Autonomous Vessel

The Royal Navy’s experimentation innovator NavyX has officially welcomed a new autonomous vessel into its service.

This exciting work will help inform how systems are deployed, and employed, from future vessels of the Type 26 and Type 31 classes

Named Madfox (Maritime Demonstrator For Operational eXperimentation), it is derived from technology firm L3Harris’ Mast-13 vessel, which for the past 18 months has been operated by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on a series of trials with the Royal Navy.

Since being delivered, NavyX has been working hard to get Madfox to sea and ready to begin a demanding year of testing.

Over the next few months, NavyX will carry on its work with Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV), while also examining how these vessels can deliver across the range of military operations including surveillance and force protection.

Commander Antony Crabb, NavyX team leader, said: «With Madfox now directly in the hands of NavyX, the team will be able to explore a multitude of issues such as safety, regulatory compliance, new missions, new payloads and the role that a USV can play in complex operations and within the future fleet. Later this year NavyX will also accept an autonomous Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) into the inventory. This exciting work will help inform how systems are deployed, and employed, from future vessels of the Type 26 and Type 31 classes».

The investment in Madfox comes as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines look to expand their use of crewless and autonomous equipment.

Mast-13, proved the value of USVs during experimentation in Norway last year when it was successfully integrated with HMS Albion (L14) for Autonomous Advance Force 3.0. There it was controlled remotely, including for the transit in and out of the ship’s dock.

Autonomous vessel ready for operations

Multi Mission Vessel

On 25 March 2021, Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) launched the first of three Multi Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV) procured by ARMSCOR for the South African Navy (SAN).

Multi Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV)
DSCT launches SA Navy’s first Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessel

The vessels 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.

DSCT Project Manager, Ian Stewart says the launch is an important milestone for the shipyard. «This is the culmination of three years of hard work by a dedicated team of people. Ultimately, more than one million man-hours of work will be invested in the construction of the three MMIPVs».

The more than 600-ton vessel was transported from the DSCT shipyard on the evening of 23 March 2021 to the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) synchrolift at the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront Basin. The move was conducted by Mammoet South Africa, using 48 axle lines of Self Propelled Mobile Transporters (SPMTs) to provide precision movement. Mammoet Project Manager, Uzayr Karimulla, says while moving the vessel at night meant less impact on traffic, the reduction in light came with its own challenges. «Through careful planning, close collaboration, and the teamwork between DSCT and Mammoet South Africa, our team made this move a success. We are very happy to have been part of the project, contributing to the advancement of safer waters in Southern Africa».

Once the vessel was raised onto the synchrolift, the team waited for high tide to come in before moving it out of the V&A Basin via TNPA tugs towards the Elliot Bason. The testing of the ship systems will now commence before the vessel will officially be delivered to ARMSCOR/SAN, before the end of the year.

The MMIPVs are built according to the patented Damen Axe Bow design, which ensures low resistance, high sustained speed in waves and superior sea keeping characteristics in the toughest conditions.

As vertical accelerations are reduced significantly and bow slamming almost eliminated, the safety of the vessel and crew increases considerably, reducing operational risks. The multi mission deck is used for supporting diving, search and rescue and anti-piracy operations.

DSCT HR & Transformation Manager, Eva Moloi, says DSCT is particularly proud of the many years it has invested in local South African skills transfer, training, and entrepreneurship development and collaboration, which have resulted in a strong South African pool of scarce trade skills and supplier partnerships.

«Our local skills transfer and Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) initiatives mean that we are not only contributing to the South African economy but ensuring that our local South African maritime market is less reliant on imports from international suppliers. DSCT fully supports the transfer of technology, inclusion of local companies in the execution projects, and stimulation of export transactions under the Defence Industrial Participation (DIP) programme, which particularly focuses on benefiting SMMEs, Military Veteran (MV) Owned Entities and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Compliant Entities. The partnerships formed during this project have led to the successful launch of the MMIPV. One can truly state that the MMIPVs have been built in South Africa, by South Africans for South Africa», she adds.

The engineering of the vessel commenced in 2018 and the keel was laid in February 2019. «Despite the COVID lockdown period, our local skills and partnerships, resilient production schedule and advanced planning capabilities of our Cape Town team, allowed the different subcontractors and teams to work on the vessel in a safe manner», notes Moloi.

