BAE Systems Picked Over SAIC To Deliver Marines Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle

The eight-wheeled Amphibious Combat Vehicle is set to replace the Marine Corps’ tracked Amphibious Assault Vehicles, which date back to the early 1970s. The vehicle offers three times the force protection capability of the AAV and ramped-up horsepower, allowing it to travel at faster speeds over land — up to 65 mph, compared to 45 mph for the AAV. 

The Marine Corps is still in the hunt for an amphibious vehicle that can move at speed over water. The ACV and its predecessor have similar water speeds, but Marine officials have said they’re pursuing phased approach with the new program. The second-phase ACV is intended to build in higher water speeds, although the timeline for development of this capability has not been set.

The Marine Corps kicked off competition for the ACV program in November 2015, selecting BAE and SAIC to build wheeled vehicles in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase. BAE chose to develop a version of IVECO’s Italian SuperAV for the program; while SAIC developed the Terrex Infantry Carrier used by the Singapore Armed Forces.

BAE was awarded the ACV program in June 2018, with a $198 million contract for the first 30 vehicles. BAE’s program also evolved into multiple variants. In addition to the standard personnel carrier, the company is now also making a command variant that features multiple work stations and advanced digital communications capabilities. BAE delivered the first command-variant vehicle to the Marine Corps for testing in February 2021. Also in planning are an ACV variant armed with a 30mm cannon, and a personnel recovery variant.

The ACV entered full-rate production for the Marine Corps in December 2020, with a $184 million contract for 36 vehicles. BAE said the first production lot is expected to grow to 72 vehicles by early 2021, and that production could reach 80 vehicles per year over five years. 

Attention on ACV fielding has increased since a horrific July 2020 mishap off the coast of Camp Pendleton, Calif., in which eight Marines and a Navy corpsman died after their AAV sank due to mechanical failures and maintenance shortfalls. After the accident, the entire Marine Corps AAV fleet was suspended from water training for 10 months. 

Current plans call for the last AAVs to be retired in 2026; by that time, hundreds of ACVs will have entered service for the Marine Corps.

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ypersonic capabilities require a blend of proven technology with cutting-edge developments in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, materials science, guidance, navigation and control, space capabilities, high-speed processing and communications. Strengthening alliances and partnerships with universities, industrial peers, allied countries and the government is crucial to advance the state of the science. By working together, we share knowledge, infrastructure, human resources and funding to address the threat. 

Partnering with the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office and academic research institutions to face the challenge together will have cascading benefits. Many of the required skills are applicable to commercial aerospace and other areas of development needed to maintain a technological edge.

Hypersonic testing and fielding is a top priority, and moving technology out of laboratories and into test environments is more important than ever. Design and subsystem testing has progressed, and it is time to maximize testing and begin flying hypersonic vehicles. 

Critical data will be gathered to confirm ground test and simulated physics to rapidly support fielding. Concurrent with flight testing, we will invest in the industrial base to support production of hypersonic weapons at rate. A robust and resilient supply chain is key to moving quickly to stay ahead of advanced threats.

We’re applying our advanced weapon expertise to develop air-breathing hypersonic systems. With engines built on a technology called scramjet, the system uses a booster to reach cruising speeds. The missiles fly at sustained speeds above Mach 5 at certain altitudes to maintain the supersonic airflow the scramjet engine needs to function optimally.

Guiding a hypersonic vehicle to its target is challenging. A missile heats up as it accelerates through the atmosphere and its sensitive inner electronics must be protected from blazing temperatures without adding extra weight, which can affect speed, range and guidance. 

We’re investing in new infrastructure, people and technology to meet and overcome challenges in developing this advanced capability. 

We’re also continuing to innovate breakthrough hypersonic technologies to counter the threat. From advanced sensors that detect the threat to a command-and-control system passing information to the effector that enables target defeat, we have the technology to take out threats ahead of time.

Our systems are getting smarter every day. We continue to evolve our missile interceptors, directed energy and cyber technologies to address the hypersonic threat.

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Bell 505 cargo hook receives EASA certification

Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, has announced that the Bell 505 cargo hook has been approved by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to carry up to 2,000 pounds (907 kg) giving the aircraft an external gross weight capability of  4,475 pounds (2,030 kg).

 “The cargo hook capabilities are an important enhancement for the aircraft and an added capability for utility and public safety operations,” said Duncan Van De Velde, managing director, Europe & Russia. “The Bell 505 is built for versatility and being able to adapt quickly, and the cargo hook will be a great addition for our utility customers in Europe.”

