All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

Ballistic Missile Defence

The UK will become the first European nation to operate a Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence capability that can detect and destroy Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.

Aster 30 Block 1
Type 45 Ballistic Missile Defence upgrade to support more than 100 UK jobs

Type 45 Destroyers to receive significant upgrade as the UK to become the first European nation to operate a Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence detect and destroy capability.

UK have joined tri-national ASTER Block 1 missile programme with France and Italy.

Full upgrade programme worth more than £300 million, supporting more than 100 jobs, including highly skilled roles in Stevenage, Cowes, Bristol and Bolton.

The UK is set to become the first European nation to operate a Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence capability that can detect and destroy Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles as it commits to a significant upgrade of Britain’s fleet of Type 45 destroyers.

The upgraded defence system, using the ASTER 30 Block 1 missile previously used only in French and Italian land systems, will help UK forces combat the increasing threats posed by anti-ship ballistic missiles at sea by developing the missile into a maritime variant.

The Ministry of Defence has placed an initial contract for this work with MBDA which, when delivered, will be worth more than £300 million and support more than 100 jobs across the UK – including highly skilled technology roles in areas such as system design and software engineering in Stevenage, Cowes, Bristol and Bolton.

Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin said: «As we face global uncertainty, alliances and greater defensive capability are more important than ever. Joining our French and Italian counterparts will see us collectively improve the cutting-edge technology our armed forces possess».

It is another example of us delivering on the commitments from the Defence Command Paper, helping protect our service personnel when faced with the most severe threats.

Upgrading the defensive capability of the Type 45 fleet was committed to in the Defence Command Paper, as part of the Integrated Review last year. Being able to defend against anti-ship ballistic missiles will add to the current capability of the Destroyers to defeat threats from the air.

The signing of the tri-national agreement is the first formal step in the upgrade of the six vessels, which will include converting existing missiles to the ASTER 30 Block 1 standard, as well as updates to the SAMPSON Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and Sea Viper command and control missile system, under the full Sea Viper Evolution programme.

Sea Viper’s upgrade will boost the lethality of the Type 45 vessels, helping to ensure the Royal Navy remains poised to defend the surface fleet and the Maritime Strike Group against complex air threats both now and into the future.

DE&S CEO Sir Simon Bollom, said: «This demonstrates the UK commitment to delivering a cutting-edge maritime Air Defence Capability. Sea Viper Evolution will deliver a significant uplift in capability and brings to a close many years of detailed planning and activity by the Maritime Air and Weapons team in DE&S».

The Sea Viper Evolution programme follows the recent contract awards to introduce the Common Anti Air Modular Missile (CAMM) into the Type 45, which will see the missile outload of the platform increased from 48 to 72 missiles.

The Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers are among the most advanced in the fleet and carry out a range of activity, including defence from air attack, counter-piracy operations and providing humanitarian aid».

Augusta

On May 23rd, Austal USA successfully launched the 17th Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the future USS Augusta (LCS-34). Assisted by tugs, the ship was escorted out of Austal USA’s floating dry dock and secured pier side on the waterfront for machinery commissioning and system activation in preparation for sea trials later this year.

USS Augusta (LCS-34)
Austal USA launches the future USS Augusta (LCS-34)

The launch of Augusta was a multi-step process which involved lifting the 2,500-metric-ton ship almost three feet in the air, moving it approximately 400 feet/122 m onto a moored deck barge adjacent to the assembly bay – using transporters – then transferring the LCS from the deck barge to a floating dry dock. The floating dry dock was submerged with LCS-34 entering the water for the first time.

«We’re proud to announce another successful milestone achievement for the LCS program at Austal USA», stated Austal USA Vice President of New Construction, Dave Growden. «Austal USA’s team of talented shipbuilders are excited to have another LCS in the water and are looking forward to delivering her to the Navy so she can join her sister ships in the Pacific fleet».

The LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. The LCS is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence.

