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MISSILE, BALLISTICS AND SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE

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14 Aug 19. Hypersonics Remain Top Priority for DOD. A hypersonic weapon moving at five times the speed of sound can travel across the Pacific Ocean in just over 100 minutes. U.S. adversaries are developing such weapons now, said Michael D. Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

“They are quite capable,” Griffin said. “The advantage offered by a hypersonic offense is that it overflies air defenses as we understand them today, and it underflies our missile defenses. It goes into the gap between air defense and missile defense.”

Speaking during a discussion at the Hudson Institute in Washington yesterday, Griffin told Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Rebeccah L. Heinrichs that hypersonic threats move so fast they’re almost too fast to stop. Dealing with the hypersonic threat is even more of an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary problem than ground missile defense was.” Michael D. Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering

“By the time we can see it on defensive radar systems, it’s nearly too late to close the kill chain,” he said. “It would be difficult to close that kill chain for one threat. But in a raid scenario, you just can’t get there from here, … so we have to see them coming from further out.”

Detecting the threat from hypersonics in enough time to neutralize, Griffin said, will require new detection systems in low Earth orbit.

“We need a proliferated layer of sensors, because we can’t see these things from a few spacecraft in geostationary orbit,” he said. “So the requirement leads you to a proliferated sensor layer in relatively much lower orbit.”

Griffin said it’s the Missile Defense Agency where the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor will be developed.

Connecting those sensors together into a network, he said, is a separate problem being developed at the Space Development Agency. He described what they’ve been asked to do as “a resilient, highly proliferated mesh network communications system in low Earth orbit, … similar to what you see commercial companies talking about for LEO broadband.”

That communications layer, he said, is central to hypersonic defense.

“The sensor layer is critical, but if it can’t talk among itself, it will not be effective,” Griffin said. “The ability to communicate underlays every other layer we wish to deploy, whether it is for space situational awareness, or hypersonic threat detection and tracking, or maritime domain awareness, or whatever. Whatever other functions we want, they are enabled first by the ability to communicate in a resilient fashion, which we don’t have today.

Hypersonic defense, he said, is not limited to just the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency. It’s an across-DOD effort that touches nearly everything.

“It touches space, it touches ground stations, it touches detection and tracking algorithms, and fire control algorithms,” the undersecretary said. “Dealing with the hypersonic threat is even more of an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary problem than ground missile defense was.” (Source: US DoD)

13 Aug 19. Colombian Navy test-fires Hae Seong anti-ship missile and DM2A3 torpedo on live targets. The Colombian Navy test-fired the South Korean-made SSM-700K Hae Seong anti-ship missile and the German-made Seehecht DM2A3 torpedo against live targets for the first time in Colombian waters during the sinking exercises (SINKEX) as part of the ‘Neptune III’ naval exercises.

A medium-range anti-ship missile capable of low-altitude, sea-skimming flight, with a range of more than 150 km and a top speed of Mach 0.85, was fired from a modernised FS-1500 Admiral Padilla-class light frigate against a decommissioned auxiliary vessel, ARC Buenaventura (BL162).

This is the first export version of the missile, which was jointly developed by the Korean Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and the Korean defence company LIG Nex1. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

14 Aug 19. Weaponizing Biotech: How China’s Military Is Preparing for a ‘New Domain of Warfare.’ Under Beijing’s civil-military fusion strategy, PLA General Hospital has emerged as a leader in gene-editing research.

We may be on the verge of a brave new world indeed. Today’s advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering have exciting applications in medicine — yet also alarming implications, including for military affairs. China’s national strategy of military-civil fusion (军民融合) has highlighted biology as a priority, and the People’s Liberation Army could be at the forefront of expanding and exploiting this knowledge.

