Afghan copter crash kills U.S. SEALs eliminated bin Laden

WASHINGTON, August 6 (RIA Novosti)

Over 20 U.S. Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in early May were onboard the NATO helicopter, crashed on Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, Fox News reported.

The Chinook helicopter went down overnight in Afghan eastern Wardak Province as it was shot down from the ground. 38 people were reported to had been killed.

Among those killed in the crash were over 20 Navy SEALs (Sea, Air and Land Teams) from the so-called Team Six that eliminated bin Laden in his Pakistani compound on May 2, Fox News quoted a Pentagon source as saying.

The source said that apart from the SEALs, there were three Air Force air controllers, seven Afghan Army troops, a dog, his owner, a civilian interpreter as well as the helicopter crew members on board.

The U.S. President Barack Obama and the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta has expressed their condolences to the relatives of those killed in the crash.

Taliban has claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter.

Last month, a coalition helicopter was shot down by insurgent fire in nearby province of Kunar.

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Navistar Defense Receives Incremental Vehicle Order to Support Afghanistan

August 8, 2011

WARRENVILLE, Ill.

Navistar Defense, LLC today announced that it received both a contract extension and a delivery order to support Afghanistan Security Forces. The $28 million order from the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command calls for 194 general troop transport vehicles. The contract extension runs through December 2011 and has a ceiling of $83 million to allow for additional vehicle orders and support packages.

“Supporting the Afghanistan Security Forces has been one of our initiatives since 2005 and it is essential for our nation’s success,” said Archie Massicotte, president, Navistar Defense. “Today we have nearly 12,000 Navistar vehicles serving in security and rebuilding missions with Afghan forces. All of those vehicles leverage our current commercial platforms and we’ll continue to support those units throughout their 15-20 year lifecycles.”

Under the delivery order, Navistar will provide general troop transport vehicles based on the International 7000-MV, or WorkStar, platform as well as parts. Other variants currently serving in Afghanistan include wreckers, water tankers and fuel trucks.

“Providing vehicles to allied forces continues to be one piece of our business strategy,” said Massicotte. “While we are always pursuing new sales, providing sustainment services to our fleet of more than 32,000 vehicles also keeps us on track with our goal to maintain a $1.5 to $2 billion revenue base.”

Production will occur at the company’s Garland, Texas, and West Point, Miss., assembly facilities.

Navistar International Corporation is a holding company whose subsidiaries and affiliates produce International brand commercial and military trucks, MaxxForce brand diesel engines, IC Bus brand school and commercial buses, Monaco RV brands of recreational vehicles, and Workhorse brand chassis for motor homes and step vans.

Drone Impact On Pace Of War Draws Scrutiny

Jul 8, 2011

By Paul McLeary, Sharon Weinberger, Angus Batey
Washington, Washington, London

There is an unofficial but lethal drone war taking place over Pakistan, Yemen and Libya that has expanded the area of operation for U.S. forces beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, with no real acknowledgement from the government that anything extraordinary is happening. The undeclared conflict on these three fronts might be the first Drone War, and warfare has never seen anything like it.

On just one front of this undeclared war, in Pakistan, the U.S. had launched 37 drone strikes this year as of June and 118 in all of 2010.

The simultaneous use of remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) over Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, typically operated by crews in the Nevada desert, raises certain questions. Would the U.S. engage in such a wide-ranging air campaign if it were conducted only with manned aircraft flying from overseas bases and carrier strike groups? Has the use of unmanned systems led to more warfare, in more places, because of the smaller logistics tail and the fact that pilots’ lives are not at risk?

“The issue is not whether or not the aircraft is manned,” says Lt. Gen. (ret.) David Deptula, former U.S. Air Force first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and principal air attack planner during Operation Desert Storm, the runup to the 1991 Persian Gulf war. “We would do what we’re doing if the only way we could do it is with a man in the aircraft.”

