Defence Industry News
ROBERT DAY
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Jan 15, 2011

Navy

China’s anti-ship ballistic missile close to operational
According to Admiral Robert Willard, commander of US Pacific Command, China’s work on an area-denial ballistic missile is close to being fully operational, although the system is expected to undergo testing for several more years. Analysts suggest this new missile system could go into production much earlier if required.

Russia to acquire French amphibious assault vessels
Moscow has agreed to buy two French Mistral-class amphibious assault vessels, with the option to acquire two more. The agreement will see the 20,000-ton vessels constructed by French companies DCNS and STX at the latter’s yard in St. Nazaire. Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) will also work on the programme. The United States and Russia’s neighbours in the Baltic and Black Sea regions had protested that this could seriously upset the balance of power in the Baltic region.

The exact value of the contract was not revealed, but French sources have speculated that the ships, known as “Batiments de Projection et Commandement” (BPC), would likely cost between €400-500M (US$527.78 - 659.73 million) apiece. The official statement failed to mention the thorny issue of technology transfers.

U.S. Navy: Offensive Anti-Surface Weapon (OASuW) alternatives
The U.S. Navy will conduct a wide-ranging analysis of alternatives (AoA) study that would shape the characteristics and capabilities of a new generation of long-range anti-ship guided weapons. The Joint Resource Oversight Council approved the initiative in early November and a request for information (RFI) was issued to industry on 2 December for information to feed into the AoA.

Although the USN has not released any specifics of the performance required of this new family of weapons, or of the proposed improvements to existing guided weapons that the new capability could replace, it characterizes the new Family of Systems as being “required to be mission effective in satellite-enabled, satellite-constrained, and satellite-denied environments to maximize lethality at critical points in the OASuW battle”.

China reveals aircraft carrier ambitions
China has stated publicly for the first time its intention to acquire indigenously designed and built aircraft carriers for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

A translation of the 2010 Ocean Development Report that was published by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post stated: “In 2009, China put forward an idea and plan for building aircraft carriers. These indicate China has entered the historical era of building a maritime superpower.” It also noted that: “Building China as a maritime power is the mission of China in the whole 21st century, and 2010 to 2020 is the critical period for accomplishing this strategic mission, with the goal to place China among mid-tier maritime powers.” News services in the region report that construction of a conventionally powered carrier (CV) may have started.

Analysts suspect that this development may be in direct response to the Indian government’s program, is set to deliver up to six conventional aircraft carriers.

Army

British Army to cull armoured vehicles
Plans to reshape the British Army’s armoured and mechanized forces will retire more than 2,000 armoured vehicles. These plans are currently undergoing modifications at the British Army’s HQ Land Forces at Andover, and the MoD Equipment Capability branch in London. The plan is designed to help HQ Land Forces meet its target of saving £5 B (US$7.7 B) over the next five years. To achieve this goal, the final plan will retire, within 18 months: 1,200 Alvis Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) variants; 1,400 BAE Systems Bulldogs and FV430 armoured personnel carriers; and 198 BAE Systems Vector mine-protected vehicles.

These vehicles will be placed in long-term storage, sold, or scrapped. Hundreds of the battle-proven Warrior infantry fighting vehicles are also going into storage as part of the cost saving package.

The proposals are based on a belief that the British Army will not be required to participate in any brigade or divisional-sized armoured operations around the world over the next five years.

Serbia ends conscription and moves to modernize its military
Having attained some degree of stability after the end of the hostilities of the Yugoslav civil war, Serbia formally moved to abolish the Yugoslav system of conscription. On 1 January, Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac pledged to substantially modernize the Balkan country’s military capabilities. The government of Serbia secured ­Parliamentary approval for a professional volunteer-based military. Legistlation is expected to be finalized in early 2011, paving the way for a professional, well-equipped National military force of about 36,000 highly trained voluntary personnel. Presently, there are about 40,000 active and 100,000 ‘passive’ reservists.

FMV requests Future Mortar Unit for Swedish Army
The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) issued a global request for information for a Future Mortar Unit (FMU) requirement in late December. The FMU is designed to provide significant organic fire support to each of the Swedish Army’s six mechanized manoeuver battalions. The RFI is for up to 24 systems.

The 120 mm FMU will replace the ­dismounted, conventional towed mortar m/41F systems currently deployed, and will use the current inventory 120 mm high-explosive ammunition which reaches maximum ranges of 6,000 m and 8,200 m. Requirements include the capability to fire illumination and smoke rounds and, in the future, to also use the “Brilliant” family of precision-guided mortar bombs fitted with a course-correcting electronics.

