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Russian Air Force Begins Testing MALE Strike Drones

Orion E MALE UAV was displayed in a full scale model by the developed by the Russian Kronstadt Group. Orion-E is the first MALE drone produced in Russia, that is capable of carrying weapons.

The Russian Air Force has begun testing the medium-altitude long-range drone Orion Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) strike-reconnaissance drones, Tass news reported.

the user testing follows the manufacturer test phase and state trials culminated with weapons tests with several drones deployed to Syria. Following those tests, the Ministry of Defense is expected to make the final procurement decision. In the strike-reconnaissance configuration, Orion-E can carry four missiles. The Orion was developed by the Kronstadt group.

The Russian Air Force plans to deploy MALE drones in a mixed formation of manned and unmanned reconnaissance and attack platforms. These are expected to use MALE drones such as long loitering but slow Orion, and fast, long-range strike aircraft such as the S-34.

E-Lynx SDR to Modernize the Swiss Army Mobile Communications

A typical E-Lynx Software Defined Radio set is comprised of a radio, tactical router and vehicle intercom units. Photo: Elbit Systems

Switzerland has selected Elbit Systems to replace vehicular tactical radio equipment currently used by the Swiss military. An initial contract award for the supply of E-Lynx software-defined radios, vehicle intercoms, and headsets is expected to be worth several hundred-millions of Swiss Francs and is subject to Swiss Parliament approvals.

The Swiss Federal Council is expected to submit the procurement to parliament approval as part of the armaments program 2020. “Switzerland is a strategic market for us and we will continue with our efforts to support the Swiss Armed Forces and expand our cooperation with the Swiss industry.” Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, President and CEO of Elbit Systems, commented.

The decision followed four years of evaluations of 15 offerors. The last phase included technical testing, troop trials and commercial evaluations of the two foreign finalists – Israel’s Elbit Systems and the German company Rhode & Schwartz, represented by its local subsidiary Roschi Rohde & Schwarz AG. Elbit Systems’ winning offer was determined as “the best value for money… attributed to a slightly better fulfillment of performance and a considerable difference in the commercial sphere,” the Swiss defense ministry announced. Other procurements in the Armed Forces Telecommunications project are still in competition.

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Agreement to buy 478 F-35 Sets F-35A Unit Price Below $80 Million Target

Photo credit: US Air Force

The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin finalized a $34 billion agreement for the production and delivery of 478 F-35s in three models at the lowest aircraft price during the history of the Program. This contract includes all U.S., International Partners, and Foreign Military Sales aircraft in low-rate initial procurement (LRIP) Lots 12, 13, and 14. Follow-on orders are expected to run under full-rate production. For the first time, the cost of an F-35 fighter jet and its engine drops below US$80 million in Lot 13 and 14.

The sub $80 million per unit for recurring flyaway cost for an F-35 represents an integrated acquisition price for the 5th Generation Weapon System. With embedded sensors and targeting pods, this F-35 unit price includes items that add additional procurement and sustainment costs to legacy 4th Generation aircraft.

According to Lockheed Martin, the agreement reflects the F-35 Enterprise goal to meet its long-stated cost reduction targets for each variant. “Driving down cost is critical to the success of this program. I am excited that the F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin have agreed on this landmark three-lot deal. This agreement achieves an average 12.7 percent cost reduction across all three variants and gets us below $80 Million for a USAF F-35A by Lot 13 – one lot earlier than planned,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “This $34 billion agreement is a truly historic milestone for the F-35 Enterprise.”

Under the agreement, the Pentagon awarded a US$7 billion modification to the firm-fixed-price, fixed-price incentive firm target cost-reimbursable contract F-35 procurement contract reflecting the procurement of 114 aircraft under Lot-12 buy, for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Foreign customers. Specifically, the modification procures 48 F-35A aircraft for the Air Force, 20 F-35B aircraft for the Marine Corps, nine F-35C aircraft for the Navy, 12 F-35A aircraft for the government of Norway, 15 F-35A aircraft for the government of Australia, and eight F-35A and two F-35B aircraft for the government of Italy. The above U.S. aircraft quantities are inclusive of fiscal 2019 (Lot 13) plus up aircraft.

The total multi-year buying agreement includes 291 aircraft for the U.S. Services, 127 for F-35 International Partners, and 60 for F-35 Foreign Military Sales customers.

