Monthly Archives: October 2017

Seoul ADEX: ROK solid defence

Western media has been guilty of hyping up the threat of North Korea’s newly christened ‘Rocket Man’ who will soon be armed with nuclear weapons and a viable intercontinental ballistic missile. As it happens, life carries on as normal in South Korea; the country’s citizens are used to routine high jinks from its belligerent neighbour to the north.

To be sure, nobody wants a nuclear-armed Kim Jong-un. However, the inflammatory rhetoric between Trump and Kim has not ruffled the feathers of those who live within range of Pyongyang’s missile and artillery forces.

The Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) 2017 was proof of South Korea’s quiet determination to defend itself. Indeed, the country’s extensive and very capable defence industry used the opportunity to roll out a variety of new products.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Armed Forces and the USAF used the venue to show their capabilities too. The USAF, for example, flew in pairs of F-22 Raptor fighters and F-35A Lightning II fighters. Another first for Seoul ADEX was the presence of an RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 belonging to the USAF. With Seoul having signed up for four Global Hawks that are due in 2018-19, this was the first time one had actually appeared at the show.

A critically important project for South Korea is its next-generation fighter aircraft, the KF-X being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). A spokesman said it is undergoing ‘refinement and its configuration is being altered as testing continues’ ahead of a preliminary design review in mid-2018. KAI also unveiled its latest T-50A advanced jet trainer, a candidate for the USAF’s T-X programme.

KAI showed a series of scale models of its Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) and Light Civil Helicopter (LCH), both based on the H155 and being developed under a $10 billion programme. A critical design review has been completed and a first prototype should roll out in the third quarter of 2018.

Representing the gradual expansion of its KUH-1 Surion helicopter range, KAI demonstrated a new Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC) version at Seoul ADEX 2017. Last year KAI was awarded a contract to build these. Production commenced earlier this year and the first will be handed over to the marines in December.

Hanwha Defense Systems displayed a range of armoured vehicles at Seoul ADEX 2017. These included the K21-105 medium tank, Hybrid Bi Ho self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon system, K105HT truck-based 105mm howitzer and Chunmoo multiple launch rocket system.

Hyundai Rotem is another giant South Korean defence company, and it showed off two versions of its 8×8 Wheeled Armoured Vehicle (WAV) family, a peacekeeping operations version and an ambulance.

Hyundai Rotem also displayed a scale model of its 55t Korean Combat Engineering Vehicle, which features a full-width mine plough from Pearson Engineering. The company also revealed that it is returning to Renk to supply transmissions for its second batch of K2 MBTs. Deliveries were suspended because of reliability troubles with the S&T Dynamics transmission.

Moving on to small arms, S&T Motiv displayed several new developmental weapons for the ROK Army.

South Korea continues to leverage unmanned technologies too. Hanwha Techwin exhibited its 6×6 Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle, which is competing for an army development contract. LIG Nex1 also showed a scale model of its Sea Sword USV.

The Aerospace Division of Korean Air (KAL-ASD) showed a new KUS-HD hybrid UAS that uses a petrol engine to recharge its electrical batteries. Another KAL-ASD design on show was a prototype of the KUS-VT tiltrotor capable of VTOL flying. The strategic-level KUS-FS, a MALE aircraft destined for the ROKAF, first flew in 2012 and a series of flight tests was completed last year. Korean Air also showed a conceptual model of the next-generation KUS-FC, an armed aircraft with stealthy design and internal weapon bay.

KAL-ASD again showed its KUS-VH, with the company recording progress in its quest to create an unmanned MD 500 helicopter. It undertook its first flights last year with a pilot aboard.

There were digital advancements too, including fielding of the Tactical Information Communication Network (TICN) by the ROK Army, and LIG Nex1 showed a weapon locating radar and short-range AESA air defence radar.

And my personal highlight of Seoul ADEX 2017? Probably the level of security provided for President Moon Jae-in when he flew in for the show’s opening ceremony.

His motorcade of black SUVs with balaclava-clad close-protection personnel would have rivalled anything the US president could have dreamed of.

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Special Forces honour JFK’s early vision

Representatives of the US Army’s 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), led by Maj Gen Francis Beaudette, 1st SFC (A) commanding general, held the commemorative President John F. Kennedy Wreath Laying Ceremony at the JFK grave site at Arlington National Cemetery on 25 October.

