12 February 2019

DIA reports on Chinese and Russian space security threats to US

The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has released a new report highlighting the key security threats facing the US in space, including the fast-advancing capabilities of Russia and China.

The report focuses predominantly on China and Russia, noting the strategic intent of both nations in terms of their space and counterspace capabilities.

Speaking to press at the Pentagon yesterday, a DIA senior official said: “Both countries have developed robust and capable space services, and these capabilities provide their militaries with the ability to command and control their forces worldwide, and with enhanced situational awareness enabling them to monitor, track and target US and allied forces.

“Chinese and Russian doctrine indicate that they view space as important to modern warfare and view counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce US and allied effectiveness.”

China invests in space to deter US interference

According to the report, China has officially advocated for the non-weaponisation of space, pursuing agreements in the United Nations to restrict militarisation. At the same time, China pursued reforms to improve its counterspace weapons, along with electronic warfare capabilities, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems.

Commenting on the latter, the report said: “China employs a robust space-based ISR capability designed to enhance its worldwide situational awareness. Used for military and civil remote sensing and mapping, terrestrial and maritime surveillance, and military intelligence collection, China’s ISR satellites are capable of providing electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, as well as electronic intelligence and signals intelligence data.”

The DIA report also mentions that China views space security as a way to deter the US from interfering in China’s military operations. For example, if the PLA can destroy or capture satellites and other sensory equipment, it would make it much harder for the US to use precision-guided weaponry.

Russia develops laser weapons against satellites

Like China, Russia has expressed concerns over the militarisation of space, and has pursued rigid space arms control agreements to curb US activity. The Russian Government has also invested in counterspace systems that would neutralise a potential US attack, and is developing an array of directed energy weapons to scramble or destroy enemy satellites.

The report said: “Russia likely is pursuing laser weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors. Prior to July 2018, Russia began delivering a laser weapon system to the Aerospace Forces that likely is intended for an ASAT mission.

“In public statements, President Vladimir Putin called it a ‘new type of strategic weapon’, and the Russian Defence Ministry asserted that it is capable of ‘fighting satellites in orbit’. Russia is also developing an airborne ASAT laser weapon system to use against space-based missile defence sensors.”

There is a high chance that Russia is also “developing a ground-based, mobile missile system capable of destroying space targets in Low Earth Orbit and ballistic missiles” to further boost space security, according to the report.

11 February 2019

Lockheed MArtin-led team wins C$60bn Canadian Surface Combatants design contract

The Canadian Government has awarded a contract to a Lockheed Martin-led team to design 15 new Canadian Surface Combatants for the Royal Canadian Navy.

The surface combatants are based on Type 26 global combat ship developed by BAE Systems and will be built at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard.

Canada Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough said: “Our government is providing the Royal Canadian Navy with the ships it needs to do its important work of protecting Canadians.

“This procurement process for Canada’s future fleet of Canadian Surface Combatants was conducted in an open, fair and transparent manner that yielded the best ship design, and design team, to meet our needs for many years to come.”

With a total estimated budget of C$56bn-C$60bn ($42.16bn-$45.17bn), the Canadian Surface Combatants project involves developing ships to replace the Halifax-class frigates and the retired Iroquois-class destroyers.

Irving Shipbuilding is the prime contractor and shipbuilder of the new Canadian Surface Combatants fleet. The Value of the initial contract with Irving is C$185m ($139.29m).

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will work with the Government of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding to prepare a customised design to suit Canada’s requirements and to incorporate Canadian systems and equipment.

Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems vice-president Gary Fudge said: “This award is true validation of our Canadian capability. Our team is honoured, knowing that we offered the right solution for Canada and a proven ability to perform on complex defence programmes.

“Lockheed Martin Canada is ready to continue serving as Canada’s trusted Combat System Integrator, as it has for more than three decades, leveraging the innovation and talent here at home that will ultimately result in unprecedented economic outcome for Canada.”

The completion of the design work is expected to take up to four years, with construction due to commence in the early 2020s.

Apart from Lockheed Martin, the design team known as Combat Ship Team includes BAE Systems, CAE, L3 Technologies, MDA, and Ultra Electronics Maritime Systems.

