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IAI Develops a Hybrid Loitering EO-Guided Missile for US Irregular Warfare

Point Blank smashes on a target on a recent test flight. Photo: IAI

IAI, as prime contractor, has been competitively awarded a multi-million-dollar contract by the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD) of the US Department of Defense (DoD) to rapidly develop and deliver “ROC-X” a version of the POINT BLANK system that meets specific US DoD requirements to increase the organic precision strike lethality and survivability of small tactical teams. IAI will provide the first prototypes and training to DoD for Operational Testing & Evaluation in FY-23.

The weapon weighs 6.8 kg (15 lbs.) and is about one meter long (3 feet). It is designed to fly at a low altitude of 500m` (about 1,500 ft.) and strike targets at a range of 10 km. Once it reaches the target area, the Point Blank can hover or loiter for up to 20 minutes to validate the target and acquire it with high certainty. Once the operator orders the attack, the weapon will dive at the target, reaching a maximum speed of 80 m/sec (288 km/h).

This hybrid drone missile can carry a payload of up to two kilograms. This payload can include a small directional warhead that maximizes lethality toward the front to minimize collateral damage. The highly reliable safe-and-arm mechanism enables the missile to be retrieved safely by hand when the target has not been engaged. Point Blank can also be used on surveillance missions, using its integral electro-optical sensor and an additional battery to collect real-time surveillance.

Subscribe to view our photos in full size. Photos: Defense-Update

The missile is carried in a backpack and is assembled in a few minutes, using clip-on wings and tails to create the unique hybrid cruciform drone-missile shape. It is launched by hand and operated by a single soldier. it can take off and land vertically. Using unique ducted propeller propulsion and flight control with no moving parts (except the propellers), Point Blank is quiet, highly maneuverable, and stealthy.


The system addresses the battlefield requirement to provide tactical units, from small tactical teams of special forces to the infantry battalion level, with independent and organic firepower to increase their lethality.

IWTSD has been promoting international cooperation to leverage foreign experience, expertise, resources, and infrastructure in a unified approach to counter irregular warfare adversaries. Such activities are managed under bilateral agreements with five partner countries: Australia, Canada, Israel, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. As part of its Tactical Team Offensive Systems Directorate, IWTSD develops advanced equipment, capabilities, methods, and techniques that increase the lethality and kinetic effectiveness of small tactical units engaged in direct action operations.

A Smart Sight Provides Tactical Operators with Counter-Drone Overmatch at Long Range

The IWOO system automatically detects, highlights, and tracks potential targets – including drones – using a see-through display that enhances the user's situational awareness. Built-in fire control processing continuously calculates the optimal firing solution to provide the user with clear, discreet guidance, firing only with the best chance of neutralizing the target ¬and delivering first-round hit capabilities. Photo: Smartshooter

After less than three years of development, Smartshooter has reached the final milestone of the Individual Weapon Overmatch Optic (IWOO) program, successfully passing the system’s Technology Readiness Review (TRR). The program began in February 2020, as the Department of Defence ASD SO/LIC’s ’Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD) selected the Israeli company Smartshooter to develop the solution for IWOO. The goal was to provide tactical operators with overmatch capability against long-range static and moving targets, both in daylight and at night.

“A few minor adjustments are being made to optimize performance; we are pleased with the progress demonstrated and look forward to conducting operational testing and evaluation using the dual-capabilities of IWOO prototypes in 2023 against ground targets at increased ranges and to take down drones,” said Michael Trexler, Special Operation Forces Combat Support Coordinator / Tactical Offensive Support Program Manager. Following the final design configuration approval, the IWOO will move into low-rate production, increasing orders for more systems as IWTSD exercises the contract procurement options.

The IWOO system automatically detects, highlights, and tracks potential targets – including drones – using a see-through display that enhances the user’s situational awareness. Built-in fire control processing continuously calculates the optimal firing solution to provide the user with clear, discreet guidance, firing only with the best chance of neutralizing the target ¬and delivering first-round hit capabilities time after time.

Through the development, Smartshooter employed the combat-proven technologies developed for the SMASH line of Fire Control Systems, operational with the Israel Defense Forces and international customers. Additional capabilities added to IWOO were the variable x1- x8 zoom, meeting IWTSD’s long-range requirement.

As part of this TRR, two prototype systems were taken through a series of live-fire tests by IWTSD to ensure the system met the contract performance requirements. The systems performed well and fired day and night, using clip-on night vision devices.

The IWOO system automatically detects, highlights, and tracks potential targets – including drones – using a see-through display that enhances the user’s situational awareness. Built-in fire control processing continuously calculates the optimal firing solution to provide the user with clear, discreet guidance, firing only with the best chance of neutralizing the target ¬and delivering first-round hit capabilities. Photo: Smartshooter

Foreign Exhibits at Vietnam Defence 2022

Electronic warfare units were displayed by the Vietnamese forces during Vietnam Defence 2022. Photo: Defense-Update

Following are impressions from the main foreign exhibits at Vietnam Defence 2022

Russia

At the Vietnam Defense Exhibition, Russia was represented by Rosoboronexport, Rostec, and United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), but the displays mainly consisted of models. The Russian exhibit reflected their attempt to focus on what works in combat and minimize focus on the hardware that has shown poor performance in Ukraine. In this context, artillery rocket systems of various sizes, including a compact launcher of six 300mm rockets adapted for light trucks, were on display, with rockets modified to provide precision strike capability with an accuracy of 30 meters at a flight distance of 120 km. This trend is likely the Russian response and lessons from the successful performance of the Lockheed Martin M-142 HIMARS – the US equivalent used extensively by Ukraine with its M31 227mm precision-guided rockets. To gather accurate target information at these ranges, Russian artillery units could use the Orlan drones, which were also on display.

