Latest updates[?]: A Leonardo Helicopters AW-101 search and rescue (SAR) helicopter recently delivered to Norway overturned during a ground run on 24 October. No injuries were sustained to the two crew onboard at the time of the accident, but the helicopter itself was spotted on its side, sans its main rotor blades. The AW101 was scheduled to enter service in Norway in 2018 so the incident is a setback to Oslo's replacement of its ageing SAR fleet.
NH90 NFH: Out
In September 2001, the NH90 medium helicopter was chosen as the common helicopter for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, serving the navies of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Norway’s share was up to 24 machines: 14 NFH naval variants (6 for Norwegian ships and 8 for the coastguard), with an option for 10 more Search & Rescue machines. The follow-on SAR contract would replace Norway’s aging Sea King helicopter fleet.
That plan triggered warnings from people in the rescue service that the mid-range NH90 lacked the range and capacity required. Some Norwegians also pointed to Denmark’s departure from the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, precisely because the Danes needed the larger EH101 for the SAR role. Norway certainly has a lot of territory to cover. Its own long and deep maritime economic zone over the treacherous North Sea includes shipping, fishing, and abundant oil; and the American withdrawal from Keflavik AFB Iceland is stretching Norway’s patrol zones toward that country. Sikorsky’s Norwegian agent “Aircontactgruppen” has even taken the Norwegian government to court twice, demanding an open competition for the SAR helicopter contract. In 2007, they received their wish, and in 2013, Norway revealed their pick… not the S-92, and not its NH90 competitor.
The USA isn’t the only country whose SAR (search and rescue) aircraft programs are having a hard go of it lately. In 2004, Canada announced a program to replace its aging DHC-5 (CC-115) Buffalo (West Coast) and CC-130E/H Hercules (East Coast) search-and-rescue planes with at least 15 new aircraft. Some of the Canadian Forces’ CC-130s have already been grounded after flying 40,000 – 50,000 hours, and a contract has been signed for C-130J replacements.
The SAR project hasn’t been so lucky. The first SAR aircraft was supposed to be delivered in 2006, with all deliveries complete by 2009. Unfortunately, the Conservative Harper government temporarily shelved the project when it came to power, and subsequent efforts to restart it have featured one poor performance after another. The competitors have since expanded beyond the familiar duo of the Alenia C-27J Spartan with its speed advantage and C-130J compatibility, vs. the EADS-CASA C-295M with its longer fuselage and lower operating costs. Yet expanded options are no substitute for serving planes, and at least 1 victim has already died because the current fleet was unserviceable. What Canada’s SAR program really needs right now is transparency and urgency. Neither is currently in evidence.
Latest updates[?]: Ukraine and Poland are to collaborate on helicopter production that ranges from undertaking modernization efforts, to designing and serial producing their own models for their armed forces. Announcing the new plan, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv said that his country could not undertake such efforts on its own and needed help from Polish industry as well as potentially other Western companies. The statement follows comments made in late 2016 by Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who said Warsaw and Kiev are discussing plans to launch a joint production effort of helicopters that could be used by the militaries of Central and Eastern European allies.
Recent Russian aggression in the Ukraine has sharpened Poland’s awareness of its status as NATO’s new linchpin state, and an ambitious 10-year military Technical Modernization Program (TMP) is underway. The country’s open, rolling terrain from East to West is very friendly to cavalry warfare, which makes good attack helicopters a necessity. Poland’s current fleet of 29 late Soviet-era Mi-24D/Vs has served them well, but they need more and better machines. Unsurprisingly, the planned Kruk (“Raven”) attack helicopter replacement competition was one of the TMP projects targeted for acceleration in the wake of recent events.
Contracts and Key Events
April 27/17: Ukraine and Poland are to collaborate on helicopter production that ranges from undertaking modernization efforts, to designing and serial producing their own models for their armed forces. Announcing the new plan, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv said that his country could not undertake such efforts on its own and needed help from Polish industry as well as potentially other Western companies. The statement follows comments made in late 2016 by Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who said Warsaw and Kiev are discussing plans to launch a joint production effort of helicopters that could be used by the militaries of Central and Eastern European allies.
