from a range of artillery systems, including the South Korean K9 Thunder ordered by Finland. Finland’s Nammo has confirmed that, following qualification, production of its latest 155mm Insensitive Munition High-Explosive Extended Range (IM HE-ER) artillery projectile has commenced. The round has been designated as the NM 269. Compared with standard 155mm artillery projectiles, Nammo said the latest IM HE-ER has a more streamlined shape and an enhanced blast effect designed to defeat armour and soft targets. While many countries are now demanding that all munitions, including 155 mm artillery projectiles, are IM compliant, some export customers still prefer projectiles filled with conventional HE.
Trials have shown that the 155mm IM HE-ER projectile has a lower dispersion than conventional 155mm HE projectiles, which can mean that fewer rounds are required to neutralise a target and there is less collateral damage. Nammo is marketing its 155mm IM HE-ER projectiles with an interchangeable base bleed (BB) unit or a hollow base (HB) unit.
It can be fired from 155mm 39- and 52-calibre towed and self-propelled artillery weapons whose ordnance meet the NATO Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU). The 155mm IM HE-ER projectiles are complemented by illuminating, smoke, and practice projectiles, which also have interchangeable BB or HB units. The 155mm illuminating projectile is available in two versions: white light and infrared (IR), with the former lasting 60 seconds and the latter 90 seconds. The 155mm illuminating contains three red phosphorous canisters that have brake flaps, which are claimed to make them effective in deep snow and marsh. The 155mm training projectile has been qualified and is available in two versions: inert with no energetics or a small explosive spotting charge. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Jan 19. France to Flight-Test Hypersonic Demonstrator by 2021. France has awarded ArianeGroup a contract to develop a hypersonic glider technology demonstrator that is due to make its first flight by the end of 2021, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly announced Jan. 21.
“We have decided to award a contract for a hypersonic glider demonstrator,” able to reach a speed of over Mach 5 (over 6,000 km/h),” Parly said during her New Year’s address to the armed forces.
France is already conducting studies on hypersonic propulsion as part of the modernization of its nuclear deterrent, but such a glider, initially propelled by a rocket or a missile, is attractive for military missions because its unpredictable trajectory allows it to escape interception. The French hypersonic demonstrator is designated V-Max, for Véhicule Manoeuvrant Expérimental. It will be about 2 meters long, a “hyperfast system capable of hypermaneuvrability,” a source told the Paris daily L’Opinion
“We could not wait anymore”
“A hypersonic glider is something that can be steered, and which can reach speeds of over five times the speed of sound; the goal is high-speed maneuverability, which s much different from a ballistic trajectory,” a source; in the Directorate-General of Armaments told the newsweekly L’Express. “Once the initial velocity has been reached, we will trade off speed against altitude to climb, dive, turn right or left, along a flight path which is much more difficult to intercept. And, if engaged by anti-missile defenses, we can maneuver to avoid them.”
“Many nations are procuring such weapons, and we have all the necessary skills to develop one: we could not wait,” Parly said. Indeed, three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are already engaging in a new arms race for this kind of weapon: Chine, Russia and the United States.
In December, Moscow boasted that the capabilities of its new hypersonic weapons make them “practically” impossible to shoot down, after a test in which a hypersonic missile called “Avangard” reached a speed of over Mach 20 to hit its target at a distance of 3,700km. (Source: defense-aerospace.com)
24 Jan 19. DoD just bought this formidable new sniper rifle in .300 PRC. The company that made its name building .50-caliber long-range sniper rifles for the U.S. military has a smaller, but just as formidable, sniper rifle that recently won a defense contract.
Joel Miller, director of global military sales for Barrett Firearms, talked with Military Times at this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show here about both weapon systems and some changes to a venerable long-distance shooting platform.
Miller said that the MRAD contract for the Department of Defense, which is for an undisclosed number of rifles in .300 PRC, emerged from work on other government programs — the Precision Sniper Rifle and, later, the Advanced Sniper Rifle programs.
