Tag Archives: israel

The World According to Shephard: Week 44

NATO SOF prepare for battle

NATO special operations forces have taken part in an exercise across eastern Europe  involving scenarios loosely based on recent Russian incursions into Ukraine. The exercise was designed to enable NATO and non-NATO entity special forces to counter an invasion by an enemy force as well as ‘diversionary’ forces.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hosted its ThunderDrone Prototype Rodeo, the culmination of the first in a series of rapid prototyping events that began in September. The results are expected to go beyond the physical drone with its mechanical features, autonomy, swarming and machine learning all being explored.

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Swarms of unmanned requirements

The Australian Army is also enhancing its aerial unmanned capabilities with the procurement of FLIR Systems’ PD-100 Black Hornet 2 nano-UAVs. The deal will increase the Army’s Black Hornet fleet to over 150 providing enough to equip every army combat team at the platoon and troop level with an organic reconnaissance capability.

The US Navy’s requirement for an unmanned Carrier-Based Aerial-Refuelling System has hit a bump in the road after Northrop Grumman withdrew from the MQ-25 Stingray programme following changes to the programme requirements. There is a risk that further changes could see other competitors to follow suit.

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Meanwhile in Israel the country’s first commercialised AUV, the HydroCamel II has completed over 250 hours of sea trials in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the system’s developers at Ben-Gurion University, the AUV’s autonomy and manoeuvrability capabilities set it apart from its competitors.

Watching the ships roll in

Above sea the Ukrainian coast guard is bolstering its fleet by purchasing up to 25 new high-speed patrol boats. The acquisition is part of Ukraine’s strategy for maritime security at each seaport to be ensured by a squadron of boats including unmanned patrol boats, a patrol attack boat, a high-speed interceptor, a coast guard boat and a new trimaran.

However in the UK the Royal Navy found itself in hot water this week after the National Audit Office published its investigation into equipment cannibalisation in the navy. The report found that between April 2012 and March 2017 there was a 49% increase in the practice with 60% of instances occurring between 2016 and 2017.

Picture are, on the left RFA GOLD ROVER, and on her right HMS LANCASTER sailing together on Atlantic Patrol Task (South) duties.

In Poland it has emerged that the Polish Navy may be forced to decommission its only Kilo-class submarine, ORP Orzel after a fire broke out on the boat. The fire is believed to have begun while crew members were discharging the submarine’s batteries while moored in the north of the country.

The digital battlespace

Moving into the digital world where the defence industry may be on the brink of a revolution as blockchain service providers  report increasing levels of interest from the industry. While the exact nature and extent of the impact blockchain will have remains uncertain, it is clear that this technology is here to stay.

Meanwhile Thales is in the process of analysing logged data from the recent Formidable Shield ballistic missile defence exercise to see if modifications made to its SMART-L Multi Mission radar can further enhance the technology. During the exercise the radar was able to detect the missile from a distance of 1,500km.

Thales

In the race to advance electronic warfare capabilities the US is expediting efforts to field technology into theatre that enables critical vehicle systems to remain functional in GPS-denied environments. GPS signals are increasingly vulnerable to jamming or spoofing by adversaries such as Russia who are actively deploying advanced EW capabilities.

 

Overmatch under threat?

As militaries continue to field increasingly sophisticated equipment, and digitisation across the battlespace becomes the norm, it’s easy to overlook the innovations still taking place in the fundamental – and sometimes basic – technologies of warfare, which do not venture into the realm of zeros and ones.

This is particularly the case for small arms ammunition, which despite being around for centuries and a core requirement for troops – along with food and water – is still subject to continual engineering developments that aim to increase lethality, while also decreasing the burden for the soldier in terms of weight and load.

The 5.56mm cartridge has been the standard option for small arms calibres for several decades since its introduction by the US with the M16 rifle in the 1960s and its consequent standardisation across NATO. However, recent conflicts have exposed shortfalls with the round.

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Fit for purpose?

While the ammunition does provide several advantages, including a high muzzle velocity and low weight – allowing troops to carry significantly more rounds than if equipped with heavier 7.62mm cartridges – many have questioned whether 5.56mm is really the optimum choice for NATO armies today especially as near-peer armies field newer-generation body-worn armour, which includes ceramic strike plates, and as engagement ranges increase beyond the effective range of 5.56mm. Together, that means that the round no longer has the stopping power desired to effectively neutralise enemy combatants.

Of course, this worry is not new and has been the subject of many debates and scientific studies, not least when the ammunition was moving towards NATO standardisation. However, with the reasons mentioned above, many now consider the 5.56mm as potentially obsolete, meaning that squads have ultimately lost an all-important overmatch capability.

