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24 Oct 19. South Korea aims to deploy Tiger Shark torpedo by 2020. South Korea is expected to deploy the Tiger Shark torpedo on its naval submarines by 2020, a South Korean government agency has told Jane’s. A full-scale mock-up of the weapon, which has been designed for the Chang Bogo and KSS classes of submarines, was showcased at the International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition (MADEX 2019) exhibition in Busan. The Tiger Shark concept was first introduced by LIG Nex1 during MADEX 2017. An Agency for Defense Development (ADD) official said acceptance trials by the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN) were conducted in 2018, and production, as well deployment on RoKN submarines, is expected by 2020. The Tiger Shark is designed to strike enemy vessels from longer distances and features enhanced speed and processing capabilities over its predecessor, the White Shark torpedo. The wire-guided torpedo is equipped with passive and active sonar and possesses wake-homing capabilities. According to LIG Nex1, the conformal transducer arrays have more than +/-100° horizontal detection angle and about +/- 20° vertical detection capabilities. Navigational data is provided by a fibre-optic inertial navigation system (INS). The torpedo is designed for standard 553 mm tubes, has a length of 7.1 m, and a weight of 1.7 tonnes. The torpedo is armed with 260 kg of plastic-bonded explosive (PBX) warhead with magnetic influence and contact fuses. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
23 Oct 19. Indian Air Force test fires BrahMos. The Indian Air Force (IAF) on 21 and 22 October successfully test-fired two BrahMos operationally-configured supersonic cruise missiles from mobile launchers onTrak Island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, off India’s east coast.
“A direct hit [on surrogate targets] close to 300 km away was achieved in both cases,” the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) announced on 23 October, adding that the back-to-back missile firings were conducted to “assess mission readiness and swift deployment of BrahMos over long distances”.
The PIB also declared that firing the missile, which has been jointly developed by India’s state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM), enhanced the IAFs capability to engage ground targets with pinpoint accuracy. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
24 Oct 19. Could F1 technology power laser weapons? The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory is working with UK industry and the US Navy to explore advanced energy storage options for British warships. Grant Turnbull finds out how the project is adapting motorsport technology to power the next generation of naval laser weapons.
Futuristic laser weapons that can blast drones out of the sky and the high-speed world of motorsport don’t sound like two areas that would usually share common technologies. But as it turns out, there are actually areas where the two meet, specifically when it comes to energy creation and storage.
The highly complex and innovative world of Formula 1 engineering has pioneered the use of stored energy to accelerate to ever-faster speeds without increasing the amount of harmful emissions to the environment. In 2009, F1 introduced the kinetic energy recovery system, or KERS, which allowed a power boost of 80bhp for 6.6 seconds using energy generated under braking that was then stored in a motor generator unit or electric flywheel.
F1 had effectively entered the hybrid age, utilising electric power along with the standard internal combustion engine.
It was not a smooth ride for the introduction of KERS initial systems were heavy and complex, and there were also safety fears when one team mechanic was hospitalised following an electric shock in 2009. In its first year, many leading teams chose not to use KERS at all. That has changed, especially since vehicle weight limits have increased (F1 cars are now over 100kg heavier than a decade ago) and teams have rapidly innovated to take full advantage of stored energy.
KERS has also made its way to the historic Le Mans 24-hour race, with an Audi R18 car fitted with Williams Hybrid Power technology winning the top prototype position in 2012. It’s this innovation – pioneered by the likes of Williams Hybrid Power and its flywheel technology – that has piqued the interest of the defence industry, especially with regard to new equipment that will require intensive energy loads, such as directed energy weapons.
From F1 to laser weapons
The UK’s DSTL is working closely with British aerospace and automotive component specialists GKN to explore this technology. The company has significant experience in the area, especially since it acquired Williams Hybrid Power as part of a £8m deal in 2014. DSTL and GKN have come up with the Flywheel energy storage system (FESS), which uses high-speed and lightweight flywheels to provide high-power electric pulses.
“This technology was originally developed by the Williams F1 team and was brought to us for potential use in Defence,” noted Andrew Tate, the senior principal marine systems engineer at DSTL. “We saw an attractive option to bolster defence capability through the provision of more robust and futureproof power systems for naval ships.
