industry news

UK confirms contracts over £1bn with British firms for military ships

9 October

UK Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew has confirmed that new contracts worth more than £1bn have been signed with national companies to support the Royal Navy ships for the next ten years. The deal covers 17 navy vessels from the UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) fleet and the Royal Navy’s Survey and Hydrographic fleet.

These contracts will help sustain more than 700 jobs at shipyards across the country, improving how spares, repairs, and maintenance work are carried out.

The companies will work on the ships to ensure that they are equipped with the latest technology and systems, whether they are undergoing a revamp, undertaking training or are deployed on sea operations.

Andrew said: “This £1bn deal secures work for some of our world-leading shipyards into the next decade, supporting over 700 jobs for workers to ensure our ships remain at sea to defend the nation. This vital work is not only great news for our navy, but also underlines the importance of defence to our national skills and prosperity.”

The UK has already signed four agreements, which include two contracts with a total estimated value of £619m with Cammell Laird to support the RFA’s Fort-class and Wave-class tankers, in addition to its new fleet of four 39,000t Tide-class tankers.

Another contract, with an expected value of £239m, has been signed with A&P to support the RFA’s Bay-class landing vessels, along with the casualty ship RFA Argus and Royal Navy ocean survey vessel HMS Scott.

Also, an estimated £150m deal with UK Docks will help support the Royal Navy’s multi-role hydrographic survey ships HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise, and the ice patrol ship HMS Protector.

The £1bn deal is expected to save more than £100m for the country’s defence sector.

Within the next year, the UK expects to sign an additional three contracts under the country’s Future in Service Support (FISS) project.

Aerojet tests DMRJ engine to support hypersonic aircraft development

9 October

Aerospace and defence company Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully tested a dual-mode ramjet / scramjet (DMRJ) engine that would support the development of new hypersonic aircraft.

The series of tests were carried out as part of an ongoing partnership with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Nasa, and the US Air Force to develop hypersonic propulsion technologies. These technologies will help develop the advanced hypersonic aircraft, which would be capable of performing conventional take-off and landing.

Aerojet Rocketdyne chief executive officer and president Eileen Drake said: “Developing hypersonic capabilities has recently been cited by the Department of Defense officials as the ‘highest technical priority’ for our nation. Aerojet Rocketdyne is well-positioned to support this call to action, as we have been developing hypersonic propulsion technologies for more than 30 years.

“Our scramjet engine powered the record-setting test flights of the X-51A WaveRider, and we have accelerated our development efforts since then.

“That progress, when combined with the advances we’ve made in additive manufacturing, has enabled this next generation of hypersonic propulsion systems.”

The DMRJ engine, when combined with a gas turbine engine as part of a turbine-based combined cycle propulsion system, would have the capability to propel an aircraft from a halted position into the hypersonic flight regime of 5mach or higher and back again.

Conducted over a wider operating range than previously demonstrated, the tests also helped validate an advanced analytical tool set developed by the company that facilitates precise simulation of complex DMRJ flow fields across a broad variety of applications.

US Army and GA-ASI complete FOT&E for MQ-1C ER Gray Eagle ER UAS

9  October

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), in partnership with the US Army, has successfully concluded a follow-on operational test and evaluation (FOT&E) for its MQ-1C ER Gray Eagle Extended Range (ER) aircraft.

During the entire testing period, which commenced in early June this year, the MQ-1C ER unmanned aircraft system (UAS) travelled for a total of 644 flight hours.

With the successful completion of the test, the Gray Eagle aircraft is now ready for its initial fielding with the US Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM), followed by units from Forces Command (FORSCOM).

GA-ASI Aircraft Systems president David R. Alexander said: “The FOT&E highlighted some of the key benefits that the MQ-1C ER will deliver to our US Army customer, including significantly increased endurance, more payload capacity to support future mission tasking, and considerable improvements in system reliability and maintainability.”

