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22 Oct 20. Exocet SM39 and MdCN firings from the new French submarine “Suffren.” Press Release from the French Ministry of the armed forces:
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly hails the success of the first naval cruise missile launch by the nuclear-powered attack submarine Suffren
- On October 20, 2020, the Suffren, the first-in-series of the six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) in the Barracuda programme, successfully completed the test firing of an MdCN (Missile de Croisière Naval) naval cruise missile from the sea near the DGA missile test centre at Biscarrosse.
- Florence Parly salutes this achievement: “For the first time, a French submarine has fired a cruise missile. This success gives our Navy a new strategic capability and places it among the world’s best. This new weapon is a real breakthrough, the result of years of effort and investment, enabled by the 2019-2025 military programming law. I want to congratulate everyone – in the Navy, the DGA, and industry – who made this firing possible. Until now, France’s submarine force could strike submarines and surface ships. Henceforth, it can destroy heavy land infrastructure at long range.”
- The firing completes the qualification phase of the integration of all Suffren’s weapon systems, carried out as part of its sea trials, conducted by the DGA (France’s Defence Procurement Agency) since last April.
- This success marks a key stage in the Suffren’s trials with a view to its final qualification by the DGA. The Suffren will be delivered to the French Navy by the end of 2020, before entering active service in 2021.
This test firing of the MdCN naval cruise missile – following careful preparations by teams from the DGA, the French Navy and the manufacturers MBDA and NAVAL GROUP – is the last milestone in a series of tests designed to verify the correct functioning of the Suffren’s armaments and of its combat system in general.
With a range of several hundred kilometres, the MdCN is tailored for missions against infrastructures of high strategic value. After the Multi-Mission Frigates (FREMM), the Suffren-class SSNs are the first French vessels to be equipped with this conventional deep strike capability. The ability to deploy the MdCN from submarines maintains the constant and undetected threat of a strike from the sea against enemy targets located far inland, and very significantly increases the penetration capacity of French weapons in military theatres of operation.
During its trials in the Mediterranean, the Suffren also successfully completed a test firing of an Exocet SM39 underwater-launched anti-ship missile from the sea near the DGA missile test centre on Île du Levant, as well as several test firings of the F21 heavy torpedo, a next-generation weapon that will ultimately be carried on all French Navy submarines.
The validation of the Suffren’s entire combat system paves the way for the end of sea trials and its overall qualification, which will enable it to be delivered to the French Navy for final verification of its military characteristics and commissioning for active service.
22 Oct 20. U.S. Army to demonstrate the capabilities of Patria Nemo 120mm mortar system through Foreign Comparative Testing. Patria has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army to conduct a turreted mortar feasibility study in the form of Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT). The testing complements ongoing cooperation between Patria and the U.S. Army on a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) announced in May.
The study consists of several tests and demonstrations in the U.S. and Finland. Through these events Patria and the Army are testing Patria Nemo 120 mm turreted mortar system performance with U.S. ammunition and against U.S. requirements.
This agreement is a continuation of the U.S. Army’s effort to provide Armored and Stryker Brigade Combat Teams with rapid, precise indirect and direct fire capability where the operating crew is well protected, and their physical burden is significantly reduced. In 2018 and 2020 the Army published market surveys to identify capable sources to develop and produce the 120 mm Modular Turreted Mortar System (MTMS). Patria answered the market surveys based on Patria Nemo mortar system.
Patria Nemo is the world’s foremost turreted mortar system. It is a remote-controlled 120 mm mortar system capable of both direct and indirect fire missions – including on the move. Nemo can execute multiple rounds simultaneous impact (MRSI) fire missions with up to 6 rounds hitting the target at the same time. In addition to being highly protected, Patria Nemo is light, compact and easily installed on light, tracked chassis, wheeled armored vehicles or navy vessels.
“The purpose of FCT programs is to find, assess, and field world-class products with a high technology readiness level in order to satisfy defense requirements more quickly and economically. We are convinced that these study and test efforts we conduct together with the U.S. Army demonstrate Patria Nemo’s unique capabilities compared to any other mortar system. Nemo as a mature fielded product – coupled with our clear growth potential vision – provide a future-proof and low-risk solution to existing and new customers. And for the U.S. Armed Forces our cooperation with Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace exemplify that we are committed to provide a system that is manufactured in the U.S.,” says Jussi Järvinen, President of Patria’s Land Business Unit.
