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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

30 August 2013

Adaptive Camouflage and Invisibility

Once thought to be only a Science Fiction/Fantasy technology, Guy Cramer, President/CEO of Hyperstealth Biotechnology, discusses the implications of militaries which can now become invisible with his light bending technology called Quantum Stealth.

Hyperstealth is a successful Canadian camouflage design company with over two million military issued uniforms and over 3,000 vehicles and fighter jets using their patterns around the world.

Quantum Stealth is a material that renders the target completely invisible by bending light waves around the target. The material removes not only your visual, infrared (IR), and thermal signatures but also the target’s shadow.

Two separate command groups within the US Military and two separate Canadian Military groups as well as Federal Emergency Response Team (Counter Terrorism) have seen the actual material so they could verify that I was not just manipulating video or photo results; these groups now know that it works and does so without cameras, batteries, lights or mirrors...it is lightweight and quite inexpensive. Both the US and Canadian military have confirmed that it also works against military IR scopes and Thermal Optics.

For reasons of security, the company obviously can not and will not discuss details about how it accomplishes the bending of light but Guy Cramer explains how it might be used.

This is mock-up of Hyperstealth Biotechnology’s Quantum Stealth (Light Bending) material. No cameras and no projectors are used. These photos are to show the concept, for obvious security issues the actual technology is not show. With the real material, one would only see about 5% of the shadow on her and the ground as the company determined a 95% reduction of shadow in testing. (Photos: Hyperstealth Biotechnology)

Scenario 1: A pilot ejects over open terrain in enemy territory, his parachute that deploys is made of the Quantum Stealth material to hide his fall. The enemy knows his aircraft crashed in a specific location, he has less than one hour to find cover, of which there is none. He takes the Quantum Stealth material from the parachute and throws it over top of him, the pilot is now undetectable to all visual sensors and human eyes unless they happen to trip over him. Now he radios out his coordinates and waits for rescue.

Scenario 2: Cameras and visual sensors are on the enemy beach, the Special Forces team decked out in Quantum Stealth swims up to the beach in the middle of the day as they no longer have to wait till night to hide their approach. The team infiltrates the defenses without detection, completes their mission and goes out the same way they came in. The enemy reviews the sensors and cameras; no anomalies were detected on any sensor, no shadows on the cameras, no jamming of the sensors, no thermal signatures, the only evidence discovered by the enemy are boot tracks leading up the beach right past of their defenses and another set of boot tracks going back into the water.

Scenario 3: The next generation of combat aircraft is undergoing trials, in the past these secret aircraft had to be moved into hangers whenever a spy satellite passed overhead. Now with Quantum Stealth, the aircraft is undetectable from spy satellites, aerial drones or surveillance balloons eyes at any time of the day or night.

Scenario 4: One of the most vulnerable times for a submarine is when it comes to periscope depth to look around to verify the enemy, ships or aircraft are not loitering in the area, before the submarine surfaces or fires on the enemy. The periscope can only be hidden with painted camouflage to a certain degree. With Quantum Stealth; the entire submarine can stay hidden near the surface as well as the periscope above the surface which also cannot be seen.

Scenario 5: One of the most dangerous missions for soldiers is Close Quarters Combat inside structures, Special Forces and Counter Terrorism teams train over and over on these possible confrontations. Now the enemy will only know someone is there when they have to open or breach a door or hear movement, providing the specialized team more time to determine targets from hostages and allowing them time to wait to react when it’s most favorable to do so.

Scenario 6: A group of Canadian Battle Tanks in Quantum Stealth engage an enemy group of tanks, the only indication to the enemy of the Canadian Tanks location is the direction of the noise of the tanks engines and the sound of their guns firing. As the enemy looks through their targeting scopes to fire back, there is no indication on any sensor to where the Canadian tanks are located, nor can the enemy see the other Canadian tanks which are moving to flank them from the side and behind. As news spreads of an invisible Canadian army which can move without detection, the psychological effect on the enemy is devastating, they never know when or even if this invisible army has them targeted or surrounded. How can you hit a target you cannot see, how do you defend from the invisible?

Scenario 7: A sniper is required to take out a high profile target at a specific location, however, there is no cover for miles. Prior to Quantum Stealth the sniper used to look for cover and concealment to hide their location, now they are able to remain undetected sneaking into the location, in open terrain, reloading without their movement being detected, changing locations without their motion being noticed and depart the location at any time day or night.

Smartcamo - Color changing material: Color shifting from Desert (Top) to Transitional (Middle) to Woodland (Bottom)

Cassidian's Obstacle Warning System Certified for NH90 Helicopters

Having completed its final qualification review, Eurocopter has certified the MilOWS (Military Obstacle Warning System) for the NH90 military transport helicopter. The system was developed and built by Cassidian and is from the SFERION SferiSense range. There are now no further obstacles to delivering the 150 warning systems for the NH90 to the Finnish and German Armed Forces.

In completing its qualification flights on the NH90, MilOWS gave impressive proof of its credentials for use in a military setting. The Bundeswehr will now have some of the first military helicopters in the world to be fitted with a laser-based, real-time obstacle warning system. These helicopters will thus be able to carry out difficult missions in bad visibility more safely.

"The military version of the obstacle warning system is a development based on customer requirements that will make flying helicopters in military conditions safer. The civil system has been in use with great success for many years with the German Federal Police, for example," said Rolf Wirtz, Head of Mission Systems at Cassidian.

As with the civil version of the SferiSense helicopter laser radar system, MilOWS – the military version – is designed for use in helicopters. The laser-based, electro-optical (EO) system reliably detects obstacles in the flight path such as very thin cables, even when they are difficult for the pilot to see. MilOWS projects the image of the surrounding landscape onto the helmet visor. The qualification flights successfully conducted on the NH90 have confirmed in every way that the exacting requirements that have to be met to detect obstacles reliably and early have been fulfilled.

The system scans the area ahead of the helicopter using a laser beam that poses no danger to the human eye. It can detect even thin wires with a high level of precision at a distance of over one kilometre. MilOWS classifies potential obstacles in the categories wires, masts or individual standing objects as obstacle symbols that are superimposed onto a video or FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) video. The pilot sees this information on the visor of his helmet or on a multifunctional display in the cockpit. Alarms also sound when an obstacle or the ground is dangerously close. The crew is therefore able to identify and circumvent obstacles in time.

Now this could also be used in unmanned aircraft, such as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), circumventing a countries FAA/CAA regulations...or could it?

The MilOWS (Military Obstacle Warning System)  under the NH90 cockpit warns pilots of barely visible obstacles on the flight path. (Photo: Cassidian)

All Cassidian products for aircraft and helicopters that improve knowledge of the current flight situation, support flight-relevant decisions and thus significantly improve the safety and effectiveness of the mission (situational awareness) will in future be grouped under the SFERION umbrella brand. Cassidian, the defence division of EADS, is a worldwide leader in defence and security solutions. The company delivers advanced defence systems along the whole action chain from sensors through command & control systems to combat aircraft and unmanned air systems. In the area of security, Cassidian provides customers worldwide with border surveillance systems, cyber security solutions and secure communications. In 2012, Cassidian – with around 23,000 employees – achieved revenues of € 5.7 billion. 

29 August 2013

Syria – An Assessment

Let me start off by saying that the assumption that Syria is a template for how to handle potential crises with rogue nations Iran or North Korea is equally flawed. Despite the appalling death toll, the conflict in Syria is still an internal one that poses no vital threat to Western interests.