In doing so, they continued a Special Forces tradition of paying tribute to JFK’s vision of building a dedicated counter insurgency force, a vision that helped build the Green Berets into the elite force they have become over the last five decades.

John F. Kennedy Wreath Laying Ceremony

According to records at the JFK Presidential Library, then-President Kennedy visited Fort Bragg, North Carolina and the US Army Special Warfare Center, home of Army Special Forces on 12 October 1961.

During the course of their meeting, the president asked Brig Gen William P. Yarborough, ‘Those are nice. How do you like the Green Beret?’ Yarborough replied, ‘They’re fine, Sir. We’ve wanted them a long time.’

Following a Special Forces capability demonstration, Kennedy sent a message to the general which read, in part, ‘The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your Command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.’

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Soon after, Kennedy authorised the Green Beret as the official headgear for all US Army Special Forces and further showed his support for Special Forces in publishing an official White House Memorandum to the US Army dated 11 April 1962.

This stated in part that ‘the Green Beret is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom’.

The wreath laying ceremony continues a Special Forces tradition that honours Kennedy’s prescient vision.

Written by Scott Gourley, North American Group Editor for Shephard Media.

Adapt or die: US Army looks to modernise

In the words of US Army chief of staff, Gen Mark Milley, the army he is responsible for is at an inflection point; it must adapt, or it dies.

With this in mind, the service used this year’s Association of the US Army (AUSA) annual conference in Washington DC to outline how it will adapt in an uncertain world, especially as the West’s political, economic and technological advantage slowly declines.

For several decades the US Army has enjoyed technological superiority against its adversaries, which was especially the case during both Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Yet however brutal and bloody those conflicts were, the army was not challenged by an enemy with high-end capabilities.

The worry now is that the US has taken its eye off the ball and lost its ability to effectively counter a so-called ‘near-peer adversary’ – army speak for Russia and China.

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At AUSA, Milley and the acting secretary of the army Ryan McCarthy outlined how it would attempt to regain what is known as ‘overmatch’, or the capability to defeat a near-peer enemy by overwhelming force.

This will start at home, with the acquisition process, which army leaders want sped up and be made less risk-averse, including reducing the amount of bureaucratic layers with the formation of a new command that brings ‘modernisation under one roof’.

‘It has more to do with streamlining processes,’ said Milley. ‘It’s a significant restructure, probably the biggest in the last 40 years or so. Remember, Army Materiel Command, Forces Command and TRADOC were all formed in the 1970 in the wake of Vietnam.’

In addition to the restructure, the army service chiefs outlined six key areas that modernisation would focus on including; long-range fires, mobility, networking, protection, sustainment and soldier lethality.

As you read this blog, and a more detailed report available on Shephard’s website, it’s important to understand this new thinking of the US Army and how it is influencing existing programmes, new acquisitions and relationships with industry.

Programmes that are considered too burdensome, and not adaptive to current technology trends are being tossed aside in favour of new initiatives. Just before AUSA, the army announced that acquisition of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) would finish early in 2018 due to a myriad of shortcomings.

That’s significant as WIN-T was considered to be one of the army’s top modernisation initiatives but instead has joined the long list of billion dollar boondoggles, along with the army’s Future Combat System in the 2000s as well as the search for a replacement scout helicopter.

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Ultimately, the US Army wants capability, and it wants it quick to address the growing gaps mentioned above.

One area that was clearly a priority at AUSA was short-range air defence, or SHORAD – which falls under ‘protection’ of the six key priorities. As visitors explored the exhibition hall, it was not difficult to see that industry was preparing potential options for an upcoming army requirement, with several companies using AUSA to show off its SHORAD technologies.

Those companies included BAE Systems, Boeing, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) and Oshkosh, which all demonstrated some kind vehicle-borne SHORAD integration using existing systems that would likely require little developmental efforts.

As well as SHORAD, the US Army is also looking at how it can beef up its lower-tier air defences. Raytheon – partnering with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems – displayed a full Iron Dome system on the exhibition floor at this year’s AUSA.

The system, which is marketed in the US by Raytheon as ‘Skyhunter’, was tested by the US Army earlier this year where it achieved a successful intercept. The company is now pursuing potential options that could see Skyhunter used to protect forward-deployed forces.

Another big push for the US Army, and an initiative that is likely to be held up as an example of how acquisition could be carried out in the future, is active protection systems (APS).