20 Oct 20. Euronaval Show News – Layered Protection. Kinetics provide the initial response to incoming AShMs, notably SAMs to engage the offending weapons.
This year’s Euronaval exhibition is taking place online. The event, which normally happens in Paris, is being presented digitally because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The move online has not stopped companies unveiling new naval electronic warfare products. Etienne Lacroix is showcasing its VESTA jammer. VESTA is an acronym for Versatile Electronic Warfare Self Protection Tactic Onboard Unmanned Aircraft. It comprises a rotary Uninhabited Air Vehicle (UAV) equipped with a jamming payload. This can be deployed from a ship’s countermeasures dispenser. The UAV will transmit jamming waveforms while loitering an undisclosed distance from the ship.
VESTA is designed to help protect a vessel against radar-guided Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs). The company will not provide the payload and cannot reveal any details on the device.
Given the decoy’s targets one can assume that it can jam frequencies of at least 8.5 gigahertz/GHz to 40GHz. This will allow VESTA to attack X-band (8.5GHz to 10.68GHz), Ku-band (13.4GHz to 14GHz/15.7GHz to 17.7GHz), K-band (24.05GHz to 24.25GHz) and Ka-band (33.4GHz to 36GHz) signals. These frequencies are routinely used by AShM active radar homing seekers. The decoy will probably also transmit both seduction and deception jamming waveforms.
Following a contract awarded by France’s Agence de l’Innovation de Défense (Defence Innovation Agency/DIA), Lacroix is currently providing more detailed information to the agency and adapting the VESTA concept to its requests. A demonstration flight of the VESTA UAV is planned in the coming months. The DIA aims to advance technologies potentially useful for the French armed forces.
Offboard active decoys like the VESTA system proposed by Etienne Lacroix form an important part of the chain for defeating incoming anti-ship missiles. Passive decoys are the third part of the response to incoming AShMs with radar corner reflectors being one of the countermeasures which can be used against AShMs.
Company officials told Armada that VESTA could enhance Marine Nationale (French Navy) counter-AShM doctrine.
Current doctrine stresses a three-pronged approach: The first involves kinetic weapons like Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) engaging the AShM. The second layer uses active electronic countermeasures, chiefly jamming, to seduce or distract the AShM away from the ship. The third layer uses passive countermeasures like radar corner reflectors to hide the ship from the AShM’s radar.
One useful attribute of VESTA and passive decoys is that they could help ships to save on expensive SAMs when engaging AShMs in the future.
Officials continued that the company has already built a prototype UAV with flight trials expected in the next few months. Formal development of a production decoy could occur by 2024 with deliveries beginning by 2030. (Source: Armada)
21 Oct 20. All US Navy destroyers will get hypersonic missiles, says Trump’s national security adviser. The U.S. Navy plans to put hypersonic missiles on all Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, President Donald Trump’s top national security official said Wednesday. The Navy wants to field hypersonic missiles first on the Virginia-class attack submarine, then on the new Zumwalt-class destroyers, and then finally across the Burkes, national security adviser Robert O’Brien told an audience at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.
“The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will provide hypersonic missile capability to hold targets at risk from longer ranges,” O’Brien said in prepared remarks. “This capability will be deployed first on our newer Virginia-class submarines and the Zumwalt-class destroyers. Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability.”
The Navy has discussed back-fitting some of the older Burke-class destroyers, but putting them on all three flights, including ships dating back to the early 1990s, would be a massive expansion of the capability in the surface fleet. The current launchers are not large enough to accommodate the larger diameter missiles.
Swapping out the launchers on all the destroyers would be a significant expense and would likely tie up shipyards for years to come. An alterative to back-fitting the older destroyers would be waiting for a smaller hypersonic missile to be developed, such as an air-breathing model, as opposed to the boost-glide design.
How to get more firepower on ships is a crucial push for the Navy as it considers the challenge of keeping China at arms length in the Asia-Pacific region. Another idea under consideration is to put larger Vertical Launching System cells on the next-generation surface combatant.
