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MISSILE, BALLISTICS AND SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE

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20 Mar 20. Department of Defense Tests Hypersonic Glide Body. The Department of Defense successfully tested a hypersonic glide body in a flight experiment conducted from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, March 19 at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time (HST).

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Army jointly executed the launch of a common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB), which flew at hypersonic speed to a designated impact point.

Concurrently, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) monitored and gathered tracking data from the flight experiment that will inform its ongoing development of systems designed to defend against adversary hypersonic weapons.

Information gathered from this and future experiments will further inform DOD’s hypersonic technology development, and this event is a major milestone towards the department’s goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s.

”This test builds on the success we had with Flight Experiment 1 in October 2017, in which our C-HGB achieved sustained hypersonic glide  at our target distances,” said Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe, Director, Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, which is the lead designer for the C-HGB. ”In this test we put additional stresses on the system and it was able to handle them all, due to the phenomenal expertise of our top notch team of individuals from across government, industry and academia. Today we validated our design and are now ready to move to the next phase towards fielding a hypersonic strike capability.”

Hypersonic weapons, capable of flying at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), are highly maneuverable and operate at varying altitudes. This provides the warfighter with an ability to strike targets hundreds and even thousands of miles away, in a matter of minutes, to defeat a wide range of high-value targets. Delivering hypersonic weapons is one of the department’s highest technical research and engineering priorities.

”This test was a critical step in rapidly delivering operational hypersonic capabilities to our warfighters in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said U.S. Army LTG L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, whose office is leading the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon program and joint C-HGB production. “We successfully executed a mission consistent with how we can apply this capability in the future. The joint team did a tremendous job in executing this test, and we will continue to move aggressively to get prototypes to the field.”

The C-HGB – when fully fielded – will comprise the weapon’s conventional warhead, guidance system, cabling, and thermal protection shield. The Navy and Army are working closely with industry to develop the C-HGB with Navy as the lead designer, and Army as the lead for production. Each service will use the C-HGB, while developing individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land.

The similarities in hypersonic weapon design for sea and land variants provide economies of scale for future production as we build the U.S. hypersonics industrial base.

“Hypersonic systems deliver transformational warfighting capability,” said Mr. Mike White, Assistant Director, Hypersonics, OUSD Research and Engineering (Modernization). “The glide body tested today is now ready for transition to Army and Navy weapon system development efforts and is one of several applications of hypersonic technology underway across the Department.  These capabilities help ensure that our warfighters will maintain the battlefield dominance necessary to deter, and if necessary, defeat any future adversary.”

Additionally, MDA is working closely with Army and Navy in sharing data that will inform their development of enhanced capabilities for a layered hypersonic defense to support warfighter need and outpace the adversary threat. (Source: US DoD)

20 Mar 20. Raytheon expects F-35 flight test of JSM by end of the year. Kurt Neubauer, business development lead for Raytheon Air Warfare Systems, has said the company expects a new flight test of its Joint Strike Missile (JSM) on F-35As to happen this year, which will provide an insight for future Australian integration.

In a conversation with Breaking Defense, Neubauer said the flight test will build upon the successful 2018 JSM flight test of a live warhead with a second, live-warhead demonstration later this year. Norwegian firm Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace has also completed internal weapons bay suspension and fitting tests of the JSM on the F-35A and C aircraft variants.

In addition, fit checks have been completed on all F-35 variant external wing stations, as well as the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

In previous tests, a Norwegian F-16 successfully launched the JSM in 2018, with an approximate stand-off range of more than 150 nautical miles. Norway and Japan are confirmed as the first customers for the new missile, with Japan also selecting the missile for the Japan Self-Defense Force’s joint strike fighters.

The JSM can be launched against targets on land, at sea, and in littoral environments to conduct suppression/destruction of enemy air defences along with offensive anti-surface warfare.

Neubauer described the missile as “a fifth-generation weapon for fifth-generation aircraft”. He also advised that Raytheon expects the Norwegian Air Force to declare initial operational capability on the F-35As in 2023.

Neubauer advised that one of the new features of the missile is its IR seeker.

“JSM’s seeker is cooled, scans a wide field of view, uses multi-banded imaging infrared, and can track a large number of contacts simultaneously. It rejects decoys and can complete autonomous target identification for both ship and land targets,” he said.

