All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

$591.6 Million order

The U.S. Army Contracting Command – Detroit Arsenal (ACC-DTA) announced that it has awarded Oshkosh Defense, a wholly owned subsidiary of Oshkosh Corporation, a $591.6 Million order for 1,669 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV), 868 companion trailers, and associated packaged and installed kits.

JLTV
Oshkosh Defense receives $591.6 Million JLTV order to continue filling capability gaps for U.S. military and international allies

The order includes Oshkosh Defense JLTVs for the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Navy. As part of the order, 125 vehicles will also be delivered to NATO and allied partners, including Brazil, Lithuania, Montenegro, and Slovenia.

Since winning the competitive JLTV contract in 2015, Oshkosh Defense has built over 14,000 JLTVs, and that number continues to grow every day.

«Our team takes great pride in designing and building a versatile platform that can survive the extreme demands of future combat», said George Mansfield, Vice President and General Manager of Joint Programs for Oshkosh Defense. «That’s what we do and what we’ve been doing for decades. And Oshkosh’s vast Tactical Wheeled Vehicle (TWV) experience, expertise and knowhow grows with every vehicle that comes off our production line».

International momentum surrounding the Oshkosh Defense JLTV also continues to grow as customers seek a light tactical vehicle with lethal capabilities, fleet commonality attributes, and design flexibility.

«Integrated lethality on an agile and protected vehicle like the Oshkosh JLTV is quickly filling capability gaps that exist in many international militaries», said John Lazar, Vice President and General Manager of International Programs for Oshkosh Defense. «This past year, we’ve seen an increased interest in the Oshkosh JLTV from international customers with dynamic demonstrations and live fires across Europe with more planned for 2022».

rMCM program

On 30 November 2021, Naval Group has laid the keel for the first of the twelve mine countermeasure vessels of the Belgian-Dutch rMCM program, intended for Belgium. The keel laying ceremony took place in Concarneau, in the presence of the Belgian Chief of Defence, Admiral Michel Hofman, and the Dutch Chief of Defence, General Onno Eichelsheim.

rMCM program
Naval Group lays the keel for the first mine countermeasure vessel of the Belgian-Dutch rMCM program

This program was awarded in 2019 to Belgium Naval & Robotics, the consortium formed by Naval Group and ECA Group, following an international competition. It provides for the supply to the Belgian Navy and the Royal Dutch Navy of twelve mine countermeasures vessels and around a hundred drones integrated inside a toolbox that will equip the vessels.

Kership, a joint venture between Naval Group and Piriou, is in charge of the production of the twelve vessels which are assembled in Concarneau. They will be armed afloat by Piriou. Naval Group, as overall architect and prime contractor, is responsible for the design of the ships, the overall integration, and the testing and commissioning of the mission system (combat system and mine countermeasures system). ECA Group, as co-contractor, is in charge of the unmanned drones’ system. Thedrones will be produced in ECA Group workshop (Ostend, Belgium). The maintenance of the ships will be carried out in Belgium in close collaboration between the Belgian Navy and Naval Group Belgium, with the assistance of its partner Flanders Ship Repair.

The first delivery is scheduled for the end of 2024 in Zeebrugge, Belgium. Deliveries will then be staggered until 2030.

Pierre Eric Pommellet, CEO of Naval Group said: «We are very happy to be here in Concarneau to take this next step in the program with the keel laying of the first mine countermeasure vessel. This program is the result of European cooperation between Belgium and the Netherlands, in which Naval Group is proud to participate. It is also the result of a solid industrial partnership and of a commitment to competitiveness between Naval Group and ECA Group. Our teams will continue their hard work to deliver these latest generation ships, specialised in mine warfare and perfectly adapted to the operational use targeted by the Belgian and Dutch navies».

Dominique Giannoni, CEO of ECA Group said: «ECA Group is pleased to be present at this ceremony alongside its partner Naval Group. All ECA Group teams are mobilised for the success of this highly innovative program: it aims at an unprecedented level of automation of mine warfare operations, with the coordinated implementation of underwater, surface and aerial drones. In close collaboration with Naval Group teams, we are developing an integrated and optimised system to meet the requirements of our Belgian and Dutch customers».

