The USA’s Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) program has been a long road for BAE Systems. In the wake of the US Army’s belated realization that mine protection was critical for vehicles in theater, BAE’s designs, long-standing experience in the field, and production capacity had made them an early favorite. Early results were a deeply humbling experience for the firm, but a combination of acquisitions, persistence, and product development combined to recover 2nd place status by the time MRAP orders ceased.
This in-depth, updated DID feature shines a spotlight on BAE Systems’ family of MRAP offerings, order record, and associated contracts. That includes its RG-33 family, the derivative MRRMV recovery vehicle, and the FMTV-based Caiman family, but not the RG-31s offered in partnership with General Dynamics. The MRAP program appears to have reached its vehicle limit, but upgrades and maintenance contracts are still a significant source of business.
In October 2012, Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV received a contract for 18 uniquely modified Pilatus PC-12/47E aircraft, which will be used by Afghan National Army Special Operations Forces. Sierra Nevada will handle the modifications to Pilatus’ aircraft, and acts as the American lead. Their work will be performed in Sparks, NV until July 31/15. The 645th AESG/WIJK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8620-13-C-4007).
The PC-12/47E single-engine turboprop is also known as the PC-12NG, and uses Pratt & Whitney Canada’s 1,200 shp PT6A-67P engine…
Recent years have seen a variety of unmanned helicopter options introduced into the market. Boeing’s entry lays a breathtaking challenge before the field: what could the military do with a helicopter-like, autonomously-flown UAV with a range of 2,500 nautical miles and endurance of 16-24 hours, carrying a payload of 1,000-2,500 pounds, and doing it all more quietly than conventional helicopters? For that matter, imagine what disaster relief officials could do with something that had all the positive search characteristics of a helicopter, but much longer endurance.
Enter the A160 Hummingbird Warrior (YMQ-18), which was snapped up in one of Boeing’s corporate acquisition deals. It uses a very unconventional rotor technology, and Boeing’s Phantom Works division continues to develop it as a revolutionary technology demonstrator and future UAV platform. With the Navy’s VTUAV locked up by the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, Boeing’s sales options may seem thin. Their platform’s capabilities may interest US Special Operations Command and the Department of Homeland Security, and exceptional performance gains will always create market opportunities in the civil and military space. At least, Boeing hopes so.
Latest updates: DOT&E test report; Contract for IDWS improvements.
RGS for V-22
In the past specific and detailed allegations were made concerning the V-22 Osprey‘s performance, testing flaws, and survivability issues in anything beyond low-threat situations like the Anbar deployment in Iraq. Despite direct offers, US NAVAIR chose not to respond or address any of those allegations. One of the flaws that appeared headed for correction, however, was the issue of 360 degree covering fire. This capability is useful for fire support. It is especially helpful when entering or covering landing zones, where rotary aircraft are most vulnerable.
The Osprey’s huge propellers and the positioning of its engines had created obstruction issues for normal machine gun mounting locations, but AUSA 2007 saw BAE Systems promoting a retractable belly turret solution based on a 3-barrel 7.62mm GAU-17 minigun. Special Operations Command has ordered some, and now the US Marines have deployed with them.
Radios are vital to US Special Operations Command. Their tactics depend on high levels of training and coordination, and their operations need both high-bandwidth networking and reliable communications when calling for backup. On top of that, weight and bulk are precious commodities. US SOCOM’s Capital Equipment Replacement program aims to replace legacy multiband inter/intra team (MBITR) AN/PSC-5D radios with newer, lighter, better-performing JTRS-compatible equipment. SOCOM’s 75th Ranger Regiment are conducting combat evaluations [PDF] of full JTRS Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit PRC-154 Rifleman and PRC-155 Manpack radios, but the CER buys will involve a set of proven, JTRS-compatible radios that are already widely deployed under the US CISCHR contract. Over the next 5 years, up to $790 million will go to…
In 2006 GD was contracted to repackage A-10 ammo for AC-130 Gunships. As is so often the case, there’s a story behind the story. The USA’s fearsome AC-130U “Spooky” Hercules gunships were having their old 40mm Bofors cannons and 25mm GAU-12 gatling guns removed, and replaced with ATK’s 30mm MK44 autocannons.
