All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

Comrade-in-Arms

In the long list of weapons supplied in the US aid packages to Ukraine, there is such a line – «Approximately 700 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems». We are talking here about loitering ammunition, or the so-called «kamikaze drones». This is a special type of unmanned aerial vehicles with an integrated warhead, which are able to stay in the air for a long time in standby mode in the target area and quickly attack it – after receiving the appropriate command from the operator, or perform the tasks provided for by the algorithm embedded in the «brains» of the drone.

Loitering Munition
Loitering Munition

Such flying ammunition by design should combine the advantages of an unmanned aerial vehicle and the warhead of an aerial bomb. And by the way, the idea of such weapons has its roots in the 70s of the last century.

Modern loitering ammunition often has protection against the effects of electronic warfare of the enemy. And due to the use of AI (artificial intelligence) systems, they can independently find and destroy specified targets, which is especially effective for defeating enemy air defense systems. The small size, slowness, composite materials of kamikaze drones allow them to bypass many air defense systems designed for use against much larger combat aircraft and cruise missiles. Loitering ammunition is very cheap to produce.

Phoenix Ghost is a useful novelty in the field of weapons, developed by the American company Aevex Aerospace. This drone can be used for observation from the air, but its main purpose is attacking. The drone is effective against medium-armored ground targets: it can take off vertically and be in flight for more than six hours, the drone can also be used at night, thanks to the presence of infrared sensors. The ammunition is compact – it easily fits in a backpack.

Phoenix Ghost was developed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, but it was created already in accordance with the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the Americans supplied them very little: 700 such devices for the scale of the war in Ukraine is not even a «next to nothing», but much less. However, it is difficult to blame the United States for this, since such weapons are relatively new for the US Army itself. They simply have not yet been produced and purchased in sufficient quantities.

You might argue that kamikaze drones didn’t show up yesterday. Didn’t the U.S. have the time to adopt such a useful thing? The short answer is: «Alas!» If you try to explain the situation, you must take into account the fact that the U.S. Army is a very cumbersome, rather bureaucratic (and therefore at times very clumsy) structure.

To give a simple example: the new generation nuclear aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was officially commissioned by the U.S. Navy on July 22, 2017, but this ship is still undergoing various tests. You see, even five years after the transfer to the Navy, this ship was still not allowed to be deployed. This fall, he will go on another training voyage, and his first combat deployment is expected only in the next 2023.

Gerald R. Ford
Gerald R. Ford

You could reasonably argue that a kamikaze drone is not a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and it doesn’t require such a careful approach. Perhaps, but let’s not forget that for its use in the troops it is also necessary to pass numerous tests, it must be tested on exercises, in a combat situation, etc. The point, after all, is not only to check whether the drone can perform its combat missions – it is necessary to solve many related problems: 1) whether this kamikaze drone will interfere in the air of another Drones – say, small reconnaissance vehicles like the familiar ScanEagle? 2) How will our radars and electronic warfare equipment interact with this drone? 3) How will interaction with other units be established so that it does not happen that the same enemy target will be chased simultaneously by gunners with an M982 Excalibur guided projectile and a kamikaze drone operator? 4) Who will coordinate the actions of the team controlling the drone in each specific unit? 5) How many such teams will it be necessary to have in a battalion, brigade, division? 6) How and who will prioritize the targets? And so on.

The Americans take such issues very seriously, and they will never allow into the troops equipment that has not been thoroughly tested, and with which combat units have not learned to work.

Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have time for such a comfortable approach – it needs any weapons «here and now». So, what to do? To help the Ukrainians in this matter came, as it always happens in recent months, Poland!

The Poles provided Ukraine with their Warmate drone. This is an attack unmanned aviation complex, designed, depending on the warhead installed on it (fragmentation, cumulative, thermobaric warhead, or optoelectronic station), for observation, detection, tracking and identification of targets, as well as for the destruction of lightly armored enemy vehicles.

