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March 24, 2008

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Fighting Counterinsurgency in Iraq - Veterans speak out in Clear

After five years of fighting insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans U.S. Army and Marine Corps officers are raising concern about the U.S. reluctance to deal with counter-insurgency (COIN) in the post Vietnam era. While some are keen supporters of re-establishing comprehensive top-down COIN strategy, as reflected in Army's latest 'Operations Field Manual', and others caution from 'hyper-emphasis' on COIN and irregular warfare, all agree that more has to be done.

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French Special Forces Select Israeli Skylark I Mini UAVs from Elbit

Elbit Systems will supply Skylark I mini UAVs to the French Special Forces. Ten of the world's leading UAV providers competed for this tender, which could lead to future procurement by other branches of the French Armed Forces. Haim Kellerman, General Manager of Elbit Systems UAV Division and Corporate Vice President, is hopeful the new agreement will pave Elbit System's way to the French market. Kellerman hopes that this win will be followed by further agreements with European NATO member countries. Skylark I systems demonstrated their effectiveness during the 2006 Lebanon War and are currently deployed by several countries as part of the coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

British Army Phase Out Pheonix for Hermes 450, Desert Hawk III

The Phoenix unmanned aerial vehicles is officially withdrawn from active service with the British Army this month. The 32 Regiment Royal Artillery, the army's tactical unmanned air vehicle (UAV) regiment retired the UAV in an official parade at its barracks on March 20, 2008. The 32 regiment operates two batteries, the 22 (Gibralter) Battery and 57 (Bhurtpore) Battery. These units are currently operating Desert Hawk 3 mini UAVs and larger, more capable Hermes 450, acting as interim replacements for the Watchkeeper UAV, to be fielded by 2010. The Royal Air Force also operates three larger Predator B (Reaper) in Afghanistan.

European METEOR Missile Test Fired over Sweden

Testing of the Meteor Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air/Air Missile (BVRAAM) developed by MBDA continue in Sweden. The recent missile test flights were conducted by Gripen fighter aircraft on 6 March, as the Meteor was fired at an MQM-107B ‘Streaker’ high-subsonic subscale aerial target at the Vidsel Missile Test Range in Sweden. This test concluded a series of development firings to prove the overall performance of the missile and its various subsystems in terms of guidance, propulsion, data link and fuse. The next phase in the program will test fully capable pre-series production missiles. These tests will commence towards the end of 2008 and will continue progressively through to the end of the development program by late 2011.

$1.14 Billion Orders Sustain MRAP Production Through 2008

The Pentagon released last week (March 14, 2008) five new contracts for the dlivery of 2,243 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles at a total value of these contracts is over $1.14 billion. These new orders will to be completed by November 2008. Sharing these new orders are BAE Systems, International Military and Government LLC (IMG), and, to a lesser volume – Force Protection International.

L-3 Claim Performance Breakthrough with Uncooled Thermal Imagers

L-3 Infrared Products is developing a new line of uncooled thermal imaging products called Thermal-Eye 'Series 17'. According to Mike Studer, VP Marketing, L-3 Infrared Products, the new line is based on a new and promising technology called 'Amorphous Silicon' representing new and revolutionary sensing capabilities.

ICx Technologies to Develop a new Radar for GDRS's Patrol Robot

Sensor technology specialist ICx Technologies (NASDAQ:ICXT) will develop a new Intruder Detection Radar Sensor for General Dynamics Robotic Systems (GDRS)' Mobile Detection Assessment and Response System (MDARS) robotic patrol vehicle. The new radar will be based on ICx Technologies’ STS-350 radar system, added with higher angle scanning and extended range capability. The initial award is for five systems, with additional quantities in the out years.

Boeing, Raytheon Awarded $130 Million to Upgrade Radars on Eight F-15Cs

The Boeing Company has been awarded a $130 million U.S. Air Force contract to upgrade 16 Air Force and Air National Guard F-15C Eagles with the APG-63(v)3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. This contract follows a similar agreement signed in September 2007 to equip seven aircraft. Raytheon, The radar producer's share of this contract will be about $89.5 million. According to Jim Means, director of proprietary programs for Boeing Global Strike Systems, the new orders extend the APG-63(V)3 upgrade program through 2010.

