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11 Dec 20. First separation tests of Safran’s 1,000-kg AASM “Hammer” air-to-ground weapon on Rafale a success. The new 1,000-kilogram version of the AASM “Hammer”* air-to-ground modular weapon, designed and produced by Safran Electronics & Defense, successfully completed its first two inert separation tests from a Rafale omnirole fighter. The tests were conducted at the French defense procurement agency DGA’s Cazaux flight test center in southwest France. The separation dynamics observed during the two firings were in line with simulations. These industrial validation tests were designed to check the correct sequencing of all components of the wing hardpoint and the weapon, as well as the wing deployment mechanism on the range extension kit. Following these successful separation tests, the first live firing tests will be conducted in 2021 as part of the final development and qualification of the 1,000-kg AASM.
The 1,000-kg AASM features a guidance kit derived from the 250-kg version and a specific range extension kit. The 1,000-kg AASM has the same modular characteristics as the 250-kg version with the BLU109 penetrating bomb body and MK84 conventional body, as well as its close functional integration with the Rafale, especially for fire control system and configuration options. This new weapon will give the Rafale an enhanced strike capability, with payload configurations of up to three 1,000-kg AASMs per aircraft. Its standoff range is also extended, thanks to the integrated propulsion system. Developed and produced by Safran Electronics & Defense based on existing bombs from 250 kg to 1,000 kg, the AASM Hammer family is the air-to-ground weapon of choice for the Rafale. The 1,000-kg version rounds out the AASM range. Qualification is planned for 2022, leading to service entry on the new Rafale F4 standard.
*Armement Air-Sol Modulaire – Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range
11 Dec 20. Galvion helmet system chosen as next-generation protection for German Specialised Forces. Galvion, a world leader in innovative head protection systems and power management solutions, is pleased to announce that a customized Baltskin® Viper helmet solution has been chosen as the next Specialised Forces Helmet (Helm SpezKr schwer; Specialised Forces are Ranger-type units of the German Army). The program was awarded to Rheinmetall Soldier Electronics GmbH, who will act as the in-country contracting entity for the Galvion helmet, following a full and open competition. The contract encompasses the delivery of up to 20,000 helmets, with an initial order for 5000 helmet systems and helmet refurbishment plan to be executed in-country by Rheinmetall Soldier Electronics, as well as the option for a 2-year contract extension following contract framework completion in 2025.
The bespoke helmet system, developed to the German MoD’s rigorous performance and technical standards, underwent thorough testing and an extensive user evaluation prior to being selected. The Viper helmet solution will come in a custom German Green colour, and features Galvion’s Modular Suspension System which has been configured to meet a variety of impact standards and mission requirements. The helmet is lighter, offers better protection and improved integration with Communication Devices and NVGs than the current fielded helmet, and end-user feedback rated the helmet comfortable and high-performing. Rheinmetall Soldier Electronics will begin delivering the Galvion helmet to the German Specialised Forces in Q2 2021.
“After years of development, we are honoured to have our Viper helmet system chosen by the German Specialised Forces,” commented Alex Hooper, Galvion’s V.P. of Global Business Development. “Our experienced team of engineers and designers worked with the MoD to build a user-centric system that balances protection, integration, durability and optimized fit. Germany’s exacting technical requirements and broad testing process ensures that their soldiers will be outfitted with a high-performing system that has been tailored to meet their unique mission needs. Having RSE acting as our contracting entity ensures that the German Bundeswehr will have a premium product with reliable in-country support throughout the life of the program. “
Hooper added: “Galvion has developed a reputation as the leader in NATO next-generation helmet systems, and the awarding of this contract speaks of our commitment to provide bespoke solutions for the modern soldier.”
As well as this latest award, Galvion enjoys an impressive track record of large-scale global sales for protective head systems and soldier power management systems. Other key customers include defence forces from the US, Canada, UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, in addition to many NATO SF unit around the world.
08 Dec 20. Rolls-Royce Delivers Coldfire Thermal and Power System to LM for Directed Energy Field Tests. Rolls-Royce has delivered an upgraded thermal management and power system from its ColdFireTM Solutions technology line to power directed energy field testing in 2021.
The ColdFire Solutions system was delivered to Lockheed Martin for integration and testing. It is a standalone system, minimizing platform resource demands, and will power a Lockheed Martin 100kw directed energy system during range testing next year. This will be the latest field test of the Rolls-Royce technology, developed at the company’s LibertyWorks advanced technology unit in Indianapolis. The technology has been developed to support military customers to meet their needs for enhanced directed energy platforms.
John Shade, Senior Vice President, Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks Advanced Programs, said, “Thermal management and power systems are a crucial enabler of directed energy reaching its full potential. Rolls-Royce has a proven track record in developing this technology and solving the challenges inherent in directed energy applications.”
Rolls-Royce has been engaged with directed energy technology development for more than a decade, and has invested $50m in designing and testing systems in both laboratory and field tests. The company will draw upon this experience for the 2021 field test and demonstrate ‘endless magazine’ capability, which far outperforms the limits of battery powered technology.
Thermal management expertise is critical to the success of directed energy systems, due to the creation of a large amount of heat by the laser system. Rolls-Royce’s innovative ColdFire technology has proven highly effective in solving this extremely difficult challenge associated with directed energy.
The ColdFire system is versatile and can be tailored to suit platform needs. Rolls-Royce has been involved in discussions with military operators to address solutions for land-based, airborne and sea vessels. (Source: ASD Network)
09 Dec 20. Making the Shell Fit the Job. The fielding of new conventional tube artillery systems, be they towed or self-propelled (SP), is only one part of a total artillery capability that also takes into account the key roles of artillery fire control, target acquisition and ammunition.
While 105mm artillery are still used by air assault and commando type artillery units, 155mm is the most widely deployed calibre and that is the main area where investment is taking place.
For many years the standard 105mm high-explosive (HE) projectile was the United States developed M1 which, when fired from the Oto Melara (today Leonardo) 105mm Model 56 Pack Howitzer, achieved a maximum range of 10.5 kilometres.
New 105mm artillery systems had a longer barrel and fired a new generation of ammunition. The Royal Ordnance (now BAE Systems) 105mm L118 Light Gun fired an L31A4 HE projectile to a maximum range of 17,200m. Other types of round include the L52A2 smoke. Still under development is the XL32E1 HE base-bleed (BB) with a range of over 20km. This uses a gas generator to reduce the vacuum at the bottom of the shell which reduces the drag.
For training, the barrel of the 105mm L118 Light Gun could be changed for a shorter barrel to enable the older and cheaper 105mm M1 ammunition to be used; this version referred to as the L119 Light Gun.
The only competitor for the 105mm L118 Light Gun is the more recently developed Nexter Systems 105mm Light Gun which, although not adopted by the French Army, has had major success on the export market with sales made to Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Singapore (no longer deployed) and Thailand.
The 105mm Light Gun fires a new family of ammunition developed by Nexter Munitions including HE Hollow Base (HB) with a maximum range of 15km and BB with a maximum range of 18.5km, with other rounds also including smoke.
