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28 August 2015

Hit by G36 Woes, Bundeswehr Procures HK417 Derivative

On 26 August, the German Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that it will order 600 new 7.62x51mm assault rifles that will be based on Heckler & Koch’s (H&K) G27P model.

The latest decision by Deputy Defence Minister Katrin Suder is part of a wider scheme aimed at remedying a capability gap which the German Army has recently identified, namely, that its troops might be at risk during operations because of limitations caused by a lack of accuracy of H&K’s G36, the German Army’s standard issue 5.56x45mm assault rifle, of which approximately 178,000 examples have been bought by the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) since the mid 1990s.

Although the German military indicates that the exact causes of the problems with the G36 have not yet been identified, being the subject of further research that will be finished by late this year, the lack of accuracy appears to be caused by excessive heating of the rifle’s barrel when delivering continuous fire. Hence, the decision to order a version of the HK417 along the lines of the G27P, a precision rifle used by the German Army Special Forces together with an additional 600 5.56x45mm H&K MG4 light machineguns.

While insisting that the G36 is a perfectly reliable weapon, Germany’s Chief of Defence Gen. Volker Wieker, as a first precaution, took steps in April to have German military units, deployed overseas, informed about how to deal with the already mentioned issues surrounding the G36; this in order to overcome the G36’s specific limitations to the best extent possible.

The decision by the MoD to enhance the Army’s small arms mix by a short term introduction of new weapons must be seen as an interim measure aimed at negating the shortcomings for soon be deployed units, pending the outcome of the ongoing G36 investigation. One of the options for a structural remedy would be a capability upgrade of the existing G36, something for which the Bundeswehr has had only lukewarm attention up till now.

Procurement of the 1,200 new weapons will cost around €18 million with a first batch of 60 G27s to be ordered by November at the latest, assuming there will be no negative feedback resulting from trials that are currently ongoing with the weapon. The remainder of the weapons would then be delivered by June next year, clearing the way for the G27 to be used during operations from the second half of 2016.  All 600 additional MG4 machingeuns will be delivered by late 2016.

The G36’s manufacturer has vehemently denied it might be at fault, saying in its defence that the Bundeswehr itself recently revealed that during tests in its class only the HK416 assault rifle had shown to be superior to the G36. As the latest HK416A5 and HK416A6 were not made available to the Bundeswehr by H&K, the company claims, the weapon tested in late 2014 appears to be a so-called HK416Bw, a HK416 variant that is on offer as a light support weapon for use by German Army Special Forces and military police. However, unlike the G36, the HK416Bw is equipped with a thicker, heavier barrel very similar to the one used on the MG4 light machinegun and thus better capable of withstanding the heat caused by continuous fire, with H&K insisting that the G36 currently used is not capable of serving as a light support weapon. Questioning the MoD’s findings about a capability gap, the manufacturer from Oberndorf in Germany also insists that the Bundeswehr has never called for any serious upgrade of its G36A1/A2 assault rifles except for the introduction of Picatinny features and an adjustable, collapsible, folding buttstock as part of the G36A1A1 upgrade. Denying suggestions that its use of glass reinforced plastic, which is used for essential parts of the weapon, might be the cause of the problem, H&K has made clear that its assault rifle was cleared of all blame in late 2013 when an earlier series of trials showed that faulty ammunition was to blame.

Although both are in the 7.62x51mm caliber, the G27 must not be confused with the G28, also from H&K, which is semi-automatic designated marksman rifle (DMR) already in use with the German Army. Having 75% parts interchangeability with the HK417, this weapon is based on the MR308 competition rifle with an additional conversion add-on kit allowing users to convert the standard G28 E2 into an E3 Patrol version that can then be used as an assault rifle.

In addition to closing what is perceived a capability gap by the military, the latest decision to procure new weapons from H&K also appears to be intended as a means to reduce the level of tension that now exists between the MoD and its principal small arms supplier. With Germany’s Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen being at odds with parliament over who is responsible for the cost overruns with which a large number of the Bundeswehr’s major armament programmes have been confronted, the row over the G36 has been called a politically motivated attack on the manufacturer by some commentators.
Pieter Bastiaans

27 August 2015

Oshkosh Defense Wins JLTV Contract

The US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) has awarded Oshkosh Defense a $6.7 billion firm fixed price production contract to manufacture the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

The JLTV production contract awarded to Oshkosh includes a base contract award and eight option years covering three years of LRIP and five years of FRP. Oshkosh will begin delivering vehicles approximately ten months after contract award. (Photo: Oshkosh)

The JLTV programme fills a critical capability gap for the US Army and US Marine Corps (USMC) by replacing a large portion of the legacy HMMWV fleet with a light tactical vehicle with far superior protection and off-road mobility. During the contract, which includes both Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) and Full Rate Production (FRP), Oshkosh expects to deliver approximately 17,000 vehicles and sustainment services.

Following a rigorous, disciplined JLTV competition, the US Army and USMC are giving our nation’s warfighters the world’s most capable light vehicle – the Oshkosh JLTV,” Charles L. Szews, Oshkosh CEO boasted. “Oshkosh is honoured to be selected for the JLTV production contract, which builds upon our 90-year history of producing tactical wheeled vehicles for US military operations at home and abroad. We are fully prepared to build a fleet of exceptional JLTVs to serve our troops in future missions.” (Photo: Oshkosh)

The JLTV Family of Vehicles is comprised of two variants, a two seat and a four seat variant, as well as a companion trailer (JLTV-T). The two seat variant has one base vehicle platform, the Utility (JLTV-UTL). The four seat variant has two base vehicle platforms, the General Purpose (JLTV-GP) and the Close Combat Weapons Carrier (JLTV-CCWC).

