Air Defence System

On the occasion of the Euronaval-Online exhibition, MBDA announces the commercial launch of its new Vertical Launch (VL) Missile D’interception, de Combat et D’autodéfense (MICA – interception, combat and self-defence missile) New Generation (NG) air defence system.

VL MICA NG
MBDA launches the new VL MICA NG air defence system

The VL MICA NG system is based on the integration into the existing VL MICA system of the MICA NG anti-air missile, which began development in 2018 primarily to equip France’s Rafale combat aircraft. The VL MICA system family – now adopted, in its naval or land-based versions, by 15 armed forces around the world – will consequently benefit from enhanced potential to counter future threats.

About the VL MICA NG system, MBDA CEO Eric Béranger declared: «After two years of development on the New Generation MICA missile, we have acquired a deep understanding of the performance of this brand new air-to-air missile which allows us, in full confidence, to market its integration into VL MICA ground-to-air or surface-to-air defence systems. The total compatibility between the two generations of missile will allow armed forces to combine them with their existing systems, thus maximizing their return on investments».

Thanks to the technological innovations it incorporates, the new VL MICA NG system offers improved capabilities to handle atypical targets (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAVs], small aircraft) as well as future threats, characterised by increasingly low observable infrared and radio frequency signatures. Additionally, it will be able to intercept at longer distances the ‘conventional’ targets (aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles) already addressed by the current VL MICA system.

The dimensions of the MICA NG munition remain unchanged, allowing it to be integrated into existing VL MICA launchers. The existing missile data link mechanisms are compatible with the increased kinematic performance of the missiles, enabling current VL MICA systems to be upgraded to VL MICA NG standard by simple software updates.

 

About the MICA NG missile

Based on an entirely new design, the MICA NG missile inherits the external dimensions and unique concept that has made the MICA anti-air missile such a success for a quarter of a century. This concept means MICA features either an infrared or a radio frequency seeker on the same common missile body, allowing the operator, at the moment of firing, to select the best option to respond to the tactics adopted by the adversary.

On the MICA NG, a new infrared seeker based on a matrix sensor will provide increased sensitivity, while a new radio frequency seeker with an Active Electronically Scanned Antenna (AESA) will allow for smart detection strategies. The lower volume of electronic components will enable the MICA NG to carry a larger load of propellant, significantly extending its range, and the new dual-pulse rocket motor will provide additional energy to the missile at the end of its flight, improving its manoeuvrability and its ability to intercept targets at long range. In surface-to-air mode, the MICA NG will be able to intercept targets over 40 km/25 miles away. Finally, maintenance and ownership costs will be significantly reduced thanks to internal sensors that will monitor the status of the munition throughout its life cycle.

The MICA NG missile will be available in series production from 2026.

Operational Fires

As Lockheed Martin continues the work with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to advance the unique hypersonic technologies of its Operational Fires (OpFires) program, the company today announced its initial round of key subcontractors on the program. OpFires seeks to develop and demonstrate an innovative ground-launched system to enable a hypersonic boost glide missile system to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly engage time-sensitive targets.

OpFires program
Lockheed Martin’s OpFires team is developing a missile with a unique throttleable booster that can defeat targets across the medium-range spectrum

Joining prime contractor Lockheed Martin on the OpFires Phase Three Weapon System Integration program are Northrop Grumman, Dynetics, and Electronic Concepts & Engineering, Inc (ECE).

«The engineering innovation required to deliver this maneuverable and rapid-response solution demands a best-of-industry team», said Steven Botwinik, director of Tactical and Strike Missiles Advanced Programs. «OpFires and its unique throttleable booster make it a versatile platform to launch a variety of payloads over varied ranges and for this reason, OpFires is well-suited to address the Army’s Medium Range Strategic Fires needs».

Specifically, the new subcontractors on the program will support the technology development in the following ways:

  • Northrop Grumman in Elkton, Md., will develop the stage one solid rocket motor;
  • Dynetics in Huntsville, Ala., will deliver the cannister, all up round and fins, and support integration and test; and
  • ECE, a small business based in Holland, Ohio, will provide the booster power pyro module.

Lockheed Martin has played a significant role in the research, development and demonstration of hypersonic technologies for more than 30 years. The corporation has made significant investments in key technology and capability development – including hypersonic strike capabilities and defense systems against emerging hypersonic threats and is supporting all branches of the U.S. military on these hypersonic programs.

The company expects to complete its first live fire in 2021.

Logistic Lander

Airbus has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of the two primes for the definition phase of the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3). In this study (phase A/B1), Airbus will develop the concept of a large multi-role logistic lander able to transport up to 1.7 tons of cargo to any location on the lunar surface. EL3 flights are set to begin in the late 2020s, with a cadence of missions over the following decade and more.

