Thursday, August 25, 2005

Off the Wire, 8/25

Advance Made in UK's Future Weapons System

Source: UK Ministry of Defense

The award of a contract for risk reduction of technologies that may be used to equip the British Army's next generation of armored fighting vehicles was announced by the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD).
A contract has been placed by Atkins, the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) systems house, with General Dynamics (GD) UK Ltd. for a one of the Chassis Concept Technology Demonstrator Programs (TDP). The intention is to demonstrate the readiness of electric-drive technology and to enable better understanding of the challenges of integrating potential electronic-architecture solutions onto a vehicle chassis.
The FRES program is the most significant armored vehicle project for the next decade. It will provide a family of medium-weight, armored fighting vehicles to fulfill a wide range of roles. The FRES will be an integral part of an interoperable network.
TDP contracts have recently been placed with the UK Defense Science and Technology Laboratory for capacity and stowage and with Akers Krutbruk for hard-kill defensive-aids suites (HKDAS). Other TDPs are currently being negotiated or planned. The TDPs form part of the overall integrated technology-acquisition program (ITAP), which enables the MoD to best assess the maturity of technologies that may have benefit for the FRES program. A key consideration will be the ability for potential technologies either to mature in time for inclusion in early FRES vehicles, or to incrementally upgrade the capability by exploiting new technologies in response to changing threats.
The FRES is the first of the British Army's transformational capabilities and is at the heart of the service's equipment program. It will have wide operational utility, from peacekeeping to warfighting, and will both equip the Army's medium-weight forces and provide key support roles to its heavy force.
Delivery of the FRES will enable the elimination of current vehicles such as CVR(T), FV 432, and Saxon from the inventory as soon as possible.

For more on the UK MoD's future, see UK MoD Discusses Modernization Plans and UK Defense Secretary Outlines Army Future.

US Army's GMLRS Rockets Tested in Iraq

Source: Lockheed Martin

Fire units of Battery Bravo, 3rd Battalion, 13 Artillery Regiment, US Army, successfully conducted the first in-theater tests of the Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD) Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) Unitary rockets recently in Iraq.
Seven GMLRS Unitary rockets were ripple-fired from a 65-km distance and reached the target. Test objectives included demonstrating the GMLRS Unitary-rocket precision capability, and also demonstrated its lethality while limiting collateral damage.
During its testing phase, the GMLRS Unitary missile performed in 12 separate flights in 14 months.
Guided MLRS Unitary integrates a 196-lb. unitary warhead into the GMLRS rocket, giving battlefield commanders the ability to attack targets up to 70 km away. This program is intended to help reduce collateral damage by providing enhanced accuracy to ensure delivery of the warhead to the target.
The system-design-and-development (SDD) phase of this program was preceded by a successful system demonstration in 2002 of a Quick Reaction Unitary Rocket and a nine-month Component Advanced Development program. The Guided Unitary SDD program will continue through 2007.

For more on GMLRS, see UK Becomes First International GMLRS Customer and US Army Receives First GMLRS Rockets.

Upgraded P-3 Orion Delivered to New Zealand

Source: L-3 Communications

L-3 Communications (New York, NY) announced today that its Integrated Systems (L-3 IS) subsidiary has delivered an upgraded P-3 Orion aircraft to the New Zealand Ministry of Defense two months before the scheduled delivery date of late October 2005. The aircraft is operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
According to New Zealand Defense Minister Mark Burton, the Orions are critical for the surveillance of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone and surrounding waters, the Southern Ocean, and the Ross Sea. "We use our Orions for surface patrol, to look for illegal fishing, for search-and-rescue operations, and recently they were in the Arabian Sea area in support of the international campaign against terrorism," Burton said.
The first three of the six-aircraft upgrade program have early installation of electro-optical systems, which provide an increase in visual- and infrared-detection capabilities as an interim benefit prior to the full aircraft upgrade. The first of three P-3 Orions with early installation of the electro-optics systemal was delivered in mid-August, two months ahead of schedule.
As part of the New Zealand P-3 Systems Upgrade Project, a contract was awarded to L-3 IS in October 2004 and included upgrades to the P-3 Orion's mission systems and communication and navigation equipment. For the early installation, L-3 IS used L-3 Communications Wescam's MX-20 imaging turret system with both video capabilities and an infrared camera.
Work continues on the additional aircraft and includes the replacement of the data management, sensor, communications, and navigation systems, and the provision of associated ground systems. The last aircraft upgrade under the contract is scheduled for completion in 2010.

For more on P-3C Orions, see the post Orions With Dry Feet.

Falcon III Radio Receives NSA Certification

Source: Harris Corp.

Harris Corp. (Rochester, NY), a supplier of software-defined tactical radios for worldwide defense forces, has received certification from the US National Security Agency (NSA) for its new multiband, multimission Falcon III Handheld tactical radio. Along with this certification, the radio has received its official US government nomenclature: AN/PRC-152.
The AN/PRC-152 utilizes the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) software communications architecture (SCA) and is the first radio utilizing the JTRS SCA operating environment to receive NSA certification for the protection of voice and data traffic up through the Top Secret level.
The new capabilities include programmable communications security (COMSEC) and SCA to allow the addition of future JTRS waveforms.
An embedded GPS is offered as an option on the radio. Also, a vehicular-adapter option is offered to allow the AN/PRC-152 to be installed in the US-standard combat net-radio mount and used as a vehicular radio.
The AN/PRC-152 is the first system to be certified using the Harris Sierra II software-programmable encryption module. Sierra II – a reprogrammable cryptographic device that can be embedded in a variety of voice and data products – received NSA certification last year.

For more on US military radio acquisitions, see Alternatives Sought Amid JTRS Delays.

South Korea Gets ECM Training Tool

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman (Rolling Meadows, IL) has completed an in-country reprogramming-tool training for representatives of the Republic of (South) Korea Air Force and Boeing (St. Louis, MO) on the operation and programming of its AN/ALQ-135M electronic-countermeasures system, which is an automatic, internally mounted electronic combat system that manages and defeats multiple threats simultaneously, prioritizing and neutralizing the most imminent dangers.
The reprogramming tool was introduced during a recent training class held at the company's Rolling Meadows, IL, facility where the ALQ-135M is produced. The four-week class included discussion on overall operation of the ALQ-135M system, instructions on how to input data into the reprogramming tool to program system functions, and hands-on programming exercises.
The ALQ-135 "M" configuration improves on heritage ALQ-135 systems by replacing multiple processors with a new PowerPC-based system that offers speed and memory enhancements. The ALQ-135M also makes use of microwave power-module transmitter technology to reduce weight and boost performance.
Northrop Grumman is under contract to Boeing to provide training in support of the in-country reprogramming-tool delivery later this year. So far, the company has delivered more than 25% of production hardware under a 40-aircraft procurement of the ALQ-135M for use aboard South Korea's F-15K, the latest version of the fighter aircraft that began flight testing in early March.

