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MISSILE, BALLISTICS AND SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE

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06 June 19. House panel wants cheaper Patriot missile. House panel wants the Army to come up with a plan to get a cheaper missile for the Patriot air-and-missile defense system. The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee is pushing in its mark-up of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill — released June 3 — for the Army to bring options to Congress for a low-cost interceptor to be used in the Raytheon-made Patriot system. That is because the most updated variant is roughly $5m a shot, and a cheaper missile would be attractive to foreign customers with Patriot systems. In recent years, reports have cropped up, for example, of Patriot missiles being used to take out cheap, commercial, off-the-shelf drone threats in the Middle East, fueling the desire to have a less expensive interceptor in the mix.

“With ballistic missile threats increasing globally, combatant commander global force management requirements for the missile defense capacity have consistently been increasing,” the subcommittee states in its bill.

Patriot air defense systems are the most frequently deployed asset worldwide and the Army and its allies are expending pricey missiles to take out cheaper targets.

With the Lockheed Martin-made Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) interceptor’s high cost, the panel notes, “the incorporation of a low-cost interceptor to supplement existing Patriot interceptor variants could assist in increasing U.S. procurement quantities.”

And foreign customers are in the market for a cheaper missile, the subcommittee adds, could make the development of a new interceptor even less expensive because increased sales would drive down the cost of production. Poland, for example, wants a low-cost interceptor to supplement its order of Patriot missiles in the second phase of its acquisition plan for the Patriot system. Raytheon has offered SkyCeptor, a variant of the Israeli company Rafael’s Stunner missile.

The committee is directing the Army, should the language in the bill survive to become law, to provide a briefing to the panel by the end of the year “on options to incorporate a low-cost interceptor into the Patriot system.”

It adds, “The report should include cost, schedule, technical, and operational considerations, in addition to an assessment of potential for foreign military sale.”

A few years ago, even though concern over the Army’s shrinking munition stockpile was growing due to operations in the Middle East, the service was wrestling with whether it would re-certify the lower-cost Patriot interceptor — the Patriot Guided Enhanced Missile.

That decision still has not been made.

GEM-T missiles cost roughly 50 percent less than an MSE version and are used by a variety of Patriot customers around the world. There are 16 countries that own or have ordered Patriot systems globally.

Raytheon has recently proposed a GEM-T missile containing Gallium Nitride (GaN) in the transmitter portion of the system, which will improve the missile’s performance. Raytheon has developed the GaN version of GEM-T for an undisclosed country and would roll it into GEM-T orders for the Army in the future if given the go-ahead.

It is unclear what the appetite within the service is for a low-cost Patriot interceptor as the Army is focused on developing its future Integrated Air-and-Missile Defense system as one of its top modernization priorities.

The Army, according to its fiscal year 2020 five-year budget plan, wants to develop a new interceptor for IAMD. The system will replace Patriot and consists of a Northrop Grumman-developed command-and-control system. The service is also holding a competition for a new radar. (Source: Defense News)

06 June 19. Serdar remote weapon station completes trials. The Serdar remote weapon station (RWS) developed jointly by Turkey’s Aselsan and Ukraine’s Luch Design Bureau has passed its final trials and is now ready to enter serial production under an existing contract for a foreign country, the Ukrainian state defence export company SpetsTechnoExport announced on 5 June.

“The qualifying trials related specifically to the Skif missile launching system and showed that it has been integrated according to the customer’s requests”, SpetsTechnoExport press secretary Vadym Shkliar told Jane’s .

The only known customer for the Serdar was revealed in December 2018, when the RWS was seen installed on more than a dozen Turkish-made Ejder Yalçin armoured vehicles during Qatar’s annual military parade.

SpetsTechnoExport stated that the system’s developers expect that the Ukrainian and Turkish defence ministries will also be interested in the Sedar. The RWS is armed with 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine guns, as well as two Skif laser-guided missile launchers. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

05 June 19. South Korea completes development of new 30 mm SPAAG system. South Korea has completed development of a new 30mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) system based on the chassis of the Hyundai Rotem K808 8 x 8 armoured vehicle. The country’s Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) announced on 5 June that the system, development of which began in 2015, has successfully met all the requirements set by the South Korean military following final tests and evaluations. Developed by Hanwha for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) under a KRW55bn (USD46.8m) project, the turret mounted on the vehicle is armed with a pair of stabilised and podded 30mm cannons, and features an electro-optical/infrared system enabling automatic day/night target tracking.

The system has been designed to increase the force’s capabilities to engage aerial targets at low altitudes and to provide mobile and localised air-defence support for ground troops.

According to the DAPA, the new SPAAG is not only more accurate but its range is also 1.6 times greater than that of the 20mm M167 Vulcan Air Defense System in service with the RoKA. According to Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery & Air Defence, the M167 VADS has a maximum range of 2.2km and a maximum effective vertical range of 1.2km.

Moreover, the induction of the new 30mm wheeled SPAAG, which can be integrated into a wider air-defence network, is expected to help reduce the number of RoKA personnel required to operate anti-aircraft systems.

The DAPA pointed out that five major local defence companies as well as 200 small firms participated in this project, adding that more than 95% of the SPAAG system was made using indigenous technologies. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

06 June 19. India’s DRDO test fires anti-ship version of BrahMos cruise missile. India’s Defence Research and Development (DRDO) has reportedly launched the anti-ship version of the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile.

