About Me

My Photo
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

30 April 2016

“Do More With The Same” US Army Aviation Branch Chief Tells Quad-A

“We have a demand that is increasing and a threat that must be addressed. If you look back 15 years on the war on terror we have grown into a COIN (counter-insurgency) centred force,” said Major General William K Gayler, the Army Aviation branch chief on the opening morning of the annual Army Aviation Association of America convention, this year being staged in Atlanta Georgia (28-30 April).

Gayler is also the commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Centre of Excellence (USAACE) at Fort Rucker, Al, where the army trains its helicopter crewmen. “We started growing and modernising aircraft and we had the resources to do it; the UH-60Ms, CH-47Fs and AH-64Es are all entering the force. That was the right thing to do.”

“We’ve adjusted our resources to meet the demand,” he said. “Now, the instability in the world continues to move but resourcing is diverging from that. We have reduced manning but we ask for our institutions to continue to be flexible. We have got to find ways to do more with the same.”

The aviation force is not growing. Gayler noted that a previous field study report said that the active component required 15 Combat Aviation Brigades (CABs); it has 10 and will not be adding any more.

With the U.S. military still under the yoke of sequestration and the size of the army being reduced on an annual basis, while the digital upgrades to existing fleets continues, Gayler said that the reduction of resources has made the army much more focused on prioritisation: “it makes us put money where we need it; it is a balance between modernisation programmes, current readiness and training; and force structure.” That said, there are 35 battalions committed outside the U.S., in locations from Afghanistan and Iraq to Germany, Korea, Kosova and Honduras. These comprised 30 from the active component and five from the reserve.

Andrew Drwiega

Apache Could Provide ‘An Evolutionary Step’ For FVL

As improvements are rolled out to the Apache AH-64E Guardian today and in the next few years through the Block II development, Col Jeff Hager, the US Army’s Apache project manager said that the process could also be used “as an initial test bed” toward the development of the Army’s planned Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft. The initial FVL model is expected to be a medium platform in two versions: an attack version to replace the Apache and a utility version to replace the Black Hawk. Dates for FVL Medium currently range from 2035-40 and beyond.

Hager said that the Apache could host “emerging technology, to prove it, test it, fly it and use it for FVL later.” He reported that so far there had only been discussions around the subject and that no particular capability/requirement had been targeted. It would have two effects: “to keep the Apache more viable on the battlefield in the progress towards FVL…It could be a great evolutionary step; FVL supports Apache but Apache also supports FVL and overall Army modernisation.”

The Department of Defense has continued its commitment to the Apache with a recent sign-off by acquisition chief Frank Kendall of a new multi-year contract for the period 2017-21. This is for a baseline of 275 Apache E’s for the Army and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. To date 143 AH-64Ea have been fielded and have already flown over 25,000 combat hours.

Hager also highlighted the importance of the addition of Link 16 to Version 4 fielded aircraft. In particular, although the pilots are still learning they can increase fires and increase situational awareness. Focused on software improvements.

“Manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) is coming to fruition as hoped,” added Hager. One of the aims of the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) was to integrate the Apache more with unmanned systems and that was helping due to the AH-64E’s ability to go to Level 4 (control of the UAV, its payload and the receipt of its imagery), where the Delta model could only go to Level 2 (receipt of imagery or data directly from the UAV). However, Hager said that the next generation, MUM-T X, would combine all capabilities for the Apaches to come out in FY18-19:  “They will be able to talk to every drone, ISR asset or other capability out there and ship data through the common data link.” The Army currently used Gray Eage and Shadow v2 which both communicate with the Echo model today.

Mark Ballew, director, attack helicopters global sales & marketing, said that two new foreign customers, Indonesia and India, were on contract to be new Apache operators. Deliveries of the eight aircraft ordered by Indonesia around the 2018/19 timeframe. There have also been discussions with the Australian government, who earlier this year announced that it would not modernise its existing Airbus Tiger helicopters past 2025. Other Apache operators such as Singapore may also seek to modernise their existing fleet of AH-64Ds.

Andrew Drwiega, Quad-A, Atlanta, USA

29 April 2016

Rheinmetall to Equip Bundeswehr with New Laser Simulators

Today, Rheinmetall was awarded €20 million by the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) to supply the German Army Combat Training Centre (GÜZ) with a new generation of equipment for staging combat training exercises.

