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24 Sep 21. As USAF Signals Hypersonic Doubts, Key Senators Want To Go Faster.
“I’m not satisfied with the pace,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said. “We’re making some progress on the technology; I would like to see it be better.”
In public comments this week, senior Air Force leaders seem to have soured on the promise of hypersonic missiles, just as the Defense Department is being urged by key lawmakers in the Senate to put more focus on air-breathing hypersonic engine technology.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall kicked things off Monday, when he told reporters in the margins of the annual Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber conference that he is reassessing the Air Force’s hypersonic plans.
“I’m not satisfied with the pace,” he said. “We’re making some progress on the technology; I would like to see it be better.”
Kendall added that he is also “not satisfied with the degree to which we have figured out what we need for hypersonics — of what type, for what missions.”
“The target set that we would want to address, and why hypersonics are the most cost effective weapons for the US, I think it’s still, to me, somewhat of a question mark,” the secretary said. “I haven’t seen all the analysis that’s been done to justify the current program.”
That set the tone for a series of questions to senior uniformed leaders about whether the service remains committed to the current hypersonic roadmap, with a clear theme emerging: Kendall is willing to come in and rip things up if he doesn’t see results.
Gen. Arnold Bunch, the head of Air Force Materiel Command, told reporters on Tuesday that “there are certain aspects, attributes that [have] not performed the way we need to,” while acknowledging that there were always going to be hurdles during development. “We are going to have to continue to put our focus there and we will continue to take what are called educated risks as we move forward so that we can get a capability out in the field as quickly as possible,” he said.
That same day, Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the top uniformed acquisition official, said that Kendall has not “spared any program” since he’s come in, taking a critical eye to everything.
“I think he’s seeing the fiscal environment. He wants to make sure that we’re focused on the warfighter — well, really China, right — from the perspective of the warfighter and the taxpayer. And so we’re trying to make sure that we really are laser focused on that. In the case of hypersonics, he wants to understand, again, the use case for that, and so we’re working through that,” Richardson said, adding that Kendall has not ordered any slow-down on either of the service’s main hypersonic test programs.
Finally, on Wednesday, Air Combat Command head Gen. Mark Kelley said he talked with Kendall about the secretary’s comments, and Kelley explained to reporters that Kendall believes “we need a ConOp to make sure we do an acquisition acquisition strategy” that works.
“I think he’s right. We do need to make sure we have an unambiguous, well understood ConOp as we go forward,” Kelly said. “But hypersonics and high end-game maneuvering capability is something we need to keep pursuing. We should make sure before we pull the trigger and commit resources to it everybody’s on the same sheet of music.”
The Air Force leaders’ comments notably come just as key leaders in the Senate are doubling down on their interest in hypersonic weaponry.
The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., in their markup of the 2022 defense policy bill, are pushing hypersonics hard, chiding DoD for going too slow and putting too little focus on air-launched missiles that use scramjets — engines that scoop in and combust oxygen for fuel to bring the missile up to hypersonic speeds of greater than Mach 5.
“The committee is concerned that there is a lack of focus on air-launched and air-breathing hypersonic capability, including the potential for rapid space launch capability facilitated by purpose-built hypersonic aircraft,” states their markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) released Wednesday.
Citing hypersonics as an arena of “intense technological competition” with China and Russia, the SASC leaders expressed the need for development of the technology as a “key element of the National Defense Strategy.” The report language goes on, “The committee believes that the Department of Defense (DOD) needs to focus more attention on the expeditious development and maturation of key hypersonic flight technologies.”
The NDAA markup also “directs the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, in consultation with the Secretaries of the services, to provide an executable strategy and report to the congressional defense committees, not later than December 30, 2021, on the plan to field air-launched and air-breathing hypersonic weapons and the potential use for tactically responsive launch capabilities within 3 years.”
The markup adds $5m to the Air Force’s budget request for improved testing facilities, and another $5m “to support risk reduction and technology maturation through the demonstration of commercial hypersonic flight technologies to support the advancement of reusable hypersonic systems.”
The NDAA report also calls on DoD to beef up ground test facilities, such as wind tunnels, and to accelerate flight testing to mature hypersonic-related technologies in areas such as thermal protection, seekers and communications links.