Price details include:

VariantLot 12Lot 13Lot 14%Reduction from Lot 11*
* Final prices for F-35 variants following adjustments for Congressional plus-ups and other contractual settlements are as follows: F-35A – $89.3M; F-35B – $115.5M; and $108.8M


“With smart acquisition strategies, strong government-industry partnership and a relentless focus on quality and cost reduction, the F-35 Enterprise has successfully reduced procurement costs of the 5th Generation F-35 to equal or less than 4th Generation legacy aircraft,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin, F-35 Program vice president, and general manager. “With the F-35A unit cost now below $80 million in Lot 13, we were able to exceed our long-standing cost reduction commitment one year earlier than planned.”

More than 450 F-35 aircraft are operating now from 19 bases around the globe. Eight nations have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil, and seven Services have declared Initial Operating Capability (IOC). More than 910 pilots and 8,350 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 220,000 cumulative flight hours.

The F-35 program includes 1,500 direct suppliers, 1,400 of them are in the USA, and 100 located internationally.

Counter Drone System Repels Drone Attack on a Portuguese Port at REP(MUS)19 NATO Exercise

IAI Drone Guard ELI-4030 deployed at the peer alongside Portuguese Navy OPV Figueira da Foz (P361). Drone Guard was evaluated as part of the harbor defense capability during the REPMUS19 NATO exercise, defending against potential hostile drone attacks. Photo: IAI

Dozens of unmanned underwater, surface and air vehicles from NATO countries have gathered in Portugal for two weeks in September, testing new technological advances in unmanned maritime systems networks. To beef up its Port defense capability the Portuguese Navy invited IAI to bring its Drone-Guard C-UAS system that provided unprecedented situational awareness and drone defeat capability during the exercise.

The “Recognized Environmental Picture Atlantic” (REP) Maritime Unmanned Systems (MUS) 2019 Exercise – #REPMUS19 Exercise was held in the Sesimbra and Troia Peninsula area in the south of Lisbon. Ever since its first edition in 2010, REP tests innovative networked vehicle systems through large-scale experimentation and cooperation involving academia, industry and the naval operational community across the NATO alliance.

The exercise provided an opportunity to test the interoperability of aerial, and technologies and the procedures and tactics for Maritime Unmanned Systems used by NATO countries.

800 personnel from the Portuguese Navy, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and the NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation participated in the exercise, along with support from academia and industry.

New maritime unmanned systems technologies can be a game-changer in countering multiple threats in the maritime domain. Unmanned systems also become a major risk for navies, defense forces and authorities, which should be understood, and countered effectively. For the forces operating unmanned systems, operation under degraded Position Navigation Timing and Communications (PNT-C) communications conditions is mandatory in a challenging operational environment.

Some of these capabilities were provided at REP(MUS)19 by the latest generation of IAI Elta Systems Drone-Guard multi-layered counter-UAS system that was deployed there by the invitation of the Portuguese Navy. Drone Guard was evaluated by the Portuguese forces in parallel to the exercise, in line with the port defense challenge.

The system comprised of Elta’s ELM-2026B X-band radar that also integrates into a VSHORAD point-defense capability, the radar detects all types of aerial targets, from aircraft and drones to small, slow low-flying or hovering multirotor drones. The radar provides automatic identification of targets.

Passive COMINT-ELINT sensor provides a second detection layer, detecting drones by their characteristic emissions. The system can identify and differentiate between drones and other emitters, such as Wi-Fi hot spots, and identify specific drone types by their electronic signature. These sensors can detect a drone even before it takes off, providing an early warning on hostile intent. Drone Guard can also detect ‘silent’ autonomous drones that do not rely on communications or GPS for their operation since it monitors a wide frequency spectrum that may also detect the signals of sensors used for the vehicle’s autonomous flight.

A third layer is a visual identification by electro-optical (EO/IR) sensors providing positive identification of a drone target.

An active jammer integrated into the system enables operators to engage a target of choice or multiple targets. Due to the high efficiency of the system, Drone Guard jammer needs focuses its power at a narrow lobe to defeat targets at a significant range. Therefore, the system minimizes the transmitted power and interference to other systems.

All sensors were managed on a unified control unit, that tracked and engaged multiple targets during the exercise. The system tracked small drones and tactical UAS deployed against the port by Portuguese Navy commandos in day and night, from the sea and inland. Using automatic classification and identification, Drone Guard detected those drones at significant ranges and provided situational awareness and early warning operating in a challenging electromagnetic noisy environment involving aerial traffic and extensive communications activity.

