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September 23, 2021 | International, Naval

BAE Systems welcomes £85m future submarine programme contract

September 17, 2021 - The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded BAE Systems a £85m contract to support early design and concept work on the Royal Navy's next generation of...

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  • US Army requests $429 million for new cyber training platform

    February 22, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    US Army requests $429 million for new cyber training platform

    In 2016, the Pentagon tapped the Army to lead development of a persistent cyber training environment, or PCTE, to help train experts from Cyber Command in a live-virtual-constructed environment. Since then, cyber officials have repeatedly said such an environment is among their top priorities. “The service cyber components have established their own training environments but do not have standardized capabilities or content,” Army budget documents say. In the Army’s research and development budget documents, the service requested $65.8 million in fiscal 2019 for the training environment and $429.4 million through fiscal 2023. Under the various line items in the Army’s research and development budget, the Army is looking to develop event scheduling for the environment. It also wants to develop realistic vignettes or scenarios as part of individual and collective training to include real-world mission rehearsal, on-demand reliable and secure physical and virtual global access from dispersed geographic locations. In addition, the Army is asking for $3 million in fiscal 2019 base budget money to find and close gaps in hardware and software infrastructure related to virtual environments needed for cyber operational training. Additional funds will go toward virtual environments such as blue, grey, red or installation control system that the cyber mission force use for maneuver terrain. Moreover, the documents indicate that the Army will use Other Transaction Authorities vehicles for contract awards. The program will be delivered through incremental capability drops. The document states a “full and open competitive contract will be awarded in FY20 for further integration of new or refinement of existing capabilities, hardware refreshes, accreditation, and software licensing.”

  • Navy Buys Tech that Can Land F-35s on Carriers with Pinpoint Accuracy

    June 25, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    Navy Buys Tech that Can Land F-35s on Carriers with Pinpoint Accuracy

    By Hope Hodge Seck When the Navy's F-35C Joint Strike Fighter embarks on its first carrier deployment in 2021, it's expected to take with it a pinpoint-accurate landing system that purports to make the terror of night approaches and high sea-state traps all but a thing of the past. Raytheon announced this week that the Navy awarded a $234.6 million contract for a low-rate initial production of 23 of its Joint Precision Approach and Landing Systems, or JPALS -- enough to outfit every carrier and L-class amphibious assault ship with the technology. The contract also will include retrofitting three earlier systems that had been installed, a Raytheon executive said. Delivering to the Navy will start late next year, and installation will begin shortly thereafter, retired Navy Rear Adm. C.J. Jaynes, Raytheon's JPALS technical executive, told this week. The work is expected to be completed by August 2023, according to a published contract announcement. The system, which uses shipboard-relative GPS to guide planes in for landings and communicates with the aircraft from the deck of the carrier up to 200 nautical miles out, is accurate within 20 centimeters, or about 8 inches, Jaynes said. "It hits the third wire every time," she said. "It's [reliable in] all-weather and all sea states, including Sea State 5 (waves of roughly 8 to 12 feet)." For Navy pilots, catching the third of four wires on tailhook landings (or the second of three wires) has historically been a game of skill and precision that becomes orders of magnitude more difficult in the dark or in low-visibility weather conditions. Marine Corps F-35B pilots, who use the aircraft's vertical-landing configuration to put it down on the smaller flight decks of amphibious ships, face the same problems. And those issues may actually be exacerbated by a number of F-35-specific issues pending resolution. The custom-made, $400,000-per-unit helmet that F-35 pilots wear -- a piece of technology that allows them to "see through" the plane via a display for better situational awareness -- features symbology that emits a green glow, interfering with pilots' vision in low-light conditions. A video that emerged in 2017 showed an F-35 pilot landing "in a fog" on the amphibious assault ship America at night, his vision obscured by the helmet display. A recent Defense News report highlighted another issue with the helmet display at night that obscures the horizon. JPALS, which has already deployed in an early-development version with F-35Bs aboard the amphibious assault ships Wasp and Essex, would decrease reliance on visibility for accurate landings. Another F-35C-installed tool, Delta Flight Path, will keep aircraft on a steady glide slope for carrier landings, reducing inputs and corrections required from pilots. Early reports from the JPALS deployments with the Marines have been extremely positive, Jaynes said. "The pilots absolutely love it. It's been 100 percent accuracy, always available, they haven't had any issues at all," she said. "We know they have not had to abort any missions due to weather or due to sea state." Raytheon is now pitching an expeditionary version of JPALS, easily transportable and designed to guide aircraft to safe landings on bare airfields. The whole system can fit in five transit cases, be transported by C-130 Hercules, and be assembled within 90 minutes, Raytheon says. The Navy's future tanker drone, the MQ-25 Stingray, will also be JPALS-equipped; Jaynes said Raytheon is in talks with the service now about selling expeditionary JPALS for the MQ-25 program for shore-based tanker landings at locations like Norfolk, Virginia, or Point Mugu, California. Meanwhile, she said, the Marine Corps is considering buying a single expeditionary JPALS system for testing in order to develop a concept of operations to employ it. But "the closest customer outside of MQ-25 is actually the U.S. Air Force," Jaynes said. "They'd be able to move their aircraft possibly every 24 to 48 hours and do island-hopping in the Pacific. We're going over to [United States Air Forces in Europe -- Air Forces Africa] in July to talk with them about the system," she said.

