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08 Aug 19. Poland Completes the First Serial Production 155mm SPH Battery. The Polish Army is finalizing completion of the first Regina artillery battery composed of serial production 155mm Krab self-propelled howitzers (SPH) manufactured by the local Huta Stalowa Wola. Until now the unit received 16 155mm Krab SPHs as well as auxiliary equipment, such as 2 command staff vehicles, 6 command post vehicles, 4 ammunition supply vehicles and one mobile armament and electronics workshop vehicle.
Delivery of the final batch of equipment for the Sulechow based Regina artillery battery is expected this Autumn. The fully equipped battery consists of 24 155mm Krab SPHs, three command staff vehicles, eight command post vehicles, six ammunition supply vehicles and one mobile armament and electronics workshop vehicle.
Although the 155mm Krab self-propelled howitzer is manufactured in Poland, the platform itself is based on several foreign designs, which includes the K9 Thunder chassis from South Korean Hanwha Techwin, the British BAE Systems AS90/52 Braveheart turret and German L52 155mm gun.
The first serial production Regina artillery battery, and the ones which will be subsequently delivered up to 2024, will supplement the original, initial production battery commissioned on September 31, 2017 and operated by the 11th Masurian Artillery Regiment in Wegorzewo, subordinate to the 16th Mechanised Division in Bialobrzegi.
According to original plans, the 155mm Krab SPHs were supposed to be based on the “Universal Tracked Chassis – New Generation” platform designed by the OBRUM company, a member of the Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, PGZ) holding, which is also a parent company for the HSW. However, after several years of development as well as numerous tests and trials of the initial batch of Krab SPHs delivered to the 11th Masurian Artillery Regiment at the end of 2012, it became clear that the locally designed chassis is full of technical defects and further works on it were pointless.
Therefore, the decision was made to procure a license for production of a new chassis based on a foreign design. After months long evaluation process the MoD and HSW decided to select the South Korean K9 Thunder platform as the desired chassis for all 120 Krab SPHs.
The agreement with Hanwha Techwin, signed at the end of 2014, called for the initial batch of 24 K9 chassis to be delivered to Poland directly from South Korea for integration with the AS90/52 Braveheart turret. These were to be followed by a dozen platforms sent to HSW in modules for final assembly. According to the agreement, the final batch of 84 K9 chassis will be manufactured directly by the Polish company based on the transfer of technology procedure. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
08 Aug 19. Iran holds unveiling event for precision-guided bombs. Iran announced the unveiling of several types of guided bomb on 6 August, although some of the weapons have been seen previously. The one that has not been seen before was a glide bomb with folding wings called the Balaban. A Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement summarising comments made by Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami during the unveiling said the weapon is programmed with target co-ordinates before its carrier aircraft takes off. It can be released up to 50 km away from the target, at which point its wings unfold and its GPS/INS guidance system makes course corrections. The MoD said it can be carried by the Karrar jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). A smaller guided bomb called the Ghaem (Qaem) was previously seen when the Mohajer-6 unmanned UAV was unveiled in February 2018. Three different variants of the Ghaem were unveiled during the 6 August event. The Ghaem-1 appears to be the weapon seen on the Mohajer-6, while the Ghaem-5 is a larger version. The Ghaem-9 appears to be even larger and has its cruciform fins mounted further forward. All the versions were seen with a TV camera for guidance. The MoD said they can be fitted with different types of warhead including penetrators. Iranian television showed footage of Ghaems being released by a variety of UAV types, including a Mohajer-6 and what appeared to be a refined version of the Hamaseh that was unveiled in May 2013. The footage indicated that the system allows the operator to lock the bomb onto a specific object so that it is automatically guided to the target. Fars News reported that Ghaems were used in cross-border artillery and UAV attacks on Iranian Kurdish rebels in Iraq in July. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
07 Aug 19. Final hypersonic missile contract awards imminent as US Army preps to shoot one in FY21. The Army is just weeks away from awarding the final contracts related to development of its mobile, ground-launched hypersonic missile being rapidly brought to life. The Army will award a contract within the next three weeks to a company to develop a launching system for the hypersonic missile in co-development across the services, Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office director, said August 7 at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium. RCCTO’s job is to serve as a bridge between the science and technology community and the program executive offices, helping bring technology out of development and into soldiers’ hands, first on a small scale and then a larger scale when passed off to program offices. The office is focused on hypersonics and directed energy primarily.