Block V Tomahawk

The Navy received its first Block V configured Tomahawk missile from Raytheon March 25, paving the way to provide the fleet with an upgraded warfighting capability.

Block V Tomahawk Missile
A Block V Tomahawk off the recertification production line at Raytheon’s Camden, Arkansas facility in March 2021 (Photo courtesy of Raytheon)

These first Block V missiles are from the existing Tomahawk Block IV inventory, and have been recertified and modernized for fleet use.

«This is the next big advancement in Tomahawk capability, and a major achievement for the program», said Captain Red, program manager for the Tomahawk Weapons System program (PMA-280). «We’re focused now on delivering advanced capability to the fleet by recertifying and modernizing our Block IV inventory, and by contracting production Block V missiles».

Red spoke at a virtual ceremony March 25 to commemorate the event along with industry leaders. He noted over the last four decades the program has continued to upgrade Tomahawk’s capability and this marked the collaboration between Raytheon, supply chains, field activities and the program office.

Raytheon is conducting the mid-life recertification process at its Camden, Arkansas facility. The process replaces life-limited components in Block IV missiles to enable their remaining 15 years of service life, and provides the opportunity for the missiles to receive Block V modernizations. All Block IV missiles will undergo recertification and modernization.

Block V Tomahawk missiles feature a NAV/COMMs upgrade that maintains the capability for In-Flight Target Updates and Improved Navigation. Future Block V capabilities will add to the NAV/COMMs upgrade and include the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST) variant, designated as Block Va; and the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System (JMEWS), designated as Block Vb.

MUAS for Australia

Northrop Grumman Australia and Leonardo Australia’s team has been shortlisted to proceed to the next phase of the SEA129 Phase 5 program for the acquisition of a Maritime Unmanned Aerial System (MUAS) designed to deliver a deployable Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (ISR&T) capability to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The Northrop Grumman and Leonardo proposal will enhance capability effects and tactical decision-making during RAN maritime operations.

Leonardo AWHERO
Leonardo AWHERO – First Ocean 2020 sea trial demonstration (Source: Leonardo S.p.A.)

«Northrop Grumman brings decades of unmatched expertise delivering and sustaining unmanned and manned aerial systems for customers in Australia and across the globe», said Christine Zeitz, general manager, Asia Pacific, Northrop Grumman. «We are confident our MUAS offering delivers world-class capability that addresses the RAN’s ISR&T mission requirements and optimises Australian industry capability».

The Northrop Grumman and Leonardo team’s proposal includes the state-of-the-art AWHero MUAS platform and subsystems, a capability specifically designed to operate in complex maritime environments. The AWHero is based on a mature and modular architecture that allows a wide and easily reconfigurable range of payloads including Leonardo’s Maritime Radar for unmatched ISR&T area coverage.

The team’s offering also includes an exportable variant of Northrop Grumman’s ground-breaking Distributed Autonomy/Responsive Control (DA/RC) command and control system. Integrated with the ship, control station and aircraft, DA/RC will deliver enhanced and automated tactical decision making to the RAN to help outmatch threats in a complex, unpredictable threat environment. The collaborative autonomy software will also be incorporated in Northrop Grumman Australia’s distributed systems integration laboratory which will provide the RAN and Australian industry a collaborative development environment to effectively exploit evolving technologies.

«We are excited to join forces with Northrop Grumman and Australian industry partners, further strengthening our collaborative approach in Australia», said Brian McEachen, VP Military Sales Asia-Pacific, Leonardo Helicopters. «The integrated capability of the AWHero leverages Leonardo’s expertise in rotorcraft, system integration, UAS and operations in the maritime domain, which combined with Northrop Grumman’s extensive portfolio of world-leading capabilities and technologies will provide the Royal Australian Navy with a level of advanced MUAS-based ISR&T they seek both now and into the future».

An integral part of the Northrop Grumman and Leonardo proposal is a commitment to maximising Australian industry participation. A robust and reliable domestic support network of proven industry members will be engaged in the production, delivery, sustainment and follow-on development of sovereign MUAS capability to the Australian Defence Force to meet the RAN’s current and future needs.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 97,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

Arctic strategy

The Army is currently conducting a gap analysis as part of its new Arctic strategy to identify if any new equipment or training sites will be needed or expanded to prepare Soldiers for upcoming missions in extreme cold weather.