At the German Army Training Centre, freely configurable, multidiscipline formations of all types can be prepared for every conceivable military task in a highly realistic environment. Looking ahead, this will soon include training for operations in urban terrain and the use of Future Soldier (IdZ) equipment, responsibility for the expanded version of which (GLADIUS/IdZ-ES) has also been assigned to Rheinmetall. (Photo: Rheinmetall)

Known in Bundeswehr parlance as the AGDUS HdWa (Training Device, Duel Simulator, Small Arms), this laser- and wireless-supported duel simulation system is based on the Rheinmetall LEGATUS family of products, and supersedes existing first-generation Bundeswehr systems, now approx. 20 years old.

Rheinmetall’s Simulation & Training business unit has signed a contract with the BAAINBw to produce and supply (among other things) more than 2,000 laser transmitter units for small arms and 1,500 soldier target sets featuring “AGDUS passiv Soldat” laser sensors. In future, it will be possible to use Bundeswehr small arms equipped with AGDUS in simulated combat operations, an option not previously available. The new technology is compatible with practically all standard-issue Bundeswehr infantry weapons, including pistols and assault rifles, the G28 and G82 sniper rifles, the MP7 submachine gun, MG4 and MG5 machineguns as well as the AG40 automatic grenade launcher and simulators for hand grenades.

Quad-A 2016: AeroVironment Orbital ATK Begin Production of SWITCHBLADE Upgrades

AeroVironment has developed a block upgrade, designated Block 10C, to its already fielded SWITCHBLADE tactical missile system. The Digital Data Link (DDL) incorporated into Block 10C provides a stable and secure encrypted communication link that enables more efficient use of existing frequency bands and significantly reduces the likelihood of signal interception. Frequency efficiency and secure communications are critical to soldiers in today’s complex operational environment.

The Block 10C upgrade also enables the concurrent operation of multiple SWITCHBLADE systems in the same vicinity without signal conflict, provides the opportunity to extend operational ranges significantly using another DDL arbiter, such as AeroVironment’s PUMA AE unmanned aircraft system (UAS), and facilitates the automatic communication of mission plans from one AeroVironment UAS to a SWITCHBLADE, also known as sensor to shooter operations.

Bill Nichols of the US Army PEO Missiles and Space Close Combat Weapons Systems (CCWS) Program office, which manages SWITCHBLADE, said “SWITCHBLADE Block 10C will increase the capabilities of the warfighter in the field through encrypted operation and improved Army-wide frequency de-confliction and management.”

The new SWITCHBLADE Block 10C is the result of close collaboration between our US Army customer and the AeroVironment team,” Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment, explained.  “Working with the Army and other users we continue to evolve and expand the capabilities of the SWITCHBLADE tactical missile system to provide troops with the most reliable and effective force protection solution possible. We are already working on future upgrades to this important capability to give our forces an even greater advantage on the battlefield.”

AeroVironment and its strategic teammate for advanced warheads, Orbital ATK, will work together to produce and deliver the systems.

Quad-A 2016: Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Takes Shape

During a pre-AAAA (Quad-A) interview, Vince Tobin, Bell Helicopter’s Vice President, Advanced Tiltrotor Systems, spoke to MTy about recent progress made constructing the first V-280 VALOR tiltrotor.

(Photos via author)

In the last month the engineers working on Bell Helicopter’s third generation tiltrotor mated the nacelles with the wing. This is a major step forward and will lead on to the complete wing being joined to the fuselage.

The V-280 VALOR is Bell Helicopter’s design for the US Army’s Joint-MultiRole Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme, the aim of which is to provide a next generation replacement for Army aviation’s fleets of Boeing AH-64 APACHE attack helicopters and Sikorsky UH-60 BLACK HAWKs around the 2035 timeframe.

Early this fall we will put the tail on the aircraft and will do the preload testing and simultaneously we will install the engines and gearboxes into the nacelles together with the wiring and hydraulic tubing,” said Tobin. “That will lead to another key event, the tethered ground run that we will execute around April 2017.

Once all the additional testing and safety regimes have been checked and rechecked Tobin expects the V-280s first flight to occur right on schedule during  September 2017.

