Elbit Systems announced today that it was awarded a contract valued at approximately $172 million to supply light tanks to the Army of a country in Asia-Pacific. The contract will be performed over a three-year period. Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, Elbit Systems President & CEO, commented: “This light tank contract reflects the mutually beneficial strategic co-operation between Elbit Systems and GDELS, based on joint development and manufacturing of vehicle-turret solutions. Our comprehensive portfolio of subsystems provides us with a strong position in the armored vehicle market, especially as mission requirements become more diverse and increasingly networked. We believe that the “Sabrah” light tank solution can provide high operational value for additional Armed Forces.”
As the prime contractor, Elbit Systems will supply the “Sabrah” light tank solution based on the tracked ASCOD platform that is manufactured by General Dynamics European Land Systems Santa Bárbara from Spain (“GDELS“), and on the wheeled Pandur II 8X8 platform manufactured by Excalibur Army from the Czech Republic. Both vehicles use a common turret with high-performance stabilization enabling firing on the move and engagement of moving targets. The turret mounts a low recoil 105mm 52 caliber cannon with an autoloader, 7.62 coaxial machine gun, eight 76mm smoke grenade launchers, and an optional installation for two anti-tank guided missile launchers. The independent optronic systems (commander and driver) enable ‘hunter-killer’ operation. The crew can detect a standard NATO target from a range of 12 km, recognition at 8 km, and identification from 4 km.
The 30-ton “Sabrah” light-tank solution provides a unique combination of powerful fire capacity and high maneuverability. Both platforms will be equipped with a 105mm turret and a range of the Company’s subsystems, including electro-optical sights, including a panoramic independent sight for the commander and fixed gunner sight, fire control systems, TORCH-X battle management systems, E-LynX software-defined radio systems, and life support systems.
The destination country is likely to be the Philippines, planning to equip a Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) with light/ medium tanks. The Philippine Army has evaluated light and medium weight tanks at a maximum weight of 42 tons. In September 2020 Elbit Systems was selected to supply the new vehicles.
According to the Philippine website MaxDefense PH Defense Resource, the total acquisition agreed in a Government-to-Government (G2G) procurement between the Philippines and Israel is worth close to US$172 million (Php 8.5 billion) and includes 30 vehicles, including 18 tracked and 10 wheeled, armored command, and armored recovery vehicles.
DRDO conducted the successful maiden launch of Akash-NG (New Generation) Missile from Integrated Test Range off the coast of Odisha on January 25 2021. Akash-NG is a new generation Surface to Air Missile meant for use by the Indian Air Force to intercept high maneuvering low Radar Cross Section (RCS) aerial threats. According to the Indian defense ministry, the launch met all the test objectives by performing high maneuvers during the trajectory and an effective intercept at the terminal phase.
The baseline AKASH system has been in service with the Indian Air Force and Army since 2015, but hasn’t met user expectations due to the slow reaction time associated with the complex system. AKASH NG aims to improve the system’s performance, with the introduction of a more compact and agile missile, derived from an improved propulsion active RF seeker systems, and an associated AESA radar.
The official statement released by the Indian MOD indicates that the recent test validated all elements, including the Multi Function Radar (MFR) and Command and Control system’s performance, onboard avionics and aerodynamic configuration.
The Akash-NG uses a new guidance method that employs an Active Radar Seeker (ARSEEK) over the traditional Command Guidance, limiting engagements to Line Of Sight (LOS), and restricting the missile’s capabilities in mountainous terrain. ARSEEK has been tested on AKASH-1S and AKASH II variants in 2019. The active seeker enables the missile to guide itself to intercept the target, thus opening a much wider target engagement envelope. The N.G.’s propulsion consists of a new, dual-pulse rocket motor, following a principle used in the MRSAM. This system replaces the much heavier hybrid system used on the AKASH-1, consisting of four solid boosters and a ramjet. The new propulsion is lighter, more compact, and extends the missile’s range beyond 50 km, compared to the current 30 km.
