Remotely-operated Weapons Systems (RWS) like Recon/Optical’s CROWS, Kongsberg’s Protector, Thales’ SWARM, BAE’s LEMUR, and larger versions like RAFAEL’s RCWS-30 and Elbit’s ORCWS have become popular attachments for combat vehicles. They allow an operator inside the vehicle to look at a screen displaying visual feeds from the RWS sensors, then move and fire the weapon from inside the vehicle.
Which leads to the logical next question: why does the operator have to be that close? South Korea, and now Israel as well, have thought about this and decided that in some cases, the answer is “no reason at all”…
Back in 1994, Canadian Forces Base Shearwater was downsized and most of its tenants moved to nearby Halifax, Nova Scotia on Canada’s east cost. The base, which had been active since 1918 and supported the RCAF for almost as long, became a heliport. Some of its land was set aside for sale.
All that changed when the Canadian government finally decided to purchase an H-92 Superhawk variant as its CH-148 maritime helicopter in November 2004. DND’s C$3.2 billion 20-year in-service support contract required them to provide functional space within 12 Wing infrastructure for Sikorsky to set up various integrated support services. Suddenly, the lost land had to be restored – and now, C$ 170 million (about $160 million) will be spent to ensure that CFB Shearwater has the promised capabilities when 12 Wing trades in its CH-124 Sea Kings for new CH-148 Cyclones.
W.F. Magann Corp. in Portsmouth, VA won a $23.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for dry dock modernization at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The work to be performed provides for an extension to Dry Dock #8 to “service the new CVN Class hull with the bulbous bow.”
That would be CVN 77 George H.W. Bush, a “transitional” carrier between the Nimitz Class that technically includes it, and the new CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class. Subsequent carriers will also feature the bulbous underwater bow, which improves hull efficiency and adds more buoyancy to the ship’s forward end. The George H.W. Bush was christened on October 7/06, and launched on October 9/06; it is scheduled to enter service in 2009.
Demolition of existing structures and utilities will be required to support the project, as well as providing utility trenches, mechanical and electrical work and other incidental related work. Work will be performed in Portsmouth, VA and is expected to be complete by July 2010. This contract was competitively procured via the Naval Facilities Engineering Command e-solicitation website with 2 proposals received by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic in Norfolk, VA (N40085-07-C-7038).
The Australian government has ordered another 143 Bushmaster mine-resistant vehicles under the existing LAND 116 Bushranger contract, adding to its existing force of 300. The A$ 99 million order (about $82.5 million) covers 5 variants based on existing build configurations, to be delivered no later than March 30, 2009. Designed by Australia’s ADI (now Thales) and Ireland’s Timoney Technologies, the Bushmaster IMV comes in 6 variants, including the standard troop transporter and: Ambulance, C2 (Command and Control), Combat engineering/Pioneer, Direct fire support, and Mortar carrier.
Bushmaster IMVs have served abroad since 2004 in East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Thales’ partner Oshkosh Truck submitted the Bushmaster as a larger CAT-II JERRV squad vehicle in the USA’s belated 2007 MRAP program. Surprisingly, its past testing by Australia, and history of successful performance in combat zones, have not led to any “low risk deployment” awards from the USMC beyond 2 test vehicles.
The new Australian vehicles are actually Bushmaster v1.1 models…
On May 24/07, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Mr Peter Lindsay MP signed a statement reaffirming the importance of the Australian Department of Defence’s 2000 Enterprise License Agreement and relationship with Microsoft Corporation. The Australian DoD’s relationship with Microsoft also includes commercial and collaborative planning, research and development activities and premier support services.
Lindsay is quoted in the release saying that “Our strategic partnership with Microsoft provides the foundation for the modernisation of Defence’s information systems and business process reform.” At the ceremony, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said: “This agreement underscores how serious we are about working together to help protect Australia’s critical communication infrastructure.”
