Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
24 Feb 21. DoD innovation arm delivers much-needed secure drones to the federal government. For the first time, the Defense Department’s emerging technology acquisition arm made a product available to the entire federal government — small drones as a more secure alternative to dominant Chinese suppliers.
The Defense Innovation Unit, the DoD’s Silicon Valley-based organization that works with nontraditional contractors, offered the drones across the DoD as well in 2020, according to its annual report. The drones can be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in tactical environments.
The organization released small unmanned aerial systems made by five companies through the General Services Administration’s schedule, allowing agencies across the government to purchase them, the report said.
“These sUAS are the first DIU-facilitated product made available not only across DoD but also across the U.S. government,” the document stated.
The commercial drones available through DIU’s Blue sUAS program provide domestically produced unmanned systems, a critical need because the drone market is dominated by a Chinese maker DJI, a company designated a national security threat late last year due to concerns about adversaries’ ability to access a drones’ data or even take over control.
“The Blue sUAS program provides the DoD and Federal government with trusted sUAS capabilities at commercially comparable unit costs on the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule to ensure ease of procurement and signals aggregate government demand to strengthen the domestic sUAS industrial base,” the report said.
The U.S. makers are Altavian Inc., Skydio Inc., Vantage Robotics, Teal Drones Inc. and Parrot. Secure, domestic options are cheaper for the DoD and civilian agencies that have to rely on “less capable, more expensive government-developed systems or on cyber vulnerable commercial sUAS,” the report stated. The original prototype value was $18m, and the project transitioned to the GSA schedule last September.
The Blue sUAS is one of 11 projects that DIU transitioned to the department in 2020, up from nine last year. Those projects span DIU’s well-established portfolio covering space, artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber and human systems. DIU added a sixth technological area focused on advance energy and materials in October.
In 2020, DIU awarded 56 prototype other transaction contracts to commercial vendors, down slightly from 63 in 2019. The organization saw increases in several other areas, posting 23 solicitations in 2020, up from 17. It had a 50 percent increase over 2019 in the average number of proposals received from industry on each proposal request.
“This level of growth is a result of the depth and breadth of DIU’s relationships with U.S. innovation ecosystems, bolstered by a strong team of individuals with diverse commercial and military backgrounds; our offices in Silicon Valley, Boston, and Austin; and our ability to build a trusted, repeatable process to do business with DoD that yields annual recurring revenue,” the report states.
DIU slipped in the time from the close of a solicitation to contract award. The innovation arm hopes to reduce that timeline to 60 to 90 days, but 2020 saw an increase to 149 days, up from 127 days in 2019.
“This slowdown is primarily attributed to increasing project throughput and the growing number of company proposals per solicitation. However, speed to award is important to us, and DIU will continue to strive toward a goal of 60 to 90 days to contract award,” the annual report said.
DIU also tackled projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a $1.8m effort to use commercial wearables to collect and analyze users’ biometric data to warn of potential infection. The effort, called Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure, transitioned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in March and was scaled to 7,000 users. At the point when the annual report was written, the wearables had a success rate topping 65 percent for COVID-19 detection.
Looking forward, DIU outlined several ongoing priority projects across its technology portfolios. To combat COVID-19, the organization is working with the Naval Medical Research Center’s Advanced Medical Development Program Office to prototype tools that can mitigate the spread of respiratory diseases. It’s also working on a predictive health effort with DoD components, including the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and Defense Health Agency, that would use AI and augmented reality to assist in diagnosing health problems such as cancer.
In the drone space, DIU is prioritizing two counter-UAS projects to defend installations using radio frequency and non-radio frequency to detect and defeat capabilities.
In its space portfolio, DIU is prioritizing an effort to improve space situational awareness during peacetime, the report says. The project seeks capabilities that can provide warnings during the daytime, nighttime and during all weather conditions.
“This capability will help facilitate timely analysis of emerging threats, allowing the Joint Force to respond quickly, optimize the deployment of exquisite capabilities, and share unclassified data and insights with allies and partners,” the report said.