One of the more recent trends for all types of ammunition is that the user requires them to be Insensitive Munition (IM) compliant and an increasing number of countries, especially those in NATO, are insisting that future ammunition procured must be IM compliant (Insensitive Munitions are designed to withstand stimuli representative of severe but credible accidents).
Part or Whole
In addition to the actual 155mm artillery projectile, other elements include the charge system and the nose mounted fuze. Some countries have competitions for a complete artillery ammunition package while others have a competition for each part.
Conventional 155mm bag charges are giving way to Modular Charge Systems (MCS), or bi-MCS. These are more efficient and well suited to automatic ammunition handling systems and are being fitted to an increasing number of SP artillery systems to increase rates of fire and reduce crew fatigue.
A number of contractors produce MCS including Nexter Munitions/EURENCO, NAMMO, Rheinmetall Weapons & Munitions and Rheinmetall Denel Munitions. In April 2020, the latter announced an $80 million international contract for their latest 155mm Tactical Modular Charges (TMS) for delivery in 2021.
The main types of 155mm ammunition are still HE, smoke and illuminating but the requirement for increased range has been achieved via HB, BB or rocket-assist (RA), with a few 155mm projectiles having a combination of BB and RA.
China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) market a complete family of 155mm projectiles and associated charges with their 155mm DDBO3 ERFB-BB-RA HE projectile claimed to have a maximum range of 51km when fired from a 155mm/52 calibre weapon.
Rheinmetall Denel Munitions also has a similar projectile called Velocity enhanced Long Range Artillery Projectile (V-LAP) which combines BB and RA to achieve longer ranges.
During a demonstration in November 2019 a KMW/Rheinmetall PzH 2000 155mm/52 cal fired a V-LAP to a range of nearly 67km with a new top charge while the G6 howitzer with a 155 mm/52 cal and a 25 litre chamber with a modified M64 Zone 6 charge fired a V-LAP to a maximum range of 76km.
Another type of 155mm munition is the Extended Range Full Bore (ERFB) which is more streamlined projectile with nubs and which can be of the HB, BB or RA type.
Using internal research and development funding, NAMMO has developed and placed in production its new IM HE ER projectile designated NM269 which is claimed to have an enhanced blast effect to defeat armour as well as soft targets. The maximum range when fired from a 155mm/52 calibre ordnance is 41km when using six Rheinmetall DM72 MACS. This is available with a BB or HB unit which can be attached in the field and is supplemented by illuminating, smoke and practice projectiles.
Spanish company EXPAL is now in quantity production of the 155 ERO2A1 HE projectile for the Spanish Army. The ER designation refers to Extended Range which is achieved using a more streamlined shape with filling being of the IM or conventional HE type.
It can be fitted with a HB or a BB unit with the latter achieving maximum range which is 30km when fired from a 39 calibre ordnance and 39km when fired from a 155mm/52 calibre ordnance.
In Turkey, MKEK produce a wide range of ammunition including the 155mm HE Extended Range Mod 274 which has a maximum range of 39km when fired from the Firtina 155mm/52 cal SP artillery system used by the Turkish Army. Like many countries they also make the older US 155mm M107 HE projectile which is cheaper and has less range and therefore ideal for training purposes.
To further increase range a number of contractors are working of 155mm ramjet artillery projectiles including NAMMO (Norway) and Poongsan (South Korea).
The main drawing back of all artillery is that as range increases, so there is a greater dispersion, requiring increased accuracy.
To counter mass attack by armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) 155mm projectiles carrying sub-munitions have been developed and deployed. These sub-munitions have a small calibre high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead which was designed to penetrate the vulnerable upper surfaces of AFVS.
Some of these sub-munitions had a high dud rate and were therefore a danger for follow up forces as well as civilians and for this reason these are no longer deployed by many countries, although they are still manufactured by countries such as China and Russia.
A number of 155mm artillery projectiles have been developed and fielded to enable AFV targets to be successfully engaged; these include BONUS and SMArt.
The 155mm BONUS is a joint development between Nexter Munitions (France) and BAE Systems (Bofors) and, in addition to being deployed by France and Sweden, is also fielded by Finland, Norway, Saudi Arabia and more recently the US Army.
BONUS contains two sub-munitions and sensors, and when fired from a 155mm/39 caliber ordnance has a maximum range of 27km or 35km when fired from a 155mm 52 calibre ordnance.
The 155mm SMArt was developed by GiWS, a joint venture company between Rheinmetall and Diehl and contains two sub-munitions with an Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) warhead to penetrate the top of AFV.
Production was undertaken for Germany followed by Austria, Greece and Switzerland. Although production was completed it is likely to start again as the early shells for Germany are running out of shelf life.
The US Army has fielded the Raytheon Excalibur M982 155mm precision guided projectile which uses a jam resistant internal Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to update the inertial navigation system (INS). This gives an accuracy of less than two meters.
When fired from a 155mm artillery system such as the M777 used by the US Army and Marine Corps, a maximum range of 39.3km using a Zone 5 Modular Artillery Charge Systems (MACS) is achieved.
Excalibur has three fuze modes: point detonating (PD), PD delay and height-of-burst.
Leonardo of Italy has completed development, industrialisation and qualification of the Vulcano 155mm Ballistic Extended Range (BER) projectile for the Italian Army.
Vulcano features a sub-calibre fin-stabilised airframe which is loaded with IM compliant HE with a patented rings pre-fragmented warhead. It is fitted with a nose mounted multi-function fuze which can be set for height, impact/delayed impact, time or self-destruct functions.
When fired from the PzH 2000 155mm/52 cal SP artillery system deployed by the Italian Army a maximum range of 50km is achieved using four MCS plus one additional charge integrated into the Vulcano projectile.
The follow on Vulcano Guided Long Range (GLR) features an autonomous Inertial Measurement Unit/GPS guidance system, is also IM compliant and fitted with a multi-function fuze. In addition, there is a semi-active laser (SAL) guided version with Leonardo working with Diehl Defence of Germany.
Nexter Munitions is developing the Katana PGM with Katana 1 being of the GPS/INS type which would be followed by 2a INU/GNSS and 2b with a SAL guidance system.
US Army has fielded the Northrop Grumman M1156 Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) which is a direct replacement for a standard artillery fuze. It contains GPS guidance using fuzing functions and an integrated GPS receiver to correct the inherent errors associated with a ballistic firing solution. This increases accuracy and reduces the number of projectiles required to neutralise the target so reducing the logistic chain.
This is used with the US 155mm M795 and M549A1 HE projectiles with mission critical data being loaded into the PGK using the Enhanced Portable Inductive Artillery Fuze Setter.
By April 2020 over 50,000 PGK had been produced and export sales made to Australia and Canada. Test firing had been conducted with a number of other artillery systems including the German PzH 2000. This fired a Rheinmetall DM111 HE projectile out to a range of 27km with all 10 rounds landing within five metres of the target.