Carried in sealed launcher-containers the new missile can deploy faster, offer a shorter reaction time. The MFR replaces three different radars associated with the current ground control center, thus improving the unit footprint and reaction time. The use of the modern radar and active seeker also improves the system’s immunity to enemy countermeasures.
In 2018 the Indian defense ministry approved the procurement of two regiments of Akash-1S medium-range surface-to-air missile system. A typical Akash regiment consists of 6 squadrons, 84 batteries, and 750 missiles.
NATO has selected Thales to provide the first certified defense cloud solution that can be deployed in the theatre of operations in less than 24 hours. Thales was selected after a worldwide competitive tendering process on the basis of its defense systems integration know-how. With this contract, the Group enters a new market sector and demonstrating its capacity to integrate the best civil and commercial technologies available and to adapt them to the needs of the armed forces.
As military operations become increasingly data-driven, access to critical data and applications is a crucial requirement for the armed forces. The defense cloud developed by Thales enables the forces to analyze and share data in real-time from the command center to the theatre of operations, pursue their digital transformation in complete security, and accelerate the decision cycle to gain and maintain operational advantage.
Until now, it could take several months and dozens of specialized engineers working at sites close to the combat zone to deploy the assets required. With Nexium Defence Cloud and its Service Design Studio and orchestration system, a small team of experts can deploy IT services and applications to locations thousands of kilometers away in just a few hours.
This solution is based on a holistic approach encompassing applications management, IT, networks, and security, with an overall system architecture designed to accommodate various different levels of confidentiality. Nexium Defence Cloud incorporates the best civil and commercial technologies available to provide a complete, modular, sovereign solution that enables forces to operate fully autonomously in the theatre of operations. It offers a wide array of possible configurations, from very high-capacity and easily scalable infrastructure for command headquarters to all-in-one containerized systems that transform a forward base into a new cloud node in just a few hours.
This easy interconnection within ad hoc organizations and command structures increases mission effectiveness with an unparalleled level of security. Nexium Defence Cloud is a highly integrated, modular solution that includes all the components of military command posts (cabinets, servers, data storage media, supervision system, etc.) and meets performance requirements in terms of size, weight, and power (SWaP) to simplify deployment and minimize the logistics footprint.
Thales’ defense cloud solution was designed to comply with the requirements of NATO’s Federated Mission Networking (FMN) standard, which establishes the framework for cooperation between command-and-control networks for coalition forces. “Thales is proud to be contributing to the digital transformation of the armed forces by providing this first deployable, certified, tactical defense cloud solution. We are grateful to NATO for renewing their trust in our expertise in secure, interoperable information and communication systems.” Marc Darmon, Executive Vice-President, Secure Communications and Information Systems, Thales.
A NATO customer has awarded Rheinmetall an order for modern artillery ammunition. The Group’s South African subsidiary, Rheinmetall Denel Munition (Pty) Ltd. (RDM), will supply several thousand conventional and extended-range artillery shells of the Assegai family (Base Bleed and V-LAP) as well as M92 Assegai tactical modular charges. Delivery commenced in December 2020 and is to be complete by May 2021. The order is worth around €25 million.
Manufactured by Rheinmetall Denel Munition, the tactical modular charges of the Assegai Series are intended to propel artillery shells from 155mm gun systems. This charge system is fine-tuned to the customer’s specific weapon systems and artillery shells for maximum effectiveness. Their modular design simplifies logistics and makes handling in self-propelled artillery systems easier. The modular charge reduces barrel wear thus extending barrel life, they also produce a lower muzzle flash, making the artillery system harder for the enemy to detect.
According to Jan-Patrick Helmsen, Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s CEO, “RDM works on the development of new artillery projectiles, which aim to attain ranges of over 155 kilometers. In addition, Rheinmetall Denel Munition is eager to support the troops with our new uni-modular charges, which achieve better performance and simplify the logistics, especially in gun systems with automatic loading,” Helsmen said.