According to the report, DIU has 51 ongoing projects that eligible for transition to the department if successfully completed. (Source: Defense News)
24 Feb 21. Flint Hills Solutions and UAV Navigation Announce a Strategic Partnership. Flint Hills Solutions and UAV Navigation have announced a Strategic Partnership to work together in North America to integrate their joint technologies onto the FH-900 series fully autonomous Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Helicopter.
The combined capabilities of the two companies represents a significant step in the development of a next generation UAS that will demonstrate an exceptional heavy lift, long endurance, open payload integration capability. The combined efforts of Flint Hills Solutions and UAV Navigation will provide unsurpassed enterprise solutions for Agriculture, Infrastructure Inspection, Package Delivery, Construction Management and Surveying, just to name a few.
“The combination of a long endurance, rapid response, heavy lift, and quiet electric VTOL UAS provides an incredible new resource for our enterprise customers looking to fly in adverse weather conditions, beyond line of sight, and in large diverse terrains. To date most customers are regulated to small multi rotor drones that are expensive, unable to be deployed 80% of the time due to winds and are made in China vs the United States and its Allies”, said Roger Powers, President & CEO of Flint Hills Solutions.
The FH-900 Helicopters fly UAV Navigation advanced VECTOR autopilot systems as well as other UAV Navigation subsystems that have been MIL-Qualified and deployed in many defense and commercial controlled and uncontrolled airspace and missions. FHS not only provides the advanced Helicopter platform, power systems and landing skid options, it also has proprietary integration technology that hosts a broad sweet of payload systems including Multispectral, Thermal Imagers, LIDAR, high Optical Zoom and Electro Optical gimballed solutions.
23 Feb 21. GKN Aerospace Cowes Facility to Manufacture Advanced Composite V-tails for RAF Protector/MQ-9B SkyGuardian® Building on 10-year Relationship. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and GKN Aerospace have signed a contract for GKN Aerospace to manufacture the advanced composite V-tails for GA-ASI’s new MQ-9B SkyGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) from their Cowes facility in the United Kingdom. SkyGuardian is the baseline system of the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Protector RG Mk1 and has also been selected by Belgian Defence and the Australian Defence Force. This represents another important milestone in the 10-year strategic relationship between GA-ASI and GKN Aerospace, and adds to the strong investment GA-ASI is making in world-leading UK industries.
“We value our long relationship with GKN Aerospace as a strategic supplier of critical aerospace subsystems to support our global supply chain,” said Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI. “We are pleased to expand this relationship with composite structures manufactured in the UK. This will mean that not only the RAF’s Protector will have UK-manufactured tails, but the global MQ-9B fleet will also benefit from tails manufactured in the UK.”
GA-ASI and GKN Aerospace had previously entered into a pre-production contract, under which GA-ASI provided the required engineering technical data and tooling, and GKN Aerospace developed their manufacturing processes and produced demonstrator parts. Under this latest agreement, GKN Aerospace will begin full rate production of the V-tails from the Cowes facility to support MQ-9B aircraft production.
GKN Aerospace has been a global supplier to GA-ASI’s MQ-9 program for a decade, with the strategic partnership on GA-ASI’s world-leading RPAS starting in 2010. Activities began with the design and build of the “fit and forget” fuel bladder system in Portsmouth, UK, followed by the production of fuel bladders in the USA. Today, GKN Aerospace manufactures a range of products including the state-of-the-art lightweight landing gear system, which it produces in the Netherlands.
Krisstie Kondrotis, President of GKN Aerospace’s Defence business, said: “We are extremely proud to be a key supplier for GA-ASI on the MQ-9B programme and this agreement helps to strengthen that partnership. We have ambitious plans to grow our Defense business and this is an important milestone for GKN Aerospace, and especially the Cowes facility, paving the way for continued growth in the UK for advanced aerostructures manufacturing. GA-ASI is the market leader in RPAS, while GKN Aerospace is a market and technology leader in advanced aerostructures, special products and lightweight technologies. Our long-term collaboration continues to demonstrate the strong commitment the two companies share.”
23 Feb 21. MQ-9 Begins Flying Missions from Romania. The 25th Attack Group began flying the first active-duty operated U.S. Air Forces in Europe MQ-9 Reaper sorties in Romania via remote-split operations as of Feb. 1.