Defense News is travelling with O’Brien as he seeks support for a plan, first unveiled by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, that could see the Navy’s fleet grow to more than 500 ships.
“Investment in the future is vital. Lightly and unmanned vessels equipped with artificial intelligence are likely to play a role in the future of our nation’s fleet,” O’Brien said. “The same is true of the small amphibious ships necessary to move [Marine Commandant Gen. David] Berger’s Marine littoral regiments around the islands of the Indo-Pacific.”
During his comments, O’Brien pledged that the push for the Battleforce 2045 plan would be accomplished without eating into readiness, saying: “The pursuit of these new systems, however, cannot be allowed to cause a ‘trough’ in force structure, whereby the nation endures reduced capability while we wait for future technologies and new ships to come online. Any such plan that trades current capability for future out-year promises is not acceptable to the president.”
O’Brien’s speech came the same day Forbes printed comments from Thomas Modly, the former acting Navy secretary, which threw skepticism at the Battleforce 2045 concept.
Esper and O’Brien hatched the idea in a private meeting “to discuss Navy strategy and shipbuilding, but no one from the Navy to include myself, the CNO, the Commandant, or any senior three-star involved in developing the shipbuilding plans budget were invited,” claimed Modly, who resigned in April.
“Math is a very stubborn thing,” Modly added. “If you are going to increase the size of the fleet from 275 to 355, or 500, and you aren’t going to increase the Navy’s top line to pay for it, you’ve merely created a mathematical challenge for yourself that cannot be solved.” (Source: Defense News)
20 Oct 20. PLAGF’s PHL-03 MRL armed with new, longer-range guided rocket, says Chinese state media. Chinese state-owned media has reported that the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force’s (PLAGF’s) Tibet Military District is deploying what it claims to be a new, longer-range, and more accurate rocket with modified PHL-03 multiple rocket launchers (MRLs).
Weihutang, a programme about military affairs from state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), released footage on 20 October showing several units of the new rocket being loaded onto a PHL-03 MRL, which is fitted with 12 launch tubes for 300 mm artillery rockets.
The new rocket, the range of which CCTV claims is 30 km greater than that of the standard rockets used by the system, is shown in the footage being fired by an artillery brigade during a high-altitude live-fire exercise – presumably in Tibet – and accurately striking several small targets in quick succession.
Given that the unguided BRC4, BRE2 and the guided Fire Dragon 140A 300 mm rockets used by the 8×8 PHL-03 all have a maximum range of about 130 km, the information provided by CCTV suggests that the new guided rocket – the designation of which was not revealed – has a maximum range of about 160km.
The exterior of the PHL-03 appears not to have undergone any major modifications but CCTV reported that the system now features a “higher level of information and intelligence”: a possible indication that it has been fitted with an improved fire-control suite.
No information was provided about how many of the MRLs have been modified and armed with the new rocket. It is also unclear when the PLAGF began fielding the new weapon. (Source: Jane’s)
20 Oct 20. Florence Parly Welcomes the Successful First Launch of Naval Cruise Missile by the Suffren Nuclear Attack Submarine. On October 20, 2020, the Suffren, the first of the six nuclear attack submarines (ANS) of the BARRACUDA program, successfully completed a Naval Cruise Missile (MdCN) test firing off the DGA Essais de Missiles site at Biscarrosse (Landes).
Florence Parly salutes this success: “For the first time, a French submarine has fired a cruise missile. This success gives our Navy a new strategic capability and places it among the best in the world. This new weapon is a real breakthrough, the fruit of years of effort and investment, notably permitted by the 2019-2025 military programming law. I congratulate all those – French Navy, DGA, industry – who made this firing possible. French submarine forces could hitherto strike submarines and surface ships. They can now destroy heavy land infrastructure at long ranges.”
This firing enabled the qualification of the integration of all the armaments of the Suffren, carried out as part of the ship’s sea trials conducted by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) since last April.
This success marks an important stage in the tests of the Suffren with a view to its overall qualification by the DGA. Her delivery to the French Navy will take place by the end of 2020, before her admission to active service in 2021.
Prepared by teams from the DGA, the French Navy and the manufacturers MBDA and Naval Group, this test firing of the MdCN naval cruise missile is the latest milestone in a series of tests which has made it possible to verify the correct operation of the weapons and, more generally, of the combat system of the Suffren.
