The rocket-boosted, ramjet-powered GQM-163A was developed to simulate supersonic cruise missiles like the SS-N-22 Sunburn, Kh-31 (aka. AS-17 Krypton, which may have an anti-air AWACS-killer version), the Indo-Russian PJ-10 Brahmos, etc., which are proliferating throughout the world. Their speed and evasive maneuvers compress the amount of time a defense system has to deal with them to under a minute. A training target that can simulate their performance is critical to both proper preparedness and pursuant performance.
Despite this growing need, the Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST) program moved very slowly in the 1990s, with false starts that included a Boeing-Strela Kh-31 Krypton variant before the decision was made to develop a new SSST. Orbital Sciences won the contract in June 2000, but the BQM-163 suffered a number of program delays before its final developmental test flight eventually took place in in April 2005. The program is now moving forward, slowly, and picking up international customers as well…
How did a half billion dollar program to provide transport aircraft to the Afghan air force go so badly wrong? The concept was sound, as tactical transportation of troops and supplies was designated as the ANAF’s top priority. That’s reasonable, given Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and sparse infrastructure.
Those priorities explain US NAVAIR’s efforts to buy more Ukrainian AN-32s, which offered familiar technology, even though the spares situation was less than ideal. On top of that, a 3-way deal was made with Italy to send 20 of its Alenia G.222 (C-27A) light transports to Afghanistan, under a refurbishment program conducted by Alenia North America. That turned out to be a lot less than ideal, and the planes were eventually scrapped. What happened?
In July 2008, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Iraq’s formal request to buy 24 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters that act as scouts, perform light close air support, and escort other helicopters on dangerous missions. The DSCA documents also included requests for airborne weapons – which would be a new capability for the nascent post-Saddam air force.
At the time of the requests, the IqAF relied on a small force of Russia’s popular Mi-8/17s, and a handful of refurbished Bell “Huey II” helicopters. While the Russian helicopters can be armed, their status as Iraq’s only medium utility helicopters makes them a poor fit for an ARH role. Instead, Iraq chose between 2 competitors. Bell’s 407 bears a close resemblance to the OH-58 scout helicopters used by the US Army, and the 407-derived ARH-70A won the American ARH competition before running into trouble. Boeing’s AH-6 “Little Bird” light attack helicopters are used by US Special Forces, are very effective in urban settings, and provided critical fire support during the 1991 “Blackhawk Down” incident. Iraq went on to pick Bell as its its ARH winner.
Turkey’s refusal to step in before a bloodbath likely to happen in Kobani, a Syrian town besieged by ISIS [Deutche Welle], has been met with deadly protests locally, and heavy [USA Today] criticism [National Review] in the US. Not so fast, says Chris Kilford who until recently was Canada’s Defence Attaché to Turkey:
“The truth is that the Turkish military, without extensive preparation, is not able to conduct sustained cross-border operations against a determined opposition such as ISIL. In Turkey’s defence there are not that many militaries that would contemplate going it alone either. More to the point, a hastily planned unilateral intervention by the Turkish military could be extremely damaging politically if things went wrong.”
Lt Gen David Deptula (USAF, Ret.) has choice words for the US Administration, based on his experience in Afghanistan:
“One can see [ISIS] tanks and artillery… in the open on TV, yet the coalition forces for ‘Operation Un-named Effort’ are not hitting them. Airpower can hit those targets and many others, but those in charge of its application are not—that’s the issue—not the limits of airpower.”
Stand-alone articles have covered FY 2006 ($2.29 billion), FY 2007 ($2.32 billion), and FY 2008 (over $3 billion) orders, which saw a steady ramp-up in both absolute dollar amounts, and participating firms. Orders remained high through 2010, which was a boon to a recession-ravaged air transport industry, but the ebbing of hostilities has seen FY 2011 – 2012 contract totals drop by over a third.
In early April 2011, Thales received an initial production contract for Lightweight Multi-role Missiles (LMM), to equip the UK’s next-generation AW159 Wildcat naval helicopters as their “Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon – Light” (FASGW-L). The parties offer no details regarding contract costs, as they’re re-routing funding from an existing project, in order to finalize LMM development and produce the initial set of weapons. The casualty is believed to be Thales’ laser beam-riding, Mach 3.5 Starstreak portable anti-aircraft missile, which reportedly had some of its technology re-used in the less costly LMM.
The LMM will fill a size niche on helicopters and UAVs that sits somewhere below the popular 100 pound plus Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Its operational concept is similar to the Russian AT-16 Vikhr.
In August 2005, Australia’s Ministry of Defence reported that Australia and the United States had joined forces by signing a joint agreement to develop active phased array radar technology in Australia. The hope was that it would kick-start a new Australian electronics and systems integration industry, based on S-band active array and X-band phased-array technology, sized for and applied to smaller ships like frigates and corvettes.
This technology is being developed by ACT electronics company CEA Technologies, and has become part of Australia’s ASMD project to make its ANZAC Class frigates survivable against supersonic cruise missiles. Other military and civil applications on land and sea are also possible, given the radar’s characteristics.
Israel’s defense exports dropped [Globes] by almost $1B to $6.5B in 2013. Still better than 2011, but lower than 2009-2010 too. For all the talk about Iron Dome, it’s not necessarily meeting requirements from other countries and has been sold [Arutz Sheva] to a single (unnamed) other country.
ISIS issued [IBT] a how-to guide to shoot down attack helicopters. This had actually been a problem for the Americans before in Iraq, until the supply of Iranian MANPADS was choked off. This latest development is not surprising since ISIS includes some of the same people who were fighting back then.
A suicide bombing [BBC] killed at least 47 people in Sanaa and Hadramawt as Yemen is falling apart.
The Guardian describes the hi-tech media jihad conducted by ISIS:
“Isis’s global media operation appears to have two key objectives: to provoke the US and its allies, and to recruit from outside the Middle East. Both seem to be working.”
Ahmad Abousamra, a dual American-Syrian citizen on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list, may be [ABC News] one of the computer-savvy English-speaking people behind ISIS’ online propaganda.
Al Jazeera reports how the town of Tuz Khurmatu in northern Iraq may have technically been “freed” from ISIS, but the extensive booby trapping they left behind has turned the place into a ghost town. And according to Iraq Oil Report Shia militia and Kurdish fighters clashed there just days ago.
The Westpac Express fast ferry ship has been instrumental in changing the way the US Navy approaches sealift in the Western Pacific. It’s fast enough to substitute for airlift in many cases, and large enough to move a Marine battalion with its gear. Early trials went very well, and the innovative designs and performance of Australian shipbuilders Austal and Incat laid a foundation of manufacturing experience and customer comfort that led to the innovative GD/Austal trimaran design for the new Independence Class “Flight 0” Littoral Combat Ship, while spawning a major acquisition program in the Joint High-Speed Vessel (JHSV).
HSV Westpac Express isn’t a Navy-owned ship; technically, it’s a chartered vessel. In July 2005, we noted an 18-month extension to its charter. In 2006, that service period was extended still further via a new charter, lasting up to 5 years. During that charter’s period, a bankruptcy in Hawaii created an opportunity to buy the Austal-built catamaran Superferry MV Huakai, which will replace Westpac Express in the Pacific. Until then, the USMC needs one more contract extension.