First Firing

MBDA’s Marte ER anti-ship missile has completed its first firing, successfully passing a major phase in its development.

The Marte ER missile flew for more than 100 km/62 miles/54 NM on a planned trajectory
The Marte ER missile flew for more than 100 km/62 miles/54 NM on a planned trajectory

The firing trial was carried out on 9 November in an Italian test range. The Marte ER missile flew for more than 100 km/62 miles/54 NM on a planned trajectory that included several waypoints and sea skimming flight, successfully testing all flying phases.

Pasquale Di Bartolomeo, Executive Group Director Sales & Business Development and Managing Director MBDA Italia, commented: «This test is a further confirmation of the robustness of the ER version of the Marte family of multi-platform anti-ship missiles that can be launched by ships, helicopters, coastal batteries and fast jets. The Marte family has a strong and successful history both at domestic and international levels: most recently with Marte ER being ordered earlier in 2018 by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) for their new NH90 helicopters. Marte is a single product family that can cover several missions, offering our customers a high level of operational flexibility in the area of maritime superiority, a domain where MBDA in Italy has been able throughout its long history not only to maintain but also to grow as well as further develop competencies and know-how».

The Marte ER programme is progressing at full speed in order to meet customers’ requirements. Having completed the 18 months System Definition Phase, the full integration of Marte ER on the Eurofighter Typhoon platform is proceeding at pace in order to implement an anti-ship capability onto the fighter.

Patrol Vessel

Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, joined staff from Navy’s Construction Branch in Adelaide today to mark the start of construction of the first of 12 new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV).

Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, AM, RAN, announces that 12 new Offshore Patrol Vessels will be called the Arafura Class
Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, AM, RAN, announces that 12 new Offshore Patrol Vessels will be called the Arafura Class

RADM Hammond attended the Osborne Naval Shipyard to see the welding of the first two component blocks which will form part of the first vessel off the production line.

The event included the announcement that Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels will be known as the Arafura Class, with the first vessel to be commissioned HMAS Arafura when she enters service in 2022.

RADM Hammond said calling the vessels Arafura Class reflected the significance of Navy’s lasting operations to protect Australia’s interests in the Arafura Sea between Cape York and Cape Don.

«This name encapsulates the significant role our maritime regions have in the nation’s security and economic prosperity, importantly the littoral regions around the Australian continent», he said. «This is a much more capable class of ship with greater range, endurance, improved accommodation for the crew staying at sea longer and in every respect, it will outperform older patrol boats. The Arafura Class crews will be tight knit, executing very important missions that will ultimately lead to a great sense of camaraderie and achievement in doing something that’s worthwhile».

The Arafura Class is a custom Australian variant of German shipbuilder Lürssen’s PV80 design and is 80 metres/262.5 feet in length with a displacement of around 1,700 tonnes and a draught of 4 metres/13 feet.

The Arafura Class will replace the Armidale Class and Cape Class patrol boats, Huon Class coastal minehunters and Leeuwin Class survey ships and will primarily be used for constabulary missions, maritime patrol and response duties.

The design includes two changeable, containerised mission systems, supporting secondary roles such as mine hunting, unmanned aerial system missions, and hydrographic surveying.

The first two Arafura Class vessels will be built at Osborne with the following ten to be built at Henderson in Western Australia.

Six of the vessels will be based at HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin, four at HMAS Cairns in north Queensland and two at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia.



Type Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)
Roles Maritime border patrol

Maritime constabulary roles including interdiction

Fisheries patrol

Humanitarian and disaster relief


Hydrographic Survey

Builder Lürssen Australia and Civmec
Displacement 1,640 tonnes
Length 80 m/262.5 feet
Beam 13 m/42.6 feet
Draught 4 m/13 feet
Propulsion 2 × 8,500KW diesel engines
Speed 20 knots/23 mph/37 km/h (maximum)
Range 4,000 NM/4,603 miles/7408 km
Boats 2 × 8.5 m/6.56 × 27.9 feet sea boats (side launched)

1 × 10.5 m/3.28 × 34.5 feet sea boat (stern launched)

Weapons 40-mm gun

2 × .50/12.7-mm calibre machine guns

Company 40 crew with accommodation for up to 60 personnel


The 11th LCS

The Navy commissioned its newest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), USS Sioux City (LCS-11), during a 9 a.m. ceremony Saturday, November 17, at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

The ship will be assigned to the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf
The ship will be assigned to the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa delivered the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. Mary Winnefeld, the wife of former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Admiral James «Sandy» Winnefeld, was the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony was highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Mrs. Winnefeld gives the first order to «man our ship and bring her to life»!