The Warmate complex is the development of the Polish company WB Electronics and the Military Institute of Weapons Technology. The concept was first introduced in 2014. Warmate was exhibited in September 2015 at the International Defense Industry Exhibition. In April 2016, the vice president of the company said that the complex had already been ordered by two countries.

As of June 2016, the Chernihiv Plant of Radio Devices «CheZaRa» acquired a copy of the Warmate drone and a license for its serial production in Poland, and also conducted appropriate tests. The Ukrainian name of the drone is «Falcon».

The Warmate drone was demonstrated on October 11-14, 2016 in Kyiv at the exhibition «Arms and Security 2016». In November 2016, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz announced the intentions of the Armed Forces and Territorial Defense of Poland in the near future to adopt thousands of locally produced attack drones, including Warmate kamikaze drones.

Turkey, which supports Libya’s Government of National Unity, as well as the UAE (United Arab Emirates), which supports the Libyan National Army, have purchased Warmate kamikaze drones to ensure the delivery of aircraft to supported groups.

WB Electronics offers an individualized training program consisting of lectures, computer simulations, and outdoor flight exercises that introduce the user to increasingly complex navigation tasks and attack scenarios. Training can be conducted in Poland or in any other country (except Russia).

Warmate UAV
Warmate UAV

The reconnaissance version of the Warmate-R, created on the basis of the same fuselage and ground segment, combines 3 cameras to provide several views: an 8 mm/0.3 inches lens directed forward, and optics of 8 mm/0.3 inches and 12 mm/0.47 inches, providing the possibility of a smooth inclination from a downward position (0 degrees) to a side position (90 degrees). The drone can be equipped with daylight cameras and thermal imaging cameras with remote control PAN and TILT (allow you to move the camera along the X and Y axis, as well as change the angle of the camera), as well as a laser designator. The Warmate-R drone can operate in «target lock» mode to track moving targets and allows you to get accurate data on the location of enemy vehicles.

But, of course, the main value is represented by the variants of the Warmate drone with shock warheads: fragmentation, cumulative and thermobaric.

The launch of the device is carried out by pneumatic launch from a container launcher. Structurally, the Warmate is a composite high-wing aircraft with a V-shaped tail, equipped with an electric motor. The range of the complex is 30 km/18.6 miles, the duration of loitering is 60 minutes, the maximum speed is 150 km/h/93 mph, the practical ceiling is 3000 m/9842.5 feet with a cruising altitude of 150 to 300 meters/492 to 984 feet.

The maximum take-off weight of the complex is 5.7 kg/12.5 lbs., while the device can be equipped with combat heads of various types of damage with an explosive weight of up to 800 grams/28 ounces. The aircraft has an automatic flight control mode and a return system in case of failure.

During the attack, the kamikaze drone enters the target, peaking at its maximum speed of 150 km/h/93 mph. The operator controls the drone attack with the help of appropriate optics and can cancel the mission already during the strike maneuver itself, giving Warmate the command to return to base.

Nomenclature of warheads of the Warmate drone.

Warheads
Warheads

GO-1 and GO-2: High-explosive fragmentation warheads designed to defeat enemy manpower in open terrain. GO-1 weighs 1 kg/2.2 lbs. – of which 300 g/10.6 ounces is explosives. The scattering of fragments is 10 m/33 feet. There is no data on the second GO-2 munition – it can be assumed that more explosives are laid there.

GK-1: Cumulative warhead to combat armored vehicles and light fortifications. GK-1 is capable of burning through armor up to 120 mm/4.7 inches thick (according to Defence.pl – up to 220 mm/8.6 inches). These indicators are enough to destroy armored personnel carriers and self-propelled guns. The GK-1 can be used against older tanks that are not protected from attacks from above.

GTB-1: Thermobaric warhead – it creates a so-called «volumetric explosion» by spraying and detonating an incendiary mixture in the air.