Deptula maintains that operating over permissive environments such as Yemen or Pakistan—where the tacit or explicit approval of the host government has been granted—means that the threat to pilots is limited, and that “taking the human out of the cockpit simply allows the capability of persistence to be exploited.” In other words, the ability of remotely piloted systems to hover over targets for hours before striking is what leads policymakers and combatant commanders to make use of them in these situations, not because there is no risk to American lives.

In his view, UAVs don’t “lower the threshold to the application of force,” but enable “a perspective that we didn’t have when you had a person in the cockpit”—namely, persistence. A General Atomics Predator or Reaper drone can loiter well beyond the capability of a manned aircraft, which gives it the ability to wait out an enemy while it gathers the intelligence needed for a planning a strike. Deptula has long railed against the word “unmanned” when it comes to drones, since “it nominally takes about 180 people to maintain a single orbit. The majority of those people are analysts. You don’t have that in manned aircraft.”

From a legal standpoint, U.S. government officials are adamant that using a drone to kill an enemy is no different than employing manned aircraft. “[The] rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system used, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapon systems in armed conflict—such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs—so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war,” Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department, said at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington. “Indeed, using such advanced technologies can ensure both that the best intelligence is available for planning operations and that civilian casualties are minimized in carrying out such an operation.”

A secondary question is whether drone operators are more or less likely to drop bombs than manned aircraft. Precious little research has been done on how the people operating drones—particularly those responsible for the weapons—are affected psychologically, or more importantly, whether they are affected differently than those flying manned aircraft. An Air Force Research Laboratory study in 2010 compared drone operators to gunship pilots and found similarities.

But there are also differences. For example, subject matter experts interviewed by the study’s authors cited cases where sensor operators, after having to kill enemy forces, decided they weren’t comfortable doing so and changed jobs. “They reported such SOs (sensor operators) performed their surveillance and reconnaissance duties well, but emotionally struggled with their role in taking lives of others, regardless of the threat enemy combatants posed to U.S. and allied forces,” the study found. “[Subject matter experts] reported such SOs experienced significant internal conflict with their role, and that such a conflict did not become apparent until the SO was faced with a real-life situation or fully educated about the nature of their combat-related duties.”

In other words, UAV sensor operators may have more problems with releasing weapons than gunship crews, and thus might require even more motivation to do their jobs, the authors wrote.

Pilots or drone operators can only fly where their military and civilian bosses tell them to and conduct the missions they’ve been tasked to do. The notion that having access to armed, unmanned platforms may make it easier for the order to be given to fly lethal missions, and therefore permit politicians to take nations to war sooner, or without the planning and deliberation that is essential to engaging in conflict, is one that the U.K. Defense Ministry has considered. The ministry’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Center released a report titled “The U.K. Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems” in March, which states “ . . . the recent extensive use of unmanned aircraft over Pakistan and Yemen may already herald a new era. That these activities are exclusively carried out by unmanned aircraft, even though very capable manned aircraft are available, and that the use of ground troops in harm’s way has been avoided, suggests that the use of force is totally a function of an unmanned capability.”

“I actually disagree that [the U.K. is] doing anything differently because of the unmanned technology,” says Wing Cdr. Chris Thirtle, Royal Air Force desk officer and policy lead for remotely piloted air systems. “From a U.K. perspective, I sense there is no change in political appetite just because of the advent of unmanned aircraft. They don’t change what we do, they don’t influence what we do; they just give us a better, and hopefully safer, way of doing it.”

In Afghanistan, too, experience suggests that decisions to strike are not being taken more hastily because of remotely piloted platforms. Rather, it is another factor inherent in the current generation of unmanned aircraft that is changing the nature of warfare.

Thirtle and Deptula have much in common in their assessments of what capabilities UAVs give the U.S. and U.K., with the aircraft’s ability to loiter above a target for hours being the critical factor that changes the potential battlefield below. “What the unmanned system gives that we’ve not had before is the persistent presence that enables us to know when we want to deliver an effect and where we need to deliver it,” says Thirtle. “In a congested, cluttered, complex battlespace, persistence is becoming more and more valuable. A single snapshot just gives you a picture. Your understanding of that picture could change if you saw what was happening there 5 minutes before or 5 seconds later. That is what’s changing the way we consider how we use our pieces on the chessboard. I think we’ve understood the benefits of persistence,” he adds, “and you’ll see a drive to keep that card in hand.”