With a range of several hundred kilometers, the MdCN can attack and destroy infrastructure targets having a high strategic value. After the Multi-Mission Frigates (FREMM), the Suffren nuclear attack submarines are the first French submarines equipped with this conventional deep strike capability.
The ability to fire the MoNC from a submarine poses a constant and undetected threat of a strike from the sea against inland targets. It very significantly increases the penetration capability of French weapons in theaters of operations.
During her trials in the Mediterranean, Suffren also successfully carried out, off the DGA Missile Tests site based on the Île du Levant (Var), a test firing of an Exocet SM39-type anti-ship missile. She also carried out several test firings of the F21 heavy torpedo. This new-generation weapon is ultimately intended for all French Navy submarines.
The qualification of the entire Suffren weapons system paves the way for the end of sea trials and its overall qualification. This will allow her delivery to the French Navy for the verification of her military characteristics and then her admission to active service.
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/French Directorate-General of Armaments)
20 Oct 20. Roketsan chief says Tunisia interested in guided bombs for UAVs. Tunisia and Indonesia are both interested in acquiring Roketsan guided munitions for their future unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to Murat İkinci, the Turkish company’s general manager.
“Countries like Indonesia and Tunisia, which are in search of unmanned aerial vehicles, have a high demand for the procurement of mini smart munitions MAM-L and MAM-C, the main weapon systems mounted on the Turkish UAVs,” İkinci said in an interview with state-owned Anadolu Agency (AA) on 18 October.
It was reported earlier this year that Tunisia had ordered six Anka-S systemsfrom Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), each with two UAVs. However, Africa Intelligence reported in September that the contract had been cancelled as Tunis could not find the funds.
The Anka-S is the version of TAI’s Anka family that has a satellite communications capability for beyond-line-of-sight operations. Roketsan’s MAM-L and smaller MAM-C laser-guided bombs have been integrated with the Anka.
These weapons have proved effective when used with the Bayraktar TB2, a smaller Turkish-made UAV, in Syria and Libya earlier this year. “Their usage in recent fights have changed the course of the operations in Turkey’s favour,” İkinci noted. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Jane’s)
20 Oct 20. Boeing, U.S. Navy to Demo Future Ramjet Missile Technology. The demonstrator will help the Navy determine technical requirements for future carrier-based weapons systems.
Boeing [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Navy will demonstrate advanced missile technologies that will make carrier air wing strike fighters more lethal against threats into the next decade.
Boeing has been awarded a $30m contract from the Navy to co-develop the Supersonic Propulsion Enabled Advanced Ramjet (SPEAR) flight demonstrator with the Navy’s Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. The contract award comes after the Department of Defense requested information from the defense industry to help the Navy determine technical requirements of future carrier-based land and sea strike weapons systems.
“The SPEAR flight demonstrator will provide the F/A-18 Super Hornet and carrier strike group with significant improvements in range and survivability against advanced threat defensive systems,” said Steve Mercer, Boeing’s SPEAR program manager. “We have a talented team of engineers to meet the challenging technical demands and schedule timeline that the SPEAR program requires. We look forward to working with Navy experts to advance technologies for the Navy’s future capabilities.”
Boeing and the Navy Air Warfare Center Weapons Division plan to fly the SPEAR demonstrator in late 2022. Prior successes by Boeing in developing supersonic and hypersonic technologies include the X-51 Waverider test vehicle in 2010 and the Variable Flow Ducted Rocket propulsion system under the Triple Target Terminator program in 2014.
Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes, defense, space and security systems, and global services. As a top U.S. exporter, the company supports commercial and government customers in more than 150 countries. Building on a legacy of aerospace leadership, Boeing continues to lead in technology and innovation, deliver for its customers and invest in its people and future growth.
21 Oct 20. Opto Space & Defense and SMART SHOOTER sign a MoU to sell Smart Shooter SMASH family of solutions in Brazil. The Brazilian Strategic Defense Company Opto S&D, of the Akaer Group, and the Israeli Defense Company Smart Shooter signed on October 8th a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore the commercial potential of Smart Shooter products in Brazil, both in the Brazilian Armed Forces and in the Public Security Forces.