A nuclear Iran, on the other hand, would alter the balance of power in the Middle East, endanger Israel’s existence, and potentially set off a destabilising regional arms race.

North Korean hostility directly threatens the US’ closest allies in Asia, not to mention the 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea. Unlike Syria, there probably would be broad public and international support for a military intervention in the event of a major provocation by either Iran or North Korea. North Koreans and Iranians MUST be unaware of that, one would think.

It’s possible that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are obsessively tracking Western reflections about Assad and adjusting their policies accordingly. But it’s just as likely that the course the West takes in Syria won’t affect them at all. There’s simply no way to know…
But another war is right around the corner, and Syria is the target.

After two and a half years on the sidelines (the horrors of Syria’s civil war have become so routine and relentless that recent massacres have barely been aired in the world press), the West is probably going to intervene in Syria’s civil war. The Obama administration says there’s little doubt that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own citizens. France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asserted that the Syrian massacre demands “a reaction of force” by the international community. British Foreign Minister William Hague says “the use of chemical weapons on a large scale like this cannot go unaddressed,” regardless of whether or not the UN Security Council authorises military action. The launch pad for the bombing of Libya, Italy is now marking itself out from key allies with a stand against participation in military action in Syria. And even though Italy has great interest in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has ruled out taking part without a UN Security Council mandate and says it would not be “automatic” even with such approval.

Kosovo as the Template for War

As Syria edges toward punishment, the West points to a template for what the intervention could look like; NATO’s 78-day bombardment of Serbia (a military campaign without UN authorisation) in 1999 in response to the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo carried out by forces loyal to then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. There are several reasons why the Kosovo campaign could be the Syrian war template. Most obviously, it was carried out over the objections of Russia, which was Serbia’s biggest benefactor in the late 1990s (as it is for Assad today); NATO’s bombs succeeded in driving Milosevic’s forces out of Kosovo and halting their rampage against ethnic Albanian civilians, which claimed the lives of 10,000 and displaced as many as 800,000; the conflict required no land invasion, produced no Western casualties, and cost less than $5 billion—about one-thousandth the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still, the Kosovo example is a cautionary one. Though no Western lives were lost, the air campaign over Serbia wasn’t bloodless: Some 500 civilians were killed by NATO strikes, including three Chinese journalists who died when US warplanes mistakenly hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. The end of hostilities signalled the start of an open-ended NATO peacekeeping mission that continues to this day, and even the presence of tens of thousands of allied troops wasn’t enough to prevent former officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army from engaging in horrific acts of criminality. Nor did the West’s intervention force Milosevic from power: He held on for a further year and a half and was ousted only after he tried to steal an election. The governments of Kosovo and Serbia signed an accord last April to begin the process of normalising relations. This took them a mere 14 years!!!

Comparable Campaigns?

As everyone has an opinion on this matter, one finds comparisons to the Libyan, even the Iraqi interventions. Western military campaigns in Iraq and Libya cannot reasonably be compared to the action that appears imminent against Syria, though. The spectre of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) motivated Western allies to act in Iraq pre-emptively, unilaterally and without due diligence. The premise of the war was that Saddam Hussein could not be trusted, as he had used WMDs years before, in Halabjah in 1988. But the international community was not in agreement that Hussein was pursuing WMD capability, much less in accord on the progress of the development of such programmes, as US intelligence alleged. In the case of Syria, however, no country – not even Assad’s allies – question that the regime has stockpiled massive amounts of chemical weapons. Assad’s government admitted it possesses these weapons in 2012. Syria has the largest stock of sarin in the region, and historically, Russia aided in the development of that programme.

Western intervention in Libya may be a more appropriate case study when examining the looming attack on Syria, but still has significant differences in the details that matter. Syria is a country a third the geographic size of Libya, with three times the population. Assad has stocked and used chemical weapons, whereas Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had not at the time. And Syria’s civil war is burdened by deep sectarian rivalries, while the Libyan conflict was much simpler: rebels were united in their fight to overthrow a dictator.
Kosovo, not Libya or Iraq, provides the best template for comparison to the Syrian crisis, as examined under the last headline.

The Ever Dangerous Sword of Iran

Iran, which itself came under chemical weapons assault by Iraq during its eight-year war in the 1980s, has been a loyal ally of the Syrian government. Iranian hard-liners often say Syria is Iran’s first trench in a potential war with hostile Western powers. Iran has blamed Israel for the conflict in Syria (as they blame Israel for everything…including bad weather), saying Israel is trying to bring down Assad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on 27 August after security meetings in Tel Aviv that, “the State of Israel is ready for any scenario. We are not part of the civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond and we will respond in strength.”

Iran has always taken the moral high ground on the issue of chemical weapons, actively opposing their use. If it turns out that Assad deployed the weapons, it will be difficult for Iranian leaders to explain their support to their people.

A potential military intervention by the West, especially by the US in Syria, will represent a test for Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. The country’s hard-liners say any attack on Syria is in fact an act of war against Iran, and point to a support pact in which both nations have vowed to defend each other in case of a military attack by a third country. Naturally Iran does not want to lose Syria as a foothold in the region.
And then there is the Hezbollah, who is reported to have many rockets deployed in southern Lebanon capable of striking deep into Israeli territory, with Hezbollah fighters (trained by Iran), who have joined the Syrian Armed Forces in recent months to retake rebel-held areas. Iran has close coordination with Hezbollah, as both regard Israel as a common enemy, and Iran provides military support and training.


Could the rebels have faked the videos played on the news, as the regime’s spokesmen promptly accused them of doing? Independent experts’ early assessments, albeit tentative, tended to judge the reports credible. The UN inspectors are due to visit three places, including Khan Assal, a town west of Aleppo, where 30-odd people died in mysterious circumstances in March. The inspectors have been asked not to find out who carried out the attacks but merely to verify whether chemical weapons were used. The governments of Britain, France and Israel have told Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s secretary-general, that their intelligence services are pretty sure Assad has used chemical weapons on a small scale to test the West’s willingness to respond militarily, with (for him) pleasingly negative results. He has also tested the West’s resolve by repeatedly firing SCUD missiles into civilian-populated areas, a war crime, which likewise has failed to provoke a more muscular response from the West. The latest escalation, if true, suggests that Assad believes even more strongly he can thumb his nose at the West with impunity.

Where is Turkey in all this?

Turkey, sharing a 910km border with neighboring Syria, has placed its Armed Forces on full alert in light of possible security threats from Syria as the West continues to discuss on and on and on.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the poison gas attack in Syria as a “crime against humanity” and stressed that such a crime “cannot go unpunished.”

Turkey has been bullish on Syria throughout its civil war, openly supporting the rebels, including the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaida. A little known fact is that for more than two years, Turkey has been calling for multilateral UN intervention in Syria and the establishment of a no-fly zone, but so far it has failed to convince its Western allies and regional partners.

Some Turkish observers point out that if Turkey participates directly in military operations by an international coalition, this could create greater security challenges for the country. A possible retaliation by the Syrian regime using chemical weapons continues to be a major concern for Turkish political and military leaders. Iran is also a security threat, sharing a border and being a direct supporter of Syria.

In the event of any international military action, Ankara's contribution is expected to be mostly in the form of intelligence, as well as humanitarian and logistical support. The Turkish government is also likely to open its military bases (Incirlik air base) to the coalition forces, if this action is requested by its allies and the parties can agree on the details.