IAI announced today it has signed two deals to supply Heron MK II UAV Systems to an Asian Country. The deals represent the first known orders for the Heron MK II system since it was announced 12 months ago. The two orders include leasing two drones to a country in Central Asia and the sale of a third system to that country. The deals are valued at tens of millions of dollars each. The systems include reconnaissance payloads, Heron MK II drones, and the associated ground segments.
IAI has unveiled the Heron MK II in January 2020, as the latest variant in the Heron family of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drones, introduced in 1994. The Heron family is operational with the Israeli Air Force and over 20 other organizations worldwide. Operating at an altitude of up to 35,000 feet, Heron MK II has a maximum speed of 140 knots. It can stay in the air for up to 45 hours.
Heron MK II has improved avionics, a more powerful engine, and stronger chassis enabling quick and easy maintenance without affecting the UAV’s net weight. The UAV enables the use of new configurations and has a long-range reconnaissance sensor and radar. In addition, it can carry a range of payloads including COMINT and ELINT equipment, all sensors are designed to support standoff operation, enabling the gathering of intelligence on targets from a distance of dozens of miles, across borders, and outside the reach of air defense missile.
IAI Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Military Aircraft Group, Moshe Levy noted that the systems will operate over land and will carry out different missions, including border protection. The Heron MK II UAVs can land on short airstrips and can operate and endure the region’s extreme weather conditions. “I am certain that these deals will open the door to additional Heron MK II deals,” Levi added.
IAI has been accumulating over nearly 50 years of activity, almost 2 million hours of flight time with more than 50 operational customers. Offered under lease or sale, these drones have seen extensive combat service supporting operational deployments in the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Theodoros Lagios, General Director of Armament and Investments of the Greek Ministry of Defense, and Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, signed today a contract for the acquisition of 18 Rafale aircraft for the Hellenic Air Force, as well as a contract for the logistical support of the fleet. Lagios also signed a supplementary contract with Eric Béranger, CEO of MBDA, to supply the armament package for the aircraft. Deliveries will begin in the summer of 2021 and will be span over two years.
The logistic support contract will support the Hellenic Air Force Rafale’s air activity over four and a half years, maintaining the availability of equipment and systems at the highest level. The order for 18 Rafale includes 12 Rafale aircraft that were recently inducted in service with the French Air Force and 6 new built Rafales to be produced at Dassault Aviation plants. To aircraft will meet the urgent need of the Hellenic Air Force. These aircraft will replace the Mirage 2000 that have entered service in 1985.
The weapons systems destined for the Hellenic Rafale will benefit from commonality with the weapons used on the Mirage 2000s and Mirage 2000-5s currently in service in the Hellenic Air Force. The Rafales will be armed with SCALP cruise missiles, AM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles, and MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles. Additionally, MBDA will also supply Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, the Thales TALIOS targeting pod, and the Hammer guided bombs produced by Safran’s Sagem DS.
Greece is also modernizing 84 F-16s Block 52 to the new Block 70 configuration (F-16V), the main advantage of this upgrade is the improved situational awareness, derived by the integration of APG-83 AESA radar, a larger color display, and advanced DJHMCS helmet targeting system, among its main features. Greece is also interested in acquiring a squadron of 24 F-35A, beginning in 2024, following the induction of the Rafale and F-16 modernization.
The Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) has completed a successful firing of Rafael’s SPIKE LR missiles in a demonstration in Slovenia, December 2020, in front of the Ministry of Defence representatives and members of the Slovenian Armed Forces. Slovenia selected the Spike missile to equip the 38 Oshkosh JLTV vehicles to be delivered in 2021.