In November 2018, Storm Heliworks AB, a helicopter operator based in Sweden tested out the 505-cargo hook while in Canada. The company performed a wide range of specialized operations, such as building power lines, clearing trees from power lines, forest inspections, mosquito control, firefighting and other missions.

“Our experience with flying the 505 was very positive and proved to be excellent aircraft for our missions,” said Dennis Sundqvist, deputy flight operating manager, Storm Heliworks. “Cargo hooks are pertinent for our work. The Bell 505 is the strongest helicopter we’ve flown for its size and excited to see this added capability to the aircraft certified.”

One of Bell’s North American 505 operators, Rocky Mountain Rotors, utilizes its 505-cargo hook for search and rescue (SAR) and utility missions. It is a premier provider of helicopter services in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho and detailed his experience with the aircraft.

“The Bell 505 is very diversified as far as the missions it can do,” said Mark Taylor, founder/co-owner/chief pilot, Rocky Mountain Rotors. “There’s been multiple times we’ve had to turn it into a cargo ship versus a passenger ship and most of those times its involved search and rescue. The performance of the helicopter is impressive.”

“There’s a big pricing difference between a 505 and a long light single’s cost of operations,” continued Taylor. “If I need to move more weight, I’m looking at my larger single engine aircraft, but the 505 is right there as a contender and I can operate it for quite a bit less than the other aircraft. Being competitive with an aircraft that’s capable of performing in rugged terrain in Montana, it definitely has helped.”

With a speed of 125 knots (232 km/h) and useful load of 1,500 pounds (680 kg), the Bell 505 is designed to be safe and easy to fly while providing significant value to the operator. The customer-driven design of the aircraft places safety, performance and affordability at the forefront, blending proven systems with advanced technology and a sleek, modern design.

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The A400M “Atlas” is the most advanced, proven and certified airlifter available, combining 21st century state-of-the-art technologies to fulfil the current and upcoming armed forces’ needs. The A400M combines the capability to carry strategic loads with the ability to deliver even into tactical locations with small and unprepared airstrips and can act as a frontline-tanker. One aircraft that can do the work of three – the A400M.

Tactical airlift describes the transport and delivery of personnel and goods directly into theatres of operation. This includes landing on frontline air bases, landing on a grass and/or sand strip as well as the delivery of paratroopers or pallets by air drop. Also on tactical delivery missions, the A400M delivers heavier and larger loads than its competitors.

Strategic airlift means the transport of strategic assets like outsized and heavy vehicles or equipment. Large cargo hold dimensions and a high payload capacity are required to match the whole range of modern military vehicles, helicopters, modular relief equipment, intermodal containers and heavy engineering equipment. The A400M outperforms all of today’s available platforms in these aspects. The aircraft has not only proven better range, speed, altitude, and payload performance than previous generation tactical airlifters, it also fills a gap between strategic and tactical lift.

Standalone, as a perfect complement to a strategic tanker or for front-line re-fuelling missions from tactical locations, the A400M refuels drogue-receivers and increase flexibility and availability of other air assets.

The A400M is the proven, certified and in-operations most advanced airlifter with 21st century state-of-the-art technologies. The A400M can airlift in its large cargo bay most of the critical armed forces equipment that no longer fits in previous generation tactical airlifters, such as a heavy helicopter, an infantry fighting vehicle or a humanitarian excavator. Thanks to its combined strategic and tactical capabilities, the A400M has proven better range, speed, altitude, payload and tactical performance than previous-generation tactical airlifters, enabling the delivery of game-changing capabilities to the point of need, such as next to a natural disaster or a theatre of operations where strategic airlifters cannot operate. The A400M enables cost-effective and rapid response to crises. The aircraft has also demonstrated its worth in supporting humanitarian and disaster relief operations as well as VIP transport.

The A400M was launched in May 2003 to respond to the combined needs of seven European Nations regrouped within OCCAR (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain, Turkey and the UK), with Malaysia joining in 2005. The A400M assembly takes place in Spain; the wings (largely designed with composite materials) are manufactured in the UK, while the fuselage is built in Germany.

The A400M made its first flight on 11 December 2009. The first production aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013 and entered into service a year after. The A400M already has seen operational use with the French and Turkish Air Forces in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, African Sahel Region, Mali and in the Middle East to support the air operations over Iraq and Syria.

revious-generation tactical airlifters have good tactical performance but cannot carry the outsize military and humanitarian relief loads because their cargo holds are too small. Current strategic aircraft are good outsize-load airlifters but are costly and have limited tactical capability as they cannot operate from soft fields. The A400M is a larger, more modern, truly versatile aircraft specifically designed for today’s requirements and those of the future. Thanks to its good tactical performance and the ability to carry overweight loads over long distances, the A400M fills the current logistic and tactical capability gap. With the cockpit flight deck located at the very front of the fuselage, much of the internal space is reserved for cargo; the aircraft’s internal dimensions include a cargo hold usable width of four metres/13 ft 1 in, height of up to four metres/13 ft 1 in, and usable length of 17.7 metres/58 ft.

