On the Horizon
Sep 15, 2010

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MBDA successfully trials its new bunker buster technology
MBDA recently demonstrated its new “Hard and Deeply Buried Target” (HARDBUT) with the Next Generation Multiple Warhead System (NGMWS). The tests involved two ground-based test firings at a European test range. The first firing took place on 14 September; the HARDBUT Technology Dem onstration Programme (TDP) was used to demonstrate the NGMWS system’s ability to defeat a wide variety of targets, from command and control facilities, infrastructure and underground facilities, to terrorist style prepared caves.
The ground test involved ‘firing’ a representative missile airframe on the rocket sled test track. The system’s live precursor charge was exploded near the front of the concrete target. The inert follow-through bomb demonstrated the system’s full penetration capability by boring the concrete block and exiting its rear face. According to MBDA, the trial was also designed to assess the robustness of components such as their Electronic In-line Fuse (REIF), which will ultimately incorporate embedded smart fusing information.
The HARDBUT TDP is currently funded by the UK’s Ministry of Defence and French Direction Générale de l’Armement along with MBDA UK as the prime contractor. These two successful firings represent the end of the second stage of the weapon’s testing and development stage.
Canada takes delivery of its first upgraded Leopard 2A4Ms
Sources have revealed that Canada took delivery on 7 October of its first newly enhanced Leopard 2A4M CAN-standard main battle tank which is designed for service in Afghanistan. These Leopard II tanks are part of the program to acquire 80 former Dutch Leopard 2A4s. Initially the Canadian army had originally planned to upgrade 20 of them domestically for Afghan service but with the planned drawdown in 2011, many analysts are speculating that all of them will be brought up to this standard in readiness for potential future conflicts.

SLAMRAAM program to be axed
Sources within the Pentagon have disclosed that the US Army is seriously considering terminating its current Surface-Launched Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (SLAMRAAM) programme.

This was confirmed recently in a letter from the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) which asked Congress to help save the project. Although its employment within the Army National Guard has not been made clear, some analysts suggest that SLAMRRAM is the weapon of choice for the AH-64D Long Bow Apache. The lethality of the current helicopters acquisition and targeting systems, when coupled with the anticipated destructive power of the AMRAAM, would make the AH-64D the most lethal attack helicopter for the foreseeable future.

UK defence review focuses on single carrier operations
In the recent British budget statement, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK Royal Navy will now operate only one of its two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The other will be “mothballed” pending a decision on a possible sale to another country. This is just one measure to be introduced under the UK’s long-anticipated Strategic Defence and Security Review. Other major announcements contained in the UK government’s fiscal review include: cancellation of the £3.65 billion (US$5.8 billion) Nimrod MRA.4 maritime patrol aircraft programme even though it was nearing production and over a millions GBP had already been spent; and the immediate decommissioning and possible sale of the Invincible-class aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal;
Perhaps most significantly to its future defence expenditure, is the probability that the UK will now opt to acquire the F-35C carrier variant of the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in lieu of the originally planned but more expensive F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) version.

US Navy begins testing the P-8 Poseidon
US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has begun sonobuoy drop tests as well as other testing using the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime multi-mission aircraft.
The tests, which began on 15 October, involved one of the three test aircraft at Naval Air Station in Maryland, which saw the dropping of six sonobuoys in three low-altitude launches at the Atlantic Test Range as well as a number of other trials.
The P-8A is said to employ a rotary launch system with three launchers, each of which has the capacity to hold 10 sonobuoys and has the ability to launch single and multiple shots. The system aboard the P-8A is said to be able to accommodate sonobuoys of all sizes and the storage capacity of 120 is 50% greater than that of the incumbent Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion, according to Boeing representatives.
Initial operating capability on the P-8A is scheduled for 2013 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida. The total number of Boeing P-8A aircraft is thought to be between 120 and 140 aircraft.

Japan considers extra submarines in defence review
The steady increase of Chinese maritime activities in waters off Japan could result in Tokyo moving to procure new more capable additional diesel-electric attack submarines as well as a programme to extend the life of existing platforms. The moves, according to well placed Japanese insiders, are currently being considered as part of the Japanese Ministry of Defence’s continuing review of its National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG). This major study is scheduled to be completed towards the end of this year, with the findings being announced in the New Year.
Japanese MoD spokespersons have neither confirmed nor denied reports by Japanese news agency Kyodo any plans to increase the size of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force’s fleet of submarines from 16 to 22. Citing unidentified MoD officials, news reports have stated that the NDPG review has already determined that a bigger and more modern submarine fleet was necessary to reinforce Japan’s sovereignty in littoral and regional international waters.

Reports of MMRCA decision in India
Despite continuing rumours, an official spokesman of the Indian Ministry of Defence downplayed media reports that France’s Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon have emerged as favourites to win India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract.
The Indian Government has said that no formal decisions have been made following the IMOD’s receipt of a comprehensive trial report on the six rival fighters competing for the INR420 billion (US$9.1 billion) contract. However, some media outlets in India reported that the full results of the MMRCA technical evaluations, which were concluded last year, prompted the Indian Air Force to recommend that the shortlist be narrowed to the Rafale and Typhoon. Other platforms competing for the coveted 126-aircraft tender are Boeing’s F/A-18E/F, Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35 and Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen NG. The IMOD is not expected to announce a winner until early to mid 2011.

JSF orders turn to carrier version, STOVL testing success
The UK government has decided to shift its Royal Navy purchases of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) from the F-35B short take-off and vertical model (STOVL) to the F-35C carrier version, according to news reports. Viewed as a setback to the STOVL program, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the F-35C is “more capable, less expensive and longer-range.”

To date, Lockheed Martin has delivered all of its test jets and 29 production-model aircraft are currently in assembly. Agreement with the U.S. government was reached for the fourth production lot of 32 F-35 aircraft, and the program has received long lead funding approval for the 5th production lot of 42 (and may yet be trimmed to 32).
Steadily advancing toward government certification, the Pratt & Whitney F135 STOVL variant propulsion system successfully completed one of the most rigorous, demanding tests in the entire qualification program on 18 October.
The high temperature margin test took place at Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in Tennessee. This test intentionally runs engine to turbine temperatures beyond design conditions while simultaneously operating the turbomachinery at or above 100% of design conditions. The test demonstrated the propulsion system’s ability to produce margin relative to thrust with this engine producing 28%more thrust than the specification requirement.

Thai budget allows second Gripen batch
Thailand’s House of Representatives has recently approved a Fiscal Year 2011 defence budget of THB170 billion (US$5.4 billion). This budget includes funds that will be allocated to the procurement of a second batch of six Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF).
The new budget allocation is a 10% increase over actual defence spending in FY09 and accounts for 8% of its total national expenditure and it is equal to approximately 1.7% of GDP.
Between 25-30% of this defence budget is fully earmarked for capital expenditure, including a major downpayment on six new JAS 39 Gripens and the funding for a major mid-life upgrade of the RTAF’s existing fleet of Lockheed Martin F16A/Bs.

© FrontLine Defence 2010