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The KA-52 Gunship at Army 2019

Russian Helicopters has displayed the latest version of the KA-52 attack helicopter at the Army 2019 defense expo at Kubinka, in the Moscow region.

A derivative of the Kamov KA50 helicopter that used a tandem cockpit, KA-52 This version is based on the KA50, KA-52K is in service with the Russian Army and a navalized version, KA-52K is operated by the Egyptian Navy.

This version has foldable rotors and wings to fit the confined storage space aboard the ships. The Russian Helicopters company is currently developing the next generation combat rotorcraft to be introduced in 2024. This new platform is expected to be significantly faster, compared to current rotorcrafts.

KA-52 on display at the Army Forum 2018. Photo: Defense-Update
A rear view of the KA-52 shows the tail area with a second UV missile-launch sensor completing the 360-degree coverage of the President-S system. Photo: Defense-Update
KA-52 Armaments include the chin-mounted 30mm 2A42 automatic cannon with 460 rounds, the stub wings are configured four hardpoints each. Three are under the wing, mounting up to 12 missiles such as VIKHR or ATAKA, and four Igla S used as air-launched anti-aircraft missiles, rocket pods (up to 80 x 80mm rockets) and up to four 500 liters (130 Gal) external fuel tanks. Photo: Defense-Update.

The helicopter carries the President-S countermeasures suite including laser detectors and UV missile launch sensors, infrared jammers mounted in two rotatable turrets and UV-26 chaff-flare dispenser pods carried in pods mounted one each of the wing tips. Armaments include the chin-mounted 30mm 2A42 automatic cannon with 460 rounds, the stub wings are configured four hardpoints each. Three are under the wing, mounting up to 12 missiles such as VIKHR or ATAKA, Igla S used as an air-launched anti-aircraft missile, rocket pods (80mm) and 500 liters (130 Gal) fuel tanks.

The lower side of the KA-52N showing different elements of the PresidentS ECM suite. Photo: Defense-Update
The President-S ECM suite used on the KA-52K and is released for export.
The UV missile launch sensor mounted on each side of KA-52K Photo: Defense-Update
Two optronic jammers are mounted on the KA-52K belly, one on each side. Photo: Defense-Update
KA-52 Specifications
SpecsKA-52K Ship Based
Attack Helicopter
KA-52 Land Based
Attack Helicopter
Max TOW (kg.)12,20010,800
Max Payload (kg.)2,0002,000
Flight range (km.)450460
Service Ceiling (m.)5,2005,500
Maximum Speed (km/h.)290300
Cruising Speed (km/h.)250260
Engines (Hp)2x Klimov VK-2500 Turboshaft engines – each 2,400 shp2x Klimov VK-2500 Turboshaft engines – each 2,500 shp
Information based on manufacturers’ data presented in public.

Pantsir-SM Mitigates Drone-Related Capability Gaps

Pantsir SM on display at the Army 2019 exhibition, Moscow, 2019. Photo: Defense-Update

The Russian KBP group has launched an upgraded export version of the Pantsir – the Pantsir-SM that implements some of the lessons Russia gained from recent combat engagements in Syria. The new configuration improves the capability of the system dealing with guided weapons and unmanned aerial systems (drones) of all types. The company showcases the new Pantsir at the #Army2019 exhibition taking place at the Patriot Expo park near Moscow this week. Pantsir-SM is intended to enter service with the Russian military in 2021 supports a line-of-sight radar surveillance range of 75 km and missile engagement at up to 40 km.

The export-oriented Pantsir-S1M packs 12 ready to fire missiles of two types. The 57E6-E covers a range of 15-18 km and the new 57E6M-E missile doubles the range to 30 km. The export-oriented Pantsir-S1M system was launched earlier this year at the IDEX 2019 expo in Dubai. The new missile has a longer minimum range of 1,200 meters, compared to the original missile effective at 15 meters.

In recent years Pantsir air defense systems were engaged in multiple combat events in Syria. Systems operated by Russian teams have been deployed to the Hmeymim air base near Latakiya, where it was deployed along the S-400 to protect the base. Syrian manned Pantsirs attempted to counter repeated attacks on Syrian air bases but often failed to defeat guided weapons allegedly used by the Israel Air Force. Defending the Russian forces at Hmeymim the systems encountered multiple attacks by improvised attack drones (aerial IEDs) initially demonstrating marginal success.

Opposition groups in Syria made several attempts to attack the Russian airbase at Hmeymim with makeshift drones or bombard it with rockets. The missiles were able to intercept the rockets, but drones posed a more challenging target. Some of the attacks were repelled by electronic warfare activities, as well as SA-15 and SA-22 air defenses, others managed to penetrate the perimeter and hit exposed targets at the base. In total, at least 22 drone attacks were documented in the area of the base, some of which were able to target the Airbase and cause material damage. 13 of the attacks occurred in the month of July 2018 and 12 occurred in April 2019. The airbase is protected by the Pantsir-S1 system. The Defense Ministry says the system demonstrated its high effectiveness in countering such threats.

Russian Army Pantsir S1 deployed in defense of the Russian contingent at the Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria, 2016.

A video showing Russian air defense missiles intercept drones near Hmeymim air base in Syria.

Russian Army to Receive New 8×8 Boomerang AFV Prototypes for Testing

VPK 7829 Boomerang K17 armored fighting vehicle.
Boomerang can float and swim in water at a speed of five knots.

