Audacious was launched

HMS Audacious (S122), the fourth of seven Astute class attack submarines being built for the Royal Navy, was launched on April 28 by BAE Systems at its site in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, UK.

HMS Audacious (S122), Latest Royal Navy SSN, Readied for Launch
HMS Audacious (S122), Latest Royal Navy SSN, Readied for Launch

The 318-foot/97-metre long, 7,400 tonne highly-capable nuclear powered submarine which was officially named at a ceremony in December last year, emerged from the site’s giant Devonshire Dock Hall yesterday. On April 28, it was lowered into the dock water for the first time to begin the next phase of its test and commissioning programme ahead of leaving Barrow for sea trials next year.

Will Blamey, BAE Systems Submarines Managing Director, said: «Today’s launch marks an important milestone in the Astute programme and demonstrates our pride in building submarines for the Royal Navy. Audacious enters the water in a more advanced state of build than any previous Astute class submarine, which puts us in a good position for the next phase of work – the testing and commissioning of her complex systems. Designing and building a nuclear-powered submarine is extremely challenging and today’s launch is yet another reminder of the unique skills required to deliver such complex programmes. We now look forward to working alongside Audacious’ crew to prepare her for sea trials, before she joins her sister submarines in service with the Royal Navy».

Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Submarines Rear Admiral John Weale said: «It’s an exciting moment to see Audacious enter the water for the first time ahead of trials. Such a feat of engineering is testament to the skills of the BAE Systems workforce in Barrow. As part of an increasingly capable Royal Navy, Audacious will go on to serve on operations right around the world, helping keep Britain safe».

HMS Audacious (S122), an Astute-class nuclear attack submarine, has left the covered hall in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (BAE Systems photo)
HMS Audacious (S122), an Astute-class nuclear attack submarine, has left the covered hall in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (BAE Systems photo)

Armed with Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk land attack missiles, the Astute class submarines are the most highly-capable submarines ever built for the Royal Navy. They can strike at targets up to 540 NM/621 miles/1,000 km from the coast with pin-point accuracy, are equipped with a world-leading sonar capability and powered by a nuclear reactor. The first three submarines in the class, HMS Astute (S119), HMS Ambush (S120) and HMS Artful (S121), are now in service with the final three Astute class submarines are at various stages of construction at the Barrow site.

BAE Systems is the prime contractor in the Astute programme and the UK’s only designer and builder of nuclear powered submarines – one of the world’s most complex engineering challenges. The Company is also the industrial lead for the Dreadnought programme, the Royal Navy’s next generation of nuclear deterrent submarines. Construction of the first of four submarines, named Dreadnought, began last year.

The Company’s Submarines business employs approximately 8,500 people and spends more than £300M per year with over 1,000 direct suppliers – 85 per cent of whom are based in the UK.

BAE Systems launches HMS Audacious (S122) – the fourth state-of-the-art Astute submarine
BAE Systems launches HMS Audacious (S122) – the fourth state-of-the-art Astute submarine

Second T-X
Takes Flight

Boeing and partner Saab have completed the first flight of their second production-ready T-X aircraft, which is identical to the first and designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force advanced pilot training requirement.

Designed for U.S. Air Force, Boeing T-X proves low risk, performance, manufacturing repeatability
Designed for U.S. Air Force, Boeing T-X proves low risk, performance, manufacturing repeatability

During the one-hour flight, lead T-X Test Pilot Steve Schmidt and Boeing Test Pilot for Air Force Programs Matt Giese validated key aspects of the aircraft and further demonstrated the low-risk and performance of the design, proving its repeatability in manufacturing.

«The jet handled exactly like the first aircraft and the simulator, meeting all expectations», said Giese. «The front and back cockpits work together seamlessly and the handling is superior. It’s the perfect aircraft for training future generations of combat pilots».

Both pilots trained for the flight using the complete Boeing T-X system, which includes ground-based training and simulation.

«Our successful flight test program is a testament to the fact that our offering is the right choice for the U.S. Air Force», said Schmidt. «This aircraft was built to Air Force requirements and designed to fulfill the Air Education and Training Command mission».

The Boeing T-X aircraft has one engine, twin tails, stadium seating, and an advanced cockpit with embedded training. The all-new, purpose-built design offers flexibility to evolve as technology, missions, and training needs change.

Boeing and Saab revealed their design in September 2016 and flew the first aircraft last December.

T-X will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 aircraft. Initial operating capability is planned for 2024.

Swedish defense and security company Saab serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions ranging from military defense to civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents and constantly develops, adopts and improves new technology to meet customers’ changing needs. Saab is a $4 billion business with approximately 14,000 employees in about 35 countries.

