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19 May 21. Content with flat budget, anti-ship missiles the top priority in 2022, USMC Commandant says. US Marine Corps (USMC) Commandant General David Berger did not publicly bemoan the prospect of a relatively flat budget over the coming years when he spoke about progress in transforming the force for operations in the Pacific region at an 18 May Brookings Institute event.
“My anticipation was that it was going to be flat [budget] and we were not going to be on a climbing trajectory for the next four or five years,” the four-star general. “I think we are set up okay.”
Over the past year, the USMC has moved ahead with its Force Design 2030 plan that redefines how the service will fight in the future, in part by becoming smaller and more nimble in support of naval expeditionary warfare operations.
“You need a very forward expeditionary, fairly light, fairly mobile force all the time in the right areas,” Gen Berger said, noting that this will allow the service to conduct reconnaissance operations.
”Somebody has to paint a picture of what in the world is going on in front of us and you need a force forward to do that,” he added. “I think satellites and everything else contribute, but there’s great value in being forward.”
Gen Berger said the USMC would act as a “deterrence” to China if based around the Indo-Pacific region.
”Not just deterrence by punishment, or the threat of punishment, but actually deterrence detection, meaning they will have to change their scheme because they believe we can pretty much see what they’re doing all the time,” the commandant added. (Source: Jane’s)
20 May 21. Estonian Artillery Deploys UGVs for Fire Support and Situational Awareness. In April, the Estonian Defence Forces artillery battalion trialled two Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) during a live-fire exercise. The tasks given to the UGVs included advanced situational awareness, casualty evacuation and support the unit while it s manoeuvred to provide direct fire support from various positions. The two UGVs differed in their set up; one was dedicated to combat support and featured an integral FN Herstal deFNder Light Remote Weapon System (RWS) with a 7.62 mm machine gun while the other operated Acecore’s tethered drone.
The THeMIS Combat was used to provide direct fire support with its machine gun to an antitank weapons team and a forward observer’s team as they manoeuvred into position, then covered their withdrawal. This was also used for CASEVAC at the main position.
THeMIS Observe deployed the tethered drone to provide overwatch and increase the battalion’s situational awareness.
“Having UGVs as a part of the reconnaissance force that prepares the arrival of the main unit, the UGVs could secure the indirect fire and anti-tank teams by providing direct fire support during an engagement and whilst some units are withdrawing. UGVs could also act as front guards all by themselves since they can provide situational awareness and act as forward observers for indirect fire,” said Lieutenant Mari-Li Kapp, commander of operations and training section in the artillery battalion..
“Taking part in the live-fire exercise of the Artillery Battalion was a great opportunity for us to validate our new infantry support UGV with end users in an actual combat scenario,” said Jüri Pajuste, director of Defence Research at Milrem Robotics.
The THeMIS UGV has been acquired by 11 countries, of which seven are NATO members, including Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and the US. In April, Milrem delivered its first THeMIS UGV to Australian homeland security specialist XTEK for demonstrations. (Source: Armada)
29 Mar. 21. US Army Demonstrates Auto-loading Artillery. The US Army’s Picatinny Armaments Center recently highlighted its progress toward developing automated loading for its self-propelled howitzers.
These efforts are receiving increased attention as a part of the Extended Range Artillery Cannon (ERCA) project a key component of the Long Range Precision Fires a priority initiative in the Army’s modernization.
The lethality and operational benefits of auto-loaded self-propelled howitzers has been well established in its field use in the German PzH2000, Russian 2S19 “Msta-S”, and Swedish Archer.
ERCA XM1299E1 auto-loading integration on to the M109A7 requires not simply new ammunition handling but also a new breech, gun positioning, and ammunition and fuse selection and setting. Achieving a rate of fire of 7 rounds per minute has been demonstrated in Army evaluations, though these employed a limited capacity loader.
The next step for the ERCA Integration Team is preparing a full-capacity autoloader and optimized turret system for two demonstrations planned for 2021. These will further validate autoloader technologies and increased rates of fire.
Mr. Josiah Fay, Armaments Center Project Officer for ERCA, explained ERCA from the turret bearing up is a 100-percent Armaments Center-developed system. The armament and munitions have been thought about and innovation applied to them by the engineers at the Armaments Center for the XM1299, which gets’ you the range, and XM1299E1, which gets you the rate of fire capability.