The PLA’s keen interest is reflected in strategic writings and research that argue that advances in biology are contributing to changing the form or character (形态) of conflict. For example:

  • In 2010’s War for Biological Dominance (制生权战争), Guo Jiwei (郭继卫), a professor with the Third Military Medical University, emphasizes the impact of biology on future warfare.
  • In 2015, then-president of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences He Fuchu (贺福初) argued that biotechnology will become the new “strategic commanding heights” of national defense, from biomaterials to “brain control” weapons. Maj. Gen. He has since become the vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences, which leads China’s military science enterprise.
  • Biology is among seven “new domains of warfare” discussed in a 2017 book by Zhang Shibo (张仕波), a retired general and former president of the National Defense University, who concludes: “Modern biotechnology development is gradually showing strong signs characteristic of an offensive capability,” including the possibility that “specific ethnic genetic attacks” (特定种族基因攻击) could be employed.
  • The 2017 edition of Science of Military Strategy (战略学), a textbook published by the PLA’s National Defense University that is considered to be relatively authoritative, debuted a section about biology as a domain of military struggle, similarly mentioning the potential for new kinds of biological warfare to include “specific ethnic genetic attacks.”

These are just a few examples of an extensive and evolving literature by Chinese military scholars and scientists who are exploring new directions in military innovation.

Following these lines of thinking, the PLA is pursuing military applications for biology and looking into promising intersections with other disciplines, including brain science, supercomputing, and artificial intelligence. Since 2016, the Central Military Commission has funded projects on military brain science, advanced biomimetic systems, biological and biomimetic materials, human performance enhancement, and “new concept” biotechnology.

Gene Editing

Meanwhile, China has been leading the world in the number of trials of the CRISPR gene-editing technology in humans. Over a dozen clinical trials are known to have been undertaken, and some of these activities have provoked global controversy. It’s not clear whether Chinese scientist He Jiankui, may have received approval or even funding from the government for editing embryos that became the world’s first genetically modified humans. The news provoked serious concerns and backlash around the world and in China, where new legislation has been introduced to increase oversight over such research. However, there are reasons to be skeptical that China will overcome its history and track record of activities that are at best ethically questionable, or at worst cruel and unusual, in healthcare and medical sciences.

But it is striking how many of China’s CRISPR trials are taking place at the PLA General Hospital, including to fight cancer. Indeed, the PLA’s medical institutions have emerged as major centers for research in gene editing and other new frontiers of military medicine and biotechnology. The PLA’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, or AMMS, which China touts as its “cradle of training for military medical talent,” was recently placed directly under the purview of the Academy of Military Science, which itself has been transformed to concentrate on scientific and technological innovation. This change could indicate a closer integration of medical science with military research.

In 2016, an AMMS doctoral researcher published a dissertation, “Research on the Evaluation of Human Performance Enhancement Technology,” which characterized CRISPR-Cas as one of three primary technologies that might boost troops’ combat effectiveness. The supporting research looked at the effectiveness of the drug Modafinil, which has applications in cognitive enhancement; and at transcranial magnetic stimulation, a type of brain stimulation, while also contending that the “great potential” of CRISPR-Cas as a “military deterrence technology in which China should “grasp the initiative” in development.

AI + Biotech

The intersection of biotechnology and artificial intelligence promises unique synergies. The vastness of the human genome — among the biggest of big data — all but requires AI and machine learning to point the way for CRISPR-related advances in therapeutics or enhancement.

In 2016, the potential strategic value of genetic information led the Chinese government to launch the National Genebank (国家基因库), which intends to become the world’s largest repository of such data. It aims to “develop and utilize China’s valuable genetic resources, safeguard national security in bioinformatics (生物信息学), and enhance China’s capability to seize the strategic commanding heights” in the domain of biotechnology.

The effort is administered by BGI, formerly known as Beijing Genomics Inc., which is Beijing’s de facto national champion in the field. BGI has established an edge in cheap gene sequencing, concentrating on amassing massive amounts of data from a diverse array of sources. The company has a global presence, including laboratories in California and Australia.

