industry news

Saab’s Gripen E conducts test flight with Meteor missile

13 November

Saab’s Gripen E multirole fighter aircraft has successfully completed a test flight with the Meteor active radar-guided beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM). During the test flight conducted from Saab’s airfield at Linköping, Sweden, the Gripen E jet was integrated with two MBDA-built Meteor missiles, designated 39-8.

The current trial is part of the weapon integration project being carried out under the Gripen E test programme. Following this, Saab intends to continue flying the aircraft with different configurations, gradually increasing the flight envelope.

Saab Gripen experimental test pilot Robin Nordlander said: “The aircraft continues to perform as smoothly as we have seen throughout the whole flight test phase flying with external stores. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming steps in the flight test programme, taking us closer and closer to completing weapon integration. Meteor makes Gripen E extremely capable in the air dominance role.”

The Meteor BVRAAM can successfully engage a range of air targets autonomously both during the day and at night, as well as in adverse conditions and harsh electronic warfare scenarios.

The ramjet propulsion system of the radar-guided missile provides it with high-speed performance and increased energy to defeat fast, moving targets at a very long range.

In July 2016, Saab’s Gripen C/D aircraft became the world’s first combat jet to be operational with the Meteor BVRAAM.

Known as MS20, the operational upgrade was certified, approved and implemented into service by Saab, the Swedish Air Force and Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (FMV).

Built as an upgraded variant to the Gripen C/D multi-role jet, the 15.2m-long Gripen E fighter features ten pylon stations that allow the aircraft to carry reconnaissance pods, weapons, and external fuel tanks.

BAE’s thrust vector controller technology achieves global milestone

13 November

BAE Systems Australia’s thrust vector controller technology has reached a global programme milestone by controlling the supersonic Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) as it took-off from a vessel’s vertical launch system.

To date, approximately 3,000 systems have been designed and manufactured at the company’s advanced manufacturing facility at Edinburgh Parks, South Australia. Production of the first thrust vector controller system started in the late 1990s.

BAE Systems chief executive Gabby Costigan said: “This is a great example of a global programme that required world-leading technology and the solution was found here in Australia.

“The ESSM programme, together with the Nulka active missile decoy programme, have established BAE Systems as Australia’s capability provider of guided weapons and autonomous systems to our defence force and allied nations.”

Designed and manufactured by Raytheon Missile Systems, the ESSM is a medium-range, surface-to-air missile that can be launched from surface ships. The missile can be used to destroy targets such as high-speed, highly manoeuvring anti-ship cruise missiles, low-velocity air threats (LVATs), high-diving threats and surface-based targets, in addition to engaging other attack aircraft, helicopters and ships.

BAE Systems Australia has committed to delivering more than 20% of each ESSM with contracts worth a total $400m to date. The company is also responsible for production of the missile fuselage, guidance section internal structure, and telemetry transmitter.

Low-rate initial missile production is expected to begin next year, with full-rate production expected in 2021 at an estimated contract value of approximately $32m every year over the next decade.

British Army conducts its largest exercise with unmanned and robotic systems

13 November

The British Army has commenced the 2018 Autonomous Warrior army combat experiment, announced Ministry of Defence (MoD) Secretary Gavin Williamson.

As part of the experiment, UK troops have started testing more than 70 systems representing futuristic technology on the fields of Salisbury Plain. Systems include enhanced surveillance drones and unmanned vehicles.

Due to run for four weeks, Autonomous Warrior has been designed to test a wide range of prototype unmanned aerial and autonomous ground vehicles that would be capable of reducing danger to soldiers during combat.

The exercise will culminate with a battlegroup experiment, where ‘the best ideas and innovations’ will be tested in the most challenging simulated operational environments.

Williamson said: “Our troops now have the chance to test out a huge range of robotic kit in what will be the biggest exercise of its kind in our history. We’re always working with the brightest minds in Britain and across the world to see how they can support our military of the future, but now the frontrunners have the chance to prove what they can really do on a battlefield. This equipment could revolutionise our armed forces, keeping them safe and giving them the edge in an increasingly unstable world.”

As part of the UK’s £800m Defence Innovation Fund, the experiment will be carried out to test a range of technologies in surveillance, long-range and precision targeting, enhanced mobility and the re-supply of forces, urban warfare as well as enhanced situational awareness.

It will involve the participation of the US Army, the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. They will work in close collaboration with industry partners and academia to evaluate the products and systems.

The Autonomous Warrior exercise was launched by the UK Government in June in order to help enhance the technology and military capability of the UK Army in land environments.

Kratos wins contract awards for EW and communications systems

12 November

US-based engineering services company Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has secured contract awards for new electronic warfare and communications systems.

With a total value of approximately $10m, the contracts cover the development and delivery of airborne electronic warfare and communications solutions for an unnamed customer. Work under the new contract awards is due to be carried out at the company’s secure production facilities.

The company has provided no additional information related to these awards owing to various customer-related considerations.

The company focuses on providing its customers with specialised microwave electronic products in support of missile, radar, missile defence, unmanned aerial drone, electronic warfare, and communications systems.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions president and chief executive officer Eric M DeMarco said: “Kratos continues to demonstrate our leadership position in supporting our national security customers with affordable, technology-rich products and solutions. We are proud to have been selected for these mission-critical requirements.”

In October this year, the company secured a contract valued at more than $30m for scope increases on multiple military training platform programmes.