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Marine Corps’ First MQ 9A Takes Flight In Arizona

The Marine Corps this week announced the first flight of a service-owned MQ-9A Reaper at Marine Corps Aircraft Station Yuma, Ariz., a key milestone for the service to eventually place Marines at the controls of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone. The first flight of a service-owned vehicle is a key step for the Marine Corps to free itself of restrictions associated with civilian contractor operators.

“This noteworthy flight is the culmination of three years of training, safety and operational planning, contractor maintenance, process development and staff analysis of risk management to ensure complete procedural adherence to Navy and Marine Corps aviation policies,” the service said in a Sept. 7 statement. The unmanned squadron that owns the MQ-9A used during the flight is a part of 3rd Marine Air Wing.

The Marine Corps has been eyeing the MQ-9A, originally built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and commonly employed by the Air Force, for several years. The significance of the Aug. 30 flight is who owns and operates the drone.

Historically, the few MQ-9s used by the Marine Corps have been contractor owned and operated. In other words, the service pays the company to pilot the drone when necessary for the mission at hand. The advantage to this approach is the service doesn’t have to spend time or money training Marines on how to use the aircraft.

The disadvantage, however, is that the service is limited by law to what kinds of missions civilian contractors are allowed to conduct. By purchasing its own MQ-9A, the Marine Corps has begun shifting towards eventually operating the drone unilaterally, freeing itself of restrictions that would be placed on contractors.

“This transition gives VMU-1 the capability of piloting the forward deployed MQ-9A that aligns with the Commandant’s directive for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, which have supported daily combat operations around the world,” the service said in a statement about the eventual shift to Marine owned and operated vehicles.

The Marine Corps’ push to own and operate MQ-9s is also underscored by the decision made last year to abandon MUX, a Group 5 aircraft that had a laundry list of operational requirements, making it prohibitively expensive for industry to design and build. (The military categorizes drones by size using “groups.” Group 1 are the smallest, lightweight vehicles that can be deployed by Marines in the field, while Group 5 aircraft rival full-scale helicopters in size and weight.) The MQ-9A Reaper is considered a Group 5 aircraft.

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US. Navy Launches Mideast Drone Task Force amid Iran Tensions

The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet said Wednesday it will launch a new task force that incorporates airborne, sailing and underwater drones after years of maritime attacks linked to ongoing tensions with Iran.

Navy officials declined to identify which systems they would introduce from their headquarters on the island nation of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. However, they promised the coming months would see the drones stretch their capabilities across a region of chokepoints crucial to both global energy supplies and worldwide shipping.

“We want to put more systems out in the maritime domain above, on and below the sea,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who leads the 5th Fleet. “We want more eyes on what’s happening out there.”

The 5th Fleet includes the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes. It also stretches as far as the Red Sea reaches near the Suez Canal, the waterway in Egypt linking the Mideast to the Mediterranean, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen.

The systems being used by the 5th Fleet’s new Task Force 59 will include some of those involved in an April test led by the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. Drones used in that exercise included ultra-endurance aerial surveillance drones, surface ships the Sea Hawk and the Sea Hunter and smaller underwater drones that resemble torpedoes.

The 5th Fleet includes shallow water areas, salty waters and temperatures in the summertime that can go above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) with high humidity. That can prove rough for crewed vessels, let alone those running remotely.

“I think that environment really suits us well to experiment and move faster,” Cooper said. “And our belief is if the new systems can work here, they can probably work anywhere else and can scale them across other fleets.”

It also represents a region that has seen a series of at-sea attacks in recent years. Off Yemen, bomb-laden drone boats and mines set adrift by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have damaged vessels amid that country’s yearslong war. Near the United Arab Emirates and the Strait of Hormuz, oil tankers have been seized by Iranian forces.

Suspicious explosions also have struck vessels in the region, ranging from tankers owned by Western firms, ships tied to Israel and Iranian vessels. Those attacks have become part of a wider shadow war playing out across the region in the wake of then-President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Iran even shot down an American drone amid the tensions.

While President Joe Biden has said he’s willing to re-enter the deal, negotiations in Vienna have stalled as Iran now has a new hard-line president. That leaves open the possibility of further attacks by Iran — as well as by Israel, which has been suspected in incidents targeting Iranian shipping and its nuclear program.