The Russian Boomerang 8×8 VPK 7829 combat vehicle was developed by the VPK company in two configurations, the 25-ton K17 Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) and a 22-ton amphibious Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) designated K16. Intended to replace heeled combat vehicles such as the BTR80, in service with the Russian Army and border guards, Boomerang represents a new approach in all aspects – a new chassis, more ground clearance, and significantly higher vehicle, new armor, and new armament. According to Russian defense sources, VPK is building new Boomerang prototypes for the planned state trials by the Russian Army. The Boomerang was unveiled on the May 9 parade in 2015, along with the Armata family and Kurganets 25 AFVs.

VPL7829 Boomerang AFV on display at the Army 2019 exhibition taking place at the Patriot Expo near Moscow this week. Photo: Defense-Update

The Boomerang has an operating range of 800 km. It is powered by a new, 750 HP digitally controlled diesel engine developed by the Yaroslavl Engine Plant. It is coupled to an automatic transmission. It has a road speed of 100 km/h and 50 km/h offroad. On amphibious operation, the Boomerang can swim at a speed of five knots (10 km/h).

Each vehicle is manned by a crew of three – a commander, gunner, and driver. It can carry eight troops with their combat loads. Unlike the side access doors used on the BTR 80, the Boomerang uses a rear access ramp, similar to western and BMP-type Russian APCs. Access hatches are also available on the top. Both versions use passive protection comprising a combination of steel and composite/ceramic armor. Laser detectors and instant multi-spectral smoke dischargers offer a form of ‘soft’ active protection, enabling the vehicle to maneuver under the smoke cover to avoid the hit. multiple video cameras are mounted around the vehicle providing a 360-degree vision for the crew.

K17 is equipped with a multi-weapon turret mounting a 30mm 2A42 gun, 7.62mm COAX, and four Kornet missiles, along with Afganit APS. Photo: Defense-Update
A rear view of the K17 Boomerang showing the closed access ramp and swimming thrusters. Photo: Defense-Update

The K-17 can also be equipped with the Afganit hard Kill countermeasures, that utilizes radars to detect the threat, and launches blast-fragmenting countermeasures to intercept anti-tank missiles, anti-tank projectiles (including kinetic) and rockets at ranges of 4-200 meters from the vehicle. To improve protection from mine blasts and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) the Boomerang is higher, relative to the previous generations of Russian AFVs. The additional height enables the blast’s mitigation and opens some space for blast attenuating seats for the crew and passengers.

The K17 version uses a multi-purpose remotely controlled turret mounting a 2A42 30mm gun with 500 rounds (160 AP, 340 HE-Frag). This gun can effectively engage ground targets at ranges of 1.5 – 2.0 km, and airborne targets, such as helicopters and UAS, at a distance of 2.5 km. The cannon can fire semi-automatic fire, slow automatic (200-300 rounds per minute) or fast bursts of 550 – 600 rounds per minute. The turret has two identical optronic sights enabling the crew to engage two targets simultaneously, including firing two Kornet missiles (a method engaging targets defended by active protection) or firing a missile and the gun simultaneously.

The turret also carries two pairs of Kornet-D anti-tank/anti-material guided missiles, stored in ready to launch containers. Kornet-D is the domestic version of the Export-version of the weapon known as Kornet-E. The missile is available with a tandem High-Explosive Anti-Tank warhead capable of penetrating a 1,100 – 1,300 mm rolled homogeneous steel (RHA) armor protected by reactive armor. It can also carry a blast-fragmenting thermobaric warhead effective against structures and buildings. The turret also has a coaxial 7.62 PKT machine gun and can also mount a 30mm grenade launcher on top. The K16 uses a smaller turret mounting a 12.7mm machine gun, 7.62mm coax or grenade launcher.

K17 Boomerang armored personnel carrier fires a Kornet-EM missile during Army-2107 fires demonstration at Alabino, Photo: Russian MOD

UVision Introduces New Multi-Mission Loitering Weapons

Although Loitering Munitions (LM) have been introduced decades ago, these weapons have gained general acceptance and maturity in recent years, following their operational debut in battlefields in the Caucasus and the Middle East. While several manufacturers already offer various types of ‘suicide drones’, only a few are committed to this category as Israel’s UVision Air, the developer, and producer of the Hero line of loitering missiles that unveiled a range of new members of its Hero family of LMs this week at the recent Paris Air Show. Uvision has already sold Hero LMs to multiple customers, including the Israel Defense Forces, and leading NATO countries.

The first product introduced by the company was the light-weight man-packed Hero-30, a man-portable loitering system offering dismounted forces unmatched, precision beyond the line of sight surveillance and attack capability. Deployable within minutes, with 30 minutes of autonomy and a range of up to 40km, Hero-30 can engage moving targets such as light vehicles, speed-boats, and dismounted armed forces.

Hero-20. Photo: Tamir Eshel

At the Paris Air Show, the company unveiled the smallest member of the Hero family – Hero 20 – a loitering weapon that weighs only 1,800 grams, including a fully stabilized and gimballed EO/IR day/night payload for target search and track, and a small blast fragmentation warhead weighing only 200 grams. The miniature Hero-20 can operate at a range of 10 kilometers and packs a battery for 20 minutes of endurance. It is launched from a single or multiple-launcher that is operated by a single person.

