Feb 28, 2018 04:54 UTC
The US Navy has christened
its latest Spearhead-class
expeditionary fast transport, the USNS Burlington, during a ceremony in Mobile, Alabama, on Saturday. It is the tenth of 12 Expeditionary Fast Transports being built for the Navy at a cost of $1.9 billion. Overseeing the event were the ship's primary sponsors US Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife Marcelle Pomerleau. Marcelle Leahy said naming the ship after the Vermont city of Burlington was "fitting because Vermonters have long heeded the nation's call to service." Built by Austal USA, the vessel is designed to transport troops and equipment at high-speeds and in shallow waters for rapid deployment. The Navy says it can "carry 600 short tons of military cargo for 1,200 nautical miles, at an average speed of 35 knots." This equates to the Burlington being able to carry 1,200,000 pounds for 1,380 miles at an average speed of 40 mph. It also has a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-loading ramp for disembarkment missions.
Austal MRV/JHSV concept
When moving whole units, shipping is always the cheaper, higher-capacity option. Slow speed and port access are the big issues, but what if ship transit times could be cut sharply, and full-service ports weren’t necessary? After Australia led the way by using what amounted to fast car ferries for military operations, the US Army and Navy decided to give it a go. Both services leased Incat TSV/HSV wave-piercing catamaran ship designs, while the Marines’ charged ahead with very successful use of Austal’s Westpac Express high-speed catamaran. These Australian-designed ships all give commanders the ability to roll on a company with full gear and equipment (or roll on a full infantry battalion if used only as a troop transport), haul it intra-theater distances at 38 knots, then move their shallow draft safely into austere ports to roll them off.
Their successful use, and continued success on operations, attracted favorable comment and notice from all services. So favorable that the experiments have led to a $3+ billion program called the Joint High Speed Vessel. These designs may even have uses beyond simple ferrying and transport.
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Sep 30, 2012 12:49 UTC
Latest updates: Delivered, but not flying.
(click to view larger)
In early 2009, Aria International, Inc. announced a contract from the Royal Thai Army to provide in-country surveillance and communications solutions and services, for an aggregate purchase price of $9.7 million. The RTA surveillance system consists of a manned airship with military-grade imaging and communications systems, an armored Command and Control vehicle, and upgrades to existing communications and facilities to receive real-time surveillance data.
Thailand has the questionable distinction of being saddled with the bloodiest Islamist insurgency most people have never heard of. The American export system that has hindered their order is well known around the world… but it looks like everything has been ironed out. Unfortunately, Thailand hasn’t been able to get much value out of its new asset.
- Thailand’s Airship Program [updated]
- Contracts & Key Events
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Dec 08, 2011 16:21 UTC
In December 2011, TCOM, LP in Columbia, MD received a $10.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for the Kuwait Low Altitude Surveillance System aerostat’s contractor engineering technical support (CETS). While the aerostat itself could be handled by commercial sale protocols, CETS operation and maintenance of the KLASS aerostat is considered to be a Foreign Military Sale item, in pursuit of a “mission essential asset for this sensitive region of the world.” Work will be performed in Kuwait (90%); Columbia, MD (5%); and Elizabeth City, NC (5%), and is expected to be complete by December 2013. Kuwait directed its agents at US Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA to sole-source this buy (M67854-12-C-2404).
These kinds of tethered lighter-than-air craft come in a range of sizes, and aerostats have become a global trend. Their ability to carry sensors aloft for weeks at a time greatly improves radar and/or optical surveillance systems’ field of view at near-zero per-hour deployment costs. This makes them especially effective at protecting military bases or key national infrastructure, but they’ve also been deployed to provide coverage over cities, border patrol, and coastal surveillance. Larger aerostats, like the TCOM 71s used in the USA’s JLENS system, can offer the kind of coverage that normally requires high-end AWACS aircraft.
Sep 11, 2011 14:35 UTC
Latest updates: Sharp criticism of IAF for aerostat crash, procurement failure; Plans for 9 more?
As countries recognize the need to watch their borders, and especially their coasts, they’re running up against the reality of high operating costs for aerial surveillance. They’re also turning to a logical way around that problem: aerostats. These tethered airships offer very low operating costs and near-constant deployment, carrying optical and radar surveillance gear to altitudes that give them wide-area coverage. Israel has joined the USA as a leading developer of these systems, and a leading exporter as well. One of its customers is India.
In 2007, the Tamil Tigers’ (LTTE), which was responsible for assassinating Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, attacked Sri Lankan military bases and oil facilities using an unusual weapon for guerrillas and terrorists: aircraft. The implications of those attacks were regional in scope, and in time, aerostats’ value would be driven home by another surprise, this time from Islamic LET(Lashkar-e-Taiba) terrorists operating from Pakistan. The gaps it revealed in India’s defenses, and the deployment of the existing Israeli aerostat systems to protect critical areas in the attack’s aftermath, strongly underlined the systems’ value. Now India’s Navy is now buying them, too, and additional purchases are expected.
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