While the missile is being built jointly, the Army needs a special launcher in order to make the missile road mobile. The contract will encompass the design and integration of a vertical launcher onto a trailer, Thurgood said.
Additionally, the RCCTO is preparing to award a contract, also in the next three weeks, to a vendor to produce the glide body for the hypersonic missile, Thurgood said.
The Navy will own the design of the glide body, but the Army will own its production, he said.
“We have a company that we are in the final process of negotiating an [Other Transaction Authority contract],” Thurgood said.
An OTA is a contract that allows for rapid prototyping by bypassing the usual red tape associated with acquisition.
“What is interesting about the glide body technology is we also have to create an industrial base to do this. There is no industrial base in the United States for glide bodies,” Thurgood said.
The technology is owned by the government labs, he said, “so we are transitioning that out of the labs into the commercial marketplace. That is a really hard thing to do, but there’s a lot of energy and a lot of momentum behind that outcome.”
Unlike other programs, Thurgood said, there is not a single company that can produce a hypersonic missile and its equipment all alone. “It actually takes a collaborative effort amongst the industry partners,” he said.
The first contract will be awarded to one company, but there will be follow on contracts for other vendors to learn how to make the glide body at the federally funded lab where it was developed. The methodology energizes the supply chain from the prime contractors all the way to sub-contractors should the service decide to make a large number of the weapons, Thurgood told Defense News in an interview at the symsposium.
Thurgood noted that in order to bring industry even closer to its endeavors, RCCTO has established an industry board in addition to its board of directors to promote “horizontal communication.”
The Army plans to field a hypersonic missile and launcher to a unit in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021. The unit will train for an entire year without live rounds, according to Thurgood, who added when the unit trains with the canisters, they will be cement-filled to match the weight. The first live round test will take place in FY22 and will be conducted by a battery led by an 0-3 captain. Thurgood noted that the hypersonic effort is moving down the road fast. He was tasked on Feb. 14 to come up with a plan and given just 30 days to do so. Now, almost 6 months later, the RCCTO is about to award all associated contracts to move forward in building prototypes that will be in soldiers’ hands in just a couple of years, Thurgood said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
07 Aug 19. USAF expects second high-energy laser system contract. Key Points:
- The US Air Force expects to award another contract for a high-energy laser system
- Additional companies are being considered as the effort moves closer to a programme of record
The US Air Force (USAF) expects to award another High Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) contract, having made its first award to Raytheon on 2 August.
Michael Jirjis, directed energy weapons experimentation campaign lead with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL’s) Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office, told Jane’s on 5 August that two companies, including Raytheon, were able to perform in the late 2018 experimentation event. The USAF, he said, had success with both companies and is moving forward with each.
Jirjis said Raytheon and its HELWS device were the first to make it through the awards process. The USAF did not respond to an additional request for comment on the second company prior to publication.
The two HELWS contracts are not part of a downselect. Jirjis said the USAF has another experimentation event occurring in a few months where different companies will be participating in the service’s continental US (CONUS) event. Seven companies, Jirjis said, are being considered as the USAF moves toward an acquisition programme.
Raytheon will develop two prototype ground-based HELWS devices in the 10 kilowatt (kW) power class as part of its contract. The company integrated its high-energy laser on a Polaris MRZR, a type of all-terrain vehicle. The system is stand-alone with a footprint of approximately 9 sq m.
Raytheon’s HELWS award provides for field assessment outside the continental United States (OCONUS) for experimentation purposes. Jirjis declined to say where, exactly, outside the continental US Raytheon’s field assessments would take place, but said the USAF is supporting its overseas airmen with their urgent needs. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
08 Aug 19. US Army set to fire Spike NLOS missiles from AH-64E Apache. In its quest to arm future aircraft, the US Army is hosting a demonstration to determine if it can fire Rafael Spike Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) missiles from US helicopters. The service is slated to conduct experiments at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, later this month as a response to army validated operational needs statements and help identify “capabilities supporting the Future Vertical Lift [FVL] ecosystem”, according to the FVL Cross Functional Team (CFT). As part of the upcoming demonstration, the army will use a Boeing AH-64E Apache aircraft to conduct the Spike NLOS demo.
