US correspondent Marty Kauchak files the following exclusive report on significant news and developments gained from delegates, exhibitors and others in the naval community.
Air Domain Developments
The Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM ) (AGM-88E) is on the cusp of major enhancements. The Orbital ATK-MBDA Italy-led industry team has delivered 300 of these air-to-surface weapons as of this April 29. More than 300 missiles are on contract.
Tactically, AARGM complements the heritage-era High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), with AARGM staying on course after a targeted ground emitter/station may “shut down” – in effect providing “no sanctuary” for those electing to “go silent” in the ground warfare domain.
The cooperative international business model for AARGM is of interest, with MBDA Italy and two other Italian defence suppliers providing the entire control section, the millimeter wave (MMW) seeker and other missile components and subcomponents.
The customers for this weapon includes the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, the Italian Air Force (Eurofighter Tornado) and Royal Australian Air Force (Boeing EA-18 G (Growler)). AARGM is further being readied for service on the US Navy’s version of the fifth generation Lockheed Martin F-35 – the “C”. “There is significant interest by other nations in AARGM,” Gordon Turner, the vice president of Strike Weapons in the Defense Electronics Systems division within Orbital ATK’s Defense Systems Group, pointed out. Navy Captain Al Mousseau, the Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program manager at NAVAIR (PMA-242)’s, short list of compelling reasons other nations are interested in AARGM include the weapons proven combat performance, the increase in production capacity and finally the emergence of more capable surface-to-air systems.
The AARGM Block 1 software upgrade is underway, with the intent to improve maritime capability and other performance parameters. Mousseau expects initial delivery of the Block 1 upgrade in second quarter of fiscal year 2017.
A second significant development is the AARGM Extended Range (ER) Program which began this year. While the Navy-industry team declined the opportunity to provide a design range of the new ER, Mousseau said the new variant will “double the current range” of the existing missile. The Navy-industry team declined to provide an ER model range. Additionally the new AARGM will offer increased survivability and be adaptable for internal carriage on the F-35C. While AARGM ER is expected to optimize the current AARGM to the maximum extent feasible, components of the reworked “ER” at this early stage are expected to include will include a new tail control and new rocket motor and other materiel upgrades. Mousseau added, “first ER delivery is expected in the 2023-2024 timeframe.”
Development of the Anglo-French Sea Venom helicopter-launched, multirole, high-subsonic surface attack missile is “moving quickly” according to Retired Royal Navy Rear Admiral Simon Charlier, CBE, a senior defence advisor at MBDA UK. Sea Venom is on “fast track” for development primarily because the Royal Navy’s Sea Skua approaching the end of its service life (originally slated for 2016) and it has been designated to succeed the AS-15TT anti-ship missile in French Navy service. Whereas the heritage-era Sea Skua was a line-of-sight missile, the new Sea Venom is expected to have an infrared seeker with two-way data link, permitting the operator to more accurately view and control the weapon in flight. “This ideal for Rule of Engagement clauses which may necessitate the cancellation of the firing before it strikes the target,” the retired flag officer emphasized.
The Sea Venom will provide the anti-surface capability for RN Wildcat HMA.2 and French Navy NH90 FR Panther platforms.
The work share agreement for Sea Venom program includes MBDA UK, as well as MBDA France and Thales.
Marine Corps Lt. General Jon Davis, the deputy commandant for aviation, told a Sea-Air Space panel discussion audience that his service is seeking to make his service’s MV-22 Osprey more lethal and faster.
“We’re looking at the same systems [mounted guns and missiles] found on the UH-1Y and Cobra,” the service three-star said, and continued, “Hellfire missiles are also being considered for the Osprey” with as the laser guided GBU—4/B Viper Strike bomb and the Lightweight AGM-176 Griffin, also being considered.
This was an intriguing and highly coincidental comment by the senior Marine general. Yesterday (May 16) this correspondent completed another informal tour of a static display MV-22 at the conference site. The V-22 Team Osprey contractor team commented off-the-record on the V-22’s history with onboard weapons systems and highlighted successful rear-mounted guns as well as the unsuccessful efforts to field a BAE-supplied forward turret. The industry team gave no hint about any customer requirement or informal discussion to equip MV-22 with the weapons systems on the Marine Corps leader’s “wish list” presented at the panel discussion.
Rockwell Collins is the prime contractor, systems integrator and manufacturer for Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System (CRIIS) – the next generation military range system that will replace the Advanced Range Data System currently in use at major US military test ranges. Charles Hautau, the senior director for Defense Programs at Rockwell Collins, commented on the remainder of his industry-lead team, noting “We leverage a wide range of suppliers focusing on exceeding our small / disadvantaged business goals.”
This spring, the company completed the Production Readiness Review (PRR) paving the way for the US Defense Department to award Production Lot 1for the system.
CRIIS equipment is envisioned to support fifth-generation aircraft (F-22 and F-35) and other weapons platforms (in particular, legacy aircraft (F-15, F-16, and F-18)) and is one foundation of the Pentagon’s goal for a common test infrastructure for improved operational fidelity. While testing is the focus of this CRIIS milestone and technology thrust, some system capabilities should provide valuable for upgrading the department’s rapidly aging and space-constrained training range infrastructure.
