Thursday, September 15, 2011

DSEI - Day 3

FRES Scout at risk?
The key British Army requirement for a new scout armored vehicle contract is in danger of being canceled due to continuing defense financial constraints, according to General Dynamics UK boss Sandy Wilson.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing on the sidelines of the Defence System Equipment International exhibition here, Wilson said that while a delay to the program was the most likely outcome, cancellation remains a possibility.

General Dynamics UK signed a 500 million pound ($791.4 million) deal in July 2010 with the government to design and demonstrate a family of medium weight specialist vehicles based on its ASCOD platform for the Army. The design and development phase is working to prepare 7 prototypes (3 Scout, 1 Recovery, 1 Repair, 1 Protected Mobility and 1 Common Base Platform) for a campaign of tests and for demonstrating the solutions prior to begin of production.

Under the government's original agreement, it was due to make a decision to enter a production phase in 2013 with first deliveries starting in 2016. Earlier, 2015 had been the planned date. A damning NAO report on Armoured Vehicles Procurement, published a few months ago, had contained hints about the FRES SV sliding to the right to 2017, and now it seems that they might well have been right.
Or perhaps even too optimistic.

The specialist vehicle requirement is the British Army's top vehicle program along with a project to update the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle. Lockheed Martin is negotiating with the Ministry of Defence to secure that deal.

Timing and numbers are being discussed, but the Army is trying to alter the spending profile to be able to afford both key programs.

This however seems to indicate that the Warrior upgrade contract won’t be signed during DSEI, as had been widely expected. It also calls in question the famous report on the 10-years equipment plan that is to be released this month. With two weeks left, it is in my opinion hard to imagine a release in the timeframe planned, if the Army is still struggling to find a way to signal the go-ahead for its two main programmes.

CVR(T) MK2: yes, the hull is new.
BAE Systems Global Combat Systems is upgrading a batch of Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) to an enhanced standard, the first of which have recently been flown to Afghanistan and are now deployed. Most of these are in the Scimitar Mk 2 reconnaissance vehicle configuration, for around 30 - 35 vehicles.
The most significant change is the new aluminium hull, built at BAE Systems’ Wolverhampton facility. This offers a higher level of protection, improves maintainability and lowers support costs. It is based on the hull of the Spartan troop carrier and provides greater internal volume than the original Scimitar hull, as well as raising the driver’s position for improved safety. The vehicle also incorporates the previous upgrades under the Life Extension and Environmental Mitigation programmes, which were deployed to Afghanistan several years ago.

Survivability requirements play a significant part of the Mk 2 design, with a new hull based on the Spartan troop carrier providing improved mine blast protection. The new aluminium alloy, which is fabricated at the company's Wolverhampton site, has greater resistance to corrosion while keeping the weight down.

The extra headroom has allowed the fitting of blast attenuating seating ‘in every position in every variant'.

In addition, redesigned and repositioned driver foot controls aim to reduce lower limb mine blast injuries while improved appliqué armour has been added to improve blast and ballistic protection.

According to company literature ‘a new power distribution system, including a new rotary base junction, provides improved power management between chassis and turret and will enable further systems upgrades in the future'.

Additional improvements include a redesigned fuel system and a larger fuel tank, an environmental control system that provides air-conditioning for the complete vehicle, a new power distribution system, new crew seats and upgraded suspension.

The turret is the old standard Scimitar’s armed with the ancient 30mm RARDEN cannon and 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and remains the big weak spot of the combination due to lack of stabilization and awkwardness of gun loading.

In addition to the Scimitar reconnaissance vehicle, over 20 new hulls have been built for four other members of the CVR(T) family, including the Spartan, the Sultan command post vehicle, the Samson recovery and the Samaritan ambulance. These are mainly minor changes, such as a heavier-duty winch on the Samson variant.

This £30 million upgrade, also referred to as Project Transformer, is being carried out under urgent operational requirements funding and is due to be completed early in 2012 with the delivery of 58 vehicles.

The Scimitar MK2 is already online in Afghanistan, as proudly announced today by the MOD who also released the following pics: 


Interesting cruise missiles from Turkey fits the F35’s weapons bays.
Tübitak-SAGE, the defence industries research and development institute of Turkey’s scientific and technological research council, has unveiled the Stand-Off Missile (SOM) on its stand at DSEi (N7-168). Last month, this major weapon programme successfully conducted its first guided flight.
SOM has been in development by Tübitak- SAGE since 2006, and following extensive wind tunnel and systems tests – followed by captive-carry and release trials – made its first guided flight on 9 August. Flying over the Black Sea, the SOM covered more than 100 nautical miles using GPS/ INS guidance. A campaign of about 30 test flights is to be conducted to assess aspects of the missile’s design.

