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August 7, 2018 | International, Land

Marines increase ways to detect and kill air threats, from hobby drones to cruise missiles


As Marine units face evolving drone threats from terrorist organizations and at the same time shore up their air defenses against near-peer air attacks, a few key pieces of gear in the most recent defense bill could vastly strengthen overhead protection.

Until recently, Marines tasked with taking down drones or short-range missiles had to link into a vast array of detection devices and then perform a practically 20th century task to take them out.

Essentially, a Marine with binoculars scans the air for drones while another Marine zeroes in with a Stinger missile ― first fielded in the 1980s but upgraded since ― to shoot down what is often a few hundred dollars' worth of a patched together, weaponized or surveillance-type commercial drone.

But a review of the past five years of Marine Corps budget requests and approvals for two systems, the Ground Based Air Defense-Transformation, or GBAD, and the Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, or G/ATOR, have more than doubled in the past five years and are projected to maintain or increase from now until 2022, when a GBAD with a laser component is expected to field.

Beginning as far back as 2013, the Marines have been purchasing the G/ATOR, an advanced radar system that executes the function of a combined five legacy systems.

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  • NATO's East Is Rearming, But It's Because of Putin, Not Trump

    August 14, 2018 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR

    NATO's East Is Rearming, But It's Because of Putin, Not Trump

    Ott Ummelas Donald Trump has taken credit for a rise in military spending by NATO states, but in the alliance's eastern reaches, it's his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who's driving the rearming effort. Last month, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanked the U.S. President for “clearly having an impact” on defense spending by allies while Trump said his demands had added $41 billion to European and Canadian defense outlays. But the jump in acquisitions behind the former Iron Curtain of aircraft, ships and armored vehicles began when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, well before Trump's 2016 election victory, according to analysts including Tomas Valasek, director of Carnegie Europe in Brussels. While the median defense expenditure of NATO members is 1.36 percent of gross domestic product, below the alliance's requirement of 2 percent, eastern members comprise seven of the 13 members that are paying above that level. “Countries on NATO's eastern border do not need Donald Trump to boost defense spending,” Valasek said. “They decided this long before he came to power. The spending boost was because of a president, but it was Vladimir Putin, not the U.S. President.” Constant overflights by Russian aircraft into NATO airspace, cyberattacks on government and military installations, wargames on the borders of the Baltic states and accusations that Russia was behind a failed coup in newest member Montenegro have put NATO's eastern quadrant on alert for what it says is an increasingly expansionist Russia. Of the 15 members exceeding the bloc's guideline that 20 percent of total defense spending should go to equipment, six are from eastern Europe. At the time of the NATO summit in Brussels, Romania said it would buy five more F-16s from Portugal, raising its squadron to 12, after it signed a $400-million deal to acquire a Patriot missile air-defense system with Raython in May. The country of 20 million people bordering Ukraine, Moldova and the Black Sea plans to buy 36 more F-16s, four corvettes, at least 3,000 transport vehicles and coastal gun batteries over the next five years. Slovakia also announced the purchase of F-16 fighter jets at the summit to replace its aging Russian Mig-29s in a deal that was years in negotiating. And last month, Bulgaria asked for bids for at least eight new or used fighter jets by October at a total cost of 1.8 billion lev ($1 billion). By end-2018, the government in Sofia plans to buy 1.5 billion lev worth of armored vehicles and two warships for 1 billion lev. Neighboring Hungary said in June that it had agreed to buy 20 Airbus H145M multi-purpose helicopters, the country's largest military purchase since 2001. NATO's European members are expected to spend around $60 billion on equipment this year, with the 13 eastern members accounting for about 10 percent, said Tony Lawrence, a research fellow with the International Center for Security and Defense in Tallinn. The newer members will together spend about $2 billion more on equipment this year than last, he said. According to NATO, seven of its 10 biggest spending increases will be in the east. “Since these nations' membership in NATO, there has been a clear inclination to foster and strengthen their link with the U.S.,” said Martin Lundmark, a researcher with Swedish Defense University in Stockholm. “By procuring strategic defense systems, they willingly become interdependent and inter-operable with the U.S.”