Opto Space & Defense is a company highly specialized in the development and manufacture of optronic systems for the space and defense market. Smart Shooter’s SMASH Fire Control solutions allow the operator to quickly and effectively neutralize any ground or airborne, manned or unmanned threat through automatic detection, tracking, and effective engagement. The new partnership provides support in the marketing, training and after-sales of Smart Shooter products in Brazil in this first phase.
Further activities are foreseen in this MoU, such as the expansion of the market in a second phase and even assembly, integration, testing and manufacture of some parts in Brazil in a subsequent phase.
“This partnership will bring to future national customers of Smart Shooter products the tranquility and security of having a Strategic Defense company improving the operational life of these products” comments Claudio Carvas, CEO of Opto Space & Defense.
Michal Mor, SMART SHOOTER CEO, “We are honored to partner with Opto S&D, and are confident that together we will bring real value for the defence and security forces in Brazil. SMASH is a combat-proven Fire Control solution that ensures each round finds its target. Bringing precision-missile targeting algorithms and advanced electro-optical processing capabilities into standard infantry, SMASH offers a unique “One Shot – One Hit” capability and ultimately revolutionizes the world of small arms and optics.”
20 Oct 20. Estimate of new nuclear missiles to replace Minuteman 3 arsenal increases to $95.8bn. The Pentagon has raised to $95.8bn the estimated cost of fielding a new fleet of land-based nuclear missiles to replace the Minuteman 3 arsenal that has operated continuously for 50 years, officials said Monday.
The estimate is up about $10bn from four years ago.
The weapons, known as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, are intended as part of a near-total replacement of the American nuclear force over the next few decades at a total cost of more than $1.2trn.
Some, including former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, argue that U.S. national security can be ensured without ICBMs, but the Pentagon says they are vital to deterring war. The Trump administration affirmed its commitment to fielding a new generation of ICBMs in a 2018 review of nuclear policy.
“The ICBM force is highly survivable against any but a large-scale nuclear attack,” the review concluded. “To destroy U.S. ICBMs on the ground, an adversary would need to launch a precisely coordinated attack with hundreds of high-yield and accurate warheads. This is an insurmountable challenge for any potential adversary today, with the exception of Russia.”
The current fleet of 400 deployed Minuteman missiles, each armed with a single nuclear warhead, is based in underground silos in Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Their numbers are governed in part by the 2010 New START treaty with Russia, which is due to expire in February. Russia wants to extend the treaty but the Trump administration has set conditions not accepted by Moscow.
The U.S. also is building a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines to replace the current Ohio-class strategic subs; a new long-range nuclear-capable bomber to replace the B-2 stealth aircraft; a next-generation air-launched nuclear cruise missile; and a new nuclear command and communications system. It also is working on updated warheads, including an ICBM warhead replacement for an estimated $14.8bn.
The nuclear modernization program was launched by the Obama administration and has been continued by President Donald Trump. Democrat Joe Biden has said that if elected in November he would consider finding ways to scale back the program.
The Pentagon’s $95.8bn cost estimate for the Minuteman replacement was first reported by Bloomberg News. The Pentagon provided the estimate to Congress last month but had, until Monday, refused to release it publicly.
Last month the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3bn contract for engineering and manufacturing development of the new missiles. The total “lifecycle” cost, including operating and sustaining the missiles over their expected lifetime into the 2070s, is set at $263.9 bn. (Source: Defense News)
19 Oct 20. BAE Systems Offers ARCHER Wheeled Howitzer for U.S. Army’s 155mm Gun System. BAE Systems has proposed its ARCHER howitzer in response to the U.S. Army’s request for proposals for a 155 mm wheeled gun system. ARCHER is a fully automated weapon system that provides highly responsive and versatile fire support to troops in combat.
BAE Systems is offering ARCHER for participation in the Army’s plans to conduct a “shoot off” evaluation early next year at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The Army’s RFP, released on July 30, looks to evaluate mobile howitzers in support of future Army requirements. ARCHER is already in service with the Swedish Army with the highest technical and manufacturing readiness levels.