«This ship is named in honor of Sioux City, Iowa, but represents more than one city», said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. «USS Sioux City (LCS-11) represents an investment in readiness and lethality, and is a testament to the increased capabilities made possible by a true partnership between the Department of the Navy and our industrial base».

The future USS Sioux City, designated LCS-11, is the 13th LCS to enter the fleet and the sixth of the Freedom-variant design. The future USS Sioux City is the first naval vessel to be named in honor of Sioux City, Iowa. The fourth-largest city in the state, Sioux City was founded in 1854 at the navigational head of the Missouri River and takes its name from one of a group of North American Indian tribes that make up the Great Sioux Nation.

The littoral combat ship is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, while capable of open-ocean tasking and winning against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines and swarming small craft. They are capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence.

USS Sioux City (LCS-11) will be homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Florida.


Ship Design Specifications

Hull Advanced semiplaning steel monohull
Length Overall 389 feet/118.6 m
Beam Overall 57 feet/17.5 m
Draft 13.5 feet/4.1 m
Full Load Displacement Approximately 3,200 metric tons
Top Speed Greater than 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range at top speed 1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km
Range at cruise speed 4,000 NM/4,603 miles/7,408 km
Watercraft Launch and Recovery Up to Sea State 4
Aircraft Launch and Recovery Up to Sea State 5
Propulsion Combined diesel and gas turbine with steerable water jet propulsion
Power 85 MW/113,600 horsepower
Hangar Space Two MH-60 Romeo Helicopters
One MH-60 Romeo Helicopter and three Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (VTUAVs)
Core Crew Less than 50
Accommodations for 75 sailors provide higher sailor quality of life than current fleet
Integrated Bridge System Fully digital nautical charts are interfaced to ship sensors to support safe ship operation
Core Self-Defense Suite Includes 3D air search radar
Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) gunfire control system
Rolling-Airframe Missile Launching System
57-mm Main Gun
Mine, Torpedo Detection
Decoy Launching System



Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Freedom (LCS-1) 06-02-2005 09-23-2006 11-08-2008 San Diego, California
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) 07-11-2009 12-07-2010 09-22-2012 San Diego, California
USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) 10-27-2011 12-18-2013 11-21-2015 San Diego, California
USS Detroit (LCS-7) 08-11-2012 10-18-2014 10-22-2016 San Diego, California
USS Little Rock (LCS-9) 06-27-2013 07-18-2015 12-16-2017 San Diego, California
USS Sioux City (LCS-11) 02-19-2014 01-30-2016 11-17-2018 Mayport, Florida
USS Wichita (LCS-13) 02-09-2015 09-17-2016
USS Billings (LCS-15) 11-02-2015 07-01-2017
USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) 07-18-2016 04-18-2018
USS St. Louis (LCS-19) 05-17-2017
USS Minneapolis/St. Paul (LCS-21) 02-22-2018
USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) 08-14-2018
USS Marinette LCS-25
USS Nantucket (LCS-27)


Ultra Lightweight

Indian Army celebrated receiving its first M777A2 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers (ULH) at an official handover ceremony today, a key step toward the modernizing and strengthening of the Indian Army’s artillery capabilities.

Indian Army inducts its first M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers
Indian Army inducts its first M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers

The 155-mm M777 systems will deploy to their first regiment in 2019. The gun systems, produced by BAE Systems, were accepted earlier this year, as part of a 145-gun agreement between the U.S. and Indian governments.

«The Indian Army is receiving an extremely reliable and battle-proven artillery platform», Joe Senftle, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems’ weapon systems business, said while attending the event. «The M777 brings a new level of capability to the artillery unit by offering rapid deployment and extreme accuracy. It can operate in areas that are difficult to access and is also very easy to maintain».

