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June 9, 2021 | International, Aerospace

The best option for Canada? Former NORAD commanders’ perspectives on the next-generation fighter - Skies Mag

The best option for Canada? Former NORAD commanders’ perspectives on the next-generation fighter - Skies Mag

Admirals Timothy Keating and William Gortney both served as commanders of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, but neither is reticent about which fighter jet the RCAF should acquire to replace its fleet of CF-18 legacy Hornets.

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  • MPF: Light Tank Competitors BAE & GD Head For Soldier Tests

    October 21, 2020 | International, Land

    MPF: Light Tank Competitors BAE & GD Head For Soldier Tests

    BAE and General Dynamics are vying to build 504 Mobile Protected Firepower vehicles to support light infantry units, especially in places the massive M1 Abrams cannot go.   SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR. WASHINGTON: After 24 years without a light tank in Army service, soldiers will climb aboard brand-new Mobile Protected Firepower prototypes this January. “It’s not just PowerPoint” anymore, Maj. Gen. Bryan Cummings, the Army’s Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems (PEO-GCS), told me in an interview. “On Jan. 4th, we will have … vehicles arriving at Fort Bragg.” Army experts have already started safety testing on prototype MPF vehicles, officials told me. Actual combat soldiers will start training on two platoons of prototypes in January –  four MPFs from BAE, four from rival General Dynamics – with field tests scheduled to begin in April. A formal Limited User Test will start in August or September, with the Army choosing the winning design in 2022 and the first operational unit of MPF entering active service in 2025. A General Dynamics spokesperson told me they’ve already delivered five MPF prototypes to the Army, with two more in final checkouts and another five being built for delivery by the end of the year. BAE Systems is also building 12 prototypes, but they declined to say whether they’d delivered vehicles yet or not. While the Army can’t comment on either contractor while the competition is ongoing, Cummings said, “both are on track to meet the major milestones” – despite the disruptions of COVID-19. After three months of training, the troops will start what’s being called the Soldier Vehicle Assessment (SVA): four to five months of intensive field testing, including force-on-force wargames. It’s all part of the Army’s new emphasis on getting real soldiers’ feedback on new weapons early and often. “The soldiers actually get to drive the vehicles around, shoot them, train with them,” BAE business developer James Miller told me. “Their feedback [is] likely to be the most critical factor … in the decision the Army’s going to make about who wins this contract.” The soldier assessment isn’t just testing out the vehicles, however, Cummings told me: It’s also a test of the Army. Specifically, how can light infantry brigades, which today have few vehicles or mechanics, sustain and operate a 20-plus-ton tank? The crucial distinction: MPF is not going to the Army’s heavy brigades, which have lots of support troops and specialized equipment to take care of tracked armored vehicles. Instead, 14 MPFs per brigade will go to airborne and other light infantry units, which haven’t had tracked armor since the M551 Sheridan was retired and its replacement cancelled in 1990s. Now, MPF won’t be as fuel-hungry or maintenance-intensive as the massive M1 Abrams, America’s mainstay main battle tank. Even with add-on armor kits for high-threat deployments, it’ll be less than half as heavy as the M1. That’s because MPF isn’t meant to take on enemy tanks, at least not modern ones. Instead, it’s designed to be light enough to deploy rapidly by air, simple enough to sustain at the end of a long and tenuous supply line, but potent enough to take on enemy light armored vehicles, bunkers, dug-in machineguns, and the like. That’s a tricky balance to strike. In fact, the Army has never found a light tank it really liked despite decades of trying. Only six M22 Locusts actually fought in World War II, the M41 Walker Bulldog was too heavy for airborne units, the M551 Sheridan was plagued by technical problems throughout its service from Vietnam to Panama, the M8 Armored Gun System and the Future Combat System were both cancelled. So how do BAE and General Dynamics plan to square this circle? General Dynamics emphasized lethality in their interview with me. Their Lima tank plant builds the M1 Abrams, and while the MPF is smaller – though the company didn’t divulge details, GD’s version reportedly has a 105mm cannon, compared to the Abrams’ 120mm – it will have the same fire controls and electronics as the latest model of its big brother. “If you sat in a Mobile Protected Firepower turret, you would think you were sitting in a [M1] SEPV3 turret,” a GD spokesperson told me. “It’s all the same displays, architectures, power distribution, etc.” GD’s design evolved from their Griffin demonstrators, prominently displayed for several years at AUSA annual meetings. It’s got automotive components derived from the ASCOD/Ajax family widely used in Europe and an 800 horsepower engine. GD didn’t tell me how much their vehicle weighed, but, depending on the armor package installed, the demonstrators ranged from 28 tons to 50 tons. Those figures would give horsepower/weight ratios ranging from 28 hp/ton, better than any model of the Abrams, to 16, which would make MPF much more sluggish. BAE, by contrast, emphasized their design’s compactness and ease of maintenance – considerations as critical as firepower for a light infantry unit. BAE actually built the M8 AGS cancelled in the ’90s drawdown, and while they’ve thoroughly overhauled that design for MPS with a new engine, new electronics, and underbody blast-proofing against roadside bombs, they’ve tried to preserve its airborne-friendly qualities. “The old M8 fit inside a C-130; in fact, it was air droppable,” Miller told me. “There’s no requirement for that in the current MPF program, but we decided to stick with that as a design constraint: [Our MPF can] fit inside a C-130; we can do three on a C-17.” BAE’s engine is less potent than GD’s, with only 550 horsepower. With the base configuration coming in at under 30 tons, that equates to over 18 hp/ton, with heavier armor packages reducing performance from there. But the big selling point of the engine is ease of access, Miller argued. Engine maintenance on a tank requires a crane and partially disassembling the armor, but a mechanic can slide the BAE MPF’s engine in and out of the chassis with a hand crank. If the MPF breaks down or gets stuck, it can be towed away by a truck, without requiring a special heavy recovery vehicle as an M1 does. “The infantry brigades are light. They don’t have long logistics tails. They don’t have a ton of mechanics and recovery vehicles,” Miller emphasized. “The vehicle has to be as mobile as them and fit inside their organization.” The Army estimates the life-cycle cost of MPF, from development to procurement to maintenance and retirement, at $16 billion. Whichever vehicle wins the Army contract will have an edge in sales worldwide – including, potentially, to the Marine Corps, which is retiring its M1s as too heavy for modern amphibious warfare.

