Third Class 125 frigate

The third 125 class frigate, the F224 «Sachsen-Anhalt», has taken to the sea for the first time. On February 22, 2018 the ship left the shipyard in Hamburg for scheduled in-port trials. The ship’s technical systems and equipment, including its propulsion system, maneuvering behavior and technical operations, will be tested over a period of around two weeks. The trials will take the ship from Hamburg via the river Elbe to the North Sea before returning to Hamburg after completing the test program. In addition to technical specialists from the German defense procurement agency BAAINBw, the testing team from the ARGE F125 consortium and employees of other companies involved, members of the future naval crew are also on board. Following the F222 «Baden-Württemberg» and the F223 «Nordrhein-Westfalen», the F224 «Sachsen-Anhalt» is now the third of the F125 class frigates to take to the open seas.

Third Class 125 frigate for German Navy heads for sea trials
Third Class 125 frigate for German Navy heads for sea trials

The completely redesigned F125 class ships have an extremely high degree of automation with approximately 28,000 electric devices, permitting a significantly smaller crew size compared with previous frigate classes. At the same time, they are capable of remaining in their area of operation for up to two years. The newly developed ships are thus the first to implement the so-called intensive use principle. In addition to the high level of automation, this is also made possible by a multiple-crew strategy that enables the entire crew to be swapped out during deployment. With sanitary facilities (including shower) in each cabin, a small gym and even internet connections, the ships meet the demands of modern crew members.

The ARGE F125 consortium comprises ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems as the lead company and Fr. Lürssen Werft in Bremen. The pre-fitted bow sections were manufactured at the Fr. Lürssen Werft shipyards in Bremen and Wolgast. Construction of the stern sections, the joining of the two sections and further fitting out is being carried out at Blohm+Voss Shipyards in Hamburg under the direction of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

The third Class 125 Frigate for the German Navy, the F224 «Sachsen-Anhalt», left the Hamburg seaport for first sea trials in the North Sea
The third Class 125 Frigate for the German Navy, the F224 «Sachsen-Anhalt», left the Hamburg seaport for first sea trials in the North Sea

 

Technical Data

MAIN DIMENSIONS
Length overall 149 m/489 feet
Beam maximum 18.8 m/61.7 feet
Draught 5.0 m/16.4 feet
Displacement (approximately) 7,100 t
Speed 26 knots/30 mph/48 km/h
Range 4,000 NM/4,603 miles/7,408 km at a speed of 18 knots/21 mph/33 km/h
PROPULSION PLANT
CODLAG Combined diesel-electric and gas
CPP (Controllable Pitch Propellers) 2
Diesels MTU 20 V 4000 4 × 3,015 kW (total 12.06 MW)
Propulsion Electric Motors 2 × 4.5 MW (total 9 MW)
Gas Turbine GE LM 2500 1 × 20 MW
COMPLEMENT
Crew 120
Supernumerary (Helicopter/Special Forces) 70
HELICOPTER
NHIndustries MH-90 2
BOATS
RHIBs (11-meter length) 4
Following the F222 «Baden-Württemberg» and the F223 «Nordrhein-Westfalen», the F224 «Sachsen-Anhalt» is now the third of the F125 class frigates to take to the open seas
Following the F222 «Baden-Württemberg» and the F223 «Nordrhein-Westfalen», the F224 «Sachsen-Anhalt» is now the third of the F125 class frigates to take to the open seas

Next-Gen LHD

The keel laying ceremony of the multipurpose amphibious unit (LHD or Landing Helicopter Dock) took place on February 20, 2018, at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Castellammare di Stabia, marking the beginning of the slipway works of the unit.

A crane lowers the first component of the Italian Navy’s future LHD in place at Fincantieri’s shipyard at Castellammare di Stabia. The ship, which was designed for both military and humanitarian missions, is due to be handed over in 2022 (Fincantieri photo)
A crane lowers the first component of the Italian Navy’s future LHD in place at Fincantieri’s shipyard at Castellammare di Stabia. The ship, which was designed for both military and humanitarian missions, is due to be handed over in 2022 (Fincantieri photo)

The new unit will be delivered in 2022 and it falls within the naval program of the maritime capability of Defense, approved by the Italian Government and Parliament and started in May 2015.