And let’s not forget the PATRIOTs already stationed at the border.

As tensions heat up with Syria, relations between Israel and Turkey remain cool. The dire state of affairs was reflected in the week of 19-23 August, when Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that Israel was behind the recent military coup in Egypt, prompting condemnations from Israel and the US.

Israel and Turkey, located on opposite sides of Syria, long enjoyed vibrant trade, tourism and military cooperation. Just a few years ago, Turkey sponsored indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria. But relations began to decline after Erdogan became PM in 2003. The Islamist Turkish leader gradually distanced himself from the Jewish state as he raised his profile in the Muslim world.

Ties took a serious downturn during Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip in late 2008, and turned to outright animosity after an Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, for which Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu apologised for. Yet nearly six months later, the talks have ground to a halt, even evaporated.
Israeli defence officials paint a similar picture, and no significant defence deals have been signed since the flotilla incident. The close cooperation and joint training drills of the past no longer take place. Israel even cancelled the planned sale of more than $100 million of sophisticated air-surveillance equipment in 2011, to Turkey on grounds that the technology could be shared with enemy countries.

While officials say the Israeli military has not taken any special precautions or deployments, Netanyahu, after huddling with top advisers on 27 August, said Israel would respond “with force” if Syria tries to harm his country. But for now, any contacts or exchange of intelligence with Turkey is being handled through American mediators.

A number of developments might bring the sides together, though: The downfall of Assad, for instance, or even the Western imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria might spur cooperation. Progress in Israel's newly launched peace talks with the Palestinians, or renewed pressure and involvement by the White House, could also help. None of these things appear currently imminent, however.

Meanwhile in Israel

Israel ordered a small-scale mobilisation of reservists on 28 August and strengthened its missile defences (including the short-range IRON DOME, the mid-range PATRIOT and the long-range ARROW II) as precautions against possible Syrian.

Following a security assessment held today, there is no reason for a change to normal routines,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We are, in parallel, preparing for any scenario.”

Netanyahu said a day before that Israel sought to stay out of the Syrian crisis but would respond forcefully to any attempt to attack it, which would also enrage Iran.

A senior Iranian lawmaker said Israel would be the first casualty of any US-led strike on Syria. Hossein Sheikholeslam, the Director General of the Iranian Parliament’s International Affairs Bureau, claimed the US would not dare attack Syria but said that if it does, “the Zionist regime will be the first victim.” The Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Brig.Gen. Masoud Jazayeri even said on 27 August that the fire of a potential military intervention in crisis-hit Syria will “burn” the Israeli regime.

Israel hasn’t exactly made a secret about its desire to see the US impose regime change in Syria, seeing the ouster of Assad in favour of al-Qaeda dominated jihadists as really sticking it to Iran. Still, Syrian rebel leaders say that Israel needs to stop being even nominally neutral, and must loudly endorse the planned US attack on Syria, if it wants to retain good relations with the post-war rebel government. Of course “good relations” is a relative term, but it’s hard to imagine a violent Salafist regime being okay with Israel’s open-ended occupation of the Golan Heights simply because Israel endorsed the US war that installed them.
So, in a nutshell, nothing’s changed: Israel is still the enemy, will sadly always be, and luckily still has the firepower to strike back HARD, if attacked.

The Islamist Character of the Opposition 

Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organisation whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government. Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of. Among the most extreme groups is the notorious al-Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned force declared a terrorist organisation by the US, but other groups share aspects of its Islamist ideology in varying degrees. Another prominent group, Ahrar al-Sham, shares much of al-Nusra’s extremist ideology but is made up mostly of Syrians.

The Islamist character of the opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion, which has been led since its start by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, mostly in conservative, marginalized areas. The descent into brutal civil war has hardened sectarian differences, and the failure of more mainstream rebel groups to secure regular arms supplies has allowed Islamists to fill the void and win supporters.

We mustn’t forget that from the start, the Syrian government has sought to portray the rebels as terrorists carrying out an international plot to weaken the country, and the rise of extremist groups has strengthened its case and increased support among Syrians who fear that a rebel victory could mean the end of the secular Syrian state. Many rebels and opposition activists complain about the Western focus on Islamist groups, some even dismissing the opposition’s ideological differences.

But as Islamist extremists become more dominant in rebel ranks, Assad has increasingly been seen as the lesser of evils, both by religious minorities in Syria such as Christians and by hostile Western and Arab governments. Obama’s reluctance to intervene in Syria, like his unwillingness to call the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi in Egypt a coup, may have further emboldened Assad. Russia, his stalwart ally, was quick to back his regime’s denial that it had used chemical weapons, hinting that Britain’s push to refer the matter to the UN Security Council would be blocked.

The beauty of chemical weapons, in Assad’s view, is that there is enough ambiguity to allow discussion of a response to drag on for weeks or months. By that time, Assad may have the rebels back on the ropes.

Possible Scenarios

As fighter jets and military transporters have reportedly been moved to Britain’s Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus, the US Navy has expanded its Mediterranean presence with a fourth cruise-missile ship, the USS MAHAN, also capable of launching long-range, subsonic cruise missiles to reach land targets.

Hitting stockpiles of chemical weapons appears proportionate but would bring with it the risk of dispersing neurotoxins over a wide area, potentially causing even more harm than the original gas attack.
Another problem is determining the locations where all of the chemicals are stored. One would assume that most are underground, which poses a huge intelligence problem…hitting buried targets is quite difficult. There is talk of a clean cruise missile strike. But it is not clear whether these carry enough explosives to penetrate even minimally hardened targets, even bunker busters.

Syria’s air defence is comprised of thousands of anti-aircraft guns and more than 130 surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries, i.e., very robust.

For that reason, military experts think that if the western allies do decide to strike, they will concentrate their fire on the regime's greatest strength – the elite units on which it relies militarily and which are most tied to its chemical weapons programme.

Foremost among these is the 4th armoured division, an overwhelmingly Alawite formation headed by the Assad's brother, Maher al-Assad. It has its headquarters in the Mazzeh military complex in the southern suburbs of Damascus.

Another likely target is the regime's Republican Guard, another Allawite diehard unit, which is deployed around the presidential palace and in the Qasioun military complex to the north of the Syrian capital.
Much will depend on whether the chosen option is a strictly limited strike with a handful of cruise missiles, intended as demonstration of intent, or a more complex, further-reaching campaign involving waves of stealth bombers. That would involve a huge amount of ordnance being targeted at Syria's substantial air defences, which would also dramatically increase the risk of causing casualties among civilians and perhaps even Russian advisers, who western intelligence officials say are present in Syria helping the regime's troops train on and maintain the anti-aircraft missiles.

A limited, ground Special Operations Force (SOF) could inject sanity, clarity, and urgency to the policy debate and serve as a counterweight to the prevailing drone war logic and its false sterility. If the West sends SOF into Syria it won’t be like the movies with Navy SEALs raiding Assad’s headquarters and a big firefight as the finale. The real work of SOF requires veteran sergeants and junior officers advising rebel leaders, coordinating their resupply, ensuring the protection of the civilian population, relaying intelligence, providing medical treatment, securing humanitarian relief, and planning for the transition to civilian political authority. Add to SOF’s already extensive list of tasks that they may have to prevent war crimes (or merely abandon war criminals as unsuitable partners) and avoid rebel groups hostile to Western forces or ambushes by government infiltrators. SOF on the ground can also gather information from locals and use them to choose targets more effectively and prevent civilian casualties. And finally, yes, they would be fighting shoulder to shoulder with their partners in the Free Syrian Army with all the danger that entails.

