industry news

Australian industry secured $1bn worth of awards for F-35 production

14 January

The Australian Department of Defence has confirmed that the industry has been collectively awarded more than $1bn in production to date for the F-35 Lightning II aircraft programme. Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said that more than 50 companies across the country directly shared in the aircraft construction contracts.

Pyne said: “The Australian industry continues to prove its global competitiveness by performing better than initial forecasts, with Australian industry involvement expected to exceed $2bn by 2023.”

The F-35 Lightning II aircraft programme has so far indirectly benefited several other companies through supply chain work and is expected to support up to 5,000 jobs in Australia by 2023.

Pyne further added: “Further opportunities are expected for Australian companies to increase production contract values over the next four years as F-35 production rates more than double. The Australian industry is manufacturing parts that will be fitted to every F-35 aircraft in production across the globe. 

“Australian success in the Joint Strike Fighter programme isn’t limited to manufacturing parts. The Australian industry has also been chosen as the maintenance hub for the engines, airframes, and 64 of 65 components, which have been assigned by the Joint Project Office.”

In August last year, the first indigenously built vertical tail was fitted to Australia’s third F-35A aircraft, which was under construction at Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, Texas, US. In December this year, the first two Australian F-35A fighter jets are slated to arrive for permanent basing at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, Australia. The country will have a training squadron and three operational squadrons with 72 aircraft by the time of final operating capability, which is expected to take place in December 2023.

Royal Navy’s RFA Fort Rosalie supports fight against ISIS in Middle East

13 February

The British Royal Navy’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Rosalie is extending its support to the ongoing fight against ISIS in the Middle East. RFA Fort Rosalie has been assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the Middle East as part of the initiative.

The CSG currently receives fuel from the US Navy’s replenishment oiler USNS Guadalupe, while food, spare parts, mail and other supplies are set to be provided by RFA Fort Rosalie. The Royal Navy support ship has delivered two pallet loads of supplies to USNS Guadalupe to date. Helicopters have also been used to transfer supplies from the US Navy replenishment oiler’s flight deck over to the USS Bunker Hill cruiser during the same period.

RFA Fort Rosalie commanding officer Captain Karl Woodfield said: “It was a very satisfying day for us as Fort Rosalie successfully completed simultaneous high-tempo transfers from both the replenishment at sea point and the flight deck.”

The vertical replenishment operation was conducted last month and saw crew members from the Royal Navy ship put into practice training received from the USNS Matthew Perry. The replenishment involved the efficient transfer of 48 loads by USS Bunker Hill’s MH-60 Seahawk helicopter.

In addition, RFA Fort Rosalie deployed seven sailors to the military sealift and dry cargo vessel USNS Matthew Perry in order to enhance its crew’s knowledge of US vertical replenishment operations, which are regularly carried out by US Navy units. The RFA Fort Rosalie team collaborated with the US Navy crew to jointly carry out a number of training activities, including load building and movement, and a steering gear breakdown drill.

US Army awards $476m contract to buy FMTV A2 variant

12 February

The US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command has awarded a new contract for the procurement of a fleet of medium tactical vehicles (FMTV) A2 variant. The $476m firm-fixed-price requirements contract is expected to run for a period of seven ordering years. It will enable the army to purchase any number of vehicles.

Under the deal, Oshkosh Defense will be responsible for providing the US Army with a fleet of future-generation FMTV A2. The fleet includes 16 models and associated trailers with payload carrying capacity ranging from three tonnes to ten tonnes. Once delivered, the vehicles will be deployed by the army to carry out a wide range of operations, including supporting combat missions, relief efforts, and logistics and supply missions.

Oshkosh Defense Army and Marine Corps Programmes vice-president and general manager Pat Williams said: “With the Oshkosh FMTV A2, our troops are getting the safest, most capable, and reliable FMTV this programme has ever seen. We are fully prepared to build the next generation fleet of exceptional, cost-effective FMTVs to serve our troops in future missions.”