As well as working closely with UK industry, DSTL has partnered with research organisations within the US Navy to test the FESS for naval applications. This bilateral testing has been “fundamental to the success of the project”, according to the UK MoD, and carried out under what is known as the Advanced Electric Power and Propulsion Project Arrangement.
This arrangement includes the Office of Naval Research, and Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Electric Ship Office (PMS 320), with US testing also supported by the US Coalition Warfare Program. Earlier this year, NAVSEA released its latest Naval Power & Energy Systems Technology Roadmap led by the Electric Ship Office, which stated that the US Navy was “on the cusp of revolutionary changes” that will take the form of “high-power pulsed mission systems”.
“These include directed energy weapons such as lasers and stochastic electronic warfare systems, radiated energy systems such as the air and missile defense radar, and advances in kinetic energy weapons, including electro-magnetic railguns,” said Stephen Markle, the director and program manager of PMS 320.
He added: “Legacy power systems found on all existing ships do not possess the inherent electrical ‘inertia’ to withstand the ramp-up/down (on/off), or ripple (pulsation) effects of complex power profiles of these advanced mission systems.”
For the UK-US testing of FESS, the teams involved have used an approach known as power hardware in-the-loop, which sees the integration of a real FESS system into a virtual ship power architecture that emulates a Royal Navy operating in real time. This was initially carried out at Florida State University, and was then brought to the Power Networks Demonstration Centre in Scotland to advance the UK’s PHIL capabilities.
“This project gave us a great opportunity to showcase the PHIL test-bed that we’ve developed at PNDC,” said Kyle Jennett, the PNDC MOD programme technical lead, in a UK MoD statement. “This test bed lets us connect real-world hardware, like the FESS, to simulated naval platforms to evaluate the impact on the ship during different operational scenarios.”
In the future, this technology could ease the integration of next-generation weaponry onto naval vessels, including the UK Dragonfire, which is being developed by DSTL and UK industry as part of the laser directed energy weapon capability demonstrator programme. It is hoped that in the future UK DragonFire will drastically reduce the cost of engagements, as well as providing crews with a range of options for defeating incoming vessels, drones and indirect-fire attacks. In the US, there is also a flurry of activity on directed energy weapons, as well as electromagnetic railguns that can propel solid projectiles at hypersonic velocities. (Source: army-technology.com)
23 Oct 19. Vulcano 155mm ammunition qualification tests nearing completion. Diehl Defence has announced that qualification tests for the Vulcano 155mm ammunition are nearing completion. Leonardo and Diehl Defence developed the Vulcano family of precision-guided munition for the 127mm naval guns and 155mm land artillery systems under a contract with Germany and Italy. The companies also completed the qualification programme of the Vulcano 127mm weapon system and achieved compatibility with all 127mm and 155mm systems.
Diehl Defence stated that the 127/155mm ammunition family is undergoing testing for operational use by the Italian Navy and artillery.
In a statement, Diehl Defence said: “The fire command unit ‘pFCU’ with the embedded fire command computation programme ‘NABK’ was successfully tested by the artillery for the army ammunition V155mm and is used with its weapon systems FH70 and PzH2000.”
The company is also planning to undertake operational suitability test for Vulcano 127mm on the German Navy’s F125 Baden-Württemberg-class frigate.
Leonardo and Diehl are currently integrating Vulcano 155mm into the PzH2000 weapon system for the German Army.
The ammunition is expected to provide extended range and precision for howitzers.
While the Vulcano 155 will deliver a range of 70km, the Vulcano 127 is designed to provide an operative range of 80km.
Diehl Defence added: “The ammunition family reaches highest target accuracy through the unique combination of satellite-based navigation with laser or infrared-sensors for terminal homing.
“This makes the Vulcano family the most accurate artillery ammunition for land and naval applications worldwide.”
Vulcano 155mm projectile is a sub-calibre, fin-stabilised airframe loaded with insensitive explosive tungsten rings.
The high-explosive (IHE) warhead can be used against vehicles, semi-armoured vehicles, and infantry command posts.