There are other course correction systems including the Nexter Systems Spacido and the Top Gun from Israel Aircraft Industries IAI) which has been adopted by the Israel Defense Force for its 155mm artillery projectiles.
Northrop Grumman M1156 Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) is a direct replacement for a standard artillery fuze and provides a step change in accuracy.
Laser Guided Projectiles
The US Army did field the 155mm M712 Cannon Launch Guided Projectile (CLGP) and this has seen combat in the Middle East. Production of these was completed by Martin Marietta many years ago.
This was a laser guided projectile (LGP) although the main drawback was that the designator had to be in line with the target. More recently airborne designators, for example installed in an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), can also be used to designate the target in addition to ground based laser designators.
NORINCO is currently marketing a complete family of LGP including the GP155 with a maximum range of 20km and GP155A with a maximum range of up to 25km. Both of these have a HE warhead and are claimed to have a hit probability of 90 percent.
A more recently development by NORINCO is their 155mm GP155B projectile with GPS and BEIDOU satellite navigation. This is claimed to have a maximum range of up to 35km and is fitted with a HE warhead with a circular error of probability (CEP) of between 15-20m claimed.
NORINCO also market a 122mm LGP called the GP122 for use with 122mm artillery systems such as the widely deployed Russian D-30 and its numerous SP equivalents.
The Russian KBP Instrument Design Bureau has developed a family of 152mm and 122mm LGP and for the export market developed a 155mm Krasnopol. This is known to have been used by India with its Bofors FH-77B 155mm artillery systems during operations on the border with Pakistan.
The latest 155mm is the Krasnopol-M2 (K155M) which is fitted with a HE fragmentation warhead a maximum quoted range of up to 25km. It is used in conjunction with the Malakhit Automated Fire Control Systems which includes a tripod mounted laser designator and rangefinder unit with a thermal imager, commander’s computer and a radio set. At the firing position is the commander’s computer, radio set and gun transceivers kit. (Source: AMR)
09 Dec 20. General Atomics’ New Compact, High-Powered Lasers. GA is building a prototype 300-kW missile defense laser for the Pentagon and a 250-kW airborne version with Boeing.
General Atomics is so confident in a unique technology they say solves the heat and weight problems found in rival laser designs that they’re making it the core of two distinctly different projects.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense is funding General Atomics and two competitors to build experimental lasers able to blast out some 300 kilowatts of power – enough to burn cruise missiles out of the sky. This project is about scaling up laser power output and testing alternative technologies for the services to pick up for separate follow-on programs.
Meanwhile, Boeing and General Atomics are jointly developing a smaller laser weapon – starting at about 100 kilowatts but capable of growing to 250 kW. Unlike OSD’s, this 250 kW weapon is being built at the companies’ own expense, essentially on spec. (The technical term is IRAD, Independent Research And Development).
Like OSD, Boeing and GA are hoping to demonstrate technology that’ll be picked up by the services for a wide range of ground- and ship-based applications: The company says they’re targeting the Army’s Stryker-mounted M-SHORAD and its larger truck-borne IFPC, as well as Navy shipborne models. But for the pilot project, they’ve set themselves a very specific and demanding technical challenge: make their laser fit aboard an airplane – and make it fire accurately from that plane in flight. (Breaking D readers will remember the Airborne Laser, a huge chemical laser on a modified 747, as well as plans to arm the Next Generation Air Dominance planes with lasers.)
Call in the “New York, New York” school of engineering: If you can make your laser work on a plane, you can make it work anywhere.
“The idea is, if we can do it for an aircraft, then it truly could be able to go on any ground or sea platform,” said GA’s VP for lasers, Michael Perry. “An aircraft…has the largest constraints on size, weight, and power.”
Now, that doesn’t mean getting lasers to work on ships or Army vehicles is easy. In some ways, surface platforms have a harder time: Their lasers have to penetrate the thickest, most moisture-laden layers of the atmosphere. And, Perry told me, while an aircraft in flight is constantly vibrating, you can account for that with sophisticated beam control software and high-quality aiming mirrors: That tech is tricky to build, but not bulky to install once you’ve built it. By contrast, a laser installed on a surface platform has to handle sudden, massive jolts as the warship crashes over a wave or the truck drives over a ditch, and that requires shock absorption systems, which are bulky and heavy.
(While General Atomics and Boeing haven’t said what aircraft they’re planning to test the laser aboard, given the fact that Perry thinks extensive shock-absorption will be unnecessary, that suggests it isn’t going to be a fighter jet or anything that makes violent high-gee maneuvers. That’s in line with Air Force Special Operations Command’s longstanding interest in putting a laser cannon aboard their AC-130 turboprop gunship).
So GA’s major focus in this project seems to be proving how compact their technology can be. Smaller size is a big advantage of the GA approach, Perry said, which they refer to as scalable distributed gain.
Fibers, Slabs, & Distributed Gain
What is a “distributed gain” laser, anyway? In the Wild West days of Reagan’s Star Wars program, the Pentagon looked into lots of ways of powering lasers, from literal nuclear explosions – an idea called Project Excalibur – to massive vats of toxic chemicals, like the ones that filled the converted Boeing 747 that became the Airborne Laser. The real progress, however, has come with so-called solid state lasers: They pump light into a crystalline “gain medium,” which then amplifies the power of that light (hence “gain”), until it’s released as a laser beam. But there are two main ways of building a solid-state laser:
- A slab laser, as its name implies, uses a single big chunk of crystal as the gain medium. This gives you a single coherent beam of laser light. The problem with slab lasers is heat buildup. The bigger you make the slab, the further the distance from its core to the edges, which means it takes longer to disperse waste heat, which can build up and damage the system. (You may recognize this from high school physics as a manifestation of the square-cube law). So slab lasers tend to require cooling systems, which are bulky and heavy.
- A fiber laser, by contrast, uses lots and lots of fiber-optic cables as gain media. Each individual fiber is very thin, and you can leave space between them, so it’s easy for them to disperse waste heat. The problem with fiber lasers is the act of combining the beams. The bigger you make the laser, the more fibers you need – a 250-kW weapon might take 100 fibers, Perry said – and each fiber produces its own, weak laser beam, which you then have to combine into a single, powerful beam. Beam combination systems tend to be expensive and complex, not to mention (surprise!) bulky and heavy.
General Atomics’ distributed gain laser tries to strike a balance. Instead of a single big slab, you have several smaller slabs, each of them thin enough to disperse heat quickly. But instead of each of these slabs producing its own beam in parallel, which you then have to combine, you connect them in serial. The initial light source goes into the first slab, which magnifies it and shoots it into the second slab, which magnifies it still more. In theory you could have a third slab as well, even a fourth and fifth, though that’s not what GA is building here. (They don’t have to be lined up end to end, because you can use high-quality mirrors to bounce the light around a corner).
“It is a series of slabs,” Perry told me. “The single beam passes through them all, as opposed to being separate lasers.”