This course correction mechanism developed by SPLAV improves the precision of 300mm artillery rockets enabling such rockets to hit within 30 meters of the intended target from a range of 120 km. Photo: Defense-Update
Orlan 10B mini-UAV is widely used by the Russian forces to locate, and track targets of opportunity for the artillery, and provide battle damage assessment (BDA). Photo: Defense-Update
The Russian SPLAV company displayed the new 9M452 six-barrel rocket launcher, a lighter configuration of the 300mm Tornado-S mounted on the KAMAZ truck. Photo: Defense-Update
As a testament to the close relations between the two countries, Vietnam’s Prime Minister of Vietnam, Pham Minh Chinh was the guest of honor at the inauguration ceremony of the Indian pavilion. Photo: Aeromag.

India

India had a strong presence at the exhibition, with 20 exhibitors from the public and private sectors and research and development organizations. The main focus was on the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which has achieved operational capability with the Indian navy and army and is being flight tested on Indian Su-30 MKI strike fighter jets similar to the Su-30s used by Vietnam. India has already sold the BrahMos to the Philippines and is negotiating to sell it to Indonesia and Vietnam. Other weapon systems promoted at the exhibition included the AKASH air defense systems, ASTRA beyond visual range air-to-air missile (also developed for India’s Su-30MKI and Tejas MK1), and an 8×8 wheeled Armored Platform (WhAP) APC that could potentially replace Vietnam’s legacy BTRs.

India’s Brahmos supersonic cruise missile is one of the systems believed to be on Hanoi’s shopping list. Photo: Defense-Update
Helina (top) and Astra (center display) are two of the missiles displayed by Bharat Dynamics at Vietnam Defence 2022. Photo: Defense-Update.

US

Since lifting trade sanctions in 2016, the US has gradually increased defense trade with Vietnam, including selling T-6C training aircraft and pilot training through Foreign Military Support funds. Sales of F-16 fighter jets and C-130J transport aircraft are also in the works. Participating companies included Lockheed Martin, Textron, Honeywell, and Aerovironment.

Israel

In recent years, Vietnam has been looking to diversify its arms suppliers beyond Russia and has already acquired Israeli Spyder air defense systems and Trigon coastal defense rockets. Vietnam has also expressed interest in the Israeli Barak 8 air defense system as part of a $500 million investment.

The Israeli Spyder short-range air defense system from Rafael was part of the Vietnamese air force display at Vietnam Defence 2022. Photo: Gettys Images
The Czecho-Slovak CSG group was one of the largest exhibitors at Vietnam Defense 2022. Photo: Defense-Update

Czech and Slovak Republics

The Vietnam defense market is of interest to the Czech and Slovak defense industries, which are organized under the CSG group. This enterprise brings together 11 companies from both countries, including Excalibur Army (armored vehicle manufacturer), Tatra Defense Vehicles (truck producer), MSM Group (ammunition provider), Retia (radar specialist), and others.

Read more on Vietnam Defence 2022 in this post

Vietnam International Defense Expo Reflects Hanoi’s Military Prowess

Vittel, one of the largest Vietnamese exhibitor at Vietnam Defence 2022 have shown a wide range of electronic and electro-optical systems. Photo: Defense-Update

The Vietnam Defense Exhibition, held at the Gia Lam Airport near Hanoi, attracted over 170 exhibitors, about 60 from Vietnam and the rest from 30 countries. China was absent from the fair, which had been invited but declined to attend. Vietnam has a long-standing territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea and energy exploration in the area, leading to concerns about a potential confrontation between the two nations.

As a prominent Southeast Asian nation, Vietnam has a policy of avoiding commitment to regional or international alliances to remain independent and avoid conflicts that do not directly threaten the country. This policy has allowed Vietnam to rely on its defense forces and the resilience of its people, as demonstrated throughout the 20th century.

However, this policy is being tested by the growing regional threat posed by China’s expansion in the South China Sea, which conflicts with the interests of other nations, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. While the dispute is primarily over maritime affairs, Vietnam shares a land border with China.

As a testament to the close relations between the two countries, Vietnam’s Prime Minister of Vietnam, Pham Minh Chinh was the guest of honor at the inauguration ceremony of the Indian pavilion. Photo: Aeromag.