SOM is a 1,300 lb stealthy cruise missile offering a variety of programmable ingress and attack profiles. Midcourse guidance is accomplished by GPS/ INS, with terrain reference updates.
Furthermore, the missile’s imaging infrared seeker can also be used to provide image-based midcourse navigation by taking snapshots of waypoints and comparing them against predicted position to update the navigation system. Infrared and terrain updates allow the missile to navigate without GPS if that capability is denied or degraded.

The IR seeker provides terminal guidance using target auto-tracking, and the weapon can be programmed to attack at various angles to match the required effects.

The warhead weighs 500 lb. SOM has a two-way datalink that allows in-flight retasking, and it is networkenabled. With the exception of the French Microturbo engine, the major elements of SOM are of Turkish design, including the high-resolution imaging infrared seeker.
Tübitak-SAGE has also developed a mission planning system for the SOM. This is common with that required for the HGK, a GPS/INSguided bomb kit for Mk 84 bombs that the institute has also developed and tested for the Turkish air force. Both HGK and SOM are compatible with NATO’s universal armaments interface.

Initial development work on SOM is being undertaken using the F-4E 2020 upgraded Phantom operated by the Turkish Air Force, but around the turn of the year work will begin on integrating the weapon onto the F-16, which is Turkey’s most numerous fighter.

SOM would also likely be included in any indigenous Turkish fighter development, but perhaps the big prize is the F-35 JSF that Turkey will operate. Tübitak-SAGE has sized the SOM to the internal bays of the Joint Strike Fighter, although the four rear fins will have to fold to fit the missile into the bay.
As befits its role as a design institute, Tübitak- SAGE produces only prototypes and development items, and does not have the capacity for mass production.

Turkey has not yet finalised production plans for the SOM, although an announcement is expected next year.

New Viking variants.
BAE Systems Global Combat Systems is showing two new versions of its combat proven BvS 10 Mk II all-terrain tracked all-armoured vehicle at DSEi for the first time. The first is a crew-served weapon platform, fitted with a Selex Enforcer remote weapon station (RWS) armed with a stabilised .50 M2 HB machine gun on the front unit, which is aimed using a flat-panel display from under full armour protection. Also mounted on the front unit is a Boomerang acoustic sniper detection system, coupled to the RWS.

These images show the BsV10 Viking MK2 Crew Served Weapon carrier. The Enforcer RWS on the front car is very evident, as is the installation of the Boomerang acoustical fire source detection device, the rear (manned, shielded) weapon turret and the Mast-Mounted Sensors for battlefield surveillance.
A complete Selex sensor suite is installed. It includes DNVS 4 night driver’s vision system, local situational awareness system and retractable mast-mounted sensor pod. The latter features high-performance day/night sensors and a laser rangefinder for surveillance and target acquisition. The rear unit also has a roof-mounted protected weapon station for increased firepower.

Second BvS 10 Mk II has a rear unit modified to carry a turntable-mounted 81mm mortar and about 140 rounds of ready-use ammunition.

The BsV10 Viking MK2 Mortar Carrier, with its 81 mm mortar in firing mode.

A key feature of these new versions of BvS 10 is that they both retain their full amphibious capability, making them very, very attractive for the 3rd Commando Brigade, which would need such firepower enhancements greatly. Although not optimal in terms of commonality, the Viking mortar carrier could also be a solution for replacing the FV432 MC in Armoured and Mechanized Infantry Battalions, since (very worrisome detail) the British Army seems to be oblivious to the need to provide a replacement to the protected mobility of mortal sections.

The first customer for the BvS 10 was the UK Royal Marines, which deployed it on combat operations to Afghanistan, followed by the British Army. A total 190 units have been delivered to the UK, including battlefield replacement vehicles.

Foxhound is in production
First Foxhound vehicles will be delivered late this year for training. Around 35 of the 200 vehicles are expected to be used for training purposes. Deliveries of all vehicles are due to be completed by mid-2012 to replace the Snatch Land Rover, which has proved highly vulnerable.

