On the Horizon
ROBERT DAY
© 2010 FrontLine Defence (Vol 7, No 4)

Air Force
JSF costs declining, insists LM
The continuing debate regarding the final unit price of the Lockheed Martin (LM) F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) also surfaced at the Farnborough International Airshow as the entire F35 project undergoes a major recertification process that was initiated in June.

Briefing journalists at the Farnborough Air Show, general manager and executive vice-president for the project, Tom Burbage indicated that LM was still anticipating US$60 million for aircraft manufactured in flyaway cost terms. This flyaway price was reported to include all mission systems, sensors and auxiliary mission equipment required to sortie the aircraft.
 
However, recent announcements indicated that the F35 programme was to be changed from a ‘cost plus’ pricing basis to a fixed-price no-negotiation basis. This was the result of a briefing to the U.S. Congress recently that the average per-unit cost of the F35 had substantially increased from US$50 million to as much as US$95 million in 2002 dollars.
 
 
 
Sales to international customers also appear to put the per-unit cost much higher. In the recent contract with Canada, for example, official project documents have suggested that the total acquisition costs for the 65 F35As that Ottawa expects to buy will total about US$8.7 billion all up. This cost base means that a unit JSF price is nearer a figure of US$134 million. There has been no word as to if the projected Lockheed Martin JSF “Flyaway” costs of around $60 million would generate either a rebate or an additional number of aircraft. This is an issue that will need to be closely watched over the next seven years.

Are attack helicopters the new CAS?
The attack helicopter was conceived as a counter to ground fire during the Korean War, and refined in the Vietnam War with the arrival of the first purpose built attack helicopter.
 
The attack helicopter has proved itself a potent weapon with its ability to provide extended “linger time” over any battle area compared with fixed-wing aircraft that were previously considered the most important close air support (CAS) asset available. Although pure attack helicopters are only manufactured by half a dozen countries, they have been procured by many more nations whose military operations require effective and lengthy close air support in difficult terrain.
 
While there are many capable attack helicopters in the world, the prime attack helicopter platform in operation today, in terms of its capability and usage, is without doubt the Boeing AH64 Apache. The first variant was delivered to the U.S. Army in early 1984. The Apache was a veritable flying arsenal with weapon systems such as the AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, 70 mm rockets and the aircraft’s 30 mm M230E1 Chain Gun – and air-to-air missiles can now be carried for self protection.
 
A key feature that was introduced with the Apache was the Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS), which allows the crew to slave the aircraft’s Chain Gun to helmet-mounted displays to respond to a variety of airborne and ground threats. Another key capability introduced with the Apache was the improved ability to fly and fight in both adverse weather and at night, using the aircraft’s extraordinary Target Acquisition and Designation System/Pilot Night Vision System (TADS/ PNVS. This system has now been upgraded on the latest Apaches with the introduction of the Lockheed Martin Arrowhead Modernized TADS/PNVS, or M-TADS-PNVS) to the Apache’s avionics suite.
 
The increasing number of CAS-capable attack helicopters in the battle space has relegated their fixed winged cousins to specific roles such as bunker busting, the deliverance of large GPS precision guided munitions, or rapid response CAS missions. While there is a clear divide forming between the helicopter and the fixed wing aircraft, one can safely say that the attack helicopter has become the Company Commander’s tactical aerial asset. The fixed wing aircraft seems to have moved primarily to the precision munitions delivery system in the strategic battle space. One can say that this change is but another step in CAS on the modern battle space.
 
Saab awaits Brazil and India orders before Sea Gripen development
Saab officials recently stated they will only develop an aircraft carrier-capable version of its JAS 39 Gripen NG fighter if either India or Brazil selects the land-based variant for their fighter replacement programmes.
 
A senior Gripen sales staff working on the sale to India, stated that development of the Grippen has, to date, been predicated upon the needs of the Swedish Air Force, its main customer. With no Swedish requirement for a carrier capable aircraft, Saab has indicated that it required a customer with a carrier capability to serve as a driver for development of the proposed Sea Gripen.
 
Saab also noted that the ‘land’ Gripen needs only rudimentary changes to make it carrier compatible. These changes include a strengthened undercarriage, bigger brakes and a tail hook which the New Generation will already have. The standard Gripen has many of the attributes for carrier operations, such as a high precision landing capability, a high pitch and roll rate authority and precision glide slope control, a reinforced airframe, and enhanced anti-corrosion protection.
 
Maritime Forces
New catapult launch system for UK
Recent news releases have commented that UK is planning to develop an electromagnetic catapult system for the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers’ current project.
 
Leading manufacturer Converteam UK was awarded a £650,000 (US$1 million) follow-on contract by MOD to continue with the design, development and demonstration of a suitable high-power electrical system for its EMCAT (electro-magnetic catapult) system. The company announced that its work was nearing completion.
 
Converteam UK naval director Mark Dannatt said that a small-scale EMCAT system had been completed in 2007 to prove the operation of modern linear motor was not only feasible but also practicable. Extensive testing has been successfully undertaken since that time, along with a project to produce a full-size catapult suitable for the RN’s new aircraft carriers.
 