DTI saw the benefits of persistence at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, in September 2009, while embedded with the U.S. Army’s Task Force ODIN, an acronym for observe, detect, identify and neutralize. The task force’s mix of contractors and enlisted personnel teamed up to operate General Atomics MQ‑1C Warrior drones on surveillance and overwatch missions as well as lethal runs (DTI November 2009, p. 16).

Since the aircraft can fly 24 hr. at a time, teams would swap out every 7 hr. to keep a fresh set of eyes on the ground at all times. DTI was allowed into the flight-control pod to observe a live night raid at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, and the hours on station that the drone provided gave the insertion team on the ground an unprecedented look into the “pattern of life” inside the compound’s walls hours before their helicopters touched down—intel that was pored over in real time by analysts in multiple locations via a secure online chat function.

Another mission the ODIN crews were practicing at the time—and which has since been put to lethal effect—was teaming with Army Apache helicopter crews. During the test runs DTI observed, an Apache crew would laser-designate a target that a Warrior UAV would hit, or a Warrior designated a target that an Apache would strike. In this mission the value of keeping a persistent watch on a target is combined with the ability of a helicopter crew to see a wider view of an area, something unavailable to a drone’s operators.

The stress operators can experience on long missions is a concern, however. There are advantages to removing a pilot from an airframe—the calm, comfortable “cockpit” environment of a drone operator and access to more intelligence and advice should enable greater concentration and better decision-making. But unmanned aviation technology has its own unique set of pressures—everything an operator sees, hears and reads is stored, and all decisions taken can be subject to a greater degree of analysis and evaluation after a mission than would be possible with a manned platform. The remote operator may be under increased pressure to justify every decision taken during a mission. Greater persistence also means longer time on station than for a manned platform, and the view through the “cockpit windshield” is not of ground several miles below, but close-up sensor footage of buildings, vehicles and people—friend and foe alike.

Air Cdr. Stuart Atha, the U.K. Defense Ministry’s head of Joint Capability, and in 2009-10 the air component commander in Afghanistan, addressed the question of the effect “prolonged exposure to death and destruction via near-real-time video” may have on aircrews in a recent speech to defense experts in London.

“The crews are distant but not detached,” he said. “While they operate at no direct physical risk they are subject to psychological and emotional stresses. Yet the evidence shows that occupational rather than operational issues, such as the long hours worked, the need to maintain a heightened awareness over long periods, and in particular the constant juggling of domestic and professional life, are the more prevalent causes of stress.”

In the present climate, with Britain’s economic uncertainties pointing to further cuts in defense budgets, remotely piloted operations offer a rare area of growth. And while the Reaper drone remains an Urgent Operational Requirement and is not at present expected to remain in the RAF inventory after the U.K. withdraws from Afghanistan, the Scavenger Istar (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) UAV requirement, set to be finalized in 2012 with a view to initial operating capability around 2018, will keep the RAF invested in remotely piloted air system capabilities. From being an uncertain berth in a changing service, remotely piloted aircraft may offer one of the more secure career paths in the British military.

While the U.S. isn’t hiding the fact that it is flying missions against targets in Pakistan and Yemen, the U.K. is more careful about its Afghanistan operations. Penetrating foreign airspace is still penetrating foreign airspace, Thirtle says, echoing Deptula’s contention that not having a pilot in the cockpit doesn’t really change the nature of the situation. “Speaking hypothetically,” Thirtle continues, “there’s much less political fallout from having a bunch of wreckage found on the wrong side of the border than a captured airman or a body. However, I’ve seen and heard nothing that gives me any sense that wreckage falling on the wrong side of the border is acceptable just because it’s unmanned.

“The U.K. operates remotely piloted aircraft systems only in Afghanistan. The border is considered so sacrosanct that you put another border inside the real border, so that even if your navigation system drifts slightly, there is no danger you will have infringed somebody else’s airspace.”

