11 June 2019

US plots Turkey’s F-35 exit over Russian S-400 row

The US Department of Defence (DoD) has outlined plans to make Turkey’s F-35 programme exit as smooth and orderly as possible, should the Eurasian nation buy Russia’s S-400 air defence system.

The plans were unveiled during a DoD press briefing on Turkey’s Participation in the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter programme.

Speaking to journalists, US Defense Acquisition and Sustainment Under Secretary Ellen Lord reiterated the government’s stance that it will not sell the F-35 to Turkey if it takes delivery of the Russian S-400 air defence system.

The US has repeatedly expressed concerns over Turkey’s plans to buy the defence system from Russia, stating the incompatibility between the two platforms.

Lord said: “We do not want to have the F-35 in close proximity to the S-400 over a period of time because of the ability to understand the profile of the F-35 on that particular piece of equipment.”

Recently, four US senators introduced a bill seeking to halt the transfer of the fighter jets to Turkey over the issue.

The government has now set 31 July as the deadline for Turkish personnel associated with the F-35 programme to leave the US, leaving the door open for Ankara to reverse its S-400 plans and agree to the US terms.

This means if Washington and Ankara fail to reach an amicable agreement over the S-400 issue, Turkish F-35 students and instructor pilots will be forced to depart the US.

To ensure Turkey’s potential exit does not significantly affect the F-35 programme, the US will transition Ankara’s workshare to alternative sources.

“There are 937 parts produced by Turkish industries. A little over 400 of them were sole-sourced,” said Lord. “That’s what we are particularly focused on.  And we are working…with Lockheed Martin on the aircraft side, with Pratt & Whitney on the engine side, to find alternate sources.”

Specific parts currently produced in Turkey include a majority of the landing gear and parts of the central fuselage of the aircraft, according to Lord.

The US administration, along with its allies, has been working for the last six months to develop and implement changes to the F-35 supply base to prepare for Turkey’s potential suspension.

Lord added: “These actions are intended to mediate risks posed by the S-400 to the F-35, and are separate from any congressionally mandated, Russia-related sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.”

The US offered the Patriot air and missile defence systems to Turkey as a solution for the country to drop its plans to procure the Russian system.

Read the full US DoD transcript here.

11 June 2019

US conducts BALTOPS 2019 with Nato allies amid Crimea tensions

The US Navy-led multinational maritime-focused exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2019 has commenced in the Baltic Sea.

The annual exercise will involve maritime forces from 18 countries and will be held until 21 June.

BALTOPS is a key maritime exercise in the Baltic region and one of the largest exercises in northern Europe. It is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations.

Nato spokesperson Oana Lungescu told Naval Technology: “The Baltic Sea is of vital strategic importance for the alliance and is bordered by six Nato countries. BALTOPS is now in its 47th year and is not directed against anyone but clearly the security environment in the region has deteriorated after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. BALTOPS tests how well our forces work together and shows that Nato can defend itself against any adversary.”

The US 2nd Fleet is leading the exercise on behalf of Naval Forces Europe. The command achieved initial operational capability (IOC) last month.

US 2nd Fleet commander vice-admiral Andrew Lewis said: “No one nation can face today’s challenges alone, we are much stronger together. Our partner and Nato alliances must continue to strengthen our deterrence and defence efforts and adapt through improving readiness and responsiveness.”

During BALTOPS 2019, ground, maritime and air forces will work together in exercising air defence, maritime interdiction, anti-subsurface warfare, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations. These operations will help bolster the development of joint teams across all layers of the battlespace. Around 8,600 troops are taking part in this year’s exercise. BALTOPS 2019 will also involve 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft and two submarines in a joint operational environment.

UK Royal Navy rear admiral Andrew Burns said: “I think BALTOPS represents the habit we have made in operating in a coalition environment and in a multinational environment. One of the advantages, particularly in the Nato framework, as we operate together more and more we standardise our procedures so we now have a generation of military folk who are used to operating together with standard procedures.”

The training exercises will include finding and destroying sea mines and submarines, and the use of air defence and landing troops onshore.