Artemis Basecamp Cargo
Artemis Basecamp Cargo

Europe is already contributing to the Global Exploration Roadmap agreed by 14 space agencies around the world, in which Airbus is also playing its part. European participation includes international missions to Mars, substantial elements for crewed space stations – the International Space Station and the Lunar Gateway – and the Orion European Service Module (ESM) which will power Artemis, the next human mission to the lunar surface.

With EL3, ESA and its member states will make a further substantial European contribution to the international effort to establish sustainable exploration of the Moon. EL3 will be designed as a fully independent European lunar surface logistics mission capability, including European launch capability with Ariane 6. ESA anticipates flying three to five EL3 missions over a 10 year time frame.

Surface Science Package with Rover
Surface Science Package with Rover

Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus, said: «We are extremely thrilled to be starting the definition phase of EL3, Europe’s large Moon lander. Last year in Seville, Europe’s space ministers agreed that the European Space Agency should start preparing a vehicle to fly scientific and logistics cargo to the Moon. Airbus is 100% behind this ambition, as it will enable Europe to play a critical role in the next phase of human exploration of the Moon, and will further strengthen ESA’s status as an invaluable partner in the international space community».

Based on a generic plug-and-play landing element, the EL3 could support a range of lunar activities including: logistics support for crewed missions on the Moon (Artemis base camp), scientific missions with rovers and static payloads, or a sample return mission.

To achieve sustained human presence on the Moon, considerable logistical infrastructure will be needed – whether testing critical technologies or prospecting for lunar resources, starting in-situ production and storage of products like propellant, drinking water or oxygen, or even creating a long term settlement.

Sample Return LAE & Rover
Sample Return LAE & Rover

 

EL3’s journey: an independent, all-European solution

EL3, launched on an Ariane 64 from Kourou as a single payload of up to 8.5 tons, can be put on a direct trajectory to the Moon, similar to the trajectory flown by Apollo 50 years ago.

After roughly four days of barbecue-like travel (i.e. slow and constant rotation to optimise the thermal control of the spacecraft), insertion into a Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) will be achieved by EL3’s own propulsion system. Depending on the launch window and the landing site on the Moon, EL3 might remain for up to 14 days in LLO, waiting for the right point in time and space to initiate landing.

European Large Logistic Lander (EL3)
European Large Logistic Lander (EL3)

EL3 Airbus concept will use vision based navigation techniques, first developed by Airbus for the ATV ISS resupply vehicle during the elliptical descent orbit and powered descent to achieve unprecedented landing precision. What’s more, EL3 will be equipped with an autonomous hazard detection and avoidance system. This system will scan the landing site for potential hazards (small rocks, craters, or local slopes) which are too small for identification by remote sensing satellites. Based on this autonomous hazard assessment, the safest landing spot in reach will be identified and the lander will be guided to this location.

The study will be led by the lunar exploration team in Bremen, Airbus’ hub for space exploration activities and will involve more than 20 engineers from five Airbus sites in Germany, France, and the UK. Airbus will be working with six companies and one research institute from seven different countries across Europe.

EL3 European Large Logistic Lander

Spanish Air Force

NHIndustries and its Partner Companies (Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker) have delivered the first NH90 to the Spanish Air Force that will boost their Search and Rescue (SAR) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission capabilities.

NH90
First NH90 delivered to the Spanish Air Force for search and rescue missions

The Spanish Air Force will receive 12 NH90s intended to replace its aging fleet of AS332 Super Pumas and will be based in Cuatro Vientos, near Madrid. Spain has ordered a total of 45 NH90s in the tactical transport version, to be operated by the three Armed Forces. 13 helicopters have already been delivered to the Spanish Army Airmobile Force (FAMET) for the Maneuver III Battalion in Agoncillo.

Javier Salto, General of the Air Force highlighted that: «For the Spanish Air Force, the NH90 provides an essential asset capable of performing a wide range of missions, including tactical transport of troops and logistics support in peacekeeping or reconstruction missions and, of course, the main search and rescue missions in hostile conditions which is one of the most demanding and complex missions for helicopter units».

«The NH90 is particularly suited to operating in hot and high conditions and will prove to be a real asset to the critical missions performed by the Spanish Air Force», said Nathalie Tarnaud-Laude, Head of NH90 programme at Airbus Helicopters and President of NHIndustries.