Griffon and Jaguar

According to Defense-aerospace.com, in line with the development of the Jaguar and Griffon vehicles ordered in December 2014, the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) on April 21 awarded Nexter Systems, Renault Trucks Defense and Thales a contract for the first 319 Griffon and the first 20 Jaguar armored vehicles, as part of the Scorpion program for the renewal of the combat capabilities of the Army. This order also includes logistics and training support systems.

A prototype of the Jaguar 6×6 wheeled armored vehicle, armed with a 40-mm gun and anti-tank missiles, which will replace the French army’s wheeled light tanks (FR army photo)
A prototype of the Jaguar 6×6 wheeled armored vehicle, armed with a 40-mm gun and anti-tank missiles, which will replace the French army’s wheeled light tanks (FR army photo)

In accordance with Jean-Yves Le Drian’s decision to modernize the armored component of the ground forces, the Military Programme Law provides for the delivery of the first Griffon in 2018 and of the first Jaguar in 2020. During the development phase, the workload of the Griffon-Jaguar projects supports nearly a thousand highly-skilled direct jobs. This will increase to more than 1,700 direct jobs during full production, starting in 2020.

Scorpion will renew the army’s first-line combat capabilities around two new armored vehicles, Griffon and Jaguar, and a unique information and communication system, SICS, which will allow the networking of all players in land combat. Scorpion also integrates the acquisition of light armored multi-role vehicles, the upgrade of the Leclerc tank and modern combat training systems using simulation and virtual reality.

Griffon is a multi-role armored vehicle (véhicule blindé multi-rôles, or VBMR) designed to replace the Véhicules de l’Avant Blindé (VAB). It is a 6×6 armored vehicle weighing approximately 25 tonnes and equipped with a remotely-controlled weapons station. It will be available in several versions (troop transport, command post, artillery spotter and medical evacuation).

Jaguar is a 6×6 armored reconnaissance and combat vehicle (engin blindé de reconnaissance et de combat, or EBRC) weighing about 25 tonnes intended to replace the AMX10RC and Sagaie wheeled light tanks as well as the VAB variant armed with HOT missiles (designated Mephisto). It will be equipped with the 40-mm automatic cannon with cased telescopic ammunition jointly developed by France and the UK, the MMP medium-range missile and a remotely-controlled weapon station.

In addition to Nexter Systems, Thales and Renault Trucks Defense, the program also involves Safran for optronics and, for the Jaguar’s weapons fit, CTA International for the 40-mm gun and MBDA for the MMP medium range missile.

The second of the French army’s new armored vehicles, the Griffon, is a 6×6 armored personnel carrier intended to replace the VABs now in service (FR army image)
The second of the French army’s new armored vehicles, the Griffon, is a 6×6 armored personnel carrier intended to replace the VABs now in service (FR army image)

Delivery of Yuma

The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of its eighth Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessel, USNS Yuma (EPF-8), April 21.

USNS Yuma (EPF-8) has been delivered to the U.S. Navy following a ceremony held at Austal USA’s Mobile Alabama shipyard (Image: Austal)
USNS Yuma (EPF-8) has been delivered to the U.S. Navy following a ceremony held at Austal USA’s Mobile Alabama shipyard (Image: Austal)

EPFs are shallow draft, all aluminum, commercial-based catamarans capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo transport, that provide combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility. EPFs enable rapid projection and agile maneuver and transport of personnel, equipment and supplies over operational distances and offer access to harsh and degraded offload points.

«EPFs have performed exceptionally in the fleet, and we continue to deliver highly capable ships that can successfully meet a wide range of missions», said Captain Henry Stevens, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. «The delivery of Yuma will provide continued warfighting capabilities to our fleet as these ships continue to conduct operations around the globe».

As versatile, non-combatant vessels, EPFs provide increased operational flexibility for a wide range of activities including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations, and flexible logistics support. These vessels can interface with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities and are capable of on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank. The EPFs include a flight deck to support day and night aircraft launch and recovery operations and airline-style seating for 312 embarked forces with fixed berthing for 104. USNS Yuma (EPF-8) will be owned and operated by the Military Sealift Command.

USNS Yuma (EPF-8) was constructed by Austal USA which is currently under contract for the construction of four additional EPFs. A christening ceremony is scheduled for USNS City of Bismarck (EPF-9) next month with a keel laying ceremony planned for USNS Burlington (EPF-10) early this summer. EPFs 11 and 12 were awarded in September 2016 and are currently in the early stages of production.