The US Army is leading the way when it comes to finding alternative solutions, including new calibres and lighter weight technologies, which is explored in more depth in the Oct/Nov issue of Land Warfare International.

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The service has expressed an interest in a new Interim Combat Service Rifle, with solicitations stating that it will be chambered in 7.62mm, rather than 5.56mm. Nevertheless, there are still questions concerning weight and the efficacy of this more powerful ammunition against modern ceramic armour.

If there is an eventual switchover to 7.62mm, or even an intermediate calibre such as 6.5mm, by the US Army, it would conclude an almost 50-year relationship with the 5.56mm round that began with the fielding of the M16.

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Getting active

Active protection systems are another hot topic in the land warfare domain. In the future, this could supplement existing armour technologies – both active and passive – and provide an extra layer of protection to vehicles in order to increase survivability.

APS technologies can sense incoming threats and automatically dispense a countermeasure, which in a ‘hard-kill’ configuration comprises an explosive projectile fired from the host vehicle, destroying a missile before impact. The equipment has already been fielded by the Israelis and is likely to be in service with the Russian and Chinese armies in the very near future.

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Much like the ammunition debate, there’s a worry in some circles that near-peer adversaries (Russia and China) could steal a march on the US in this domain, meaning that the US Army loses another aspect of its overmatch capabilities. APS could reduce the effectiveness of anti-tank weapons including shoulder-fired weapons, as well as new-generation tank munitions being fielded.

In an attempt to catch up, the US Army has tested several APS technologies this year, including the now-famous Trophy system from Israel, and there’s a possibility that the service could announce the purchase of APS equipment for fielding very soon. Shephard understands that fielding APS remains a key priority for service chiefs and recent testing has only served to strengthen that stance.

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Yet even if the US Army decide to invest in APS, there will still be challenges when it comes to full integration with vehicle mission systems, which is a concern for all armies today as platforms become more digitised.

Ammunition and APS occupy two ends of the technology spectrum, one decades-old technology and the other a new and highly advanced system. However, both flag up areas where Western technological and tactical advantage is slowly eroding, and this doesn’t stop at APS and ammunition. There are a whole host of technologies where this is the case, demonstrating that Western overmatch can no longer be taken for granted.

To read the latest Oct/Nov edition of Land Warfare International, download our app from Google Play Store or Apple iTunes. You can also read the latest online land warfare news here

The world according to Shephard: Week 34

Taiwan shows off defence systems

This week Charles Au and Wendell Minnick have been exploring the wide range of defence systems on display at TADTE 2017 in Taipei. Charles’ eye was caught by NCSIST’s Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) designed to be used for airport and border security.

According to our report, the system is able to block or jam UAV control frequencies so as to disrupt threats in the air at ranges of up to 2km and interfere with GPS signals out to 10km.

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NCSIST doesn’t only have UAVs in its sights, as they were also exhibiting a point air defence system. The hard-kill weapon system was inspired by the Skyguard area defence system and is designed to eliminate fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, cruise missiles and anti-radiation missiles.

Charles also discusses the latest developments of Taiwan’s Sea Oryx missile system as the R&D phase of the project is about to be finalised while Wendell reveals details of Taiwan’s interest in the F-35.

2nd LAAD Conducts Stinger Live Fire Training Exercises

However, air defence systems are not a hot topic in Taiwan alone, as Latvia has sealed a deal to acquire a number of Stinger air defence systems from the Danish Armed Forces. Latvia expects to receive the missiles and launcher systems in the first half of 2018 when the deal is to be completed.

Unmanned market growth is costly for some 

As the demand for unmanned vehicles continues to expand, the number of platform demonstrations has risen with it. However, demonstrations come at a cost, as Beth Maundrill found out this week when she spoke with a senior campaign leader for autonomy at Qinetiq about ‘unusual and sometimes disruptive’ technologies.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force has indicated that its Hermes 900 UAV, known as Kochav, is now operational following crew and flight integration tests. The test series have seen the aircraft fly over 20 sorties and resulted in the simultaneous qualification of the platform’s squadron.

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Bringing things back to earth, it has emerged that the MoD has moved to secure the terrain for its forces in future areas of operations after awarding Harris with a contract for EOD robots. The £55.3 million ($70.6 million) contract will see a number of T7 multi-mission robotic systems produced for the armed forces in the coming years.

Helicopter fleets expand

But it’s not all about unmanned systems this week as it emerged that Boeing has been awarded a contract to deliver eight CH-47F Chinooks as part of a wider multiyear deal with Saudi Arabia. The heavy lift helicopters, which have proved popular with a variety of armed forces around the world, will be delivered to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command.

