Tag Archives: UAV

Regulations likely to drone on and on

During a US Army Black Hawk and DJI Phantom 4 UAV collision in September last year, the helicopter sustained damage to its main rotor blade, window frame and transmission deck while parts of the UAV were discovered lodged in its engine oil cooler.

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At the time an FAA temporary flight restriction was in place, in keeping with good practice which stipulates, ‘travel is limited because of a temporary hazardous condition, such as a wildfire or chemical spill; a security-related event…’

In this case a UN General Assembly meeting, with US President Trump in attendance, was being held in New York City.

Under other FAA restrictions all UAV flight is prohibited ‘from the ground up to 400ft’ and within five miles of an airport or helipad.

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So far, so good. Ostensibly laws are water tight. That is until state level compliance is considered.

New York is a particularly interesting test case as there is no state level regulations prohibiting UAV flight, despite the fact that several civil suits involving drone operators have been brought before the courts. ‘Reckless endangerment’ is often the charge sought by the prosecution when these cases are being debated.

New York City’s government website takes an unequivocal position, which reads, ‘If you see a drone being flown in the city, call 911.’

In contrast, the city’s department of parks and recreation website features the various locations where UAVs can be flown freely.

Allowances, it seems, cannot be made for those who wish to plead ignorance with respect to UAV ownership and responsible flying. The NTSB’s investigative report into the original September incident detailed several errors admitted to by the DJI Phantom 4 owner.

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A summary of the report states, ‘The drone operator was unaware of the collision until an NTSB investigator contacted him. The operator was also not aware of temporary flight restrictions that were in place at the time because of presidential travel and a UN general assembly session. He was flying recreationally and did not hold an FAA remote pilot certificate.’

Without more stringent regulations questions remain, even from this one incident where there were thankfully no injuries sustained by the Black Hawk aircrew or members of the public.

Who will pay for the damages caused to the helicopter? Will the US Army have to rethink how they organise and execute security centered missions when in close proximity to the civil population? Do thresholds of 400ft and upwards and five miles outside of an airport/helipad have to be similarly reassessed?

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The world according to Shephard: Week 1

As the wheels of industry turn once more – entering a new year in the process – the first week of 2018 has been typically full of aerospace and defence developments. As ever, Shephard has been at the coalface to bring you the best stories over the last week.

Taiwan tested by UAV delay

Technical development issues are playing havoc with Taiwan’s series production of its Teng Yun (Cloud Rider) MALE UAV. The type is expected to be introduced to the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) but according to a Ministry of National Defense source that objective remains several years away.

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Charles Au reports that the ROCAF has been ‘somewhat surprised’ by the news, as President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration had previously kept details about the launch of production quiet ‘until the last minute.’

China eye African expansion

Taiwan’s westerly neighbour China is to step up its maritime African expansion plans. Key to such plans reaching fruition are through a series of proposed new ports and railways in East Africa which are expected to enhance the country’s Indian Ocean maritime security arrangements.

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The so called maritime ‘road’  is planned to link Chinese coastal cities in the country’s more prosperous East to several ports and railways in East Africa and eventually the Mediterranean. One such proposal, estimated to cost $480 million is earmarked for the construction of a deep-sea port at Lamu, Kenya, and at a sister site in Mombasa.

From Russia with love

On the heli front, Russian Helicopters has delivered a Mi-28N Night Hunter to the Russian armed forces. The Russian MoD said that the attack helicopter was delivered to the Russian Western Military District’s helicopter regiment based in St Petersburg. The aircraft was originally produced for the country’s air force; with the service taking receipt of its first Night Hunter in 2005.

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Air to the throne

Babcock Scandinavian Air Ambulance (SAA) has been awarded a £34 million contract to operate a patient transfer service in Gothenburg, Sweden. The contract has been agreed for an initial four years, with options for two year extensions. Under the terms of the contract, Babcock SAA will operate a specially-configured Leonardo AW169 light intermediate helicopter from a new base in Gothenburg. The flight service is scheduled to begin in 2018.

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Indian Air Force looks to scale new heights

The Indian Air Force is set to overhaul its legacy L/70 40mm and ZU-23-2B 23mm air defence guns by virtue of a limited tender for new-generation short-range air defence systems, reports Gordon Arthur. The MoD will provide funding of $1.5 billion following a decision by the Defence Acquisition Council to clear the purchase last year. The air force’s full requirement consists of 244 guns (equating to 61 systems), alongside fire control and search radars and 204,000 rounds of ammunition.

