Show Report / AUSA 2013
SP’s Special Correspondent, Washington DC
THE ANNUAL CONVENTION AND exposition of the Association of United States Army (AUSA) which was held from October 21-23 at Washington DC continues to hold centre stage, despite the looming budgetary cuts in defence expenditure. Testimony to this has been the over 700 Army and industry exhibitors who used over 5,00,000 square feet of space, besides engaging in animated conversations about cost-effective technologies.
The scene at AUSA 2013 was contrasting, while Army Generals after Generals talked about downsizing and prioritising, the equipment manufacturers were aggressive in their marketing and highlighted how their equipment met the requirements of the armed forces in the current economic turmoil. The US Department of Defense has put in place sequestration and the Pentagon has to walk a tightrope financially considering that it has to downsize its projected budgets by nearly $500 billion over the next decade. While this certainly affected defence equipment manufacturers who now have increasingly started looking at emerging markets and Asia is one big defence spender. Meanwhile, the US Army is working on downsizing its manpower from the 4,90,000 soldier threshold to about 4,25,000 as per the US Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno. Sequestration has cost the Army $1.7 billion in just the first year, he said, resulting in hundreds of vehicles and thousands of communications systems out of service for lack of maintenance and soldiers unable to train. General (Retd) Gordon R. Sullivan, AUSA President, commented, “AUSA and senior Army leaders, with budget challenges at top-of-mind, have crafted another world-class professional development experience that benefits our Army, our industry partners and the American people by keeping key audiences informed about how our Army is truly ‘globally responsive and regionally engaged’.” The theme for this year’s professional development forum was: “America’s Army: Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged.”
KMW Pitches Puma for Bradley Replacement
At AUSA, discussion revolved around how the ground combat vehicle (GCV), a replacement to the Bradley being developed by BAE Systems and General Dynamics, may get affected in the budgetary slash.
Despite that Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) of Munich, Germany, made an aggressive pitch of the Puma military fighting vehicle as an ideal replacement for the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. KMW’s display included a cross-section of a Puma hull that had sustained a direct hit by an anti-tank mine during a field test. It also displayed the Puma’s unmanned turret—equipped nearly completely with US-manufactured gear. The two weapons—a 35mm cannon and .50-calibre machine gun—are made by ATK Inc. A US division of Meggitt Defense Systems built the ammunition-handling system. Moog Inc. built the turret system.
Bell, Sikorsky in Race to Develop Aircraft for US Army
Two of the four major players for the possible replacement platform for the US Army’s fleet of ageing rotor aircraft strove to make their respective cases during AUSA. The impetus for the two companies—Bell Helicopter Textron and Sikorsky Aircraft—came from an October 3 announcement by the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Centre (AMRDEC) which named them and two other firms—AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft—as the four finalists to develop suitable aircraft. Under the AMRDEC directive, the four companies will have nine months to refine and develop their designs. Each must produce a demonstrator aircraft by the summer or fall of 2017.
Bell Helicopter presented a full-scale representation of its Bell V-280 Valor third-generation tilt-rotor and provides programme updates on the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. John Garrison, President and CEO of Bell Helicopter, said, “Through continued investment, Bell Helicopter provides the most trusted affordable and effective solutions for the US Army’s missions today and tomorrow.”
Sikorsky Aircraft offered a distinctly different aircraft into the contest, unveiling its new name—SB-1 Defiant which it is developing jointly with Boeing and other corporate partners. Defiant closely resembles a conventional helicopter in looks and performance. The stark difference is its coaxial dual-rotor design. “Running in counter-rotation to each other, the two large rotors would allow the aircraft to move with twice the manoeuvrability and speed of conventional helicopters,” said Sikorsky spokesman Frans Jurgens.
Lighter Body Armour
With body armour adding between 35 and 40 pounds to the loads, soldiers must carry into combat; it stands to reason that Army leadership is pressing its industry partners to develop better systems. While no one really expects to see soldiers sporting camouflaged versions of Tony Stark’s ‘Iron Man’ suit anytime soon, companies believe they are making significant inroads. SaintGobain, a long-time provider of ceramic 0plates used in a wide array of the Army’s body-armour packages, believes the future lies in development of non-carbide materials that are lighter in weight than the current carbide-based ones.
