Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C). (Foto: boeing.com)
November 26, 2009 -- The Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) has today taken initial delivery of two Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft from Boeing.
AEW&C Program Manager, Air Vice Marshal Chris Deeble said the aircraft – known as ‘Wedgetail’ – is critical to Australia’s Air Combat Capability and will play a key role in achieving the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) network-enabled war fighting capability.
“The Wedgetail aircraft is a ‘first of type’ development and extremely complex, given the range of cutting-edge radar technology and sensors that will be incorporated into each aircraft.
“Development, test and evaluation are still ongoing with many hurdles still to be overcome, particularly with respect to radar, electronic support measures and integrated system performance and stability.
“However with the initial delivery of two aircraft, Defence will now be able to conduct familiarisation training while Boeing completes the remaining test program and acceptance activities,” AVM Deeble said.
“When fully operational, Wedgetail will enhance surveillance, air defence, fleet support and force coordination operations.”
Boeing has currently scheduled initial acceptance of the first two aircraft for the first quarter 2010 when the aircraft will come into Commonwealth ownership.
The Commonwealth will eventually acquire six Wedgetail aircraft at a cost of more than (AUS) $4 billion.
Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C). (Foto: boeing.com)
F-35 B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
November 25, 2009 -- The Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, today announced that the Australian Government had approved acquisition of the first batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft as foreshadowed in the 2009 Defence White Paper.
There has been considerable public interest in the potential acquisition of the F-35 JSF. The Government examined the JSF’s capabilities very carefully in the context of the Air Combat Capability Review and 2009 Defence White Paper deliberations, and remains confident that the JSF’s combination of stealth, advanced sensors, networking and data fusion capabilities, when integrated into the networked Australian Defence Force (ADF), will ensure Australia maintains its strategic capability advantage out to 2030.
The Government has approved acquisition of the first 14 Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) Joint Strike Fighters and infrastructure and support required for initial training and testing, at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion.
“Approval of this first batch of JSF aircraft is evidence of the Rudd Government’s strong commitment to defence and our commitment to implementing the Defence White Paper,” Senator Faulkner said.
Approval of the next batch of aircraft and all necessary support and enabling capabilities, sufficient to establish three operational squadrons and a training squadron of CTOL JSF, will be considered in 2012. This will fulfil our White Paper commitment to acquire three operational squadrons comprising not fewer than 72 aircraft.
“By 2012, Defence will have much firmer cost estimates for the remaining aircraft and necessary support and enabling capabilities as part of the planned first multi-year buy that is expected to comprise over 1000 aircraft for the US, Australia and other partners. This will allow for much more effective planning of the final JSF acquisition in the context of the overall Defence Capability Plan,” Senator Faulkner said.
Acquisition of an additional operational squadron – bringing the total number of JSF aircraft to around 100 – will be considered at a later date in conjunction with a decision on the withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornet.
Australia’s first JSF aircraft will be delivered in the United States in 2014 to commence initial training and test activities. Australia’s first operational squadron will be based at Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, and is planned to be ready for operations in 2018. All three operational squadrons are planned to be in service in 2021.
The decision follows many years of unprecedented evaluation and planning by all nine countries involved in the JSF’s development.
“Defence has done more analysis on this platform than any other platform in the acquisition history of the ADF,” Senator Faulkner said.
Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin said: “The JSF acquisition will allow Australia to maintain its regional air combat superiority. It will also enable Australia to effectively contribute to regional security and enhances opportunities for interoperability and commonality to support future coalition operations.”
To date, 25 Australian companies have won approximately US$200 million in the development and early production phase of the JSF. As Australia and other countries commit to JSF acquisition, significantly increased opportunities for Australian industry will open up, as agreed in the Industry Participation Plan with Lockheed Martin and its JSF industry partners.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said: “Government and Industry will need to continue to work together as JSF Team Australia to maximise benefits for Australian industry in the JSF Program in the face of stiff international competition. Consideration of acquisition of the next batch of aircraft in 2012 will provide Government the opportunity to review Lockheed Martin’s progress on implementing the Industry Participation Plan.
“It is important that where Australian companies offer value for money, Lockheed Martin and its JSF industry partners give fair consideration to Australian industry,” Minister Combet said.
The Government’s acquisition decision will also allow Lockheed Martin and its JSF industry partners to establish formal relationships with Australian industry to meet Australia’s defence self reliance requirements in supporting the JSF.
“Our commitment to the JSF will allow Australian industry to become integrated into the global JSF support system, ensuring our aircraft are supported in the most cost effective way. Commitment to the JSF also opens up opportunities for Australian industry to contribute to regional and global support of the JSF,” Minister Combet said.
The Program Manager, Air Vice-Marshal John Harvey said: “This acquisition decision cements our commitment to the JSF Program and our commitment to the US and other international partners to make the JSF Program a great success.”
November 11, 2009 -- Fort Belvoir, Va -- A Soldier successfully shoulder-fired a "smart" High Explosive Airburst, or HEAB round for the first time Aug. 11 from the XM-25 weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center, Md.
The Army plans on purchasing more than 12,500 XM-25 systems starting in 2012, which will be enough to put one in each Infantry squad and Special Forces team, according to officials at Program Executive Office-Soldier.
At first glance, the XM-25 looks like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. It features an array of sights, sensors and lasers housed in a Target Acquisition Fire Control unit on top, an oversized magazine behind the trigger mechanism, and a short, ominous barrel wrapped by a recoil dampening sleeve.
Unlike a Hollywood prop, however, this weapon is very real and designed to accurately deliver an explosive round that neutralizes targets at distances of up to 700 meters - well past the range of the rifles and carbines that most Soldiers carry today.