The GS-9 is not a warhead, but a bi-stabilized optoelectronic imaging station. It is the GS-9 station that turns a conventional Warmate kamikaze drone into a Warmate-R reconnaissance drone with a range of about 15 km/9 miles and a flight duration of 80 minutes at an altitude of about 500 meters/1640 feet.

For the Drone Warmate there are five flight modes.

  • AUTO mode – the AV will follow base on pre-programmed waypoints route and flight program.
  • HOLD mode – the AV orbits a point over the ground.
  • FLY TO mode – the AV will fly to on-map selected point with stable altitude.
  • CRUISE mode – cruise mode will set the AV to hold steady at a particular altitude and flight direction. Operator’s control of the AV is semi-manual supported by autopilot in a straight line in the direction that the camera is facing.
  • ATTACK mode – this mode initiates the strike. The automated videotracker allows for a precise target hit without the operator’s control even after the loss of communication.
Warmates
Warmates

The ground control station of the drone is quite light – it can be transported in one backpack and includes a rugged tactical computer with a touch screen. The data transmission channel is digital, encrypted, bidirectional.

Also included in the kit is an automatic antenna tracker mounted on a tripod with a data transmission range of up to 30 km/18.6 miles. At the same time, real-time data can be viewed and changed on the screen in the form of a map with a detailed description of the location, speed and altitude of the drone.

The operator can easily set and change flight plans using user-friendly software that can be installed on any type of laptop selected by the end user.

The statistically confirmed guidance accuracy is 1.5 meters/5 feet of CEP (circular probable deviation).

And the last (in a row, but not in importance) remark regarding the capabilities of the drone is that Warmate can be used in a variant of the attack of the «swarm of drones» – however, the developers prefer not to talk much about this possibility.

So, summing up, we can list the main advantages of the Polish kamikaze drone Warmate:

  • quiet electric motor;
  • durable, lightweight body;
  • availability of ground control station;
  • the possibility of attacking a swarm of drones;
  • flight duration up to 60 min;
  • replaceable warheads;
  • electro-optical and infrared sensors provide daytime operations and night operations;
  • multiple levels of security;
  • user-friendly interface;
  • multiple airplane modes;
  • readiness for flight in 5 minutes;
  • high accuracy of target destruction –5 meters/5 feet of CEP.

On July 20, two Warmate munitions struck the Russian Grad multiple launch rocket system.

WB Electronics Warmate
WB Electronics Warmate

Enhanced Chinooks

The U.S. Army is continuing to modernize its heavy-lift helicopter fleet with an order for two more Boeing CH-47F Block II Chinooks and long lead funding for additional aircraft.

CH-47F Block II Chinook
The CH-47F Block II during first flight. The Block II Chinook is powered by cutting-edge technologies – including redesigned fuel tanks, a strengthened fuselage and an enhanced drivetrain (Photo Credit: Fred Troilo)

«Modernizing the Chinook for our Army customer is a priority», said Ken Eland, Boeing vice president and H-47 program manager. «CH-47F Block II improves readiness, limits future sustainment costs and provides commonality across the fleet. We’re dedicated to making CH-47F Block II the best option for the Army’s heavy lift mission, now and well into the future». The CH-47F Block II Chinook is powered by cutting-edge technologies – including redesigned fuel tanks, a strengthened fuselage and an enhanced drivetrain.

Last year, the Army awarded Boeing a $136 million contract for the first four CH-47F Block II aircraft, which began production in April 2022. The Lot 2 order valued at $63 million brings the total number of aircraft under contract to six. The separate Lot 3 advance procurement contract is valued at $29 million.

Boeing’s H-47 Chinook Block II expands upon 60 years of partnership with the U.S. Army. During that time, Boeing has delivered over 1,000 Chinooks to the U.S. Army, continuously modernizing the helicopter to meet evolving needs. The U.S. Army and 19 allied countries around the globe rely on the Chinook for its multi-mission capabilities including equipment and troop transport, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Extended Range

Inside a section of a cavernous building in use to assemble a complex and sophisticated military vehicle, a stripped-down chassis awaits a series of extensive modifications and upgrades.

Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA)
The longer cannon tube is a prominent feature of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery system, which is designed to provide more flexibility and effectiveness on the battlefield (Photo by Jesse Glass)

Just outside the building, punctuating its presence with a diesel engine rumble, is a much more complete version of the vehicle. Inside, an operator slowly raises and lowers a cannon tube that will eventually fire an artillery projectile to ranges much farther than could be previously achieved.

More than a dozen prototypes of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) system will eventually be assembled at this small U.S. Army installation in northern New Jersey, yet the significance of the work here extends far beyond its confines.

The advanced artillery system, commonly known as ERCA, is considered the signature effort within the Army’s top Modernization Priority: Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF). With its longer cannon barrel and other key enhancements, ERCA is expected to greatly extend the strike range of precision artillery with improved projectiles and more powerful propellant.

ERCA is a 155-mm self-propelled howitzer that is being integrated into the existing M109A7 Paladin Integrated Management or PIM. Testing has shown that it can reach a target much farther than existing 155-mm artillery, an achievement that has infused Army leaders with enthusiasm.

«It’s a fabulous addition to our capabilities», said Brigadier General William T. Boruff, the former Joint Program Executive Officer Armaments and Ammunition, now retired. «We’re going to have a cannon that can range 70 kilometers/43.5 miles with the Excalibur round and we’re hitting point targets with accuracy at 70 kilometers/43.5 miles».

At a «christening ceremony» last year to officially introduce ERCA into the Army via an operational artillery battalion, Brigadier General Glenn A. Dean III, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, said, «This is an exciting day for the artillery and artillery men everywhere».

In the past, 155-mm artillery rounds were commonly viewed as mostly area weapons, whose suppressive fires allowed troops to maneuver during combat. More recently, however, the availability of precision-guided rounds, which can strike to within one-meter of a specific target 30 kilometers/18.6 miles away, provides commanders more options and flexibility on the battlefield.

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal is taking the lead in designing ERCA. As a subordinate center to the larger DEVCOM organization, the Armaments Center is part of the Army Futures Command.

In 2015, the Armaments Center launched ERCA as a science and technology effort to address a growing need to extend artillery range. The development of ERCA gained considerable impetus in 2019, when the need to deliver long-range precision fires became a priority within the Army Modernization Strategy.

Thus, the combination of evolving technology, more robust funding and priority status set the stage for the ongoing assembly of ERCA systems, known officially as mid-tier acquisition prototypes. The middle tier of acquisition pathway is used to rapidly develop fieldable prototypes within an acquisition program to demonstrate new capabilities, and/or rapidly field production quantities of systems with proven technologies that require minimal development.

The Armaments Center’s involvement in assembling so many ERCA prototypes is a departure of sorts from its typical role of research and development. The usual pattern is to mature a technology on behalf of a customer organization within the Army, which later accepts the transfer of the project. The receiving organization will typically seek out a defense contractor for mass production.

«Earlier on, the Armaments Center was asked to assemble only three prototypes», said Joseph P. Troll, the Armament Lead for ERCA. «Then we were going to mature the technology to hit the street, and have additional contractors come in and bid on the technology to build this».

However, as the Armaments Center proceeded to assemble ERCA prototypes, a key event was looming. By the end of Fiscal Year 2023, the Army anticipates receiving a battalion of ERCA prototypes to begin an operational assessment.

The initial request to the Armaments Center for three ERCA prototypes then grew to seven. As soon as it became evident that the Armaments Center could handle additional numbers, Troll said, a later request came in: «Can you actually build a battalion?»

«We have a lot of outstanding partners working with us on the assembly, including various Army organizations, the industrial base, industry and government partners», Troll explained.