DoD Investment By The Billions
Investments in hypersonics have soared and shifted from experimentation to prototyping. (GAO)
DoD’s myriad hypersonic projects account for about $15 billion in investment between 2015 and 2024, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Pentagon asked Congress for $2.865 billion for hypersonic weapons in 2021 alone, up not quite 14% from a 2020 total of $2.508bn.
However, the bulk of current Army, Navy and Air Force research and development dollars — some 56% according to GAO — is primarily being spent on boost-glide technology, which uses a conventional rocket booster full of fuel to accelerate the weapon to hypersonic speed, after which the glide body containing the warhead detaches from the booster and coasts, skipping along the upper limits of the atmosphere.
Boost-glide hypersonic missiles are bigger and heavier than air-breathing ones, and have longer ranges. On the other hand, air-breathing engines are smaller and thus can be used to power cruise missiles that are light enough to be carried by fighter jets — although they also are more technically challenging.
The Air Force is working on development of a highly classified air-launched hypersonic cruise missile called the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM). The service asked for $190.1 million for the effort in its 2022 budget request.
HACM is based on another project the service has been pursuing with DARPA, called Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC). DARPA requested $10m for that project in 2022.
A third effort, called Project Mayhem, is also underway but very little is known about the program, which also is known as the Expendable Hypersonic Air-Breathing Multi-Mission Demonstrator Program. Mike White, principal director for hypersonics at DoD’s Research & Engineering office, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies on June 10 that “Project Mayhem is to look at the next step in what the opportunity space allows relative to hypersonic cruise missile systems” and is intended to be capable of flying “significantly longer ranges than what we’re doing today.”
However, those programs are significantly less mature than the Air Force’s major hypersonic R&D effort, the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), also being developed in tandem with DARPA.
Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons (HAWK), DARPA concept art
ARRW (pronounced arrow) is a hypersonic glide vehicle designed to be carried by a B-52 bomber. The Air Force is seeking about $161 million in fiscal 2022 to produce the first 12 ARRW missiles, on top of some $238.3 million in R&D funds. Lockheed Martin Space is the prime contractor.
So far, that program has been a bit of a bust. ARRW’s failed its first flight test in April. The second booster flight test, on July 28, also failed because the engine failed to ignite, and the service still hasn’t released any information on what caused the problem. Of that failure review board, Richardson this week said the service is “almost close to wrapping it up.”
In an Aug. 4 briefing with reporters, Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, who heads the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Armaments Directorate, said that the program office was still planning for ARRW production to start at the end of fiscal 2022.
Overall, however, Mark Lewis, who formerly spearheaded hypersonic research at DoD’s Office of Research & Engineering, told Breaking Defense that he agrees — vehemently — with SASC’s position, rather than the message coming from the Air Force.
“I’m puzzled that the Air Force might be pulling back, because we had done extensive studies and extensive analysis that demonstrated quite clearly the effectiveness of these systems,” said Lewis, who now heads the National Defense Industrial Association’s new Emerging Technologies Institute (ETI).
“It is obvious that the Chinese don’t have any such misgivings,” he pointedly added. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
21 Sep 21. US Fleet Marine Forces receive final KC-130J HH+ aircraft. With the delivery, Harvest HAWK + reaches full operational capability. The US Fleet Marine Forces have received the final KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft modified to the Harvest Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit (HAWK) Plus (HH+) configuration. The aircraft was delivered last month and the KC-130J modifications are part of the US Marine Corps’ (USMC) KC-130J Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) / Weapons Mission Kit programme. Under the programme, which commenced in 2015, a total of ten aircraft have been installed with the HH+. With the delivery, the integrated product team of the Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207) has successfully completed full operational capability (IOC). The programme involved improving the existing USMC KC-130J Harvest HAWK system by integrating the MX-20 electro-optical (EO)/infra-red (IR) multi-sensor imaging system. It also included the addition of door mounted missile employment capability.
PMA-207 programme manager captain Steve Nassau said: “We are proud to provide the Marine Air-Ground Task Force with an updated intra-theatre Close Air Support and Multi-Sensor Imagery Reconnaissance capability.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my government and contractor team for delivering this critical weapon system to our warfighters.”
US Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) aircraft prototype systems division at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in the US state of Maryland modified the first six aircraft.
Meanwhile, the last four aircraft were modified by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, US.
A total of five HH+ aircraft were delivered to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport (VMGR) 352 in Miramar, California and four aircraft to VMGR-252 in Cherry Point, North Carolina.
