14 May 2019

RAF chooses Indra to deliver LTR25 deployable military radar system

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) is set to receive a deployable military radar system, the Long Tactical Range 25 (LTR25), from Spanish firm Indra.

Indra was chosen from a list of potential suppliers. Delivery of the advanced long-range air defence deployable radar system is anticipated to take place by the end of this year.

The LTR25 deployable military radar system, which is part of the family of Lanza radars developed by Indra, is known for its long-range detection capabilities, rapid deployment and ease of transportation.

The radar can be transported in aircraft such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The RAF can use the system for deployments outside the national territory to bolster the surveillance of a specific area on a ‘one-off basis’.

A UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesperson told us: “The MOD invites industry to offer their products to fulfil defence needs in open competition. Capabilities are selected to meet the operational requirement at the best value for money for the taxpayer.”

In addition, LTR25 can serve as a backup in case one of the fixed radars is attacked or damaged.

The companies vying for the radar supply contract were informed about the requirements, including worldwide operation; self-sustainment; the capability to detect and track co-operative and non-co-operative targets, Jane’s reported citing a Ministry of Defence contracts bulletin.

Furthermore, the radar should support interoperability with UK or air command-and-control systems to enable compilation of the recognised air picture; and provide assured air traffic radar services. The radar can also withstand challenging atmospheric conditions.

Aside from the RAF, Indra supplies radar solutions for other NATO nations. The company has to date delivered more than 50 radars to several countries globally.

In September 2018 Indra received a contract to provide its early warning Lanza 3D Radar solution to the Royal Thai Air Force.

According to the firm, the Lanza radar systems are based on a fully modular and scalable architecture, both in terms of hardware equipment, and software packages capabilities.

13 May 2019

Pentagon to transfer $1.5bn from defence programmes for border wall

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has granted approval for transfer of $1.5bn by the Pentagon for the construction of more than 130km of a wall along the border with Mexico.

US President Donald Trump said that $5.7bn will be required to fund the wall, aimed at preventing people from crossing into the US and stopping the flow of drugs from Mexico.

The money transfer includes shifting around $604m from funds for the Afghan security forces, the next nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programme Minuteman III, and from the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) programme.

In 2019, the US has appropriated $4.9bn in support for those forces, and an official said that the money was taken from the account because of savings from contracts.

The US Air Force said that the ballistic missile programme is needed to upgrade its ageing ground infrastructure. However, plans to upgrade its control centre have been delayed and the Pentagon has decided to shift some money for the wall, a US Department of Defense (DoD) document stated. In 2018, the air force decided to end a $76m AWACS contract with Boeing reportedly due to delays in hardware and software development.

In a statement, Shanahan said: “The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness.”

The remainder of the money will be from a chemical demilitarisation programme, the Pentagon’s new Blended Retirement System, which was launched in January 2018, funds for Pakistan and airforce programmes.

DoD officials have not so far provided a breakdown of money taken from each programme. Another official said that this was not the first time money had been transferred from the account. In March, $1bn in military money was transferred to fund the border wall.

Administration officials had previously stated that reallocated money also could be used for other unfunded military projects.

The document stated that the department will also transfer money originally meant for a space test experiment involving the military’s Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA).

Money from savings that the department negotiated on air-launch cruise and Hellfire missiles will also be used to fund the wall.

13 May 2019

US to deploy naval weaponry to the Middle East amid Iran tensions

The US Government has approved the deployment of naval weaponry to the Middle East, including the USS Arlington (LPD-24) warship and an additional MIM-104 Patriot missile defence battery, following a request from US Central Command (CENTCOM).

The Patriot long-range, all-weather air defence system has the ability to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft including drones. The US has deployed Patriot missile systems in Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE.

The deployment of additional naval weaponry to the Middle East comes days after certain assets were moved to the region to address growing tensions with Iran.

In a statement, the US Department of Defence (DoD) said: “These assets will join the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a US Air Force (USAF) bomber task force in the Middle East region in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests.

“The DoD continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies. Due to operational security, we will not discuss timelines or location of forces.”

Last week, the Trump administration sent a navy strike group headed by USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber task force, including B-52 bombers, to the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility in the wake of growing threat by Iran.

The US walked out of the 2015 nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran last year, which dealt a significant blow to Iranian crude exports as sanctions imposed by the US against Tehran mandated countries to stop purchasing oil from the Middle East nation.

The Pentagon statement added that “the US does not seek conflict with Iran”, but it was ready to defend its forces and interests in the region. The US has so far not specified the specific nature of the threats by Iran.

The USS Arlington San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock is designed to transport US Marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft. The ship can be used in support of amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions.

10 May 2019

UK Emergency Services Network to suffer further delays, says NAO

The National Audit Office (NAO) has issued a new report today stating that the UK Emergency Services Network will likely suffer further delays, and has thrown into question the accuracy of the government’s forecasts costs.

The UK Emergency Services Network is set to replace Airwave as the all-inclusive communication system for the national emergency services. However, in 2017, the Home Office found that it could not deliver the network in the manner intended and restarted the programme, which subsequently led to delays, increased costs, and the waste of taxpayer money.