The advantage of distributed gain for high-power lasers is that you need neither the extensive cooling systems of a slab laser, nor the exquisite beam-combination systems of a fiber laser. “It’s pretty compact,” Perry told me. “If you came out to see if you would be surprised at how short it is.”
That said, there is a minimum length for a given amount of power output. That’s why General Atomics couldn’t fit the same 300-kW weapon they’re building for OSD onto Boeing’s aircraft (again, they’re not saying what that aircraft is), which is why that version had to be scaled down to 250 inches.
“The problem we have is, the 300-kw architecture is about 18 inches longer then the 250,” Perry said ruefully. “Believe it or not, as painful as it is and as frustrated as I am, I cannot eke out another 18 inches of length… The platform can’t even give us another 12 inches.”
It may be frustrating for Perry and his team to build two different versions of their lasers, rather than build two identical copies of the same thing – but the exercise could help prove to potential customers just how adaptable the basic design can be. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
10 Dec 20. Lighter but Tougher Combat Vests and Helmets. Published in the Modern Soldier Compendium 2019/2020 – Body armour and helmet designs are advancing to give today’s soldiers lighter and better protection. Soldier survivability isa priority. It is not jst the desire to reduce or eliminate the injury or death of one’s people but also the adverse impacts that casualties have on the unit’s ability to successfully execute its assigned mission. At the small infantry unit – typically between nine and 13 – each soldier has a key role to play and each casualty will have an impact on overall team cohesion and effectivene
Looking strictly at protecting the soldier from being injured by a fragment from an explosion or bullet, the best solution would seem to be the provision of personal body armour. If this is the case then increasing the armour’s penetration resistance should further enhance survivability. However, the field reality, as pointed out by John Yancey, deputy, US Army Soldier Requirements Division, Manoeuvre Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate (MCDID) is that “additional body armour can also restrict the soldier’s movement and actions while also adding weight that reduces his agility and endurance.”
Reducing weight is also a factor that can enhance survivability by allowing the soldier to move more quickly with greater agility. According to a May 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on personal protective equipment improvement efforts, US Marines fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan carried an average 53kg (117lb) load, well above the standard approach march load of 32.6kg (72lb). This resulted in slower reaction to a contact and reduced endurance in a combat situation.
One body armour designer suggested that a key influence in the trends in body armour configuration preferences is driven by the experiences of the field users. Given recent experiences, the emphasis on counter-insurgency (COIN) operations has led to a focus on protecting against bullets. This has lead toward what one ballistic expert referred to as a minimalist approach to body armour – lighter vests that offer better mobility but which usually hold only ballistic or strike plates with little or no soft armour coverage. The US Army Soldier Plate Carrier System (SPCS) reflects this move while its next generation Modular Scalable Vest (MSV) is essentially a ‘plates-only’ body armour variant. While these are certainly lighter they also cover less than the previous Improved Outer Tactical Vest used by the Army. The question is how will these ‘minimal armour’ vests fare in near-peer conflict where artillery is employed? Here soft armour fragmentation protection could be essential.
It should also be remembered that absolute protection is not possible. For example, as was make clear in Syria, the Russians have fielded sniper rifles including the SV98 and SVD that are capable of defeating even the latest body armour at virtually all ranges. So acceptance of some risk is necessary and a balance needs to be struck.
SPCS and MSV
Yancey suggested that the US Army has recognised that “simply designing individual body armour which is intended for use by all soldiers was not the optimum approach”. To a large degree this ‘one size (or design) fits all’ was the case with its earlier Personnel Armour System for Ground Troops (PASGT). The SPCS and MSV are moves to provide more customisable body armour. The idea is to provide a lightweight alternative rather than a replacement for the Improved Outer Tactical Vest used in the Interceptor body armour system. The US Army chose the KDH Magnum TAC-1 system to fill its requirements for soldiers in Afghanistan. According to the company, it is “highly adjustable for improved fit and can be adjusted ‘on-the-run’ without removing the vest with its side adjustable straps.” The vest can be adjusted real time as mission requirements change. It uses the latest Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) plates which weight 5.9kg (13lb) in their largest size. US and most western plates are made of high-strength ceramics.
The Modular Scalable Vest was introduced in 2018 to replace the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV). The MSV is 11kg (25lb) lighter when fully loaded with ballistic plates which weigh 2.2kg (5lb) less than the IOTV. The biggest difference is that MSV is designed to be scaled up or down depending on the threat and mission requirements. The first tier is concealable soft body armour. To this can be adding armour plates offering additional impact protection. The next level includes a plate carrier and ballistic plates, while the last adds a ‘ballistic combat shirt with built in neck, shoulder and pelvic protection and a belt system to move items from the vest to the hips.’ KDH Defense Systems received the first contract to provide MSV in June 2018.
The latest US Marine Corps plate carrier vest system is designed with more efficient weight distribution to allow the Marine to scale the system dependent upon mission requirements. It consists of a cummerbund style main vest with the option of using the groin and lower back protection of the IOTV (Interceptor). The system is a two-point cut away design with fully integrated side protection, communication routing channels and increased MOLLE attachment points. The plate carrier vest system is an alternative to the larger IMTV vest.
In June 2019 the Marines awarded a contract to Point Blank Enterprises for new lightweight body armour plates that are around 3.8kg (8.5lb). These are designed to be worn in low intensity or counterinsurgency style conflicts. Major Ken Kunze, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command, shared that the Corps expects to begin fielding the new plates in early 2020.
IOVT replaced the Interceptor Body Armour (IBA) fielded by the United States Army. KDH Defense, the manufacturer of the IOVT, shared that “it has been modified several times based on real-world combat feedback.” The vest can use both the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (E-SAPI) and ESBI Side-SAPI plates. The system is designed to have components added allowing full-up system with groin protection, lower back protection, deltoid protection and neck-throat protection.
The German Bundeswehr’s standard vest is part of it’s the IdZ Infanterist Modifiziert (Infantryman of the Future). It is modular using both SK4 plates and SK1 soft body armour and weighs 10.5-12kg (4.7-5.4lb). Neck/throat, groin, shoulder and lower back components can be added.
Russia’s military standard issue is the 6B23 body armour which uses a combination of soft armour and steel plates and has groin protection. The later 6B43 and 6B45 are lighter and protect the neck and surrounding areas but use a removable flap for lower coverage. The 6B45 is modular, has scalable protection similar to the MSV and uses ceramic plates. The use of steel or titanium plates, rather than ceramic, have the disadvantage of a projectile hit breaking up with the resulting shrapnel libel to cause injury.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have adopted and widely fielded body armour. In fact, China is a major exporter of body armour for commercial/security uses. Many design features are similar to US and Western designs including the overlapping front, side adjustment strips, detachable throat and groin protector, hard plate pockets and MOLLE. Chinese hard plates are either ballistic steel (which is heavier than ceramic) or in their higher-end plates, aluminium oxide ceramic.
