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Missing at IDEX: Fighter Aircraft Deals
By Valerie Insinna



ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Egypt’s decision just weeks ago to buy Rafale fighter aircraft has reverberated through the International Defense Exposition and Conference, but there was little indication at the event of how other ongoing fighter jet competitions in the region will shake out.

A Dassault Aviation spokeswoman declined to comment on rumors that Qatar and the company were in the final stages of reaching an agreement for sales of its Rafale jet. Citing an anonymous French source involved in the negotiations, Reuters reported last week that Qatar would buy up to 36 planes in the deal.

Meanwhile, Eurofighter — comprised of partner companies BAE Systems, Finmeccanica – Alenia Aermacchi, and Airbus Defense — had the most assertive presence at IDEX. The European conglomerate is ready to reopen discussions with the UAE, said CEO Alberto Gutierrez. Talks between the two parties collapsed in 2013.

“At this point in time we are ready to offer our proposal. We are much better prepared than where we were one year and a half ago,” he said Feb. 23 during a press conference.

Eurofighter is pushing to sell the Typhoon in the Middle East in Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Oman and Saudi Arabia are already customers. It is also focusing on potential customers in Europe and Asia, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Denmark, Finland and Belgium, he said.

Despite intense competition, Gutierrez is optimistic that the company will secure more orders, he said. “Our forecast is ... of course we will get something.”

Eurofighter announced a $226 million NATO contract for upgrades that will give operators of the jet a suite of new weapons. The customer is NATO's Eurofighter and Tornado Management agency, which oversees procurement of the Tornado fighter for Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain. The contract was signed Feb. 22.

One of the upgrades is the addition of the Brimstone missile into the Tornado’s weapons package by 2017. The jet will be able to carry a mix of arms including:  six Brimstone 2 missiles, up to six Paveway IV bombs, two long-range Storm Shadow missiles, four Meteor air-to-air missiles and either two IRIS-T or two ASRAAM heat-seeking missiles.

Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter’s Tornado face competition from Boeing’s F-15 and F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin’s F-16.

A contract announcement from Qatar and Kuwait is expected “in the relatively near term,” said Mike Coggins, Boeing’s manager of international business development. Both competitions have slogged on for years, but "I think they information that they need to make the decision.”

The UAE, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia are other target markets for the company.

Even though the Super Hornet and F-15 were fielded before the Rafale and Typhoon, their capabilities are just as advanced and in some cases more so, Coggins said.

Compared to the Rafale, "the F-15 is a lot bigger jet [with] a lot longer range, a lot more capable of carrying a lot of stuff,” he said. The Eurofighter is now developing and fitting the Typhoon with an active electronically scanned array radar, which its competitors already have.

Lockheed Martin is focusing on upgrades for its existing customers in the region but is also talking to other potential buyers, said Rick Groesch, the company’s director of Middle East market development. Company executives have plans to talk to Qatar this week about its F-16V, the newest configuration of the aircraft that features Northrop Grumman’s scalable agile beam radar.

In the near term, Lockheed expects an upgrade contract from the United Arab Emirates as early as March, he said. The country is still hashing out its needs, but the contract would likely include refreshing the technology and supply chain of its Block 60 F-16s.

The company is also speaking to Bahrain about modernizing their planes with new radar and computers, he said.

The F-35 joint strike fighter, which has been purchased by Israel, is unlikely to make it to other Middle Eastern countries any time soon, said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

"I understand the enthusiasm for the F-35. It's a terrific airplane, but I don't see near term transactions,” he told reporters earlier this week. U.S. fourth generation fighters are sufficient to meet requirements in the region, he added.

Photo:
Eurofighter CEO Alberto Gutierrez (Valerie Insinna)
China Brings Snippets of Defense Technology to IDEX
By Valerie Insinna



Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — This week at the the International Defense Exposition and Conference, visitors got a taste of China's military technologies.

Most of the companies in the China Pavilion opted to display small models of vehicles and unmanned aircraft rather than full-sized systems. Others shied away from displaying technical data or brochures on any item that could be considered even remotely sensitive.

Norinco — a Chinese manufacturer of ground vehicles, precision weaponry and small arms  — showcased its AR3 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System. The AR3 can fire eight 370 mm or 10 300 mm rockets that have a range of 174 and 81 miles respectively, a representative from the company said. She declined to give further details. “If you were a customer I could tell you more,” she said.

Poly Technologies, Inc.’s 07PD 8x8 multi-weaponry armored vehicle made its international debut at the show. The O7PD shown at the conference was outfitted with anti-tank guided missiles and can be configured as an armored personnel carrier and mortar carrier.

Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co., Ltd, or ALIT, exhibited models of CH-4 medium-altitude, long endurance unmanned aerial system and CH-91 UAS, but the only data made available on the aircraft was the endurance —five hours for the CH-91, 30 for the CH-4A and 14 for the CH-4B.

ALIT did offer some technical data, but only on items such as barbed wire and folding chairs.

At IDEX’s new unmanned system exhibit, or UMEX, AEE Technology Co, Ltd. promoted its F100 and F50 quadcopters used by the Chinese military.  Both drones cruise at speeds of about 30 miles an hour, according to company information.



The larger F100 weighs 16 pounds, and has a 50-minute battery life and a maximum flight ceiling of 4,900 feet.  It is equipped with a “duo camera” that can toggle between 100-degree field of view and a more magnified 30-degree swatch of that imagery. It can transmit video from distances up to six miles away from the user.

The four-pound F50 can be equipped with electro optical, low light and thermal imaging cameras and can send data from about 3.7 miles away. It can reach altitudes of 50 feet and remain in the air for 40 minutes without needing to be recharged.

China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. displayed information about some of its unmanned aerial systems, including an amphibious craft that can take off and land in the water. The UVS-S100 has a 40-feet wingspan as well as a propeller affixed to back of the fuselage. It can carry a 440-pound payload, fly speeds of up to 118 miles an hour and stay in the air for up to eight hours. It can be outfitted with a laser rangefinder, electro-optical camera and synthetic aperture radar.

Chinese naval power was also visible. The China Shipbuilding Trading Co. booth featured models of several of its designs including an offshore patrol vessel, large landing ship, replenishment ship and 500-ton missile corvette.



The 1,500-ton offshore patrol vessel can sprint at 25 knots and is equipped with eight surface-to-surface missiles, a 76 mm gun and two 23 mm guns. It also is outfitted with unspecified electronic warfare system and surface movement and navigation radars.

The missile corvette can sprint at 33 knots and has a 1,800-mile range at 18 knots. It is armed with six surface-to-surface missiles, a twin 37 mm gun and two twin 30 mm guns. Like the patrol vessel, the corvette has surface movement and navigation radars.  It also contains an electronic warfare system as well as four chaff launchers, which emit a cloud of aluminum or other material that can confuse enemy radar systems.

Photo Credits: Valerie Insinna
Nations Racing to Overtake U.S. Lead in Drone Development
By Valerie Insinna


P-1HH Hammerhead

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Over the past 15 years, U.S. defense contractors have pioneered the development of unmanned aircraft and have produced some of the most famous and widely-used drones on the market, but international companies are trying to strip away that technical advantage by building comparable systems.

At the International Defense Exposition and Conference this week, drone manufacturers displayed their newest wares, hoping to grab a piece of the drone market.

Italy’s Piaggio Aerospace showed off its P-1HH Hammerhead medium altitude, long endurance drone prototype, which made its first flight last December.

European efforts to develop an indigenous MALE drone have lagged for years, said Francescomaria Tuccillo, Piaggio’s senior vice president of governmental sales.

In 2014, Airbus Defense and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi ­— of England, France and Italy, respectively — announced their plans to build an unmanned aerial system by 2020 that will meet the requirements of all three countries.

“They are talking and talking, projects, ideas,” Tuccillo said. “It’s only on paper, and there’s no money. … But now there is a platform that is already flying.”

The company plans to continue testing the aircraft and have a finalized product ready by the end of the year, said Rossella Daverio, 
Piaggio’s senior vice president of communications. “We would like to be the first MALE to be certified and produced in Europe.”

The Hammerhead has a maximum speed of 450 miles per hour and a 4,400 nautical-mile range. With a 500-pound payload, it can fly a maximum of 16 hours.

Unlike other MALE drones such as General Atomics' Predator and Reaper, the Hammerhead is not weaponized. However, the Hammerhead “is better because its faster,” Tuccillo asserted. “It has a double engine. … A double engine means it is more secure. If one engine is failing, the other one can save the aircraft.”

Also, because it was derived from one of the company’s civil airplanes, the P-180 Avanti II, Tuccillo believes it will be more easily certifiable for civil airspace once regulations are developed.

Mubadala, an investment group owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, holds a controlling share of the company and has continued to contribute research-and-development funds while other European manufacturers have faltered in making their own MALE aircraft, Tuccillo said.