The loitering and pinpointed strike capabilities set the Hero LM apart of other loitering munitions and missiles, in its ability to locate targets of opportunity, pursue an attack and safely abort a strike even at the last seconds of its terminal phase, thus enabling military forces the operational freedom to pursue targets in in populated areas or remote locations while minimizing the risk of collateral damage. Training with loitering weapons can be performed with the system’s training simulator or by retrieving unarmed weapons using the platforms parachute system.

While Hero-30 is the smallest and lightest loitering weapon UVision offers, it is not the only one operated by dismounted forces. In fact, the Hero operational concept foresees different loitering platforms supporting the lowest echelon with weapons launched at different levels – organic assets carried and delivered at company and platoon level, Hero 120 launched by vehicles maintained at battalion and brigade level, and Hero 400EC operated from multiple launchers at the division level. Hero 30 and its larger sibling, Hero 400EC, are already matured and operational.

Hero 120 Multi-Mission Loitering Weapon. Photo: Tamir Eshel

At the Paris Air Show 2019, the company introduced the 1.34-meter-long Hero-120 Mid-Sized Loitering Munition (MSLM), offering customers the flexibility to optimize the loitering weapon effect against different targets. With modular warhead and scalable battery pack, MSLM can carry different warheads triggered by a common multi-mode fuze, from 1.5 kg up to 4.5 kg, featuring Airburst Fragmentation for beyond line of sight anti-personnel effect, Point Detonation for anti-structure effect, a High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) option, defeating the armor of modern main battle tanks with a top and proximity mode for penetration of windows and vehicles. The Hero-120 operates at a typical altitude of 1,500 ft. above ground, where it maintains a low acoustic, thermal and visual signature. The flight time has increased to 60 minutes, thanks to a redesigned fuselage that offers a compact packing in the launch canister while maintaining a large warhead size. Hero 120 is controlled via datalink from 40 km afar, and dive on its target at 100 knots. Total weight is 12 kg.

Hero 400EC packed in its launch canister Photo: Tamir Eshel

UVision also offers the larger Hero 400EC, a 2.1-meter-long LM that weighs 40 kg, and a cruciform wing assembly that spans 2.4 meters. The Hero 400EC has an operational ceiling of 18,000 ft. (above sea level) and speed of 50-100 knots. The LM can operate at a range of 40 km from its launcher using the standard data link, or use a directional antenna to extend that range to 150 km. It uses a multipurpose warhead that includes a tandem HEAT or fortification penetration (PBR) warhead.

In addition, the company revealed the Hero-400EC Multi-tube launcher system, weighing 650 kg including 6 munitions. Customers can configure the launcher with four, six or up to 12 loitering munitions, depending on the vehicle load and space specifications. The multi-tube launcher stores, transports and launches the loitering missiles straight from their sealed canisters. The multi-canister launcher can be mounted on a range of land or naval platforms, including Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) and High Mobility Rocket Systems (HiMARS) that are widely used with the US Army, US Marine Corps, and international military forces. The four-tube launcher can be operated from a JLTV. Due to the Hero-400EC long range and endurance capabilities, the launcher can be operated from the relative safety of rear areas, distant from enemy lines or from forwarding Operating Bases (FOB), controlled by remote by the user or from the FOB command post.

Hero 400EC multiple tube launcher. Photo: Tamir Eshel

Bringing F-35 Technology to the Rotorcraft World

Excite brings the F-35 display, and image fusion technology to cockpits of future helicopters, such as Future Attack & Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and Future Vertical Lift (FVL), both families are expected to appear in the US and European market in the next decade. Photo: Tamir Eshel

Defense-Update had the opportunity to test Elbit Systems’ brand new X-Sight helmet display system at the company’s closed exhibit at the Paris Airshow. X-Sight brings the F-35 display, and image fusion technology to cockpits of future helicopters, such as Future Attack & Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and Future Vertical Lift (FVL), both families are expected to appear in the US and European market in the next decade.

It has two curved visors, offering a combined field of view of 60 degrees with an overlapping center area. It uses optical, magnetic and inertial trackers to refine line of sight measurement, giving smooth tracking and visualization of obstacles, or targets even through sharp movement. Photo: Tamir Eshel

Until now the company produced integrated helmet displays for fighter pilots, but helicopter pilots had to settle for Helmet Mounted Systems (HMS). These systems use display generators projecting their pictures on beam splitters that superimpose the generated image on the world view. For night operation, the system incorporates an additional, binocular Aviator Night Vision System (ANVIS). This combination enables pilots to maneuver and fly ‘heads out,’ fast and low, in the day and at night.

The new X-Sight helmet delivers the F-35 display technology (the developers argue it is even better) to the helicopter cockpit. It has two curved visors, offering a combined field of view of 60 degrees with an overlapping center area. It uses optical, magnetic and inertial trackers to refine line of sight measurement, giving smooth tracking and visualization of obstacles, or targets even through sharp movement. It combines day and night displays with 360 degrees view of Pilot Visual Systems (PVS) or Pilotage distributed aperture Sensors (PDAS), offering ultimate viewability for the pilot. The team calls this capability ‘SuperVision’ that provides a brand new ‘connected avionics’ capability, which we will cover in a later post.

Unlike current helmets that are heavily loaded to the front (by the ANVIS), and must be balanced with extra weight in the back, X-Sight is balanced to the center, The night vision is provided by an integral camera delivering seamless visibility at the line of sight, added with a wider field from additional sensors such as Britenight or PDAS. Additionally, the synthetic world view (of terrain maps and known obstacles) enhances situational awareness, even at degraded or low visibility.

