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11 Nov 20. CASIC announces delivery of first unpowered exoskeleton systems to ‘domestic costumer.’ The state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) – one of the country’s most important defence enterprises – announced on 5 November that it has delivered the first examples of a recently developed exoskeleton system to an undisclosed domestic customer.
CASIC, which made the announcement via its Weibo social media account, said the unpowered lightweight system, the designation of which was not disclosed, will be regarded as part of the “core equipment of the future battlefield”, while noting that the new exoskeleton will also have potential civilian applications.
The announcement provided no further details about the exoskeleton or how many examples were delivered as part of the first batch, saying only that this first order was secured under a competitive procurement process.
That said, the state-owned Global Times newspaper reported that the new system is mainly meant for use in high-altitude regions where it can help users save energy when conducting patrols or carrying out logistics support tasks in low-oxygen areas.
The paper quoted Zhang Lijian, head of the CASIC research centre in charge of developing the system, as saying that in the harsh environment of high-altitude regions, newer means of logistical support such as unmanned aerial or ground vehicles may face difficulties reaching their intended destination due to strong winds or challenging terrains, which is why traditional manual work is still required. (Source: Jane’s)
11 Nov 20. Collins Aerospace to Deliver Launch Platform for ICBM Modernization Program. Selected by Northrop Grumman as part of nationwide team to support Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program.
Collins Aerospace Systems, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp. (NYSE: RTX), will play a key role in modernizing our nation’s current intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system under a contract awarded by prime contractor Northrop Grumman to support the U.S. Air Force Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program.
As part of this nationwide team of industry partners, Collins Aerospace will be leading the Secondary Launch Platform-Airborne (SLP-A) effort, a replacement of the Airborne Launch Control System capability. This system works with the current Minuteman III system, which has been in place for nearly 50 years.
“Northrop Grumman has put together an amazing team of industry partners to develop and deliver a comprehensive solution that will strengthen communication, command and control capabilities for the GBSD,” states Heather Robertson, vice president and general manager for Collins Aerospace. “The SLP-A is a comprehensive nuclear command & control solution which we’re developing to meet the needs of the modern battlespace.” (Source: ASD Network)
09 Nov 20. Lockheed Martin awarded MRC prototype contract. The US Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) on 6 November awarded Lockheed Martin a USD339.3m sole source Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement to design, build, integrate, test, and deliver a prototype mid-range capability (MRC) surface-to-surface weapon system by fiscal year (FY) 2023.
The MRC is part of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) priority modernisation initiative, and is intended to engage target sets in the range between the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) – the replacement for the service’s legacy MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) – and the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), the range of which is currently classified, but understood to be in thousands of kilometres. The Army initially established the objective range of PrSM at 499 km to accord with the provisions of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The collapse of that treaty in August 2019 has relieved the Army of the range restrictions, and it is now considering an objective range for PrSM ‘beyond 500km’. The range parameters for the MRC system have not been released, but are expected to bracket between 500 and 1,800 km. “Details are not publicly releasable due to OPSEC [Operational Security] considerations. The MRC will complement other critical systems in the Army’s long-range fires portfolio, providing a combined operational and strategic capability that can attack specific threat vulnerabilities in order to penetrate, disintegrate, and exploit targets in deep manoeuvre areas critical to the joint fight,” Army officials told Janes.
“The MRC addresses a need identified in the Army’s Fiscal Year 2020 Strategic Fires Study in co-ordination with Combatant Commanders in key theaters,” the Army said in a press release on 6 November. (Source: Jane’s)
06 Nov 20. US Army Picks Tomahawk & SM-6 For Mid-Range Missiles. Lockheed Martin won a $339m contract today to integrate two Raytheon-made missiles, now used by the Navy, into a truck-mounted artillery battery by 2023. Instead of picking a single missile to be its thousand-mile Mid-Range Capability, the Army has chosen to mix two very different Navy weapons together in its prototype MRC unit: the new, supersonic, high-altitude SM-6 and the venerable, subsonic, low-flying Tomahawk.
“Following a broad review of joint service technologies potentially applicable to MRC, the Army has selected variants of the Navy SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles to be part of the initial prototype,” says a Rapid Capabilities & Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) statement released this afternoon. “The Army will leverage Navy contract vehicles for missile procurement in support of the Army integration OT [Other Transaction Authority] agreement.”
Lockheed Martin won the OTA contract, worth up to $339.4m with all options, to integrate the two missiles – both built by Raytheon – into the Army fire control systems, vehicles, and support equipment required for a fully functioning artillery battery. Lockheed builds the current wheeled HIMARS and tracked MLRS launchers, which can handle a wide variety of current and future Army weapons, but neither the service nor the company would say whether they could fire either SM-6 or Tomahawk, citing security concerns.
