12 May 2020

 UK DASA competition seeks solutions to address small UAS threats

The UK Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has launched a phase 2 open competition seeking for solutions to address small unmanned air systems (UAS) threats.

Under the second phase of funding for the competition, participants are required to be aware of the previous competition and bids funded by DASA. Companies who were not involved in previous phases are also allowed to apply for this phase of the competition. 

Work done under this phase is anticipated to reach higher maturity when compared to the work funded in phase 1. Phase 2 involves $1.8m (£1.5m) funds with submissions to close on 21 July 2020.

Recently, the use of small commercially available UAS as weapons in overseas theatres has increased. They are deployed due to their cheap,

pervasive, low observable surveillance capability across the battlefield.

There are many different UAS threats and each may require a different mitigation approach. DASA aims to mitigate threats posed by small UASs, including both multi-rotor and fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles. Primary emphasis is laid on UAV platforms less than 50kg maximum take-off weight.

Phase 1 of the competition included delivery of the concept proposed advanced technology components and subsystems. Later, the subsystems will be developed and integrated into full C-UAS systems.

12 May 2020

 Keesler AFB lab and partners to sequence Covid-19 genome

The US Air Force (USAF) Genetics Center of Excellence at Keesler Air Force Base (AFB) and Defense Health Agency (DHA) have collaborated to aid the scientific research to sequence the genome responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Keesler AFB has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, academic institutions and DoD labs, including the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, US, to conduct the research.

Major Mauricio De Castro said: “If you know the genomic sequence, you can know what to target for treatment, medications, vaccines, etc.”

Across the world, researchers are working to decipher the genetic code of the virus to help develop a vaccine or effective treatment against the virus. To date, they have shared over 10,000 viral genome sequences of the novel coronavirus.

The lab is scheduled to conduct sequencing of the coronavirus obtained from positive cases. Data obtained will provide critical information and aid the research further.

Previously, researchers at the lab of Keesler AFB aided readiness efforts in testing for diverse genetic markers, including rare causes of sudden cardiac death and hereditary cancers.

De Castro added: “If you target parts of the virus that don’t change as much, you have a much better chance of coming up with an effective treatment or vaccine and so that’s where knowing the specific proteins, the sequence of the proteins and what they do and how they have changed, is important.

“Studying closely related coronaviruses that have caused epidemics in humans before, like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, in 2012, will aid pharmaceutical companies in more quickly developing effective vaccines.”

12 May 2020

 US Marine Corps continues search for new LAV

The US Marine Corps has said it is working towards the next phase of its plans to replace the in-service Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) with a modern Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV).

The first LAV variant was first introduced into the US Marine Corps and since then has seen service in the Middle East during the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Corps has selected General Dynamics and SAIC to manufacture prototype vehicles, which the US Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) said are expected to be ready for evaluation in the fourth quarter of this year.

MCSC’s LAV portfolio programme manager John “Steve” Myers said: “Any ARV path forward will continue to be informed by the ongoing [Office of Naval Research] technology demonstrator effort, the ARV analysis of alternatives, phase 3 force design outputs, additional government [requests for information], senior leadership direction and industry feedback,”

Work on the LAV replacement is being coordinated by MCSC, Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Capabilities Development Directorate of Headquarters Marine Corps (CD&I).

The replacement effort is underway after a capability-based assessment found the USMC’s Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions had shortfalls when pit against a near-peer threat. The need to update the Marine Corps armoured vehicles capabilities come as the force plans to cut all of its tank battalions by 2030 as part of a sweeping force structure overhaul.

MCSC said: “CD&I emphasised the need for a modern, purpose-built ARV. As the core-manned, next-generation system, ARV must possess transformational capabilities to enable LAR Battalions to gain contact with and collect on peer-threat forces. It must accomplish this goal without becoming decisively engaged, while also successfully waging the counter-reconnaissance fight.”

The ARV requirement is described by the Marine Corps as a ‘transformational required capability’. ARV diverges from the existing LAV include the inclusion of a “battle management system, enhanced vision technologies for increased situational awareness, and target tracking and engagement capabilities.

The Corps is on course to issue a final request for prototype proposal in the spring of 2021.

