Friday, September 16, 2011

DSEI - Day 4

First "big salvo" launch of Brimstone on operations 

Obviously not exactly a DSEI news, but one of interest. Previously during combat missions in both Libya and Afghanistan, the Brimstone missile has been fired individually, using laser guidance.

However, of course, it also has the capacity to be fired in a large salvo utilising millimetric radar to guide simultaneously each missile to a separate target in a target area. This is what the original Brimstone was designed for, before laser guidance was added due to COIN experience and ROE needs.

Since a large concentration of former regime armoured vehicles had been located by NATO in Libya, Tornado GR4 of the RAF flew a mission from Gioia del Colle and used the salvo firing technique for the very first time in action, with some two-dozen missiles fired.

Full battle damage assessment continues, but seven or eight target vehicles were observed on fire, and the precision nature of the Brimstone's warhead means that additional targets were most likely destroyed or severely damaged. The fact that the vehicle does not appear to be burning does not mean it is not knocked out: this is no Hollywood, and not everything goes up in a big bang of flames. It is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that a target hit by a Brimstone survives.

FRES Scout video from British Forces News

It does not show or say as much as I’d want, but definitely better than nothing. 

The FSTA progress

In the coming weeks, the Royal Air Force will take delivery of its first Airbus Military A330 Multi-Role Tanker/Transport. The final hurdle to delivery was military certification, the award of which has just been announced. The RAF’s aircraft was named Voyager in a ceremony at the Royal International Air Tattoo in July. The 14 aircraft are to replace VC10s and TriStars, and the contract runs for 24 years following first delivery.

Approval for military operations was granted by the Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Aerospacial (INTA), which is Spain’s military certification authority. The agreed certification standards meet UK military requirements. Award of the military certificate follows EASA civil certification, which was received in July, allowing the RAF to operate its Voyagers on both civil and military registers.

The initial certificates cover the RAF’s aircraft operating in a two-point refuelling configuration, with Cobham’s advanced 905E refuelling pods under the wings. Following delivery, the aircraft will be used for training crews, maintainers and receivers. If all goes well, the first Voyagers could become operational as early as 2013, although the scheduled in-service date is 2014.

While the first two aircraft were converted at the Airbus Military plant at Getafe in Spain, the remaining 12 aircraft on order for the RAF will be converted at Cobham’s facility at Hurn, near Bournemouth, UK. The first ‘green’ A330 arrived from the Airbus production line last month. Cobham expects the initial conversion, in which the aerial refuelling and other military systems are installed, to take 12 months. The process will accelerate with later aircraft to 10 months, and all 14 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered within five years.

Seven of the aircraft are to be kitted for operations with the Cobham 805E fuselage refuelling system as well as the wing pods, with 5 805E kits being acquired. This three-point configuration should be certificated in early 2013. The fleet will keep 9 airplanes at readiness for immediate RAF ops, with the remaining available on request and offered for use by other clients, to reduce costs: initially, it was thought that the airplanes would be used by civilian companies for passenger transportation but now, much more realistically, it is expected that military use, probably by France, will be the solution followed. France has in fact a requirement for 14 tankers, also from Airbus, but the contract award has been delayed by a few years due to lack of funding. Other NATO nations could also buy hours on the FSTA “spare capacity” fleet.

Fire Shadow entry in service

The Royal Artillery will start formal training with the MBDA Fire Shadow weapon system later this year at the Royal School of Artillery, Larkhill. Next year 39 Regiment will add the Fire Shadow to its GMLRS role, and deploy in Afghanistan the Loitering Ammunition for the first time. Succesful tests are continuing in Sweden, and the Command and Control segment has also been already validated. 

A tent-based Fire Shadow command post

Initial versions of the Fire Shadow will be deployed from a single rail towed launcher, already shown in many videos, but in future pods could be integrated onto a cross-country chassis. MBDA has been proposing a 8-cells assembly on a MAN 4x4 HX60 truck, for example, with a TEU-contained Ground Control Station transportable on DROPS/ELPS trucks. 

A Fire Shadow launched during tests in Sweden, from the single-rail launcher.