After a review, the Home Office now says the programme will cost £9.3bn, including £1,4bn for extending the Airwave programme. This equates to an overspending of £3.1bn from the original plan. The new strategy is to switch from Airwave to the Emergency Services Network by 2022, a timeline which the NAO believes is still unlikely.

NAO head Amya Morse said: “The success of the Emergency Services Network is critical to the day-to-day operations of our emergency services that keep us all safe. The Home Office needs a comprehensive plan with a realistic timetable that properly considers risks and uncertainties. It has already been through one costly reset and is in danger of needing another unless it gets its house in order.”

While the delivery of the UK Emergency Services Network has progressed somewhat since the previous NAO report in 2016 – including the upgrades of the EE network to enable priority emergency calls by the emergency services, and the optimisation of the Home Office’s process in delivering the project – there are still some key technological gaps that need to be filled, according to the 2019 NAO report.

For example, currently aircraft pilots are unable to communicate directly with ground forces or with one another, in the absence of a network signal. This kind of technology is still being developed and is expected to not meet user requirements until 2020 at the earliest.

The Home Office also currently does not have the technology to integrate and test the Emergency Services Network properly, which requires getting different types of tech to work simultaneously.

Finally, police representatives told the NAO that the Home Office’s main savings forecast of £1.5bn by 2037 through the Emergency Services Network programme had not been endorsed by the UK police force, despite the fact that the Home Office estimated the largest economic benefit – equalling around £643m – would be associated with police productivity.

In short, the NAO recommended that the Home Office reconsider whether replacing Airwave with the Emergency Services Network was achievable. This would require a new contingency plan in case the technology that the Home Office was planning to use did not actually work.

9 May 2019

AeroVironment and Kratos partner to demo tactical drone capabilities

AeroVironment has reached a strategic partnership with Kratos Defense & Security Systems to demonstrate integrated high-performance tactical drone and tactical missile system capabilities.

Under the strategic relationship, AeroVironment and Kratos will develop and demonstrate multi-domain unmanned aerial system (UAS) solutions for near-peer, denied combat environments.

The partnership seeks to showcase low-cost flexible intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and precision strike capabilities.

The firms will integrate AeroVironment tube-launched small unmanned aircraft and tactical missile systems with Kratos high-speed, low-cost attritable drones.

AeroVironment noted that the integration of tactical drone capabilities will help to improve situational awareness and system effectiveness.

AeroVironment UAS business vice-president and deputy general manager Trace Stevenson said: “Working with Kratos, an innovative host aircraft partner, together we are developing and will demonstrate the integration of tube-launched UAS and tactical missile systems into long-range, high-speed and low-cost unmanned systems for their transport and delivery into near-peer, denied environments.

“With sufficient onboard autonomy, sensors, payloads and an integrated system design, we aim to demonstrate the deployment of large quantities of smart systems that overwhelm and disable enemy systems, while bending the cost curve to make it financially prohibitive for unfriendly nations to challenge our armed forces.”

The first project under the collaboration will focus on demonstrating the ability to launch, communicate with, and control a small, tube-launched loitering aircraft from a larger runway-independent unmanned aircraft.

Besides, the project will assess the performance of the overall system-of-system’s ability to coordinate the effects of the smaller AeroVironment systems, and transmit useful information back to the Kratos mothership.

The system will also be evaluated in terms of its ability to either pass information back to a ground control station or modify mission taskings based on the information.

Kratos Unmanned Systems Division president Steve Fendley stated that deploying AeroVironment’s tube-launched UAS and tactical missiles from the company’s UAS will enable it to increase the effectiveness and stand-off range of existing technologies.

Last summer, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded a contract to Kratos to work on its Gremlins drone swarming programme.

Furthermore, in February 2019, Kratos secured a number of initial funding contract to work on the Aethon UAS programme.

8 May 2019

Raytheon tests rocket motor for DARPA’s naval vessel defence system

Raytheon has tested a hot fire rocket motor for the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) naval vessel defence system designed to tackle anti-ship missiles.

The new rocket motor is meant for DARPA’s Multi-Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System (MAD-FIRES).

The MAD-FIRES interceptor will be able to provide a self-defence capability to enable the US Navy to protect its vessels from threats such as unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, small planes, fast attack craft, and other surface vessels.

Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice-president Dr Thomas Bussing said: “The navy is asking for leading-edge capabilities that can take out rapidly approaching targets, and Raytheon’s interceptor for the MAD-FIRES programme will deliver. This test shows Raytheon is right on track to provide an affordable, advanced technology to the fleet.”

Raytheon stated that that the naval vessel defence system will have the ability to bring together the speed, rapid fire and depth of a gun weapon system with the precision and accuracy of guided missiles.

The MAD-FIRES programme intends to incorporate enhanced ammunition rounds that can change their flight path in real-time to stay on target, according to DARPA.

DARPA said that there is also ‘a capacity to continuously target, track and engage multiple fast-approaching targets simultaneously and re-engage any targets that survive initial engagement’.