  • 5 things you should know about the US Navy’s new frigate

    May 7, 2020 | International, Naval

    5 things you should know about the US Navy’s new frigate

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy selected Fincantieri's FREMM design for its next-generation frigate, but as with most new platforms it will be a long time before the first ship hits the fleet. The contract, awarded May 30, is for up to 10 hulls constructed at Fincantieri's Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. The Navy intends to buy at least 20 frigates. Here's what we know about what the years ahead will hold: 1) The price tag. According to Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts, the first hull will cost $1.281 billion, which includes the design money for both the ship and for the work needed at the shipyard to set up a production line. It also includes all the government-furnished equipment, including things such as Raytheon's AN/SPY-6-derivative radar and Lockheed Martin's Aegis Combat System. Of that $1.281 billion, $795 million will go to the shipyard. The next hulls in the buy should cost significantly less. The Navy is aiming for a price tag of $800 million in 2018 dollars, with the threshold at $950 million. But Geurts thinks he can beat both numbers. An independent cost estimate found the follow-on hulls should cost about $781 million if all 20 are built. “The study shows this ship as selected and the program as designed delivering underneath our objective cost per platform,” Geurts said on a May 30 phone call with reporters. 2) The timeline. Detailed design of the future frigate, known as FFG(X), starts right away, Geurts said, and construction will begin no later than April 2022. The first ship should be delivered in 2026 and should be operational by 2030, with final operational capability declared by 2032, Geurts said. The contract should be wrapped up — all 10 hulls — by 2035. The intention is to buy 20 hulls, though it's unclear whether Marinette will build all 20 or if the Navy will identify a second source. 3) What could go wrong? The Navy feels like it did a lot to get this ship deal right, which could be argued was important given a not-so-hot track record with programs lately. Improving the Navy's performance on lead ships, in the wake of the Ford-class debacle, has been a focus of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Among the steps the Navy took to retire risk with FFG(X) was to adapt many of the mature systems being designed for the Flight III destroyer program, including the latest version of the Aegis Combat System and a scaled-down version of the AN/SPY-6 radar destined for Flight III. “Some of those efforts are still maturing, such as SPY-6, but from my standpoint I'm very comfortable with how that's proceeding,” said Rear Adm. Casey Moton, program executive officer of unmanned and small combatants. Bringing industry in on the process earlier will also help reduce risk in the lead ship, Moton said. “In general, even before the solicitation went out, the fact that we had industry involved in the conceptual design phase, they were there with us in the requirements; they understood the specifications; we worked with them on cost reduction. Many of the things that tend to trip up lead ships, we took proactive steps to reduce the risk there.” 4) Room to grow. The Navy considered the ability to add new, energy intensive systems on to the ship later in its calculus in selecting FREMM as the FFG(X), according to service officials. During the competition, Fincantieri highlighted that it could fairly easily grow the electrical capacity of the ship, and that all the major computer and engine gear could be swapped out without cutting a hole in the ship, as is often necessary with current classes in the U.S. Navy's inventory. Rick Hunt, a retired Navy three-star admiral who is now a senior Fincantieri executive, told reporters that the company's bid was designed to meet the cost specifications while giving the Navy room to upgrade. “Be flexible in what you do right now, surge to more capacity as soon as we get that [requirement] and be able to grow the ship in lot changes should you need something even greater in the future,” Hunt said. Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, the Navy's top requirements officer, said growth will be important in Navy designs as the service seeks to move away from combating missiles with other missiles. “Understanding how fast the threat is advancing made the service-life allowance so important for us,” Kilby said May 30. “We didn't want [to] define discretely where we are going in the future, so having some margin to include things like directed energy and other systems, that's why it was so important. “We have an extensive laser [science and technology] program in the Navy, we have lasers on some of our ships now. We definitely view it as a requirement for the future as we move into a realm where our launchers are reserved for offensive weapons and our point defense systems are these rechargeable magazines that we can sustain for long periods of time.” 5) Lessons learned. The Navy acquisitions boss feels good about the process that produced the FFG(X) award and thinks it can be a model for other programs. “FFG(X) represents an evolution in the Navy's requirements and acquisition approach, which allowed the acquisition planning, requirements and technical communities along with the shipbuilders to develop requirements for the platform ahead of the release of the detailed design and construction request for proposal," Geurts said. “By integrating the requirements, acquisition planning and design phases, we were able to reduce the span time by nearly six years as compared to traditional platforms. All this was done with an intense focus on cost, acquisition and technical rigor so we got the best value for the war fighter and the taxpayer. It's the best I've seen in the Navy thus far in integrating all the teams together, and it's a model we're building on for future programs.” But it's unclear if a similar approach would work on a clean-sheet, new design the same way it worked for FFG(X), which uses already-developed technologies and a parent design. “Having all the folks in the room early in the process helped move the process along and move it along faster,” said Bryan McGrath, a retired destroyer captain who is now a consultant with The Ferrybridge Group. “The question comes when you consider how applicable duplicating such an effort would be if you were trying to do a clean-sheet design that was incorporating revolutionary technologies, untested technologies, perhaps even undeveloped technologies. That's a different story.” The FFG(X) will be a considerable step forward for the Navy in terms of capability, but isn't exactly a revolutionary platform that may require a different process to arrive at a solution, McGrath said.

  • En France, l’aviation de chasse est à la peine

    November 16, 2021 | International, Aerospace

    En France, l’aviation de chasse est à la peine

    DÉFENSE En France, l'aviation de chasse est à la peine Dans une vaste enquête, Air & Cosmos pointe les fortes tensions qui pèsent sur les flottes de l'armée française, en particulier dans le secteur stratégique de la chasse. Si au Sahel, 58% des frappes aériennes en 2020 ont été réalisées par des drones Reaper, cette efficacité apparait en partie due à la nature asymétrique du conflit qui se joue dans la bande sahélo-saharienne. Or, la plupart des autres conflits nécessiteront probablement des chasseurs, polyvalents, réactifs et adaptables. Dans ce contexte, l'Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (AAE), qui s'est vu prélever 12 appareils à destination de la Grèce, fait face à une réduction de ses équipements, alors qu'au moins 12 autres avions devraient suivre afin d'honorer le contrat passé avec la Croatie. Une situation qui, d'après Air & Cosmos met à mal la situation de l'AAE, fragilisée par le manque de personnels (ses effectifs ont décru de 25% en quelques années) et les ponctions export. Une situation qui justifierait l'établissement d'un plan d'urgence pour assurer la modernisation et la soutenabilité des équipements des armées françaises. Air & Cosmos du 12 novembre

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