March 7/17: Leonardo and Polish Armaments Group have signed a cooperation agreement on helicopter production for the Polish armed forces. The deal will facilitate further industrial collaboration on production, servicing and maintenance for various military rotorcraft. Leonardo is currently offering the AW139, AW101 and W-3PL models to Warsaw as part of several helicopter requirements by the defense ministry and if selected, PGZ will assist with producing components and other supporting systems in Poland.
February 22/17: Poland’s Defense Ministry has begun negotiations with three bidders for various helicopter mission requirements. Eight are being sought to fill an urgent need for special forces missions, while eight more are required to fill a 2019 naval requirement for anti-submarine warfare and maritime search and rescue operations. The urgent nature of the acquisitions will allow Warsaw to bypass certain lengthy procurement procedures and they are believed to be talking to Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Sikorsky. Despite the apparent urgency, however, the government is still insisting on offset requirements, which must be an “integral part of the contract.”
February 14/17: Poland will purchase 16 new helicopters this year, half destined for the Navy and the rest to the country’s special forces. Two will be Sikorsky Black Hawks, with the remainder to be chosen from offers from Lockheed Martin, Leonardo and Airbus Helicopters. Delivery of the Black Hawks is expected for next month after being produced by Lockheed Martin’s Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec. The 16 aircraft will go toward the replacement of Poland’s Soviet-designed Mil Mi-8, Mi-14 and Mi-17 helicopters.
January 20/17: Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has said that his government is considering a 2017 splurge on new military hardware. Macierewicz name-dropped Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky subsidiary, Leonardo, and somewhat surprisingly Airbus, as potential suppliers of 14 helicopters to the Polish army. While both Sikorsky and Leonardo have plants located in Poland, relations between Airbus and the ruling Law & Justice Party soured last year following the cancellation of a $3.2 billion deal to provide 50 H225M Caracals. The ministry has also proposed a plan to buy between 50-100 F-16s as well as three new submarines with contracts to be signed by either the end of the year or in early 2018.
November 8/16: Egypt and Russia have been dragged into the ongoing war of words surrounding Poland’s dropped Caracel helicopter deal with Airbus and France. Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz accused Egypt of reselling French-built Mistral amphibious assault ships initially intended for Russia to the Russian Navy for the princely sum of €1. Yes, one Euro. The comments, made during a parliamentary session, outraged France, who abandoned the Russian sale under pressure from NATO allies. However Macierewicz’s remarks pale in comparison to his deputy who dismissively said that the Poles had taught the French “to eat with a fork a couple of centuries ago” after France revoked Poland’s invitation to the Euronaval 2016 defense expo in Paris.
November 1/16: Polish prosecutors are to investigate the recently scrapped Caracel military helicopter deal with Airbus to see if the move circumvented Polish law or was linked to corruption. Speaking to local media, prosecutor Michal Dziekanski said “this will be a complicated, comprehensive investigation, encompassing a very large set of evidence.” Tomasz Siemoniak, the defense minister responsible for originally brokering the deal during the previous administration, called the Airbus tender “fair and transparent” and said it was canceled by his rivals for political reasons.
FY 2015 – 2016
October 27/16: Airbus will seek compensation from Poland following the government’s shooting down of the previous administration’s 50-unit order for H225M multirole helicopters. Following four years of work on the tender, the company’s chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm said the group “had spent years trusting that it was in a fair competition” and that it would now “seek remedies” from Warsaw. Wilhelm added that the deal “would have committed us to build a competitive aerospace industry in Poland.”
October 20/16: Negotiations are underway between Poland and Ukraine to launch a joint production effort of helicopters that could be used by the militaries of Central and Eastern European allies. But while Poland is currently in the midst of two increasingly complicated helicopter tenders, Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said any joint effort would most likely be on a new model “based on the industrial potential of both countries. We know that the Ukrainians make excellent engines, produced by Motor Sich.” Based in southeastern Ukraine, Motor Sich has supplied engines for a variety of Ukrainian and Russian aircraft including the Antonov An-8 and An-10, the Yakovlev Yak-40 and Yak-42, and the Mil Mi-8MT, Mi-14 and Mi-171.