With an estimated defense procurement budget of $8.5 billion over the next four years, Vietnam has become an attractive destination for defense marketing from US, Russia, Europe, and Asia companies. In the past, Vietnam relied heavily on Russia for its arms supply. Still, it is seeking to diversify its sources of arms procurement due to the growing relationship between Russia and China and the availability of more affordable options in India, Israel, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates. Regional players such as Australia, Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore also have the potential to establish defense relations with Vietnam. However, the absence of South Korea from the exhibition was notable.

The Vietnam Defense Exhibition featured an aerial display of Su-30 aircraft and Mi-8/17 helicopters and a ground display of various weapons and equipment. These included ballistic missiles such as the SCUD-B and Hwasong-6, 4K44 Redut M coastal defense anti-ship missiles, and missile-launched torpedoes. The exhibition also featured several Vietnamese-developed drones and radars and air defense systems dating back to the Vietnam War, such as the S-125 Pechora-2M (SA-3) and ZSU-23/4 (Gundish). Modern air defense systems on display included the Russian SA-10 and Israeli Spyder.

Vietnamese ZSU-23/4 is equipped with an electro-optical fire control system and four IGLA very short-range air defense missiles. Photo: Defense-Update
The most advanced main battle tank in Vietnam’s inventory is the Russian T-90SK. Photo: Defense-Update

Vietnam’s main modern battle tank is the T-90, available in the /S and /SK variants. However, its other armored fighting vehicles and towed artillery, such as the BRDM-2, BTR-60, BMP-2, D-20, D-30, and M-46, are outdated. This has prompted the Vietnamese government to set an ambitious goal for defense procurement and modernization in the near future, to diversify its sources of arms and reduce its reliance on Russian suppliers from 80% to approximately 65%. India is quickly stepping up to offer Hanoi its military hardware and has allocated a $500 million credit line to support such sales.

Vittel was one of the leading Vietnamese defense and electronics companies that displayed a wide range of systems, including electro-optical and radar sensors. Photo: Defense-Update

Our impression from the Vietnam Defense 2022 exhibition clearly indicates this trend. India was the largest foreign exhibitor here, and as a testament to the close relations between the two countries, Vietnam’s Prime Minister of Vietnam, Pham Minh Chinh was the guest of honor at the inauguration ceremony of the Indian pavilion. Vietnam is interested in acquiring equipment from India, Israel, and the US and plans to become self-reliant through its own “Make in Vietnam” program, similar to India’s policy. However, Vietnam cannot currently produce its weapon systems and will need foreign support to establish an industrial base for local production. The exhibition provided local companies with an opportunity to showcase their capabilities and find potential foreign partners.

The VUA-SC-3G unmanned air vehicle weighs 26 kg on takeoff, carrying a payload of 3.5 kg. It can operate over a range of 50 km. Photo: Defense-Update
These drones are equipped with radioactivity sensors, that can measure radiation dose in the air, analyzing signal spectrum. Multiple drones can be used to map a wide area. The system was developed by Vietnam’s Academy of Military Science & Technology. Photo: Defense-Update
Hera represents a different variant of an armed drone that is configured to carry eight mortar bombs. It was developed by the US-based RT Robotics company owned by the Vietnamese CT Group. Photo: Defense-Update

Vietnam has adopted the “Make in Vietnam” policy similar to India’s to strengthen the capabilities of its local defense industry and support significant defense procurement programs. As a nation that adheres to a policy of non-alliance, Vietnam is likely to refrain from joining with foreign countries on cooperative development or production programs. Still, India and Vietnam have signed an agreement for sharing logistical support and operational facilities in ports along the South China Sea. Vietnam can also offer logistical support for aircraft or naval ships at Vietnamese ports and logistics services by local technicians once they absorb these technologies for their military.

Read more coverage on the foreign exhibitors at Vietnam Defence 2022

Gearing Up for IDEX / NAVDEX 2023

Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, ADNEC Group is set to host the 16th edition of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX 2023) and the 7th edition of the Naval Defence Exhibition and Conference (NAVDEX 2023), which will take place on 20-24 February 2023. Organized by ADNEC Group at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, in association with the UAE Ministry of Defense, the events are set to showcase a wide range of new features and attract leading participants and exhibitors from the international defense industry.


The upcoming edition of IDEX marks the 30th edition of the event and, along with NAVDEX, these events have become the largest of their kind in the world. The events are expected to host high-caliber participation, including leaders, decision-makers, ministers, and senior officials, as well as industry experts and professionals from all over the world.

As part of the event week, in a first of its kind, ADNEC will host a series of high-level round table discussions with prominent industry thought leaders and commentators. These leading industry experts will gather to discuss recent and critical topics around the defense and naval industries, with an outcomes-based objective to collaborate on focused industry reports. Two of IDEX’s media partners, Arabian Defence and Defense-Update, have teamed to produce on-site and online coverage of the exhibitions, distributing thousands of magazines and online posts to visitors and followers in Abu Dhabi and worldwide.

Aeromag Asia – Arabia Defence is partnering with Defense-Update to publish special coverage at IDEX/NAVDEX 2023.