With capabilities focused on defeating global challenges in the littorals, these surface combatants are designed to provide joint force access in the littorals. LCS can operate independently or in high-threat environments as part of a networked battle force that includes multi-mission surface combatants.

Augusta is the 17th of 19 Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships that Austal USA is building for the U.S. Navy. Four LCS are under various stages of construction. Austal USA is also constructing four Expeditionary Fast Transport ships for the U.S. Navy and will begin construction on Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ships this summer.

 

The Independence Variant of the LCS

PRINCIPAL DIMENSIONS
Construction Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall 421 feet/128.3 m
Beam overall 103 feet/31.4 m
Hull draft (maximum) 14.8 feet/4.5 m
PAYLOAD AND CAPACITIES
Complement Core Crew – 40
Mission crew – 36
Berthing 76 in a mix of single, double & quad berthing compartments
Maximum mission load 210 tonnes
Mission Bay Volume 118,403 feet3/11,000 m3
Mission packages Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Surface Warfare (SUW)
Mine Warfare (MIW)
PROPULSION
Main engines 2 × GE LM2500
2 × MTU 20V 8000
Waterjets 4 × Wartsila steerable
Bow thruster Retractable azimuthing
PERFORMANCE
Speed 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range 3,500 NM/4,028 miles/6,482 km
Operational limitation Survival in Sea State 8
MISSION/LOGISTICS DECK
Deck area >21,527.8 feet2/2,000 m2
Launch and recovery Twin boom extending crane
Loading Side ramp
Internal elevator to hanger
Launch/Recover Watercraft Sea State 4
FLIGHT DECK AND HANGER
Flight deck dimensions 2 × SH-60 or 1 × CH-53 or multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs/VTUAVs)
Hanger Aircraft stowage & maintenance for 2 × SH-60
Launch/Recover Aircraft Sea State 5
WEAPONS AND SENSORS
Standard 1 × 57-mm gun
4 × 12.7-mm/.50 caliber guns
1 × Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher
3 × weapons modules

 

Independence-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Independence (LCS-2) 01-19-2006 04-26-2008 01-16-2010 San Diego, California
USS Coronado (LCS-4) 12-17-2009 01-14-2012 04-05-2014 San Diego, California
USS Jackson (LCS-6) 08-01-2011 12-14-2013 12-05-2015 San Diego, California
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) 06-25-2013 08-06-2014 09-10-2016 San Diego, California
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) 04-16-2014 02-25-2015 06-10-2017 San Diego, California
USS Omaha (LCS-12) 02-18-2015 11-20-2015 02-03-2018 San Diego, California
USS Manchester (LCS-14) 06-29-2015 05-12-2016 05-26-2018 San Diego, California
USS Tulsa (LCS-16) 01-11-2016 03-16-2017 02-16-2019 San Diego, California
USS Charleston (LCS-18) 06-28-2016 09-14-2017 03-02-2019 San Diego, California
USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) 04-10-2017 05-22-2018 10-05-2019 San Diego, California
USS Kansas City (LCS-22) 11-15-2017 10-19-2018 06-20-2020 San Diego, California
USS Oakland (LCS-24) 07-20-2018 07-21-2019 04-17-2021 San Diego, California
USS Mobile (LCS-26) 12-14-2018 01-11-2020 05-22-2021 San Diego, California
USS Savannah (LCS-28) 09-20-2018 09-08-2020 02-05-2022 San Diego, California
USS Canberra (LCS-30) 03-10-2020 03-30-2021
USS Santa Barbara (LCS-32) 10-27-2020 11-12-2021
USS Augusta (LCS-34) 07-30-2021 05-23-2022
USS Kingsville (LCS-36) 02-23-2022
USS Pierre (LCS-38)

 

Inshore Patrol Vessel

In a ceremony held at Simons Town Naval Base, the first of three, state-of-the-art, Multi Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPVs) has been handed over to the South African Navy. The vessel marks the culmination of four years of work for Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT). The vessel being delivered will augment South Africa’s maritime security by enhancing the country’s capability to respond effectively, rapidly and cost-effectively to threats such as illegal trafficking and fishing.