“The demo will determine whether Spike can be fired from a US aircraft and inform future munition and air-launched effects requirements for multi-domain operations,” the service wrote in a 2 August email to Jane’s. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
08 Aug 19. Rheinmetall and MBDA to develop high-energy laser effector system for the German Navy. Rheinmetall and MBDA Deutschland have agreed to collaborate in the high-energy laser effectors domain. The two companies intend to construct, integrate and test a laser demonstrator for the German Navy’s corvette K130. Capable of engaging targets at the speed of light with extreme precision and minimal collateral damage, lasers constitute a whole new dimension in defence technology. Now, for the first time ever, this capability is to be investigated under quasi-operational conditions using a demonstrator installed onboard a German corvette. The details and division of responsibilities between the two companies will be determined as soon as the performance specification is made available by the Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-service Support, Germany’s military procurement agency. Looking ahead to the joint project, Peter Heilmeier, Head of Sales and Business Development at MBDA Deutschland GmbH, notes that “cooperation between Rheinmetall and MBDA will be particularly beneficial for the Bundeswehr. Both companies will be leveraging their respective special strengths to make this German Navy project a resounding success.”
Werner Krämer, Managing Director of Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH, sums up the venture as follows: “We’re going to be cooperating very closely to put the military potential of laser technology to work for the Bundeswehr, boosting its operational readiness and combat effectiveness. Compared to other countries, too, our two companies possess extraordinary capabilities. Lasers offer new tactical possibilities on land, at sea and in the air. In partnership with the German Navy, we want to press ahead with this new technology.”
06 Aug 19. China’s H-6K Bomber Expected to Be Armed With Hypersonic Weapons. The main mission objective of China’s H-6K bomber is to strike key strategic points deep within enemy territories, the state broadcaster revealed, leading experts to predict that the warplane could eventually be armed with hypersonic weapons that can destroy hostile military hubs 3,000 kilometers away within minutes.
Together with J-20 stealth fighters, H-6Ks could devastate the enemy’s fighting capability even before a war gets fully underway, analysts said.
“In a war, our main objective is to launch attacks on an enemy’s deep and vital positions, paralyzing their facilities. This is what we especially excel at,” said H-6K pilot Li Ping, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday.
While the H-6K is not a stealth warplane, nor does it have outstanding speed to penetrate deep into hostile territory, it is equipped with very advanced weapons including air-launched cruise missiles, enabling it to attack targets far away, Wang Ya’nan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“The H-6K can remain within a safe zone, launch its missiles that can reach targets 2,000 kilometers away,” Wang said, noting that these missiles are difficult to intercept due to their stealth capabilities.
“With China developing hypersonic weapons [missiles that fly at least five times the speed of sound] in recent years, its attack range and speed could become even greater than a conventional cruise missile, potentially capable of taking out targets deep within hostile territories 3,000 kilometers away within just a few minutes,” Wang predicted.
Assuming each H-6K can carry six missiles, 10 bombers can attack as many as 60 vital military hubs, which could destroy the enemy, he said.
CCTV also reported that the Air Force’s J-20 fighter jets have been conducting full-scale, beyond-visual-range aerial combat exercises. The J-20 could partner with the H-6K and clear the sky by shooting down hostile aerial hubs such as early warning aircraft and tanker aircraft, while the H-6K will scorch land hubs such as command centers and missile positions, according to Wang. The H-6Ks are undergoing frequent training under combat scenarios together with early warning aircraft and fighter jets, CCTV reported. In 2018, the munitions the H-6Ks used in exercises were multiple times greater than in past years, the report said. (Source: ASD Network/Global Times)
06 Aug 19. F-35 talks to US Army’s missile command system, says Lockheed. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter demonstrated its ability to send data to the U.S. Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System during the Orange Flag Evaluation 19-2 at Palmdale, California, and Fort Bliss, Texas, in June. F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced in an Aug. 6 statement that the jet, in a live demonstration, sent track data to the IBCS through the F-35 ground station and “F-35-IBCS adaptation kit.”
The Northrop Grumman-developed IBCS was able to “receive and develop fire control quality composite tracks during the exercise, leveraging the F-35 as an elevated sensor,” the statement added.
