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21 Apr 20. COVID-19: Army Futures Command Takes Wargames Online. While the pandemic’s halted field exercises, tabletop wargames can continue long-distance. The catch? Getting classified bandwidth so you can discuss specific military capabilities.
With Pentagon travel restrictions now extended through June 30th, the Army’s in-house futurists can’t hold their usual face-to-face brainstorming sessions. So rather than delay their work for months, they’re moving seminars and wargames online – but there’s a tradeoff. The long-distance collaboration tools available so far aren’t secure enough for classified data, which means some scenarios are off-limits.
The COVID-19 coronavirus has halted some – but far from all – military training and experimentation. Army Futures Command in particular has had to cancel some high-priority field exercises to try out new tactics and technologies, but a lot of its work is thinking about the future, which you can do long-distance, one of its deputy commanders said in a video town hall last week.
“We did have to cancel the Joint Warfighting Assessment [JWA] in Europe,” Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley said, “[but] a lot of the work we do in terms of developing concepts…is moving ahead without significant impact.” Wesley runs one of Army Futures Command’s three major subunits, the internal thinktank now known as the Futures & Concepts Center (formerly ARCIC), which brainstorms, wargames, and writes about how conflict will change.
Tabletop exercises (TTXs, in Army jargon) can move online. That will include the Futures & Concept Center’s annual “capstone exercise” on the Army’s concept for future warfare, Multi-Domain Operations, he said. It also included another MDO exercise that had been set to take place in May at the Army War College.
The May wargame was particularly important because it was the kick-off for a study ordered by the four-star chief of Army Futures Command himself, Gen. John “Mike” Murray, one of Wesley’s staff officers told me when I followed up. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
22 Apr 20. US Navy and RAN conduct combined operations in South China Sea. The US Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) have joined forces to conduct operations in the South China Sea. An Anzac-class frigate of the RAN HMAS Parramatta (FFG 154) started sailing with Ticonderoga-class guided missile-cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52).
The vessels later joined the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52). The combined operations of the ships were initiated with force integration training and manoeuvring exercises between Parramatta and Bunker Hill.
USS Bunker Hill commanding officer Captain Kurt Sellerberg said: “It is great to be operating with the Australians again. Every time I have deployed to this region, and to the Middle East, I have had the good fortune to operate with the RAN.”
USS America started the operations with precision manoeuvre, including Barry in the South China Sea.
America Expeditionary Strike Group Commander Rear Admiral Fred Kacher said: “We look forward to every opportunity we get to work with our stalwart Australian allies at sea.
“To bring this much combat capability together here in the South China Sea truly signals to our allies and partners in the region that we are deeply committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Operations including integrated live fire exercises, coordinated helicopter operations, and small boat force protection drills were performed with Parramatta.
Additionally, the missions conducted with Parramatta involved command and control integration and manoeuvring interoperability.
The combined exercises provided the navies of both countries opportunities to partner in all warfare areas and strengthen their bond further. (Source: naval-technology.com)
21 Apr 20. US Navy to receive first Super Hornet Block 3 test aircraft ‘by end of May.’ The US Navy (USN) is soon to receive the first Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 3 testbed aircraft. A representative from Boeing told Jane’s on 17 April; “The two test jets are scheduled to be delivered on-time by the end of May.”
In 2019 at Boeing’s St Louis production facility in Missouri, Jennifer Tebo, director of development for the F/A-18 programme, said this schedule had been accelerated by about 12 months to allow the USN to have two test aircraft to start carrier suitability trials of the advanced computing and networking capabilities of the Block 3 platform.
With the first aircraft set to be handed over shortly, Tebo previously noted that Boeing will begin to deliver full-up Block 3 jets to the navy during late 2020 and early 2021.
Senior programme officials recently outlined the importance of what Boeing terms ‘the evolutionary approach’ to the Hornet platform that has resulted in the latest Block 3 iteration of the McDonnell Douglas aircraft that was first rolled out to the fleet in the early 1980s.
Boeing announced in 2011 that it was developing a USN Flight Plan upgrade path that would run in parallel with an International Roadmap for current and future export customers. With some tweaks, this Flight Plan/International Roadmap became the Advanced Super Hornet in 2013 and the Block 3 Super Hornet in 2017. In the FY 2018 President’s Budget, the USN fully funded the Block 3 development programme. This involves five major changes, or Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs), to the aircraft. (Source: Jane’s)
21 Apr 20. China’s GAIC completes assembly of modified naval variant of JL-9 trainer aircraft. China’s Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation (GAIC) has further fuelled speculation that it is developing a trainer aircraft suitable for carrier deck landings by announcing on 20 April via its Weixin social media site that it has assembled the first airframe under its ‘Sea Mountain Eagle’ project in record time.
The Weixin post relates to an aircraft for the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) and describes the rapid assembly of components to complete the first airframe, but gives no further detail about the aircraft and avoids any mention of carrier operations.
A little over a month earlier, on 16 March, GAIC had indicated via Weixin that it was working on a project of major importance. It illustrated the post with a computer-generated image (CGI) of a JL-9 trainer overflying one of the PLAN’s aircraft carriers, with the state-owned Global Times newspaper reporting on speculation that this would be a trainer that could take off from and land on the PLAN’s carriers. (Source: Jane’s)
20 Apr 20. Two US destroyers conduct operations with Nato allies amid Covid-19. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) has conducted maneuvering operations in the Baltic and Black Sea with the Romanian Navy frigate Regina Maria (F222).