The 3M F70 was introduced in October 2018 to address the need to improve wearer comfort while maintaining the required ballistic protection levels. At 0.77kg (1.68lb) for the high cut and 0.87kg (1.91lb) for the mid cut version it is lighter than the current Combat Helmet II L110 but provides greater protection than the other current Ultra-Light Weight Bump Helmet N49. Special attention has been given to both lowering its weight and its stability on the head even when the wearer is running or performing other activities, including parachute jumps.
The US Army is introducing its new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) – a five percent lighter weight helmet system composed of helmet/maxillofacial and passive hearing protection with increased blunt impact performance. First production deliveries began in mid 2018 from manufacturer Ceradyne, a 3M company.
The US Marine Corps awarded a contract in June 2018 to Gentex to provide the Enhanced Combat Helmet, or ECH, to every Marine. The ECH is the same weight as the standard Advanced Combat Helmet but is capable of stopping rifle rounds and fragmentation.
engineers, technologists and operators into a dynamic development team.
The ECH consists of a ballistic shell, suspension pads and four-point retention system. In addition to those components, a reversible helmet cover, night vision goggle bracket and attachment hardware.
The US Marines announced on 4 June 2019 that they are seeking a new lightweight and integrated helmet. This requirement for an Integrated Helmet System (IHS) is aimed at improving “the integration of several current and future head-borne systems such as optics and hearing enhancement/protection devices,” said a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command. It must be between 1.31kg (2.91lb) for a small helmet, to 1.74kg (3.84lb) for an extra-large. It should be optimised to allow power and/or data to flow to the attachments while minimising bulk.
The Russian lightweight 6B47 helmet from Tehinkom is part of the RATNIK (Warrior) combat equipment programme and is being issued to army units. It has a night vision goggle bracket and side rail. The helmet has an outer composite shell, dry aramid fibre and inner composite sheath weighs 1kg and resists a 9mm pistol shot at five meters. It is issued with a balaclava and digital pattern woodland green and snow helmet covers.
DSM Dyneema in Holland developed Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) which is substantially lighter than Kevlar, and is one of the primary ballistic fabrics today. It can not only be used in soft armour applications but also used to produce plates. These plates would weigh nearly half of comparable ceramic plates although are claimed to be more durable. It is stated that they are fully exchangeable with earlier ceramic or steel plates. The plates have positive buoyancy and are multi-hit capable. (Source: Armada)
09 Dec 20. The B-1B just launched a cruise missile externally. Hypersonic missiles could be next. The B-1B Lancer has successfully fired a stealthy cruise missile from an external pylon for the first time, adding another capability to the Bone’s massive arsenal and potentially paving the way for the bomber to launch hypersonic missiles in the future.
During the demonstration, held Dec. 4 at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, the B-1 launched an inert AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, from an external pylon that normally would carry the Sniper targeting pod.
The test proves the B-1B can be configured to carry weapons externally — opening the door for new weapons configurations for the formidable Bone, including the potential ability to launch hypersonic missiles when they become available.
“Arming a limited number of B-1s with more weapons externally, could enable Global Strike Command to provide more weapons for geographic Combatant Commanders while putting fewer aircraft and aircrew in harm’s way,” said Gen. Tim Ray, who leads Air Force Global Strike Command.
The test was conducted by the 419th Flight Test Squadron with a B-1 assigned to the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Boeing is the prime contractor for the B-1, while Lockheed Martin manufactures JASSM.
To launch the JASSM externally, the Air Force team had to reassign one of the B-1′s internal weapon stations to the hard point on the forward right hand side of the aircraft. The team also modified the pylon itself “to allow for different connector configurations, and the internal wiring was replaced with harnesses that would support its new role,” said N. Keith Maynard, the special instrumentation flight chief for the 812th Airborne Instrumentation Test Squadron.
Last year, the Air Force tested modifications to its internal bomb bay to allow it to carry heavier weapons. In November, the B-1B carried an inert JASSM missile on a pylon under the fuselage for the first time, further expanding the aircraft’s weapons load.
Earlier in its lifespan, the B-1′s external hardpoints were used to carry nuclear weapons, but the Air Force converted the B-1 to serve only conventional missions as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The conversion process involved welding a metal sleeve on each of the B-1s aft pylon attachments, preventing them from being used to carry air-launched cruise missiles.
Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Faggard told Military.com in November the Air Force may pursue permanent modifications to the B-1B that would allow it to carry 24 JASSMs or Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles internally, as well as 6 to 12 of those weapons externally — giving two B-1s the firepower of three B-1s today.
If that occurs, the bomber “will remain treaty-compliant” because “the expanded capabilities will be conventional-only,” he said.
Now that the launch is over, the Air Force test team is focused on analyzing the data gathered. Simulations show that a launch of a JASSM from a B-1 should conform to the same timeline as when launched from the left pylon of a B-52, said Agustin Martinez of the 419th FLTS.
To collect imagery of the missile launch, the Air Force outfitted the B-1 with high speed cameras that can capture up to 500 frames per second.
“The most important product for this specific mission is excellent imagery of the release from multiple angles to not only verify safe separation but to provide information about the weapon itself, like fin deployment,” Maynard said.
Despite the potential for new weapons capabilities, the Air Force still plans to reduce the number of B-1s in the bomber fleet.
During the FY21 budget request, the service announced that it would retire 17 B-1s that had become particularly difficult to maintain after years of hard flying in the Middle East. The money saved would be diverted to other Air Force modernization priorities, including space and joint all domain command and control.
Last week, the House and Senate armed services committees agreed to allow the Air Force to mothball those bombers as long as it could maintain a combat-coded B-1 fleet of at least 36 bombers. It must also put four of the 17 retired bombers into long-term storage, so that they can be refurbished and flown if needed in the future.
Meanwhile, the tempo of operations for the B-1 community remains high as the Air Force balances short and long-term deployments of its bombers across the globe.
On Dec. 6, the Air Force announced that B-1 bombers from the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Elsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, had temporarily deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
While in Guam, the bombers will participate in training exercises with partner nations and conduct strategic deterrence missions, the service said. (Source: Defense News)
09 Dec 20. US Army greenlights soft-kill APS hunt, eyes 2022 contract award. The US Army wants to outfit its ground combat vehicles with a soft-kill active protection system (SK APS) and plans to select a vendor in early 2022.
On 7 December the service issued a SK APS request for information calling for interested vendors to submit paperwork about their respective technologies by 21 December. The army will then host an industry day in January 2021 before issuing a request for prototype proposals in July 2021. If all proceeds smoothly, the army will make a contract award decision in January 2022.
The army Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs (G8) “has recommended approval for the development of a SK APS capability and integration on several ground combat platforms,” the service wrote. It went on to note that the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems approved the proposed acquisition strategy in late October and will pursue a rapid prototyping pathway under the middle-tier acquisition umbrella.
APSs – both the SK and hard-kill versions – are designed to protect vehicles from inbound rounds such as anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless rifles.
“A SK APS senses the environment for required threat information and employs a countermeasure (CM) in the form of an obscurant(s) or electronic warfare (EW) devices to interfere with the guidance mechanism(s) or the operator of the susceptible threat(s) thus causing the threat to miss the protected vehicle,” the army wrote.