Bell Helicopter’s partner aerostructures specialist Spirit Aerosystems delivered the first fuselage in September last year and the nacelles were manufactured by another partner, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

We call this a capability demonstrator as opposed to the Army’s description of a technology demonstrator because our point is that new technology is not required as it is already on the aircraft,” said Tobin. Outlining the complexity of the V-280 as it currently stands he said: “There is nothing required below Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 [this is technology demonstrated in an industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies). We are ready for Milestone B (production) now because we don’t need a Milestone A [the Technology Maturation & Risk Reduction (TMRR) Phase] . There is nothing on this aircraft that requires technological development at this stage.”

The decision not to incorporate a rear exit ramp and instead go for the side doors was not only made with the lineage of the Army’s utility helicopters such as the UH-1H HUEY or UH-60 BLACK HAWK in mind, but also a result of the decision to only rotate the nacelle and not the whole engine and gearbox. This meant that exiting troops had a level field of fire and, more importantly, it meant the engineering of the aircraft more simple. Tobin explained: “Now we don’t have to push electronics through a rotating joint and we don’t have to reorientate the engine. We got a lot of benefit out of that.”

The unusual V-tail is soon to be fitted onto the aircraft. It provides a better opportunity to achieve a lowered degree of observability when compared to other tail configurations. “Manoeuvrability at low speeds is achieved with our rotor system, and the 15 degrees of flapping it provides. The V-tail functions as a control surface when significant airflow is present,” added Tobin.

Putting all the differences that exist between the second generation technology of the V-22 OPSREY and the third generation transitional capability now incorporated into the V-280 VALOR, the belief is that the demonstration flight in September 2017 will result in a case being made for the aircraft to quickly go into final development before being ready for an Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP).

Tobin believes that the V-280 could be in production a decade before the Army’s provisional target date for the introduction of FVL Medium which is loosely set at around 2035: “We could begin engineering and manufacturing as early as 2019/20 and that would get us to a start on the LRIP by 2024/25 with a Milestone C at that point and deliveries of the aircraft beginning soon after. So our goal would be to reduce the timeline by a decade.”

Commonality between the attack version and the utility version [FVL Medium is to replace both the APACHE and BLACK HAWK remember] will be essential to keep maintenance costs down. This is something that Bell Helicopter has already achieved in parts commonality between the UH-1Y HUEY and the AH-1Z COBRA, both of which are well into replacing older models in the ranks of the US Marine Corps. “We definitely want everything above the wing fuselage joint completely identical so that we can just hang a different fuselage underneath for each version,” said Tobin adding that there could also be, “a fuselage made entirely for an attack version with tandem seating as in the Cobra and Apache attack helicopters. Once we know the requirements for that version we can design to it.”

There is International interest in the V-280 but potential customers are at a ‘wait-and-see’ stage until the Department of Defense (DoD) has confirmed its decision over FVL Medium.

Rumours of Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) Re-ignited

The Army’s Request for Information (RfI) issued on 18 February 2016 proved to be incendiary as it stated that the aim was for Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Capability Set #1. According to the official synopsis the “FVL CS 1 air vehicle is the smallest, most agile air vehicle in the FVL Family of Systems (FoS). The CS 1 air vehicle will conduct reconnaissance, light attack and light assault/lift operations in support of Army and Joint forces.” Many have read this as the beginning of the recall of the AAS programme.

But somewhat confusingly it continues that it, “is not a Request for Proposal (RFP) (and that)…the USG does not presently intend to award a CS 1 contract.” This is followed by the statement: “The RFI should focus on technologies targeted for a 2030 fielding.” Confused?

This kind of request was not totally unexpected, stated Tobin. While Bell Helicopter is primarily focused on Capability Set 3 (FVL Medium), and the Army continues to indicate that its policy is headed in that direction, it is a Request for Purchase (RFP) that will ultimately grab the headlines.

Does Tobin believe that the AAS is being reconsidered? “I don’t think so,” he maintained. “You need to talk to the DoD on what their plans are but our view is that we want to give them a difficult decision to procure their next aircraft…the RfI for CS 1 is just a first step at looking at the practicalities of where everyone is currently. While some have interpreted this as a major shift in direction but they still asked for the CS 3 response. We don’t see it as a major shift. It’s not so much a course change as just getting a more complete picture of what is out there.”