That may give Piaggio a leg up in funding, but the company must adhere to Italian, European Union and NATO export restrictions on drones, he added. So even though the system is funded by Emirati money, it's possible that it may never be sold to the UAE armed forces.

South Africa’s Denel also showcased its Snyper drone, which wrapped up testing last year, said Sello Ntsihlele, executive manager for unmanned aircraft.

"In unmanned aircraft systems there's a growing interest and we are one of the few players that can offer an alternative outside of the U.S. and other NATO nations,” he said. The Middle East would be a target market, he added.

The Snyper is armed with up to four IMPI-S missiles with a 3.7 mile range. It can be outfitted with multiple payloads, such as optical sensor and a synthetic aperture radar on its nose, he said. The aircraft has a 16-hour endurance, and has a range of 155 miles.

“Testing of the weapons is underway,” he said. “We expect the testing to be finished in the next 12 to 18 months.”

Uconsystem Inc. is one of three manufacturers of drones in South Korea, and the only one who specializes in small, tactical systems, said Ui Chung Park, who works in the company’s sales department. The company was established in 2001 and has since sold its UAS to the South Korean army and marine corps.

Its most successful offering to date is the RemoEye-006, a bungee-launched system that it is producing for the Korean army, he said. The 006 has a nine-foot wingspan and a range of about nine miles. It can fly in the air up to two hours before running out of power. Uconsystem’s contract for 500 units ends in 2017.

The Korean marine corps have also procured two hand-launched RemoEye-002B systems. The 002B model has a six-foot wingspan and a one-hour endurance, according to company materials. It has a range of about six feet and can fly up to 50 miles per hour.

Uconsystem has sold ground control stations to the UAE but has yet to break into the market with its unmanned systems. The problem, Park said, is that Middle Eastern countries favor larger, long-range systems and don’t yet understand the value of smaller drones.

“It’s very difficult to break through,” he said. “We have a lot of competitors.”

Much like the United States, the UAE is trying to grow unmanned technologies at home in its universities. Students at Khalifia University — founded in 2007 by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan — can design and develop their own drones at its robotics lab, said its president Tod Laursen.

Students exhibited some of their own unmanned aircraft designs at IDEX, including one small UAS built to help dissipate fog at airports, he said.

“If you go around to show like this, you understand very quickly why the UAE … is interested in knowing about and having a workforce that’s trained and technologically able to deal with autonomous technologies,” he said. “The government is not always wanting to rely on outside contractors for the know how.”

The university is organizing the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge, the first of which will be held in 2016. Similar in vein to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Robotics Challenge, the government will award $5 million total prize money in order to stoke innovative technologies and bring them to Abu Dhabi.

“Really the idea is to interest the best research teams in the world, the Stanfords, the [Carnegie Mellon Universities], to enter robotics into this challenge,” and, by proxy, expose students and industry in the UAE to first-rate technologies and scientists, he said.

Photo Credit: Valerie Insinna
Army Secretary ‘Optimistic’ Sequestration Can Be Averted
By Yasmin Tadjdeh



With a second round of sequestration looming over the Pentagon, John McHugh, the secretary of the Army said he was hopeful Congress could avert the mandatory budget cuts.

“I wouldn’t use the word 'confident.' I would use the word 'optimistic,'” he said Feb. 25 during a meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C.

As the Ryan-Murray deal — an agreement brokered by Congress in 2013 to offer sequestration relief — expires in fiscal year 2016, military leaders are bracing for potential funding cuts across the Defense Department budget.

In the president’s fiscal year 2016 request, the Defense Department asked for $534 billion in base funding, with an additional $51 billion in overseas contingency operations funds. However, caps under the Budget Control Act — which set sequestration in motion — are set at $499 billion, meaning that Congress will either have to make a deal or pare back the budget. OCO funding is not subject to sequestration.

McHugh, a former congressman before taking the helm at the Department of the Army in 2009, said that there is a large consensus within Congress that something must be done.  

“Whether you are talking to a member of the House or the Senate, on the Republican side or the Democrat side, most, not all, but most agree that sequestration needs to be addressed and needs to be fixed. That‘s a point in our favor,” he said.

Service leaders will soon visit Capitol Hill to make their case that a return of sequestration would have dire consequences, he noted.

Should sequestration come to bear, both the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle programs will be shielded as much as possible, McHugh said. “I don’t want to draw lines in the sand, but certainly our approach would be to protect those two programs,” he said.

Currently, Oshkosh Defense, Lockheed Martin and AM General are vying for the JLTV contract which would include the procurement of more than 49,000 vehicles for the Army and 5,500 for the Marine Corps.