As the system is connected to the aircraft’s 360 vision system, it continuously tracks the landscape extracting potential obstacles such as electrical lines and other distinctive obstacles without prior mapping. The system also warns the pilot and plots recommended a route to avoid the risk. With information layers anchored to the relevant location and perspective, X-Sight depicts a rich situational picture that assists pilots on their missions under all conditions, even in degraded visibility.

The privately funded development leverages Elbit Systems’ experience gained through numerous development programs the Israeli company have done in recent years and secures its position with future rotorcraft programs. A first prototype has been developed and is currently being tested, toward further refinements and adaptations to future applications.

With Glider Swarms and Hard Kill for Self Protection MBDA Charts the Future of Air Warfare

MBDA’s concept for future deep strike features two types of cruise missiles that will be optimised to penetrate and open breaches in advanced and cohesive modern Anti Access Area Denial (A2AD) deployments. Such cruise missiles feature stealthy subsonic designs and supersonic strike missiles. Artist rendering: MBDA

MBDA provided today a fresh vision of future air warfare. A range of future weapons presented by the company at Paris Air Show 2019, to illustrate the weapons that the Franco-German Next Generation Fighter (NGF) or as it has been known until now – Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and Britain’s Tempest would carry by 2030-2040. According to MBDA, these concepts form a coherent set of capabilities for Future Air System projects. The new concept bears some similarities to the current US programs such as the Gremlins and Loyal Wingman, other elements rely on existing MBDA designs, such as SPEAR 3 and Meteor which will be fielded in the early 2020s.

The subsonic deep strike variant is a stealthy weapon designed for external carriage on current or future aircraft. The proposed weapon will be the successor of MBDA’s Storm Shadow / SCALP EG currently known only as SPEAR 4. Most likely this will be a mix of weapons, that will include both subsonic and high supersonic cruise missiles, the later will be optimized for deep buried target penetration and attack of naval targets. Its stealthy design enables survivability in defended airspace. Photo: Tamir Eshel

The new concepts cover key domains of future air warfare including:

Deep Strike: MBDA’s concept for future deep strike features two types of cruise missiles (depicted in the dramatic artist rendering showing above) that will be optimized to penetrate and open breaches in advanced and cohesive modern Anti-Access Area Denial (A2AD) deployments. Such cruise missiles feature stealthy subsonic designs and supersonic strike missiles.

MBDA SmartCruiser. Photo: Tamir Eshel
Compact, lightweight strike weapons will be available in powered and gliding versions. Both configurations will be equipped with networking, collaboration, and intelligence for an autonomous swarm-like strike.
Six SmartGliders can be carried by each ‘smart rack’, enabling the smart, networked and autonomous weapons to carry out swarm-like attacks. Illustration: MBDA

Tactical Strike: extending the range of weapons beyond the reach of adversary short and medium-range air defense systems, compact weapons based on precision-guided powered and unpowered (gliding) weapons will be able to deliver precision strike from stand-off range, delivering precision effects but also able to saturate enemy defenses thanks to pack or swarm behaviors, relying on networking and collaboration between smart and affordable strike weapons.

Two years ago MBDA unveiled a similar compact weapon called ‘SmartGlider’ and SmartCruiser. Two versions were described – a light weapon, 2 meters long that weighs 120 kg. and a heavy version, at a weight of 1,300 kg. The SmartGlider would be able to carry a 1,000 kg to deal with large and hardened infrastructures. With a loadout of 12 to 18 SmartGlider Lights per aircraft, thanks to a Hexabomb Smart Launcher (HSL) capable of managing reactive strikes without affecting the pilot’s workload. As such, the SmartGlider Light will allow first-day-entry by saturating and destroying enemy air defenses.

The illustration above shows a ‘SmartCruiser’ similar to the SmartGlider design, with a miniature turbojet emplaced at the rear. The strike weapons unveiled today are different from the heavy variant of the SmartGliger (shown in the illustration below) since the current approach favors strike weapons with a more stealthy design.

MBDA SmartGlider Heavy


MBDA Hard-Kill Anti-missile system. The miniature missile is 100 cm long and weighs about 10 kg.

The Meteor long-range Air-to-Air missile will remain a powerful asset for next-generation fighter aircraft, but the increasing sophistication and performance of missiles is likely to challenge existing self-protection means, based on electronic warfare and decoys. MBDA considers adding a hard-kill anti-missile system, to counter incoming missiles, particularly ‘stand-in’ combat when soft-kill counter-measures and decoys are no longer sufficient. Such a system is able to reverse the balance of power against saturating defenses.

Two versions of MBDA’s Remote Carriers. The light (100) and Medium (200). Both will be able to be carried internally or externally on multi-weapon carriers. Photo: Tamir Eshel
MBDA Remote Carriers

A new category of weapon is ‘Remote Carriers’, various air-launched autonomous platforms that deliver multiple effects, whether lethal or non-lethal, as well as new services for munitions such as intelligence, targeting, and deception of enemy sensors. Two categories are considered, of weight classes of 120 and 240 kg. Such remote carriers would function as baits and decoys, carry additional weapons ahead of the manned aircraft and closer to heavily defended targets, collect ISR or establish communications nodes.

Unlike today’s massive weapons weighing several tons, MBDA plans these future weapons to be compact airframes, enabling large loadout on current and future aircraft. These missiles will share connectivity infrared and radio frequency sensors, performing data fusion and artificial intelligence for automated target identification in complex environments, threat detection, complex engagements planning, and decision aids will enable the weapons to pursue an attack with or without humans in the loop.