While the army launches its new SK APS hunt, it has been evaluating the hard-kill options for decades and is now interested in a layered approach. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Dec 20. Hypersonics: SDA, Space Force Focus On Laser Links For Kill Chain. SDA currently is primarily focused on “beyond-line-of-sight targeting for sensitive targets — so, for ships and mobile missiles,” Director Derek Tournear says, as well as for “advanced missile threats.”
The Space Development Agency (SDA) Director Derek Tournear sees lasers for inter-satellite links as the most important new tech to build a mesh network that will allow all-domain operations, as well as targeting of incoming hypersonic missiles.
“Optical crosslink technology, that’s number one. Tactical data links from space, that’s number two. And then the third one is the autonomous battle management to be able to get that networking system to fit together to actually form a mesh network and respond in real time,” he told the MilSatCom Digital Week opening event yesterday.
SDA currently is primarily focused on “beyond-line-of-sight targeting for time sensitive targets — so, for ships and mobile missiles. And, then, to do that same thing, beyond-line-of-sight targeting and tracking of advanced missile threats,” Tournear said.
Tracking modern ballistic and hypersonic missiles is the goal of one of the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations being developed by SDA as part of it’s seven-layer architecture. The low-cost satellites are supposed to “provide missile warning and tracking information to national defense authorities, and tracking and cueing data for missile defense elements,” according to SDA officials. The plan is to launch the eight sats in 2022 and demonstrate the capability.
Those satellites, in turn, will rely on another layer of SDA satellites, the Transport Layer, for data relay. As Breaking D readers know, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper mandated that all the services use those satellites to link their command and control networks to the future Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) network. These optical satellite links are central to creating that C2 backbone.
SDA on Aug. 31 announced awards to Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems for $187.5m and $94m respectively for development of 10 satellites each for the Transport Layer constellation. The plan is for 20 satellites to be launched by September 2022, and provide a minimum capability as a mesh network.
However, laser links are also the proverbial long pole in the tent for SDA’s ambitions. Indeed, optical crosslinks and downlinks based on lasers for lightning fast satellites for communications and imagery transmission have long been a holy grail for DoD. For example, way back in 2003 the Pentagon launched the Transformational Satellite Communications System (T-SAT) that would have used both radio-frequency and laser comms to create mesh networks as an high speed parallel to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) encrypted and hardened communications satellite system. After paying Lockheed Martin and other companies more than $3.2bn, DoD killed the program in 2009 when cost estimates ballooned.
Col. Ryan Colburn, head of Space Force Spectrum Warfare Division, agreed that optical crosslinks and mesh networks — satellite constellations that can exchange data in near-real time among themselves, down to fighters or ships or tanks and to ground stations that can re-route data globally — are crucial for the future.
But just as important, he told the MilSatCom conference, is the “ability to adapt what is fielded or being fielded, by updating it, pivoting it, so that our warfighting systems can operate through the threats that emerge.”
From the view of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), the recent focus has been on the long-awaited M-Code to allow military GPS users to connect in a more secure manner. “It’s years in the making,” Colburn said. “It gives us that next-generation of GPS signal capabilities for improved anti-jam, anti- spoof, cryptology. And we’re almost finished, right, we’re turning the corner. … And we have the user equipment that it can use it so we’re well on our way.”
Indeed, the Space Force announced last Friday that it had approved “Operational Acceptance of GPS Military-Code (M-Code) Early Use (MCEU),” which is a hardware and software upgrade package for Lockheed Martin’s stop-gap GPS Operational Control System (OCS). The upgrade allows the M-Code to be used not just by the current GPS III satellites, but by all older GPS satellites that are M-Code capable (GPS IIR-M and GPS IIF satellites.) It also allows M-Code functioning to be monitored by ground controllers, as well as supporting testing and fielding of user equipment.
SpaceX successfully put up the fourth GPS III satellite, SV04, Nov. 5 on a Falcon 9 rocket after a month’s delay. That launch brought the number of working GPS satellites (new and old) with the M-Code enabled to 23, which means that commanders in the field now will be able to request early use of the M-Code signal.
Colburn said that following the M-Code, Space Force PNT efforts are focusing on lower-cost; smaller, less-costly atomic chip clocks for more precise timing; and cloud-based ground systems architectures “that allow us to do that ground based processing anywhere we need to, and give us that agility to move where our operations are really located.”
But beyond individual new technologies, Colburn stressed, is the requirement to be able to put all of the those new capabilities together. “Fundamentally, I think our opportunity and our challenge is to combine those capabilities in flexible and linked architectures,” he said. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
08 Dec 20. Rafael offers its next-gen combat vehicle suite to South Korea. Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has offered South Korea its Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Suite (NGCV-S) as the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) prepares to upgrade its K1A2 main battle tanks (MBTs) and procure some 600 Hyundai-made armoured personnel carriers (APCs) as part of its Tiger 4.0 modernisation programme.
Rafael has submitted requests for information from South Korea on both the MBT and APC programmes.
Udi N, head of marketing at Rafael’s land manoeuvre systems directorate, told Janes that the NGCV-S offers several capabilities for armoured vehicles to boost their lethality, survivability, and ability to engage multiple targets simultaneously.
He said the suite includes the company’s Armor Shield P passive add-on armour and the Trophy active protection system (APS), the latter of which is used on US Army MBTs as well as on the Israeli military’s Namer heavy APCs.
Other offers as part of the suite include reactive armour kits and the Samson medium-calibre remote weapon station (RWS). The station is designed to mount a 30 mm or 40 mm gun and co-axial 7.62 mm machine gun that be integrated with Rafael’s Spike missile launcher as well as the fifth-generation Spike anti-tank guided electro-optical missile for mid- and long-range attacks.
“Combining the Spike missile system with the Samson Integrated 30 mm RWS and its combat management systems transforms the remote-controlled weapon station and the vehicle into a versatile fighting machine – able to simultaneously neutralise targets at multiple ranges, with the pinpoint accuracy required in the urban arena as well as in GPS-denied zones,” said Rafael in a statement. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Dec 20. PLANAF conducts live-fire exercise with new guided depth charge. A People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) Y-8Q/KQ-200 anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-capable maritime patrol aircraft recently conducted a live-fire exercise using “a new type of air-droppable, self-guided depth charge”, according to a report published on 3 December by China’s PLA Daily newspaper.
From the accompanying photograph, the weapon deployed appears to be the same as the one seen in a China Central Television (CCTV) report broadcast on 15 May, where several examples of a new depth charge – the designation of which has yet to be revealed – were shown on loading trolleys.
The shape and description of the weapon suggests that it is very similar to a Russian ‘Zagon’ guided depth charge. Although it has no propulsion system, controllable fins in the tail section enable the weapon to be steered as it descends through the water, guided by an active acoustic homing system installed in the nose.