The program — which is one of the Army’s largest acquisition efforts — is meant to replace aging Humvees while also increasing protection and improving survivability.

The JLTV program is on track and fully funded through fiscal year 2020, McHugh said. A down select for a vendor is expected in the fourth quarter of this year, he noted. Competitors received a final request for proposals for the full-rate production phase in December 2014.

“We’re absolutely committed to it. It’s on time. It’s on budget,” he said. “It is our intent to protect that. We think it is an absolutely essential platform.”

The AMPV program — which replaces the M1113 personnel carrier — will also be shielded, he noted.

“The M113 personnel carrier is long outdated and both from a practical perspective, but also a soldier safety perspective, it is an absolutely necessary program. We’re going to do everything we can to keep that going,” McHugh said.

M113 armored personnel carriers have been in the Army’s fleet since the Vietnam War.

Photo Credit: Army
Lockheed Martin Aggressively Pursuing Missile Defense Export Contracts

By Valerie Insinna




ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Lockheed Martin is chasing sales of its missile defense systems at the International Defense Exposition and Conference and expects to ink deals in the future with several international customers including Qatar, Germany and Saudi Arabia, an official from the company said Feb. 24.

 

Qatar will likely present the company with a formal offer for its Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, within seven or eight months, Mike Trotsky, the company's vice-president of air and missile defense, told reporters during a briefing at IDEX.

 

The country in 2012 announced its intention to buy the system, which counters short and medium-range ballistic missiles. At that point, it requested $6.5 billion in equipment, including two fire units, 12 launchers, 150 interceptors, as well as communications equipment and radar.

 

Since then, Qatar has been more firmly cementing its needs and the possible configuration of its THAAD system, Trotsky said.

 

"Where they are right now is in the process of deciding what their defense design should be … and that entails how many batteries, where they should go, [and] what associated equipment will be necessary,” he said.

 

Saudi Arabia is also in discussions with Lockheed about purchasing THAAD, though it could take two to three years before a contract is signed, he said.

 

Germany will likely reach a decision this year on its TLVS or Tactical Air Defense Program program, in which the Medium Extended Air Defense System is a competitor, Trotsky said. Lockheed Martin and foreign missile manufacturers MBDA Italia and Deutschland GmbH developed MEADS to replace German, Italian and U.S. missile systems. Raytheon is proposing its improved version of the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System

 

Based on his visit to Berlin several weeks ago, Trotsky’s sense is that the German ministry of defense will make a recommendation to parliament before end of the first quarter of the year, and a final decision will be made before August.

 

MEADS is also under consideration in Poland, he said. Lockheed and the country’s ministry of defense recently began discussions, but any decision to procure the technology will not likely occur until after the Polish elections this fall.

 

“This is one of the largest procurements that Poland has ever undertaken, so there's a lot of discussion between the political side and the military side about what the right way to proceed is,” he said. "I think after the election … the newly-elected political body will make a decision.”

 

Lockheed is also pursuing its first international sales of its newest version of the Patriot missile, the Patriot advanced capability-3 missile segment enhancement, Trotsky said. The company received a $611 million contract from the Army last year for production of the first batch of PAC-3 MSE missiles and launcher modification kits. The missiles will reach initial operational capability this summer.

 

PAC-3 MSE features a new interceptor capable of countering tactical ballistic missiles and air breathing threats that are longer in range and higher in altitude than what its precursor, the PAC-3, can defeat, he aid.

 

The original PAC-3 missiles are in the inventories of partner nations, to include the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. Lockheed also has contracts with Kuwait and Qatar. Trotsky anticipates many of those countries will buy PAC-3 MSE missiles within the next five years, he said.

 

Last year, 18 countries were approved to receive information about PAC-3 MSE, and several of those companies have made inquiries. “I think the first MSE sales will probably be to the Middle East,” but Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific have also expressed interest, he said.

 

The U.S. military probably does not have the budget to develop and procure a follow-on to the PAC-3 MSE with improved capabilities, Trotsky said. Instead, it will likely invest in improved integration of its missile defense systems. Another possibility is the miniaturization of interceptors so that the services can shoot down unmanned aircraft, mortars and rockets.


Photo: Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Lockheed Martin)

Heritage Foundation Jumps Into Defense Budget Debate
By Sandra I. Erwin



As Washington once again heads toward a protracted budget impasse, a new report from the conservative Heritage Foundation seeks to pour a fresh load of data into the contentious debate over U.S. military spending.