For more on EW for ROK F-15Ks, see EW Suite Flies on New Korean F-15K.

Additional Chemical Detectors for Strykers

Source: Smiths Detection

Smiths Detection (Watford, UK) has teamed with Patlon Aircraft & Industries Limited (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) in capturing new contracts for more than 420 chemical-detector vehicle-assembly kits for the Stryker vehicle produced by General Dynamics Land Systems (Sterling Heights, MI). The kits will meet the operational requirement that enable the GID-3 chemical-agent detectors from Smiths Detection to be fitted to Stryker vehicles in service with US forces.
The supply of these GID-3 ancillary items is a follow-on award after an initial contract, won in 2001, to equip 2,131 Stryker vehicles in service with six US Army brigades. The ancillary items include chemical-detector mounts, inlet assemblies, remote alarm assemblies, inlet and exhaust pipes, and syringe and confidence kits. The kit will be supplied by Smiths Detection's Watford, UK, facility.

For more on Stryker enhancements, see Stryker Improvements on the Way.

Kuwait Seeks Support for F/A-18 Operations

Source: US Defense Security Cooperation Agency

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on Aug. 22, 2005, notified the US Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Kuwait of continuing logistics support, contractor maintenance, and technical services in support of the F/A-18 aircraft, as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $295 million.
The government of Kuwait has requested a possible sale of continuing logistics support, contractor maintenance, and technical services in support of the F/A-18 aircraft to include contractor engineering/technical services, contractor maintenance support, avionics software, engine-component improvement and engine spare parts, technical ground-support equipment, spare and repair parts, supply support, publications and technical data, engineering-change proposals, US government and contractor technical- and logistics-personnel services, and other related elements of program support.
The government of Kuwait needs the contractor technical, maintenance, and logistical services to maintain the operational capabilities of its aircraft, previously procured from the US. These contractor services will provide for a continuation of the required logistics support through 2011.
The contractor maintenance and training technical services will not alter the basic military balance in the region. The principal contractors participating in this proposed sale are Dyncorp (Ft. Worth, TX), Boeing (St. Louis, MO), and Anteon (Fairfax, VA). There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 50 contractor representatives in Kuwait to maintain continuity in the program support through 2011.

For more on the F/A-18 Hornet, see Stacking the Deck.

Comms System Delivered for UK's ASTOR

Source: Cubic Defense Applications

Cubic Defense Applications (San Diego, CA) and its UK partner, Ultra Electronics, recently delivered the final unit of Cubic's Airborne Standoff Radar (ASTOR) Narrowband Data Link System (NDLS) to Raytheon Systems Ltd., which will integrate the narrowband datalink into the ASTOR system and deliver fully integrated systems to the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD). Cubic's datalink is part of a major new battlefield-surveillance platform scheduled to enter service in 2006.
The deliveries fulfill the production portion of Cubic's $46-million contract with Raytheon Systems Ltd., prime contractor for the ASTOR program. The UK MoD purchased a total of nine datalink systems with spares, along with a 10-year service support commitment for the hardware. The 10-year support effort begins this year.
Cubic's ASTOR NDLS provides broadcast communications in near-real time from surveillance aircraft to ground stations and other military systems. Each NDLS includes both ground data terminals and air data terminals.

For more on the ASTOR program, see First UK-Modded ASTOR Aircraft Takes Flight.

Viper Strike in Development for Spectre

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman (Baltimore, MD) has been awarded a sole-source contract from the US Special Operations Command to develop the Viper Strike as a stand-off precision-guided munition (SOPGM) on the AC-130 gunship.
The $22-million contract is an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program with a potential full value of $48.6 million.
The Viper Strike is a gliding munition capable of stand-off precision attack using GPS-aided navigation and a semi-active laser seeker. It is intended for operations that require a flexible angle of inclination (steep or shallow), particularly in mountainous terrain or built-up areas where strict rules of engagement are in force. Its small size and precision provide for low collateral damage in cluttered urban environments.
The first phase of the contract will demonstrate the use of the SOPGM from the gunship and begin development of operations concepts, as well as launcher and battle-management systems to optimize use of the precision munition. The second phase will demonstrate and assess the military utility of the SOPGM weapon system on the AC-130, along with expanding its capability to include a datalink for two-way communications with the munition.
Work on this contract will be performed primarily out of Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems facilities in Huntsville, AL, and will be incrementally funded. The first phase of the program is scheduled to be completed in December 2006.

For more on possible platforms for Viper Strike, see US Army UAV Programs in Flux.

Work to Begin on Gripen's Meteor Missiles

Source: Gripen International

With precision-guided munitions testing essentially complete, the Gripen weapons-integration development team will soon start work with the Meteor advanced beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).
Throughout late 2004 and into 2005, much of the Gripen test team’s development work has been focused on meeting the needs of the Czech and Hungarian Air Forces. This same work is linked with the Swedish Air Force’s own requirements and will ensure that all Gripen operators have a common capability standard for weapons and systems.
The Gripen’s weapons system is almost fully cleared for service and will be one of the core capabilities delivered to the Hungarian Air Force. To date, the Czech Air Force has not contracted for an air-to-ground weapons fit, but Czech pilots will still be able to train for the air-to-ground role using the Gripen’s existing onboard systems.
Hungarian Gripens will be cleared to use the Litening III laser-designation pod, along with GBU-10, GBU-12, and GBU-16 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. The Gripens will have a full night-attack/all-weather precision-guided-munition (PGM) capability. For the air-to-air mission, Hungary plans to acquire the latest model of the Raytheon AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM beyond-visual-range (BVR) missile. In December 2004, the Hungarian Ministry of Defense announced that it intended to acquire 40 AMRAAMs. The Gripen is already cleared for the AIM-120B variant, so only a small amount of integration work will be needed to qualify the AIM-120C. Hungary will issue a tender for more air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons during 2005. These are expected to include the AGM-65 Maverick missile and a new short-range air-to-air missile – weapons for which the Gripen is already cleared.
Two more elements of the Gripen’s future weapons capability will start their system testing later this year. The first of these is the Cobra helmet-mounted display (HMD). Using the HMD, a Gripen pilot will be able to use the next-generation of agile dogfight air-to-air missiles to full effect. The HMD will also be able to designate targets on the ground for PGM attacks.
In May the Gripen test team plans to start initial flight tests with the MBDA Missile Systems Meteor BVRAAM. The Gripen will undertake all the initial live-firing trials of the ramjet-powered Meteor, with the first launch scheduled for late 2005.

