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June 20, 2018 | International, Land

US Army test-fires Belgian-made gun amid plans for Stryker upgrade competition

PARIS ― The U.S. Army's test-firing of a 30mm gun turret from CMI Defence is seen by the Belgian firm as putting it in a privileged position for an upcoming tender for greater firepower for the Stryker combat vehicle, a company spokesman said.

“We're in pole position, “ Xavier Rigo, communications manager of CMI Defence, told Defense News on June 18. “That does not mean we will win the race, but it puts us in a very good position. We are very proud to have been selected for tests, a real recognition for our team and our equipment.”

That test-firing stems from a cooperative research and development agreement CMI signed in 2015 with the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, which is seeking a lethality upgrade for the Stryker.

CMI adapted the turret to fit the U.S. requirement for linkless ammunition, he said. ATK supplies the 30mm gun, which CMI fitted to its turret.

The Belgian company also supplies a 105mm gun turret for a bid led by SAIC in the U.S. tender for the Mobile Protected Firepower program. CMI has fielded its Cockerill 3105 turret, which uses its turret and 105mm cannon, with the latter built in a factory in northern France.

A Cockerill 3105 turret was among the products on display at the CMI stand at the Eurosatory trade show, which ran June 11-15. The stand at the show two years ago used the Cockerill brand name.

BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and SAIC are the competitors in that Mobile Protected Firepower competition, Rigo said. The next step is a down-select to two bidders, which will be asked to build and supply 12 prototype vehicles for tests.

In Europe, CMI is ”in discussion with the Belgian government“ in its search for a role in Belgium's planned €1 billion (U.S. $1.2 billion) acquisition of the Griffon and Jaguar armored vehicles from the French Army Scorpion program.

Those talks are exploring the possibility for CMI to participate in local production and maintenance of the Scorpion vehicles, he said. The Belgian project, dubbed Capacité Mobilisé, or CAMO, sparked debate, as the planned acquisition boosted French contractors Arquus, Nexter and Thales, but left CMI turrets by the wayside.

CMI has delivered 130 gun turrets and is building some 20 turrets per month to supply GDLS, which has a contract with a Middle Eastern country, he said, declining to identify the client nation.

Those turrets are based on four modules, armed with 30mm, 90 mm, 105 mm, and both 105mm and 30mm guns. There are both manned and unmanned versions of the turret.

Canadian broadcaster CBC reported March 19 that GLDS Canada has sold to Saudi Arabia combat vehicles armed with 105mm and 30mm guns for ”heavy assault,” anti-tank and direct-fire support.

CMI conducted a firing demonstration of its six Cockerill gun turrets June 15 at the French Army Suippes firing range, eastern France. Some 60 representatives of foreign army delegations attended, the company said in a statement.

The Belgian company had been one of the bidders for Arquus, the then-Governmental Sales unit of Volvo Group, until the Swedish truck maker canceled the sale. Nexter had been the other bidder.

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    June 13, 2018 | International, Aerospace


    FORT WORTH, Texas, June 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] selected Raytheon [NYSE: RTN] to develop and deliver the next generation Distributed Aperture System (DAS) for the F-35fighter jet. The result of a Lockheed Martin-led competition, the selection will enhance capability and reduce cost. The F-35's DAS collects and sends high resolution, real-time imagery to the pilot's helmet from six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft, allowing pilots to see the environment around them – day or night. With the ability to detect and track threats from any angle, the F-35 DAS gives pilots unprecedented situational awareness of the battlespace. "The supply chain competition for the next generation F-35 Distributed Aperture System resulted in significant cost savings, reliability and performance improvements," said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. "We are aggressively pursuing cost reduction across the F-35 enterprise and this initiative is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to reduce costs and deliver transformational capabilities for the warfighter." Reduce Costs, Increased Performance The Raytheon-built DAS will be integrated into F-35 aircraft starting with Lot 15 aircraft, expected to begin deliveries in 2023. The next generation DAS system is estimated to generate the following results compared to the current system: More than $3 billion in life cycle cost savings Approximately 45 percent reduction in unit recurring cost Greater than 50 percent reduction in operations and sustainment cost 5 times more reliability 2 times performance capability improvement The new system will also indirectly benefit aircraft readiness and service manpower requirements "Raytheon's solution delivers next generation capability for the fifth generation F-35," said Roy Azevedo vice president of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. "Our focus is on providing pilots every tactical advantage imaginable while ensuring taxpayers receive the best value possible." With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built. More than a fighter jet, the F-35's ability to collect, analyze and share data is a powerful force multiplier enhancing all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enabling men and women in uniform to execute their mission and come home safe. For additional information, visit About Lockheed Martin Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 100,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. About Raytheon Raytheon Company, with 2017 sales of $25 billion and 64,000 employees, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, civil government and cybersecurity solutions. With a history of innovation spanning 96 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration, C5I™ products and services, sensing, effects, and mission support for customers in more than 80 countries. Raytheon is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. Follow us on Twitter.

