Limitations on UAV use are imposed by the threat of collisions between UAVs and manned aircraft. An RQ-7 Shadow UAV is definitely large enough to create real problems if it hits a helicopter or other aircraft, and a UAV’s extremely narrow field of view is a lot less safe than the awareness available to a human in a cockpit. Worse, many UAVs are small enough that a potential collision may not be noticed by other aircraft until it’s too late. There have already been accidents.
This isn’t just a military problem. It also represents the largest barrier to widespread civil UAV use. Europe’s EDA has a program underway to address deconfliction, the Israelis are looking into it, the US military is funding research from multiple UAV controllers to SWARMs, and even private contractors are busy searching for the key that will unlock a vast UAV market. The ultimate goal is a system that’s small enough to equip smaller and more affordable tactical and civil UAVs, as well as larger and more expensive military UAVs like the MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk.
A recent project sponsored by the US Army, and led by Lockheed Martin, is bringing that goal closer – and may have ramifications for the inter-service balance of power.
In 2006 Saudi Arabia announced a raft of arms purchases, from mobile howitzers, to helicopters, to advanced fighter aircraft. More requests have followed, including a controversial request for JDAM GPS-guided bombs. Many of these official requests have yet to turn into firm contracts, but the volume of fulfilled requests has attracted attention nonetheless. So, too, has the diversification of Saudi suppliers, as Russia enters the arena for the first time. Will Saudi spending continue? How significant is it? Forecast International… forecasts:
“Faced with both internal and external threats to its security, Saudi Arabia will continue to boost defense spending significantly over the coming years… Record-high oil prices, substantial influxes of energy revenues and an unyielding global demand for Saudi petroleum, meanwhile, will continue to serve as enablers… Saudi defense and security spending – estimated by Forecast at around $36 billion for 2008 – will reach almost $44.5 billion by 2012… the fledgling Saudi defense industrial base is limited primarily to maintenance work thus leaving Riyadh heavily dependent upon international suppliers for its equipment. As a result the Saudi market is not only the largest for defense equipment in the Middle East, but one of the largest worldwide.
…Meanwhile, the Saudi government is attempting to rectify its defense industrial shortcomings, partly by increasingly insisting on offsets and technology transfers as conditions for arms purchases. The defense ministry is also initiating a program to domestically-produce spare parts for its weapons platforms, and a ‘Saudization’ process whereby a shortage of technically-qualified workers is filled through increased ranks of trained, qualified Saudi workers. Despite these initiatives progress in developing the Saudi defense sector is slow and its projects and workforce remain foreign-dominated…”
The Air Force District of Washington/A7KI in Anacostia Annex, DC recently awarded a trio of contracts to Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., of McLean, VA (FA7014-08-D-0008); Shafer Corp., of Chelmsford, MA (FA7014-08-D-0009); and Systems Research and Application Corporation of Fairfax, VA (FA7014-08-D-0010). These indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts for a maximum of $95 million will find professional defense science, engineering, and technical non-personal advisory and assistance support services.
At this time no funds have been obligated. Contractors will compete for task orders as projects come up.
The A-37 Dragonfly was developed from the T-37 Tweet trainer as a counter-insurgency support aircraft, whereupon it was sent to Vietnam and became only aircraft to undergo operational testing in actual combat. The jet’s slow speed, excellent maneuverability when performing close air support, maintainability on the ground, and ability to carry its own weight in ordnance made it a popular and effective choice on the front lines. Several Latin American air forces still fly the A-37, and now Pakistan and Peru have expressed interest in the A-37Bs used by South Korea’s Black Eagles aerobatic flight team since 1994. The Black Eagles’ A-37Bs are slated for replacement by South Korea’s own supersonic T-50s.
In January 2008, KOIS reported that Peru’s air force chief of staff had asked about Korea’s A-37Bs during his October 2007 meeting with Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) commissioner Lee Sun-hi. Peru already operates the A-37B with Grupo Aereo 7 at Piura, near its northern border with Ecuador. Its air force is a mix of Russian and Western types, but budget issues and low readiness are often cited as problems with the fleet.
A-37, USAF Museum
Pakistan requested engine parts, and possibly aircraft, via a diplomatic channel in May 2007. The Pakistani Air Force does not operate A-37s in an attack role, though its ongoing civil war may make that option attractive. It does operate T-37 Tweet trainers at its Academy in Risalpur, however; they are scheduled for withdrawal once the K-8 Karakorum (aka. Hongdu JL-8) arrives in sufficient numbers, but until then they will need to be maintained.
Mantech Telecommunications and Information Systems Corp. in Chantilly, VA received a $106 million time & materials contract for one lot of “route clearance equipment contractor logistics support services” in Iraq and Afghanistan (W56HZV-08-C-0516). ManTech International Corporation’s release describes the award as having a value of up to $820 million over its 1-year base and its two 6-month option periods. There was one bid solicited on March 15/08, and one bid was received by US Army TACOM in Warren, MI. Actual program support is connected to the Army’s Project Manager (PM), Force Protection and PM Assured Mobility Systems.
ManTech has been maintaining US Army maintain counter-mine systems and equipment since 2003, including mine detection systems, mine retrieval systems, and medium and heavy mine protected vehicles. Services include managing the field personnel, parts analysis and purchases; and field logistics and maintenance management. ManTech also provides system training and curriculum support, resource management, and acquisition and administrative support.