“We are delighted to be part of Canada’s Combat Ship Team that has been awarded the Canadian Surface Combatant design contract,” said BAE Systems Canada general manager Anne Healey.

“We believe that the Type 26 Global Combat Ship is the right solution for Canada, combining Canada’s trusted Combat Management System with the world’s most advanced warship design and bringing together a pan-Canadian team with a proven track record and current capability to perform complex defence projects.”

The multi-mission Type 26 ship is capable of supporting anti-submarine warfare, air defence and general purpose operations.

With a displacement of 6,900t and measuring 149.9m in length, the vessel can be deployed independently or as part of a task group to conduct high-intensity warfare, humanitarian assistance and other missions.

8 February 2019

GAO report highlights challenges for US Army equipment modernisation

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report highlighting the progress and challenges to US Army readiness up to 2022.

Overall, the GAO found that the US Army is on track to reach its readiness objectives for 2022. However, there are some challenges that may hinder US Army readiness, in terms of equipment repair and modernisation in the coming years.

The report is split into three overarching fields: equipment repair and modernisation, personnel and force structure, and training for potential large-scale conflict.

The report noted: “GAO has made 44 recommendations in prior unclassified work described in this statement. DOD and the Army have generally concurred with them, have implemented seven, and have actions underway to address others.

“Continued attention to these recommendations can assist and guide the Army moving forward as it seeks to rebuild the readiness of its force and transforms for the future.”

Equipment modernisation

In its equipment repair and modernisation assessment, the GAO stated that the US Army is developing new warfighting capabilities to tackle the growing military capabilities of nations, such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

To counter potential threats, the US Army said it will demonstrate its readiness by conducting multiple large-scale ground air and cyber operations as an attempt to deter enemies, and noted six priority weapons upgrades.

From long-range precision firing capabilities, to next-generation combat vehicles and unmanned aerial systems, soldier lethality and air and missile defence, the US Army has been investing in new technologies and laying out plans to acquire and develop new weapons systems.

The report said, for example, that to enhance its long-range precision fires weaponry, the US Army will prioritise “capabilities, including munitions that restore Army dominance in range, lethality, and target acquisition.”

Existing challenges and recommendations

The GAO found, however, that the US Army did not have a comprehensive implementation strategy to retrograde its equipment used in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report recommended that a concrete plan for retrograde and reset would help the US to better manage its resources.

For example, the GAO noted that the US Army’s Patriot equipment has suffered reset maintenance delays. In June 2018, the GAO reported that of the seven Patriot battalions undergoing reset, only one had been successfully restocked within the 180-day timeframe.

Furthermore, the GAO found that the US Army had no “established processes” for evaluating modernisation efforts against its goal of outpacing its competitors – Russia and China.

The army’s modernisation strategy may have identified additional costs of key weapons systems’ investments to 2023, but according to the report it failed to mention the tens of billions already being invested, or to elaborate on how the funding would support existing programmes.

To this end, the GAO recommended that the US Army formulate a cost analysis of short-term modernisation efforts and report the costs to Congress.

Finally, the GAO reported last month that while the army has applied some leading practices for technological development in its equipment modernisation efforts, its weapon systems development is at a lower level of maturity than the GAO had advised.

Diving into modernisation efforts with insufficiently mature equipment could lead to higher costs, delays, and failure to deliver desired capabilities. An example is the long-troubled F-35 programme.

According to the GAO, the US Army said that “it would conduct operational technology demonstrations and was exploring a train-the-trainer program, among other actions”.

6 February 2019

Trump addresses Pentagon budget, INF withdrawal at State of Union 2019

In his State of Union 2019 speech, US President Donald Trump has announced plans to enhance the US Armed Forces by increasing the Pentagon’s defence budget and re-examining its relationship with foreign nations.

So far, the Trump administration has approved two defence budget increases, initially to $700bn last year, and to $717bn this year.

Trump reiterated in his address that non-US members of NATO were raising their defence budget to take some financial pressure off the US. Trump said in his State of Union 2019 speech: “We are also getting other nations to pay their fair share. For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by NATO, but now we have secured a $100bn increase in defence spending from NATO allies.”