Ocelot was selected following extensive competitive trials carried out last year. Since then the vehicle has been further refined and by September this year more than 50 physical blast trials had been carried out.

Final assembly of the Ocelot is carried out at the Ricardo facility in Shoreham, with the support of other key subcontractors including the Defence Support Group, Formaplex, Sula, Thales and QinetiQ.

Export marketing is already underway and two vehicles – one in the standard configuration and one in the two-door configuration with a flat bed at the rear – were delivered to Australia to take part in the Australian Land 121 Phase 4 requirement.

A trackway for UAVs.
Faun Trackway, the defence division of North Wales-based Faun Zoeller, has introduced a landing mat specifically designed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). It is the latest addition to Faun’s suite of temporary runway solutions. The lightweight aluminium mat will be capable of clearly marking permissible landing areas and will provide a smooth landing, regardless of terrain, for any size or weight of UAV.

Faun’s UAV mat is being developed for rapid deployment by hand and will prevent foreign object damage to help protect valuable UAV assets when in the field. To enable the UAV to rapidly decelerate when landing, the mats can also be fitted with arrestor gear usually found on aircraft carriers.

Alternative ancillary equipment will also be available, including lighting systems, painted markings, generators, heat-protective gloves and electric hammer drills. Faun plans to launch the product in 2012, and the British Army could be interested due to the need of Watchkeeper for runways, even if semi-prepared airstrips and grass surfaces can do. Watchkeeper could also be adapted for catapult launch, but the Army did not express interest nor did formulate a requirement for this aspect.

The Warrior bridgelayer is shown to the public.
Pearson Engineering has completed development of its Bridge Launch Mechanism (BLM), which is being shown for the first time in the Vehicle Park (South Hall) integrated onto a BAE Systems Warrior manoeuvre support vehicle.

The BLM is a special to role attachment that can be fitted to a wide range of chassis, tracked and wheeled, which allows for the launch and recovery of a bridge from under armour in less than two minutes.

At DSEi it is being shown for use with the BAE Systems No 12 bridge, which is currently deployed by the British Army from the Titan bridge layer. The BLM has also been tested on a Leopard 1 tank chassis.

Four versions are being marketed: Heavy, Medium, Light, and one for use on vehicles fitted with a palletised loading system, which, typically, is based on an 8x8 cross-country truck chassis. BLM has three operating positions: transport without the bridge fitted; transport with the bridge fitted; and a deployed position with the bridge laid in position over the front of the chassis.

Hydraulic power is provided to a BLM directly from the vehicle or from an onboard hydraulic system, which can be supplied as part of a Pearson Engineering common interface system (CIS). Installation of the CIS allows the vehicle to be rapidly re-rolled according to mission requirements, such as installation of a dozer blade or mine-clearing devices of the roller or plough type. The CIS makes the vehicle more than just a bridgelayer, and the name (Warrior Maneuver Support Vehicle) is a clear allusion to this, other than a proof that this development is aimed at giving the MOD a cost-effective path for fulfilling the FRES Maneuver Support Vehicle requirement, which has a slot for some 35 bridgelayers and support vehicles, alongside 60 Terriers already on order. 

This ridiculously tiny picture is all i can find so far for a vision of the Warrior Maneuver Support Vehicle. I doubt the Challenger II development was as secretive and less publicized, sincerely. A pity, because as always i'd love to know more.
Other options for fitting the CIS and meeting the requirement are the ASCOD SV Common Base Platform or the Terrier hull. Both are inexorably going to cost more than using Warrior hulls made available by the reduction in Armoured Infantry requirements.

The UK and the F35C progresses.
Rear Admiral Amjad Hussain, the Ministry of Defence’s Director of Precision Attack, earlier this year visited Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, where he was briefed on the F-35C programme progress and witnessed flight test operations.

Three F-35C test aircraft are now operating from the Patuxent River test facility to support integration testing with the US Navy’s Nimitz class aircraft carriers. CF-1, at Patuxent River since last November, was joined earlier in 2011 by CF-2 and CF-3; the latter is the primary catapult launch and arrestor recovery test aircraft and is also a fully mission systems capable platform.
Jet blast deflector tests were recently completed at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Carrier suitability testing is scheduled throughout this year, including ongoing catapult testing and the start of arrestment testing in preparation for initial ship trials in 2013. While the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth class ships are smaller than the Nimitz class, there will still be considerable read across from the US test and integration campaign.