The missile was test-fired from the launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur on 4 June in the state of Odisha, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported citing DRDO sources. BrahMos is claimed to be the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile that can hit its target with a high rate of precision and accuracy. The missile can be fired from land, sea and air. Sources told the news agency that the missile is capable of striking targets up to around 290km and that it would act as a deterrent against any possible threats from neighbouring countries.

Test-firing was performed in the presence of senior defence officials and scientists from DRDO and BrahMos. BrahMos was established as a joint venture between the DRDO and Russia’s NPOM through an inter-governmental agreement signed in February 1998 between India and Russia. The BrahMos missile is already in service with the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF). It is known for its land-attack, anti-ship capabilities with multi-role and multi-platform abilities. The latest test comes after the Indian Army’s Unit of Eastern Command launched a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from Car Nicobar Islands last month as part of joint training by the three services.

Last month, the IAF successfully tested the BrahMos air-launched missile from its frontline Su-30MKI fighter aircraft. (Source: naval-technology.com)

05 June 19. US Army To Test ATLAS Robotic Gun.  The experimental turret will use the technology — and the safeguards — from the Army’s ATLAS project, originally misrepresented in the media as building “killer robots.” The Army’s acquisition chief, Bruce Jette, has ordered the service’s famed night vision lab to develop an experimental “automated turret” for live-fire testing next June. Army sources confirmed to Breaking Defense that the turret will use the lab’s Artificially Intelligent Targeting System (ATLAS), designed to detect potential targets, determine if they’re hostile and aim a 50mm cannon with superhuman speed and accuracy.

But — note the pause — ATLAS will not pull the trigger because it will not have a physical connection to the trigger mechanism, leaving the final decision to fire literally in human hands.

In the future, however, Jette told me in an interview, the Army might explore a less hands-on form of control. A human officer might, for example, look at surveillance data, like live imagery from a drone, and clear a platoon of robots to open fire on a whole group of targets, he said. (This would appear to meet the standard of having a human “on the loop”.) While Jette didn’t discuss the technical details, this approach would require the kind of automated trigger that ATLAS currently lacks.

Even this set-up probably wouldn’t violate the Defense Department’s remarkably nuanced policy requiring human control of lethal force, and the Defense Secretary could waive the policy if it did. But it would certainly alarm activists who are already skeptical of ATLAS, arguing it could easily be modified to bypass human control, and who seek a global ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems. The danger of such systems is not just that they might run rogue and kill the wrong people, skeptics say, but that a human overseer might blindly trust what the computer tells him — a phenomenon known as automation bias.

Jette, the head of Army acquisition (ASAALT), first publicly mentioned what he called the “fully autonomous turret” in a talk last week to the Association of the US Army. These initial remarks left some vital details vague, but Army staff and Jette himself clarified them later. The service’s Night Vision & Electronic Sensors Directorate will provide the automation, the Armaments Center the physical weapon, ammunition, and turret; both are now part of Army Futures Command.

Jette assured me in an interview that Army engineers will take every safety precaution and that the final product might actually be more discriminate than a weapon relying entirely on human brainpower. “I understand concerns about out-of-control turrets and stuff like that,” he told me. “The thing about it is, soldiers …. because they’re under extreme stress in a combat environment, may make moremistakes than robots if I put the parametrics in place correctly.”

The first phase of development will focus on making the automated system as fast as possible, Jette said. But the system will be thoroughly tested and debugged, and safety features and human controls will be added before it’s connected to an actual weapon for a “dry fire” run without ammunition, let alone the live-fire test tentatively scheduled for June 2020.

“Before we put any ammunition in or anything like that, we’ll have the safeties put in place,” Jette said. “You make sure you search every piece of code…and do regression analysis… because we want no unexpected behavior patterns before we ever turn this into a live-fire event.”

Only after extensive testing will the Army even consider fielding an operational system, Jette said. While ATLAS uses the same 50mm cannon envisioned for the future Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle — basically, a self-driving replacement for the M2 Bradley — the Army hasn’t decided whether or not a robotic turret should go on the OMFV. “If it does,” Jette said, “it would be a while from now.”

UPDATE Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, whose “Third Offset Strategy” did more than any other individual to get the Pentagon to embrace AI and robotics, was quick to praise the project. “I applaud Secretary Jette’s initiative,” Work emailed after seeing the original version of this article. “This is the logical first step in learning the possibilities and limitations of AI-enabled weapons systems with some types of autonomous functionality.”

“You have to see how they perform in the real world.  You have to gather data to train the systems to perform its assigned tasks better.  You have to determine if the algorithms can be trusted to do what they were designed to do, how susceptible they are to error,” Work continued. “Once you do all these things and have established operational trust with the system, the debate over what tasks to assign to it can take place, informed by hard data and not supposition.” UPDATE ENDS

Speed Kills

Why would you want robotic weapons, anyway? It’s simple: they’re quicker on the draw.

While most military officers are leery of robotic weapons, Jette is not the first Pentagon leader to publicly argue they may have an insurmountable advantage on speed. Under Obama, the top acquisitions and technology official for the Defense Department, Frank Kendall, publicly suggested that if adversaries removed slow-thinking humans from their weapons control systems, the US might have to do so as well.