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Turkey is also expanding its attack helicopter fleet and has now taken delivery of 23 of TAI’s T129 ATAK helicopters out of a total of 59. With 36 aircraft still to be received by Turkey’s armed forces, orders are anticipated to be delivered into 2020 at a rate of one aircraft per month.

A TAI spokesperson also informed Shephard that international interest in the aircraft is expected to transform into orders with prospects stretching into the Middle East and Asia.

US Navy makes the headlines again

It was a bruising week for the US Navy which in the wake of a collision involving the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker off the coast of Malaysia has resulted in the Commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet being relieved of his duties and an operational pause called across the Navy.

I look into the wider, geopolitical implications of the incident as it comes at a time of heightened tensions and competition between naval forces across the Pacific.

USS John S. McCain arrives at Changi Naval Base

Across the Atlantic, the UK MoD has awarded a contract for 20 additional flattops to be delivered by 31 January next year. The vessel will be smaller scale models of the 280m behemoths which are currently under construction and will be distributed among key Foreign Office sites.

The UK Border Force is also expanding its fleet with two additional coastal patrol vessels (CPV) expected to be operational by 2018. Once in service the six CPVs will join the Border Force’s four larger cutters and the Protector-class patrol vessel.

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Finally, across the Channel in Europe, the green light has been given for Germany and Norway to cooperate on future naval defence equipment, including the procurement of new submarines.

The world according to Shephard: Week 32

Despite August’s title as the ‘silly season’ it has been anything but that for Shephard Media as the world of aerospace and defence shows no signs of slowing down.

Out with the old, in with the new

The New Zealand Defence Force is seeking replacement explosive ordnance disposal robots. The new UGVs and neutralisation systems will be used for civil, military and counter-terrorism scenarios by the New Zealand Army’s EOD detachment, or ‘Bomb Squad’.

NZ bomb squad

Meanwhile the Brazilian army has received its first VBTP-MR Guarani 6×6 amphibious armoured vehicle equipped with a 30mm remote-controlled weapon station. The army’s 15th Mechanised Infantry Brigade became the first active unit to receive the vehicle and is part of a new tranche of 1,580 Guarani vehicles now being delivered.

New unmanned technology is currently being developed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and IAI. The new unmanned MMMWV was publicised in a video released by the IDF. Beth Maundrill spoke with IAI about the new technology. Read Beth’s blog here.

Finally, this week the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) said a farewell to its Heron, as it flew its last mission ahead of its withdrawal from service. The RAAF’s No. 5 Flight which was responsible for the Heron mission in Afghanistan will be disbanded at the end of the year. The RAAF is acquiring a replacement capability through Project AIR 7003 which is scheduled to be delivered after 2020.

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Up in the air

This week Helen Haxell looked into the ups and downs of the military and civil helicopter markets for the first half of 2017.

Helen reported that the last six months in the civil helicopter sector have witnessed significant recovery with flight returns, concept aircraft and new platforms dominating the commercial market. She commented that ‘if last year was the ‘annus horribilis’ for the civil helicopter sector that notion has definitely not crept into 2017.’

As for the military helicopter sector it has been a frantic year so far. As progress has continued across US military helicopter programmes, the Black Hawk has garnered the majority of headlines with developments in the Middle East and across Asia-Pacific.

Black Hawk Landscape

Plain sailing?  

In the UK, preparations for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth ramp up as vessels and personnel from the navy and Royal Marines take part in the NATO Exercise Saxon Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

Across the Atlantic in South America, the Mexican Navy has continued its patrol vessel fleet expansion as it strives to tackle a wide range of challenges from cartels and narcotics activities to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Richard Thomas looks into the navy’s latest Tenochtitlan-class patrol vessel, the ARM Bonampak which is well suited to operations in the littorals and EEZs.

While in the Arabian Gulf, US Navy patrol ships assigned to Patrol Coastal Squadron One have carried out proficiency fire testing of their MK 60 Griffin Missile Systems. Five vessels launched surface-to-surface Griffin missiles at moving target sleds to demonstrate their ability to hit surface targets such as small boats.

Coastal Patrol Ships Conduct Test Fire of Griffin Missile System in Arabian Gulf

CombatGuard – Straight from Mad Max

IMI CombatGuard - smallThere were some interesting developments at the Defence & Security 2015 exhibition in Bangkok from 2-5 November. Chaiseri showed an updated First Win and announced an export to the Philippines, while the DTI Black Widow Spider 8×8 armoured vehicle is showing signs of maturing.

There was only one outdoors exhibit, but what an exhibit it was when it strutted (putted) its way around an obstacle course with ease! Indeed, Israel Military Industries (IMI) had brought its CombatGuard extreme off-road armoured vehicle to Asia for the first time.