In a separate but associated development, the UK and US governments are close to finalising a JSF ‘swap’ deal that would see the UK exchange one of its three F-35B short takeoff and landing (STOVL) initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) aircraft for an F-35C CV variant.
A deal has been agreed in principle by the national armaments directors of both countries. Final approvals are expected by the end of 2011.

The mock-up F35 exposed at DSEI is shown accompanied by a Meteor missile, indication of the MBDA’s firmness in adapting the design to the JSF’s weapon bays constraints and pursue export orders associated with the plane. 

MASC, Crow's Nest... Give the carrier a flying eye: the RN has a requirement for an airborne early warning platform embarkable on ships, mainly the Strike Carrier. This capability will have to replace the Sea King MK7 ASaC, which is working in both Afghanistan and Libya (flying from HMS Ocean) as we speak, but that is planned for retirement by 2016, along with all other Sea King variants. 

The MASC requirement could be filled by 3 to 6 Hawkeyes (in terms of performances, unbeatable, but also very expensive to acquire) or by around 10 Merlin helicopters. However, funding will be so constrained that the RN is clearly anticipating to have no chance of buying new airframes for the role. Perhaps, if the Senior Service is really lucky, the 8 non-upgraded Merlin HM1 will be recovered for the role, but in case this was not economically feasible, the 30 Merlin HM2s will be given yet another role, making them even busier. 

Thales and AgustaWestland presented in 2010 a solution with a palletized Cerberus radar suite that could be installed easily on the Merlin HC3, which is planned to be navalized and given to the navy by 2016/18. 

The original Thales - Westland proposal, rolled out in 2010, showed the Cerberus radar bag mounted on a pallet in the back. This required the Rear Loading Ramp, and thus either a new buy Merlin, an HC3, or a heavier rebuild process on HM1/2 at time of navalization. The Merlin in HM2 configuration has a two-men crew console in the back, but for ASW sensors. It is not clear if this same console could be expanded (mainly software-wise) to work with the Cerberus suite and in the AEW role as well, or if some kind of AEW-specific console will be provided, sized to be embarked through the side sliding door.

However, the 25 Merlin HC4 will be too precious and in demand providing vertical mobility to troops to be used for the AEW role as well, and Thales is showing at DSEI a revised fast-installation option. 

The Cerberus suite already used in the Sea King is, again, retained as core of the system. The Searchwater 2000 radar (the black bag that gives the Sea King MK7 its "Bagger" surname) would now be installed on the Merlin and deployed using elevator rails attached to the aircraft's fuselage, and not using a pallet approach, removing the need for the rear loading ramp, and thus making the solution perfectly compatible, potentially, with ALL Merlin variants. Roughly one-third of the HM2 fleet could be equipped with airborne early-warning sensors at any one time, with all capable of carrying it if and when necessary.
The two-men radar console for the Radar Crew would probably sized and designed in order to enter the Merlin by the side sliding door.

Lockheed Martin, which in 2010 announced a plan to adapt fuselage-mounted AESA radar arrays to the Merlin for fullfilling the same role, is now presenting its plan: essentially, two small pods mounted on the helicopter's pylons, each containing a radar array and IFF, to give the 360° coverage required by the RN.

The pods would feature synthetic aperture radar and ground moving-target indication modes and be suitable for tasks such as fighter control and maritime and battlefield surveillance, tracking targets in the air and on land.

The LM proposal: one radar pod can be seen, attached to the sling points were the pylon for Stingray torpedoes is normally found. Again, no details are currently available about the crew radar workstations.

Also incorporating a gimballed radar and electronic support measures and identification friend-or-foe equipment, each pylon-mounted pod would weigh roughly 280kg (617lb).

Lockheed says the design represents "a role-fit solution which can be mounted on any fixed-wing transport/surveillance aircraft or medium-sized helicopter".

Concerns definitely remain. The Merlin HM2 fleet will routinely be asked to provide 6 or 8 Small Ship Flights for the Type 23 and then 26 frigates, with more potentially earmarked for Type 45. A requirement also exists for providing larger (6-helicopters) flights to big ships such as RFA Argus (it has become a common solution for Somalia anti-piracy deployments) or the Fort class replenishers, and of course on the Aircraft Carrier in future.
If we consider that all ship flights ideally should be triple (one training, one deployed, one recovering after deployment), we can immediately appreciate the full dimensions of the problem, and of the work that the already stretched Merlin family does.

