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  • Update: Norway cancels tank upgrade

    26 juin 2018 | International, Terrestre

    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

    26 juin 2018 | International, Terrestre

    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

    26 juin 2018 | International, Terrestre

    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

    26 juin 2018 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, 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

    26 juin 2018 | International, Naval, Sécurité

    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

    22 juin 2018 | Local, Terrestre

    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.

  • BAE wins Marine Corps contract to build new amphibious combat vehicle

    22 juin 2018 | International, Naval, Terrestre

    BAE wins Marine Corps contract to build new amphibious combat vehicle

    By: Jen Judson WASHINGTON — BAE Systems has won a contract to build the Marine Corps’ new amphibious combat vehicle following a competitive evaluation period where BAE’s vehicle was pitted against an offering from SAIC. The contract allows for the company to enter into low-rate initial production with 30 vehicles expected to be delivered by fall of 2019, valued at $198 million. The Marines plan to field 204 of the vehicles. The total value of the contract with all options exercised is expected to amount to about $1.2 billion. The awarding of the contract gets the Corps “one step closer to delivering this capability to the Marines,” John Garner, Program Executive Officer, Land Systems Marine Corps, said during a media round table held Tuesday. But the Corps isn’t quite done refining its new ACV. The vehicle is expected to undergo incremental changes with added new requirements and modernization. The Corps is already working on the requirements for ACV 1.2, which will include a lethality upgrade for the amphibous vehicle. BAE’s ACV vehicle will eventually replace the Corps’ legacy amphibious vehicle, but through a phased approach. The Assault Amphibious Vehicle is currently undergoing survivability upgrades to keep the Cold War era vehicle ticking into 2035. BAE Systems and SAIC were both awarded roughly $100 million each in November 2015 to deliver 16 prototypes to the Marine Corps for evaluation in anticipation of a down select to one vendor in 2018. [BAE, SAIC Named as Finalists in Marines ACV Competition] All government testing of the prototypes concluded the first week of December 2017 and the Marine Corps issued its request for proposals the first week in January 2018. Operational tests also began concurrently. Government testing included land reliability testing, survivability and blast testing and water testing — both ship launch and recovery as well as surf transit. Operational evaluations included seven prototypes each from both SAIC and BAE Systems, six participated and one spare was kept for backup. BAE Systems’ partnered with Italian company Iveco Defense Vehicles to build its ACV offering. [BAE Systems completes Amphibious Combat Vehicle shipboard testing] Some of the features BAE believed were particularly attractive for a new ACV is that it has space for 13 embarked Marines and a crew of three, which keeps the rifle squad together. The engine’s strength is 690 horsepower over the old engine’s 560 horsepower, and it runs extremely quietly. The vehicle has a V-shaped hull to protect against underbody blasts, and the seat structure is completely suspended. SAIC’s vehicle, which was built in Charleston, South Carolina, offered improved traction through a central tire-inflation system to automatically increase or decrease tire pressure. It also had a V-hull certified during tests at the Nevada Automotive Test Center — where all prototypes were tested by the Marine Corps — and had blast-mitigating seats to protect occupants. The 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division out of Camp Pendleton, California, is expected to receive the first ACV 1.1 vehicles. Marine Corps Times reporter Shawn Snow contributed to this report.

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

    22 juin 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.”

  • Upgrading US Navy ships is difficult and expensive. Change is coming

    22 juin 2018 | International, Naval

    Upgrading US Navy ships is difficult and expensive. Change is coming

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Navy is looking at extending the life of its surface ships by as much as 13 years, meaning some ships might be 53 years old when they leave the fleet. Here’s the main problem: keeping their combat systems relevant. The Navy’s front-line combatants ― cruisers and destroyers ― are incredibly expensive to upgrade, in part because one must cut open the ship and remove fixtures that were intended to be permanent when they were installed. When the Navy put Baseline 9 on the cruiser Normandy a few years ago, which included all new consoles, displays and computer servers in addition to the software, it ran the service $188 million. Now, the capability and function of the new Baseline 9 suite on Normandy is staggering. The cost of doing that to all the legacy cruisers and destroyers in the fleet would be equally staggering: it would cost billions. So why is that? Why are the most advanced ships on the planet so difficult to keep relevant? And if the pace of change is picking up, how can the Navy stay relevant in the future without breaking the national piggy bank? Capt. Mark Vandroff, the current commanding officer of the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center and former Arleigh Burke-class destroyer program manager, understands this issue better than most. At this week’s American Society of Naval Engineers symposium, Vandroff described why its so darn hard to upgrade the old ships and how future designs will do better. Here’s what Vandroff had to say: “Flexibility is a requirement that historically we haven’t valued, and we haven’t valued it for very good reasons: It wasn’t important. “When you think of a ship that was designed in the ‘70s and built in the ‘80s, we didn’t realize how fast and how much technology was going to change. We could have said: ‘You know what? I’m going to have everything bolted.’ Bolt down the consoles in [the combat information center], bolt in the [vertical launch system] launchers ― all of it bolted so that we could more easily pop out and remove and switch out. “The problem was we didn’t value that back then. We were told to value survivability and density because we were trying to pack maximum capability into the space that we have. That’s why you have what you have with the DDG-51 today. And they are hard to modernize because we valued survivability and packing the maximum capability into the minimum space. And we achieved that because that was the requirement at the time. “I would argue that now as we look at requirements for future ships, flexibility is a priority. You are going to have to balance it. What if I have to bolt stuff down? Well, either we are going to give up some of my survivability standards or I’m going to take up more space to have the equivalent standards with an different kind of mounting system, for example. And that is going to generate a new set of requirements ― it’s going to drive design in different directions than it went before. “I suppose you could accuse the ship designers in the 1980s of failure to foresee the future, but that’s all of us. And the point is they did what they were told to do. Flexibility is what we want now, and I think you will see it drive design from this point forward because it is now something we are forced to value.”

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