Even earlier, the Navy implemented an automatic mode on its Aegis fire control system. While intended to handle overwhelming waves of incoming missiles coming in too fast for human operators to respond, the automated Aegis could also shoot down manned aircraft. The Army itself is now installing the Israeli-made Trophy and Iron Fist Active Protection Systems on its M1 Abrams and m2 Bradleys, which detect and shoots down incoming anti-tank rockets and missiles — a function that has to be fully automated because human reaction times are just too slow.

Jette, however, is talking about automating the identification of ground vehicles, which almost always have human beings inside. But he believes ceding some human functions to computers may be the only way to move fast enough in a future fight. A former Army armor officer himself, he would have been well-trained in the historical truth that victory in tank battles typically goes, not to the biggest gun or thickest armor, but the side that sees the enemy first and takes the first shot.

“Time is the weapon,” Jette told me at the start of an interview on the system. “What I want to do, I want to find out how fast we can get the system to work.”

How fast? “The lights in this room are on 60 hertz,” Jette said last week at AUSA headquarters in Arlington. That means standard fluorescents flicker on and off about 60 times a second. We just don’t notice because our brains can’t take in information that fast: Human neurons also run at roughly 60 hertz. (If you notice fluorescents flickering, they’re running at 50 Hz or less). A fly’s brain is much smaller than a humans, but it processes visual information faster, about 80 Hz, which is why it’s so difficult to swat one.

Likewise, Jette argued, the computerized turret, while not smarter than a human, will think faster — enabling it to set up that critical first shot: “It’ll be as fast as a fly.”

‘There Would Always Be A Man’

While computers will provide speed, however, humans are still needed to provide judgment.

“There would always be a man, we can call it ‘in the loop’ or ‘on the loop,‘” Jette told me. “In the loop would be, it pops a target up, it says ‘hey, I want to shoot something,’ and then you say ‘yes’ [or no….] You’re not doing the fire control, you’re not doing the aiming, but you are confirming you want the shot taken.”

With “a man on the loop,” Jette continued, “the system comes up, identifies, let’s say, five targets, [and] the man on the loop simply confirms you’re authorized to shoot and engage the targets in the sequence you’ve proposed. And so the gun then automatically engages the five targets — but only the five targets that have been approved.”

The human commander might never have their eyes directly on the target, Jette said, but “it’s not like it’s just a dot on the screen [as it is with Aegis radar scopes — ed.]. The ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance] may be a visual image of the target…It’s got to be some representation of the actual target that allows the user, the controller, to be able to apply his or her analytic competencies to the problem.”

Just how the targets are presented to the human users, and how those humans are trained, raises the danger of automation bias. That’s the marked tendency of humans to blindly follow whatever a computer outputs rather than questioning its conclusions. When an ATLAS gunner is presented with a list of targets, you don’t want him hitting “fire” as reflexively as a smartphone user hits “accept” when presented with the latest update to the Terms & Conditions.

In extreme cases, human users stop paying attention entirely to automated systems that still require their oversight, like the Tesla driver who let his Autopilot feature drive him into a truck. The best protection against this kind of artificial stupidity? A carefully designed interface and intensive training to keep the human constantly engaged.

“We don’t envision sending robots out there while we head off to lunch,” Jette emphasized. “It’s an augmentation to the individual, it is not a replacement for the individual.”

That said, Jette does envision replacing some individuals while augmenting others. Even if the human controller is physically in the same vehicle with the robotic turret, the automation would at least replace the human loader — something most Western armies have long resisted — and possibly the entire turret crew, both the gunner and the commander. (The command role would presumably pass to the fourth and final crewman, the driver, who’s seated down in the main hull).

“I got a lot of resistance,” Jette admitted at the AUSA event, which was focused on logistics. “If you take three people out of every one of those tanks, who’s going to maintain the tank?”

Tankers, like most troops, spend far more time keeping their weapons in working order than actually firing them. While a one- or two-person tank with an automated turret could be smaller than a four-person machine, it’s unlikely to be less mechanically complex.

Jette’s idea for a single human overseeing “a platoon of unmanned guns” pushes the ratio of humans to machines even lower. Such vehicles might need a maintenance and support system more like fighter aircraft, which have a separate ground crew rather than relying primarily on the pilot.

Those are the kind of logistical concerns, Jette told the AUSA gathering, that weapons programs need to consider at the earliest stages. But they’re still easier than the tactical and ethical questions of automating, even partially, the killing of human beings. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://breakingdefense.com)

04 June 19. US Army Moving to Modernize Ammunition Plants. The Army is working on a major effort to upgrade the service’s five government-owned, contractor-operated ammunition plants, said the senior commander of Picatinny Arsenal June 4. The ammunition plants include Holston in Kingsport, Tennessee; Radford in Radford, Virginia; Lake City in Independence, Missouri; Iowa in Middleton, Iowa; and Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said Brig. Gen. Alfred Abramson, who also serves as the program executive officer for PEO armaments and ammunition.

Most of those facilities were built in the 1940s, he noted during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Armament Systems Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Some of those facilities look like they date from the World War II era, he said. “We’ve got to modernize those to get capability for the future.”