The NH90 will provide all three of the Spanish armed forces with a versatile and modern transport system helicopter that offers unrivalled military capabilities.  The Spanish variant of the NH90 features next-generation General Electric CT7 8F5 engines, a personalized communications system and a sophisticated electronic warfare system developed by Indra and will be supported by training devices (including full flight simulators), automatic maintenance equipment (SAMe), and Automatic Mission Planning System (AMPS) developed as well by Indra. Airbus Helicopters in Spain is involved in the manufacturing of the fuselage and the avionics software development and integration.

Aerial Target

The Fifth Generation Aerial Target (5GAT) will take its first flight later this month at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, following nearly flawless completion of ground-based testing in September.

5GAT
The Fifth-Generation Aerial Target sits on the flightline at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, September 2020

After a multi-month delay due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, 5GAT finished a battery of ground test events at Michael Army Airfield on September 18. Executed by an integrated team of Defense Department personnel and contractors, the testing verified complete aircraft control, safety procedures and key performance milestones for takeoff and landing. The single prototype executed 24 taxi test events (15 low-speed and nine high-speed) in just six days, with no interruptions or major problems.

The office of the director, operational test and evaluation sponsors the 5GAT, which is a full-scale, low-observable air vehicle that represents, more accurately than anything else available, the fifth-generation fighter aircraft threats U.S. forces could face. The low-cost drone is designed to enable air-to-air and surface-to-air platform and weapons test and evaluation, pilot and ground-force training, and the development of tactics, techniques and procedures against a fifth-generation threat.

«To determine whether a system really is combat-credible, we must test it under realistic conditions. That includes putting it up against a realistic threat», Robert Behler, the director, operational test and evaluation said. «Right now, we lack a test platform that truly represents fifth-generation air capabilities. Filling that gap as soon as possible is absolutely essential to both testing and training».

Sierra Technical Services, the prime contractor, has taken an innovative approach to building 5GAT, constructing the airframe from composites using soft tooling to reduce cost. The subcontractor, Fast Optimal Engineering, designed major subsystem solutions, including flight control actuation, electrical power, hydraulics, landing gear and steering. The subcontractor, 5D Systems, was responsible for developing the unmanned 5GAT’s complex suite of software. 5GAT utilizes engines and other elements harvested from decommissioned DOD military aircraft, as well as an existing U.S. Army ground-based aircraft control system.

«With 5GAT, we’ve reinvented the typical acquisition process, and have aggressively used innovative program management and contracting processes to accelerate new capability development and ensure cost savings», Michael Crisp, a retired naval aviator and DOT&E’s (Director, Operational Test and Evaluation) deputy director for air warfare said. «We pulled in expertise from “greybeards”, both industry and military, and the vision of our next generation of pilots, U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. We gave STS the freedom to explore cutting-edge design and manufacturing techniques, and got an even bigger bang for the taxpayer buck by recycling government-owned assets».

Flight testing will begin in late October. Initial flight test objectives include demonstrating 5GAT flight characteristics, various subsystems’ performance and the aircraft’s auto-takeoff and auto-landing functionality. Subsequent flight tests will progressively expand the aircraft’s flight envelope in altitude, speed and greater G-force loading.

«When this unique prototype takes to the air in a few days, we will have gone from a basic concept to first flight in less than three-and-a-half years. That includes periods when the program slowed dramatically due to funding issues and the recent COVID-related delays», Crisp said. «I think 5GAT shows the power, creativity and flexibility that a small but diverse team with few constraints can produce – all to the benefit of the warfighter».

Great Whale

According to Naval News, Japan’s newest submarine JS Taigei (SS-513) (previously known as 29SS) was launched on October 14, 2020 at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) shipyard in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture.

JS Taigei (SS-513)
The external appearance of the JS Taigei (SS-513) is not much different from the Sōryū-class, but inside of it is a completely different submarine (Japan MoD picture)

Taigei means «Great Whale» in Japanese and was once used as the name of a submarine tender of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) uses the names of submarines to refer to (1) things related to oceanographic phenomena, (2) legendary creatures and (3) underwater animals. This leaves three main classes of submarines to be operated by the JMSDF in the future: the Oyashio-class is named after underwater currents and tides, the Sōryū-class submarines are named after dragons, and it appears that the new Taigei-class will be named after whales or large fishes.

The external appearance of the JS Taigei (SS-513) is not much different from the Sōryū-class, but inside of it is a completely different submarine. First, the JS Taigei (SS-513) uses lithium-ion batteries instead of the 4V-275R Mk. III Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, which was installed aboard the first 10 Sōryū-class submarines.

Secondly, the capabilities of the sonar and combat command system have been improved, as well as the use of new accoustic absorbent materials and a floating floor structure to make it quieter. It is also equipped with Torpedo Counter Measures (TCM), which ejects decoys to evade enemy torpedoes for improved survivability.