The winning firm or team would build 17,000 vehicles for the Army and Marines in the first three years of LRIP, followed by five years of FRP, according to a Congressional Research Service report. As part of engineering and manufacturing development contracts awarded to the three companies in 2012, each company delivered 22 prototype vehicles. The first Army unit would be equipped with the vehicles in fiscal 2018, and its acquisition would be complete in 2040. The USMC would begin its buy at the start of production and finish in fiscal 2022.

Because of the JLTV programme, our soldiers and marines are getting a level of technical performance that no other vehicle can match,” US Army Maj.Gen. (Ret.) John M. Urias, Executive Vice President of Oshkosh and President of Oshkosh Defense explained. “Our JLTV has been extensively tested and is proven to provide the ballistic protection of a light tank, the underbody protection of an MRAP-class vehicle, and the off-road mobility of a Baja racer. The Oshkosh JLTV allows troops to travel over rugged terrain at speeds 70% faster than today’s gold standard, which is our Oshkosh M-ATV. Looking to future battlefields, we know that our troops will face a myriad of threats. Soldiers and marines can be assured that the highly capable Oshkosh JLTV will perform the mission.”  (Photo: Oshkosh)

According to Oshkosh, its JLTV combines the latest in automotive technologies with the Oshkosh CORE1080 crew protection and TAK-4i independent suspension systems to provide next generation performance. In designing its JLTV, Oshkosh leveraged its extensive experience producing and sustaining more than 150,000 heavy, medium and protected MRAP vehicles for the US and its allies.
Oshkosh beat out Lockheed Martin and AM General to win the contract to build the JLTV, which eventually could cover as many as 50,000 vehicles and be worth as much as $30 billion over the next 25 years.

A tough political fight may lie ahead before production begins. Neither Lockheed or AM General has ruled out filing a protest with the Government Accountability Office, a process that could complicate the multi-decade initiative that will see around 55,000 vehicles roll off the assembly line.

The Lockheed Martin JLTV Team was disappointed to learn that the US Army and USMC did not select our JLTV,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement. “We believe we presented a very strong solution and await the customers’ debrief to hear more detail regarding the reasons behind this selection before making a decision about a potential protest.”

We are disappointed with the Government’s decision and continue to believe that AM General and our BRV-O vehicle are the right choice for the JLTV programme, based on our best value offer which is backed by decades of JLTV expertise and proven record as a trusted and reliable partner with the US military,” a AM General spokesman said. “Our BRV-O provides world-class survivability features to Soldiers and Marines while delivering unmatched vehicle payload and performance. We are very proud of our team’s efforts and our BRV-O offering. At this time, we are reviewing the government’s decision and are considering all available options.”

US Army TACOM LCMC has awarded Oshkosh Defense a $6.7 billion firm fixed price production contract to manufacture the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), beating Lockheed Martin's and AM General's offer. (Photo: Oshkosh)
Meritor announced today it plans to supply wheel-ends for approximately 17,000 JLTV to be manufactured by Oshkosh . Meritor's bevel gear hub wheel-ends will help optimise the Oshkosh JLTV's payload capability and mobility, according to the company. 

"For more than half a century, we've supported our troops by delivering technology solutions for military applications," said Tim Burns, vice president, Defense & Specialty for Meritor. "We're proud to support this next-generation light, protected tactical vehicle for the Army and Marine Corps."

Interestingly, according to Col. Shane Fullmer, US Army's JLTV project manager, as an option within the initial $6.7 billion contract, the US Army can buy a technical data package from Oshkosh for JLTV that would allow the service to re-compete production. However, the Army has not decided on that yet.

25 August 2015

T129 ATAK Demonstrates Capabilities in Poland

As mentioned before on this blog, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) demonstrated T129 ATAK Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter flights in Poland. These took place on 22-23 August 2015 during the Radom Air Show. The T129 ATAK is a candidate for the KRUK Programme of the Polish Armed Forces. The demonstration flights at Radom Airshow marked the official launch of the T129 Poland Roadshow.

The first batch of T129 ATAK helicopters has already been delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces and is in service supporting the missions of the Turkish Army.

18 August 2015

T129 ATAK Poland Roadshow

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is launching its “T129 ATAK Poland Roadshow” 22 August  – 4 September 2015. The T129 ATAK Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter is a candidate for the KRUK Programme of the Polish Armed Forces. During its visit to Poland, the T129 ATAK will perform demonstration flights for the Polish defence industry and aviation lovers, aka AV-Geeks.

The T129 ATAK Helicopter will make its first ever public appearance in Poland during Radom Airshow 22-23 August 2015. Visitors will have the chance to witness the T129 ATAK’s performance and maneuverability during demonstration flights at 15:20h on both days.  More information about the T129 ATAK will be available on TAI’s stand at the show.

The T129 ATAK helicopter will be presented to Polish and Turkish high officials, industrial partners, and the media at a private event with a flight demonstration at Warsaw-Babice Airport on 28 August 2015 and it will appear again on static display at the TAI stand at MSPO Kielce, 1-4 September 2015.