One HH+ aircraft will be at VX-20 in Patuxent River to undergo Block 8.1 upgrade and future testing. (Source: naval-technology.com)
21 Sep 21. General Lattice Secures Contract with the U.S. Army to Improve Energy Absorption of Next Generation Combat Helmet with 3D Printing. General Lattice, Inc., is developing a predictive modeling toolset to design and generate lattice materials based on real-world data, which will improve impact absorption technology for the U.S. Army Combat Helmet. The yearlong research and development project is currently underway at General Lattice’s facility in Chicago, Illinois.
The capabilities of traditional foam material have been exhausted, and General Lattice is engineering and authenticating its replacement using 3D printing and advanced lattice geometries. The state-of-the-art lattice materials designed by the Company are unattainable through conventional composites and manufacturing technologies. These generated lattice materials will interact with real-world environment testing to accurately validate key performance requirements as defined by the Development Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM-SC). This is to enhance soldier protection and survivability for the warfighter.
The company has selected specimen attributes, material, and hardware candidates applicable for the combat helmet’s suspension system and impact absorption. Manufactured lattice samples will be tested to measure the accuracy of General Lattice’s predictive model. The predictive toolset will be the primary result of the contract, allowing DEVCOM-SC to effectively explore lattice padding profiles for future use across myriad applications.
Lattice materials will revolutionize the way companies manufacture new innovative products across all commercial, industrial, and military markets. Utilizing advanced lattice materials and 3D printing enables General Lattice to engineer and manufacture true, personalized products that are fine-tuned to specific biometric characteristics without the additional costs and waste traditionally tied to customization efforts. This is possible through the Company’s expertise in computational design and digital manufacturing.
General Lattice is excited to partner with All Points Logistics LLC, an engineering, software development, and technology firm that has provided high-value services and solutions to the military and Federal markets for over 20 years. Further, General Lattice will collaborate with GoProto, Inc., a rapid manufacturing company based in San Diego, California. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
21 Sep 21. Decisions on new British-French cruise missile are left hanging after submarine row. Progress on the development of a new cruise missile for the British and French militaries could become a victim in the row over the nuclear submarine pact announced by Australia, the U.S. and U.K. last week.
France has canceled a meeting set to start Sept. 23 between its Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace as part of its retaliation protesting the creation of a trilateral defense pact to equip Australia with nuclear submarines. That deal saw France’s Naval Group suddenly frozen out of a $66bn contract to supply conventionally-powered boats to Canberra.
High on the Anglo-French agenda for the two-day meeting, set for just outside London, were discussions on the next step in the development of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW), said a defense source, who asked not to be named while discussing the sensitive topic.
A concept phase for the MBDA-designed missile is now being wrapped up, with talks on transition to the assessment phase expected to have been one of the items up for discussion by the two sides.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence and MBDA both declined to comment.
A second defense source, who also asked not to be named, said: “Conversations remain ongoing with France regarding the rescheduling of meetings, so we wouldn’t discuss any potential discussions for a meeting that has not yet taken place.
“The UK continues to see France as one of its closest allies and remains committed to working with France on a range of equipment and operational programs.”
To date the two sides have spent around a total of £95m ($130m) on the early stages of the program.
Approval for the next phase of the FC/ASW program will now likely have to wait until the dust settles on the submarine saga, and a new date for the meeting can be set.
Sky News in London quoted a British defense source Sept. 20 saying the meeting had been postponed, rather than cancelled.
“We work closely with the French in many areas,” the source said, adding: “They are an important ally.”
The FC/ASW program has been in its concept phase since the British and French governments gave the go-ahead in 2017. The weapon is planned to replace British Storm Shadow and French Scalp cruise missiles and the French Exocet maritime attack missile. (Source: Defense News)
20 Sep 21. Cymat Announces Purchase Order for Military Underbelly Blast Protection Kits from Asian Military Contractor. Cymat Technologies Ltd. (TSXV: CYM). Cymat Technologies (“Company” or “Cymat”) is pleased to announce the receipt of an order for two underbelly blast protection kits from an Asian military vehicle manufacturer. These kits will be used to complete final product testing by the vehicle manufacturer’s customer.
Cymat has been working for several years with this Asian military vehicle manufacturer on the design and development of a retrofit underbelly blast protection kit for the manufacturer’s existing family of troop–carrying vehicles. These long-serving vehicles are used by numerous major military organizations around the globe.