For more on Gripen, see Gripen Settles In.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Orions With Dry Feet

Sea Power, the magazine of the Navy League of the United States, has an interview with Rear Adm. Michael L. Holmes, commander, Patrol & Reconnaissance Group, US Navy, about the status and future of the Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. Of particular interest in how in-demand the aircraft is among combat commanders, and not for the primary mission of maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The payload, endurance, communications, and sensor suite of the Orion makes it a valued intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform for littoral regions. Interestingly, the operational tempo of the aircraft for conducting ISR missions is compromising ASW readiness and modernization efforts.

ASW has always been our core mission. The other missions sets that come with that — ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and [maritime] interdiction — if you’re doing ASW and using all of your sensors, then the overland ISR become fairly easy to adjust to. When our crews are home in the training cycle they focus on ASW.

Unfortunately, their focus when forward-deployed has been on ISR, so there hasn’t been a lot of ASW readiness generated on deployment. Since the CNO (chief of naval operations) has put new emphasis back into ASW, we have worked with the task force commanders to get as many ASW exercises [as we can] for our forward-deployed squadrons in order to keep their ASW readiness as high as possible. That’s not easy in a place like the [Persian] Gulf.
This situation has been long coming. Here is an excerpt from a 2001 article on eDefense Online written by Ken Sherman, a former P-3 Orion ASW operator, describing how the missions of maritime patrol aircraft increasingly take them over dry land:

Feet Dry: Maritime Patrol Goes Ashore
New roles and missions mean no safe harbor for land forces.

A good aircraft will outlive its design expectations. A great aircraft will excel in roles for which it was not originally designed. A legendary aircraft - the kind people build shrines to in their offices in the form of framed, numbered prints-will do both, and have a cool-sounding name.

By the time it is retired in about 2020, the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion will be being flown by the great-grandchildren of the people who designed it. Littoral ASW. Surface attack. Troop support. ISR. Counter-terrorism and drug interdiction. Datalink. The P-3 is doing it all. And Orion is a pretty cool name to boot.

What's interesting is that this future legend has plenty of company out there in the word of maritime-patrol aircraft (MPA). Other MPAs - such as the MR2/4 Nimrod, Tu-95 Bear, ATL2/3 Atlantique, Il-38 May, and BE-12 - have all performed ASW duties, and most still do. However, due to a combination of changing times and newer technologies, all have added a number of other roles. Clearly, MPA now means, "Multi-Purpose Aircraft."

Current MPA missions include (1) "brown water" anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ; (2) anti-surface ship warfare (ASuW); (3) stand-off land attack; (4) troop support/ground attack; (5) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); (6) counter-narcotics operations; (7) mining/denying of free passage; (8) search and rescue; (9) datalink; and - in their spare time - (10) deepwater ASW. This multiplicity of missions and roles is requiring an equally diverse array of electronics as sensors. Also, as MPAs go looking for trouble, they are finding themselves more in need of radar warning receivers (RWR), jammers, and expendable countermeasures more indicative of combat aircraft - particularly since MPAs are not very good at protecting themselves. In August 1999, for example, an Indian Air Force MiG-21 shot down an Atlantique of the Pakistani Navy, killing all 16 aboard (see "Pakistani Recce Aircraft Shot Down").

As area commanders afloat and ashore in a post-Cold-War world have seen what long-range patrol aircraft can do, the tasking of maritime-patrol aviation has exploded. Further, with continued DOD and allied military draws-down, Reserve Force MPA assets are assuming an increasingly large portion of maritime- patrol responsibilities. In the past several years, both active-duty and Reserve P-3 crews have flown ongoing missions over Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Middle East, carrying and firing a variety of air-to-surface weapons - no torpedoes, though.

US Navy P-3C Antisurface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP) aircraft today routinely fly armed patrols in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and other locations. P-3C AIP aircraft flying around-the-clock armed force-protection surveillance missions in the Adriatic have launched Tomahawk missiles against adversaries. P-3Cs routinely provide Surface Combat Air Patrols (SUCAP) for the deployed carrier- battlegroup commander, marking the first time since Vietnam that P-3s have routinely flown armed. P-3s can downlink imagery and other intelligence to the battlegroup, staying aloft for long periods of time. P-3s have fired Standoff Land Attack Missiles (SLAMs) at enemy targets.

Big four-engine turboprops have a number of advantages over fast jets - provided you can keep them from getting shot at. The fact is, if you have air dominance, you can use large, stable, long-legged platforms such as the P-3C and specialized versions of the C-130 Hercules to perform a wide range of missions, including reconnaissance and strike. Moreover, the aircraft are flexible enough to perform a number of missions on the same sortie, all the while functioning as a node in an extended command and control network. As the US Navy consolodates its P-3C fleet in anticipation of receiving the new Boeing P-8 Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA), which passed a major program review last April, friendly nations are hoping to acquire castoff Orions and upgrade existing ones, including Thailand, Pakistan, Brazil, Australia, and South Korea.

Defense Industry Daily has been covering the P-3C extensively and has more here.

For more on the Orion's successor, the P-8A (based on the 737), go to eDefense Online:

US Navy Eyes International Involvement in P-8A Development

Contract Imminent for MMA EW, Sensors

Multimission Maritime Aircraft on Schedule

US Navy Awards MMA Contract

How to beat the US in Iraq

The Financial Times of 8/24/2005 has a very interesting interview with a military "consultant" for Sunni insurgents in Iraq:

Tips on how to beat US from insurgents' consultant
By Dhiya Rasan and Steve Negus

Published: August 23 2005 19:08

North of the western Iraqi town of Ramadi lies the “peninsula” a bend in the Euphrates, dotted with vegetable fields, orchards and occasional low earthen mounds on which stand memorials to the “martyrs” killed in the struggle against the US marines based across the river.

This is the territory of the “Omariyun,” an insurgent network drawn from four of the main tribes in the peninsula, named after a 7th century Muslim ruler venerated by the Sunni.

The peninsula clans' unofficial leader and consequently the Omariyun's informal consultant is a former army colonel named Watban Jassam, a tall officer in his 50s, well groomed and well spoken, who for 15 years was a prisoner of war held by the Iranians and now lives on a farm with his five sons.

The Omariyun are very much a local movement, but similar networks are common across Sunni Arab Iraq. This makes Colonel Jassam, a respected community leader who wields influence over local insurgents but does not share the radical Islamist ideology of extremists such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, exactly the kind of man that the Americans want to convince to give up armed struggle.