RMTS makes debut on Desert Chameleons
The first batch of Remote Multi-purpose Turret Systems (RMTS) have been installed on five Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems (ADVS) Desert Chameleon 6x6 armoured vehicles. The vehicles have been delivered to the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior complete with a fully equipped training simulator for training.

This new system was developed by ADVS (UK) as a private venture at its Sheffield facility as a complete package for installation on new-build and existing armoured vehicles. The new vehicles were built at its U.S. facilities where integration of the RMTSs with the vehicles also took place before delivery to Kuwait in late 2010.

Air Force

China’s J-20 makes maiden flight
China’s Jian-20 (J-20) ‘Black Silk/Black Eagle’ prototype fifth-generation combat aircraft, has made its maiden flight. According to state-run Xinhua news agency, the aircraft transited from the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI) to Aircraft Plant No 132 aerodrome on 11 January. Reports said that during the 18-minute initial flight the aircraft made several wheels-down passes over the aerodrome. The flight came as somewhat of a surprise to most aviation specialists since the J-20 flight was reported to have been originally scheduled for later in the month.

U.S. puts F-35 STOVL variant on probation
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the F-35 setbacks as part of a broader budget speech given at the Pentagon. He proposed shrinking the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) budget over the next five years in order to deal with larger government fiscal problems. He said of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B STOVL variant was “experiencing significant testing problems” that “could add more weight and more cost to an aircraft that has little capacity to absorb more of either.” In consequence, he is placing the STOVL variant on a “two-year probation,” which would be followed by cancellation if problems with performance, cost and schedule were not resolved to the government’s satisfaction. Gates also said that significantly more U.S. Navy Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft would need to be ordered to retain operational capability.

Russia pushes fifth-generation fighter schedules
The second T-50 aircraft, like the first prototype, is scheduled to be flown from the Dzemgi aerodrome adjacent to the Komsomolsk-na-Amure Aviation Production Association (KNAAPO). After a series of initial acceptance test flights, the T-50s will likely be transferred to the Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII) in Zhukovskiy.
 
Sukhoi General Director Mikhail Pogosian said the T-50s will take part in a flight and static display at the August 2011 Moscow Aviation and Space Salon. Both current prototypes are powered by the same Saturn/Lyulka 117S engines fitted to the Sukhoi Su-35 while a new engine, jointly developed by Saturn and the MMPP Salyut plant, is in design phase. Absence of the new engine is not expected to diminish essential flight characteristics of either aircraft.

Sources have stated the T-50s may not make their initial test dates but that they would be flying shortly. The programme designation for this new family of aircraft has been changed – it is now officially being referred to as the ‘PAK-FA/MI’ (MI meaning Mnogofunktsionalniy Istrebitel, or Multirole Fighter).

UK Harrier fleet goes into retirement
December 2010 – With a final fly-past over its home base of Royal Air Force (RAF) Cottesmore in Rutland, England, the RN and the RAF sadly retired its remaining fleet of BAE Systems Harrier GR.9 combat aircraft. The Harriers, which were jointly operated by the RAF and Royal Navy under Joint Force Harrier, were retired four months earlier than had been previously announced and a full eight years earlier than its original out-of-service date.

In the 40 year+ life span of the aircraft, the RAF Harrier has had an enviable record in wide ranging theatres throughout the world. Ranging from the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) in the South Atlantic to Iraq, Kosovo and, most recently, Afghanistan.

Initially envisioned by the RAF as a “Close Air Support” aircraft, it did not take the Royal Navy long to take heed of its unique capabilities. As a result, the Royal Navy took delivery of its Sea Harrier in 1980 as a means of retaining a fixed-wing strike capability with the retirement of HMS Ark Royal and its conventional take-off and landing McDonnell Douglas F-4K Phantoms and Blackburn Buccaneers. It was during the Falklands (Malvinas) War of 1982 that the Harrier proved its capability, not only as a ground attack platform but also as an air-to-air fighter when Argentinean Fighters proved no match for the agile little fighter and the Aim 9L missile.

Globemaster III marks two million hours
A USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft surpassed the two million flight-hour milestone during a tactical airdrop mission over eastern Afghanistan on 10 December 2010.

This achievement was reached in half the time it took the early C-17 transport to fly only one million hours. This achievement reflects the exceptionally high tempo of operations that the aircraft with all Globemaster III Air Forces has undertaken in recent years. It is not just the US Air Force (USAF) who has collected the hours but also the six international operators of this type of aircraft.
 
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© Frontline Defence 2011

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