As we may recall from the photo of a US soldier’s body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in 1993, a small SOF can be terribly vulnerable and its failures, like the failed rescue of our hostages in Iran in 1980, can be a global humiliation. But if, in this case, the US chooses to enter a war, there are times when this amount of risk is warranted because the difference between twelve special operators and an American tank battalion is the difference, in the eye of the Syrian seeing them on his street, between the assistance of an ally and the occupation of a foreigner.

And the assistance of a few hundred SOF could be the difference between a few bloody weeks of fighting before the post-Assad phase of the war (peace might not be the correct word for it) or a year of slowly bleeding the regime with bombers and drones while the Syrian people remain locked in the mess.
The longer this drags on, the more it threatens to pull the West into a more open-ended conflict that would help Assad to define his role as a bulwark of resistance against western imperialism.

Wading deeper into Syria’s civil war, in short, isn’t going to make our adversaries any more or less dangerous. There are certainly strong moral reasons to support more aggressive road against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But sending a message to Iran and North Korea isn’t one of them.

Technology Enablers for Global Special Forces Capability

Special Operations Forces (SOF) have, of necessity, always had to be at or near the cutting edge of a wide variety of technologies, both those that are avowedly military in nature and those adapted from other uses. And while nobody is likely to emerge completely unscathed from budget cuts, in the West at least, special operators are likely to do better than most.

French Special Forces, 1er RPIMa, aboard a VPS at the end of a patrol. (Photo: CCH J.Bardenet/SIRPA Terre)

SOF will require ready-for-use systems and equipment to perform in the most complex mission scenarios. The Commander of the German SEK-M Specialised Task Forces of the Navy, Capt. (S.G.) Stephan Plath said that the mission success of the battalion-sized unit, a potent force of combat swimmers, mine clearance divers, and boarding teams, is highly dependent upon the latest equipment and technologies the industry is offering. “We constantly improve our capabilities by acquiring innovative products that are available on the market. This requires a careful analysis of what is available and which of our partners have similar requirements,” he said.

More recent Naval Special Forces operations underscored one tendency: the need for heavy-duty inflatable boats (RIB/RHIB) and high-speed interceptor craft (HSIC) to better cope with fast-running threats.

Special Forces are using a wide range of equipment and kit for breaching, rescue, recon and close protection. Shown is the Aimpoint CompM2 with the LRP mount. (Photo: Aimpoint)

More Energy

Unsurprisingly, better batteries and other energy storage devices come at the top of every SOF the list. The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), for example, is seeking weight reductions of between 1:5 and 1:10 for standard issue batteries with equivalent energy capacities, plus micro-batteries that offer longer operating life for small devices in harsh environments. The organisation also called for an order of magnitude reduction in recharge time and batteries that are more robust to longer periods of use when subjected to temperature extremes. Still on the subject of power, the need is for stealthy and cost effective power generation along with low-maintenance power management and energy storage systems for use in austere locations by small units.

The Netherlands Special Forces include highly trained combat swimmer units, who are trained parachutist, scuba divers, and and demolition experts. (Photo: Mönch /AF)

There is a vast amount of R&D into battery technologies around the world and the US DoD is heavily involved through various projects that DARPA is undertaking and though activities conducted by the forces laboratories, frequently in cooperation with industry. Meanwhile, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is keen to make the most of advanced technologies developed for one application to others. For example, in mid-January the DLA awarded Saft a $1.2 million contract to improve the Advanced Lithium Power Source (ALPS) battery used in the Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3), a vehicle-mounted SOF favourite.

The ALPS battery was developed as a compact energy storage unit with an integrated charger as a portable energy source in the field. In the new one, Saft will adapt components of the Lithium Battery Box (LBB) used in the Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS) for the TOW missile. The result, says the company, will be a 100Ah battery operating at 24-28V and a built in charger that is fully compatible with 28V military vehicle batteries and AC generators. (Photo: Saft)

The ALPS battery will provide greater power capacity, speed and efficiencies in the field which are crucial to mission success for our military personnel,” said Thomas Alcide, General Manager of Saft’s Specialty Battery Group. “Saft is proud that this contract and our partnership with the Defense Logistics Agency will result in manufacturing improvements that will meet additional tactical needs in the future.”

From early secondary batteries in the 1980s to today's lithium-ion systems, Bren-tronics succeeded in engineering solutions that deliver the staying power of primary cell batteries with the extreme reusability demanded by today's Armed Forces. Bren-tronics continues to innovate with lithium polymer chemistries and solutions tailored for use with solar cells and fuel cells. One of the main benefits of rechargeable batteries is lower cost compared with batteries that must be replaced frequently. Bren-tronics knows that cost is key to the success of their products; yet, the company also knows that customers cannot afford that lower cost if it comes at the expense of reduced reliability. Rather than designing systems from the ground up to military specifications, the company keeps costs low by combining proven off-the-shelf technologies with their innovative solutions, and then ruggedising systems to meet mission requirements.

The Bren-Tronics BB-2590/U battery providing power for extreme needs, here for the iRobot PACKBOT.
(Photo: Bren-Tronics)

Bren-tronics‘ Soldier Portable Charger (BTC-70801) and Soldier Portable Charger Lite (BTC-70819) are universal state-of-the-art, high performance lightweight portable battery chargers designed for field deployment or depot/shop usage. These universal chargers are currently capable of charging over hundreds of different types of military and commercial batteries with new ones being added regularly. The Soldier Portable Chargers are simple to use by design, they are capable of simultaneously charging two batteries completely unattended (up to eight batteries on the SPC). The charger automatically identifies the specific battery type and provides the appropriate charge profile. Based on the current operating environment, the SPC Lite automatically customizes the charge profile to provide the quickest charge in a safe manner. They can readily use either AC or DC input power - whichever is most convenient for the user.

The BTC-70801 is a state of the art portable battery charger designed for field or depot use. The charger is capable of charging up to 8 batteries (2 simultaneously, with 6 batteries in queue) with easy to follow LED lighting sequence. (Photo: Bren-tronics)

In December, Bren-Tronics has released a new handheld radio battery. Available in a standard capacity 63W (BT-70716BE) or a high capacity version with 73W (BT-70716BG). The BT-70716B version battery is used within many systems including the AN/PRC-148, TRC-9110, and the Wave Relay MPU4, or can be incorporated in your future design. The batteries are fully supported from small charging systems, such as solar and desktop chargers to larger universal chargers that are currently available within the military system.

Bren-Tronics is an advanced designer and manufacturer of primary and rechargeable batteries, chargers, and complete storage systems from watt hours to megawatt hours. (Photo: Bren-tronics)

SFC Energy provides dependable, quiet, and lightweight fuel cell solutions for defence applications. The company is well positioned as a solutions provider for mobile and man-portable power as a result of successful commercialisation of DMFC (Direct Methanol Fuel Cells) for several years. Products by SFC give soldiers in the field improved mobility, agility, effectiveness, and safety. USAF Special Operations Command (AFSOC), for example, fielded SFC Power Managers as part of the Battle Air Operations Kit (BAO) Kit to reduce weight and increase functionality in tactical power generation management needs.
The dismounted soldier‘s need for lightweight, reliable and portable electrical power supply is met by SFC’s excellent solutions. By combining the intelligent power solutions JENNY and the SFC Power Manager, a very efficient energy network is created. In combination, JENNY plus SFC Power Manager can recharge several batteries and power various equipment at the same time. The SFC solution establishes an energy network that delivers a maximum of power and flexibility at a minimum of weight. On a 72 hour mission for example, the weight burden of a soldier can be reduced by 80% in comparison to only having batteries to supply power.