Fire Shadow will have a range of about 100km with a six hour loiter time on the target area. Total mission length should be of around 10 hours, with a maximum range of 150 Km. Initially, it will be limited to 50 operationally as the system is validated. It is roughly 4 meters long at launch and weights some 200 kg. It is fitted with a conventional blast fragmentation warhead and is considered to have plenty of growth potential with more range, different warheads and different launchers. A possibility exists to make it VLS capable and fire it from Sylver launchers such as those on the Type 45, as mentioned in a RN document about HMS Daring. (scroll down to page 17)

MBDA is proposing the Fire Shadow as a maritime weapon also by “less invasive” and less expensive embarkation of the single-rail launcher, which could be used from a frigate’s flight deck. At launch, due to the rocket backblast, a 10-meters clear area is mandated.

In particular, at sea Fire Shadow is seen as having applications in the amphibious assault support role, launched from ships to provide ‘top cover’ for marines as they land ashore.

UK’s Megitt will provide targets for training of French armed forces

UK-based Meggitt Defence Systems has been awarded a fiveyear contract by the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency to supply aerial and boat targets to the French Navy. Meggitt will supply the French Navy with its Snipe, Jet Banshee (pictured) and Whirlwind Banshee aerial targets, and Sprite boat targets.

Other deliverables include six catapult launchers, six Merlin ground control stations, two acoustic miss distance indication ground stations and a number of airborne units/ payloads (comprising active radar enhancement, black body infrared enhancement, radar altimeters and countermeasures dispensers).

The Sprite is already in service with the UK Royal Navy and the Banshee is used as part of the Target family used for training air defence units of the british Armed Forces

An image of the Thales Merlin MASC installation has been released

Thanks to Jane’s, from which this image comes. It provides a visual evidence of the news i treated yesterday (DSEI - Day 3 article) The radar would be raised (prior to landing) and lowered along two supporting rails. Once lowered, the Searchwater would have the desired 360° field of view. No additional details on the crew consoles solution has been released, though. 

Lochkeed Martin instead, has announced that its "podded" solution (again, see my report in the DSEI - Day 3 article) would integrate the radar suite software with the existing consoles, a very interesting and advantageous approach. 

A Northrop Grumman attempt to enter the Assisted Carriage System race

Northrop Grumman is exhibiting its remotely controlled robotic transport platform capability, the Carry-all Mechanised Equipment Landrover (CaMEL) unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). The 60in-tall, six-wheel drive, treaded hybrid motorised robot is capable of carrying an impressive load of 800 lb of equipment at a maximum speed of 4mph across any terrain.

With the next phase of FIST planned for 2015, options and proposals emerge

Rockwell Collins is showcasing two new products, including the latest in precision targeting and network communication.

The new Sentinel system is a key part of the company’s integrated soldier solutions that will enable ground soldiers to join the larger network for greater situational awareness force-wide. This is achieved while accommodating the size, weight and power constraints of the foot soldier. In essence, Sentinel is a customisable system that combines tactical capability with portability. Soldierworn and see-through displays can be part of the system, with options for wrist, helmet and eye-shield mountings.

The Sentinel kit, with Helmet Mounted Eyepatch display

A major advance with Sentinel has been the use of latest technology advantages to reduce weight and bulk. With it, soldiers can receive and send messages, maps and other multimedia information on the terrain to the entire network in real time.

But the StrikeHawk Digital video downlink receiver shares the limelight with Sentinel as a new product launched here at DSEi. It provides full-motion analogue or digital video to mobile ground-base tactical users, providing them with timely warnings of threats and of enemy intentions, buying troops valuable time to react to a fast-moving or escalating tactical situation. The StrikeHawk is already used by Royal Artillery Fire Support Teams and RAF Forward Tactical Air Controllers in Afghanistan.

FLAADS – CAMM progresses

MBDA is awaiting the green light from the UK Ministry of Defence to move ahead with full-scale development of the Future Local Area Air Defence System (Maritime) – FLAADS(M) – as a replacement point defence system for the Royal Navy (RN). Based on the Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), FLAADS(M) will initially equip the RN’s Type 23 frigates and will later migrate onto the RN’s new Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

FLAADS is intended as the UK’s next generation of short-range air defence guided weapon systems, with the intention that variants should replace Seawolf (planned by 2016) and Rapier (2018 – 2020 timeframe), and insert technology into ASRAAM, in the respective maritime, land and air environments. CAMM is the common effector for FLAADS.