As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and special warfare craft.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

PRINCIPAL DIMENSIONS
Material Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall 103 m/337.9 feet
Beam overall 28.5 m/93.5 feet
Hull draft (maximum) 3.83 m/12.57 feet
MISSION BAY
Area (with tie-downs) 1,863 m2/20,053 feet2
Clear Height 4.75 m/15.6 feet
Turning diameter 26.2 m/86.0 feet
ISO TEU (Twenty Equivalent Units) Stations 6 Interface Panels
ACCOMMODATIONS
Crew 41
Single SR 2
Double SR 6
Quad SR 7
Troop Seats 312
Troop Berths Permanent: 104
Temporary: 46
Galley and Messing 48
PROPULSION
Main Engines 4 × MTU 20V8000 M71L Diesel Engines 4 × 9.1 MW
Gear boxes 4 × ZF 60000NR2H Reduction Gears
Waterjets 4 × Wartsila WLD 1400 SR
PERFORMANCE
Average Speed 35 knots/40 mph/65 km/h @ 90% MCR with 635 mt (700 st) payload
Maximum Speed 43 knots/50 mph/80 km/h without payload
Maximum Transit Range 1,200 NM/1,381 miles/2,222 km
Self-Deployment Range 5,600 NM/6,444 miles/10,371 km
Survival Through SS-7
AVIATION FACILITIES
NAVAIR Level 1 Class 2 Certified Flight Deck for one helicopter
Centreline parking area for one helicopter
NAVAIR Level 1 class 4 Type 2 Certified VERTREP (Vertical Replenishment)
Helicopter Control Station
AUXILIARY SYSTEMS
Active Ride Control Transcom Interceptors
Foils: 3.24 m2/34.9 feet2 each, forward on inboard sides of demi-hulls
Vehicle Ramp Articulated Slewing Stern Ramp
Straight aft to 45 Starboard
Telescoping Boom Crane 12.3 mt @ 15 m, 18.2 mt @ 10 m/13.6 Lt @ 49.2 feet, 20.1 Lt @ 32.8 feet

 

Ships

USNS Spearhead (EPF-1), Delivered

USNS Choctaw County (EPF-2), Delivered

USNS Millinocket (EPF-3), Delivered

USNS Fall River (EPF-4), Delivered

USNS Trenton (EPF-5), Delivered

USNS Brunswick (EPF-6), Delivered

USNS Carson City (EPF-7), Delivered

USNS Yuma (EPF-8), Delivered

USNS Bismark (EPF-9), Under construction

USNS Burlington (EPF-10), Under construction

USNS Puerto Rico (EPF-11), Under construction

USNS EPF-12, Under construction

BELH@RRA Frigate

On April 21, the French Defence Ministry announced the attribution to DCNS of a contract for the development and construction of five Intermediate-Size Frigates (FTIs) intended for the French Navy. DCNS will propose a French version of its newBELH@RRA frigate. The first of the five frigates from this DGA-managed programme should be delivered in 2023 with an entry into active service in 2025.

Flexible design for export variants
Flexible design for export variants

 

A latest-generation digital frigate for the French Navy

The new BELH@RRA frigate will be designed and developed by DCNS, in joint project management with THALES for the development of the new-generation radar it will be equipped with.

The initiation of the FTI programme will benefit the DCNS Group’s employment basins, the foremost of which being the DCNS Lorient site and its subcontracting partners: the design of the BELH@RRA frigates represents about two million hours of work for the DCNS design offices. For the entire DCNS Group, the construction of a BELH@RRA frigate represents on average two million hours of work, of which three hundred thousand hours for the design offices.

Hervé Guillou, Chairman and CEO of DCNS states that: «DCNS is proud to contribute, alongside THALES, to the renewal of the French naval forces thanks to a new vessel responding to the needs of a world-class navy. It is key component of our range of military vessels and the attribution of this contract also allows us to develop a frigate that addresses the expectations of a dynamic international market».

A world-class frigate of a displacement of 4,000 tonnes intended for anti-submarine warfare, the French version of the BELH@RRA is designed to respond to the various French national needs. It will be endowed with extended self-defence and special forces projection capacities. Last but not least, it will integrate the new THALES SEA FIRE four flat antenna radar and will be equipped with Aster 30 missiles from MBDA.

 

The first frigate for «digital natives»

Developed for crews that will take the commands around 2020, the BELH@RRA frigates will benefit from the very latest digital technologies. They will, in particular, be equipped with a latest-generation combat system. This will bring greater rapidity for tactical analysis, decision taking and weapons deployment.

The integration of the latest digital technologies will ensure that the vessel will be able to evolve over a period of almost forty years. The information-processing systems will be modernised incrementally to be adapted to changes in the operational context, the emergence of future threats and the short renewal cycles for new technologies.

With the BELH@RRA frigate, DCNS intends to continue the success enjoyed by La Fayette-class frigates, a reference on the naval-defence market with over twenty units sold around the world. DCNS completes its product line by positioning this new frigate between the 6,000-tonne FREMM multi-mission frigate segment and that of the 2,500- to 3,000-tonne Gowind corvettes.

Strong military capacities in all warfare areas
Strong military capacities in all warfare areas

 

Missions

Successor of the stealth La Fayette-class frigate, BELH@RRA is the new combat ship for naval supremacy.