All vehicles will receive the Kongsberg Protector Remote Weapon Station (RWS) carrying a 12.7 heavy machine gun and the Spike LR launcher. SPIKE LR was demonstrated in firing from a JLTV in June 2019 at the annual SPIKE Missile User Club hosted by NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) in Slovenia in June 2019. Slovenia is currently fielding the Spike LR but will have the option to upgrade to Spike LR2 in the future. The new version has already been selected by six nations, including three NATO members – Germany, Latvia, and Slovakia.
Like all other SPIKE launchers, the integration of the missile to the Protector RWS includes a provision for SPIKE LR2, a fifth-generation multipurpose missile weighing 13.4 kg, capable of an engagement range of up to 5.5 km. Integrating multi-color EO sensors and seekers on the launcher and missile, Spike LR2 provides advanced target recognition and tracking and supports a new third-party target allocation (network-enabled targeting). These capabilities are assisted by an embedded enhanced, inertial measurement unit (IMU) assembly. The demo displayed the SPIKE launcher’s enhanced capabilities as a force multiplier for the mobilized land forces, enabling precision strikes against armored targets with improved precision at extended ranges and beyond-line-of-sight.
During the demonstration, the Slovenian Army also fired SPIKE missiles using the new dismounted digital SPIKE launcher ICLU, as part of the ongoing transition in all SPIKE Missile user nations to new digital NCW-ready launchers and 5th generation SPIKE LR2 missiles.
EuroSpike’s (a European Joint Venture between Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Diehl Defence, and Rheinmetall Defence) SPIKE LR is a wider, multi-platform, multipurpose, multi-range SPIKE family of electro-optical missiles.
Australia formally selected the Boeing AH-64E as a replacement for the Airbus Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH). The new helicopter is expected to enter service by 2025. Apache Guardian is equipped with improved sensors, communications suites, attack capabilities and improved survivability. “The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option, meeting all of Defence’s capability, through-life support, security, and certification requirements.” Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said.
“Defence considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system.” Reynolds said, adding that, by pursuing a proven and low-risk system Defence will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms. Given the challenges the Australian Army has faced in operating the Tiger ARH, Defence was clearly seeking a well-demonstrated, tested and capable platform that ticked the boxes for cost, introduction into service and sustainability.
In a commentary published in ASPI, Malcolm Davis compared the two helicopters. Both helicopters have similar weapons capacity, but differ significantly in performance and mission avionics. Compared with the Tiger, the Apache is a much heavier platform and it has half the range – 257 nautical miles versus 430 for the Tiger. The Apache’s suite of mission systems is fully developed, including advanced satellite communications and the Link 16 tactical data network. The Tiger has obsolescent radios, though an upgrade was in progress, and has an interim iTDL datalink developed by Elbit Systems, though not Link 16. These are major weaknesses, and the advanced digital connectivity of the Apache is a clear factor in its favour. In particular, the Apache can connect with and control armed drones through its manned–unmanned teaming (or MUM-T) system, a feature the Tiger lacks.
Moving to the Apache gets Australia into a very large user community—including many partners and regional countries, such as the US, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the UK—which has benefits for interoperability, economies of scale, opportunities to learn from other users, and shared logistics.
The first B-21 Raider bomber is expected to roll out early next year and fly in the middle of 2022. The production of the second B-21 stealth bomber is already underway at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, Calif., Airforce Magazine reports. The second airframe will be used for ground testing.
“The second one is really more about structures, and the overall structural capability,” Randall Walden, director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office explained. “We’ll go in and bend it, we’ll test it to its limits, make sure that the design and the manufacturing and the production line make sense.”
Lt. Gen. James C. Dawkins, Jr., deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said Jan. 14 that the B-21 will be available for service around 2026 or 2027. The cost of developing and buying the first 100 aircraft at $80 billion in 2016 dollars. The Air Force plans to spend about $300 million on military construction projects for the B-21 in fiscal 2022, Walden said, and $1 billion over five years. The service requested $2.8 billion for the plane’s research and development in fiscal 2021 alone.