SAS King Sekhukhune I (P1571)
Damen Shipyards Cape Town delivers first of three Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels to South African Navy

The 62.2 m/204 feet by 11.5 m/37.7 feet vessels have been designed by Damen to deliver a rapid response capability that is both effective and cost efficient. The vessel is the first Damen Sea Axe vessel to operate in South Africa where, along with its sister ships, its primary role will be to counter piracy, illegal fishing and smuggling operations. However, their ability to accommodate at short notice containerized mission modules gives them a true multi-mission capability. The patented design delivers exceptional seakeeping behaviour with the straight-edged bow cutting through the water thereby improving comfort and safety while reducing emissions and fuel consumption.

The MMIPV project is also playing an important role in creating skilled new jobs and acting as a catalyst for the development of regional supply chains. On its own, the MMIPV project is expected to generate more than one million man-hours of work during the construction of the three MMIPVs and will support more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs at Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT). In addition, the yard is also focusing on nurturing small businesses to maximise local content.

Mr. Sam Montsi, Chairman of the Damen Shipyards Cape Town Board, commented: «The delivery is a significant milestone in the story of Damen Shipyards Cape Town. It is the first time that a naval vessel of this calibre has been built at the yard and it is also the first of its class! Despite the COVID 19 pandemic, this beautiful vessel has been built to the required quality level which is an achievement that was realised by South African people, as most of the work and materials that went into the construction were sourced locally».

«The yard has significantly grown during this process both in the quality of work and the safety standards achieved. This project has also allowed the yard to increase the impact of its transformation strategy by consistently delivering relevant development to the communities of South Africa».

 

Specifications

Length o.a. 62.2 m/204 feet
Beam o.a. 11.5 m/37.7 feet
Draught maximum 4 m/13.2 feet
Hull material Steel
Superstructure Steel/Aluminium
Propulsion 4 × Fixed pitch propellers
Endurance 48 days
Speed maximum Up to 30 knots/34.5 mph/55.5 km/h

 

Littoral Combat Ship

The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) in Duluth, Minnesota, May 21, 2022.

USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21)
The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest littoral combat ship USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) in Duluth, Minnesota, May 21, 2022

Representative Betty McCollum, Minnesota 4th District, was the principal speaker for the commissioning ceremony.

«The strength of America’s national security, and the democratic values we hold dear, are being tested today like they have not been in decades», said McCollum. «I can think of no two names that represent that strength more than Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Together we are one team – those who built this fine ship, and those who will serve on her. It is the strength and determination of the American people that is the backbone of our national security».

The Honorable Erik Raven, Under Secretary of the U.S. Navy, reflected on attending his first commissioning ceremony. «The Twin Cities represent the Great State of Minnesota’s economic, cultural, and political center. The Twin Cities play a significant role in our nation’s economic network», said Raven. «Now, more than ever, it is fitting that a Littoral Combat Ship is named Minneapolis-Saint Paul – honoring the legacy of work and contribution of the people whose work ultimately impacts our daily lives nationwide and globally».

Vice Admiral Scott Conn, United States Navy (USN), Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities also attended. «Thank you all for preparing LCS-21 for this day», said Conn. «I recognize how special it is to be together for this milestone, and to spend this day bringing the newest ship in our fleet to life in this way. And more so, to do it in the State of her namesake cities is unique and special».

The Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, also attended the ceremony. «This is a unique opportunity to gather ourselves as Minnesotans, and Americans», said Walz. «We’re not just a country; we’re an ideal».

Guest speakers for the event were Jon Rambeau, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors and senator of Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar.

Attendees of the ceremony were Mayor Jacob Frey, City of Minneapolis; Mayor Melvin Carter, City of Saint Paul; Mayor Emily Larson, City of Duluth; Rear. Admiral Casey Moton, Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants; Mark Vandroff, chief executive officer, Fincantieri Marinette Marine; Captain David Miller, Commander, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 2; Captain Andy Gold, Littoral Combat Ship program manager, Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants; Brian Kriese, deputy officer in charge, supervisor of shipbuilding Bath Detachment Marinette; and Matrons of Honor, Nicole Sunberg and Carly Olsen.