A major challenge is having the ability to load and manage the range of legacy and emerging fuses, propellant charges and projectiles of different shapes, sizes, and weights to execute a fire mission.
In addition, ideally the auto-loader technology should also be able to be applied to the other M109A7 155mm 39 caliber self-propelled howitzers that make up the vast majority of the fielded inventory. (Source: Armada)
19 May 21. UK eyes US mobile howitzer shoot-off to inform Mobile Fires Platform. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) will observe the US Army’s Mobile Howitzer trials and shoot-off to inform the procurement of a Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) that aims to refresh the British Army’s artillery capabilities.
MFP is one of the British Army’s key projects as it looks to modernise following the publication of the Defence Command Paper, and the government has earmarked £800m to be spent on the programme over the next decade.
Participating in the US trials are Elbit’s ATMOS 2000, BAE Systems’ Archer, Nexter’s Caesar and Yugoimport’s Nora. The trials are set to include a complete analysis of platforms and ordnance.
Commenting on observing the trials, an MOD spokesperson told Army Technology: “The UK will observe the US Army’s mobile Howitzer trials and shoot off to develop our market understanding as part of the MFP procurement process.”
The UK is currently working towards approval of an outline business case for the programme in the first quarter of 2022, with an eye towards a full operating capability of 116 guns in 2032. Initial operating capability for MFP is aimed at 18 guns in early 2029.
The MOD has already reviewed and analysed responses to a request for information from industry and has conducted an analysis of potential investment options.
Over the next quarter, the MOD plans to develop the programmes procurement strategy and plan the project’s future assessment phase.
The UK currently operated the AS-90 self-propelled howitzer, which was first introduced into service in the early 1990s. Initially, the British Army operated 179 systems, however by 2017, this had been reduced to 110, reflecting a lack of significant upgrades to the UK’s AS-90s. The system is currently scheduled to be retired in 2030.
The UK has yet to decide whether the future MFP will be a wheeled or tracked system and in a recent press briefing, the British Army’s Head of Strategy Brigadier John Clark told reporters that options for the programme include upgrading the AS-90 fleet to meet modern threats.
The British Army will also spend £250m upgrades to its M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) designed to keep the system in service until 2050. Upgrades will see 44 launchers get a new armoured cab and upgraded automotive and launch mechanism components. (Source: army-technology.com)
19 May 21. US Army tackles enduring system to counter both drone and cruise missile threats. The U.S. Army is on a path to choose an enduring system that will counter both drone and cruise missile threats by releasing a solicitation to industry for a prototyping effort and by hosting a shoot-off for two teams at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The service released a solicitation for prototypes for its Indirect Fires Protection Capability, or IFPC, in April.
According to several sources familiar with the activity, the shoot-off to evaluate possible existing capabilities that can be incorporated into an enduring IFPC solution began in earnest, with one team firing its offering — a combination of a launcher and an interceptor — at White Sands at the end of April.
A second team would have its chance in May.
One team is known to be an Israel-based Rafael and Raytheon Technologies pairing, incorporating elements of Rafael’s Iron Dome and its Tamir interceptor — otherwise known as SkyHunter in the U.S. If chosen, the team would launch production in the United States at a location yet to be disclosed.
The second team is believed to be led by Dynetics, according to sources, but the company did not respond to a request for comment confirming participation. Sources believe the team is using Raytheon’s AIM-9X Sidewinder interceptor as part of the solution.
The intention for IFPC is to protect critical fixed- or semi-fixed assets, and would be a more mobile solution than one that would suffice at a forward-operating base. IFPC is planned to bridge the gap between short-range air defense systems, the Patriot air and missile defense system, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
The Army has been trying to formulate its enduring IFPC system for several years. It purchased two Iron Dome batteries, produced through a partnership between Rafael and Raytheon, to serve as an interim solution for cruise missile defense. The acquisition was congressionally mandated, and those batteries have been delivered to units and are on track to be deemed operational by the end of the year.