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USMC unlikely to be caught cold

The USMC and industry players will begin to co-ordinate a series of meetings, the focus of which will be to discuss upcoming service clothing requirements. Combat and cold weather fabrics, uniforms, accessories, boots and equipment are to be placed on the agenda, according to a RfI released on 2 January.

Cold Weather Training with U.S. Marines

The document explains that the USMC office of Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment will carry out ‘specific market research to identify improved mountain cold weather clothing and equipment  next to skin fabrics and insulation layers…’

The meetings will take place on 25-27 January 2018 in conjunction with the Outdoor Retail Show in Denver, Colorado.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 41

Shephard’s AUSA team has had a fantastic week in Washington DC, reporting on all the latest military technology, innovations, conferences and much more. Find all Shephard’s AUSA coverage here.

Uncertain times

It was a ballistic start to the week as the US announced it had approved a potential sale of THAAD systems and support services worth $15 billion to Saudi Arabia. The region is no stranger to instability and political uncertainty but with civil wars in Yemen and Syria raging on, a diplomatic rift between Gulf nations and an increasingly bellicose Iran, Saudi Arabia is taking no chances.

The sale would boost Saudi Arabia’s missile defence capabilities and emerges at the same time as the country seeks to close a deal with Russia for the delivery of the S-400 (SA-21 Growler) long range air and missile defence system as part of a wider $3 billion arms package.

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Meanwhile, the heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula are starting to stir concerns among members of UK Parliament, who this week questioned leading academics on what role the UK could play in the crisis. Speaking at the House of Commons Defence Committee, Nicholas Kitchen, LSE, offered some enlightening parallels with the Vietnam War.

Looking to the east, where European nations continue to formulate their response to Russia’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric and activities. Romania’s approach has been to significantly increase its defence budget establish a Special Operations Command, part of a wider effort to enable Romanian SOF to respond more rapidly to situations emerging from the ‘frozen conflict’ in eastern Europe.

Romanian forces, public 'Open Gates' to US Allies

The highs and lows of autonomous technology  

NAVSEA has had a change of heart regarding its Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic Systems (AEODRS) programme, cancelling solicitations for Increments 2 and 3 sighting changing requirements and budget restraints.

In a speech at the RAeS, president of Hélicoptères Guimbal, Bruno Guimbal made his opinion of the likes of Uber and Airbus’ unmanned helicopter taxi ventures very clear, describing them as ‘purely marketing and promotion’.

Instead, he believes the VSR700, derived from his company’s Cabri G2, could well be the first certified autonomous light helicopter.

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India’s Central Reserve Police Force has issued an expression of interest and RfPs for 150 mini-UAVs and 300 micro-UAVs on an urgent basis to be used for surveillance, reconnaissance and detection as Indian police forces tackle border incursions and a home-grown insurgency.

The peacekeepers’ new Guardian

Malaysian peacekeepers in Lebanon will see their fleet of 46 4×4 Condor APCs replaced with IAG Guardian APCs. Nine Guardian APCs will arrive in Lebanon in mid-December and be operational by the new year in the first step towards replacing the entire Condor APC fleet in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Army publicly displayed a prototype of the Kaplan medium tank for the first time at the 72nd anniversary parade of the armed forces. The medium tank is being developed under a joint venture between Turkey’s FNSS and Indonesia’s state-owned PT Pindad.

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OPVs, LSVs and LCS

Frigates and OPVs took centre stage at the Pacific International Maritime Exposition in Sydney last week, with Project Sea 5000 and Sea 1180 shortlisted to three contenders each. The three frigate contenders, BAE systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship, Fincantieri FREMM-A and Navantia F-5000, each presented their designs during a conference at the event.

Lockheed Martin and Austal USA have been awarded contract modifications to build additional littoral combat ships (LCS) for the US Navy. Both contracts are valued according to the congressional cost cap of $584 million per ship; however, the specific award amount has not yet been made public.

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And in Honduras the logistics support vessel (BAL-C) FNH-1611 Gracias a Dios built for the Honduran Naval Force was launched. The vessel is based on the Amphibious Landing Vessel designed and built for the Colombian Navy and was constructed in just ten months.

A fake news radar?

Reports of an apparent breakthrough in anti-stealth radar technology in Chinese-language media in Hong Kong and China turn out to be no more than a work of fiction. Wendell Minnick looked into the reports and found that the new ‘terahertz radar’ is probably not quite what it seems.