In January 2019, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg announced that non-US members will increase their defence spending by $100bn.

US spending as a proportion of NATO’s overall spending has fallen in recent years, despite the US pouring more dollars into the organisation since 2014. The US’s defence budget fell from 4.78% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 to 3.5% in 2019.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said: “In his State of Union address tonight, President Trump reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to support our troops and to protect American national security interests at home and abroad. Under President Trump’s leadership, we are focused on the full implementation of the National Defense Strategy: increasing lethality, strengthening alliances and partnerships, and reforming the way we do business.”

INF treaty withdrawal

Another theme in Trump’s State of Union 2019 was the president’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), citing Russian violations as the reason for the US pulling out of the treaty.

Trump said: “Decades ago the US entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities. While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. That is why I announced that the US is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty.

“As part of our military build-up, the US is developing a state-of-the-art missile defence system. Under my administration, we will never apologise for advancing America’s interests.”

NATO responded to the US’s withdrawal by urging Russia to uphold the INF Treaty. In a joint statement released on 4 December 2018, NATO said: “Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines Allied security. This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behaviour that is intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture. We call on Russia to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance. It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty.”

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had not violated the treaty, but it will begin developing new missiles while the INF Treaty is suspended.

6 February 2019

Amnesty investigates use of Western weapons by UAE-backed militias in Yemen

Amnesty International has released a new report investigating the use of Western weaponry in Yemen by United Arab Emirates (UAE) backed militias with bad human rights records.

Western nations, including the US, UK and Belgium, have supplied around $3.5bn worth of weapons to the UAE since the Yemeni Civil war erupted in 2015.

The Amnesty investigation, titled ‘When arms go astray: Yemen’s deadly new threat of arms diversion to militias’, found that the UAE had become a conduit for advanced Western weaponry and equipment, including armoured vehicles, aircraft and ships, mortar systems, rifles, pistols, and machine guns, and the weaponry is being widely used by militias that have been accused of war crimes and other international law violations.

In one example, US armoured vehicles including the M-ATV, the Caiman and the MaxxPro were found to be used by ‘Security Belt’, ‘Shabwani Elite’, and ‘The Giants Brigade’ militias in Yemen.

Amnesty International arms control and human rights researcher Patrick Wilcken said: “Emirati forces receive billions of dollars’ worth of arms from Western states and others, only to siphon them off to militias in Yemen that answer to no-one and are known to be committing war crimes.

“The proliferation of these fighting forces is a recipe for disaster for Yemeni civilians who have already been killed in their thousands, while millions more are on the brink of famine as a direct result of the war. Yemen is quickly becoming a safe haven for UAE-backed militias that are largely unaccountable.”

Many Western countries have recently supplied arms to the nation, with only Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands adopting suspensions in arms transfers to the UAE. The UK, for example, has sold around £600m worth of weapons to the UAE since 2015, including vehicles, aircraft, and light weapons.

Amnesty has urged all countries to stop arms transfers while there is a “substantial risk” that they will be used to commit human rights violations in Yemen.

Amnesty International UK’s arms expert Oliver Sprague said: “It’s extremely alarming that arms of the type licensed for export to the UAE by the UK are being diverted by the Emiratis to out-of-control militias operating in southern Yemen.

“According to its own arms export rules, the UK should long ago have halted the sale of all weapons to all parties to the conflict in Yemen because of the clear risk they would fuel further human rights abuse.”

In a separate investigation, CNN has reported that Saudi Arabia and coalition partners have transferred US weapons to al-Qaeda affiliated militias in Yemen, in violation of existing agreements with the US.

4 February 2019

US Navy awards $15.2bn to build two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers

The US Navy has awarded a $15.2bn contract modification to Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division to build two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

The multi-ship contract comes after the US Navy expressed its intention to pursue a block-purchase of two Ford-class aircraft carriers in a bid to save money. According to the Navy, the deal is expected to deliver savings of more than $4bn to the government.

Under the contract, HII will provide the detail design and construct the Gerald R Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers Enterprise (CVN 80) and CVN 81.

