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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

11 October 2016

The Queen is NOT Dead – Long Live the Queen

Opinions that the main battle tank (MBT) has had its day as the queen of the battlefield have been voiced for decades. Yet the world’s armed forces still bristle with ‘steel beasts,’ albeit perhaps not in the volumes seen at the height of the Cold War. Whilst procurement of new MBTs is slower than in the species’ heyday, upgrade and enhancement programmes abound in every corner of the globe.

Companies like Rheinmetall have poured significant efforts into developing these upgrade offers and are reaping the benefits in the form of contract awards on several continents. Although all three of the elements of the ‘magic triangle’ hierarchy of needs – protection, mobility and firepower – have been taken into consideration, the last of these remains foremost in the minds of many operators. The imperative for increased lethality in the face of ever increasing threats has exercised the best technical and engineering minds at Rheinmetall. And the result has been a series of developments that hold great promise for the continued longevity of the MBT as a powerful, vital and flexible sovereign of the future battlespace.

Programme Manager for all 120mm armament and ammunition programmes at Rheinmetall, Dirk Gerthenrich, told an audience in Berlin on 7 October that crises such as Ukraine and Syria have fuelled a willingness among the company’s customers to re-evaluate the effective4ness of their MBT fleets and to supplement rather than replace MBTs with medium weight weapon systems with similar firepower. “There is also increasing concern about the effectiveness of large calibre ammunition against modern protection such as that on the T-14 Armata introduced in 2015 – and that is prompting consideration of an improved KE round such as the DM73,” he said.

He believes there is strong evidence to support the fact that only two calibres will survive beyond the next few years as far as MBT main armament is concerned: 120mm smoothbore for ‘Western’ designs and 125mm smoothbore as the Russian and former Warsaw Pact nations standard. Despite this, there is still interest in the L51 130mm future main armament Rheinmetall unveiled last year – the advantages of an increased chamber volume and chamber pressures up to 880MPs offer an improvement in performance that is just too good to turn down.

Customers, however, need to become more savvy in order to derive optimal benefit from investment in improving anti-armour performance, according to Gerthenrich. “There are some customers who still demand performance evaluation based on the ability to penetrate RHA (Rolled Homogenous Armour), despite the fact there is not a current generation MBT out there that still depends on an RHA protection solution. Such tests are expensive and time consuming – and are now of very questionable value,” he said.

Rheinmetall’s current 120mm smoothbore range consists of three models: the L/44, the L/47LR (Low Recoil) and the L/55 – which he characterises as “the normal one, the smooth one and the quicker one” respectively. The first and the last of have under feasibility studies examining the development of an ‘A1’ version of each, featuring higher gas pressures capable of getting maximum utility from new performance-enhanced kinetic energy rounds. Further development will have to be customer financed, the company has decided, but Gerthenrich revealed that “the pilot customer for the L55A1 is going to be the German Army.”

In addition to KE munitions, he points to a trend towards ‘multi-purpose’ secondary ammunitions (HE MP) as being a ‘one size fits all’ solution to the increasing range of targets faced by MBTs in the broader range of operational scenarios now common to most armed forces: deployed troops, missile positions, light/medium armoured vehicles, infrastructure, field fortifications – even helicopters.
Rheinmetall’s proposed solutions address the continuing viability of the MBT’s future as a vital component of a wide range of responses to operational requirements. Rumours of the Queen’s death, it would seem, have been grossly exaggerated!

05 October 2016

AUSA 2016: Bluewater Defense and Vorbeck Exhibit Advanced Wearable Antennas

Bluewater Defense and Vorbeck Materials on booth #7617 announced the introduction of next generation, high performance wearable antennas for military, tactical and commercial use in apparel and equipment featuring multiple communication bands including LTE capabilities.

Bluewater and Vorbeck partnered to offer robust, high-gain, low-cost, and discrete conformal printed graphene antennas embedded in military apparel and backpacks with omni-directional coverage through the deployment of an array of antennas, supporting wide frequency range from 800-3000Mhz.

We expect that our military and defense leaders will appreciate a high performance wearable antenna with little or no silhouette, therefore better protecting the warfighter,” Vorbeck’s CEO, John Lettow, told MT. “Two additional benefits of this technology are that it delivers real-time, “on-the-go” communication capabilities because there is no need to deploy an external antenna, and they also interface with traditional electronics, making them very easy to field.”

Vorbeck has pioneered the use of graphene in printed, flexible electronic components and systems for a wide variety of industries and applications. Using high volume printing technologies and its suite of commercial Vor-ink formulations, Vorbeck designs and fabricates multilayer electronic products, including antennas, sensors, switches, and wiring.

From military and defence applications to security packaging, RFID, and consumer wearable electronics, Vorbeck’s patented flexible electronic and antenna technologies can be embedded anywhere including; jackets, clothing, backpacks, briefcases, and other assorted wearables, and labeling--to improve communication in a digital world.

Our strength is our ability to ‘connect the past with the future’,” Eric Spackey, CEO, Bluewater Defense, continued. “With Vorbeck’s next generation cellular antenna technology, we are moving information from the fabric of what we wear to the Cloud.”

Bluewater and Vorbeck are featuring a variety of apparel, backpacks, action packs, straps and other related products at their booth.

AUSA 2016: US Army Gunners Receive New Hand Stations for Improved Firepower

Elbit Systems of America announced today that it received a $7.3 million contract to supply the Bradley Fighting Vehicle Gunner’s Hand Station to the US Army. The Defense Logistics Agency sole-source contract will be performed during a two-year period with work being completed in Fort Worth, Texas.