Nexter Munitions successfully fired the KATANA smart artillery ammunition and tested its flight control capability during a test campaign in Sweden from December 7 to 11, 2020. This success marks a decisive milestone for the KATANA development program.
These test firings, carried out from a 155mm CAESAR gun on a carriage, confirmed the maneuverability of the guided ammunition. All the CAS (Canard Actuation Systems) were deployed in accordance with the simulations. Thus, the shell could be fired along a trajectory that increased the firing range compared to a purely ballistic trajectory. During the test, the electronic and electromechanical subsystems were exposed to extreme physical conditions of the 155mm gun firing, demonstrating the system’s endurance to realistic firing conditions. The next test campaign, scheduled for 2021, will test KATANA’s coordinate-guided and coordinate-controlled firings.
Dominique Guillet, Director of Ammunition of the Nexter Group expects the new munition to be ready for marketing by 2023. “We are very proud to have met our ambitious calendar and financial objectives for the development of KATANA. We are looking to the future with confidence and continue to make exceptional efforts to ensure that this 155mm ammunition – which will be sovereign, intelligent, and very accurate – can be marketed as early as 2023”. Guillet said.
Unlike the US-built Excalibur, KATANA is the only European and sovereign full-caliber guided ammunition. The KATANA is a 155mm shell that can be fired from all 52-caliber artillery systems, maintaining the traditional qualities of artillery: the permanence of fire, producing cost-effective firepower in all-weather and complex environments. Katana achieves long-range, decametric accuracy based on hybrid Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and inertial guidance with the terminal efficiency of an optimized warhead, KATANA can engage stationary priority targets based on their coordinates. The French round is the only European and sovereign full-caliber guided ammunition.
During May 2015, the Russian authorities centered on President Putin’s speech, exposed new and some revolutionary families of armored vehicles being developed for the Russian land forces. These armored fighting vehicles (AFV), including the new ARMATA family comprised of main battle tanks, Heavily Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles (AIFV), and a multi-purpose chassis. Other AFVs included the KURGANETS- 25 (K-17 AIFV) and BOOMERANG 8×8 Armored Personnel Carrier (B-11 APC), Tomas 2S35 (coalition) self-propelled artillery, self-propelled mortar carrier, armored tactical utility vehicles, and mine-protected armored vehicles (MRAP).
Since WWII, the traditional Russian warfare theory was based on quantity as the dominant component for battlefield dominance. To obtain the quantitative edge, the Russian designed their combat vehicles to be as small as possible. Smaller tanks with lower silhouette were small targets and were also cheaper to make. This meant cramped fighting compartments that could be manned by fewer crew members of minimal height. Due to their low cost, these AFVs could be mass production. Combat vehicles were designed to be robust and simple to use but were also complex to repair in the field and harder to return to combat conditions.
The new AFV families unveiled in 2015 based on the Universal Combat Platform reflected a new perception, centered on a preference for improved survivability and agility, relying on heavier and more advanced armor. The integration of state-of-the-art electronics and advanced human-machine integration enabled improved ergonomic design in those modern vehicles. According to Russian sources, the new generation of AFVs is designed for higher reliability, enabling combat formations to fight for an extended time with minimal breakdown.
These changes result in larger platform dimensions than past generations, integrating advanced electronics, including advanced sensors (EO/IR, radar), computers, command, and control systems. Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, remotely controlled weapons, robotics, and more. Advanced protection elements are also used, including passive, reactive, and, to a large extent, new Active Protection Systems (APS).
The T-14 is about 25 percent longer than the traditional T-family tanks and is slightly larger in width and height. Notable innovations in the new tank include an unmanned turret with an advanced 125 mm cannon – a world-first application of this caliber’s unmanned turret. The turret accommodates an automatic loader suitable for traditional rounds and the more advanced and powerful 125 mm rounds (SVINETS) slightly longer than the regular rounds.