U.S. policymakers have been concerned, if not troubled, by the company’s access to the genetic information of Americans. BGIhas been pursuing a range of partnerships, including with the University of California and with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on human genome sequencing. BGI’s research and partnerships in Xinjiang also raise questions about its linkage to human rights abuses, including the forced collectionof genetic information from Uighurs in Xinjiang.

There also appear to be links between BGI’s research and military research activities, particularly with the PLA’s National University of Defense Technology. BGI’s bioinformatics research has used Tianhe supercomputers to process genetic information for biomedical applications, while BGI and NUDT researchers have collaborated on several publications, including the design of tools for the use of CRISPR.

Biotech’s Expansive Frontier

It will be increasingly important to keep tabs on the Chinese military’s interest in biology as an emerging domain of warfare, guided by strategists who talk about potential “genetic weapons” and the possibility of a “bloodless victory.” Although the use of CRISPR to edit genes remains novel and nascent, these tools and techniques are rapidly advancing, and what is within the realm of the possible for military applications may continue to shift as well. In the process, the lack of transparency and uncertainty of ethical considerations in China’s research initiatives raise the risks of technological surprise. (Source: Defense One)

14 Aug 19. NAVAIR contracts BAE Systems to integrate CV-22 HMD with Forward Defensive Weapon System. BAE Systems Controls has been contracted by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) for the software development associated with the integration of Defensive Weapon System (DWS) enhancements with the CV-22 tiltrotor helmet-mounted display (HMD).

The DWS, which is also known as AN/AWG-35(V), is a belly-mounted GAU-17 7.62 mm machine gun that provides the CV-22 with a mission-configurable, crew-served, night vision-compatible weapon system. Under a USD1.9m delivery order awarded by the NAVAIR’s Program Executive Office Air Assault and Special Mission Programs (A), V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275) on 25 July, BAE Systems will perform non-recurring engineering for software development to integrate DWS enhancements with the colour helmet-mounted display (CHMD) to control the gun system of the CV-22 aircraft. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

13 Aug 19. Two in one – Rheinmetall’s new 60mm mortar for infantry and special forces. Rheinmetall has developed a new 60mm mortar for infantry and special forces. The RSG60 features innovative design and engineering characteristics which make this indirect fire system very light and easy to handle.  A few quick manual adjustments turn the 15.8 kg standard infantry version into a commando mortar weighing just 6.8 kg, with no need for tools. This makes the RSG60 a two-in-one solution.

Depending on the ammunition and charges, the standard version can attain ranges of up 3,200 metres. Equipped with a thirty centimetre-longer barrel, the range increases by around 500 metres. The commando variant of the RSG60 has a range of around 2,000 metres.

About 70 centimetres long, the barrel is made of steel with a carbon fibre over-wrap. This assures the necessary stability at the same time as lower weight, resulting in a barrel that weighs around 30 percent less than a conventional steel mortar. The base plate is made of carbon fibre composite material. The novel design of this indirect fire weapon not only saves space, it can be set up and ready to fire in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, by loosening the retaining bolts, it is possible to separate the RSG60 from the base plate in around thirty seconds, transforming it into lighter-weight commando mortar.

Development of the new mortar began in October 2017 at Rheinmetall Waffe Munition. Rheinmetall’s objective was to augment the Group’s versatile family of 60mm ammunition and existing Rheinmetall Electronics fire control technology with a matching, future-oriented weapon system. Right from the start, development work therefore focused on low weight, speed and ergonomics.  The RSG60 has repeatedly undergone successful test firing.

12 Aug 19. It’s official: US Army inks Iron Dome deal. The contract to purchase two Iron Dome systems for the U.S. Army’s interim cruise missile defense capability has been finalized, according to the deputy in charge of the service’s air and missile defense modernization efforts.

Iron Dome was co-developed by American company Raytheon and Israeli defense firm Rafael. It is partly manufactured in the United States.

Now that the contract is set in stone, the Army will be able to figure out delivery schedules and details in terms of taking receipt of the systems, Daryl Youngman told Defense News at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, on Aug. 8.