"What makes this weapon system truly revolutionary is the ability to target the enemy, pass on this information to the sensors and microchips of its 25mm HEAB round, and have that round detonate over the target," explained Maj. Shawn Murray, a Soldier Weapons assistant product manager in PEO Soldier, the organization responsible for developing the XM-25.
"When the HEAB round explodes, the target is peppered with fragmentation," Murray said. "Our studies indicate that the XM-25 with HEAB is 300 percent more effective at incapacitating the enemy than current weapons at the squad level."
Because of the XM-25's unique TAFC and HEAB round, Soldiers will be able to engage enemy forces located in the open and "in defilade" -behind cover, such as walls, rocks, trenches, or inside buildings. The semi-automatic weapon's magazine holds four 25mm rounds and can be employed at night or during inclement weather thanks to the XM25's built-in thermal sight.
After only five minutes of instruction at the Aberdeen Test Center, Sgt. Logan E. Diveley from the 180th Infantry Regiment was able to put his first HEAB round through a building's window and take out an enemy mannequin at 200 meters.
When asked what he thought of the weapon, Diveley responded, "I've been in over nine contacts with the enemy during my two tours in Iraq. Their ambushes were usually initiated with an IED and followed up with small arms fire from behind walls and buildings, places where it was hard for us to get at them. The XM-25 would have taken care of things and made our jobs much easier."
Once downrange and in the building where the defeated enemy mannequin lay, Maj. Murray noted the limited collateral damage associated with the XM-25.
"Because of its pinpoint accuracy and relatively small warheads, the XM25 can neutralize an enemy without the need to destroy a whole building," Murray said. "For our counter-insurgency operations to be successful, it is important to keep collateral damage to a minimum and to protect the civilian population. I think the XM-25 will prove itself many times over in Afghanistan," Murray said.
The XM-25 is being developed by PEO Soldier, the Army acquisition organization responsible for nearly every piece of equipment worn or carried by Soldiers. This includes items ranging from socks, to weapons, to advanced sensor and communication devices. PEO Soldier bases much of its work on the feedback from individual Soldiers, developing or procuring solutions to meet those needs.
The development of the XM-25 is one such a program, designed to provide Soldiers a solution for dealing with enemies in the open and behind cover that is more precise, quicker to employ, and more cost effective than mortar, artillery, or airstrikes.
A Battlefield Scenario for the XM-25
An American patrol nears a walled, Afghan village when an enemy combatant looks over the wall and fires his AK-47 rifle at the oncoming U.S. Soldiers. The Americans return fire with their rifles and maneuver, but find it difficult to neutralize the enemy rifleman who repeatedly exposes himself for only a second, shoots, then ducks behind the thick wall. At this time, the patrol leader calls for the XM-25 gunner to take action.
Immediately, the XM-25 gunner aims the laser range-finder at the top of the wall where the enemy last ducked down. The gunner presses the laser range finder button on the front of the XM-25's trigger guard and records a distance to the wall of 451 meters. The distance is displayed on the TAFC's optical lens along with an adjusted aim point, or "cross hair," to help the soldier better aim the XM-25.
The adjusted aim point takes into account air pressure, temperature, and the ballistics of the 25mm round for the given range of 451 meters. The soldier then uses the increment button on the trigger guard and adds one more meter to the firing solution since the enemy combatant is about one meter behind the wall.
Upon pulling the trigger, the TAFC programs the HEAB round in the chamber of the weapon, telling the round to explode at 452 meters from launch point. The HEAB round departs the rifled barrel, arms at 30 meters, clears the top of the wall at 451 meters and explodes its two warheads at 452 meters, right above the enemy. The entire firing sequence takes the gunner less than five seconds to aim and fire and another 2.5 seconds for the round to fly and explode over the target, thereby clearing the way for the patrol to resume its mission. (Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner writes for PEO Soldier - Soldier Weapons)
The littoral combat ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Independence (LCS 2) pulls away from the pier for her acceptance trials at Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elizabeth Vlahos/Released)
November 19, 2009, Washington -- The future USS Independence (LCS 2) successfully completed acceptance trials this week, after completing a series of graded in-port and underway demonstrations for the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV).
Acceptance Trials are the first opportunity for INSURV to test the ship and its systems.
During two days underway, the ship completed demonstrations of the combat systems suite, steering, anchoring and propulsion. The ship achieved a top speed of almost 45 knots during the full power demonstration.
"Independence performed extremely well during trials," said Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program Manager Rear Adm. James Murdoch. "LCS 2 conducted two outstanding days at sea. We look forward to delivering this critical asset to the fleet."
The ship was presented to INSURV with high levels of completion in production and test. The official results of the trials, including the type and number of trial cards, are currently being reviewed by the Navy.
Members of the LCS 2 pre-commissioning unit were on board Independence during trials to see how their future ship will perform.
"It's going to change the way we do things, particularly in the surface force," said Cmdr. Curt Renshaw, Independence Blue Crew commanding officer. "This ship allows us the flexibility to complement almost all the pillars of the Maritime Strategy."
"This is a significant milestone for the surface warfare community and the Navy at large - the impact that Freedom and Independence will have on the fleet will be immediate. We are another step closer to having this important capability as part of the surface force, and I applaud the team effort - Sailor, civilian and contractor - that went into making this happen," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, Naval Surface Forces.
Acceptance trials are the last significant milestone before delivery of the ship to the Navy. Ship delivery is expected to occur next month, with the ship's commissioning Jan. 16 in Mobile, Ala.