With IDEX and NAVDEX will introduce IDEX Next-Gen, a space dedicated to startups that will enable entrepreneurs to demonstrate their solutions and technologies in the defense and naval sector to leading figures in the industry. The events will also introduce the Innovation Trail, a focused journey through the exhibition, highlighting the latest products and innovations for the defense and naval community, from the world’s leading brands. Exhibitors will be able to submit their newest and most innovative products and solutions for selection as part of this curated journey, which will attract the interest of thousands of international and local buyers.

On the content side, and again as a first of its kind, IDEX and NAVDEX will each feature dedicated free-to-attend theatres for attendees to learn about the latest industry critical topics., NAVDEX Talks, located in the brand new marina hall,  will focus on the naval defense industry, whereas IDEX Talks will include sessions that will cover a variety of engaging topics related to the global defense sector. These topics include Women and, Youth in Defence, Defense Heroes, and Motivational Masterclasses.

The events will also feature an area for fans of defense history. ‘Defence Through the Decades’ will showcase an interactive gallery style, highlighting products and technology from the industry throughout the past 30 years.

IDEX and NAVDEX provide a globally leading platform, showcasing the latest international defense innovations and technologies, along with the most advanced technology and equipment developed by defense industries across the world. The previous editions in 2021 recorded renowned success, welcoming over 62,000 visitors and more than 900 local, regional and international companies from 59 countries, in addition to hosting 35 national pavilions.

RADBAN 8X8APC shows at the dynamic demonstration during IDEX 2021. Photo: ADNEC

US Army Completes Successful Iron Fist Tests Series on Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles

The Iron Fist configuration first tested on the Bradley in 2017. Photo: US Army

The US Army recently completed rigorous testing on the Iron Fist Active Protection System (APS) that showed significantly improved results over previous tests. The testing completed in October 2022 of the Iron Fist Light Decoupled (IFLD) system demonstrated improvements in both durability and system effectiveness, compared to the previous testing on the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Iron Fist Light Decoupled (IFLD) tested by the US Army in October 2022 includes a new version of the radar and a new electro-optical sensor augmenting the radar with passive sensing. Photo: US Army

In 2016, the Army chose to test the Iron Fist Lightweight Decoupled System to protect its medium- and light-armored vehicles. Initial testing in 2018 was set to validate the vendor’s (General Dynamics and Elbit Systems, Inc.) performance claims. The US Congress provided additional funding in the fiscal year 2022, toward the goal of equipping an entire Army brigade of Bradley vehicles in 2025 with continued funding.

“The Army is very pleased with the improved performance of this system,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, the Army’s program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems. “The software improvements since 2018 are more consistent and stable. We see continued future growth opportunities for the system, but this active protection system better protects our soldiers and vehicles on the battlefield.”

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The Iron Fist system consists of optical sensors, radar, and lightweight explosive projectile interceptors that counter-launch toward an incoming airborne threat such as a missile. The projectile explodes near the threat and away from the vehicle, deterring or defeating the threat while minimizing explosion damage to the vehicle and the soldiers. The Iron Fist has also been selected for the protection of Australian armored vehicles for the new Boxer reconnaissance vehicles and under the Land 400 phase 3, the Dutch CV9030NL upgrade, the Czech new CV9030CZ, and the Israeli Eitan 8×8 armored personnel carrier.

The Iron Fist system was displayed at the AUSA 2022 exhibition. Photo: Defense-Update

RAFAEL Enhances SPYDER with Counter-Ballistic Missile Capability

Spyder MR/LR on firing trials. Photo: Rafael

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has announced it has enhanced its SPYDER air defense system with a Counter-TBM (tactical ballistic missiles) capability. The enhancement was developed in response to urgent operational requests from several customers. The program will extend the capabilities of the SPYDER’s effectors and implement various Counter-TBM derivatives across the system.

“This extremely important Counter-TBM feature will be offered as an option in the SPYDER’s toolbox. Under the SPYDER’s tailor-made solution paradigm, this capability will be offered as a cost-effective option to our valuable customers with respective urgent operational needs.” Executive Vice President and General Manager Air & Missile Defense Systems Division Brig. Gen. (Res.) Pinhas Yungman said.

Rafael’s Counter-TBM SPYDER program is based on research and analysis of lessons learned from recent and ongoing armed conflicts involving extensive use of tactical ballistic missiles. The program has upgraded the SPYDER system, which involves hardware and software updates to the system and its DERBY-LR interceptors. While the new features were added, all the system’s existing capabilities were retained, enabling all users to continue using Spyder systems while adding new applications. The system adds to Rafael’s C-RAM/C-TBM capability which is already addressed by David’s Sling and Iron Dome systems, offering solutions at different levels of performance and affordability.

DERBY-LR can intercept targets at an altitude of 50,000 to 60,000 ft at a maximum range of 80 km. The DERBY-LR is based on Rafael’s I-Derby ER, with a booster that more than doubles its engagement range from 40 to 80 km. Another air defense system from Rafael – David’s Sling, uses a bespoke interceptor to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles at ranges of 150 km and beyond, while Iron Dome the company’s C-RAM system, is designed to meet these threats at shorter ranges, but can also face large salvos.

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Spyder family operational envelope, source: Rafael

Each system has autonomous capabilities to detect threats and engage targets over 360°, within seconds of the target being declared hostile, in all-weather, multi-launch, and net-centric capabilities. All the SPYDER systems have multiple target engagement capabilities for handling saturation attacks.