The need for such capability became clear after the surprise attack on Saudi oil facilities. While air defense radars provide effective early warning from enemy aircraft, those radars often ignore targets flying very low or very slow since they masked in the ground clutter or filtered as birds. A Drone Guard system added to existing radars would enhance existing air defense radars, such as Elta’s MMR, to improve small, slow low (SSL) target detection.

The Drone Guard was set up to establish 360° coverage, to detect and simultaneously track high and low flying airborne threats over land and sea. Portuguese special forces launched a raid against the port, launching single drones and a swarm of drones against the target. These included mini UAS and multirotor drones as small as a Mavic-Pro quad. Controlled by the forces on rubber boats, the drones simultaneously attacked the harbor from both the land and sea. The Drone Guard effectively detected and tracked those targets at a long-range, automatically classified the threats and provided a situational picture in real-time. The system successfully intercepted and neutralized the drones through jamming and brought them to the ground.

Drone Guard comprises three detection layers, the radar and passive communications-electronic intelligence (COMINT-ELINT). With the integrated Electro-Optics sensor, Drone Guard provides multi-sensor, multi-spectral C-UAS capability to detect, identify and analyze drone targets. The combination of passive and active sensing systems enables the detection of drone activity, including drone swarm. “The Drone Guard system performed flawlessly during the event.” Abish Asher, Regional Director of Marketing and Sales at ELTA commented following the exercise. “The system provided an advance and innovative awareness display of integrated surface and air situation picture while simultaneously auto classifying different types of targets.”

“C-UAS units must be able to detect and classify both hostile as well as civilian drones that mistakenly enter sensitive areas as they too can cause unintended damage to a facility’s infrastructure,” Asher added, “The Drone Guard was successful in providing a protective dome around the harbor against the tested air threats. The Portuguese Navy expressed their appreciation and satisfaction with the results.”

Raytheon to Build a New 360 Radar for the US Army Patriot Air Defense Systems

Raytheon displayed the new radar it developed for the LTAMDS at the AUSA 2019 exhibition in Washington DC. Photo: Raytheon
LTAMDS uses three AESA arrays to provide complete 360-degree coverage. This image shows the two rear panels sized almost as the main array pointed forward.

The Raytheon Company announced it has been selected to provide the US Army with its next-generation, 360-degree capable radar – known as the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS).

Raytheon’s solution is designed to be fully operable with the U.S. Army’s existing architecture. As such, it will operate on the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense network Battle Command System (IBCS). According to Raytheon’s officials, when the first LTAMDS radar rolls off the assembly line, the Army will be able to turn it on and it’ll connect automatically.

As a 360-degree sensor LTAMDS expands battlespace coverage to detect and engage air and missile threats coming from various directions, not only the forward arc traditionally covered by Patriot systems, including at very low altitude. Based on Raytheon’s radar design experience, the new system represents a ‘clean sheet’ approach, that enables the new sensor to automatically connect to the network upon deployment, without the need for network or system retrofit or upgrades.

The selection comes after the completion of a ‘Sense-Off’ competition held by the Army, in an effort to accelerate the development and fielding of the Patriot replacement radar and complete a modernization program as early as 2022. Under the current program, Raytheon will develop and supply six radar systems. Fielding plans call for the delivery of additional sensors to equip 15 Patriot battalions through 2031, though the Army maintains the option to evaluate and buy other sensors by that time. During the ‘Sense-Off,’ the Army also evaluated operational radar systems from Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin/IAI-Elta.

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The vulnerability of sectorial air defense systems was clearly demonstrated by the failure of Saudi Air Defenses to detect and warn of an air attack by Iranian cruise missiles and loitering weapons, that targeted oil refineries in Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi-Arabia on the night of September 14, 2019. those weapons have flown bypassed the Saudi defenses by coming from the northwest, whereas the air defenses were pointed eastward, toward Iran. Deployment of sensors like LTAMDS is expected to close this gap, replacing the two sectorial covering types with full 360-degree coverage and higher sensitivity that improve the detection of small, agile and low signature targets.