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 39

Firepower of all shapes and sizes

As tensions continue to run high on the Korean peninsula, Japan has begun to rethink its ballistic missile defence (BMD) approach as it now eyes Aegis Ashore. Read more here about the challenges facing Japan as it seeks to defend itself against escalating regional tensions.

Recent images have revealed that the Czech Republic is a major supplier of heavy weapons to Azerbaijan. Images released by the Azerbaijan MoD show the Czech-made Dana-M1CZ 152mm SPH and RM-70 Vampir 122mm MLRS during large-scale exercises held by the Azerbaijani military in late September.

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines has issued a contract to Glock Asia Pacific to supply it with 74,861 Glock 7 Gen4 9mm pistols and an identical number of holsters. The contract, valued at $24.3 million, will see the first batch of 35,000 weapons delivered with 180 days with the second batch delivered within a further 90 days.

UAV popularity persists

Staying in the Philippines, the army has requested several tiers of new UAVs to boost its ISR capabilities, while the US has contracted a further batch of six ScanEagle tactical UAV systems for Manila. The Philippines armed forces are also acquiring trailer-mounted pneumatic launchers and SkyHook recovery devices.

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Meanwhile the German Army’s Special Forces Command is also expanding its ISR assets following the procurement of nano UAS personal reconnaissance systems. The Calw-based command will receive up to a dozen PD-100 Black Hornet nano UAS and will fulfil an operational requirement for an organic ‘over-the-hill’ ISR-gathering micro UAS capability.

However, demand for UAVs is not driven only by defence acquisitions as Beth Maundrill discusses in her blog on the strength of the commercial unmanned market. She reports that defence companies are expected to make a bigger splash in the civil market. Read more here.

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Better late than never

The Indian Navy has finally received its first Scorpene, five years behind schedule. The first of six Scorpene diesel-electric submarines being licence-built for the Indian Navy has been delivered. The Project 75 programme to build six Scorpene submarines has been fraught with difficulties and delays, Gordon Arthur reports.

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The future of warfare

In Afghanistan the future of warfare may be increasingly dominated by private military corporations, as one controversial proposal for the next phase of the American-led war would see 5,500 private contractors put in charge of advising the Afghan military.

The idea is the brainchild of former Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who claims his proposal would save both American troops’ lives and the government $30 billion dollars a year.

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One trend in the future nature of warfare is clear – marines are increasingly deploying in small groups in remote and primitive areas, complicating operational logistics.

As a result the Expeditionary Energy Office is currently searching for a solution to the problem by reducing fuel and water demands through the use of hybrid power solutions and improved distribution.

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Finally, the warfighters will increasingly utilise technology developed in the commercial sector. One such example is Gotenna, who is releasing a military variant of its mesh networking tactical radio.

The Gotenna family of products integrate with smart phones to allow direct communication and have already been used by organisations including US Army Special Forces Groups.

DSEI

Following a great week at DSEI, which saw thousands of exhibitors come together across two enormous exhibition halls, Grant Turnbull gives his verdict on ‘the movers and shakers’ of the show.

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The movers and shakers of DSEI 2017

With thousands of exhibitors and two enormous exhibition halls chock full of technology, DSEI never disappoints when it comes to seeing new and interesting defence kit. The show, held at the London ExCel centre every two years, is a key date in the calendar for the industry and is used as an opportunity to bring out the big guns – literally.

The show is billed as a tri-service event, showcasing equipment from the land, sea and air domains, although like its Parisian equivalent – Eurosatory – there is a skew towards land capabilities.

Nevertheless, the event utilises the ExCel’s location next to the Thames to bring in several warships and have them berthed up during the week. The highlight this year being the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll as well as LÉ Samuel Beckett from the Irish Naval Service.

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LÉ Samuel Beckett berthed next to the ExCel centre for DSEI 2017. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

Mirroring an increase in focus by the UK government on naval capabilities, the DSEI event also had a strong maritime flavour to it this year. This was likely influenced by several key events before the show including the naming of the second Queen Elizabeth-class carrier HMS Prince of Wales, the release of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSbS) and contracts placed for the new Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

Ahead of the show, our roving reporter Beth Maundrill looked at how the NSbS was was aiming to overcome past mistakes in naval programmes that saw costs balloon and fleet sizes dwindle. Speaking at the event itself, Adm Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said he wanted to see the Royal Navy be ‘even faster and more agile’ in how it exploits technology advancements.