The programming kits of the weapon systems support either fully integrated or standalone operations. (Source: army-technology.com)
23 Oct 19. Russia develops new 57mm combat module. Rostec’s High-Precision Weapons Company (HPWC) is developing a new weapon system armed with the 2A91 57mm cannon for use on Russia’s armoured vehicles, Sergey Abramov, a Rostec industrial director, told the TASS news agency on 22 October. The Russian Ministry of Defence is considering a 57 mm weapon system to arm its BMP-3 and T-15 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). Abramov said Rostec had presented two options to meet the requirement: the AU-220M ‘Baikail’ developed by Uralvagonzavod’s Burevestnik Central Research Institute and the system being developed by HPWC.
TASS reported that the HPWC module has not been shown in public and has no official designation but will be showcased shortly. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
23 Oct 19. US Army set to lift range ceiling on PrSM. The US Army is set to revise the baseline objective range requirement for the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) to ‘beyond 500 km’, subsequent to prototype demonstration flights of both competitor solutions in November and December this year. PrSM is an accelerated army initiative, dating from March 2017, to develop and field an all-weather long-range hypersonic precision strike capability, using ground-launched missile-delivered indirect fires, to engage imprecisely located area and point targets.
Intended to replace the legacy non-IM and Cluster Munition policy-compliant Lockheed Martin MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) currently in the US Army inventory, the PrSM requirement is being competed by both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. The prototype requirement includes a Launch Pod Missile Container and a fully integrated surface-to-surface guided missile that will be compatible with the M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers. PrSM will be delivered as a two-missiles-per-pod system – one missile in each launch cell – which, compared with the current ATACMS capability, effectively doubles the PrSM load out in both the M142 and M270 launchers.
The current objective range requirement specified in the PrSM Capability Development Document (CDD) is set at 60 km to 499 km – the maximum range permitted for land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers under the provisions of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) between the United States and the then-Soviet Union. The United States formally withdrew from the treaty on 2 August this year; Russia revoked its treaty obligations shortly thereafter.
“We’ve now been relieved of the INF Treaty restrictions,” Brigadier General John Rafferty, Director at Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) meeting in Washington in October. “After our first couple of flight tests, we will look at how [both competitors] are able to validate the models that will show the maximum capability of these missiles. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
23 Oct 19. Rafael’s Trophy APS delivered to US Army for Abrams integration. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has delivered its first Trophy Active Protection Systems (APSs) to the US Army for integration on the M1 Abrams main battle tank. In mid-October the company announced that its first Trophy APSs had been delivered to the service as part of plans to outfit four brigades’ worth of tanks.
“The deliveries are the culmination of a multi-year qualification process,” the company wrote in a 15 October announcement. “A joint team of government and industry from both the US and Israel worked together to adapt and integrate Trophy for both army and marine corps Abrams variants.”
Army leaders have been looking at various hard-kill APSs over the years as part of its bid to equip ground combat vehicles with a technology to shoot down incoming threats such as low-cost, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), and rocket propelled grenades. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Oct 19. Russia receives final contracted Tor-M2 air defence system. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has received the final contracted Tor-M2 air defence system from the Izhevsk Electromechanical Plant ‘Kupol’, the company’s general director Fanil Ziyatdinov told the TASS news agency on 18 October.
“In October 2019, the sixth set of air defence systems, consisting of 12 combat vehicles and [three command and control vehicles], was shipped to the Air Defence Forces’ 726th Training Centre for training and rearmament of the 245th anti-aircraft missile battalion [divizion in Russian] of the Southern Military District’s 42nd Motor Rifle Division,” the report quotes Ziyatdinov as saying.
This completed the state contract for the supply of six Tor-M2 battalions. However, on 19 September, the Russian MoD signed a further contract with Kupol for the delivery of additional Tor-M2 and Tor-M2DT systems valued at approximately RUB100bn (USD1.57bn). The systems from this second order will be delivered between 2019 and 2027, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the contract signing. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Oct 19. British-made hypersonic engine passes key milestone at Colorado test site. The key component of a British hypersonic, air-breathing rocket engine with the potential to fly aircraft and space vehicles at Mach 5 speed has been successfully tested at a site in the United States.
Reaction Engines said in an Oct. 22 statement that the precooler heat exchanger element of its Sabre (synergetic air-breathing rocket engine) had run at the equivalent of five times the speed of sound at its test facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port outside of Denver.