This technology is still in its relative infancy, but is seen as an opportunity to add additional protection for vehicle crews when it comes to the threat from new-generation anti-tank munitions.

According to Maj Gen David Bassett, program executive officer for ground combat systems, this could be the new way that the US Army does acquisition for much-needed technologies on the battlefield.

The US Army’s approach to fielding an APS capability has been significantly different from its usual strategy of setting out a detailed requirements document and trialling industry submissions against an extensive set of test points. This was testing an established capability first and foremost.

The last few years has seen the army take a less ambitious approach to vehicle modernisation, especially after the cancellation of FCS and GCV.

Priority has instead been given to the modernisation of legacy vehicles such as the Abrams and the Bradley, as well as relatively low risk vehicles such as the armoured multi-purpose vehicle (AMPV) – which is essentially a Bradley without a turret, and the Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, which will effectively be a COTS purchase.

For the moment at least, the army can boast a vehicle programme that is on schedule and meeting its cost projections, which is a unique position considering past projects.

The question is how long this will last and whether the incremental upgrades of 80s-era platforms is giving the army the overmatch capabilities it so desperately needs to keep hold of.

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Looking to the future, beyond manned vehicles, the army is also looking to replicate the success it has had with aerial unmanned vehicles but this time on the ground. One of its biggest initiatives is the squad multipurpose equipment transport programme, which aims to acquire small robots that can carry equipment for soldiers.

Overall, AUSA was an opportunity for US Army leaders to set out their strategic aims and priorities for the future, especially when it comes to retaining its technological superiority and battle winning capabilities.

It remains to be seen whether the service can overcome challenges – including budgetary – and achieve its goals of modernisation. Industry will also have to respond with innovative solutions that do not end in cost overturns, delays and eventual cancellations.

The world according to Shephard: Week 43

Pick of the week

While all eyes have been fixed upon North Korea, Uldduz Larki looks into NATO’s decision to host its most recent ballistic missile defence exercise in the Atlantic theatre, a sign that Russian deterrence remains a strategic priority. Read more of Uldduz’s report on the alliance’s inaugural Formidable Shield exercise here.

The bumpy road to agreement

After a series of lengthy pauses in the development of Germany and Israel’s submarine programme, the two nations moved a step closer to agreeing the purchase of three new submarines.

The vessels, which will be supplied by TKMS will replace Israel’s three Dolphin-class diesel electric submarines. Germany’s TKMS is also hopeful of future sales within Europe as the country has agreed to partner with Norway and has received similar interest from Italy.

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Meanwhile details are emerging about the Franco-British collaboration on a Future Combat Air System as the programme readies for the transition from planning to development.

Alongside work on the Anglo-French unmanned combat demonstrator is an investigation of open-system mission architecture. The latest announcement means that high-level concepts are now in the process of being turned into detailed requirement sets.

Elsewhere, Scott Gourley and Richard Thomas were at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vagas this week. Find all of the latest news from the show floor online

Finally, Boeing has reaffirmed its commitment to the UK despite souring relations with the government following the US Department of Commerce’s decision to place a preliminary 219% trade tariff on Bombardier. In a conversation with Shephard a Boeing spokesperson was keen to downplay any tension between the two parties following a number of attacks on the company from UK politicians.

Maritime insecurity

The future of the UK’s amphibious capabilities looks increasingly uncertain as the defence minister suggested it may no longer be a strategic priority.

Speaking at a meeting of the UK’s defence committee, Michael Fallon denied that the MoD had entered into conversations with Brazil and Chile over a potential sale of the HMS Albion and Bulwark which would put UK amphibious capabilities in jeopardy. MPs voiced their concerns that the MoD’s budget cuts are placing the UK’s security at risk.

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Saab’s Q3 results indicate the Swedish company expects to gain from increasing submarine activity in Europe and Asia. Reporting a 10% growth in sales over the first six months of 2017, the company is reaping the rewards of rising European and international defence spending.

Russia continues to bolster its muscle on the sea’s surface, ordering four Project 21980 Granchanok patrol boats. The main use of the boats will be to provide security to the Kerch Strait Bridge, currently under construction, which will eventually connect Crimea with mainland Russia.

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New-generation land warfare has arrived

Russia’s military investment are not just ocean bound as it appears Russian Land Forces units will be trialling the new-generation assault rifles of Kalashnikov dubbed AK-12 and AK-15. The new assault rifles have undergone testing within the frame of the Ratnik future soldier programme which will deliver new-generation high performance personal equipment to a range of Russian forces.