The Army conducted analysis for an enduring IFPC solution in fiscal 2019 to include taking technical data from its Expanded Mission Area Missile program of candidate interceptors.
The verification phase evaluated Raytheon’s Low-Cost Active Seeker as well as its SkyHunter interceptor (the U.S. variant of Rafael’s Tamir missile used in Iron Dome) and Lockheed Martin’s Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile. All three of the interceptors were characterized as possible candidates for an IFPC interceptor.
The Army originally planned to develop and field its own multimission launcher as part of the enduring IFPC solution but canceled that program in favor of finding a more technologically mature launcher.
According to the solicitation, the Army is laser-focused on solving how to counter both cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft systems, with plans to later incorporate a capability to stop the threats of rockets, artillery and mortars. The shoot-off is only planning to evaluate systems against cruise missiles and UAS, but the Army will use data from the event to look at the RAM capability as well.
While the Army examines options in action, it will also round up prototype proposals — due June 4 — that would include a launcher and interceptor options able to tie into the current and future versions of the Sentinel radar as well as into the service’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.
The Army plans to develop, qualify and deliver “fieldable prototypes” to enter into testing and support combat capability by FY23.
The service “will select the proposal that is most advantageous and represents the best value to the [U.S. government] based on an integrated assessment of the evaluation results,” the solicitation stated.
The plan is to choose a single offeror to build prototypes with a period of performance beginning in August 2021 and ending March 2024. The Army aims to award a contract on Aug. 24, 2021, according to the solicitation.
More specifically, the Army would like to see prototypes delivered for testing by the fourth quarter of FY22 and would like to see a complete system delivered that can integrate with IBCS by the third quarter of FY23.
The Army plans to evaluate proposals based on whether they meet capability requirements with countering UAS and cruise missiles as more important than countering RAM threats. Schedule and price are also factors to consider, but they rank lower in priority, according to the solicitation.
“Capability is more important than schedule. Schedule is more important than price,” the solicitation stated. “However, price may be used as the determining factor when ratings of acceptable proposals are closely grouped.”
The Army will factor in the systems’ lethality at required keep-out ranges as most important, followed by its ability to provide 360-degree coverage of a defended area. Then, in order of importance, the number of stowed kills, target service rate, load and reload time, the amount of time it takes to emplace the system, and operational availability (which factors in reliability and maintainability) will be weighed in the decision-making process.
The service will also evaluate proposals based on their ability to support future RAM capabilities.
Following the prototyping phase, a follow-on production contract for 400 launchers and associated interceptors may be initiated, according to the solicitation. (Source: Defense News)
18 May 21. US Army Tries Out Humvee-Mounted Howitzer. How do you safely fire a 105 mm cannon off the back of a Humvee? With a unique recoil-reduction system. The US Army is checking out two sizes of a unique low-recoil howitzer system: a 155mm gun on a 6×6 truck, Brutus, and a 105mm on a 4×4 Humvee, Hawkeye. That’s an extraordinarily small vehicle to mount an artillery piece, and reducing recoil is the key to making it work.
The “soft recoil” system was developed by Mandus Group and integrated on vehicles by Humvee manufacturer AM General. By shifting the howitzer barrel forward and installing better hydraulics, the system reduces the recoil – depending on the elevation and range of the shot – anywhere from 40 to 60 percent, AM General CEO Andy Hove told me.
If you cut the recoil in half, the whole artillery system need be only half as heavy to absorb the stock, Hove went on. “You can save a tremendous amount of weight,” he said, which translates into a cheaper, lighter vehicle, with lower fuel and maintenance costs, that’s easier to deploy abroad and sustain in the field.
“Just on the gun itself, the soft recoil system has fewer operating parts that need to be maintained than the current recoil system,” he told me – and they’re under much less strain, so they’ll break down less.
The soft-recoil system scales up and down, so there are actually two versions.
The 155mm model, called Brutus, was touted as a contender for the Army’s new wheeled howitzer, meant to accompany highly mobile 8×8 Stryker vehicles into battle. Currently, Stryker units rely on towed 155s, which are much less mobile and take much more time to set up than self-propelled versions. The Army’s currently conducting an informal “shoot off” of four alternative wheeled howitzers; the reported contenders are American (AM General’s Brutus), Israeli (Elbit’s Iron Saber), Swedish (BAE’s Archer), and even Serbian (Yugoimport’s NORA).