The ultra-lightweight precooler heat exchanger is the vital component that stops the engine overheating at high flight speeds.
The air-breathing rocket engine could be a game changer, with Reaction Engines and its backers targeting hypersonic combat jets, civil aircraft, reusable space vehicles and other platforms as potential applications.
BAE Systems, Reaction Engines, Rolls-Royce and Boeing’s venture capital arm HorizonX are all stakeholders in the company.
Reaction Engines has attracted development funding from the British government, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the European Space Agency, among others.
The tests demonstrated the precooler’s ability to cool airflow at speeds significantly in excess of the operational limit of any jet engine-powered aircraft in history.
“Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of the Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft—– the world’s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft,” Reaction Engines said.
The Colorado tests were part of a DARPA project known as HTX, which was awarded to Reaction Engines in 2017 aimed at conducting high-temperature airflow testing in the United States.
“The company has successfully completed tests in the U.S. of its proprietary heat exchanger that exposed it to hypersonic conditions approaching 1,000 degrees centigrade (~1,800°F). This test program validated precooler performance under the high-temperature airflow conditions expected during high-speed flight, up to Mach 5,” the company said.
The heat exchanger performed its precooler function by quenching about 1,800-degree Fahrenheit temperatures in less than one-twentieth of a second. The most recent trial followed U.S.-based tests in April that saw the precooler operate at about 788 degrees Fahrenheit — matching the thermal conditions corresponding to Mach 3.3 flight.
Richard Varvill, Reaction Engines’ co-founder and current chief technology officer, said in a statement that the latest test was a “momentous landmark.”
“The performance of our proprietary precooler technology was validated at hypersonic flight conditions and takes us closer to realising our objective of developing the first air-breathing engine capable of accelerating from zero to Mach 5,” he said.
The success of the recent test opens the way to a trial of a full Sabre core engine in the next 12 to 18 months, said a company spokesman. The firm is nearly done building a new facility in Westcott, southern England, which is to host the next phase of the engine testing.
Engineers are in the early stages of looking at what a bespoke platform to test the Sabre engine might look like. One option, expected sometime in the next decade, is a Hawk jet trainer-sized UAV with a delta wing, said the spokesman. An early application for the technology could operate on an existing turbojet.
Earlier this year the British Ministry of Defence announced funding for a program to improve performance of an existing combat jet by adapting precooler technology. The program will undertake design studies, research, development, analysis and experimentation relating to high-Mach advanced propulsion systems and will be led by Rolls-Royce, with Reaction Engines and BAE Systems as technology partners.
The then-chief of the air staff, Air Marshal Stephen Hillier, told a conference in London in July that the EJ-200 engine, which powers the Typhoon fighter, was one option under consideration.
Its use in a yet-to-be-launched, British, sixth-generation fighter program known as Tempest could be another potential application, he hinted. (Source: Defense News)
22 Oct 19. Europeans propose siccing self-learning drone swarms on air defenses. A European consortium has pitched the idea of grooming intelligent drone swarms to confuse, disable and destroy enemy air defenses. The proposal is part of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research effort by the European Union to improve collaboration on among member states. Under the heading “Emerging Game Changers,” EU officials asked companies earlier this year to submit ideas for “promising breakthrough technologies” in the field of artificial intelligence for defense applications.
The idea behind “SEAD Swarm” is to create the necessary algorithms that would enable a mass of aerial drones to inspect the characteristics of air defense systems, distribute the information within the swarm and derive a plan of attack against weak points. Actions taken could include blinding radar sensors, overwhelming anti-aircraft fire with kamikaze-type tactics, or attacking sites with explosive or electronic-warfare payloads.
The acronym SEAD is short for “suppression of enemy air defenses,” military platforms that often expose pilots of manned aircraft to significant risk of getting shot down.
The proposed project comes in the wake of Finland designating advances in AI a key objective for its six-month term leading the Council of the European Union. The idea is backed by a consortium of 12 private companies, national research institutions and universities from six countries, with Finnish company Insta as the lead.
A decision from European decision-makers on the award of an approximately $2m grant to start the project is expected in the next few months.