BELH@RRA is the answer from DCNS to navies looking for a compact frigate able to perform a large range of missions stand-alone or within a task force either for high sea duration missions as for shallow water operation in congested and contested operational environment.

This new frigate features high level capabilities in anti-air, anti-surface, anti-submarine and asymmetric warfare domains. BELH@RRA is fitted with latest generation fixed-panels Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar integrated in a Panoramic Surveillance Intelligence Module (PSIM), a complete sonar suite, long and medium range anti-air missiles and a comprehensive electronic warfare suite.

Thanks to its flexible design, BELH@RRA can be proposed in different versions with adapted combat payload and platform arrangement.

 

Design flexibility

BELH@RRA is either equipped with:

  • fixed-panels AESA radar or rotating 3D multifunction radar;
  • 76-mm or 127-mm gun;
  • up to 32 vertical launched missiles cells;
  • Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) and/or short range weapon system;
  • full sonar suite – Hull-Mounted Sonar (HMS) and Variable Depth Sonar (VDS);
  • passive detection in all frequencies bands (radar, radio, laser…);
  • up to 40 MW/53,641 hp Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD) propulsion,
  • fixed and rotary-wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs);
  • stretched hull to receive a flexible zone for UXVs, RHIBS, containers storage, and increased autonomy and accommodation.

 

Advanced warfare

This compact and stealth platform provides maximised capacities for active/passive self-defence and attack in all warfare areas.

BELH@RRA baseline version is equipped with SETIS, DCNS latest-generation combat system fitted for national or coalition forces interoperability with tactical data links presets.

SETIS features shipborne and third-parties UAV operations directly from the Combat Information Centre (CIC).

BELH@RRA is equipped with an innovative short range protection center which gives full 360° vision coverage and action against close targets.

Advanced digital infrastructure design through ACCESS (Afloat Common Computing Evolutive and Secured System Project).

BELH@RRA cybersecurity is addressed by DCNS through the whole warship design and on-board/ashore systems monitoring.

 

CHARACTERISTICS

Displacement 4,000 t class
Length 121 m/397 feet
Width 17 m/55.8 feet
Speed 27-29 knots/31-33.4 mph/50-53.7 km/h
Range 5,000 NM/5,754 miles/9,260 km at 15 knots/17.3 mph/27.8 km/h
Accommodation 145-165
Aviation 1×10 t class helicopter and 1×mid-size UAV

 

Fifth OPV for UK

BAE Systems welcomed Mr. Tony Douglas, Chief Executive Officer of Defence Equipment and Support, to its Govan shipyard in Glasgow on 21 April 2017 to cut the first metal and begin construction of HMS Spey, the fifth and final River Class Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for the Royal Navy.

Construction begins on fifth OPV for UK Royal Navy
Construction begins on fifth OPV for UK Royal Navy

To mark the occasion, employees were joined at a ceremony by representatives of the Royal Navy and the local community as Mr. Douglas operated the plasma cutting machine to cut the first steel plates for HMS Spey.

BAE Systems has recently invested over £2 million in new technology for its Fabrication Facility, including the introduction of two robotic welding machines and a new laser cutting machine, which will be used on HMS Spey and the Type 26 Global Combat Ship later this year.

DE&S CEO Tony Douglas, said; «The team at Defence Equipment and Support has driven the successful delivery of the OPV programme; today’s steel cut is a proud moment not only for us, but for the Royal Navy and our industry partners too. I am looking forward to continuing this long-standing and close relationship when we begin manufacturing for the Type 26 fleet later in the summer».

Iain Stevenson, Managing Director of BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: «It is special occasions such as the steel cut of HMS Spey today that help us reflect on the importance of what we do, delivering the ships that will protect our nation’s interests at home and abroad. We are investing in the latest digital design technologies and new processes which enable us to deliver the quality ships and help to secure the long-term future of our highly skilled industry in the UK. We now have five OPVs in various stages of construction at our shipyards in Glasgow and I look forward to seeing the first of class Type 26 Global Combat Ship start to take shape in the summer of this year».

This OPV design differs from the Royal Navy’s existing River Class ships but there are variants already in service in Brazil and Thailand which puts capability at the forefront of their navies.

The first vessel, HMS Forth (P222), entered the water in August 2016, less than two years after construction started, and is now preparing for sea trials before being delivered to the Royal Navy by the end of 2017.

Work on the River Class OPVs continues to sustain skills in Glasgow and the wider supply chain, with more than 100 companies in the programme across the UK.

The first vessel, HMS Forth (P222), entered the water in August 2016
The first vessel, HMS Forth (P222), entered the water in August 2016

Long Range Radar

Less than 18 months from contract award, the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), developed by Lockheed Martin, passed Preliminary Design Review (PDR), indicating that detailed design on the radar system can move forward. The radar system will support a layered ballistic missile defense strategy to protect the U.S. homeland from ballistic missile attacks.