  • Navy Making Room for Railguns in Next Warship, But No Extra Investments

    August 30, 2018 | International, Naval

    Navy Making Room for Railguns in Next Warship, But No Extra Investments

    By: Megan Eckstein THE PENTAGON – The Navy’s next large surface combatant will have all the space, weight and power margins the sea service could need now and into the future to accommodate new weapons in development – but the director of surface warfare said the Navy would not accelerate weapons development to get them ready in time to outfit the new ships. Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, OPNAV N96, spoke to USNI News on Aug. 28, in his first interview on the Future Surface Combatant program since its initial capabilities document was signed out by leadership. Noting that the next large surface combatant would pull from some of the advances made with the Zumwalt-class destroyers (DDG-1000) – including potentially its integrated power system that could easily support laser guns, an electromagnetic railgun, powerful radars and other power-hungry technologies – Boxall told USNI News that the new large surface combatant represented an opportunity to put these technologies into the surface fleet whereas the legacy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers simply do not have the power and cooling capacity to do so. “We’re just excited that we think we do have something that is expandable, has SWaP-C (space, weight, power and cooling) for the future. I think all of us were kind of a little bit nervous about the DDG Flight III and whether we’ll have long-term ability to put future energy weapons on there, or the power that we need for directed energy, lasers, things like that,” he said. But just because the new ship will be able to support energy weapons doesn’t mean Boxall wants to accelerate energy weapons development to ensure they’re ready to field on the first new ships. He said moving to the Future Surface Combatant in 2023 is an “aggressive timeline” and that at some point the Navy will have to “snap the chalk line and say, this is what you have that’s good enough to go on there” – and if a technology isn’t ready, it would wait for fielding in a later block buy of the ship. With the Navy already seeking a new hull to better support the Aegis Combat System and the AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense radar – collectively called the DDG-51 Flight III capability – Boxall said he didn’t want to force too many changes all at once. “So I’m inclined to say, as long as we build it modularly, we’re going to make those assessments in stride” in terms of inserting in new weapons as they come through the development process, he said. “But I don’t want to get too crazy about trying to accelerate new technology in the first of the class as we change hulls, which will hopefully be a hull that will be with us for a very long time.” Full article:

  • The US made the wrong bet on radiofrequency, and now it could pay the price

    June 22, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    The US made the wrong bet on radiofrequency, and now it could pay the price

    By: Aaron Mehta WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s belief in its technology drove the Department of Defense to trust it would have control over the electromagnetic spectrum for years to come, but that decision has left America vulnerable to new leaps in technology from China and Russia, according to a top military official. Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has now concluded that the Pentagon needs to ensure it is keeping up with those near-peer nations, let along reestablishing dominance of electronic warfare and networking. “I think we assumed wrongly that encryption and our domination over the precision timing signals would allow us to evade the enemy in the electromagnetic spectrum. I think that was a bad assumption,” Selva said Thursday at the annual Center for a New American Security conference. “It’s not that we disarmed, it’s that we took a path that they have now figured out,” Selva said. China and Russia instead focused on deploying “digitally managed radio frequency manipulation, which changed the game in electronic warfare.” He added that a DoD study looking at the next decade concluded “We have some work to do.” Specifically, the United States needs to discover what Selva dubbed “alternative pathways” for communications and command and control systems. “It doesn’t have to be a [radiofrequency] game. It’s an RF game because we choose to make it so. And we’re going to have to do some targeted investments in expanding the capacity of the networks that we use for command and control and battle management,” he said. “If we fail to do that, we’re going to kick ourselves into the force-counterforce game inside the electromagnetic spectrum for the balance of the next couple of decades. “We have to adapt to that, and adapt quickly. The work has been done to characterize the problem, and the problem is, we’re locked in this point-counterpoint fight with two potential competitors who have taken alternative paths. So we have to unlock a different way to do that work.”

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