The military-industry team has also focused on overcoming the heretofore vexing challenges of multi-level security which often prevent US units and allies and friends from testing, training and operating together in secure environment. In this case, CRIIS’ key capabilities are enhanced system encryption using US National Security Agency (NSA) certified multiple independent levels of classification (MILS) Type 1 encryption device, otherwise known as KOV-74, enabling simultaneous operations at up to four different classification levels. The former career naval aviator continued, “The KOV-74 integrated with a high assurance data guard provides a complete, state-of-the art, MILS distributed security architecture. At the core of the KOV-74 is the Rockwell Collins’ proprietary MILS capable Janus multichip module (MCM), which underwent a separate NSA certification accomplished by Rockwell. The KOV-74 provides a much needed MILS capability for 5th generation aircraft and other highly classified programs.”
Speaking to the equipment which permits CRIIS compatibility with advanced, 5th generation, aircraft, Hautau pointed out the materiel is grouped into two segments: the Participant Package (PP) and the Ground Subsystem (GS). “PPs include the Configuration 4 pod (light and heavy); the Configuration 5 liquid cooled 2-box internal mount (IM) for F-35 and F-22; and the Configuration 6 1-box IM for legacy fighter aircraft. The GS consists of one or more CRIIS Control Centers, Mission Room Equipment, Remote Ground Stations with optional Reference Receivers, and associated network and support equipment (ground guards, cryptographic keying equipment, and others). Additionally, a Portable Test Set is used to maintain and troubleshoot CRIIS equipment.”
Asked to summarize the returns on investment and operational benefits of CSIIR, Hautau’s short list included: 5th to 4th generation aircraft interoperability; unclassified through top secret “Live” monitor and debrief; five times data link throughput performance; increased distances and message relay; “GPS Denied” operation; 20cm post-mission accuracy; Multi-Level data segregation; seamless cross domain data sharing; secure access to platform bus; user-definable flexible messaging; and finally the ability to operate as unclassified, “System High” or MILS.
The export authorization process permitting CRIIS to be sold to US friends and allies has been initiated.
Activities in Other Naval Sectors
Lockheed Martin and Indra announced their successful demonstration of the first phase of integration of a new solid state S-band radar for the future Spanish Navy F-110 frigate. The development is significant from several perspectives.
Beyond the international collaboration and work share agreement, the new solid state radar is a building block to expand Spain’s Aegis fleet to the F-110 which is due to see operation next decade. The navy operates five Aegis-equipped Alvaro de Bazan-class (F-100) frigates.
Additionally Indra is supplying the materiel to achieve a fully digital antenna, including the digital transmit-receive modules that contain solid state-of-the-art solid state Galium Nitride (GaN) high power amplifiers. GaN is the “secret sauce” in many radar and associated systems entering service. GaN has been deemed to bring exponentially more capability to a system and double the system's reliability. Melissa Chadwick, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson, noted her company has tapped into the enhancements provided by GaN. “We’ve been doing a lot of work with GaN across our portfolio,” she added.
A full Engineering Development Model of an integrated, solid state S-band radar for F-110 is expected in 2020.
Juliet Marine Systems (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) is about to step up the pace of activities with its three-year old GHOST, a reconfigurable high-speed, small waterplane area twin hull vessel.
Cliff Byrd, the company’s director of Business Development, said the platform will be put through an operational regimen this fall in the Chesapeake Bay for observers from the “US government and big defence companies.” The company has its sights on a number of technical demonstrations which would further demonstrate GHOST’s initially ability to support ISR missions, and later, various weapons loads.
The company is also seeking a partner to support interest from companies in Asia and the Middle East to provide a “Ghost-like” vessel to navies in the two regions. Conceptually, the new vessel would be diesel-powered, “a bit slower (about 30 kts. max. speed) with a 1,000 nm range at 15 kts. Further the new vessel would be air deployable, capable of being shipped in an approximate 40ft. (12m) container, and placed on the stern of a US Navy LCS,” Byrd added.
The pendulum appears to be swinging away from schoolhouse based-learning toward technology-based instruction for the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. This correspondent had the opportunity to view Cubic Defense Group’s game-based courseware to support the rapidly expanding LCS training system. Cubic is on contract to deliver courseware for the two ship classes’ readiness control officer, deck operations, combat systems and the haptics portion of the mission bay trainer.
The training package observed today went beyond the normal, layered, linear construct of traditional serious games used for training –as it was essentially a series of “mini games”.
The Cubic training-delivered system may be used in the LCS schoolhouse on a computer desktop, and can just as easily be delivered on a ship via laptop. Further, a tablet permits digital job aiding-like training. Conceptually a technician can use the tablet to become more proficient in systems tracing systems and similar tasks.
The returns on investment in this program include commonality in training, as variances in performance during on-the-job training are eliminated.
The migration of more LCS training from the schoolhouse to learning technology-enabled instruction makes perfect sense – as LCSs are now overseas based and the crews have other competing demands on their training time – supporting mission package swaps as well as their rotations and hull “swaps”.
Exhibition Hall “Chatter”
Just when all appeared to be quiet with the US Navy’s LCS class weapons and other shipboard system programs, this May the Pentagon issued a pre-solicitation call permitting a deployed LCS is to be fitted with a Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) system for a Phase II testing of the long range precision strike missile.
Gary Holst, a Naval Business Development director at Kongsberg, recalled that in Phase I of the testing, last September USS Coronado (LCS 4) successfully performed a live-fire demonstration of the Norwegian-made NSM.
For this new Naval Strike Missile Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) Phase II demonstration test, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS is to be awarded a sole source contract for equipment and flight test support services.
Kongsberg will supply missiles, ship equipment including deck mounted launchers, installation and integration. “Installation of the system will be completed on the ship by the end of this year,” the industry veteran said.
Pictures depict: CRIIS, AARGM, and Sea Venom.