Militaries tend to reflect their national cultures in various ways, and Americans have always been inveterate tinkerers and inventors. It’s a streak that runs deep in the culture, as even a casual glance at America’s late night TV will confirm. Cases in point on the military side of things include the Chavis turret, Hummer mine-rollers, and the door-ripping Rat Claws.
The American political-military-industrial complex has a mixed record when it comes to putting these kinds of innovations in the hands of people on the front lines. On the other hand, the current war has offered an illuminating side by side comparison of the American system vs. other militaries. Despite its size, the American system compares well, thanks in part to agencies like the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force. Another source of encouragement is the Army’s annual “Top 10 inventions” recognition program, which began in 2002.
These programs winners over the past 2 years [2005 | 2006] ranged from modified M113 APCs to wound dressings with built-in blood clotting agents. In June 2008, a new set of winners were announced. Presenting, the US Army’s Top 10 inventions of 2007:
In September 2005, “South Africa’s Denel Forced Into Strategic Shift” examined the changed business landscape for the firm, which was suffering from the collapse of its domestic arms market as a source of guaranteed funding, and a flood of red ink on its balance sheet. The turnabout has been slow, but the firm’s leadership has made it clear that global alliances and sub-contractor status, with a prime role in its domestic market, is the way forward for them.
One of the product groups Denel has always been known for is its artillery systems, which may be the best in the world. Their accurate G6 155mm howitzers continue to outrange all competitors, and the base-bleed ammunition technology they pioneered has become a widespread option for countries looking to extend the range of their existing artillery systems. Industrial partnerships with Rheinmetall and Diehl BGT Defence of Germany have led to orders to supply Germany’s 155mm howitzer and 120mm mortar ammunition, and partnerships have also been explored with General Dynamics in the USA.
Despite their difficulties winning international sales with a superior product, Denel isn’t quite ready to give up its artillery system crown jewels just yet. On the ammunition front, however, business partner Rheinmetall’s move to combine the 2 firms’ customer coverage and technologies has met with a warmer reception.
If you want to keep track of key Pentagon programs, Selected Acquisition Reports are an important resource. Shortly after the defense budget is submitted, the Pentagon releases details on major defense acquisition program cost, schedule, and performance changes on a periodic basis, summarizing the latest estimates of a major program’s cost, schedule, and technical status. Quarterly SARs are submitted for initial reports, final reports, and for programs that are rebaselined at major milestone decisions. Subsequent quarterly exception reports are required only for those programs experiencing unit cost increases of at least 15%, or schedule delays of at least 6 months.
Total program cost estimates provided in the SARs include research and development, procurement, military construction, and acquisition-related operation and maintenance (except for pre-Milestone B programs which are development costs only). Total program costs reflect actual costs to date, as well as future anticipated costs, and include anticipated inflation allowances.
In October 2007, “Get SMArt: Control for Aussie Artillery” covered their purchase of the German Diehl/Rheinmetall GIWS(Gesellschaft fur Intelligente Wirksysteme mbH) partnership’s SMArt 155 artillery shell. It’s designed to kill enemy armored vehicles by releasing a pair of can-shaped projectiles that descend by parachute, look for enemy vehicles below, then fire an Explosively-Formed Projectile (EFP) – an explosive charge that turns the concave metal plate they carry into an impromptu tank shell that rips through weak top armor.
Britain has also been looking to update its artillery with new munitions, and the Ballistic Sensor Fused Munition (BSFM) program featured GIWS’ SMArt 155 against BAE Bofors’ BONUS sensor-fized shell to equip Britain’s new AS90 Braveheart self-propelled tracked howitzers. GIWS won that competition, and development of the BSFM will now begin under the UK MoD’s Artillery Systems Integrated Project Team (IPT), integrating requested components and making changes. Missiles and Batteries Ltd (MSB) in Scotland, for instance, have been awarded a GBP 1.5 million (about $3.1 million) contract to produce the required shock-resistant batteries.
What, no blue face paint?
BSFM is the first component of the GBP 1.5 billion (about $3.07 billion) Category A Indirect Fire Precision Attack (IFPA) procurement program, which envisages a mix of 5 munitions acquired over time. IFPA aims to use a mix of shells and rockets, in order to give British forces the ability attack and destroy high value targets including enemy armor at ranges up to 300km, around the clock, and in all weather conditions. The program is scheduled to build to full capability by 2017.