“JSM is capable of tailoring en-route ingress and attack courses to enhance its survivability,” he elaborated. The TacNet link further “allows for inflight updates and route adjustments.” JSM’s survivability is enhanced through mission planning, both on the ground and when mated to the aircraft.

Australia has expressed interest in acquiring the JSM to support the long-range strike capabilities of the RAAF since the retirement of the F-111. As part of this, Australia, in collaboration with Norway, signed on to help finance and develop an air launched variant of the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM).

The JSM is a fifth-generation platform providing the F-35 with a long-range anti-ship and land attack capability. The JSM is designed with a stand-off range to protect the launch platform from being detected and engaged by enemy air defence systems.

The JSM platform’s high survivability is accomplished by:

  • Passive sensors;
  • Low-observability signature;
  • Sea skimming altitude;
  • Terrain following flight;
  • High agility with selectable end-game flight profiles; and
  • Precise designated time-on-target information.

As part of BAE Systems Australia’s central role in supporting systems integration in the F-35 program, Kongsberg and BAE have partnered to support the future integration of the JSM into Australia’s F-35s.

There has also been strong interest in introducing the JSM into maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) like Boeing P-8A Poseidon for internal weapons bay carriage as well as on the wing stations. An acquisition of the F-35 along with the JSM, will strengthen any nation’s threshold, and serve wider coalition interests.

The JSM is designed for precision anti-surface warfare missions with emphasis on penetration of highly defended sea or land targets through a combination of stealth, onboard intelligence and endgame kinematics.

This is achieved by the synthesis of low signature, advanced engagement planning, precision navigation, an ultra-low wave adaptive sea-skimming flight profile, the use of high-resolution passive dual imaging infrared (IIR) seeker, salvo compression by near-simultaneous programmable time on target, and exceptional agility in the terminal phase.

The low-observable JSM can engage targets at sea or on land at ranges greater than 300 nautical miles and with proven autonomous target recognition (ATR), and aim point selection support precision attack against highly defended targets.

The dual Imaging Infrared seeker gives the missile all-weather capability and the IR seeker has been thoroughly tested against all known NATO IR decoys through more than 3,000 hours of flight-testing.

The JSM system is under consideration by the ADF to fulfil the Project JP3023 naval strike weapon for the RAAF’s F-35A, due to enter service from 2018. The naval strike capability is expected to be fielded under the follow-on Block 4 capability upgrade, due to be incorporated into the RAAF’s fleet from around 2023.

JSM is an evolution of the NSM, which was originally developed for the Norwegian Navy. NSM is a long-range, precision strike weapon that seeks and destroys enemy ships at distances greater than 100 nautical miles.  (Source: Defence Connect)

17 Mar 20. BAE nabs next-gen seeker design work for US Army’s missile defense system. Lockheed Martin, which builds the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense weapon system for the U.S. Army, has awarded BAE Systems a contract to design and manufacture a next-generation seeker for the system’s interceptors, according to a BAE announcement posted March 17.

“The sensor design work will improve the missile defense system’s ability to neutralize more threats and improve its manufacturability,” the statement read. The company did not disclose the contract amount or timelines to develop a design.

The THAAD weapon system is part of the Army’s layered approach to missile defense, now with its ability to defeat ballistic missile threats in the terminal phase of flight, but the Missile Defense Agency also wants to make it part of its future homeland defense architecture.

BAE already provides the seeker for the THAAD system, which uses infrared imagery to guide the interceptors to threat targets, and the company has delivered more than 500 THAAD seekers to date, according to the statement.

While the seekers are built in Nashua, New Hampshire, and Endicott, New York, the company plans to conduct design work for the next-generation seeker in Huntsville, Alabama, home of Redstone Arsenal and the Army’s missiles and space programs.

BAE Systems is building a state-of-the-art facility that will house a “cutting-edge” design program in Huntsville, the company noted.

While the Army plans to continue using THAAD far into the future, the MDA is, in fiscal 2021, planning to allocated $273.6m for THAAD development efforts, including the THAAD homeland defense tier. Specifically, the agency is asking for $139m in FY21 to start the development and demonstration of a new interceptor prototype for THAAD, which could support a tiered and layered approach to homeland defense.