The service has requested $475m in President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal for the upgrades, he said. That is more than the $458m that was allocated for this fiscal year.

Abramson noted that the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act calls for increased investment in the ammunition industrial base.

The need for more spending comes as the Army is embarking on a major modernization effort through its newly established Futures Command that is based in Austin, Texas, Abramson said. The service’s top modernization priorities include long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality. The service has created eight cross-functional teams that will be spread across those lines of effort.

The Army is “focusing on modernization priorities, modernization capabilities. But at the same time … [there is] a commitment and recognition that if we’re going to build a better mouse trap, so to speak, we’ve got to invest in the” government-owned/contractor-operated ammunition plants, he noted.

Currently, the Army is struggling to produce sufficient amounts of materiel at these facilities, he said, citing the Holston plant as an example. “Today we cannot keep up with the demand signal for the explosives that Holston can produce,” he said. “We are currently going through a very expansive expansion, modernization and facilitation effort at Holston just to keep up with the demand today.”

Modifications and upgrades at the facility are slated to come online within the next two to three years, he said.

According to Abramson’s slides, the Radford plant manufacturers propellants and propellant ingredients. The Lake City facility provides small caliber ammunitions. The Iowa plant loads, assembles and packs ammunition items. The Scranton facility manufacturers metal parts for artillery, mortars and some Navy projectiles.

Abramson noted that the Army is investing heavily in ammunition. Despite moves across the service to realign resources for its top six priorities, the ammunition and armaments portfolio is well supported by Army leadership, he said.

“We continue to see growth … in our procurement accounts,” he said.

The Army received nearly $2.3bn for ammunition and armament procurement in 2019. The 2020 budget request calls for $2.59bn for those accounts, Abramson noted.

There has also been an uptick in its research, development, test and evaluation funding, he said.

“The takeaway from that is we need more munitions, but we also have committed to … making those munitions better, making them do more than what they did before,” Abramson said. (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)

05 June 19. US Army artillery is doubling range and fire rates, working on smaller rounds for attack helos and AI for targeting faster. In the next two years the US Army will test a completely integrated artillery system that can fire twice as far and twice as fast as what soldiers currently use. At the same time, the center that oversees that development and others has also upgraded fire controls that will allow hits on the first or second shot by merging soldiers and semi-autonomous systems. Those updates were shared today by Anthony Sebasto at this year’s National Defense Industrial Association Armament Systems Forum. Sebasto is the executive director of the Enterprise and Systems Integration Center for the Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center. Extended Range Cannon Artillery tests pushed the new Excalibur round to 62km at Yuma Proving Ground last year, Sebasto said.

The goal is 70km and a rate of fire of six to 10 rounds per minute with advances in autoloaders. That would more than double current ranges and rates of fire. Another improvement is coming via accuracy. The center’s work on scenario-based fire control is pushing a 50mm system to give vehicle systems “tank-like lethality,” Sebasto said. What that means is hitting a target downrange in the first or second shot rather than dozens of rounds that were required in recent conflicts with firing systems on platforms such as the Bradley.

That work began in the Multi-Caliber Armament System using a 30mm gun last year. The 50mm demonstration is planned for later this year, Sebasto said.

Going beyond that, the center is pushing to a Next Generation Intelligent Fire Control. That fire control incorporates target location and “decision logic algorithms” to speed up the find, fix and track portions of the kill chain.

With that software backbone, the shooter can link in other sensors, such as direct data feeds from drones, to better target the rounds at deeper distances. A step further will be when artificial intelligence is added to help with target detection. The goal is to reduce crew workload on the firing systems and reduce the kill chain timeline, he said.

One aviation platform the Army’s still developing, an attack reconnaissance helicopter in the Future Vertical Lift program, falls within some of the center’s armament work as it will likely fire the 20mm. That’s a shift from 30mm gun on the current Apache attack helicopter.

“This is a hard problem,” Sebasto said of getting 30mm capability in a 20mm package.

They’re using technology developed for 30mm airburst munitions in past programs to tackle that problem, he said.

Sebasto’s center is working on 40mm weapons for individual soldiers to take down small drones. They’ve also been upgrading the Common Remotely Operated Weapon System, CROWS, to allow for the standard .50 caliber machine gun to shoot down drones as well.

The director said that the aim is to find low-cost solutions for low-cost threats such as commercially available drones.

Likely a little more expensive than conventional munitions, but still cheaper than missile, are the medium-caliber weapons that give soldiers an airburst or guided caliber to hit at least Group I and possibly Group II and Group III drones at longer ranges with fewer rounds.

That’s especially important as future scenarios likely mean drone swarms rather than single or double aerial threats.

“It’s enough to address one to two; what might happen with swarming?” he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times)

04 June 19. Iran Vows to Keep Missile Program, Rejects US Offer to Negotiate. Iran’s Supreme Leader says his country will not give up its missile program after the United States said last week it is willing to negotiate with Iran.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech on state television Tuesday “this political trick will not deceive Iranian officials and the Iranian nation.”

Khamenei’s comments were made on the 30th anniversary of the death of Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and one week after U.S. President Donald Trump called on Iran to negotiate a new deal. Trump said Iran “has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership,” and that “We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.”

