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  • Future US Navy weapons will need lots of power. That’s a huge engineering challenge.

    June 26, 2018 | International, Naval

    Future US Navy weapons will need lots of power. That’s a huge engineering challenge.

    David B. Larter WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Navy is convinced that the next generation of ships will need to integrate lasers, electromagnetic rail guns and other power-hungry weapons and sensors to take on peer competitors in the coming decades. However, integrating futuristic technologies onto existing platforms, even on some of the newer ships with plenty of excess power capacity, will still be an incredibly difficult engineering challenge, experts say. Capt. Mark Vandroff, the current commanding officer of the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the former Arleigh Burke-class destroyer program manager who worked on the DDG Flight III, told the audience at last week's American Society of Naval Engineers symposium that adding extra electric-power capacity in ships currently in design was a good idea, but that the weapons and systems of tomorrow will pose a significant challenge to naval engineers when it comes time to back-fit them to existing platforms. “Electrical architecture on ships is hard,” Vandroff said. Vandroff considered adding a several-megawatt system to a ship with plenty of power to spare, comparing it with simultaneously turning on everything in a house. “When you turn everything on in your house that you can think of, you don't make a significant change to the load for [the power company],” Vandroff explained. “On a ship, if you have single loads that are [a] major part of the ship's total load, [it can be a challenge]. This is something we had to look at for DDG Flight III where the air and missile defense radar was going to be a major percentage of the total electric load ― greater than anything that we had experienced in the previous ships in the class. That's a real technical challenge. “We worked long and hard at that in order to get ourselves to a place with Flight III where we were confident that when you turned things on and off the way you wanted to in combat, you weren't going to light any of your switchboards on fire. That was not a back-of-the-envelope problem, that was a lot of folks in the Navy technical community ... doing a lot of work to make sure we could get to that place, and eventually we did.” In order to get AMDR, or SPY-6, installed on the DDG design, Vandroff and the team at the DDG-51 program had to redesign nearly half the ship — about 45 percent all told. Even on ships with the extra electric-power capacity, major modifications might be necessary, he warned. “We're going to say that in the future we are going to be flexible, we are going to have a lot of extra power,” Vandroff said. “That will not automatically solve the problem going forward. If you have a big enough load that comes along for a war-fighting application or any other application you might want, it is going to take technical work and potential future modification in order to get there.” Even the powerhouse Zumwalt class will struggle with new systems that take up a large percentage of the ship's power load, Vandroff said. “Take DDG-1000 ― potentially has 80-odd megawatts of power. If you have a 5- or 6-megawatt load that goes on or off, that is a big enough percentage of total load that it's going to be accounted for. Electrical architecture in the future is still an area that is going to require a lot of effort and a lot of tailoring, whatever your platform is, to accommodate those large loads,” he said. In 2016, when the Navy was planning to install a rail gun on an expeditionary fast transport vessel as a demonstration, service officials viewed the electric-power puzzle as the reason the service has not moved more aggressively to field rail gun on the Zumwalt class. Then-director of surface warfare Rear Adm. Pete Fanta told Defense News that he wanted to move ahead with a rail gun demonstration on the JHSV because of issues with the load. “I would rather get an operational unit out there faster than do a demonstration that just does a demonstration,” Fanta said, “primarily because it will slow the engineering work that I have to do to get that power transference that I need to get multiple repeatable shots that I can now install in a ship.”

  • US Air Force announces rocket deal with SpaceX for military satellite

    June 26, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    US Air Force announces rocket deal with SpaceX for military satellite

    By: Andrew C. Jarocki WASHINGTON — U.S. Air Force Space Command will send a new military satellite into space in 2020 with the help of SpaceX. The AFSC's Space and Missile Systems Center announced Friday a $130 million contract with the rocket design and manufacturing company. The relatively low-cost price tag secured the deal for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, beating out main rival United Launch Alliance (composed of Boeing and Lockheed Martin) by tens of millions of dollars and earning praise from the Air Force. Lt. Gen. John Thompson, program executive officer for the Space and Missile Systems Center, approved the contract, saying it “directly supports [the Center's] mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation while maintaining assured access to space.” The agreement for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle service contract includes “launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations” from SpaceX, according to a news release. The Heavy Falcon can deliver a payload of 70 tons to low-Earth orbit. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell highlighted the price savings in a statement, saying her company's services offer “the American taxpayer the most cost-effective” and “reliable” services for national space missions.