ARMATA Protection Systems
Adhering to the classic protection layered ‘onion,’ the ARMATA has three layers of physical protection – the outer layer comprises a soft and hard-kill active protection suit called AFGANIT. The AFGANIT of the T-14 includes a collection of four detectors: an active electronically scanned radar, a passive threat detector operating in the UV/IR bands, a laser threat detector, and video cameras. Two types of countermeasures are associated with this sensor array. A soft defense implements four banks of aerosol armaments, each containing 12 armaments, creating effects of disruption and deception dealing with incoming guided threats. The aerosols mask the tank in the visible, laser, and IR but are not effective against radar. Two of the aerosol armament banks are directional, mounted on the traversable pedestals on turret sides, while the other two are pointing upward to deal with a top attack.
If the soft-kill methods fail to defeat an incoming threat, the hard-kill APS employs rocket interceptors, launched from 10 barrels surrounding the tank below the turret line, covering the forward arc. These countermeasures are designed to defeat incoming rounds at a safe distance from the tank.
If the hard-kill has failed to stop the incoming projectile, another layer of armor comes into effect – the Class IV reactive armor (known as MALAKHIT). Reactive armor contains a metal plate activated against the incoming projectile, triggered by impact sensors activating a small explosive charge that diverts and dissipates the threat. This armor is combined with passive armor made of steel and ceramic armor, comprising the innermost protection layer, protecting against the effects of kinetic or chemical threats.
The most protected area would be the crew compartment located at the chassis center, isolated from the ammunition and other combustible substances inside the tank. This compartment improves crew survival if the armor is compromised.
Three crew members operate the tank, but two crew members can also operate the current configuration. In the future, the Russians explore the possibility to remove the crew from the tank and operate ARMATA it as a robotic tank.
The human-machine interface, driving systems, communication, data transmission, NBC filtering, and environmental systems characterize these tanks among the world’s most advanced, allowing for extended crew members’ extended stay in their cells’ prolonged combat missions.
Information about the industrialization and production of ARMATA is sketchy. Open sources in Russia (if there are such) refer to several dozen produced, mainly prototypes, pre-production series produced for state field experiments, training of operating units and maintenance teams, and display in exhibitions and parades.
Fielding and Future Plans
Assuming that the manufacturer – UralVagonZavod (UVZ), has overcome all the problems and provides a solution to the operational requirements, there is still the tank unit price issue. As the most sophisticated combat vehicle of Russian production, ARMATA has a high price threshold, by Russian standards. Originally, the initial price for a single tank was around R650 million ($8 million) and, after lengthy negotiations with the defense ministry, was cut by half to around $3.2 million.
Since the introduction of ARMATA, the Russians consider and have tested the possibility of replacing the main gun with a 152 mm cannon that will allow the defeat of advanced armor, launch missiles to a range of 12 km, and be able to fire nuclear ammunition. Other future improvements could include a gas turbine engine developing 3000 hp of power, electrothermal active protection components, and transparent protection componentsץ
In conclusion, assuming ARMATA is fielded with all the advanced components that characterize the new and revolutionary design, the Russian front line armored formations will obtain significant firepower, accuracy, survivability, and mobility over peer forces. Moreover, some of those developments and capabilities will be applied to other battle tanks and APC of the earlier generations.
As of late 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defense received 12 T-14 tanks and four T-16 BREM / ARV combat support and recovery vehicles sharing the same ARMATA chassis. Some of the tanks were reportedly deployed for field trials in Syria. Assuming serial production begins in the second half of 2021, UVZ expects production rates of 200-120 vessels per year unless the Russians have reason to increase production capacity significantly. In December 2020, Sergei Chemezov, Rostec CEO, confirmed that the first tanks coming from the serial production line would be delivered to the Army in 2021. Also, Armata has been cleared for export.