«But within DEVCOM, the Armaments Center and GVSC (Ground Vehicle Systems Center), we’re really achieving this extended range technology holistically in house, which is a win for the Army because it’s cost beneficial. It allows us to move at a pace that has really never been seen before in other programs».

The Armaments Center’s ability to do the work, however, does not reflect the difficulty and complexity of that work: stripping down an M109A7 Paladin, then methodically assembling a much more robust and lethal 155-mm howitzer that would then become a functional ERCA system.

Within the Armaments Center, at least 300 people are involved with some aspect of the project across 20 different integrated product teams, or IPTs. In addition to internal collaboration, there is the constant coordination with other Army organizations and industry partners. The process can be compared to a sophisticated watch piece with highly synchronized mechanical movements.

«It is very detail oriented», Troll said of the ERCA project. «In order to be successful, we created multiple teams to manage every aspect. We’ve got a family of IPTs that manage everything from our modifications to our vendors, to our fire control software and everything else that’s on ERCA».

The advantages of a tightly focused in-house effort save valuable time, solving problems quickly and avoiding overreliance on outside contractors during the testing and assembly stage.

«We’re really moving quickly», said Troll. «Anytime there’s an issue, or any troubleshooting that occurs, the teams here on standby are ready to go. It really allows us to be adaptable and move quickly in an ever changing environment».

«ERCA truly is an example of a signature modernization system and follows the Army’s strategy of constantly looking for cost savings at the component, subsystem, and assembly line level», Troll added. «Part of how we do that is that each organization or contractor isn’t developing something outside of the purview of another organization, and then trying to put it all together at the end. Our integrated, simultaneous, and concurrent approach is what speeds up our development».

From Troll’s perspective, the Armaments Center gained valuable experience now being applied to the multi-ERCA effort with its previous involvement in upgrading the M119 105-mm towed artillery system. Several hundred howitzers received upgraded fire-control and recoil systems.

«Normally, the Armaments Center isn’t the type of organization where you would do a complete overhaul of an entire fleet of weapon systems», Troll noted. «But the M119 was unique because we had the folks developing those technologies here in-house. It made sense to have them be the installers of that technology so that we can move quickly to support that effort».

The experience with the M119 underscored the value of having the varied areas of expertise clustered in a relatively compact area.

«We don’t have to go travel three, four hours, wherever it is, in different areas in the country in order to go troubleshoot these new prototypes», Troll explained. «We just walk next door. You plug it in and you’re ready to go. By the afternoon, you have your answer. Those successes and lessons from M119 were transitioned over to ERCA. It really has panned out».

«A lot of the same folks that work on ERCA here today are the same folks that did that effort many years ago», Troll said of the M119 retrofit. «They had that battle rhythm already going, and it was already established, so we just carried it over to support ERCA».

The Armaments Center is finishing up its set of ERCA testing prototypes that have been delivered for testing and evaluation at various locations within the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. Those prototypes will return to Picatinny Arsenal for upgrades and retrofit before issuance to operational units.

The current assembly of the first battalion of ERCAs is benefitting from the information gained with the first testing prototypes. The eventual battalion fleet is in a «test-fix-test» mode as the system elements (weapon, propellant, and projectiles) are concurrently developed. The current assembly effort is underway to meet the timeline for the FY23 operational assessment.

Robert Legemaat, the Integration and Demonstration IPT Lead, said the ongoing challenges of ERCA integration include coordinating with all the project teams to make sure that the correct configurations of the vehicles are being captured. Also, that when testing occurs, that the proper configuration of the vehicles is being met for each specific test.

In addition, there is the tedious process of producing all the detailed documentation of the end configuration. That process is necessary to ensure that, when ERCA is eventually transitioned to private industry for production, the industry partner will have all the information required to produce ERCAs in a traditional manufacturing setting.

«It’s challenging», Legemaat said. «There are a lot of late nights and early mornings to accommodate this. At the end of the day, as long as we get a good product to the Soldier that we can validate and meet our deadlines, then it’s worth it».