The LHD will be classified by RINA Services pursuant international conventions about prevention of pollution regarding the more traditional aspects, like the ones of the MARPOL Convention, as well as those not yet mandatory, as the Hong Kong Convention about ship dismantling.

 

Vessel’s characteristics: LHD – Landing Helicopter Dock

The unit will be approximately 215 meters/705 feet long with a maximum speed of 25 knots/29 mph/46 km/h. It will be equipped with a combined propulsion system diesel/electric and gas turbines (CODLOG).

The LHD’s main mission is the transport of people, vehicles and loads of different kinds and in their transfer on land in port areas through on board systems and in not equipped areas with on board staffing vessels (such as the LCM landing craft units with a load capacity up to 60 tons, four of which can be admitted, launched, and recovered through a flooded basin, located on the stern of the vessel).

The LHD’s military profile use provides transport and landing, in equipped and non-equipped areas, of troupes, military vehicles, logistic equipment, using the provided features and means of transfer.

The civil profile use provides:

  • healthcare and hospital support;
  • transfer and landing of people and wheeled or crawled means of transport in equipped and non-equipped areas;
  • supply of drinking water to land and supply of electricity;
  • possibility of accommodating specialized staff on board or hosting civilian personnel;
  • rescue operations base through helicopters and on board staffing vessels.

Equipped with wide internal embarkment areas (of about 4,500 m2/48,438 ft2 within dock-garage and hangar-garage), and a continuous open deck, able to receive wheeled vehicles of various kinds, containers and helicopters, the unit can perform several military and civil missions.

The different areas of cargo securing are accessible through stern and side ramps, and cargo handling will be managed by internal ramps and elevators.

On board there will be a fully equipped hospital, complete with operating rooms, radiology and analysis rooms, a dentist’s office, and a hospital rooms capable of hosting 28 seriously injured patients (further admissions are possible through duly equipped container modules).

Target in space

On February 18, 2018, an «Arrow» weapon system test was completed successfully when an «Arrow 3» missile intercepted a simulated target in space. First, the target was detected by the weapon system’s radar. The data was then transmitted to the interception management center, and the «Arrow 3» missile was launched.

On February 18, 2018, an «Arrow» weapon system test was completed successfully. As part of the test, the «Arrow 3» missile intercepted a simulated target in space
On February 18, 2018, an «Arrow» weapon system test was completed successfully. As part of the test, the «Arrow 3» missile intercepted a simulated target in space

The test was performed by Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, alongside the American Missile Defense Agency, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Israeli Air Force (IAF). Designated systems were installed on the tested missile in order to transmit unique data and enable a more effective analysis of the test results.

The test’s success is a milestone in Israel’s defensive capabilities. «This was an operational test. We tested the ‘Arrow 3′ interceptor missile against a simulated target located thousands of kilometers away at an altitude of over 100 kilometers/62 miles. This target was further and higher than any other target we’ve intercepted so far», explained Lieutenant Colonel Y’, Commander of the «Arrow» Unit. «The test shows the significant capabilities of the weapon system and its operators, capabilities which are now a part of the IAF’s Aerial Defense Division».

 

From Detection to Interception

The «Arrow 3» interceptor missile was integrated into the IAF for operational use in January, 2017. It is an innovative missile, designed to defend against ballistic missile threats outside the atmosphere. Additional tests are expected in the U.S. in 2018. «This is an opportunity to examine the entire process, from detection to interception», said Lieutenant Colonel Y’. «As part of this test, we examined the capabilities of the weapon system’s new program block, which was integrated a few months ago. The new block has many improved defense capabilities with an emphasis on a larger radius and altitude of interception. After the test, we have much more faith in this block and its operational capability».

 

«The test’s success is our success»

The Missile Test Unit was responsible for the test’s infrastructure. «We received the test scenario and began establishing its infrastructure with an emphasis on safety», said Lieutenant Colonel A’, Commander of the Missile Test Unit. «The biggest challenge was mapping out dangerous zones on the ground, in the air and at sea in order to prevent people, aircraft and ships from entering. Our unit is responsible for operating the test field, both in maintenance and in engineering. It is a privilege to perform this test, and its success is our success».