Industry is also positioning itself for a future Type 31 contract, with several companies unveiling potential designs at DSEI. Babcock showcased its Arrowhead 120 design, which is likely to compete against BMT Group for the Type 31e contract. Both companies will also be eyeing the export market, something that is being pushed in the new NSbS.

Another new naval technology unveiled at the show was the MBDA Dragonfire, part of a research programme with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) that aims to explore the use of directed-energy weapons, better known as lasers, onboard vessels.

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A scale model example of the new Dragonfire, developed for the UK MoD by a team from MBDA and Leonardo. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

Back on terra firma, it was British Army vehicle programmes that were taking up a lot of the focus. The service is currently recapitalising its fleet with both new build vehicles and upgrades. We got a little more clarity on the long-running Mechanised Infantry Vehicle programme, with an acquisition strategy now planned for later this year that will determine whether it is competed or sole-sourced.

Many companies brought along their 8×8 offerings to tempt the British Army. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a defence show, German company Rheinmetall rocked up with a Boxer 8×8 painted in the colours of the Union Jack. Gimmick or serious marketing strategy?

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Bit of a gimmick or a serious effort to make moves in the UK? (Photo: Rheinmetall)

Officials also gave a little more information on the Warrior upgrade programme, with a full production contract expected next year that will give the army a fleet of modernised ‘Warrior 2’ platforms. A Warrior on display at the show was also sporting a new camouflage, known as the Barracuda Mobile Camouflage System, which Shephard discovered had been ordered in small units by the British Army, with a potentially larger order expected.

It was also announced that the British Army’s flagship acquisition, the Ajax, has now begun manned live-firing trials, which should wrap up in around five months in time for delivery to the army.

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An upgraded Warrior vehicle on display at Lockheed Martin’s stand at DSEI, sporting a new camouflage system. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

The UK defence secretary Michael Fallon also announced several contracts that aim to improve the capability of the British Army when it comes to protecting troops. These included a new EOD ground robot from Harris as well as a new £10 million initiative to study vehicle active protection systems, which is being led by Leonardo. The former programme, known as Icarus, could help the army develop technologies that effectively form a ‘shield’ around a vehicle to protect it against RPGs and anti-tank missiles.

Active protection systems are a significant topic of discussion at the moment, with several countries including China, Israel and Russia fielding some kind of capability. There is a worry among experts that the West will be left behind when it comes to utilising this kind of technology, with foreign APS-equipped vehicles potentially neutralising our current generation anti-tank capabilities.

Adding to this discourse, a BAE Systems CV90 was on display at the show that incorporated the IMI Systems Iron Fist APS technology – which will likely be fielded to the Dutch Army CV90 in the future.

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The IMI Systems Iron Fist active protection system on the turret of a CV9030 IFV at DSEI 2017. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

Unsurprisingly, the UK-based BAE Systems took centre stage at DSEI, showing a huge array of its technologies across all domains. These technologies included the latest generation of its Broadsword soldier technologies currently undergoing evaluation with several foreign armies, as well as a new ‘Tactical Hotspot’ concept that provides voice and data communications in the most austere environments.

The company has also turned its hand to unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) with its Ironclad concept, which could be used for medical evacuation missions on the battlefield.

Indeed, the growing importance of unmanned systems was once again evident at DSEI this year with several innovations being displayed. BAE Systems also demonstrated its P950 RIB in an unmanned configuration.

Elsewhere, Qinetiq demonstrated a new configuration for its Titan UGV (developed in cooperation with Milrem and its THeMIS). Rheinmetall Canada, fresh from unveiling its new UGV concept earlier this year, came to DSEI to show an armed configuration for its multi-mission ground vehicle. Several other armed UGVs were on display this year, including Milrem’s THeMIS, which integrated a new FN Herstal .50 cal machine gun.

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Qinetiq’s Titan, which uses the THeMIS UGV from Estonian company Milrem, features several new integrations at this year’s DSEI. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

That’s just a very tiny selection of what was making the headlines during the show, we have plenty more over at Shephard  for your reading and viewing pleasure.

The show was notable in that it had no real stand-out announcements or surprises, with a sense that many programmes and initiatives are continuing to tick over for the time being.

Many visitors will be optimistic about the market going forward, but the industry as a whole is still conscious of the uncertainty created by Brexit and the wider geostrategic environment.

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