“We are ready to take on the challenge to deliver to our domestic nations the full sovereignty of their future air combat systems by taking part in the definition and development of the armaments that these systems will operate.” Éric Béranger, CEO of MBDA, stated. Eying the successful development and deployment of the Meteor Air/Air missile, Béranger said he is confident MBDA will be equally able to develop the next weapons that will ensure European nations can sustain their air superiority in the long term.

Airbus has also developed a heavy variant of the ‘Remote Carrier’, designed for external carriage. This weapon was unveiled today at the Paris Airshow with the Future Air Combat System (FCAS).


MBDA and AIRBUS are developing different vehicles for the ‘Remote Carrier’ family. Airbus is developing the heavy variant while Airbus focus on the medium and light versions. The heavy (left) and medium (right) versions are shown in this picture taken at the Paris Airshow 2019. Photo: Tamir Eshel
The large Remote Carrier designed by Airbus will be launched from transport aircraft such as A-400M, thus maintaining the Next Generation Fighter (NGF) as stealthy as possible. Photo: Tamir Eshel

IAI Introduces a Tactical Member of the Heron Family of UAS

IAI Unveils the T-Heron, a successor to the Searcher tactical UAS.

IAI is introducing a new member of the Heron family of Unmanned Aerial Systems, designed for tactical operations. The Tactical Heron or T-Heron is positioned as the successor for the company’s Searcher tactical UAS, the second generation remotely piloted vehicle introduced in the early 1990s. The T-Heron joins the Heron family that currently includes Heron I, Super Heron, Heron TP-XP and Heron TP. T-Heron brings the advanced capabilities that evolved with this family to the tactical level, assisting contingency operations in remote areas. Flight testing of the new UAS is expected to begin in 2019 and continue through the next year.

Designed for tactical missions on the battlefield, the T-Heron is slated for operation by land forces and coastal security organizations. Like the larger Heron family members, T-Heron can carry and operate multiple payloads simultaneously, enabling the drone’s operation in the day, night and limited visibility conditions. Configured with a large, rectangular fuselage and low center of gravity enables the T-Heron to deploy from forward, unpaved runways with minimum preparations, and with different payload configurations. The drone and its support systems are transported in two standard containers and can operate from unpaved surfaces with minimal logistical support. The T-Heron utilizes the ground support equipment common to all Heron family UAS, and is self-supported with integral power and cooling, and brakes, thus requiring no special equipment (such as cable arresting gear and power cart).

On tactical deployment, the system can minimize the support crew, utilizing the Heron family ‘Long Runner’ remote operation feature, forward-deployed T-Heron can be controlled remotely from a control center, performing all functions, including takeoff, landing, and taxi without relying on local support teams. IAI offers customers full logistics package, providing flight line, intermediate and depot level (D level) maintenance and support, ensuring complete

Powered by a single Rotax aviation certified engine T-Heron can climb to a ceiling of 24,000 feet, fly at a maximum speed of 120 knots and carry a useful payload of up to 180 kg, including the M-19HD, IAI’s most powerful EO/OIR payload designed specifically for standoff operation. The aircraft has a gross takeoff weight of 600 kg.

Uses FAR33 aviation certified Rotax 912iSC engine, provisions for deicing systems and redundant safety-critical systems The new drone comply with UAV systems airworthiness requirements defining by STANAG 4671. To enable sharing the airspace with civilian aircraft, T-Heron also carries IFF/TCAS for identification and collision avoidance. Similar to other family members, T-Heron has an integral ‘pilot window,’ using a tail mounted panoramic camera.

Heron UAS Family Members
ModelMTOW (kg)Payload (kg)
Searcher MkIII450120/td>
Heron I1,150250
Super Heron1,450450
Heron TP-XP5,400450
Heron TP5,4001,000

German Army to Get Software Defined Radios for the Infantry

The German Federal Ministry of Defense (MOD) has selected Elbit Systems’ German subsidiary to equip its infantry units with the PNR1000 advanced soldier radio, part of Elbit Systems’ E-Lynx family of Software Defined Radios (SDR). The PNR1000, the smallest member of the family, will be delivered in handheld and vehicular configurations. These soldier radios will be used at the platoon and company levels and will be installed onboard various combat vehicles including the SPz PUMA.
The order requires an extensive transfer of technology from Elbit Systems to its German-based subsidiary, facilitating local development and manufacturing of the radios supplied to the German military, along with further extensions and capabilities. Development and production will be done in the company’s research & development (R&D) and manufacturing facilities in Ulm, Germany, which will also serve as the support and R&D center for Germany.
The E-LynX soldier radios facilitate advanced networked combat solutions in both open fields and in urban areas. This radio system provides forces with the capability to use several voice groups in a single channel, enabling flexible operation of multiple units and networks along with fast data services. With an integral Blue Force Tracking (BFT) capability, for effective, agile operations. While the soldier radio is designed for short-range operation, the E-Lynx also supports advanced networking waveform with unique concurrent flooding techniques that extend the range over a multi-hop network, improve network agility and robustness while dramatically reducing network latency.