Boeing Tests HEL MD Laser
Boeing announced that it would conduct live fire tests of its high energy laser mobile demonstrator (HEL MD) tactical laser by the end of 2013. HEL MD is a tactical laser programme designed to defeat rockets, mortars and small unmanned aerial vehicles.
AM General’s Light Tactical Vehicles
America’s builder of light tactical military vehicles, AM General, presented several offerings from its diverse family of light tactical vehicles and training operations. They included the blast resistant vehicle offroad (BRV-O) joint light tactical vehicle; the ground mobility vehicle 1.1 (GMV); the modernised HMMWV chassis and the on/ off road light tactical vehicle simulator.
UTC Displays Array of Products
The company exhibited a wide range of technologies and solutions from laser warning systems applications for land platforms and helicopters to products for guidance and navigation control. Small UAS was presented along with multiple UAS applications, including cloud cap technology TASE gimbals and piccolo autopilots. Sensors unlimited shortwave infrared (SWIR) cameras were on display, including a handheld variant, all providing the benefits of being able to see through obscurants such as fog, haze and smoke.
Elbit’s Cutting-edge Solutions
The company presented an array of cutting-edge solutions designed to enhance the capabilities of the US armed forces. Elbit Systems of America’s innovative solutions for land vehicle refurbishment, upgrades and aviation services caught the attention of the attendees at AUSA.
ATK’s Medium-calibre Cannons
ATK highlighted multiple products that support the US Army, including medium- calibre cannons, precision guidance for artillery and mortars, the XM25 individual semi-automatic airburst system, and small-, medium- and large-calibre ammunition.
ATK also featured its Eagle Industries and Blackhawk brand tactical gear and apparel, special mission aircraft upgrades, facility management expertise and its portfolio of advanced fuses, warheads and tactical propulsion systems.
FLIR’s Ruggedised Optical Cabling
FLIR demonstrated use of ruggedised, active optical cabling (AOC) with its Star Safire 380-HD sensor. FLIR leverages ruggedised AOCs developed by Zephyr Photonics that enable the transition to optical cables without the typical troubles associated with use of fibre optic cabling in harsh environments. Zephyr’s AOCs provide FLIR with electrically pluggable, standard, MIL-SPEC connectors that enable form, fit, function replacements for the heavy and legacy copper interconnects.
General Dynamics Bags Contract
General Dynamics announced that the US Special Operations Command gave them a contract for the Flyer advanced light strike vehicle (ALSV). The three-year contract is for up to 10 vehicles representing a total value of $5.8 million if all options are exercised.
Telephonics’ Advanced Communications
Telephonics, an industry leader in both the defence and civil markets for advanced communication systems, offered a variety of wired and wireless communication solutions designed to meet stringent customer requirements for affordable advanced communications. Telephonics systems can be found on 54 platform types around the world including fixed-wing, rotary-wing, lighter-than-air aircraft and ground control shelters. The Trulink wireless intercommunication system is one of the most versatile, full duplex intercoms available. Trulink is ideal for flight line operations, transport, aero-medical evacuation, crews, ground vehicles and unmanned system crews.
Kongsberg to Overhaul Protector M151
Kongsberg announced that it will overhaul and repair the Protector M151 remote weapon stations (RWS) in service with the Canadian military, under a newly signed contract with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND). Work will be conducted by Kongsberg Protech Systems (KPS) in Canada. The Canadian military has operated the Protector M151 RWS on its RG-31 platform since Kongsberg supplied the systems in 2005.
General Atomics’ Unveils Artillery Version of Blitzer
General Atomics unveiled a land-based artillery version of its Blitzer electromagnetic rail gun (EMRG) and that it could be ready for production in “two to three years”. Blitzer began as a 2007 US Office of Naval Research programme to develop prototype technologies to support the US Navy’s (USN’s) futuristic rail gun programme, which is now led by BAE Systems and Boeing.
Soldier firing H&K’s XM25
KMW’s Puma military fighting vehicle
Bell V-280 Valor third-generation tilt-rotor