In addition to the booster, the missile has a dual-pulse rocket motor, which enables optimal thrust management throughout the mission. The missile’s brain contains sophisticated algorithms to optimize trajectory according to launch conditions and target behavior. The missile uses Rafael’s software-controlled radar seeker, which allows full operational flexibility by controlling all operational parameters through software.

This capability enables upgraded missile performance against new threats, such as Electronic Warfare (EW) and new emerging aerial platforms. The software update process is quick and simple and can be performed promptly during combat operations. The missile also uses a two-way communication based on Rafael’s proven operational BNET Software-Defined Radio (SDR) family. The SPYDER Air Defense System has been widely exported to 10 countries worldwide, including the NATO-member Czech Republic. Finland is also interested in the system but has not publicly announced its decision.

SPYDER is an air transportable, quick reaction, surface-to-air missile system designed to counter attacks by aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, and precision-guided munitions. With the new upgrade, it is also capable of intercepting TBM. A Spyder LR system includes a truck-mounted radar, 3-6 missile firing units (MFU), and support vehicles.  [/wlm_is member]

Spider MR fire unit on firing trials. Photo: RAFAEL

 

Oshkosh Defense to Produce Hundreds of Eitan Armored Vehicles for Israel

Israel’s Ministry of Defense has selected Oshkosh Defense to produce hundreds of hulls for the IDF’s new wheeled Armored Personnel Carriers (APC). The announcement follows a process led by the Ministry of Defense’s Procurement Mission in the US, in cooperation with the Tank and APC Directorate. The program is likely to produce 500 vehicles, with hundreds more deliveries expected in the future. Eitan will replace M113s in service with the IDF since the late 1960s.

This program will produce hundreds of hulls, Eitan APC hulls. The first batch will arrive in Israel in about a year and a half to be fitted with the unmanned turret and systems. The final assembly of the vehicles will be done in Israel. The first batch of Eitan APCs is being produced in Israel, with deliveries of the first operational APCs to the IDF’s “Nahal” Brigade expected before the year’s end.

The deal with Oshkosh is estimated to be over US$100 million, financed by US military aid program. “This agreement, like many others, is thanks to our ironclad alliance with our American partners.” Head of the IMoD Procurement Mission, Brig. Gen. (res.) Michel Ben Baruch said. According to the Head of the Tank and APC Directorate in the Israel Ministry of Defense, Brig. Gen. Oren Giber, “The contract […] allows us to expand the project’s production resources to provide advanced APCs to the IDF.” The agreement presents further opportunities for the IMOD and Israeli defense industries to export the ‘Eitan’ APC and its deployed systems.

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Photo and video credit: Tank and APC Directorate, Israel Ministry of Defense

Eitan 8×8 APC undergoing rough terrain.

Firing a Spike LR missile from a retractable launcher on the unmanned turret

Iron-Fist APS being tested on the Eitan

IDF Completes Iron Fist APS Integration on Eitan APC, Armored Bulldozers

Israel Integrates “Iron Fist” Active Protection Systems (APS) in the ‘Eitan’ Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and ‘Panda’ Armored D9 Bulldozer. A final test series completed the integration process, demonstrating successful interception tests in various challenging scenarios. The video documenting the tests depicts a new version of the APS, employing a smaller radar panel and protected launchers.

According to Yehuda (Udi) Vered, General Manager of Elbit Systems Land, the Iron Fist Active Protection System is unique, being a lightweight system that can be installed on a variety of fighting vehicles, including APCs.

The tests were performed by the Ministry of Defense Tank and APC Directorate, Iron First developer and manufacturer, Elbit Systems Land Division, and the the IDF Ground Forces Command. The Iron Fist version used on the Eitan and D9 is a lighter version of the system, optimized for lighter armored vehicles.

A comparison between the earlier and current Iron Fist configurations on the Eitan turret (The new turret on the right is not equipped with the 30mm cannon). Photos: IMOD

Subscribe to get more insightsThe APS system developed by Elbit Systems is an advanced active protection system that provides 360-degree coverage against multi-range threats in open and urban environments. In addition to its defensive capabilities, the system provides APC teams with situational awareness as it indicates the appearance and locations of sources of fire that can put the protected vehicle or the operational unit at risk. This contribution is critical for rapid sensor-to-shooter engagement, in modern, multi-domain operations. Iron Fist employs an early warning electro-optic sensor and radar for target search, track, and distance measurement performed by the main processing unit. The system employs two rotatable launchers, launching interceptors against threats that are considered a direct and imminent threat to the protected vehicle. In the recent tests these effectors demonstrated the neutralization of different threats at a safe distance from the protected APC.

According to Head of the Defense Tank and APC Directorate in the Israel Ministry of Defense, Brigadier General Oren Giber, “The Tank and APC Directorate is currently completing its preparation for the delivery of the self-developed Eitan advanced 8×8 wheeled APC to the IDF. The Iron Fist system is an important part of this project. It is currently in advanced stages of development and deployment to the ‘Eitan’ APC and the bulldozer, undergoing rigorous trials to ensure its suitability for the battlefield. The Iron Fist will substantially improve the protection of the Eitan APC and enhance the vehicle’s maneuverability in combat while protecting combat soldiers.”