Representative Pete Stauber, Minnesota 8th District, assisted in placing the ship into commission. The ship’s sponsor Jodi Greene, former Deputy Under Secretary of the U.S. Navy, gave the first order to «man our ship and bring her to life».

«As a crew, you have already proven your strength and determination in getting ready for this momentous day», said Greene. «You prepared this ship to take her place in the fleet during challenging times. All eyes were on you as you continued to make this pathway».

Built by the Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin. USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) was launched and christened in on June 15, 2019. The ship completed acceptance trials, August 21, 2020, and was delivered to U.S. Navy, November 18, 2021.

«I am incredibly proud of this crew for their dedication to shipmate and ship as we worked toward the commissioning of USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul», said Commander Alfonza White, commanding officer of Minneapolis-Saint Paul. «We are honored to carry the name Minneapolis-Saint Paul into the fleet».

USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) is the second naval ship to honor Minnesota’s Twin Cities although each city has been honored twice before.

The first U.S. Navy warship named Minneapolis-Saint Paul was a Los Angeles-class submarine launched in 1983 that participated in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (SSN-708) was the first submarine to carry Tomahawk missiles specifically designed for use in strikes against Iraq during the Gulf War. Having served for over two decades with distinction, the submarine decommissioned in 2007.

LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric «anti-access» threats and is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence.

USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) 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

 

Freedom-class

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 01-12-2019 Mayport, Florida
USS Billings (LCS-15) 11-02-2015 07-01-2017 08-03-2019 Mayport, Florida
USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) 07-18-2016 04-18-2018 10-26-2019 Mayport, Florida
USS St. Louis (LCS-19) 05-17-2017 12-15-2018 08-08-2020 Mayport, Florida
USS Minneapolis/St. Paul (LCS-21) 02-22-2018 06-15-2019 05-21-2022 Mayport, Florida
USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) 08-14-2018 01-19-2020
USS Marinette (LCS-25) 03-27-2019 10-31-2020
USS Nantucket (LCS-27) 10-09-2019 08-07-2021
USS Beloit (LCS-29) 07-22-2020 05-07-2022
USS Cleveland (LCS-31) 06-20-2021

 

Combat Support Vehicles

The first four CV90 Combat Support Vehicles were delivered to the Norwegian Armed Forces during a ceremony hosted by local industry partner Ritek AS in Levanger, Norway.

CV90 CSV
New CV90 Combat Support Vehicles delivered to Norway

The four vehicles are the first of 20 modernized CV90 engineering vehicles BAE Systems will deliver, in partnership with Ritek and the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency.

«While rebuilding these vehicles, it has been important for the government that Norwegian jobs are supported», said Bent Joacim Bentzen, the State Secretary in the Ministry of Defense. «This has been possible thanks to a smooth and well-functioning collaboration between the Armed Forces, Defence Material Agency, Ritek and the licenser BAE Systems Hägglunds».

Partnering with the Norwegian defense industry was a key factor in getting the contract signed and the vehicles into production quickly, under measures implemented by the Norwegian parliament to support the country’s economy through the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

BAE Systems serves as the main supplier, while Ritek plays a central role in purchasing, logistics, final assembly, and integration. Ritek has also been responsible for coordinating the project and growing the participation of Norwegian industry. As a result, about 20 Norwegian companies are now qualified suppliers of products and components for the CV90 vehicles, and an integral part of BAE Systems’ Norwegian supply chain.

«This is an example of how it is possible to achieve fast deliveries through well-functioning cooperation», said Gro Jære, Director of the Defence Material Agency. «Just over a year after the contract was signed, we can now confirm that we are in the process of delivering the latest production series of CV90-based combat support vehicles to the Armed Forces. I would like to thank BAE Systems, Ritek, and my project staff for their flexibility, focus on delivery and effort so far».