On Oct 29/07, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] Israel’s formal request for a wide variety of missiles and ammunition. Previous orders have outfitted its air force for air-air and air-ground combat. While many of this order’s missiles are likely to find themselves aboard Israeli helicopters, this is not exclusively true, and the overall picture is one of rebuilding ammunition stocks for the ground forces and their supporting arms.
The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.329 billion. Specific items requested include:
Militaries around the world are moving to modernize and transform themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our mission is to deliver a regular cross-section of relevant, on-target stories, news, and analysis that will help experts and interested laypeople alike stay up to speed on key military developments and issues. Stories are broken down by military category and presented as fast bullet points that orient you quickly, with accompanying links if you wish to pursue more in-depth treatments.
Some of This Month’s Targets of Opportunity Include: Aging aircraft; F-22; F-35; India’s big fighter contest; 2018 bomber; Next-gen gunships; Japan’s stealth aircraft; JCA – just confusing; Poseidon down under; Boeing’s invisibility man; Odd new satellite; unmanned fighters & swarms; Cell phones & Patriots; Huge IT contracts; DARPA’s Deep Green; Lots of MRAP; FCS spinouts; Fire Ball; Better body armor; Australia’s new fleet; Korea: us too!; Britain’s new carriers; US Navy’s new bills; Russia’s stealthy Stereguschiy; Remote firefighting; Coast Guard cutters; ADVENT of breakthrough jet engines; $1M wearable power prize; Sub-finding ‘shark’; UK’s Grand Challenge & flying saucers; Boeing’s new plane design; DARPA’s robot dog; New Russian nukes; Britain’s new maintenance concept works; Israel prepares; Counter-insurgency air needs; Export controls and their blowback; CSAR-X: rescue me!; And much, much more:
Stauder Technologies‘ portable Target Location, Designation and Hand-off Systems (TLDHS) are used by forward observers; Sauder’s StrikeLink software is part of TLDHS, and is compatible with a number of targeting systems. StrikeLink determines the operator’s exact location and their designated target’s location, then uses secure digital transmission to send all this information to nearby artillery, aircraft, et. al. for prompt action. This approach seems simple, but it represents a significant step forward because it provides instant targeting data without transcription time or transcription errors, as opposed the manual process in current use. The software was 6 years in development, and the Marine Corps Systems Command finalized their decision to field it on June 1, 2006. See also a recent NAVAIR release covering tests with F/A-18 and AV-8 aircraft.
Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ recently received a $32.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for Excalibur Block IA-1 shells. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (39%), Farmington, NM (1%), Niceville, FL (18%), Heraldsburg, CA (7%), Cincinnati, OH (5%), Minneapolis, MN (6%), Anaheim, CA (4%), Thousand Oaks, CA (3%), Williamsport, PA (2%), Joplin, MO (2%), Fort Lowel, MA (1%), Minneapolis, MN (1%), and Karlskoga, Sweden (11%), and is expected to be complete by June 31, 2009. This was a sole source contract initiated on March 16, 2007 by the U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Command at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-07-C-0100).
The V-22 Osprey has attracted both praise and criticism during its long journey through development toward front-line deployment. Its characteristics have also had an impact on other weapons programs being developed for use with the aircraft. This article deals with two of those programs being developed to help strengthen the USMC’s badly eroded artillery capabilities.
One is the $74 million Internally Transported Vehicle (ITV) program; the United States Marine Corps says testing on American Growler, Inc’s vehicle is on track. The ITV – often incorrectly identified as the “Growler” – fits in the narrow belly of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The Marine Corps eventually expects to field about 600 to 700 of the two-ton, $120,000-a-copy tow trucks if they are accepted for fielding. ITVs will be delivered in two basic configurations: a Light Strike Variant (LSV), designed for Marine Corps infantry and reconnaissance battalions; and, the Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS) Prime Mover (PM), designed to tow the EFSS 120mm rifled mortar and the EFSS ammunition trailer. A decision to field them should be made by October 2007, a Marine Corps spokesman said.
1,000 Krasnopol shells were bought from M/s KBP Instrument Design Bureau in Tula, Russia under a 1999 contract, and delivered in May 2000 at a cost Rs 151 crores (about $34.4 million then). Two years later, New Delhi bought another 2,000 shells, with plans firmed up for buying another 6,000. Unfortunately…