“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” – Sun Tzu
There is the twinkling of a new military helicopter project in Europe. On 19 November the Defence Ministers of France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) binding them to a national commitment to develop a new medium multi-role helicopter through participation in NATO’s Next-Generation Rotorcraft Capabilities Project.
The impetus for this project was initiated during the NATO Science & Technology Organisation Applied Vehicle Technology conference in Prague, Czech Republic, held in 2015. Over three days a Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability Team of Experts (NGRC TOE) began to outline the requirements and common capabilities for a future military rotorcraft.
This has been developed and expanded over the years since, with the recognition that around 1,000 mainly medium military helicopters will come to the end of their service life between 2030-2045 (excluding rotorcraft operated by the United States military). The design of all of these helicopters date back to the 1960s in most cases, and the need the define, develop and field a new rotorcraft based on modern design concepts, materials, systems based on common architecture will be the focus of the NGRC moving forward.
The next step for the TOE will be to define a Statement of Requirements. This process will begin with an industry day to be staged later this year as soon as relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions allows, said conference chairman Pat Collins, Senior Fellow, Helicopters Operating Centre at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) and NGRC TOE member.
The NGRC project team are well aware of the progress made in the United States regarding the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift studies, particularly in the direction being taken in the development of the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) – due to be the replacement for the UH-60 Black Hawk.
The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) staged a two day conference last week (20-21 January), sponsored by industry (Airbus and Leonardo) to discuss the need for NGR including feedback from the UK military and an examination of what would be required to deliver a rotorcraft in the 2030+ timeframe that would be affordable, interoperable and have a high level of reliability. Speakers included several from the UK and US armed forces, as well as rotorcraft and engine OEMs from Airbus, Leonardo and Safran.
The clock is ticking to define, design and produce this Next Gen rotorcraft. With new aviation programmes usually taking between 20-25 years “from soup to nuts” (as our American friends would say), first new medium lift helicopter is expected to be introduced during or soon after 2035 (only 15 years away).
NEW ADMINISTRATION TO REVIEW AFGHAN PEACE DEAL
Among his early decisions after taking office President Biden has mandated a review of ex-President Trump’s peace deal struck with the Taliban which was reached last year. It has been reported that new White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told Hamdullah Mohib, the National Security Adviser of Afghanistan, that it would ascertain “whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.”
The February 2020 deal with the Taliban mapped a US troop withdrawal by May 2021 in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban to reduce violence and connections with other terrorist organisations. In November Trump’s Administration announced a troop drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan that would only leave 2,500 troops in each country. US allies were not consulted before the announcement was made.
Since then, the Taliban have continued violent attacks and targeted assassinations among the Afghan community. They have also threatened an increase in attacks on international forces if the multinational force does not pull out in 2021.
The UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO’s mission in Afghanistan changed on 1 January 2015 to one which was focused on training and advising Afghan forces and the government, rather than actively participating in ground force operations.
The Resolute Support Mission has continued since then and according to NATO’s website there were still 15,937 troops from 38 nations in Afghanistan. However 8,000 of these were US troops and the drawdown to only 2,500 meant at least one third of the whole force had been reduced. On learning of the US drawdown, other nations also began pulling their own forces out of the country which is likely to have resulted in a halving of the international troop presence in Afghanistan by January 2021.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WITH ETHICS BUILT-IN
The US Department of Defense (DoD) has officially recognised five principles for ethical artificial intelligence (AI). Such ethics should be integrated into the design and employment of AI, stated Alka Patel, head of artificial intelligence ethics policy at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.
Ms Patel voiced her comments during conversations at the Genius Machines 2021 virtual summit, staged on Thursday 21 January.
The reason behind the thinking is due to the fact that autonomy, decision making and system execution happen incredibly fast speeds.
The five principles are:
– DOD personnel will exercise appropriate levels of judgment and care while remaining responsible for the development, deployment and use of AI capabilities.
– The department will take deliberate steps to minimise unintended bias in AI capabilities.
– The department’s AI capabilities will be developed and deployed such that relevant personnel possess an appropriate understanding of the technology, development processes and operational methods, including transparent and auditable methodologies, data sources and design procedures and documentation.
– The department’s AI capabilities will have explicit, well-defined uses, and the safety, security and effectiveness of such capabilities will be subject to testing and assurance within those defined uses across their life cycles.