Austal-FFG-X

AUSTAL on February 18, 2018, celebrated the US$15 million dollar fixed price contract for the Guided Missile Frigate FFG(X) Concept Design.

Austal wins contract for frigate (FFG(X)) concept design by united states department of defense
Austal wins contract for frigate (FFG(X)) concept design by united states department of defense

The contract will develop the Austal Frigate design to meet the FFG(X) system specification with the goal of reducing cost, schedule, and performance risk for the follow-on detail design and construction contract.

«Austal welcomes this contract as an endorsement of our advanced, technology focused design; something that underpins everything we do and is at the heart of what has built our reputation over the last 30 years», Austal CEO, David Singleton said.

«Our continued investment in research and development to support the technology of our vessels is what has kept our designs at the forefront of advanced naval capabilities», Mr. Singleton said.

«Austal’s design department is always increasing its capability to offer the latest technological developments on all our platforms», he said

«Highly technical engineering, research and development, and advanced digital design concepts are continually improved to set the standard of what is possible in naval design. With this latest announcement, the United States has recognised the importance of being able to operate the most advanced naval vessels and we are excited to work with them to develop the technology to do this. Our design team in Mobile will be leading the work on the Austal Frigate, and I have every confidence that they will excel in delivering the next generation frigate design to support the United States Navy», Mr. Singleton said.

The conceptual design effort will inform the final specifications that will be used for the detail design and construction request for proposal that will deliver the required capability for FFG(X).

Austal USA is already delivering two classes of ship for the United States Navy through the Spearhead Class, Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) and the Independence Class, Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Lockheed-Martin-FFG(X)

The U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $15 million contract to mature its Freedom-variant Frigate design as a part of the Navy’s FFG(X) competition.

Lockheed Martin received a $15 million conceptual design contract from the U.S. Navy on February 16 to mature its Frigate design. Built to U.S. Navy shipbuilding standards, Lockheed Martin’s Frigate offering was designed from the keel up to be adaptable, scalable and responsive to the fleet’s needs. It remains the best platform to grow the fleet quickly and affordably
Lockheed Martin received a $15 million conceptual design contract from the U.S. Navy on February 16 to mature its Frigate design. Built to U.S. Navy shipbuilding standards, Lockheed Martin’s Frigate offering was designed from the keel up to be adaptable, scalable and responsive to the fleet’s needs. It remains the best platform to grow the fleet quickly and affordably

Lockheed Martin submitted its Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) parent design in response to the U.S. Navy’s FFG(X) conceptual design solicitation with Fincantieri Marinette Marine as its shipbuilder and Gibbs & Cox as its naval architect.

«We are proud of our 15-year partnership with the U.S. Navy on the Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship and look forward to extending it to FFG(X)», said Joe DePietro, Lockheed Martin vice president of small combatants and ship systems. «Built to U.S. Navy shipbuilding standards, our frigate design offers an affordable, low-risk answer to meeting the Navy’s goals of a larger and more capable fleet».

The Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine team is currently in full-rate production of the Freedom-variant of the LCS, and has delivered five ships to the U.S. Navy to date. There are eight ships in various stages of construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, with one more in long-lead production.

Demonstrating the Freedom-variant LCS design flexibility and ability to integrate increased capabilities, the Royal Saudi Naval Forces selected an LCS derivative, the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant, to fulfill its small combatant requirement. This is the first sale in over three decades of a U.S.-built surface combatant to a foreign partner nation.

Construction of LPD-29

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) announced on February 16, 2018, that its Ingalls Shipbuilding division was awarded a $1.43 billion, fixed-price incentive contract for the detail design and construction of LPD-29, the 13th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.