Consortium officials stress that nothing would be built during the initial phase of the project. Instead, the idea is to incubate the necessary “swarm logic” and learning algorithms in a simulation environment, where scenarios can be gamed out and quickly adapted, Ari Kosonen, a senior systems engineer at Insta, told Defense News.
Letting the drone swarm and air defense systems battle it out in a controlled cyberspace environment would yield patterns of problem-solving that can continuously improve both the attackers’ and the defenders’ performance, Kosonen said. In addition, thinking through the idea on a purely theoretical level would allow proper consideration for ethical and legal questions that arise whenever AI is weaponized, he added.
If adopted by the EU, the participating countries of Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, the Netherlands and Austria would detail military officials to an advisory board to help ensure the planned simulations reflect real-world combat situations.
That includes resisting the urge of crafting scenarios that are too clear-cut in allowing judgments about when to apply force and when to stand down, said Christian Brandlhuber, a senior adviser at consortium member Reply AG in Munich. “Does this work in an environment where our situational awareness is less than perfect?”
Therein lies the novelty of the SEAD Swarm idea, Brandlhuber argued: Working through the rules of engagement first, only later considering requirements and finally establish concrete acquisition plans could help bring AI-enabled military technology into the EU-wide defense conversation.
“There were heated discussions in the consortium about how pronounced the legal and ethical side should be,” Brandlhuber said. Dicey situations could arise, for example, when drones are cut off from communicating with human decision-makers in the final phase of an attack, while the prerequisite is to have a person in the loop for pulling the trigger.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in this,” Brandlhuber said, though he argued analysts should strive to understand the complexity that comes with combining drones and AI in a military context. “You can’t determine any of this a-priori.”
Notably, the consortium includes sensor and hardware manufacturers, like Diehl Defence of Germany and Milrem of Estonia, that could be tapped to build prototypes if the SEAD Swarm project is selected to go forward. (Source: Defense News)
22 Oct 19. Kongsberg turret for SAIC ARV. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) has selected Kongsberg to provide the turret for its Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV) being offered to the US Marine Corps. The company will design and manufacture an advanced, remote medium calibre turret that includes CORTEX ICS vetronics and combat services solutions.
Pål Bratlie, executive vice president, Kongsberg, said: ‘We have been building upon our Stryker medium calibre turret experience for the past three years to develop a lighter, more lethal solution set. This advanced turret meets not only the US Marine Corps’ needs, but also delivers scalability across multiple platforms for tremendous growth capacity.’
SAIC was chosen to deliver an ARV technology demonstrator to the Office of Naval Research and the US Marine Corps in September. (Source: Shephard)
21 Oct 19. Russian nuclear submarine aborts ballistic missile test. A Russian nuclear submarine aborted the test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile during a military exercise overseen by President Vladimir Putin last week, the Ministry of Defence said on Monday.
The nuclear submarine, K-44 Ryazan, part of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, was meant to launch two R-29R ballistic missiles from the Sea of Okhotsk on Oct. 17, but fired only one successfully with the other remaining in its tube onboard the submarine, the Vedomosti daily reported earlier on Monday.
The incident occurred on the same day as Putin oversaw the drills from a command center at the Defence Ministry in Moscow.
The aborted drill was part of wider war games for Russia’s armed forces, known as ‘Thunder 2019,’ which were designed to test the readiness of the country’s strategic forces for a nuclear conflict. The Defence Ministry on Monday confirmed the incident with the ballistic missile, but rejected an assertion by Vedomosti that the failure to launch the second missile had led to an “emergency situation”, Russian news agencies reported.
“Having assessed the information received just before the launch about the technical condition of one of the missiles on the Ryazan submarine, the decision was taken to not use it in a training strike,” the defense ministry was cited as saying.
The exercises took place in Russia’s Far East and Far North from Oct. 15-17 and involved about 12,000 military personnel, more than 100 aircraft and five submarines, the defense ministry said in a statement. The naval part of the exercise covered the Barents, Baltic, Black, Caspian and Okhotsk seas.