  • Holmes Lays Out ‘Fighter-Like’ Roadmap

    March 2, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    Holmes Lays Out ‘Fighter-Like’ Roadmap

    By John A. Tirpak ORLANDO, Fla.—Air Combat Command is shifting from a “fighter roadmap” to a “capabilities” roadmap that will capture many of the things fighters do today, but likely with new types of unmanned systems and “attritable” aircraft, Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes said Feb. 27. Speaking with reporters at an AFA Air Warfare Symposium press conference, Holmes said ACC is grappling with “what is a fighter?” in the future. The fighter mission will give way to “attritable” aircraft and “loyal wingmen” unmanned aircraft, in addition to fighters, and possibly different kinds of manned aircraft. The roadmap will be very much dependent on the theaters in which the assets will be used. “What I would rather build is a capabilities roadmap that shows how we're going to accomplish the missions for the Air Force that we traditionally have done with fighters,” Holmes said. “And the subtlety there is, I would hope, 30 years from now, I'm not still trying to maintain 55 fighter squadrons. I think we will have advanced and there will be some other things that we'll be cutting-in.” The roadmap is in roughly five-year stages, which parallel “natural decision points” affecting chunks of the fleet, Holmes explained. The first stage seeks a replacement for the F-15C fleet, which is now aging out of the inventory. Those aircraft will be replaced by F-35s and the new F-15EXs, Holmes reported. The EXs are needed to reduce the overall age of the fighter fleet “so we can afford to sustain it,” he said, noting the EX is “what's available to us now.” The next stage “will be what we call the pre-block F-16s—the Block 25 and 30 Fighting Falcons—that we're still flying.” Within the next eight years, “depending on budgets and capabilities, we'll have to decide what we'll do about those airplanes,” Holmes said. There is an “opportunity” to cut-in “something new: low cost, attritable [aircraft], loyal wingmen, various things we're ... experimenting with.” After that, ACC will confront “the post-Block F-16s—the Block 40s and 50s—that can fly for quite a bit longer, but there is a modernization bill that would have to be spent to keep them useful,” Holmes said, suggesting further service life extension for the F-16 may be coming. Gen. Arnold Bunch, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, said the F-16 post-block fleet could be extended for as much as another 10 years of service life, starting in the mid-20s. A SLEP would have to focus first on making them safe to fly, he said, and they would need technology insertions to make them relevant, “depending on what you use them for.” The aircraft will already have Active Electronically Scanned Array radars and digital backbones, he noted. Finally, ACC is trying to decide what the Next-Generation Air Dominance system should be. “The equation and the math we use for ‘what is a fighter' still works pretty well for the European environment—the range, payload, and distance problem,” Holmes noted. But “it's not as effective a solution in the Pacific because of the distances,” and for that theater, he said, “I wouldn't expect [NGAD] to produce things that necessarily look like a traditional fighter, or in that traditional swap between range and payload that we've done.” Pacific Air Forces boss Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. said in the future a family of systems approach will be more useful given the size of the area of operations and the differences in the adversary. “The family of systems provides us some level of advantage. If you're looking for a single point solution that has to be a fighter. It's the fighter, but not the information that comes off the fighter, the information the fighter gets from other platforms ... ,” Brown said. “How all that comes together will be important to support the fighter of the future, or whatever capability we have.” Holmes said Will Roper, the Air Force acquisition chief, is thinking about more low-cost “attritable” options for the Pacific, “thinking about that long-range problem, what might we come up with.” He has previously allowed that something akin to a large missileer, potentially a variant on the B-21, could be part of the mix, and ACC is also thinking about an “arsenal plane” concept. “Those discussions are going on, and they should be,” Holmes added. But “it is still ... our responsibility to the rest of the force to control the air and space on their behalf.” Roper's team is working with industry to pursue a new “digital” prototyping approach that Holmes said he's pleased with. He noted that Boeing was able to win the T-7 competition by showing it can “design and build airplanes in a different way and at a cost point nobody expected,” and “we think we have the opportunity to spread that across the other things we're doing.” He also says there is support from Capitol Hill with the approach at this stage, and ACC is working hard to share information on the future of ACC combat capabilities at “the right level” of classification.

  • Questions about US Navy attack sub program linger as contract negotiations drag