However, as long as US forces remain in Iraq, and as long as pro-Iranian Shia parties wield power in Baghdad, he does not seem ready to be convinced.

Colonel Jassam's wartime suffering and his piety (he memorised the Koran while in prison) as well as his educated demeanour give him a moral authority with the Omariyun, even if he does not engage directly in the planning or conduct of operations although he once ambushed some US soldiers after his brother was killed in a raid.

He has no objection to his name appearing in print. He says he is known to the Americans and, in fact, claims that they once tried to hire him as an adviser, in between raids on his house.

In this part of the country, fixing guilt for supporting the insurgents would be difficult. Everyone knows everyone else, and everyone seems to back the mujahideen, or holy warriors.

At one point during a meeting with Colonel Jassam, shooting echoes in the background. The next morning, after one of the colonel's sons talks to the neighbours, the family discovers that it was not an attack authorised by the Omariyun leadership, but rather a freelance attack by a group of youths.

“They were out to make their reputation so they will be called upon to carry out future operations,” Colonel Jassam explains.

The colonel's advice to the insurgents is twofold: hints on how to strike while dodging the marines' devastating firepower, and thoughts on what their political goals should be. He suggests that the insurgents fire mortars or rockets from multiple locations at once, and then flee immediately, so as not to give the Americans' counter-battery radar the chance to locate them. He tells the peninsula's insurgents to fight smartly not like the Salafi Islamists, he says, “who spend too long in one place, and who don't think through their resistance”.

The colonel's political vision, meanwhile, is shaped by his 15 years in Iranian detention, where he was held by the Badr militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq an Iraqi party that fought alongside Tehran in the 1980 to 1988 Iran/Iraq war, and which is now the most important power in his own country's Shia-dominated government.

He was released in 1997, eight years after the war's end. The Badr militiamen, he says, tortured him harshly - a common charge heard from former POWs. In Colonel Jassam's case, the militia forced him to eat 2kg of salt a day, leaving him with kidney problems that persist.

He also says the Badr forced the prisoners to dirty themselves when they went to the bathroom, rendering them ritually impure and therefore unable to pray. He stresses he has nothing against the Shia per se. “We like [anti-American Shia leader] Muqtada al-Sadr. I don't have any problem with Shia, just with the Supreme Council and with Badr.” To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops.

In Ramadi, the insurgents are setting up a nascent mini-civil administration in its outskirts, distributing petrol and water to civilians. They finance themselves through the Transport Ministry's local office in charge of vehicle registration, which they essentially control by threats against its administrators.

For a few thousand dollars they issue licences to second-hand vehicles more than five years old, which are banned from import under an anti-congestion decree passed by former prime minister Iyad Allawi. With the permits, such cars can be sold elsewhere in the country. To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations “to support anti-war sentiment in the west”, he says.

To gauge US public opinion, he has become an avid watcher of satellite news channels, and never misses the White House press briefings. When he sees footage of another insurgent groups' attack on a bus station, he exclaims: “They were innocents no one should kill them.” He also denounces the Americans for using Mr Zarqawi's name to tarnish the mujahideen as a whole.

After the mujahideen have driven out the Americans, they will move on to their next goal - destroying Badr as a force that could ever hold power in Iraq. The otherwise good-natured Colonel Jassam displays a rare flash of hatred when he describes his former tormentors.

“The Badr said that the Sunnis were infidels . . . but who pledges allegiance now to the [American] infidels?” he asks. “The Badr forces have abandoned Islam.”

For more on the challenges military forces have confronting insurgencies today, and how they are trying to meet them, see "Urban Puzzle."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Off the Wire, 8/23

US DHS Approves Counter-MANPADS Design

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman has received US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approval of its design for the Guardian protection system, intended to protect commercial aircraft from attack by ground-based, shoulder-fired missiles, or man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
The company recently passed the last of three design reviews for its Guardian protection system, which is based on the military directional-infrared-countermeasures (DIRCM) technology it currently has in production for the US military and several international customers. Northrop Grumman's commercial DIRCM version is being developed under Phase II of the Department of Homeland Security's Counter-MANPADS program.
The first of the design reviews involved hardware development, while the second focused on software. The third, completed in April, called for installing the system on an actual aircraft. Northrop Grumman is now finalizing the fabrication and integration of pre-production prototypes before it begins operational testing and evaluation of its counter-MANPADS system aboard an MD-11 airliner later this month and a Boeing 747 later this year.
According to the DHS, the Counter-MANPADS program is focused on demonstrating the viability, economics, and effectiveness of adapting existing military technology to protect commercial aircraft from the MANPADS threat. Northrop Grumman's Guardian system makes use of multi-band laser and other technology from the company's proven military countermeasures system.
The Northrop Grumman DIRCM system operates automatically by detecting a missile launch, determining if it is a threat, and activating a high-intensity infrared countermeasures system to track and defeat the threat. The only such system currently in production, Northrop Grumman's Nemesis AN/AAQ-24(V) is being installed on several hundred military aircraft, including more than 20 different fixed- and rotary-wing platforms for the US military and several allied countries, including the UK, Australia, and Denmark.

For more on the countermeasures systems for airliners, see Movement in US Congress on Commercial Counter-MANPADS and DIRCM Systems Selected Under Counter-MANPADS Program.