The new vehicle is seen as complementing the US Marine Corps to a naval expeditionary focus, as outlined in the Corps 2030 force restructure plans. Originally ARV was seen as a straight replacement for the LAV, however, since then the focus has shifted.

MCSC added: “Over time, officials began to view the ARV as a vehicle platform equipped with a suite of advanced reconnaissance capabilities, with an open system architecture that can sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the Naval Expeditionary Force.”

The effort to replace the LAV is also seeing input from the US Army’s optionally manned fighting vehicle (OMFV) programme. The Marine Corps noted similarities between the two efforts and added that the US Army, Navy and Marines are working together to ‘to ensure collaboration for those capability gaps'.

The Marine Corps was set to hold an industry day to support the competitive prototyping phase in May of this year, however, the ongoing spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed this until closer to the end of 2020 at the soonest.

MCSC project lead for ARV Maryann Lawson said: “We still want to hold an industry day so we can have an open discussion with industry, provide more clarification and answer any questions from our industry partners. PM LAV will focus efforts targeted on industry RFIs and strategic small group engagements,”

12 May 2020

 CPI Aero joins Next Generation Jammer Low Band CB-1 solution team

US-based structure supplier CPI Aero has joined the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) Capability Block 1 (CB-1) solution team. The team is being led by Northrop Grumman, which submitted its proposal for the project in January this year.

The NGJ-LB will operate on the US Navy’s EA-18G Growler to provide airborne electronic attack (AEA) capabilities. It will replace the current AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system.

CPI Aero has been selected to supply the NGJ-LB pod structure and assembly. Currently, CPI Aero also supplies pod structure and assembly for the navy’s ALQ-249 Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band programme.

CPI Aero president and CEO Doug McCrosson said: “Our leading structures and assembly experience is used by the Navy’s EA-18G, E-2D, MH-60S and CH-53K systems, and we have a well-established record providing these components on-time, efficiently and with consistent high quality.”

Northrop Grumman is the AEA integrator for the US Navy’s current EA-18G Growler electronic warfare system.

Commenting on the team expansion, Northrop Grumman surveillance and electromagnetic manoeuvre warfare vice-president Paul Kalafos said: “The addition of CPI Aero to our NGJ-LB team will help provide rapid fleet capability to the navy.

“They have extensive experience in providing aircraft and pod structural components for several Department of Defense customers and we are proud to have them on our team of EW engineering and mission experts, helping the navy maintain its warfighting edge through advanced airborne electronic attack capabilities.”

11 May 2020

 Rheinmetall defence business ‘robust and resilient’: Q1 results

In its first-quarter results, Rheinmetall has said it does not expect the Covid-19 pandemic to have a lasting impact on its defence business this year, and in fat expects the division’s sales to continue to grow.

Across the board, Rheinmetall saw a slight consolidated sales increase of 1.1% to €1.358bn, however, the company’s consolidated earnings fell by €20m to €36.81m. Sales in the group’s automotive division fell by 14% while defence saw an 18% growth.

As a result of the solid defence finances, Rheinmetall released a 2020 outlook for its defence business, which ‘anticipates sales growth of between 5% and 7%’.

In its statement, the company added that the strong performance of its defence division played a decisive role in its increasing earnings, helping the company stave off further damage caused by the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rheinmetall AG CEO Armin Papperger said: “Our defence sector has proven robust and resilient under these challenging macroeconomic circumstances and will help us to soften the impact of the crisis at the group level. This is currently expected to remain the case over the further course of the year, too. We had a successful start to the fiscal year in defence and profitably expanded the business volume during the first quarter.

In its results, Rheinmetall said: “The defence sector has been largely unaffected by the coronavirus, and has had a successful start to the new fiscal year. The sector strongly increased its sales, with growth of about 18% to €740m following €629m in the corresponding quarter of the previous year.”

Across its defence division, operating earnings more than tripled from €9m to €29m, the company’s defence operations also saw a 30% increase in its order intake with a backlog worth over €10bn.