Microsoft is not generally known in the technology world for high security levels, though they have been investing R&D in a trusted computing initiative. The larger question among security experts is whether Microsoft’s vast resources will succeed in fixing an underlying operating system and application model that haven’t been designed from the outset for top-tier security. The US Defence Department recently issued a report on China’s activities in particular that highlighted the threat of cyber-warfare as a growing aspect of hostilities, and a growing concern.
Australia’s Rapid Prototyping, Development and Evaluation Program (RPDE or ‘Rapid’) commenced operations in February 2005. Drawing people, technology, facilities and contextual information from Defence and 83 industry participants of all sizes, ‘Rapid’ aims to accelerate new technology that can be useful to the ADF. Mostly, it’s about enhancement of existing capabilities rather than radical new breakthroughs, but those kinds of innovations can make a serious difference in the field – as the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force has shown.
The latest development expands the program participant pool by about 70% in its third year of operation…
On May 24/07, the US DSCA announced Iraq’s purchase request for medical consumables, pharmaceuticals, medical, surgical, dental supplies, medical equipment, support equipment, program support, publications, documentation, personnel training, training equipment, contractor technical and logistics personnel services and other related program requirements.. The total value, if all options are exercised, will be slightly less than $1.05 billion. The principal contractors are unknown at this time.
The requested items will be used to provide for the basic medical needs to Iraqi forces “and, as necessary and appropriate, civilians who are casualties of ongoing conflict. The medical supplies will help minimize the casualties sustained during military operations.” DSCA adds that “The proposed use of this equipment is consistent with the statutory authorities in section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended, and section 607 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended.” DSCA release.
Pilots don’t enjoy thinking about ejection – but when they have to, Martin-Baker Aircraft Co., Ltd. in Middlesex, England is known worldwide as the #1 manufacturer. Their rocket-boosted pilot seats are designed to get a pilot out of a plane quickly, away from lethal impacts with a tail or wing, and if necessary, to a safe altitude for parachute deployment.
The firm recently received a $39.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 172 Navy Aircrew Common Ejection Seats (NACESs), including 70 for the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and E/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft; 20 for the US Navy’s T-45 Goshawk trainers; 22 for the US Marine Corps’ F/A-18A+ Hornets; and 60 for the Government of Canada who also flies F/A-18A+ Hornets. In addition, this contract provides for associated component parts and production support for the U.S. Navy production aircraft, and for the Government of Switzerland (F/A-18 C/Ds).
Work will be performed in Middlesex, England (71.5%); Johnstown, PA (16%); Northridge, CA (7%); and Ronkonkoma, NY (5.5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2008. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy/USMC ($26.5M, 66.70%); and the governments of Canada ($13.1M, 33.02%); and Switzerland ($109,549, 0.28%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-07-C-0011).
Small business qualifier Force Protection Industries, Inc. in Ladson, SC received a $12 million for firm-fixed-priced delivery order #0006 under previously awarded firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-07-D-5006) for 14 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Category III Buffalo vehicles. The Buffalo is a mine-resistant, route clearance type vehicle that is used to dispose of discovered mines. It was also the vehicle that triggered the 2007 Biden Amendment [MS Word format] to accelerate MRAP purchases.
This contract was not competitively procured – unlike other MRAP categories, CAT III has only one vehicle choice. Work will be performed in Ladson, SC and work is expected to be complete by April 2008. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA issued the contract.
Elbit Systems Electro-Optics Elop Ltd. (“Elop”) announces several contracts valued at about $50 million to supply its hand-held CORAL Thermal Imaging night vision systems to the Canadian Forces, Israel’s IDF, and “additional customers worldwide.”
Elop’s CORAL systems [PDF brochure] are compact and lightweight (less than 2.5 kg/ 5.5 pounds) thermal imaging viewers that are carried by an infantry soldier on a neck-strap. They can be used to view targets at night at tactical ranges, either from fixed positions or while in motion. The systems are also optimized for low energy consumption, which is important to already-overloaded infantry soldiers who would otherwise have to carry the additional batteries. Elbit release [PDF format]