JTRS, MIDS to Dominate US Airborne Communications

Source: Forecast International

The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and the Multifunction Information Distribution System (MIDS) will be the most dominant factors within the US airborne-communications market over the next 10 years. These programs combined will account for 72% or about $2 billion of the projected $2.7-billion US military airborne-communications market, according to Forecast International's “The Market for US Military Airborne Communications Systems.”
The MIDS program alone is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion during the period, according to Electronics Systems Analyst Mark Cowell.
Since its successful deployment in Afghanistan, demand for the MIDS has been high. Able to provide real-time transmission of reconnaissance and targeting data, the MIDS has significantly reduced the time required to detect, identify, and engage targets. Several airborne platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), carry or will be fitted with the MIDS. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, datalink-equipped UAVs have been widely used as strike vehicles, as well as for surveillance and targeting.
Data Link Solutions (DLS), a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and BAE Systems, and ViaSat are both major suppliers of MIDS terminals to the US forces. In December 2004, these two contractors were awarded contracts valued at $82 million and $61 million, respectively, for product improvement of the MIDS terminal to a four-channel JTRS-compliant architecture. Although these companies compete to supply the US with MIDS terminals, they will cooperate on the development of the MIDS JTRS terminal. Once developed, ViaSat and DLS will compete to sell MIDS JTRS terminals to the US and its allies.
Following the MIDS, the JTRS program will account for 28.5% or $782 million of the 10-year market share. "JTRS is expected to replace all radios presently used by the US military," said Cowell.
Under the first cluster of the JTRS program, an airborne variant of JTRS is currently being developed specifically to equip the US Army's helicopter fleet. Other airborne JTRS variants will be developed under the airborne, maritime, and fixed-station (AMF) JTRS program.
"Demand for programs such as MIDS and JTRS will be strong during the forecast period, as both existing and new-build aircraft will be fitted with these systems," said Cowell. Worldwide, more than 4,000 military fighter/attack/trainer aircraft will be constructed between 2005 and 2014.Of that number, 1,171 are to be US-built fighters, with 722 (F/A-18, F/A-22, and F-35) designated for the US. When military transports, special-mission aircraft, and rotorcraft are combined, more than 11,000 military manned airborne platforms will be built worldwide.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could add roughly 5,000 more potential platforms. As UAVs will need to transmit the data they collect, datalinks such as the MIDS will likely be fitted to each UAV. The US will likely be the recipient of the majority of the UAVs constructed between 2005 and 2014.

For more on air-to-ground communications, see Fighting Over Thin Air.

Communications Selected for UK Nuclear Sub

Source: EADS

EADS subsidiary Hagenuk Marinekommunikation (Kiel, Germany) and its customer, EADS Defense & Security Systems Ltd. Of the UK, are sharing the systems responsibility for three external communications systems to be supplied for the UK Royal Navy's Astute-class nuclear submarines.
HMS Astute is the first submarine in the world to be equipped with this new system.
Due to the extremely high security requirements, the communications system was evaluated in advance by the Clef certification company, under contract to the UK Ministry of Defense, and achieved certification.
The communications system was installed on schedule on the command-deck module of HMS Astute and will enable the submarine crew to transmit voice, data, and imagery over all of the frequency ranges used for tactical communication. The system is controlled by special software for integrated message handling, which also satisfies the requirement that the entire system be capable of operation by a single person from a central workstation.
EADS hopes also to win the contract to supply the external communications systems for the second and third Astute-class submarines.

For more on the Astute-class submarine program, see Keel Laid for UK's 3rd Astute-Class Sub.

Integrator Chosen for US Army UGVs

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman has been selected as the lead system integrator for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) under the US Army's Family of Integrated Rapid Response Equipment (FIRRE) program. The FIRRE program is intended to provide the warfighter with a variety of modular force-protection equipment including unmanned air, ground, and undersea platforms for sensors, weapons, and support or logistics equipment.
Utilizing these unmanned platforms to perform tasks currently accomplished by troops, such as perimeter security, helps keep military personnel and supporting civilians out of harm's way, while also serving as a force multiplier by allowing these same troops to focus their time and effort on other strategic and tactical tasks.
Northrop Grumman's Remotec subsidiary will provide its Tactical Amphibious Ground Support (TAGS) vehicle as the main unmanned ground platform to the FIRRE program. About the size and weight of a compact car, the TAGS vehicle can be manually controlled but also uses differential, satellite GPS, and waypoint navigation to travel autonomously between set points along a predetermined path. Autonomous guidance requires a local navigation station. The vehicle uses onboard sensors for obstacle detection. Applied Perception, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA), is the autonomous-navigation-system subcontractor to Northrop Grumman for the TAGS vehicle. If the TAGS vehicle is unable to find its way around an obstacle, the vehicle requests manual assistance from operators at the navigation station.
The TAGS vehicles' modular design allows it to perform various missions to include target acquisition, reconnaissance, surveillance, and weapons deployment, while being integrated into the current command-and-control structure. Each TAGS vehicle weighs 3,400 lbs. and can travel up to 25 mph with payload of 2,400 lbs.
The FIRRE program is directed by the Army's Program Management - Force Protection Systems (Ft. Belvoir, VA). The US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is serving as technical lead for the program.

For more on unmanned ground vehicles, see Evolution in Unmanned Vehicles and At Your Service.

USAF Training Program Gets Extra Support

Source: L-3 Communications

L-3 Communications (New York, NY) announced today that its Link Simulation and Training (Link) division has been awarded a five-year, $240.9-million contract to support the US Air Force's Warfighter Readiness Training Science and Technology Program.
Link, which has been prime contractor for the Warfighter Readiness Training Science and Technology Program since 1997, will be responsible for spearheading efforts to research, develop, demonstrate, evaluate, and transition leading-edge training technologies and methods that improve warfighter readiness. The goal of this ongoing research, which is conducted at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Warfighter Readiness Research Division in Mesa, AZ, is to develop training solutions that provide combat forces with the skills they need to win on the battlefield.
Under a variety of task orders, Link and its industry team will be providing warfighter-training-readiness-research support, interactive synthetic warfighter models, deployable visual-system technology development, deployable distributed mission-operations (DMO) training, and a DMO test bed.

For more on simulation and training, see Military Simulation Learns How to Network.

Gunboat Diplomacy

The Canadian Navy is sortieing into the great white north to fend off marauding Danes.

Canada sends navy to Arctic north
By Lee Carter BBC News, Toronto

Canada is sending its navy back to the far northern Arctic port of Churchill after a 30-year absence. The visit by two warships to the area is the latest move to challenge rival claims in the Arctic triggered by the threat of melting ice.

The move follows a spat between Canada and Denmark, over an uninhabited rock called Hans Island in the eastern Arctic region.

A visit there by Canada's defence minister last month angered the Danes.

Now two Canadian warships, the Shawinigan and the Glace Bay, are on a mission to display what Canada calls its territorial sovereignty over parts of the Arctic it believes are within its borders.

The dispute seems rather odd, when scientists say the region around the island is unlikely to be rich in oil or other natural resources.

But Canada is deeply worried that it has taken what it considers as its Arctic territory for granted.

The islands were not included in border discussions between Denmark and Canada more than 30 years ago.

Canadian armed forces have actually been gearing up and exercising recently to exert the nation's sovereignty over its far-flung Arctic territories. Intriguingly, the melting Arctic ice is opening up the storied Northwest Passage to year-round shipping. This would enable vessels traveling between Europe and Asia to cut as much as 4,000 nautical miles off a journey that would typically take them through the Panama Canal. Most nations, including the United States, Russia, and other maritime powers, consider the passage to be international waters, a status that Canada disputes. The situation was considered largely academic so long as pack ice made the area impassable to surface vessels. But now Canada is faced with the prospect of the world's shipping cutting through its back yard without permission.