Newport News Shipbuilding president Jennifer Boykin said: “Today’s announcement is a triumphant step toward returning to a 12-ship aircraft carrier fleet and building the 355-ship Navy our nation needs. Most importantly for us, it provides stability into the year 2032 for our workforce and for our supplier businesses across the US."

HII expects to deliver Enterprise and the yet to be named CVN 81 in 2028 and 2032, respectively.

Enterprise and CVN 81 are the third and fourth ships, respectively, of the Ford-class.

US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said: “Focusing on optimising construction activities and material procurement, the team was able to achieve significant savings as compared to individual procurement contracts.

“One contract for construction of the two ships will enable the shipbuilder flexibility to best employ its skilled workforce to design once and build twice for unprecedented labour reductions while providing stability and opportunities for further efficiencies within the nuclear industrial base.”

The contract will also offer a further $100m savings in ship integration costs of several modifications, including the F-35C Lightning II, MK 38 gun system and MQ-25 Stingray Unmanned Aircraft System.

The US Navy noted that the modifications will enhance the capabilities of the Ford-class.

6 February 2019

Top defence companies: full-year financial results 2018 round-up

Many top defence companies have released fourth quarter (Q4) and full-year financial results for 2018. The top five companies generally performed well last year, in part due to higher defence spending in the US and elsewhere.

GlobalData head of R&A for aerospace, defence and security Daniel Jones told us: “The top five US defence firms reaped the benefits of the Trump administration’s largesse in 2018, posting strong full-year results off the back of a rise in defence expenditure to $716bn. In fact, benchmark aerospace and defence funds are up around 10-15% in 2019, which is their best January performance in ten years. This should be seen in context, however, with US stocks overall seeing their best January in thirty years following the market turbulence of December and the about-face guidance from the Fed [federal government].”

“Despite a proposal to increase defence spending to $750bn in 2019, all five companies also gave a cautious outlook for the year ahead citing global trade tensions and rising industrial costs. The major wildcard remains the potential return to defence spending caps in 2020/2021 if the Trump administration is unable to agree on a budget deal with a newly emboldened Democratic party as a result of 2018’s midterm results.”

Lockheed Martin reports lower profits

Lockheed Martin reported on 29 January 2019 that its forecasted profits for this year are to fall below previous estimates, adding that quarterly margins slipped last year at the company’s F-35 fighter jet and C-130 transport plane units.

In its aeronautics division, which manufactures F-35s and C-130s, Lockheed’s operating margins fell year-on-year from 11.6% in Q4-2017 to 10.6% for Q4-2018.  One of the reasons for the lower margins was greater investment in new aircraft, Lockheed chief financial officer Bruce Tanner told investors, as well as lower sales across its C-130 transport programme.

This year, the company plans to invest up to $1.7bn to enhance its space sector, particularly investing in research and development of hypersonic weapons.

Raytheon’s strong annual net sales

US defence firm Raytheon has announced an increase in its year-on-year net sales for Q4 by 8.5%, from $6.8bn in Q4/2017 to $7.4bn in Q4/2018. Total annual net sales rose from $25.3bn in 2017 to $27.1bn this year.

According to the company, the rise in net sales was driven primarily by operational improvements and lower taxes.

Raytheon chair and CEO Thomas A Kennedy said: “Raytheon had a very successful year in 2018. We accelerated our sales growth yet again and achieved a new company record for operating cash flow. We ended the year with record bookings and backlog, which positions us well for 2019 and beyond.

The 2019 outlook estimates that Raytheon could reach net sales between $28.6bn and $29.1bn by this time next year.

Northrop Grumman exceeds profit estimates

Northrop Grumman has exceeded profit estimates from Wall Street, reporting that adjusted net quarterly profit had risen from $266m to $855m year-on-year from Q4/2017.

The company noted that a 24% rise in sales to $8.16bn led earnings growth, which included top-line growth in sales of its Aerospace business by 6% and Mission Systems by 2%. However, this was partially offset by an 8% decline in sales in Northrop’s Technology Services unit.

Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden said: “Our fourth quarter and full-year financial results, along with our 2019 outlook, demonstrate that we are on a solid growth trajectory. I’m confident we are well positioned to deliver innovative and affordable solutions, with an enhanced degree of agility to create value for our customers and shareholders.”