RAAF and USAF aircraft conduct refuelling trials for interoperability

9 November

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is set to complete standard procedures for refuelling trials between its KC-30A multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) and the US Air Force’s (USAF) F-22 Raptor aircraft.

The airforce conducted refuelling trials using the RAAF No 33 Squadron’s KC-30A air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft and the Lockheed Martin F-22 tactical fighter jet.

Trials were carried out to assess the ability of both aircraft to safely manoeuvre together while being connected and with the receiver aircraft carrying different payloads.

In August and September, the USAF carried out eight refuelling test flights between the two aircraft at the service’s Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.

Currently, the data collected from the tests is being evaluated to complete the standard procedures for refuelling activities.

RAAF Air Mobility Group commander air commodore William Kourelakos said: “Being able to refuel the F-22, whether it’s in Australia or elsewhere, increases our interoperability and enhances the reach and mobility of these aircraft. The KC-30A already has refuelling clearances for a number of unique USAF aircraft such as the B-1B Lancer.”

With an internal fuel capacity of 8.2t, the KC-30A aerial tanker aircraft has been designed to carry out air-to-air refuelling, in addition to carrying external tanks underneath the wings.

The tanker has a fuel capacity of more than 100t and can use its 15m-long advanced refuelling boom system to connect with the US F-22 Raptor.

A flight test team from the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit worked in close cooperation with its USAF counterparts to plan the trial and gather necessary information during the tests.

In August 2016, the RAAF KC-30A refuelled the USAF’s F-16C combat jet for the first time during Exercise Pitch Black.

BAE Systems introduces WEnDL system to improve airspace safety

8 November

BAE Systems has developed a new Web Enabled Data Links (WEnDL) system to increase air traffic situational awareness for military aircraft pilots.

The low-cost technology uses existing satellite navigation and commercial aircraft data to enhance airspace safety.

Equipped with BAE’s WEnDL system, military aircraft will be able to use important information related to nearby civil aircraft in order to assist pilots in making decisions more easily.

BAE Systems has been engaged in evaluating the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system for the past two years. ADS-B system is a surveillance technology used to track and broadcast the location of aircraft using satellite navigation.

The technology enables the transmission of civilian aircraft flight data to military pilots through a tactical data link gateway, allowing pilots to monitor general air traffic.

The new WEnDL system can be deployed to access the information transmitted from ADS-B, direct key data in a simple format, and make it available to the military aircraft.

Currently fully operational, the BAE Systems technology is being used by earlier tranches of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets that are test-flown at the company site at Warton, Lancashire, UK.

BAE Systems chief test pilot Steve Formoso said: “WEnDL is a key enabler to the safety and efficiency of test flying operations at our Warton site.

“The information that WEnDL brings in to the cockpit allows our test crews to operate with greater flexibility, as well as increasing their all-round situational awareness of other air traffic around the aircraft during sorties.”

UK and Oman to open new joint training base

7 November

The UK Government has announced a new joint training base in Oman with an aim to support and strengthen its strong and special relationship with the Middle East country. Set to open in March, the Omani-British joint training base will help enhance the commitment of the UK to safeguard peace and stability in the Gulf.

UK Ministry of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our relationship with Oman is built on centuries of cooperation and we are cementing that long into the future with the opening of our new joint base. We stand as a beacon of stability in the region. This has never been more important as malign activity by hostile states and violent extremist organisations seek to undermine stability and subvert the rules-based order on which we all rely.”

UK soldiers will be deployed to work and train in close collaboration with troops from the Oman Armed Forces.

The joint training base in Oman is expected to support a wide range of combined and joint training activities that were carried out by the 5,500 UK military personnel over the last month during the Exercise Saif Sareea 3.

In addition to the opening of the Omani-British training base, Williamson also expressed the UK’s intention to enter an agreement with Oman early next year to support defence commitment between the two nations.

In August, the UK Defence Secretary also proposed the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the end of this year to strengthen the country’s defence cooperation with Romania in a bid to protect the European region.

USAF and HackerOne launch Hack the Air Force 3.0 programme

7 November

The US Air Force (USAF) has collaborated with cybersecurity company HackerOne to launch the Hack the Air Force 3.0 (HtAF) programme.

Built upon the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) ‘Hack the Pentagon’ effort, HtAF is the service’s third bug bounty programme.

The programme allows computer experts to identify and detect threats in USAF websites in order to help safeguard and strengthen its cyber platform.

Due to conclude on 22 November, the four-week HtAF 3.0 has been designed to focus on the US DoD applications that were recently migrated to an airforce-owned Cloud environment.

USAF chief information security officer Wanda Jones-Heath said: “Hack the Air Force 3.0 demonstrates the airforce’s willingness to fix vulnerabilities that present critical risks to the network.”

Currently open to 191 countries, the USAF initiative is the US Government’s largest bug bounty.

This year’s USAF programme offers competitive bounty awards to the participating hackers, depending on the severity of the cyber vulnerability discovered.

A critical severity threat is allocated an award of a minimum of $5,000, with potential increase based on overall system impact. To date, the largest single payout in the Hack the Pentagon public programme was valued at $10,000.

Hack the Pentagon was launched in April 2016 by the US DoD’s Defense Digital Service team as the first bug bounty programme ever employed by the federal government.

More than 1,400 hackers registered to participate in the programme.

Also, approximately 200 reports were received within the first six hours of the launch and $75,000 in total bounties was paid out to the participants.

The first pilot programme continued from 18 April until 12 May 2016.

HackerOne was selected by the DoD as its partner to advise, operate and execute the Hack the Pentagon initiative.