October 12/16: Airbus struck back at the Polish government yesterday following the dropping of a multi-billion Caracel helicopter deal. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Aerospace giant accused the government of shifting the goalposts as Airbus competed with US and Italian rivals, and attempting to contravene European Union regulations. Speaking in a separate email, Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders said “never have we been treated by any government customer the way this government has treated us.” Industry sources estimate Airbus’ cost of running the helicopter sales campaign at several tens of millions of euros.
October 11/16: France has reacted angrily to Poland dropping a multi-billion helicopter deal with Airbus, warning that it would review defense cooperation with its NATO ally and cancelling a presidential visit to Warsaw. Winning support as a populist, right-wing, eurosceptics, the ruling Law & Justice party (PiS) said they would rather see the deal awarded to a company that could build the helicopters locally. Polish media reports that Warsaw has already begun negotiations with Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky, manufacturer of locally-produced Black Hawk helicopters that could be purchased by the Polish army as soon as this year.
October 8/15: Poland has progressed its competition to replace the country’s fleet of Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters, with talks scheduled to soon begin with the four bidders. The ‘Kruk’ (‘Raven’) competition has attracted bids from Airbus with the EC665 Tiger; Bell Helicopters with the AH-1Z Cobra; Boeing with the AH-64 Apache and Turkish Aerospace Industries with the T129 ATAK. Despite the Polish Defence Ministry announcing in April that a winner is due for selection by the end of the year, these talks are scheduled to last one week per company, concluding by the end of November and a contract is now expected in the latter half of 2017.
April 22/15: In addition to the Patriot announcement, Poland has selected the Airbus H225M to fulfill its tri-service helicopter requirement. 50 of the Airbus helicopters will replace the current 40-strong fleet of Mil Mi-17s; a figure revised down from the original requirement for 70 units. The H225M beat out AgustaWestland’s AW149 and Sikorsky’s S-70i Black Hawk and S-70B Seahawk, with the winning helicopter set to undergo checks this May and June to verify its capabilities against Poland’s requirement set. The Eastern European state is also looking to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet. Combined with the Patriot program, the helicopter procurement will account for approximately a quarter of Poland’s eight-year defense modernization budget.
Aug 5/14: The Polish defence ministry has said that it is considering bids from 10 manufacturers under the Kruk competition. They wouldn’t name names, saying only that it involved “foreign and domestic companies offering both ready-made helicopters and components for assembly.”
The difference between ready-made and assembly kits is a bidder’s choice, and the kits option is often used to comply with local industrial offset rules. The harder question is how to get to 10 manufacturers, given the limited number of attack helicopter options out there.
Obvious leaders include Airbus (EC665 Tiger HAD), AW/TAI (T129 ATAK), Bell Helicopter (AH-1Z) and Boeing (AH-64E). South Africa’s Denel offers the Rooivalk, which hasn’t been exported but has competed elsewhere. Sikorsky is working very hard to win Poland’s utility helicopter competition with the S-70i, which is the focus of that company’s 2nd largest helicopter plant. Their Battlehawk add-on kit could offer Poland a single-type force that’s able to perform both utility and attack roles. That’s 6 possible competitors; beyond this list, one must either stretch the boundaries of the term “attack helicopter” to incorporate armed scouts, or entertain far less likely options. Russian Helicopters’ Ka-52 and Mi-28 are absolute non-starters, but there are rumors that Poland’s MRO and upgrade shop WZL-2 S.A. has bid, and that Israel’s IAI and RAFAEL also responded. Sources: Polskie Radio, “10 bidders to modernize Poland’s combat helicopter fleet”.
July 8/14: Kruk program launched, deadline to respond to the RFI is Aug 1/14. The program was originally supposed to launch a tender in 2018, with deliveries beginning in 2020, but the tender has now been moved up to 2015. Quantities may also be changing: the program’s original goal was 32 helicopters, but current reports indicate that Poland may increase that to 40.