The ASR program asked industry to give the military a bolt-action sniper rifle that could be chambered in .338 Norma Magnum, .300 NM and 7.62mm NATO, with a platform for engagements beyond 1,500 meters.
The rounds give shooters different mission options, from anti-materiel to anti-personnel to training scenarios.
The MRAD has all three, changeable at the operator level, Miller said.
The contract award does not specify how many rifles the company will build or which entity within the Defense Department will be receiving them. Miller couldn’t provide any further details.
But the ASR program continues and will soon enter phase II testing, which could be within the next three months. That will replace existing SOCOM sniper rifles.
The .338 NM is quickly becoming a round of choice, as it’s also the caliber of lightweight medium machine gun that Special Operations Command is seeking from industry. Ballistics experts compare its range and lethality to that of the .50-caliber M2 machine gun but in a much lighter weapon and ammo package. And as far as .50-caliber weapons go, none other than the Browning M2 has quite the recognizability factor as the Barrett sniper rifle, in service since the early 1990s. But even that tech needs updating, which is what Barrett has done. The company won an $8m contact for the manufacture of M107A1, M107 and M82A1M, Caliber .50 Long Range Sniper Rifle systems with scopes, suppressors and spare parts kits, according to Barrett. The upgraded rifle, M107A1, comes with the following features: Lightweight aluminum upper receiver with integral 23-inch, 27 MOA M1913 optics rail, 20-inch or 29-inch barrel with fully chrome-lined chamber and bore, 10-round steel magazine with cartridge witness indicators, and anti-corrosive coating. Using the aluminum upper receiver, the newer version weighs in at 27 pounds, or 5 pounds lighter than the legacy system, Miller said. They’ve also redesigned the muzzle brake from the legacy system so it can fit a suppressor. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times)
25 Jan 19. Saudi Arabia may be producing rocket motors. Satellite imagery suggests Saudi Arabia has built a solid-propellant rocket motor production facility next to its Al-Watah missile base, the Washington Post cited experts as saying on 24 January. The work appears to have begun in 2013 and includes the construction of high-bay buildings that are tall enough to be used to fill rocket motor cases as well as one that appears to be a test stand for solid-propellant rocket motors, according to Jeffrey Lewis from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Lightning rods are also dotted around the site to prevent accidental explosions and one building is surrounded by a berm to contain an explosion. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
24 Jan 19. New Plans Explode Nuke Spending; Tapping the brakes on these plans is just common sense. Every two years the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is statutorily required to estimate the 10-year cost of plans for the nuclear forces. And this much-anticipated estimate was released this week. In a Washington political climate that plays a lot of hide-the-ball when it comes to cost estimates, this is an important biennial blow for transparency. Unfortunately, it’s also a blow to Uncle Sam’s wallet. At TCS we live for this kind of thing. There are lots of “cost estimates” by organizations or corporations that definitely have a dog in the fight. When an estimate is released by an organization with strong political views or an economic stake in the process, we get out our green eye shades and our pencils and run the publicly-available numbers ourselves. So, a cost estimate from a government source like CBO, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), or the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the gold standard for us.
We’re on the record with our doubts and concerns about the rising costs of nuclear weapons, the use of a gimmicky “special fund” to pay for modernization of the Navy’s leg of the triad, and whether or not modernizing the highly vulnerable silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) is wise. If protesting nuns know where they are, presumably the Russians do too.
