14 JULY 2020

US and UK sign Army Modernisation agreement

The US and the UK have signed a memorandum of understanding on the joint modernisation of both countries’ armies that covers networks, Future Vertical Lift and long-range precision fires.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) said the agreement shows a signal of intent to ‘formalise a number of ongoing initiatives between the two armies, boosting opportunities to co-operate effectively as modern warfare continues to evolve.’

The agreement identifies several areas as subjects of crossover, where the two countries can close the gaps between each other’s forces and maintain close cooperation in the future.

The plan aims to cover capabilities entering into service between 2023 to 2027 and covers networks, long-range precision fires, Future Vertical Lift, soldier and ground lethality, and Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT).

The agreement was signed by Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey and US Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy at the Ministry of Defence headquarters, where the pair discussed the modernisation plans and capabilities of ‘shared importance’.

The agreement will see the UK and US ‘developing innovative solutions together to tackle shared threats and operational challenges that affect both nations and help protect and defend peace and security across the globe.’

Commenting on the agreement Heappey said: “In an age of great power competition and constant conflict, there is an even greater onus on us to work together with our greatest allies.

“This agreement signals our shared determination to develop the novel capabilities that will give us that battle-winning edge and opportunity for the defence industry on both sides of the Atlantic. It is a reminder that, in a more challenging and uncertain world, global Britain remains the United States’ partner of choice.”

This sentiment was echoed by McCarthy who said: “The United Kingdom, one of our strongest allies, has helped secure our shared interests and values since the World Wars of the last century.

“Today, we continue to rely on our allies to posture ourselves for future threats, project power, deter and, if necessary, defeat our adversaries. This partnership allows costly and complex problems to be distributed and helps protect the industrial base through enabling faster innovation and cost-sharing towards achieving our modernisation priorities.”

The MOD said the agreement was in line with the upcoming Integrated Review, of which ‘modernisation and pioneering capabilities’ is seen as a core focus.

14 JULY 2020

UK CDS advocates multi-year financial settlement for defence

Speaking at a Defence Select Committee hearing, UK Chief of Defence General Sir Nick Carter advocated for a multi-year financial settlement for defence to help it achieve better value for money and future-proofing of plans.

Carter said that over the past few years UK defence had been living ‘hand to mouth’ which had made it harder to plan and make future-proofed decisions on capabilities.

Carter told the Committee: “That is absolutely what we intend to do in the course of this integrated review. The bottom line is that what we need is consistency in the budget. We would like to have a settlement that is long term because then we can live within our means and take the decisions that have to be taken to achieve that effect.”

He added that the timing of the Integrated Review coinciding with the Comprehensive Spending Review would give the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to hopefully plan for the long term.

“We are looking forward to a review that is aligned with the comprehensive spending review and that will give us the chance, we hope, to have a programme that is fixed to enable that long-term planning, which is critical for the country,” Carter said.

Carter said that a clear budget picture over three to five years would help the MOD make better decisions and help prevent delays to future programmes.

Speaking at the hearing, committee member MP Mark Francois said that of 32 programmes audited by the National Audit Office (NAO), only five were scheduled to be delivered on time. Carter said the delays were ‘disappointing’.

Carter added that it was important to realise that the MOD has not only been responding to ‘very rapidly evolving requirements’ but also a ‘very dynamic financial situation’ over the past five years.

Expanding on the importance of multi-year commitment to spending Carter said: “The reason it is so important is that that then gives you planning consistency. One reason that programmes get delayed is that you have to make savings in-year and you have to keep deferring things.

“If you keep deferring things, you inevitably end up with them not making the timelines that you want. If you have a defence programme that you can rely on, with a consistent set of funding over a consistent period of time, you are able to make the sorts of judgments you need to bring things in on time.

“One challenge that we have is this constant process of annularity, which causes you to have to keep taking savings and keep deferring things.”

14 JULY 2020

US rejects Beijing’s maritime claims in South China Sea

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear the country’s position on China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea (SCS).