BAE Systems is building and delivering the first 25 M777 ULHs fully assembled, with the remaining 120 to be assembled in India by Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd. (MDSL) under an arrangement designed to support defense industrial cooperation and promote local economic growth.

«The M777 ULH is more than a very effective piece of artillery technology», said Nik Khanna, managing director India, BAE Systems. «With the M777 program, BAE Systems has made the first step of our substantive Make-in-India commitment, which includes our pledge to develop a network of Indian suppliers for our global supply chain and deepen our relationship with industry in India. We are committed to a strong and collaborative working relationship between BAE Systems, the Indian Armed Forces and Indian industry».

«This is a landmark event with the first M777s being delivered to the Indian Army. It is a product of our long-standing business partnership with BAE Systems», said SPShukla, Group President – Aerospace & Defence Sector, Mahindra Group, and Chairman – Mahindra Defence Systems. «In this program each of the M777 howitzers have value addition from Mahindra Defence. I believe that this is the first step towards Make-in-India with much bigger programs to follow».

The U.S. government recently certified that MDSL is ready to carry out the work at a purpose-built production facility created for this program to conduct the in-country Assembly and Integration of 120 of the 145 gun systems on order. The newly-handed over M777 ULHs were instrumental in establishing the new MDSL capability in India. The Mahindra team finalized these weapons by replicating the proven manufacturing processes to the highest of quality specifications, including modifications specifically tailored for the Indian Artillery, such as a unique camouflage paint scheme.

Earlier this year, BAE Systems delivered the first spares and other logistics including tooling, technical publications and training materials, to support the Indian Army as it brings these new M777 ULHs into service. The company also recently received a contract to provide 18 additional M777 systems to the U.S. Army, taking the total number of systems ordered and in service with the United States, Canada, Australia and India to more than 1,250.

First Korean Tanker

Busan, South Korea, 12th November 2018: The first Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has landed in Gimhae Air Base in Busan, South Korea for its acceptance tests.

A330 MRTT Republic of Korea Air Force Take Off
A330 MRTT Republic of Korea Air Force Take Off

The aircraft, which was piloted by a joint Airbus and ROKAF crew, arrived in South Korea after a ferry flight from the Airbus Final Assembly Line in Getafe, Spain, with a stop in Vancouver, Canada.

It will now undergo ground and flight tests in Gimhae. The ROKAF will be supported by a team from Airbus, which will be based in South Korea for the duration of the tests until the aircraft is officially handed over to the customer. The photo shows the aircraft leaving Getafe.

The A330 MRTT can carry up to 111 tonnes of fuel; this is the highest capacity of all tanker aircraft, even those which have additional fuel tanks in the cargo deck. It has the capacity of offloading 50,000 kg of fuel to a broad range of receivers during a 4-hour loitering mission at over 1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km from its take-off point.

To refuel receptacle-equipped aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35A Lightning II, or even the A330 MRTT itself (when fitted with an UARRSI), the A330 MRTT is provided with the advanced Airbus Defence & Space Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). Its fast fuel flow rate (up to a maximum of 3,600 kg/min – 1,200 US gal/min) makes the ARBS the most capable new generation flight proven Boom available. Excellent handling qualities are provided for the operation of the ARBS, rated as such by independent assessments.

Under-wing Pods provide simultaneous Hose and Drogue refuelling at high fuel offload rate (1,300 kg/min – 420 US gal/min), allowing receivers to minimise refuelling time and increase operation efficiency. The Cobham 905E Under-Wing Pods, currently in service and proven in operation, enable the A330 MRTT to refuel any NATO or allied Probe-equipped receivers such as the Eurofighter, the Tornado, the Jaguar, the F/A18 Hornet or the Sukhoi 30. The A330 MRTT physical compatibility with receivers across the world is established, demonstrated and certified to allow coalition interoperability. The 900 series Wing-Pods incorporate a digitally controlled and electrically operated Hose drum unit, optimizing reliability and maintainability.