There are also indications on other, yet unconfirmed variants based on the Armata platform, including the T-17 Tank Destroyer, mounting the 9P157 Chrysanthem-S missile system currently used with BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle chassis.
The ambitious plan forecasted the induction of 2,300 ARMATA-class main battle tanks by 2025, but by the end of 2020, the fielding of ARMATA still lags. Although industrialization and Operational Tests (OT) have moved forward recently, ramping up such complex systems still lingers behind. Since the 2018 contract for the delivery of 132, around 20 pre-series production vehicles have been delivered so far. Some of the causes could be the dependence on foreign suppliers for some components may have slow-down in production ramp-up. It may have affected by sanctions. These are possible and are why the Russian defense industry’s difficulties in meeting performance targets, technology implementation, delivery dates, and platform costs. Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Krivoruchko stated that “In order to shorten the timeframe for deliveries, production will begin before the completion of all trials, as soon as the tanks meet the specified characteristics and following operational testing under simulated combat conditions.”
Until recently the use of multiple sensors and weapons was limited to aerial and naval platforms, while land forces preferred the use of families of weapons, grouping different platforms carrying specific weapon systems to deliver a combined effect. This concept was favored to ensure the combined formation to endure the friction of combat and overmatch an adversary that would be less organized. The combination of the different components into a cohesive force required continuous training with complex and expensive systems that often left significant capability gaps uncovered.
Today, armored fighting vehicles mount a comprehensive suite of sensors and weapons, including direct fire weapons (gun and machine gun), guided weapons (ATGM, rockets), various countermeasures, and soon will be equipped with loitering munitions. Sensors onboard include various EO/IR, radar, and other electronic sensors that can spot electronic activity in their vicinity. With modern communications, the sensors and effectors can be connected to a combat cloud, to create a broader situational picture. Leveraging automated decision-making processes, these assets serve much larger formations in creating swift and decisive actions.
The miniaturization of sensors and weapons brings these capabilities to the individual soldier. Modern software-defined radios offering virtually unlimited bandwidth enable the warfighter to determine position, navigation, and timing without the support of GPS, this capability opens unprecedented joint fires capabilities to support the dismounted squad, far beyond the organic weapons that members carry with them.
Another important capability is the ability of weapon systems to automatically detect, track, and engage targets. Such a capability is gained by enabling weapon sights and seekers to detect objects in a scene, pointing the human operator to objects that are most likely targets. The systems track such objects and can also engage such targets, given certain parameters (such as self-defense) or human authorization.
For weapon systems using visual sensings, such as a tank gun, a guided missile, or loitering weapon, Artificial Intelligence (AI) based image processing provides a logical capability enhancement. With this capability, an AI process can assign a different color to each object detected in the scene. As such, an armed person, carrying an RPG will be classified as a high threat, while an unarmed person that looks like a civilian would be regarded as a ‘non-combatant’, thus enforcing certain rules to minimize collateral damage.
These assessments are dynamic and can change according to developments at the scene. Adding additional sensors that can classify targets and determine the risk each target poses, enabling the system to respond to dynamic situations using different rules.
These capabilities were at the epicenter of the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) Carmel technology demonstration program, which paves the way for the modernization of main battle tanks, such as the next version of Merkava Mk 4, and Eitan armored personnel carrier. It drives the collective engagement capabilities empowered by the Fire Weaver AI-based battle management system, that dynamically and swiftly allocate fire support to every unit and team, directly responding to a call for fire utilizing an automated evaluation process.
RAFAEL’s INDOOR autonomous surveillance capability is taking this capability to a new level by enabling a group of unmanned systems to map and inspect indoor spaces, enabling warfighters to explore structures suspected to be occupied by the adversary, without exposing humans to the dangerous house clearing and Close Quarters Battle (CQB).
For this process, RAFAEL unleashes a group of Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) robotic platforms, including the four-legged Spirit from Ghost Robotics’, a few ‘Magic Fly’ nano-drones, and a heavier multirotor drone named Raven.