The US has rejected Beijing’s claim to waters beyond a 12nm territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands.

It also declared that claims in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank, Luconia Shoals, waters in Brunei’s EEZ, James Shoal, and Natuna Besar are unlawful.

Pompeo said in a statement: “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening US policy in a vital, contentious part of that region, the South China Sea. We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”

The US said that China has failed to provide ‘a lawful, coherent maritime claim’ in the SCS.

Last week, the US Navy’s aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and their carrier strike groups conducted dual carrier operations in the SCS.

The operations demonstrated commitment to the US’ regional allies and towards free and open Indo-Pacific.

He added: “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”

14 JULY 2020

Australia to purchase EF88 weapon systems to boost ADF’s capability

The Australian Government is set to buy 8,500 Enhanced F88 (EF88) weapon systems to boost the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) capability.

The Australian-made systems will add to the 30,000 weapons that will be delivered by Thales Australia to the country’s army.

Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said: “The rifles will be manufactured at the Thales Australia site in Lithgow, New South Wales, which employs around 130 people. This acquisition is just another example of the nationwide benefits of the Morrison Government’s unprecedented investment in defence capability, particularly in rural and regional Australia.”

EF88 rifles, which will replace older weapons, feature enhanced range, accuracy, ergonomics and decreased system weight. The new rifles will not only improve the soldier’s capability but also lower training, sustainment cost and maintenance.

Australia is procuring these systems under the Soldier Modernisation Program’s lethality element.

These weapons can be accessed by the full and part-time force, especially the army’s 2nd Division.

Reynolds added: “It also demonstrates our ongoing commitment to building a strong and sustainable defence industry. This government is doing all we can to help the Australian economy recover from Covid-19. The purchase of these additional EF88 weapon systems will provide certainty to the workforce at Lithgow and support jobs in regional Australia.”

14 JULY 2020

BAE Systems builds smart factory for combat aircraft in UK

BAE Systems has collaborated with 40 blue chip, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and academic institutions to build a smart factory to advance production on the UK’s next-generation combat aircraft system, Tempest.

The new 4.0 facility is located at the company’s site in Warton, Lancashire. By combining advanced manufacturing technologies, the factory aims to transform engineering processes. It is digitally connected and will be used for future military aircraft production.

Automated robots, virtual and augmented reality at the factory will increase speed, precision and efficiencies of the process. They will reduce the costs of manufacturing of complex military aircraft structures.

Operations in the factory will be performed by humans and machines collectively. Cobots and flexible robotic technologies will replace heavy, fixed, long-lead tooling and swiftly move items from one platform to another.

Modification of robotic technology from the automotive industry will allow operation at the precise tolerances required for military aircraft. This will allow operators to primarily focus on highly skilled and strategic tasks and oversee operations from a digitised, virtual office.

Under the UK-led Tempest programme, the new facility will deliver cost-effective solutions within short durations.

Developed in collaboration with the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Fairfield Control Systems, the intelligent workplace is in use on the Typhoon production line.

It uses a system to automatically deliver tailored instructions using technologies for the production and assembly of Typhoon aircraft parts.

BAE Systems Air manufacturing director Dave Holmes said: “We’ve collaborated with the best of UK industry and academia to develop a cutting-edge facility that combines current and emerging technologies, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of combat air technology development.

“Driving our manufacturing capabilities forward as we prepare for the fourth industrial revolution, will sustain and develop critical skillsets and ensure we can continue to deliver military capability to address future threats, whilst improving productivity and delivering value for money for our customers.”

14 JULY 2020

Indian Army plans to buy Raven UAV and Spike Firefly

The Indian Army is reportedly proposing to buy RQ-11 Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and Spike Firefly ‘loitering’ ammunition.

The Hindustan Times reported that the procurement would include 200 units of RQ-11 UAV. The unmanned vehicle is designed with the capability to fly 10km at an altitude of 500ft and can cruise at a speed of up to 95km/h. The forces will use the hand-launched, remote-controlled unmanned vehicle to conduct reconnaissance mission.