Forces will also practise defence against attack from enemy navy vessels, while aircraft will be responsible for air defence, surveillance and providing cover for amphibious operations.

11 June 2019

Aeralis develops sixth-generation ready military trainer aircraft

UK aircraft manufacturer Aeralis is developing a new kind of military trainer aircraft that will be compatible with advanced systems likely to be found in sixth-generation fighter jets. The Aeralis military trainer aircraft will enable sixth-generation trainee pilots to put the skills they have learned in the classroom and through flight simulators into action including in challenging environments such as poor weather conditions or over difficult terrain.

One of the major features of sixth-generation aircraft, according to Aeralis, is the level of interoperability between the pilot and the aircraft itself. To this end, the Aeralis military trainer aircraft will help the trainee pilot to receive, interpret and report information while conducting live flying exercises.

Aeralis strategy director Tim Davies said: “Whilst concepts and designs for the next generation of combat aircraft are still being formulated, debated and tested, the Aeralis training system is leading the way in putting the pilot first and maximising his or her ability to fly and operate increasingly complex aircraft in preparation for the next evolution in combat aircraft system design.”

The trainer aircraft will also incorporate in-cockpit sensors that can track key metrics including eye movement and stress level indicators in order to monitor an individual trainee pilot’s progression and readiness.

Furthermore, the data that the Aeralis military trainer aircraft collects can be used to create an anonymous database of information on all trainee pilots, which the company says will significantly improve the efficiency of the future aviation training programmes, while helping to reduce costs overall.

A handful of countries, including the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan, have announced their intentions to build their own sixth-generation fighter jets.

Davies told us: “Our pre-production aircraft is due to fly in early 2022 and we are also building a second variant as a pre-production avionics demonstrator so that air forces can experience the technology whilst on the ground. We have spoken to many nations’ defence staff who have shown a healthy interest in our aircraft as have the Royal Air Force and we have been requested to keep them all informed as to our progress.”

While sixth-generation aircraft are likely to share similar technologies to fifth-generation aircraft, certain systems such as the sensors, communications and weapons systems will inevitably be more complex. Examples include the new laser and directed-energy weapons systems that Russia is looking to fit on its new MiG-41 fighter jet concept, and the integration of drone swarms to aid fighter jet operations.

10 June 2019

Raytheon merger deal with United Technologies to rock defence industry

Raytheon has agreed to a merger deal with United Technologies (UT) to create a company serving the aerospace and defence industries.

The all-stock merger will create a premier systems provider with expanded technology, research and development (R&D) capabilities to deliver innovative and cost-effective solutions.

The new company, which will be known as Raytheon Technologies, is expected to offer all-platform aerospace and defence technologies with a focus on high-growth segments.

Raytheon chair and CEO Tom Kennedy said: “Today is an exciting and transformational day for our companies and one that brings with it tremendous opportunity for our future success. With our enhanced capabilities, we will deliver value to our customers by anticipating and addressing their most complex challenges, while delivering significant value to shareowners.”

The merger will include UT’s subsidiaries Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney, while its Otis elevator and Carrier air-conditioning businesses will not be a part of the Raytheon merger deal.

Otis and Carrier are on track to be separated from United Technologies in the first half of next year.

UT chair and CEO Greg Hayes said: “The combination of UT and Raytheon will define the future of aerospace and defence.By joining forces, we will have unsurpassed technology and expanded R&D capabilities that will allow us to invest through business cycles and address our customers’ highest priorities. Merging our portfolios will also deliver cost and revenue synergies that will create long-term value for our customers and shareowners.”

Raytheon shareholders will be entitled to receive 2.3348 shares in Raytheon Technologies for each share held by them. Under the Raytheon merger deal, United Technologies shareholders will own around 57% of the combined company, while Raytheon shareholders will hold the remaining stake.

For Raytheon, the merger will help the advancement of hypersonic and future missile systems, directed energy weapons, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in contested environments, and cyber protection for connected aircraft.