The T129 ATAK Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter is a new generation, tandem, two-seat, twin engine helicopter, specifically designed for attack and reconnaissance purposes. It incorporates a totally new system philosophy, with new engines (LHTEC CTS 800-4A), new avionics, visionics and weapon systems, a modified airframe, upgraded drive train, and new tail rotor. T129 ATAK has been optimised to meet and exceed the performance requirements of the most challenging geographical and environmental conditions. (Photo: TAI)

The first batch of T129 ATAK Helicopters has already been delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces and is in service supporting the missions of the Turkish Army. As an integral member of the NATO alliance, the Turkish Armed Forces have always been at the leading edge of innovative defense technology. With the strong endorsement of the Turkish Armed Forces, the already significant international interest on the T129 ATAK as a superior alternative attack helicopter is expected to intensify.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is a global center of technology in design, development, modernisation, manufacturing, integration, and life cycle support for integrated aerospace systems, from fixed and rotary wing air platforms to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems (UAS) and space systems. 

First Fleet Of T129 ATAK Helicopters Delivered to Turkish Army

On 31 July , Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) completed the delivery of the first fleet (nine helicopters) of T129 ATAK Multirole Combat Helicopters to the Turkish Army.

Having completed the first fleet delivery, the T129 ATAK Multirole Combat Helicopters are now being used effectively in operational theatres by the Turkish Land Forces. (Photo: TAI)

The T129 ATAK is now ready to meet a range of new export opportunities and requirements in the worldwide market. The successful delivery of the first helicopter fleet is a major milestone for the Turkish aerospace and defence industry in terms of design, development, and international collaboration. This latest accomplishment provides further evidence of the successful cooperation between the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) as a procurement agency, the Turkish Land Forces as an end user, TAI as a prime contractor, and subcontractors with the development and delivery of one of the most advanced combat helicopters in its class. As an outcome of the endorsement provided by the Turkish Armed Forces, according to TAI, the already strong international interest in the T129 ATAK as a superior alternative is expected to intensify.

Roketsan has reached the final phase in the UMTAS Project, the new-generation Long Range Anti-Tank Missile with an imaging IR (IIR) seeker. Multiple targets were successfully hit during firing tests, on 2 and 3 July 2015, at the firing range in Karapinar/Konya/Turkey. The UMTAS Project is in the design verification phase, where system qualification is expected to begin this year. (Photo: Roketsan)

11 August 2015

Iraqi PM Announces Reforms Aimed at “decentralisation” of Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Haider al-Abadi announced proposed reforms to the structure of Iraq’s central state over the weekend, including the elimination of several key government offices. The offices of vice president and deputy PM listed for termination have been divided along sectarian lines since 2004.

Two Sunni offices, three Shi’ite offices and one Kurdish office face the chopping block under the reforms. Among those to lose their positions under Abadi’s plan are two prominent Shi’ite leaders, former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi.

Abadi’s proposals also include removal of restrictions on foreign direct investment and new initiatives to train security forces for the fight against IS. Iraq’s parliament will consider the proposed reforms beginning today.

Presented in US media as “anti-corruption” measures, the reform proposals actually represent a major step toward the dissolution of the unified Iraqi state and the breakup of Iraqi society into several autonomous statelets.

During official visits to Washington this year, Abadi has sought to assure his American backers that this program is necessary to counter the Iranian-backed Shia forces vying for control over Iraq and its oil resources. His government has backed the efforts of Washington to build up new proxy forces in Iraq, pledging $1 billion in military aid to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga forces during 2015 and overseeing the creation of the Sunni National Mobilisation Forces.

In an April speech at the Washington DC think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Abadi outlined a programme of privatisation of state-owned property and effective political autonomy at the local level, saying such measures were necessary to reverse the efforts of the previous Maliki government to centralize power in Baghdad. “If we do not decentralise, the country will disintegrate,” Abadi said. “To me, there are no limitations to decentralisation. In a major government reform, we are decentralizing decision-making from Baghdad to the local administration and local governments. The National Guard will take the responsibility to defend the provinces from any threat, and they will be accountable to the governors.”

Abadi’s proposals found a ready audience in the Obama administration. Already in 2006, then-Senator Joseph Biden advanced a, “five point alternative plan,” proposing the breakup of Iraq into three mini-states, one Sunni Arab, one Shiite Arab, and one Kurd. In the wake of Abadi’s visit, Vice President Biden told an audience at the National Defense University that, “Iraq needs a much greater functioning federalism.”

Prime Minster Abadi kept true to his commitment to reach out to them [Kurds and Sunnis], and to respond to their concerns, and make sure that power is not solely concentrated within Baghdad,” President Barack Obama said after emerging from meetings in May with the Iraqi leader. Leading figures in the administration and military have reiterated this line over the summer. Aggressive calls for arming the Kurds in the north and Sunni forces in Iraq’s western provinces have emanated from senior lawmakers and ruling class think tanks in recent months.

What if a multi-sectarian Iraq turns out not be possible?” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asked rhetorically during congressional testimony in June. “That is an important part of our strategy now on the ground. If the government can’t do what it’s supposed to do, then we will still try to enable local ground forces, if they’re willing to partner with us, to keep stability in Iraq--but there will not be a single state of Iraq.”

Carter went on to announce that the US will directly arm and supply the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), demanding that Baghdad accept an arrangement allowing regional forces, “to maintain security within their own territory, govern themselves, and share in the oil wealth of the country.”

While the Obama administration may prefer the controlled process of decentralisation envisioned by Abadi, voices in the US establishment are demanding a more aggressive policy, arguing for the complete withdrawal of US support for Baghdad and arming of the KRG and Sunni tribal forces.