In the U.S., remotely piloted aircraft are also creating career paths. The Air Force Academy’s class of 2011 was the first in which graduates planned to specialize in operating remotely piloted aircraft—32 of 1,021 graduates selected this field. In the Army, enlisted soldiers operate the UAVs and surveillance equipment, though Army pilots or contract pilots handle takeoffs and landings.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the CIA is now preparing to launch a major drone operation over Yemen. The aircraft will conduct surveillance and attack missions, using operations over Pakistan as a blueprint. This, of course, adds another wrinkle to the debate over the increasing use of unmanned platforms for targeted killings in countries where the U.S. isn’t technically at war.

Source: defense technology international

Hélicoptères pour l’Afghanistan: la coopération Russie-Etats-Unis continue

MOSCOU, 4 août – RIA Novosti

Les dix premiers lots d’équipements étrangers pour les hélicoptères russes Mi-17V5 destinés à l’armée afghane arriveront à l’usine de Kazan d’ici deux mois, a annoncé jeudi à Moscou Viatcheslav Dzirkaln, directeur adjoint du Service fédéral russe pour la coopération militaire et technique (FSVTS).

« Les deux premiers lots seront acheminés à Kazan fin août, les huit autres en septembre » conformément au contrat russo-américain sur la livraison de 21 hélicoptères de transport militaire Mi-17V5 à l’Afghanistan, a indiqué M.Dzirkaln devant les journalistes, démentant ainsi les informations selon lesquelles la réalisation du contrat posait des problèmes.

Le contrat d’un montant de 367,5 millions de dollars, selon les médias, a été conclu en mai dernier par le commandement de l’Armée de terre des Etats-Unis et l’agence russe d’exportation d’armements « Rosoboronexport ». Le premier lot d’hélicoptères sera livré à l’Armée de l’air afghane en octobre 2011. Les autres appareils seront remis à l’Afghanistan en 2012.

Hélicoptères pour l’Afghanistan: Moscou salue la signature d’un contrat avec Washington

MOSCOU, 28 mai – RIA Novosti

Moscou se félicite d’avoir signé jeudi un contrat avec les Etats-Unis sur la livraison de 21 hélicoptères de transport militaire Mi-17V5 à l’armée afghane, a annoncé samedi l’assistant du président russe Sergueï Prikhodko.

« Il s’agit du premier gros contrat russo-américain signé directement avec le ministère américain de la Défense. La signature de ce document est un résultat important de la coopération bilatérale visant à rendre l’armée afghane plus efficace », a indiqué M.Prikhodko.

Le commandement de l’Armée de terre des Etats-Unis et l’agence russe d’exportation d’armements « Rosoboronexport » ont conclu un contrat sur la livraison de 21 hélicoptères Mi-17V5 en Afghanistan alors que les présidents russe et américain « examinaient les moyens d’élargir la coopération antiterroriste entre les deux pays à Deauville », a ajouté M.Prikhodko.

Le montant du contrat s’élève à 367,5 millions de dollars, selon les médias. Le premier lot d’hélicoptère sera livré à l’Armée de l’air afghane en octobre 2011. Les autres appareils seront remis à l’Afghanistan en 2012.

La Russie et l’OTAN ont lancé des négociations sur les hélicoptères il y a plus d’un an, selon le journal Kommersant. L’Alliance a tenté en vain de persuader Moscou de livrer les appareils gratuitement en vue de contribuer à la stabilité en Afghanistan. Les pays membres de l’Alliance n’ayant pas réussi à réunir les fonds nécessaires pour acheter les hélicoptères, les Etats-Unis se sont joints aux discussions. Moscou et Washington se sont finalement mis d’accord pour financer ensemble la livraison des hélicoptères.

Source: RIA Novosti

Innovative Defence kit showcased during National Science and Engineering Week

An Equipment and Logistics news article

18 Mar 11

A new form of armoured netting which can stop rocket-propelled grenades damaging vehicles was one of the items showcased at an event to mark National Science and Engineering Week.

Tarian QuickShield netting, which is similar in appearance to a string vest, was among several innovations displayed in London today which have been created by MOD scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and members of the defence industry.