  • Airbus threatens to leave Britain over Brexit trade relations

    June 26, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Airbus threatens to leave Britain over Brexit trade relations

    By: Danica Kirka, The Associated Press LONDON — Aviation giant Airbus is threatening to leave Britain if the country exits the European Union without an agreement on trade relations, underscoring the concerns of business leaders who say the government is moving too slowly. Airbus, which employs about 14,000 people at 25 sites in the U.K., said it needs to know by the end of the summer what rules will govern its operations, or the company will “reconsider its long-term footprint in the country.” Airbus also says a proposed transition deal that runs through December 2020 is too short for the company to reorganize its supply chain. “While Airbus understands that the political process must go on, as a responsible business we require immediate details on the pragmatic steps that should be taken to operate competitively,” Tom Williams, CEO of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said in a statement. “This is a dawning reality for Airbus. Put simply, a no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus' future in the U.K.” While many business leaders have demanded clarity about the future with Britain set to leave the EU in nine months, Airbus' sheer size and role in the economy make it an influential voice in the Brexit debate. Airbus is the U.K.'s largest commercial aerospace company, a leading provider of military satellite communications and the biggest supplier of large aircraft to the Royal Air Force. It also has a significant impact on other companies, funneling an estimated £5 billion (U.S. $6.6 billion) to 4,000 U.K. suppliers, including big names like Rolls-Royce, as well as many smaller businesses. Darren Jones, the member of Parliament for the community where Airbus makes wings, attacked the government for listening to those who want the most hard-line form of Brexit and “not to the businesses that employ thousands of British workers, including Airbus.” “Thousands of skilled, well-paid jobs are now on the line because of the shambolic mess the government have created over the Brexit negotiations,” he said. Airbus, the biggest rival to U.S.-based aircraft-maker Boeing, has been a prime example of how European cooperation could lead to success in business. The German, French and Spanish governments own 26.4 percent of Airbus, which was created through the merger of German, French and Spanish aerospace companies. Prime Minister Theresa May's government reacted quickly to the Airbus statement, saying it was confident of getting a good deal and “we do not expect a no-deal scenario to arise.” But Williams said Airbus is frustrated after it tried to discuss its concerns with the government for 12 months and made little progress. “We've got to get clarity,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “We've got to be able to protect our employees, our customers and our shareholders, and we can't do that in the current situation.” The comments came as Airbus published an assessment of the risks Brexit poses to the company. The report shows that Airbus, like many modern companies, is particularly vulnerable to Brexit because of its international supply chain. Plants in several countries make specialized components, which are shipped back and forth across international borders as aircraft are assembled. Britain's membership in the EU makes this easy because goods move freely between the 28 member states, with no tariffs or other trade barriers. That will change after Brexit because Britain will not be a member of the EU's single market and customs union. While the U.K. government says it wants trade to be as frictionless as possible after Brexit, manufacturers are running out of time to plan for the future. Airbus said it is facing a variety of decisions, including whether to invest in future manufacturing capacity, the need to build up stocks of components in the event of border delays and how to ensure parts are certified by aircraft regulators in the future. Delays caused by a no-deal scenario could cost Airbus as much as €1 billion euros (U.S. $1.2 billion) of revenue a week, according to the risk assessment. “This scenario would force Airbus to reconsider its investments in the U.K., and its long-term footprint in the country, severely undermining U.K. efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry, developing high-value jobs and competences,” Williams said.

  • Update: Norway cancels tank upgrade

    June 26, 2018 | International, Land

    Update: Norway cancels tank upgrade

    Tim Fish, London Plans to upgrade the Norwegian Army's Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks (MBTs) have been abandoned following the publication of the government's revised budget in May, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed. “Through the examination of the Land Power Proposition in the autumn of 2017, it was decided to suspend the planned and approved upgrade project for existing tanks (Project 5050) based on the recommendations in the National Power Assessment,” the MoD told Jane's. The MBTs “would not provide sufficiently capable tanks to meet developments in the threat of modern weapons and ammunition types”, the ministry explained. A reduced MBT capability will be retained until 2025, when a new tank or an interim solution will be introduced. Only 30 of the 52 tanks in the Norwegian Army inventory are operational. Upgrade proposals have included adopting Germany's Leopard 2A7V or a development of the CV90 infantry fighting vehicle, but the latter was rejected. The 2A7 option remains under consideration for 2025 and measures to maintain the Leopard 2A4s until then “are being investigated”, the MoD added, while admitting that the Norwegian tank fleet's operational capabilities will be gradually reduced and its numbers may be slightly reduced.