The capability is seen as important in multidomain operations because it would be able to detect threats that are tough for ground-based sensors alone to pick up.
“This demonstration represents a significant growth in capability for the Army IAMD program and Army for multi-domain operations. The capability creates additional battlespace awareness, and the ability to track incoming targets and take action, if necessary,” Scott Arnold, Lockheed’s deputy of integrated air and missile defense, said in the statement. “The F-35, with its advanced sensors and connectivity, is able to gather and seamlessly share critical information, enabling greater joint force protection and a higher level of lethality of Army IAMD forces.”
But the demonstration isn’t only about the F-35′s ability to contribute as a sensor in the air and missile defense architecture, but also about the IBCS’ ability to bring in sensor data from a variety of platforms.
“This is another example of the power of IBCS’ open architecture design, which enables the integration of any sensor to any effector in any domain. Any sensor, any effector, any domain: This is the future of the U.S. Army’s fight,” Northrop Grumman’s Dan Verwiel, vice president and general manager of missile defense and protective systems, said in a statement sent to Defense News.
The IBCS was originally developed as the brains of the Army’s future air and missile defense system, but its potential mission continues to grow as the service works to tie other sensors to IBCS to create a layered defense.
The service is also working to tie in radars and sensors for its Indirect Fire Protection Capability as well as its Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense system. The idea now is for the IBCS to tie into any sensor or shooter the Army brings into its framework.
The F-35 ground station has been sent to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, to continue F-35 integration testing during IAMD developmental testing. The Army’s IBCS program experienced delays as it added capabilities to its defensive framework to protect against everything from ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to unmanned aircraft to rockets, artillery and mortars. But it is now the top priority for the Army’s cross-functional team dedicated to air and missile defense. The team is tasked with modernizing capabilities under Army Futures Command. IBCS will undergo a limited user test next spring ahead of a production decision in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020. (Source: Defense News)
05 Aug 19. The Secret Service is ditching .357 SIG for 9mm. For years the US Secret Service, charged with protecting America’s financial systems and infrastructure in addition to the nation’s leaders and their families, has equipped its special agents with Sig Sauer’s P229 DAK, chambered for .357 SIG. Over the next two years, the Secret Service will move away from .357 SIG and back to the 9 mm Luger cartridge — the preferred round of numerous law enforcement agencies across the country.
In doing so, the service’s agents will also be getting a new standard issue weapon in the form of the Glock 19 Gen 5 MOS, the exclusive Glock 47, and the subcompact Glock 26.
According to Soldier Systems, all agents across the service will be issued the latest generation of the insanely popular G19, outfitted with Glock’s Modular Optical System (MOS), which allows the end user to easily outfit their pistol with a variety of 3rd party optical sights like Trijicon’s RMR or SRO without having to heavily modify the slide.
Members of the service’s Special Operations Division will receive the same pistol as well as the Glock 26, and the Glock 47, which was designed exclusively for the US Customs and Border Protection. Unavailable to the civilian market, the G47 uses a Glock 17 barrel, and can feed from G19X, G17, G34, and G45 magazines.
Additionally, Glock had earlier indicated that all three of the US CBP pistols came with the company’s match-grade Glock Marksman Barrel and Ameriglo BOLD sights.
The SOD plays host to the service’s elite Counter Assault Teams which often deploy with executive protection details to respond in the event of an attempt on a VIP’s life, while the detail quickly extracts the VIP from the area. Prior to adopting the .357 SIG round, the Secret Service issued the P228 in 9 mm Luger, though that pistol only lasted around 7-8 years before being superseded by the P229 DAK. The contract for the new pistols is expected to piggyback off the US CBP large scale buy, though with an expedited timeline for delivery and completion, with the contract’s expected fulfillment in 2021. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times)
05 Aug 19. For defense industry giants, there’s plenty of room in the hypersonic arena. Defense industry giants see the hypersonic missile market as large enough to be fruitful for all the major players.
Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are engaged at all levels of offensive and defensive hypersonic missile capabilities as prime contractors on a variety of programs within the military services, but they are also partnering with each other. The U.S. military has dramatically ramped up efforts to build its hypersonic missile capability in a race with Russia and China.