Ingalls Shipbuilding division received a $218 million contract from the U.S. Navy to provide long-lead-time material and advance construction activities for LPD-29, the 13th amphibious transport dock of the San Antonio (LPD-17) class (HII rendering)
Ingalls Shipbuilding division received a $218 million contract from the U.S. Navy to provide long-lead-time material and advance construction activities for LPD-29, the 13th amphibious transport dock of the San Antonio (LPD-17) class (HII rendering)

«This contract is further recognition of the confidence the Navy/Marine Corps team has in the great work our shipbuilders are doing in the LPD program», said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. «This efficient work is proven through our hot production line keeping the work going in the shipyard and through our nationwide network of suppliers. We are excited to build this additional ship and in providing our sailors and Marines with the best amphibious ships in the world».

Ingalls has built and delivered 11 San Antonio-class ships. The 11th, USS Portland (LPD-27), will be commissioned on April 21 in Portland, Oregon. The 12th, Fort Lauderdale, is under construction and is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2020. Preliminary work has begun on LPD-29, and the start of fabrication will take place later this year.

The San Antonio class is a major part of the Navy’s 21st century amphibious assault force. The 684-foot-long/208-meter-long, 105-foot-wide/32-meter-wide ships are used to embark and land Marines, their equipment and supplies ashore via air cushion or conventional landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles, augmented by helicopters or vertical takeoff and landing aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey.

The ships support a Marine Air Ground Task Force across the spectrum of operations, conducting amphibious and expeditionary missions of sea control and power projection to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions throughout the first half of the 21st century.

 

General Characteristics

Builder Huntington Ingalls Industries
Propulsion Four sequentially turbocharged marine Colt-Pielstick Diesels, two shafts, 41,600 shaft horsepower
Length 684 feet/208 m
Beam 105 feet/32 m
Displacement Approximately 24,900 long tons (25,300 metric tons) full load
Draft 23 feet/7 m
Speed In excess of 22 knots/24.2 mph/38.7 km/h
Crew Ship’s Company: 374 Sailors (28 officers, 346 enlisted) and 3 Marines. Embarked Landing Force: 699 (66 officers, 633 enlisted); surge capacity to 800
Armament Two Bushmaster II 30-mm Close in Guns, fore and aft; two Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers, fore and aft: ten .50 calibre/12.7-mm machine guns
Aircraft Launch or land two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters or two MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft or up to four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, AH-1 or UH-1 helicopters
Landing/Attack Craft Two LCACs or one LCU; and 14 Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles/Amphibious Assault Vehicles

 

San Antonio-class

Ship Builder Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS San Antonio (LPD-17) Avondale 07-12-2003 01-14-2006 Norfolk, Virginia
USS New Orleans (LPD-18) Avondale 12-11-2004 03-10-2007 San Diego, California
USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) Ingalls 11-19-2004 12-15-2007 Norfolk, Virginia
USS Green Bay (LPD-20) Avondale 08-11-2006 01-24-2009 San Diego, California
USS New York (LPD-21) Avondale 12-19-2007 11-07-2009 Norfolk, Virginia
USS San Diego (LPD-22) Ingalls 05-07-2010 05-19-2012 San Diego, California
USS Anchorage (LPD-23) Avondale 02-12-2011 05-04-2013 San Diego, California
USS Arlington (LPD-24) Ingalls 11-23-2010 02-08-2013 Norfolk, Virginia
USS Somerset (LPD-25) Avondale 04-14-2012 05-01-2014 San Diego, California
USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) Ingalls 11-02-2014 10-08-2016 San Diego, California
USS Portland (LPD-27) Ingalls 02-13-2016 12-14-2017 San Diego, California
USS Fort Lauderdale (LPD-28) Ingalls
LPD-29

 

Spike anti-tank

Contract for purchase of various Spike anti-tank missile systems, worth €108 million and made by Israel, will be signed by Minister of Defence Raimonds Bergmanis and EuroSpike Managing Directors, Mr. Guenter Lauer and Mr. Arie Lapidot at the Latvian Ministry of Defence on Monday, 12 February, at 14:00.