Large probe-equipped aircraft such as the A400M or C295, can be refuelled, at a high fuel offload rate of 1,800 kg/min – 600 US gal/min via the Cobham 805E Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU). The FRU, a removable Hose and Drogue unit, allows refuelling receivers with a different fuel type. This option assures NATO fuel type to be transferred from Wing-Pods, while an alternative fuel type is dispensed from the FRU. Those Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) systems are controlled from an advanced Fuel Operator Console that is positioned in the cockpit, increasing the safety of the AAR operation by ensuring a timely and synchronized reaction of the flight crew to unexpected events. It also features an Enhanced Vision System, a high definition 2D/3D digital system that enables performing day and night refuelling and can provide high resolution video recording of the refuelling operations.

Maritime Surveillance

The DGA has awarded Dassault Aviation the detailed definition study of the future surveillance and maritime intervention aircraft of the AVSIMAR (AVions de Surveillance et d’Intervention MARitime – Maritime Surveillance and Response Plane) program. This contract is part of a global effort to streamline the acquisition and support of specialized military aircraft, based on the design of Dassault Aviation’s Falcon series business aircraft.

Dassault has been awarded a contract for the definition study for the French Navy’s new maritime surveillance aircraft, based on the Falcon 2000 LXS bizjet and which will replace the present Falcon 50M and Falcon 200 Gardians now in service (Dassault photo)
Dassault has been awarded a contract for the definition study for the French Navy’s new maritime surveillance aircraft, based on the Falcon 2000 LXS bizjet and which will replace the present Falcon 50M and Falcon 200 Gardians now in service (Dassault photo)

A first phase of the program has already identified the best technical solution, based on the Falcon 2000 LXS business aircraft, which is faster and more durable than the aircraft currently in service. The recently awarded study, which has a duration of 12 months, is preparing the acquisition contract planned for 2020. In particular, it must define the necessary adaptations to fulfill the operational missions of surveillance and maritime intervention, which in essence are very varied.

The AVSIMAR program must renew the air component of the French Navy dedicated to the surveillance and intervention for the maritime defense of the territory and the action of the State at sea. This mission is currently performed by 8 Falcon 50M and 5 Falcon 200 Gardian, who will be nearly forty at the time of their replacement. The Falcon 50M has recently distinguished itself by allowing the detection of escaped oil slicks from the two cargo ships colliding off Corsica.

To guarantee the intervention capability of the French Navy, the 2019-2025 military programming law provides for the delivery of the first three aircraft by 2025.

Qualified by the DGA

On 31 October last, the F3-R standard of the Rafale was qualified by the French Defense Procurement Agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement, DGA). The development of this new standard, launched at the end of 2013, was successfully completed by Dassault Aviation and its partners in full compliance with contractual performance, schedule and budget.

Rafale F3-R standard qualified by the DGA
Rafale F3-R standard qualified by the DGA

The F3-R standard is an evolution of the Rafale F3 standard, with the exceptional versatility being further reinforced. It is part of the ongoing process to continuously improve the aircraft in line with the operational requirements and the feedback from experience of the pilots. It enables the Air Force and Navy Rafale aircraft to carry the following equipment and weapons:

The European Meteor long-range air-to-air missile produced by MBDA. This high-performance missile achieves maximum effectiveness thanks to the Thales RBE2 AESA (Radar à Balayage Electronique 2 plans Active Electronically Scanned Array) which equips all production Rafale aircraft delivered since mid-2013. The Rafale is the only operational European combat aircraft equipped with an AESA.

The Thales Talios new-generation laser designator pod. Primarily used for air-to-ground strikes, in daylight or darkness, this pod further enhances the high degree of precision that the Rafale has shown since its first engagements (in 2007 in the Afghan theatre).

The laser homing version of the Safran Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, AASM). This family of weapons, with GPS primary guidance and an additional booster, is unmatched. It enables the Rafale to destroy targets at ranges of several tens of kilometers with metric precision. The laser homing version is particularly adapted to moving targets.

F3 R also includes upgrades to the Rafale sensors and to systems ensuring total interoperability.

The Rafale continuous improvement approach is now looking to the F4 standard, development of which should begin soon, after completion of the ongoing feasibility studies. This future standard will notably improve the connectivity of the Rafale and its ability to operate as part of a network.