Last fall, eDefense Online Senior Editor Ted McKenna wrote an article on the subject entitled Warmer Waters. Here is an extended excerpt:

The Canadian arctic may be a vast, cold place, populated more by polar bears and seals than by people. But underneath all that ice lies money - in one form or another. Money in the form of oil and natural gas, some think, or diamonds, or
commercial fishing, or as a shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And all this money that for so long has been locked up underneath the ice may finally be reachable, because the ice in the Canadian arctic - as elsewhere - is melting.

Global warming is causing Canada to once again pay greater attention to its north. But can it maintain sovereignty, given that the US and other countries claim that this region is actually "international"? To date, not much in the way of conflict has happened in the Canadian arctic, given the difficulties there of navigation, of overland access, or of operating machines like aircraft and communications in such extreme cold. But periodically the country has gone through "sovereignty crises," when some event caused concern among the political classes and the media that the country might lose control of the region. The last crisis was in the mid-1980s, when a US Coast Guard icebreaker went through the Northwest Passage - not because the US was trying to make a statement, US diplomats claimed, but only because the ship needed to get to the Pacific.

Today, no specific international incident has triggered renewed concern, but increased activity up north makes it evident that many people are aware of the changing conditions there. Canadian Forces this summer conducted a large exercise that was meant in part to signal to the world that Canada still has a grasp on the region. Many Canadian defense experts say that the Canadian Forces' limited size - about 60,000 personnel in all - and limited assets restrict its ability to react to events in the north. But new technology should be able to help. Because of Canada's limited resources, including military personnel and assets like aircraft and ships, technology such as satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and radar should in no small part allow Canada to keep a better eye on this territory.

What resources, technological and otherwise, does Canada presently employ to monitor this region? Not a lot. The total number of armed forces in the country has dropped significantly since the Cold War. Dr. Martin Shadwick, a professor of Political Science at York University's Centre for International and Security Studies, said that from a high of 90,000 the number of active duty forces has dipped to around 60,000 or less. With the increased deployment overseas to countries like Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Haiti, where peacekeeping operations are ongoing, the amount of personnel that can be devoted to the northern part of the Canada is severely constrained.

Today, about 140 military personnel are permanently stationed in the northern area of the country, with the task of watching over about 4 million square kilometers, including the Northwest Territories (NWT), the Yukon, and Nunavit. As for technology on hand in the north, the North Warning System, a network of radar systems designed to detect passing aircraft, was set up during the Cold War as a kind of tripwire system to alert North America of Soviet attack, but these radar systems weren't designed for monitoring maritime traffic and are, for the most part, unmanned and automated.

By working with local inhabitants who serve as Canadian Rangers, who are lightly armed and are trained to watch for suspicious activity and report it to authorities, the Canadian Forces greatly increase the number of eyes and ears in the region. Today about 1,400 Rangers cover the arctic, conducting patrols in the Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northern British Columbia. Sometimes these patrols may be part of their everyday activities - while they are out fishing or hunting, perhaps. Given that their standard equipment consists of a No. 4 Lee Enfield rifle, high-frequency radio, ground-to-air radio, and so on, the Canadian Rangers are basically the modern equivalent of the North Warning System, able to keep an eye out for various threats, but not expected to deal with international incidents on their own.

Along with the regular patrols by Rangers, Canadian Forces organize patrols using ships and aircraft. But the country's CP-140 Aurora patrol planes, used for maritime surveillance, are aging and too few in number to cover the arctic very thoroughly. Delivery of 18 of the patrol aircraft began back in 1980 for the main purpose of anti-submarine warfare (ASW), with a further three acquired in the early 1990s for purposes other than ASW, though there is a program underway to upgrade their sensors, mission computers, and more.

As for Canada's naval fleet, all of its ships are all single-hulled, meaning they cannot penetrate very far into the arctic for fear of coming in contact with ice. Last spring the government announced plans to spend $2.1 billion to replace current Auxiliary Oil Replenishment vessels, which are now 35 years old, with new support ships to be used for transporting troops and equipment, among other purposes. These ships, delivery of which is expected to start in 2011, will be able to operate in ice up to 0.7 meters thick.

But as for true icebreakers owned by Canada, all belong to the country's Coast Guard, which deals only with search and rescue, ship safety, and other non-military functions, in contrast to, say, the US Coast Guard. Even these, experts noted, are several decades old, though all have been modernized over the years. Because the Coast Guard is not a military organization, the country lacks an icebreaker that could serve as an arctic patrol boat, compared with other countries like the US, Britain, and even Japan. "We don't have a navy that can operate in the arctic right now, outside the summer months," Shadwick said. "Canadian warships have limited ice capability, for operating in slush ice up north, but they should not be considered ice-capable ships in the conventional ship or icebreakers. They're not meant to go into ice-covered waters in any significant way."

It is interesting to recall that in the late 1980s, then Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney proposed the addition of a fleet of 10-12 nuclear-powered submarines to provide Canada with the capacity to its assert sovereignty in the Arctic. However, critics deemed the the costs of acquiring a fleet of advanced submarines to be too great. Besides, the Arctic region was already patrolled by submarines, courtesy of the US Navy. Ironically, the US is now one of the trespassers that the Canadians want to see off their property.

The dispute between Canada and Denmark over the status of remote islands is becoming typical as resources dwindle and technology opens up new regions of the ocean floor for exploitation. Of course, it's not so much the rock itself that's valuable as the fact that a nation can claim sovereignty over the waters around that rock. Some recent "conflicts short of war" involving flags on rocks are listed below:

Spain v Morocco

Japan v China

Japan v Korea

Australia v Poachers

The Spanish-Moroccan dispute over the Perejil/Leila rock and the Japanese-Chinese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands actually involved bouts of flag planting. The 14-day sea chase of poachers by an Australian cutter was a particularly riveting drama. Of course, the conflicts cease to be so amusing when shots are fired, and there is reason to be wary of the competing claims of China and Japan, two regional powers that seem willing to cross swords. Recall that last year a Chinese submarine entered Japanese waters in an incident apparently related to the Senkaku/Diaoyutai dispute (see Mystery Sub Off Japanese Coast).

It's also worth mentioning the so-called Cod Wars between Icleand and the UK over fishing rights in the North Atlantic. No rocks to speak of, but the fallout from competing claims over maritime soverignty serve as a useful historical footnote.

US Navy adrift?

The US Navy is casting about for a new role in today's geopolitical environment. Does it need to prepare for a big battle against a major power? For those that want to make sure the Navy can still fight the Battle of Midway, China is the standard bugbear. How can it help fight the "global war on terror"? More to the point, does it have the money to build all of the types of ships and other assets it wants?