In a study published earlier this month, “An Intensified Approach to Combating the Islamic State,” the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) called for US pressure, “to press Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to build a more inclusive central government that represents and serves all Iraqis--Shia, Sunni and Kurd--and devolves more authority and resources to the provinces.”

As part of an, “integrated political-military plan for Iraq,” the CNAS called for, “greater Sunni inclusion, devolution of authority and resources to provinces such as Anbar, as well as the establishment of a national guard as a vehicle for Sunni tribal militias to become part of the Iraqi security forces.”

The US should speed the supply of arms and equipment directly to local tribal militia and Peshmerga units, while holding out the prospect that arms will flow through Baghdad if and when the central government establishes a reliable process for their transfer and passes legislation to include these fighters in the Iraqi security forces,” the CNAS wrote.

The Democratic-leaning think tank argued that direct arming of Sunni and Kurdish militants would, “incentivise Shia politicians in Baghdad, who have thus far been reluctant to pass legislation establishing an Iraqi National Guard, to support the new law in order to ensure these local forces ultimately fall under the control of the Iraqi security forces.”

In the absence of measures to empower US-aligned Sunni elements, including, “more autonomy and resources to govern themselves at the provincial level,” the only alternative would be the, “dissolution of Iraq as a unitary state,” the CNAS argued.

Washington must, “raise the costs for Iran both in Syria and across the region through more aggressive use of military and intelligence tools--jointly with Arab partner militaries--to counter Iran’s surrogates and proxies,” the CNAS concluded.

It is increasingly clear that the “solution” to the Iraq-Syria war envisioned by the US political-military elite is one that involves the partition of both countries. The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Vincent Stewart, told a conference of intelligence personnel at the end of July that Iraq, “may indeed be irreparably fractured and may not come back as an intact state.”

He added: “You also see a lot of fracturing in Syria, where you could end up with an Alawite-stan in the middle and something to the north and something to the south.”

Contesting the Arctic Region

Russia is seeking to increase its Arctic shelf borders. The Arctic consists of land, territorial waters and international waters. All land and territorial waters in the Arctic belong to one of five countries: Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark (through its autonomous territory Greenland), and the United States (via Alaska). Control of the area is regulated by international law; under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), international waters, including the North Pole and the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it, are not owned by any country. The five surrounding countries are limited to exclusive economic zones (EEZ) that stretch 200 nautical miles (370km; 230mi) from their respective coasts.

The waters beyond the territorial waters of the coastal states are considered the “high seas” (international waters). The sea bottom beyond the EEZ and confirmed extended continental shelf claims are considered to be the “heritage of all mankind” and administered by the UN International Seabed Authority. Following the ratification of the UNCLOS, each coastal country had a 10-year period to make claims to an extended continental shelf, which, if validated by the UN, would give it exclusive rights to resources on or below the seabed of that part of the extended shelf. However, in order to make such a claim, the country should prove that the shelf is a geological extension of its land territory. According to recent estimates, the Arctic shelf is believed to hold approximately 30% of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15% of its oil, with the majority of these resources remaining offshore.

Canada ratified the convention in November 2003; ten years later it announced that it would file a claim which would include the North Pole but asked for more time to prepare the application.

Denmark ratified UNCLOS in November 2004 and in 2014 it submitted its claim for approximately 895,541sqkm of the Arctic seabed – an area 20 times larger than Denmark itself. It became the first country to claim ownership over the North Pole itself. It became the fifth Danish territorial claim in the Arctic, with previous attempts occurring in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013. The application is set to be considered only after Russia’s claim.

Norway ratified the convention in 1996 and by 2006 it had submitted its claim to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. In 2009 it became the first Arctic nation to settle an agreement, according to which it got three new areas of its continental shelf, covering about 235,000sqkm, or three-quarters of the size of its mainland. The original Norwegian claims presented to the UN commission in 2006 had requested 250,000sqkm.

Russia ratified the convention in 1997. On 20 December 2001, Russia made an official submission to the UN, where it proposed to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf of Russia beyond the 200nm EEZ, but within the Russian Arctic sector. Russia's Federal Agency for Subsoil Use, Rosnedra, has suggested that energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom cooperate on the development of technologies for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Shelf. The territory claimed by Russia in the submission is a large portion of the Arctic within its sector, extending to but not beyond the geographic North Pole.

One of the arguments was a statement that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain ridge passing near the Pole, and Mendeleev Ridge on the Russian side of the Pole are extensions of the Eurasian continent. The application was rejected in 2002 due to a lack of geological evidence. On 2 August 2007, a Russian expedition called Arktika 2007, composed of six explorers led by Artur Chilingarov, employing MIR submersibles, for the first time in history descended to the seabed at the North Pole. There they planted the Russian flag and took water and soil samples for analysis, continuing a mission to provide additional evidence related to the Russian claim to the mineral riches of the Arctic. This was part of the ongoing 2007 Russian North Pole expedition, and was conducted as part of the 2007–2008 International Polar Year.

On 4 August 2015, Russia resubmitted its bid, which contained new arguments based on, “ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research,” regarding territory in the Arctic to the UN. Via this bid, Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometres of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350nm nautical miles from the shore. According to Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq, Russia's bid for the expansion of its Arctic shelf border will be considered by the UN not earlier than in February or March of 2016.