On the occasion of the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC, May 2013) SFC Energy, a technology and market leader for portable, mobile, and off-grid power generation and distribution, has launched the new EMILY 3000 fuel cell generator for vehicle based defense applications. (Photo: SFC Energy)

During operations, vehicles are required to supply power to on-board devices, such as radios, communication equipment, weapon systems, and EO systems. Moreover they act as a charging station for the soldier. Integrated into tactical vehicles or in the field, the SFC’s EMILY provides quiet, continuous and independent power supply. The fuel cell operates as a ruggedized fuel cell power generator for mobile devices ranging from radio and other communication equipment, night-vision and navigation devices, and computers – regardless of weather and climate.

This is how it works: When connected to a rechargeable battery, the SFC fuel cell will constantly monitor the battery’s charge state. Once this drops below a predefined value, the fuel cell will automatically start recharging the battery. Once the battery is completely recharged, the fuel cell automatically reverts to standby mode. The process involves no moving parts and no combustion whatsoever, emitting only carbon dioxide and water – no more than a child’s breath. SFC fuel cells use methanol as a fuel, a liquid alcohol, which comes in cartridges that are easy to store, transport and ship. Methanol is safe to use and poses no hazard to the soldier. Methanol’s most important property is its extremely high energy density at very low weight.

Function of Fuel Cells (Graphic: SFC Energy)

Principle of SFC Energy Fuel Cells (Graphic: SFC Energy)

SFC Energy – Military Charging Systems

SFC Energy is a market leader in fuel cell technologies for mobile and off-grid power applications. SFC has shipped more than 25,000 fully commercial products to law enforcement, defence, industrial, and private end users, and has created a convenient fuel cartridge supply infrastructure.

(Photo: SFC Energy)

The company has developed a strong customer base within the NATO and US defence communities. Fully integrated fuel cell/battery hybrid systems by SFC Energy offer militaries around the world a wide range of safe, lightweight and independent power sources for nonstop equipment operation by soldiers in the field. Solutions range from vehicle based power generators to turnkey energy solutions used as field charging devices and finally to lightweight man portable systems as an alternative to carrying spare batteries.

100 Scenarios - 1 Power Solution – Enabled by Portable Power Management

The modern soldier faces a wide variety of different mission scenarios and objectives. As the performance and therefore the power demand of modern communication- and reconnaissance equipment are increasing, intelligent systems for reliable off-grid power supply during a mission gain importance.

SFC Energy has developed a highly efficient energy network to meet these demands. SFC’s energy network consists of the portable JENNY fuel cell generator, the SFC Power Manager, a hybrid battery, foldable solar panel for additional power supply, and smart accessories. This energy network can easily be adapted to the needs of different forces and nations, depending on the mission scenarios.

This high efficient and especially flexible power supply enables powering different equipment – e.g. radios, GPS, night vision goggles, laser distance meters, laptops and PDAs – for stationary as well as portable use.
Using the SFC energy network, power supply and energy management take place fully automatically, silently, emission-free and with no risk of being detected (aural/IR). Additionally in comparison to conventional batteries this SFC energy solution reduces the weight a soldier has to carry on a 72 hour mission by 80 per cent.

JENNY and SFC Power Manager – a strong hybrid system to power portable equipment and recharge batteries. (Photo: SFC Energy)

Enhanced Safety and Runtime for Silent Watch Missions, Command and Operation Posts

SFC’s EMILY fuel cell generator has proven itself for reliably powering electric equipment on board of vehicles. EMILY fuel cell generator reliably charges the radio battery or on-board battery of military command and multipurpose vehicles fully automatically, ensuring permanent availability of equipment. This way, electrical equipment can be used and powered during silent watch missions without having to start the engine, not producing any detectable sound or heat signature.

SFC’s EMILYCube reliably powers equipment in the field during reconnaissance missions, as for example portable radar systems and communication devices. At the same time, EMILYCube energy solution can be used as charging station for portable devices. The system contains an integrated fuel cartridge and hybrid battery and therefore is ready to use at any time. With this compact energy solution, 11kWh of energy are available while weighing only 21kg (48,5lbs). This is sufficient to reliably power the equipment mentioned above for many days without user intervention.

USASOC Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan (Photo: USASOC)

More power and efficiency for small boats is also on the agenda, with SOCOM seeking advanced power systems for combat surface craft, systems that provide significantly better power-to-weight ratios at top speed and greater fuel efficiency in cruise. In terms of numbers, the goals are 1hp/lb and, in specific fuel consumption terms, 0.1lb/hp per hour. These ‘power systems’ must also be significantly lighter, more reliable and easier to maintain than the engines SOCOM currently uses while running on light to heavy fuels or military common use fuels such as JP5 and JP8.

In this context, Finnish heavy-duty Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) builder Boomeranger announced in February that it has been chosen to supply the Royal Swedish Navy with a 9.2m special operations boat to be based on HMS CARLSKRONA for anti-piracy duties in the EU’s ATALANTA operation off the coast of Somalia this year. US marine engine manufacturer Evinrude makes a range of multi-fuel outboard engines for the military and security forces – and now offers some to the public – engines that can run on kerosene, JP4, JP5, JP8 and Jet B, as well as standard gasoline. The operator can change the engine settings to suit whatever fuel is available with the flick of a switch and without compromising performance, says the company. The engines can drive either a propeller or a pump jet.

Under the water, the desire is for energy storage systems that provide submersibles with great energy density while remaining safe and improving on service life and costs.

(Photo: US SOCOM)

SOCOM is moving towards what it terms “dry combat submersibles” for SEAL delivery missions, among others, because they are not subject to the same human diving limitations that traditional “wet” diver delivery vehicles are. Dry submersibles offer normal life support for 24 hours and reserve life support for 72. In December, SOCOM awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat an R&D contract for a user operational evaluation system. This contract, valued at $44.3 million, will involve the design, construction, test and delivery of a complete, commercially classed prototype dry combat submersible system.

The four Type F125 (BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG class) frigates built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and Fr. Lürssen Werft for the German Navy, which will provide space for Special Forces, receive specially designed RIB to enable them to operate in the harshest environmental conditions. According to René Quezada of Fr. Fassmer, two prototypes of a 10.5m RIB are now being tested in the North Sea.

German Special Forces teams from the Naval Air Wing 5 in Kiel and the Naval Engineering School in Parow equipped with 9m RHIBs. (Photo via Guy Toremans)

Better C4, More Software Radios

The inclusion of low profile, concealable or conformal antennas that work over wide and/or narrow frequency bands and on single or multiple platforms is essential in the field. Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BloS) and denied area communications with more capacity and capability are also wanted, combined with Low-Probability-of-Interest (LPI) and Low-Probability-of-Detection (LPD) characteristics.

Software defined radios are a key enabling technology for all of these needs; and, e.g., SOCOM has been buying lots of them from, for example, Harris. On 7 January the company announced an order worth $7 million for additional FALCON III AN/PRC-117G multiband manpack radios and accessories.