Northrop Grumman expects its annual net sales to reach $34bn throughout 2019.

Soaring revenue for Boeing’s defence sector

Aerospace giant Boeing announced that all three of its key sectors – defence, space and security – reported high revenues, which combined reached $100bn in 2018.

While its commercial business saw its annual revenue increase by 12% to $17.3bn, Boeing’s defence business achieved a higher 16% rise from last year, to $6.1bn for Q4/2018. In January 2019, Boeing delivered the long-delayed KC-46A aircraft tankers to the US Air Force.

For 2019, Boeing estimates that it will increase its group revenue to $110bn-122bn, equivalent of around 10% rise from the recent results for 2018. However, the company plans to shift costs related to military derivatives of commercial aircraft from the commercial sector to its defence, space, and security sector.

General Dynamics’ revenue grows across the board

In its full-year financial results for 2018, General Dynamics has reported year-on-year revenue growth in all five of its business sectors, including Combat Systems, Mission Systems, and Marine Systems.

Revenue for Q4/2018 grew to $10.4bn, adding to total full-year growth of $36.2bn.

In its Combat Systems division, General Dynamics reported a rise in Q4 year-on-year revenue by 4.9% to $6.2bn. The equivalent rise in revenue for its Mission Systems and Marine Systems divisions was 5.5% and 11.1% respectively from Q4/2017.

Strong results followed on from big contracts in 2018, including the M1A2 Abrams tank upgrades, orders for additional Stryker double-V hull vehicles, and the US Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower programme contract for prototype military vehicles.

In its Mission Systems segment, General Dynamics secured a $3.9bn contract for the US Army’s Common Hardware Systems-5 programme. Key contract awards in the Marine Systems division included a $607m in contract modifications on an existing $6.1bn contract for design and development on the Columbia ballistic missile submarine.

4 February 2019

RAF pilots to use Thales High-G training facility at RAF Cranwell in UK

A new High-G training facility at RAF Cranwell in the UK will help fighter jet pilots train under more realistic simulated flight conditions. The £44m facility, which will be used by RAF and Royal Navy jet pilots, replicates flight conditions in fast jet fighter aircraft such as the F-35, Hawk and Typhoon.

Pilots in training will experience up to nine times the earth’s gravitational pull (9G) and learn how to operate the cockpit under such pressure.  Thales’ centrifuge can reach 9G in one second and makes 34 rotations per minute.

Thales UK vice-president for avionics Stephen McCann told us: “Previously pilots would have just gone round and round in a centrifuge simply experiencing the G, which is not as effective as it could be from a training perspective.

“With this new device, they will experience cockpits that are very close to the real thing. The equipment was designed to give the RAF the highest safety capability for their aircrew.”

Using the specialised cockpit, trainee pilots can conduct many more training scenarios to help them get used to air-to-air combat, and can learn how to deal with threats such as incoming missiles.

The High-G training facility also allows for the RAF to test new aircraft equipment for jets before conducting a live flight trial.

RAF Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier opened the new High-G training facility at RAF Cranwell. He said:  “I am delighted to see our new High-G training facility opened today and to be able to mark this step-change in how we train our pilots.

“By exposing our Typhoon, Lightning and Hawk pilots to High-G forces in a tailor-made and completely controlled environment, we are significantly enhancing safety in the air and making a major contribution to our operational effectiveness. Today represents another major milestone in the RAF’s impressive modernisation programme.”

In order to stay as safe as possible, RAF pilots refresh their training every five years and the High-G training facility will help pilots to learn the techniques needed to operate under the pressure of high-gravitational forces.

Thales UK built the 39t centrifuge along with Austrian specialist AMST. The company has been training RAF pilots since the 1930s and has provided more than 300 training simulators across 60 platforms.

Thales UK CEO Victor Chavez said: “Only 24 months ago we cut the turf to set this project on its way, so to see the centrifuge in full operation is a testament to great collaborative working from Thales, DE&S and the RAF. The High-G training and test facility is our next exciting chapter in this long-standing training partnership with the RAF.”