Soft-Kill System Seconds a Hard-Kill in a Layered Defense Demonstration

A model of the Raven non-kinetic APS as displayed at the AUSA Global Force convention in April 2019. Photo: Defense-Update
A model of the Raven non-kinetic APS as displayed at the AUSA convention 2019, on the Robotic Technology Demonstrator. Photo: Defense-Update

BAE Systems unveiled its next-generation active protection system called raven today, at the US Army (AUSA) convention. Raven uses a unique, non-kinetic InfraRed (IR) countermeasure system to defeat guided missiles fired at the protected platform. Raven has already demonstrated its effectiveness against guided missiles in several tests. The system was tested and proved capable of operating in harsh battlefield conditions, against dst, smoke, and fog.

In 2018 the RAVEN Countermeasure system participated in a six-week ‘Soft Kill Rodeo’ and was selected by the Army to proceed for the next phase of testing. In that Rodeo, three countermeasure systems were challenged, redirecting anti-tank guided missiles. The Army tested the Raven again in September 2019, installing it on an M2 Bradley alongside a kinetic countermeasure system, (most likely the Iron Fist) for a layered demonstration. The system combines BAE Systems 360MVP sensors and one of two Raven laser-based effectors. Subscribe to access our analysis

Raven non-kinetic active protection system – principles of operation. Infographics: BAE Systems

Aerospace, Defense & Security Events

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October – December 2019 Events

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AUSA – US Army Annual Meeting & Convention
14-16 October 2019, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington DC, USA

Directed Energy Systems – 22-24 October 2019, London Mariott Hotel, Regents Park, London UK

CPSE – China 17th Public Security Expo –
28-30 October 2019, Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center, Shenzhen, China

Future Mortar Systems – 29-31 October 2019, Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference center, Madrid, Spain

UVID International Conference of Unmanned Systems 7 November 2019, Avenue Convention Center, Airport City, Israel

Future Armoured Vehicles Survivability – 12-14 November 2019, Kempthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington, London UK

Dubai Airshow – 17-21 November 2019, DWC, Dubai Airshow Site

Defense & Security – Tri-Service Asian Defense & Security Exhibition, Conference and Networking Event -, 18-21 November 2019, IMPACT Exhibition & Convention Center, Bangkok, Thailand

Future Indirect Fires Eastern Europe – 19-21 November 2019, Hotel Swisshotel, Tallinn, Estonia

Milipol – 19-22 November 2019, Paris-Nord Villepinte, Paris, France

Expodefensa  International Defense & Security Trade Fair 2-4 December 2019, Bogota, Columbia

I/ITSEC – Modeling, Simulation & Training Event
2-6 December, Orlando, FL, USA

Countering Explosive Threat & Demining – 10-12 December 2019, Hilton Wembley, London, UK

GDA – Gulf Defense & Aerospace Exhibition & Conference – 10-12 December 2019, Kuwait International Fair, Kuwait

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S70 Okhotnik Flies MUM-T with Su-57

Sukhoi and the Russian Ministry of Defense have flown the S-70 Okhotnik-B unmanned aerial vehicle with Su-57 fifth-generation fighter aircraft for the first time. The flight that laster 30 minutes was part of the ongoing test program. On this flight, Okhotnik-B flew with a full avionics configuration in an automated mode demonstrating key features for a Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) capability.

During the flight, Okhotnik provided sensor augmentation for the Su-57, by expanding the fighter’s radar coverage, enabling the Su-57 to acquire targets beyond the reach of its own radar, and outside enemy missiles and air defenses coverage.

Okhotnik follows a stealth flying wing design that uses special materials and coatings that reduces its radar signature making it invisible to enemy radar. The UAV is equipped with optoelectronic, and radar sensors to perform both air dominance and reconnaissance missions.

Bastion-P Test Reinforces Russian Control of Arctic Marine Route

The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed the completion of a successful firing test of the Onix P-800 ground-launched, supersonic anti-ship cruise missile at a naval target floating at the Arctic Sea, 200 kilometers from the Chukotka Peninsula. The test reinforces the Russian claim to control this new, strategic sea route that has opened as a result of global warming effects. On previous tests Bastion engaged naval targets from fixed coastal positions.

The deployment of Bastion coastal defense missile system offers the Russian Navy a new capability to dominate the critical sea lanes along the Russian landmass in the arctic. Lack of infrastructure and ports limits the military options of nations in the region, to the use of long-range strategic weapons, but the Bastion, capable of hitting ships at sea at ranges of 500-800 km poses a conventional means of deterrence.