The Army was shifting around its pots of funding within its Indirect Fires Protection Capability (IFPC) program — under development to defend against rockets, artillery and mortars as well as unmanned aircraft and cruise missiles — to fill its urgent capability gap for cruise missile defense on an interim basis. Congress mandated the Army deploy two batteries by fiscal 2020 in the service’s fiscal 2019 budget.

Iron Dome could feed into an enduring capability, depending on how it performs in the interim, Youngman said during a separate interview shortly before the symposium.

“We’re conducting analysis and experimentation for enduring IFPC,” Youngman said. “So that includes some engineering-level analysis and simulations to determine the performance of multiple options, including Iron Dome — or pieces of Iron Dome — and then how we integrate all of that into the [integrated air and missile defense] system.”

Col. Chuck Worshim, the Army’s project manager for cruise missile defense systems with the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, told Defense News in April that the service was reworking its enduring IFPC program strategy and would experiment throughout the summer and fall to get a better sense of how IFPC might look beyond interim capabilities. In the meantime, Iron Dome will be fielded to operational units and will likely participate in formal and informal exercises to identify how it can be used as part of the IFPC and air defense architectures, compared to how it is currently employed in Israel countering incoming rockets and missiles at short range. Iron Dome is one of the most used air defense systems in the world. (Source: Defense News)

09 Aug 19. Israeli IDF’s Kochavi Plans ‘Fast & Strong’ Weapons Department. As a first step, Kochavi wants to increase the capabilities of the IDF’s “Spearhead” units – the special units that hit fast and strong. This part of the plan explains the urgent need for a replacement for the old CH-53 of the Israeli Air Force, as well as for the Bell-Boeing V-22.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) plan a new multi-disciplinary department charged with listening to commanders operational needs and getting them the weapons they want as quickly as possible. The goal? To build a force ready to fight “fast and strong” (fast and furious would be more fun, no?) to hammer an enemy quickly enough to avoid paralyzing the Israeli population that lives within range of over 200.000 missiles deployed in Lebanon and Gaza.

Although few details are yet publicly available, the outline of the approach appears clear. A few months after Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi assumed command of the IDF he crafted a new multi-year plan for the Israeli military. Kochavi’s main target is the fast and maximum denial of enemy capabilities and the removal of the missile threat to the home front.

The acquisition goal appears similar to what has been happening in the much larger US military, where the four services increasingly sidestep the hulking bureaucracy that has conceived of and develop weapons since the end of the Cold War. They now often commission prototypes which are built quickly, tested and then turned into deployable weapons.

Today in Israel, the ideas often come from the large defense companies, IAI, Elbit systems and Rafael. They are submitted to the Defense Ministry’s ministry of defense directorate for Development of Arms and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT) and then a long process follows until the development begins.

The timeline of Leonardo DRS’s 50 years of innovation is peppered with notable technologies and capabilities that have given militaries around the world a warfighting edge. Here’s a look.

This new effort is designed to overcome the problem that became clear in Operation Protective Edge. That led to 51 days of protracted combat. The critics say that the operation should have ended after a few days if the IDF had applied its fire power differently, and Kochavi appears to agree.

As a first step, Kochavi wants to increase the capabilities of the IDF’s “Spearhead” units – the special units that hit fast and strong. This part of the plan explains the urgent need for a replacement for the old CH-53 of the Israeli Air Force, and the urgent need for the Bell-Boeing V-22.

But at the same time, he wants to add multi-dimensional capabilities like cyber, drones, laser and even space. While all Israeli eyes are on Lebanon and Gaza, the existential threat is Iran building a nuclear bomb and developing longer-range ballistic missiles. This multi-dimensional approach is something that is going to be a major motive in the mufti-year plan.

