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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

17 May 2016

US Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2016 Day 1 (16 May 2016) Report

US correspondent Marty Kauchak files the following exclusive report on significant news and developments gained from delegates, exhibitors and others in the naval community.

General Electric (GE) has delivered about 1,400 gas turbines to 34 navies around the globe.  
During an informal meeting off the conference floor, Brien Bolsinger, the vice president and general manager of Marine Operations at GE, emphasized his customers increasingly want increased reliability and lower life cycle costs. To that end, GE is engaged in a module modernization program with it US Navy customer which will conceptually provide a 50% lighter package – among other benefits. “Weight reduction is always an issue on new classes of ships. Customers want to take and add some weight for radars and weapons systems – but don’t want to sacrifice power and performance.” The industry expert then pointed out other not-too-subtle benefits from reducing a turbine’s weight – reducing manpower and increasing safety during repairs. “Instead of a 300lb.(136kg.) panel we look to provide one at 80lbs. allowing one individual to replace it instead of several maintainers using chain falls and other rigging.”  

Beyond addressing end user weight concerns, Bolsinger observed “Steel rusts. This is a major maintenance issue. We’re also using more composites so rust is eliminated.”        

The Evandale (Cincinnati), Ohio-based executive also reflected on pending 2016 GE turbine deliveries to navies in every corner of the globe: including Japan, Australia, Thailand, the US and Germany. With these successes, comes the need to sustain a global logistics network, presently anchored by GE shops of its own in the US and Italy. GE also has a network of licensed field personnel providing parts and other life cycle services from offices in India, Australia, Korea and Japan.

Given the huge production throughput of turbines (about 250 LM-2500 turbines annually) the company can readily “pull a spare part off the production line” he emphasized.

Bolsinger finally noted GE’s logistics chain includes DRS as an industry partner, “first and foremost which is a terrific supplier and partner.”            

Unmanned Products and Systems

“Our latest and greatest unmanned underwater system is Sea Wasp [(Waterborne Anti-IED Securing Platform (Wasp)]," declared Bert Johansson, the sales director for Underwater Systems within Saab’s Dynamics business area.

Sea Wasp was developed within 12months in response to a US Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office broad area announcement. Saab then delivered within 14 months of the announcement, prototypes to three US agencies for further evaluation and testing: US Navy EOD Group 2, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Counter-IED Unit and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s Counter-Terrorist Operations Maritime Response Unit. The T&E period will continue through the next 10-12 months

Saab quickly developed Sea Wasp using its common technologies with its other military and civilian vehicles.

The Sweden-based company official called attention to a number of system technology enablers; a six degree-of-freedom control system permitting free maneuvering through 360 degrees; a power-to-weight ratio allowing the approximate 90kg. system to maneuver and remain on station in high currents (on the order of 2.5kts.) and finally a  five-function manipulator arm. While Sea Wasp is a tethered system, the system can further navigate to selected 3-D waypoints and operate at a maximum depth of 60m (197ft.).          

Sea Wasp will be further put through its paces this June 6-16 during Coast Trident 2016, a US Department of Homeland Security–sponsored maritime security exercise. The system will complete four waterborne IED scenarios with more than 30 US explosive detonation device community members present.            

UK-based SubSea Craft is preparing for an approximate five-week test and evaluation period this August off the south coast of England to test its new Diver Delivery Unit (DDU). SeaCraft has assembled a UK industry team to develop a unit that is envisioned to operate on the surface and subsurface. The composite hull (carbon fiber Kevlar and glass-reinforced plastic) will be propelled at speeds up to 40 knots and at a range of up to 250 nm (sea state permitting) with two 370 brake horsepower diesels provided by Yanmar, and one Rolls Royce waterjet per shaft.  
Underwater propulsion will be supplied by banks of batteries from an unspecified supplier.  

Bill Barfoot, a specialist advisor at SubSea Craft, pointed out that while the August test regimen will emphasize SOF applications (for up to a crew of eight operators), “this has possibility for fully autonomous operations – supporting mine countermeasures for example.”

Barfoot reports informal, low-level discussions about the DDU from the US and UK, and noted the latter part of the August demonstration period will include an opportunity for VIP observers to view the unit’s test operations.          

AeroVironment announced the US Navy will deploy its Blackwing, a small, tube-launched unmanned aircraft system that deploys from under the surface of the sea on maned submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles.  

AeroVironment’s Blackwing was initially developed as part of a 2013 Navy and US Special Operations Command Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration called Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets. The demonstration was completed in 2015.

Blackwing employs an advanced miniature electro-optical and infrared payload. Selective Availability Anti-spoofing Module GPS and AeroVironment’s secure Digital Data Link are all packaged into a vehicle that launches from manned and unmanned submarines.      

Boeing and partner Liquid Robotics continue to develop their Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft (SHARC) program.  SHARC is advancing using the synergies brought to bear by both companies – in the case of Boeing its defense capabilities across multiple naval mission areas, and for Liquid Robotics its portfolio of mature, commercially successful technologies.

