Tag Archives: USMC

The world according to Shephard: Week 4

What happens in Vegas

This week news was dominated by SHOT Show with over 1600 exhibitors turning out at the four-day Las Vegas firearms event.

Covering the story of Hensoldt unveiling a new fire control system, which has been primed for shoulder-launched weapons, Grant Turnbull also reports that the company expect the 4×30 600 FCS to be available to customers by the third quarter of 2019.


On the subject of pricking customer interest, Israel Weapon Industries also confirmed at SHOT that it expects to offer its new 7.62mm bullpup-configured Tavor 7 by the end of Q1 this year. The company is eyeing up both the military and law enforcement markets for its latest addition to the Tavor bullpup family rifle range.

800 x 533

News from Singapore 

Show enthusiasts don’t have long to catch their breath before another big gig rolls into town – with industry focus shifting to Singapore for ADECS 2018 beginning next week. For those that can’t wait until then – never fear – we have a dedicated microsite which features pre-show news and a video preview of the event.

From Singapore Chen Chuanren reports that the Singapore Police Coast Guard (PCG) is busy exploring unmanned technologies to counter threats at sea. A series of trials have to date been key to such exploration with two variants of the Venus USV from ST Electronics being used, namely a Venus 9 and a larger Venus 16.

Singapore Coast Guard

While the Venus USVs are unarmed, they are fitted with an automatic fire extinguishing system and loudhailers for standard constabulary duties.

Training down under 

Continuing news in the Asia Pacific region, the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) has started military simulation training on it’s upgraded BAE Systems Hawk Mk 127 fleet at its Williamtown, New South Wales, base. The Project Air 5438 LIFCAP has led to the aircraft undergoing a major avionics upgrade alongside the deployment of three Full Mission Simulators (FMS) two at Williamtown and another to RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia.


Naval gazing 

Taking a look at the modernisation of the Indian Navy (IN) underwater fleet, Neelam Mathews outlines some of the difficulties that have challenged Project 75 – the IN’s framework for implementing indigenous submarine production. Signs of renewed hope are however emerging not least because of an $11 billion Project 75(I) programme which will build six advanced stealth submarines.


Chopper news 

On the helicopter front, the US Coast Guard (USCG) is sizing up ways to extend the life of its ageing Sikorsky H-60 Jayhawk fleet. 2025 had been planned for retiring the twin engine, medium range aircraft based on a 20,000 flight hour estimation. The USCG has opted to undertake market research with industry to determine if alternative solutions can deliver a breakthrough.


Among the possibilities which could be investigated are the replacement of the upper fuselage which should fully integrate with the current H-60T Jayhawk configuration or the replacement of the upper fuselage modified with various parts installed.

The USMC has no such plans to extend the life of its Bell Helicopter AH-1W Super Cobras with the fleet being retired by 2020. In a move that will have likely caught the attention of the international market, the service is set to offload a surplus of the aircraft to FMS customers. Industry is being requested to outline it’s suitability to manufacture Super Cobra glass cockpits as part of a sources sought notice issued by the Naval Air Systems Command.


Digital dominance 

Switching to the digital battlespace, defence leaders have been keen to publicise the need to better collect, process and exploit geospatial intelligence data. Alice Budge reports that Maj Gen James Hockenhull, director of cyber intelligence and information integration at the UK MoD, spoke of the pivotal role data plays in current and future conflicts.



The world according to Shephard: Week 2

Army means business 

The US Army has been conducting helicopter business swiftly this week beginning with its decision to push forward with the purchase of 35 new Airbus UH-7A Lakota’s and subsequently followed by a ‘sources sought’ call to industry for 120 Boeing AH-6is.


In the first case the service has acknowledged that as a result of Airbus owning the H145 technical data package, industry respondents will be expected to address how the UH-7A Lakota platform will be produced ‘without having this data available and without incurring significant additional costs’.

AH-6i developments are slightly less advanced than the Lakota programme, with the army’s 9 January RfI explicitly indicating that information received from industry would be for planning purposes only. As is convention, the army is yet to publicly disclose any customer(s) details at this juncture but Jordan did express interest in the type eight years ago, while the Saudi Arabian National Guard are the first export customers of the light attack helicopter.

AH6X First Flight

Sound of S-64E Aircrane echo to ripple through forest

Stealing the headlines on the civil helicopter front was Erickson who secured an order for two new S-64E Aircranes by the Korea Forest Service. The pair of aircraft are in addition to a separate S-64E Aircrane order which is currently under construction and due to be delivered in Q3 2018.


Raytheon dealt radar contract blow

The dismissal of three protest bids from Raytheon by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has left Northrop Grumman in pole position to become the radar subcontractor for the US Air Force’s JSTARS Recap programme, reports Alice Budge.  Despite technical detail about the radar design submitted by Northrop Grumman being  limited, the company has claimed its subsystem performed well during pre-EMD programme testing, particularly with respect to demonstrating mission system interoperability at maximum data rates.