«In the context of mine warfare, the idea of increasing the distance between the threat and the crews is not new», announced Admiral Hofman, Belgian Chief of Defence. «In the 2015 NATO Maritime Operations study, the main shortcomings of shipborne systems were slow operation, poor mine discrimination, inability to detect buried and drifting mines, self-defence and the ability of platforms to easily project globally. It was already clear that the existing conventional platforms could not meet all these challenges. Therefore, we were looking for a reliable partner to carry out this small revolution in mine warfare».

CPF BAM Claude Bultot, head of the program said: «The Belgian and Royal Netherlands Navy can be proud of this innovative and (r)evolutionary mine countermeasures replacement program. The ambition of this program is to become the world reference in this field».

His Dutch counterpart, Captain (E) Sander van Luik, added: «This project is a fine example for making European defence more efficient. By drawing a common set of requirements as a starting point, Belgium and the Netherlands are able to quickly put to sea an innovative concept. Agreeing on the principals first, avoids haggling over every single design detail. This also allows us to be more flexible and adaptive. Thus, our binational team has been able to work more effective, relying on both nations’ combined expertise, working with Belgium Naval & Robotics towards a new capacity that can meet the operational challenges of the decades ahead».

These specialised mine warfare vessels are the first to have the capability to embark and launch or fly a combination of surface drones (themselves 12-metre/39.4-foot, 20-tonne vessels), underwater drones and aerial drones. The mine countermeasures vessels will use a fully robotic system for detection, classification and neutralisation of mines. They can withstand underwater explosions and have very low acoustic, electrical and magnetic signatures, in line with the missions to be carried out.

These mine countermeasure vessels have the following characteristics:

  • Length: 82.6 m/271 feet
  • Width: 17 m/55.77 feet
  • Displacement: 2800 t
  • Maximum speed: 15.3 knots/17.6 mph/28.3 km/h
  • Range: >3,500 nautical miles/4,028 miles/6,482 km
  • Crew: 63 people
  • Drone capabilities: ECA Group’s UMISOFT System, 2 unmanned surface vehicles (ECA Group’s Inspector 125), 3 autonomous underwater vehicles (A-18 equipped with ECA Group’s UMISAS 120 sonar), 2 towed sonars (T-18 equipped with ECA Group’s UMISAS 240 sonar), 2 Mine Identification & Destruction Systems (MIDS) systems (ECA Group’s Seascan et K-Ster C), 2 unmanned aerial vessels (UMS Skeldar’s V200), 1 ECA Group influence dredger integrating 5 CTM magnetic modules et 1 PATRIA acoustic module.
  • Embarkation capacity: 2 SOLAS rigid hull inflatable boats of 7 m/23 feet.
  • Handling: 2 side gantries with floating cradle for surface drones and commando boats, a 15t rear crane and a 3t overhead crane.

Holland arrived at Groton

On Monday, November 29, 2021, the new Ocean Transport Barge Holland arrived at EB’s Groton Shipyard. The 400-foot-long/122-meter-long barge was purpose-built to support delivery of Columbia class ballistic missile submarines. Electric Boat is the prime contractor on construction of the Columbia class, the nation’s top strategic defense priority.

Ocean Transport Barge Holland
Picture of the Holland at the South Yard Construction Site

The Holland was constructed by Bollinger Shipyards, LLC, of Lockport, Louisiana. The namesake of the new barge is John Holland, the Irish-born immigrant who designed the first submarine purchased by the U.S. Navy. Holland’s design was brought to life by the shipbuilders of Electric Boat and delivered in 1900.

«We are happy to welcome Holland to her new home in the Groton shipyard», said Kevin Graney, President, General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB). «Our fellow shipbuilders at Bollinger have delivered a terrific asset, on time and on budget. Holland will play an important role in the construction of the Columbia class of submarines, which will carry nearly 70% of the nation’s nuclear arsenal».

The Columbia class is now being built at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point, RI manufacturing facility. Skilled tradespeople will construct and outfit Columbia modules at Quonset Point which will then be transported by the Holland barge to the company’s final test and assembly facility in Groton. The first Columbia module is expected to arrive in Groton in 2023.

Construction of the Columbia class, which will replace the aging Ohio class, is the nation’s top strategic defense priority. For nearly 15 years, Electric Boat has been working on plans to execute the design and construction of this crucial program. As a consequence, the Columbia class was the most complete design of any previous class of submarine at construction start in October of 2020. The company has hired and trained thousands of new skilled tradespeople, collaborated with its suppliers to prepare for the expanded demand for technical support and invested nearly $2 billion in new facilities to support construction of the Columbia class.