Concludes Tobin: “Tiltrotor technology is imminently scalable, from the small EAGLe EYE (unmanned  tiltrotor) to a wing and rotor system big enough to carry a C-130 HERCULESfuselage. It is adaptable and it doesn’t bother us if they (the Army) want to look at other sizes. Our view is that the biggest bang for the buck is in FVL Medium and having it early.”
Andrew Drwiega

28 April 2016

Quad-A 2016: Elbit Systems of America Showcases Advanced Solutions for Army Aircrew Readiness

US Army aircrews stand ready to fly tough missions in treacherous environments. Elbit Systems of America provides solutions ranging from helmet mounted displays to next generation communications amplifiers that allow those aircrews the ability to perform missions more effectively and safely.  Elbit Systems of America showcases advanced aviator solutions during the Army Aviation Association of America’s Annual Conference and Exposition, taking place in Atlanta, GA, 28-30 April 2016.

Army aircrews’ unique mission requirements stretch not only an aircraft’s performance, but each crew’s operational capability. From combat missions to humanitarian assistance, aviators must fly in demanding environmental conditions. Elbit Systems of America’s Degraded Visual Environment (DVE) solution provides readiness to pilots by using intuitive 3D conformal symbology. This symbology provides accurate navigational information for degraded environments in a clear, easy to understand manner, allowing pilots to respond quickly to surrounding conditions.

 The DVE solution uses a magnetic helmet tracker known as the Helmet Display Tracking System (HDTS). The HDTS provides critical rotorcraft cues during brownout operations and other extreme environmental situations, as well as the ability to slew weapons or optical payloads to the pilot’s line-of-sight. This unique technology improves crew coordination allowing the crew to focus on other tasks to improve mission effectiveness. (Photos: Elbit Systems)

Elbit Systems of America’s advanced cockpit solutions go beyond helmet requirements. With a commitment to providing innovative solutions that anticipate ever-increasing requirements, Elbit Systems of America’s mission processors support the demands of integrating future technologies and increased synthetic vision specifications. The open-systems architecture leverages commercial, off-the-shelf technology, resulting in high performance and scalable solutions that meet the critical needs of modern APACHE aviators. Elbit Systems of America’s mission processors enhance upgrades with emerging security and standardization requirements.

With over 20 years’ experience integrating advanced systems on U.S. Army rotorcraft, our DVE solution combined with our fielded HDTS is one advantage aviators have when flying in almost any environment,” Raanan Horowitz, President and CEO, Elbit Systems of America, stated. “Additionally, our new FireFly line of communications amplifiers provide next generation secured communication capabilities.”

The FireFly product line is a modular, lightweight, high-power amplifier with swappable and stackable modules allowing maximum mission flexibility for aviators, while lowering life cycle costs. Elbit Systems of America’s communications amplifiers increase aircrew capabilities and support software defined radios with higher bandwidth waveforms and enable voice and data communications at greater speeds and further distances. The new family of amplifiers are available in single and dual channel models that extend tactical communications from 30MHz up to 2GHz. When integrated with next-gen software-defined networking radios, FireFly amplifiers provide clearer signals and increased range.


27 April 2016

Joining the Race: Norway Hunts for New Submarines

The Royal Norwegian Navy (Sjøforsvaret) will soon begin rejuvenating its submarine flotilla, consisting of six ULA-class diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK), delivered 1989-1992 by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (now thyssenkrupp Marine Systems - TKMS). The boats were designed for a service life of 30 years, and the Sjøforsvaret now wants to introduce a modern successor that can be adopted to new roles and threats. The move follows an announcement by the Norwegian government in early April, stating that two bidders – DCNS and TKMS – have been selected as preferred bidders (read the government's statement here).

The ULA-class proved itself during international fleet manoeuvres and exercises. Following their recent modernisation, they remain suited for operations along Norway’s long coastline and in narrow fjords. (Photo: Sjøforsvaret)

According to earlier statements released by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence (MoD - Forsvarsdepartement), the new submarine must be capable of operating in the North Atlantic and in the Arctic, as well as in other parts of the world. The anticipated procurement of a next-generation submarine, due to be completed in the mid-2020s, will see the new boats fitted with a modern combat system, “to pace future challenges,” according to MoD sources.