Latvian MOD Signs 108 million Euro Contract for Acquisition of SPIKE Missiles
Latvian MOD Signs 108 million Euro Contract for Acquisition of SPIKE Missiles

Acquisition of anti-tank weapons is one of defence sector’s priorities. The anti-tank missile systems Spike has been recognized as the most appropriate operational requirements of the National Armed Forces. The newly acquired Spike missile systems, which will complement the existing stockpile of this armament, will significantly enhanced combat capability of the National Armed Forces regular units and the National Guard.

Spike anti-tank missile systems will be also installed on Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T) units, which have been purchased from Great Britain.

In its category of weapons, Spike anti-tank missile systems made by Israel are considered to be the most modern in the world. Spike systems consist of 4th and 5th generation electro-optical missile systems, providing high precision and high lethality against various targets, including advanced Main Battle Tanks (MBTs).

Moreover, these systems provide the highest operational safety standards for the troops who handle them. Data transmitters, which are placed inside Spike missiles, send data from the rocket to control and launch console. Missile combat crew can operate these missiles remotely, from areas beyond enemy’s reach, while fully in control of fired missiles at all times.

Spike anti-tank missile systems will be gradually integrated by 2023.

The SPIKE system was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., which is also involved in the deal as a subcontractor, together with Diehl Defense GmbH & Co. KG and Rheinmetall Electronics (RME) GmbH.

JAGM test

Aviation testers at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona are deep into testing the latest Army aviation missile, known as the JAGM (Joint Air-to-Ground Missile).

Pilots fire the new Joint Air-to-Ground Missile being tested at Cibola Range, Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in support of deliberate attack mission against armor ground vehicle targets (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
Pilots fire the new Joint Air-to-Ground Missile being tested at Cibola Range, Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in support of deliberate attack mission against armor ground vehicle targets (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

The complex JAGM test was a collaborative team effort between the West Fort Hood, Texas-based Aviation Test Directorate (AVTD) of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, Yuma Test Center (YTC) at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), Arizona, and Redstone Test Center (RTC) based at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

AVTD coordinated multiple efforts to assure a successful test as JAGM moves towards its next major milestone, a low-rate initial production decision.

«The close cooperation between YTC and the Operational Test Command during the short duration was critical», said Lieutenant Colonel Karsten Haake, Chief of the AVTD Rotary Wing Test Division. «Without the professionalism and the mission dedication of the YTC range support team, test completion would have been significantly delayed. This was truly a team effort».

Participating pilots give the new weapon’s versatility high marks.

«One of the things that sticks out to me is the simplicity for the crew in terms of how they select weapons for their missions», said Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Bilton, the first non-experimental test pilot to fire the missile, a milestone that took place at YPG in the fall. «Before, we had to put a lot of thought into, ‘What do I need?’ As soon as I launch, I don’t get to come back and change out my missiles», Bilton said. «In combat, you don’t want to encounter a target you need to hit and not have on-board the right missile for the job».

The JAGM boasts the ability to use semi-active laser or radio frequency as a means of guiding it to target.

Moreover, the crew can switch modes within seconds as a combat scenario evolves.

«Using a Semi-Active Laser (SAL) missile, the last six seconds of the missile flight is the most critical to keep your laser sight on target», explained Michael Kennedy, Experimental Test Pilot, Aviation Flight Test Directorate, RTC. «If you’re getting shot at and your line of sight goes off the target, your missile misses. JAGM can start off using the laser, then transition to the radar portion and still hit the target if the crew has to use evasive maneuvers», he added.

More capable in adverse weather conditions and boasting a longer range than the older Hellfire, the JAGM can now be fired and aircrews can retreat to a safer standoff distance, but also can be aimed without pointing the laser directly at the target.

«You aren’t required to have your laser sight on a target to hit it», said Kennedy. He also said the ability to off-set lasers, a capability that defeats potential laser countermeasures, has distinct tactical advantages.

«The ability to not have to put the laser directly on the target and let the adversary know that you are about to kill him is a tremendous benefit», added Al Maes, Aviation weapons technical advisor for the Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manager Recon Attack. «Once you have the missile off the rail and encounter smoke or dust or fog, a regular laser missile could lose that target. With JAGM, I have a pretty good guarantee that I am going to kill that target with a single missile instead of multiple missile shots», he said.