The flying robots – the Raven and ‘Magic Fly’ can fly a 15-minute mission. They can enter a building from any opening, including small windows, and move through the internal spaces by mapping and avoiding obstacles as they navigate indoors.
The Raven is fully autonomous, augmented by the Magic Fly that can operate autonomously on short segments of the mission. Carrying 0.4 kg of payload and employing advanced automatic target recognition (ATR), Raven can also be used for an attack mission. The Spirit is also fully autonomous, performs 3D mapping indoors, and has a powerful ATR that can be employed for surveillance and lethal missions. The four-legged robot can operate continuously for two hours and carry loads up to 9 kg.
All the robots employ sensors designed for operation in changing light conditions, including total darkness. Each robot operates autonomously and delivers sensor data back to the controller. Additional sensors that can feel heat or proximity to objects can be added to the systems and algorithms performing face recognition.
Within a few minutes, the drone maps the building layout and the furniture inside that might affect the robot or human activity. The mission is controlled from a small tablet that maintains control of the individual robots. This tablet enables mission planning and recommendations based on available information and AI.
Upon entry into the building, the robots automatically map the structure, locates the presence and movement of people inside, and the presence of certain objects, such as weapons. The operator can view the objects detected by the robots immediately upon the detection of suspected objects. The operator can also manually inspect certain objects and areas of interest, based on the sensor data and alerts. The potential use of such sensors can be used to map a building before entry or acquire and designate targets indoors for other weapon systems.
The development of AI-based systems leverages advanced know-how that has already been implemented in AI-empowered systems developed for armored vehicles, missile systems, and guided weapons. It employs ethical rules to comply with legal and moral restrictions that could be implemented or restrict AI’s military use in the future.
The French Delegation for Armaments (DGA) has qualified the command post vehicle (EPC) variant of the GRIFFON vehicle, destined to equip the Scorpion regiments in the French and Belgian Armies. The Army technical section (STAT) will continue the operational evaluation of the initial three vehicles and their equipment, towards the induction of 20 vehicles with SCORPION regiments by the end of 2020. Ultimately, the SCORPION program calls for the delivery of 333 EPCs, half of which will be delivered by 2025.
The EPC variant of the GRIFFON enables a command section to be deployed quickly at the heart of operations, as part of the combat formation. The force commander can thus conduct an engagement or monitor the progress of a regimental or brigade-level action using on-board command, control and communications (C3) equipment. The arrival of the GRIFFON EPC is complementary to the GRIFFON VTT Félin, with the goal of projecting a joint battle group (GTIA) into a foreign theatre of operations by 2021.
The GRIFFON EPC can accommodate a commander and a gunner in the front seats, and five soldiers in the back. The silhouette of the EPC does not differ from the troop transport (VTT Félin) variant. The few visual differences are the T2 remotely operated turret armed with a 7.62mm caliber weapon and the telescopic mast. Inside, on the other hand, the GRIFFON EPC is equipped to accommodate the command post cole with computer consoles, communications gear, large display screens, a whiteboard, and a printer. The vehicle interior is fully air-conditioned and is adapted to a hot and cold environment, ensuring the functioning of onboard electronics and crew comfort.
The vehicle is equipped with vetronics common to the SCORPION platforms, facilitating the collaborative combat. These include the CONTACT joint data and voice radio, the SCORPION Combat Information System (SICS), the ANTARES optronic system offering the crew a 360° vision of the environment, as well as an Acoustic Localization System providing gunfire location indication (SLA).
The SCORPION program aims to modernize the Army’s combat capabilities and in particular to improve a command through new information resources. The development and production of GRIFFON is undertaken by the temporary group of companies (GME) of multi-role armored vehicles EBMR (Engins Blindés Multi-Rôles), comprised of Nexter, Arquus, and Thales.