Hybrid-conversion kit

A prototype for a commercial, hybrid-conversion kit for military tactical vehicles has been designed to reduce fuel consumption, improve performance and decrease logistics demand.

Tactical vehicle
Military vehicles move down a road at the Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group in Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 24, 2020

The Defense Department operates a fleet of more than 250,000 tactical vehicles, which frequently operate in austere conditions. These vehicles often spend as much of their operational time stationary as they do in motion, said Ben Richardson, director of the Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU) advanced energy and materials portfolio.

However, even when stationary, the engines must run in order to power the essential onboard electronics, as well as the heating and cooling systems in the crew compartments. This results in significant fuel consumption while the vehicle idles, he said.

«By integrating an anti-idle capability into our existing fleet of tactical vehicles, the DOD has the opportunity to meaningfully reduce fuel consumption by its operational forces, enabling them to operate longer between refueling», Richardson said. «This also promises to reduce the amount of fuel that must be transported into combat zones, reducing the demand on, and risk to, logistics supply chains. This challenge and opportunity are not unique to the military. For years, commercial long-haul, utility, and emergency trucking fleets have been converting their existing trucks into hybrid and full-electric vehicles to save money and reduce emissions».

In August, the DIU and the Army’s Project Manager Transportation Systems – part of the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS) – issued awards to XL Fleet and Volta Power Systems to integrate their commercial solutions into prototype to idle-reduction some two-and-a-half to 10-ton trucks.

Idle reduction technologies reduce fuel waste and engine wear.

After demonstration and evaluation of the prototypes, the companies will be asked to develop and deliver a retrofit kit for fielding and easy installation by soldiers operating at logistics depots and motor pools across the force, Richardson said.

Beyond the fuel savings to be gained from the introduction of anti-idle capability, officials in the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support also see this as a step toward further hybridization and electrification efforts.

Steve Roberts, the PEO CS&CSS project lead for integration, said collaboration has been key: «The collaboration between DIU and PEO CS&CSS is proving to be invaluable. Their industry connections and contracting flexibilities greatly shortens the time to bring capability to the warfighter. These kits are the first step to a game changer across the tactical, wheeled-vehicle fleet in not only decreasing fuel demand, but also bringing new capability in the form of increased electrical power».

2nd Barracuda

At 7.14 a.m. on Friday, November 26, 2021, Naval Group CEO Pierre-Eric Pommellet began the transfer of the second Barracuda-class nuclear submarine – FS Duguay-Trouin (S636).

FS Duguay-Trouin (S636)
The transfer of the FS Duguay-Trouin (S636) submarine to the French fleet is scheduled for the end of next 2022

Mounted on twenty-four trolleys arranged in two parallel rows, the submarine, weighing approximately 4,500 tons, began to move at a speed of just under thirty meters per hour. Thus, the submarine Duguay-Trouin covered 120 meters separating the Laubeuf shipyard from the Cachin launching device. There was no big ceremony, as was the case in July 2019 with the transfer of the first submarine FS Suffren (S635) and the presence of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, this time. Nevertheless, many employees of the Naval Group and its subcontractors came to watch this ceremony of rolling out the submarine from the Laubeuf shipyard.

«The Duguay-Trouin rolled out less ceremoniously», agrees Jean-Luc France, director of the Naval Group in Cherbourg. «Nevertheless, this is an important event for the Naval Group team and its partners».

The first steel sheet of the Duguay-Trouin submarine was cut back in June 2009. In 2017, the Laubeuf shipyard began work on the integration of about 700 thousand pieces of equipment. The submarine hull was assembled by December 2020. «Together with TechnicAtome, we have just completed extensive testing of a nuclear facility», said Hervé Glandais, program director at Naval Group. The last phase of testing will continue at the Cachin facility.

The FS Duguay-Trouin (S636) attack-class nuclear-powered attack submarine is due to be delivered to the French Navy at the end of 2022.

The Barracuda class boat building program, Hervé Glandais noted, is the main one for the Naval Group. About 10,000 people and 800 enterprises are working on this program. In Cherbourg alone, 2,500 people work daily, including 800 partners and subcontractors.