The US had not ratified the UN Convention and, therefore, has not been eligible to file an official claim requesting the extension of its control of the continental shelf. The major obstacles facing ratification are the provisions of Part XI of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, relating to minerals on the seabed outside the EEZ. It establishes an International Seabed Authority (ISA) to authorise seabed exploration and mining and collect and distribute seabed mining royalties. The US argues that the treaty was unfavourable to American economic and security interests, and is attempting to establish an alternative regime for exploiting the minerals of the deep seabed.

Clash of Geopolitical Interests 

Rich in natural resources, the Arctic is a potential arena for the clash of geopolitical interests of the Arctic states. Russia is actively developing territories in the Arctic region. In order to effectively use the new shipping routes, which are formed due to the melting of ice, as well as to optimize oil and gas production in the region, Moscow is carrying out massive modernisation of its northern coast and remote archipelagos.

A soldier demonstrates the Ratnik Soldier Combat Equipment Set during a military exercise at Alabino range, Moscow Region , for use in the arctic. 

In February 2013, Russian authorities unveiled a strategy to improve the country's military defence network in the Arctic, a programme that will continue through 2020. In April 2014, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had begun the construction of an integrated network of military facilities in its Arctic territories to bolster border defences. Russia is concentrating on the construction of a series of military bases, which will include search and rescue (SAR) stations, ports, runways and military headquarters. The other Arctic region neighbouring countries, do not have the same amount of bases in comparison.

In order to support new military bases, some of which were built during the Soviet times and now are undergoing modernisation, the Kremlin is also working to update the Northern Fleet. Altogether, Moscow plans to open 10 Arctic SAR stations, 16 deep-water ports, 13 airports, and 10 radar stations with air defence systems.

An integrated system to monitor conditions in the Arctic, including both civilian and military segments, will be created in Russia by 2025, developer RTI Systems concern recently said. The cost of the system is estimated at over $93 million. It will consist of several elements, specifically, primary sources of information received from surface wave radars, underwater lighting, a highly elliptical orbit space system and remote-controlled Unmanned Systems. The system will be amplified with transport and communications equipment.

By 2020-2025, a system to monitor conditions in the Arctic will be created. This includes the creation of a single information space, monitoring the situation in the air, on water, underwater and on land. It is a dual purpose system, both civilian and military,” a spokesperson for the concern said.

Russia is monitoring Arctic waters and airspace at a distance of over 300mi miles from the coastline, a representative of the country’s Defense Ministry said in late July.

Since February 2013, when Moscow announced a strategy to increase its presence in the Arctic and boost the region's development by 2020, Russia has been particularly active in exploring opportunities in the Arctic and is set to build a unified network of military facilities in the region in order to strengthen its border defence.

Red Flag 2015?

A number of fighter bombers and AWACS reconnaissance planes are taking part in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-3, a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise for US and partner nation forces, providing combined offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment; now underway in Alaska. Overall command is being exercised by the Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The ROKAF is participating in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-3.
During the two-week employment phase of the exercise, aircrews are subjected to every conceivable combat threat. Scenarios are shaped to meet each exercise's specific training objectives. All units are involved in the development of exercise training objectives. At the height of the exercise, up to 70 jet fighters can be operating in the same airspace at one time. Typically, RED FLAG-Alaska conducts two combat training missions each day.

All RED FLAG-Alaska exercises take place in the Joint Pacific Range Complex over Alaska as well as a portion of Western Canadian airspace. The entire airspace is made up of extensive Military Operations Areas, Special Use Airspace, and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.  Red Flag-Alaska 15-3 is slated to run until 21 August 2015.

Czech Air Force GRIPENs Conduct NATO Air Surveillance Mission over Iceland

Four Czech Air Force JAS-39 GRIPEN aircraft are currently conducting air patrols and training in the skies above Iceland under the Alliance’s air surveillance mission for the Nordic NATO Ally. The fighter jets and 70 personnel took up their duties at the end of July. Their task is to provide, “airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet Iceland’s peacetime preparedness needs.” The Czech Air Force will conduct the mission through 29 August 2015.

This is the fourth deployment of Czech GRIPEN fighters (by Saab) to defend NATO nations’ airspace. In 2009 and 2012, Czech GRIPENs provided air policing over the Baltic States, and in 2014 they operated over Iceland for the first time. (Photos: NATO)

As Iceland does not have its own national air force, NATO provides a periodic peacetime presence. Given its unique geographical location, Allies, in conjunction with the Icelandic authorities, have agreed that the appropriate response is to maintain a periodic presence of Allied fighter aircraft based at Keflavik. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited the base earlier this year to meet Icelandic and NATO personnel involved in the mission.

The "peacetime preparedness” mission usually involves a deployment (typically of around three-four weeks, three times a year) of fighter aircraft from Allied nations. These aircraft are used to conduct air defence flying training missions, and also to provide the necessary training of NATO and Icelandic support personnel to make sure that the Alliance can conduct a full-scale peacetime air-policing mission at short notice if required. The mission was set up in 2008, following the withdrawal of US forces.

Iceland plays a, “unique role,” in keeping the Alliance’s transatlantic link strong, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said 16 April during his visit to Reykjavik: “Iceland makes important contributions to NATO and international security in many ways.”

The Secretary General noted the need for every Ally to continue to play a full role to ensure NATO is able to meet current and future challenges. “In this global security environment, it is more important than ever to work together. This requires a NATO response and that’s what we are doing,” Stoltenberg said. He said that Allies are more than doubling the size of the NATO Response Force and creating a new 5,000-strong quick reaction Spearhead Force.