Dassault Aviation and its partners associated with the Rafale program thank the Ministry of Defense, the DGA, the French Air Force and the French Navy for their confidence.


About the Rafale

The only totally «omnirole» aircraft in the world, able to operate from a land base or an aircraft carrier, capable of carrying 1.5 times its weight in weapons and fuel, the Rafale has been designed to perform the full spectrum of combat aircraft missions:

  • Interception and air-to-air combat using a 30-mm gun, Mica IR (heat-seeking)/EM (active radar homing) missiles and Meteor missiles;
  • Close air support using a 30-mm gun, Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) laser-guided bombs and AASM GPS-guided bombs;
  • Deep strike using Scalp/Storm Shadow cruise missiles;
  • Maritime strike using the Exocet AM39 Block 2 missile and other air-to-surface weapons;
  • Real-time tactical and strategic reconnaissance using the Areos pod;
  • Buddy-buddy in-flight refueling;
  • Nuclear deterrence using the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée (ASMP)-A missile.

The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006, gradually replacing the seven types of previous-generation combat aircraft. The Rafale has proven itself in external operations in various theatres: Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. Of the 180 aircraft ordered by France to date, 151 have been delivered. The Rafale fleet currently totals almost 260,000 flight hours, including 40,000 in operations.

Puerto Rico

The U.S. Navy christened its newest Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), the future USNS Puerto Rico (T-EPF-11), during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony Saturday, November 10, at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

Navy Christened Expeditionary Fast Transport Puerto Rico
Navy Christened Expeditionary Fast Transport Puerto Rico

The principal speaker was congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States served as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she christened the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.

«This ship honors the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the contributions Puerto Ricans have made to our nation and Navy and Marine Corps team», said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. «USNS Puerto Rico will provide our commanders high-speed sealift mobility and agility and I am thankful for this ship, her crew, and our industrial force teammates whose service makes this great ship possible».

The future USNS Puerto Rico, designated T-EPF-11, will be the first active ship in naval service to honor the island in the West Indies east of Hispaniola. An Alaska class cruiser named Puerto Rico (CB-5) was authorized July 19, 1940, but construction was cancelled June 24, 1943.

With an all-aluminum shallow-draft hull, the EPF is a commercial-based catamaran capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo lift providing combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility with inherent cargo handling capability and agility to achieve positional advantage over operational distances.

EPF class ships are designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 NM/1,381 miles/2,222 km at an average speed of 35 knots/40 mph/65 km/h. The ship is capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank (M1A2).

The EPF includes a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. EPF’s shallow draft (under 15 feet/4.57 meters) further enhances littoral operations and port access. This makes the EPF an extremely flexible asset for support of a wide range of operations including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support, or as the key enabler for rapid transport.

The EPF program delivered its ninth ship late last year, USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF-9), with delivery of USNS Burlington (EPF-10) planned for mid-November. USNS Newport (EPF-12) are currently under construction at Austal’s shipyard.



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
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
Crew 41
Single SR 2
Double SR 6
Quad SR 7
Troop Seats 312
Troop Berths Permanent: 104
Temporary: 46
Galley and Messing 48
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
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
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
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



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 City of Bismark (EPF-9), Delivered

USNS Burlington (EPF-10), Christened

USNS Puerto Rico (EPF-11), Christened

USNS Newport (EPF-12), Under construction



Next generation MICA

The French Defence Procurement Agency DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) has awarded MBDA the contract for the MICA NG (Missile d’Interception et de Combat Aérien Nouvelle Génération) programme to develop the next generation of the MICA missile. With deliveries scheduled to begin in 2026, MICA NG will be available to arm the current and future versions of the Rafale combat aircraft.

MBDA to develop the next generation of the MICA missile
MBDA to develop the next generation of the MICA missile

MICA NG is intended as the replacement for the MICA missiles currently in operational service with the French armed forces and exported to 14 countries worldwide. The NG programme includes an extensive redesign of the current MICA family while keeping the same aerodynamics, mass and centre of gravity. This is done to minimise the amount of adaptation required to operate the new system with existing platforms and launchers. The unique concept that has ensured the ongoing success of MICA for two decades remains: the option of two different seekers (infrared and radio frequency) and two launch modes (rail and ejection) in a single missile casing.