The Israeli Spike Firefly is designed for precision strikes on enemy troops located at a distance of 1km. The small, light and agile weapon kit system includes three loitering munitions (LMs) and Control Unit (CU) with standard bidirectional data link.

The Indian Armed Forces is acquiring these weapon systems after the government permitted the purchase of capabilities under emergency procurements amid the India-China dispute.

Financial support of up to $66.23m has been allocated to acquire weapon systems.

Meanwhile, India is also expecting the first batch of four Rafale fighters with delivery delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. All the 36 fighter aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by April 2022.

Meanwhile the Indian Navy has ordered for new twin-engine aircraft carrier-based fighter aircraft to be developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

13 JULY 2020

Airbus partners with over 20 Australian firms to form Team Nightjar

Airbus Helicopters has formed Team Nightjar by partnering with more than 20 Australian firms for Project LAND 2097 Phase 4.

The consortium will offer the 4t class Airbus H145M helicopters under the project. The multi-role helicopter will support the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Special Operations.

Team Nightjar comprises Kinetic Fighting, QinetiQ Australia Cablex, Kratos Australia, Microflite, PREDICT Australia, Cyborg Dynamics, Deakin University, DEWC, ECLIPS, Ferra Engineering, Helicopter Logistics, Helimods, Safran Helicopter Engines Australia, University of Technology Sydney, Varley Group, Seeing Machines, Varley Rafael Australia, Rusada, TAFE NSW, Tagai Management Consultants, Sigma Bravo, and Toll Helicopters.

The Commonwealth of Australia has requested the delivery of training solutions, indigenous participation, rapid design and enhancements of delivery to support Australia’s defence capability.

The consortium will generate more than 170 jobs opportunities and boost the local economy by delivering A$250m ($174m) in benefits.

During special operations, the light twin-engine aircraft will provide the MRH90 Taipan with improved mobility and situational awareness.

According to Airbus, the helicopter’s compact size will allow operations in dense urban environments. It can be rapidly deployed using a C-17A Globemaster.

Airbus Australia Pacific managing director Andrew Mathewson said: “The Commonwealth is seeking a proven, mature and highly reliable off-the-shelf platform and robust support systems.

“The H145M that we are proposing is the latest member of the H145 family, which has flown over 5.9 million hours with more than 1,400 aircraft in service globally across civil, parapublic and military domains. It is well supported by a mature global network.

“The H145M is an exemplar platform for light special operations and is a solid match for the special forces’ requirements, with proven capabilities for no-fail, high-readiness missions.”

13 JULY 2020

US Air Force and army have basic training throughput amid Covid-19

The US Air Force (USAF) and US Army have basic training throughput despite the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

USAF commander of Second Air Force Major General Andrea Tullos said that training throughput for the airforce is at about 90% of traditional capacity. 

“But we are at 100% production for what the airforce is asking us to produce for the end of this year," she added. “We had lowered our production to around 60% capacity when Covid began so that we could evaluate the ability of our trainers and the trainees to fight through. But we have since ramped back up.”

The USAF had initially planned to recruit approximately 38,000 soldiers this year. However, the service recruited about 35,500 personnel, contributing to better retention.

A similar result has been noted with the army’s recruitment and retention rate.

The forces have prioritised keeping airmen and soldiers of both services safe by testing recruits for the virus when they arrive at the station. Soldiers will undergo constant monitoring, and those who test positive will be quarantined to ensure the continuation of the training.

The army and the airforce have reported approximately 2% of new recruits testing positive for Covid-19. It was further noted that among the positively tested soldiers, about 60% were asymptomatic.

Army Center for Initial Military Training commander Army Major General Lonnie Hibbard said: “All soldiers who screen or test positive for exposure or symptoms of the virus are quarantined and given proper medical care, and after recovery, are cleared medically and returned to training.”

Once recovered, the soldiers and airmen return for basic training.