The 25th ATKG is a unit under the command of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing. Both the wing and group are dedicated to providing dominant, persistent attack and reconnaissance on behalf of the nation and coalition partners.
Until now, the 25th ATKG specialized in counter-terrorism missions in United States Central Command area of operations. They are now building capacity in the United States European Command area of responsibility to support great power competition while maintaining a persistent presence in USCENTCOM.
The MQ-9 weapon system is continuously evolving to nest within Air Force initiatives to operate in and from contested environments against near-peer adversaries,
“This is an exciting moment where we can showcase the value of the MQ-9 across the globe, not just in the Middle East,” said Col. Timothy Monroe, 25th ATKG commander. “We can demonstrate to our NATO allies and coalition partners that, when our Airmen are given the most difficult tasks, we rise to the occasion and bring the best of who we are to every mission that we accomplish.”
While in the EUCOM AOR, the aircraft will be employed to conduct persistent reconnaissance with a sophisticated suite of capabilities across varying employment strategies.
“Standing up active-duty Reaper combat lines in the European theater is a significant milestone for the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) community,” said Col. Stephen Jones, 432nd Wing and 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “We intend to move to evolve our weapon system to survive and provide critical capabilities in contested environments. The support from our partners in Europe has been outstanding, and we are proud of achieving operational capability ahead of schedule.”
The 25th ATKG began preparation for EUCOM support more than a year ago. The unit reset and readied its squadrons by providing a dedicated training opportunity for the aircrew. Prior to this reconstitution, every squadron shared continuous operations and was unable to take time to train for advanced mission sets and respond to emerging threats.
Reconstitution not only allowed time to develop new tactics for MQ-9 missions in the European theater; it has also advanced new relationships with partners and allies who are vital to maintaining our strategic edge on competitors.
“Throughout the chain, commander’s intent is very straightforward,” Monroe said. “Deliver the most credible, professional and capable MQ-9 force to meet European security requirements.”
With a new frontier for the 432nd AEW, the 25th ATKG will rise to the occasion.
“The 25th ATKG has a proven track record of successes,” Jones said. “They are the A-team, and no group is postured better to succeed at this mission.” (Source: UAS VISION)
23 Feb 21. Europe’s leading provider of Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms, UMS SKELDAR, is announcing a unique achievement for its flagship SKELDAR V-200 UAV platform – the successful automatic take-off and landing (ATOL) of a tactical UAV from a ship.
While full ATOL capability on land is a native characteristic of the V-200, UMS SKELDAR are the first company to achieve this unique ATOL compliance milestone in a naval setting. In recognition of its value as part of a ship’s future capability requirements, this latest development is currently being tested by NATO customers.
Previously, platforms have operated in assisted mode with a crew manually overseeing take-off and landing via a joystick or computer control. Now, full ATOL capability enables both take-off and landing to be performed through the simple press of a button. The platform uses a laser altimeter and GPS combination to track its location and calculate the required altitude reduction, culminating in a smooth and safe landing.
David Willems, VP Business Development and Strategy for UMS SKELDAR, explains: “This latest milestone for UMS SKELDAR is a real first: it is unique to our company and it has never before been achieved in a military setting. The SKELDAR V-200 was conceived as a maritime platform and this exciting achievement secures its place as the first choice for Navy commanders.”
In addition to this new capability, the SKELDAR V-200 continues to undergo both software and hardware developments to ensure continued improvement and maximum capability for customers. Willems adds: “We are focused on the continued improvement of both SKELDAR UAV platforms. Our ongoing modernisation programmes aim to not only review the platforms’ capabilities, but also analyse customer requirements with a view to increasing the service suite we provide alongside.”
22 Feb 21. AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems, today announced it had completed its acquisition of Arcturus UAV, Inc. a leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The approximately $405m transaction was previously announced in a press release on January 13, 2021.
The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) selected Arcturus UAV as one of six companies qualified for the potential $975m indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity MEUAS IV contract in June 2020. The contract enables awardees to compete for site-specific task orders and provide USSOCOM with unmanned aircraft systems services and support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. Arcturus UAV employs its VTOL JUMP 20 in support of USSOCOM operations, minimizing the logistical footprint of UAS operations while delivering multi-payload, multi-mission capabilities. Arcturus UAV is also one of four awardees selected for funded development and demonstrations supporting the U.S. Army’s FTUAS program, a potential billion dollar, and next-generation UAS program.