BAE Systems did not say whether the next-generation interceptor design work includes efforts related to MDA’s desire to produce a new interceptor prototype.

The agency is “challenging ourselves” to figure out how to develop a THAAD interceptor that would work against an intercontinental ballistic missile, Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the MDA’s director, said when the FY21 defense budget request was released in February. To do that, the MDA is seeking to draw lessons from building THAAD batteries for Saudi Arabia, he said.

The agency is also looking at the existing engineering trade space.

“We may consider an upgraded propulsion stack to give [THAAD] extended range, don’t know yet,” he said. “It could be that we don’t want to update the propulsion. Maybe there is something in the seeker that would buy us more in the trade space now.”

The THAAD interceptor program is a new start in the FY21 budget request, Hill noted. “We are working our way through what that program would look like.” (Source: Defense News)

17 Mar 20. Russia expects Turkey to request additional S-400 systems. The Turkish government is expected to request additional S-400 missile defence systems in the ‘foreseeable future’, according to the director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS).

Speaking to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Dmitri Shugaev said: ‘The issue of an additional batch of S-400 [systems] for Turkey is on the agenda, it has not gone anywhere. We are agreeing on the composition of the system, delivery time and other conditions… A negotiation process is underway today.’

Russia’s Rosoboronexport completed the previous shipments of S-400 to Turkey in October 2019 and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that it would operational from April 2020. (Source: Shephard)

11 Mar 20. USMC continues Iron Dome evaluation, no outstanding cybersecurity or integration challenges. US Army leaders have cited cybersecurity and compatibility concerns as chief reasons not to move forward with integrating Rafael’s Iron Dome mobile, short-range air-defence system into their Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) architecture. The US Marine Corps (USMC), however, is moving forward with plans to integrate Iron Dome components into its medium-range intercept capability, and said its effort is not being hampered by similar concerns.

In 2019, the army inked a deal to purchase two Iron Dome batteries when lawmakers included a provision in the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) requiring the service to purchase four batteries to fill an interim, cruise missile defence capability gap. Since then, the service has cited a variety of reasons against fielding the system and purchasing two additional systems. Such concerns have included that the Iron Dome may not defeat the entire cruise missile threat, associated integration challenges, a lack of information from the vendor, and cybersecurity concerns. Army criticisms and concerns, however, are in sharp contrast to the USMC’s experience with the vendor and its evaluation plans.

Currently, the USMC Program Manager Ground Based Air Defense (PM GBAD) is continuing to evaluate ways to integrate Iron Dome components with service capabilities to provide a medium-range intercept capability, USMC spokesperson Barbara Hamby told Jane’s on 9 March. As part of the effort, the PM GBAD is conducting “rigorous” engineering and modeling and simulation activities to support “potential acquisition decisions in the near-term, as well as inform design considerations for future test events”.

When asked if the USMC has any outstanding cybersecurity concerns with using the system or if it has encountered any challenges obtaining information from the contractor, Hamby said that was not the case.

“PM GBAD takes cybersecurity seriously and is an integral part of the PM GBAD medium-range intercept capability effort,” she told Jane’s on 11 March. (Source: Jane’s)

17 Mar 20. 31st MEU rehearses launch of HIMARS during Cobra Gold 2020. The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) has successfully rehearsed the launch of the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

The rehearsal, called combined joint HIMARS rapid insertion (CJHIRAIN), was conducted during exercise Cobra Gold 2020. HIMARS was employed for the first time with Royal Thai Marines at Chandy Range, Thailand. The CJHIRAIN mission saw several executions of HIMARS operations. The US Air Force 353rd Special Operations Command 17th Special Operations Squadron was also part of the rehearsal. This launch marked the first employment of the system with joint forces for the 31st MEU.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit commanding officer Colonel Robert Brodie said: “The 31st MEU is the only MEU in the Corps with HIMARS.

“Working with joint and multinational forces, we were able to rapidly deploy the HIMARS demonstrating our collective capability to respond to any threat under any circumstance.”

During the mission, marines of the Royal Thai Marine Corps and 31st MEU low altitude air defence detachment provided bilateral security.