509th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Paratroopers from the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment attack the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility in the Donnelly Training Area, Alaska, February 11, 2021, as part of the Arctic Warrior exercise. The Army is currently conducting a gap analysis as part of its new Arctic strategy to identify if any new equipment or training sites will be needed or expanded to prepare Soldiers for upcoming missions in extreme cold weather (John Pennell)

Army leaders recently announced the release of an Arctic strategy, which outlines how the service will support the Defense Department’s Arctic strategy published in 2019. It also discusses how Soldiers and units will be able to regain cold weather capabilities after years of counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East.

Last month, Army officials carried out a gap analysis during the Arctic Warrior exercise in Alaska that examined any shortfalls of equipment required for the harsh region, said Colonel J.P. Clark, chief of the strategy division within the Army G-3/5/7.

Some equipment needs may be addressed in the next presidential budget, while long-term efforts, such as creating a multi-domain task force for the region, may take years to manifest, he said Wednesday during a media roundtable.

While there are no current plans to station more Soldiers in Alaska, a decision on that could occur within a year. About 11,600 Soldiers now serve in Alaska, which has the majority of permanent Army forces in the Arctic and sub-Arctic areas.

«Those options are being worked for the Army senior leaders and we expect there will be an announcement for that probably later this year or even next», he said.

The strategy will also dig deeper on if training sites in Alaska, including the Northern Warfare Training Center, should be modified to meet requirements.

«There are a number of training areas that provide a great opportunity to do this training in Alaska», said Elizabeth Felling, a strategic planner in the Army G-3/5/7. «The Northern Warfare Training Center is the proponent for cold region training for the Army. How we utilize those training areas is something we’re really going to be looking at».

Much of the training will be based on survival skills and being able to operate in one of the most extreme climates in the world, Clark said.

«We want every Soldier who is assigned to an arctic-capable unit to have those basic capabilities», he said.

The Army can also lean on its partnerships to better prepare its units for this type of warfare.

«This is where we can gain a lot from our allies and partners», Clark said. The «Canadians, Norwegians and Swedes have very impressive capabilities on how they build a unit to fight and win in this region».

While subzero temperatures may impact operations, Soldiers can also face other challenges during missions.

«We tend to kind of gravitate towards the extreme cold weather, but actually a lot of what we hear, in terms of mobility, it’s the summer months that are actually the most difficult», Clark said.

When frozen, waterways can be used as logistical routes for ground vehicles, especially due to the lack of roads in remote parts of Alaska. Those routes can then disappear when the weather warms up.

The high latitudes of the region can also affect satellite coverage. «That is an underserved area for some of the space support that we depend on», he said.

The north magnetic pole could even limit certain electronic items that may otherwise work elsewhere, he said, adding the Army plans to work with other military branches to find solutions.

Arctic-capable formations could also train with partners in mountainous parts of the world, Felling said.

«When they’re properly trained and equipped, we can ensure an arctic-capable formation is ready to meet the demands of our geographic combatant commanders around the globe, wherever those may be», she said.

Fighting Dragon

According to Navy Recognition, on March 24, 2021, Japan Ministry of Defense Nakayama attended the commission ceremony for the new submarine JS Tōryū (SS-512), the 12th submarine of Sōryū-class and instructed to the crew.

JS Tōryū (SS-512)
Defense state Minister Nakayama attended the commission ceremony for the new submarine JS Tōryū (SS-512)

JS Tōryū (SS-512) is the 12th and final Sōryū-class submarine produced for the JMSDF (the 6th built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the other 6 having been built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries). «Tōryū» means «Fighting Dragon». The name of Tōryū is derived from the famous scenic dragon fighting in Kato City, Hyogo Prefecture, where the torrent of the Kako River flows between strangely shaped rocks.

The ship, built for 69 billion yen, has a displacement of 2,950 tons and a total length of 275.6 feet/84 meters and a width of 29.8 feet/9.1 meters. It is capable of navigating at about 20 knots/23 mph/37 km/h when submerged and 12 knots/14 mph/22 km/h when surfaced. The power source uses a lithium-ion battery, which has excellent submarine capabilities and automates the system. The Submarine is equipped with a Kawasaki 12V 25/25SB type diesel engine and another Kawasaki Kokkamusu V4-275R Stirling engine four.