The close cooperation between all parties has broadened Norway’s overall national capacity in the defense vehicle space and its preparedness to support the vehicles. The Norwegian CV90 fleet is fully digitalized, and among the most advanced combat vehicles in the world.

«Norway should be proud of its ability to work with political leaders, procurement authorities, and industry to innovate and meet challenges like COVID-19 in a world of uncertainty», said Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, managing director of BAE Systems Hägglunds. «Yet again, this milestone project demonstrates the strength of the relationships between all partners by delivering high-quality vehicles, on time and on cost».

The delivery ceremony coincided with the completion of Ritek’s new assembly hall for the CV90 project, which increases the total workshop area to 5,500 square meters. The hall is designed to meet all requirements for lifting capacity and flexibility in Ritek’s existing defence-related project portfolio and for future projects.

Gravitational waves

Airbus has been awarded a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to further develop the implementation of LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), one of the most ambitious science missions ESA has planned to date. With Phase B1 now underway, the detailed mission design and final technology development activities for the gravitational wave observatory are due to be completed by 2024, with launch planned for the late 2030s.

Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA)
Airbus to further develop LISA gravitational wave observatory mission

Gravitational waves were first postulated by Albert Einstein. They are distortions in space-time, created when for example supermassive black holes – billions of times heavier than our sun – merge. These events are so powerful that the resulting gravitational waves can be measured by sensitive instruments from billions of light years away.

To measure these waves, LISA consists of three spacecraft that form an equilateral triangle deep in space, 2.5 million kilometres/1,553,428 miles apart from each other. Gravitational waves stretch and compress space-time, causing the tiniest changes in distance between the LISA probes (less than the diameter of an atom). Any movements of test masses that free-fall inside the three spacecraft when a gravitational wave passes can be detected by the spacecrafts’ sensitive instruments. LISA will do this by using lasers that continuously transmit back and forth between the satellites using interferometry, measuring the distance between each of the test masses.

Some of the key technologies required for LISA were successfully tested in space with the LISA Pathfinder (LPF) mission developed and built by Airbus as prime. The mission results showed that LPF operated even more precisely than required for LISA. LPF was launched on 3rd December 2015 and ended in July 2017.

Gravitational waves are a new research method that uses gravity instead of light to measure dynamic processes in the universe. The study of gravitational waves offers enormous potential for discovering parts of the universe that are invisible in other ways. LISA will significantly expand our knowledge of the beginning, evolution, and structure of our universe. Gravitational waves have been detected by ground-based observatories in recent years – by experiments such as Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European Virgo observatory – but these facilities are limited in size and sensitivity, meaning that they are only able to detect high-frequency gravitational waves from particular sources (such as merging stellar-mass black holes and neutron stars).

Launch of three-spacecraft constellation planned for late 2030s

Al Emarat

On May 13th 2022, Al Emarat (P111), the second Gowind corvette ordered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Naval Group, has been launched in Lorient in presence of an official delegation from the United Arab Emirates Navy.

Al Emarat (P111)
Naval Group launches the second Gowind corvette for the United Arab Emirates Navy

In 2019, the United Arab Emirates ordered two Gowind corvettes to be built in France. The first corvette, Bani Yas (P110), was launched in December 2021. The second one, Al Emarat (P111), has been launched on May 13th in the Naval Group Lorient shipyard.

Naval Group, as a turn-key solution provider, will also train the UAE Navy’s crew from the equipment level up to the operational level. Starting in France, this preparation will continue with team-building and practice on operational scenarios in every warfare area in the Gulf.

Stéphane Frémont, Director of Surface Ship Programs at Naval Group, said: «The launching of Gowind Al Emarat (P111) is a major industrial and symbolic milestone, where the corvette reaches her natural environment. The two Bani Yas class vessels benefit from the modular design of the Gowind family and are the perfect asset to help the UAE Navy meet the challenges of today and tomorrow thanks to the most advanced technologies».

