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26 June 2015

Return to Conventional Ops

After more than a decade concentrating on counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, more conventional warfare is making a comeback, according to senior defence sources. Speaking at the Soldier Technology 2015 conference in London on 24 June, Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) proclaimed the return of artillery and described mature tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) being adopted by Islamic State (IS) fighters in northern Iraq and Syria. “IS captured artillery [from Iraqi security forces] and attacked Ramadi in a sandstorm,” he explained while describing how they had adapted TTPs in order to best concentrate their force elements before attacking the town. He also described how ground reconnaissance units had identified Iraqi government strongholds and gaps in the line through which armoured columns were manoeuvred.

Similarly, Barry outlined how the attack on Ramadi had been preceded by days of indirect fire (IDF) by artillery pieces before an assault was initiated from multiple directions, including tactically place fire support elements designed to counter Iraqi Security Forces rotary-wing assets. During the assault itself, IS fighters used Suicide Vest Improvised Explosive Devices (SVIEDs) and Suicide Vehicle Borne IEDs (SVBIEDs), sometimes mounted on bulldozers and captured armoured vehicles, to breach an entry point before following up with combatants equipped with small arms.

The tactics and capabilities of ‘Combined Arms’ are back,” Barry stated before describing how NATO and coalition partners must consider protection against indirect fire (IDF); equipping of infantry squads with sufficient anti-armour munitions; and an ability to counter the active protection systems of armoured fighting vehicles.

Meanwhile, delegates debated how best to equip infantry platoons and squads in light of an ever evolving operating environment with many advocating a “golf bag” type approach allowing a squad or section to cherry pick the best weapon systems and C4ISTAR (Command & Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) equipment for particular missions. Barry described how the changing operating environment had begun to reflect in different ideas at the tactical level as to how best to equip and organise infantry force elements in combat: “There needs to be diversity in the infantry squad in relation to size and weapons mix.”

Comparing the 13-strong US Marine Corps (USMC) Squad to smaller 8-10 man teams employed elsewhere in the World, Barry stated: “With modern infantry fighting vehicles, you have to accept you’re going to fit less personnel in them because of the decreasing size, weight and power of the vehicles and the increasing equipment carried by the soldiers.”

Reflecting on lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan, New Zealand Defence Force programme manager for the Network Enabled Army, Phil Collett explained how sections had been overmatched and outmanoeuvred, resulting in a change in weapon calibre. NZDF units operating with 5.56mm Steyr assault rifles were outgunned by Taliban fighters armed with 7.62mm AK47 rifles. This, Collett explained, resulted in the replacement of the 5.56mm Light Machine Gun with a 7.62mm variant as well as the introduction of High Explosive 40mm grenades and Anti-Tank Guided Munitions. “We have to be masters of all trades,” he warned.

But continuing the theme of lethality, Collett said once you’ve upgrade from 5.56mm to 7.62mm and eventually up to .50-cal ammunition, the “next step” is to control joint assets to bring in close air support and rocket, artillery and mortar fires.

We will continue to develop but this suits our current needs and purposes,” he proclaimed.

Elsewhere, Brigadier General Norbert Huber, Director of Armament and Procurement at the Austrian Ministry of Defence called for squads being capable of deploying their own “organic and inorganic” fires, explaining: “This will remain a key to the future role of the infantry section or squad.”

Additionally, he described communications and situation awareness as “key” to future requirements and said software defined radios were a “step in the right direction” although NATO should be looking more at commercial off-the-shelf products.

He also highlighted robotics as a growth area, saying: “If i can reduce the role of the foot soldier and get things done by machines, that is one option we should look into.”

Finally, Huber warned that it was impossible to predict the future character of conflict (FCOC), describing how NATO had failed to foresee events in Crimea and Syria. 

Austrian Ministry of Defence (MoD) Outlines Future Protection Plans

The Austrian Ministry of Defence (MoD) described an emphasis on protection and lethality as it progresses with its soldier modernisation efforts, the Soldier Technology conference heard this week. Speaking at the event in London on 24 June, Johannes Bogner, Soldier Modernisation Programme Manager at the MoD explained how the transformation of the Austrian Armed Forces continued to take shape after its role expanded from an initial focus on homeland defence to operations abroad.

Describing how the country was aiming to be able to deploy an infantry battlegroup, Bogner said: “Protection of our personnel is our top priority, followed by protected mobility. New threats require a broad range of equipment available but the economic crisis means we have budget restrictions for the army.”

The Austrian MoD’s main effort, Bogner said, was to achieve a complete and integrated system capable of net-centric operations while being modular and adaptable in nature.