The availability of greater R&D funding and capabilities through the merger will help develop new critical technologies faster. Furthermore, the combination will ensure strong cash flow generation and balance sheet. The merger is projected to yield gross annual run-rate cost synergies to the tune of $1bn by the end of the fourth year.

The new company will have annual sales of approximately $74bn. Completion of the merger is expected to take place in the first half of next year subject to antitrust regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

7 June 2019

USAF redesigns equipment to better fit its female pilots

At the Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia on Tuesday, US Air Force (USAF) and US Navy female pilots participated in the Female Fitment event, where they had their body measurements taken in preparation for the delivery of tailored flight equipment.

USAF plans and requirements officer Lieutenant Colonel Shelly Mendieta said: “We wanted to bring together a large enough group of women to get our different sizing both in our uniforms, helmets and masks.

“When you go to a squadron to go to a fitment event, there’s usually only a couple of women, so to get a full spectrum of what is going to work for women aviators, we needed to bring them all together in one place. Flight equipment has, up until now, been designed using measurements from male pilots, as there are statistically more men than women in the armed forces. But the US Department of Defense (DoD) is hoping to accommodate more female pilots with tailored equipment.

USAF directorate of readiness and training, assistant to the director Brigadier General Edward Vaughan said: “The chief of staff of the USAF is committed to seeing us make progress and better integrate humans into the machine environment mix. What has happened over the years is that a lot of our data and information we use to design these systems have traditionally been based on men.”

While all body types are different, having military flight equipment designed for men no doubt affects the abilities and combat effectiveness of female pilots, according to Vaughan.

The Female Fitment event will be crucial to the gathering of as much information on female pilots as possible so that the US Armed Forces can begin tailoring all of its equipment. This event is just one part of a major overhaul of military equipment in the US.

“The goal is to ensure that the equipment that we are developing is going to fit properly so that we have a safe and ready force,” Mendieta added. “By measuring a spectrum of women at different stages in their career, we can ensure that we have better equipment.

“Women have been flying in the air force for a very long time. We have made progress but this is the first time in my 20-year career that we have had the kind of momentum that we have to get this right. We have the opportunity to get this right and we have to grab that and take it for all it’s worth.”

6 June 2019

US researchers show potential of lightweight foam for armoured vehicles

Researchers at North Carolina State University have demonstrated a new composite metal foam (CMF) material that can stop armour-piercing .50cal rounds from piercing armoured vehicles as effectively as steel, while having the advantage of weighing half as much.

The discovery will allow military vehicles designers to develop much lighter armoured vehicles to the same safety standard as those using conventional steel.

North Carolina State University professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Afsaneh Rabiei, who invented the material, said: “The CMF armour was less than half the weight of the rolled homogeneous steel armour needed to achieve the same level of protection.

“In other words, we were able to achieve significant weight savings – which benefits vehicle performance and fuel efficiency – without sacrificing protection.”

CMF is a foam made of hollow metallic spheres, usually steel or titanium, embedded within a larger metallic matrix, which can be made from steel, titanium, aluminium or a mix of other metallic alloys. In this instance, the research team used a steel-steel CMF.

To test the material, the researchers developed a full armour system comprising a ceramic faceplate and a thin aluminium back plate, with the hard CMF sandwiched in between. The armour was then fired at using .50cal ball and armour-piercing rounds at velocities of between 500m per second and 885m per second. The CMF layer absorbed 72-75% of kinetic energy of the ball rounds and 68-78% of the armour-piercing rounds’ kinetic energy.

“This work shows that CMF can offer a significant advantage for vehicle armour, but there is still room for improvement,” said Rabiei. “We only optimised our CMF material and replaced the steel plate in standard vehicle armour with steel-steel CMF armour. There is additional work we could do to make it even better. For example, we would like to optimise the adhesion and thickness of the ceramic, CMF and aluminium layers, which may lead to even lower total weight and improved efficiency of the final armour.”

Rabiei and her colleagues have demonstrated the high potential of CMF for armoured vehicles in past experiments, proving it can block blast pressure and fragmentation up to 5,000ft per second from an explosive detonated 18 inches away.