“Like AeroVironment, the Arcturus UAV team is laser-focused on supporting its customers around the world with the most reliable and effective products and services for their missions,” said Wahid Nawabi, president and chief executive officer. “As we welcome the Arcturus UAV team to AeroVironment, we commit to maintaining or exceeding the high level of service our existing and new customers experience. The JUMP 20 and T-20 platforms, combined with associated ISR services, represent a significant expansion to AeroVironment’s portfolio of intelligent, multi-domain robotic systems that will enhance long-term shareholder value and help our customers around the world Proceed with Certainty.”
AeroVironment completed the acquisition of Arcturus UAV on February 19, 2021, resulting in Arcturus UAV becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary operating under the AeroVironment brand.
22 Feb 21. US Naval Air Force Atlantic Demos UAS Prototype. Naval Air Force Atlantic conducted a test of a logistics Unmanned Air System prototype over Naval Station Norfolk on Feb. 21, 2021. The long-range cargo transport, dubbed Blue Water UAS, is designed to operate with Naval Forces that typically operate in heavy winds over open water and require aircraft to land on pitching vessels at sea. The technology demonstrator vehicle can operate in some of these conditions and further development will be required to meet the full Naval requirement.
Naval Air Force Atlantic conducted a test of a logistics Unmanned Air System prototype over Naval Station Norfolk on Feb. 21, 2021. The long-range cargo transport, dubbed Blue Water UAS, is designed to operate with Naval Forces that typically operate in heavy winds over open water and require aircraft to land on pitching vessels at sea. The technology demonstrator vehicle can operate in some of these conditions and further development will be required to meet the full Naval requirement.
“The Ford Blue Water UAS supply demo is a first step in revolutionizing logistics support to maximize operational availability and lethality for these critical capital assets,” said Capt. John Bush, Director, Aircraft Material and Engineering, Naval Air Forces Atlantic.
The proof-of-concept test was successfully conducted by transporting light-weight logistical equipment from the Mid Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC), Naval Station Norfolk on board USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) while the Ford-class aircraft carrier was in-port.
“This UAS demonstration leverages cutting edge technology to enhance our logistical efficiency across the Naval Air Force.” said Rear Adm. John F. Meier, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic. “We have come a long way in integrating unmanned systems in Naval Aviation and the lessons learned today will help to accelerate this capability to the fleet.”
Historic data from Navy casualty reports show that warships that move to non-mission capable or partially mission capable status often do so due to logistics issues like the need for electronic parts, 90 percent of which are logistical deliveries weighing less than 50 pounds. Currently, aircraft like the MH-60 helicopters and MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft fly these missions. Blue Water presents an opportunity to cut the cost and inefficiency of these flights.
“Carrier logistics is a complex and diverse problem set,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer. “Sometimes getting a small part delivered to the ship has a big impact on the availability of an embarked system or aircraft. Having UAS like Blue Water may improve our ability to quickly meet specific logistics needs where payload and ship’s location permit.”
The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) will continue to work with its industry partners to enhance the UAS in-house with developments like folding wings for better handling and ship storage, and consider alternative air vehicle designs with advanced propulsion systems to provide greater range and payload performance, optical and infrared collision avoidance and landing systems, and navigation systems not only dependent on GPS.
“Deterring, fighting, and winning future conflicts will require more from us,” said NAWCAD Commander, Rear Adm. John Lemmon. “Developmental platforms like our Blue Water UAS are important for exploring opportunities to maintain a competitive edge with top-tier technology and improve the logistical support of America’s Sailors and Marines.”
Blue Water UAS can operate from both the ship and the shore. It requires minimal maintenance and control stations are small – about the size of a shoebox or small suitcase – netting near zero infrastructure. Experimentation with the fleet will continue throughout 2021. The results of the experimentation will help the Navy decide whether to transition the technology to support fleet initiatives. (Source: ASD Network/USN)
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The fund appoints expert mentors to work with each investee company to further maximise the chance of success for investors. Further details are available on request.