Rehearsals saw the use of AFSOC 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II. HIMARS was transported on the modified version of the C-130 Hercules transport. Following the landing of MC-130J, HIMARS conducted a simulated fire mission and then completed a coordinated bilateral and multi-service operation.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit fires officer major Brock Lennon said: “The interoperability we achieved with the Royal Thai Marine Corps provides true flexibility in the delivery of long-range precision rocket fires.

“During this evolution of Cobra Gold, the US and Royal Thai Marine Corps team delivered HIMARS into the fight by both air and sea, improving our combined capabilities.” (Source: naval-technology.com)

16 Mar 20. Upgraded Msta-S arrives with 49th Combined Arms Army. Artillery batteries in the 49th Combined Arms Army in Russia’s Southern Military District have received new 152mm 2S19M2 Msta-S self-propelled howitzers. According to a 16 March statement from the Southern Military District: ‘The Msta-S artillery system has considerable design differences from the previous modification.’ TASS reported that the the 2S19M2 can fire Krasnopol precision-guided munitions, as well as high-explosive fragmentation and rocket-assisted projectiles. The 2S19M2 has an improved fire control system capable of delivering a higher rate of fire. (Source: Shephard)

17 Mar 20. High time for hypersonic missiles? The US is joining Russia and China in developing a new kind of weapon system. In this race they have seemingly fallen behind their competitors, but what does the development of hypersonic weapons mean for warfare in the future as more countries jump on the bandwagon? And does it matter that the US is behind the eight ball in progressing its technology?

So, what has created the interest to develop hypersonic weapons? Ballistic missiles already move faster than hypersonic technologies and can currently carry higher payloads including nuclear weapons and deliver them highly accurately. The difference lies in trajectory, and a space that lies between ballistic missile defences and traditional anti aircraft defences. Unlike ballistic missiles, which see their trajectory briefly travel through space, hypersonic weapons remain in the atmosphere. For now this makes them incredibly, and almost impossibly, difficult to defend against.

Why hyper?

Hypersonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defence systems. These missiles are capable of delivering conventional or nuclear payloads at ultra-high velocities over long ranges. Hypersonic missiles are delivered in two ways:

Firstly, unpowered hypersonic boost-glide vehicles (HGVs) can be fired from the last stages of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and skip along the top of the atmosphere using specialised jet engines to accelerate to hypersonic speeds of up to Mach 27 (the claimed speed for the Russian Avangard HGV).

Secondly, hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) are launched from platforms such as aircraft and ships and are powered by rockets or jets throughout their flight.

Hypersonic weapons could be fitted with either conventional or nuclear warheads, but even in conventional form they are very effective against hard targets because of the enormous kinetic energy generated by their very high impact speed.

What makes these weapons systems even more effective at penetrating defences is their ability to manoeuvre and change altitude at flat trajectory to avoid defences.

Who has what? Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was angered by the US walking away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, claims to have three hypersonic weapon systems tested and close to deployment, and at the moment this places them well ahead of the US in terms of the development of this newer technology.

Just after Christmas in 2018, Russia’s armed forces launched a ballistic missile carrying a HGV called Avangard from base in the Ural mountains. After separating from the ballistic missile carrier, it is claimed the hypersonic weapon zigzagged 6,000 kilometres across Siberia at speeds up to Mach 27 before hitting a target on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russia has apparently now put this nuclear capable HGV into service, making Russia the first to be armed with a hypersonic weapon.

The second design, Kinzhal (dagger), it is claimed can immediately destroy US nuclear bases in Europe. The stationary weapon is ideal for a prompt strike. It can be delivered by a high-speed carrier such as a fifth-generation fighter. The missile has a long-range and hit precision comparable to Iskander missiles. It has a claimed range of more than 2,000 kilometres, a speed of more than Mach 10, and an ability to perform evasive manoeuvres at every stage of flight carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Reports have since indicated that the Kinzhal missile has entered service and that up to 10 MiG-31s have been modified to carry the missiles. The 10 aircraft deployed on experimental combat duty in the Southern Military District, bordering Ukraine and the Black Sea.