Iran has previously said the U.S. must return to the agreement before any talks begin. Iran-U.S. tensions have escalated in the past month, one year after the U.S. withdrew from a pact between Iran and global powers to limit Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions. Khamenei said the U.S. sanctions have adversely affected Iranians and have made better economic conditions the government’s top priority.

“Resistance has a cost, but the cost of surrendering to the enemy is higher,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday the U.S. was ready to talk with Iran “with no preconditions,” a remark Iran dismissed as “word-play.”

Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal, commonly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is designed to limit Iran’s nuclear program.  Trump maintains the agreement is not permanent and fails to cover Iran’s ballistic missile program. The pact was signed in 2015 by the U.S., Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and Britain. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Voice of America News)

04 June 19. Russian Aerospace Forces Test an Upgraded ABM. At the Sary-Shagan test site (Republic of Kazakhstan), the air and missile defence forces of the Aerospace Forces successfully conducted a new test launch of a modernized missile of the Russian ABM system.  Commander of the anti-missile defence system formation Colonel Sergei Grabchuk stated that “after a series of tests, the new ABM system has proved its characteristics and successfully completed the task, engaging the target with a given accuracy”.  The anti-ballistic missile system is in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces. It is designed to protect Moscow from air and space attacks. (According to RIA Novosti, quoting military expert Igor Korotchenko, the test was of the 53T6M interceptor, and Gazeta says it’s the 53T6M/PRS-1M —Ed.) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Russian Ministry of Defence)

05 June 19. Handover success for EOS Defence Systems for LAND 400 Phase 2. Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) took delivery of the first two EOS Defence Systems R400S Mk2 D-HD-3X Remote Weapon Systems, to be used on the Boxer as part of Project LAND 400 Phase 2 – Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) capability.

The two R400 Remote Weapon Systems to be utilised for training purposes were delivered on schedule. It is planned for a further 80 systems to be supplied during the course of the project. All EOS systems for LAND 400 Phase 2 will be built in Australia in Queanbeyan, NSW, and Hume, ACT, and utilise components from approximately 70 Australian suppliers.

Dr Warwick Holloway, president of EOS Defence Systems in Australia, welcomed the project milestone, saying, “The handover of these two systems marks a significant milestone for EOS. The systems join the over 230 in-service EOS remote weapon systems and will deliver significant improvements in operational effectiveness and cost of ownership for Australia’s combat forces.”

The R400S-Mk2-D-HD is capable of mounting weapons in single and dual configurations from 5.56mm to 12.7mm calibre as well 40mm automatic grenade launchers, 30mm lightweight cannons and anti-tank guided missiles. The EOS R400S-Mk1 remote weapon station entered ADF service in 2007 and has been in continuous operational service in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Army’s Bushmaster Protected Mobility vehicles for the last 12 years. The R400S-Mk1 RWS had previously been developed for Phase 1 of the US Army’s Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station Program (CROWS 1) and from 2004 it was deployed on a range of platforms including the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank for operations in Iraq.

EOS has continued to evolve and develop the R400 family with a focus on improving the systems engagement precision, power management, stabilisation and sensor performance. This effort has now produced the R400S-Mk2 Direct drive Heavy Duty version (R400Mk2 D-HD) series of medium Remote Weapon Stations which are now in-service with five international customers.

The R400S-Mk2-D-HD is available in a number of forms including a marinised version, a dual weapon version supporting a lightweight 30mm cannon with coaxial machine gun and ATGM and a 4th axis of motion option on the sensor unit to allow for optimised engagement performance against high speed transients such as small UAVs.

The R400 Mk2s being acquired by the ADF have been integrated with common architectures like the Australian Generic Vehicle Architecture, the Thales ICS and US Army robotic vehicle control systems. It can also cued by a battlefield management system, such as the Australian BMSC2, and associated cuing sensors such as radars for counter-UAS missions or shot detection systems.

The system, with its sophisticated suite of sensors, is fully stabilised and networked and allows the weapons operator to remotely operate the weapon while protected inside the vehicle.

“These are the first two of the latest generation remote weapon systems built for the Australian Defence Force from EOS state-of the-art manufacturing facility in Hume,” Dr Holloway added.

The $5.2bn LAND 400 Phase 2 program will have Rheinmetall deliver 211 8×8 Boxer CRVs to the Australian Army. Under the company’s offering to the Commonwealth, Rheinmetall will build a majority of the vehicles at the company’s specialised Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) in Queensland.

The first 25 vehicles will be built in Germany as part of the technology transfer process, with the remaining vehicles to be built in Australia. Boxer will replace the ageing ASLAV vehicles that have served with the Australian Army in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Army will accept 133 reconnaissance variants of the Boxer, which will be equipped with Rheinmetall’s cutting-edge Lance 30mm automatic cannon turret system.

Joint venture partners Varley Rafael will supply the Spike LR2 Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) system for the Boxer CRV. The Spike LR2 is a fifth-generation ATGM system, originally developed as a fire-and-forget system.