Surface Navy 2018 focuses on Tomahawk talk 

If Raytheon is still reeling from the radar contract decision it will be comforted by the Trump administration’s exploration of loosening the reins on foreign military sales (FMS). The industry heavyweight remains eager to convince Washington that selling Tomahawk cruise missiles to American allies is key to maintaining production line productivity.

The Royal Navy is the only current Tomahawk FMS customer but Shephard’s newly appointed American Editor, Ashley Roque, reports that Raytheon indicated to journalists during the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium that various nations are requesting the weapon, with the new Block IV configuration enabling them to ‘sell on an FMS capacity’. 


Staying with Surface Navy 2018 stories, US based Orbital ATK has outlined its intention to develop an attack capability to down small UAS within 10km. The company has been quick to promote its anti-UAS Defence System, with ground forces being the company’s target market. Discussions have also taken place between Orbital and the US Air Force and Marine Corps on the matter of fielding the AUDS on mounted platforms.

USMC ACV 1.1 programme heats up

Stepping ashore – so to speak – and moving to land warfare news, the USMC’s ACV 1.1 programme is making progress with bids now submitted by industry for initial low-rate production. After SAIC and BAE Systems delivered 16 prototypes for the development and testing phase both companies are now competing for their 8×8 vehicle designs to be down-selected in June for initial production.

David Schacher Photography LLC

New details of ASI’s CFTD programme uncovered 

Rounding off this week’s news is military training and simulation affairs. Trevor Nash has taken up the story of further details emerging from the CH-53E Sea Stallion Containerised Flight Training Device (CFTD) programme won by Tampa-based Aero Simulation Inc (ASI). On the subject of the new information that has been uncovered he writes, ‘As far as the visual system is concerned, the new device and upgraded CFTD will be fitted with the Aechelon PC-Nova image generator and Christie Matrix StIM projectors.’






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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 last Talisman Saber ever…?

Exercise Talisman Saber 2017  took place at multiple locations across Australia last month. I couldn’t even tell you what its official dates were, as it’s a kind of nebulous affair that requires a lot of build-up in intensity before it picks up momentum.

There was a lot to say about this year’s event. It was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the series of seven eponymous exercises. It involved more than 33,000 troops, primarily from Australia and the US, along with a sizeable (relative to its strength) contingent from New Zealand, and smatterings of Japanese and Canadians.

Talisman Saber 2017 also witnessed the largest Australian Defence Force (ADF) amphibious assault since World War Two. I mean to say, it featured no fewer than four landing craft disgorging troops onto the beach at the same time. Obviously Australia has not conducted many amphibious landings in the past 70 years!

Nevertheless, HMAS Canberra did not break down, and the ADF managed to get a battalion ashore by landing craft and helicopter. It’s still problematic that the Canberra class cannot land an Abrams tank ashore because they’re too heavy for its landing craft, but let’s not diminish the accomplishments of the Australian Army’s maturing amphibious capability.

As Greg Colton remarked in the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter, ‘This year’s exercise has shown that the ADF can now project a combined-arms battlegroup over the shore and sustain it during mid-intensity warfighting. A significant role of any defence force is to act as a deterrent and to do so it must be capable against a range of high-end threats. The ADF has demonstrated that it is now able to conduct major amphibious operations throughout the region, either unilaterally or as part of a coalition with the US or New Zealand. As such, for the first time in three decades, Australia now has the military capability to back up its stated defence strategy.’

The US Army had a much larger presence than usual, with an Alaska-based Stryker battalion and Hawaii-based combat aviation unit from the 25th Infantry Division participating as part of the Pacific Pathways series of exercises. This saw US Army Apaches and Black Hawks appearing for the first time, as well as Gray Eagle UAVs.

The USMC performed a typical ‘kick down the door’ amphibious assault too, landing ashore near the end of the free-play exercise to act as the anvil to destroy the last resistance of the opposing force. Also on the American side, the USN and USMC flew media by MV-22B Osprey and hosted them aboard USS Bonhomme Richard for a ship tour and interview with navy commanders.

I’m not sure why Australia didn’t do the same with HMAS Canberra. Perhaps they were afraid it might break?

The exercise was so interesting that China sent one of its Type 815 spy ships to hang out on Australia’s periphery too. Oddly enough, Australia and the US didn’t throw a tantrum or stamp on the floor as China does when it sees foreign naval vessels pass through the South China Sea. It seems China has not seen the irony in the situation yet.

With so many accomplishments to trumpet, why then the headline of this piece asking if this is the last Talisman Saber ever?

Well, it just may be my final Talisman Saber ever. After covering the past five exercises, the frustrations have built up to the point where I must question the expense and time necessary to attend, especially when flying from overseas.

You see, the ADF really dropped the ball in terms of media relations this year. Before the exercise began, media support was almost non-existent. Even after an application was lodged, there was no acknowledgement, no contact person available to answer queries. A simple question such as, ‘What date is the exercise?’ went unanswered, making it impossible to book air tickets until the last, and most expensive, minute.

Then, all information about what activities media wished to cover disappeared into a black hole, never to be seen again. It was only after US public affairs officers (PAO) hit the ground running at the start of the exercise that any kind of information started flowing.

