16 June 2020

Raytheon completes guided release of StormBreaker from Super Hornet

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, has concluded the first guided release of a StormBreaker smart weapon from an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the US Navy.

Once the programme reaches initial operational capability later this year, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will become the second fighter jet to use the weapon.

StormBreaker safely separated from the jet during US Navy flight tests. While in flight, it successfully received guidance data from the aircraft, enabling it to be directed to its target.

StormBreaker has a revolutionary tri-mode seeker that leverages imaging infrared and millimeter wave radar in its normal mode. The weapon can deploy its semi-active laser or GPS guidance to hit targets.

The first platform to use StormBreaker is the F-15E Eagle and the weapon system has also been integrated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

StormBreaker programme director Cristy Stagg said: “StormBreaker is the only weapon that enables pilots to hit moving targets during bad weather or if dust and smoke are in the area. Super Hornet pilots will be able to use poor visibility to their advantage when StormBreaker integration is complete.”

StormBreaker is the US Air Force’s newest weapon with a tri-mode seeker, enabling pilots to hit moving targets in low visibility and extreme weather conditions.

15 June 2020

NATO introduces new curriculum to improve counter-terrorism strategies

NATO has introduced a new curriculum to help allies and partner nations improve their counter-terrorism strategies.

Known as Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum (CTRC), it provides an outline of terrorist ideologies, motivations and methods based on historical examples. The CTRC also offers an overview of current counter-terrorism practices and possible future projections. 

Allies and partners can benefit from the curriculum by including it in their existing courses. The curriculum will also serve as a reference document to respond to the needs of partner nation defence educational institution.

NATO Emerging Security Challenges assistant secretary-general Dr Antonio Missiroli said: “Security challenges like terrorism are not diminishing because of the global pandemic. Terrorism undermines our safety and the very values that underpin and inspire our societies.

“The alliance is committed to address this threat with all available means. Supporting improved awareness, strengthening resilience and building counter-terrorism capacity of both allies and partners are all part of this effort, and the CTRC perfectly fits these objectives.”

It has been developed in partnership between the Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP), Nato’s Counter-Terrorism Section and the Partnership for Peace Consortium.

More than 100 experts from countries, including Tunisia, Jordan and Mauritania have contributed to the curriculum.

NATO operations assistant secretary-general Dr John Manza said: “The CTRC will be available to all interested partners and Allies. DEEP will work diligently to help partners who request support in implementing tailored versions of the curriculum for their professional military education institutions.

“In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and reflecting other longer-term trends, NATO will also work to implement the CRTC as a distance course, available to all partners who wish to use it in their institutions.”

15 June 2020

US Navy announces phased plan to resume official travel and transfers

The US Navy has set rules for transition to a conditionally-based, phased plan to resume personnel movement and travel.

The plan is based on a memo issued by the secretary of defense on 22 May. It outlines measures to resume official travel and transfers and to lift the travel restrictions placed due to Covid-19 pandemic, as well as permission guidelines to allow local commanders to grant personal leave.

The decision to resume unrestricted travel will be done on location basis and will depend on the coronavirus situation prevailing in the local areas. Real-time tracking of Covid-19 is currently underway using ADVANA.

Developed and maintained by the US Department of Defense (DoD), ADVANA is a new database providing information on the current infection and associated data, including military installations and facilities. 

US Navy vice-admiral John Nowell said: “This conditions-based, phased approach prioritises the safety and security of our personnel, their families and our communities while balancing the need to advance service member career opportunities, unit rotational deployments, and other imperatives.

“Moving forward, it is incumbent upon COs and OICs to balance risk to mission and risk to force to ensure we, as a navy, can continue to meet our mission while simultaneously preventing the spread of Covid-19 within the navy to the greatest extent possible.”

15 June 2020

UK RAF extends deployment to support French operation in Mali

The UK Government has extended the Royal Air Force (RAF) deployment to support the French counter-terrorism operation in Mali.

The mission, which is currently ongoing in the Sahel region of West Africa, is supported by the RAF with three Chinook CH-47 helicopters and 100 personnel working with the French Armed Forces (FAF) based in Gao, Mali.

Since 2018, RAF Odiham personnel have been engaged there in non-combat roles. Chinooks are used for logistics operations such as transporting French troops to bases in Mali and delivering support equipment to required locations.

To date, the RAF has completed more than 2,000 flying hours, moving 13,000 passengers and 1,100t of equipment in adverse weather conditions. Presently, the Chinooks are flown by aircrew from 18(B) Squadron supported by select RAF and British Army personnel.

French forces operate with international partners in the region to counter threats from terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Launched by France, the coalition aims to coordinate international activity in Sahel and support its long-term stability.

UK Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “West Africa is as important to the UK as it has ever been and we have many friends and allies in the region who share our desire to promote peace and prosperity. Combating extremism in the Sahel is vital for the security of the wider region and the UK will play its part tackling the declining security situation.”

15 June 2020

US DoD helps domestic mask production cross one billion in 2021

Investments made by the US Department of Defense (DoD) are expected to increase total domestic N95 mask production next year.

Production is anticipated to be in excess of one billion per year, which will help the Covid-19 Joint Acquisition Task Force meet the increased demand for N95 masks to fight the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, reported C Todd Lopez.