During Northrop Grumman’s second quarter earnings call for fiscal 2019, President and CEO Kathy Warden described the hypersonic arena as having “plenty of market opportunity for all three of us.” The company recently acquired Orbital ATK, which has expanded Northrop’s portfolio in hypersonics and other missile types, from propulsion and guidance systems to complete weapons.
Warden said Northrop would continue to be a key supplier to Raytheon and Lockheed, for which it has done in the “more traditional” cruise missile area. And Northrop will continue to partner on hypersonic weapons, she added.
Defense firms see dollar signs in hypersonics development, well in advance of potentially lucrative production contracts. Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson reported during the company’s second quarter earnings call for FY19 that recent contract awards from the U.S. military amounted to more than $3.5bn.
Hewson highlighted some of Lockheed’s contract wins — specifically $928m for the Air Force’s Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon program and $800m for the Navy’s conventional prompt strike hypersonic effort. The Air Force program was awarded in 2018.
In April, Lockheed reported that previous awards in hypersonic weapons — including a tactical boost-glide contract and the Air Force’s Air-Launched Rapid Response program — had a cumulative value of $2.5bn. The ARRW program experienced a successful captive-carry flight test on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber, Hewson said.
Fast forward to July: Lockheed is now looking at a cumulative value in contract awards of $3.5bn.
The new contracts include selection as prime contractor for the long-range hypersonic weapon system integration effort in support of the Army Hypersonics Project Office. And Lockheed won another contract as part of a team led by Dynetics to build a common hypersonic glide body prototype for the Army.
“We anticipate that both of these opportunities will be negotiated in the next few months,” Hewson noted.
Most of the hypersonic awards Lockheed received “were not in our plan,” Ken Possenriede, the firm’s chief financial officer, said during the earnings call.
“Just to give you a little color, we’re going to probably book about $600m of sales in hypersonics this year. And then the rest of that $3.5bn would go into the next two years,” he added.
Raytheon continues to invest in hypersonics as well as counter-hypersonic efforts, the company’s chairman and CEO, Thomas Kennedy, said during its second quarter earnings call for FY19.
“We’re actively working multiple hypersonics and counter-hypersonics programs. For example, we have the [Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept] HAWC system; the tactical boost glide; and we’re also participating in the Navy’s conventional prompt strike and also the Army’s long-range hypersonic weapons program, and also some other classified hypersonic and also counter-hypersonic programs,” Kennedy said. “So it is becoming a big part of our portfolio moving forward.”
Kennedy noted the HAWC program successfully completed some testing in a NASA high-temperature tunnel.
Raytheon has also signed an agreement with Northrop to develop and produce next-generation scramjet combustors to help power its air-breathing hypersonic weapons.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded Raytheon a contract in February to work on ground-launched hypersonic boost glide weapons.
According to Kennedy, Raytheon believes the market for counter-hypersonic technology is bigger than that of offensive hypersonic weapons.
There are also more opportunities to develop hypersonic capabilities within the company should the proposed merger with United Technologies Corp. move forward; Kennedy specifically cited efforts related to high-temperature engine materials and high-end sensors. Raytheon expected revenue to amount to about $300m this year in hypersonic-related work as well as a growing backlog over the next 12-18 months.
Northrop’s Warden reaffirmed the company’s commitment to uphold the partnerships with Lockheed and Raytheon established through Orbital ATK’s business. “We got into agreements to support them on certain programs, and we are very committed to uphold those agreements and continue to support them with our best and brightest people and technology,” she said.
Looking forward, Warden said Northrop will consider whether to go after opportunities as the prime or continue partnerships “through the prime of Raytheon, Lockheed and perhaps others that might emerge in this space as well, or both, and offer capability to everyone who is choosing to pursue the marketplace.”
Northrop is “certainly not looking to take an aggressive stance in that marketplace, because … it’s a growing market and it’s one that we feel is big enough for three parties to adequately play, and we want to make sure that our technology is getting into the hands of the war fighter and that we’re giving them the best capabilities in a timely fashion,” she said, “and sometimes it makes sense for us to work with our competitors to do that.”