Indian Navy Demonstrates ‘MRSAM ‘Cooperative Engagement’ Capability

Medium Range Surface to Air Missile Firing Trials Conducted by Indian Navy. Photo: Indian Navy

The Indian Navy conducted the first firing test of an MRSAM naval air defense missile employed in the full Joint Taskforce Coordination (JTC)  mode. JTC implements the MRSAM ‘Cooperative Engagement’ operating mode which sets the system apart from other air defense systems. The recent trial comprised two complex scenarios involving multiple platforms and several simultaneous targets.

On the recent test, conducted on 15 May at India’s western seaboard, two destroyers, INS Kochi and INS Chennai detected multiple targets using their MF-STAR radars and launched several missiles at those targets. What was different was that only one of the ships controlled the engagement, intercepting different aerial targets at extended ranges by the missiles fired from both ships using the systems’ JTC mode. The test demonstrated the ability of MRSAM to operate wide area air defense, distributing assets and control over different platforms and locations. Previous MRSAM firing trials were conducted on a single platform, in the stand-alone mode.

The new engagement capability derives from the network-centric architecture of the Barak 8 system and its MF-STAR 360º radar system that harness multiple sensors, launch platforms, and effectors into a single air defense system. By fitting a data-link to each interceptor, missiles can be updated via data-link after launch by any network member. With this capability, Barak-8 missiles can receive target updates on their mid-course, with updated target information, retasking the highest priority target, until the missile enters the terminal engagement. This capability maximizes missile utilization and battle economy. It enables a single ship to orchestrate the air defense mission or allocate missions to other vessels when required.

MRSAM Surface to Air Missiles (also known as Barak 8) are fitted onboard the Kolkata Class Destroyers (Kolkata, Cochi, and Chennai) and would also be fitted on all future major warships of the Indian Navy. The test was carried out by the Indian Navy, DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries. Bharat Electronics (BEL) is the prime contractor for the Indian MRSAM system.

Cooperative engagement involves using data-links between ships and platforms to have a “common picture” of a battle situation and taking control of weaponry on multiple platforms. In addition to the target hard-kill, such capability also improves the battlegroup’s resilience against jamming.

Lockheed Martin adds SPICE to its Weapons

A SPICE 1000 weapon strikes a hard target on a trial. Photo: RAFAEL

Lockheed Martin and RAFAEL have signed a cooperation agreement to jointly develop, manufacture, market and support RAFAEL’s Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective (SPICE) missile guidance kits to Lockheed Martin’s platforms. RAFAEL already subcontracts about 80 percent of SPICE subassemblies to US manufacturers in eight states. The agreement will enable Israel to buy SPICE kits from the USA, using US military support funds. The agreement follows a market assessment evaluation done by the two partners in the past year.

“Access to GPS is becoming increasingly limited in contested environments,” said Mr. Yuval Miller, executive vice president, and general manager of Rafael’s Air & C4ISR Division. “SPICE provides a solution to this challenge. Finalizing this exclusive agreement sets the scene for our two companies to provide unmatched mid-range guided air-to-surface weapon systems to enhance mission flexibility and success.

SPICE kits are compatible with Lockheed Martin F-16, and, following full integration, will also equip Israel’s Air and Space Forces F-35A. Once concluded, the SPICE will also be available to other F-35 operators. SPICE has also been integrated with the Saab Gripen E, and has already been selected to equip the new Brazilian Gripen NG fighters. RAFAEL also develops the SPICE 250 unitary guided munitions. The bigger SPICEs are designed as guidance kits added to standard bombs. The current agreement does not mention the SPICE 250.

SPICE is a family of stand-off, autonomous, air-to-surface weapon systems, capable of destroying targets with pinpoint accuracy and at high attack volumes in a GPS-denied environment. Combat-proven and in service with the Israeli Air Force and several international customers, SPICE employs a state-of-the-art electro-optical seeker with unique scene-matching algorithms, navigation guidance and homing techniques to achieve operational missions in adverse weather without GPS. The MOU covers the SPICE 1000 (453 kilogram / 1,000 pound weight class) and SPICE 2000 (907 kilogram / 2,000 pound weight class) precision-guided missile kit variants. The SPICE extends the aircraft strike range to 100 km, thus enabling attack from standoff range.

The cooperation agreement follows the partnership RAFAEL and Lockheed Martin established for the international marketing of The POPEYE EO guided missile back in the 1990s. Known as HAVE NAP (AGM-142) POPEYE was fielded by B-52 of the US Strategic Air Command, as well as F-4, and F-111 of the Australian, South Korean, Turkish and Indian Air Forces.

“SPICE is a leading air-to-surface weapon system offering U.S. and international air forces operating Lockheed Martin’s platforms, as well as strategic bomber aircraft, an important complement to their existing operational capabilities,” Miller added. “SPICE’s unique features greatly enhance the U.S.’ ability to operate in contested environments.”

“SPICE offers the U.S. Department of Defense and many allies a capability that no other weapon currently in inventory provides,” said John Varley, vice president of Close Combat Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “By applying our expertise in aircraft integration, mission planning, and tailkit design, along with our experience in affordable, streamlined production, we will adapt SPICE to meet U.S. standards so bomber and fighter aircraft can benefit from the added mission flexibility that SPICE offers.” Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor providing the AGM-158 family of Joint Attack Air to Surface Missile (JASSM) cruise missiles, and the Paveway family of laser-homing weapon guidance kits, widely used by airforces worldwide. SPICE adds an alternative guidance technique, strike autonomy, and independence of GPS, extending the air forces’ operational flexibility in planning and performing strike missions with modern combat aircraft.