They are set to enter service in 2023.
I asked the Army if it would modify either weapon to better its needs: The answer is no. “The Army will not modify the Navy missiles,” an official said in an email to Breaking Defense. That means the Army’s going to buy exactly what the Navy is getting.
However, the announcement’s mention of “variants” gives the Army leeway to buy the latest and most upgraded models. That’s important for both weapons.
Fresh off its first major win in the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle competition, GM Defense is bringing the commercial capabilities of General Motors to military vehicles.
The subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile is the long-serving mainstay of long-range strike. It was first fielded in the Reagan era and has been much upgraded since, with more than 2,000 fired in combat since 1991. There used to be a whole family of different versions, but nuclear-tipped, land-based, air-launched, and anti-ship variants were retired after the Cold War. That left the Navy’s conventional-warhead Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM), which can only be fired from ships and submarines, and only at stationary targets ashore.
But in recent years, anxiety over the growing Chinese fleet led the Pentagon to build a new anti-ship model, the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MSM). The Army and Marine Corps are both intensely interested in turning Pacific islands into forward outposts bristling with ship-killer missiles, so they’re likely to buy the Maritime Strike model.
The supersonic SM-6 is the latest and sexiest version of the Navy’s Standard Missile family, whose primary role is defensive, built to shoot incoming enemy aircraft and missiles out of the sky. But the new SM-6 is also capable of striking surface targets on land and sea.
The SM-6 selection surprised me at first, because its reported ranges are well short of the 1,000 miles the Army wants for the Mid-Range Capability. While the real range is classified, estimates range up to 290 miles (250 nautical miles).
However, the Navy is now developing an extended-range model of the SM-6, the Block 1B. (It’ll use the rocket booster from another Standard Missile variant, the ICBM-killing SM-3, which is known to have a range greater than 1,000 miles). What’s more, while the current SM-6 maxes out at Mach 3.5, the SM-6 Block 1B will reportedly reach hypersonic speeds, i.e. above Mach 5. While the Navy plans for Block 1B to complete development only in 2024, it wouldn’t be a stretch to have a handful of missiles available early for the Army’s MRC roll-out in late 2023.
Why mix both SM-6 and Tomahawk in the same unit? Part of the answer is probably cost. Tomahawk is relatively affordable at about $1.4m each, or perhaps $2.5m for the anti-ship variant. The current model of SM-6 is nearly $5m, and the hypersonic, extended-range SM-6 1B will no doubt cost more. That allows the Army to buy more Tomahawks than SM-6s and reserve the faster, more expensive missiles for harder or higher-priority targets.
The other benefit is tactical. The Tomahawks come in relatively low and slow, trying to get under radar, while the SM-6s fly high and fast. A missile defense that stops one may not stop the other, complicating the enemy’s countermeasures.
Both missiles are available in the near term, a crucial consideration given the Army’s urgency to field the Mid-Range Capability by the end of 2023. In the longer run, however, the Army may well develop a new weapon for the MRC role, perhaps derived from DARPA’s hypersonic OpFires experiment.
Why should the Army be launching long-range missiles at all?
That’s not something it’s done since the Pershing was retired, and some critics consider it redundant to the existing Navy and Air Force arsenals. But the Army is eager to prove its relevance to future wars against high-tech adversaries, especially in the vast Pacific, and it argues that truck-launched missiles are cheaper to deploy and easier to hide than weapons mounted on ships and planes.
The Army’s official press release and its full responses to my questions follow.
“The Army and joint service partners have conducted extensive mission thread analysis to solidify the kill chain and communications systems required to support MRC operations. Details are not publicly releasable due to OPSEC considerations,” Army officials wrote me in an email.
“The Tomahawk and SM-6 were chosen in order to accelerate a mature capability to address near-peer threats. They provide the required mix of capability to engage desired targets at mid-range distances. Working closely with the Navy, the Army will be able to integrate these missiles for the MRC prototype battery to meet the FY23 fielding date.
“The Army will not modify the Navy missiles. While working on materiel solutions, the Army is also consistently doing analysis to determine the best mix of weapons systems, how the enemy is going to fight against new capabilities, and how to address capability gaps.
“The MRC prototype battery is planned to include a mix of both SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles to provide the desired capability in FY23.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
06 Nov 20. US State Department approves sale of Block IIIC missiles to Canada. The US State Department has approved a possible foreign military sale of Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block IIIC missiles to the Government of Canada.