In addition to FS Suffren (S635) and FS Duguay-Trouin (S636), the fleet will receive 4 Barracuda class nuclear submarines: FS De Grasse (S637), FS Tourville (S638), FS Rubis (S639) and FS Casabianca (S640). By 2026, the fleet will have four Barracuda-class submarines in service (one submarine every two years). The last boat in the series, Casabianca, will be delivered to the fleet in 2029.

H225M in naval configuration

Airbus Helicopters has delivered the first H225M in naval combat configuration to the Brazilian Navy. Stationed at the naval base in São Pedro d’Aldeia, the aircraft will boost the Brazilian Navy’s mission capabilities including anti-surface warfare and maritime surveillance.

H225M
First ever naval combat H225M delivered to the Brazilian Navy

Developed by the engineering team at Helibras (the Brazilian subsidiary of Airbus Helicopters), this naval version of the H225M aircraft is the most complex configuration that has ever been produced for this multirole helicopter. The aircraft’s embedded systems include the EWS IDAS-3 (countermeasure system), MBDA Exocet AM39 B2M2 missiles, the APS143 tactical radar and the naval mission system N-TDMS (Naval Tactical Data Management System) developed in partnership with Atech and Airbus Defense and Space, which is responsible for making the command and control of all embedded systems, including the missile system.

«We are very proud of this achievement, which proves the industrial and technological capability of the Airbus Helicopters teams in France and Brazil to deliver one of the most modern solutions in the world to the Brazilian Armed Forces», said Alberto Robles, Head of Latin America at Airbus Helicopters. «Designed to meet the most demanding requirements of the Brazilian Navy, the advanced anti-surface warfare and tactical capabilities open new mission capabilities for the H225M utility helicopter».

The last stage of the firing campaign with the Exocet AM39 B2M2 missiles was successfully carried out last June, representing a major milestone in the programme, which led the way to qualification and delivery.

The naval H225M is part of the contract signed by the Brazilian government in 2008 and which includes 50 H225Ms to be operated by the three armed forces. So far, 39 H225Ms have been delivered to the Brazilian Armed Forces, all of them assembled locally by Helibras.

Croatian Rafale

At a ceremony attended by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron and the Prime Minister of the Croatian Republic Andrej Plenković, the French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and the Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier signed today in Zagreb, with the Croatian Minister of Defense Mario Banozic, two contracts for the acquisition of 12 Rafale fighters and associated logistics support.

Rafale
Croatia and France finalize Rafale acquisition

The state-to-state contract mainly covers the transfer of 12 Rafale fighters from the French Air Force along with their equipment, as well as a training service for the Croatian Air Force.

The logistics support contract covers all support resources, including additional spare parts for these aircraft, over a three-year period.

The selection of the Rafale, announced on May 28, after an international tender involving European and American aircraft, reflects its technological and operational superiority, as well as the excellent work done by the team «France» to consolidate its position in the European air forces.

«I am delighted, on behalf of Dassault Aviation and its partners, to be entering into a relationship of trust with Croatia, a European country, and to be writing a new page for the Rafale, which I am certain will give the Croatian Air Force complete satisfaction, while actively contributing to the exercise of Croatia’s national sovereignty», said Eric Trappier after the signing ceremony.

Global F-16 Program

PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company and one of Poland’s longest established aircraft manufacturers, is to be a manufacturing partner for one of the world’s most successful fighter aircraft programs. Beginning next year, PZL Mielec will build components and assemblies for the latest generation F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72, sustaining around 200 jobs, with approximately 60 new jobs being created.

F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72
PZL Mielec to manufacture major assemblies for global F-16 Fighting Falcon program

This development marks a significant new milestone for PZL Mielec, which was last involved in the production of fighter aircraft in the 1960s.

Beginning next year, PZL Mielec will manufacture the rear fuselage, center fuselage, cockpit structure, cockpit side panel and forward equipment bay for new production F-16s, exporting the aerostructures to Lockheed Martin’s final assembly line in Greenville, South Carolina.

«Today’s announcement underlines our commitment to PZL Mielec and to growing Lockheed Martin’s industrial footprint in Poland, where we currently employ around 1,600 people directly and sustain work for more than 5,000 others in the Polish supply chain», says Robert Orzylowski, Lockheed Martin director for Poland, Central and East Europe.