In the mean time, Phase 1 involves setting technical and operational requirements, following market research. Hence the RFI. Next comes a more detailed feasibility study and staffing requirements based on the responses, followed by the formal RFP in 2015. Sources: Polish MON, “Rusza program smiglowcow uderzeniowych” | Emirates 24/7 News, “Poland launches tender for assault helicopters” | Flightglobal, “Poland launches attack helicopter acquisition” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Poland starts ‘Kruk’ attack helicopter acquisition programme”.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin has announced that they have upgraded the Airborne Multi-INT Lab (AML) to speed up the mission system’s ability to turn sensor data into intelligence for customers. The modified Gulfstream III aircraft is used to test various onboard sensors for military and non-military purposes and is fitted to enable in-air experimentation for products with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications. Upgrades added by Lockheed Martin include an autonomous sensor control mode that can coordinate operations between the plane and onboard sensors which will accelerate the aircraft's ability to produce actionable intelligence from experimental data.
Lockheed is more aggressive than most defense firms in self-funding projects that make sense to them, and the Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) was their response to the rising popularity of small manned surveillance planes like the USA’s MC-12W Liberty, the MARSS program, etc. Now, their AML is moving from a privately-funded surveillance variant of the Gulfstream III business jet, to a money-making platform, courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Defence.
Under an agreement for an undisclosed sum, Lockheed Martin will provide its AML as a contracted ISR(Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) service “in a live operational environment,” which probably means Afghanistan. The service goes beyond the jet…
Latest updates[?]: Sikorsky has delivered an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter to be used as a prototype for the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP). The delivery coincides with the signing of a “cooperation agreement” with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), aimed at enhancing business between the two companies in the next 10 years. Sikorsky is collaborating with Turkish industry on developing its new T-70 utility helicopter, and later into Turkish-built Black Hawks, in a program that is worth approximately $3.5 billion. The delivered Black Hawk will now be equipped with a new avionics suite jointly developed with Sikorsky and TAI, with work to be carried out by Turkish arms manufacturer Aselsan. Ankara is initially planning to produce 109 T-70s but this could later reach a production total of 300 if the helicopter is rolled out to meet future Turkish requirements.
In 2011, the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program picked Sikorsky to continue providing its S-70 Black Hawk & Seahawk helicopters over the next 10 years. Turkey’s attack helicopter program wasn’t exactly a model procurement approach, and it should be no surprise that its TUHP contract would also come years after the initially-promised date.
The contract was finalized in February 2014, and its impact will be far-reaching. These “T-70” helicopters will equip every branch of Turkey’s armed forces, and some civilian organizations. As an added bonus, Turkish Aerospace Industries’ experience manufacturing components and assembling the S-70s will help them pursue a new light helicopter design of their own…
Latest updates[?]: Tunisia has received the first six units of a planned 24 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter acquisition. The $100.8 million deal was green-lighted last May and the following 18 are expected to be delivered this March. Tunis is purchasing the scout helicopters as part of efforts to beef up counter-terrorism and border security capabilities against militants belonging to groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamic State's franchise in neighbouring Libya, and the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia.
OH-58D over Tal Afar
With the ARH-70A helicopter program on the rocks after a program cancellation and re-compete, the US Army’s over-stressed and aging fleet of armed OH-58D scout helicopters must soldier on in the face of losses and breakdowns. One of their most critical pieces of equipment is their mast-mounted sight, which was originally developed to let the Kiowa Warriors watch Soviet tank formations while hovering behind trees. The sights’ advanced cameras, infrared, and laser ranging/targeting features make them excellent tools in the current war as well, and these helicopters’ size, speed and numbers have given them a very important role in urban combat scenarios. See esp. DRS’ explanations of the battlefield benefits of mast-mounted helicopter sights vs. roof-mounted alternatives.
All equipment must be maintained, which is why DRS Optronics, Inc, Optronics Division in Palm Bay, FL received a new firm-fixed-price and cost plus fixed fee 5-year indefinite quantity/ indefinite delivery contract that will cover spares, repairs and services for the OH-58D’s mast mounted sight from 2009 through 2013. This includes “obsolescence removal” – redesigning the system to use new parts when manufacturers no longer produce the old parts.
After more than 40 years operating the A-4 Skyhawk, a maintenance scandal led Israel to conclude that its remaining Skyhawk’s needed to be replaced as advanced trainers. That triggered a $1 billion advanced trainer competition, and a major geo-political decision.
In 2012, Israel made up its mind. The Italian M-346 “Lavi” will be their new trainer.