Following a significant boost to its defence budget, Romania continues to invest in modernising its land forces and has signed a MoI for the licenced manufacture of the Piranha IFV, a de facto act of selection of the new-generation wheeled IFV. Talks will take place on the firm delivery contract for an order of 227 Piranha Vs with an 8×8 wheel drive formula.

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Helicopters bought and sold

Remaining in Eastern Europe, the Czech Air Force is expected to receive 12 Bell Helicopter UH-1Y Venoms from the US DoD as part of a $575 million FMS deal. The aircraft are to be reserved for domestic service missions. The announcement suggests the current stock of Mi-8/17s and Mi-24/35s will most likely be retired.

This week Gordon Arthur reported that US Army Apaches stationed in South Korea will hook up with the General Atomics Grey Eagle MALE UAVs over the coming years, as well as boost their cooperation with the new Apaches of the Republic of Korea Army. Read more about Gordon’s visit to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek here.

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While attention turns to Future Vertical Lift as the US Army’s next-generation of aircraft, the AH-64 Apache remains a key platform to the service’s fleet and remains integral to Boeing’s future international sales. With a prospective sale of six Apaches to the Indian Army in the works, the AH-64E is projected to remain in service until at least 2016.

 

 

 

 Training transition

In 2015, the US Army selected the Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakota to replace the Bell Helicopter TH-67 Creek training aircraft under the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI). It was a controversial move for many reasons.

There was scepticism surrounding pilots learning on heavier, dual-engine aircraft as opposed to the lighter, single-engine platforms that the service was used to.

There are currently 150 UH-72As at Fort Rucker, the base for primary flight training. A further 212 Lakotas are in service with the Air National Guard.

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The UH-72A Lakota on display at AUSA 2017 in Washington DC

When the army announced details of the ARI, many analysts argued that the Lakota was too complex an aircraft for novice pilots, due to its twin engines and glass cockpit. Significantly larger in size than the average training helicopter, the type could prove troublesome should new aviators progress to older, analogue models.

However, Airbus noted that the army’s active fleet is made up of twin-engine platforms with glass cockpits. Extra time and costs previously spent training pilots to transition from the original single-engine training platform to an aircraft in service are eliminated by using the Lakota. With the US Army prospectively ordering additional aircraft, the scepticism seems to be no longer part of the procurement dialogue.

Airbus Helicopters was awarded the original UH-72 contract in 2006, and the first aircraft,was delivered in the same year. The 400th Lakota was received by the US Army in August this year, and the type is now entering the final stages of fully replacing the TH-67 Creek as the service’s principal helicopter trainer, as detailed in the ARI.

‘The 400 deliveries have all been on time and on cost which is a pretty significant accomplishment in the defence world,’ said Scott Tumpak, senior director of the Lakota programme at Airbus Helicopters. This year, the company is hoping to continue this success as it aims to complete delivery of 27 aircraft.

‘[We provide] contractor logistics support as well. Right now, we are fielding those aircraft to Fort Rucker for the training mission,’ he added. With regards to the transition from the TH-67 to the Lakota, Tumpak said that the army is ‘flipping’ towards 75% usage of the latter as the ramp-up continues.

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Shephard in the cockpit of the Lakota

He believes that a twin-engine aircraft is a key training platform. ‘If we think about the US Army’s training missions with the current Lakota, it’s optimal for their training mission.’

The breakdown of UH-72s being delivered has been based on the army’s demands, and in one instance, Tumpak said a batch of 55 aircraft were delivered.

More than 460,000 flight hours have been achieved across the Lakota fleet since 2006. Six aircraft are also operated by the Royal Thai Army, and the USN has five examples at its test pilot school in Patuxent River.

Lakotas over Grayling

Tumpak confirmed that there is a possibility that Thailand will take on more aircraft, but could not confirm further details at this stage. In addition, there are other militaries interested in the platform through the FMS route.

However, staying stateside, Tumpak commented that the army ‘has increased its own requirement, and there’s appropriate funding through Congress. We are looking forward to a contract for a further 44 aircraft.’ The army requirement is now at 462 helicopters.

For a full version of this article please see the Nov-Dec edition of DH and for more on our magazines see here.