“ARCHER is a mature, proven system that can quickly get into the fight and strike enemy targets at long ranges, with a high rate of fire and very fast displacement times, and is made for combat against large power adversaries,” said Chris King, director of business development at BAE Systems. “With a fully automated system, soldiers can execute their mission with minimal physical exertion and time, while remaining under cover in the armored cabin. The cab protection, fast shoot and scoot times and its extended range all enhance survivability and sustain fire support in harsh combat conditions.”
ARCHER brings a single, fielded package of capabilities that would provide U.S. soldiers with responsiveness and flexibility that far exceed current capabilities. ARCHER is typically operated by a crew of three to four soldiers but can be operated by only one.
ARCHER can fire within 30 seconds of receiving an order. It can then depart its firing position within 30 seconds, minimizing the enemy’s ability to effectively return fire. Its magazine carries 21 rounds and can unload all of them in less than three minutes. ARCHER can fire the BONUS anti-armor munition up to 35 km, conventional munitions up to 40 km, and currently fielded precision-guided munitions like Excalibur in excess of 50 km. BONUS and Excalibur are currently in the U.S. Army’s inventory.
ARCHER is manufactured by BAE Systems Bofors, which is based in Karlskoga, Sweden. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
19 Oct 20. Lacroix reveals VESTA active offboard decoy study. French countermeasures and pyrotechnics group Lacroix has revealed a package of studies and associated risk reduction work aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of an active offboard decoy deployed using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The VESTA active offboard decoy (shown) right is seen as complementary to other soft-kill countermeasures. Lacroix has developed the VESTA active offboard decoy concept in response to a call for proposals from the Agence Innovation Défense. (Lacroix)
The year-long concept development effort, known as Véhicule Ejecté Support Tactique d’Autoprotection (VESTA), is being funded under a call released by France’s Agence Innovation Défense. The accelerator project, being undertaken in partnership with specialist UAV house Aviation Design, is intended to establish the feasibility of reactive soft-kill anti-ship missile defence decoy that employs a manoeuvring multirotor UAV to deploy a jammer payload.
According to Lacroix, the VESTA decoy is intended to provide an additional and complementary layer of ship self-protection, operating inside the envelope of hard-kill anti-air guided missiles but further offboard than typical soft-kill seduction decoys. The current programme is focused on the launch system and the performance of the multirotor carrier vehicle: the electronic warfare (EW) payload itself is outside the scope of the project.
In Lacroix’s concept, a rocket-boost motor is used to power the VESTA round offboard. Once deployed to range, the air vehicle deploys six rotor arms and transitions to controlled flight. The EW payload, housed in the forward section of the flight vehicle body, then begins to transmit a suitable jamming modulation. (Source: Jane’s)
19 Oct 20. MBDA launches the new VL MICA NG air defence system. On the occasion of the Euronaval-Online exhibition, MBDA announces the commercial launch of its new VL MICA NG air defence system.
The VL MICA NG system is based on the integration into the existing VL MICA system of the MICA NG (New Generation) anti-air missile, which began development in 2018 primarily to equip France’s Rafale combat aircraft. The VL MICA system family – now adopted, in its naval or land-based versions, by 15 armed forces around the world – will consequently benefit from enhanced potential to counter future threats.
About the VL MICA NG system, MBDA CEO Eric Béranger declared: “After two years of development on the New Generation MICA missile, we have acquired a deep understanding of the performance of this brand new air-to-air missile which allows us, in full confidence, to market its integration into VL MICA ground-to-air or surface-to-air defence systems. The total compatibility between the two generations of missile will allow armed forces to combine them with their existing systems, thus maximizing their return on investments.”
Thanks to the technological innovations it incorporates, the new VL MICA NG system offers improved capabilities to handle atypical targets (UAVs, small aircraft) as well as future threats, characterised by increasingly low observable infrared and radio frequency signatures. Additionally, it will be able to intercept at longer distances the ‘conventional’ targets (aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles) already addressed by the current VL MICA system.
The dimensions of the MICA NG munition remain unchanged, allowing it to be integrated into existing VL MICA launchers. The existing missile data link mechanisms are compatible with the increased kinematic performance of the missiles, enabling current VL MICA systems to be upgraded to VL MICA NG standard by simple software updates.