Latest updates[?]: Leondardo Helicopters is in talks with the Japanese government over the potential sale of a further 12 AW101 helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports. Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets, and business development, said the company was “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Japanese.
MCH-101 AMCM concept
Japan is a trading and shipping power, so it isn’t unreasonable for them to be very concerned about mines. Helicopters are an important adjunct to Japan’s large fleet of 25+ minesweeping ships, and can even serve as a substitute in some situations. Japan’s fleet of 11 MCH-101 airborne mine counter-measures helicopters are closely derived from AgustaWestland’s 3-engined AW101 heavy maritime helicopter, and most are being built in Japan under license by Kawasaki. Mission equipment will include the AN/AQS-24A mine hunting side scan sonar, the AN/AES-1 airborne laser mine detection system, and the MK-104 acoustic minesweeping system.
ECH-101s have good range, and can operate from shore. As an alternative, they can be embarked aboard Japanese ships, especially the JMSDF’s 19,000 ton Hyuga Class “helicopter destroyers” (LPH anywhere else).
2010 – 2016
DDH-181 Hyuga & USN’s LHD-2, post-tsunami (click to view entire)
June 27/16: Leondardo Helicopters is in talks with the Japanese government over the potential sale of a further 12 AW101 helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports. Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets, and business development, said the company was “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Japanese.
June 18/13: Northrop Grumman announces that they’ve has delivered the 1st of 4 AQS-24A airborne mine-hunting sonars to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (q.v. July 11/12). The 1st ALMDS wide-area laser mine detection system is slated for delivery “later this summer.”
There’s always a follow-on period of training and tactics development, so it will be a little while before Japan can make full use of these new capabilities. NGC.
Nov 6/12: MEDAL. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) announces that Japan has picked its Mine Warfare and Environmental Decision Aids Library (MEDAL) counter-mine software control system, for installation into the corresponding ground system for the JMSDF’s MCH-101 helicopters. MEDAL has played a similar role in the US Navy since the mid-1990s, and the USN’s compatible MEDAL system performs the same mission planning, evaluation, and command and control functions.
SAIC will be assisting with engineering and training services as MEDAL is integrated within NEC Corporation’s broader MCH-101 ground support system.
July 11/12: AQS-24. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces follow-on contracts by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to supply 3 more AQS-24A airborne mine hunting systems, plus ground-based support equipment. The AN/AQS-24 is a towed sonar with an accompanying laser line scanner for optical identification, and the sonar and laser both operate at the same time. It’s deployed from the rear ramp of helicopters like the US Navy’s MH-53s, and the JMSDF will use all 4 systems ordered to date on its new MCH-101 helicopters.
The award of the airborne electronics work marks the culmination of a technology transition that allows some local manufacturing in Japan, and will eventually enable the JMSDF to provide full logistics support for the AQS-24A systems. Additional follow-on efforts for more systems, electronics and support equipment are anticipated in 2013, and will continue until the JMSDF reaches its full operational inventory objective. NGC.
AQS-24 detection sonars
Feb 2/12: ALMDS. Japan becomes the AN/AES-1 ALMDS’ first export customer, buying 4 of the laser mine detection pods to equip its MCH-101 (AW101) medium-heavy naval helicopters. Northrop Grumman will work with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., and Fujitsu Ltd. on delivery and installation.
ALMDS uses a fan-shaped beam of laser light detection and ranging (LIDAR) to detect, classify and localize near-surface moored sea mines. The forward motion of the helicopter sweeps the light over the water in a “push broom” manner, and 4 cameras are arranged to cover the same swath illuminated by the laser fan beam. As images are received by the system, an automatic target recognition algorithm picks out potential mine-like objects and stores their images for later classification by fleet operators, using computer-aided post-mission analysis tools. The new system has had some trouble in American tests with false positives, but Japan has worked with Northrop Grumman for a long time, and seems willing to go ahead anyway. Northrop Grumman | Read more in “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development“.
ALMDS laser mine detection pods
Oct 24/11: AQS-24. Northrop Grumman announces that its AN/AQS-24 towed mine-hunting sonar has been “competitively selected” by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Under the initial contract, Northrop Grumman’s Undersea Systems business unit will deliver 1 system to Kawasaki Heavy Industries, for integration into Japan’s new Airborne Mine Countermeasures MCH-101 helicopter.
