Category Archives: Latest Quills

The World According to Shephard: Week 49

Pick of the week:

As Brexit negotiations rumble on in Brussels, Neil Thompson reported on the recent European Defence Industry Summit (EDIS). Designed to bring together speakers to discuss Europe’s security situation, European representatives were noticeably missing, with US-based Raytheon left to represent the European defence industry’s interests.

Obstacles to realising greater integration of European defence industries include funding, transparency with NATO and how to facilitate greater interoperability.

Eurofighter.jpg

The Clarence speaks

Despite the pomp and circumstance of the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the future of UK shipbuilding is at a juncture. As HMS Queen Elizabeth enters service and construction on the Prince of Wales nears completion the challenge will be to maintain the skills developed throughout the programme. Another challenge, The Clarence argues, will be to retain the manpower and funds necessary to maintain and run the carriers.

Making a splash

The Royal Navy is not the only maritime force to welcome a new ship this week, the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency launched its fourth 600t Hingol-class maritime patrol vessel. The armed boat, which began construction in May 2016, will help patrol Pakistan’s EEZ, undertake maritime security and perform search and rescue missions.

Meanwhile Michal Jarocki reports from Warsaw on the renaissance of the Polish Navy as it celebrates its 99th anniversary with a commissioning ceremony for the ORP Ormoran (601) minehunter. The vessel is the first warship in over 20 years to be designed and built in Poland.

Poland

The Canadian Surface Combat project has not seen such successes this week after encountering its latest rough patch. The Canadian government publicly rejected proposals not submitted through the formal process. The announcement followed a Naval Group statement in which it proposed an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution based on the FREMM frigate design to the Canadian government.

Drones dominate wish lists

The Indian military’s desire for UAVs will be boosted with further RfPs as the country aims for integrated army, navy and air force purchases of MALE and HALE UAVs. This demand is likely to be met through new industry activity, after Dynamic Technologies signed a cooperation agreement with IAI for the production, assembly and support of mini-UAVs in India.

Meanwhile, Poland has become the latest buyer of WB Group’s Warmate loitering munition. The UAS has received considerable interest from customers across the world and has already been used in combat. The Polish order includes 100 loitering munitions with deliveries expected to being in the coming weeks.

Warmate c

Record rotary rates

Poland is not only in search of UAS, but is also perceived as a prime export market for Bell Helicopter’s AH-1ZViper. Bell is continuing its efforts to convince the Polish government that it will successfully execute the Polish military’s attack helicopter programme ‘Kruk’. Bell is also offering its UH-1Y Venom to fulfil the Polish Army’s requirement for a modern, multirole utility helicopter.

The AH-64E Apache Guardian is tipped to reach ‘historically high’ production figures of up to 100 aircraft a year by 2021. The projection is based on a ramping up of international orders which would see production rise from its current level of 70 platforms a year. Boeing expects to close a number of international sales within the next six months.

 

Stimulating simulation and tantalising training at I/ITSEC 2017

The simulation and training industry’s annual showcase, I/ITSEC, always proves to be a great show for the Shephard team. We are happy to admit that the event does not bring hard-hitting news every year but there is still plenty of updates, opinions and new products for the team to cover and here we’ve selected some of our top stories and videos from the week for you to cast your eyes over.

For the first time this year we saw a fast boat simulator amongst the aircraft trainers and virtual reality kit.

Meanwhile, one of the US Air Force’s most lucrative training programmes, the TX Advanced Pilot Training Programme, continued to see the three main competitors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Leonardo DRS, fight it out.

As part of the TX programme UK company, EDM, showcased a Martin-Baker Mk18 ejection seat. The company is offering training Mk18 seats for the US Air Force’s T-X programme ground based training system element.

Back on the ground, Pratt & Miller Defense debuted the newest addition to its Trackless Moving Targets (TMT) family with a solution that replicates infantry forces moving on the battlefield. The TMT-Infantry variant is currently being funded by the US Army’s PEO STRI office through a Rapid Innovation Fund.