The material has also been proven to be effective in shielding against x-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation. Furthermore, it can protect against fire and heat twice as effectively as plain metals.

“In short, CMFs hold promise for a variety of applications: from space exploration to shipping nuclear waste, explosives and hazardous materials, to military and security applications and even cars, buses and trains,” she added.

4 June 2019

Thales awards contracts to DRS and OSI for Canadian joint support ships

Thales has awarded key contracts to DRS Technologies Canada and OSI Maritime Systems for new Canadian joint support ships.

The company is currently serving as Seaspan Shipyards’ tier one partner and electronic systems integrator for the Canadian National Shipbuilding Strategy’s non-combat vessels. As a partner, Thales will procure and integrate key systems and equipment for the Royal Canadian Navy’s new joint support ships and the offshore fisheries science vessels and the offshore oceanographic science vessel for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Under the contract with Thales, OSI will be responsible for supplying and supporting the installation of an integrated bridge and navigation system (IBNS).

Seaspan Shipyards CEO Mark Lamarre said: “These contracts are the latest example of the growing Canadian supply chain being developed as Seaspan and partners like Thales work together under the National Shipbuilding Strategy. The work taking place at OSI and DRS Technologies Canada is indicative of the world-class standard of products and services that Canadian companies are able to competitively deliver as part of the broader shipbuilding industry.”

The company’s integrated navigation and tactical system is a fully scalable International Maritime Organization (IMO) and NATO compliant system.

Thales Canada Defence Mission Systems vice-president Dale Potter said: “As a key partner to Seaspan Shipyards, Thales is committed to delivering systems that meet the operational needs of the Royal Canadian Navy for their new joint support ships.

"The engagement of suppliers such as OSI and DRS Technologies Canada are prime examples of how the National Shipbuilding Strategy is generating positive economic benefits in communities across the country while delivering these important ships to the Royal Canadian Navy.”

DRS Technologies Canada will provide the secure voice and tactical intercommunication system, ship’s telephone system and main broadcast and alarm system, which together form the internal communications systems.

By integrating the internal communications systems with the other communication, control and monitoring systems on board the vessels, Thales will be able to offer a complete, integrated communication solution for the joint support ships.

In April 2019, Seaspan awarded a contract to MAN Energy Solutions Canada to provide the power and propulsions systems for the Canadian joint support ships.

4 June 2019

US Army to conduct flight test of future hypersonic weapons

The US Army is set to conduct the first joint flight test of future hypersonic weapons, which will be followed by tests every six months until they are fielded by fiscal year 2023.

The weapon’s common glide body will be produced by the US Army under a joint venture. It will also be used by the airforce and navy.

US Army rapid capabilities and critical technologies office director Neil Thurgood said that soldiers are expected to fire a hypersonic glide body from a transporter erector launcher in fiscal year 2022, adding: “It is the first shoot ever off of the transporter erector launcher. It will be done by soldiers.”

Before performing the test next year, the system will be fielded to a unit without the live rounds for training purposes in late fiscal year 2021.

“The reason we’re going to do that is because we need them to start training,” said Thurgood. “So when we get to the first (live round) shot a year later, they’ll actually know what it looks like.”

Soldiers will practice command and control of the system, and loading and offloading canisters that resemble Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems.

The army plans to field the system to a battery, which could include a part of the multi-domain task force that is currently being piloted and headed by a field artillery brigade and will receive four launchers with two rounds each.

Four heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks (HEMTTs) and trailers will be used to transport the 30ft-long launchers. The command and control system will be the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, which is currently available to artillerymen.

As competitors are developing their own future hypersonic weapons capabilities, the US Army plans to counter them with approximately $1.2bn due to be spent on experimental prototyping until fiscal year 2024.

Thurgood’s job is to bring together scientists and acquisition experts to speed up the US Army’s directed energy and space programmes, among others. “My job is to transition out of the labs into a commercial industry base and we’re on the path to do that right now,” he said. “By doing that, I create a bridge from the science and technology community to the prototyping community to the programme of record community.”

The glide body programme is currently at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, US.