Aselsan’s SDNR Family (Handheld, MANPACK, Vehicular and Base Station) is able to provide seamless communications among tactical users through secure voice, data and video. (Photo: Aselsan)

SOCOM is in the process of replacing its legacy Multi-Band Inter/intra Team Radio (MBITR) radios and, in January, Thales Communications introduced a radio that it hopes will take its place. The MBITR2, says the company, is the world’s first simultaneous two-channel handheld radio, which enables dismounted soldiers to: “integrate into the wideband tactical IP and voice network via the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) wideband channel while simultaneously maintaining legacy reach-back via the narrowband channel.”

More than 200,000 AN/PRC-148 MBITRs are currently fielded, says Thales Communications, so the replacement market is potentially very lucrative. MBITR’s compatibility with the AN/PRC-154 RIFLEMAN Radio is significant because it improves SOF interoperability with supporting troops, such as the US Army Rangers. The RIFLEMAN radio is a joint development of Thales Communications and General Dynamics C4 Systems (GDC4S). A lightweight, body-worn radio that is part of the Joint Tactical Radio System Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Factor (JTRS HMS) programme, it brings Type-2 security to squad level communications, transmitting voice and data simultaneously using the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW). In this way, it provides soldiers at the tactical edge with mobile voice, video and data communications similar to those available through commercial cellular networks, says General Dynamics.

With over 30 years of experience and continuous development in communications field, Aselsan is known as one of the few Software Defined Networking Radio (SDNR) producers in the world, having met the demand of the Turkish Armed Forces, and having exported to many allied countries not only as direct sales but also as technology transfer and local production.

Romanian 1st Special Operations Battalion soldiers sporting the US Army SF SSI. (Photo: Romanian Special Forces)

Aselsan’s SDNR Family (Handheld, MANPACK, Vehicular and Base Station) ensures increased survivability against Electronic Warfare (EW) threats by providing alternative communication means over a wideband ranging from 2-30 MHz HF to 30-512 MHz V/UHF. Software configurable architecture enables various tactical radio waveforms and advanced EPM techniques on the same platform.

The SDNR provides multi-band and multimode secure voice and data communications and supports advanced ECCM techniques. The radio can be customised according to different national needs by its built-in programmable encryption module which has the capability to support many different crypto algorithms required by different waveforms. The V/UHF SDNR is designed to provide public safety and air-to-ground-to-air communications capability as well as tactical communications under severe electronic warfare threats. Meanwhile, HF SDNR is designed to provide frequency hopping and encrypted long range strategic voice and data communication. The V/UHF SDNR provides all NATO defined tactical radio functionalities such as: Combat Net Radio (CNR), Broad Band Packet Radio (BBPR), Narrow Band Packet Radio (NBPR) and Single Channel Radio Access (SCRA) functionalities. Today the V/UHF SDNR radio is the only available radio that supports all the tactical communication functions defined by the NATO Tacoms Post 2000 and to provide wideband high speed data service. The V/UHF SDNR is also the only radio today that supports simultaneous voice and data using the Wide Band Networking Radio Waveform (WBNR) mode.

The SDNR features a Man-Machine Interface (MMI) very similar to cellular phones. This helps the users adapt rapidly to the controls of the radio. The alphanumeric keypad of the radio enables Short Message Service feature on different waveforms supported by the radio. The SDNR also has a GPS interface where various GPS receivers can be connected to this radio to download and utilize location data. In the WBNR mode the V/UHF SDNR can automatically distribute the GPS data in the radio network. The V/UHF SDNR has the hardware capability to perform 300 million instructions per seconds and supports six different waveforms implemented on 1.5 million lines of code. The V/UHF SDNR supports narrowband (FM, AM), frequency hopping encrypted waveforms as well as supporting wide band (high speed data) networking waveform with Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum technique.

One of the most advanced features of the V/UHF SDNR is the frequency hopping scan and waveform scan capabilities. In the frequency hopping waveforms (VHF/FM Low Band Waveform and Advanced CNR (A-CNR) Waveform) the V/UHF SDNR has the capability to scan between frequency hopping nets.

When speaking of SDRs, one must mention Rohde & Schwarz’ (R&S) recently unveiled R&S Software Defined Tactical Radio (SDTR), enabling high data rate, jam-resistant communications in network centric operations. The R&S SDTR is the first in a new generation of software defined radios (SDR), together with a family of network capable waveforms. This tactical radio for vehicular and semi-mobile platforms delivers 50W of output power without external amplifiers and covers the 30-512MHz range. It meets the military's special requirements on shock resistance, size, weight and ventilation without the need for extra mechanical shock absorbers. Thanks to integrated high-performance filters, antennas can be spaced as close as one meter apart and the radio lines will not interfere with each other. The R&S SDTR, with the R&S HDR waveforms, is fully IP capable and can be easily and seamlessly integrated into existing IP networks.

Rohde & Schwarz' R&S Software Defined Tactical Radio (SDTR). (Photo: R&S)

See Through Walls

Camero’s 3-10 GHz, 660 g XAVER 100 is a device that can be operated with one hand. The company developed it specifically for tactical operators to provide them with “instant critical situational awareness and target acquisition data.” Claimed to reliably detect stationary and moving people behind most common wall materials, it also offers a stand-off mode in which it can be positioned at a distance from the wall, although how far is not revealed. It is not an imaging device, but shows targets as dots on a screen against a range scale, a so-called 1D display. It can also be used from inside a building to act as a virtual window to spot approaching threats.

Camero’s tripod-mounted XAVER 800 is described as a full 3D ISR device that offers a wire frame perspective view of the space on the other side of the wall and enough target shape resolution, according to the literature, to make out a human form. Weighing 14.5kg including battery it has four distinctive square antenna lobes, one at each corner, and offers a range resolution finer than 3 cm. It can operate for two hours on rechargeable batteries and can be carried and operated by one person, says the company. (Photo: Camero)

The larger 3.2 kg XAVER 400 is a two-handed device with a longer battery life of seven hours and finer range resolution of around 5cm compared with 15cm. It also features a larger 2D display that can also reveal general room layout and major structural elements.

TiaLinx offers a competing range of products known as EAGLE, COUGAR and PHOENIX.
L-3 Communications Cyterra makes a pair of one-hand devices known as EMMDAR (Electro-Magnetic Motion Detection And Ranging) and RANGE-R. Cyterra says that the AN/PPS-26 EMMDAR informs the user of the presence of and range to moving or near-stationary personnel. More forthcoming in its description of RANGE-R, Cyterra reveals that it uses L-3’s patented Stepped Frequency Continuous Wave (SFCW) radar technology and proprietary target detection algorithms that enable it to operate as a highly sensitive Doppler motion detector, claiming that it is the smallest and lightest through-wall sensor available.
Selex offers a two-handed device comparable with the XAVER 400 known as ERKOS. PKI Electronic Intelligence makes the model 7405, which uses a hand held scanner linked to a briefcase control and display unit. Acustek produces a one-handed device, the ACU-CPR4, with a simple, intuitive display and an ‘outstanding’ operational time of up to 16 hr on standard batteries. AKELA has developed a tripod-mounted system with a significant standoff range. The AKELA Standoff Though-wall Imaging Radar (ASTIR) can be used from up to 30m from the wall to increase operator safety and features a wider viewing angle that enables detections within multi-level structures from a single position. Cambridge Consultants’ PRISM 200 is a 5.7kg, two-handed device, although it can be operated with one arm when held against a wall, that can run for 4.5 hours or stand by for 24 hours on batteries and can accept external power. It will detect people through brick, block or concrete walls, show 3D perspective, plan and side elevation views and interface with a laptop or computer network. It can be mounted on a tripod for long term monitoring. RETIA’s two-handed, 7.2kg ReTWis runs for up to nine hours on batteries and accepts 24V, 2.7A DC external power and, says the company, has been tested on brick, concrete, reinforced concrete, perforated brick, hollow brick, adobe, wood, stucco, cinder block and drywall. The display offers a full-featured 2D view enhanced by intelligent noise rejection and an advanced history panel to improve image quality in cluttered conditions. It also offers a 3D display and a ‘shadowed’ display mode designed to improve reliability by revealing potential radar dead zones.