This new catapult fits easily in the space envelope that was designed to allow the new aircraft carrier to have a catapult. It has been speculated that the development of the small electromagnetic catapult was essential because the purchase of the Lightning II JSF STOVL has not yet been finalized. As such there is a risk that delays and escalating costs of the JSF may force MOD choose another aircraft. However, other sources have said that it was considered necessary to be able to launch and recover other types of aircraft on these ships.

Ghana to Renew Naval Forces
The Ghanaian government is planning to acquire 10 new Navy vessels over the next two years. The government seeks to improve defensive capabilities so that it can offer more effective protection of the nation’s maritime resources and newly discovered offshore oil reserves.
 
Local media reported that a 35 m patrol vessel from South Korea is expected to arrive in September. Lieutenant-General J.H. Smith, the Ghanaian Defence Minister, also announced in June that there would be a total of 10 ships acquired as part of an immediate plan to re-equip the navy, which is not currently capable of defending Ghana’s exclusive economic zone. In November 2009, LGen Smith said the Ghanaian Department of Fisheries had already begun the process of acquiring two Chinese 46 m boats for fisheries protection.
 
 
 
A separate agreement had also been signed with China’s Poly Technologies to acquire two additional 46 m boats specifically for the Ghana Navy for maritime protection duties. The government of Ghana has approved funding for the purchase and refurbishment of two former German Fast Attack Craft Type S143 vessels.
 
Currently, the Ghanaian navy operates two 1940s-vintage ex-US Coast Guard buoy tenders; four 30 year old fast attack craft that are now well past their useable life, and a single 20 m long ex-US Navy PB Mk III inshore patrol craft that was built in the 1970s and transferred to Ghana in 2001.
 
Chemring unveils new decoy launcher
The UK-based Chemring Countermeasures (CCM) announced that it has a new trainable shipborne “soft-kill” decoy launcher that meets current and future requirements for improved countermeasures payload placement.
 
The 130 mm 12-barrel system, known as Centurion, is being offered to the Royal Navy as a candidate for the Maritime Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (MIDAS) project. MIDAS is looking at the progressive enhancement of the Centurion’s soft-kill capability on board Royal Navy ships. It would replace existing fixed-barrel launcher units.
 
According to the manufacturer, the effectiveness of the ship-launched expendable countermeasures, is critically conditioned by their placement in time and space. This is best achieved by positioning the launching system in both azimuth and elevation. It is most effective when fighting in a multi-threat environment, and reduces the need for rapid changes of course and speeds.
 
Land Forces
New cartridge for NATO
Over the past few months, several NATO and private test firms have released reports regarding the next generation of ammunition for NATO forces. Most defence analysts were unprepared for the recommendations for the next NATO standard round. Yes, it was the round that “grandfather” used in his Lee Enfield in the Second World War. Researchers found that it had the same lethality at 1,000 meters because of the length of the projectile as the standard NATO 7.62mm round, but did not drop as much as the NATO round and was much more accurate. Researchers also found that the rounds were lighter and could be made even lighter with the use of the new more efficient propellants.
 
Several manufacturers have begun to look at their weapon systems to see if they can be modified to accept the 7mm (.303) rounds. Two of the manufacturers have stated that if NATO decides to go back to this round, the costs of conversion for their weapons would be minimal. Additional tests have been called for, but the current test agencies are confident their findings will be verified.

Chinese Howitzer gets mobile
The Poly Technologies of China has recently begun offering for sale a self-propelled version of their Type 96 122 mm towed howitzer which is based on the Russian 122 mm D-30 howitzer.
 
In the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) service is towed by a 6x6 cross-country truck that also carries both the crew and the howitzer’s ready-use ammunition. To achieve this new mobility, the upper part of the howitzer has been removed from the standard two-wheeled carriage and instead is installed on the rear of a forward-control 6x6 cross-country truck chassis. The crew of five is carried in the four-door cab and 40 rounds of separate-loading 122 mm ammunition are stored in lockers at each side of the cab rear.
 
Road blocked for New British armoured vehicle capabilities?
Operations in Iraq, and more recently in Afghanistan, have led the MOD UK to make significant financial investments in military vehicles – usually through the process of urgent operational requirements (UORs). In fact, there have been large numbers of new armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) delivered and some of the existing fleet have been significantly upgraded to improve survivability. In addition a large UOR investment has also been made in the acquisition of even more specialized support vehicles.
 
Many of the recently acquired vehicles are constructed or adapted for counter-insurgency (COIN) missions, but their inherent lack of firepower and mobility often makes them very ill-suited to any conventional military operations. Some of these armoured vehicles and their associated support vehicles, however, are likely to have to remain in service with the British Army for some years and their retention and upgrade will have to be funded from the core UK defence budget.
 
This is problematic in that this budget is already under great pressure by politicians eager to reduce defence spending to free up funds for deficit reduction. There are also potential logistical problems for MOD UK in trying to maintain such a wide range of vehicles often deriving from a variety of overseas manufacturers.
 
During the last 15 years the UK has embarked on several new AFV projects. These new programmes have consumed a great deal of funding but they have not, as yet, led to the fielding of any new vehicles.
 
This makes them tempting targets for the Exchequer’s budget planners who are looking for a significant reduction in all government departments.
 
Much will depend upon the government’s concept for the British military future employment. However, from all recent indications, the British Army and its sister services, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, will exist on a much reduced funding envelope for the foreseeable future.

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© FrontLine Defence 2010

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