The recent exercise demonstrated the capability of Bastion coastal defense systems to deploy using amphibious landing ships to a firing location inland in the Chukotka Peninsula. From a position about 200 inland, the Bastions was capable of striking targets along the entire eastern part of the Northern Sea Route, from the De Long to the Bering Straits. These sea lanes provide critical access routes to the Northern Sea Route, connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and North-Sea and saving weeks on sea travel. This route passes almost entirely in parts of the arctic waters claimed by Russia.

Map of the Bering Sea depicting the 800 km distance from the strategic Chukotka Peninsula.

In March 2019, the Russian government introduced new rules of foreign military ships’ transit of the Northern Sea Route, under which warships are obliged to inform Russia of their plans 45 days in advance, and to admit Russian naval navigators aboard the vessels. According to the Tass news agency, in case of their refusal to comply with these requirements, warships may be denied transit and in case of their unauthorized passage along the route, Russia reserves the right to use “emergency measures.”

Russia currently operates five K300 Bastion-P systems, of which two are deployed in the Pacific region, and three in Kaliningrad and Crimea. The Bastion coastal defense system uses the supersonic anti-ship Onix missile in a ground-launched configuration. In 2016 the first Bastion system was deployed to Kuril, on the Russian side of the Bering Sea, from where it could target Alaska. A second unit became operational in the region early 2019.

The Onix missile weighs 3.1 tons of which 300 kg is the warhead (200 in the export version.) The missile can carry a semi-armor piercing high explosive warhead or a small thermonuclear warhead.

Launched from a vertical launch tube, using a solid-rocket booster, the missile transitions to a horizontal flight and accelerates to a high supersonic speed powered by a ramjet fueled by kerosene (T-6). From coastal positions, the missile can attack naval targets beyond the horizon, at ranges of 600 kilometers in a ‘Hi-Lo’ trajectory, flying at a speed of 2.6-2 Mach. An improved version known as Onix-M will be capable of extending the range to 800 km. The new version is designed to operate over land and sea and attack naval and land targets with high precision.

The Onix missile is operated by the Russian Navy, Vietnam, and Syria. the Syrian inventory may have been hit by an Israeli air attack in 2013 but some of the missiles are thought to have been delivered to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

P-800 Onix missile launched from a Russian Bastion coastal-defense unit. Photo: Russian MOD

Satellite Imagery Unveils Iran’s Struggle to Establish a Protected BridgeHead on Syria-Iraq Border

A fleet of earth moving and construction machinery is operating on the sites, constructing a hangar and perimeter wall. Some of this equipment was targeted on the recent air attacks. Photo: Fatemiyoun

The Iranians are racing against time and air attacks to build and fortify the Imam-Ali military compound near Albukamal, on the Syrian-Iraqi border. In recent months, Iran is constructing a civilian border passage at Albukamal-Al Qiam.

Nearby, a short distance from the commercial gateway, a different compound is being built – designed to store and temporarily accommodate shipments of military hardware, missiles, and ammunition shipped from Iran, to support the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds force, through Iraq to Iran’s Shi’ite proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

A general view of Albukamal-Al-Qiam Syria-Iraq border crossing showing the Imam-Ali compound on the left and commercial crossing on the right. Photo: Imagesat ISI.

Once completed, Imam Ali compound will become Iran’s beachhead in Syria, and a central pillar in Iran’s ‘land bridge’ supporting Iran’s proxies in Syria and Lebanon via Irak. Once considered a safe haven for ISIS, Albukamal-Al-Qiam has become a strategic Iranian stronghold thought to be too far for the Israel Air Force to reach, a notion that, so far, allegedly proved wrong.

The compound suffered repeated air attacks in recent months, and at least twice in September. The most recent attacks were recorded on September 9 and 16.

One of the constructions destroyed by the air attacks.

Despite the attacks that destroyed structures and heavy engineering machines, extensive work continues at the compound, as the recent satellite images taken by Imagesat International (ISI) show.

Some of the recent attacks attributed to Israel, along the Iranian ‘land bridge’ from Iran to Lebanon. Map: ISI

New military infrastructures, including fortifications and revetments, paved access roads and trails within and around the base are clearly seen in the satellite photos. New structures are raised near those destroyed in previous attacks, showing the builder’s commitment to complete and deliver the protected facility despite the attacks.