The third and newest hypersonic weapons the Russians have claimed is 3M22 Zircon or the SS-N-33, which is a maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile developed in Russia. The Zircon’s estimated range is 500 kilometres at a low level and up to 750 kilometres at a semi-ballistic trajectory, but the state-owned media in Russia reports the range as 1,000 kilometres. It’s a two-stage missile that uses solid fuel in the first stage and a scramjet motor in the second stage.

Who has what? The US

The US has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the US has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of US Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred”.

Funding for such weapons has remained restrained, however with Russia and China developing their capabilities there is now growing interest in its defence community and Congress to ensure they do not fall behind, especially as Russia and China have been openly wanting to integrate nuclear capability into these weapons.

The Pentagon’s FY2021 budget request for all hypersonic-related research is $3.2bn – up from $2.6bn in the FY2020 request – including $206.8m for hypersonic defence programs.

Whilst the US has tested hypersonic weapons they are yet to place into service either a HGV or HCM. After decades of fits and starts, any advantage that US hypersonic R&D once held has largely eroded away. Its wind tunnels and other testing infrastructure are ageing and challenges such as tweaking designs to ensure engine walls don’t melt have slowed progress on scramjets.

Alongside concerns surrounding strategic stability, US policy makers have also expressed concern that the US is “behind” in a hypersonic arms race – with deployment of US hypersonic capabilities currently slated for 2022.

Who has what? China

Since 2014, China has been developing its hypersonic weapon capabilities with advancements in both HGVs and HCMs. DF-ZF, a hypersonic glide vehicle known in the US as the WU-14, has undergone more than a half dozen development tests between 2014 and 2016. The DF-ZF is launched during the last stage of a missile and can reach nearly Mach 10, as well as manoeuvre to avoid missile defences and zero in on targets. This weapon can be configured to carry a nuclear or conventional warhead and China claims it is precise enough to attack ships at sea. The DF-ZF is scheduled to be operational as early as 2020.

However, it was a different weapon that caught the eye of the world when it was paraded down Beijing’s avenue, the Dongfeng 17 (DF-17) hypersonic boost-glide missile. The DF-17 is the weapon that the US intelligence community estimated in 2017 to become the first of its kind to see operational deployment.

In the case of the DF-17, China has looked to build up a highly precise system. US analysis of the missile’s first tests in November 2017 found an impressive degree of precision, with the test units apparently striking within metres of their targets.

In a conflict, weapons like the DF-17 would pose a formidable challenge for the US and its allies. For instance, rapid conventional strikes could disable critical US command centres and even airfields along the first island chain.

US officials have expressed concern about their inability to defend against these kinds of threats.

“We don’t have any defence that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” Gen John Hyten said in March last year. Especially vulnerable to weapons such as the DF-17 would be naval vessels such as aircraft carriers.

Who has what? The rest of the world

France and India have active hypersonics development programs, and both are working independently with Russia, according to the US Rand Corporation.

Japan aims to have a hypersonic weapon ready for testing by 2025, presumably with the North Korean nuclear missile threat in mind. Japan has outlined its research and development road map for its homegrown, stand-off hypersonic weapons, confirming that it is seeking an incremental growth in capability and providing more details about the kinds of threats it is targeting with this new class of weapon.

The government said two classes of stand-off hypersonic systems will be deployed — the HCM and the hyper velocity gliding projectile (HVGP).

The former will be powered by a scramjet engine and appears similar to a typical missile, albeit one that cruises at a much higher speed while capable of travelling at long ranges.

Japan’s road map also revealed the country is taking an incremental approach with regard to designing the shapes of warheads and developing solid-fuel engine technology, with plans to field early versions of both in the 2024 to 2028 time frame. They are expected to enter service in the early 2030s.

Australia has collaborated with testing of hypersonic missiles completed down under in 2017. The hypersonic missile was capable of travelling faster than 9,500km/h. The test of the HiFiRE vehicle paves the way for a new generation of hypersonic weapons that can strike enemies with a minimum of reaction time. The test was conducted jointly by Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group and the US Air Force Research Lab at the Woomera Test Range in Australia. The tests involved the HiFiRE scramjet vehicle.

The HiFiRE program has been ongoing since 2009, when the first test involving the scramjet engine took place. Previous tests have involved HiFiRE being lofted upwards on an Orion sounding rocket with an S-30 rocket as a first stage.