The event gave an insight into current technologies being deployed in support of our Armed Forces and a forward look at the scientific innovations which may one day add to the current impressive range of tools which give military personnel a battle-winning edge.

Tarian QuickShield is a lightweight net or ‘band aid for bar armour’, strong enough to protect against rocket-propelled grenades, which will be used to rapidly replace damaged bar armour on military vehicles in the field.

Stowed in the vehicle, the netting can be fitted immediately without any tools. It is due to be delivered to Afghanistan next month as part of a £2.6m contract.

As well as the netting, a pioneering approach to tackling the problem of ‘helicopter brownout’, where a pilot loses visual references due to dust or sand, was also showcased.

The kit uses a small, helmet-mounted display to provide a virtual 3D representation of the landing zone that stays fixed to the earth and helps the pilot to land safely.

During his visit to the event, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, confirmed that the budget for Defence Science and Technology would rise in cash terms over the Comprehensive Spending Review period.

He said:

« Scientists, engineers and inventors are often behind novel solutions to defence and security needs. This funding demonstrates our commitment to helping them develop innovative and cutting-edge ideas to help improve and protect the lives of the Armed Forces.

« I have been impressed with the technology on show today and that’s why protecting this funding has been so important to me. But don’t get me wrong, after the way the science budget has been slashed in recent years, we should be aiming to increase investment as soon as we can. »

Rear Admiral Rees Ward (Rtd), Chief Executive Officer of Aerospace, Defence and Security, and Secretary of the Defence Industries Council, said:

« This event provides an important opportunity for the Ministry of Defence and the industry to showcase their joint efforts in providing the best possible equipment to our Armed Forces both now and in the future.

« Maintaining a technological advantage is crucial and is only achieved through continuing investment in research and technology and through close co-operation between industry and Government.

« As we look at the equipment of the future, it seems fitting that this event should take place as part of National Science and Engineering Week with its focus on education and encouraging the engineers and scientists of tomorrow to make a difference in support of our troops. »

National Science and Engineering Week runs from 11 to 20 March 2011.

Source: UK MoD

Le drone « Harfang » : deux années de présence sur le théâtre Afghan

18 Mars 2011 Par Lieutenant-colonel Bruno Paupy, Commandant en second ED 1/33

Après deux ans d’utilisation en Afghanistan, le drone « Harfang » est passé du stade de l’expérimentation à celui d’expertise.

Il y a deux ans, en plein cœur de l’hiver afghan, la France déployait sur la base aérienne américaine de Bagram son système de drone MALE(1) « Harfang », accompagné du personnel juste nécessaire à sa mise en œuvre. Les autorités françaises voulaient ainsi participer à l’amélioration de la planification et la conduite des opérations menées par la Force Internationale de Sécurité et d’Assistance présente en Afghanistan, mais également accroître la sécurité de nos forces déployées au sol. Malgré sa jeunesse et sa vocation expérimentale, le système intérimaire de drone MALE, arrivé dans l’armée de l’air depuis moins de 4 mois, s’avérait donc incontournable. Grâce à la robustesse de sa liaison satellite et la polyvalence de ses capteurs vidéo, ce drone a vocation à réaliser en toute discrétion une surveillance aérienne de plus de vingt heures, tout en transmettant les informations recueillies instantanément à tous ceux qui en ont besoin.

Avec plus de 3500 heures de vol sans accident au dessus des régions commandement Est et Capitale, et la couverture d’un large panel de missions « d’appui renseignement » au profit de nombreux « clients » de la coalition, les hommes et les femmes qui portent à bout de bras cette capacité depuis sa naissance ont de quoi être fiers. Grace à leurs compétences, leur solidarité et leur enthousiasme indéfectible, ils ont démontré au travers de plus de 300 missions que cette capacité est désormais indispensable pour acquérir une meilleure connaissance de la zone d’opération, pour mieux anticiper les intentions ennemies et surtout pour sauvegarder de nombreuses vies humaines, aussi bien civiles que militaires.