APS – A Maturing Protection Capability

APS are currently considered an important capability for new and modernized combat vehicles. The most mature is the Trophy APS from Rafael, equipping the Israeli Merkava Main Battle Tank (MBT) and Namer APC of the Israeli Army, M-1A2 SEPV2 in the US Army, the german Leopard 2 and British Challenger MK 3. The system is proposed by the German tank manufacturer KMW, the German part of the Franco-German AFV manufacturer KNDS, as a standard protection for the Leopard II tank. Trophy has also been included in the demonstrator for the future MBT proposed by the company unveiled at the recent Eurosatory 2022 defense expo. The Hungarian Army selected the StrikeShield APS from Rheinmetall, to protect its new KF41 Lynx Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Other systems are currently in development in Turkey, and South Korea.

Iron Fist has been selected by several international users, including the Dutch Army for the CV9035, and the Australian Army for the successor of the M-113 APC, to be selected soon under the Land 400 Phase 3 program. The system has also been integrated into the next generation turret carrying the 50mm cannon considered by the US Army for its future Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV).

B-21 Raider – The US Air Forces’ Next Generation Bomber

The Northrop B-21 Raider, America's new bomber rolls out from its hangar for the first time, 2 December 2022. Photo: Northrop Grumman

On 2 December 2022, the US Air Force publicly unveiled its new bomber, the B-21 Raider. The aircraft is the first new, long-range strike bomber in a generation; it is designed to be the multifunctional backbone of the modernized bomber fleet.

As a long-range, highly survivable stealth aircraft, the Raider will be a dual-capable bomber, delivering a mix of stand-off and direct-attack munitions for conventional and nuclear attacks; the weapons will include cruise missiles and guided bombs, among them the heaviest weapon in US Air Force inventory, the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which, until now, could be carried only by the B-2 Spirit and B-52H.

Once fielded, the B-21 will operate as part of a family of systems designed to support the Long-Range Strike with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Electronic Attack (EA), Communications, and other capabilities. The aircraft is designed with updated stealth qualities and mission flexibility to enable a credible ‘integrated deterrence,’ meaning that it can strike anywhere in the world at any time, including in denied and contested airspace.

Following the formal rollout, the first B-21 aircraft was towed for a short stroll outside the hangar for the first time. Photo: Northrop Grumman, US Air Force

The B-21 is the first new bomber to be introduced since the end of the Cold War. Air Force officials envision an ultimate fleet of at least 100 aircraft with an average procurement unit cost requirement of $692 million (according to the base year 2022 dollars). The B-21 Raider will enter service by the middle of the decade and will gradually replace aging B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers now in service. The B-1B was fielded in 1986, and the B-2 became operational a decade later, in 1997.

A New Design for the Flying Wing

The new bomber is considered a ‘Sixth Generation’ aircraft, as it follows five earlier generations of jet bombers developed since the end of the Second World War. As a leader of the new generation, it is the first to implement the dramatic technological signature management, materials, and doctrinal changes, such as the multi-domain warfare, that evolved since the introduction of the first stealth bomber, the B-2 Spirit.

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The lower side of the B-21 indicates the use of large, low-observable composite aerostructure and skin parts which requires less maintenance to sustain the low observable performance of the aircraft.
The teardrop-shaped elongated inlets also contribute to overall signature reduction.

The B-21 cockpit shows minimal seams and taping, indicating the low observable characteristics of the outer skin are much more effective than that of previous low-observable aircraft.
The cockpit area of the B-2, shows a striking difference from that of the new B-21. Photo: US Air Force

Open Systems Architecture

When the B-21 becomes operational, the oldest bomber in service, the B-52 Stratofortress, will turn 80. But even in its old age, the B-52 will continue to serve alongside the new bomber, at least until the 2050s, after a thorough modernization process that will upgrade its radar, replace the engine, and introduce new communications systems. Despite its old age, the B-52 is much cheaper to operate compared to the B-1B and the B-2. Although the B-21 will be the most expensive aircraft in history, it is designed to be more affordable to operate over its service life.

One aspect of the B-21 is the design concept, using open systems architecture to reduce integration risk and enable competition for future modernization efforts to allow the aircraft to evolve as the threat environment changes. To promote efficient and collaborative development, the design of the new bomber was uploaded to a secure cloud, where all team members, including the Air Force, have access to a detailed virtual 3D model of the aircraft called ‘Digital Twin’ that allow designers to drive down risk in the engineering, manufacturing, and deployment (EMD). Northrop Grumman uses agile software development, advanced manufacturing techniques, and digital engineering tools to help mitigate production risk on the B-21 program and enable modern sustainment practices. The B-21 team includes more than 8,000 people from Northrop Grumman, industry partners, and the Air Force. The group consists of more than 400 suppliers across 40 states.