Another way of seeing into an enclosed space from the outside is to throw a robot in, like iRobot’s FIRSTLOOK, or Recon Robotics’ RECON THROWBOT.

Another way of seeing into enclosed spaces from the outside or vice versa is to throw a robot in, like here, Recon Robotics’ RECON THROWBOT. (Photo: Recon Robotics)

Less Weight, More Firepower

Mirrored in continuing SOF operations worldwide is the need for improved weaponry, including better ammunition, but also mission-proven C2 and communications means, light ballistic protection, and miniaturised detection and situation awareness sensors. Especially in light of current threats in urban terrain, operations have demonstrated the need for shooter detection systems to provide SOF with some means to rapidly pinpoint the source of incoming hostile high-velocity fire. For these purposes, the PILARw MkII gunshot detection device from 01dB-Metravib displays the exact position of a gunshot in grid coordinates and in real-time allowing to pinpoint the threat. Its detection range is quoted at 1,500m. An innovative approach is Microflown-Avisa’s dismounted soldier gunshot localisation device, the Acoustic Vector Sensor (AVS). The 150g device is in the form of a small metal tube measuring in size of a pen. A first variant of the system is already in use with the Dutch Army in Afghanistan as a counter-rocket, artillery and mortar warning sensor. A future version could be adapted to mini-drones, and a rifle-mounted version will be also offered.

Microflown-Avisa's RAM-LOC is designed to be used as part of a C-RAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar) system, locating enemy firing positions over a wide area. (Graphic: Microflown-Avisa)

Improved ballistic protection helps Naval Special Forces survive in combat missions. DSM Dyneema was recently awarded a contract to supply the Norwegian Armed Forces with a new ballistic combat helmet called FAST (Future Assault Shell Technology). Another product in this category, ENDUMAX from Teijin Aramid is described as the material of choice for modern protection equipment. ENDUMAX, which is also made from UHMWPE polymers, according to the company, is 11x stronger than steel at the same weight, while its stiffness is comparable to carbon fibres. When combined with light and flexible vests made from Teijin Aramid’s TWARON aramid materials, ENDUMAX lightweight insert plates enable ballistic protection gears to cope with the highest demands in terms of protection and low weight.

Special Operations Forces are military units highly-trained to perform unconventional, often high-risk missions.

SOF will also benefit from innovations in the field of small-calibre weapons and ammunition. Among the multitude of manufacturers, there are several companies that attracted the interest of Special Forces operating in the maritime combat environment, including Česká Zbrojovka, offering the CZ 805 BREN A1/A2 5.56x45mm NATO modular automatic rifles of which the A2 carbine is a more compact version of the modular A1 assault rifle in 5.56x45mm NATO calibre, from which it differs by a shorter barrel; FN Herstal, marketing the FN SCAR family of assault rifles available in 5.56 and 7.62 NATO calibres that are easy to change between short (CQC) and standard rifles); Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), developing the MEGA GUN JERICHO Pistol Rifle Converter 9x19mm, turning the JERICHO pistol into a short semi-automatic rifle; Heckler & Koch (H&K), developing the DMR762-MR rifle, which is in use in Afghanistan since 2012; Kriss Systems, offering the Kriss VECTOR family of recoilless weapons; Primetake, offering door-breaching rounds, electric/non-electric detonators, less-than-lethal ammunition; and RUAG Ammotec.

The latter developed the .338 LM/8.6x70 SWISS P Subsonic ammunition that can be individually adapted to different weapon types, including Accuracy International’s 338AWM. A unique feature of this ammunition is that filling of the cartridge and bullet configuration are individually matched to the weapon system concerned. The maximum operative range of the .338 LM/8.6x70 Swiss P Subsonic is 300 metres.

As the demand for lethal but also non-lethal weapons is increasing to fulfil the missions in the battle against terrorism, SOF bring in their ideas and experiences to the industry in order to get the right products to the right time. Jörg Hildebrandt of Germany’s Metallwerk Elisenhütte (MEN), for example, said that the element of surprise is crucial for some special missions requiring projectiles with a high stopping force and stable ballistic trajectory as well as high degree of penetrability and accuracy beyond ranges of 300 metres.

The Jagdkommando is the Austrian Armed Forces' Special Operations group. Jagdkommando soldiers are highly trained professionals whose thorough and rigorous training enables them to take over when tasks or situations outgrow the capabilities and specialisation of conventional units. (Photo: Mönch /AF)

Non-Explosive Armour Piercing Incendiary (API) Completes the RUAG SWISS P Product Range for Anti-Material Missions

Towards the end of 2012, RUAG Ammotec developed and tested the new product of calibre .338 LM in Thun. The bullet features an insensitive metal tip which forms sparks on impacting hard targets, the bullet core penetrates the target. The ballistics are coordinated with those of the other RUAG SWISS P bullets (Armour Piercing, Ball and Target).

RUAG Ammotec's new calibre .338 LM (Photo: RUAG)

Reliability is what counts in military or police interventions under difficult conditions and in adverse weather. The new product of the snipers' ammunition RUAG SWISS P is also suitable for military purposes, since it is sealed, waterproof and temperature-stable.

The bullet of boat-tail design has a metal tip of titanium, a hard core of tungsten carbide and a brass jacket. The cartridge complies with the CIP standard and is filled in Switzerland. It contains a temperature-stable high-performance propellant, which makes it particularly suitable for military snipers and designated marksmen. The trio consisting of .338 LAPUA Mag. SWISS P Ball, .338 LAPUA Mag. SWISS P Armour Piercing and .338 LAPUA Mag. SWISS P Target is a good, well-tuned solution for a variety of operations. The .338 LAPUA Mag. SWISS P API is primarily used by snipers. It enhances the visibility of the impact so that the sniper or spotter can better detect the impact and make corrections earlier. Moreover, the new product can serve to mark the target and thus enable the own troops to see the enemy target thanks to the sparks. Firing is on hard targets for which AP are also used. It is planned that the API cartridge will also be available in the calibres 5.56x45, .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag. and .50 Browning in future.

At IDEX 2013, RUAG Ammotec furthermore launched a subsonic ammunition individually adapted to different weapon types, especially for snipers. Particular attention is paid to the barrel length and length of twist to achieve optimal ballistics and perfect precision. The enquiries and close cooperation with customers eventually prompted RUAG Ammotec to expand its RUAG SWISS P range by the new .338 LM / 8.6x70 SWISS P Subsonic. Unique about this new product is that filling of the cartridge and bullet configuration are individually matched to the weapon system concerned.

The extra benefit for the sniper is obvious: This subsonic ammunition of RUAG Ammotec suits the weapon outstandingly well because the bullet mass is exactly matched to the weapon's barrel type, length and twist. The perfect cartridge configuration for the particular weapon specification. The new ammunition thus guarantees an impeccable and exceptionally good weapon function. A further plus is that all cartridges meet the military requirements. They are sealed, waterproof and temperature-stable. The product ensures small velocity spans in both temperature band (cold-warm) and „inclined“ shooting (upwards/downwards). In the future RUAG Ammotec will increasingly develop individual solutions and products tailored to satisfy the customers' requirements.