Au fil de leurs nombreux détachements successifs sur ce théâtre exigeant, le personnel de l’Escadron Drone 1/33 « Belfort » a désormais acquis une expertise unique, permettant d’offrir du renseignement adapté et apprécié par tous. Cette expertise ne demande dorénavant qu’à être capitalisée dans le cadre de la préparation et la conduite d’autres opérations, aussi bien militaires qu’interministérielles, si tant est que cette capacité perdure au-delà de la durée de vie limitée de son système intérimaire actuel. A n’en pas douter, son fort potentiel de mutualisation au niveau européen et ses aptitudes pour anticiper, comprendre, décider et coordonner les actions en font désormais une capacité incontournable dans la panoplie de l’armé française.

(1) MALE : Moyenne Altitude Longue Endurance

Source: RP Defense

MD Helicopters Awarded $186 Million Department of the Army Rotary Wing Primary Training Aircraft (RWPTA) Contract

MESA, Arizona, March 16, 2011 – MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI), a leading manufacturer of commercial and military helicopters, has been awarded a $186 million contract from the Department of the Army for its Rotary Wing Primary Training Aircraft (RWPTA) to be used in Shindand, Afghanistan. The initial award calls for six (6) MD 530F Helicopters for training purposes and could reach as many as fifty four (54) aircraft over the life of the four year contract. The Department of the Army Contract W58RGZ-11-C-0070, Non-Standard Rotary Wing Aircraft (NSRWA) as awarded to MD Helicopters includes all critical spares provisioning.

“This is a great day for MD and for me. We feel privileged by the opportunity to support the U.S. Army and deeply honored by the significance of the award.” said Lynn Tilton, Chairmann and CEO of MD Helicopters.

In his letter of award, dated March 10, 2011, Contracting Officer, William Epps wrote, “MD Helicopter’s proposal was determined to present the offer that represented the lowest price and technically acceptable proposal to the Government and thus was selected for Award. I would like to extend to you and your team my congratulations.”

The MD 530F is a perfect fit for this training mission. Equipped with the 650 shp Rolls Royce 250-C30 engine and longer main-rotor blades, the MD 530F is the company’s finest high altitude, hot-day performer. When compared to the MD 500E, the 530F’s tailboom is extended eight inches, and the tail rotor blades are also lengthened to provide increased thrust and directional control at high altitudes.

The MD 530F increases the operational capabilities over the MD 500E as well, enabling greater mission versatility and performance. This dependable workhorse has greater take-off power at significantly higher hover ceiling levels than its competitors, with in-ground-effect hover capability of 16,000 feet ISA. The MD 530F is known for its speed, agility, low direct operating costs and the ability to operate with ease in confined spaces.

About MD Helicopters, Inc.

MD Helicopters, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of commercial and military helicopters. The MDHI family of rotorcraft is world renowned for its value, versatility and performance. The MD Helicopters family includes the twin-engine MD Explorer®, and single engine versions of the MD 600N®, MD 520N®, MD 500E® and MD 530F®. The NOTAR® system for anti-torque control is used exclusively by MD Helicopters. The Company is based in Mesa, AZ.

For more information about MDHI visit http://www.mdhelicopters.com.

About Patriarch Partners LLC

Patriarch Partners, LLC, is a private equity firm and holding company managing 74 companies with annual revenues of more than $8 billion. Founded by Wall Street veteran Lynn Tilton in 2000, Patriarch is dedicated to saving American manufacturing jobs by saving American companies that have fallen from economic favor. Since its inception, Patriarch has bought more than 150 companies, and in so doing has saved over 250,000 jobs. Patriarch’s portfolio includes a broad range of industrial concerns including Dura Automotive, American LaFrance, Denali, and MD Helicopters, in addition to iconic American brands such as Rand McNally, Spiegel Catalogs and Stila Cosmetics. Under Ms. Tilton’s leadership, Patriarch has become the largest woman-owned business in America employing more than 120,000 employees.

For more information, please visit: http://www.patriarchpartners.com.