Gowind enjoys significant commercial success as 12 units have already been sold. Most of them are built locally through Transfer of Technology and partnerships with local industry, for example in Egypt where three units are now in service within the Egyptian Navy.

 

Gowind: designed for naval operations

Gowind is Naval Group’s response to 21st century security and defence challenges. It is a corvette-size multi-mission Surface Combatant offering capabilities in all areas. It is designed to perform the full spectrum of naval defence operations and maritime security roles, with the highest level of performance.

Sturdy, strongly equipped, highly manoeuvrable, Gowind integrates, through Naval Group’s SETIS Combat Management System (CMS) and innovative structural solutions, the latest generation sensors and weapons. Designed to be used against air, naval or underwater threats from the initial steps of the engineering process, Gowind is multipurpose by design.

Gowind is a sea proven, enduring, stealth and highly survivable platform offering:

  • high performance warfare capabilities integrated through the SETIS CMS and an efficient and innovative Panoramic Sensors and Intelligence Module (PSIM);
  • automated systems for user-friendly operations by an optimized crew;
  • large and smart deployable assets: heavy helicopter, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs);
  • growth potential driven by customer requirement and innovation.

 

Technical features

Overall hull length 102 m/334.6 feet
Overall beam 16 m/52.5 feet
Displacement 2,800 t

 

Liberty Lifter project

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched the Liberty Lifter project to demonstrate a leap in operational logistics capabilities by designing, building, and flying a long-range, low-cost X-plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical lift. The new vehicle concept seeks to expand upon existing cargo aircraft by proving revolutionary heavy air lift abilities from the sea.

Liberty Lifter project
Liberty Lifter Aims to Revolutionize Heavy Air Lift: large seaplane concept envisions extended operations, affordable production, advanced controls

The envisioned plane will combine fast and flexible strategic lift of very large, heavy loads with the ability to take off/land in water. Its structure will enable both highly controlled flight close to turbulent water surfaces and sustained flight at mid-altitudes. In addition, the plane will be built with a low-cost design and construction philosophy.

Although current sealift is very efficient in transporting large amounts of payload, it is vulnerable to threats, requires functional ports, and results in long transit times. Traditional airlift is much faster, but has limited ability to support maritime operations. Additionally, today, such aircraft suffer payload limitations or require long runways.

There is a history of attempting to develop aircraft created to fly with «wing-in-ground effect», which means the aircraft is flying no more than the length of its wingspan above ground or water. The most well-known examples are the Soviet «ekranoplans». These vehicles were high speed and runway-independent, but were restricted to calm waters and had limited maneuverability.

«This first phase of the Liberty Lifter program will define the unique seaplane’s range, payloads, and other parameters», said Alexander Walan, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «Innovative advances envisioned by this new DARPA program will showcase an X-plane demonstrator that offers warfighters new capabilities during extended maritime operations».

To address the shortcomings of existing vehicles and operational concepts, the Liberty Lifter program focuses on addressing three main challenges.

Extended Maritime Operations: Emphasis will be placed on operating in turbulent sea states by creating high-lift abilities at low speeds to reduce wave impact load during takeoff/landing, and innovative design solutions to absorb wave forces. In addition, the project will address risks of vehicle collision during high-speed operation in congested environments. Finally, the aim is for the vehicle to operate at sea for weeks at a time without land-based maintenance activities.

Full-Scale Affordable Production: Construction will prioritize low-cost, easy-to-fabricate designs over exquisite, low-weight concepts. Materials should be more affordable than those in traditional aircraft manufacturing and available to be purchased in large quantities.

Complex Flight and Sea Surface Controls: Advanced sensors and control schemes will be developed to avoid large waves and to handle aero/hydro-dynamic interactions during takeoff/landing.

The Liberty Lifter program aims to design, build, float, and fly an affordable, innovative, and disruptive seaplane that operates efficiently in ground effect (less than 100 feet/30.5 meters above surface), can sustain flight altitudes up to 10,000 feet/3,048 meters Mean Sea Level (MSL), and enables efficient theater-range transport of large payloads at speeds far exceeding existing sea lift platforms. Liberty Lifter will use low-cost manufacturing akin to ship fabrication in building a highly innovative seaplane capable of meeting Department of Defense (DoD) heavy lift requirements (100+ tons/200,000+ lbs.) that operates with runway and port independence.