The 105mm model, called Hawkeye, would presumably accompany light infantry units, which mostly move on foot and have a handful of vehicles, including trucks to tow artillery. When the company first rolled Hawkeye out in 2016, it emphasized the international market, because the US wasn’t pursuing such a vehicle. But this morning, AM General announced that it “recently received a Firm-Fixed-Price (FFP) contract from the United States Army to provide two HUMVEE 2-CT Hawkeye Mobile Howitzer Systems (MHS) for the U.S. Army’s characterization test.”
“Characterization” is a relatively informal form of testing, and it certainly comes with no commitment to buy – but it shows Hawkeye has a foot in the door. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
18 May 21. Gray Eagle ER Enables Joint Terminal Attack Controller Operations. UAS Platform from GA-ASI Advances Sensor to Shooter Capability. On April 23, 2021, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) demonstrated enhanced situational awareness and targeting capability for ground forces during a company-funded technology demonstration at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. The demonstration focused on enabling a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) to control the Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensor on a Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and rapidly call for direct and indirect fire on an array of targets.
The JTAC was able to see GE-ER video, aircraft location, and sensor field of regard utilizing an Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK) and a TrellisWare TW-950 TSM Shadow® Radio. Utilizing the GE-ER’s open-architecture, the JTAC was able to send digital ‘Call for Fires’ to request artillery support, and a digital 9-line for Close Air Support with the push of a few buttons. The GE-ER, configured for Multi-Domain Operations, autonomously re-routed its flight path to provide the sensor data that the JTAC requested without commands from the GE-ER operator.
This demonstration is another step in a series of demonstrations that began in November 2019.
“GA-ASI remains committed to advancing technology that provides maximum situational awareness and lethality to the warfighter,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “The JTAC’s use of the ATAK tablet, while teamed with the Gray Eagle ER, enables rapid situational awareness and engagements, which addresses one of the Army’s top priorities.”
The use of this newly developed technology marks a significant improvement in situational awareness compared to the use of voice communications. The technology improved efficiency, reduced latency, and reduced risk of collateral damage. In addition, the JTAC’s ability to orient GE-ER sensors on targets from an ATAK tablet reduces man-in-the-loop errors and increases targeting speed. These advancements are critical elements to current and future armed conflicts that reduce the risk to Soldiers forward on the battlefield. (Source: ASD Network)
18 May 21. H&K develops smaller-calibre SA-80 assault rifle for training.
An in-house development by Heckler & Koch (H&K) of a new self-loading .22 Rimfire calibre variant of the standard British Army SA-80 (L85A2) assault rifle, normally chambered for the 5.56×45 mm NATO cartridges, is to enter British service soon, according to two contracts recently awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The MoD’s decision to withdraw from service the long-serving H&K .22 Rimfire calibre L41A1 ‘Kit Conversion’ – originally issued for small-bore training on indoor shooting ranges with the primary L85A2/3 assault rifle and the L98A1 Cadet GP manually-operated version of the SA-80 (the latter also now withdrawn from service) – has left a requirement for a replacement in regular army and in Cadet units, many of which have limited access to outdoor ranges. H&K’s UK office told Janes that the new rifle is to be based on the L85A2 variant, for which H&K is the fleet maintainer, and has as yet to be allocated an official ‘L’ number nomenclature, but is described as the ‘SA-80 0.22 Small Bore Rifle’. Its system of operation is simple blow-back and the operating mechanism is based on that used in the earlier L41A1 ‘Kit Conversion’, with stripping and assembly of the rifle (apart from the operating system) being the same as the parent weapon. The dedicated magazine is also the same as that used with the L41A1. (Source: Jane’s)
18 May 21. Raytheon, Kongsberg complete first AMRAAM-ER live-fire tests. Raytheon Missiles & Defense (RMD) and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA) completed the first two live-fire tests of the new-design Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile – Extended-Range (AMRAAM-ER) surface-to-air interceptor at Andøya Space, Norway, in late April.