The maneuvering exercises demonstrate Nato’s continued vigilance and showcase its commitment to security and defence in the midst of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The USS Porter has been forward-deployed to Rota, Spain. It is on its eighth patrol in the US 6th Fleet area of operations and supports the national security interests of the US in Europe and Africa.
It entered the Baltic Sea on 11 April after participating in a UK Submarine Command Course. The course was focused on honing anti-submarine warfare capabilities in the Atlantic.
During its mission in the Baltic Sea, the DDG 78 carried out maritime operations with European allies. This aimed to ensure the stability of the region.
Following the operations in Baltic sea, the USS Porter commenced to its northbound international straits transit to the Black Sea. It conducted maritime security operations with Nato allies and partners.
Nato Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said: “Nato remains ready, vigilant, and prepared to respond to any threat. While we continue to take all necessary measures to protect our forces, our operational readiness remains undiminished.
“These deployments show that Nato allies are working closely together, determined to ensure that potential adversaries do not exploit the situation to further their interests.”
The destroyers will conduct a range of missions, including maritime security operations, bilateral and multilateral training and exercises, and Nato exercises and deployments. Other Nato deployments include participation in Standing Nato Maritime Groups, and in Nato missile defence. (Source: naval-technology.com)
21 Apr 20. UMS SKELDAR selects 360iSR to provide innovative ISR training. UMS SKELDAR partners with end-to-end Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance provider 360iSR; adds extensive ISR training to service suite. Europe’s leading provider of Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms, UMS SKELDAR, has selected end-to-end Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) provider 360iSR to deliver specialist operational support from Concept of Operations (CONOPS) development to mission specific training for ISR operators, sensor operators and intelligence analysts.
“ISR is the future of modern warfare and of decision making in complex environments,” explains Ewen Stockbridge Sime, Founding Director of 360iSR. “We are providing to UMS an end-to-end ISR training solution, from the initial operating concept to full operational capability (FOC). Our specialisation is in ensuring that any end-user of an ISR capability can maximise value through integrated and synchronised operations. We strive to work with the end user to help them achieve FOC quicker.”
With new rules of engagement coming in the next 12 months in the UAS industry, the need for change in the way training is delivered has become a must. A vital part of any UAS campaign, UMS has overhauled the way its training strategies and courses are delivered by adding not only specialist ISR training, but also by constantly reviewing its offering against the highest quality UAV standards.
David Willems, VP Business Development and Strategy for the joint venture between Saab and UMS AERO GROUP, UMS SKELDAR, adds: “This new partnership with one of the leading ISR organisations, 360ISR, will add significant weight to our training provision moving forwards. The dynamic nature of the mission space, especially in the military and maritime sectors, demands that we not only stay up-to-date with our wider UAV services, but also continually improve them in order to stay ahead of both the industry and the impending regulations.”
UMS SKELDAR’s portfolio of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) rotary UAVs currently incorporates the unmatched SKELDAR V-200 and the newly launched V-150. Thanks to its pioneering heavy fuel engine that operates on Jet A-1, JP5 and JP8, alongside an ability to fly for over five hours with multiple payloads and extended time between overhauls (TBO), the SKELDAR V-200 is the global navies’ VTOL UAV of choice. The V-150, on the other hand, is an ITAR-free high-performance UAV that operates on a turbine engine propulsion system that uses heavy fuels. Including an ability to carry multiple payloads across two payload bays (up to 30 kg in the main bay and up to 12 kg in the nose), the V-150’s modular design enables a high degree of maintainability alongside a minimum turn-around time during operations.
16 Apr 20. British helicopters conduct Bermuda reconnaissance sorties. The British Royal Navy’s Wildcat and Commando Merlin helicopters have successfully conducted vital reconnaissance sorties over Bermuda.
The search and rescue training sorties were completed following the arrival of RFA Argus support ship in Caribbean. Merlins belong to 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and the Wildcat to 815 Naval Air Squadron.
The helicopters will take part in various activities during Argus’ patrol mission, which is being conducted in support of British Overseas Territories.
Royal Navy task group in the region commander captain Phil Dennis said: “RFA Argus and her ship’s company have been excellent in the delivery of a very capable ship that can operate in a multitude of roles. Our preparations in Bermuda demonstrate that as a navy we can operate together, with our partners, and ensure the protection of British nationals, both within mainland UK and the Overseas Territories.”
The aircraft will also work alongside counterparts from 1700 Naval Air Squadron.
During the sorties, the aircraft collected vital information on landing sites to deliver humanitarian aid during the hurricane season. They will fly information-gathering missions and lift supplies and assist people in affected areas.
845 NAS lieutenant Matt Gordon said: “As my first deployment and after a long sea transit it was great to have the opportunity to experience the beautiful island of Bermuda from the air.”
The naval platforms also participated in joint exercises with the Bermudan coastguard to track non-compliant vessels from the air.
The Bermudan coastguard was launched in February this year.
Gordon added: “Having the chance to not only operate in a mixed formation with a Wildcat, but experience and work alongside them as we conducted search and rescue training, and the Wildcat carried out non-compliant vessel pursuit training with the Bermudan Coastguard, is something I will not forget.” (Source: naval-technology.com)
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