The Long Range Discrimination Radar is a high-powered S-Band radar incorporating solid-state Gallium Nitride components capable of discriminating threats at extreme distances. LRDR is a key component of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and will provide acquisition, tracking and discrimination data to enable separate defense systems to lock on and engage ballistic missile threats (Image courtesy Lockheed Martin)
The Long Range Discrimination Radar is a high-powered S-Band radar incorporating solid-state Gallium Nitride components capable of discriminating threats at extreme distances. LRDR is a key component of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and will provide acquisition, tracking and discrimination data to enable separate defense systems to lock on and engage ballistic missile threats (Image courtesy Lockheed Martin)

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in 2015 awarded the $784 million contract to Lockheed Martin to develop, build and test LRDR, and the company is on track on an aggressive schedule to deliver the radar to Clear, Alaska. Lockheed Martin passed PDR by demonstrating both a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 6, putting the team on a path to achieve TRL 7 later this year allowing the program transition to manufacturing. Lockheed Martin utilized a scaled LRDR system to successfully demonstrate Critical Technology Elements (CTEs) in a relevant end to end environment.

During the two-day PDR, representatives from the MDA and the Office of Secretary of Defense, toured Lockheed Martin’s facility to see the LRDR Prototype System and the new Solid State Radar Integration Site, a self-funded test facility that will be utilized to demonstrate TRL 7 and provide significant risk reduction for development of LRDR and future solid state radar systems.

«Lockheed Martin is committed to supporting the nation’s Integrated Air & Missile Defense and homeland defense missions and we are actively investing in research and technologies that will lead to advanced solutions», said Chandra Marshall, LRDR program director, Lockheed Martin. «The Solid State Radar Integration Site will be used to mature, integrate and test the LRDR design and building blocks before we deliver the radar to Alaska. Using this test site will result in significant cost savings and less risk overall».

Similar to Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence radar system, LRDR is a high-powered S-Band radar incorporating solid-state Gallium Nitride (GaN) components, but is additionally capable of discriminating threats at extreme distances using the inherent wideband capability of the hardware coupled with advanced software algorithms.

«We built an open non-proprietary architecture that allows incorporation of the algorithms from small businesses, labs and the government, to provide an advanced discrimination capability for homeland defense», said Tony DeSimone, vice president, engineering and technology, Lockheed Martin Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors.

LRDR is a key component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) and will provide acquisition, tracking and discrimination data to enable separate defense systems to lock on and engage ballistic missile threats, a capability that stems from Lockheed Martin’s decades of experience in creating ballistic missile defense systems for the U.S. and allied governments.

Work on LRDR is primarily performed in New Jersey, Alaska, Alabama, Florida and New York.

As a proven world leader in systems integration and development of air and missile defense systems and technologies, Lockheed Martin delivers high-quality missile defense solutions that protect citizens, critical assets and deployed forces from current and future threats. The company’s experience spans radar and signal processing, missile design and production, hit-to-kill capabilities, infrared seekers, command and control/battle management, and communications, precision pointing and tracking optics, as well as threat-representative targets for missile defense tests.

Lockheed Martin’s new Solid State Radar Integration Site in Moorestown, New Jersey, is a self-funded test facility that will be utilized to demonstrate TRL 7 and provide significant risk reduction for development of Long Range Discrimination Radar and future solid state radar systems (Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin’s new Solid State Radar Integration Site in Moorestown, New Jersey, is a self-funded test facility that will be utilized to demonstrate TRL 7 and provide significant risk reduction for development of Long Range Discrimination Radar and future solid state radar systems (Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)

Astute class submarines

BAE Systems has been awarded a £1.4 billion contract by the UK’s Ministry of Defence to deliver the next Astute class submarine to the Royal Navy.

BAE Systems awarded £1.4billion contract for new submarine
BAE Systems awarded £1.4billion contract for new submarine

HMS Agamemnon (S124) will be the sixth of seven nuclear-powered attack submarines designed and manufactured at the Company’s site at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

Will Blamey, Managing Director of BAE Systems Submarines, said: «Securing the contract for the sixth Astute class submarine is a significant milestone for BAE Systems and the result of many years of hard work by our highly skilled workforce. The Astute class submarines are amongst the most highly capable and technologically advanced in the world and we’re immensely proud to build them for the Royal Navy».

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: «This latest investment means we are well on our way to completing our fleet of Astute submarines. These are the most advanced submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy and are already providing unprecedented levels of stealth and attack capability across the world. Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178 billion equipment plan, Barrow will remain the hub of our submarine build programmes providing high skilled jobs for years to come».

The first three Astute class submarines HMS Astute (S119), HMS Ambush (S120) and HMS Artful (S121) are currently in service with the Royal Navy with a further four in various stages of construction at the Barrow site.