The specific B-21 unveiled on Dec. 2 is one of six under production. Each is considered a test aircraft, but each is being built as production representative aircraft on the same production line, using the same tools, processes, and technicians who will build production aircraft. This approach has enabled production engineers and technicians to capture lessons learned and apply them directly to follow-on aircraft, driving home a focus on repeatability, producibility, and quality. The aircraft will soon begin testing outside the hangar, including taxiing and powering on more systems ahead of the first flight in 2023.

The schedule of the first flight or initial operational capability has yet to be released, but the basing decisions for the new bomber have been made. The first three units of B-21 will be based in Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, currently operating the B-1B, which will become the first Main Operating Base and formal training unit for the new bomber. Whiteman AFB, in Missouri, currently operating the B-2, and Dyess AFB, Texas, where B-1B is presently deployed, will also base the B-21.

Plasan Delivers Sandcat EX11 Armored Vehicles to the IDF

The SandCat EX11 was designed and produced by Plasan, using commercial Ford F550 chassis, stripped off the standard body, and added the armored capsule designed by the company’s unique kitted-hull architecture enabling flexible configurations for different uses. Photo: Plasan via IMOD.

The Director of Procurement at Israel’s Ministry of Defense (IMOD) has purchased in an expedited procedure 50 wheeled armored personnel carriers following a request from the IDF to bolster the capabilities of increased operational tempo the IDF has experienced in recent months.

The SandCat EX11 was designed and produced by Plasan, using commercial Ford F550 chassis. The original vehicle was stripped of the standard body, and added the armored capsule designed with the company’s unique kitted-hull architecture, enabling flexible configurations for different uses. The vehicle carries up to 11 soldiers, two stretchers, and medics when configured into an ambulance. Israel’s border guards have already used a smaller version of the Sandcat armored vehicles since 2008.

The vehicle’s assembly was quick, with parts supplied from operational inventory, enabling rapid production ramp-up for initial deliveries and full order completion within a few weeks. “This is a significant and rapid procurement that brings an important operational capability to the field and immediately responds to the IDF needs of protected mobility.” Said Avi Dadon, Director of Procurement and Deputy Director of the MOD. The agreement with the Plasan also includes integrated logistics to support the vehicles, assuring the availability of the vehicle fleet.

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Ze’ev (Wolf) armored vehicles in IDF service. Photo: via Wikipedia

The vehicle complements the Ze’ev (Wolf) armored vehicles the IDF has operated in these roles since 2006. These 8-ton vehicles were used extensively on border protection and supported IDF operations in urban terrain.

Coordinated Drone Attack Targets the Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol

The drone attack on the Russian Navy’s main Black Sea port of Sevastopol on 29 October represents a new phase in the modern drone war. While suicide boat attacks have been known since WWII, the recent strike demonstrates the unique value and potential of such combined attacks by unmanned aerial and surface vehicles (UAVs and USVs).

According to Russian MOD, the attack involved nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven unmanned strike boats. The Russians claim their naval forces destroyed four boats and three were destroyed from shore. Some of the boats directed their attack against the floating net boom in Yuzhnaya Bay. The Russian MOD admitted the boom was damaged by the attack. Another video captured by the USVs and released online shows the boat moving at a Russian combatant ship at high speed, with a Mi-8 helicopter engaging with machine gun fire and larger caliber fire from the shore or other vehicles splashing nearby. The attack boat managed to close in on the ship, a Project 11356R Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate. There are reports that Admiral Makarov, reportedly the Black Sea Fleet’s new flagship after the Project 1164 Slava-class cruiser Moskva sank in April, was damaged in the attack. The Russian Defense Ministry announced that the Natya-class minesweeper (Project 266M) “Ivan Golubets” of the Black Sea Fleet received “minor damage” in an apparent Ukrainian attack on targets in Sevastopol, Crimea.

According to the Russians, the Ukrainian 73rd Marine Special Operations Center was responsible for this operation, assisted by British specialists. If the attack came from the city of Ochakov, Mykolaiv region in Ukraine, as the Russians claim, the strike force had traveled undetected to Sevastopol in Crimea, navigating +150 kilometers of rough waters at the open sea to create havoc at the protected enemy harbor. The recent attack was not the first operation of USVs in the black sea; the first discovery of such an attack boat was reported on 21 September 2022, as one such boat beached and was discovered at Omega Bay, just outside the entrance to the harbor and is in an area used by the Russian Navy. This attack caused the Russian Navy to call off patrols in the open sea and locate its vessels behind booms and barriers of the military harbor. The recent attack exploited this situation.

The coordination of the air and maritime components enabled the attackers to obtain intelligence in real-time, confuse the enemy by creating chaos at the base, and enable the explosive-laden strike boats to close in on their targets with high precision, as can be seen from the videos showing the attacking boats moving at very close proximity to large naval combatants.

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Image: The Sun

High-Energy Laser Weapon Tested on a German Navy Frigate

The HEL weapon demonstrator was then installed onboard the frigate Sachsen in Kiel. Photo: Rheinmetall.