The K-44 Ryazan was first brought into service during the 1980s, but has undergone modernization since then. The launch of the R-29R missiles during the training exercise was necessary to keep them operational, a person close to the Navy’s general staff told Vedomosti, saying that they were nearing the end of their service life. (Source: Reuters)
22 Oct 19. Disruptor and drone combine to take on IED threats from the air. Companies are looking at innovative concepts for dealing with improvised explosive devices (ieds), including the use of drones to reduce risk to bomb disposal experts. Grant Turnbull speaks to SteelRock Technologies about its IED disruptor drone.
SteelRock Technologies and Chemring Technology Solutions have integrated Chemring’s RE70 M3 recoilless disruptor, which was originally designed to be deployed near the target by a bomb technician or mounted on a robot vehicle, with SteelRock’s W03 Protector UAV platform to create a revolutionary solution to neutralise improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in difficult-to-access environments. The companies have been trialling the hybrid platform for the past 18 months.
SteelRock’s director of operations and former bomb tech Liam FitzGerald-Finch explains the need for the solution and the challenges the programme is overcoming.
Grant Turnbull: How did you identify the need for a UAV-mounted IED disruptor?
Liam FitzGerald-Finch: SteelRock is a young start-up, probably less than three years old. Its primary product is counter-drone equipment in service in the UK with various departments and agencies. But the flipside of the company is we make bespoke heavy-lift drones.
Some members of the team at SR are former C-IED [counter IED] techs with extensive experience of using IED disruptors, and obviously understand the wider user group requirements in this arena.
The reason an EOD robot exists is twofold. One is it’s a platform to support the disruptor, and two it’s an explosive ordnance reconnaissance platform. UAVs add the ability to go up into the air effectively and move around in the third dimension; it’s a natural evolution as it gets around mobility issues and from my perspective I have to walk down the road less.
What alterations did you make to the drone?
The drone’s control systems respond very, very fast to changes in attitude, so it controls the pitch. When the disruptor fires, the operator barely notices; the drone basically irons out any of the recoil that is transmitted to it. All we did was play around with it and put some “special sauce” in there to make it very, very stable so it stays on heading post firing.
What were the biggest challenges to overcome?
There were some engineering challenges with the Chemring disruptor, which uses a counter mass systems; it fires a projectile out of the sharp end and dumps a load of water out the back at the same time. The timing’s clever because the recoil is effectively sum zero.
But there’s a big mass shift which is the real trick from the drone’s perspective because it’s carrying a payload that’s balanced with nearly a kilo of water at one end of it and a projectile at the other. So there’s that very quick mass shift and essentially gravity changes, and that’s what the drone is reacting to, not necessarily the recoil.
Why did you select the RE70 M3 disruptor?
The RE70 M3 disruptor is a commercial off-the-shelf item for Chemring and it is excellent, there’s no other way to put it. They’ve done lots of really good homework making things very useable, robust – ‘soldier-proof’, dare I say it. It’s all about being intuitive and reducing training burden and something that actually works.
They’ve configured something that works across a number of different environments; hanging it from a drone is its natural evolution. It sights perfectly well, the disruptor doesn’t mind really what orientation it’s in.
Using items that are familiar to EOD operators already reduces training burden; EOD operators will have either used the RA-70 or a similar model from a different company. Sticking it on a drone means all the EOD operator team has to do is learn the drone, not another new disruptor. Targeting is via high-res camera, reticule and optional laser alignment aids.
Do you have a customer base in mind?
Military EOD/C-IED is definitely in our target audience but to be honest, I see this platform or a variation on it being well-suited to humanitarian situations. Think of it this way: it’s a C-IED tool but has high-res cameras on board and so it can do reconnaissance and decent imagery, with potential for real-time 3D orthomosaic mapping. All of which are of varying importance in post-conflict zones and disaster areas.
You can swap the payload out and configure it for first aid delivery and Red Cross-type applications. I’d like to sell a bunch of these things for the demining arena, so Colombia, Bolivia, places where there’s a couple of generations of clearance to be done.
What’s your biggest challenge in getting the prototype working?
Aiming and getting the thing to tilt. It’s easy to make the projectile fly away from the drone, you just point it in the right direction, but the countermass comes directly out of the back. Depending on where you put that on the drone, that’s firing straight through the props, which is sub-optimal.