INTERNATIONAL PROCUREMENT OPPORTUNITIES
UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
23 Feb 21. UK reveals Puma replacement plan. The United Kingdom is set to replace its Westland-Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC2 rotorcraft with a new aircraft type via its New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement.
Speaking at the Defence IQ virtual International Military Helicopter conference on 23 February, a senior military officer gave the first official indication that a replacement for the Puma is being sought.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) currently fields 23 Puma helicopters that were upgraded to the HC2 standard in the mid-2010s. With the airframes themselves dating back to the early 1970s, these helicopters are slated for retirement in 2025.
While no replacement for these helicopters has officially been touted before (options have previously included extending the type out of 2030 or losing the capability altogether), Colonel Paul Morris, Assistant Head Plans, Capability Air Manoeuvre, noted that the NMH requirement is being drawn up. The colonel did not disclose details but did say that the UK Rotary Wing Strategy is scoping potential options. (Source: Jane’s)
22 Feb 21. NASA to release LandSat Next Earth-observation satellite imaging sensors solicitation by about 8 March 2021. Industry will develop imaging sensors concepts for Landsat Next, which will be either a single-satellite or a constellation of small satellites.
U.S. space experts are making plans to ask industry to narrow-down choices for space sensor systems for a next-generation Landsat Earth-observation imaging satellite in the late 2020s with enhanced sensor capabilities.
Officials of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., announced plans Thursday to issue an industry request for proposal (RFP) for instrument studies to support the Landsat Next project, which by late this decade is expected to offer sensors for superspectral land observations with high-spectral and high-resolution imagery of the Earth’s surface.
Landsat Next, which is to operate under supervision of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Reston, Va., is to be the follow-on mission to Landsat 8 and 9, and will continue a spaceborne land-imaging system to collect and process land-imaging data.
Instrument studies will develop and assess instrument concepts for Landsat Next, which will be either a single-satellite solution or a constellation of relatively small Earth-observation satellites.
Landsat Next instruments will provide Earth spectral coverage in the visible-to-shortwave-infrared (VSWIR) and thermal-infrared (TIR) spectral bands. Instruments may provide either full-swath or narrow-swath coverage for single-satellite approaches.
NASA experts particularly are interested in instrument size, weight and power (SWaP); technical maturity; long-lead items; and cost and schedule information. NASA will award several six-month study contracts.
Landsat Next is to provide improved Earth images for agricultural monitoring, ecological monitoring, urban studies, water resources management, and related applications.
In addition to enhanced imaging capability, the Landsat Next project also is expected to offer users more frequent satellite coverage — at least once every eight days, NASA officials say.
For the past 48 years, Landsat satellites and ground sites have made available global multispectral Earth images of 15-to-120-meter resolution for research on land use change, forest health, carbon inventories, and changes to Earth’s environment, climate, and natural resources.
Researchers in government, academia, and industry use Landsat data for resource issues like water resource management, wildfires, agricultural productivity, rangeland management, and understanding impacts of climate variability on ecosystems.
The USGS today operates two spacecraft, Landsat 7 and 8, which NASA developed. Landsat 9, a near copy of Landsat 8, is under development, and is expected to begin operations in 2021. Together these satellites can cover the entire Earth’s surface every 16 days.
Landsat 8 and 9 each host two instruments: the Operational Land Imager (OLI) that provides multispectral imaging in the visible-light to shortwave infrared spectral; and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) that gathers long-wave infrared imagery.
Landsat Next also should enable new applications like monitoring surface water quality, cryospheric science, geology, agricultural crop water consumption, and improved estimation of surface temperatures.
Landsat Next may use just one spacecraft, or a constellation of three to five satellites with relatively narrow fields of view. Using a constellation of satellites, instead of just one spacecraft, would improve system resiliency, enable use of on-orbit spares, increase revisit frequency, save costs of Earth-observation sensors, and enable quick technology infusion.
Enabling technologies envisioned for Landsat Next include a new generation of focal planes and free-form optics to help acquire more spectral bands with relatively small instruments. Experts predict that each Landsat Next satellite will have either a single instrument that acquires all visible-through-shortwave infrared and thermal infrared spectral bands, or two instruments that acquire these spectral bands separately.