SPICE 2000 carried on an IAF F-16. The Viper can carry four SPICE 2000 guided weapons. Photo: RAFAEL

GMLRS, HIMARS to Get New Rocket Pods

Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Brigade, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Sill, OK, prepares an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) after having arrived to Fort Chaffee, AR, by an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules for Operation Phantom Flight on April 12, 2019. Photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven.
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) system packs a single M26 pod containing six guided rockets or a single ATACMS missile. The new pod will replace the current pods that are discarded after launch, and enable loading of new rocket tubes after launching of single rockets. Photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven.

Lockheed Martin is working on a new, modular pod for Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets, enabling loading of individual rocket tubes as they are expended, whereas the original GMLRS pods are discarded after use. The new pods will replace the depleting inventory of M26 rocket pods that were designed for salvo firing, and support the increased production of GMLRS rounds.

The pod will be able to fire the GMLRS Unitary and Alternative Warhead variants, as well as the developmental Extended-Range GMLRS rockets and future rounds. The new pods will replace the depleting inventory of M26 rocket pods and support the increased production of GMLRS rounds. The new pods will be compatible with both the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and MLRS M270 family of launchers. The US Army awarded the company $10.5 million for the development. Ground testing will begin this fall, with a planned flight test before the end of the calendar year. The first deliveries of the new modular pod are anticipated in the fall of 2021.

HIMARS firing a reduced range training rocket. Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Brigade, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Sill, OK, prepares an M142 HIMARS after having arrived to Fort Chaffee, AR, by an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules for Operation Phantom Flight on April 12, 2019.Photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven.

US Army Contracts Dynetics to Build a Mobile, High Energy Laser Weapon

Team Dynetics wins $130 million 100kW-class high energy laser contract for U.S. Army Photo: Dynetics

Dynetics, along with its partners, Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce and MZA Associates have been awarded a $130 million contract to build and test a 100-kilowatt class laser weapon system under the High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) program managed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command’s (USASMDC/ARSTRAT). Team Dynetics has beaten five competitors, among them Raytheon that competed in the final phase.

As the prime contractor, Dynetics will be responsible for final assembly and integration and testing of the system. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), as the laser weapon system integrator, will provide the laser weapon subsystem, optimizing the performance of the laser module, power and cooling systems, and operator interfaces. Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks will design the integrated power and thermal management system to successfully meet the HEL TVD requirements. The design builds upon the successful internally funded programs that have demonstrated the technology and capability in this power class. The system will provide a high level of electrical power and thermal management required in a compact, power dense package with the responsiveness required for directed energy applications.

Earlier in 2019 Team Dynetics successfully completed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), assuring the Army the test program is valid and low-risk from the technical aspect. The team will now move to the critical design review (CDR) as soon as possible. The CDR phase will finalize the design prior to system fabrication, documenting how laser science has matured into an achievable warfighter reality. Long-lead material orders will commence during this time. Subsequently, the team will build and integrate the laser weapon system onto an Army family of medium tactical vehicle (FMTV) platform and conduct field testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico per SMDC’s program plan. According to the preliminary plan, testing will be performed in FY 2022.

The HEL TVD award was the final announcement for the SMDC Design, Development, Demonstration and Integration, or D31, Domain 1 for space, high altitude and missile defense capabilities. Dynetics was named an awardee in 2017, along with six other competitors, and advanced after completing the system requirements review in 2018.

Harris Night Vision Acquisition – a Big Deal for Elbit Systems

Analysis: Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems and the Harris Corporation have agreed to move forward with the acquisition of Harris’ Night Vision business for $350 million. Photo: Harris

Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems and the Harris Corporation have agreed to move forward with the acquisition of Harris’ Night Vision business for $350 million. The acquisition of Harris’ night vision business opens a huge market for Elbit Systems, both domestic and international. Over 50 years Harris and its predecessors Exelis and ITT have established their night vision systems as the market leader. But with the planned merger between Harris and L3 Technologies, Inc., the night vision systems business becomes redundant under the combined portfolio.

Expected to be completed by mid-year the planned merger between Harris and L3 creates a defense electronics giant worth $33.5 billion, to be ranked sixth in the US market, after Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. Harris and L3 are both major suppliers of night systems to the US military and Government. One of the two competing lines had to go. With annual revenues around $150-160 million, and solid profit margins, Harris’ night vision portfolio is smaller than L3’s.

Continued operation support of both activities was a concern for the Justice Department’s, considering the merger approval. For Elbit Systems this was a great opportunity, elevating its position as a major supplier in the US market and opening a new marketing channel for its large product portfolio of complementary and innovative products. “In January 2019, we announced that as part of the L3 merger regulatory process we had proactively started exploring the sale of our Night Vision business,” said William M. Brown, chairman, president, and chief executive officer. “With the signing of the agreement to divest the Night Vision business and yesterday’s approval by shareholders of the L3 Harris merger, we have achieved two significant milestones towards completing the transformational merger in mid-calendar 2019.”

Harris has led the night vision industry for over 50 years. According to Harris, the company produced more night vision devices than all competitors combined. Harris Night Vision activity is a remnant of several acquisitions. The first, was in 2011, as Exelis was a spinoff from ITT Corporation, becoming an independent defense company, and in 2015, as Exelis was acquired by Harris.