The challenge is that we have to see the soldier as a human being and not overload him physically or psychologically,’ he continued while describing the wide ranging spectrum of operational scenarios he is coming up against including symmetric and asymmetric warfare in all environments and climates, as well as in collaboration with coalition partners, non-government organisations and in changing cultural settings. Bogner also highlighted requirements to stick to rules of engagement as well as multi-role capabilities of the dismounted soldiers.

Austria’s soldier modernisation effort has been broken down into two programmes, including the Soldier 2018 (formerly Soldier 2015) effort and the Future Soldier (Soldat der Zukunft) concept which anticipates procurement of equipment from 2020 and beyond.

The focus of the Soldier 2018 concept heavily centres around personnel protection including combat helmet, ears and eyes protection, CBRN protection, night vision and body armour. Additionally, it covers a personal role radio and headset as well as lethality focused on .308, .338 and .50-cal sniper rifles; 7.62mm light machine guns; 60mm light mortars; 5.56mm assault rifles; and light ATGMs.

Field trials are conducted in 2013 alongside the Norwegian Armed Forces with further trials intended between 2016 and 2018. This evaluation process will see how all the components fit together and impacts on the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and integration issues of the soldier.

Challenges, Bogner said, would likely comprise net-centric capabilities, situation awareness, size, weight and power issues, ergonomics, integration versus modularity and interoperability.

Other areas of interest focus on Image Intensification, Thermal Imaging and holographic weapon sights; laser light modules, back up iron sights, as well as weight of ammunition, protection, sights, uniform and batteries..

The soldier just needs to have the equipment allowing him execute his role,” Bogner said.

Emphasising ongoing cooperation with other international soldier modernisation programmes, Bogner described how such technology was “a key issue” for so many partner nations over the next few years and said the market would see a marked proliferation of such equipment in the battlefield in that period of time.

It is critical to the improvement of the combat effectiveness of dismounted soldiers in the multinational environment,” he added.
Andrew White

PUMA IFV Meeting the Customer's Exacting Requirements

On 24 June 2015 in Unterluess, Germany, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall officially handed over the new PUMA infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr). The PUMA is produced by KMW and Rheinmetall and is the successor to the MARDER light tank. Critics highlight the tank's weight (over 30t ) and high cost, as the Bundeswehr is scheduled to purchase 350 vehicles. Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall, explained at the handover, "it would be hard to find a defence project of this complexity where budgetary limits were adhered so closely; the defence industry never raised the price of the PUMA," not mentioning the extra costs that additional features have cost, which was countered by Papperger by stating: "When, during the course of the project, costs increases occured, these were borne by the contractors." He cemented his argument by saying that, "there are no increased costs realting to the PUMA IFV that can be attributed to the German defence industry." Read full story on the handover and the vehicle here.

Harald Stein, President of the German procurement agency BAAINBw, handing over the "key" to the PUMA infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to Lt.Gen. Rainer Korff, Commander German Elements Multinational Corps and Basic Military Organisation at the German Army, and Deputy Chief of Army Staff. (All photos via AF)  

According to Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall, KMW, his company, and a host of suppliers have, "once again demonstrated their tremendous potential and masterful expertise in making the PUMA reality." The Bundeswehr is very happy to have received the IFV, which has earlier entered active service with the Bundeswehr in order to train the trainers, at a German Army training centre in Munster until the end of this year.

According to Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall, the outcome of the successful cooperation between Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall represents a whole new dimension in armoured vehicle design. "It embodies the outstanding capabilities and unsurpassed competence of the German ground forces technology industry," he boasted.

Papperger sees a bright future for the defence sector, of course only if, "in the future everything necessary for preserving and strengthening the industry will in fact be done," making a very strong political statement. Ambitious requirements took the project to the limits of the technically feasible, he said, "sometimes there were mutually contradictory requirements - maximum protection, the greatest possible combat effectiveness, the lowest possible weight - to mention a few," explaining delays which were due to the complexity of the project.

Six IDZ-ES (GLADIUS soldier modernisation system) soldiers (shown here from the 92 Armoured Infantry Demonstration Battalion, Munster) fit in the back of the PUMA  infantry fighting vehicle (IFV)
Rheinmetall's CEO mentioned that the PUMA's digitised command and control (C2) technology make it easier for the crew to operate the vehicle and its subsystems, simplifying command procedures, and bring the vehicle into the networked operations loop. The vehicle's hydro-pneumatic chassis and high-performance engine make it extremely manoeuvrable, assuring a top speed of 70km/h, making it the perfect battlefield partner for the LEOPARD 2 main battle tank.