The 300-page “2015 Index of U.S. Military Strength” rates the capacity and readiness of the U.S. military to combat global threats. It is intended to be an annual reference document like the Index of Economic Freedom that Heritage started publishing two decades ago.

Heritage officials unveiled the index Feb. 24. Their goal is to use the data in the study to bolster the case for bigger defense budgets. The report says the current U.S. military force is “adequate” to fight one major regional conflict while “attending to the various presence and engagement activities that keep it so busy, but it does not meet the standard of two major regional conflicts.” Recent funding cuts and reductions in the size of the armed forces are “serious problems,” the study contends. “Essential maintenance is being deferred; fewer units — mostly the Navy’s platforms and the special operations forces community — are being cycled through operational deployments more often and for longer periods; and, old equipment is being extended. … The cumulative effect [is] a U.S. military that is marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.”

Ongoing discussions over defense spending, Heritage analysts argue, confuse lawmakers because there is no consistent frame of reference on which to measure the true status of military capabilities. The administration’s quadrennial defense reviews are dismissed as political documents that are constructed to fit the president’s budget priorities. The counterpoint studies by a congressionally appointed “national defense panel” usually propose huge increases to defense budgets and, too, are discredited as fiscally and politically unrealistic. 

The index is intended to influence defense budget decisions at a time when military spending has become subsumed into a larger political battle over government spending, taxes and entitlements. Not only is this a partisan struggle but there are also sharp divisions within the Republican Party between the pro-defense establishment and the anti-spending hardliners.

Heritage sought to strip its military index of political rhetoric, said Dakota L. Wood, a former Marine Corps officer who is a senior research fellow for defense programs at the Heritage Foundation. “We want to provide hard evidence of what military force we need and how much it would cost,” he said. “This is an academic effort. We're being transparent in our methodology.”

The study recommends the U.S. military be organized and equipped to fight two wars simultaneously, Wood said. “We should have enough forces to fight a war and backup forces in case another crisis flares up.” There will obviously be budget limitations, he noted. “We'll never be resource unconstrained. … But we should assess risk” when cuts are made. “By building a well researched argument over a number of years we can present a very compelling case for increasing budgets,” Wood said.

“Measuring hard combat power in terms of its adequacy in capability, capacity, and readiness to defend U.S. vital interests is hard, but not impossible,” he writes in the index. Defense budget requests are not fiscally unconstrained nor are they developed in a vacuum free of competing policy priorities, he observed. “All of this illustrates the difficulties and need for exercise of judgment in assessing the adequacy of America’s military power. Yet without such an assessment, all that we are left with are the quadrennial strategic reviews — which are subject to filtering and manipulation to suit policy interests — annual budget submissions which typically favor desired military programs at presumed levels of affordability and are therefore necessarily budget-constrained; and, leadership posture statements that often simply align with executive branch policy priorities.”

The index has three sections: "An Assessment of U.S. Military Power,” "Assessing the Global Operating Environment" and "Assessing Threats to U.S. Vital Interests.”

The current political climate does not bode well for defense hawks, however. The 2011 Budget Control Act’s stringent spending caps are the law of the land. The administration has requested a $534 billion base defense budget for 2016 that exceeds the spending ceiling by $36 billion. Other than a repeal of the law, the only mechanism available to pro-defense lawmakers are fiscal sleight of hand solutions such as adding more money to the war budget that is not subject to the caps. Securing more money for defense will require an agreement to also lift the spending caps for nondefense agencies. Such a deal might be doable in the Senate but would be a tough sell in the House where there is a stalwart bloc of deficit hawks that would rather cut defense than allow increases to nondefense spending. Pro-defense conservatives so far are not optimistic that a bridge can be built across the yawning GOP divide.

Undoing the spending caps would take action from the very top. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would have to make a major push to get the votes. They will need the support of Budget Committee Chairmen Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., both of whom are deficit hawks. If the GOP brings enough of its own membership onboard, it will need to compromise with Democrats on how to pay for the additional defense and nondefense spending.


Photo Credit: Heritage Foundation
Upgraded Military Vehicles Make Debut at IDEX
By Valerie Insinna



ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The International Defense Exhibition and Conference opened its doors to visitors on Feb. 23 with companies from all over the world rolling out new military vehicles in hopes of attracting buyers.

Emirates Defense Technology revealed their Enigma armored fighting vehicle prototype at IDEX. With it, the company plans to compete for a contract to build up to 1,200 units for the UAE, said Thyagarajan Raja, its procurement manager.

Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Feb. 22 visited Emirates Defense’s booth and watched the unveiling of the vehicle.