The system is envisioned to provide real-time defence against evolving air and surface combat threats by extreme precision and an ability to defend against simultaneous and diverse attacks.

Raytheon won a modification contract in April last year to a previously awarded contract to add the Phase IIB/IIC tasks for the MAD-FIRES programme.

The new MAD-FIRES system is likely to rival current naval air defence systems in development, including Rosonboronexport’s Pantsir-M and the Phalanx close-in weapon system manufactured by General Dynamics.

9 May 2019

Rocket Lab launches three R&D satellites for US DoD Space Test Program

Rocket Lab has launched three research and development (R&D) satellites for the US Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program.

The STP-27RD mission is Rocket Lab’s second successful launch this year and fifth orbital mission overall.

The satellites were launched aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. With the latest launch, the total number of satellites deployed to orbit by the firm reaches 28.

Rocket Lab intends to conduct monthly launches from Launch Complex 1 for the remainder of 2019, with various commercial and public sector customers. The first launch from the Launch 2 Complex at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, US, will take place in late 2019.

Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck said: “It’s a testament to our team and mission partners that Electron has placed another three satellites in orbit, just weeks after our flawless mission for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). We’re proud to have delivered 100% mission success for the launch procured by the DOD’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative, proving once again Rocket Lab’s ability to provide responsive and streamlined space access.”

The US DoD’s Space Test Program is intended to demonstrate advanced space technologies and includes a satellite to evaluate new ways of tracking space debris.

The payload carried by the Electron launch vehicle for the STP-27RD mission weighed in at around 180kg. This represents Rocket Lab’s heaviest payload to date.

The first satellite was the Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1) mission. Sponsored by the US Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, the SPARC-1 mission is a joint experiment between the US and Sweden.

The experiment is designed to explore technology developments in avionics miniaturisation, software defined radio systems, and space situational awareness.

The second payload, known as the Falcon Orbital Debris Experiment, is sponsored by the US Air Force Academy, and is intended to evaluate ground-based tracking of space objects.

The third is a commercial small satellite known as Harbinger and built by York Space Systems.

Sponsored by the US Army, Harbinger comprises an experimental commercial system designed to meet the country’s space capability requirements.

Last month, Rocket Lab launched US DARPA’s R3D2 satellite in orbit. The R3D2 mission is designed to space-qualify a new type of membrane reflect array antenna to improve radio communications in small spacecraft.

2 May 2019

F-35 progress: three challenges to the F-35 supply chain

As the US Department of Defense (DoD) plans to buy 2,663 F-35 fighter jet aircraft with deliveries taking place up to the year 2037, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released its latest F-35 progress report, giving its recommendations on substantial supply chain challenges to the F-35 programme. These include spare part shortages, mismatched parts, and an immature global supply network.

Above all, the GAO report indicated that only 27% of F-35 aircraft have reached full mission capability, 33% lower than the minimum target of 60%. Approximately 52% of F-35 aircraft are reportedly mission-capable for one mission, while the minimum target is 75%.

Spare parts shortages and limited repair capabilities

According to the GAO report, F-35 aircraft suffered a spare parts shortage between May and November 2018, and as a result, were unable to fly around 30% of that time period. Furthermore, the US DoD has a “repair backlog of about 4,300 F-35 parts”, and has not established the required actions to meet the war fighter’s requirements.

In response to the F-35 progress report, the DoD said it was addressing this issue and recently signed the Life Cycle Logistics Plan on 31 January 2019.

The DoD wrote: “The availability of critical components will help the F-35 meet the war fighter’s performance requirement and facilitate the iterative adjustments to quantities of parts in the supply chain to ensure requirements can be met across the life of the weapon system.”

Mismatched parts for deploying aircraft

The GAO also noted that the procurement process of F-35 parts, often well in advance of planned deployments, created mismatches as some parts no longer met updated service needs of the F-35 aircraft.

Giving an example, the GAO mentioned that 44% of parts purchased by the DoD for the Maine Corps were incompatible with the aircraft during a recent deployment.

The DoD responded that it needs to create an “agile process to modify spares packages” and is developing a process with the help from all the branches of the military. Phase one of the plan will be rolled out from August 2020.

An immature global network to move F-35 parts

The third challenge to the F-35 supply chain, as highlighted by the GOA report, is the undeveloped global supply network used to move F-35 parts around the world. As a result, many international F-35 customers have experienced long wait times for spares.

The GAO F-35 progress report asked for a “detailed plan for the establishment of the global network for moving F-35 parts that outlines clear requirements and milestones to reach full operational capacity, and that includes mechanisms to identify and mitigate risks to the F-35 global spares pool.”

In response, the DoD said it had finalised the F-35 Program’s Global Asset Management Strategy to clearly define the “concept of operations for the multi-directional movement of parts” throughout the world.

With the recent news that the first Japanese F-35 aircraft has been found after crash-landing in the Pacific Ocean, and that the US Air Force has just used the first F-35A in combat in Iraq, it is becoming ever more important for the US DoD to improve the global supply of updated F-35 parts, which are now starting to be deployed worldwide.