YPG’s vast ranges and variety of realistic targets is a great location and allows the Apache equipped with JAGM to operate in a variety of situations and altitudes that resemble an operational environment.

«We’re out here shooting at real targets», said Scott McLendon, AVTD Operational Test Officer for JAGM. «It’s a real T-72 driving down the road, not a burnt-out hulk with a million holes in it sitting out on the range. To me, the real targets provided at YPG are really a value-added».

To make the testing as realistic as possible, YPG personnel installed remote-control kits on four separate target vehicles, allowing pilots to fly scenarios where they engaged multiple moving targets at once.

«It’s difficult and unique», said Kennedy. «Having real moving targets adds good operational flavor to the test».

YPG’s natural desert environment also contributed significantly to the test’s realism.

«In an active combat zone or engagement area, you have multiple targets, half of which could be burning», said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Scott Jackson, AH-64D/E Recon and Attack Standardization, TRADOC Capability Manager Recon Attack. «The other half could be evading. Then you have wind shift and wind flow that could kick up obscurants and make it more difficult to determine a clean target set».

«We also get more battlefield realism in that we get dust as well as smoke, so we get a two-for-one here in terms of the environmental piece», added Maes.

Information gathered during the operational test not only validates the weapon, but also contributes new insights for training pilots on how to use the JAGM for maximum effect.

Though the operational test is now complete, further developmental testing, including integrating new software to support the JAGM into the Apache, will continue at YPG.

Yuma Proving Ground has nearly 2,000 square miles/5,180 square km of restricted airspace, a vast and precious asset used to test manned and unmanned aircraft – and their weapons – in all stages of the development cycle.

The clear, stable air and extremely dry climate – which makes inclement weather a rarity – as well as YPG’s isolation from urban encroachment, makes it highly coveted for this type of testing.

«YPG is way less restrictive than some other installations», said McLendon. «We can put the missile through all the parameters we need to, including high-altitude shots. It’s really user-friendly here».

YPG can conduct multiple tests concurrently and without having to compete for runway and airspace with manned fighter jets, a limitation at other installations.

The close coordination, professionalism and favorable test locations assured the success of this critical test as this new capability moves towards fielding for Soldiers.

Test unit pilots for the JAGM LUT are (left to right): Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Porter, Master Gunner, Gunnery Branch, Directorate of Training and Doctrine (DOTD), Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Bilton Brigade AH-64D/E Subject Matter Expert, 110th Aviation Brigade, Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Scott Jackson, AH-64D/E Recon and Attack Standardization, Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager (TCM) Recon Attack, Fort Rucker, Alabama; and Mr. Michael Kennedy, Experimental Test Pilot, Aviation Flight Test Directorate, Redstone Test Center, Alabama (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
Test unit pilots for the JAGM LUT are (left to right): Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Porter, Master Gunner, Gunnery Branch, Directorate of Training and Doctrine (DOTD), Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Bilton Brigade AH-64D/E Subject Matter Expert, 110th Aviation Brigade, Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Scott Jackson, AH-64D/E Recon and Attack Standardization, Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager (TCM) Recon Attack, Fort Rucker, Alabama; and Mr. Michael Kennedy, Experimental Test Pilot, Aviation Flight Test Directorate, Redstone Test Center, Alabama (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

 

About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command (USAOTC)

As the Army’s only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer – the American Soldier.

The Aviation Test Directorate at Fort Hood, Texas, plans and conducts operational tests and reports on manned and unmanned aviation-related equipment to include attack, reconnaissance, cargo and lift helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, tactical trainers, ground support equipment, and aviation countermeasure systems.

Phase 1 Swarm

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected Northrop Grumman Corporation as a Phase 1 Swarm Systems Integrator for the Agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. As part of the program, Northrop Grumman will launch its first open architecture test bed and is seeking participants to create and test their own swarm-based tactics on the platform. Northrop Grumman is teamed with Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI) and the Interactive Computing Experiences Research Cluster, directed by Doctor Joseph LaViola at the University of Central Florida.