The principal purpose of these kits is to protect vehicle occupants from the fatal effects of Improvised Explosive Devices (“IEDs”), or powerful land mines, by absorbing the blast energy generated by the detonation of these devices. Cymat’s SmartMetalTM stabilized aluminum foam (SAF) has proven to be particularly effective at absorbing and reducing the energy of the compressed air wave that precedes these explosions. In addition, SmartMetal’sTM exceedingly light weight means that the kits add only minimal weight to the vehicles – a critical requirment.
The ultimate destination for these kits is the vehicle manufacturer’s domestic military who, in turn, will use two fully retrofitted vehicles for final independent vehicle blast testing, scheduled for early December 2021. Upon the successful completion of these tests, Cymat’s customer expects to receive a purchase order for kits to retrofit up to 700 vehicles, with an initial order of 300-400 kits. While final pricing for these kits has not yet been established, Cymat anticipates the potential value of the contract to be in the $5M to $7M range.
Cymat CEO Michael Liik commented, “This opportunity is the culmination of many years of design collaboration and refinement with our customer and we are thrilled to see this project finally move forward. The field data generated by the successful implementation of Cymat’s kits will quickly pave the way for our customer to further market these kits to other military organizations. We are especially excited about the potential for the broader adoption of our kits by users of these vehicles worldwide.”
Mr Liik added, “After years of developing expertise in vehicle underbelly blast protection, Cymat is finally on the cusp of opening a significant new revenue stream. Success with this contract would give us the credibility needed to substantially expand our opportunities in the military sector.”
About Cymat Technologies Ltd.
Cymat Technologies Ltd. has the global rights, through patents and established know-how, to manufacture and sell Stabilized Aluminum Foam (“SAF”), a unique, ultra-light, cellular metallic material. The proprietary production process entails the injection of gases through a molten bath of alloyed aluminum infused with ceramic particles. The result is an advanced, lightweight, recyclable material that exhibits unique characteristics including: customizable density and dimensions; mechanical energy absorption; thermal and acoustic insulation; and time, temperature and strain-rate insensitivity. A key benefit of this continuous foam production process is its scalability and resultant low cost of production. SAF is used in such industries as architectural design, military and automotive. Cymat markets its architectural SAF under the AlusionTM brand and its automotive and military SAF under the SmartMetalTM brand. For further information , please visit our website at www.cymat.com. (Source: PR Newswire)
20 Sep 21. TEBER-35 RCT Launched by FNSS. TEBER-30/35 RCT is developed to be adapted to wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles and equipped with medium calibre automatic cannon, advanced target detection and fire control system. Unlike conventional turrets, remote controlled turrets do not have any basket structure and thus the extra available interior space provides a significant advantage to the user.
TEBER-30/35 RCT incorporates the latest technologies in turret drives, fire control, protection, and lethality. It can work day and night under all weather conditions and battle environments thanks to its integrated sensors and other electronic systems. Both the gunner and the commander are able to control all functions of the turret. The commander is authorized to take control of the turret over the gunner when it is desired.
The gun turret drive system is electrical, with two-axis stabilization capability to ensure a high accuracy of fire on the move. The turret can rotate in traverse axis 360° continuous with elevation from -10° to +45°.
TEBER-30/35/35 RCT is equipped with the Mk44 30 mm/40 mm dual feed automatic cannon with 250 ready-to-fire rounds and has a maximum cyclic rate of fire 200 rounds/minute. TEBER-30/35 RCT can also be equipped with 35 mm/50mm Bushmaster III dual feed automatic cannon if required by the user. Two different types of ammunition loaded in the double compartment ammunition box ensure the neutralization of various kinds of targets. Different types of ammunition can be used in the main armament such as high explosive, anti- or programmable airburst ammunition.
The coaxial MG consists of electrically operated 7.62 mm chain gun or gas operated 7.62 mm machine gun. The major advantages of the 7.62 mm electrically operated chain gun are that a misfired round can be extracted by the electrical drive and the gun can continue firing without any crew served action and the highly toxic propellant gas that occurs after firing is significantly reduced compared to conventional gas operated machine guns.
In order to have effective target acquisition and identification capability at the battlefield, the turret is equipped with electro-optic sights which can rotate independently from the turret and have two-axis independent stabilization system for the commander and the gunner. Commander’s sight system can rotate 360° panoramic in traverse axis. Sight systems include a long- or mid-wave thermal imager, wide and narrow angle day sensors and laser range finders.