Critics said as Norway waits longer for its next-generation submarine, the service is now being forced to further rely on its ULA-class for another 5-7 years. The decision to procure new submarines comes as the Sjøforsvaret expects to place some of the ULAs into a, “phased modernisation,” as part of a cost-savings effort. “Only this roadmap gives us assurance that all of them could be deployed until the first new subs are in full readiness in 2021 or 2022,” an MoD official told MT.

What the Norwegian government agreed early April is a broad outline of its submarine flotilla rejuvenation programme. “We have just agreed on the principles to modernise Norway’s submarine force,” a government source explained. “This will allow us to contribute a viable [undersea] warfare capability to NATO, including Special Forces [delivery options] and improved ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance].”

The Forsvarsdepartement informed that it wants to maintain a viable underwater warfare capability in the future, with the aim of increasing cooperation with NATO’s submarine operators. This move is in a backdrop of the overall deterioration in the relationship between Russia and Western countries in the wake of the Ukraine crisis that has also brought more tension to the Nordic-Baltic region. NATO is particularly concerned about potential Russian aggression in the region, also necessitating a major re-think of Norwegian defence strategy. Observers believe that all these developments will Norway being forced to rebuild its national defence, and to modernising its undersea warfare capabilities.
According to a statement released by the Forsvarsdepartement in 2013, there has not been a necessity of replacing the ULA-class. The statement reads: “[TKMS] in Germany has […] completed an extensive study on extending the lifetime and maintaining the relevance of the ULA-class, beyond 2020. In addition, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, various original equipment manufacturers, and other suppliers have contributed with information. Furthermore, other navies have provided in-depth information on their experience from similar processes. […] British Maritime Technology [BMT] is tasked to review technical aspects and risks related to a life extension programme. BMT’s experience from similar analyses will contribute significantly to the overall analysis on the feasibility of such a programme.”

At that time (May 2013), the Norwegian government was examining a partnership with the Royal Netherlands Navy, which is due to replace all of its four WALRUS-class SSKs; but, due to budgetary constraints, the Netherlands, lacking industrial capacities for designing and building conventional submarines, will not be able to do so. “As a result of the current budget constraints, the Dutch MoD [was] looking for an international partner to increase economy of scale and reduce costs of ownership in a new submarine programme,” Cpt. Hugo Ammerlaan, Commander Submarine Services, informed MT.

Additionally, a joint submarine procurement between Norway and Poland is not imminent. While Oslo is looking to proceed with a joint procurement of a submarine fleet, the final shape of the programme, the number of boats it plans to acquire, and with whom to cooperate still needs to be decided, according to an announcement released in April. Poland, in the midst of a nationalist fervour removing any military equipment stemming from the Cold War-era, is looking to acquire three new submarines to replace its ageing KOBBEN-class boats, due to be decommissioned in 2021.

What Would it Take to Build Norway’s Next-Generation Sub?

Looking at the way a next-generation submarine is made today, it looks incredibly complex compared to other naval platforms. The successor of Norway’s ULA-class will be an expensive product to build; it will be a larger design, with a state-of-the-art combat system consisting of consoles and touch-screens for the variety of undersea warfare missions; advanced decision aids and new algorithms for more effective threat detection, identification ,tracking, and engagement; improved sensors; heavyweight torpedoes (HWTs); and torpedo countermeasures.

Additionally, the new submarines will benefit from progresses achieved in the field of air-independent propulsion (AIP), with Germany’s fuel cell technology (found in Type 212 and 214 submarines) and on offer for other design options (Type 216/218) certainly playing a key role in the MoD’s decision-making process.

DCNS’ proposal – SCORPENE – is the result of years of incremental evolution that has added serious expertise to a complex underwater platform already selected by the Navies of Chile, India, and Malaysia. This only provides a glimpse of that complexity.

That leads us to the final ingredient: Industrial collaboration. The anticipated procurement of new submarines could be under the auspices of increased industrial collaboration, with Norwegian industry participating in the manufacturing of subsystems and components very similar to Norway’s F-35 project. The two latest Navy projects – the SKJOLD-class fast patrol boats and the FRIDTJOF NANSEN-class AEGIS ships – clearly demonstrated that the Norwegian industry has a number of areas where it has unique, world-class technologies on offer. Industrial partnerships and technology transfer is explicitly favoured by the Forsvarsdepartement in an attempt to further reduce project risks and costs. In broad terms, Norway’s next-generation submarine offers much potential for industrial cooperation with partners in Europe.
Stefan Nitschke