The JS Taigei (SS-513) is scheduled to be commissioned into the JMSDF in March 2022, after which it will be used as a test submarine, according to the «National Defense Program Guidelines for FY 2019 and beyond» published in December 2018. In other words, JS Taigei (SS-513) will be the dedicated ship to conduct all future tests of technology on JMSDF submarines.

 

Basic Specifications

Standard Displacement about 3000 tons
Length 84 meters/275.6 feet
Total width 9.1 meters/29.8 feet
Crew about 70
Propulsion Diesel Electric Propulsion (with lithium-ion batteries)

 

For Special Forces

NHIndustries and its Partner Companies (Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker), have signed with the NATO Helicopter Management Agency (NAHEMA) a firm contract for the development of an upgraded version of the NH90 Tactical Troop Helicopter (TTH) for the French Special Forces (TFRA Standard 2). Under the terms of the production contract, the final batch of 10 NH90s already ordered by the French Ministry of Armed Forces, through the Armament General Directorate (DGA), will be delivered directly to this new standard at the beginning of 2025.

NH90 TTH
The upgraded NH90 tactical troop transport (TTH) helicopter for the French Special Forces

The new features provide a substantial increase in the helicopter’s mission capability and clearly position the NH90 as one of the world’s most advanced tactical troop carriers, particularly in challenging conditions such as sand, snow or fog.

The new TFRA Standard 2 configuration will incorporate a new-generation Electro-Optical System (EOS) EuroFLIR from Safran with displays and controls for both the pilots, commandos, gunners and load masters. The sensors will provide outputs to undertake updated mission planning on connected screens or tablets right up to the moment of egress.

In addition to the enhanced cockpit, the cabin will be upgraded with a new quick removable leaf doors system and fast-rope beam. This will provide extra capabilities through the rear of the aircraft with protective fire from the side-mounted machine guns.

As a complement to the existing equipment such as the M3M machine guns and external fuel tanks, other improvements serving the Special Forces and the French Army Aviation include new generation digital 3D map, folding boarding steps and additional ceiling-mounted rope anchor points.

In a second step it is foreseen that a Distributed Aperture System (DAS) composed of fixed infrared cameras displaying 3D vision in a new generation Helmet Mounted Sight Digital Display will also be incorporated, providing an unprecedented level of pilot support in low visibility, greatly enhancing the helicopter’s capability in degraded environmental conditions.

Nathalie Tarnaud-Laude, Head of NH90 programme at Airbus Helicopters and President of NHIndustries said: «This opportunity brings transformative digital technologies to the NH90 which will make it even more capable in precisely the kind of challenging conditions that can be faced today by Special Forces. We look forward to seeing it in service with the French Army and to offering it to other NH90 customers».

Forward Point

Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics, leading developer of autonomous command and control systems for surface vessels, announces that it has been awarded a multi-year Other Transaction (OT) agreement by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The primary purpose of the agreement is to initiate a prototype that will enable commercial ocean-service barges as autonomous Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) units for an Amphibious Maritime Projection Platform (AMPP).

Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP)
Department of Defense Taps Sea Machines for Autonomous VTOL Replenishment Vessels

Under this OT agreement, Sea Machines will engineer, build and demonstrate ready-to-deploy system kits that enable autonomous, self-propelled operation of opportunistically available barges to land and replenish military aircraft. The kits will include Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous-command and control systems, barge propulsion, sensing, positioning, communications and refueling equipment, as well as items required for global deployment. Each modular kit will meet U.S. Navy criteria and will be in compliance with classifications and regulations from the DOD’s aviation bodies.

The contract includes a concept demonstration phase, with an option for following phases to deploy SM300 Operational Kits. The live concept demonstration is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020, in Washington state, for which Sea Machines has teamed with FOSS Maritime, a leading maritime transportation and logistics provider based in Seattle. FOSS will provide naval architecture, support engineering and operations management to outfit a remotely commanded deck barge to land helicopters and host a scaled fueling station for aircraft, surface vessels and shore replenishment. Using the SM300, shoreside operators will have remote situational awareness and will be able to demonstrate the capabilities of remote command and control of the vessel, her operating systems and flight deck.

Sea Machines is the prime contractor for the multi-year contract and is working closely alongside FOSS Maritime and other significant industry leaders, including Huntington Ingalls, America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services, based in Newport News, Va., and Bell Flight, a producer of commercial and military, vertical-lift aircraft, based in Fort Worth, Texas, to ensure a successful demonstration.