The technological step changes introduced with this change of generation will provide the capability to counter future threats. This includes targets with reduced infrared and electromagnetic signatures, atypical targets (UAVs and small aircraft), as well as the threats normally countered by air-to-air missiles (combat aircraft and helicopters).

More specifically, the infrared seeker will use a matrix sensor providing greater sensitivity. Meanwhile the radio frequency seeker will use an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Antenna), enabling smart detection strategies. The reduced volume of electronic components within MICA NG will allow it to carry a larger quantity of propellant, thereby significantly extending the range of the missile. Utilising a new double-pulse rocket motor will also provide additional energy to the missile at the end of its flight to improve manoeuvrability and the ability to intercept targets at long range. Lastly, the addition of internal sensors will allow the monitoring of the status of the weapon throughout its life (including during storage and transport), contributing to significantly reduced maintenance requirements and cost of ownership.

MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier said at the programme launch: «We are proud of the work completed with the DGA to achieve maximum technical and financial optimisation. The fact that we have reached this stage is thanks to the vision that we were able to share with our French customer to address its operational challenges, as well as our own long-term commercial challenges. The upgrading of the MICA family will enable us to support the armed forces throughout the remaining operational life of the Rafale».


About the MICA missile

MICA entered service in 1997, and was designed to replace the short-term MAGIC 2 missile and the medium-range Super 530 D missile with a single weapon system equipped with two interchangeable seekers: one being radio frequency and the other infrared. Approximately 5,000 MICA missiles in various versions have been ordered by 22 armed forces around the world.

SLBM Facility

Navy leaders and local officials cut the ribbon for a new facility considered vital to the nation’s Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Program, here, November 1.

The Navy's new Missile Support Facility was formally dedicated at a ribbon cutting ceremony held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), November 1. The facility features state-of-the-art labs, offices, and equipment for more than 300 NSWCDD Strategic and Computing Systems Department scientists, engineers, and technical experts who develop, test, and maintain the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile fire control and mission planning software (U.S. Navy illustration/Released)
The Navy’s new Missile Support Facility was formally dedicated at a ribbon cutting ceremony held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), November 1. The facility features state-of-the-art labs, offices, and equipment for more than 300 NSWCDD Strategic and Computing Systems Department scientists, engineers, and technical experts who develop, test, and maintain the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile fire control and mission planning software (U.S. Navy illustration/Released)

Three guest speakers – Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, U.S. Representative Rob Wittman, and Virginia Delegate Margaret Ransone – described the Missile Support Facility as crucial to the top-priority SLBM program responsible for the bulk of the nation’s nuclear deterrent capability.

«This is quite an honor and privilege the United States Navy bestowed on us with all their priorities and we’re very grateful», said John Fiore, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) technical director, in his welcoming remarks to several hundred government, contractor, and military personnel – mostly SLBM employees in the process of transitioning into the new facility as well as their retired counterparts, including pioneers who were key in establishing the program at Dahlgren.

SLBM systems have provided a reliable, secure strategic deterrent for the nation since 1960.

«From the beginning, the U.S. Navy looked to Dahlgren for solutions», Fiore told the audience while recounting the command’s role in the first launch of a Polaris missile from a submarine – the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) – that accurately struck its target 1,100 miles/1,770 km down range 58 years ago. «As a testament to the high quality of work performed at Dahlgren, the commander of the USS George Washington relayed to President Eisenhower the success of the first submarine launched ballistic missile: ‘Polaris – from the deep to target – perfect’».

Over the years, the Polaris Ballistic Missile Program evolved to the Poseidon Program and then to the Trident Program, each with more stringent requirements.

The facility features state-of-the-art labs, offices, and equipment for more than 300 NSWCDD Strategic and Computing Systems Department scientists, engineers, and technical experts who develop, test, and maintain critical portions for current and future missile systems.

«The men and women of NSWC Dahlgren have stood with us side by side for 60 plus years and will continue to stand with us side by side for the next 66 years», said Wolfe – director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs – in reference to the USS Columbia (SSBN-826) class strategic nuclear submarine program the U.S. Navy anticipates will be in effect until 2084.