21 Sep 21. Indian Army’s helicopter launched ATGM Helina completes all trials. Helina is designed to support both mechanised infantry and airborne forces of the Indian Army.
India’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad has reportedly completed all trials of the locally developed helicopter-launched Nag anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), Helina.
DRDL Hyderabad Helina and Dhruvastra project director Dr Sachin Sood told The Hindu that the process for Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) issuance has already been initiated by the army.
The request for proposal (RFP) will be issued post the AON issuance, reported the publication.
Dr Sachin Sood was quoted as saying: “The launcher and missile are ready. There is some human-machine interface (HMI) to be realised, which are going on now.”
The helicopter-based Nag ATGM is a third-generation fire-and-forget class ATGM developed by India’s state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Featuring an all-weather day and night capability, it is designed to support the Indian Army’s mechanised infantry and airborne forces.
The air-launched missile system, guided by an infrared imaging seeker (IIR), can hit a target with a minimum range of 500m and a maximum range of 7km.
In February 2021, the joint user trials for Helina and Dhruvastra missile systems were carried out.
Commenting on the trials, Sood told the publication: “Final configuration with warhead demonstrated good penetration into the target. Other operational missions like minimum range were also demonstrated.”
In July last year, India tested Dhruvastra ATGM, which underwent three flight trials at the Integrated Test Range in Odisha’s Chandipur.
20 Sep 21. Northrop Grumman now has five B-21 stealth bombers in production. The U.S. Air Force has five B-21 Raider bombers currently in various states of production at manufacturer Northrop Grumman’s plant in California, the service’s top civilian said on Monday.
“We have been living off of bomber fleet investments made many decades ago, but that is rapidly changing,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told the audience at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference here.
“As I speak there are now five test aircraft being manufactured on the B-21 production line at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California,” he said. “You will never hear me make optimistic predictions about programs. All programs have risk and the same is true of the B-21, but at this point at least, the program is making good progress to real fielded capability.”
Previously, the Air Force had only acknowledged two B-21 test aircraft in production — a sign that the program may be accelerating as it heads toward a planned first flight in 2022.
The Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21s, which will begin fielding in the mid-2020s.
It’s unclear how close Northrop Grumman is to finishing construction on the first B-21.
In January, Randall Walden, who directs the Air Force’s Rapid Capability Office that manages the B-21 program, stated that the first aircraft had not yet begun final assembly but was “really starting to look like a bomber.”
Production of the second Raider — which will be used to validate the air vehicle — showed signs of becoming more efficient, Walden said at the time, and Northrop was working on creating more space at its plant to begin work on additional test aircraft.
“The second one is really more about structures, and the overall structural capability,” he said. “We’ll go in and bend it, we’ll test it to its limits, make sure that the design and the manufacturing and the production line make sense.” (Source: Defense News)
17 Sep 21. At DSEI 2021 Rheinmetall and its joint venture company, Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL), unveiled a demonstrator Boxer with an 81mm mortar mission module, to showcase the expanded capability and growth potential of the Boxer 8×8 armoured vehicle family.
The prototype mission module was developed and built in the UK, delivered by an experienced team of engineers and specialists at RBSL’s manufacturing facility in Telford, drawing on the skills and technology shared with Rheinmetall. The project has been an opportunity to demonstrate the versatility of the Boxer platform, and its ability to satisfy a range of customer requirements. The mortar capability, combined with Boxer’s battle-proven design, also provides a valuable opportunity for UK exports – driving prosperity for the UK.
The prototype uses an 81mm mortar weapon system (MWS81), supplied by Rheinmetall, to demonstrate an indirect fire capability for Boxer crews. The MWS81 is semi-automatic, ensuring minimal mechanical movements and therefore safer performance and higher rate of fire. The system can fire High Explosive (HE), Smoke, Illumination and other 81mm ammunition, with a fully-automated aiming sequence. The system is also compact, providing increased storage space for ammunition in the vehicle.
The Boxer mortar mission module is versatile, allowing third-party barrels to be integrated, as well as ballistic computers for fully-autonomous operations (in keeping with the ‘human in the loop’ principle, however, the fire order is never an autonomous decision). The MWS81 is also equipped with back-up functionality in the event of any system failure to ensure sustained and credible power.
The British Army’s Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) programme: The British Army is already procuring over 500 Boxer vehicles – including Infantry Carrying Vehicle, Command Post, Ambulance and Specialist Carrier Vehicle – under the UK MoD’s Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) programme awarded in 2019.