The Sōryū-class is a diesel-electric submarine built by the Japanese companies Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). It is an improved version of the Oyashio Class submarine. The keel for the first Sōryū-class submarine was laid down in March 2005 and launched in December 2007 and commissioned in March 2009.

The Sōryū-class is equipped with six HU-606 533-mm torpedo tubes that can fire Type 89 heavyweight homing torpedoes and UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. It has an optronic mast and ZPS-6F surface/low-level air search radar for detection of enemy Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and maritime patrol craft, as well as the Hughes/Oki ZQQ-7 sonar suite incorporating one bow-mounted sonar array and four flank sonar arrays.

The Sōryū-class submarine has a range of 6,100 nautical miles/7,020 miles/11,297 km and can reportedly dive to a depth of 2,132 feet/650 m, or two-fifths of a mile.

Next Generation

The Department of Defense has awarded two contracts to Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. in support of the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program. With an estimated maximum value of $1.6 billion through fiscal year 2022, this contract award is structured to carry two designs into the technology development and risk reduction phase of the acquisition program to reduce technical and schedule risk. This award will ensure NGI is an efficient and effective part of an integrated Missile Defense System (MDS) solution.

Next Generation Interceptor
The MDA down selects Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. teams to deliver Next Generation Interceptor

The Missile Defense Agency awards on March 23, 2021 support the department’s goal of increased competition by funding two designs while remaining flexible to align with evolving Defense Department strategies and priorities.

«Today’s awards are an important step in modernizing our Missile Defense System», said Stacy Cummings, performing the duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. «NGI plays an important role in our homeland defense, and our acquisition strategy is ensuring the department maximizes innovation to keep pace with rapidly advancing threats».

As the ground-based midcourse missile defense system, NGI is an advanced interceptor designed to protect the nation against intercontinental ballistic missile attack. The department will uphold «fly before you buy» principles to ensure the overall system and components have been rigorously flight-tested prior to making any procurement decisions.

«NGI is the result of the first holistic technical assessment of homeland defenses the department has conducted since initial system operations began in 2004», added Vice Admiral Jon Hill, Director, Missile Defense Agency. «By planning to carry two vendors through technology development, MDA will maximize the benefits of competition to deliver the most effective and reliable homeland defense missile to the warfighter as soon as possible. Once fielded, this new homeland defense interceptor will be capable of defeating expected threat advances into the 2030s and beyond».

Space-Based 5G

Omnispace, LLC and Lockheed Martin, have entered into a strategic interest agreement to explore jointly developing 5G capability from space. The proposed global 5G standards-based Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) would offer commercial, enterprise and government devices ubiquitous communications worldwide. This type of network has the potential to redefine mobile communications, benefiting users requiring true mobility, regardless of environment or location.

Lockheed Martin And Omnispace Explore Space-Based 5G Global Network

Omnispace’s vision is ‘one global network’ that will combine the reach of a non-geostationary orbit satellite constellation with the capacity of the world’s leading mobile wireless carrier networks. This 5G NTN will leverage the company’s priority 2 GHz S-band spectrum rights and employ 3GPP standards to enable direct-to-device connectivity and interoperability. In collaboration with Lockheed Martin, this hybrid 5G network would provide the coverage and capacity to support essential applications requiring seamless, reliable, global communications.

«Omnispace is fully committed to the vision of creating a new global communications platform that powers 5G connectivity directly to mobile devices from space», said Ram Viswanathan, president and CEO for Omnispace. «We welcome Lockheed Martin’s holistic approach to complex systems and deep expertise in satellite technology and government markets, along with their commitment to creating innovative communication solutions».

Seamless, global 5G connectivity has a wide range of civil and commercial applications. It also brings the coverage and capacity to support defense, government and military use, including mobile joint all-domain interoperable communications.

«We share a common vision with Omnispace of a space-based 5G global network that would enable users to seamlessly transition between satellite and terrestrial networks – eliminating the need for multiple devices on multiple networks», said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. «Ultimately, it’s about empowering end users with low latency connections that work anywhere. This step forward has the potential to upend space-based mobility».

Through a shared vision to redefine mobile communications for the 21st century, Omnispace and Lockheed Martin are collaborating to deliver a potential global 5G from space solution. This would be the first truly dual-use 5G platform for commercial and government missions.

The Ultimate High Ground: 5G in Space

Growler Modification

The F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) commenced the five-year Growler Capability Modification (GCM) program at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Washington. This kicks off the first major effort to upgrade the capabilities of the EA-18G Growler in the history of the platform.