The vehicle-mounted extended-range variant has a range of eight kilometres, while the non-line-of-sight variant can hit targets up to 25 kilometres away. The Boxer CRV will support Australian industry, sourcing specialised armoured steel from Australian steel companies BlueScope Steel and Bisalloy, with engineering support provided by Melbourne-based Supacat Asia-Pacific. (Source: Defence Connect)

05 June 19. A drone with a can-doom attitude. A 40mm canister is an unusual form factor for a quadcopter, but not an unproductive one. Like the endless variation on a simple form seen in beetles, quadcopters combine four rotors, internal sensors and remote direction with the adaptability to fit into any ecological niche.

Drone 40, produced by Melbourne-based defense technology firm DefendTex, is a drone whose niche involves a 40mm grenade launcher. It is a range expander for infantry, a new and novel loitering munition, and a testament to the second-order effects of a thriving drone parts ecosystem.

Drone 40 was created as a solution to the problem of range; specifically, the problem of a range disparity between the infantry weapons carried by Australian infantry, which are accurate to about 500 meters, and the AK-74s carried by adversaries, which can reach out to 800 meters (though the accuracy at that range is disputed). Even if the fire is just suppressing fire, Australia was looking for a way to let its infantry fight back, but not one that required changing the gun or adding a lot more weight to what soldiers were already carrying.

“The only thing that we had in the infantry kit with any utility was a 40 millimeter grenade launcher,” which led to the design of the Drone 40, said DefendTex CEO Travis Reddy. Rather than overtaxing the launcher with a medium-velocity round that could travel the distance needed, the launcher would instead give a boost to a drone-borne munition that would then fly under its own power the rest of the way to the target.

The overall appearance of the Drone 40 is that of an oversized bullet. Four limbs extend from the cylindrical body, with rotors attached. In flight, it gives the appearance of a rocket traveling at perpendicular angles, the munition suspended below the rotors like a Sword of Damocles. It is a quadcopter, technically.

Drone 40 is a loitering munition, for a very short definition of loiter. When carrying a 110 gram payload, it can fly for about 12 minutes. The person commanding the Drone 40 can remotely disarm the munition, letting the drone land inert for later recovery. When not carrying an anti-personnel or anti-tank munition as payload, it can be outfitted with a sensor. For an infantry unit that wants to scout first, fire later, the sensor module can provide early information, then be swapped out with a deadly payload. Beyond Australia, the company envisions providing the Drone 40 to the Five Eyes militaries.

The drone’s video streaming can transmit 10 km over direct line of sight. Drone 40 can also record video and retransmit it when it comes within range, or it can take still images. With the radio frequency relayed by another aerial system, that range can be expanded. Using GPS, the drone can follow a waypoint plotted course to a target, or it can use its own synthetic aperture radar to identify and track a target. Reddy says it can distinguish the radar profile of, say, a T-72 tank, and then follow it autonomously.

Drone 40 is designed to fly with minimal human involvement. The unit’s development was largely funded in collaboration with Autonomous Systems Collaborative Research by the Australian government, and the drone can work collaboratives, with multiple Drone 40s flying together and operating off the sensor data from a single ISR drone in the swarm. Most of the flying, identifying and tracking of targets is done autonomously; however, human control remains an essential part of the machine’s operation.

“The Department of Defense has very strict rules around any use of autonomy in the battlefield,” says Reddy. “We always have to have either man in the loop or man on the loop. The weapon system will never be autonomous, fully acquire and prosecute target without authorization and confirmation from the human.”

The autonomy is there, in a sense, to pass off the task of flying a drone into position and only task the operator with making a call once the drone is in place.

“If there’s someone flying this thing or looking at the video feed, they’re not in combat and someone else is not in combat because they have to be protected at that point in time,” says Reddy. “Everything we do is trying to ensure that we have almost fire and forget, just a reminder when it’s on station or it requires a decision to be made; the rest of the time, the operator is in the fight.”

To make Drone 40 work at the small size and desired price point, its makers had to lean on the commercial drone market. Existing versions, Reddy says, cost less than a $1,000 apiece, with a goal of getting the cost down to around $500.

“To hit the price point that we are using, we are heavily leveraging the current drone market. We have companies, large companies that sink hundreds of millions of dollars into R&D and we can leverage that investment,” says Reddy. “If we wanted to design a radar on a drone ourselves, it would cost us many millions of dollars to achieve and end up in a price point of $10,000 to $15,000 a unit. Instead we let the automotive industry spend all that money and now they’re producing chips that are in the tens of dollars.”

Drone 40 is also designed to be scaled up. DefendTex is working on Drone 81, a larger round designed to work with mortar tubes, and there are other drone models in the works matched to specific munition sizes. If the iteration is successful, it will create a whole arsenal of possibilities for range-expanding munitions that fit into existing platforms.

“They’re designed to be low cost and disposable; that’s the key,” said Reddy. “If it doesn’t come back, it doesn’t matter.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

05 June 19. Iran Could Produce Nuclear Weapons in 6-8 Months, Warns Former IAEA Deputy. A former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned Wednesday that Iran is capable of producing a nuclear bomb in six to eight months.

Olli Heinonen, who currently serves as a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Israel’s Army Radio that Israel and the Gulf states “have a reason to worry” about Tehran’s aggressive ambition to acquire nuclear weapon capabilities.

“Iran is actually weaponizing uranium enrichment without making a weapon,” he said. The nuclear expert noted that according to his personal assessment, Iran could produce a nuclear weapon in six to eight months “if they put in their maximum effort.”