While the hypersonics marketplace is in its nascent stage, companies are projecting weapons will move out of development and into production relatively soon. Prototype launches are expected to begin next year on many of the Defense Department’s programs. “Some of these programs actually have scope that is to prepare for production,” Lockheed’s Possenriede said. But “that doesn’t mean they’re going to go into production.”
Still, if some of the hypersonic prototypes are deemed successful after first launch, “I think it will be the time for that customer set to sit with us, to see if it makes sense to go into production. And that’s probably, say, two years out would be our best guess,” he added. (Source: Defense News)
05 Aug 19. North Korea says it tested new ‘multiple-launch guided rocket system’ again on 2 August. North Korea has announced that the weapon it test-fired on 2 August was the same “large-calibre multiple-launch guided rocket system” it had tested two days earlier.
Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on 3 August that the latest test-firing, which was witnessed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was aimed at “examining the altitude control flight performance, track control capability and rate of hits of the large-calibre multiple-launch guided ordnance rocket”, as well as confirming the “accuracy of hitting a target, and warhead explosion power” of the weapon. Referring to the 31 July test-firing, KCNA reported on 1 August that the new weapon would play “a main role in ground military operations in a short span of time”, adding that the firing had “verified the combat effectiveness of the overall system”. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
05 Aug 19. Raytheon, DARPA complete TBG baseline design review. Raytheon, in co-operation with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has completed a baseline design review of the company’s winged concept solution for the Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) hypersonic weapons programme. According to a Raytheon statement on 29 July, the review establishes the company’s technical approach for the critical design review (CDR) milestone.
Launched in 2014, the TBG programme is a joint DARPA/US Air Force (USAF) initiative to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable future air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost glide systems. In a boost glide system, a tactical payload is boosted to a high endo-atmospheric altitude at hypersonic speed (hypersonic weapons typically travel at speeds in excess of Mach5.5), separates from its booster, and glides down to its target.
DARPA awarded Raytheon US63.3m in March to progress its TBG concept from the preliminary design review (PDR) phase to the CDR phase. The award builds on an initial USD20.5m prototype research contract awarded to Raytheon in April 2015 to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable a TBG concept; Lockheed Martin was awarded a parallel USD147.3m contract in September 2016 to develop its TBG concept solution.
Raytheon will not comment on specific details of its TBG concept solution. Thomas Bussing, vice-president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, told Jane’s earlier this year, “Typically the outer mould lines, the performance of the system, and how it would be used is classified. What I can say is that we are developing a hypersonic glider with a very high-lift-over drag ratio.”
TBG is a two-phase effort that will include ground and flight testing to mature critical technologies, and aims to demonstrate the system’s performance through the integration of those technologies. The TBG programme is exploiting the technical knowledge and lessons derived from development and flight testing of previous boost glide systems, including the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). (Source: IHS Jane’s)
02 Aug 19. Hypersonic threats need an offense-defense mix. Next week, people from across the missile defense community will gather at an annual symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, to consider how to adapt U.S. missile defense efforts to the challenge of renewed competition with Russia and China. A centerpiece of their discussions will be the emergence of advanced hypersonic missile threats and what to do about them.
Over the past few years, the Pentagon has prioritized the development of offensive hypersonic strike weapons, with billions of dollars in contracts already awarded for each of the major military services to acquire hypersonic strike missiles of their own.
The counter-hypersonic mission, however, received surprisingly short shrift in recent defense budgets, with progress on hypersonic defense thus far piecemeal and halting. Some leading military officials charged with procuring hypersonic strike missiles have said that defending against hypersonic missiles is too hard, so we shouldn’t even try.
That short-sighted approach is at odds with the vision of newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who stated to Congress that he will advocate hypersonic missile defense, to include the development of new sensors, interceptors, and advanced command-and-control systems.
Public commentary on hypersonic threats has been somewhat hyperbolic. Yes, hypersonics are fast — five or more times the speed of sound — but that’s slower than many ballistic missiles. Aerodynamic maneuver makes for a less predictable flight path, but this also means that atmospheric friction would remove the kind of decoys that might accompany a ballistic reentry vehicle. Whether a boosted glide vehicle, a scramjet cruise missile or a maneuverable quasi-ballistic missile, hypersonics pose a complex air defense challenge, but they are not invulnerable.