The first of 12 Columbia nuclear submarines – designed to replace the Trident missile-armed Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines – is scheduled to begin construction in 2021.

The U.S. Navy has identified the Columbia-class program as its top priority program. Currently, NSWCDD is in the research and development phase of the program. The future submarine is being designed to have a longer service life, better operational availability, and better survivability than its predecessors.

Columbia will serve as a sea-based strategic deterrence while rehosting the Trident II D5(LE) missile system, providing the most survivable leg of the nation’s nuclear triad.

The nuclear triad comprises platforms and weapons that serve as the backbone of U.S. national security. The triad – Ohio-class nuclear submarines, strategic bombers, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles – provides the nation with significant deterrent and decisive response capabilities.

«As we’ve gone through Polaris, Poseidon, Trident I, Trident II, and whatever comes after Trident II, we are going to continue to rely on this unique critical skill that you have in this program», said Wolfe. «We know that we can always count on you to deliver».

Dahlgren’s SLBM experts will be able to collaborate more frequently and effectively as they deliver technologies that foster rapid development of SLBM capabilities in addition to the incorporation of new capabilities in existing software.

«The building is really the opportunity and the tool that’s needed for each and every one of you to do the spectacular job that you do», said Wittman, chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. «We are in an amazing turning of the page in the chapter of our strategic defense in this nation. Our triad is the most resilient and foundational element of what we do to protect this nation and I would argue that our SLBM is the most critical part of that triad».

With almost unlimited cruising range, the triad’s SLBM nuclear submarines are capable of extended submerged operations in the international waters of the world. The Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile system provides the U.S. with a powerful deterrent against a global war.

«Today’s ribbon cutting expands our capacity to sustain our weapons system into the future, keeping the U.S. Navy on the cutting edge of weapons systems technology», said Jeff Kunkler, deputy program director for SLBM at Dahlgren in his remarks as master of ceremonies, pointing out the command’s work on the Columbia-class submarine. «We are beginning the planning for a life extension program for the Trident missile. We are also implementing several significant initiatives resulting from the recent Nuclear Posture Review, as we continue to sustain and support the current Fleet».

The Nuclear Posture Review is a legislative-mandated review undertaken by the Department of Defense that outlines U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture for the next five to 10 years.

Kunkler recollected the changes he has seen over 37 years at the previous SLBM building, once the most coveted place to work where the satellite and global positioning system programs as well as the command’s computer support division were located.

«We had a Polaris fire control system, a Poseidon fire control system, and, at that time, a brand-new formidable Trident I system», said Kunkler about the capabilities when he started his career in 1981. «We hosted two of the most powerful and modern mainframe computers in the Navy at the time. These computers were used to perform the extensive computations required to calculate the SLBM and satellite trajectories. Each computer occupied several cabinets in large rooms. The only method of human interface was operators feeding in punched cards».

Representing the future at the ceremony were two groups of students – eight Spotsylvania Post Oak Middle School students and 11 King George High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets.

«I think it’s wonderful to see their participation», said Virginia Delegate Margaret Ransone. «We should all enjoy seeing the young people and inspire these young men and women to enter into the defense industry».

After the ceremony, the JROTC cadets along with the Post Oak Middle School students and three of their teachers joined guests and NSWCDD personnel who toured the new facility.

«You take time out of your schedules when you get off work to go out and engage our local students and get them interested in the jobs that you are doing», said Ransone in her speech, regarding NSWCDD scientists and engineers who mentor Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students in the schools and during the command’s annual STEM summer academy. «The goal is to inspire our youth through robotics, mathematics and the Sea Perch programs, and many times, those students end up competing nationally. Your hope is to inspire them to become innovative scientists and engineers but also to introduce them to the range of work here at Dahlgren so we’re protecting their future».

Certainly, SLBM technological innovation and support is among the range of work available to current and future employees who will continue developing the next generation of submarines under the Columbia Program.

«We envision that this facility will empower our teams with the ability to collaborate real-time, face-to-face, to arrive at mutual understanding of complex strategic products in support of the warfighter», said project lead Kathryn Dawson. «This human interaction, this exchange of diverse ideas, this unleashing of human energy, is vital to the future success of our program».