Williams added: “As the incumbent manufacturer, Oshkosh’s FMTV A2 design features parts commonality that results in streamlined maintenance, training, sustainment and overall cost efficiency for our customer.”

The contract has been awarded following an FMTV A2 proposal submitted by the company in response to the US Army’s competitive request for proposal that called for bidders to validate and develop an upgraded FMTV A2 fleet of vehicles.

The modernised fleet would be overhauled with enhanced payload, underbody protection, ride quality, mobility, engine power, electronics, diagnostics and safety upgrades. To date, the company has built and sustained more than 150,000 tactical wheeled vehicles for the US Department of Defense and its allies.

US DoD awards $950m contract to REAN Cloud for services and solutions

12 February

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded a new $950m contract to an Amazon Web Services Premier Partner REAN Cloud for the procurement of Cloud-based solutions and services. Agencies within the defence department will be able to directly acquire the Cloud solutions in a new streamlined process from the company under the five-year contract. It represents a new model automating pricing and procurement. The current deal will allow the government customers to quickly accomplish complete IT operations in the Cloud.

REAN Cloud managing partner Sekhar Puli said: “Our experience has taught us that to get the full benefit of the Cloud, you have to think differently. The speed and agility that our patent-pending technology brings to cloud migration and operations invite a similarly nimble approach for the government.

“With firm fixed-pricing  and automated procurement, we are changing old mindsets of typical vendor relationships. Our DoD customers can now achieve the same efficiencies available to the commercial sector as they seek to design, migrate, automate, manage and scale systems and databases running in the cloud.”

Prototyping and acquisition of the complete range of Cloud adoption requirements, including infrastructure-as-a-service, application assessments, and operations were enabled by the company’s collaboration with the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).

The contract was designed as an Other Transaction prototype project for the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). It will enable REAN Cloud to allow USTRANSCOM and other DoD organisations to quickly migrate legacy applications to a government-approved, commercial Cloud environment. DIUx is responsible for bringing commercial innovation to the US military.

Lockheed Martin wins $524m contract for PAC-3 missile interceptors

9 February

Lockheed Martin has secured a modification contract for production and delivery of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and PAC-3 missile segment enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) interceptors. The contract is valued at approximately $524m. It is set to enable the US and allied military forces, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Romania, to upgrade their missile defence capabilities. The modification award comes after Lockheed Martin received a $944m contract for PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE production and delivery in December.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control PAC-3 programmes vice-president Jay Pitman said: “PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE give our customers unmatched, combat-proven hit-to-kill technology to address growing and evolving threats. PAC-3 and MSE are proven, trusted and reliable interceptors that employ hit-to-kill accuracy, lethality and enhanced safety to address dangers around the world.”

In addition to PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE missile deliveries, the scope of the contract includes launcher modification kits and associated ground support equipment and spares. Work under the latest contract will be carried out in the US in Grand Prairie, Texas; Huntsville, Alabama; Camden, Arizona; Lufkin, Texas; Chelmsford, Massachusetts; and Ocala, Florida, with an estimated completion date of 31 January 2021.

Serving as a high-velocity interceptor, the PAC-3 offers defensive capabilities against incoming threats such as tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft. The PAC-3 MSE is equipped with a two-pulse solid rocket motor to provide increased altitude and range to better tackle evolving threats. Currently, 11 nations have deployed the PAC-3 for missile defence capabilities, including Germany, Kuwait, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates.

USAFCENT establishes new Coalition Aviation Advisory and Training team in Iraq

8 February

The US Air Forces Central Command, in collaboration with the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, has set up a new Coalition Aviation Advisory and Training Team (CAATT) in Iraq. With the establishment of the new team, the US Air Force aims to develop an Iraqi aviation enterprise that would help protect the nation from ISIS and its affiliates.

Partnering with the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, the new advisory and training team will focus on improving the aviation capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The CAATT will provide training and advice, as well as assist the Iraqi Army Aviation Command, Iraqi Air Defense Command, and the Iraqi Air Force.

Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, US Air Forces Central Command commander, said: “This coalition team of airmen will build upon our Iraqi partner’s combat-proven capabilities to ensure a capable, affordable, professional, and sustainable Iraqi Aviation Enterprise. Together with our ISF partners, we will ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”

However, the establishment of the new unit does not involve a rise in the total number of troops deployed to the Middle East country. Designed particularly to make use of existing resources and coalition partner capabilities, the new team comprises the US and coalition airmen from multiple specialties.

The coalition, following Iraq’s liberation from ISIS’ physical presence, is transitioning to a more training-focused and building-partner-capacity role. This will reduce the overall coalition air support as the Iraqi Air Force takes up air missions, duties, and responsibilities required to be adopted to ensure an end to ISIS.

USAF assembles new team to explore EW across electromagnetic spectrum

7 February

The US Air Force (USAF) has assembled a cross-functional team to explore electronic warfare (EW) throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. As a military action, EW involves the use of electromagnetic and directed energy in order to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy.

Known as an enterprise capability collaboration team, the cross-functional group is led by Cyberspace Operations and Warfighting Integration director, Office of Information Dominance and USAF chief information officer Brigadier General David Gaedecke.

Gaedecke said: “The airforce and our nation need to maintain superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum is so broad, relied upon by all, and increasingly congested, so the first challenge of this effort is to scope the issue.”

The enterprise capability collaboration team intends to call together a group of stakeholders from across major commands, joint partners, coalition, and industry with an aim to address a future congested electromagnetic spectrum. Over 12 to 18 months, the new group will carry out research works and develop a strategy that would help deliver executable recommendations for the service to maintain a competitive advantage in the spectrum.

Gaedecke added: “It’s those executable recommendations and how they will align and integrate into ongoing airforce efforts like multi-domain command and control that are the ultimate goal. Superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum is fundamental to the new National Defense Strategy. To be a lethal force of the future, we need to lead in research, technology, and innovation. Superiority in the spectrum underpins all of these.”

DARPA launches programme to use marine life for detecting naval threats

6 February

DARPA has launched a programme that aims to use the sensory capabilities of marine organisms to detect naval activity. The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) programme will study natural and modified organisms to determine which ones could best support sensor systems that detect the movement of manned and unmanned underwater vehicles.

Evolution has given marine organisms a wide array of sensing abilities: tactile, electrical, acoustic, magnetic, chemical and optical. DARPA believes that these sensing capabilities, combined with the ubiquitous, adapting and self-replicating nature of living organisms, will offer advantages over using hardware alone.

“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive,” said Lori Adornato, PALS programme manager. “If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterise the size and type of adversary vehicles.”

However, the PALS researchers will have to overcome several challenges. They will have to develop hardware, software and algorithms to translate organism behaviour into usable information and then send it back to end users. This information would be received by deployed hardware systems operating at a standoff distance of up to 500m, and the sensing systems must also discriminate between target vehicles and other sources of stimuli, such as debris and other marine organisms, to limit the number of false positives.

“Our ideal scenario for PALS is to leverage a wide range of native marine organisms, with no need to train, house, or modify them in any way, which would open up this type of sensing to many locations,” Adornato said.

DARPA is now seeking proposals from third party experts, and while it favours those that employ natural organisms, proposers are able to suggest modifications.

Dr Gordon Watson, a marine ecologist from the University of Portsmouth, said that the “electrical, acoustic, optical, magnetic and chemical methods could, theoretically, all be tested, but there would be significant hurdles to making them work for any human purpose, military or otherwise.”

But Watson, whose expertise lies in investigating the effects of humans on aquatic organisms through pollution and exploitation, also cautioned that while the research would help “push back the frontiers of our knowledge of marine sensing systems”, the programme would have to ensure that there was “minimal impact on the fragile coastal marine environment and the organisms themselves.”

DARPA anticipates the programme will last four years, requiring contributions in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, machine learning, analytics, oceanography, mechanical and electrical engineering, and weak signals detection.