Has Israel Created A System the US Army Couldn’t Build?

By on Monday, June 3rd, 2013
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Remember the Future Combat System (FCS)? This was a complex “system-of-systems” which involved manned and unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, advanced weapons systems and sensors, some of them remotely operated and an all-encompassing command, control and communications network to hold it all together. After nearly a decade of development and the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars with virtually nothing to show for it, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cancelled the program.

So how is it that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), operating on a tight budget and timeline, seems to have been able to do what the U.S. Army with all the technological and financial resources available to it couldn’t? Take the network, what was to be the heart of the FCS. The network was supposed to connect vehicles, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), robots, autonomous sensors, remote weapons and dismounted soldiers, transmitting voice, data and video effortlessly, thereby enabling commanders and headquarters to maintain a common operating picture. The Army could never get the network to work properly.

The IDF is now deploying, albeit in pieces, the essential elements of such a network. Part of this system is the Digital Ground Army (DGA), a real-time system that provides a common operating picture for all echelons. DGA generates a map, updated in real time, of all forces – friendly and hostile – in a battle arena. Various units, including aircraft and ships, can share the coordinates of the enemy – and their own location – in the course of a battle. DGA is linked to the computers of tanks and cannons, and combat vehicles. The system will work at all echelons, from the individual soldier or vehicle, up to battalion, brigade and even division commanders. Another piece of the network is called See-Shoot, which operates along Israel’s borders. See-Shoot rapidly processes and transmits data from multiple sensors to remote firing stations as well as mobile platforms such as tanks, artillery and the Tammuz precision weapon. A third element is a frequency switching radio capable of transmitting voice, data and video with encryption. Sounds pretty much like the FCS network to me.

The Tammuz is another example of a capability that FCS was supposed to produce. One focus of the FCS was an autonomous missile system, called the Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) Launch System, essentially a clutch of tactical missiles in a box that could be deployed anywhere on the battlefield and launched remotely. Tammuz is just such a capability: an NLOS version of the Spike anti-tank missile with a 25 km range, deployed in a canister, able to be launched remotely based on data from distributed sensors. Tammuz is now deployed along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. The IDF also has the mini-Spike electro-optic guided missile, the world’s smallest personal missile, 70 cm long, 75 mm in diameter, weighing just 4 kg and with a range of 1.5 km.

FCS planned on employing an array of advanced unmanned ground and aerial sensors and vehicles. The unattended ground sensor was one of the last bits of FCS to be cancelled. The IDF has a host of such systems, including the EyeBall, an advanced audio-visual surveillance device a little bigger than a tennis ball, the Skylark, man-portable mini UAV, the Guardium Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle and the SnakeCam for investigating tunnels and caves.

Filling out the array of FCS-like systems in the IDF’s inventory is the Trophy Active Protection System for military vehicles, an extensive family of medium and large UAVs, the Iron Dome tactical missile defense system, long-range guided mortars and advanced armored fighting vehicles such as the Namer – which had been considered a possible competitor for the role of the U.S. Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle. If you go down the list of the dozen or more elements of the FCS system-of-systems, the IDF has deployed virtually all of them.

Together with traditional systems such as the Merkava main battle tank, Apache attack helicopter and self-propelled artillery and rocket systems, the IDF has in the field a capability for advanced mobile, combined arms warfare that the U.S. Army can only dream about.

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AgustaWestland Unveils the AW169 AAS

By on Monday, April 15th, 2013

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AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, has officially unveiled the latest generation AW169 AAS military helicopter during a dedicated ceremony held at the Army Aviation Association of America Annual Professional Forum and Exposition in Fort Worth, Texas (April 10th-13th) today.

The AW169 AAS is an advanced twin-engine helicopter with the capability to meet all US Army Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) mission requirements and provides a new-design, new-technology helicopter for the current and future battlefield. With two enhanced PW210A engines operating in challenging ‘hot & high’ conditions and advanced technology embedded into an efficiency main rotor system, the AW169 AAS delivers high performance and enduring capability at long range with engineered-in growth potential.

With a comprehensive set of available mission equipment the AW169 AAS is uniquely adaptable to support all US Army Aviation Armed Aerial Scout mission requirements cost effectively making it the prerequisite to defense readiness. The AW169 AAS features high performance, advanced safety features and outstanding cost/effectiveness. Combined with open systems architecture, integrated controls and displays, flight management systems, mission equipment and weapons – it is the only solution that meets the AAS requirements of today and tomorrow.

R. Scott Rettig, CEO AgustaWestland North America, said “We are very excited and proud to be unveiling the AW169 AAS helicopter today at Quad-A’s Annual Forum and Exposition. We believe it sets the new standard for Armed Reconnaissance helicopters.” Adrian Board, SVP Products, AgustaWestland added “The only new generation helicopter in its category in 40 years provides an insight of AgustaWestland design and development ability to offer the US Army levels of cost effectiveness and mission capability the service deserves to successfully and safely accomplish the mission for decades to come.”