Precision Strike Missiles

The U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $158 million contract to produce additional Early Operational Capability (EOC) Precision Strike Missiles (PrSM). This is the second production contract received to date and follows a successful Manufacturing Readiness Assessment milestone visit with the Army – a critical step in the development program advancing PrSM closer to fielding.

Precision Strike Missiles (PrSM)
Lockheed Martin to deliver PrSM to the US Army for Early Fielding

The U.S. Army awarded the first EOC production and Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contracts in September 2021.

Lockheed Martin is currently building PrSMs to fulfill the Army’s initial production contract and additional rounds that will be used in upcoming system qualification tests. EMD will result in a fully qualified system and is the last phase of the development program before a full-rate production decision will be made in 2025.

The next set of flight tests will begin in 2023. These tests follow a record-setting flight surpassing 499 km/310 miles last year at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

PrSM is the Army’s next-generation tactical missile supporting the number one modernization priority for Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF).

For more than 40 years, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has been the leading designer and manufacturer of long-range, surface-to-surface precision strike solutions, providing highly reliable, combat-proven systems such as the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), HIMARS, Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and Guided MLRS (GMLRS) to domestic and international customers.

Cooperstown

The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the future USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin September 20.

USS Cooperstown (LCS-23)
Navy Accepts Delivery of Future USS Cooperstown (LCS-23)

The ship is the 12th Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) designed and delivered by the Lockheed Martin-led industry team. Delivery marks the official transfer of the ship from the shipbuilder to the U.S. Navy. Following delivery, the ship will sail away for a commissioning ceremony in New York City before transiting to its homeport in Mayport, Florida.

«Today marks a significant shipbuilding milestone in the life of the future USS Cooperstown, ‘America’s Away Team,’ an exceptional ship and the latest inductee into the U.S. Navy’s arsenal conducting operations around the globe», said Captain Andy Gold, PMS-501 (Littoral Combat Ships) program manager.

USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) is the second Freedom-variant ship outfitted with the combining gear correction that will allow unrestricted operations. The correction addresses a class-wide flaw that was identified as the Fleet deployed these ships in greater numbers.

The future USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) will be the first naval ship to honor the Village of Cooperstown in Otsego County, New York. The village is located at the southern end of the historic Otsego Lake in the central region of the state. Cooperstown, New York, is the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which is the source of the ship’s motto, «America’s Away Team».

Several more Freedom variant ships are under construction at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin. The future USS Marinette (LCS-25) is scheduled for delivery in early 2023. Additional ships in various stages of construction include the future ships USS Nantucket (LCS-27), USS Beloit (LCS-29) and USS Cleveland (LCS-31). LCS-31 will be the final Freedom-variant LCS.

The LCS class is now the second-largest surface ship class in production. The future USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) is the fourth LCS delivered in Fiscal Year 2022, following the deliveries of the Freedom-variant USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21), Independence-variant USS Canberra (LCS-30), and Independence-variant USS Santa Barbara (LCS-32).

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

«I look forward to seeing Cooperstown step up to the plate with her sister ships in Mayport to bring her slugging capabilities to the Fleet», Gold said.

 

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 Mayport, Florida
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

 

French Navy

The French Navy has taken delivery of the first of six H160s that will perform search and rescue (SAR) missions. The aircraft is part of the interim fleet that will be delivered by the partnership formed between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran Helicopter Engines.

H160
French Navy takes delivery of first H160 for search and rescue missions

«The delivery of the first H160 to a military customer is a major milestone for the H160 programme», said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. «This is the first public service version of the H160 to be delivered worldwide. Furthermore, the delivery takes place soon after two H160s entered into service this summer, in Brazil for the private and business aviation segment and in Japan for news gathering missions», he added. «With this H160 we will strengthen our partnership with the French Navy, delivering the right helicopter for its critical search and rescue missions. Together with our partners, we will also ensure that the H160 is ready when needed».

