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By Debbie Gregory.

If Lockheed Martin is able to deliver on its laser weapon system in development, the U.S. Air Force may boast a fleet of fighter jets that can shoot lasers from a small, compact cannon.

As part of the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE program ) the $26.3 million contract with the Air Force Research Lab should result in a weapon system that is not only compact, but also light enough to be mounted on fighter jets.

Currently, most of these systems are limited to ground and sea use due to their weight and size. Such is the case for the ground vehicle–mounted system that Lockheed Martin just delivered to the U.S. Army that can burn through tanks and knock mortars out of the sky.

Lockheed Martin will be adapting the system it developed for the Army to address the challenge of self-protection against ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

The program’s work will be divided among three subsystems: the Shield Turret Research in Aero Effects (Strafe) includes the beam control system; the Laser Pod Research and Development (LPRD) will power and cool the laser on the fighter jet; and finally, the LANCE laser itself.

“The ability of a helicopter or bomber or fighter jet to shoot down or sufficiently damage or distract an incoming missile could allow them to operate in places they haven’t been able to operate recently,” said military analyst Peter Singer.

Raytheon became the first company to destroy a target with a laser fired from a helicopter at White Sands Missile Range when an Apache AH-64 shot a truck from more than a mile away. Raytheon is also building a laser-firing, drone-killing dune buggy. Boeing has its own anti-drone laser cannon.

Under the terms of the contract, Lockheed Martin plans to test a high-energy laser weapon mounted on a fighter jet by 2021.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

It appears that the Army’s Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) program has been cancelled as part of a massive review of Army small arms programs.

The program was officially announced on August 4th, and lasted just over a month before its cancellation. The ICSR was proposed as a means of countering the new generation of cheap, highly effective body armors likely to be worn by America’s enemies. Experts both inside and outside the Army believed that the Army’s current issue 5.56-millimeter bullet would not be able to penetrate new armor, and that a larger, heavier bullet that transfers more energy to the target is necessary.

The cancellation was a direct result of the three-month, continuing resolution passed by Congress on Sept. 14, which Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned lawmakers would kill the ICSR effort along with 17 other Army start-up programs.

But that does not does not necessarily mean the end of the Army’s M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) program.

Debi Dawson , spokesperson for the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO Soldier) office confirmed that the new standard-issue 7.62mm caliber rifle system is currently in the production qualification testing.

Asked if the new sniper rifle program has encountered any political or budgetary problems, Dawson stated that the CSASS “has encountered no such obstacles.”

Army Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings, who is charge of the programs that provide most of a soldier’s gear and weapons — said that the Army was still weighing a short-term stand-in for the M4/M16 rifle platform while a new one is developed.

“Right now, many are focused on the ICSR or SDMR,” Cummings said. “But that’s not the long-term way ahead. The long-term way ahead is a brand new rifle for all of the Department of Defense called the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW.)”

The NGSW would be “one end-all solution,” he added, with a carbine model replacing the M4 and a rifle version replacing the M249 squad automatic weapon. Both would likely fire a round larger than the current 5.56 mm.

By Debbie Gregory.

To replace its aging fleet of Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM-8) “Mike Boats”, the U.S. Army has awarded a massive contract to Oregon-based shipbuilder Vigor Works.

The Vigor Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) (Vigor MSV [L])  was designed and developed in partnership with BMT following a detailed study of the Army’s unique needs.

The contract represents the largest award in Vigor’s history, with a total value of $979,390,000 over a ten year period. The contract will provide sustained full time employment for roughly 200 skilled artisans.

The draft production schedule would have a prototype built for testing in FY2019,  four will be built during Low Rate Initial Production between FY 21 and FY 22; and, should the program reach full scale production, 32 will be produced during a four-year period between FY23 through FY27.

“This award is the culmination of a five year process of research and development that first began with Kvichak prior to its merger with Vigor,” said Vigor CEO Frank Foti. “We are honored to have been selected to serve the Army in this important project.”