MQ-8B Fire Scout to Demonstrate Maritime Search Radar Operability

The U.S. Navy has decided to commit funds in 2009 to develop a radar capability on Fire Scout. The VTUAV has already demonstrated radar capability in 2003, flying General Atomics Lynx Radar on the early version of the early FireScout version, the RQ-8A. A similar demonstration is now scheduled on a more advanced RQ-8B, carrying the Telephonics RDR-1700B maritime surveillance and imaging radar and an electro-optical/infrared system. The purpose of the demonstration is to demonstrate the operational advantage for on-board radar.

GE-Rolls Royce Team Test Prototype F136 Engine Tests

The GE-Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team recently completed a high-altitude afterburner testing program of the F136 engine. This engine is scheduled to begin flight testing in the F-35 in 2010 with continued test and development through 2013; the first production F136 engines are scheduled to be delivered in 2012 for the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, to be available for the fourth lot of F-35 aircraft production.

New Vessel Prepared to Rescue Submariners Lost in the Deep

A new submarine rescue system, owned jointly by France, Norway and the UK, has successfully completed trials off the coast of Norway. When it comes into service it promises to offer a complete rescue package for trapped submariners, should the unthinkable happen on their submarine, anywhere in the world. The new submersible vehicle will be complement the new US Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System based in San Diego. Both are due in service this year, are capable of worldwide deployment and will be available to all submarine-operating nations.

Ensign-Bickford to Supply Reactive Armor for the Abrams Tank

Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense Co. was awarded $69 million firm-fixed price contract for the delivery of 485 XM19 Abrams reactive armor tile sets. The work is expected to be completed by June 2009. The Army evaluated two bids for this program. About two years ago General Dynamics ATP received the first contract for the supply of reactive tiles for the Abrams tank.

Oshkosh to Begin Production of 1700+ heavy Trucks

The U.S. Army is increasing the number of 8x8 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT) it is ordering from Oshkosh, adding $321 million to a contract awarded in early February 2008. The contract modification is funding a total production lot of 1,745 HEMTT A4 heavy trucks.

Puma Small UAV Flys 9 hour Mission Powered by Fuel-Cell Technology

AeroVironment recently demonstrated unprecedented endurance record for a electrically powered, small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV), flying the Puma on a continuous mission lasting nine hours. The SUAV was powered by an onboard fuel cell battery hybrid energy storage system. The flight demonstration was part of an ongoing US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) small business innovation research (SBIR) program pursuing advanced energy storage and propulsion technologies for unmanned aircraft. The battery pack, power electronics and controls was developed by AeroVironment, utilizing a hybrid energy storage system based on Protonex Technology Corporation’s Pulse UAV fuel cell. Previous tests utilizing the system, performed in May and July 2007, achieved five and seven hour mission endurance.

Australia cancells the SH-2G(A) SeaSprite Helicopter Program

The Australian Government announced its intention to cancel the SH-2G(A) Seasprite helicopters from the US company Kaman. After 11 years in the process, none of the 11 refurbished ex US Navy SH-2F helicopters is operational. In the near term the Australian Navy will improving the operational availability of the current Seahawk fleet. For the longer term, a planned replacement of the SH-60B will be outlined. Kaman Corp, the helicopter's manufacturer confirmed receiving an Australian request to negotiate the program termination on mutually agreed terms. Sofar Australia already paid the majority of the A$1.3 billion cost of the program.

Sukhoi's Su-35 Performs First Flight

The first prototype of the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E multi-role fighter made its first flight on February 19, 2008. Flown by Sukhoi test pilot Sergey Bogdan from Zhukovsky airfield near Moscow, the Super Flanker's flight lasted 50 minutes. Two additional planes are currently being completed at the United Aircraft Corporation's plants in the Russian Far East, and on schedule to join the test flight, in anticipation for delivery of the first aircraft (designated Su-27SM2) to the Russian Air Force by 2010 and achieving initial operational capability a year later. Export deliveries are planned a short while thereafter.