It really is to be hoped that the 8 HM1 airframes (12, actually, considering 4 stored ones) can be recovered for this job.

Puma HC2 silently but steadily progresses:
The project to inject new life into the RAF's fleet of Puma support helicopters is making good progress, according to Eurocopter. Since the maiden flight of the first modified aircraft in June, Eurocopter test pilots have completed nearly 30 hours of manufacturer's test flying. That work is due to be complete by the end of the year when the aircraft will be transferred to Boscombe Down in Wiltshire for military certificate and acceptance testing by QinetiQ.

Under the £300 million Puma Life Extension Programme which was launched in September 2009, 28 (NOTE: 24 is the number that was presented post SDSR, so i highly doubt there's been a return to the 28 figure, which anyway always was, even in times of lesser economic despair, expressed in terms of "up to 28") of the RAF's Pumas are being given a new avionics suite, similar to that fitted to the EC725, new Turbomeca Makila engines and a modified gearbox to cope with the extra power.

The aircraft is being totally re-wired and given a new fuel tank which will further extend the range of the aircraft, potentially making it more attractive for special forces use. The type is understood to be the preferred mount of UK SF personnel.

Airframes selected for the update are delivered to Eurocopter UK at Kidlington in Oxford. There the aircraft are dismantled and components not required, such as the engines, are delivered back to the RAF.
The aircraft is then trucked to Eurocopter Romania's facility in Brasov where the work is being undertaken. Fourteen aircraft are now going through the upgrade process. Four of the 20-some will be completed at Eurocopter's plant at Marignane near Marseille.

As well as the new Pumas, the training simulator at RAF Benson will be modified into a Mk2 cockpit configuration, but early training of instructors will be carried out on a simulator in France.


  1. Thanks for the updates Gabriele.
    Very interesting.
    Seems as if budget problems are still a big issue for the army. It looks like we can expect to hear of more cuts in the near future.
    It's good to hear that the F35 programme is moving forward.
    I had hoped to hear more about orders and programmes confirmed by now?

  2. Indeed, as i noted about FRES SV, it appears that the 10-years Equipment Plan is proving even more challenging than planned.
    It appears that it might well not be agreed in time for a September release as planned, since it would seem that there's quite a big of big things to fix and decide still.

  3. Hi Phil & Gabby,

    For me the whole exhibition was flat as a pancake (as I take the UK angle, and it seemed to be just a window for export promotion)

    Deals about replenishing ammo & the like and augmenting existing TacComm systems was about as exiting as it got.

    Ever since the Defence Board meeting in March was cancelled, we have been waiting to hear something substantial... I wonder how far/ long they can "stretch" a 3-mnth exercise?

    Cheers, ACC

  4. Hi Gabby,

    I very much agree with you that there will be a problem. But, in "If we consider that all ship flights ideally should be triple (one training, one deployed, one recovering after deployment), we can immediately appreciate the full dimensions of the problem"
    - if we assume that recovering can be done without the airframes in presence,
    - how would you extrapolate the numbers then?

    Cheers, ACC

  5. Hopefully, not too much longer! But as i said, hearing of the troubles with financing FRES SV and Warrior upgrade, it does appear that they are still struggling to try and fit everything into the 10-year plan.

    Hard to imagine, at this point, that it will be ready for publication within the end of the month as promised.

    And you might have seen up at TD that parliamentary answer saying that the Warrior announcement is expected "later in the autumn".

    Hopefully, before October is over, we will see something moving.

  6. Well, airframes do not need to "recover" like crews, but they need their mainteinance periods on the other hand, so really the rule of the 3 would be the best one.

    As a bare minimum, there should be, in the Forward Available Fleet, a couple of helos for each task.

    With 30, we have to assume that no more than 15 would be deployed at once on average, and in some periods there would likely be less of them.

    And we are talking of the "Flying Frigate" which is not just the best ASW platform the navy flies, but also the favorite "police chopper of the sea" due to its endurance and troop carrying capacity.
    The Merlin already covers lots of roles. Adding also the AEW, without increasing the number of airframes, will require a serious effort from the crews and ground support personnel, and from the airframes as well.

    It is also gonna make a replacement for Nimrod MRA4 even more indispensable. The Merlin can't do everything on its own.

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