Limitations

As with all new technologies there is often teething issues or concerns raised about its viability or effectiveness. In regards to hypersonic missiles, the issue appears t be with heat management. Some have argued that due to the rigours of traveling at speeds above Mach 5 within the atmosphere would leave hypersonic weapons less accurate than claimed. Unlike ballistic missiles that travel within the atmosphere for only a short time, hypersonic missiles complete their trajectory within the Earth’s atmosphere, which creates issues with air friction and the heat created through this.

Hypersonic weapons travelling at Mach 5-plus experience a whole new level of heat build-up. While a ballistic missile warhead might spend only seconds exposed to air friction, hypersonic weapons experience air friction throughout their entire flight. Chemical reactions with the surrounding air even create a plasma around the hypersonic weapon, which can interfere with the object’s ability to reference GPS or receive outside course correction commands. Heat and friction caused during flight could also damage the weapon, affecting flight dynamics and accuracy. (Source: Defence Connect)

15 Mar 20. Indian MoD issues global RFI for 100 loitering munition systems. India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has invited responses by 7 April from foreign original equipment manufacturers and assorted vendors to its request for information (RFI) on the intended procurement of 100 man-portable loitering munition systems for the Indian Army (IA).

The MoD’s 6 March global RFI states that these “ruggedised” systems, weighing less than 20 kg each, must have a minimum flight endurance of 30 minutes, a line-of-sight operational range of 15 km, and also be capable of operating at altitudes of between 300 m and 4,500m.

Fitted with a warhead capable of destroying “soft skinned” or relatively less protected targets, the systems will also be required to operate day and night and in all-weather conditions and be operated by no more than two people. (Source: Jane’s)

14 Mar 20. Iron Dome could intercept those rockets in Iraq, but it doesn’t fit Army’s ‘grand plan.’ The urgent need to protect troops against air and missile threats was highlighted once again this week after two Americans and one Briton were killed by a volley of Katyusha rockets at Camp Taji, Iraq.

Although a capability exists to curtail such attacks, the Army has concerns about using it, a stance that’s frustrating lawmakers.

The service already purchased two Iron Dome systems from Israel that have been able to intercept Katyusha rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, but those systems won’t be fielded until the end of the year. Even then, soldiers will need to be trained up on the equipment, Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, who leads Army Space and Missile Defense Command, said Thursday at the Pentagon.

“We know that Iron Dome has a combat-proven capability,” Karbler told Army Times when asked whether it could’ve intercepted the March 11 rocket attack on Camp Taji. “I’ve got to assume that it would have worked, given it was in the optimal state of readiness as well as positioned to defend that particular asset.”

Army leaders say there are problems with how Iron Dome will fit into their vision of a future array of integrated missile defenses. Unlike other equipment, Iron Dome can’t share targeting information with existing radars and launchers, military officials say.

It’s essentially a stand-alone asset. It won’t feed into the integrated architecture the Army is championing as the best way to combat missile threats from peer adversaries like China and Russia. But far more simple hazards, like Katyusha rockets and even aerial drones, are what harass troops in Iraq and Syria today.

“I don’t want to see the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., during a congressional hearing Thursday morning. “I don’t want to see a perfect, hoped for, and expected capability, deter us from using something that is available and usable right now — and will save lives.”

Israel’s development of the Iron Dome was partially funded by American tax dollars, Lamborn noted, as he and other House Armed Services Committee members pushed Pentagon experts on the lack of interceptors in Iraq. The Army also used to have its own Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar systems, or C-RAMs, in place to defend bases in Iraq. Those were drawn down along with the majority of U.S. troops years ago.

“[C-RAM] is a proven capability that we have that can be used in the interim to … backstop until we bring the future indirect fire protection capability, whether that’s Iron Dome in the future, or another capability,” Karbler said.

U.S. Central Command is now moving air and missile defense capabilities into Iraq, Karbler added, but he couldn’t elaborate on which systems those will be.

The Army plans to do a “shoot-off” in the spring of 2021 to determine what other system can do the Iron Dome-style job within an integrated missile defense network.