Parliamentary state secretary Markus GrĂ¼bel explained at the handover that the PUMA, "as it stands before us today, does not yet have all the required skills," called out the pending integration of EuroSpike GmbH's (joint venture of Rafael and Rheinmetall) multi-purpose, light guided missile system (MELLS), covering the firm order of initially 311 guided missiles, and moreover containing the option of additional 1,160 Rafael SPIKE LR guided missiles, integrated by Diehl BGT Defence.

Papperger concluded by turning attention to Russia, where earlier this year a prototype of a new Russian tank, the ARMATA T-14, was unveiled. He said that it is remarkable how quickly an interesting debate had unfolded, "specifically, a discussion of the shortcomings in the arsenals of the nations of western and central Europe and the need to develop a possible successor for the LEOPARD 2, and the consequences of our failure to do so in the years following the fall of the Iron Curtain." He cemented that in order to keep an Army equipped with state-of-the-art technology, means, "having to maintain an effective and efficient defence technology industry, and this goes for Germany in particular."

Delivery of all 350 IFVs will take place by 2020. Awarded to PSM GmbH (a joint enture of Rheinmetall and KMW, each holding a 50% stake) in 2004.

Thanks to its newly developed MK30-2/ABM 30mm automatic cannon and programmable ammunition, the PUMA IFV can effectively engage a wide spectrum of targets, even behind cover; and advanced optics, optronics and sensors give the crew maximum situational awareness around the clock, enabling early detection and high precision engagement of emerging threats.

A modular protection system consisting of active and passive components protects the PUMA IFV crew from mines, improvised explosive devices, bomblets, shrapnel and ballistic threats such as shaped charges and kinetic energy rounds.

24 June 2015

PUMA IFV Formally Handed over to Bundeswehr

Today, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall formally handed over the PUMA
infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr). Being one of the most advanced systems of its kind anywhere, and one of the world’s most ambitious projects in the field of  army technology the Bundeswehr’s fielding of the PUMAIFV gives its mechanised infantry a new main weapons system that will gradually supersede the MARDER, first introduced over 40 years ago.

The PUMA infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) was handed over to the Bundeswehr today. (Photos via Rheinmetall)

Delivery of all 350 IFVs will take place by 2020. Awarded to PSM GmbH (a joint enture of Rheinmetall and KMW, each holding a 50% stakein 2004, the contract today is worth around €4.3 billion, including separately ordered additional equipment.

Performance characteristics of the PUMA IFV:

  • Lethality. Thanks to its newly developed MK30-2/ABM 30mm automatic cannon and programmable ammunition, it can effectively engage a wide spectrum of targets, even behind cover.
  • Mobility. The vehicle’s hydro-pneumatic chassis and powerful engine make the PUMA highly manoeuvrable even in the toughest terrain as well as enabling a top speed of 70 km/h. This means it can operate on the battlefield in tandem with the LEOPARD 2 tank.
  • Survivability. A modular protection system consisting of active and passive components protects the crew from mines, improvised explosive devices, bomblets, shrapnel and ballistic threats such as shaped charges and kinetic energy rounds.
  • C4I. Digitised command and control (C2) technology make it easier for the crew to operate the vehicle and its subsystems, simplifying command procedures and bringing the PUMA directly into the networked operations loop.
  • Reconnaissance. Advanced optics, optronics and sensors give the crew maximum situational awareness around the clock, enabling early detection and high precision engagement of emerging threats.

The PUMA IFV has entered active service with the Bundeswehr earlier in order to train the trainers, at a German Army training centre in Munster until the end of this year. A special organisation has been set up in Munster for the PUMA, which provides mechanised infantry companies with three months of initial training in the new vehicle.Once completing a three-month course, units return to their home base with their newly issued PUMAs. In the meantime, the Bundeswehr and PSM have concluded the necessary contracts for maintenance and technical/logistical support.

PUMA "cockpit."