Aiming is quite interesting because you think flippantly we’ll stick the drone on hover and have an actuator arm that will do the up and down, and then just pan the drone left and right. But then you start to look into the control system software. It’s got an accuracy of between one and three degrees which, as you can shoot things up to 30m away with some of the Chemring projectiles, is quite a margin of error. We’re slowly honing that down to nice high levels of accuracy. It’s all about safety assurance.
What certification are you carrying out?
We’re going through a very comprehensive process of certification at the moment. We’re not doing this to get a specific certificate at the end of it; what we’re doing is configuring so the drone is certifiable, not certified. So a British customer may want Military Aviation Authority, but an overseas customer could have a different requirement.
So we’re trying to configure it to be certifiable to the very highest standard that we can see at the moment. Then the final bit will be paid for by the customer when they say we’ll certify the drone to this standard and we will map our process across to meet their certification criteria.
This is almost certainly an industry first. There are many examples of fixed-wing drones that have been certified under different programmes and qualifications but we’re going through the process of producing a rotary-wing airframe that is certifiable under a military aviation authority scheme. This will add levels of assurance and safety that have not previously been available for a small UAV platform. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
22 Oct 19. Mysterious Object Northrop in Redondo Beach is a High-Power Naval Laser. A mysterious and very large object related to a “U.S. Navy demonstration program” was spotted being shipped by Northrop Grumman from the relatively small marine in Redondo Beach to San Diego.
Now, as the object is set to be transported via truck to the pier, we know what it is. It is a high-energy laser system that we can say with near certainty is part of the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) program that Northrop Grumman won the contract for in 2015.
SSL-TM looks to deliver a “shipboard laser with a beam power of up to 150kW, which would provide increased effectiveness against small boats and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles],” according to a review of Navy directed energy projects that the Congressional Research Service published in September 2019. “In January 2018, the Navy announced that it intended to install the SSL-TM laser on the newly built amphibious ship USS Portland (LPD-27). Sea testing of SSL-TM on the Portland is scheduled for the fourth quarter of FY2019.”
Portland is homeported in San Diego, which is where the laser is reportedly headed, and the ship was in port as of Sept. 26, 2019, according to the Navy. The 2019 Fiscal Year ended on Sept. 30, 2019, which could indicate a slight delay in the schedule. Otherwise, the dates, the ownership of the system, the “demonstration program” description, and the likely destination all seem to line up near perfectly with the SSL-TM program. (Source: UAS VISION/The Drive)
22 Oct 19. NIOA enters agreement with Day & Zimmermann. NIOA has executed a strategic teaming agreement with Day & Zimmermann at AUSA in Washington, with the arrangement set to boost support for the Australian Defence Force. The companies said that the agreement is a move to build a deeper relationship to support the growth of sovereign munitions capability in Australia, and builds on recent contract success such as a four-year supply program of 81mm mortar ammunition for the ADF.
“As a 100 per cent Australian company, we are committed to developing true sovereign capability for the benefit of the Australian warfighter,” said NIOA managing director Robert Nioa.
“Strengthening our partnership with Day & Zimmermann forms yet another enabler to this outcome.”
In December last year, NIOA, as Day & Zimmermann’s teaming partner, received an order for 81mm HE and Practice Mortar Rounds to support the Australian Army, with works to be performed in Parsons, Kansas, American Ordnance in Burlington, Iowa, and in Texarkana, Texas.
“Supporting Australia, one of America’s closest allies, is a true honour,” said Mike Yoh, president of munitions and government at Day & Zimmermann, at the time of the signing.
“We are excited to partner with NIOA and provide the Australian Army the highest quality 81mm mortars to support annual training efforts as well as any operational deployments.”
Representing NIOA at the signing of the strategic teaming agreement at AUSA were Matthew Cliff (director of business development), Doreen Chaplin (North American regional manager) and Antoni Furman (Army programs manager), while Day & Zimmermann were represented by Yoh, James Estabrooks (VP finance), Paul Heidenreich (senior VP business development), Steve Cummings (VP business development), Dan McKenrick (VP operations) and George Kurzik (director business development). (Source: Defence Connect)
21 Oct 19. Boeing could be out of the Air Force’s competition for next-gen ICBMs for good. Boeing’s risk reduction contract for the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program is functionally cancelled, the company announced Oct. 21.