Lawmakers appear exasperated with the timeline, though, as rocket attacks have plagued the U.S. presence in Iraq for months, killing two U.S. troops and injuring a dozen others this week. An American contractor was also killed in a rocket attack earlier this year.

“Iron Dome is specifically designed for that [Katyusha rocket], and it doesn’t have to be integrated into your grand plan,” said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Cali. “[It] could have been available, but you have a grand plan of some great integration system.”

Congress originally mandated the Army deploy two Iron Dome batteries by fiscal 2020 in the service’s budget for the previous year. When the Army ultimately does field Iron Dome, officials will assess whether it can be used in theater, Karbler said.

“The Israelis have shown it is a very capable system,” Karbler added. “It is also a system that is used within Israel, so again we have to be able to look at how deployable is it, how well can we get it into theater and then operate with the soldiers given that it might not be as maneuverable as we might want it to be.”

Missile and air defense often channels visions of expensive threats. But U.S. troops in Syria have recently been attacked by small drones dropping mortars and grenades as they guarded oil fields.

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the top officer at CENTCOM, said his staff was still working to determine the source of those small drones, but he believed ISIS was behind the attacks. And the use of those tactics hasn’t just been focused on U.S. positions.

“The Russians had some significant casualties in this regard, as have other nations that are operating there,” McKenzie said earlier this week. “So yes, it is a problem. We look at it very hard. It’s one of my highest priorities.”

Low-flying cruise missiles have also exposed a vulnerability in U.S.-produced systems.

During a Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities by Yemen-based militants, a set of inexpensive drones and low-flying cruise missiles hit their targets after circumventing early-warning radars and Patriot missile batteries in the area.

The Pentagon explained the failure of the American equipment by stating that the Saudis relied too much on one layer of what should be a multi-layered air and missile defense network. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Army Times)

16 Mar 20. AC-130W demonstrates maritime attack role. The US military has demonstrated the use of a Lockheed Martin AC-130W Stinger II gunship in a new naval support role. The work took place from 8-9 March in the Arabian Gulf and involved AC-130Ws, a Boeing P-8A Poseidon, and a US Navy Cyclone class patrol vessel, says the US Navy. The P-8A and patrol vessel identified targets that simulated surface threats, which the AC-130Ws then engaged with live rounds. According the US Air Force web site, the AC-13OW is equipped with a single 30mm GAU-23 cannon, precision guided munitions, and the GBU-39 small diameter bomb.

“Our surface forces integrating with aircraft that have the firepower of an AC-130W brings a capability to the joint force that profoundly enhances our lethality in the maritime environment,” says US Navy captain Peter Mirisola.

“The addition of the Gunship to the joint maritime battle significantly enhances our ability to detect, track, engage and defeat surface threats in order to control water space in the Arabian Gulf. The effectiveness of this joint capability to conduct maritime strike, reconnaissance and armed overwatch was clearly displayed during this live-fire event.”

The AC-130Ws involved in the Arabian Sea work are assigned to the Special Operations Command Central.

Swarms of small boats operated by Iran are a concern for the US Navy, particular in the tight confines of the Straits of Hormuz and in the Persian Gulf. Periodically, footage has emerged of such vessels shadowing American warships. (Source: News Now/Flight Global)

13 Mar 20. DOD Officials Describe Missile Defense Efforts. Defending the homeland and deployed forces, allies and partners from missile threats of any type is the military’s top priority. The Defense Department continues to invest in technologies that accomplish this, particularly in the space-based sensor-tracking of advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic threats, said Rob Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy.

Soofer and DOD officials testified yesterday at a hearing before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces.

DOD also plans to field 20 additional ground-based interceptors to address rogue-state missile threats coming from North Korea, he said. The department is also deploying additional advanced radars in Alaska.

Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, described a layered missile defense system that can detect threats from the sea, land, air, space and cyber domains.

While ground-based interceptors can intercept missiles now, a next generation interceptor will be needed in the future as adversaries’ missiles become more advanced, he said.

Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said a year ago the ground-based, midcourse defense system successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target.

Later this year, Missile Defense Agency will be preparing for initial fielding of the Long Range Discrimination Radar, he said.

MDA is also working to integrate various missile defense systems, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Patriot Missile Defense System, he said.

Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, said air and missile defense is among the Army’s top six modernization priorities.