    August 19, 2019 | International, Naval

    Questions about US Navy attack sub program linger as contract negotiations drag

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy is months behind schedule getting its latest batch of Virginia-class attack subs under contract, and no resolution appears imminent — leading to mounting concerns that delays on the Virginia will affect the Navy's top acquisition priority, the Columbia-class submarine. The contract for the 10-ship Block V Virginia-class attack submarine was supposed to be signed in April, but Navy and industry sources say that there has been a lot of talk and little agreement between the service and the two shipbuilders, General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Newport News. Intended to integrate acoustic upgrades and an 84-foot section for additional strike missile tubes, the delayed contract for the Block V Virginias have instead turned into just the latest warning sign that all is not well in Virginia-land, as schedules have slipped and at least one of the builders is now bleeding profits. Furthermore, it's unclear what the Navy's buying profile for Block V will be, which is subject to both contract negotiations and Congressional action on the fiscal year 2020 budget. The anxiety over Virginia delays, however, are less about Virginia, which is still a strong performing program — especially when compared with other programs such as the Ford-class carrier — but are more driven by the potential for compounding issues bleeding over into the Columbia-class. Both submarines will be drawing on the same workforce and supplier base, which is already showing signs of strain. The Navy says the delays are part of ongoing negotiations and that the schedule should not be affected further since the Navy has already contracted for long-lead time materials, but with the first Columbia expected to be ordered in 2021, the service is facing the reality that it lacks a clear idea of the future of the Virginia program when it is preparing to launch Columbia. The delays center on the integration of the Virginia payload module and just how many the Navy intends to buy. Until this year, the public plan was for Virginia Block V to be a 10-ship class, where the first boat would integrate the acoustic upgrades but the follow-on boats would all integrate the VPM, which is designed to triple the Virginia's Tomahawk payload capacity to 40 per hull. When the Pentagon's 2020 budget request dropped in March, the plan changed, with the total buy expanded to 11 hulls with eight VPM boats. But according to sources who spoke to Defense News, the builder was laying the groundwork for the original plan, which the Navy had already purchased long-lead material toward. The confusion over just how many VPMs the Navy intends to buy has been a major sticking point in the negotiations, with sources telling Defense News that the number of VPMs could still end up as either eight or seven, or potentially even fewer. Complicating matters further is that Congress has yet to weigh in on the fate of the 11th Block V boat, which would mean buying three Virginia's in one year, and some on Capitol Hill have voiced skepticism that the industrial base can support that The Navy's top acquisition official, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Acquisition and Development James Geurts, is working toward a solution that will balance the needs of the Navy and the needs of the builders, his spokesman said. Geurts "continues to work closely with the program team and industry on negotiating a Block V Multi-Year procurement contract that will be affordable, executable and supports the industrial base,” said Capt. Danny Hernandez. “He wants to ensure we are maximizing the use of taxpayer dollars while at the same time striving for an acceptable level of design and program risk. “Additionally, during this period, the Navy is continuing to fund the shipbuilder for long lead time materials and pre-construction efforts to ensure submarine work continues at the shipyards and with the supplier base.” ‘Worst of Both Worlds' With uncertainty looming about the future of the Virginia class, questions remain about whether that will bleed into Columbia, creating schedule risk that Navy leaders have said for years was untenable. Congress has sought to ease the strain on the supplier base by offering money to help smaller vendors expand to meet demand. And in March, Geurts announced that he was standing up a new program executive officer for Columbia, citing the need to be proactive with any problems that might arise from the competing demands on the industrial base. “These yards are integrated,” defense analyst Dan Goure, a former Bush Administration official who now works for The Lexington Institute, said in an April interview. “When you start messing with the other program on a short-notice basis, you risk the yards being able to deliver on time and at cost for multiple programs. “In a sense you risk the worst of both worlds: You risk further perturbations in the Virginia class, and at the same time risk not being able to get Columbia out on time.” Both General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls said in earnings calls they expect the Block V contract to be signed by the end of the year. Delays The setbacks seem to be compounding for the Virginia program. Welding issues on missile tubes destined for the Virginia Payload Module and the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program have eaten into the schedule margin for both programs. And issues with the supplier base as well as the labor force have caused schedule delays. Industry sources who spoke to Defense News said growing the Virginia-class program from one submarine per year to two submarines per year, which started with the budget in FY11, has put increasing strain on a diminished submarine supplier base, which has put pressure on schedules as the shipyards wait for parts. Huntington Ingalls has dropped 23 percent of its profit margin on the Virginia-class program, according to a second-quarter earnings report analyzed by defense business analyst Jim McAleese. In an earnings call, Huntington Ingalls executives seemed to blame the drop on the schedule delays. Two sources familiar with the issue said profit loss stemmed from labor force issues that resulted from a year-long delay in the Navy contracting for the carrier George Washington's mid-life refueling and overhaul. The delay caused Ingalls to lay off about 1,200 employees, which drew off workforce from the Virginia program because of labor union rules that say that the most recent hires must be laid off first. Those rules forced Huntington Ingalls Industries to lay off workers who were working on the Virginia program, who in turn were then snapped up by other yards; Huntington Ingalls Industries then had to train new employees for the Virginia work. Defense News reported in March that class-wide, Virginia is looking at four-to-seven month delays for delivery, which drives up labor costs. Huntington Ingalls Industries chief financial officer Chris Kastner said on the call that getting the Virginia program back on schedule is a top priority. “Especially when you're a in a serial production line like we are with the Virginia-class,” Kastner said. “If you start to have issues with schedule it does start to affect the synchronization of the line. “We've been working pretty hard to reset that this year, given kind of where we started last year fourth quarter and we made great progress on that."

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