A fleet of earthmoving and construction machinery is operating on the sites, constructing a hangar and perimeter wall. Some of this equipment was targeted on the recent air attacks. The images show new infrastructures were raised soon after the reported September 9th bombing.

New structures built after the September 9th attack can be seen here, from an image taken two weeks later. Photo: ISI

The identity of the attackers, whether they are manned or unmanned strike aircraft is yet unknown. The level of damage is moderate since most attacks were done against empty, incomplete structures and machinery. Given the Iranian determination, to establish the compound, it is expected that the Quds force will soon deploy air defense assets to the compound, to try and deter further attacks. If such a move is made, those air defense assets, including radars and missiles, will certainly become primary targets for future attacks.

A logistical military compound is seen here with hangar and perimeter wall been built. Photo: ISI

AFRL to Test a Drone-Swarm Killer HPM

Phaser HMP counter drone (CUAS) weapon. Photo: Raytheon

The US Air Force Research Laboratory is investing US$16 million in further field assessment of Raytheon’s Phaser High Power Microwave System outside the continental U.S. The testing phase will span over 12 months in which the Phaser will engage simulated and real unmanned aerial systems threats. The evaluation will explore the effectiveness of Phaser’s counter-drone engagement without disrupting the necessary installation operations.

The effectiveness of Phaser against drones has already been demonstrated at the Army MFIX exercise in 2018, when the system eliminated 33 drones, 2-3 at a time. Currently mounted on a shipping container-like box, Raytheon plans to significantly reduce the size in future versions.

AFRL already evaluates two other HPM systems – the Tactical High-Power Operational Responder (THOR), that deploys as a means to provide base defense against drones, and ‘Counter-Electronic High-Power Microwave Extended-Range Air Base Air Defense’ system, or CHIMERA, designed to engage multiple targets over a larger area.

The HPM contract follows a separate Air Force contract in which Raytheon will build two prototype high-energy laser systems, also to be deployed overseas. The HPM and HEL systems can be used independently or together to counter-unmanned aerial system threats. “There’s more than one way to defeat a drone,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. “We are delivering the world’s first defensive directed energy systems that can be used alone or in tandem to defeat enemy drones at the speed of light.”

The Tactical High-Power Operational Responder (THOR) is designed to pursue multiple short-range targets. Photo: USAF

AFRL is running an accelerated development program funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and began testing prototype equipment in the first half of 2019. Tests have been carried out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque in cooperation with equipment suppliers including Raytheon, BAE Systems, Leidos, and Verus Research. The AFRL hopes to field an initial development system in 2020 under a $15 million program.

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The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Tactical High Power Operational Responder developed for airbase defense. (Photo: AFRL Directed Energy Directorate)

Maiden Flight for the US Navy Future Aerial Refueling Drone

MQ-25 T1 takes off on its first flight, September 19, 2019. Photo: Boeing

The MQ-25 test asset, known as T1, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the direction of Boeing test pilots operating from a ground control station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill., where the test program is based. The aircraft completed an autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-determined route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station.

According to the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager Capt. Chad Reed, “The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”

The Boeing-owned test asset is a predecessor to the engineering development model (EDM) aircraft and is being used for early learning and discovery to meet the goals of the U.S. Navy’s accelerated acquisition program. T1 received its experimental airworthiness certificate from the FAA in September, verifying that the air vehicle meets the agency’s requirements for safe flight.

MQ-25 T1 landing after its maiden flight. Photo: Boeing
Testing will continue with T1 to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development. “This aircraft and its flight test program ensures we’re delivering the MQ-25 to the carrier fleet with the safety, reliability, and capability the U.S. Navy needs to conduct its vital mission,” said Boeing MQ-25 Program Director Dave Bujold.

Boeing will produce four EDM MQ-25 air vehicles for the U.S. Navy under an $805 million contract awarded in August 2018. The MQ-25 will provide the Navy with a much-needed carrier-based unmanned aerial refueling capability. It will allow for better use of the combat strike fighters currently performing the tanking role and will extend the range of the carrier air wing.