The Belgian Special Forces Group is a Special Forces unit in the Land Component of the Belgian Armed Forces. (Photo: Mönch /AF)

Extended Capabilities Require Specialised Equipment

SOF need specialised equipment to cope with missions under extremely severe conditions. The equipment varies from excellent new sensors, communications devices, decision aids, fuel cells, and stand-alone, plug-in-play charging stations to diver propulsion systems and tiny robotic vehicles designed to function in all likely environments. In the field of multifunctional thermal imaging technology, the integrated optoelectronics company Jenoptik recently launched NYXUS BIRD, a new thermal imager combining day/night vision with a target localisation capability. The device, weighing less than 1.5kg, has a monocular daylight channel plus a cooled 3-5 microns IR channel. It is primarily designed for use by infantry and Special Forces, including combat swimmers.

First introduced in 2000, nearly 300,000 Airmpoint CompM2 sights are now in use by many elite Special Forces around the world. The CompM2, also known as the M68/CCO (when used by US forces), is the standard sight for the US Army and USAF, as well as the Armed Forces of many NATO countries. Due to its compatibility with all generations of night vision device (NVD), the CompM2 is ready for use around the clock. The CompM2 holds up under the roughest physical handling and can withstand the most severe weather conditions and temperatures. In fact, the CompM2 is completely submersible and will withstand pressures up to 2,5 atmospheres allowing it to be taken up to 25m underwater.

The German Fernspäher surveillance and reconnaissance soldier belongs to a highly specialised unit of the German Army. (Photo: Mönch /AF)
For full article, please see MILITARY TECHNOLOGY magazine #2/2013. 

28 August 2013

MBDA's Laser Weapons - Development of a High-Energy Laser Weapon Based (V)SHORAD System

A laser weapon, or directed-energy weapon (DEW), emits energy in an aimed direction without the means of a projectile. It transfers energy to a target for a desired effect. Intended effects on humans may be non-lethal or lethal. These effects have been categorised as physical, physiological and psychological. The energy can come in various forms, electromagnetic radiation, including radio frequency, microwave, lasers and masers; particles with mass, in particle-beam weapons (technically a form of micro-projectile weapon); and sound, in sonic weapons.

Laser Weapons are particularly suitable for operations requiring high precision, fast, scalable effects and for defence against low-cost targets in large numbers.

MBDA is advancing high power lasers in developing an integrated systems approach for laser weapon systems. Application advantages include, immediate effect on target; low optical detectability; low costs for logistics/maintenance and very low costs per operation; scalable effects on target / possibility to escalate, very precise, extremely selective; no collateral damage caused by ammunition; and no procurement, storage or transport of ammunition.

MBDA Germany’s High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (All Photos: MBDA)

Artillery shells destroyed with the MBDA’s laser weapon in a former test campaign.

Potential applications for laser weapon systems include protection of high value assets, such as Forward Operating Bases and the such, soldiers and vehicles (air, ground, and maritime); the ability to enhance or inhibit tactical mobility; and for defence against terrorism. This by being able to do Counter-RAM,
Counter-UAV, Counter-IED/IEDD, and Counter-MANPADS.

Today the focus of high power laser activities in MBDA is on an integrated systems approach for laser weapon systems. MBDA is working on a C-RAM Laser Weapon System. This work contracted by the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) is making excellent progress. To accelerate development, MBDA has invested a significant amount of its own money in the programme.

Using 40kW of laser power, the laser demonstrator successfully acted on airborne targets at a range of over 2,000m and an altitude of 1,000 metres.

The necessary infrastructure is already in place at MBDA‘s Schrobenhausen site. This comprises: three test ranges for firing and tracking trials, a test laboratory as well as a roof laboratory with a laser demonstrator which together offer exceptional possibilities for current and future development work.

Proving its Air Defence Capabilities

On 9 October 2012, MBDA completed the first step towards a laser weapon system capable of providing air defence. The company’s high-energy laser demonstrator was used to demonstrate the complete deployment sequence in countering rockets, artillery and mortar shells (C-RAM). Using 40kW of laser power, the laser demonstrator successfully acted on airborne targets at a range of over 2,000 metres.

For these tests, MBDA Germany’s laser demonstrator was equipped with a new, improved performance, significantly more compact and lighter optical system which was integrated in a transportable container. During the tests, the illumination and effect laser was pre-targeted using a radar (SPEXER 2000) and an IR optronics system (MEOS II) supplied by Cassidian. A multi-stage control system, incorporating an in-house developed image processing system, was used to lock onto the target at close range.

To serve as targets, the MBDA test team used artillery shell models towed in a wide variety of flight paths at an altitude of 1,000 metres. Function control and monitoring as well as data recording, security technology and visualisation were all set up within a transportable fire control centre and demonstrated together with the laser during the tests. 

The tests were conducted at the BAAINBw WTD 52 test site in Oberjettenberg, Germany. The excellent results achieved this year by MBDA Germany are a continuation of the series of successful laser tests carried out in 2010 and 2011. 

Having already successfully boosted laser power to 40 kW in the first half of this year, we were able to take the next major step on the road toward a high-energy laser weapon system for close-in defence. In so doing, we have further extended our leading role in Europe in the area of laser applications for military use,” stated Peter Heilmeier, Market and Business Development Director at MBDA Germany.  

 Over 50 guests, including representatives from the German MoD, the Bundeswehr, the BAAINBw, the EDA, the Federal Criminal Police Office, the GSG 9 unit of the Federal Police Force, and various institutions and businesses, were present to witness the successful results.

I’m pleased that our progress is receiving so much attention from the customer as well as from others in the sector. With the flexible application possibilities of laser technology, we are not only addressing all armed services, but also attracting interest from outside the Bundeswehr,” noted Dr. W. Stammler, MBDA Germany’s Director of Operations. “Now we want to optimise the system step by step, increase its power while making it more compact and demonstrate its various system applications."

MBDA, a world leader in missiles and missile systems, is a multi-national group with 10,000 employees on industrial facilities in France, the UK, Italy, Germany, and the US. MBDA has three major aeronautical and defence shareholders - BAE Systems (37.5%), EADS (37.5%), and Finmeccanica (25%), and is one of the first truly integrated European defence companies. In 2012, the Group recorded a turnover of €3 billion, produced about 3,000 missiles and achieved an order book of €9.8 billion, new orders came to €2.3 billion. MBDA works with over 90 Armed Forces worldwide. MBDA has demonstrated its ability to bring together the best skills across the whole of Europe, and has succeeded in becoming the prime contractor for a series of strategic multi-national programmes. These include the six-nation METEOR air superiority weapon, the Franco-British conventionally armed cruise missile, STORM SHADOW/SCALP, and a family of air defence system,s based on the ASTER missile for France and Italy (for ground and naval based air defence), and for the UK (naval air defence for the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers). Other programmes such as MEADS further serve to position MBDA at the heart of the European defence sector, as well as establishing cooperative transatlantic links with the principal groups in the US defence industry.

For more information on DEWs, please see MILITARY TECHNOLOGY 10/2013, available in October 2013. For more information on MBDA, see recent issues of MILITARY TECHNOLOGY.