19 June 2015

Textron Systems’ Shadow of Tomorrow

At Paris Air Show 2015, Textron Systems business development manager for unmanned systems Brent J. Philson spoke to MT and explained how the SHADOW M2 has kept what he calls, “the goodness of the SHADOW,” with the new system building on, “a million hour legacy.” Providing 80% commonality with the older SHADOW, Textron Systems’ new tactical UAS is, “payload agnostic,” according to Philson and in comparison to its predecessor it has more space, which can be used to carry additional advanced sensor payloads, this due to an open internal bay in the centre of the aircraft. A second EO/IR FMV sensor, typically in a 10in turret, or SAR can be installed here. Alternatively, the bay can accommodate an auxiliary fuel tank, giving the air vehicle an endurance of 17 hours, or house some of the equipment that is normally fitted in the front of the aircraft. This might occur when SATCOM capability has to be added for BLOS operations. This capability is not found on any of the earlier SHADOW aircraft. A typical SHADOW M2 system would consist of four air vehicles, two of which could be equipped with SATCOM. Wing mounted pods are also available which can carry SIGINT, CBRN detection and other special purpose payloads. If the need arises, the SHADOW M2 can also be weaponised as Textron Systems’ FURY miniature PGM has been tested on both the SHADOW V2 and M2. For this, Textron Systems uses the same Harris (then Exelis) rack as found on the AT-6, now rebranded as WOLVERINE, and the SCORPION jet. Philson indicated that there is a lot of interest for FURY. However, it has not attracted any actual customers yet.

Textron Systems is this week conducting a live demonstration with its SHADOW M2 for the French procurement agency DGA. This is related to Textron Systems bid for the French Army requirement for a follow on to its current Sagem SPERWER tactical UAS. For the bid Textron Systems has joined forces with Airbus Defence & Space with the system being offered under the name ARTEMIS.

Several variants of the SHADOW are in use with the US Army which is right now in the process of deploying 88 V2 upgrade kits. According to Philson, the V2 upgrade includes an IFE (Increased Fuel Efficiency) engine, a rewing package, a TCDL and a high powered launcher.

The US Marine Corps (USMC) too operates the SHADOW and so does the military of Australia. In Sweden, Textron Systems joined forces with Saab. The Nordic country operates the SHADOW 200 with a rewing package. Italy has received the all digital SHADOW V2 and will soon get two more systems. Poland currently has a phased requirement for new UAS for which Textron Systems intends to offer the SHADOW M2 and the AEROSONDE Mk 4.7 small UAS. The latter can support both land based and seabased operations and is now also on offer to both the Netherlands and Denmark as these countries are seeking to recapitalise their tactical UAS inventories.
Pieter Bastiaans

UK Remains Optimistic Over Further TYPHOON Sales

The UK remains positive about further sales of the Eurofighter TYPHOON to countries such as Qatar and India, despite both country’s initial decision to buy the Dassault RAFALE instead, said Stephen Phipson, Head of the Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) within the British government.

Briefing at the Paris Airshow, Phipson said that although Qatar had opted for 24 RAFALE fighters as the initial replacement aircraft for its Dassault MIRAGE 2000-5s: “It was inevitable that they would buy some RAFALE’s in their 72 fast jet requirement, but we are getting signals that they are still considering whether or not to push forward with TYPHOON. We will give them the option to buy which will probably arise sometime next year.”

Phipson expressed a similar hope over the Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA): “Their requirement is for 126 fast jets. I was in India for meetings all last week [and there can still be] competition for the second and even third tranches.” He highlighted the commitment to assemble and support the BAE Systems HAWK fleet within India which supported the country’s manufacturing aspirations.

There were grounds for further optimism regarding potential sales to Bahrain, neighbour of long standing customer Saudi Arabia.  Malaysia was also still regarded as another potential sale, although Phipson said that the Italian government were the lead negotiator regarding that contract. “We have had a meeting at the air show and they assured us the campaign is going really well,” acknowledged Phipson. He said that the ability to provide early deliveries to any new TYPHOON orders was a distinct advantage over other competitors. Regarding ongoing manufacturing, he revealled: “We don’t have to worry until the end of 2016 in terms of its sustainment.

When asked about future new platform projects that would benefit UK industry, Phipson gave a measured response: “We have to start thinking about the whole area of large platforms in a different way. Going forward it is not going to be about individual countries, but collaboration on joint projects. No countries can afford single big platforms outside the US due to affordability.” To that point even Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter (JSF-35) has had international funding from countries including the UK, Canada and Australia. He also pointed out that new smaller technology, such as that in unmanned systems, is reducing the need to invest in large scale platforms.

Another area that his organisation is keen to support is that of cyber protection. Commenting on the recent Pentagon personnel breach - thought to have been perpetrated by China - he said that this only served to highlight the importance of cyber protection: “Last year we assisted UK companies to deliver three large export programmes to protect against exactly that. These attacks are going ahead all the time of course. But the UK now has 3,000 cyber security companies. It is a sector that is growing in double digits.” The UK’s cyber exports were £1.1 billion last year but are growing at around 30% per annum, he concluded.
Andrew Drwiega

Photographic Recap of Paris Air Show 2015 by Pieter Bastiaans