Finally, the show brought a new element to its annual live, virtual and constructive exercise, Operation Blended Warrior, with various international partners, mainly Swedish companies, taking part in the exercise for the first time. 

As always you can catch up on the news at the Shephard Media website and we’ll see you in Orlando for I/ITSEC 2018!

 

The World According to Shephard: Week 48

This week has demonstrated that the world of military simulation is very much alive and flourishing as the Shephard team has spent the week in Orlando bringing you all the latest news from the industry’s annual meet. You can find all of the coverage from I/ITSEC here.

Armed to the hilt

The US Air Force’s MQ-9 Reapers are to get an ammunition boost with the integration of small diameter bombs onto the platforms. General Atomics was awarded a $17.5 million contract to kit out the UAS with GBU-39Bs.

Meanwhile the H145M will begin live fire tests of Airbus Helicopter’s HForce weapon system loaded with Thales’ FZ275 laser guided rockets. The new live fire tests follow on from successful ballistic development testing of the system.

BREAKING: New Block 5 MQ-9 debuts in combat

‘The secret of war lies in the communications’

Napoleon’s tools of communication may have looked dramatically different from today’s but their importance on the battlefield has not changed. Last week saw Thales demonstrate its new family of Software Defined Radios, Synaps, which they believe represents the future of ‘collaborative combat’ for the modern connected military.

Australia has approved Project Land 200 Tranche 2 as the country pushes to digitalise its armed forces with a new battlefield command system for the army. The system will enable commanders to plan, monitor, direct and review operations in real time.

Thales

Shipbuilders back in business

The second of the Mexican Navy’s updated Oaxaca-class patrol vessels has been commissioned into its fleet. This comes at the end of a year that has seen the navy’s fleet expanded considerably with new patrol vessels as significant investments have been made in the country’s critical infrastructure and shipbuilding capability.

Meanwhile in Indonesia the shipbuilder PT Palindo Marine launched a 110m OPV designed for the country’s coast guard agency. Indonesia has been developing its indigenous shipbuilding expertise and is soon likely to see the navy’s seventh landing platform dock begin construction.

Indonesia_OPV_-_small

Saab Kockums has begun construction on parts of the hull for the Royal Swedish navy’s new A26 class submarine. Saab is also upgrading the RSN’s Gotland-class submarines with a new combat management system and other capabilities which will be carried across to the A26.

How to solve a problem like drones

The European Parliament and European Council reached an informal agreement this week to introduce union-wide rules on the civil use of unmanned systems. The design and manufacture of UVs will have to comply with EU basic requirements on safety, security and data protection.

Also in Europe, Endeavor Robotics has delivered 44 FirstLook UGVs to Germany as the company continues to enjoy a bumper year. The UGV, which can be dropped from 16ft onto hard surfaces without sustaining damage, is used by a wide range of civil, parapublic and military customers around the world and has won a number of large contracts with the US.

FirstLook

 

US Cyber Command falls short

In the years since Daesh first swept across Syria and northern Iraq the group has forced some the world’s largest militaries to dramatically re-evaluate their warfighting strategies and capabilities.

Daesh emerged as a thoroughly modern insurgency, exploiting the connected world to communicate securely, sustain its income, disseminate propaganda and coordinate local and global attacks.

In response the US had to rapidly formulate a strategy designed to disrupt the group’s cyber-based lifeline in conjunction with more traditional efforts to push Daesh out of its territorial strongholds.

Carter

However, Ash Carter, Defence Secretary from 2015 to 2017 has voiced his opinion on the shortfalls of the US’ cyber war against ISIS in a damning report for the Belfer Centre.

During his tenure at the Department of Defence, Carter grappled with how best to confront the multifaceted threat posed by Daesh which included the launching of offensive cyber operations for the first time since CYBERCOM was established in 2009.

The results and effectiveness of such operations were, in his opinion, disappointing.

‘[CYBERCOM] never produced any effective cyber weapons or techniques…None of our agencies showed very well in the cyber fight,’ Carter stated in the report.

