Over the last decade, a belief has taken root in global naval circles that shallow littoral chokepoints for maritime trade, operations in and around failed states like Somalia, and expeditionary stabilization operations, will become key foci for many deployments. That realization has driven a number of approaches to naval construction. In the Netherlands, Royal Schelde’s Sigma Ships are designed in block modules, which can be added or subtracted to build anything from an offshore patrol vessel to a large frigate. Denmark is already building its Flyverfisken Class and Absalon Class ships, which leverage the mission module concept and can be used in roles ranging ranging from mine or sub hunting, to anti-ship warfare/ land attack, to carrying troops. Sweden’s Visby Class stealth corvettes helped to inspire the American concept of the Littoral Combat Ship – which has been criticized both for its cost, and for having fewer and less flexible high-end weapon options than any competitor.
Germany’s response has been the F125 frigate, which might best be described as an “expeditionary frigate” design. It doesn’t use the Danish or American mission module concept. Instead, it includes a number of features aimed at making it a strong contributor to long international deployments in littoral environments, and to naval support for stabilization operations.
A quick look at almost any modern warship shows a bewildering array of gear on its mast and upper surfaces. These “topside apertures” serve an array of functions, from communications, to data transmission, to electronic listening and defense. Not only do they disrupt ship smoothness, and hence radar profiles, when installed, but they can also be extremely difficult to integrate together so that object A’s transmissions aren’t interfering with critical service B. While firms like Thales in Europe pursue “integrated modular mast” technologies, the US Navy is aiming to go one step beyond. They’re funding “Integrated Topside” R&D to go beyond just a pre-packaged array, and turn all of these little bolt-ons into one common, smooth-running, and upgradeable basic architecture.
InTop for surface ships will be based on AESA radar technology, and aims to become an innovative, scalable suite of electronic warfare, information operations, and line-of-sight communications hardware and software. Its performance goals are to improve ships’ anti-radar profiles, increase communications bandwidth, and resolve electromagnetic interference and compatibility issues…
The Institute for Defense Analysis in Alexandria, VA recently received a 5-year indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract worth up to $888.8 million, for research and analysis from the 3 Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) they run. Just to give you some of the flavor, IDA’s recent Research Notes [PDF] publication includes “The Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings Of A Tyrant’s Regime 1978-2001”, as well as briefings covering cloud computing security, rates and causes of rotorcraft casualties from 2001 – 2009, etc.
France is the latest country to discover the usefulness of maritime patrol aircraft over land, as Atlantique aircraft over Mali went beyond mere surveillance to deliver “buddy-designated” Paveway-II laser guided bombs. DGA head Laurent Collet-Billon likened the plane to a Swiss Army Knife, and in 2013, the experience helped push Atlantique modernization to the front of the budget queue…
In June 2013, the US Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD issued a 5-year multiple-award contract worth up to $7 billion. Winners will compete for task orders to support the Army’s Software Engineering Center with development and systems engineering services until May 30/18. 11 companies bid, and 8 were picked as qualifying options. The winners include…
The 21st century has seen a quiet transformation of the UAE’s armed forces. Advanced AWACS airborne early warning planes and air and missile defense systems are just the outward signs of a push from a collection of purchased weapon systems, to an integrated defense force that can cope with the most modern threats.
Making that happen requires more than just planes, or missiles. It requires extensive back-end systems that help turn information from advanced radars and airborne surveillance into a coherent whole, and allow command staff to direct battles based on that information. DID explains the larger picture and where things stand now, as the UAE continues its strong Command, Control, Computing, & Communications (C4) push.
Quick question: what’s the biggest limiting factor in today’s aircraft? Answer: the pilot. Fortunately for pilots, they’re also an aircraft’s greatest advantage, which will keep them in the mix, and in the cockpit, for some time to come. Those limitations are bringing unmanned aircraft into the combat picture, however, especially when it comes to the greatest limitation a pilot places on an aircraft: aerial endurance. Remaining awake, active, and effective in a manned fighter aircraft for 72 hours straight is simply not within the realm of possibility. On the other hand, a UAV with that endurance level, flown by pilots on the ground or at sea who can hand the aircraft off to a colleague while they depart for a coffee, bathroom break, or sleep, could easily remain aloft that long. All it needs is an appropriate level of mechanical reliability – and, of course, the ability to take on fuel from an aerial tanker aircraft.
That simple concept has profound implications for the ways in which airpower might be used.
Until and unless new fighters arrive, Switzerland is depending more and more heavily on its 33 Swiss Luftwaffe F/A-18C/D fighters (26 F/A-18Cs, 7 F/A-18D 2-seat), in order to handle air sovereignty and policing over the nation.
In order to keep them up to date, programs like “Upgrade 21” and “Upgrade 25” continue to add to their capabilities. Upgrade 21 included a successful trip to the USA, which allowed them to use American weapon ranges to test the integration of their new AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles with their existing Hornet fleet. Those will go well with Switzerland’s JHMCS helmet-mounted sights, which were also part of Upgrade 21. A December 2007 request to the US DSCA placed the total potential cost of Upgrade 25 Phase 1 at over $500 million. The Upgrade 25 request, subsequent political developments, and follow-on contracts include:
In late November 2012, Raytheon announced a $600+ million contract to deliver a national-level Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) system to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Raytheon Network Centric Systems was awarded the deal as a Direct Commercial Sale, which means that the Saudi Ministry of Defense will manage the buy and the implementation project themselves. This is in contrast to the Foreign Military Sale process, which routes contract negotiations and management through a selected department of the US military.
None of this is any kind of magic. Poor command and poor training, coupled with the best C4I system money can buy, just means that your military can watch itself lose conventional fights in near-real time. Having said that, a system that removes some of the “fog of war” can help a force possessing basic or better competence, and national-level C4I is critical to any nation considering missile defense. So, what do the Saudis want?
In June 2012, Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions Division in Manassas, VA won a competition, transferring the keystone GSM-O IT services contract away from SAIC, a 15-year incumbent. GSM-O pays for the worldwide support services necessary to carry out day-to-day operations of the US military’s Global Information Grid networks and related services, and to update them with new technologies. The contract could be worth up to $4.6 billion over 7 years, making it a major win for Lockheed Martin, and a big loss for SAIC.
So, what is the USA’s Global Information Grid? And how will this contract work?