The Russian ‘Zagon 2’ weapons are assessed to have a relatively small 35 kg warhead, but the use of a shaped charge will substantially increase their effectiveness in penetrating a submarine pressure hull. Open-source information suggests that the weapons can be guided to their target if dropped within 450m of a submarine. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Dec 20. The US Navy wants to find ships to kill using aerial drones launched from submarines. The name of the game in the Pacific is stand-off range. But with longer range torpedoes and anti-ship missiles in the arsenal, submariners are looking to a new domain to help them extend their deadly reach: The air.
In an October request for information, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Submarine Combat and Weapons Control Program Office asked industry for input into a “Submarine-Launched Unmanned Aerial System,” or SLUAS, currently in development.
The Navy has been interested in sub-launched drones for some time and has been testing prototypes, but the RFI shows the service is getting serious about the idea as it adds longer-range torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles to the arsenal of its attack submarines.
The idea for the SLUAS is an ambitious one.
The drone would launch from a submerged submarine out of a 3-inch ejector tube used for sonobuoys, flares and countermeasures among other things. The battery-operated UAS would then deploy its wings and operate for an hour, well beyond the range visible from just the low-in-the-water periscope.
Additionally, the UAS should have an “electro-optic capability with reliable target solution analysis,” the RFI said, adding that it should be able to “operate at ranges out to the line-of-sight radio horizon, and use a variable bandwidth encrypted datalink with at least 256-bit encryption strength.
The drone should also have a degree of autonomy and “include the ability to operate in an emission-controlled environment and operate without constant radio communication links.”
“Every submarine has a 3-inch launcher, so in theory, every submarine could operate with UASs,” said Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and senior fellow with The Hudson Institute. “The idea is that you would be about the size of a sonobuoy — it could be pretty long — and you’d put it inside a canister. Then you launch this in a canister, it floats to the surface and the USA deploys from there.
“And from there it can either connect up with the submarine or it could connect with another unit, and it gives you the ability to have over-the-horizon surveillance.”
“The demonstrations have been pretty successful,” Clark added.(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
24 Nov 20. French Foreign Legion Paras from the elite Deuxième REP have live-fired the Heckler & Koch HK416F on Exercise WESSEX STORM 2020.
The UK MoD yesterday releases images, taken last week, of French Paratroopers from the elite 2e Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes (2e REP) on the live-fire phase of Exercise WESSEX STORM on Salisbury Plain Training Area; the assault rifles used were the Heckler & Koch HK416F replacement for the FAMAS.
French troops take out a vehicle target during their live fire attack using a MILAN Anti-tank guided missile [Crown Copyright: Cpl Rob Kane]
The extended captions issued with the images state:-
- French Soldiers from 2e Régiment Etranger de Parachutistes have conducting live fire tactical training (LFTT) on Salisbury Plain, as part of Exercise WESSEX STORM 2020.
- The French unit is training alongside the 2 PARA Battlegroup so that British and French airborne forces are ready to deploy together on short notice missions.
- The joint military force is now able to deploy 10,000 personnel to respond to shared threats.
- They can also carry out tasks such as high-intensity operations, peacekeeping, disaster relief or humanitarian assistance.
- The CJEF was established as part of the defence and security, and on nuclear cooperation treaties signed at Lancaster House by the UK and France in 2010.
- The UK and France are deployed around the world together in places such as the Middle East to combat Da’esh and Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. In Mali 3 RAF Chinooks and 100 UK personnel are deployed in a non-combat role in support of French counter-extremist operations.
- The UK will continue to cooperate with our European partners in the future following the UK’s departure from the EU. We will continue to be a key player in Euro-Atlantic security and defence through our leadership in NATO, which will always be central to the UK’s security, our values and our place in the world. (Source: joint-forces.com)
07 Dec 20. Germany gives the go-ahead to KE ammunition. This would apply to C2 LEP if the new turret and gun are chosen. III. Application of the parliamentary groups of the CDU / CSU and SPD in the Defense Committee of the German Bundestag Section 14 Federal Ministry of Defense Chapter 1405 Military Procurement The Defense Committee should decide: The Federal Government is asked to plan the remaining development and qualification of the 120mm KE2020Neo ammunition for the Leopard 2 MBT in the 2021 budget and conclude a contract immediately. The defense exclusion must be reported on the implementation by March 31, 2021 at the latest. Reason: 1. The L55 tank cannon system with 120 mm in use in conjunction with the KE DM63 is no longer able to successfully fight the modernized part of the Russian MBT fleet (several thousand vehicles) in a duel situation. 2. The development of new 120 mm ammunition (KE2020Neo) would significantly reduce the capability gap to the VJTF 2027 and represent the technological basis for closing this gap. 3. The current Leopard 2 generation of battle tanks currently uses KE ammunition with penetrator technology from 1995. Modern reactive armor (Explosive Reactive Armor; ERA) such as the 3rd generation ERA (Relikt), which is also retrofitted to Russian battle tanks of older designs are and will be (eg preliminary version – will be replaced by the edited version. Printed matter 19/23326 – 6 – German Bundestag – 19th electoral period used in MBT T72B3, MBT T90M / MS), can no longer be fought successfully with the existing KE ammunition. Therefore, there is an acute capability gap in the entire Leopard fleet in Germany and in the global 120 mm user community, including all NATO partners. Acceptance of the motion with the votes of the parliamentary groups of the CDU / CSU, SPD and FDP against the votes of the parliamentary groups DIE LINKE. and BÜNDNIS 90 / DIE GRÜNEN with the AfD faction abstaining. (Source: https://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/19/233/1923326.pdf)
03 Dec 20. Iran Missile Upgrades Complicate GCC Defense Efforts. Arab Gulf States must improve ISR, EW capabilities and extend their early warning range and enhance systems’ integration to counter Iran’s ballistic missile threat
Arab Gulf States need to improve force integration, establish better shared-awareness capabilities, improve ISR and EW effectiveness and move from commanding the battle concept to managing the battle to successfully counter Iran’s evolving ballistic missile program, says Khalid Al Bu-Ainain Al Mazrouei, advisor to the deputy supreme commander of UAE Armed Forces.
Iran is working on utilizing its satellite launch vehicles (SLV) to build longer range ballistic missiles that will provide its arsenal with missiles that exceed the 2,500-km range it currently has.
“Iran is developing the Shehab-4/SLV with a range of 3,500-km and Shehab-5/SLV with a range of 5,300, and this will increase the altitude of the missiles to 1,100-km, their trajectory, their speed and narrow interception time,” the former commander of the air force and air defense of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said in a presentation at the Manama Air Power Symposium. When they become operational, the missiles will be able to hit any target in Europe, as well as cover large parts of Asia and Africa.
He pointed out that the UAE and other Arab Gulf States have managed to build a multilayered ballistic missile defense capability that can provide a low endo (atmospheric) and high endo interception capability against missiles that are below the range of 2,500-km, such as Shehab-3 and Sejil missiles. Once Iran acquires much longer range missiles, an exo-atmospheric interception capability must be integrated within the regional missile defense system.