In May, Iran informed signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that it no longer plans to adhere to commitments made in the 2015 nuclear accord. As part of the deal, the country had limits imposed on the quantities of uranium and heavy water it can produce, set at 300 kilograms and 130 tonnes, respectively.

The IAEA said last week that Iran was staying within the limits set by the agreement, although its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water were growing.

However, White House national security adviser, John Bolton, observed Wednesday that without more nuclear power plants, it made no sense for the mullah regime to stockpile additional low-enriched uranium other than to seek atomic weapons.

Heinonen echoed those concerns and said that despite insistences from the IAEA, Tehran has not been adhering to the terms of the accord. The JCPOA required Iran to come clean about all of its past nuclear weapons work, but the intelligence showed that Iran had equipment that was used for nuclear weapons work that it never disclosed to the IAEA.

Heinonen and a team of experts – including David Albright, a former weapons inspector and president of the institute for Science and International Security, and Andrea Stricker, a senior policy analyst at the institute – learned from files recovered from Iran’s secret nuclear archive that the Islamic Republic possessed “advanced capabilities” to develop nuclear weapons.

What the experts concluded was that “that Washington and the IAEA were constantly underestimating how close Tehran was to a bomb” prior to negotiating the deal that was finalized in 2015. (Source: theisraelproject.org)

04 June 19. Aselsan develops 40mm air bursting munition system. Turkey’s Aselsan has completed development and testing of its Atom 40mm high-velocity air bursting munition (HV ABM) and associated Atom 40mm fire control unit (FCU), the company said on 31 May. These were developed as a private venture by the company from May 2017, and production could commence once orders are placed. The system was designed for installation on 40mm automatic grenade launchers (AGL) that are fitted with a Picitanny rail. It provides the weapon increased accuracy and the ability to engage dismounted targets, behind buildings, and other battlefield obstacles. The Atom FCU kit consists of the user monitor, ammunition programming components, and electro-optic sensors. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

04 June 19. US Army to conduct flight test of future hypersonic weapons. The US Army is set to conduct the first joint flight test of future hypersonic weapons, which will be followed by tests every six months until they are fielded by fiscal year 2023. The weapon’s common glide body will be produced by the US Army under a joint venture. It will also be used by the air force and navy.

US Army rapid capabilities and critical technologies office director Neil Thurgood said that soldiers are expected to fire a hypersonic glide body from a transporter erector launcher in fiscal year 2022.

Thurgood said: “It is the first shoot ever off of the transporter erector launcher. It will be done by soldiers.”

Before performing the test next year, the system will be fielded to a unit without the live rounds for training purposes in late fiscal year 2021.

“The reason we’re going to do that is because we need them to start training,” said Thurgood.

“So when we get to the first (live round) shot a year later, they’ll actually know what it looks like.”

Soldiers will practice command and control of the system, and loading and offloading canisters that resemble Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems.

The army plans to field the system to a battery, which could include a part of the multi-domain task force that is currently being piloted and headed by a field artillery brigade and will receive four launchers with two rounds each. Four heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks (HEMTTs) and trailers will be used to transport the 30ft-long launchers.

The command and control system will be the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, which is currently available to artillerymen.

As competitors are developing their own future hypersonic weapons capabilities, the US Army plans to counter them with approximately $1.2bn due to be spent on experimental prototyping until fiscal year 2024.

Thurgood’s job is to bring together scientists and acquisition experts to speed up the US Army’s directed energy and space programmes, among others.

“My job is to transition out of the labs into a commercial industry base and we’re on the path to do that right now,” he said.

“By doing that, I create a bridge from the science and technology community to the prototyping community to the programme of record community.”

The glide body programme is currently at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, US. (Source: army-technology.com)

04 June 19. JGSDF fires two FH-70 howitzers in Australia. The Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) has fired two FH-70 howitzers 25km out for the very first time while in Australia. The long-range firing of FH-70 howitzers took place at the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Shoalwater Bay Training Area during Exercise Southern Jackaroo, which involved Australia, Japan and the US. The exercise concluded today.

It is part of a series of initiatives agreed to during the Australia-Japan Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting held in October last year and strengthens bilateral ties.

JGSDF fire direction officer captain Yutu Goto said: “The opportunity to be able to conduct this firing activity in Australia’s large training area has been very beneficial for the Japan Ground Self Defense Force.”

The two-week trilateral ground Exercise Southern Jackaroo saw the participation of more than 150 JGSDF troops along with around 300 US Marine Rotational Force-Darwin members and over 260 soldiers from the Australian Army’s 7th Brigade.

It demonstrates the defence relationship between Australia, Japan and the US, as well as the shared commitment to increasing interoperability while enhancing the sophistication of trilateral exercises.

Australian Army 7th Brigade commander Brigadier Andrew Hocking said: “The Japan Ground Self Defense Force should be proud of the achievements it has made during this exercise and we were proud to be a part of it.

“The capability is complex, so to prove that their munitions and guns are effective at that range is a real accomplishment.

