The US Army is requesting a new TOW engine | SB-1 Defiant will soon make its maiden flight | Chinese UAVs are popular in the Middle-East
Raytheon is being contracted to develop a new propulsion system for the US Army’s TOW missile. The contract is valued at $21 million and covers three years of research and development necessary to make required performance improvements to the tube-launched, optically tracked TOW missile. “Improving TOW’s propulsion system will increase range and deliver enhanced protection for ground troops while providing them with more capability,” said Kim Ernzen, Raytheon Land Warfare Systems vice president. The wire-guided, operator-controlled BGM-71 TOW missile family external link remains a mainstay thanks to modernization, specialization, improved sighting systems, and pre-existing compatibility with a wide range of ground vehicles. The new propulsion system will be integrated into all TOW missile variants, including the top and direct attack 2B, direct attack 2A and Bunker Buster missiles. The TOW weapon system is scheduled to remain in the US Army’s inventory until the 2050s.
Lockheed Martin is being tapped to introduce a full rate production configuration to the new AN/TPQ-53 (Q-53) radar. The US Army is awarding Lockheed with a contract modification that sees for the insertion of Gallium Nitride into the Q-53. The Q-53 is a mobile, maneuverable, fully supportable and easily maintained counterfire target acquisition radar. Compared to currently deployed systems, the new, battle-tested Q-53 offers enhanced performance, including greater mobility, increased reliability and supportability, a lower life-cycle cost, reduced crew size, and the ability to track targets in a full-spectrum environment, a vital capability on today’s battlefield. According to the press release, the transition to GaN will provide the Q-53 with additional power for capabilities including long-range counterfire target acquisition. GaN has the added benefit of increasing system reliability and reducing lifecycle ownership costs. Work will be performed at Lockheed’s factories in New York, New Jersey and Florida.
Flight Global reports, that the new SB-1 Defiant is still on track to make its maiden flight before the end of 2018. The Defiant is a third-generation X2 aircraft jointly developed by Sikorsky and Boeing. It will be their main pitch in the US Government’s Future Vertical Lift program and is a direct rival to Bell’s V-280. The aircraft’s first flight will be conducted with a one-year delay due to problems during the composite blade manufacturing process. The companies have already installed a testbed for the Defiant’s powertrain systems at a West Palm Beach, Florida facility and plan to test the helicopter’s turbines, transmission and rotors in the coming weeks. This Powertrain System Test Bed (PSTB) lets them run the engines at their full combined 9,000 shaft horsepower and show how used components behave under increased stress. The Sikorsky-Boeing team plans to make ground runs with the Defiant in November. Both the Defiant and V-280 are aimed at satisfying the Army’s requirement under capability set-3, or “medium” variant that would be analogous to a legacy UH-60 Black Hawk.
Middle East & Africa
Chinese UAVs are becoming increasingly attractive to Middle-Eastern customers. Chinese arms dealers are especially attractive to those countries in the region which are restricted from purchasing US-manufactured UAVs because of their poor track record in protecting civilian lives during operations. Song Zhongping, a Chinese military analyst and former lecturer at the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force University of Engineering recently told Military Times that “the Chinese product now doesn’t lack technology, it only lacks market share,” and “the United States restricting its arms exports is precisely what gives China a great opportunity.” Preferred Chinese products include CASC’s Cai-Hong 4 and 5 models which are quite similar to General Atomics’ Predator and Reaper drones, but much cheaper. According to Ulrike Franke, an expert on drones and policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, China has sold more than 30 Chai-Hong 4s to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq in deals worth over $700 million.
Jane’s reports that French shipbuilder Naval Group is one step closer in finishing the last two of the French Navy’s six Aquitaine-class FREMM (frégate européenne multi-mission) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates. The FREMM European multi-mission frigate is a joint programme between France and Italy. It will build 21 FREMM frigates for the French Navy and the Italian Navy. Both the Bretagne and Normandie have now be fitted with the latest Sylver A50 vertical launchers. One Sylver A50 module can carry 8 missiles with a length under 5m, like the self-defense Aster15 and the tactical Aster30 missile. The MBDA Aster15 air defense missile system provides protection against supersonic and subsonic threats. The Aster 30 is an advanced two-stage hypersonic missile system for area defense against aircraft and missile attacks. Both ships are currently at Naval Group’s Lorient shipyard. After the successful completion of a set of sea trials the ships are expected for delivery in 2019. The French DGA confirmed to Jane’s that the decision to install the A50 was made to mitigate the risk created by a gap in the French Navy’s anti-air warfare (AAW) capability between 2020 and 2022/23.
Japan’s submarine program is marking another major milestone. Last week Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation launched their first Soryu-class submarine. The JS Oryu, is a diesel-electric submarine that uses long-endurance lithium-ion batteries. The diesel-electric propulsion system gives the vessel a smaller acoustic signature, giving it an edge during sensitive and combat operations. MHI says the 84-meter submarines are the world’s largest conventionally powered boats. They are also Japan’s first submarines to be fitted with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems that enable them to remain fully submerged for longer periods of time. Lithium-ion batteries allow submariners to shut off the primary diesel-electric power to switch to batteries for longer-endurance propulsion during sensitive operations. Battery operations can, in theory, significantly reduce the acoustic signature of a given submarine, making them harder to detect. The JS Oryu will be delivered to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2020. Japan has commissioned 9 units in the class so far while a total of 13 are planned to be operated by 2023.
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