In 2020 the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran for the delivery of four H160s in a Search And Rescue (SAR) configuration. In 2021, the DGA confirmed an option for two more H160s. The first H160 for the French Navy was delivered to Babcock by Airbus Helicopters in May 2022. It has since then been modified into a light military configuration by Babcock. The modular cabin was also adapted for SAR operations and a Safran Euroflir 410 electro optical system was integrated.

The H160 will gradually start operating from the Lanveoc-Poulmic naval air station (Brittany), Cherbourg airport (Normandy), and the naval air station in Hyères (Provence). The interim fleet of H160s will ensure critical search and rescue missions while awaiting the delivery of the H160M Guépard. In the frame of the French Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) programme, 169 H160M Guépards are foreseen to replace five types of helicopters in service with the French armed forces. The French Navy’s operational feedback with these H160s will benefit the design of the military version of the aircraft and its associated support system.

Babcock, in partnership with Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopters Engines, will ensure the highest level of availability for the French Navy and the continuity of SAR operations on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean coasts. Built by Airbus Helicopters, the H160 is certified for the use of night vision goggles, which are necessary for winching operations at night.

The H160, as a next generation medium twin-engine aircraft, powered by Arrano engines, is modular by design in order to address missions ranging from offshore transportation, private and business aviation, emergency medical services, and public services.

Hypersonic Missile

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, in partnership with Northrop Grumman, has been selected to develop the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) for the U.S. Air Force (USAF). HACM is a first-of-its-kind weapon developed in conjunction with the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), a U.S. and Australia project arrangement.

Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM)
U.S. Air Force selects Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Northrop Grumman to deliver first hypersonic air-breathing missile

Under this contract, the Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman team will deliver operationally ready missiles to the USAF.

«Raytheon Missiles & Defense continues to be at the forefront of hypersonic weapon and air-breathing technology development», said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «With advanced threats emerging around the globe, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile will provide our warfighters a much-needed capability».

The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile is an air-breathing, scramjet powered munition. Scramjet engines use high vehicle speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion, which enables sustained flight at hypersonic speeds – Mach 5 or greater. By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons, like HACM, are able to reach their targets more quickly than similar traditional missiles, allowing them to potentially evade defensive systems.

«The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile creates a new class of strategically important weapons for the U.S. military», said Mary Petryszyn, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems. «Our scramjet propulsion technology is ushering in a new era for faster, more survivable and highly capable weapons».

Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman have been working together since 2019 to develop, produce and integrate Northrop Grumman’s scramjet engines onto Raytheon’s air-breathing hypersonic weapons. Their combined efforts enable both companies to produce air-breathing hypersonic weapons, the next generation of tactical missile systems.

Compass Call

BAE Systems has designed, tested, and delivered key components for the U.S. Air Force’s first EC-37B Compass Call aircraft. The delivery paves the way for developmental and operational flight testing of the Baseline 3 configuration of Compass Call in January 2023. Baseline 3 offers additional electronic warfare capabilities. Interim fielding is expected to follow the completion of testing by mid-2024.

EC-37B Compass Call
A milestone delivery for Compass Call

«Since the program’s inception, BAE Systems has consistently delivered advanced capabilities for Compass Call», said Jared Belinsky, director of Electronic Attack Solutions at BAE Systems. «This final hardware delivery for the first EC-37B Compass Call aircraft ensures an upgrade that will continue to outpace our adversaries».

Compass Call is being redesigned from the current EC-130H airframe model to the enhanced flight performance of a commercial business jet airframe known as the EC-37B. It is the Department of Defense’s only long range, full-spectrum stand-off electronic warfare jamming platform.

EC-37B Compass Call disrupts enemy command and control communications, radar, and navigation systems to restrict battlespace coordination. It suppresses air defenses by preventing the transmission of essential information between adversaries, their weapon systems, and control networks.