British Warriors Get New Armor

Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles operated by the British Scots Guards, operating under the command of the 4 Mechanized Brigade in Iraq has received a major boost with the introduction of the new 'Wrap Two' armor kit. The new armor replaced the bar armor (slat) previously used to augment the Warrior's protection against shaped-charge threats. The new armor improves the vehicle's survivability to roadside improvised attacks (RSIED) as well as RPGs and other shaped-charge attacks. (Photo: Carl Schulze VS-Books)

Warrior Wrap2 Armor. Photo: Carl Schulze VS Books

Force Protection to Deliver Cougars, Buffalos to NATO Armies

The British MOD is buying 174 additional Mastiff heavy armored vehicles from Force protection, under a new order worth $115 million. These vehicles will be supplied by the end of the current year (December 2008). The British forces are using the Mastiffs for patrol, troop transportation and convoy protection in Afghanistan. Force Protection will also deliver six Cougar 6x6 transport vehicles and four Buffalo route clearance vehicles to the Italian Ministry of Defense. The vehicles will be delivered in July 2008. Italy and France share the command of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon. In past months, these forces suffered several casualties under a series of attacks by roadside and vehicle borne IEDs.

India's Arms Procurement Programs Discussed at the Defexpo 2008

India's major arms procurement programs are discussed in this overview of the hot topics at Defexpo 2008, India's bi-annual arms bazzar. A more comprehensive report of Defexpo and Singapore Airshow will be published just after these upcoming events.

Space Program Raises Concern About Iran's Ballistic Missile Thrust

Tehran successfully launched an experimental research rocket called Explorer-1 last week. According to Iranian information, the new launcher will be able to carry a small satellite into orbit. According to the Iranians, the Explorer-1 was launched to determine the exact orbital position for the satellite. Tehran unveiled the first indigenous satellite called Omid (Hope). According to Iranian plans, Omid will be launched by March 2009 and operate in low-earth orbit, hinting on the potential use of the satellite for strategic, earth observation mission (reconnaissance).

U.S. Army Awards M1A1 Upgarade into M1A2 SEP(V2)

General Dynamics Land Systems has been awarded a first order, under a multi-year upgrade modernization of 435 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks into M1A2 Systems Enhancement Package (SEP) Version Two (V2) configuration. The first increment of this multi-year contract is valued at $39 million, funding upgrades for 20 M1A1 Abrams tanks. An earlier $12.4 award announced in January million funded parts for this upgrade.

EPX - Studying a Future SIGINT Platform for the US Navy

The U.S. Navy awarded three industry teams $1.25 million five month contracts (each), to help develop the system concept for the Navy's EPX – the future manned SIGINT platform expected to replace the current EP-3. Planned as a replacement for the EP-3 Aries aircraft, the EPX will be a manned multi-mission, multi-intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR&T) platform.

U.S., Israel Pursue Counter Rocket, Artillery & Mortar(CRAM) Weapons

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Space & Mission Systems were awarded $8.6 and $5.9 million contracts (respectively) to design prototype hardware for EAPS Battle Element. Both companies are expected to present their competing systems to the Army by the end of 2012. A parallel Israeli program is in more advanced stages, with RAFAEL expecting to conduct initial test demonstrations of the Iron-Dome Wide Area Counter-RAM system later this year. In Novebmer 2007 Raytheon was contracted by the pentagon to build 12 Centurion units to protect coalition operating bases in Iraq. In this role, the LPWS is integrated with counter-battery radar systems such as TPQ-36/37 which will be augmented in the future multi-mission radar known as EPQ-36.

U.S. Army Orders Ravens for SOCOM & Other Services

The U.S. Army exercised an option for additional procurement of RQ-11B Raven Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) from AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV). The total award value is $45.8 million. Each Raven system typically consists of three aircraft, a ground control station, system spares, and related services. and is fully funded.

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