BAE Systems is the prime contractor responsible for the design, build, test and commissioning of the seven Astute class nuclear-powered attack submarines. It is also the industrial lead for the Dreadnought programme, the Royal Navy’s next generation of submarines that will carry the continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent.

The Company’s submarine operation employs approximately 8,400 people and spends more than £300M per year with over 1,000 direct suppliers – 85 per cent of whom are based in the UK.

Navy held a keel

The U.S. Navy held a keel laying and authentication ceremony for the future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, April 10.

The U.S. Navy and held a keel laying and authentication ceremony for the future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, April 10. LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to host interchangeable mission packages onto the seaframe in support of surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare (Photo by Austal USA/Released)
The U.S. Navy and held a keel laying and authentication ceremony for the future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, April 10. LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to host interchangeable mission packages onto the seaframe in support of surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare (Photo by Austal USA/Released)

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and ship’s sponsor Penny Pritzker authenticated the keel for the 10th Independence variant of the littoral combat ship class during the ceremony. While keel laying traditionally represents the formal start of a ship’s construction, advanced modular shipbuilding allows fabrication of the ship to begin months in advance. Today, keel laying continues to symbolically recognize the joining of the ship’s components and the ceremonial beginning of the ship.

LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) seaframe program manager’s representative, Navy Commander Chris Addington, commended the Austal USA shipbuilders at the event. «Through the hard work and dedication of the men and women of Austal, this keel will be built up to a highly capable Navy ship», he said. «Thanks to all of you for your efforts to complete a great ship that will exemplify its namesake city».

Cincinnati will be approximately 417 feet/127.1 m in length, with a width of nearly 103 feet/31.4 m. LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to host interchangeable mission packages onto the seaframe in support of surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare. The Navy’s LCS class consists of the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA and the Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin. Both variants are being purchased under an innovative block-buy acquisition strategy. There are currently 13 LCSs under construction.

Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships is responsible for delivering and sustaining littoral mission capabilities to the fleet.

 

The Independence Variant

PRINCIPAL DIMENSIONS
Construction Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall 417 feet/127.1 m
Beam overall 103 feet/31.4 m
Hull draft (maximum) 14.8 feet/4.5 m
PAYLOAD AND CAPACITIES
Complement Core Crew – 40
Mission crew – 36
Berthing 76 in a mix of single, double & quad berthing compartments
Maximum mission load 210 tonnes
Mission Bay Volume 118,403 feet3/11,000 m3
Mission packages Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Surface Warfare (SUW)
Mine Warfare (MIW)
PROPULSION
Main engines 2 × GE LM2500
2 × MTU 20V 8000
Waterjets 4 × Wartsila steerable
Bow thruster Retractable azimuthing
PERFORMANCE
Speed 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range 3,500 NM/4,028 miles/6,482 km
Operational limitation Survival in Sea State 8
MISSION/LOGISTICS DECK
Deck area >21,527.8 feet2/2,000 m2
Launch and recovery Twin boom extending crane
Loading Side ramp
Internal elevator to hanger
Launch/Recover Watercraft Sea State 4
FLIGHT DECK AND HANGER
Flight deck dimensions 2 × SH-60 or 1 × CH-53 or multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs/VTUAVs)
Hanger Aircraft stowage & maintenance for 2 × SH-60
Launch/Recover Aircraft Sea State 5
WEAPONS AND SENSORS
Standard 1 × 57-mm gun
4 × 12.7-mm/.50 caliber guns
1 × Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher
3 × weapons modules

 

Independence-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Independence (LCS-2) 01-19-2006 04-26-2008 01-16-2010 San Diego, California
USS Coronado (LCS-4) 12-17-2009 01-14-2012 04-05-2014 San Diego, California
USS Jackson (LCS-6) 08-01-2011 12-14-2013 12-05-2015 San Diego, California
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) 06-25-2013 08-06-2014 09-10-2016 San Diego, California
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) 04-16-2014 02-25-2015
USS Omaha (LCS-12) 02-18-2015 11-20-2015
USS Manchester (LCS-14) 06-29-2015 05-12-2016
USS Tulsa (LCS-16) 01-11-2016
USS Charleston (LCS-18) 06-28-2016
USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) 04-10-2017
USS Kansas City (LCS-22)
USS Oakland (LCS-24)

 

5-kW laser

A Stryker combat vehicle equipped with a 5-kW laser and an array of sensors spent several minutes scanning the horizon for a wayward «enemy» drone.

This Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker was evaluated, April 12, during the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The MEHEL can shoot a drone out of the sky using a 5-kW laser (Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez)
This Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker was evaluated, April 12, during the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The MEHEL can shoot a drone out of the sky using a 5-kW laser (Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez)

On a television screen in a nearby tent off Thompson Hill – a range used during the 10-day Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment here – observers watched the black and white output of those sensors on two flat-screen televisions, April 12. A crosshair was centered on the screen. When what appeared to be a drone entered the frame, the crosshairs locked on to it and followed it.