The German Armed Forces have recently fired a shipboard laser weapon against aerial targets. At the test the German frigate Sachsen successfully engaged drones at a short and very short range. The test took place in the Baltic Sea near Putlos Major Training Area on August 30th, 2022. The high energy laser (HEL) weapon demonstrator paves the way for future naval weapon systems defending ships against drones and drone swarms as well as engaging attacking speed boat swarms at close and very close range. The technology is scalable to deliver higher output power, enabling it to destroy guided missiles and mortar rounds.

Testing of the high-energy laser weapon will continue until mid-2023. In subsequent test campaigns, new scenarios will challenge the demonstrator’s capabilities. The results will determine what still needs to be done on the path to a fully functional, operational laser weapon.

The laser weapon demonstrator was developed by the German ‘High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator working committee’ (“ARGE”), consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH. The work was evenly divided between the two companies. MBDA Deutschland provided the target detection and tracking systems and the operator console and linked the laser weapon demonstrator to the command-and-control system. Rheinmetall was responsible for the high-energy laser source and peripheral systems – turret slewing and beam guidance delivered the demonstrator container and provided the mechanical and electrical integration of the demonstrator onto the deck of the Sachsen.

The German frigate ‘Sachsen’ has successfully engaged drones at a short and very short range, using the High Power Laser (HEL) weapon demonstrator, seen in this picture on the vessel’s port side.

The integration and test phase started in November 2021 and concluded successfully with a factory acceptance test at Rheinmetall’s Unterlüß proving ground. The demonstrator was then installed onboard the frigate Sachsen in Kiel. In July 2022 the first test campaign took place in Eckernförde Bay near the Bundeswehr’s Technical Centre for Ships and Naval Weapons, Marine Technology and Research, WTD 71, in Surendorf. These trials verified the system’s sensors capabilities including the electro-optical sensor suite from the ARGE and the radar. In addition, the interplay between all the components and procedures in the entire operational sequence from target acquisition to engagement was put to the test. This final phase provided the opportunity to test the entire system, including the HEL, in multiple highly realistic engagement scenarios.

The high energy laser (HEL) weapon demonstrator paves the way for future naval weapon systems defending ships against drones and drone swarms as well as engaging attacking speed boat swarms at close and very close range.

As part of a test campaign in October 2022, proof has now been provided that dynamic targets can be successfully combated under realistic conditions.

“Due to its capabilities, a future system is particularly suitable for combating small and agile targets, such as drones or speedboats, at close and very close range. Defense against mortar shells and guided missiles is also conceivable,” says the responsible project manager at BAAINBw. “These tests lay the foundation for the possible development of an operational laser weapon system for the German Navy.”

The laser weapon demonstrator was developed by the German ‘High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator working committee’ (“ARGE”), consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH. The work was evenly divided between the two companies. MBDA Deutschland provided the target detection and tracking systems and the operator console and linked the laser weapon demonstrator to the command-and-control system. Rheinmetall was responsible for the high-energy laser source and peripheral systems – turret slewing and beam guidance delivered the demonstrator container and provided the mechanical and electrical integration of the demonstrator onto the deck of the Sachsen.

Hensoldt’s new Pointer to Improve Sensor-to-Shooter Engagement at Short Ranges

The Short-Range Pointer (SRP) combines several sensors to enable fast and intuitive target acquisition at ranges up to 5,000 m. Photo: Defense-Update
The SRP combines INS, D-GNSS, stereoscopic viewer, and laser rangefinder to provide an accurate and intuitive target acquisition. Illustration: Hensoldt

Facing modern asymmetric threats, naval forces are often called to respond to surprise attacks launched at close range, with minimum alert leaving a very short time to respond. Such threats range from small, fast boats to unmanned underwater vehicles and suicide drones. Hensoldt has developed a handheld Short-Range Pointer (SRP) device that couples to remotely controlled weapon stations (RCWS) on board to significantly reduce the ‘sensor to shooter’ cycle. Unlike mechanized pointing devices using complex optomechanical systems, the handheld SRP can be pointed wherever the user can point and track the target at any posture (standing, laying, or pointing straight up, at any elevation, or bearing. This capability makes it uniquely effective as part of drone-defense measures.

The SRP uses a reflex sight similar to modern assault rifles to enable fast and intuitive target acquisition. Pulling the trigger, the SRP operator designates the target in his sight, sending instantaneously accurate target data – bearing, elevation and distance, to the RWS and Combat Management Center (CMS). Weighing less than 3 kg, the SRP features an accuracy of <1° bearing and elevation. The rangefinder can operate at distances up to 5,000 meters. The targeting information can automatically direct the weapon station to the designated target without the need to guide the weapon operator to the general target location. The weapon operator then pursues a precise engagement. Using SRP for situational awareness, the designations can point at potential targets and objects of interest without employing firepower.

The SRP can be used on board the ship or on other vessels up to 8 nm from the mother ship hosting the SRP base unit. The SRP uses an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and Differential local Navigation Satellite System (D-GNSS), a stereoscopic viewer, and an eye-safe laser rangefinder (LRF). The device can add additional sensors, such as night vision, using a Picatinny rail mounted on the top. It is coupled to the RWS and CMS via an encrypted wireless link.

The SRP LED data display shows target bearing, elevation, and range, and indicates the system’s status. Photo: Defense-Update

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