  • Congress to buy 3 more LCS than the Navy needs, but gut funding for sensors that make them valuable

    September 19, 2018 | International, Naval

    Congress to buy 3 more LCS than the Navy needs, but gut funding for sensors that make them valuable

    WASHINGTON — Congress loves buying littoral combat ships, but when it comes to the packages of sensors and systems that make the ships useful, lawmakers have been less enthusiastic. In the 2019 Defense Department funding bill that just left the conference committee, lawmakers have funded a 33rd, 34th and 35th littoral combat ship, three more than the 32-ship requirement set by the Navy. But when it comes to the mission modules destined to make each ship either a mine sweeper, submarine hunter or small surface combatant, that funding has been slashed. Appropriators cut all funding in 2019 for the anti-submarine warfare package, a variable-depth sonar and a multifunction towed array system that the Navy was aiming to have declared operational next year, citing only that the funding was “ahead of need." The National Defense Authorization Act had authorized about $7.4 million, still well below the $57.3 million requested by the Navy, citing delays in testing various components. Appropriators are also poised to half the requested funding for the surface warfare package and cut nearly $25.25 million from the minesweeping package, which equates to about a 21 percent cut from the requested and authorized $124.1 million. Nor are this year’s cuts the only time appropriators have gone after the mission modules. A review of appropriations bills dating back to fiscal 2015 shows that appropriators have cut funding for mission modules every single year, and in 2018 took big hacks out of each funding line associated with the modules. The annual cutting spree has created a baffling cycle of inanity wherein Congress, unhappy with the development of the modules falling behind schedule, will cut funding and cause development to fall further behind schedule, according to a source familiar with the details of the impact of the cuts who spoke on background. All this while Congress continues to pump money into building ships without any of the mission packages having achieved what’s known as initial operating capability, meaning the equipment is ready to deploy in some capacity. (The surface warfare version has IOC-ed some initial capabilities but is adding a Longbow Hellfire missile system that will be delayed with cuts, the source said.) That means that with 15 of the currently funded 32 ships already delivered to the fleet, not one of them can deploy with a fully capable package of sensors for which the ship was built in the first place — a situation that doesn’t have a clear end state while the programs are caught in a sucking vortex of cuts and delays. “This is a prime example of program issues causing congressional cuts which lead to further delays, then more cuts in a vicious cycle," said Thomas Callender, a retired submarine officer and analyst with The Heritage Foundation. The Navy has been pursuing a strategy of buying 32 littoral combat ships and then 20 more lethal frigates now in development. Surface warfare boss Vice Adm. Richard Brown told Defense News in August that both the surface warfare package and the anti-submarine warfare package were on track to be ready in 2019, but that future is now in doubt, Callender said. “The appropriators' FY19 cuts of zeroing out ASW module and cuts to the MCM [mine countermeasures] module will likely delay IOC and operational testing,” Callender said. But the appropriators shouldn’t take all the heat, he added. The development of the different modules have hit technical issues and are all drastically behind schedule. The minesweeping package, for example, was initially supposed to deliver in 2008, but now isn’t slated to IOC until 2020, a date that will be further in doubt if Congress passes the appropriations bill as it left committee, sources agreed. “The technical development issues and subsequent delays with several modules, especially the ASW and MCM mission packages, contributed to congressional angst and some of these cuts,” Callender said. “Many of these cuts, including the cuts recommended from the House Armed Services Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee for FY19 were reductions in the number of initial modules purchased until they have successfully completed operational testing.” Both authorizers on the House and Senate Armed Services committees and the Appropriations committees have taken hacks at the funding to the modules, but ultimately the National Defense Authorization Act from the services committees is more of a guide for appropriators than a set of handcuffs. Appropriators can fund what they want to fund. A statement from the office of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said the committee works with the Navy on these programs and funds what is ready to be funded. “The Committee has worked with the Department of the Navy to understand the mission system test requirements — which have often changed due to variety of reasons — and focused on funding those requirements that are ready for production,” said Blair Taylor, Shelby’s communications director. Merry-go-round Part of the reason the program is vulnerable to these cuts in a way that, for example, the Arleigh Burke destroyers are not to the same extent is because of the program’s structure. The ships were to be purchased separately and designed to be highly versatile, switching out in a matter of days when pierside from anti-surface systems to countermine systems to anti-submarine systems as the missions changed. But a reorganization of the program in 2016 ordered by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and led by then-head of the Naval Surface Force Pacific Adm. Thomas Rowden changed each of the ships to single-mission ships, with the first few ships slated to be surface warfare variants. But the warfare packages are still being developed under separate programs, leaving them as low-hanging fruit for cuts. “The separation of the mission modules from specific LCS hull procurement does leave them more vulnerable to these type of programmatic cuts,” Callender said. The whole issue is taking on increasing urgency as LCS builders Fincantieri in Marinette, Wisconsin, and Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, begin pushing ships to the fleet by the handful each year. As of August, the Navy had 15 LCS vessels delivered, with 29 awarded and 11 in various stages of construction. But as the development modules has devolved into a merry-go-round, where cuts beget delays that beget more cuts, the fix in which this puts the Navy becomes more real by the day. The fleet needs the capabilities the LCS modules are supposed to deliver. For example, the Navy is slated to decommission its last Avenger-class minesweeper in the 2020s. This means the minesweeping package really can’t suffer too many more delays without greatly increasing the threat posed to the Navy by cheap marine mines, leaving the fleet with only ad hoc solutions for combating them until the minesweeping package can be fielded in numbers. And while there are other ships in the fleet such as the DDGs that can do anti-submarine and anti-surface missions, it’s the minesweeping package that has Bryan McGrath, a retired destroyer skipper and consultant with The FerryBridge Group, worried. “I’m concerned that there aren’t enough MCM modules coming along fast enough, and I am concerned that there aren’t enough LCS in the current plan (four on each coast) dedicated to the MCM mission,” he said. “I’d like to see the LCS plan re-evaluated and more of them devoted exclusively to MCM.”

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