About the MICA NG missile
Based on an entirely new design, the MICA NG missile inherits the external dimensions and unique concept that has made the MICA anti-air missile such a success for a quarter of a century. This concept means MICA features either an infrared or a radio frequency seeker on the same common missile body, allowing the operator, at the moment of firing, to select the best option to respond to the tactics adopted by the adversary.
On the MICA NG, a new infrared seeker based on a matrix sensor will provide increased sensitivity, while a new radio frequency seeker with an active electronically scanned antenna (AESA) will allow for smart detection strategies. The lower volume of electronic components will enable the MICA NG to carry a larger load of propellant, significantly extending its range, and the new dual-pulse rocket motor will provide additional energy to the missile at the end of its flight, improving its manoeuvrability and its ability to intercept targets at long range. In surface-to-air mode, the MICA NG will be able to intercept targets over 40 km away. Finally, maintenance and ownership costs will be significantly reduced thanks to internal sensors that will monitor the status of the munition throughout its life cycle.
The MICA NG missile will be available in series production from 2026.
17 Oct 20. Romania cleared to buy advanced ship-killing missiles. The U.S. State Department on Friday approved the potential sale of Naval Strike Missile Coastal Defense Systems to Romania, in a deal that could be worth about $300m. The Naval Strike Missile is a sea-skimming, over-the-horizon anti-ship missile that has limited, built-in target recognition capabilities. Romania wants to buy two of the systems, according to an announcement on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
“The proposed sale will improve Romania’s capability to meet current and future threats by improving Romania’s maritime defense capabilities in the Black Sea and increasing interoperability with the United States,” the DSCA announcement read. “Romania will use this long-range, precision strike weapon to enhance mission effectiveness, survivability, and NATO interoperability in current and future missions and operations.”
Included in the proposed package are up to 10 Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Joint Tactical Radio Systems, two Coastal Defense System Fire Distribution Centers, four Mobile Launch Vehicles, Transport Loading Vehicles and the missiles themselves, as well as other equipment.
Work would primarily be completed at Raytheon’s Tucson, Arizona, facility. DSCA announcements do not represent final sales. If there is no congressional objection, the customer can begin negotiating over price and quantities, which often change by the time a final sale is completed. This is the first Foreign Military Sale request cleared by the State Department for Romania since 2017. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
15 Oct 20. BAE Systems making up M109A7 howitzer delivery delays. BAE Systems had made great strides moving past previous Paladin M109A7 self-propelled howitzer production challenges but earlier this year the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), in part, led to the company missing two vehicle deliveries, according to service acquisition chief Bruce Jette.
Jette spoke with Janes on 14 October about various programmes and the Covid-19-related effect on the service that has delayed several soldier touchpoints and scaled back exercises like Defender Europe 2020. Although Jette said that the service’s prized modernisation efforts remained on track and schedule, there have been delays including the delivery of two M109A7s that the company is working to make up.
“The two vehicles that were short in the spring were attributed to a temporary plant closure to set up the plant infrastructure and procedures to guard against Covid-19,” Ashley John, director for public and congressional affairs for the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems, later explained. “BAE delivered one of the two vehicles in August and will make up the second vehicle this month.”
BAE Systems produces the new howitzer at its York, Pennsylvania, facility and in the past has encountered production problems and delays with this line and others. In 2017, for example, the company even halted Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) deliveries for six months to address welding challenges. However, by mid-2019 the service said that the company had rebound with the programme and was meeting its monthly goals.
Jette noted that this upward trajectory had continued until the coronavirus-related delay struck. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Oct 20. Lockheed Martin Poised to Deliver on National Priority for Homeland Defense. Competitive source selection formed robust industry team to deliver missile interceptor for the nation.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) teamed with Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE: AJRD) on a proposal to compete for the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) contract for The Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
Lockheed Martin is offering an interceptor designed from the ground up as an all-up-round to address all elements of environmental survivability from day one. Our partner Aerojet Rocketdyne will power our primary propulsion to address all U.S. Northern Command challenges to last for decades.
“We support the MDA’s vision for NGI, particularly in light of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle termination and a fast-moving threat environment. Evolution of our deployed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to defend the homeland is critical,” said Sarah Reeves, vice president of Missile Defense Programs at Lockheed Martin. “The strength of our team comes from an understanding of how to design and sustain radiation hardened strategic systems, the application of advanced digital engineering, and unmatched hit-to-kill performance. This includes more than 100 successful intercepts and over 50 successful target missions.”
