industry news

Indra and Elettronica to develop quantum cascade laser DIRCM system

8 June

Indra has collaborated with Elettronica Group for the development of the first European advanced self-protection solution that would help defend any type of aircraft from heat-guided missiles.

Under the partnership, the two companies will work together to deliver the advanced Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) based Direct Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) system that can be used to protect rotary and fixed wing aircraft.

Dubbed EuroDIRQM, the system is fully International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)-free, which facilitates its international commercialisation. Both companies have already completed the development of a first EuroDIRQM prototype system. In March, the companies successfully conducted QCL operational ground tests on the prototype in collaboration with the Italian Air Force.

DIRCM is a self-protection airborne system used to safeguard aircraft from the impact of heat-seeking missiles, particularly from Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) missile attacks. The system helps detect incoming threats during the missile launch and countermeasure missile guidance using a directed laser beam that deviates its trajectory.

Being quick and automatic, the DIRCM system can react against attacks of any imaging infrared (IR) seeker with a jamming sequence that facilitates successful countermeasure.

EuroDIRQM is designed as an ‘all-in-one’ piece of equipment for different platforms and a range of missions that will offer self-protection capabilities to all kinds of aircraft, including helicopters, transport, tankers, and jets.

As the latest development in laser technology, quantum cascade laser energy helps optimise power consumption at the same time as output beam.

US Navy awards contract to upgrade Arleigh Burke destroyer USS Cole

8 June

The US Navy has awarded a new contract for the upgrade of its Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67).

BAE Systems will be responsible for carrying out a series of extensive upgrade works on USS Cole at the company’s shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, for a period of one year under the $36.6m agreement.

The Norfolk facility is also expected to serve as the homeport for the 505ft-long navy destroyer as part of the arrangement.

The current extended dry-docking selected restricted availability (SRA) contract also includes a number of options, which if exercised would increase the total value of the deal to $96.7m. DDG 67 is set to be dry-docked to allow upgrades and repair works to be carried out on its hull and engineering systems under the initiative.

BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair vice-president and general manager Dave Thomas said: “Our work on-board the USS Cole is important to the service-life of the ship and for expanding its capability to carry out future missions.

“We are prepared to perform this extensive dry-docking, working with the ship’s crew, the navy and our industry partners.”

Work on the modernisation project is expected to commence in July and will be completed in 12 months.

Afghan Air Force C-208 crew conducts first emergency combat airdrop

7 June

The Afghan Air Force’s C-208 aircraft crew has successfully carried out its first emergency combat airdrop mission.

The airdrop mission involved providing ammunition to the Afghan National Police and citizens fighting the Taliban in Badakshan province, Afghanistan. Within six hours of being notified, the airforce successfully carried out mission planning, prepared about 1,000lb of ammunition for delivery and successfully dropped the supplies for use.

The emergency combat airdrop demonstrates the ability of the Afghan Air Force to immediately respond to emergent requests and provide necessary supplies to support the Afghan National Army, police, and citizens in their fight.

The loadmasters who prepared the ammunition for the current mission are said to be experts in mission planning, bundle fundamentals, parachute rigging and airdrop mission instruction.

538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander lieutenant colonel Erik Johnson said: “It has been remarkable to see the progress of the C-208 and C-130 Afghan aircrew members.

“This combat airdrop is a prime example of what these loadmasters are capable of. They proved that they can get supplies wherever it needs to go quickly and effectively without coalition assistance.”

Northrop Grumman completes acquisition of Orbital ATK for $9.2bn

7 June

Northrop Grumman has completed the acquisition of aerospace and defence technologies company Orbital ATK for $9.2bn. Orbital ATK will now operate as a new fourth business sector under the name Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. This will ensure a strong focus on operating performance and a smooth transition of Orbital ATK into Northrop Grumman.

Orbital ATK chief operating officer Blake Larson will function as the corporate vice-president and president of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.

Northrop Grumman chairman and chief executive officer Wes Bush said: “We welcome Orbital ATK’s talented employees. We are delighted to have them join the Northrop Grumman team, and we are very excited about the value creation our combination represents for our customers, shareholders, and employees.

“Together, through our leading technologies and innovation-focused culture, we look forward to developing enhanced mission capabilities and more competitive offerings in critical global security domains.”

In September last year, the two companies entered into a definitive agreement for the acquisition of Orbital ATK for approximately $7.8bn in cash, in addition to the assumption of $1.4bn in net debt. Under the deal, Northrop Grumman is committed to paying $134.50 per share to the shareholders of Orbital ATK.

In February this year, the European Commission (EC) notified that it approved Northrop Grumman’s acquisition of Orbital ATK. During the acquisition, Perella Weinberg Partners operated as the exclusive financial advisor to Northrop Grumman while Cravath, Swaine & Moore served as the legal counsel to the company.

Kaman Aerospace wins USAF contract for JPF procurement

6 June

US-based Kaman Aerospace Group has secured an order from the US Air Force (USAF) for the procurement of joint programmable fuses (JPF).