“This not only gives the Japan Ground Self Defense Force confidence, but it also gives us even more confidence to work closely with each other in support of peace and security.” (Source: army-technology.com)

03 June 19. The Estonian military is about to get a rifle revamp courtesy of LMT. As the Estonian Defence Forces continue a lengthy move away from their Warsaw Pact roots to full parity with NATO standards, the Estonian army has increasingly sought to procure new rifles for its front line combat arms units. To that end, Estonia’s Ministry of Defence has finally announced that LMT Defense, formerly known as the Lewis Machine & Tool Company, will supply the country’s army with two new service weapons in the form of the LMT MARS platform of AR-15 and AR-10 pattern rifles, as well as 40 mm grenade launchers compatible with these new guns.

The contract was awarded after a two-year testing and evaluation process which saw the Estonian military whittle down the playing field from 12 competitors to the MARS rifles. LMT will produce and deliver the rifles in conjunction with Estonian defense contractors Milrem LCM and Visible Assets.

LMT is no stranger to foreign defense contracts, having been selected in 2015 to reequip the New Zealand Army with the MARS-L (short for Modular Assault Rifle System – Light). In addition, LMT began supplying the British military with the L129A1, a designated marksman rifle chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO. The AR-15 MARS rifles selected by the EDF use a gas piston system, similar to H&K’s HK416 currently used by USSOCOM, while the AR-10 rifles will use a direct impingement operating system.

Both the 5.56x45mm and 7.62mm NATO rifles procured by Estonia as part of the contract are completely ambidextrous. This includes an ambi bolt release and catch, safety selector, magazine release and the charging handle. According to LMT’s website, the 5.56 rifle will be the company’s MLCPS rifle with a 16-inch chrome-lined barrel, and over 14.5 inches of upper rail space, as well as MLOK mounts on the gun’s ample hand guard.

The 7.62 rifle will be the company’s MWS Sniper Rifle, using a 20 inch stainless steel barrel and feeding from a 20-round magazine.

Both the MLCPS and the MWS will be replacing the Israeli-built Galil-AR and the Swedish-made Ak 4 (a licensed copy of the H&K G3A3) respectively. The grenade launchers included in the contract will be none other than LMT’s M203 rail-mounted 40 mm GLs.

Estonian soldiers will commence receiving their new MARS rifles this year in 5.56×45 and 7.62 NATO, with a complete fulfillment expected by 2021. Product support will last up till 2039. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times)

30 May 19. China “has developed advanced anti-aircraft gun to target drones.” The Global Times reports a new self-propelled anti-aircraft gun has been used during an exercise conducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army Academy of Artillery and Air Defence. The gun is likely equipped with an electro-optical aiming system that can send 35 millimeter shells to accurately intercept targets in the air, including drones and cruise missiles, according to Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, quoted in the paper.

According to the newspaper report:” the technology has now matured and the weapon might have already been commissioned into the Chinese military. One of the highlights of the weapon are its wheels, which enable the new self-propelled anti-aircraft gun to have higher mobility compared to those that are already in the PLA service and use tracks, and are more suitable for off-road operations, Wei said.”

High mobility also means the weapon could cover a wider range of airspace, is more difficult to detect and better able to survive enemy attacks, analysts noted. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)

03 June 19. German Army performs European SPIKE firing campaign. SPIKE is already in use by 18 EU & NATO members, who already jointly implement cooperation in training, maintenance and procurement. The German army has finalized its annual training in firing of Rafael’s SPIKE LR ATGM missile (also named MELLS in Germany). The firing was performed in Germany under adverse weather conditions, and included the firing of as many as 54 live SPIKE LR missiles by German Army gunners from the new SPIKE ICLU launchers (Integrated Control Lunch Unit), which includes a new digital user interface.

During the training, German personnel launched SPIKE LR missiles in complex firing scenarios, including engagements in BLOS (Beyond-Line-of-Sight: targets hidden behind cover), retargeting midflight scenarios, firing in total darkness in IR (infrared) mode, as well as firing in day mode under harsh conditions of intense rain and strong winds. Both launchers and gunners performed flawlessly and all 54 missiles hit their targets successfully.

Rafael’s SPIKE Family missiles, sold to 31 countries around the world, with over 30,000 missiles supplied, consists of missiles suited for land, air and naval platforms, multiple ranges and a variety of targets. The missiles in this family have a sophisticated electro-optic multispectral seeker for day/night operation, as well as an advanced tandem anti-tank warhead. Their lofted trajectories enable the warhead to strike the target at its most vulnerable location with pinpoint precision. All of the SPIKE Family members have a low life-cycle cost, due to high reliability and operational, logistic support and production commonality between members. SPIKE is in production in Europe by EUROSPIKE, through major EU defence OEM‘s as well as numerous EU SME‘s and is already integrated and qualified to a large variety of terrestrial and aerial EU armed forces platforms, including armored vehicles, attack helicopters and naval vessels. “SPIKE has proved to be a high quality and reliable system chosen by 18 EU/NATO members (as well as 13 additional nations). EUROSPIKE and Rafael see great importance in maintaining the commonality of the European user nations SPIKE launchers & missiles. The nations’ interoperability is a key factor both tactically and economically. Part of our roadmap in all SPIKE weapon system upgrades includes investment of substantial R&D funds to maintain this commonality”, said Mr. Moshe Elazar, Executive Vice President and Head of Rafael’s Land and Naval Division.

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