According to Carter the intelligence community unnecessarily delayed and disrupted CYBERCOM’s attempts to launch offensive cyber-attacks.

‘The intelligence community tended to delay or try to prevent its use, claiming cyber operations would hinder intelligence collection.’

Badge

The issue of the ‘dual hat’ command has been one of the primary stumbling blocks to creating an effective CYBERCOM.

This dual hat has created friction between the two bodies on whether offensive cyber operations or the NSA’s intelligence gathering efforts should be prioritised.

Despite President Donald Trump’s August announcement that the command has been elevated to a unified combatant command, CYBERCOM continues to share its commander with the NSA.

The current Defence Secretary, Gen James Mattis is overseeing a review into the separation of USCYBERCOM from the National Security Agency (NSA) in an effort to streamline and centralise US cyber strategy.

It is likely that the review will recommend a split, however it remains to be seen whether such a move would end the conflict of interest between CYBERCOM and NSA which has so far neutered US abilities to wage effective offensive cyber operations.

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 47

Sunshine state showcasing the best in simulation and training

16,000 attendees are set to descend on Orlando, Florida from Monday onwards as the curtain is lifted on I/ITSEC 2017. As ever the Shephard team will be in position to report on breaking developments across the week. We wouldn’t dare keep you salivating for stories until then… Pre-event, the big news is that six C-130J weapon system trainer (WST) simulators are set to be delivered to various US air bases throughout 2020 and 2021.

For show coverage, make sure to check out the dedicated Shephard I/ITSEC news site here.

Sikorsky’s South American offshore springboard

Having studied the reform of the Mexican energy market closely, Sikorsky are anticipating that their trusted heavy S-92 type will see increased sales in the country. In their view, oil and gas companies remain prime candidates for developing offshore growth as the industry continue to buy up lease blocs for exploration purposes – further and further from the Mexican coast.

Croatian’s continue to test OH-58D firepower

The 93rd Croatian Air Force and Air Defence has been putting its Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior type through its paces by way of a tactical group live firing and rocket launching exercise. A range of weapons were used during the session as pilots – flying in pairs – used the 12.7mm machine gun, the Hydra 70mm unguided rocket, Hellfire missile, and Heckler-Koch G-36CV gun. Having taken charge of directing the exercise, US instructors will now take their leave of Air Base Zemunik.

Welcome Swedish steer for surface vessels

SAAB is working to create a fleet of new surface vessels for the Royal Swedish Navy and is confident the project will result in new maritime capabilities being delivered. Such confidence is supported by the process receiving the backing of Swedish FOI and FMV military design and procurement agencies. One platform to be publicised by officials at a Saab site, next to the Swedish naval base in Karlskrona, was a 100m stretched Visby-class corvette. Potential capability enhancement across the Visby class include surface, sub-surface and anti-air warfare.

Right move for Curtiss-Wright

US manufacturer Curtiss-Wright is in discussion with a number of customers as it looks to expand its display business in the ground vehicle sector. To such ends the company are now preparing customer demonstrations of its Ground Vehicle Display Unit. Customers can take their pick from a selection of LCD mission displays including a 18cm system, ideal for viewing a reverse camera feed, or invest in a larger screen that provides a complete situational awareness picture based on a variety of different camera feeds.

 

 

 

BHA chair sets sights on European defence axis

SMF12-G-233945-Apache AH 64E ground to air shoot in the Arizona

Picking over the bones of the UK government’s recent bickering with Boeing, Sir Chris Coville, chair of the British Helicopter Association, makes one thing very clear: the issuing of threats to potentially end helicopter defence contracts are not in the least credible.

He’s unmoved and less than convinced the episode will have any lasting impact on current business arrangements between the two parties.

‘I think you should only issue a threat if you’re prepared to carry it out and in this case, neither side can honestly say they’re prepared to cut business ties with the other,’ he said.

To recap, relations between the opposing sides began to sour following the US Department of Commerce’s decision to place a preliminary 219% trade tariff on Bombardier.