The 4×4 CombatGuard would look very much at home in a Mad Max movie thanks to its impressive appearance and size. With a maximum combat weight of 8t (including a 2t payload), it has a remarkable 700mm ground clearance and it runs on massive 54-inch tyres.

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A driver took the CombatGuard over an obstacle course near the Impact Exhibition centre venue, including 45º slopes, a fascine bundle, a torture track and, ultimately, a car-crushing spectacle. The Israeli vehicle took every single one of these obstacles in its stride. Its ability to drive over and crush cars illustrated its suitability for operations in an urban environment.

IMI previously introduced CombatGuard at Eurosatory 2014 (video here), but a spokesman revealed to Shephard that it has already found a customer. With the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) providing feedback to IMI during the vehicle’s development, it may be surmised that the IDF is the initial client.

The vehicle takes lessons learned from Israel’s recent conflicts and persistent security threats, offering high manoeuvrability with good protection levels. Perceived roles include border patrol, scout, command, combat intelligence collection and communications support.

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The first prototype was a two-door fast attack vehicle, while the second variant appearing in Bangkok was a longer 4-door assault vehicle. Options include the fitting of IMI’s Bright Arrow active protection system and a remote-controlled weapon station if you really want to beef up its firepower.

The monocoque armoured capsule fitted onto a custom space frame chassis can contain up to eight personnel, while a V-shaped plate underneath provides protection against mines and improvised explosive devices.

The vehicle can achieve speeds of 150km/h on roads thanks to a General Motors 6.5-litre turbodiesel engine producing 300hp. The CombatGuard uses a racing-type four-speed semi-automatic transmission, and it has two transfer cases.

No front or rear overhang means that the vehicle offers an approach/departure angle of 90°, and it can climb vertical steps up to 800mm high. It can easily handle a 70% gradient, and ford water up to 1.5m deep just in case you need to cross some rivers.

All in all, the CombatGuard is an ideal vehicle to overcome Bangkok’s traffic jams, or pretty much any military scenario you might find yourself in.

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Which is the best battle tank?

Now is the time to decide what your favourite tank is. There are a series of MBTs in use by armies around the world – some older than others, some undergoing extensive upgrade programmes.

Here we have outlined the eight main operational MBTs and some of their characteristics. While it is difficult to make definitive comparisons due to the number of variables, all the same, take a look. What do you think? Which is the best?

The top eight main battle tanks and their characteristics - click to enlarge

The top eight main battle tanks and their characteristics – click to enlarge

An obvious contender for the top spot is the American M1 Abrams, built by General Dynamics Land Systems. The tank has been widely exported, upgraded regularly by the US Army and has been proven on operations and in combat.

Germany’s Leopard 2 is also up there – it has also been successful in the export market but is more expensive to upgrade because the overall fleet is smaller and will need company and German government funding. They have been deployed but combat experience is more limited.

Israel’s Merkava is often touted as one of the most effective tanks, but it has been designed for a specific theatre of operations – homeland defence and security – and has never been deployed on expeditionary operations or seen combat against other tanks.

In Europe there is the British Challenger II, French Leclerc – both about to receive upgrades – and Italy’s C1 Ariete, due to be replaced from this year with a C2 variant. All have been deployed overseas.

Russia’s tanks are starting to see some operational experience and they have been widely exported, which is why the T-90S and T-72M1 are included but, like Chinese tanks, it is more difficult to get data about their performance and they have not taken part in any significant battles.

Russian and Chinese tanks that have been exported and used by other armies have usually been hammered by Western MBTs, such as Iraq in the First and Second Gulf Wars.

The two main Asian tanks, South Korea’s K2 and the Japanese Type 10, have also been left out as they have not been deployed out of the homeland or seen much combat experience – although they would be worth including in a more extensive list.

Other contenders that did not make it this time are the PT-91 from Poland and the Ukrainian Oplot, but feel free to highlight them if you think they deserve mention.

There are a lot of technical statistics and whilst technology plays a role, so does troop morale and training. A great tank is only as good as its operators, much the same as any piece of kit.

In Europe, Turkey is building the Altay and this will be the first new European MBT in some time. Germany has been planning a new Leopard III MBT, but this could be put into a new European tank developed by the Nexter-KMW joint venture KANT. The plan is to replace the German Leopard 2 and French Leclerc, and Germany needs a partner on this as building just 300 tanks solely for its own army is not cost effective enough.

Meanwhile, India is trying to get along with the Arjun, but has recently proposed a Future Ready Combat Vehicle programme to replace its T-72s. Elsewhere, Russia is developing the Armata, Poland has the PL-01 DSV on the cards and in Asia China is developing the MBT-3000 tank and Korea the Medium Tank.

So what do we think – which is the best on our list and why?