On the Horizon
May 15, 2009

Land Forces
New USMC Squad Automatic Weapon
The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Systems Command (MCSC) has announced the award of four contracts to three companies to produce the USMC’s Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) programme. As described under an early ‘sources sought’ announcement in 2005, the IAR would be a non-developmental 5.56 mm weapon that could enable the fire team to rapidly suppress point and area targets of immediate concern. The new IAR will replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapons with an a weapon that is easily operable by a single infantry marine that emphasizes light weight and portability in order to maximize dismounted manoeuvrability. The announcement identified a range of both threshold/ mandatory and objective/desired attributes for the IAR. Examples included: an empty weight (excluding the magazine and accessories) of less than 12.5 lb (5.67 kg) as a threshold and 10.5 lb as objective; a sustained rate of fire of 360 rounds per minute (threshold) and 750 rounds per minute (objective); and accommodate a magazine with a threshold capacity of 100 rounds with an objective goal of a magazine that permits rapid visual determination of the number of rounds remaining. In addition, service planners mandated that the IAR “shall accept and function with the current Marine Corps service rifle [the M16A4] 30-round magazines.”

New Vehicle for Turkish Army
Turkey’s TEMSA Arastirma Gelistirme expects to roll out its first 4x4 Gekko composite technology light armoured vehicle demonstrator in the first quarter of 2010. The Gekko is being privately developed to meet emerging user requirements for a light vehicle with a high level of mobility that can carry a crew of four and also provide the occupants with protection from small-arms fire and fragmentation.

U.S. ARMY Vehicle Delay
The U.S. Army may wait up to seven years for new vehicles as a result of the cancellation of the U.S. Army’s Manned Ground Vehicle (MGV). The proposed Fiscal Year 2010 Pentagon budget recommended ­cancel­ling the MGV effort because of changing requirements. The service’s top general, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, foresees a new vehicle coming to fruition in “five to seven years.” He informed Congress on 12 May 2009 that planning and requirements personnel are working to finish a concept for a next-generation family of vehicles by mid-September.

Naval Forces
Samsung Thales ‘poised to win’ Korean KSS-III system delivery contract

It is now thought that Samsung Thales is poised to win a deal to develop and supply a range of capabilities for the Republic of Korea Navy’s (RoKN’s) first of six next-generation KSS-III submarines, the company told a number of news agencies on 14 May that it felt it had the lead in the project. An official said the company is expecting to win a contract shortly from the Defence Acquisition Programme Administration that will see the Company deliver systems related to the submarine’s combat management, radar and optronic mast systems over the next several years.

USN searches to increase jamming power of the EA-18G Growler
According to reports from Washington, the U.S. Navy is currently searching to acquire a future airborne electronic attack capability to replace the legacy AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system. In a late April solicitation released by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) outlined a technology maturation requirement up to and including a preliminary design review for a system-level demonstration proto-type Next Generation Jammer, which will be built under a follow-on technology development phase contract.

RN’s upgraded Seawolf Missile System on target in first firing trials
The Royal Navy’s main contractor, BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte), has confirmed successful Seawolf Mid-life Update (SMLU) first-of-class firing trials from the UK Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland, the first RN ship equipped with the improvements introduced by the SWMLU program. HMS Sutherland, com­­pleted the refit at Babcock Marine’s Rosyth dockyard in late 2008 and has been designated as lead ship for the SWMLU program.

Air Forces
Lieutenant Brigadier Juniti Saito originally laid out the milestones for the F-X2 project to replace Brazil’s ageing fighters. Most companies that contemplated participating thought it was an overly ambitious project whose schedule would end up slipping to the right. However, according to one ­Dassault executive, “surprisingly, the programme has run almost entirely according to the timetable that Brig Saito laid out two years ago.” All signs indicate an announcement of the winner will take place as planned in October 2009. The three-way contest is now between the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, and Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen. The initial buy is for 36 aircraft but, with anticipated follow-ons needed to replace the majority of the Brazilian fleet, the total programme numbers could be as high as 100-120 fighters.

Predator C emerges to operate in ‘higher threat environments’
UAV giant, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GAASI) revealed new details on 20 April 2009 concerning its Predator C Avenger: an armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to be faster and more ­’survivable’ than previous versions. Three test flights of the aircraft have taken place at the company’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, and the company reports the aircraft landed “without any discrepancies and was ready to fly again once refueled.” The new UAV is designed to operate in “higher threat environments” than the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. Two of its standout features include a Pratt & Whitney PW545B turbojet instead of a rear-mounted pusher propeller for faster speeds and a “reduced [radar] signature” designed to minimize the risk of detection. The Predator C has other stealth qualities: the upwardly oriented V-tail could help to deflect radar and could shield some of the engine’s infrared (IR) signature. The Predator C’s fuselage and 66 ft (20 m) swept wings appear to be shaped to reduce the aircraft’s radar cross section in a manner similar to other stealthy U.S. Air Force aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor and B-2 Spirit. The Predator C has a long, smooth underside that includes an internal weapon bay. A wide area surveillance sensor could also be carried internally, the company said.
© 2009 FrontLine Defence