SHARC has supported a number of recent internal industry demonstrations and military exercises. In the July multi-national exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 in waters in and contiguous to Australia, SHARC continued to be a sensor left at sea for an extended period, providing electronic surveillance of aircraft, commercial surface shipping and the electromagnetic spectrum.  In September 2015 SHARC supported an internal industry event – detecting and reporting on Boeing’s Echo Ranger a marine autonomous underwater vehicle and further transmitting that data to a Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft.

Andrew Burchman, the senior director of Special Projects at Liquid Robotics, pointed out SHARC continues to evolve, beyond its successful manned-unmanned systems interface, and follow-up machine-to-machine interface.

Now we are building a network,” added Egan Greenstein, the senior director of Autonomous Systems at Boeing Military Aircraft. And with that comes an added return on investment from SHARC sending data from the platform to a Scan Eagle or other unmanned system, and only bringing in a human when an event of high significance is occurring.

In the next 12 months the industry team will further emphasize scalability – operating SHARC as a “fleet” – perhaps in a notional military operating area or box about 60nm (length) x 60nm (width) box. “We will be able to scale the number of SHARCs up and down, and be able to share data collected across the environments,” added Greenstein.    

While the Boeing expert declined to provide an exact or approximate price point of a SHARC platform he pointed out the ROIs of its use: removing humans from many tasks, and making the SHARC more affordable and safer during lengthy data collection and related tasks – for starters.  

Boeing and partner Liquid Robotics continue to develop their Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft (SHARC) programme.

Evolving CH-53 Program 

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, is developing the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter for the US Marine Corps – with its eyes on the international marketplace. The King Stallion maintains similar physical dimensions with a reduced "footprint" compared to its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, but will more than triple the payload to 27,000lbs.(12,247kg) over 110 nm (204km) under "high hot" ambient conditions.

The CH-53K is a rapidly and urgent requirement for the US Marine Corps simply because “our gear and equipment has gotten so much heavier,” Marine Corps Colonel Henry Vanderborght, the program manager for Heavy Lift Program (PMS-261) at NAVAIR, told a Navy-industry co-sponsored media availability attended by this correspondent. The imperative to field this new 88,000lb. “heavy lifter” rotary aircraft is arriving just in time to support the service’s fielding plan for larger vehicles and other equipment. Whereas up-armored vehicles in the service’s vehicle current fleet may weigh on the order of 12,000lbs, the new JLTV weighs in at 16,000lbs.

The “K” helicopter will primarily move heavy gear and loads, while the legacy-era Bell Boeing MV-22 will be primarily used to transport Marines and their small unit materiel.

Vanderborght confirmed the Marine Corps has a program of record for 200 aircraft. Key CH-53K milestones on the programme’s acquisition roadmap include: Milestone C (on or about May 1, 2017) in which the Pentagon will determine whether to advance to low rate initial production; initial operational capability (with four “Ks” ready for initial deployment) by the end of fiscal year 2019; and full rate initial production in fiscal year 2020.

Five CH-53Ks are in the test program. To date, a K model has achieved 140 kts. in its flight test requirements – in forward flight – and has further completed sideward and rearward flight profiles. Last month a K helicopter picked up 12,000lbs. and transported the load at 80kts.    

Michael Torok, PhD, the vice president of CH-53K programs at Sikorsky, attributed the K’s increased lift capability to the following onboard systems: Sikorsky’s fourth generation rotor blade, the split torque gear box; the T-408 engine (delivered by GE and its supplier MTU America (a Rolls Royce entity)); and the composite air frame.  CH-53K crews will be protected by three GAU .50 cal. machine guns, integrated modular armor kits and other strategies.  The CH-53K is expected to operate from US amphibious “L-class” ships as well as other evolving classes (MPS for instance) designed to support expeditionary missions.      

Germany has stated its initial interest in buying the CH-53K by submitting a letter of request for information on acquiring 41 of these helicopters. Vanderborght said his office “is drafting a response to the request.” While the senior grade Marine aviator emphasized there is “no hard requirement for a follow-on replacement for Germany’s heritage CH-53 fleet, a formal request for proposal for a replacement these helicopters is expected in 2017.”

Torok noted Sikorsky “has engaged in unofficial, lower-level discussions about CH-53K sales with other international customers who fly CH-53s and others who don’t.”

He emphasized that while his company “can meet the production required for the USMC’s program of record of 200 Ks, it can further accommodate up to 300 CH-53Ks being built.”  

Navy and Marine Corps V-22 Developments   

The US Navy has a new requirement for 44 CMV-22s to replace its venerable C-2 COD fleet. Rick Lemaster, a V-22 Tiltrotor business development director on the Bell Boeing team, said there will be three differences between the new CMV-22 and the heritage era Marine Corps MV-22. “The Navy model will have more range, an1,150 nm mission radius; a public address system to support passengers and a high frequency radio system.” The Navy Osprey HF system will be modeled on the US Air Force CV-22 HF system, providing the operator with beyond line-of-sight communications throughout the typically widely dispersed battlegroup.

The Bell Boeing team has delivered 290 of the 360 MV-22s in the US Marine Corps' program of record.