As the trusted supplier of combat vehicles electronic and electro-optics systems for over two decades, we understand the importance of a reliable solution for improving soldiers’ firepower,Amela Wilson, vice president of Sensors & Fire Control Solutions at Elbit Systems of America, informed MT. “We have delivered the Gunner’s and Commander’s Hand Station units in the past and are pleased to continue providing U.S. Army Bradley gunners with this capability. We also recognize the need for advanced vehicles and are committed to supporting the Army’s combat ground vehicle modernization campaigns.”

The Gunner’s Hand Station provides Bradley vehicle gunners the ability to acquire their target and fire accurately. Working in collaboration with the Commander’s Hand Station, the Gunner’s Hand Station is used to drive the rate of movement of the Bradley turret and to initiate control signals to the turret fire control systems in the Bradley M2A3/M3A3 vehicle.

In addition to the Gunner’s Hand Station, Elbit Systems of America also provides the Commander’s Hand Station and the Turret Processing Unit for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

AUSA 2016: Curtiss-Wright Shows Rugged PSU3-THOR Power Supply

Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division at booth #319 introduced the company's first 3Uembedded power supply that also delivers system I/O expansion without increasing slot count.

The rugged PSU3-THOR power supply combines dual XMC mezzanine slot expansion and a 6-port PCI Express (PCIe) Gen2 switch all in a single 3U VPX slot unit. It enables system designers to provide 285 or 485 watts of power to support today’s demanding deployed applications while simultaneously reducing their 3U VPX system’s size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) envelope. The PSU3-THOR’s built-in 24-lane 6-port PCIe switch provides the backplane interface for its dual XMC sites while eliminating the need for a separate XMC carrier or switch card. The power supply’s PCIe switch also provides up to four extra x4 PCIe ports, significantly expanding overall system I/O. The PSU3-THOR power supply is ideal for use in today’s latest generation of high performance small form factor 3U based embedded systems. It also provides a compelling solution for expanding the capabilities of legacy 3U systems through technology refresh.

Many of our customers face the daunting challenge of reducing the size of their embedded subsystems while deploying more power and I/O hungry processing performance,” said Lynn Bamford, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Defense Solutions division. “Over the last 5 years, we have seen average system size requirements decrease by up to 40%, while the power required for the latest technology has increased over 50%. That’s what makes our new PSU-THOR power supply a breakthrough for system integrators. It’s the industry’s first 3U form factor power supply to deliver XMC card expansion and a 6-port PCIe Gen2 switch all in a single compact unit.”

AUSA 2016: Airborne Systems’ Releases Hi-5 Parachute

Airborne  Systems  North  America  presents the Hi-5 as the latest  addition  to  their  line  of  High  Performance  Ram  Air  Parachutes.  The  Hi-5 demonstrates  exceptional ram  air  glide  performance  while  allowing  glide modulation  to  descend  quickly  and  land  accurately. 

The  Hi-5  has  a  remarkable  5.5:1  glide  ratio  and can  transition  to  a  1:1  glide  ratio  with  a simple  control  input  using  the  Glide  Modulation  System. Unlike  other  methods  of  angle control,  such  as  front  riser  trim  tabs, Airborne  Systems  Glide Modulation  System  does  not  increase  the  total speed  of the  canopy, providing  a  safe  transition  at  any altitude.   This  eliminates  the  need  for  multiple  spirals  or S-turns  at  low  altitude,  and  allows  for extremely  accurate  landings  using  safe  straight-in  approaches.  The  jumper  is  in  total control  of  where they  are  and  when they  arrive  on  target. In  addition  to  the  leap forward  in glide  ratio  technology, the  Hi-5 is  also  easy  to  maintain  and  handle for a jumper,  and  very  intuitive  to  pack  for  a rigger.  The  Hi-5  bridges  the  gap  between  the Intruder/RA-1 (shown below at AUSA 2016) and  our Hi-Glide  parachutes,  providing  a  wing  with a high  glide,  accurate  landings, and the ability to descend into tight areas safely.

AUSA 2016: Lockheed Martin Receives Contract for APACHE Sensor Upgrades

The US Army awarded Lockheed Martin a $49.3 million contract to upgrade the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) on the AH-64E APACHE helicopter.

Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will produce an additional 42 Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) upgrade kits and spares for the US Army as part of Lot 1 production. Production will take place at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Orlando and Ocala, Florida, through March 2019.

M-DSA gives APACHE aircrews the ability to more rapidly identify targets and coordinate with troops on the ground, which improves mission success,” said Tom Eldredge, director of M-TADS/PNVS production programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “M-DSA’s modular design reduces operation and support costs, and will be supported by our award-winning Performance-Based Logistics sustainment programme.”

With M-DSA upgrades, pilots can identify targets at farther distances through an additional field of view and extended range picture-in-picture capability. They also now have the ability to view high-resolution, near-infrared and color imagery on cockpit displays. M-DSA also provides a new laser pointer marker that improves coordination with ground troops, and an updated multi-mode laser with eye-safe lasing capability that supports flight in urban environments and home-station training.

M-TADS/PNVS provides APACHE helicopter pilots with long-range, precision engagement and pilotage capabilities for mission success and flight safety during day and night and in adverse weather conditions. Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 1,350 M-TADS/PNVS systems to the US Army and 15 countries.