That decision, as Shephard reported, centered on Bombardier’s 2016 deal with Delta Air Lines, as Boeing’s complaint alleged such a deal was improper and made possible by virtue of Canadian government subsidies.

Since the original ruling, the UK government has criticised Boeing for its role in the affair, holding the company accountable for instigating proceedings in order to push construction costs of C-series aircraft to $61 million per aircraft, a figure three times higher than Delta received them for.

Adding to the UK government’s opposition is the fact that 1,000 jobs at Bombardier’s Belfast base would be jeopardised in the event that the tariff was imposed long-term.

Bombardier-belfast-quill

Only last year the UK completed a $2.9 billion deal for the manufacturer to deliver 50 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to bolster UK defence capabilities.

Beyond the ramifications of any future problems between Boeing and the UK government, however, Coville is insistent that the more immediate concern for the BHA is overcoming a distinct lack of research and development domestically.

‘We must sustain a design and development capability of combat aircraft,’ he explains.

‘One of the problems we are currently having after following the [Lockheed Martin] F-35B route is that although we are going to build 15% of the global requirement, we are doing it the same way French and Japanese cars are made in the UK. In other words, the parts arrive and we put them together.’

He sees an inherent problem to working this way – falling victim to market forces.

The assembly of parts can be carried out anywhere and once another plant lowers its prices, there’s very little to stop contractors moving their business to a new base.

‘Think of it like building cars in Detroit. Once it becomes too expensive to do so you move production to Mexico City,’ Coville says.

bombardier-c-series-quill

‘When that becomes too expensive you move again to Caracas and gradually – as happened in Detroit – you’re eventually at the bottom of the pile and out of business.’

The logic seems watertight. Leave yourself without the capacity to design products independently and sooner rather than later, you’ll be left treading water.

It’s for this reason as well as developing sustainable revenue streams that he wants to establish a meaningful dialogue with France and Germany, who he sees as the leaders in European attack aircraft platforms.

Even within the context of Brexit – the UK’s pending withdrawal from the EU – he envisions a venture where the UK can ally with France and Germany to create a collaboration of mutual benefit.

‘I don’t see why a working partnership couldn’t be successful post-Brexit. Mainly because we have gone down the F-35 route, the French have turned to Germany and together they will probably be developing some kind of first-class platform in the future,’ he explains.

F-35 at FIDAE

‘I see no reason why the UK shouldn’t be part of that. The ability to make things with partners is essential – ideally with European partners – otherwise, you are overwhelmed by the United States and making sure those capabilities have an attraction to the export market.’

Cynics will assume such an approach to be a precocious one – as political and economic links between the UK and the rest of Europe remain frosty at best – but the astute judgment of the BHA in determining that conventional and current strategies are not always having desired outcomes, clearly shows they are attempting to reshape the defence helicopter agenda through creativity and guile.

Boeing buys another unmanned enterprise

Today’s big industry news sees Boeing expand its autonomous portfolio with the announcement that it is to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences.

Alongside Aurora, Boeing also added Liquid Robotics to its unmanned portfolio in December 2016. Liquid Robotics told me that it had been working more closely with Boeing’s other unmanned subsidiary, Insitu, on teaming unmanned sea and air assets together.

The acquisition of smaller outfits by large defence and aerospace companies has long been a trend in unmanned markets across the land, sea and air domains. Notably in 2016 General Dynamics Mission Systems acquired Bluefin Robotics and back in 2012 Lockheed Martin bought Procerus Technologies and now markets the Indago UAS.

With the unmanned marketplace containing many smaller companies, a visit to this year’s Xponential highlighted this, we are likely to see this type of consolidation continue.

The Boeing and Aurora teams have already worked together on various unmanned projects. Aurora has designed, produced and flown more than 30 unmanned air vehicles since the company was founded in 1989.

We spoke with Aurora earlier this year about one of its projects which it is developing with DARPA, the XV-24A UAS.

Watch this space because there is sure to be more to come.