This is all described in a paper that recently appeared in the IDF’s official journal, Maarachot. Both Iran and Russia are bringing advanced capabilities into the arena in the fields of fire, air defense, electronic warfare and cyber, say the two authors, reserve colonels Gabi Siboni, chief methodologist of the IDF’s conceptual laboratory, and Yuval Bazak, maneuverability team leader. “The Second Lebanon War and the Gaza operations proved the enemy’s ability to learn quickly, and transfer technology to operational capabilities. In future conflicts we may discover that capabilities that work well in routine, or even limited operations, may lose a great deal of their ability when operating in intensive conflicts,”

Siboni told Breaking Defense that the IDF must get ready for a war that will begin by surprise like the 1973 Yom Kippur war. “Such a scenario calls for increasing the capabilities of the local defense forces from among the inhabitants of the population in small villages and settlements in the south and northern parts of Israel,” he said.

But all this may run into the great defense bogey — budget problems. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate from 2002 to 2006, said be expects such a multi-year plan will meet budget hurdles. But major parts of it can still be performed if the IDF takes some efficiency steps.

On the operational side, Farkash stressed that excellent intelligence is crucial when huge military units are not likely to clash. “This is especially true when the wars today are not of big formations of armies that clash frontally, but of small units equipped with anti-tank weapons and long range rockets. To fight such a war and end it fast, the IDF will need the best real-time intelligence data that will allow the shortest sensor to shooter to enable precise strikes of targets like rocket launchers hidden in highly populated areas,” Farkash said.

Lt. Gen. Cochavi comes from the intelligence corps of the IDF. There, a piece of information becomes a target almost in real time. “He wants something like this with the obvious limitations in everything that is related to give the fighting units the tools they need,” the former intelligence head said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)

11 Aug 19. SIG MPX Copperhead 9mm Pistol Review. SIG Sauer’s MPX Copperhead is a 9mm pistol. But don’t pigeonhole it with the other handguns you’ve experienced. It’s a versatile firearm that’ll eat any ammo you throw in it and fit almost anywhere you’d like to keep it. It’s big (-ish) for a traditional pistol but tiny for a PCC and it’s got a stock brace to keep you on target. It’s functioned flawlessly and shot accurately with each ammo I’ve poured through it. Let me show you the details and some shooting examples.

Sizing

The Copperhead is the chopped little sibling of SIG’s MPX group. The barrel is just 3.5 inches long, and the whole frame is just 14.5 inches long. At 2.4 inches wide, it’s probably thicker than most of the pistols in your safe, and its 8-inch height makes it pretty tall, and that’s without a magazine. It weighs 4.5 pounds and you can feel every ounce of it when you add a full 20-round magazine and an optic and try to wield it one-handed. You’re probably not going to be wearing it on your hip.

Construction

It’s got a monolithic upper–it’s all one piece of aluminum. While its controls are completely familiar to AR users, it’s more streamlined than most AR’s. There’s no dust cover, there’s no handguard, there’s nothing extra to snag or get caught up when deploying from a concealed location. You can hold it pretty much anywhere with your second hand and get a solid grip.

The pistol grip looks small, but it’s very ergonomic. Several people I’ve shared it with have commented that they’d love to put this grip on their AR’s. It’s narrow at the top and flared at the bottom in three dimensions so it fills your hand well, and it seems to fit small hands and large hands equally well.

The over-sized mag well guides magazines into place and is a good spot for a second hand to grip. The frame extends out under the barrel and flares downward to keep you from gripping too far forward and getting in front of the barrel. It’s very intuitive to hold and I never felt my hand was in danger of mistakenly wandering downrange.

We’ll talk about the wrist brace below.

The first time I saw it, I thought the Copperhead looked like something from the Soviet era–like the Yugo car company made a sub-machine gun. The upper and lower receivers are Cerakote finished in flat dark earth, and they dwarf the diminutive black pistol grip and the skinny 9mm magazine. However, the more you shoot it the better it looks. Now I recognize that the simplicity of the exterior allows it to deploy smoothly. The action works as simply and as flawlessly as the exterior. I’ve changed my mind and I think it’s a good looking gun.