The US State Department has approved a possible foreign military sale of Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block IIIC missiles to the Government of Canada. The sale, which also includes associated equipment, has a total estimated value of $500m. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency has notified Congress about the sale. Under the deal, Canada has requested the sale of 100 SM-2 Block IIIC missiles and 100 MK 13 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS). The deal also includes the sale of obsolescence engineering, integration and test activity associated with production of subject missiles, canister handling and loading/unloading equipment and associated spares, training and training equipment/aids, as well as technical publications and data. The US will also provide contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support and other logistical and programme support elements. The DSCA said in a statement: “This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the military capability of Canada, a Nato ally that is an important force for ensuring political stability and economic progress and a contributor to military, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations around the world.” Canada plans to install the SM-2 Block IIIC missiles on the planned 15 Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) ships. (Source: naval-technology.com)
06 Nov 20. Australia to establish directed-energy technology network. The Australian Department of Defence’s (DoD’s) research and development agency (R&D) is setting up a national network to focus on advancements in directed-energy technologies. The initiative was revealed in documents issued by the Australian government’s tender portal in late October.
According to the Request for Proposal (RFP), the DoD’s Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group will establish a ‘Science and Technology Network in Directed Energy Technologies and Systems’. The initiative, it added, will “identify and pursue niche directed-energy science and technology areas critical for future Australian defence capability”.
Focus areas of the proposed network will be in areas related to high-energy laser (HEL) and high-power radio frequency/high-power microwave (HPRF/HPM) technologies. It is envisaged that the network will advance directed-energy concepts, technologies, techniques, and defence applications as well as approaches to hardware and software integration and related effects such as countermeasures.
The RFP seeks submissions from industry, academia, and government-funded organisations detailing proposed contributions to the directed-energy network. Such proposals, it said, should span multiyear timeframes.
“[The] DST Group have developed a range of world class HEL and HPRF technologies and is seeking Australian academia and industry involvement to complement these capabilities with new ideas, technologies, and system architectures,” said the tender.
The technology network itself will be aimed at consolidating directed-energy capabilities in Australia. The objective of the network, said the tender, is to build a “sustainable science and technology community of Australian academia and industry in directed energy technologies and systems”. (Source: Jane’s)
22 Oct 20. Experts reflect on hypervelocity systems. Last week, experts from 12 EDA Member States as well as Norway and Switzerland participated in an online workshop organised by the Agency to identify and discuss research & technology needs as well as potential future applications of hypervelocity systems.
The workshop (12-13 October) took place as part of an ongoing series of EDA Technology Foresight Workshops which aim to assess the potential of emerging technologies which are expected to strongly impact future defence capabilities. Hypervelocity is without doubt among these, given its high potential for application and disruptiveness in the defence domain.
Against this backdrop, last week’s workshop gathered some 90 European subject matter experts to discuss current and future hypervelocity technologies and associated R&T needs. The topic was approached from different angles, including hypersonic transport, effectors and protection against hypervelocity threats. More detailed discussion took place on propulsion and launching platforms, manoeuvrability, trajectory, questions related to information management as well as guidance and control of such hypervelocity systems. In this way, the workshop comprehensively covered the defence view on hypervelocity from an EU perspective and its required autonomy. Furthermore, potential synergies with the civilian sector were also discussed.
This workshop was an activity bringing together several EDA Capability & Technology (CapTech) groups on: Missiles and Munitions Systems, Air Systems, Guidance, Navigation and Control, and Materials and Structures. The workshop on hypervelocity systems was conducted virtually over a period of two working days, with the support of Ingeniería de Sistemas para la Defensa de Espana (Isdefe), under a specific contract with EDA. At the beginning, participants attended a plenary session during which keynote speakers introduced the topic and set the scene of hypervelocity, the expected advantages, examples of use cases and the current challenges, such as suitable test systems. Afterwards, participants were separated in smaller groups (virtual tables) in which they thoroughly discussed the subject of hypervelocity from different perspectives. In a final plenary session, the results of the virtual tables discussions were presented and summarized. The workshop results will be further analysed in the upcoming weeks and a comprehensive report will be elaborated for EDA participating Member States’ Ministries of Defence. It will include the main conclusions and recommendations for Member States concerning hypervelocity applications for defence, research needs and possible dual-use synergies.
EDA’s Technology Foresight Workshops aim to provide input to the EDA process of technology evaluation, including the identification and classification of technology trends and emerging technologies as well as the prioritisation of important technologies with respect to medium- and long-term capability needs. The output of the workshops is used as background information for relevant defence technologies, to be integrated in EDA Strategic Research Agendas (SRAs) and their Technology Building Block (TBB) roadmaps, as well as the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) toolchain, the analyses of Key Strategic Activities (KSA) and in the Strategic Context Cases of the 2018 Capability Development Plan (CDP). (Source: EDA)
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.