FLAADS(Marittime) entered the Assessment Phase in 2008 as one of six programmes taken forward under the banner of Team Complex Weapons. MBDA has been undertaking a range of technology development and de-risking activities to mature system engineering and design, fully exploiting its experience of developing the Sea Viper guided weapons system now entering service on the RN’s new Type 45 destroyers.

According to the company, “significant achievements” have been made in all areas, notably with the development of the FLAADS Command and Control (C2) system (featuring greater than 75 per cent re-use of Sea Viper C2 software) and the development of the FLAADS Platform Data Link, both of which are already undergoing trials in MBDA development facilities. Furthermore, there has been a seamless progression of experienced staff and facilities from the Sea Viper programmed onto the FLAADS(M) programme to ensure that the lessons learned during the Sea Viper development are fully brought to bear.

Leveraging technology from ASRAAM, the CAMM missile has been conceived as a common high-performance anti-air effector. Using an innovative low-cost active radar seeker, it will also form the centrepiece of the related FLAADS (Land) – FLAADS(L) – system intended to replace the British Army’s Rapier missile batteries at the end of the decade.

MBDA says the maturity of the CAMM missile design has been demonstrated in a number of important trials in recent months. The novel Soft Vertical Launch concept has been conclusively proven in a number of trials, culminating in a successful ejection and turnover trial from a truck platform in May this year, providing direct read-across to the FLAADS(L) programme. Significant progress has also been made with the CAMM seeker development, with a series of successful air carry trials having taken place.

MBDA is now gearing up its export campaign for FLAADS/CAMM. It argues that straightforward platform integration, coupled with low cost of ownership, are intrinsic to the system architecture. Furthermore, there is no need for complex above-decks trackers or dedicated radars, as CAMM is radar-agnostic and can be integrated with any Search Radar for getting its initial target bearings, making FLAADS/CAMM an excellent proposition for a wide variety of naval platforms.

It is expected that CAMM will go on the Type 23 frigates around 2016, to replace Sea Wolf and its associated radar trackers and systems. CAMM will expand range from 13 to 20-25 km, and an option exists to give the missile a surface-attack capability as well. It is not clear if this option is being pursued by the MOD: when MBDA proposed it, the Ministry was clear that such capability would have been welcome, but had to come within the budget already agreed. No additional funding will be provided by the MOD, so MBDA would have to self-fund and aim for exports.

After RAF trials in 2005, Goodrich is privately funding a newly designed installation for RAPTOR on Reapers.

The DB-110 was developed in the 1990s and was fielded in the Raptor pod carried by RAF Tornados, first seeing action over Iraq in 2003. The system has been heavily utilised by Tornados during RAF operations over Libya, with outstanding results. Japan acquired DB-110s for use on P-3 maritime patrollers, and the sensor has been specified for several recent F-16 customers, beginning with the Polish air force. A low-level capability was added for this requirement, complementing existing medium and high-level capabilities.

In 2005, Raptor was trialled in a pod under a General Atomics Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper UAV during joint UK-US JUEP studies in the drones sector, and now Goodrich has funded a more refined installation.

The underwing fairing has been constructed by General Atomics, and the system is nearing readiness for a flight demonstration funded by a US government agency. Flight trials are expected to begin early next year.

With the sensor’s ability to work from overhead out to more than 40 nautical miles slant range, the Predator B/ DB-110 combination offers a valuable reconnaissance/surveillance tool.

Oto Melara and Babcock confident on selling the 127/64 mm gun to the Royal Navy

While many of the combat system equipments for the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) next-generation Type 26 frigate will be migrated from existing Type 23s, the likelihood remains that a requirement will emerge for a brand new medium-calibre gun to succeed the RN’s current Mk 8 Mod 1 4.5in (114mm) weapon. A recent Future Maritime Fires study run by Niteworks is informing on the final capability requirement.

In anticipation, Italian armaments group Oto Melara (a subsidiary of Finmeccanica) and UK-based support and engineering services group Babcock International have teamed to bid Oto Melara’s 127mm/64cal Light Weight (127/64 LW) medium-calibre gun system for the Type 26 programme.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed by the two companies last year, Babcock, as prime contractor, would take responsibility for the supply of the 127/64 LW to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The companies say this arrangement “would provide significant licensed work for Babcock, with opportunities for a broad UK supply chain, in assembly, test, setting to work and ongoing in-service support in the UK”.