  • Tank makers steel themselves for Europe’s next big land-weapon contest

    June 26, 2018 | International, Land

    Tank makers steel themselves for Europe’s next big land-weapon contest

    Sebastian Sprenger PARIS ― European manufacturers of armored vehicles are jockeying for position in what looks to be the most expensive land program for the continent in decades. The industry activity follows plans by France and Germany, reiterated this month, to build a Main Ground Combat System that would replace the current fleet of Leopard 2 and Leclerc tanks. While conceived as a two-country project for now, the hope is to develop a weapon that other European land forces will also pick up. Details remain murky about exactly what the new vehicles must be able to do, though the job description includes something about manned-unmanned teaming. Perhaps that's why officials chose an amorphous name for the project, as it could be anything from a nimble, autonomous fighter to the type of human-driven steel beast of today's armies. The target date for introducing the new platform is set at 2035, and Germany has picked up the lead role for the project both on the government and the industry side. KNDS, the Franco-German joint venture of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter, put the program on the radar of visitors of the Eurosatory trade show in Paris earlier this month. The companies mated the chassis of a Leopard 2 tank to a Leclerc turret ― and voila, a European Main Battle Tank was born. Company officials stressed that the hybrid behemoth is only a stepping stone on the way toward a full-blown European tank offering under the Main Ground Combat System banner. But the product might interest Eastern European nations looking to divest their Russian legacy fleets for a good-enough, Western-made tank that ― presumably ― doesn't break the bank. The marriage of KMW and Nexter saves the two companies from having to compete against one another for the next-generation tank. It also creates the appearance that Paris' and Berlin's love for a future tank is happily echoed by their industries. “Let's assume we wouldn't have joined forces,” said Frank Haun, the CEO of KMW. Both he and his Nexter counterpart, Stephane Mayer, would have had to lobby their respective governments for a purely national solution, pulling the old argument of keeping jobs in the country, Haun said. The two companies hailed an announcement last week about a new Franco-German deal aimed at examining possible program options for the future tank. “The Letter Of Intent signed yesterday is a significant step forward in the defense cooperation between the two countries and in Europe,” reads a June 20 statement. “This close cooperation was the key motivation for the foundation of KNDS in 2015, where Nexter and KMW cooperate as national system houses for land systems.” But the binational industry team is far from the only game in town. Take Rheinmetall, for example, which is KMW's partner in the Leopard program. Company executives at the Paris weapons expo were tight-lipped about their strategy toward the Main Ground Combat System, or MGCS. But it's probably a safe bet to presume the Düsseldorf, Germany-based firm won't cede a market of tens of billions of dollars without a fight. “Come back and see me in December in Unterlüß,” Ben Hudson, head of the company's vehicle systems division, told Defense News during an interview in Paris. He was referring to a small German town one hour south of Hamburg where Rheinmetall runs a manufacturing plant. Hudson declined to say more about what the company would roll out at that time. “I can't mention it just yet,” he said. “Expect more surprises in the future. We're already working on some other things in the secret laboratories of Rheinmetall.” Either way, officials were eager to note that KNDS, despite its industrial alignment alongside the two governments in charge, is only one bidder in a field that has to fully emerge. “I think there is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge on this program, as it is only in its early days. However, with the technology in the Rheinmetall Group, we have a significant interest in playing a key role in MGCS,” Hudson said. He argued that developing the next-generation tank must begin with considering the “threat” out there, namely the Russian T-14 and T-15 tanks, which are based on a common chassis dubbed Armata. Those vehicles' characteristics, or at least what is known about them, dictate “high lethality” be built into the future European tank, according to Hudson. “How do you defeat a tank that has four active defense systems on it?” he asked. And then there is General Dynamics European Land Systems, the Old World's offspring of the U.S. maker of the Abrams tank and Stryker vehicle. The company is careful to note its European roots: a consolidated mishmash of formerly independent armored-vehicle makers from across the continent. Manuel Lineros, vice president of engineering, told Defense News that the company's Ascot vehicle will be the GDELS offering for the European next-gen tank. Advertised for its mobility and weighing in at roughly 45 tons, the tracked vehicle falls in the class of infantry fighting vehicles, putting it one notch below the heaviest battle tank category. “I understand the battlefield has changed,” Lineros said in an interview at Eurosatory. “We have to abandon the ideas of a combat vehicle versus a classic main battle tank. Everything is so mixed up now.” Whatever the Ascot lacks in sheer mass against projectiles aimed at its shell could be compensated with an active protection system and the ability to move quickly on the battlefield, argued Lineros. “We have to be flexible in this way of interpreting the requirements.” That includes defending against drone swarms, which could become the peer-to-peer equivalent of improvised explosive devices designed to rip open the underbellies of vehicles, he said. Unlike the recent countermine vehicle architecture, that type of aerial threat could mean the top surface of future vehicles will be a weak point requiring special protection, he added. Though adding armor plates remains the industry's first instinct in responding to new threats, Lineros said there is a limit to what he called an “addiction” to steel. “More and more we'll be moving out of this sport.”

