The 2004 National Landmine Policy directed the Pentagon to end the use of persistent landmines after 2010, and introduce self-destructing and self-deactivating alternatives. The XM-7 Spider is the successor to the Matrix system deployed in Iraq, and part of the USA’s Non-Self-Destructing Anti-Personnel Landmine Alternatives (NSD-A) program.
Spider is more of a “remote explosive device” than a typical lay-and-forget land mine. It’s detonated by soldier command, and that soldier can even load non-lethal canisters if the mission calls for it. Unlike conventional land mines, the XM-7 Spider always has a known location, so it can be safely and easily recovered and re-deployed. If that isn’t possible for some reason, XM-7 units deactivate after a set time period, so they won’t become a future threat. It sounds good, and its capabilities are badly needed in places like remote fire bases, and along Korea’s dangerous DMZ. Unfortunately, the program has run into difficulties and delays.
At the end of August 2012, Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV received a $65.8 million contract modification for AN/PLT-5 jamming transmitters, to support the US military’s explosive ordnance (EOD) disposal teams under the EOD Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW) program. Most of this contract will supply the US Army (92.3%), though some will go to the Navy (7.1%), and Marines (0.6%). The US Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Indian Head Division in Indian Head, MD manages the contract (N00174-09-D-0003).
Discussions with SNC pinpointed the jammers’ type and fit. SNC’s AN/PLT-5 (Thor II) is a small and relatively light weight electronic countermeasure system against remotely triggered mines. It fits to vehicles, and is based on SNC’s successful baseline Thor technology. The Navy’s NAVEODTECHDIV buys the gear and manages the program for all EOD forces in the US military. Thor II is not considered one of the JCREW jamming systems, which are managed by the Navy’s PMS-408. Do not confuse it with the AN/PLQ-9 (Thor III) JCREW 3.1 system for dismounted infantry.
The MK7 MOD 2 Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System (APOBS) is used to clear mines or wire obstacles, and create a safe footpath for troops. APOBS can be carried by 2 people, takes 30 to 120 seconds to be set up, and fires a rocket from a 25-meter standoff position, sending a line charge with fragmentation grenades over the minefields or wire obstacles. The grenades clear the mines, and sever the wires. Developed by the US Army Armaments Engineering and Technology Center in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, APOBS won a US Army top military inventions of the year award in 2004. It replaces the Bangalore Torpedo, which was heavier, took longer to set up, and required 4 times the number of people to carry.
In 2006, small business qualifier Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense Co. in Simsbury, CT received a maximum $150.8 million, 5-year contract for up to 3,000 units. In 2011, however, the Army/USMC contract shifted to Chemring Ordnance, Inc. in Perry, FL…
Given the high number of Chinese military aircraft that have not been produced several years after first exhibiting models, Richard Fisher, Jr. from the International Assessment and Strategy Center thinks [PDF] the vaporware label is often – though not always – justified.
China’s naval modernization [updated CRS report, PDF] seems to be more substantial and sustained.
Then there’s the discrepancy between how you model the threat, and what the threat actually is. Bill Sweetman at AviationWeek as a good post about the colorful experience of USAF pilots who flew Russian fighters in the 80s:
Though the primes are staying clear of commenting on the Pentagon’s acquisition workforce, smaller IT firms are complaining about mistakes and lack of visibility that they attribute to the lack of experience of an increasing part of contracting officers. Recent hires will need to ramp up their skills fast as many older employers will retire soon.
The US Army is mounting its defense to counter claims that it has not-invented-here syndrome in the DCGS-A vs. Palantir kerfuffle: “There are multiple requests for capabilities in theater and many are ghost written by commercial vendors.”
Besides using sophisticated software to detect buried IEDs, the US Army is also considering training… rats. They would reach where dogs can’t.
The Royal United Services Institute think tank comments [PDF] on the British MoD’s plans to manage military procurement via a Government Owned, Contractor Operated (GOCO):
British military procurement is to make a big step if Philip Hammond’s statement [PDF] to Parliament last week is followed up by implementation. The Defence Minister wants to turn Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) into a Government Owned, Contractor Operated (GOCO) entity after having “soft market tested” alternatives earlier this year. This is likely to lead to a competition among interested service companies but it will take a while to happen, and there are many challenges ahead. DE&S currently employs about 18,000 people with a budget of around 14 billion pounds (slightly under 22 billion US dollars).
The US Navy said it would start releasing emergency funds today to start compensating the households whose property was destroyed in an F/A-18 crash on Friday in Virginia Beach. Thankfully no one was seriously hurt: “about as close as you can get to a miracle.” Video at the bottom of this entry.
A RAF Chinook had to make an emergency landing in Arizona on Saturday but nobody was injured either.
The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a glowing profile of Susie Alderson, an engineer now at the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) who promoted the production of MRAPs to protect troops from roadside IEDs.
In December 2011, Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense in Simsbury, CT received a $10.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3,000 Man Portable Line Charge Systems that can fire rope-shaped plastic explosives for remote detonation, and 206 Inert Training Systems. Work will be performed in Graham, KY; Simsbury, CT; and Sterling, CT, with an estimated completion date of April 8/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W91CRB-12-C-0012).
In August 2011, an FBO.gov RFI explained the rationale behind the MPLC: US forces needed a system for quickly clearing paths through land mines, which was lighter and easier to carry than existing gear. To be specific…
The US DSCA managed [PDF] $28.3 billion in Foreign Military Sales cases in FY 2011, and another $6.5 billion were made through Direct Commercial Sales, etc. Top 10 buyers were Afghanistan ($5.4 billion), Taiwan ($4.9 billion), India ($4.5 billion), Australia ($3.9 billion), Saudi Arabia ($3.5 billion), Iraq ($2.0 billion), the United Arab Emirates ($1.5 billion), Israel ($1.4 billion), Japan ($0.5 billion), and Sweden ($0.5 billion). Afghanistan is basically US donations, so it shouldn’t really count, but it’s an eye-opening figure.
Another interesting turn of events in Afghanistan: the country has vast mineral resources (including copper and gold) that the US DOD and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have helped map. The Afghan Mining minister has just opened a tender process to tap these deposits.
W.M. Robots, LLC in Colmar, PA already supplies their Vallon GmbH subsidiary’s hand-held mine detectors to the US military, and in September 2011 they added a $9.6 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract from the government of Afghanistan, plus options that could bring the cumulative value to $12.4 million. Afghanistan is clearly moving to beef up their mine-detection and removal capabilities; September also saw a buy of MMP-30 robots for these roles.
Work will be performed in Colmar, PA, and is expected to be complete by September 2012. $7.9 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. As this is a Foreign Military Sales program buy, the US military is acting as Afghanistan’s agent. This contract was synopsized as a sole-source buy, therefore, and is managed by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division in Indian Head, MD (N00174-11-D-0015).