Even in the Pentagon budget where tens of billions of dollars spent on a weapon system is the norm, the increase in estimated costs since the last CBO report on this topic is breathtaking. The last estimate was for the ten-year period stretching from 2017 – 2026 and was a whopping $400bn. The current estimate is 23 percent higher, clocking in at $494bn for the period 2019 – 2028. This averages out to slightly less than $50bn a year. Part of the reason for this precipitous rise in costs is that as we move into the late 2020s development of the weapon systems reach a more mature, and therefore more expensive, phase. Also, CBO makes economy-wide inflation assumptions which contribute to the rise in the topline. But CBO ominously points out that 39 percent ($37bn) of the increase is projected to occur in eight of the same years, 2019-2026, that were included in the last estimate just two years ago. And those increases occur because of both more detailed plans and the addition of new modernization programs. (See Editor’s Note below)
Specifically, three new increases in capability were called for by the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review: a so-called “low yield” nuclear warhead to be delivered by submarines, a new sea-launched cruise missile, and an increase in U.S. capacity to produce plutonium pits (the core at the center of a nuclear weapon). Those three new initiatives are responsible for $17bn of the $37bn increase.
The Pentagon is awash in funding these days. Remember that the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) total in the defense spending bill was $674.4bn. But also remember that military construction funding for FY19 is $10.3bn and the funding for Pentagon nuclear programs at the Department of Energy is $15.2bn. Add those up and you get the very tidy sum of $699.9bn. We’ll round that up to $700bn.
We get that the military services and the Joint Chiefs are scrambling to find programs to justify that staggeringly high topline. In fact, $27.7bn of cash allotted to the Pentagon “expired” at the end of FY18 because they didn’t spend it. That’s more than some entire cabinet agencies get in a year. The reality is that the country is piling on debt that could easily cripple our economy over the long term. Tapping the brakes on this plan to spend half a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons in the next ten years is just common sense. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Taxpayers for Common Sense)
23 Jan 19. US Navy Builds Hypersonic Test Ground in California. The US Navy is refitting its decades-old China Lake weapons testing and research site in the Mojave Desert to begin hosting hypersonic weapons testing from a variety of platforms, including undersea launchers. A notice posted on a government contracting Website Tuesday night offered the first concrete evidence that the Pentagon is moving ahead on ambitious plans to develop a variety of weapons that can streak through the atmosphere and strike any target on the globe within an hour. The program, dubbed Conventional Prompt Strike, is a Pentagon-wide effort the Navy is taking a central role in developing, though no firm dates on the start of testing have been offered.
Part of the work being announced at China Lake fits into this plan, as there is a call for “conceptual design and operation” of an Underwater Test complex “which will include estimated costs, technology maturity and estimates on build schedules.”
The Navy had not responded by publication to questions from Breaking Defense about the overall cost and schedule of the work at China Lake and whether it will become the primary nerve center for the Pentagon’s efforts.
Overall, the Navy plans to collect data gathered at both test sites to “aide in the conceptual design of a new weapons system, through qualification of hardware, various components and systems,” but “also provide risk mitigation for the testing of the new weapons system on a ship, submarine, aircraft, and land to achieve the hypersonic capability as directed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.”
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget called for increased funding for a cornerstone key hypersonics program from $201m in 2018 to $278m in 2019, with around $2bn in a variety of programs. The fiscal 2020 budget is due some time next month.
Developing hypersonic weapons is the Pentagon’s “highest technical priority” undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering Michael Griffin has said.
“In the last year, China has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade,” Griffin said last month. “We’ve got to fix that — hypersonics is a game changer.”
The solicitation calls for contractors to offer potential cost and scope of work estimates to improve and redesign the Launch Test Complex at China Lake, which is to be renamed the Air Launch Test complex. Work includes “site re-activation, test and evaluation, support to enable fielding or deployment, as well as upgrade, design and fabricate” a number of systems. They Include a Test Payload Tube, Launch Test Stand, Launch Test Vehicles, Advanced Payload Module and a simulator. Whichever company wins the bid “will provide the air launch testing/capability to support the [Conventional Prompt Strike] program.”
While the Navy is building things in the desert, the Air Force and Army are working in hypersonics. Last April, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $928m contract for a hypersonic cruise missile to cover the “design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning, and aircraft integration support of all the elements of a hypersonic, conventional, air-launched, stand-off weapon,” the service said at the time.