The Netherlands Selects BAE Systems to Integrate APS into their CV9035NL AIFVs

BAE Systems displayed the CV9035 equipped with enhanced lethality, protection and situational awareness. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense-Update

The Royal Netherlands Army has been working closely with BAE Systems Hägglunds to study the implementation of the Iron Fist APS onto the CV9035NL since 2015. “Over the last couple of years, we have done a thorough job in studying the integration and conducting system tests with the Active Protection System for the CV90 platform,” said Joost Vernooij, Dutch Project Manager for CV90. “We are now confident that it will provide the capability we need, the APS will give us a significant combat advantage and will improve tactical operation,” Vernooij added.

The first phase evaluated the feasibility of five systems. The second phase focused on the inherent performance and high-level integration of the APS. With the first layer of soft-kill technology integrated onto the Dutch Army’s CV9035NL fleet, plans are underway to add the Iron Fist’s final layer. The integration of APS is part of the Mid-Life Upgrade program of the CV9035NL, with focus on integration, Human Machine interfacing and performance optimization.

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BAE Systems displayed IMI’s Iron Fist Lightweight (IF-LC) Configuration on its CV9035. BAE Systems was selected by the Dutch MOD to integrate the Iron Fist system on the CV9035NL. The version that is likely to be fielded is the IF-Light Decoupled (IF-LD), the same version selected by the US Army and IDF. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense-Update.

“This development is a strategic milestone in the CV90’s holistic survivability approach.” Dan Lindell, the CV90 platform manager at BAE Systems Hägglunds explained. “It complements the already existing, stealth- and soft-kill layers with further means to defeat the incoming threat, making survivability even more achievable.” In addition to armored protection, the CV90’s overall survivability is enhanced by superior mobility, advanced signature management features, ease-of-use and maintainability, and a high degree of design efficiency. The APS adds the vehicle another layer of protection, provided by soft- and hard-kill countermeasures.

The Royal Netherlands Army is one of seven European armies operating the CV90. The Netherlands currently operates 149 CV9035NL vehicles. Other operators include Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Estonia. These nations are expected to follow the Dutch selection when extending the life of their AFVs.

Lockheed Martin Prepared to Enhance F-35 Targeting Capability

Lockheed Martin said today it has developed an advanced version of the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) used in the F-35 Lightning II. The Advanced EOTS offers higher resolution and improved multi-spectral sensing. The development was funded through internal investment and was vetted through Operational Analysis against the most demanding F-35 missions. The Advanced EOTS includes a larger aperture and provides pilots with multi-spectral sensing options such as high-resolution Mid-Wave IR, Short-Wave IR and Near IR. Utilizing the same volume and weight, Advanced EOTS is effortless to integrate into the F-35 Lightning II with the “plug and play” feature.

A comparison between the basic EOTS and Advanced EOTS shows the dramatic improvement of the new system. Photo: Lockheed Martin

EOTS combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track functionality to support the pilot both in air-to-air and air-to-ground, in day and night conditions. EOTS allows aircrews to identify areas of interest, perform reconnaissance and precisely deliver laser and GPS-guided weapons

Unlike the 360 degrees Distributed Aperture System and new large Area Display (LAD) that were modernized through alternative sourcing, Lockheed Martin developed the A-EOTS as a company-funded initiative, that that is offered as an option for future modernization, and not under the cost-cutting initiative. The company said it will integrate Advanced EOTS on F-35s, should customers require the upgrade as part of F-35 follow on modernization.

According to the company, the new system provides higher performance at lower operating cost, compared to the EOTS currently used with the F-35. With increased reliability and reduced costs per operating hour, Advanced EOTS is expected to save more than a billion US$ for users over the system’s life span. The EOTS uses a low-drag, low weight package integrated into the F-35 Lightning II’s fuselage with a durable sapphire window. The system is linked to the aircraft’s integrated central computer through a high-speed fiber-optic interface.

As the first sensor to combine forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track functionality, EOTS enhances F-35 pilots’ situational awareness and allows aircrews to identify areas of interest, perform reconnaissance and precisely deliver laser and GPS-guided weapons. Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 500 systems for all F-35 Lightning II aircraft delivered to US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and foreign air forces.

Advanced EOTS, an evolutionary electro-optical targeting system, is available for the F-35’s Block 4 development. Designed to replace EOTS, Advanced EOTS incorporates a wide range of enhancements and upgrades, including short-wave infrared, high-definition television, an infrared marker, and improved image detector resolution. These enhancements increase F-35 pilots’ recognition and detection ranges, enabling greater overall targeting performance.

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