Cooper acknowledged the tensions in his remarks to journalists Wednesday, but declined to go into specifics.

“We’re very aware of Iran’s posture and we’ll be prepared to deal with that appropriately,” the vice admiral said. “I’m going to leave it at that.”

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new Navy task force. However, it operates its own drone fleet and has published video in the past of flyovers of American aircraft carriers in the region. The U.S. military also has said fragments left by an attack in July off Oman that killed two people on an Israeli-linked ship corresponded to Iranian military drones.

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US, India To Co-Develop Military Drones, The Army’s Legendary Little Bird Might Be Flying Away for Good,

U.S  India To Co-Develop Military Drones

WASHINGTON: The Air Forces of the US and India have signed a new agreement to cooperate on the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the Pentagon.

The goal, per a Sept. 3 announcement: “the Design, Development, Demonstration, Test and Evaluation of technologies including physical hardware such as small UAVs, avionics, payload power, propulsion, and launch systems through prototyping that meet the operational requirements of the Indian and U.S. Air Forces.”

The over $22 million price tag for the effort will be split 50/50, in what the Pentagon bills as the “largest-ever” RDT&E effort between the militaries.

“The United States and India share a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kelli Seybolt, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said in the announcement. “This co-development agreement further operationalizes India’s status as a Major Defense Partner and builds upon our existing strong defense cooperation.”

The effort falls under the aegis of the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, or DDTI. That effort dates back to 2012, and was a pet project of then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. When Carter became secretary in 2015, he reinvigorated the effort; Ellen Lord, who ran Pentagon acquisition for the majority of the Trump administration, was also a major supporter of closer development ties with India.

In fact, Lord pushed in 2019 an initiative to co-develop a small unmanned system that could be launched from cargo aircraft. While nothing appears to have come directly out of that, it’s hard not to see linkages between the 2019 plan and what was announced last week.

While widely popular among experts as a concept, there isn’t much to show from several attempts at collaborations, noted Chris Bassler of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But he sees reasons for cautious optimism this time.

“The DTTI has struggled to maintain momentum in recent years, but this new project may signal a renewed mutual interest in substantial progress for capability benefits,” said Bassler, who previously led international military technology and capabilities cooperation both at the Office of Naval Research and in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV). “The combination of exercising design tools, technology development, production potential in the Indo-Pacific theater, and employment against mutual threats mean this cooperative project has much more strategic significance than perhaps will be easily recognized.”

Bassler specifically would like to see the program focus on a version of the Air Force’s Skyborg program, as India has been investing in a similar concept.

“Skyborg has been demonstrating payloads deployed from UAVs, along with DARPA’s LongShot program, [which] are all examples of unmanned systems employing unmanned systems and increasing standoff ranges,” he said. “These types of capabilities are emblematic of positive efforts to shift the cost imposition ratio for future air combat against numerically advantaged air forces.”

India’s procurement cycle is famously slow and often changes mid-stream — the biggest example of this being its fighter contest, which featured years of delays and restarts after it had made its selection of the Dassault Rafale in 2012 — and its own internal technology development efforts have often floundered.

Still, defense companies have shown a willingness to put up with the chaos, and with good reason: India was the second largest importer of defense goods in 2020, according to SIPRI research, at around 9.5 percent of all global weapon buys.

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The Army’s Legendary Little Bird Might Be Flying Away for Good

The Army’s Legendary Little Bird Might Be Flying Away for Good

Flown by the U.S. Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the MH-6 Little Bird is primarily used to insert special operations forces onto rooftops or on narrow roadways. Based on the (Hughes) McDonnell Douglas MD369, the MH-6 Little Bird and its attack variant AH-6 carries three commandos on bench seats mounted to the side doors of the helicopter Stinger Crew: 2 Capacity: up to 6 passengers Maximum speed: 152 knots Range: 232 nm

.The Little Bird was originally designed as a scout helicopter for Army armored units, but since the early 1980s it has been used almost exclusively by the special operations community.

It has an unrefueled range of 250 nautical miles. The AH-6 Little Bird Gun, a light attack helicopter, has been tested and proven in combat. Armed with guns, Hellfire missiles, and 2.75-inch FFAR, it provides armed helicopter support to both ground and air special operations. The unrefueled range of the AH-6 is 250 nautical miles. These versions were all powered by a single Allison T-63 252 SHP engine.