Norway Buys Rubber Tracks for CV90 Afghan Operations

ÖRNSKÖLDSVIK, Sweden — Two Norwegian Army CV9030 infantry fighting vehicles have been using rubber tracks in northern Afghanistan since December. The 28-tonne BAE Systems vehicles are the heaviest to have used them on operations.

The rubber track system is jointly developed by Soucy International in Quebec, Canada and BAE Systems in Sweden: Soucy has designed and produced the tracks and BAE Systems has qualified the system in full-scale trials. The tracks reduce vehicle weight by more than one tonne compared with conventional steel tracks. They also cut noise by a massive 10dB and vibration levels by 65 percent.

“The reduced vibration levels are increasing the life expectancy of electronics, optronics and ammunition, which will significantly reduce vehicle running costs,” said CV90 platform manager Dan Lindell. “The tracks also improve stealth, reduce crew fatigue and increase mobility in many conditions, such as on snow and ice.”

Major Per Rune Hansen is CV90 fleet manager for the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation. He commented: “Our vehicle crews were a little sceptical of the rubber tracks at first, but once they used them, they became big fans and really appreciate the reduced vibration and quieter operation.”

Noise and vibration from steel tracks are coming under increasing scrutiny because of ever-tightening health and safety legislation across the world.

“Health and Safety is another reason we are pushing the limits of rubber track technology’” says Lindell. “There have been reservations about their robustness on heavier vehicles, but rubber track performance and track life is increasing all the time, which is why Norway has bought the tracks.”

BAE Systems technical and durability tests on a CV90 over several years weighing 28,000 kg gave good results, with a track life comparable with conventional steel tracks. Trials by the Norwegian Army in late 2010 were so positive that the two vehicles were sent to Afghanistan before the planned schedule was completed.

CV90 trials at 35 tonnes will take place through 2011. The increasing vehicle weights possible with rubber tracks are the result of advances in rubber track technology and vehicle configuration. Also planned for early 2011 are mine blast trials to assess the effect of blast and fragments on the tracks.

Dan Lindell concluded: “BAE Systems and Soucy have a product which gives significant advantages and which can be transferred to other vehicle fleets. We are continuing to invest in CV90 to keep it at the forefront of its class.

BAE Systems already works with Soucy on rubber tracks for several of its lighter-weight armoured vehicles, including the go-anywhere BvS10 and the M113 armoured personnel carrier which Norway has deployed with rubber tracks in Afghanistan. The joint development with Soucy on rubber tracks for CV90 began as part of BAE Systems’ bid for the Canadian Close Combat Vehicle programme.

Army Wants 36 More ‘Punisher’ Weapons in 2012

WASHINGTON — Only five XM25 weapons exist today, but Soldiers lucky enough to have used them in Afghanistan are saying more are needed.

Two Soldiers took the prototype weapons into theater to link them up with requesting units. They trained troops on the weapon’s use and managed the Forward Operational Assessment to collect information about the weapon’s performance in theater and how Soldiers used it.

« The XM25 brought the difference to whether they would stay there 15 to 20 minutes shooting (and) taking pot shots or the actual fight ended after using the XM25, » said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Smith, Soldier Requirements Division, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga. « That was due to the defilade capabilities of the XM25 to shoot beyond targets and behind targets. »

The XM25 allows Soldiers to engage defilade targets — those behind a barrier, protected from oncoming weapons fire. The XM25 measures the distance to the enemy’s protective barrier, and can then program the round to detonate a user-adjustable distance past that — allowing Soldiers to put an air-bursting round directly above the enemy’s head, inside their protected area.

The round measures the distance it travels by counting its own rotations after leaving the barrel.

Both Smith and Maj. Christopher Conley, an assistant product manager for Program Manager Soldier Weapons, at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., were part of the team that brought those weapons into theater for Soldiers to use in actual combat. The five prototype weapons entered theater in November, and were first used in combat Dec. 3.

Since then, hundreds of XM25 rounds have been fired in theater, though only 55 of those rounds were fired as part of combat, on nine different operational missions.