In its 2020 outlook, Rheinmetall said: “Rheinmetall does not currently expect the Covid-19 crisis to have any lasting impact on the Defence sector’s business performance in the current year. For this reason, it is confirming the annual forecast for the defence sector published in mid-March 2020, which anticipates sales growth of between 5% and 7% for 2020 as a whole. The defence sector’s operating margin is expected to come to between 9% and 10%.”

11 May 2020

 Northrop Grumman starts flight testing of MQ-8C Fire Scout radar

The US Navy and Northrop Grumman are flight testing the MQ-8C Fire Scout fitted with the AN/ZPY-8 radar developed by Leonardo.

The unmanned helicopter with the radar conducted its first flight in February this year out of Webster Outlying Field, Maryland, US.

Ground tests were conducted prior to the maiden flight. The tests continue while the navy and Northrop Grumman consider expansion opportunities for the platform.

The company has so far delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the US Navy. All vehicles will be upgraded to include the AN/ZPY-8 radar.

Northrop Grumman tactical autonomous systems programme manager Melissa Packwood said: “The AN/ZPY-8 radar significantly increases Fire Scout’s detection and tracking of targets. The ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports US Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements. This increased capability enables Fire Scout to extend ranges to meet emerging requirements.”

In June 2019, the MQ-8C achieved its initial operational capability. The first deployment is scheduled in 2021.

11 May 2020

 US AMC selects Travis AFB for AE missions amid Covid-19

Air Mobility Command (AMC) at Scott AFB, Illinois, US, has selected Travis Air Force Base (AFB), California, US, for the US Air Force’s (USAF) specialised aeromedical evacuation (AE) missions related to the Covid-19


Travis AFB is one of the three selected bases, others being Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, US, and Ramstein AFB, Germany. The airbases are used as staging grounds for AMC’s AE missions involving Transportation Isolation System (TIS) use.

Developed by the US Department of Defense during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the TIS is an infectious disease containment unit. It has been designed to transport infected patients with in-flight medical care.

USAF 21st Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilot Captain Dan Cotton said: “With TIS being fairly new and relatively untested, a lot of importance is going to be in building foundational knowledge, especially in how squadrons and protocols work together.”

A standard TIS Force Package includes one C-17, two TIS modules, an aircrew and a medical support team. The medical team comprises an AE team, critical care transport team, infectious disease team and TIS operators.

Currently, TIS capsules can be carried by the C-130H Hercules, C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 aircraft.

As the virus continues to spread, TIS continues to transport patients, simultaneously maintaining the health of its airforce personnel.

Cotton added: “We’re always ready. TIS has really expanded our capabilities to the point where we’re able to continue the AE mission without any major interruptions by Covid-19. Despite the technology being made for Ebola, we’ve adapted it to suit today’s needs.”

11 May 2020

 Australia and New Zealand to boost joint defence against Covid -19

Australia and New Zealand will work to enhance their defence cooperation in the Tasman and the Pacific region to continue battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, a joint teleconference was held by the defence ministers of the two countries and the Australian Minister for Defence Industry. The conference discussed the challenges arising due to the pandemic and the measures taken by the countries to overcome them, as well as addressing support extended by the country to their respective defence industries.

New Zealand Minister of Defence Ron Mark said: “Our co-operation on supporting our defence industries and our shared experience in emergency response are important components to our strong relationship. Industry partners are of enduring importance to both the New Zealand and Australian Defence Forces. They provide integral support to ensure our forces are well equipped, capabilities are maintained to a high level and our sites function smoothly.”

During the conference, insights from virtual engagements conducted with industry partners were shared. The importance of the Closer Economic Relations Agreement and the Australia and New Zealand Government Procurement Agreement was emphasised.

Australian Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said: “As both countries continue to focus on responding to Covid -19, continued engagement with industry and the sharing of lessons learned will remain a priority for us, especially in the area of defence science and technology.”

Under the agreement, a single Australia New Zealand (ANZ) government procurement market is created and maintained.

Competitive ANZ suppliers are provided the opportunity to demonstrate their ability. They are given a platform to provide goods and services, to support industry capability development in both countries. This reduces the cost of doing business for both the government and the industry.

Price added: “We discussed how companies like Hawker Pacific and Airbus Australia Pacific play a crucial role in supporting both Australia and New Zealand’s defence forces during this time.”