The USA’s University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System conducts research throughout the world’s oceans, and their fleet has shifted to 4 basic research vessel types: Global, Ocean/Intermediate, Regional and Coastal/Local. From 2014 onward, new Ocean Class ships will replace aging Intermediate Class ships in current use, and serve alongside the new SWATH-hulled RV Kilo Moana [T-AGOR 26]. Growing trends towards larger, interdisciplinary science teams, using more sophisticated research equipment, means a need for larger and more sophisticated ships. They new Ocean Class will provide parties of up to 25 scientists with an advanced blue-water platform that can stay at sea for up to 40 days, and cover up to 10,000 nautical miles.
Can they be built affordably? The US Navy is managing the competition, construction, and chartering process, and the 1st build contract was issued in October 2011.
In September 2012, the Thai Air Force signed an undisclosed contract with EADS Eurocopter for 4 EC725 medium search and rescue (SAR) helicopters. The twin-engine EC725 Cougar features a unique digital 4-axis autopilot, which is very useful for precise positioning during retrievals. It’s also a good deal larger than the Army’s H-60 Black Hawks and UH-1 Hueys, with seating on board for 25 persons. Based on contracts elsewhere, a price of around $180-220 million seems likely. Deliveries will take place in 2015, at which point Thailand will join their neighbor Malaysia and Singapore as local military operators of the Super Puma family.
There’s also a larger competition underway for business within Thailand, as the country looks to modernize its Vietnam-era helicopter fleet. Eurocopter sold the Thai Army 8 AS550-C3 Fennec light scout and utility helicopters in 2011, and has received interest from the Royal Thai Police. Eurocopter’s line will be competing with Sikorsky’s Black Hawk/ Seahawk family. Thailand’s services have bought several H-60 variants, and the Cougar implicitly beat HH-60 Pave Hawks for the SAR mission. Eurocopter and Sikorsky will also have to deal with Russia’s Mil series – especially the multi-role Mi-17, whose low price has given it a foothold in Thailand’s armed forces. Eurocopter.
The USA’s C-130E/H medium air transport fleet suffers from 2 key problems: (1) many aircraft, especially Air National Guard planes, aren’t flyable, or won’t remain so much longer; and (2) their avionics are too old to meet modern standards for flight in civil airspace, just as standards are set to tighten in 2015.
The 1st problem is being addressed by major structural rework, inspections, and groundings. The 2nd problem was supposed to be addressed by the C-130 AMP program, begun in 2001 in order to improve aircraft fight-readiness, flight times, flexibility, and fuel use. Higher than expected costs left the program yo-yoing between possible cancellation and slowed progress over the last few years, and the near-death experiences eventually caught up to it. C-130 AMP has been proposed for cancellation in the FY 2013 budget, while the USAF searches for alternatives that it might be able to afford.
In September 2012, Beretta USA Corp. in Accokeek, MD received a 5-year, $64 million firm-fixed-price contract for up to 100,000 of their M9 9mm Pistols. All of the pistols will be manufactured at the Beretta USA facility in Maryland, where an American work force of nearly 300 employees has been making M9 pistols since 1987, and will now continue doing so until Sept 8/17. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 4 bids received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI manages this contract (W56HZV-12-D-0011). Beretta USA adds that:
“We are very proud to continue supplying the M9 pistols to the U.S. Army… and we look forward to the opportunity of working with the Army to improve the current M9 design with many of the existing solutions available to us in the new Model 92A1 [USMC] and 96A1 pistol families”.
Beretta’s M9 is the standard sidearm pistol for the US military, with over 600,000 pistols delivered to date. SOCOM operators can use other pistols, and the US Marines’ MARSOC special forces formally decided to go back to the stopping power of Colt’s .45 caliber pistol in July 2012. Even so, Colt will need to fix some of the guns’ failures if they want wider adoption in the Corps.
In September 2012, Northrop Grumman Information Technology Inc. in McLean, VA received an $8.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to support the Biometric Identity Intelligence Resource System. Biometrics has found an important but unheralded niche on modern counter-insurgency battlefields, and there are a number of programs underway within the services. It all starts with the ability to match, and disseminate, biometric personal data to known (and especially flagged/ watchlisted) identities.
Work will be performed in Charlottesville, Va., with an estimated completion date of Sept 6/15. Sixteen bids were solicited, with one bid received by US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) in Charlottesville, VA (W91QUZ-07-D-0005). This order was actually issued under the US Army’s $20 billion ITES-II umbrella contract.
“The military capabilities of the EU member states are on a steady downward slope. [...] Looking a few years into the future, it is simple mathematics to predict that many member states will be unable to sustain essential parts of their national forces, air forces being the prime example.”
The USA’s Future Combat Systems Class I UAV is intended for reconnaissance, security and target acquisition operations in nearly all terrain, including urban environments. Each system of 2 vertical take-off and landing air vehicles, a dismounted control device, and associated ground support equipment. They can be carried by selected platforms and dismounted soldiers, and possess autonomous flight, navigation, and recovery.
The larger Class II and Class III UAV development programs were canceled in favor of existing options: the RQ-7 Shadow, and MQ-1C SkyWarrior. The planned Class IV MQ-8B Fire Scout was canceled by the Army in 2009, though it will see naval use. Despite excellent field reports for mini-UAV competitors like the RQ-11 Raven, however, Honeywell’s hovering RQ-16 “T-Hawk” initially avoided the axe, found a niche, and made the list for the US Army’s early increment 1 Brigade Combat Team Modernization fielding. It has even seen limited exports – but the Class I program has been canceled.