Even then, there were frustrations. Without explanation I was bumped off the list of media attending the said amphibious assault – the largest since WWII, did you know? – because it was preferable to give seats to VIPs and senators. It seems the parachute drop on the same day was a bust too, as media only saw it from a kilometre away behind the treeline.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some fantastic PAOs on both the Australian and US sides – and I met many of them this year, and I had a great time with Battle Group Cannan, the Kiwis, the Japanese, the USMC and USN – but the overall coordination this year was poor. Embeds seemed to be organised ad hoc at the last minute, even though they had been requested weeks, nay months, in advance.

There were so many good stories that Shephard would have loved to tell: Australia’s biggest amphibious assault since WWII (hadn’t you heard?), UAVs, helicopters, the ASLAV surveillance vehicle, urban operations, development of 2 RAR’s amphibious capability, upgrades of M1A1 Abrams tanks, organisation of armoured cavalry regiments, etc. Sadly, they just weren’t possible.

Yes, I understand that the tactical exercise is a complex jigsaw of working pieces and that not all media requests can be accommodated. I wasn’t even angry that my RAAF escort and I got abandoned on the side of the road for seven hours at one stage! However, careful planning and organisation could have made things a lot smoother for all media. And incidentally, this is not just sour grapes from me, because every media counterpart that I spoke to had a similar tale of woe.

And then, alas, Virgin Australia hit me with an A$70 excess baggage charge for being 2kg over the limit when departing from Rockhampton Airport. That was perhaps the straw that broke this long-suffering camel’s back.

So, yes, it might well be my final Talisman Saber…Even if the ADF could entice me back in 2019, I certainly won’t be flying Virgin Australia.

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Procurement, production and progress

Heavy lift programmes such as Sikorsky’s CH-53K and Bell-Boeing’s multi-year V-22 project with the US DoD are ticking along, and the companies are optimistic that as progress continues, international interest in the platforms will grow.

As the CH-53K King Stallion enters production, company officials are confident that the USMC Heavy Lift Replacement Program is on track. With initial operating capability scheduled to be achieved by the end of 2019, the aircraft has now exceeded 450 test flight hours.


At the critical design review stage of the programme, the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation FY2016 annual report noted that high temperature issues within the number two engine bay had caused delays. In February, Sikorsky confirmed that measures had been put in place to overcome overheating.

‘[Regarding] the heat on the engine we have already taken two models that have shown that heat dissipating. We’ve got two other designs that are looking at improving it even more,’ Sikorsky’s president Dan Schultz told me, when asked if this issue had any further ramifications for testing points.

The CH-53K King Stallion

‘Right now, we’re back in flight and we are not seeing [the engines] as hot as they were in the beginning. All aircraft that have the third engine have a heat area back there and we’ve been working on that with NAVAIR. So, that is not one of our risk areas.’

Discussions with the German government are currently focused on pricing of a potential order for 41 CH-53K helicopters to replace the incumbent CH-53G variant. Schultz argued that when Germany makes its decision, the company will be ready, with the King Stallion expected to be in full production by that point.

Angel Thunder 2015: German Air Force participates in MASCAL Exercise

One of the key developments of the K-model is the size of the back end of the aircraft, which is 30cm wider than its predecessor, the Super Stallion, at the request of the USMC. ‘When you think of the back end of a 53K, forget about all the best flight avionics or best performance – all those kinds of things – the back end is 12in wider… that’s a big difference to the guys on the ground,’ Shultz said.

Pitching itself further as an international military supplier, Bell Helicopter has highlighted imminent deliveries of its offerings across Asia. The company will see the first V-22 deliveries to Japan in September/October this year, while the AH-1Z Viper will start to be delivered to Pakistan in earnest soon.

Up, Up, and away

Rich Harris, VP of international military sales at Bell, explained to journalists at the Paris Air Show that it was the first FMS of the AH-1 attack helicopter in 20 years. The Pakistan Army will take receipt of the first three aircraft this year. While little timeline detail was provided, Harris did confirm that these were currently being finished on the assembly line in Amarillo, Texas.

Placed in 2015, the order for 12 Vipers will see the remaining nine delivered in 2018. At this stage, while it has not been decided whether delivery will be in batches of three or more, the final units will be received by Pakistan 18 months from now, Harris confirmed at the show in June.

Any Time. Any Place.

The V-22 programme has so far seen 295 of 360 aircraft delivered to the USMC. In total, 347 V-22s have been delivered, including 52 in the USAF CV configuration. The aircraft has surpassed more than 350,000 flight hours.

In a plan announced in mid-2015 the USAF will deploy three CV-22 Ospreys to Japan in the second half of this year, with seven more scheduled to arrive by 2021.

With the company looking to accelerate efforts to promote its military portfolio outside of the US the prospect of a NATO sharing concept could stretch the reach of the OEM’s military aircraft. Harris explained that at this stage Bell is excited about this opportunity with a prospective joint asset such as the V-22.

For more on military helicopter procurement, platform production and progress with current programmes see the July-August edition of DH.