Counter-mortar capability

In four weeks of continuous live-fire exercises, an industry team led by Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, and Kord, a wholly owned subsidiary of KBR, defeated multiple 60-mm mortar rounds with a 50 kW-class high energy laser integrated on a Stryker combat vehicle.

DE M-SHORAD
Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Kord team-up to defeat multiple mortars and large drones with Stryker-mounted high-energy laser

The directed energy weapon system – part of the U.S. Army’s Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD – acquired, tracked, targeted and defeated multiple mortars and successfully accomplished multiple tests simulating real-world scenarios.

Continuing to put the DE M-SHORAD system to the test, the recent operational assessment at White Sands Missile Range also included defeating several small, medium and large drones.

«Soldiers in the field face increasingly complex threats, and our combat-proven sensors, software, and lasers are ready to give them a new level of protection», said Annabel Flores, president of Electronic Warfare Systems for Raytheon Intelligence & Space. «The Army gave us our toughest challenge yet – countering rockets, artillery and mortars – and we took an essential step on the path to providing the maneuverable, short range air defense Soldiers need».

The DE M-SHORAD effort is aimed at protecting soldiers against various aerial threats, including unmanned aircraft systems, rotary-wing aircraft, rockets, artillery and mortars. Kord serves as the primary integrator of the system on the Stryker combat vehicle, while Raytheon Intelligence & Space provides the 50 kW-class high energy laser weapon module, a specialized radar acquisition system, a beam control system and targeting sensor.

«This team once again showed that the HEL system is fully-integrated and ready to provide protection against complex threats», said Byron Bright, President of KBR Government Solutions. «With an effectively infinite magazine and near-zero cost per shot, HEL is now the proven answer to asymmetric threats like drones and mortars».

The joint industry team, which includes Rocky Research for power and thermal management, General Dynamics Land Systems for the Stryker platform, and Applied Technology Associates for additional sensors, is preparing to deliver four DE M-SHORAD units to Army Brigade Combat Teams in 2022.

RI&S’ high energy laser weapon systems, built in McKinney, Texas, works on land, in the air and at sea, providing 360-degree coverage that can protect bases, airports, stadiums and other high-value military or civilian assets. Open architecture, scalable power, and ruggedized design adapts to the demands of the mission. HEL weapons can be used as standalone systems or rapidly installed on a variety of platforms. Major suppliers for the system are based in Huntsville, Alabama; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; East Granby, Connecticut; and Los Angeles, California.

Landing Platform Dock

The keel laying of the amphibious vessel (LPD – Landing Platform Dock) ordered to Fincantieri by the Qatari Ministry of Defence within the national naval acquisition program, took place at the Palermo shipyard.

Landing Platform Dock (LPD)
The keel laying ceremony (Fincantieri picture)

The ceremony, held in a restricted format and in full compliance with anti-contagion requirements, was attended by Brig. Ahmad Al Hammadi, Qatari Emiri Naval Forces Head of Project Control Office-Italy, and Marcello Giordano and Umberto Aloi, respectively Fincantieri Palermo shipyard Director and Vice President Export Programs.

The LPD is designed consistent with the RINAMIL (rules for naval ships classification) rules to ensure extremely efficient land-air-marine connections. It will be highly flexible and capable of fulfilling different kinds of tasks, from humanitarian interventions to support the Armed Forces and land operations.

The ship will be about 143 meters/469 feet long, 21.5 meters/70.5 feet wide and it will be able to accommodate about 550 persons on board, equipped with two vehicle ramps and an internal floodable dock, capable of accommodating a ready-to-go LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized) that can also be stored on garage deck, and can be deployed using a system of davits. Furthermore, the flight deck is sized for hosting NH90 helicopter.