The first $69m order has been awarded under Option 14 of the current JPF contract. Under the deal, the company will procure JPFs for the USAF and ten other foreign militaries.

Kaman Aerospace Group president Richard Barnhart said: “The JPF continues to provide our customers with increased mission flexibility and high levels of reliability and we look forward to supporting the USAF under this contract.

“With this award, we have added almost $500m of new JPF orders to backlog over the last year. Looking ahead, we are prepared to support the USAF on their future JPF needs while continuing to pursue significant foreign opportunities that will ensure the JPF remains a strong contributor for years to come.”

As the current bomb fuse of choice of the USAF, JPFs allow the settings of a weapon to be programmed on the wing in-flight. They are designed to be used on a wide range of weapons, including general purpose bombs and guided bombs that use Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) or Paveway kits.

The fuses can be used on weapons integrated on to US aircraft such as F-15, F-16, F-22, F-35, A-10, B-1, B-2 and B-52, in addition to the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), as well as on international aircraft such as Mirage 3 and Gripen.

Kaman Aerospace Group manufactures the fuses at its US facilities in Orlando, Florida, and Middletown, Connecticut.

In November, the company received the first $85m order under Option 13 of the contract with the USAF for the procurement of JPFs for the airforce and 18 foreign militaries.

Google to withdraw from Pentagon’s AI contract

4 June

Google has decided not to extend its contract with the US Department of Defense (DoD) next year, according to reports. The company sources said that it will stop continuing the artificial intelligence (AI) work for the Pentagon.

Known as Project Maven, the contract uses AI to interpret video images, in addition to enhancing the targeting of drone strikes, reported The Business Times. Under the project, Google has worked to build machine learning algorithms in order to enable the US Pentagon to improve its surveillance efforts generally. Several AI researchers from the company are said to believe that Project Maven has been designed as a first step to use the technology in developing advanced lethal weapons.

As a protest against Google’s contract with the US Pentagon, many employees resigned from their job, while 4,000 employees signed a petition against the firm for helping the US military in developing technological tools that might help warfighting.

According to CNN, the petition demanded a policy that would ensure the company, as well as its contractors, will no longer be involved in developing warfare technologies.

Gizmodo said the initial contract between Google and Pentagon was valued between $9m and $15m.

Rockwell Collins unveils FasTAK integrated targeting system for warfighters

1 June

Rockwell Collins has unveiled a new tactical combat targeting system and a secure communications gateway to support the modern digital battlefield.

Known as FasTAK, the Rockwell Collins solution features a wearable targeting system, which is available in Microsoft Windows and Android operating systems. The wearable equipment is incorporated with easy-to-use applications that can be used to equip warfighters with powerful communications data that integrates with existing lasers, radios and global positioning system (GPS) devices.

Rockwell Collins Communication, Navigation and Electronic Warfare Solutions vice-president and general manager Troy Brunk said: “FasTAK simplifies a complex set of tasks for users, helping them carry out missions more efficiently while remaining agile.

“From units on the move to command and control, the system provides reliable, secure connectivity across the battlefield.”

The system provides warfighters with a fully integrated set of hardware that includes a laser range finder, tactical computer, video downlink receiver and the FasTAK digital targeting software.

The FasTAK Gateway combines Rockwell Collins’ Link 16 terminal, TacNet tactical radio and an AN/PRC-162(V)1 Manpack radio into one transportable unit, thereby enabling tactical interoperability and digital connectivity across the entire spectrum of the battlefield.

Data link processor software, which is capable of running on standard laptop hardware, helps manage the data links, radio frequencies and data forwarding for the system in a lightweight, transportable container.

First Guardian-class PPB-R launched for delivery to Papua New Guinea

31 May

The first in a series of 21 Guardian-class Pacific Patrol Boats (PPB-R) from the Australian Government’s A$90bn ($67.6bn) continuous shipbuilding programme has been launched for delivery to Papua New Guinea in late-October.

Shipbuilding company Austal launched the vessel from Henderson in Western Australia roughly two years after the initial contract was awarded to the company in May 2016.

The original contract, worth approximately A$305m ($229.3m), included an order for 19 vessels along with the provision of associated in-service support. A second contract valued at A$29.7m ($22.33m) was subsequently awarded in April for the development of two additional Guardian-class PPB-R units.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said: “The project, which is worth around A$335m ($251.9m), is on time and on budget. This particular boat will be gifted to Papua New Guinea in late-October 2018 and is the first of 21 boats to be gifted to 12 Pacific Island countries and East Timor as part of the Pacific Maritime Security Program.”

“Austal has advised the Guardian-class Patrol Boat Project supports around 400 jobs, either directly or through the supply chain.”

Construction work on the second and third vessels is currently being carried out at Austal’s manufacturing facility in the suburb of Naval Base, near Henderson. The company is designing and building the 21 39.5m-long steel hull vessels for delivery to 13 Pacific Island nations between the end of this year and 2023.

Each of the new boats features a beam of 8m and a loaded draft of 2.5m. They are capable of travelling at speeds of up to 20k and can accommodate 23 people each.