Black Hawk Dawn

Ex-military helicopter designs entering the commercial market are potentially breathing life into the industry, with CH-47 and UH-60 Black Hawk variants now entering service from North America to Australia.

In August, the US Army Contracting Command Redstone, on behalf of the Utility Helicopters Project Management Office, announced the availability of 14 UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters for sale under the Black Hawk Exchange and Sales Team programme.

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From a Hawk to Orca

This could mean we see more refurbished examples of the type appearing in the civil domain in the next few years worldwide. However, with the market just keeping its head above water following the economic downturn, do these models pose healthy competition or oversupply if taken into the civil sector?

Three years on from the first Black Hawk auction, companies are bringing forth their overhauled aircraft to the commercial market. Some of the major players that refurbish ex-US Army Black Hawks are Arista Aviation, BHI2, Global Aviation Solutions, Rogerson Kratos and Unical Defense.

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The Black Hawk, having been on the frontline of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq as well other theatres, is suited to the hot and high environments of southern European regions during the summer fire season. While refurbished models have already been tasked with firefighting missions, other sectors that could utilise the platforms include SAR, EMS and law enforcement.

Sikorsky Australia recently announced that it will refurbish ten ex-US Army rotorcraft for firefighting and disaster relief operations. The A$63 million ($50 million) contract announced on 27 July will see deliveries of the Black Hawks to StarFlight Australia begin in Q1 2018.

StarFlight, a joint venture that was established in 2015 by LifeFlight and Kaan Air, also holds an option on a further ten helicopters of the same type.

Under the contract, Sikorsky Australia will structurally refurbish the aircraft and install new engines, main and tail rotor gearboxes and drivetrain and a new rescue hoist. The cockpit will be upgraded with a helicopter terrain awareness and warning system.

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What will be interesting to see is if these helicopters really establish themselves in the European market or if they are held up by regulations as they convert to civil usage. It is likely that the red tape might just delay things, and operators might experience hassle here.

In March 2017, Sikorsky confirmed at Heli-Expo that it is committed to serving the growing technical and logistical support needs of more than 30 commercial operators who have acquired surplus UH-60A.

Also at the show, Darrell Kindley, CEO of Global Aviation Solutions, told RH that the Acehawk, one of the company’s refurbished Black Hawks, was expected to receive its STC by the Q2 2018.

The Acehawk is a retrofit kit available for UH-60A/Ls and S-70 aircraft, and the aircraft is to be marketed worldwide as well as in the US.

The Acehawk cockpit features four 12in, 4K displays and two touchscreen controllers, panoramic view and aynthetic vision technology, and the option to integrate third-party radios, sensors and other mission equipment without affecting the G5000H core software.

The Black Hawk is a robust and versatile helicopter, which has more than proven itself in the military arena. However, with a civil market bustling with new platforms and legacy medium to heavy aircraft fairly capable of undertaking firefighting missions, the Black Hawk will have to get its claws in pretty deep to prove it is not a flighty bird and will be able to stay the long term in the civil market.

Drone regulation debacle drags on

‘Hurry up and get on with it’ was the message from one member of the European Parliament (MEP) to the European Commission as she spoke about drone regulation at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference last week.

In 2016 we reported on some of the squabbles over drone regulation in the EU Parliament. Since then some progress has been made but things just are not moving fast enough for some MEPs.

November 2016 saw MEPs back draft EU rules on drones and emerging risks, which would bring drones within the EU civil aviation framework for the first time among other directives.

Part of new EU rules to ensure safety and privacy

The draft rules would also empower the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to issue directives and recommendations to address risks that might arise from unlawful acts or from flight paths that cross regions that are the scene of armed conflict.

But since then progress has been slow.

The European parliamentarian said her message to the European Commission is ‘you need to get a move on…we do need a bit of action I would suggest’.

She also suggested that some regulation should be looked at on a case by case basis. ‘Rather than strict rules that would regulate the industry out of existence.’

One thing that is not helpful to the pursuit of drone regulation are negative press stories including the recent collision between an unmanned platform and small passenger plane over Québec City.

‘Those headlines are not helpful…we do not need the bad publicity,’ the MEP said.

As Europe tries to push forward on rules and regulation some nations are already forward looking. For instance the UK already has rules that are being implemented and is exploring measures to curtail the misuse of drones, including penalty fines.

The current rules and regulations from the European Union can be found here and we will continue to cover developments, if and when they happen.

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