«The AMPP autonomous replenishment systems will solve critical logistics challenges of expeditionary missions. We are pleased to enable this innovative capability, which will increase the effectiveness and flexibility for the U.S. military», said Sea Machines’ Phil Bourque, director, sales. «With Sea Machines systems already working off the waters of four continents, this project is well suited for us and one that we look forward to delivering on for the U.S. Government».

«Foss is excited about this new opportunity with Sea Machines. This contract has led to discussions with Sea Machines in a number of other areas where their expertise can help Foss, including bringing more technology to our tug fleet. What they are doing in automation is very interesting and that technology could help our mariners and our vessels safety», said Foss’ Will Roberts, chief operating officer.

DIU’s work is part of the DOD’s Resilient Expeditionary Agile Littoral Logistics (REALL) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) project. Funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Research & Engineering, the JCTD Program addresses Combatant Command (CCMD) and Joint warfighting gaps through prototyping and demonstration of innovative and game-changing technologies. The following offices are involved with defining performance requirements and developing capabilities for REALL: U.S. Central Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center, Army Engineer Research and Development Center, and the Naval Aviation Warfare Center – Lakehurst.

Wideband SATCOM

Boeing and the U.S. Space Force successfully completed the first major engineering design review for the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)-11+ communications satellite. This successful review demonstrates that Boeing is ready to proceed to the final system design phase. Production will begin next year at Boeing’s El Segundo factory, with delivery scheduled for 2024.

Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)
This artist rendering shows the WGS-11+ satellite, which is being built in El Segundo, California, and will be delivered to the U.S. Space Force in 2024 (Boeing illustration)

WGS-11+ features a modern digital payload that performs at twice the operational capability of its predecessors, increasing the availability of military-grade communications. Leveraging advances in Boeing commercial technologies, it will provide secure communications to connect U.S. and allied forces globally.

The current WGS constellation, consisting of 10 satellites, is the backbone of the U.S. military’s global communications system, providing flexible, high data-rate connectivity. Users include all U.S. military services, the White House Communications Agency, the U.S. State Department and international partners.

«Completing this engineering design review is a key milestone and brings us one step closer to delivering this groundbreaking satellite to the warfighter in record time, significantly improving capacity and coverage to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and allies», said Colonel John Dukes, chief of the Geosynchronous/Polar Division at Space and Missile Systems Center Production Corps.

«WGS-11+ uses narrower spot beams to deliver a stronger, more reliable connection exactly where it’s needed, which means better performance and greater flexibility than ever before», said Troy Dawson, vice president of Boeing Government Satellite Systems.

In addition to U.S. military forces, the WGS constellation provides service to international partners including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Norway.

Fully Assembled

Northrop Grumman Corporation and NASA have completed environmental testing on the James Webb Space Telescope.

James Webb Space Telescope
Northrop Grumman and NASA Complete Environmental Testing on the James Webb Space Telescope

The environmental testing demonstrated Webb’s ability to withstand harsh environmental characteristics during its upcoming rocket launch and journey to reach its orbit at the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L2), approximately one million miles away from Earth.

«The completion of environmental testing is a major step forward in our preparations for Webb’s historic launch and a testament to the remarkable dedication of the team», said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager, James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman.

Webb’s environmental testing consisted of a series of rigorous acoustic and sine-vibration tests spanning several weeks. Webb was first placed in Northrop Grumman’s acoustic testing chamber where it underwent high frequency oscillating sound pressure levels above 140 decibels to simulate the effects of being launched on a rocket. The completion of the acoustic tests and analysis validated that Webb’s hardware, science instruments, structure and electronics can successfully survive the planned rocket launch in a simulated environment.

Following the completion of acoustic testing, Webb transitioned to a separate chamber where it underwent a series of sine-vibration tests on a shaker table to simulate vertical and horizontal accelerations in lower frequencies. The observatory was rigorously exposed to vibration levels on the shaker that are well above the flight environment, exciting its resonances to demonstrate its capability to withstand the flight environment with significant margins.

The next series of major milestones for Webb will require NASA and Northrop Grumman engineers and technicians to deploy the observatory’s five-layered sunshield followed by wing deployments of its primary mirror in order to fully verify Webb’s flight worthiness. Lastly, Webb will undergo a full systems evaluation before it begins preparations for its historic journey to Kourou, French Guiana for its October 2021 launch.

Northrop Grumman leads the industry team for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest, most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. NASA leads an international partnership that includes the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Webb Telescope project, and the Space Telescope Science Institute is responsible for science and mission operations, as well as ground station development.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

The James Webb Space Telescope Completes its Final Environmental Tests