The Landsat Next spacecraft is expected to operate in a polar, frozen, sun-synchronous orbit with repeating ground track by using propulsive maneuvers for orbit maintenance. The Landsat Next ground station may continue using the existing Landsat Multi-mission Operations Center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., or may pursue a commercial service-based mission operations center. The future satellite also may use increased machine autonomy decrease the frequency of command and fault-management uplinks.
Companies interested should email their intent to submit an offer to NASA’s Colin Bornmann no later than 26 Feb. 2021 at . An RFP should be issued for the Landsat Next instrument studies is expected by about 8 March 2021.
More information is online at https://beta.sam.gov/opp/6b3bcaa7311c419c863d9b6936107fe9/view.
23 Feb 21. Key deadline approaches for Pentagon’s Mi2 UAV Technology Demonstration. An important deadline is nearing for the Pentagon’s Mi2 Technology Demonstration unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) effort.
US Navy (USN) spokesperson Brittany Dickerson said on 17 February that the service expects to determine the next steps for the programme on or before 31 March. Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) sponsored and held a Phase 2 live demonstration event from 30 November to 18 December 2020 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, to evaluate innovative expeditionary UAVs.
Participation in Phase 2 of this multiphased, merit-based selection process may lead to the award of an other transaction (OT) prototype project. L3Harris, which was selected along with Martin UAV to participate in the live demonstration, said in a 1 December 2020 statement that these OT awards for prototyping have the potential to become a future programme of record estimated to be worth up to USD1bn.
NAWCAD AIRWorks, in collaboration with Innovation and Modernization Patuxent River (IMPAX), which is NAWCAD’s partnership intermediary for experimentation, technology demonstrations, and prototyping, intends to accelerate the identification and evaluation of UAVs that can operate in austere deployed environments without ancillary support systems. AIRWorks is especially interested in systems that do not require dedicated launch or recovery equipment.
AIRWorks received 13 responses from industry for this effort. L3Harris participated in the live demonstration with its FVR-90 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) hybrid quadcopter, company spokesperson Sandra Phanourath said on 22 February. (Source: Jane’s)
REST OF THE WORLD
23 Feb 21. Babcock banks on ‘vendor agnostic’ approach to LAND 125 bid.
The defence company is backing its independent, “vendor agnostic” strategy in its push to secure the LAND 125 Phase 4 contract.
Last May, Defence announced that it was seeking an industry partner to provide prime vendor services for product acquisition, integration and support to help deliver an Integrated Soldier System (ISS) as part of the LAND 125 project.
The ISS is expected to embed all elements and subsystems used, worn or carried by soldiers in any operational context or environment for up to 72 hours without resupply.
LAND 125 Phase 4 aims to maintain a modern, well-equipped, dismounted combat capability with an advantage over current and emerging threats.
Through the project, the government seeks to further its commitment to advancing Australian Industry Capability (AIC) by supporting local SMEs via a strategic industry partner, reinforcing implementation of its Sovereign Industry Capability Policy.
Thus far, two competitors have emerged in the race to secure the contract, Safran’s ‘Team SABRE’ and Babcock Australia.
Speaking to Defence Connect, Babcock’s executive director of strategy and future business, Graeme Nayler, and head of business development, Mick Burgess, made their case for the LAND 125 bid.
Burgess outlined the key components which he believes set Babcock’s bid apart from its competitors, beginning with the firm’s past experiences supporting Commonwealth projects.
“We already support critical equipment and manage a whole range of complex supply chains for other programs, we’re involved in similar programs in other countries, and we’re able to draw on this knowledge to integrate a tailored, best-of-breed solution,” he said.
Burgess went on to emphasise the benefits of Babcock’s “vendor agnostic” approach to the project, noting that the firm is “not tied to any specific suppliers”.
“[We] enable a level playing field for all product suppliers, whether they’re large or small, so they’re able to compete as equals,” he said.
“[We don’t] have any products of our own at the table, or any close relationships with particular suppliers.”