– The department will design and engineer AI capabilities: (1) to fulfill their intended functions while possessing the ability to detect and avoid unintended consequences, and (2) to disengage or deactivate deployed systems that demonstrate unintended behaviour.
MISTAKES TARNISH END OF NATIONAL GUARD’S MISSION TO PROTECT THE CAPITOL
Having been brought to Washington DC to protect the inauguration of President Biden amid much positive publicity, the aftermath has left those responsible for overseeing the deployment of the National Guard with questions to answer. While soldiers do not expect luxury when deployed, the organisation was left wanting when it came to how they would be housed after the ceremony was over – and protected from COVID-19 throughout.
Guardsmen initially took their rest breaks in the Capitol while they were needed, but were then relegated to the Capitol’s parking garage when lawmakers moved back in. They were eventually moved back after photographs emerged showing the Guardsmen resting on a hard garage floor with extremely limited washroom facilities available to them. President Biden issued an apology and the troops were allowed back into the Capitol soon after.
Numerous media sources have also reported that the COVID-19 has also been discovered in many of the Guardsmen, depending on reports. “Nearly 200 members of the National Guard deployed to Washington in the days leading up to Wednesday’s presidential inauguration have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and some officials fear cramped rest and working quarters contributed to the spread,” reported the Wall Street Journal on Friday 22 January.
While there was indeed an urgent requirement to get the Guard into Washington following the mob violence of 6 January, the logistical side of managing so many troops over an extended period of time seemed to have suffered a degree of oversight.
US MAJOR ARMS SALES
None published yet for 2021.
US GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS
Highlighting a selection of $100 million+ government awarded contracts awarded between 19 – 22 January 2021 and Foreign Military Sales contracts.
US AIR FORCE
Boeing has been awarded Option Year Four to its IDIQ-quantity contract via multiple task orders estimated at $123 million for engineering support services (ESS). ESS Option Year Four exercise provides recurring and non-recurring engineering support services from Boeing in support of commercial derivative aircraft. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is the contracting activity.
MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY
Northrop Grumman Systems is being awarded a prototype award for $155 million to provide the Missile Defense Agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor program with an on-orbit prototype demonstration, culminating with launch and early orbit testing. Missile Defense Agency is the contracting activity.
General Dynamics Land Systems has received a $21 million modification contract to exercise options hours for Abrams Systems technical support. Fiscal 2010 Foreign Military Sales funds; 2021 operation and maintenance (Army) funds; and 2021 other procurement (Army) funds in the amount of $21 million were obligated at the time of the award. US Army Contracting Command is the contracting activity.
US AIR FORCE
Northrop Grumman was awarded a $3.6 billion IDIQ contract for Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) operations, sustainment and support. This contract provides for research, development, test, and evaluation, integration and operations and sustainment for existing and future payloads contained in or connected to the BACN system and associated ground stations or controls, ancillary equipment, support equipment and system integration laboratories. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is the contracting activity.
US AIR FORCE
Boeing has been awarded a $2.1 billion modification contract for Lot 7 production KC-46 aircraft, subscriptions and licenses and G081 flat file. The modification provides for the exercise of an option for an additional quantity of 15 KC-46 aircraft, data, subscriptions and licenses, and G081 flat file being produced under the basic contract. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is the contracting activity.
DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
US Foods has received a $390 million ID contract for full-line food distribution. This was a competitive acquisition with two responses received. Using military services are Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Army. The contracting agency is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
Martin Luther King Day (no contracts).
EVENTS STILL CONFIRMED
1-3 June 2021, LAND FORCES, Brisbane, Australia.
Statement issued 22 January, 2021. The organiser has stated: “The LAND FORCES International Land Defence Exposition will go ahead as planned on 1-3 June 2021 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, after organiser AMDA Foundation concluded a scheduled review in consultation with principal stakeholder, the Australian Army.”
22-25 March. HAI Heli-Expo, New Orleans, USA
The organisers stated: “While some in our industry have urged us to carry on with the show, the majority have recently expressed discomfort with the logistics involved in business travel at this time…Registered attendees will receive a full refund, as will those who registered for HAI Professional Education courses.”
HAI Heli-Exop 2022, which will be held on March 7–10 in Dallas, Texas, a city that has traditionally been a hub of rotorcraft operations. HAI HELI-EXPO is where the international VTOL industry gathers—to connect, learn, and conduct business—and we hope to see you there.
Armada International / Asian Military Review