Initial CMV-22 procurement funding is expected in the fiscal year 2018 budget, with long-lead materiel expected to be funded in the fiscal year 2017 budget. Initial delivery of a CMV-22 to the service is projected for 2020.

The Bell Boeing team has delivered 290 of the programmed 360 MV-22s to its USMC customer.
One materiel enhancement in progress is the V-22 air refueling system (VARS). While current Marine Corps Ospreys have a probe allowing them to accept fuel, the new VARS will conceptually permit the MV-22 to refuel both fixed wing and rotary aircraft.                

Aegis Program Update 

"It's evolving and with good reason, as our adversaries continue to their evolve their weapon systems," Jim Sheridan, the director of the US Navy Aegis programmes at Lockheed Martin, commented during a wide ranging media availability about the Aegis weapon system attended by this correspondent.

The Aegis Combat System, certified by the US Navy and US Missile Defense Agency as Baseline 9.C1, permits Aegis ships to automatically coordinate defense with input from satellites and ground-based radar assets forming a shield of defense over a wide area. The latest configuration improves radar resolution and discrimination capabilities over early variants.      

Aegis is now on more than 100 ships worldwide, including the US Navy (62 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers); Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (four Kongo-class destroyers and two Atago-class destroyers); Royal Norwegian Navy (five Aegis Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates); Spanish Navy (four F-100 Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates); and Republic of Korea Navy (three KDX-III King Sejong the Great-class).  Sheridan added, "Aegis will be provided on the Royal Australian Navy's new fleet of three Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyers."

Beyond Aegis's presence on an increasing number of ships around the world are the enhancements to the core technology of the system.  

In one instance the new Naval Integrated Fire Control - Counter Air (NIFCA) system has been integrated into Aegis. As NIFCACA matures, the system will make possible multiple airborne and seaborne platforms to build and share a common operational picture while significantly extending the range of cooperative targeting. Conceptually a Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye or Boeing P-8A or other platform used for detection would be a “hunter”, while Raytheon SM-6s or other weapons could be used for an attack.    

One intriguing opportunity for further Aegis system build-up is the integration of Raytheon's Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS). The system is an open, distributed combat management ssytem for surface ships designed to enable the detect-to-engage sequence to defense against anti-ship cruise missiles. SSDS is in service onboard seven US carriers and amphibious ships.   "Lockheed Martin is interested in this opportunity. But there is no program of record," Sheridan added.    

Beyond the subsystem level, Lockheed Martin is investing in modularity for Aegis baseline upgrades. Conceptually, supporting materiel (cooling water manifolds, others) for the new baseline system could be reduced from five or six cabinets into one cabinet "skid" as demonstrated in a recent of proof of concept effort onboard a US naval platform. "Our focus is reducing the time of installation" Sheridan emphasized, reducing the modernization installation phase from the current 26 weeks to about 10 weeks.

Components of the Lockheed-Martin-developed Aegis BMD system were used to build and complete construction of the Aegis Ashore site at Deveslu Air Force Base in Romania. The site fulfills Phase II of the European Phased Adaptive Approach and was officially operationally certified this May 12.

The Lockheed Martin-Built Aegis Ashore facility is the first of two sites planned as part of the US and NATO’s BMD network, the other being in Poland.      

The Romanian site is built around a SPY-1D(V) air-search radar linked to three 8-cell Mark-41 Vertical Launch Systems armed with Raytheon SM-3 missile interceptors.

We hope there’s more market for Aegis Ashore in other places,” said the Moorestown, New Jersey-based industry expert.  While Japan has been has been mentioned as a candidate for the system, Sheridan noted there has been no active discussion between Lockheed Martin and the government of Japan.

Near- and longer term milestones on the Aegis program include integration of the Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Radar capability – AN/SPY-6(V) – the Navy's next generation integrated air and missile defense radar. The radar is advancing through development and on track for the DDG-51 Flight III destroyer. AMDR is reported to provide greater detection ranges, increased discrimination accuracy, higher reliability and sustainability, and lower total ownership cost as well as a host of other advantages when compared to the current AN/SPY-1D(V) radar onboard today’s destroyers. And closer in on the program’s roadmap is the scheduled May 17, 2016 (Flight test) FTX-21 onboard USS John Paul Jones.  

Other Conference Floor “Chatter” 

The US Navy’s February 2016 cancellation of its Lockheed Martin Remote Minehunting System (RMS) acquisition program has set off a flurry of activity within the mine countermeasures sector.

The service originally planned to buy 54 RMSs for its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine countermeasures mission package. It has bought 10 so far and does not plan to award a contract to Lockheed Martin for additional vehicles. The Navy is expected to upgrade most of the 10 Remote Multimission Vehicles (RMMVs) – the unmanned vehicle at the center of RMS. Refurbished RMMVs are expected to be forward deployed to the Middle East and other operational areas of interest. RMMV is then expected to compete against Textron’s Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV), which is already slated to join the LCS mine countermeasures package as a minesweeping vehicle, and the General Dynamics/Bluefin Robotics’ Knifefish unmanned underwater vehicle, which will join the mission package for buried and high-clutter minehunting, for places on the LCS longer-term mine countermeasures mission package equipment list.