«During our 20+ year strategic partnership with Poland, we’ve delivered technology transfer, research and development opportunities, long-term sustainable high technology jobs, growth and exports», Orzylowski adds. «Poland’s acquisition of the F-35 opened the door for a further expansion of this relationship and helped enable today’s exciting announcement».

With orders already secured for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72 from five customers, global interest remains high for new-build production aircraft and for F-16V Fighting Falcon upgrades.

Poland has operated F-16s in its own fleet for the past 15 years, and this summer marked a 100,000 flight-hour milestone.

«The F-16 Fighting Falcon remains a critical part of the Polish Air Force», says Danya Trent, Lockheed Martin vice president, F-16 Fighting Falcon program. «This new production work at PZL Mielec will further ensure Poland is part of the F-16 Fighting Falcon global enterprise for many years to come».

Beyond the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Poland is also procuring 32 F-35s, the first of which will be delivered in 2024. The complementary capabilities and interoperability between both fighter aircraft types serves to strengthen Poland’s airpower capabilities and enables partnerships across missions, training, equipment and tactics with other NATO members.

24-hour mission

A NATO RQ-4D Phoenix took off towards the Black Sea and returned 24-hours later to home air base in Sigonella, Italy on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

RQ-4D Phoenix
A NATO RQ-4D Phoenix took off towards the Black Sea and returned 24-hours later to home air base in Sigonella, Italy on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 (Photo courtesy of NATO AGS Force)

This important step to Full Operating Capability for the NATO Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) Force has been successfully achieved. The AGS team conducted its first mission of 24-hour duration demonstrating the team’s continuous efforts in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and therefore enhancing a vital Allied capability.

«I am very proud of the teamwork accomplished», said Brigadier General Houston Cantwell, Commander of the NATO AGS Force. «With this 24-hour mission, we have proven that we are on the right track to Full Operational Capability and are a valuable asset to NATO».

The challenge of this long mission focused on the airmen and soldiers operating the system; in particular their ability to hand over smoothly between shifts. The sensor operators, who are responsible for controlling the Synthetic Aperture radar, were also changed at the same time as the pilots.

In order for the unmanned aircraft to fly its mission safely, it is not only necessary to have well-trained pilots who are replaced after a certain period of time, but also the IT specialists who ensure that the satellite and communication link is guaranteed between the Main Operation Base in Sigonella and the NATO RQ-4D Phoenix.

At present, the multinational NATO AGS Force comprised of approximately 375 personnel from 24 nations.

Britain’s flagship

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) has welcomed fighter jets from a third allied nation on to her flight deck after working with the Italian Navy and Air Force.

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08)
Third nation’s F-35B Lightning II lands on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deck in milestone moment

Britain’s flagship is currently in the Mediterranean following months in the Indo-Pacific region as part of her global deployment.

As she heads west back to the UK, the ship has continued her busy programme of working with allied nations and partners.

The latest series of exercises saw HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) work with Italian F-35B Lightning II stealth jets.

They are the same B variant as the joint Royal Air Force (RAF)/Royal Navy and U.S. Marine Corps stealth fighter currently embarked in the Portsmouth-based UK flagship. Italy is the only other NATO partner aside from the U.S. and UK to operate that variant.

The landings and takings off by the Italians means HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) has now hosted jets from three different countries since leaving home in May, with the Italians the first European NATO partner to land on the UK flagship’s flight deck.

«The fact that U.S., Italian and UK F-35Bs Lightning II are able to fly to and from one another’s decks offers tactical agility and strategic advantage to NATO», said Royal Navy Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group. «Today’s activity is a telling demonstration of the ability of the UK’s flagship to work seamlessly with other nations; Italy is the third nation to land an F-35B Lightning II on to the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and the seventh military operating F-35B Lightning II aircraft that the UK’s Carrier Strike Group has exercised with on CSG21!»

Earlier during their deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and her jets trained with the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) Carrier Strike Group and her impressive air wing in the Pacific Ocean, which includes the traditional carrier variant, F-35C Lightning II – launched by catapult.

The UK carrier also conducted multi-carrier exercises with the French Carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R91), the USS Essex (LHD-2), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the Japanese Carrier JS Ise (DDH-182) and the Japanese A variant of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter.

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and her task group, including Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and Diamond, Type 23 frigates HMS Kent (F78) and HMS Richmond (F239), Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria (A387) and RFA Tidespring (A136).