07 August 2015

COMBATER – Constructive Simulation for the Brazilian Army

Santa Maria in Rio Grande do Sul province is home to the Brazilian Army’s 3rd Division – one of the largest units in the army. In July, forces from across the division took part in a wide-ranging exercise – Operaçao Liberdade Azul – that aimed to train commanders and staff in the complex art that is modern combined arms warfare. Four brigade staffs were involved, complete with ancillary and support units ranging from air defence and logistic support to reconnaissance and armoured units as well as an OPFOR (Opposing Force) provided from within the division.

Almost every subordinate unit of the Army’s 3rd Division contributed to Operaçao Liberdade Azul. (All photos via MASA Group)

While not the only exercise on this scale the Army has conducted, “it is a challenge and a very useful one, that allows us to learn from mistakes and improve our procedures,” according to the division’s commander, Gen. José Carlos Cardoso.

Training is one of the seven priority projects embodied in the Brazilian Army’s current transformation programme. As such, the enhancement and modernisation of exercises such as Liberdade Azul are critically important to the desire to instil the techniques and tactics of a wide range of potential operational requirements across the widest possible spectrum of the Army’s considerable capabilities.

The exercise therefore took full advantage of the COMBATER constructive simulation programme, recently purchased under a $7 million contract that included customisation of the original software for Brazilian doctrine and tactics, as well as support over a five year period.

The COMBATER system is based on the SWORD artificial intelligence-based simulation software developed by Paris-based MASA Group, now in use with the armed forces of fifteen nations worldwide. Aimed at bringing the very best in command and staff training to large scale exercises, SWORD has given COMBATER a capability the Brazilian Army has not hitherto been able to exploit.

Almost every subordinate unit of the Army’s 3rd Division contributed to Operaçao Liberdade Azul. (All photos via MASA Group)

Of particular effectiveness for 3rd Division has been the capability to integrate command training across all the component brigades and battalions, according to participants in the exercise. The ability to inject unexpected events and make the OPFOR a much more comprehensive threat than might be expected from its small size has made learning some of the essential lessons very hard for some commanders. “Evil has no limits!” said one of the exercise coordinators, with a particularly wicked smile.

The three and a half day exercise encompassed a considerable number of events and activities – scheduled pretty much 24/7 throughout its course. Using the compression techniques that COMBATER allows for, the exercise coordinators were able to provide an exercise that represented a time period three times as long, to the ultimate benefit of the entire divisional staff.

COMBATER is a powerful training aid for the Brazilian forces. It remains to be seen what further benefits it will bring as the Army institutes at least two further integrated Combat Training Centres as part of the ongoing transformation programme.
Tim Mahon

With Brazil’s Paratroopers at the ‘Nest of Eagles’

Paratoopers the world over consider themselves special – a breed apart. That is an inevitability, given the role they have to play in the complex mix of modern military operations. And it is A Good Thing, for the most part. There is rivalry with other ‘special forces’ organisations and, indeed, with ‘line’ units. But that is also A Good Thing – it promotes the esprit de corps that is essential to the ethos of elite troops and it ensures that training programmes are enhanced and tweaked to enable trainees to hone the unique skills that paratroopers require.

Entrance to the Eagle’s Nest. (All photos via MASA Group)

Vila Militar, just outside Rio de Janeiro, is home to the Brazilian Army’s 1st Parachute Brigade, a force of some 5,500 men consisting of three parachute battalions and all the supporting units that enable the brigade to conduct a wide variety of relatively autonomous operations. That may seem like a strong force, compared with the size of similar units in other armed forces around the world. But for an army of something over 200,000 men it is not a disproportionate force. More importantly, it is a unit that really does do what it says on the tin. When asked, “how many men in the brigade are jump qualified?” Maj. Fritzen, deputy public affairs officer, replied: “All of them” – though his body language indicated he really wanted to add. “of course!” By comparison there are a number of air assault or paratroop brigades in other national forces that will often only have one battalion fully jump qualified at any one time – the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade being just one example.
That capability is the product not just of a doctrine that demands every paratrooper is, indeed, qualified to jump from a perfectly serviceable aircraft on demand but also of a training regime that has been built over time to extract the very best performance from troops that consider themselves a cut above the rest.

Freefall jump simulators provide a semi-immersive environment for trainees.

The training programmes combine traditional jump training and familiarisation training using harnesses and static line jump towers to rather more innovative solutions to specific training requirements, many of which have been “home-grown” solutions at the brigade’s headquarters.
A good example of the latter approach is the solution developed for jumpmaster training. Built in 2010 as the brigade’s solution to a requirement it had insufficient resources to outsource, the simulator (Simulador do Lançamento) consists of a generic aircraft exit door mockup poised over a photographic terrain that ‘rolls’ past the door at a simulated height of 1,000ft  – that being the routine drop height for the brigade’s troops, rising to 1,200ft  in formation jumps. The solution was based on serious games software – the X-Plane 9 engine – and provides a cost-effective and very effects-oriented training environment for jumpmasters. Up to 4 classes per year are held at Vila Militar, with up to 48 students spending five weeks perfecting their procedures and tactics. An additional course, specifically for Pathfinder jumpmasters, is normally held once a year.

The four jump towers at Vila Militar are the most used of all the brigade’s training facilities.