EA-18G Growler
The first EA-18G Growler is inducted into Growler Capability Modification at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington on March 3 (Courtesy photo from The Boeing Company)

«As the first major upgrade to the platform since its inception, the GCM will allow the Growler community to maintain the advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum and lay the basis for future upgrades to keep the aircraft relevant into 2040», said Commander Chris Gierhart, PMA-265 Growler Systems Integration lead.

The EA-18G Growler, a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, will receive multiple modifications, which support the upcoming fleet release of the Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) pod (AN/ALQ-249(V) 1). These modifications focus on updating the jets’ Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) and mission systems, enabling future capability growth for the U.S. Navy’s 160 EA-18Gs that serve a critical role in jamming radar and communications signals of threat forces, hindering their ability to detect and track U.S. and allied military forces. GCM will integrate advanced datalinks and the NGJ-MB pod, providing a considerable increase in electronic attack capability over the Growler’s current AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming Systems pod, which has been in use since the 1970s.

«These modifications provide the warfighter a significant leap in capability across the electromagnetic spectrum, improving combat support to front-line strike fighters of U.S. joint and allied forces», said Gierhart.

GCM is comprised of multiple Engineering Change Proposals across several of the EA-18G aircraft systems. The very first EA-18G production aircraft delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2007 was the first aircraft inducted for GCM.

No major aircraft modification line previously existed at NAS Whidbey Island, the EA-18G Growler fleet homeport. The PMA-265 team took on the challenge of standing up the operational GCM line, on-site. In addition to coordinating with NAS Whidbey Island, PMA-265 also worked closely with AEA Systems Program Office (PMA-234), Commander Electronic Attack Wing Pacific, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Indiana, Fleet Readiness Center Northwest, and industry partner The Boeing Company, to ensure overall cost, schedule and performance metrics are met.

«The team’s diligence and extensive coordination resulted in a cross-organizational solution that brought in the required support equipment, facility upgrades and workforce, all during the restrictions and protocols associated with the COVID-19 pandemic», said Captain Stephen May, PMA-265 EA-18G Growler deputy program manager.

«We’re excited to get this effort underway to ensure the latest technologies are incorporated into the EA-18G Growler, giving our warfighter the tools needed to be successful in every mission».

Light Utility Helicopter

Airbus Helicopters has handed over the seventh and last H145 for the Search And Rescue (SAR) service of the Bundeswehr to the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) on time. The previously delivered helicopters are used for training and field testing and are available 24/7 at the Niederstetten and Nörvenich air bases for rescue operations. Operations with the new H145 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) SAR will begin shortly, as planned, at the third SAR station in Holzdorf.

Airbus delivers seventh H145 for the German Armed Forces’ Search and Rescue service

«We are pleased that we have completed this order from start to finish on time and within budget and that the commissioning is proceeding according to plan», said Wolfgang Schoder, CEO of Airbus Helicopters Germany. «The feedback we have received from our customers has been very positive. Because of their flexibility and very high availability, the helicopters of the H145 family have proven themselves in the Bundeswehr. We see considerably more possibilities for a wide range of tasks in all branches of the armed forces for the reliable model».

Among other features, the helicopters are equipped with high-performance cameras, searchlights, emergency beacon locator systems, a full suite of medical equipment, rescue winches, and load hooks that can be used for fire-extinguishing tanks, for example. They are easy to identify thanks to the characteristic bright orange paintwork on their doors, featuring ‘SAR’ in blue lettering.


Technical Description

Fast cruise speed at Maximum TakeOff Weight (MTOW) 129 knots/149 mph/240 km/h
Maximum range with standard fuel tanks 345 NM/396 miles/638 km
Maximum endurance with standard fuel tanks 3:32
MTOW 8,378 lbs./3800 kg
Useful load 4,200 lbs./1,905 kg
MTOW with external load 8,378 lbs./3800 kg
Maximum seating capacity 2+10
Sling capacity 3,527 lbs./1,600 kg
Engine 2 × Safran Helicopter Engines Arriel
2E turboshaft
Maximum TakeOff Power (per engine) 667 kW/894 shp
Maximum emergency power (O.E.I) 800 kW/1,072 shp
Usable fuel capacity 1,593.9 lbs./723 kg