Nayler echoed Burgess’ sentiment, adding: “Our behaviours and the way we operate, from both a conflict of interest [perspective] and being supplier agnostic, is incredibly important to the supply chain.
“We’ve spoken to pretty much all those in the space, technology primes, SMEs and a lot of the consulting firms. For this program to be genuinely valued by the Commonwealth and to be able to manage the conflicts of interest across the suppliers, being independent is very important.”
According to Burgess, Babcock has already identified over 140 suppliers that could potentially support the project, many of which are local firms.
Nayler added that the firm is confident local industry would deliver ‘best in breed’ products for the ISS.
“There is that undertone of AIC being a sacrifice to capability. For this program, we see the opposite,” he said.
“We’ve done technology surveys, we understand the market well and to be frank, a lot of what can be offered to this program, not just sustainment services but technology through the acquisition phase, can be met by the Australian market.
“Part of our value proposition is not saying we’re doing AIC because it meets the Minister’s intent, we actually believe the industry base at the moment will ideally support this program.”
Babcock has reportedly identified more than 50 per cent of the requirements that can be designed and manufactured in Australia, either through offshore companies willing to support local production or through Australian companies with the capability.
“We could have taken that approach of bringing together big brands, we have good relationships with some of the big US technology primes, but this project is not about [that],” Nayler continued.
“There isn’t a single OEM that has even close to 100 per cent solution; the Commonwealth wants this to be an evolving design and solution over life-of-type, and for us it isn’t about picking one or two big brands, for us it’s about the answering the exam question, which was an independent vendor manager for defence.”
Babcock is expected to unveil its next steps over the coming months, with the downselection for the project to take place in May.
A request for tender is also expected to be announced later this year, with new competitors likely to emerge. (Source: Defence Connect)
22 Feb 21. Indonesian MoD reveals aircraft procurement plans. Indonesia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has published a seemingly ambitious list of big-ticket items that it is proposing to acquire for its air force over the next four years.
These include Dassault Rafale and Boeing F-15EX Advanced Eagle multirole fighters, Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transports, and Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.
The list was disclosed in the 2021 edition of a yearly publication for Indonesian Armed Forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia: TNI) and MoD staff known as the ‘Leadership Assembly’. The publication, which featured opening remarks from TNI Chief Air Vice Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, was released in mid-February.
“For the Indonesian Air Force, we will refurbish our entire fleet of fighter aircraft and we have secured the funds for this except for the replacement of the Hawks,” said Prabowo in his remarks, in reference to the country’s fleet of BAE Hawk 109/209s.
“[There will be] 36 units of the Rafale multirole combat aircraft from France and 36 units of the F-15EX, of which an eight initial units are being expected and six of these should arrive before 2022,” said the minister. In addition to the fighter aircraft, the ministry also included 15 C-130Js, two A330 MRTTs, 30 ground-controlled interception radar stations, and three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into a procurement wish list known as the ‘Blue Book’. (Source: Jane’s)
19 Feb 21. Canadian defence department seeks proposals for fixed and mobile counter UAS capability. Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for technology solutions including Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) capability.
According to the RFI issued by Canada’s Public Works department, DND and the Canadian Armed Forces are looking for innovative science and technology solutions to address Canada’s classified defence and security challenges through a classified call for proposals process.
The C-UAS capability includes: ‘Approaches and systems for countering UAS that are capable of detecting, tracking, identifying, and/or neutralizing the UAS from as far away from the device as possible, and able to perform these functions from either fixed installations or in a moving vehicle. The Canadian Armed Forces needs systems which can deploy easily and readily, and automate these tasks to the extent possible (to minimize training, user input and level of effort in performing these functions)’
C-UAS is one of seven areas currently included in the RFI:
Anti-drone systems (C-UAS); combating the Threat of Explosives (LME); defeat Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices (DEI-RC); fusion and automation of data in the cloud; integration of soldier’s systems; space sensor payloads; and underwater warfare.
Public Works and Government Services Canada
Services and Technology Acquisition Management Sector
Innovation Procurement Directorate
Solicitation No: W7714-217834/A
GETS ref No: PW-21-00945859
The Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) programme was announced in Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged and launched in 2018 to invest CAD1.6bn over the next 20 years to access the expertise and solutions from the Canadian innovation ecosystem. The program provides Canadian innovators (from small to large enterprises, academia, not-for profit organisation, Universities, etc.) with a structure and support to encourage solutions for Canada’s toughest defence and security challenges.