“Boeing is disappointed in the Air Force’s decision to not allot additional funding for the GBSD Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contract,” said Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher. “The Boeing team has delivered substantial value under the contract, achieved all contract milestones on time and received strong performance feedback from the Air Force.”
“Continuing Boeing’s TMRR contract would advance the Air Force’s objectives of maturing the missile system’s design and reducing the risk for this critical national priority capability,” he added.
GBSD is the Air Force’s program to replace its existing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, a major priority for the service as well as for U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the operations of America’s nuclear arsenal.
Earlier on Monday evening, Politico reported that the Air Force had sent a letter to Boeing last week declaring its intent to stop funding the TMRR contract.
Without additional money from the Air Force to continue work, Boeing expected its funding stream for the GBSD contract to be exhausted on Oct. 18, the company stated in an Oct. 16 letter to the GBSD program office at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
“The Air Force’s decision not to allocate any further funding to the TMRR contract requires immediate and irrevocable actions by Boeing to wind down contract performance within the allotted funds. These measures include the reassignment of approximately 300 Boeing employees and the flow-down of a Stop Work notice to all suppliers working on the TMRR contract,” states the letter, which was obtained by Defense News.
Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Cara Bousie told Defense News that the service had not cancelled Boeing’s TMRR contract. However, she declined to comment on whether the Air Force had sent Boeing a letter stating its intention to curtail funding for the contract.
Regardless of the semantics, a decision to cut short the TMRR contract would effectively hand the GBSD award to Northrop Grumman, the sole company competing against Boeing to produce the weapon system.
Both Boeing and Northrop were awarded risk reduction contracts worth up to $359m in 2017, beating out Lockheed Martin for the chance to bring their designs into the production stage.
But Boeing withdrew from the GBSD competition in July, claiming that Northrop Grumman’s purchase of one of the only two U.S. solid rocket motor manufacturers — Orbital ATK, now known as Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems — gave the company an unfair advantage in terms of being able to offer the lowest-cost system.
In a July 23 letter, Leanne Caret, who leads Boeing’s defense business, wrote that the current acquisition approach gives Northrop “inherently unfair cost, resource and integration advantages.”
“We lack confidence in the fairness of any procurement that does not correct this basic imbalance between competitors,” she stated. Caret added that a joint bid between the two companies was unrealistic, as Northrop would have no incentive to partner with Boeing when it can put forward a solo bid.
However, Boeing switched tactics about a month later, with Frank McCall, its director of strategic deterrence systems, telling reporters in September that the company hoped to persuade the Air Force to force Northrop to partner with it.
“We think clearly it’s time for the Air Force or other governmental entities to engage and direct the right solution. Northrop has elected not to do that,” McCall said during the Air Force Association’s annual conference. “So, we’re looking for government intervention to drive us to the best solution.”
The Air Force did not take Boeing up on that suggestion. Nor did Northrop, which pointedly released its list of suppliers days before the AFA conference. The list — which featured Aerojet Rocketdyne, Collins Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and other major defense contractors — did not include Boeing.
Boeing, in its letter to the program office, stated that the dissolution of the risk reduction contract could disadvantage the Air Force as it moves forward with the GBSD program, even if it ultimately opts to sole-source from Northrop.
“The Government’s decision also prevents Boeing from completing the work left to be performed under the TMRR contract, including the major milestones of a successful Software System Review and Preliminary Design Review,” it said. “We believe this work would provide substantial value to the Government, irrespective of the fact that Boeing will not participate as a prime offeror under the current EMD [engineering, manufacturing and development] solicitation structure for the next phase of the GBSD program.
In September, McCall pointed to Boeing’s ongoing risk reduction work on GBSD as a positive sign that the service may not be ready to sole-source the program to Northrop.
“The service is maintaining our work,” he said. “They continue to accept our deliverables, continue to fund our contract. So, I think we’re in good shape with the service.”
But with the TMRR contract revoked, Boeing’s last hope may be an appeal to Congress. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama as someone who has already raised shown support for Boeing’s position, McCall said in September.
McCall declined to name others, but should this turn into a legislative fight, it could come down to Boeing’s supporters – with strongholds in Alabama, Washington and Missouri – versus those of Northrop Grumman. (Source: Defense News)
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