The full capability range of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle ER was tested by US Army soldiers to support the service’s vision for long-range and persistent reconnaissance.

Alexander added: “The Gray Eagle ER clearly demonstrated its ability to support the future force. We added multiple payloads that enable it to perform a wide range of missions to further support the warfighter in contested operations.”

The operational test and assessment was carried out at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, US.

As a next-generation advanced variant of the Gray Eagle UAS, the Gray Eagle ER features an automatic take-off and landing system (ATLS) that enables the system to be launched and recovered without any operator interaction. The aircraft has been designed to offer long-endurance UAS surveillance, communications relay and weapons delivery missions in support of the warfighter.

L3 wins $454m contract to supply ISR systems for US Army’s Shadow UAV

9 October

The US Army has awarded a contract worth $454m to aerospace and defence company L3 Technologies for the delivery of modernised intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensor systems.

Under the deal, the company will provide the army with a next-generation WESCAM MX-10D electro-optical / infrared and laser designator (EO/IR/LD) sensor suite.

The advanced systems operate from the US Army’s Tactical Unmanned Air Systems Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), RQ-7Bv2.

L3 ISR Systems president and corporate senior vice-president Jeff Miller said: “The MX-10D is proven and successfully operational on the Shadow.

“This win secures L3’s prime position on a major platform in the UAV space and expands our growth opportunities for international EO/IR users considering surveillance and targeting upgrades.”

The sensor offers an advanced capability that enables the army to collect critical information for use by all members of an air-ground manoeuvre team.

L3 Technologies chairman, chief executive officer and president Christopher E. Kubasik said: “L3’s WESCAM imaging and targeting turrets deliver the highest-precision situational awareness to our customers to help them overcome emerging regional and global threats.

“We are focused on developing new state-of-the-art multi-domain command, control, communications, computers, cyber-defence and combat systems and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance  technologies in support of the US Army’s modernisation strategy.”

Awarded as an indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity contract, the agreement will continue for a period of five years, with a provision to extend for an additional five years.

The company will continue to invest in research and development as the US Army will assess options for its next-generation Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System programme, which will replace the Shadow system, targeted for 2025.

Capable of being integrated onto fixed-wing, rotary-wing, UAV and aerostat aircraft, the WESCAM MX-10D sensor is suitable for low-altitude tactical surveillance and target acquisition and designation missions that require low-weight installation flexibility.

Lockheed selects payload providers for US Air Force’s Next Generation OPIR

8 October

Lockheed Martin has selected potential mission payload providers to compete for the US Air Force’s (USAF) missile warning satellite system.

Raytheon and a Northrop Grumman / Ball Aerospace team will compete with each other to deliver payload for the airforce’s Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) Geosynchronous (GEO) Block 0 satellites.

To be executed as part of the Phase I contract for the USAF satellite system, the competition includes development scope through the Critical Design Review (CDR) phase.

Under the terms of the deal, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman / Ball Aerospace will be responsible for developing detailed designing of the satellites. A final down-select is expected to take place at the end of the CDR phase in 2020.

Lockheed Martin OPIR Systems vice president Tom McCormick said: “Next Gen OPIR is a very important programme for our nation, with a challenging schedule, and set of technical and resiliency requirements, different than prior programmes.

“We recognise that this is a watershed programme for the airforce, and we understand the need to ‘Go Fast’ to ensure our national security posture stays ahead of emerging global threats.”

On 14 August Lockheed Martin was selected by the air force as the prime contractor for the rapid development of the GEO system.

Next Gen OPIR is a new missile warning satellite system acquisition programme that will provide the USAF with advanced capabilities.

Designed to replace the Space Based Infrared System, the new satellites will feature increased missile warning capabilities that are more survivable and resilient against growing threats.

Lockheed Martin intends to complete the first GEO satellite delivery within five years.

EID to supply communication equipment for Portuguese Army vehicles

8 October

EID, part of the UK-based independent technology group Cohort, has secured a new contract to deliver advanced communication equipment for the Portuguese Army vehicles.