For a detailed look at what the future the Navy is struggling to conceive of, see "US Navy Sizes Up Future."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Off the Wire, 8/22

Failed Rocket Attack Against USN Ships

Source: US Navy

No US sailors or marines were injured in an apparent rocket attack Aug. 19 that missed two US Navy ships in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, Jordan, officials reported.
"At approximately 8:44 a.m. local time, a suspected mortar rocket flew over the USS Ashland's (LSD 48) bow and impacted in a warehouse on the pier in the vicinity of the Ashland and the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)," US 5th Fleet officials said in a statement. "The warehouse sustained an approximate 8-foot hole in the roof of the building."
According to news reports, a Jordanian soldier was killed and another severely wounded when the rocket hit the warehouse. A second rocket hit near a Jordanian hospital, and a third partially exploded, damaging a road and a car. A third rocket reportedly landed in the nearby Israeli city of Eilat, with no casualties and only minor damage.
The ships were in Aqaba supporting the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) training with the Jordanians, fleet officials said. The two ships, which appeared to be undamaged by shrapnel from the building, have left the port. Ashland is an amphibious landing ship; Kearsarge is an amphibious assault ship that also serves as command ship of an amphibious ready group.
The US military said the attack is currently under investigation. News sources cite a Jordanian government release that states three Katyusha rockets were fired from a warehouse in Aqaba, close to the port.
Information available on the Web said the Katyusha was originally a World War II-era Soviet rocket. However, references now to the weapon mean not just one type of rocket but a whole range of different artillery rockets, whether from old Soviet or other-nation stock. The Katyusha reportedly has been used in a number of insurgencies, including those in Iraq.

For more on this, see my post Much Ado About Nothing.

Canada Begins Phase II in Repairing Sub

Source: Canadian Department of National Defense

Phase II of the repairs to HMCS Chicoutimi has begun with the award of an $9.73-million contract to Irving Shipbuilding of Saint John, New Brunswick, at its Halifax Shipyard facility. This phase involves detailed materiel surveys and assessments, as well as the development of the engineering and job specifications needed to begin Phase III, the repair, and other concurrent work. Phase II is expected to be completed by the end of 2005.
“The Victoria-class submarines are a key capability for the Navy,” said Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham. “This ongoing work continues to offer a significant opportunity for Canadian companies to gain invaluable experience working on a modern weapons system and will facilitate further transition to Canadian in-service support of the submarines.”
“The repair of HMCS Chicoutimi is progressing in conjunction with 'Canadianization' and previously scheduled maintenance,” said Vice-Admiral Bruce MacLean, commander of Canada's Navy. “We are looking forward to getting HMCS Chicoutimi back to sea where she is needed.”
The repair of HMCS Chicoutimi is being conducted in three phases. For the recently completed Phase I, the planning phase, Irving Shipbuilding was contracted to prepare and dock the submarine, and to develop a plan for Phase II, the survey and assessment phase.
The Canadian Department of National Defense has worked closely with the contractor to develop well-defined plans for Phase II of the repair process. These plans – which include quality management, material control, survey and assessment, and engineering processes – will assist in defining the scope of work required for Phase III and ensure the most efficient execution of the repair work. During Phase II, the contractor will remove damaged equipment and equipment being replaced under Canadianization and other engineering changes. Phase II will include some of the repair work that has already been defined, as well as maintenance and preservation of the submarine and its systems.
Phase III, the final execution phase, involves the repair work, implementation of Canadianization and other engineering changes, and testing and trials. The completion date for this phase is dependent on the results of the survey and assessment phase, but it is anticipated to be completed within two years.
Victoria-class submarines are vitally important to the security and defense of Canada, providing deterrence, surveillance, and interdiction in maritime approaches.

For more on the Chicoutmi incident, see Fire Onboard Canadian Sub, Chicoutimi to Return to Canada, and Canadian Subs Begin Return to Sea.

First MH-60R Helo Delivered

Source: Sikorsky Aircraft

Sikorsky Aircraft (Stratford, CT) celebrated the delivery of the first new production MH-60R helicopter in a ceremony held at its Stratford facility.
The first production MH-60R first took to the skies July 28 at Sikorsky Aircraft. The aircraft flew a total of 1.5 hours and performed the entire flight-acceptance profile – which included flight-control checks, vibration measurements, and engine power checks – without incident.
The MH-60R is the next-generation submarine hunter and surface-attack helicopter. It will replace the US Navy's legacy SH-60B and SH-60F aircraft. The Navy is expected to order as many as 254 MH-60R aircraft through 2015, with production quantities increasing to 30 aircraft per year.
After the ceremony, the aircraft was to be flown to Owego, NY, where the mission-equipment package will be installed by Lockheed Martin, the mission-systems integrator for the MH-60R.
Lockheed Martin also provides the digital Common Cockpit avionics suite, which is common to all MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters. Sikorsky designs and manufactures the MH-60S and MH-60R aircraft and is responsible for the mechanical and electrical modifications on the airframe.
The MH-60R program is a department within the Multi-mission Helicopter Program Office (PMA-299), headquartered at the Naval Air Systems Command (Patuxent River, MD). PMA-299 is administered by the Program Executive Office for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault, and Special Mission Programs.

For more on the MH-60R program, see USN Helos to Get Anti-Sub Gear and High-Speed Data for MH-60R Helos.

Multinational Exercise to Protect Panama Canal

Source: US Navy

In August, staff from US Navy Commander, Strike Group (CSG) 6, working with South and Central American counterparts, were responsible for directing the operations of seven maritime-patrol aircraft participating in Panamax 2005, a multinational exercise designed for the defense of the most important waterway in the region.
Argentinean, Colombian, Chilean, and Panamanian aircraft patrolling the Caribbean and Pacific approaches to the Panama Canal flew 116 hours in five days, collecting crucial information for the combined force tasked with protecting the Panama Canal.
“They provided persistent long-range surveillance, turning in imagery and positioning data of all contacts of interest,” said LCDR James Anderson, a member of CSG 6 supporting Panamax.
Maritime-surveillance assets operating out of the National Air Service (SAN) base in Tocumen, Panama, included P-3s from Argentina and Chile, along with one CASA 212-300, two T-35s, and one Bell 212 from Panama. In addition, two Colombian CASA 235s operated out of northern Colombia, extending the surveillance area.
Directing the operations of all these assets was the Combined Forces Air Command (CFACC), also at Tocumen and led by Panamanian Lt. Col. David Ramos and Capt. Kevin Hutcheson, CSG 6 director of operations and CFACC deputy commander.
“This exercise is all about cooperation and coordination. It’s the only way we can do it,” said Hutcheson.
The CFACC held a daily air-tasking-order meeting to address the needs of ships afloat, and the day ended with “a meeting of analysis and evaluation of the exercise,” said SAN Chief of Operations Col. David Ramos.