Northrop Grumman Launches First Open Architecture Test Bed to Support DARPAs OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics OFFSET Program
Northrop Grumman Launches First Open Architecture Test Bed to Support DARPAs OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics OFFSET Program

As part of the DARPA OFFSET program, Northrop Grumman serves as a swarm systems integrator, tasked with designing, developing and deploying a swarm-system, open-based architecture for swarm technologies in both a game-based environment and physical test bed. The team has been tasked to produce tactics and technologies to test on the architecture and is responsible for engaging a wider development and user audience through rapid technology-development exercises known as «swarm sprints».

Approximately every six months, DARPA plans to solicit proposals from potential “sprinters” in one of five thrust areas: swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment and physical test bed. Participants from academia, small business and large corporations are invited to join in these swarm sprints. Sprinters will work with the integration team to create and test their own novel swarm tactics within the test bed environment. The end of each sprint will coincide with live physical test experiments with DARPA, the systems integrator team and other sprinters.

The goal of the OFFSET program is to provide small-unit infantry forces with small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) or small Unmanned Ground Systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 or more robots that support diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET seeks to advance the integration of modern swarm tactics and leverage emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming.

«Cognitive autonomy has the potential to transform all defense and security systems. OFFSET will explore a variety of applications in relevant mission scenarios», said Vern Boyle, vice president, advanced technologies, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. «We are applying cutting-edge technologies in robotics, robot autonomy, machine learning and swarm control to ultimately enhance our contributions to the warfighter».

Lightweight VBMR

February 12th, 2018, Nexter and Texelis are delighted at confirmation by Florence Parly, Minister of Armies, for the attribution of the supply of Lightweight Multi-Role Armoured Vehicles (VBMR Véhicules Blindés Multi-Rôles) for the French Army. The contract went through the «Direction Générale de l’Armement» (DGA) in the presence of Joël Barre, National Armament Director (NAD), and Bernard Barrera, Major General of the land forces.

An artist’s impression of the Véhicules Blindés Multi-Rôles Léger (VBMR Light), the next-generation multirole armored vehicle that will equip the French army’s combat units. Over 2,000 are planned to enter service by 2030 (Nexter image)
An artist’s impression of the Véhicules Blindés Multi-Rôles Léger (VBMR Light), the next-generation multirole armored vehicle that will equip the French army’s combat units. Over 2,000 are planned to enter service by 2030 (Nexter image)

These 4-wheel drive vehicles are designed for use by the Army’s intelligence and reconnaissance units as part of the SCORPION programme. With their multi-role capability, they are equipped with the SCORPION Information and Communication Systems (SICS) and come in several variants: troop transport, command post, artillery fire control, engineering, ambulance, and ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance), tactical communication hub, etc.

The Nexter Group will be responsible for the design to cost and performance, integration, production and support of the lightweight VBMR. This fully French-made vehicle will be assembled in Roanne, alongside the VBMR-GRIFFON and EBRC-JAGUAR, thus reinforcing job creation in the Roanne basin and in the engineering offices.

TEXELIS, a French intermediate sized enterprise based in Limoges, will design and supply the mobility equipment. As the French specialist in heavy vehicle power trains, Texelis contributes to the Lightweight VBMR’s mobility performance.

Stéphane Mayer, Nexter’s CEO commented, «I am extremely proud and pleased of this recognition of the expertise of Nexter and its teams, who have come up with the perfect answer to this programme’s requirements. With this contract Nexter is reinforcing its presence within the SCORPION programme and strengthening its position as the reference player in the field of land armament». This contract follows on from the industrial architect contract awarded to tns-MARS (a JV including Nexter, Safran and Thales), the contract grouping together the design, production and support of the VBMR-GRIFFON and the EBRC-JAGUAR (within a temporary consortium consisting of Nexter, Thales and Renault Trucks Defense) and from the renewal of the Leclerc tank of which Nexter is prime contractor.

For his part, Charles-Antoine de Barbuat, Texelis CEO said, «I am very proud of the Texelis team for the part they have played in winning this highly significant contract for Lightweight VBMR. The decision of the DGA and the partnership with Nexter strengthens and confirms our strategy to be specialists in wheeled armoured vehicle and public transport mobility».