Selected as a subcontractor to URO Vehiculos Especiales, EID will be responsible for supplying the new communication equipment for the Portuguese Army’s fleet of 139 VAMTEC 4×4 light armoured tactical vehicles.

EID managing director António Marcos Lopes said: “We are more than happy to participate in this important programme, delivering reliable, high-quality and state-of-the-art communications equipment that will contribute to the fulfilment of the Portuguese Army national and international missions.”

The contract is valued at €4.8m and will continue for a period of two years. It has been awarded following an international competitive tender issued and managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) on behalf of the Portuguese Ministry of Defence.

The Spanish vehicle manufacturer URO Vehiculos Especiales was selected as the prime supplier of VAMTEC light armoured tactical vehicles to the army.

Cohort chief executive Andy Thomis said: “This win represents another addition to EID’s long record of success in providing military communication equipment to domestic and export customers. The contract award, together with other recent wins, enhances the visibility of future Group revenue.”

In August last year, EID received a €4.6m contract for the delivery of integrated communications systems, including radio equipment, integrated communications control system (ICCS), integration engineering and logistic services, to the Portuguese Navy for its Tejo-class coastal patrol vessels.

US DARPA to receive first SeeMe small satellite from Raytheon

5 October

Raytheon has completed the delivery of the first Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) satellite to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Designed to offer increased situational awareness to ground troops, the new SeeMe satellite has been assembled on the company’s advanced missile production lines.

The SeeMe programme seeks the manufacture of small satellites at affordable costs, and enables small squads to receive tactical imagery directly from a small satellite. Under the programme, a future constellation of small satellites will be built to deliver high-resolution images of precise locations of interest to the handheld devices used by the soldiers.

Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president Dr Thomas Bussing said: “Ground troops can’t always get immediate access to the larger, military and commercial satellites. These smaller, SeeMe satellites will be dedicated to soldiers, providing them with real-time images from space when they’re needed most.”

The company can use its automated missile production lines to develop large numbers of the SeeMe satellites. Once built, the US research agency will integrate the satellite on to a Spaceflight Industries payload that is slated to be launched into low-earth orbit on a SpaceX rocket later this year.

Military users will be able to assess and evaluate the satellite’s performance during missions to be carried out early next year.

A SeeMe constellation is expected to comprise different types of small satellites, each capable of being operational for one to five years before de-orbiting and burning up, thereby leaving no space debris and causing no re-entry hazard.

BAE Systems unveils Black Night Challenger 2 MBT for British Army

5 October

BAE Systems has unveiled the proposed upgrade of the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT), Black Night.

Led by BAE, Team Challenger 2 is a strategic partnership of major defence firms established to bid for the battle tank’s Life Extension Project (LEP).

BAE Systems Team Challenger 2 campaign leader Simon Jackson said: “The UK is home to some of the world’s finest engineering companies, who have pushed the boundaries of combat vehicle design with Black Night.

"We are providing the bulk of this upgrade from home soil, however, we have chosen the best defence companies from around the world to collaborate with also, including names from Canada, France and Germany who bring unique skills and proven technology. The British Army has our commitment that we will deliver the most capable upgrade possible, and the best value for money.”

The modified and upgraded Black Night tank features enhanced night-fighting ability and would provide Challenger 2 with two independent night vision systems for improved target focus.

This will enable the gunner on the vehicle to focus on one target while the commander identifies other targets simultaneously.

Other enhancements on the Black Night Challenger 2 main battle tank will include laser and missile-based protection systems, thermal imaging technology, regenerative power sourcing, active protection system and accelerated fightability.

The upgraded technologies, capabilities and modifications will ensure that the Challenger 2 vehicle remains combat-ready for the next 20 years, as part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) decision to extend the tank’s lifespan until 2035.

The Black Night main battle tank has been developed at the company’s combat vehicles facility in the West Midlands, UK.