The Curso de Salto Livre (Freefall Jump Course), held on average twice a year, caters for approximately 24 students at a time over a three week period, including ground school, wind tunnel and live jumps. Each student will conduct 10 simulated freefall jumps using two simulators provided by Parascene in the United States. Consisting of a suspension rig and a wraparound headset that provides for a realistic computer-generated visual environment for the jumper, the simulator teaches students “how to command manoeuvre in freefall and coordinate with colleagues throughout the jump profile, according to senior instructor 2nd Lieutenant Felipe Freitas. In addition to the two freefall simulators operated by the 1st Paratroop Brigade, there are two further examples in the Brazilian Army’s inventory, operated by Special Forces units.

As well as delivering human beings to the ground, aircraft operating with the brigade also routinely drop cargo, ranging from military supplies to sustain ground operations to supplies of food and water delivered by air to inaccessible locations following natural disaster as, for example, the recent relief operations in Haiti.

In order to train the crew responsible for delivering cargo – known as ‘riggers’ in Brazilian parlance – the brigade developed its own simulator, using a replicated cargo rig coupled to a video system (using Windows Media Player) of a C-130 rear cargo hatch that gives trainees a realistic visual representation of the entire airdrop process. Homebuilt, using what instructor Captain Schons termed “retired equipment,” the simulator gives trainees the opportunity to practice and perfect packing, maintenance and high level drop (900 feet) techniques for cargo release and drop.

A single rigger course is run each year – largely because the course lasts up to six months – for up to 20 officers and NCOs at a time. Of this time, some two months is spent using the cargo launch simulator, during which crews will conduct up to 30 simulated drops. The system has been in use for three years and is “something we have not seen elsewhere,” according to Schons, who added that delegations from both Germany and Chile had recently visited the facility to evaluate the Brazilian approach to an increasingly important training objective.

The largest component of the specialist training programmes, inevitably, is jump training itself. Here the brigade has four jump towers available, “which are the most used of all our facilities here,” according to Maj. Fritzen. Over 1,000 paratroopers per year go through the initial training programme, with a ratio of jumpmasters to paratroops of approximately 1:16. This training is the penultimate phase of the process that concludes with live humps from a C-130 at airspeeds of around 70m per second.

The Pathfinder company trains for operations in all Brazil’s regions, from jungle to mountain terrain.

As a separate but integrated part of the brigade’s training regime, the Precursor ParaQedistas (Pathfinder) company conducts its training largely in collaboration with other special forces units, “in all Brazilian terrain environments,” according to the company’s second in command, Captain Gedeel Machado Brito Valin. The Pathfinder company, which Valin explains is, “the birthplace of special operations in Brazil,” consists of six specialised teams, each of 18 men, trained (and cross-trained) in operating in distinct operational environments: HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) for covert insertions; high altitude jumps from 12,000ft; low altitude jumps from 1,000ft; aquatic and jungle environments; semi-arid and mountainous environments; and airfield/landing zone occupation. The company has already extended its expertise to the Paraguayan Air Force, where one of Valin’s colleagues is helping develop and implement that force’s first pathfinder training course, and will be doing so for Argentina and Peru next year as well.

In addition, the Canadian Forces Warfare Centre has now twice sent representatives to participate in the Brazilian programme and a Brazilian officer is currently in Canada acting as an instructor on the Canadian course.

High above the entrance to the brigade’s campus at Vila Militar an arch carries the motto “Ninho das Aguias” (Nest of Eagles). One cannot help but feel that the brigade does, indeed, consist of the human equivalents of birds of prey: powerful, swift and deadly.
Tim Mahon, invited by MASA Group

Brazil’s Combat Training Centre – South

The worldwide tendency for combat training is towards integrated training solutions,” Col. Carriao, commander of the Brazilian Army’s Combat Training Centre – South, said during a visit in July. And the Centre he commands, sat amid the training area at Santa Maria in Rio Grande do Dul province, gives his words form.

Erlei Melgarejo of Defii demonstrating a virtual reality system developed for Brazilian Army training requirements. On right, Tim Mahon, author of this article. (Photo: MASA Group)

In creating the centre, Col. Carriao and his staff have benefited from a long and comprehensive process of evaluation that has been part of the Army’s transformation programme – training being one of the seven critical areas on which this programme is focused. As part of the programme, a number of foreign visits have been conducted, looking at the future vision encompassed by other nations’ approaches to the issue of integrated training. These visits have included CTC’s that currently embody the state of the art in the United States, Germany, France and Russia, among other destinations. In short, the Brazilian Army’s concept has been influenced by the experience that their global counterparts have undergone – including the lessons learned and difficulties in implementation.

Making best possible use of existing facilities, acknowledging the benefits to be gained from outsourcing and ensuring the closest possible integration of live, virtual and constructive training are the three principal pillars on which the CTC-South has been built – and will form a model for the creation of at least two further CTCs in other parts of Brazil as the transformation process continues.
Santa  Maria itself – the second largest concentration of military personnel in the entire country (the city is host to the 3rd Division as well as being the centre of the Army’s armoured force training facility and one of the principal air bases in Brazil for unmanned aerial systems development and deployment) – houses the virtual and constructive components of the CTC’s activities. Live training is mainly conducted at the Rosario do Sul training area, some 140 kilometres south-west of Santa Maria, and the two are linked with a high capacity wide area network to ensure maximum advantage is taken of opportunities for distributed training. The respective training areas available for exercises are 6 x8 and 20 x 40 kilometres.