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the US was consuming about 50 million N95 masks each year. Currently, the demand for masks has increased, with approximately 140 million in use in the last three months.

The DoD's Covid-19 Joint Acquisition Task Force director Stacy Cummings said a production rate of 450 million masks a year will be achieved by October and over 800 million masks a year by January 2021.

US Acquisition and Sustainment Defense Undersecretary Ellen Lord said: “In order to decrease our dependence on foreign suppliers for medical resources, DoD has focused on increasing domestic industrial capacity and capabilities. To that end, we executed some $284m in industrial expansion efforts during the first two weeks of May 2020.

“Reconstituting domestic production or creating new production that shifted offshore years ago often requires capital expenditure, capital equipment expenditures, retooling and retraining of the workforce.”

To help businesses sustain during the crucial situation, the US DoD is using $688m of CARES Act funding to support the impacted defence industrial base, which includes businesses producing weapons, equipment and supplies for the US military.

Lord added: “This change will infuse an estimated $3bn in cash to all levels of the defence industrial base. Further, the department has partnered with the major primes to ensure this increase in cash makes its way throughout the supply chain.”

15 June 2020

RAAF and UNSW Canberra launch Cube satellite into space

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have launched a miniature satellite into space.

Known as the M2 Pathfinder satellite, the CubeSat represents a major step in the development of Australian Defence Forces (ADF) space systems. It will be used to test radio communications technologies. In the following months, UNSW Canberra will conduct a series of communications tests with the M2 Pathfinder satellite.

The engineering and flight operations teams will improve the design of future satellites as per the results obtained for the ADF.

Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said: “The collaboration between UNSW Canberra and airforce allows small satellites to be used for evaluating technologies on more complex space systems, such as communications or earth observation satellites.

“Through this collaboration, it has enabled UNSW Canberra to develop a number of space courses and programmes to benefit defence personnel. The experience gained in the development and operation of these spacecraft also offers educational benefits for defence personnel studying space programs at UNSW Canberra. This further enhances the future defence space workforce.”

Several Australian suppliers and industry partners have contributed to the development of the satellite. Operated by the Australian National University, the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre has also participated in the project.

Australian Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said: “The Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre is an example of the world-class space capabilities on offer by Australian industry and academia. UNSW has partnered with many Australian companies from across eastern Australia showcasing the breadth of skills, talent and ingenuity in bringing Australian manufacturing into the future.”

12 June 2020

French Navy’s ballistic submarine test fires M51 missile

The French Navy’s Triomphant-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) Le Téméraire has conducted a test-fire of an M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in operational conditions.

During the firing, which took place in the Atlantic off Finistère, France, radars and the missile range instrumentation ship Monge (A601) were used to track the M51 SLBM throughout its flight phase. The fallout zone was located in the North Atlantic.

Testing of the missile was conducted without nuclear warhead and in strict compliance with the country’s international commitments. It validates the operational capacity of the SSBN Le Téméraire’s global weapon system.

In July 2016, the Le Triomphant nuclear-powered SSBN successfully test fired an M51 SLBM from the Bay of Audierne, Finistère. The firing was aimed at validating the operational capacity of the submarine’s weapon system.

The M51 started replacing the M45 in 2010. According to open source data, an M51 has a three-stage engine. It weighs 52,000kg and has a length of 12m and a diameter of 2.3m. The operational range of the missile is reported to be 8,000km to 10,000km, with a speed of Mach 25.

Each missile is capable of carrying six to ten independently targetable TN 75 thermonuclear warheads, which are being replaced with the new Tête nucléaire océanique (TNO) warheads since 2015.

The new warheads are reported to be maneuverable to avoid potential ballistic defenses.

12 June 2020

USAF B-1s and JASDF fighter jets conduct bilateral training

The US Air Force (USAF) B-1B Lancers and B-52 Stratofortresses have conducted bilateral training with Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter jets.

To support the Pacific Air Forces’ Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions, B-1s from the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess AFB in Texas deployed to Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) in Guam last month.

Under the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) BTF mission, BTFs demonstrate the US’ commitment to the security. Along with its allies and partners, it focuses on the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

During training conducted last month, the two allies conducted a variety of events including intercept and escort training.

In the Indo-Pacific region, the USAF enabled its strategic bombers to operate forward from CONUS locations.

USAF 9th EBS director of operations major Robert Gaiser said: “Working and training with the JASDF strengthens both nations interoperability and sharpens the tactics, techniques and procedures between multiple platforms and nations. This mission in particular was critical to show regional adversaries the US' willingness to conduct operations in international airspace with partner nations.”

Some 200 Dyess aircrew arrived with four B-1Bs to assist Pacific Air Forces’ training efforts and missions.

Recently, two B-1s conducted training with eight JASDF F-15s and eight F-2s in the Sea of Japan. JASDF fighters have also integrated with B-52s from Minot AFB in North Dakota and Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota since February.

Gaiser added: “These missions display the B-1s ability to hold any target in the region at risk at a time and place of our choosing. Additionally, it shows the regional players the US is willing and able to operate anywhere international law allows. The planning and execution of this mission showed the seamless bi-lateral coordination and strengthened the relationship between Japan and the US.”