IDEaS supports the development of solutions from their conceptual stage, through prototype testing and capability development. The program’s goal is to access new defence and security solutions from Canadian innovators for the benefit of the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). To date, more than CAS140m have been invested in solutions through the programme.
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21 Feb 21. US Border Patrol issues RFI for nationwide C-UAS concept whitepaper. The United States Border Patrol (USBP), as part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and on behalf of all of CBP, is conducting market research through a Request for Information (RFI) on the current availability and technological capabilities of a Counter Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) to address current and future threats and gaps regarding unmanned aircraft systems.
According to the RFI:
“THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT INTEND TO AWARD A CONTRACT ON THE BASIS OF THIS RFI OR OTHERWISE PAY FOR INFORMATION RECEIVED. This RFI is issued solely for information, planning purposes, and market research only; it does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP….CBP is interested in learning about the availability of systems to counter the threat of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, which includes the capability to detect, identify, classify, track, and/or mitigate these threats. CBP has an operational need for rapidly deployable, mobile and agent-portable, and fixed assets to provide situational awareness for CBP personnel in the field. Current surveillance capabilities lack the ability to adjust to counter surveillance efforts. As advanced UAS technology has become available to the public, Transnational Criminal Organizations now use UASs for smuggling activities and for monitoring CBP operations. In addition, UASs pose security threats due to the potential for an attack. C-UAS detection and mitigation technology will provide CBP with better situational and air domain awareness, improve agent safety, and increase national security.
“C-UASs will be responsible for countering the threat of UASs. Each C-UAS will be responsible for monitoring its Area of Coverage. The number of C-UAS deployed across CBP locations will vary based on geography, availability of equipment and trained operators, and operational need. When deployed, the system will provide the C-UAS operator with information regarding detection, tracking/classifying/identifying, and mitigation of UAS threats. These UASs typically consist of a UAV (drone), a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two. The drones can be of varying sizes and weights, as well as varying configurations such as fixed-wing, vertical takeoff and landing, and hybrid. In addition, the sensor and payload capabilities vary between drones, as well do the data collection and transmission capabilities.
“One example of an operational scenario includes a fixed C-UAS deployed to a CBP operating area of interest. Upon detecting drone threats, the system logs the information and notifies the operator of a threat (either locally on the system interface, or remotely via connection to an information network). Next, the system begins to track the drone (determines location and flight path) and attempts to classify and identify drones in terms of known characteristics (e.g., model, weight, payload, frequency, and launch location). In addition, the information collected in real-time will allow operators to take appropriate action given the drones known location. If deemed necessary and in accordance with policy, the system will enable operators to disrupt or deny further operation of the drone. Throughout the scenario, the system data and intelligence are logged in order to increase awareness to the current and future drone threat.
Notice ID: CBP_C-UAS_RFI
Responsible agency: Department of Homeland Security
Deadline: 5 March 2021
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22 Feb 21. DIN calls for proposals in Cyber security and Undersea Surveillance. The NSW Defence Innovation Network (DIN) is calling for collaborative proposals in the field of Cyber security and Undersea surveillance. Through its Strategic Investment Initiative, DIN will invest $1m of research funding in developing cutting-edge prototypes for defence use.
With the recent announcement that Cyber Security and Undersea Surveillance are priority areas for Defence investment, the DIN has established the Strategic Investment Initiative (SII).
The purpose of the SII is to enable multi-disciplinary teams to produce two prototypes, to create lasting links to the defence industry, to catalyse commercialisation and additional investment in research and development in NSW.
A key objective is to build capability in the State by funding collaborative research that will enable a prototype to be made within a 12-18 month timeframe, suitable for a ‘demonstration’ of the new capability of the integrated system.
The Initiative is funded by the NSW Government and the Department of Defence through the Next Generation Technologies Fund.
Completed proposals must be submitted electronically by 5 pm, 5 March2021 to .
Download DIN SII_Guidelines_amended_02_02_2021