The contract was awarded, via OCCAR, to Artec GmbH – a joint venture between Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW). Much of the fleet will be manufactured by UK companies, RBSL in Telford and WFEL in Stockport, supported by a nationwide supply chain that will create and sustain c. 1000 jobs, including apprenticeships. Welding on the first MIV prototype vehicles began at Rheinmetall’s plant in Kassel in June 2021, with delivery of Rheinmetall and RBSL’s portion of the vehicles due from 2023.
The Boxer – versatile and battle-tested: The Boxer is a heavily protected 8×8 wheeled armoured vehicle. Its modular architecture enables a variety of variants unmatched by any other vehicle system, and it is this versatility that underpins Boxer’s rapid growth. To date, approximately 1,200 vehicles, in more than 20 different configurations, are under contract by four NATO nations: Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and the UK. Australia – a close partner of NATO – has also ordered a total of 211 Boxer vehicles in several different versions. (Source: www.joint-forcescom)
14 Sep 21. On the KNDS DSEI stand, Nexter is alongside its partner Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) showcased the CAESAR self-propelled gun in its eight-wheel drive version (8×8). The CAESAR 8×8 is Nexter’s answer to the British Army’s need for the Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) programme. This heavy artillery system inherits CAESAR 6×6 version’s qualities and maturity, which is recognized for its low logistical footprint, robustness and stealth in operation. Suited to high-intensity combat, the CAESAR 8×8 chassis carries a larger load (up to 30 rounds of ammunition compared with 18 for the 6×6 version) and its automatic loading system reduces operator fatigue. The CAESAR 8×8 is in production at the Roanne site for the Danish Army, which will take delivery of the 14th unit at the end of September 2021.
Nexter offers a complete range of conventional and smart 155mm artillery ammunition, providing 52-calibre guns excellent performances in terms of range, accuracy, lethality and safety. The LU211 shells are specifically developed for CAESAR systems: they are twice as lethal as M107 shells and can reach a range of up to 40km. Nexter also produces smoke (LU214, LU217) and illuminating shells (LU215, LU216). The range is completed by the 155mm BONUS anti-tank shell, which already equips several NATO armies, including the US Army, and the 155mm KATANA precision-guided ammunition. In addition, a large sample of the ammunition catalogue can be seen on the stand: 20, 25, 30 and 40mm CT medium-calibre ammunition alongside 40, 76 and 127mm naval ammunition, 120mm tank ammunition, as well as soft kill and reactive protection solutions.
Nexter is also presenting two scale models on which the 40CT gun from CTAI (joint venture between BAE and Nexter) is integrated. First, the JAGUAR armoured reconnaissance and combat vehicle (EBRC), developed as part of the SCORPION program with the French defence procurement agency (DGA), in a consortium with Arquus and Thales, will replace the AMX10RC, ERC90 and VAB HOT to better meet the current and future threats faced by the French Army. Nexter is the design authority and provides the main armament of the JAGUAR with the CT40 turret, which integrates the 40mm cannon, the associated telescoped ammunition and the onboard electronics. The qualification of the JAGUAR is progressing well, with major milestones such as the first firing of an MBDA medium-range missile (MMP) in April 2021, the first qualifying static firings of the turret in September 2021 and the scheduled delivery of the first units by the end of 2021. Finally, the RapidFire naval turret designed with Thales, also armed with the 40CT, has been selected to equip the French Navy’s new generation of ships with a close-in self-defence capability against modern air and surface threats (drones, aircraft, light vehicles). (Source: www.joint-forcescom)
20 Sep 21. US Navy flight tests Trident II D5LE missiles from USS Wyoming. The latest Trident II (D5 & D5LE) weapon system launch marks 184 successful missile test flights. The US Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN-742) has launched an unarmed Trident II life-extension (D5LE) missile off the coast of Cape Canaveral in Florida. The planned, two-missile test flight was conducted as part of a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO-31) on 17 September.
DASO aims to assess and show the readiness of SSBN’s Strategic Weapon System (SWS) prior to operational deployment after the completion of the submarine’s engineered refuelling overhaul.
US Strategic Command Global Operations director rear admiral Thomas Ishee said: “The DASO test, and others like these, underscore our readiness and capability for 21st century strategic deterrence.