Later versions are based on the successful Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) MD-500/MD-530 series helicopters. The latest versions of these aircraft, the AH-6J attack helicopter and MH-6J insertion and extraction transport, based on the MD-530F, feature a more powerful engine and improved avionics, including an embedded GPS/inertial navigation system and forward-looking infrared (FLIR). The AH-6J can be armed with Guns: 1× 30 mm M230 Chain Gun; or 2× .50 cal GAU-19; or 2× 7.62 mm M134 Minigun; 2× LAU-68D/A rocket pods; Hydra 70 rockets; 2× AGM-114 Hellfire; 2× FIM-92 two seven-tube 2.75 inch rocket launchers and two 7.62mm M134 miniguns. The Little Bird can also be armed with .50 Cal. machine guns, MK19 40mm grenade machine gun, Hellfire missiles, and Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS) missiles.

The MH-6 Little Bird made its way into popular culture with the book and movie “Black Hawk Down,” which portrayed MH-6 Little Birds carrying Delta Force Soldiers into the overrun city of Mogadishu. The Little Birds, along with MH-60 Black Hawks from the 160th SOAR held off attackers and supported Rangers and Delta operators when their raid was ambushed by insurgents.

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The Army’s New Laser Weapon Can Burn Holes Right Through Drones

The Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD) system is designed to shoot down not only drones, but also incoming artillery, which has been a vexing problem on the battlefield for hundreds of years. The Army is set to field the first four lasers, mounted to armored vehicles, sometime next year.

Over the summer, the Army tested DE M-SHORAD at Fort Bliss, home of the service’s air defense artillery branch in Texas. The system uses a 50-kilowatt laser weapon system to concentrate a beam of focused laser light at a drone, heating the surface of its skin. In turn, this can cause aerodynamic failure, blind the drone’s sensors, disable the engine, or even detonate the fuel supply or explosive payload.

This is useful, considering drone attacks are one of the most urgent issues that the Army is currently facing. Small, fast, and capable of carrying a lethal payload, the drone threat has quickly escalated from jury-rigged hobbyist drones to military-grade weapons capable of autonomously engaging enemy troops.

Although the U.S. Army is the most dominant ground force in the world, it was not prepared for this threat, and has scrambled to catch up. DE M-SHORAD—the first Army ground laser weapon—is an outgrowth of this effort. The service plans to mount the laser weapons on Stryker infantry armored vehicles sometime in fiscal year 2022.

Another major capability of DE M-SHORAD is the ability to shoot down enemy artillery. For more than a century, the only way ground forces could respond to enemy rockets, mortars, and artillery shells was to dig in, move to another position, or attack the artillery directly. DE M-SHORAD, the Army claims, can now intercept those munitions in mid-flight, preventing them from landing among friendly troops.

The Army has four DE M-SHORAD vehicles, but if the system works as planned, it will almost certainly buy dozens more. The service has nothing else like it for engaging enemy drones and artillery, and it has ten combat divisions and several separate brigades and regiments to protect. The service says this summer’s testing “demonstrated the design characteristics and performance criteria established for the program,” which is a major step toward fielding the system.

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Last Zumwalt Destroyer Completes Builder’s Trials

The Navy and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works have announced that the third and final Zumwalt-class destroyer, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), had completed its builders trials — an important milestone to demonstrating the ship’s operational capabilities and ending a dragged out acquisition process for the three-ship class.

“Trials provide an opportunity for the Navy and industry team to test the capability and readiness of the ship,” Capt. Matthew Schroeder, DDG-1000 program manager for the Navy, said in a statement Thursday. “DDG-1002 is a warship that is going to equip our fleet with next-generation capability and capacity for the high-end fight.”

The Zumwalt destroyer has proven a difficult buy for the Navy, to put it lightly. Designed with a hull form made to create a low radar profile, the service truncated its initial buy of 24 ships down to just three after encountering various cost overruns. Its Advanced Gun System, designed for long range naval gunfire support, was ultimately scrapped due to being too expensive to fire the ammunition.

With the gun system no longer an option, Navy brass have signaled they will strive to ultimately deploy the service’s premiere hypersonic weapon, Conventional Prompt Strike, onboard the Zumwalt class.

“I definitely need deeper magazines, physically deeper magazines, to be able to handle hypersonics,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday. “And what I want as a testbed for that, the first surface ships that are going to have hypersonics, are going to be the Zumwalts. That’s a focus for us, to field that system on the Zumwalt destroyers so that we can prove it and field it fast, and then scale it.”

The service in recent years has opted to conduct further experimentation with the Zumwalt class through the Surface Development Squadron, which was initially established to test out various unmanned surface vehicles destined to reach in the fleet in the coming decade.

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