The Army is also developing its blandly-monikered Alternate Re-Entry System, which is actually a maneuverable warhead that could end up on Mach 5-plus missiles fired from Air Force bombers and Navy vessels, as well as Army launchers on land.
“We each have pieces of programs,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told a Washington Post forum late last year. “The Army’s warhead had worked much better than the Air Force’s….So we’re going to take the Army warhead, put it on an Air Force booster, launch it off of a B-52, while the Army is developing on the ground and the Navy wants to put it on the deck of a ship.”
Navy Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, head of the service’s Strategic Systems Programs office, told a Naval Submarine League symposium in November that the Pentagon had forged an agreement with the Navy to develop a new hypersonic capability.
“We have a program, we are funded, and we’re moving forward with that capability…whether it be from submarines or from surface ships,” Wolfe said.
The jury is still out on whether hypersonic missiles can be launched from submarines, and what modifications would have to be made to the missiles and surface ships to give them a sea-based capability. But according to the solicitation, the Navy is intent on finding out.
The Pentagon is, as well. Military and civilian leaders have issued a steady stream of warnings over the past two years over the growing imbalance between US investments and those being made by Russia and China in hypersonics. The newly-released Missile Defense Review, while thin on details and vague about both the threat and efforts to counter hypersonic glide vehicles, calls for a Space Sensor Layer as a necessary countermeasure. In October 2017, the Navy tested its first version of a hypersonic boost-glide missile in Hawaii, which it plans on tweaking to make it capable of being launched from an Ohio-class submarine tube. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
24 Jan 19. This company is building ‘barrier-penetrating’ 5.56mm rounds for the Marines. The Marine Corps recently selected a Vista Outdoor company to build a barrier penetrating 5.56mm round that’s especially useful for potential urban combat. The contract with Federal Cartridge Company, a Vista subsidiary, puts more than $41m behind the effort, which is expected to run into 2023. This comes after Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress last year that the body armor penetration in the existing 5.56mm stocks was lacking, and he worried about overmatch with potential adversaries such as Russia and China in the small arms fight.
The new setup makes changes to the bullet to help it retain lethality after penetrating “intermediate barriers” such as windshields or doors.
Jesse Whiteside, senior director of government and military sales for Vista, talked with Military Times at this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show here.
“It’s basically the construction of the bullet itself. There are no real exotic materials,” Whiteside said. “It’s designed so that a significant chunk of it is there to defeat barriers.”
Whiteside couldn’t discuss too many details of the contract, which is categorized as “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity.”
Back in 2015, in an interview with The Firearm Blog, Sal Fanelli, former supervising engineer for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, said that advancements in 5.56mm were putting it on par in performance with the standard 6.8mm round being considered the time for as an intermediate caliber option.
The Army narrowed its search for an intermediate caliber by selecting 6.8mm late last year as part of its Next Generation Squad Weapon program.
The company also won a contract in 2017 to provide a “frangible” 5.56mm round for use at Army training ranges. The same type of round is designed to lessen the chance of ricochet, so it is sometimes used by special operations forces for that purpose.
That round, the AA4 Mk 311 Mod 3, was scooped up for a $52m contract back in 2017 that should produce an estimated 100 million rounds by 2022.
In recent years the Army and Marine Corps have been pushing for more advancements to squeeze more out of the 5.56mm round, which has been the standard caliber since the 1960s.
Those efforts have been seen as a way to bridge the gap between the existing weapons and ammo stock as the Army and Marine Corps pursue a shift to the 6.8mm caliber round in a new Squad Automatic Weapon and new rifle or carbine for close combat units. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Marine Times)
24 Jan 19. Here’s one of the big guns competing to be SOCOM’s next lightweight medium machine gun. Attendees at a range day during one of the largest gun and outdoor shows in the world got a first look at a machine gun one manufacturer hopes can replace the M240, 7.62mm machine gun for Special Operations Command.