After a few attempts to destroy the drone with the laser, the drone fell from the sky, crashing to the ground. Not a bullet was fired, and no sounds were made by the system that accomplished the kill – an experimental project called the Mobile High-Energy Laser, or MEHEL.

The MEHEL is just one system the Army is looking at to deal with the growth of inexpensive off-the-shelf unmanned aerial systems that are being seen in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

2017 MFIX EXPERIMENTS

Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Erts, who serves as the chief of experimentation and wargaming with the Fires Battle Lab at the Fires Center of Excellence here, said the MEHEL was just one of three drone-killing systems under evaluation at the 2017 MFIX, which ran April 3-13.

Also included, he said, was a system called the Anti-UAV Defense System and another branded «Hunter/Killer». There were also command and control systems that provide a common air picture down to platoon and company level, radar systems that can conduct counter-artillery missions, but can also look into the sky, and an unmanned aerial system that can haul supplies to Soldiers on the front lines of combat.

That equipment and the personnel tasked to evaluate it, came to Fort Sill to participate in the 2017 MFIX, which Erts said is a collaboration between the Fires Center of Excellence and the Army Capabilities Integration Center. At MFIX, he said, over 40 industry partners and government leads participated, as well as Soldiers from around the United States.

At this MFIX, the Army was looking to accomplish several goals. At the top of that list was finding better ways to pinpoint targets to put fires on, Erts said.

«We’d like to know where our targets are at», he said. «So, the targets are out on the battlefield somewhere. We’d like to know exactly where they are, so we can use one of our precision munitions to hit it».

Another priority, he said, involved a bit of doctrinal work. Erts said the Army is interested in knowing if traditional fire supporting Soldiers are capable of executing a counter-unmanned aircraft system mission alongside their traditional artillery mission.

«We’re going to see if their plate is too full, or if they can do everything at once», he said. «But so far, it looks like they can do it».

Also on the agenda at the 2017 MFIX was a continued look at the use of high-energy lasers, he said. The MEHEL made its first appearance at MFIX last year, but then with a less-powerful laser.

«We are working with Space and Missile Defense Command, using their MEHEL to engage various targets, to include low-flying UAS», he said. This is the first year, he said, that uniformed Soldiers were actually tasked with using the system to take down actual aerial targets.

«They love the system and they are excited about not only what they can do with it in the air, but what they can do with it on the ground as well», he said.

Finally, Erts said, at this year’s MFIX the Army looked at new ways to deliver supplies to the edge of the battlefield using unmanned aerial systems, rather than convoys.

At the center of that effort was a project called the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply System, which was also on display at MFIX.

«Let’s say a Soldier is out of ammunition and they need a resupply in an emergency situation», Erts said. «They could launch the UAS, and without putting any Soldiers in harm’s way, they could deliver that box of ammunition to the front lines».

Specialist Brandon Sallaway, a fire support specialist and forward observer from Fort Carson, Colo., points to a sticker on the side of the Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker he helped evaluate, April 12, at the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Okla. The stickers represent the number of drones the MEHEL has shot out of the sky using a 5-kW laser. Sallaway was the first Soldier to actually use the MEHEL to take down a target (Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez)
Specialist Brandon Sallaway, a fire support specialist and forward observer from Fort Carson, Colo., points to a sticker on the side of the Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker he helped evaluate, April 12, at the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Okla. The stickers represent the number of drones the MEHEL has shot out of the sky using a 5-kW laser. Sallaway was the first Soldier to actually use the MEHEL to take down a target (Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez)

 

NOT STAR WARS

If the 2017 MFIX had a «star», it was probably the MEHEL. This year, the Stryker configured with that system was marked «MEHEL 2.0», and it sported a 5-kW laser versus last year’s 2-kW laser.

The MEHEL 2.0 includes on-board radar, a second optic, increased laser power, and increased engagement range, Erts said. In addition to doing a «hard kill», such as what was seen when the on-board laser shot a drone out of the sky, the system can also do a «soft kill». That means instead of using a laser to destroy a drone, electronic warfare capabilities can be used to disable the communications link between a drone and its ground control station. Then, Erts said, «we can send artillery after the ground control station».

Also, a possibility after a soft kill on a drone is collecting that drone to gather intelligence information from it.

One thing the MEHEL does not do is make noise, or create any Star Wars-like visual effects. When the laser fires, there’s no sound that comes from the vehicle. And observers can’t actually see the laser emanating from the “beam director” on top of the Stryker, though if they were close enough to the target, they might see a hole being burned into it from the laser’s heat.

 

ENVISIONING LASER USE

Captain Theo Kleinsorge, who came last month to Fort Sill to participate in the MFIX, serves as the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-12 Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas. During the MFIX, he replicated the role of an infantry company commander inside the MEHEL 2.0-equipped Stryker.