Oto Melara and Babcock are championing the fact that the 127/64 LW is already in production for two other European frigate programmes – the Italian Navy’s FREMM and the German Navy’s F 125 – and has been developed to fire new-generation Vulcano longrange precision-guided family of ammunition, which includes a 70-km range IR-seeker “anti-ship” round and a 120 km guided land attack shell, with development plan for a Semi-Active Laser terminal guidance addiction for the future.

The first gun delivered to the FREMM programme was installed on board Italian first-of-class Carlo Bergamini in July this year and will equip all Italian General Purpose FREMMs. Capable of firing up to 35 rounds/ minute, the 127/64 LW gun turret weighs less than 29 tons. Its ammunition handling system, which consists of four revolving drum magazines that hold 56 ready-to-fire rounds of more than four different types, allows flexibility in ammunition selection and a high rate of sustained fire.

Project Marshall

BAE Systems is bidding for the new UK Joint Military Air Traffic Management System, known as Project Marshall, which will provide a fully integrated terminal air traffic management (ATM), surveillance and communications service. It will enable air vehicles to operate safely yet with tactical freedom in any environment and weather conditions. Project Marshall will be rolled out throughout the UK’s areas of responsibility, including permanent overseas airfields and deployed operations worldwide.

BAE Systems acts as overall lead integrator for the bid, and is joined in team by Indra, Altran Praxis and LFV Aviation Consulting. Headquartered in Spain, Indra is Europe’s leading ATM systems integrator and will provide the ATM and control systems. Altran Praxis will oversee technical specification requirements to ensure that the system meets national and international standards. LFV, based at Norrköping in Sweden, will be responsible for providing safe and cost-effective air navigation solutions, and for minimising environmental impact.

BAE Systems and its team are continuing to develop the proposal announced for submission of an outline solution. “Work to date has already identified a number of alternative solutions,” said Steve Timms, MD Defence Information, Training & Services, “all of which can provide a more efficient service at reduced cost, while maintaining operational effectiveness. We will now work to mature the best of these solutions.”

BAE’s body-worn antennas

As part of its wider drive to develop armour, individual power systems and equipment that reduce the burden on the soldier, BAE Systems has developed a series of body-wearable antennas. The antennas are woven into the fibres of the uniform, removing the need for conventional whip antennas that are often cumbersome and conspicuous.

There are other benefits, too, as the antennas are unaffected by the position of the wearer. Whip-type antennas can often be rendered ineffective when the wearer lies down, while the stub antennas of short-range radios can sometimes be masked by the body. The body-wearable antennas provide 360° coverage.

A concept demonstrator has been developed to showcase this technology, with the ability to transmit voice, video data and GPS location using the same antenna. In this concept soldiers can share imagery from helmet-mounted cameras, displayed on wrist-worn touchscreen smartphones.

As well as applications in the defence world, BAE Systems sees this technology as ideal for firefighters, police and workers undertaking hazardous tasks.

The British Swimmers Delivery System

UK-based James Fisher Defence has taken the wraps off its new SDV(X) special operations Swimmer Delivery Vehicle. Built as an advanced demonstrator, the free-flooding or ‘wet’ submersible is designed to enable the clandestine delivery of up to eight fully equipped divers (including pilot and navigator). The company has already completed a number of in-water trials.

James Fisher Defence said the 7.35m SDV(X)’s modular composite hull form has been designed to optimise its hydrodynamic efficiency while surfaced and submerged. Platform subsystems have been selected and designed using proven low-risk COTS components and software. These run on an open architecture system, thereby facilitating rapid technology insertion or capability upgrades.

Endurance is in excess of eight hours, with the divers and crew served by an open circuit breathing lifesupport system. The dry weight of the SDV(X) vehicle is 3,300kg.

The US Navy Seals have a notional requirement for replacing their SDVs, especially after the Advanced SDV (ASDV) programme was cancelled due to its excessive cost. They want a dry mini-submarine, though, allowing soldiers to work better in cold waters and make as much as possible of the transit to target in a more benign environment.

The UK Special Boat Service might be interested as well: in its inventory currently figure some 3 american-build Swimmer Delivery Systems.

Bae’s 40 mm Bofors gun turret for naval use

It nears completition. I don’t think it is of any real interest for the british armed forces, but it is an interesting weapon system.

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