It didn’t go very well. In the end, accuracy and operational needs trumped standardization, and the 40mm and 25mm guns had to go back in…
In November 2011, the US Army combined with US Special Operations Command to place an $31.5 million order with Saab North America for their Carl-Gustaf M3 man-portable recoilless rifle, which fires 84mm rockets. It’s a good order for Saab, because it breaks new ground with the US Army.
If the ubiquitous Russian RPG family is removed from the picture, Sweden’s Saab Bofors Dynamics has earned a strong niche, with 2 of the most popular shoulder-fired rocket systems in the world. Its 84mm offerings include the Carl Gustaf/Gustav, whose core design dates back to 1946 and whose most recent M3 version dates to 1991. The less-expensive AT-4/M136 is also 84mm, but swaps the rifled metal/carbon fiber launch tube for cheaper reinforced fiberglass, among other changes. Both systems offer a variety of rocket types, but the Carl Gustaf M3’s Area Defence Munition (ADM) flechette rounds are a uniquely useful capability in infantry fights. The US military has used both weapons for some time, but until now, the Carl Gustav M3 Ranger Antitank Weapons System had been fielded exclusively by US Special Operations units, while the M136 Lightweight Multipurpose Weapon was fielded to both US SOCOM and regular US Army units.
US Special Operations Command’s helicopters are some of its most important assets. The service will need new helicopters in the near future, but meanwhile, they’re busy modernizing the helicopters they have. Sensor and targeting system improvements offer a lot of operational bang for the buck, as August 2011 contracts to improve the MH-60 and MH-47 fleets show. Now FLIR Systems, Inc. in North Billerica, MA has received a sole-source $24.6 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract under FAR 6.302-1, for new production or retrofit of AN/ZSQ-3 (V1 Assault) and AN/ZSQ-3 (V2 Attack), Electro-Optic Sensor Systems with laser rangefinder/designator units. Order 0001 is for $497,092, with the rest to be awarded as requested by US SOCOM’s Technology Applications Contracting Office until Sept 22/16 (H92241-11-D-0007).
The turrets will equip the 160th SOAR’s A/H-6M “Little Birds” at Fort Campbell, KY. These MD 530 derivatives serve in versatile roles with the Night Stalkers, quickly moving special forces troops into confined areas, or acting as light helicopter gunships. They were especially useful during Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu, 18 years ago today, when they flew the only close air support available to the trapped Rangers and Delta force soldiers, sometimes even landing in narrow streets. The battle is known as the “Day of the Rangers” in Somalia, but it’s best known to most Americans by the movie/book name: “Blackhawk Down“.
Sometimes, Special Operations forces need to move around in highly protected vehicles, like their customized, blast-resistant RG-33 and M-ATV MRAPs. Other times, it’s better to blend into the background and disappear, using vehicles that wouldn’t look out of place on your home street. Armoring vehicles like that is a steady civilian business in places like Brazil, South Africa, and parts of Asia and the Middle East. It’s also the subject of a maximum $44.6 million contract from US Special Operations Command.
Aug 22/11: Ultra Armoring, L.L.C. in Kings Mountain, NC receives a 1-year indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity firm-fixed-price contract, to provide “non-standard commercial vehicles.” That begins with a $23.5 million task order, triggered by “Combat Mission Needs Statement 168”. Work will be performed in Shelby, NC, and is expected to be complete by August, 2012. This contract was awarded through other than full and open competition, justified under IAW 10 U.S.C. 2304c2, “Unusual and Compelling Urgency,” as implemented by FAR 6.302-2 (H92222-11-D-0027).
Deployments aren’t easy for active personnel. They can be even harder on families, and the impacts don’t end when the deployment does. In recent years, the US military has recognized the effect family difficulties have on its all-volunteer force, and placed a higher priority on family assistance programs. The priority is especially urgent with respect to special forces, who are deployed more often because they’re in such high demand. That means trouble if family problems cause them to decide to do something else. Even if replacing existing operators is possible, it’s time-consuming, difficult, and costly.
One example of the US military’s response is the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Resiliency Program, which recently issued a contract worth up to $44.4 million to Loving Couples Loving Children, Inc. in Seattle, WA. This LCLC program was originally developed by John and Julie Gottman for low-income couples expecting a child…