His primary role was to help determine if the MEHEL was something a forward-observer crew could handle, or if the capability needed to be moved somewhere else, such as into the air defense community. He said he was impressed with the MEHEL system, and sees the usefulness of directed-energy weapons elsewhere in the Army.

«It is absolutely a valuable system», Kleinsorge said, even beyond the ability to destroy a UAS. «Directed energy will hopefully very quickly see itself useful in the realm of breaching obstacle belts, in the realm of active defense, of not just shooting down UASs, but the ability to destroy incoming anti-tank missiles, mortars, field artillery rounds, across the whole of what the counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar mission is currently».

One benefit of the MEHEL system is that it doesn’t use ammunition to take down either a UAS or ground target. Practically speaking, the only thing MEHEL needs is fuel. The batteries required to fire the laser can be recharged from generators, which are powered by the same fuel that runs the Stryker’s engines.

«If the entire Army today adopted directed energy and it was able to solve all of our engagement problems, Class V ammunition would no longer exist, and Class III, our fuel, would now be essentially our only logistical requirement for the vehicle to be offensive», Kleinsorge said.

At MFIX, Kleinsorge said, his team took down about 50 actual targets using the laser onboard the MEHEL. Using directed energy to kill a target is something he said that none of the Soldiers involved had ever done before. Now, he said, he’s sold on the idea.

«From my foxhole as a young captain, I say I am excited to see this in the Army», Kleinsorge said. «We were skeptical at first, when we were first briefed we’d be shooting down drones with lasers. And by the end of it, it is absolutely more than feasible. We achieved a success rate well beyond what we expected we’d have. And we are excited to see this go to the next step of the experiment, shooting beyond the horizon, and showing this technology can solve the problem».

 

SOLDIER’S VIEW

Spc. Brandon Sallaway, a fire support specialist and forward observer from Fort Carson, Colorado, was one of the crew that participated in the MFIX and who worked on the crew that piloted the MEHEL.

He said he found the system was easy to use, and easy to learn as well.

«It uses stuff, controllers, that we’re all familiar with», he said. «It takes about half an hour … to figure out the system, and then you’re good to go».

Sallaway was also the first uniformed Soldier to actually use the MEHEL to take down a target. Outside the vehicle, plastered onto the side, are an array of stickers that mark each kill the vehicle has made. He pointed to the one that represents his own kill.

«I’m really excited to be part of a historical event», he said. «And it’s really exciting … to see the Army working on the next generation of tools for us so that we can maintain our edge, the cutting edge. It’s mind-blowing stuff to think you are shooting a laser at something. Sometimes it’s hard to fathom».

 

UNMANNED AIRBORNE RESUPPLY

At MFIX, Soldiers aimed to do more than just blow up or disable enemy drones. Also on the agenda was using friendly drones to deliver supplies to Soldiers in need, so that manned convoys wouldn’t be needed.

«The problem we are trying to solve with the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply System (JTARS) is how we conduct assured resupply over the last tactical mile to the point of need», said Captain Dustin Dunbar, with the Combined Arms Support Command, Sustainment Center of Excellence, Fort Lee, Virginia.

The JTARS used at MFIX was a 1/3 scale model «trainer», that really served as an example of what could be done, Dunbar said. The JTARS is meant to be a system, rather than particular vehicle.

At MFIX, the JTARS team demonstrated the capability the Army is after by using the trainer model. They had to move a pair of individual first aid kits from one location to another. They attached a few light-weight kits to a specially-built drone to serve as the payload. Then the drone lifted up off the ground and flew a preplanned route to a target destination, without needing a Soldier to guide it with a controller.

The current demonstration model carries about 5 pounds/2.27 kg. The expectation is that eventually the JTARS could provide the capability to carry up to 600 pounds/272 kg from a rear location to the front lines, where Soldiers might need anything from food to ammunition.

«So, if you can imagine a Stryker is out on the battlefield and it goes down», Dunbar said. «And that field maintenance team is working on it but they need a part from the rear. Rather than taking an entire convoy and going through convoy planning missions and stuff like that and getting on the road, instead you are just loading one piece of equipment – a repair part – within the JTARS and sending it point to point».

Critical to the JTARS concept is reaction time and assured resupply, Dunbar said.

Right now, Dunbar said, the model they have is capable of demonstrating what they want to do, though it might not be the final product. The existence of what they do have allows them to practice delivery of unmanned supplies and also allows them to practice getting access to airspace – something that sustainment units would have to learn to do if they were going to employ JTARS in a theater of operations.

«Your typical sustainment unit within the Army doesn’t have air assets», Dunbar said. «Plus, they lack the personnel, the structure, and the capability to plan, coordinate and deconflict airspace. So, we came out here with the Fires Battle Lab, essentially running the mission command piece of how to conduct this and the best practices to take back to hopefully make it to doctrine».