"The crown prince of Abu Dhabi ... was very happy about what he had seen yesterday,” Raja said. “We were all happy with the comments that he made.” 

Enigma was purpose-built for Emirati requirements and environmental conditions, he said. It can be used as an amphibious vehicle, and has the ability to withstand underbelly blasts. It is also equipped with a cyclonic air filter to keep dust and sand from interfering with internal components of the vehicle.

Another feature of the Enigma is its modularity, he said. “We are planning to build this vehicle with various different types of gun mounts.” The prototype is displayed with a BMP-3 turret on it, but other options will be available as well.

The vehicle has a 711-horsepower engine and Caterpillar CX31 transmission, Raja said. It has a 28-ton payload and an independent suspension.

The company will begin testing the vehicle with the UAE military this summer, with swim and firing trials to follow. It will conduct blast testing internally in late spring.

“Hopefully we’ll be getting a contract from the UAE armed forces and we’ll start supplying,” he said. Enigma faces competition from companies such as Finland’s Patria and Turkey’s Otokar Arma.

Meanwhile, U.S. truck manufacturer Oshkosh unveiled an ambulance version of its MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle. The M-ATV Extended Wheel Base Medical was originally developed for the U.S. Army, but the vehicle was mothballed when the service chose not to buy it, said John Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense. The company decided to resurrect it because of international demands in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.

“I can't say specifically that we have a contract for the ambulance today, but we’re working toward that end,” he said. “We have shown it to different members of the medical community. They like what they see.”  

The M-ATV is in use by Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as other European countries, and Urias said he expects to see customers emerge in both regions for other vehicles in the M-ATV family. The company has completed internal tests of its medical variant and is ready to conduct any trials required by international militaries interested in purchasing it.

The ambulance can accommodate a driver, commander, medic and four patients — two in ambulatory seats and two in litters, Urias said.

“The purpose of this vehicle is to take them from the point where they were injured to a field hospital where they can seek further treatment,” he said. “Why is this vehicle important? Well, you’re protected against [improvised explosive devices]. It’s a very hazardous battlefield out there.”

Many international militaries move injured troops from combat to hospitals using Humvees, which are less armored than an M-ATV. Another deficiency is that the Humvee’s ride is very bumpy, making it difficult to treat the patient. The M-ATV’s TAK-4 independent suspension makes for a smoother journey, Urias said.

The internal configuration of the ambulance can be customized with whatever medical equipment is needed, such as defibulators, oxygen and plasma.

Litter-bound patients can be loaded into the truck within two minutes or less, company information said.

French vehicle-maker Renault Trucks offered up a new 6x6 medium armored vehicle called the VAB Mark 3, which can be purchased as an armored personnel carrier, infantry combat vehicle, command post, ambulance and mortar carrier.

It can also be kitted for amphibious use, but at the expense of some of its armored protection, which is comparable to an MRAP, said a representative from the company. Renault officials declined to speak on the record to National Defense.

The company has built five VAB Mark 3s for testing and is looking for customers in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa. The vehicle is smaller and more agile than the heavy 8x8 platforms that have become predominant in the industry, and customers would be able to buy the VAB Mark 3 for about half the cost, the official said.

The company produced the original VAB in the 1970s. It was then widely used by the French army in conflicts like the Gulf War and exported to more than 10 countries. France has already chosen its own replacement to the VAB, but Renault executives believes foreign users of the original will be eager to try what they see as the VAB’s spriitual successor.

The 20-ton Mark 3 version is a clean sheet design with a 4-ton payload, and in its personnel carrier form can transport a total of 12 troops.

Other companies at IDEX are releasing new weapons and equipment for armored vehicles.

Turkish manufacturer FNSS Savunma Sistemleri’s Saber 25 turret made its international debut at the exhibition. The Saber is a one-man, medium caliber turret for infantry fighting vehicles, said Tony Norrish, technical consultant for engineering and research and development. It can also be used to transform other ground platforms, such as armored personnel carriers, into an infantry fighting vehicle.

“We just completed this in December of last year and started our testing of it,” he said.

The turret comprises two armaments: a 25 mm M242 chain gun made by Alliant Techsystems, now Orbital ATK, and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun from FN Herstal, he said. The guns can fire 240 rounds and 600 rounds respectively.

The sight system includes thermal imaging for night operations, a telescope for daytime operations and a laser range finder.