“Arab Gulf States currently have the Patriot PAC-3 and the THAAD for endo interception, and probably we will need something like an extended-range THAAD or a THAAD block-2 to do the job,” Al Mazrouei added.
Iran has been proliferating ballistic missile technology to its allied militias throughout the region. The Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen have fired more than 200 ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war broke out more than five years ago. Reports by the United Nations and the United States have concluded that recovered pieces of ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia were manufactured in Iran.
After several failed attempts, Iran successfully put a military satellite into orbit last April, demonstrating its ability to build SLV, which is regarded as an important step towards developing medium range ballistic missiles that can reach 5,000-km, and possibly intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Experts believe that only the United States has the capability to intercept such long-range missiles while in exo-atmospheric stage.
“There’s really nothing currently in the Middle East that can achieve an exo-atmospheric interception, but plenty that can achieve a terminal descent interception against an exo-atmospheric missile,” David Des Roches, of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, said.
However, Des Roches argues that missile defense systems procured by Arab Gulf States are sufficient to deal with the current and next generation Iranian ballistic missiles.
“While the exact speeds of both (Shehab 4 & 5) are unknown to the public, the THAAD missile is believed to reach Mach 8 and can thus intercept an ICBM in the terminal phase – this has been tested in recent years. Patriot may be able to do so as well, but in a much more limited set of conditions,” said Des Roches, who served as Pentagon director of Arabian Peninsula Affairs..
Al Mazrouei underlined the need for Arab Gulf States to acquire long-range radars that cover 360 degrees and deploy them in each of the GCC states, which would enable them to monitor missile defense launches anywhere inside Iranian territories. He also stressed the importance of enhancing the connectivity and integration between the command and control air defense centers of all regional states.
“The GCC Hizam Al-Taawun aircraft identification and tracking system (HAT)” that was deployed by Raytheon in Arab Gulf States in 2001, linking all their air defense centers, “needs to be improved and upgraded,” asserted Al Mazrouei.
Des Roches agreed that a more robust C4ISR capability is required to enhance the missile defense effectiveness of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – that groups Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
“The most pressing issue is the lack of an integrated GCC warning, tracking, and interception capability. Right now, there are multiple national systems, with attendant underlap and overlap, all operating roughly in synch with a US system which forms the missile defense backbone,” Des Roches added. “A true GCC integrated network of sensors and shooters would be the most effective solution – it would be more easily integrated into the existing US framework and would reduce national costs and vulnerabilities.”
“There must be a better shared awareness picture between GCC states, and an improved ISR and EW capability and effectiveness,” said Al Mazrouei. “Extending the ballistic air defense range is a must to deal with the evolving Iranian ballistic missiles threat.”
“There are two emerging threats posed by the Iranian missile program – increases in accuracy, and increases in range,” concluded Des Roches.
This increase in Iranian capability places bases and assets of the U.S. military in the Gulf region under constant threat.
Ayn Al-Assad Air base in Iraq, where American troops were stationed, was hit by multiple Iranian ballistic missiles last January 8, in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. No casualties were reported in the incident.
“Iran may soon have the ability to hit a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf – I have argued for years we should never send them in there” said Des Roches. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
04 Dec 20. On October 28, 2020, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) conducted an autonomous flight using a government-supplied Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) autonomy engine to support air-to-air targeting missions. The CODE autonomy engine was installed on a GA-ASI Avenger Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
The CODE autonomy engine was implemented to further understand cognitive Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing on larger UAS platforms, such as Avenger. Using a network- enabled Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) radio for mesh network mission communications, GA-ASI was able to show integration of emerging Advanced Tactical Data Links (ATDL) and separation between flight and mission critical systems.
“This represents a big step on the path to more sophisticated autonomous missions for unmanned aircraft where operator input can be minimized to support optimal manning of multiple products for complex air battles,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “For this initial flight, we used Avenger as the flight surrogate for the Skyborg capability set, which is a key focus for GA-ASI emerging air-to-air portfolio.”
As part of the autonomous flight, the CODE autonomy software controlled the maneuvering of the Avenger UAS for over two hours without traditional pilot input. GA-ASI furthered the development of the CODE software by adding behavioral functions for a coordinated air-to-air search with up to six aircraft (for the demonstration, five of the aircraft were virtual). The CODE operator, using a small form factor commercial computer running the government-provided software, set mission objectives for the flight in which the autonomy software was used to coordinate the six aircraft to accomplish the air-to-air search objective.
GA-ASI created ground and air adapter services that passed operator mission inputs to the flying constellation of aircraft using Link 16-formatted messages that followed Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol (JREAP). The open architecture of the CODE software enables communications between the aircraft, the CODE software and the autopilot.
04 Dec 20. Germany delays TLVS once again. Germany has again delayed its Taktische Luftverteidigungssystem (TLVS) ground-based air-defence programme, with a contract no longer expected in 2021.
MBDA Deutschland, which along with Lockheed Martin has been working on the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) to fulfil the Luftwaffe’s TLVS requirement since the early 2000s, issued a statement on 3 December saying that inadequate funding has been committed to the programme in the federal budget and that consequently there would be no contract award in the short or medium term.
“After the clean-up meeting on 26 November, the TLVS is only provided with a very small base amount in the federal budget. A contract to implement TLVS is no longer planned for 2021,” MBDA Deutschland said.
As noted by the MBDA Deutschland consortium that comprises Airbus (37.5%), BAE Systems (37.5%), and Leonardo (25%), rather than award a contract, the Federal Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, announced that she instead wants to examine and evaluate the country’s air-defence requirement in its entirety. A result of the assessment should be available in the first few months of 2021. (Source: Jane’s)
03 Dec 20. Singapore Army unveils next-generation personal equipment. The Singapore Army on 2 December launched a new set of personal equipment comprising a new lightweight and modular ballistic helmet and tactical load-bearing system (LBS) designed to boost soldier performance with enhanced ergonomics and heat dissipation.
The new ballistic helmet is replacing the incumbent set, which is essentially a localised derivative of the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet developed in the United States from the 1980s, and adopts a high-cut shell that enhances integration with other soldier equipment, such as ear mufflers, tactical communication devices, and night vision sights.
The new helmet is also designed to provide an improved fit for local physiques and weighs approximately 10% lighter than its predecessor, with adjustable padding that can be customised to ensure a precise and comfortable fit for individual soldiers. The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a statement that conscripts enlisted from October 2019 have been issued the new helmet.
The army is also replacing its current integrated load bearing vests (iLBVs) that were introduced from 2009 with the new LBS. Unlike the common iLBV, the new kit is being offered in two variants – LBS (Standard) or LBS (Enhanced) – depending on their specific training requirements and mission profiles.
Lieutenant Colonel Ho Chee Leong, head of the Singapore Army’s Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP), told media during a 20 November demonstration at Selarang Camp, that combat units such as the infantry, guards, and commandos will be equipped with the LBS (Enhanced) while personnel who undertake “less physically demanding” operations will receive the LBS (Standard). (Source: Jane’s)
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.