“SSBN crews undergo constant training and regularly planned testing to ensure the weapons systems remain ready and reliable.
“The sailors and support element who make up the silent service prove every day they are capable and prepared to protect America and its allies.”
According to the US Navy, the latest launch marks 184 successful missile test flights of the Trident II (D5 & D5LE) strategic weapon system.
The Lockheed Martin Space Systems-manufactured Trident II (D5) missile recently underwent a life extension programme to overcome ageing and obsolescence.
The Trident II (D5LE) missiles are being deployed to the fleet to serve the US Ohio-class and the UK Vanguard-class SSBNs.
The missiles will also serve as the initial load-out for the US Columbia-class and the UK Dreadnought-class SSBNs.
US Navy Strategic Systems Programs director vice-admiral Johnny Wolfe said: “Today’s [17 Sept] test demonstrates the unmatched reliability of our sea-based nuclear deterrent, which is made possible by a dedicated team of military, civilian and industry partners who bring expertise and dedication to the mission that is truly extraordinary.”
In February last year, another Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, the USS Maine (SSBN-741), launched an unarmed Trident II D5LE missile.
22 Sep 21. GBSD: First Missile Test Flight 2023, Initial Production 2026.
“We’ve entered into the next big phase, what we call ‘CDR season,’ Greg Manuel, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s Strategic Deterrent Systems division, told Breaking Defense.
The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program to replace the Air Force’s aging Minuteman III missiles is entering a new stage of development, as it begins to pass through a series of critical design reviews (CDRs) and aims for a 2023 test flight.
“We’ve entered into the next big phase, what we call ‘CDR season,’“ Greg Manuel, vice president and general manager of prime contractor Northrop Grumman’s Strategic Deterrent Systems division, told Breaking Defense Tuesday.
Speaking on the margins of the annual Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber conference here, Manuel said that the GBSD has a significant amount of moving parts, not just the missile itself, that each require a CDR.
Maj. Gen. Michael Lutton, commander of the 20th Air Force responsible for the US ICBM force, told the Mitchell Institute in August that the effort to modernize the force is much wider than just building a new ICBM. It also includes upgrading test facilities, modernizing launch ranges and revamping training for operators, he said.
This is because the Minuteman III missiles, their silos, command and control system, etc., were first fielded in 1963, and while they have been upgraded a good deal since, they still use largely analog, not digital, communications systems and outdated computer operating systems. For example, operators to this day sport 1980s pink, push button, analog telephones during test launches.
GBSD already has successfully passed through “a couple” of CDRs for subsystems that “had a lower technology readiness” and needed to be matured, Manuel said. “Those were the ones that we focused our attentions on to bring the technology and reduce the risks,” he explained.
Northrop Grumman currently is planning a first flight test at the end of 2023, Manuel said.
“And then we’ll go through a series of flight test programs, nominally, one quarter over the course of our development test program,” he said. “But at the same time, we will be not only just testing the missile, but we’ll also be testing all the infrastructure we’re designing. We’ll be testing all of the new command control associated with that, that new infrastructure, we’ll be testing the cyber hardness — the capability for adversaries to break into our system — which is important. With a digital weapon system like this, it is significantly important and there’s a lot of effort associated with program protection.”
If everything goes well, the company intends to begin production in 2026. In order to so, Manuel noted, the company will need to “start our advanced procurement deployment activities in 2024” for the first launch facility.
Up to now, Northrop Grumman has been extremely tight-lipped about the GBSD program, but officials now are feeling confident about where the effort is and where it is going. They also remain sanguine about budgetary support going forward, including in Congress, despite the program’s gigantic price tag.
The $13.3 bn GBSD contract, announced last September by the Air Force, covers engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) of the new ICBMs through 2029. But as first reported by Bloomberg News, the Pentagon last year estimated the total cost of the program to be about $264 bn, including long-term sustainment. Acquisition costs alone are expected to top $110 bn.
“The fact is that all the last four NPRs have all supported the triad, and the land-leg of triad and ICBMs,” Manuel said, referring to the Nuclear Posture Reviews conducted by different presidential administrations. (DoD is currently in the midst of a new one.) “The program started in the Obama administration. … Clearly, the Trump administration supported it. And we see no reason why the Biden administration, and those in Congress, will not support fully funding GBSD.”
DoD leaders have also been enthusiastic about GBSD’s progress. Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, on Monday told the AFA conference that the service is “pretty happy with the direction” of the program. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
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