The AQS-24 is currently deployed aboard the US Navy’s even larger MH-53E mine hunting helicopters.
1994 – 2009
From initial teaming through 1st delivery; 1st assembled in Japan MCH-101.
MCH-101 click for video
June 17/09: Local spares.AgustaWestland announces an agreement with Marubeni Aerospace Corporation of Tokyo, Japan to establish a local MCH-101/ CH-101 Spare Parts Depot. That will certainly cut turnaround time for spares.
The Spare Parts Depot has been privately funded and will operate initially for a period of 5 years.
March 26/07: Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) has delivered the JMSDF’s 1st licence-built MCH-101. It’s the first EH101/AW101 to be assembled outside AgustaWestland’s production facilities in Italy and the UK, and has 35% local content. Flight International.
March 2006: Japan takes delivery of its 1st MCH-101. It was assembled at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil, UK plan before undergoing conversion at Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ Gifu works. Source.
1st MCH-101 delivery
2003: The first of 14 MCH-101 (Airborne Mine Counter Measures, 11) and CH-101 (Antarctic Support, 3) helicopters was delivered to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. Subsequent releases indicate that it was a CH-101. Source.
1st AW101 delivery
2002: The ECH-101 partners enter into a general consultancy and distributorship agreement for the promotion and sales of the AW101. Source.
1994: Teaming agreement signed by AgustaWestland, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Marubeni to compete for Japan’s mine warfare helicopter needs. Source.
Latest updates[?]: A US funded Jordan Border Security Project with the government of Jordan and US contractor Raytheon is entering its final phase . The $100 million program aims to secure the Hashemite Kingdom against infiltrators from the Islamic State and other extremist organizations operating beyond its border with Syria and Iraq. Under the program, Raytheon and Jordanian subcontractors have been deploying and testing the sensor-fused border barriers while, in parallel, training other Jordanian partners to maintain and operate the system. As well as the barriers, patrol paths and watchtowers, the system is integrated with day and night cameras, ground radars, and a full command, control and communications suite. The system will be completed by the end of next year.
In May 2008, the U.S. Army’s Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM) chose DRS Technologies, Inc. in Gaithersburg, MD (since acquired by Italy’s Finmeccanica) for the initial phase of the Jordan Border Security Program. The overall system will include Distant Sentry(TM) mobile and fixed surveillance towers that utilize a variety of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) sensors, communications between the towers and mobile and fixed Command and Control (C2) Centers, and electronic infrastructure, software, and computing systems for the centers themselves. The Iraqi border is reportedly the focus of the JBSP program, but that country’s borders with Syria are also a concern.
A number of other countries are building or have built similar virtual and/or physical systems, from Saudi Arabia along the Iraq border, to India in Kashmir, to Israel along its hostile borders with Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Note, however, that these systems are not a panacea. Israel’s high-tech systems did not detect or prevent the cross-border Hezbollah kidnappings that led to the 2006 war in Lebanon, however, and the US GAO has been less than complimentary concerning Team Boeing’s SBInet system along the USA’s southern border.
A USA Today article, dramatically demonstrates the advantage night vision capabilities provide to US troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was Christmas Eve 2007, and US Army Rangers were searching for suspected Al-Qaeda members in Mosul, Iraq. Using their night vision goggles to avoid alerting the enemy, the Rangers found 2 Al-Qaeda suspects who were holding an 11-year-old Iraqi boy hostage. Thanks to their night vision capabilities, they were able to shoot the suspects without harming the boy. After that encounter, a firefight erupted between the Army rangers and Al-Qaeda insurgents, with 10 insurgents killed, including the head of an assassination cell. Army ranger losses? Zero. As former General Barry McCaffrey, commander of the US Army’s 24th Infantry Division in the 1991 Desert Storm conflict, commented: “Our night vision capability provided the single greatest mismatch of the war.”
It still does. This free DID Spotlight Article will examine how this technology works, how its military application has developed over years, how the technology is used by troops in the field, as well as major contracts for procuring night vision goggles.