The Saber is not targeted toward any particular competitions or emerging requirements, he said. “The customer that we’re trying to approach with this is anyone that is interested in our 8x8 wheeled vehicle and also the upgrading of the M113 because this can be added to the M113 family of vehicles very easily.”  The Malaysian Army is FNSS’s first and only customer of the 8x8 platform.

The company is in talks with two Middle Eastern countries about the Saber, but he would not disclose which ones. 

After IDEX, the company will proceed with fire tests and other internal demonstrations, he said. “By June of this year, it will be fully qualified for any customer trials.”

 
Photo: Enigma armored modular fighting vehicle by Emirates Defense Technology (Valerie Insinna)

NSA Chief: China, Russia Capable of Carrying Out ‘Cyber Pearl Harbor’ Attack
By Yasmin Tadjdeh



Nations such as China and Russia have enough offensive cyber capabilities to one day carry out a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack, said the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.

“We’ve talked about our concerns with China and what they’re doing in cyber. Clearly the Russians and others have [those types of] capabilities,” said Navy Adm. Mike Rogers on Feb. 23. “We’re mindful of that.”

A cyber Pearl Harbor could include an attack on critical infrastructure or the financial sector, Rogers said during a cyber security forum sponsored by the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

“You’ve seen some [smaller events already]. You look at what happened at Sony, you look at what we’ve seen nation states attempting to do against U.S. financial websites for some years now,” Rogers said. There would be dire implications for the nation if ordinary citizens were unable to access their bank accounts, he added.

In the Defense Department, there is great concern about intellectual property being stolen, he noted.

“Certainly in the Department of Defense, it’s an issue that has been of great concern to us as for some time," he said. Nation states have penetrated some key defense contractors, and stolen the enabling technology that gives the U.S. military an operational advantage, he said.

Part of the NSA’s function is to keep tabs on potential threats to the United States. In 2013, the agency came under fire after Edward Snowden, a government contractor at the time, leaked classified information that revealed the agency was collecting enormous amounts of phone metadata from U.S. citizens.

Rogers defended the program and said the bulk collection of data absolutely helps the nation prevent attacks.

“The metadata collection generates value for the nation. I honestly believe that,” he said. “Is it a silver bullet that in and of itself guarantees that there will never be another 9/11 or there won’t be a successful terrorist attack? My comment would be no. … It is one component of a broader strategy designed to help enhance our security.”

At the same time, the onus is on the NSA to prove to the country that it isn’t abusing that data and it is collecting it within a lawful framework, Rogers said. He insisted that the data collection is in compliance with the Patriot Act.

Rogers would not specify a specific attack the bulk data collection helped foil.

The bulk collection authority under the Patriot Act expires in June. Congress will have to renew the authority, otherwise the NSA will lose access to the data, Rogers said.

“Do I think that if we lose it it makes our job harder? Yes. On the other hand, we respond to the legal framework that is created for us,” he said.

Since the revelations, it has been more difficult for the NSA to do its job, Rogers lamented. “Have I lost capabilities that we had prior to the revelations? Yes,” he answered. “It concerns me a lot.”

Photo Credit: C-SPAN

Bell-Boeing Expecting at Least Two International Orders for V-22 Osprey in 2015

By Valerie Insinna




ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Bell-Boeing’s V-22 Osprey tiltrotor has yet to land an international contract, but company executives are betting that they will have two foreign customers in hand by the end of the year.

"There's nothing that's turned into an [letter of offer and acceptance] yet, but we're working on that,” said Vince Tobin, one of the Bell-Boeing V-22 program directors, in reference to a formal offer made to a company in the foreign military sales process.  He expects to sign two LOAs in 2015.

Japan’s ministry of defense announced the purchase 17 Ospreys last year, although there is no contract set in stone yet, he said during a Feb. 23 interview at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX). Israel had plans to buy the tiltrotor, but that deal remains in flux due to budget constraints.  

Additionally, the platform has received significant interest from countries in the Middle East and the companies are pursuing those opportunities, he said. 

Breaking into the export market would be one of several high points this year for the Bell-Boeing partnership, which has struggled to find sales for the Osprey outside of the Marine Corps and special operations communities. That changed when the Navy in their fiscal 2016 budget disclosed plans to buy 44 aircraft for what the service calls carrier onboard delivery — that is, flying people, supplies and cargo on and off flattops.

The Navy’s Ospreys will probably be slightly different than those flown by the Marine Corps and special operators, although the companies have not heard from the service what its requirements are, Tobin said. 

“Our assumption is that longer unrefueled range is always something that customers are interested in, especially for the Navy application for carrier on deck delivery,” he said. “We’re always looking for better ways to integrate radios.” 