“Aerojet Rocketdyne has provided propulsion on the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system since its inception, and we’re pleased to partner with Lockheed Martin on this next generation opportunity,” said Eileen P. Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “Today, we’re evolving our propulsion solutions with innovative advanced technologies to improve performance at lower costs.”
Lockheed Martin looks forward to disclosing the full composition of the NGI team in the near term. The team includes a balance of GMD incumbents and technology leaders best suited to deliver on this never-fail mission.
The views expressed are those of Lockheed Martin and do not constitute an endorsement by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
19 Oct 20. Chinese H-6N appears with mysterious ballistic missile. A brief video has emerged of a Xian H-6N bomber carrying what could be a ballistic missile or boost-glide vehicle along its centreline.
The video appeared on the Chinese internet on 17 October. It goes some way to confirming a long-held theory that one mission for the H-6N, the most advanced variant of the H-6 family, is lofting ballistic missiles.
The 8s of footage shows the aircraft on short final, flying over a civilian runway just before landing. While appearing to confirm one mystery about the H-6N’s mission, the video raises other questions.
Since the H-6N’s appearance in Beijing’s military parade on 1 October 2020, observers have commented on the concavity that replaces the bomb bay seen on previous variants of the H-6. Speculation held that it is designed to carry a single DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile, or perhaps a hypersonic vehicle of some type, potentially the DF-17 that appeared on a wheeled launcher during the parade.
The brevity and quality of the video make it difficult to ascertain what, exactly, the H-6N was carrying. One on-line commentator from China posited that the weapon in the footage is somewhat longer than the DF-21.
The weapon could be a straight-up ballistic missile intended to carry a conventional warhead, or potentially a boost-glide hypersonic vehicle, which would give it improved range. Equipped with a nuclear warhead, a boost-glide hypersonic weapon deployed from an H-6N could hold very distant targets at risk.
Roderick Lee, research director at the China Aerospace Studies Institute, tweeted that the airfield in the video could be the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) base at Neixiang. In a recent story he wrote for The Diplomat, Lee said that satellite imagery suggests that Neixiang Airfield in Henan Province has been extensively upgraded to support H-6Ns performing a nuclear mission.
The H-6N certainly has the Pentagon’s attention. In its annual report to congress about China in early September, it had this to say about the new variant: “The H-6N features a modified fuselage that allows it to carry externally either a drone or an air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) that may be nuclear capable. The H-6N’s air-to-air refueling capability also provides it greater reach over other H-6 variants that are not refuelable in air.”
It also said that the advent of the H-6N in the PLAAF marks the return of China’s nuclear triad, under which nuclear deterrence is achieved through a mix of nuclear-capable bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and ground-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles.
It is far from clear if the weapon seen under the aircraft has been tested, or if the aircraft in the video was involved in captive carry tests.
Another high-profile – and far more publicity friendly – example of rockets launched by aircraft is Virgin Orbit, which aims to launch small satellites into orbit from a Boeing 747-400. The company’s Youtube channel offers some sense of the challenges involved in lofting rockets from aircraft.
Virgin Orbit conducted its first captive carry flight in November 2018, with the first drop test taking place seven months later in July 2019. The first launch, a failure, only took place in May 2020.
One point raised in Virgin Orbit’s publicity material is that by using 747s it can conduct launches from runways around the world. Similarly, H-6Ns with ballistic missile capabilities could be deployed from air bases and airports across China, thereby improving survivability in a conflict. It could also be deployed to bases beyond China.
So far, the H-6N has likely only been produced in small numbers. It could be some years before the H-6N/ALBM combination becomes a mature capability. If one H-6N/ALBM mission involves attacking highly mobile targets, such as warships, its success will rely upon a highly redundant, fast-acting kill chain that can detect targets, track them, and provide quality targeting data in a timely manner.
Irrespective of the challenges Beijing may face with this ambitious project, the new H-6N footage is a clear milestone in the world’s understanding of its strategic intentions. (Source: News Now/Flight Global)
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