The M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System faced issues since deployment in combat situations began in 2007. The Stryker MGS’ most prominent feature is a 105mm auto-fed gun mounted on its wheeled LAV-III/ Piranha-III APC chassis. M1128s have anti-tank capabilities, but they are more properly termed assault guns, and are generally intended to provide direct fire support for infantry. They have about 70% commonality with other Stryker family APCs.
Despite the controversies surrounding field performance, the U.S. Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command recently awarded General Dynamics Land Systems a contract for 62 Stryker Mobile Gun System (MGS) vehicles, involving initial funding of $145 million and a total potential contract value of $326.5 million. Work will be performed in Anniston, AL; Sterling Heights, MI; Lima, OH; Scranton, PA; Tallahassee, FL, and London, Ontario, Canada, and is expected to be complete by February 2010. GDLS release.
The nature of the current war puts a high premium “persistent, pervasive stare” capability, also known as technical Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). America has been reminded (yet again) that these tools cannot replace human intelligence and social networks, but when used properly they create significant advantages for a counter-insurgency force. Right now, about 80% of the U.S. military’s aerial ISR assets – from UAVs to planes like the U-2 – are busy in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations. Most of those are in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been pushing the ISR idea. He’s pressing the US military to speed up procurement, and deploy more ISR platforms in theater. He’s also putting his money where his mouth is. A task force was set up, and approval was given to “reprogram” funds from other areas, in order to fund these additional ISR projects. Congressional defense committees have now approved a FY 2008 request to reprogram $1.2 billion. According to Pentagon sources, these monies will buy 21 manned ISR aircraft, add to the RQ-11 Raven, RQ-7 Shadow, MQ-5 Hunter, MQ-1 Predator, and MQ-9 Reaper UAV systems in theater, and buy more Scan Eagle UAV detachments for the Navy and Marines.
These changes will do much more than just improve surveillance.
On Aug 19/08, L-3 Communications announced that its SPAR subsidiary in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada had been awarded a USD $18 million contract from the U.K. Ministry of Defence, under the Royal Air Force’s Hercules Outer Wing Replacement Plan. L-3 SPAR will perform outer wing replacements on 3 C-130K aircraft, using techniques developed to extend the lifespans of Canada’s extremely old CC-130 fleet.
“24-Year, GBP 1.5B contract to Maintain UK’s Hercules Fleet” covered ongoing efforts under one of Britain’s innovative “future contracting for availability” arrangements. This extra effort is outside of the HIOS arrangement, however, as it is required in order to let these RAF C-130Ks meet their planned retirement dates, instead of being withdrawn early. On June 27/08, Britain’s National Audit Office issued a report that pointed up serious issues with Britain’s C-130 fleet, thanks to additional hours being flown in support of front-line needs. Note that American C-130s are facing similar issues, for similar reasons:
“Increased stress on the aircraft has been caused by landing on unpaved airstrips in Iraq and Afghanistan, additional use of air drops, as well as a change from transporting people and equipment over long distances to making short flights in theatre. More ‘wear and tear’ has resulted, and increased maintenance costs. Fatigue, which decreases the life span of the wings, is accumulating more rapidly than in the past. The Department has had to retire four aircraft during 2006 and plans to retire a further five C-130Ks during this year, ahead of their planned retirement date of 2010. The Department will also need to address shortened wing life on the newer C-130J…”
India’s main battle tanks had one been relatively advanced by world standards, but long delays in fielding the indigenous “Arjun” MBT, combined with a successful Pakistani/Ukrainian program for its T-80UD “Al-Khalid” tanks, eroded India’s local advantage. The poor performance of T-72s in combat against modern main battle tanks could not have been comforting, either. In early October 2006, India Defence and Indian papers reported that the Indian Army intended to produce nearly 1,000 T90S ‘Bhishma’ main battle tanks in India by 2020. These would be bought in addition to the 310 T90 MBTs already under contract from Russia. Later that month, news reports noted a follow-on contract for another 330 T-90S tank kits from Russia that would assembled in India. Taken together those 2 firm production agreements reportedly exceed $1 billion.
The modernized T-72 now known as the T-90 has reportedly encountered serious problems in Indian service, from issues with its Thales thermal imaging systems, to difficulties in hot weather, to low readiness rates. Meanwhile, negotiations with Russia over technology transfer issues had shelved the 1,000 tank indigenous production goal, leaving only the 2 firm production agreements. The Arjun project has continued to fade, however, with the Indian Army announcing in July 2008 that production would be capped at just 124 tanks. As the final act in the battle for the core of India’s future tank force, recent reports indicate that the Russians have removed their technology transfer roadblocks, clearing the way for fully indigenous T-90S production in India…
AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars offer a number of improvements over previous-generation technologies. They are more sensitive. They have better operational “uptime” because moving parts are eliminated, and the failure of one module doesn’t take the entire radar off line or leave it useless. They are also far better at handling large numbers of targets. AESA radars can do many things at once by just dedicating groups of transmit/receive (T/R) modules to each task, instead of switching rapidly between targets to simulate multi-tasking. Among other abilities.
The challenge for AESA radars has been cost, specifically the cost of the thousands of individual T/R modules that make up an AESA array. In July 2008, Raytheon produced a release regarding a variant technology called AESLA, an Active Electronically Scanned Lens Array radar. Their approach was aimed at improving the cost of an AESA radar’s T/R modules, a move that could have industry-wide significance if successful.
To find out more, DID talked to Joe Smolko, Raytheon’s program manager for the AESLA effort.