Northrop Grumman’s C-2 Greyhound has filled the carrier onboard delivery role since 1966. During the heated battle against Bell-Boeing, Northrop proposed modernizing the C-2’s wings, engine and avionics, which executives claimed would be at least two times less expensive than buying a new aircraft. Bell-Boeing asserted that the Osprey would be more cost-effective over the long haul.

According to the budget, the Navy plans to procure 22 V-22s in fiscal years 2018 through 2020. That will likely result in another five-year multiyear contract for Ospreys to be signed before the current one ends in September of calendar year 2018, Tobin said. He predicts the Navy will release a request for proposals to Bell-Boeing in spring or summer and a contract being signed by the end of 2017.

Photo: V-22 (Boeing)

Pentagon’s Acquisition Chief to Promote U.S. Defense Tech at IDEX

By Valerie Insinna 



ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The Pentagon’s acquisition chief is at the International Defense Exhibition & Conference this week to champion the U.S. defense industry and interact with regional officials. Such support could be vital for brokering sales to foreign nations at a time when U.S. military spending is flat.

Upheaval in Yemen and the threat of the Islamic State could influence purchases of munitions and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall said to reporters Feb. 22. Some partner nations have told him they plan to replenish munitions that have been used in the fight against the terrorist group, and it’s possible they will increase their inventories.

"The value — in any conflict, frankly — of precision munitions is pretty high, and I think they will see the utility of those as they conduct operations with us," he said.

The State Department’s new drone export rules could also fuel more interest in U.S.-manufactured unmanned aerial systems, he said. He believes U.S. allies and partner nations will welcome the policy and hopes that it will be enough to quell Congressional opposition to exporting UAS.

Countries are particularly interested in General Atomics’ armed MQ-9 Reaper, he said. "Italy has been waiting for them for a long time. France is very interested."

There may also be increased demand in the Middle East for border security and counter improvised explosive device equipment, as well as mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, he said.

As he often does in speeches to the media, Kendall repeated that the U.S. military and its industrial base is in danger of losing its technological edge. However, he is not alarmed by the recent mergers of a slew of defense companies, he said.

Earlier this month, Harris Corp. announced plans to acquire Exelis Corp. Orbital Sciences Corp. and Alliant Techsystems Inc. completed their merger days later. Kendall would not comment specifically on the Harris-Exelis merger, which is awaiting approval by the U.S. government.

"I'm not uncomfortable with the things that I've seen so far,” he said. "We would not be comfortable with mergers at the top tier. We think [that went] far enough in that direction in the 90s"

Some analysts have speculated that the downselect of the long range strike bomber could cause just that. Aerospace giants Northrop Grumman and a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team are competing against each other for the award, and both Northrop and Boeing could lose their combat aircraft production capability if they don’t win the contract. That could spark some merger between the two, analysts have said.

Kendall doesn’t agree with that hypothesis.

“All of these big programs do cause some shift ... in the structure of the base,” he added. However “all of the companies involved [in the bomber competition] do pretty vital business.”

One U.S. weapon system that will not make its way to the region anytime soon is the F-35 joint strike fighter, he said. Despite interest in the plane from several countries, there will be no near-term sales to the Middle East.

"Some of our 4th generation fighters — particularly [with] some of the upgrades that you see — are pretty much adequate to deal with” regional threats, he said. Boeing’s F/A-18 and F-15 and Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are competitive in the fighter market, but “we’re not the only opportunity.”

France’s Dassault and and the multi-nation Eurofighter company are also gunning for contracts from Middle Eastern countries that would keep their aircraft in production. Dassault recently won Egypt’s fighter jet competition, worth $5.9 billion.

Kendall said he would also be taking a look at foreign defense technologies during his trip. "My fundamental concern is making sure that we have the equipment that we need, and that often means striking a balance" between domestic and foreign purchases, he said.

The Pentagon must keep its most sensitive technologies within the U.S. defense industrial base, he said. "But we can't do that for everything.”

The Marine Corps' amphibious combat vehicle program is one example of where foreign platforms have been proposed with success, he said. The service had tried to develop an ambitious, developmental vehicle design, but cancelled it for financial reasons. Instead, U.S. companies have partnered with international defense contractors such as Italy's Iveco and Finland's Patria that already had commercial, off-the-shelf amphibious vehicles available.

The Air Force’s T-X program, which will replace its T-38 training aircraft, is another program where international designs will be welcome, Kendall said.

Photo Credit: Valerie Insinna

 

 

 

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