  • US Army’s long-range, surface-to-surface missile getting new life with $358M contract

    June 26, 2018 | International, Land

    US Army’s long-range, surface-to-surface missile getting new life with $358M contract

    Jen Judson WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $358 million production contract for the Army Tactical Missile System, which allows for a service life-extension program for old missiles, the company announced Monday. The firm will also produce new missiles for a Foreign Military Sales customer, Lockheed added. ATACMS is the Army's only surface-to-surface, long-range, 300-kilometer missile system. According to a Lockheed spokesperson, the missile system performs well in operations and is highly reliable. But the Army is burning through a variety of its precision missiles in operations that have been heating up in various theaters, and the service is taking steps to ensure its inventory is refreshed and robust going forward. The service life-extension program, or SLEP, will allow customers to be able to upgrade existing Block 1 and Block 1A missiles with new technology and double the range, a Lockheed statement notes. When an old ATACMS comes through the SLEP line, it's “essentially a brand-new missile, and it's reset to [a] 10-year shelf life,” a Lockheed spokesperson told Defense News. By: Jen Judson In December 2014, the Army awarded Lockheed a contract to modernize the ATACMS weapon system, and the company embarked on an effort to upgrade and redesign all the internal electronics, developing and qualifying a new capability for a proximity sensor that enables ATACMS to have a height of burst. ATACMS has a 500-pound class Harpoon warhead intended for point detonation, but giving the missile a height-of-burst capability increases its area effects for imprecisely located targets, the spokesperson said. As part of the SLEP program for expired or aging ATACMS, Lockheed will clean up the old motors and then go through a remanufacture and final assembly process that incorporates the installation of the upgraded electronics. Lockheed is set up, under the current contract, to update or build new missiles at a rate of 320 a year at its Camden, Arkansas, Precision Fires Production Center of Excellence, but there is a surge capacity of 400. Still, the company is posturing to reach a rate of 500 new and upgraded ATACMSs per year based on interest and anticipated orders, the spokesperson said. Lockheed has produced over 3,850 ATACMS missiles, and more than 600 of them have been fired in combat. ATACMSs are packaged in a Guided Missile Launch Assembly pod and is fired from the Multiple Launch Rocket System family of launchers.

  • Big reveal of UK modernization plan expected in Brussels

    June 26, 2018 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR

    Big reveal of UK modernization plan expected in Brussels

    Andrew Chuter LONDON ― The British Ministry of Defence's Modernising Defence Programme, essentially a review of spending and capabilities, should start to see the light of day around the time of the July 11-12 NATO summit in Brussels. British Prime Minister Theresa May could unveil the headline conclusions of the program at the summit, with the details to follow sometime in the future. The fear is that without the government handing the military more money over the next decade, capabilities will be lost and procurement programs abandoned or delayed ― and in some instances, that is already happening. The MoD has been battling for additional cash from the Treasury for months, but with the British government announcing June 18 plans to spend billions of pounds more on health over the next few years, the chances of defense getting any significant boost appears increasingly remote. Instead the MoD will likely have to persevere with efficiency and other cuts to reduce a black hole in the 10-year equipment plan that the National Audit Office, the government's financial watchdog, said earlier this year could be unaffordable to the tune of between £4.9 billion and £20.8 billion (U.S. $5.7 billion and U.S. $24.1 billion). The parliamentary Defence and Public Accounts committees are so worried about “severe“ budgetary pressures that they took the unusual step of jointly writing to the prime minister in early June to voice their concerns. A June 18 report by the Defence Committee said that if the government wants to have the resources to keep the country safe, it “must begin moving the level of defence expenditure back towards 3% [from the current level of 2 percent] of GDP, as it was in the mid-1990s.”