The AW169 is uniquely suited to perform and safely accomplish the widest range of US Army’s present and future Armed Reconnaissance missions including aerial escort, command and control, security operations, deep operations, target acquisition and targeting, fire support coordination. The AW169 AAS offers high maneuverability, power margin and demonstrates a forgiving aircraft in all flight and mission conditions.

A damage and ballistic tolerant fail safe airframe and rotorcraft system features multiple redundancies of all critical systems, excellent one engine inoperative (O.E.I.) capability, a 30 minutes ‘run-dry’ capable transmission, self-sealing crashworthy fuel system, crashworthy airframe and seating, heavy duty landing gear and armor protection for crew, fuel system and vital components as well as an advanced integrated self-defence suite. Also, the AW169 AAS modern design for engines and blades reduces heat and noise signature further contributing to mission effectiveness and survivability.

A fully integrated aircraft and mission management system is based on latest generation technology and avionics comprising a low workload/high situational awareness single pilot IFR and NVG compatible glass cockpit with an integrated control and display system. This features three large multifunctional displays and touch screen technology. Excellent ergonomics in the cockpit allows an outstanding external visibility too. Avionics also includes an integrated 4-axis digital AFCS, advanced communications and data management system, a comprehensive sensors suite, synthetic vision and Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) / Head-up Display (HUD). A combination of weapon systems comprise machine guns, rocket launchers and air-to-ground missiles.

The AW169 AAS is designed to maximize operational effectiveness and reduce time and cost of maintenance, thanks to a reduced number of components compared to older or existing platforms, easy accessible and with an extended life cycle for many key components as well as advanced diagnostics devices. A comprehensive package of advanced dedicated training solutions and devices, including a Level D full flight simulator, will be immediately available when the AW169 enters the market.

With all 4 prototypes already exceeding a total of more than 200 flight hours in just nine months for development testing, the AW169 program is on time to enter the market in 2014.

Bell Helicopter Introduces the Bell V-280 Valor Tiltrotor at AAAA

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Bell Helicopter revealed today the Bell V-280 Valor, its offering for the Joint Multi Role/Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Technology Demonstrator (JMR/TD), at the 2013 Army Aviation Association of America’s (AAAA) Annual Professional Forum and Exposition in Fort Worth.

“The introduction of the Bell V-280 Valor underscores our commitment to our military customers. The Bell V-280’s unmatched capabilities in speed, range and payload, and its operational agility combine to deliver the best value for the U.S Army,” said John Garrison, president and CEO at Bell Helicopter. “This aircraft is the most advanced and operationally effective vertical lift solution, providing the Warfighter a decisive advantage. The name itself makes an important statement of its own: V representing vertical lift, 280 representing its unmatched speed, and Valor as a tribute to the service men and women who approach their jobs with valor every day.”

The Bell V-280 Valor, Bell Helicopter’s third generation tiltrotor, offers the U.S. Army the highest levels of maturity and technical readiness. With its U.S. Army-centric design, the Bell V-280 has the capacity to perform a multitude of missions with unparalleled speed and agility. The Bell V-280’s clean sheet design reduces complexity compared to previous generation tiltrotors, with fewer parts, as well as non-rotating, fixed engines. The Valor delivers the best value in procurement, operations and support, and force structure, providing increased maintainability, component reliability and systems designed to reduce operational and support costs.

“The Bell V-280 is a combat multiplier with a cruise speed of 280 knots and combat range of up to 800 nautical miles. Tiltrotor is the only vertical lift platform that can rapidly self-deploy to any theater,” said Mitch Snyder, executive vice-president for military programs at Bell Helicopter. “And our technology demonstrator is a true medium class aircraft accommodating a crew of four and 11 troops, which translates to the highest level of certainty for a future program of record.”

The Bell V-280 Valor’s Army-centric design boasts a number of unmatched capabilities and transformational features including:

  • Speed: 280 KTAS cruise speed
  • Combat range: 500-800nm
  • Strategically Self-Deployable – 2100nm Range
  • Achieves 6k/95
  • Non-rotating, fixed engines
  • Triple redundant fly-by-wire flight control system
  • Conventional, retractable landing gear
  • Two 6’ wide large side doors for ease of ingress/egress
  • Suitable down wash
  • Significantly smaller logistical footprint compared to other aircraft

“Bell Helicopter is leading the development of next-generation tiltrotor technology, because it’s the best technology for future vertical lift. The U.S. Army’s JMR/TD Operational Effectiveness Analysis Report stated that advantages in speed and fuel efficiency made the tiltrotor the most operationally effective concept aircraft,” said Snyder. “Based on a strong foundation of 55 years of tiltrotor experience, including combat-proven platforms, Bell Helicopter has created the ultimate solution for the Army’s FVL needs.”

Bell Helicopter is the world’s premier tiltrotor expert ranging from first generation XV-3 and XV-15, to the second generation 609 civil tiltrotor and the combat-proven V-22 Osprey. Backed by unmatched experience, Bell Helicopter is building a team of premier aerospace leaders, the best engineering resources and industrial capabilities in the industry to meet the U.S. Army’s needs.

Bell Helicopter, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. Globally recognized for world-class customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell’s global workforce serves customers flying Bell aircraft in more than 120 countries.