The landing craft’s tribow monohull is an innovative design that provides superior maneuverability and stability in high sea states.

The 100-foot long beach landing boat is capable of hauling one M1A2 Abrams tank, a pair of Stryker armored transports, or four Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, and their trailers.

The new boats boast a top speed of 18 knots and will replace the slower 74-foot long Landing Craft Mechanized 8, which tops out at eight knots — and has been in service since the 1950’s.

The introduction of the MSV(L) into the fleet, says the Army, “will enable the agency to meet its movement, maneuver, and integrated expeditionary sustainment requirements with a more agile, versatile; and capable platform. The MSV(L) will conduct movement and maneuver of tactical force elements as well as traditional Army Watercraft System sustainment operations.”


By Debbie Gregory.

The Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System has been put through the paces by Soldiers
at Fort Bragg’s Range 29.

Testers included Army police, pilots, infantry and crew chiefs from Kentucky’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment and Georgia’s 3rd Infantry Division.

“We wanted to make sure that we have a huge sample to make sure that we’ve got this right — that the Army has it right, to ensure this personnel from across the service are taking part in the OTC’s program,” said Army Operational Test Command’s Col. Brian McHugh.

Sig Sauer won the Army contract to supply the service’s new sidearm, beating out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA.

Shortly after the Army announced its selection of the P320 for the service branch’s sidearm in February, Glock lodged a protest claiming not only that Army Material Command “improperly failed to complete reliability testing on Sig Sauer’s compact handgun” due to a truncated testing timeline, but that the branch’s “evaluations under the price, license rights, manual safety, and penetration factors and subfactors were flawed.”

In June, the Government Accountability Office finally denied Glock’s protest.

The M17 MHS is a derivative of the SIG Sauer P320 handgun which has interchangeable grip modules, suppressor support via a threaded barrel, interchangeable slide lengths on a single frame, and an integral optics mounting plate.

The M17 Modular Handgun System utilizes a much simpler and cheaper striker fired design than the previous M9 pistol.

The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky will be the first unit to receive the 9mm M17 MHS.

By Debbie Gregory.

The V-280 Valor tiltrotor prototype, developed by Bell Helicopters to replace both the Apache and Black Hawk helicopters in the Army’s fleet is just about ready to take to the skies.

The aircraft was officially unveiled at the 2013 Army Aviation Association of America’s (AAAA) Annual Professional Forum and Exposition in Fort Worth, TX

A partnership between Bell and Lockheed Martin has resulted in the V-280, a major upgrade to the Army’s rotary aircraft fleet.

According to Bell’s website, the Valor, a third-generation tilt-rotor aircraft, provides warfighters strategic options, operational reach and tactical agility.

Special emphasis has been placed on reducing the weight of the V-280 in order to reduce cost. To do this, composites have been used extensively in the wing, fuselage, and tail. Wing skins and ribs are made of a honeycomb-stiffened “sandwich” construction with large-cell carbon cores for fewer, larger, and lighter parts. Skins and ribs are paste-bonded together to eliminate fasteners.

The design makes the copter twice as fast and able to operate at twice the range as the UH-60 Black Hawk. The Valor is capable of hauling 23% more troops and 25% more cargo.

The design features integrated cabin armor, fly-by-wire component redundancy, state of the art countermeasures and performance.

With more than twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms, the Bell V-280 Valor provides access to get to the objective while providing superior agility at the objective.

Team Valor’s mission equipment package enables en-route situational understanding through digitally fused reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence and friendly force information. Airborne battle boards bring fused data and mission updates to the cabin for real-time tracking

The Valor will soon undergo initial ground testing at the company’s assembly center in Amarillo, Texas. The company will then move to unrestrained ground runs. When everything is determined ready to go, Bell will fly the helicopter for the first time, which will likely be a low hover over the ground.

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