Action

The Copperhead employs a short-stroke gas piston. This system allows it to shoot all kinds of weights and charges of ammo without making any adjustments to the gas valve. I pulled it out of the box and shot Winchester white box 115gr, cheap Norinco rounds, Winchester USA Forged steel case 115gr, Winchester Train and Defend 147gr (Train),Winchester USA Ready 115gr, and SIG’s M17 Military Grade 124gr which is a +P military grade ammo. Everything cycled flawlessly and all the casings ended up in the same pile. There’s nothing to report about recoil–the bolt carrier’s mass takes up most of it. It stays on target well.

Some of this consistency and reliability comes from its fully-closed and locked rotating bolt. It locks up tightly and the breach doesn’t open until the charge is well spent and the pressures have passed down the barrel. The carrier moves back and the breach begins to open, but the bolt remains locked to the chamber. Plus, there’s a lot of frame material. It’s a safe system and there’s no ill-effect from gases coming back at the operator. The bolt’s rearward travel is stopped by a hard rubber bumper, not a spring-loaded buffer tube like on an AR. (Source: GunsAmerica)

08 Aug 19. A Small Texas City Will Become the Country’s ‘Hypersonics Research Capital.’ The US Army Futures Command will test missiles and autonomous vehicles some 100 miles east of Austin. The U.S. Army Futures Command may be in Texas to take advantage of Austin’s tech-startup scene, but the Lone Star State has at least one other feature that meshes well with research into hypersonic missiles, lasers, and autonomous weapons: lots of room. On Thursday, Texas A&M University announced that it will build a $130m testing range, lab, and proving ground for the Futures Command on a 2,000-acre campus near the small city of Bryan, about 100 miles east of Austin. The facility will include a kilometer-long testing tunnel for hypersonic missiles, weapons that fly at five times the speed of sound.

“Texas A&M will be the hypersonics research capital of the country with the planned construction of a ‘ballistic aero-optics and materials’ [or BAM] facility,” Katherine Banks, Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering at Texas A&M, told a meeting of the university’s board of regents on Thursday.  “BAM will consist of an above-ground tunnel that is one kilometer long and two meters in diameter with integrated sensors. It will be used for hypersonic and directed energy research.”

Currently, the Pentagon does much of its hypersonics testing at NASA’s Langley, Va., facility, home of the world’s largest wind tunnel: at 80 feet by 120 feet. Military leaders have pointed out that China has built more test ranges for hypersonics than the United States. That’s contributed to a research and development gap in missile development. “If you look at some of our peer competitors, China being one, the number of facilities that they’ve built to do hypersonics…surpasses the number we have in this country. It’s quickly surpassing it by two or three times. It is very clear that China has made this one of their national priorities. We need to do the same,” DARPA director Steven Walker told reporters in March 2018.

The new facility will also have what the university is calling an “Innovation Proving Ground” for testing autonomous vehicles. “The systems involved are highly complex with networks and sensors using innovative operating approaches. Because of the integrated instrumentation and land area, a test-site like this is unique,” said Banks.

The Texas legislature kicked in $50m to help develop the facility. Texas A&M will spend $80m, including a $50m building with labs, an office for the Army Futures Command, and an accelerator space; and $30m for infrastructure improvements. (Source: Defense News)

09 Aug 19. Test of liquid propellant linked to explosion and fire in Russia. A test of a liquid propellant for an unidentified missile on 8 August at Russia’s test facility near Nenoska and Severodvinsk led to an explosion and fire, the governor of the Arkhangelsk Region, Igor Orlov, said in a VKontakte post on 8 August. The explosion led to a fire that a video posted on Twitter on 9 August showed burning and producing a large cloud of black smoke. Estimates of the number of casualties caused by the incident vary, with the TASS news agency reporting on 8 August that 1 person died and at least 10 were injured, while Orlov’s VKontakte post said six people were injured. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

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