Sig Sauer held a demonstration fire with its recently unveiled .338 Norma Magnum, belt-fed machine gun this week as part of the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show here. It also comes in 7.62mm.
The weapon, the Sig Sauer Lightweight Machine Gun or SLMG, weighs in at 20 pounds and, with a foldable stock, is significantly lighter than the current M240B, 7.62mm machine gun.
In addition to SOCOM, the company also hopes a variant of the weapon will be in the running later this year to replace the Army and Marine Corps’ Squad Automatic Weapon.
The company’s first foray into medium machine guns, the SLMG tackles some age-old machine gunner problems.
Cory McQuilkin, defense product manager for Sig, said the weapon was designed to be fed and charged from either the left or right side. That way it can be configured not only for dismounted ops but in vehicle, aircraft or tank setups.
It is suppressor ready and has an adjustable gas block to match the right pressure for the suppressor.
So far, testing hasn’t shown any change in rate of fire when using a suppressor, McQuilkin said.
Another shift that machine gunners would notice immediately is the move to a mid-gun feed tray. That shifts the sometimes unwieldy feature of belt-fed loading and clearing away from the face and fingers, clearing room for the gunner to better manipulate the weapon.
The cover can be used when not fully opened, and another variant has a version of the feed tray that opens sideways rather than straight up to give a different profile.
Sig developers are also working on a drum type magazine that could be added to the weapon for an option other than belt-fed.
But a different weapon of similar design is likely to be the candidate for the Army’s prototype competition, which is set to release final design criteria by the end of the month.
That program is asking industry to provide a 6.8mm light machine gun that cuts the weight but increases the range and lethality of the light machine gun within the squad.
Army officials also want an advanced optic with an integrated range finder, ballistic computer and disturbed reticle as part of the package.
The .338mm caliber has received some military attention recently, with the Special Operations Command weapons development office deciding to replace both the M240 and the .50-caliber M2 Browning machine gun in some units with its Lightweight Medium Machine Gun program, using the .338 Norma Magnum caliber.
In that program, SOCOM wants a weapon that can fire between 500 to 600 rounds per minute and hit targets at the 2,000-meter range.
Within those parameters, the weapon could not only replace the M240 in most tactical scenarios but also provide enough reach and firepower in vehicle, boat and aircraft mounted .50-caliber machine gun configurations. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Army Times)
25 Jan 19. India tests new anti-radiation missile. India’s state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired the indigenously developed New Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NGARM) from an Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft to a range of 100 km on 18 January. IAF sources told Jane’s on 25 January that the air-to-surface NGARM, which has been designed to destroy enemy radar as well as tracking and communication facilities, accurately hit its target in the Bay of Bengal during its maiden trial.
They said the test-firing “validated” the missile’s seeker, navigation, and control systems as well as the weapon’s “structural integrity” and “aerodynamic efficiency”.
Industry sources said that the NGARM employs an indigenously developed dual-pulse, solid-propellant rocket motor, and can be guided by a combination of passive and active radar seekers together with an inertial navigation system (INS) that is aided by GPS. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Jan 19. Russian MoD to complete exoskeleton tests in 2019. Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) will complete state trials of the EO-1 passive exoskeleton this year, an industry source told Jane’s on 21 January. “The exoskeleton has already entered its preliminary trials due to be completed by June. Completion of the system’s state trials is scheduled for late 2019,” said the source, recalling that the exoskeleton prototype had been unveiled in 2015. The EO-1 has been operationally tested in Syria. “In March–April 2017 troops used this exoskeleton during mine-clearance missions in Palmyra, Syria,” the source said. Engineering troops operating Uran-6 unmanned demining vehicles use the exoskeleton when carrying the unmanned ground vehicle’s control panel, which weighs 20kg. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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