The strategic significance of hypersonics is nevertheless quite real. Today’s Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Aegis defenses protect American carrier groups and ground forces against aerial and ballistic missile attack. Designed to go around or under those defenses, hypersonics are a more sophisticated means to hold forces at risk, and thereby undermine our broader defense goals and alliance system. Even if the United States catches up with the Chinese and Russians on hypersonic strike, our adversaries’ ability to hold U.S. carriers and forward bases at risk will push back U.S. forces. They could certainly also be used to target the American homeland, but the more urgent threat is regional. Passive defense only goes so far — ships can only go so fast, and air bases cannot be moved. Active defenses must be part of a balanced strategy.
The first priority here is a space sensor layer. Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles fly at lower and changing altitudes, are harder to see, and travel an uncertain flight path. Current early warning satellites can detect the launch of boost-glide vehicles but are unsuited to tracking them during the glide phase. Today’s surface-based ballistic missile radars would only be able to spot a weapon once it crosses the horizon. Only space sensors can provide birth-to-death, fire-control quality tracks for hypersonic missiles.
Unfortunately, recent budget requests have been rather tepid in their commitment to space sensors. The administration’s 2020 request virtually divested the program, and for the second year in a row the Missile Defense Agency listed the space sensor layer as its No. 1 unfunded priority. Thankfully, Congress seems to be in the process of restoring $108m to return the program to the MDA to move out on development this year.
The second element of hypersonic defense is interceptors. Although existing interceptors may well be improved, Secretary Esper has affirmed that new interceptors will have to be developed that are better suited to the mission’s stressing thermal and high-maneuver environment. The MDA’s third-highest unfunded priority for 2020 — $720m for hypersonic defense — seems unlikely to be restored this year, but should be restored in the 2021 budget. Directed-energy weapons could potentially target hypersonic threats in their cruise phase or jam them in their terminal phase, but the mission’s complexity will almost certainly require both kinetic and nonkinetic effectors.
The most challenging element will be developing a command-and-control architecture that ties everything together. A long-range hypersonic glide vehicle of significant range could cross continents and multiple combatant commands. Even with better interceptors and an adequate sensor layer, information and fire-control solutions must be developed and rapidly passed to commanders. The Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications network that supports the Ballistic Missile Defense System may be the foundation of such an architecture, but more dramatic upgrades will be required.
The advent of the hypersonic era is central to the efforts by Russia and China to counter U.S. power projection in the world. The Pentagon’s recent focus on hypersonic strike is necessary but insufficient. It falls now to congressional leadership and those assembling the 2021 budget to rebalance it with a more appropriate mix of hypersonic strike and defense. (Source: Defense News)
02 Aug 19. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been awarded a contract for the U.S. Army Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) directed energy prototyping initiative. The initiative includes integrating a directed energy weapon system on a Stryker vehicle as a pathfinding effort toward the U.S. Army M-SHORAD objective to provide more comprehensive protection of frontline combat units.
Northrop Grumman has been selected to develop and integrate a directed energy prototype solution on a Stryker combat vehicle for the U.S. Army to better protect highly mobile frontline units. The effort will culminate in a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration that informs Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) requirements.
“Northrop Grumman is eager to leverage its portfolio of innovative, proven technologies and integration expertise to accelerate delivery of next-generation protection to our maneuver forces,” said Dan Verwiel, vice president and general manager, missile defense and protective systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our flexible, open systems approach offers an end-to-end solution for the Army’s growing and ever-changing mission requirements in today’s complex threat environment.”
Under the initiative from the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office and a contract from Kord Technologies, Northrop Grumman will build and integrate a suite of advanced sensors; target acquisition and tracking; a 50-kilowatt class laser system; and battle-tested command-and-control on an Army Stryker combat vehicle. The effort will culminate in a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration that informs M-SHORAD requirements.
The directed energy M-SHORAD prototypes are part of the progression of an Army technology maturation initiative known as the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL).
The integrated platform allows early involvement with warfighter users to develop tactics, techniques, procedures and concepts of operations for future high energy laser weapons.
The Army’s future M-SHORAD protection for forward-deployed soldiers includes laser weapon systems as an effective complement to kinetic capabilities in countering rockets, artillery and mortars; unmanned aircraft systems; and other aerial threats.
The M-SHORAD directed energy prototyping initiative is managed by the U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
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