  • Maritime security: EU revises its action plan

    June 26, 2018 | International, Naval, Security

    Maritime security: EU revises its action plan

    90% of the EU's external trade and 40% of its internal trade is transported by sea. Safe and secure seas and oceans are of fundamental importance for free trade, the EU economy and living standards. The Council today adopted conclusions on the revision of the EU maritime security strategy (EUMSS) action plan. With this action plan, the EU reaffirms its role as a global maritime security provider. It promotes international cooperation, maritime multilateralism and the rule of law at sea, in line with the strategic priorities identified in the EU Global Strategy. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini The EU has interests but also responsibilities in global maritime security. This is why the EU actively contributes to safe and secure seas and oceans in different parts of the world, using several of the EU's existing instruments such as the Instrument for Peace and Stability and the European Development Fund, as well as EU policies, such as the Common Security and Defence Policy. The EU's maritime security strategy action plan was first adopted on 16 December 2014 to help safeguard the interests of the EU and protect its member states and citizens. It addresses global maritime risks and threats, including cross-border and organized crime, threats to freedom of navigation, threats to biodiversity, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or environmental degradation due to illegal or accidental discharge. The revision adopted today allows for a more focused reporting process to enhance awareness and better follow-up to the strategy. The action plan brings together both internal and external aspects of the Union's maritime security. The actions foreseen in the plan also contribute to the implementation of the EU Global Strategy, the renewed EU internal security strategy 2015-2020, the Council conclusions on global maritime security, and the joint communication on international ocean governance.

  • Costs of hearing-related health claims on the rise in Canadian military

    June 22, 2018 | Local, Land

    Costs of hearing-related health claims on the rise in Canadian military

    Safety and situational awareness cited among reasons to not use hearing protection The cost of health claims related to hearing loss among members of Canada's military is rising, due in part to the reluctance of members to wear protective equipment and because the most suitable devices aren't always provided. Explosions, gunfire, engine noise and alarms all contribute to hearing loss among military members. Almost a third of them have chronic hearing problems by the time they retire, according to surveys by Veterans Affairs. A 2016 study obtained by Radio-Canada looked at how to better protect the hearing of members with pre-existing hearing loss, and found that military personnel were reluctant to wear hearing protection. Some of the reasons were: Discomfort. Incompatibility with other head gear. The feeling of isolation that comes with sound dampening. But the biggest reason was that earplugs or whatever other protection device used would impair situational awareness, safety and "interfere with successful completion of the mission," wrote Dr. Sharon Abel, a senior scientist at Defence Research and Development Canada. That has led to increased health costs for the military. The Canadian Forces Health Services Group spent about $890,000 in 2013-14 on health costs related to hearing loss, followed by $937,000 in 2014-2015. In 2015-16, the last year for which data is available, it was close to $1.1 million. Different soldiers, different needs Richard Blanchette, a retired major-general who suffered hearing loss during his years of service, said the Department of National Defence does everything in its power to protect members and it's the responsibility of the members to do their part. Nobody else can do it for them, he told Radio-Canada. Different military members, however, have different issues. Abel's study found while earplugs may reduce the risk of hearing loss for people with normal hearing, they would increase impairment for people with pre-existing hearing loss. Those people would be better served by more specialized protection, she wrote. "Insufficient consideration is given to the selection of devices that will support the auditory tasks being carried out or suit the hearing status of the user." The military has set up an awareness program for its members about hearing loss, said Pierre Lamontagne with Canadian Forces Health Services​. But soldiers remain reluctant to use some of the equipment they may need because it adds to the considerable weight they may already be carrying in the field, he said. Health consequences Lamontagne said he makes recommendations to commanders of the units, but it's the commanders who make the purchases. While about one in five soldiers needs specialized protection for hearing loss, the devices may be purchased based on general rather than individual needs, he said. The consequences of hearing problems are not always recognized because they are invisible, according to Chantal Laroche, a professor of audiology at the University of Ottawa. However, the side-effects — persistent ringing in the ear, for example, or an inability to communicate with others — can cause other serious health problems, including mental health issues, she said. Laroche said that in general, specialized hearing protections can be expensive, but the military should weigh those costs against the amount they are spending on health costs and disability claims.

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