BAE Systems also recently successfully tested three third-party applications on Compass Call’s Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resource (SABER) technology. The hallmark of SABER is its open system architecture that enables the rapid integration of new technology through software updates instead of hardware reconfiguration. This allows for the rapid insertion of new capabilities to keep pace with emerging technologies.

Work on EC-37B Compass Call is being conducted at BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art facilities in Nashua, New Hampshire, Hudson, New Hampshire, and San Diego, California.

Glide Phase Interceptor

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, successfully completed the Systems Requirements Review – Prototype (SRR-P) for the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI). GPI is designed to intercept hypersonic weapons in the glide phase of flight, providing the U.S. and allies with a regional layer of defense against hypersonic missile threats.

Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI)
Raytheon Missiles & Defense reaches key milestone in Glide Phase Interceptor development

«The Raytheon Missiles & Defense GPI concept employs a low-risk solution that uses proven Standard Missile technology already deployed on Aegis ships, while advancing critical technologies needed in the hypersonic environment», said Tay Fitzgerald, president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «We have a firm understanding of the requirements, and we’re ready to continue GPI development. This is a major step toward delivering this capability to the warfighter».

The SRR-P determination showcases RMD’s experience with ship launched missiles systems and their ability to mature critical hypersonic technologies that ultimately help meet fleet operational requirements against existing and future threats.

With SRR-P complete, Raytheon Missiles & Defense moves on to preliminary design.

Australian Navy

The U.S. Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a firm-fixed price contract to produce an additional 12 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Procured via the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales agreement, the new aircraft will add a third ‘Romeo’ squadron of unparalleled capability to the RAN’s Fleet Air Arm. Sikorsky is a Lockheed Martin company.

MH-60R Seahawk
The Royal Australian Navy has placed a second order for U.S. Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters (Photo courtesy RAN)

«The ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopter instills confidence in navies worldwide for its high operational availability in the harsh maritime environment, and for the fully integrated mission systems and sensors that quickly generate a complete picture of the surface and subsurface domains», said Hamid Salim, vice president, Sikorsky Maritime & Mission Systems. «We thank the RAN for showing confidence in the broad mission flexibility of this proven multi-role helicopter. Ongoing and planned upgrades to the MH-60R Seahawk through partnership with the U.S. Navy, RAN, other international partners and industry will ensure the aircraft’s reliability and mission effectiveness against emerging threats for decades to come».

As part of the Australian Government’s Project SEA 9100 Phase 1 (Improved Embarked Logistics Support Helicopter Capability), the 12 new MH-60R Seahawk aircraft will create a common fleet of maritime helicopters supporting all of the RAN’s air capable platforms.

«Built upon a decade of partnership with the United States Navy and Lockheed Martin, the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ multi-mission helicopter provides the Royal Australian Navy with an unparalleled maritime aviation platform», said Rear Admiral Peter Quinn, Head Navy Capability for the Royal Australian Navy. «The versatility of the MH-60R Seahawk to conduct a wide range of missions combined with the world-class support provided by our partners, was a significant factor in the decision by the RAN to make an additional investment in MH-60R Seahawk under the SEA 9100 Phase 1 program».

Lockheed Martin plans to deliver all 12 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters between mid-2025 and mid-2026. Sikorsky Aircraft Australia Limited in Nowra, New South Wales, currently provides depot level maintenance, supply support and logistics support for Australia’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopter fleet.

«The additional 12 MH-60R Seahawk aircraft is a testament to the Royal Australian Navy’s commitment to providing their service men and women the right aircraft for their mission needs», said Captain Todd Evans, U.S. Navy H-60 multi-mission helicopters program manager. «This effort continues the long-standing partnership between the United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy».

The RAN was the first international navy to select the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter, acquiring 24 aircraft from 2013 to 2016. The Fleet Air Arm’s 725 and 816 squadrons based at Nowra have accumulated more than 30,000 flight hours embarked on frigates, destroyers and supply ships.