For more on the UN Navy's priorities, see US Navy Sizes Up Future.

B-1B Demonstrated at Russian Air Show

Source: US Air Force

Because of its ability to rapidly deliver massive quantities of weapons against any adversary in the world, the capabilities of America ’s B-1B Lancer may have once been feared by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. Now it has made history by demonstrating its capabilities during the Moscow International Air Show and Space Salon held Aug. 16-21 at Ramenskoye Airfield in Zhukovsky, Russia.
The Lancer, the backbone of America's long-range bomber force, was initially developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52, an aircraft designed to deliver nuclear bombs into the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Demonstrating the B-1B’s capabilities in front of a daily crowd of hundreds of thousands was a symbol of the friendship and international cooperation between the US and its once-adversary, said Capt. Steve Jones, one of the B-1B pilots at the air show from Ellsworth AFB, SD.
“We’re parked approximately 300 feet from Russian weapons systems, some of which were designed primarily to shoot this aircraft down, and here we are parked right next to them at their air show,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
With the appreciation comes an inquisitiveness about the aircraft’s strength, said Capt. David Black, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge of overseeing the B-1B’st maintenance. “With it’s capability to go more than 900 miles per hour, the Lancer is considered to be one of the premier fly-over jets. It represents American horsepower and makes the most noise,” Captain Black said.
Although the B-1B and its crew normally averages about 14 or 15 air shows a year, that didn't make their participation in this year’s Moscow show any less exciting, said Captain Black.
This was the second time the US has displayed military aircraft at the air show; the first time was in 2003. In 2001 the US Department of Defense participated with a technology booth. Other US aircraft showcased during the Moscow air show included the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16C Fighting Falcon, KC-10 Extender, and KC-135 Stratotanker.

For more on the B-1B, see USAF Upgrading B-1 EW After DSUP Termination.

Russia's Bigger Defense Budget, Even Bigger Defense Woes

Defense Industry Daily reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a 22% increase in Russia's defense budget, to $24 billion:

Russia plans another substantial increase in defense spending next year to pay for across-the-board military upgrades, development of new weapons systems and improved social benefits for defense-sector employees. DID has noted on occasion the procurement difficulties created by Russia's budgetary shortfalls. Russia's land forces have been particularly hard-hit, even as the country attempts to move toward a more professional military.

While the Russian Army, and particularly the infantry, are in desperate need of updated equipment, training, and, even more fundamentally, organization, there are reasons to believe that other services will be getting the lion's share of any increases. Russia has just committed to producing the Sukhoi Su-34 tactical bomber (pictured) with an initial operational capability in 2007. It has also embarked on substantial modernization programs for its fleet of Su-27-class fighter-bombers. The first phase of the modernization, with the aircraft designated the Su-27SM, includes a glass cockpit, improved fire-control systems, and the ability to carry a greater variety of weapons. This program was deemed a great success, and the first Russian units will be receiving their aircraft by the end of 2005. An even more extensive modernization program is under way.

The Navy is a shambles. Air defense systems are being modernized. Somewhere near the bottom of the list is the Army. This is undortunate, because the Army can be expected to be doing the heavy lifting in the "small wars" like Chechnya on Russia's frontier and in her so-called "near abroad." eDefense European Editor Michal Fiszer has noted that there are systematic problems with the Russian armed forces that weigh against any significant improvements in the nation's Army, and particularly in its infantry.

Despite 25 years of real combat experience in low-intensity conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya, the Russian MoD focus is on strategic force capabilities, strategic defense, air-force programs, new tanks, new missiles, and the building of a common information network (a Russian version of network-centric warfare). The life of individual soldiers was never valued particularly highly in the Soviet Union, and this has changed little in Russia. One source, tongue planted firmly in cheek, suggests a typical Russian MoD statement would read as follows: "In order to fight international terrorism, being presently a goal of the highest priority, the procurement of six new ICBMs has been authorized."

The other problem is the conscript system on which Russian forces are still based. Only the 42nd Evpatoriyskaya-Krasnoznamennaya Guard Mechanized Division has been experimentally "professionalized," with career officers and all of its soldiers serving multi-year contracts. The unit, belonging to North-Caucasus Military District, is being successfully employed in combating Chechen guerilla forces, although only from early December 2004 as a fully professional unit. The "professionalization" of all of Russia's military forces has not yet been decided on, and there are strong opponents to the idea.

Almost all the soldiers and junior non-commissioned officers...are drafted. Moreover, many recruits are able to avoid military service or obtain for themselves posts in the less arduous internal forces, militia, border guards, and other public institutions. Usually, the best-educated young men living in cities are able to do this, so the military recruits are mostly villagers. Of the pool of recruits left for regular military service, the Strategic Rocket Forces pull out the best men, since the service standards in the nuclear forces are high. From among those left, strategic air defense and the air force take the best men, since maintaining the high technology associated with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), radars, and aircraft demand so. Airborne and special force also make rigorous selections. Then the navy and marines make their selections from the recruit pool. The army has little choice, being the last in the chain.

Even now, although it is extremely difficult, the army has to take the best men from among those left to serve in communications, combat-engineer, anti-tank, SAM, artillery, and tank units. Infantry is the very bottom. So there is no little wonder that when President Vladimir Putin announced Russia's procurement plan for 2005 (which, by the way, is to be doubled from 2004), there are references to new ICBMs, new ships, new missiles and SAM systems, new tanks and APCs, and modernized aircraft and helicopters...The Russian infantryman, alas for him, is likely to tread the battlefields of the 21st century in the boots – and kit – of the 20th century.

It is not unlikely that increases in Russia's defense budget are in part intended to help out an industry that has experienced falling foreign sales. A Forecast International (FI) (Newtown, CT) military-market report says that Russia’s arms-export market is in steady decline due to the poor reputation of its products, and is likely to get worse in the years ahead. “International Military Markets – NATO & Europe” notes that Russian arms exports dropped by nearly 26% from 2003 to 2004: from $5.3 billion to $3.9 billion. This despite the country’s efforts to attract sales using offsets, debt swaps, and creative financing. One of the few bright spots in Russia's arms catelogue is the aforementioned Su-27 line, which is known as Su-30 for export.