Facilities include the ‘traditional’ CTC constructs – small arms marksmanship trainers, heavy weapons skills trainers, armoured vehicle gunnery skills trainers and live ranges – together with increasing use of virtual systems in specific areas of activity which attract a total throughput of 25,000 trainees per year. Some of the systems currently in use can be seen from the extensive list of contractors now established around Santa Maria: Rheinmetall, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, CAE, Cubic, Meggitt, Lockheed Martin, Tecnobit, Indra, Thales, Elbit Systems, ST Electronics, RUAG and, of course, Saab. Outsourcing is, indeed, important and this is a lesson the Army has evidently taken to heart.

Facilities at the Armoured School, co-located with CTC-South, include Leopard driver training vehicles. (Photo: MASA Group)

But there is a dimension to the Army’s programme that moves beyond a results-oriented process and seeks to stimulate and promote local and national industrial activity also. The Tecnoparque at Santa Maria is an impressive and ambitious undertaking aimed at encouraging indigenous training systems development. Small but hugely energetic and innovative companies such as Defii have taken advantage of the support and infrastructure offered by the Tecnoparque to develop and deliver niche but very effective training systems to the CTC and the Armour School, which is also located in Santa Maria.

The Federal University of Santa Maria also plays a major role in training development locally – and nationally. The University is a major contributor to the development of the CTC’s basic training architecture and has also been intimately involved in development of the Astros 2020 multiple rocket launcher simulator and the current upgrade programme that is updating the efficiency and efficacy of laser simulation devices across the Centre’s entire spectrum of activities. Outside the ground forces arena, the University has played a significant part in the development of training concepts for the communications systems on board Brazil’s future class of nuclear powered submarines.

Colonel Carriao’s vision, while broad and ambitious, can scarcely be faulted. “CTC-South is where the Brazilian Army’s transformation programme will be realised, from a training perspective. It will provide excellence in troop readiness in a cost-effective manner, will establish Brazil as an international reference in military training and make the best possible use of current and future generation technologies,” he concluded.
Tim Mahon

06 August 2015

“Not a boutique missile.” Raytheon’s SM-6 Missile Can Now Destroy Both Cruise and Ballistic Missiles

The complex challenge of defending a ship or an at sea battle group against diverse missile threats appears to have gotten easier as a result of recent tests completed by the US Navy using Raytheon’s SM-6 missile interceptor.    

During tests this 28-31 July, USS JOHN PAUL JONES (DDG-53) detected, tracked, and launched a Raytheon SM-6 Dual I missile to intercept a short-range ballistic missile target. (Photo: US Navy)

This 28-31 July, the ARLEIGH BURKE-class destroyer USS JOHN PAUL JONES (DDG-53) fired three of Raytheon’s new Standard Missile variant, the SM-6 Dual I, in a series of tests. The Dual I upgrade adds a new, more powerful processor that runs more sophisticated targeting software. That software now lets the SM-6 identify, track, and destroy a target descending from the upper atmosphere at extreme speed – specifically, a ballistic missile warhead – in addition  to cruise missiles.

As SM-6 is integrated into the US Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) layered ballistic missile defence strategy, the legacy-era Raytheon SM-3 will continue to be fielded to hit incoming ballistic missiles earlier in their trajectory, at greater distances and higher altitudes, even in space — supporting mid-course defence.

Raytheon’s SM-6 uses the same seeker as the AMRAAM air-to-air missile to engage enemy cruise missiles and aircraft. Whereas Raytheon’s legacy-era SM-2 missile is semi-active – guided by the onboard Lockheed Martin AEGIS combat system to intercept – the SM-6 is a semi-active and active missile. Mike Campisi, Raytheon’s Senior Program Director for the Standard Missile-6 programme, added at an 5 August media availability, that for SM-6, while the Aegis system, “guides, the missile then takes over and ‘does its own thing.’”    

Raytheon optimises components from other Standard Missile family weapons to build SM-6. Beyond the AMRAAM front end, the SM-6 is also constructed with an SM-2 airframe for optimal maneuverability, and an SM-3 rocket motor and booster on the aft part. “We put it together that way to minimise development costs for the US Navy and complete a number of mission sets. What we have done is provide an extended-range active missile,” Campisi said.          

The Raytheon executive further emphasised this July’s tests, which included the 50th flight of SM-6, were also the first time the Navy-industry team flew the sea-based terminal (phase) code set for SM-6. Indeed, Campisi reflected after the recent test regimen “SM-6 and the whole [AEGIS] system were far more capable than we had previously experienced.” Earlier SM-6 “engagements” against ballistic missiles were confined to simulation-based scenarios.

When the SM-6 Dual 1 is shipped to its Navy customer in 2016, afloat battle group and ship-board commanders will have new and valuable tactical options. Campisi explained, “You are putting one missile which has a multi-mission set. This is not a ‘boutique missile’ – either a sea-based terminal or anti-air warfare SM-6 – it is one missile that can do both missions and just needs to be told: here’s the mission you are going on.”    

So while the SM-6 is shorter-ranged and cheaper, it has become more versatile than other SM family missiles.

As this article was prepared for publication, Raytheon reported production of 205SM-6s since the beginning of Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). Campisi further noted: “We have ramped up [production] since the LRIP. Our production rate is 8-to-10 depending on the month. We have also been asked to look at increasing our rate to almost double on a monthly basis.”

The SM-6 consortium includes Raytheon for the missile and Lockheed Martin for the AEGIS system.

There is increasing international interest in SM-6 procurement. A number of unspecified nations, primarily from Europe, have made preliminary acquisition inquires about prices, availability and similar topics to the US State Department.              

Marty Kauchak, is a regular contributor to MT.