Conducted on 20 and 22 April respectively, but disclosed on 12 May, the two controlled test vehicle (CTV) shots were telemetry tests designed to assess the missile performance and launcher interfaces, a Raytheon spokesperson told Janes. The tests also provided critical flight data that will be used to improve the AMRAAM-ER’s future software algorithm development.
Intended as the principal extended-range interceptor for the KDA and Raytheon National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), AMRAAM-ER is set to expand the NASAMS engagement envelope with a 50% increase in maximum range, and a 70% increase in maximum altitude. Specific range and altitude intercept data are not disclosed.
“We are now one step closer to certification, production, and final integration of the weapon into NASAMS,” said Paul Ferraro, vice-president of Air Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.
Raytheon officially disclosed the AMRAAM-ER programme in February 2015, although the company has been considering the concept since about 2008, with a decision to commit company internal research and development (IRAD) funding for the development programme made in mid-2014. The original AMRAAM-ER solution was a hybrid interceptor concept, which married the front end (radar homing guidance section, warhead) of an AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM with the back end (rocket motor and control section) of an RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM). This configuration was tested at Andøya Space in August 2016 using the ESSM rocket motor to demonstrate the AMRAAM-ER concept. (Source: Jane’s)
17 May 21. US Air Force performs proof-of-concept that could increase JASSM capacity on F-15E. The US Air Force (USAF) on 11 May completed the Project Strike Rodeo (PSR) munitions proof-of-concept that validated loading five Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles (JASSMs) on a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle, according to a service statement.
This lays the foundation for follow-on flight testing that would more than double the F-15E’s JASSM-carrying capacity. The maximum number of JASSMs that any fighter can carry is two.
This proof-of-concept performed by the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron was a grassroots initiative that started in January. A team of expert tacticians worked through a specific scenario that relied on the ability to escort a bomber loaded with stand-off munitions to a release point in a highly contested environment.
Some tacticians hypothesised that using a formation of fighters instead of a single bomber to employ the JASSM salvo could accomplish two goals: reduce the size and complexity of the strike package required to execute the mission, and distribute the mission risk across the force.
Although the idea is feasible, it was not viable based on the number of fighters required, unless a fighter could carry more JASSMs. This was the genesis of PSR. (Source: Jane’s)
17 May 21. Dstl unveils requirements for future anti-armour capabilities project. Dstl is working with the British Army, DE&S and industry partners to create the next generation of protection from armoured vehicles and other threats. Known as Battle Group Organic Anti-Armour (BGOAA), the work covers 4 areas:
- Close-In Self Defence (CISD): portable light weight munitions carried by Infantry sections
- Mounted Close Combat Overwatch (MCCO): a long range system providing anti-armour coverage to the battle group, with concepts carrying multiple missiles weighing up to 50kg with a range of up to 10km or more
- Close Combat Anti-Armour Weapons (CCAAW): Mounted and Dismounted, capable of destroying armoured vehicles even if hidden from view
The Land Weapons project aims to increase combat effectiveness by modernising the Army’s Guided Weapons that have been in service for over a decade. Using technology that can be launched at a greater distances and with increased force both outranging and overmatching the threat. A significant objective is to increase commonality and interchangeability between different platforms, providing greater flexibility and lower costs. Dstl is also exploring how such modular systems might enable launchers and missiles to be mounted across different trucks and armoured vehicles.
The new systems will incorporate a range of advanced technologies such as:
- Non line-of-sight capability
- Third-party/remote targeting and control
- New sensors to overcome ‘active protection systems’ and defeat the enemy’s electronic or electro-magnetic defences
The current focus is the development of the MCCO capability. Dstl is leading work with support from industry partners including Lockheed Martin, MBDA and Thales, generated through Dstl’s weapons sector framework contract. The long-range system will be capable of engaging targets up to 10km away with missiles weighing up to 50kg. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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.
Today’s rocket launchers now include the ultra-light LWL-12 that weighs just over 60 pounds (27 kg.) empty and the new Fletcher (4) round launcher. Arnold Defense designs and manufactures various rocket launchers that can be customized for any capacity or form factor for platforms in the air, on the ground or even at sea.
Arnold Defense maintains the highest standards of production quality by using extensive testing, calibration and inspection processes.