Among the latest innovations Harris offers are AN/PSQ-20A enhanced night vision goggles, i-Aware Fusion lines, combining third generation night vision, thermal vision and integrated live video display on an advanced headset. Harris is the leading supplier of aviators night vision systems (ANVIS), used by the military. In 2018 the company’s light intensification tubes and ANVIS assembly (AN/AVS-9) was certified by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for civilian use for night flying with fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Elbit Systems’ portfolio provides many complimentary activities, including thermal imaging, weapon sights, soldier systems, day and night helmet mounted aviator displays and pilot sights for combat helicopters. “The market position and technological strength of Harris Night Vision make this acquisition significant to our long-term growth strategy, with a particular focus on the U.S.” Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, Elbit Systems President & CEO commented.

Soft Launch Delivers a Hard Fist

The CAMM missile is seen on its first flight from HMS Argyll. The missile’s clean aerodynamic design provides it with improved performance in the air, while also making it highly compact for installation onboard ship. Photo: MBDA

Following first deployments at sea on Type 23 frigates, MBDA’s Sea Ceptor matures to become highly effective and efficient all-weather air defense weapon system. Designed for efficient deployment on land and at sea, Sea Ceptor offers unique advantages for operations of small surface vessels. Relying on active-RF guided CAMM missile, the system uses different radars and command and control systems provide short and medium air defense covering an area of 500 square miles.

Selected for use on next-generation Type 26 frigates, Sea Ceptor has also been installed on existing Type 23 frigates, replacing the Sea Wolf missile system. CAMM relies on existing capabilities from MBDA’s portfolio, such as datalink C3 and propulsion from the Advanced Short-Range Air-Air Missile (ASRAAM), along with command and control from the Sea Viper, used on six Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers.

Variants of Sea Ceptor have been ordered by three nations – UK, New Zealand, and Chile. The Royal Navy (Type 23 upgrades and new Type 26 frigates), Chilean Navy (for Type 23 frigates) and Royal New Zealand Navy (ANZAC frigate system upgrade). To date, Sea Ceptor systems have been deployed on two Royal Navy frigates, HMS Argyll in 2017 and HMS Westminster in 2018. Two systems are also deployed on Royal New Zealand Navy vessels, HMNZS Te-Kaha and Te-Mana. Brazil has also selected the weapon for its new Tamandare class corvettes. Spain, Finland, and India are also potential customers for the system.

A salvo of two Sea Ceptor air defense missiles fired from HMS Argyll. Sea Ceptor is being fitted to replace the Sea Wolf weapon system on the Type 23 frigates and will provide the same capability for the Royal Navy’s future Type 26 Frigates. Photo: Crown Copyright, UK MOD

Sea Ceptor can also be retrofitted on a range of platforms, beginning at 50m offshore patrol vessels (OPV) and corvettes, frigates, and destroyers. On larger vessels, CAMM missiles can also integrate with standard VL-41 vertical launch system (VLS), with each cell containing four CAMM canisters. MBDA has worked with Lockheed Martin to develop a lightweight version of the MK41 launcher for CAMM. Using an active RF seeker for targeting, CAMM does not rely on target illumination by the launching platform and can therefore simultaneously engage multiple targets. Target data can be uploaded to the missile in flight, as the missile maintains continuous two-way data link with the launcher immediately after launch.

A key capability of CAMM is the use of a soft launch mechanism that imposes minimal loads on the launchers and structure. This concept minimizes smoke and flash effects that may obstruct sensors and systems on board. It also enables the simultaneous firing of multiple missiles against different targets. The missile performance derives from optimal use of onboard propellant. Its powerful rocket motor sustains the missile kinematics at twice the range of the Sea Wolf it replaces, using alternative propulsion for ejection and platform separation. The engine is ignited high above the vessel, after being injected to the air by compressed air. Using separate propulsion for the vertical launch phase. The soft launch reduces the launch stress on the platform and eliminates the need for managing hot gas efflux on-board.

Designed for minimal logistical support and maintenance the CAMM missile is contained in a launch canister handled as a ‘wooden round’. It is certified for use on ships or land, enabling users to maintain common stockpiles for naval and Ground-Based Air Defenses. Designed for storage in the ship’s launcher magazine or in silo CAMM can be stored on board for long periods with no maintenance. The canister also stores a soft vertical launch gas generator that delivers the air pressure to eject the missile on launch. Image: MBDA

The land-based variant is ‘Land Ceptor’, designed as the interceptor element of modern Ground Based Air Defense (GBAD). The launch customer for Land Ceptor was the British Army, acquiring 14 systems for the ‘Sky Sabre’ (GBAD) capability. The system integrates three main elements from four nations: MBDA’s Land Ceptor missile system (UK), Saab Giraffe AMB radar (Sweden), and Rafael’s modular, integrated C4I air and missile defense system (MICAD – Israel). All elements will be mobilized using HX77 heavy utility trucks supplied from Germany. Replacing the Rapier SHORAD missile Land Ceptor will have a range of +25 km, three times the Rapier’s range, broadening the former weapon’s target set to more challenging threats, including guided weapons and cruise missiles.

An extended range variant, CAMM-ER is in development at MBDA Italia. The new missile offers an extended range (+40 km) is expected to assume the Italian Army Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) mission as it replaces the ASPIDE system, expected to be phased of service by 2021. The CAMM-ER system integrates Italian radars and command and control systems. The missile uses a new propulsion augmentation system developed by Avio. The missile is expected to begin firing trials this year.

A CAMM missile testing the Soft Vertical Launch from HX77 truck. Photo: MBDA

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