Examples of the work being done by the Army is testing of the first five prototype systems of interim, mobile, short-range air defense, he said.

Also, the Army selected the Iron Dome Weapon System as the indirect fire protection against cruise missiles, he said.

The Army is also experimenting with high-energy lasers, which are a low-cost complement to kinetic energy weapons to counter artillery, rocket, mortars, cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft threats, he said.

To sum up, Karbler said the Army is working on defensive and offensive systems to counter missile threats in all phases of flight, including pre-launch; all-weather conditions; and in any denied, degraded or contested environment. (Source: US DoD)

13 Mar 20. Sea Shrike submarine payload plan suggests hypersonic missile link. The US Navy (USN) has revealed plans to contract Northrop Grumman for the development of a payload module to enable the integration an undisclosed weapon system on Virginia-class nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs). While the service declines to make any public comment on the plan, the so-called Sea Shrike Advanced Payload Module (APM) is most likely associated with efforts to introduce a new hypersonic Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon on board Virginia-class SSNs. The CPS weapon system is intended to deliver a hypersonic conventional offensive strike capability through a depressed boost-glide trajectory to prosecute deep-inland, time-critical, soft- and medium-hardened targets in contested environments. (Source: Jane’s)

12 Mar 20. Japan unveils its hypersonic weapons plans. Japan has outlined its research and development road map for its homegrown, standoff hypersonic weapons, confirming that it is seeking an incremental growth in capability and providing more details about the kinds of threats it is targeting with this new class of weapon.

In a Japanese-language document published on the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency website, the government said two classes of standoff hypersonic systems will be deployed — the Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) and the Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile (HVGP).

The former will be powered by a scramjet engine and appears similar to a typical missile, albeit one that cruises at a much higher speed while capable of traveling at long ranges.

The HVGP, on the other hand, will feature a solid-fuel rocket engine that will boost its warhead payload to a high altitude before separation, where it will then glide to its target using its altitude to maintain high velocity until impact.

The agency also provided more details regarding warhead payloads, with different warheads planned for both seaborne and land targets. The former will be an armor-piercing warhead designed specifically for penetrating “the deck of the [aircraft] carrier,” while a land-attack version will utilize a high-density, explosively formed projectile, or EFP, for area suppression.

Area suppression effects for the latter will be achieved via the use of multiple EFPs, which are more commonly known as a shaped charge. An EFP is made up of a concave metal hemispherical or cone-shaped liner backed by a high explosive, all in a steel or aluminum casing. When the high explosive is detonated, the metal liner is compressed and squeezed forward, forming a jet whose tip may travel as fast as 6 miles per second.

Japan’s road map also revealed the country is taking an incremental approach with regard to designing the shapes of warheads and developing solid-fuel engine technology, with plans to field early versions of both in the 2024 to 2028 time frame. They are expected to enter service in the early 2030s.

The agency expects both systems to navigate via satellite navigation with an inertial navigation system as backup. Japan is seeking to establish a network of seven satellites to enable continuous positioning for its self-defense forces, which will enable it to provide continuous navigation data without relying on foreign satellites. Warhead guidance is achieved via either radio-frequency imaging converted from doppler shift data — which the government agency said will be able to identify stealthy naval targets in all weather conditions — or an infrared seeker capable to discriminating specific targets.

Japan has been conducting R&D into various areas related to hypersonic weapons for a number of years, although most of it was to benefit other fields like satellite navigation and solid-fuel rockets.

More work remains, however, in areas like hypersonic guidance systems, warhead and missile-body thermal shielding, and hypersonic propulsion systems in order for Japan to be able to field a viable standoff hypersonic weapons capability. (Source: Defense News)

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Arnold Defense has manufactured more than 1.25 million 2.75-inch rocket launchers since 1961 for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and many NATO customers. They are the world’s largest supplier of rocket launchers for military aircraft, vessels and vehicles. Core products include the 7-round M260 and 19-round M261 commonly used by helicopters; the thermal coated 7-round LAU-68 variants and LAU-61 Digital Rocket Launcher used by the U.S. Navy and Marines; and the 7-round LAU-131 and SUU-25 flare dispenser used by the U.S. Air Force and worldwide.

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