« We disrupted two insurgents on an OP (observation point) and we silenced two machine-gun positions — two PKM positions, » Conley said, describing some of the scenarios he witnessed in theater where the XM25 had been used. « We destroyed four ambush locations, where the survivors fled. »

« And when we launched it at a longer range target, who was carrying a machine gun and it exploded near his target — it either badly wounded him or scared him good enough that he dropped his machine gun and ran away, » Conley recalled.

Overall in Afghanistan, the five XM25s have been with two separate units. The first unit used the weapon on four engagements and fired 28 rounds in combat. The second unit was able to use the XM25 on five engagements and fired 27 rounds in combat.

« The troops are very excited to carry it, » Conley said. « We’ve limited who can carry it based on the number of folks that we’ve trained. But within that group of Soldiers that are trained on the operation of the XM25, I heard a Soldier say ‘hey, he carried it yesterday, so I get it today.' »

Some Soldiers who’ve used the XM25 in Afghanistan had taken to naming the weapon — though there is no official name for the system yet.

« The kids are calling it ‘the Punisher,' » said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, who heads up the Program Executive Office Soldier. « I don’t know what we’re going to title this product, but it seems to be game-changing. You no longer can shoot at American forces and then hide behind something. We’re going to reach out and touch you. »

Conley said during the Forward Operational Assessment, the performance of the XM25, and Soldier response to the system, provided positive response to three questions about the system from Army leadership, including if the weapon gives « higher probability of effect, » if the weapon provides more survivability for the Solider, and how will the weapon be used at squad and platoon level.

« What our Soldiers have told us is, when we do fire this weapon, it does have a high probability of effect, » Conley said. « The enemy stops firing. They flee. They drag off their casualties. Essentially, a Soldier is very happy when the enemy stops firing at him. »

Soldier survivability is also increased with the XM25 because it allows Soldiers to fire on the enemy from protected positions, while the enemy themselves believe they are in protected positions.

« We have increased the survivability of our Soldiers because our Soldiers no longer have to maneuver from their cover position to gain an advantageous firing spot for the enemy, » Conley said. « We are able to stay behind cover, and we welcome (the enemy) to stay behind cover — because we’ll get you. »

Conley and Smith also said that Soldiers were using the XM25 as their primary weapon — forgoing additional weapons like the M4, for instance.

When the Forward Operational Assessment ended in January, and the testing organization had enough data to send to the Army leadership, they expected to take the weapons home, but Soldiers thought otherwise.

« We had the Soldiers ask us to leave the weapon there and the ammo there, » said Conley. « They did not want to give up that capability. The word got back to us, we made the decision, let them keep the XM25, let them keep that additional ammunition. We will then go ahead and go back downrange and collect up any additional data that they have received. »

Now the Army is working to find the money to build an additional 36 XM25 weapons, said Col. Doug Tamilio, the Army’s program manager for Soldier weapons. « The Army is looking to find some kind of funding that we can put against maybe a battalion set, » he said. « It will depend on how much funding we can get. The idea would be if we can get that funding, we absolutely would try to get these into the fight in a year. And we think we can do that.  »

Right now, an obstacle to getting more XM25s into theater is that each weapon and each round must be built by hand, Tamilio said. There are no production lines yet for the system.

The Army won’t begin mass producing the XM25 until sometime in 2013 at the earliest, Tamilio said. Before that, improvements must be made to the system, including those learned from its use in Afghanistan.

Tamilio said improvements include improved battery life, as the XM25 is full of electronics. Also, he said, the 12.5-pound weapon could be lightened some, though Soldiers are now overwhelmed by the capability of the weapons. Tamilio also said Soldiers would like to see the weapon’s range extended to about 1,000 meters. Its current range is about 500 meters for a point target and 700 meters for an area target.

The XM25, officially called a « counter-defilade target-engagement system, » recently reached a milestone decision B in its acquisition cycle and has only recently entered into the engineering and manufacturing development phase, or EMD, of the procurement process.

« We still have to get through EMD, still get some fixes into the gun that we know need to be fixed — to make it durable and reliable, » Tamilio said. « We have to go through a very stringent safety procedure with this gun. »