DSEI Restarts International Defence Expos

DSEI London
DSEI London was buzzing with outdoor fast craft, larger warships, an external helicopter park and many of the usual larger exhibits around the show floor.

Here is a brief taste of some of the new systems across maritime, air and land that could be seen at DSEI 2021.

The first major defence event in Europe, DSEI 2021, staged at London’s ExCel from 14-17 September, was judged to have been a success by the people that the AMR team approached. Although the number of international visitors was inevitably down with travel restrictions for many nationalities still in place, exhibitors reported satisfaction at the volume and quality of those that they did meet.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, Commander, UK Strategic Command, in his keynote address set one of the themes to be discussed – that of the need for multi-domain integration. He began with a warning that “the threat is not diminishing. The security outlook is more perilous that it was two years ago and we are now facing the twin spectre of emboldened jihadi terrorists and something not seen since the 1930s, a growing authoritarian zeitgeist that celebrates the suppression of political and individual freedom as a better way to govern.”

This was driving Great Power competition, he stated, which in turn was fuelling risk-taking strategies. Regimes such as those in Russia and China were investing in a new modus operandi: to win without fighting [through the development of new technologies]; the expansion of warfare into space; and cyber – all of which were contributing towards “a race for advantage in the defining technologies of the future.”

Gen. Sanders warned that China’s push for technological advantage by 2025 included artificial intelligence (AI), advanced computing, quantum technologies, robotics, autonomous systems, commercial space technologies, additive manufacturing, the internet and new generations of technology such as 5G communications. “They look to dominate the system of systems confrontation creating new operating concepts, cross domain, autonomous swarms and precision attack to achieve persistent paralysis,” stated Gen. Sanders.

UK Strategic Commander General Sir Patrick Sanders
During his keynote speech, UK Strategic Commander General Sir Patrick Sanders stated that “the threat isn’t diminishing. In fact, the security outlook is more perilous than it was two years ago.” He referenced the twin threats of “emboldened Jihadi terrorists’ and a growing authoritarian zeitgeist that celebrates the suppression of political and individual freedom as a better way to govern.”

Naval News

SAAB demonstrated its new Combat Boat 90 (CB90 NG) Next Generation at the dockside outside the ExCel halls. This is now being introduced into the Swedish Navy’s existing fleet, which already has 149 older CV90s.

It is very much seen as an archipelago type of craft due to its high manoeuvrability. The CB90 NG has a top speed greater than 40 knots (74km/h) and is incredibly quick to stop (as my media group who had been invited onboard for a short on-water demonstration can attest).

This NG design is no longer just a transport, but it has been designed to lay down firepower through its Trackfire automatic weapons position mounted above the wheelhouse but controlled from within the internal trooping bay (it can carry up to 21 troops and their man-packed equipment). In addition, there are five new weapons mounts toward the stern of the craft which could mount heavy or general purpose machine guns as well as grenade launchers.

Saab CV90
Saab not only flashed its new Combat Boat 90 (CB90 NG) Next Generation on the Thames by the Houses of Parliament, but also around the dockside outside the ExCel halls.

Atlas Electronik featured a number of naval systems, including its Active Towed Array Sonar (ACTAS) advanced ASW systems. These deploy high-transmission-level low-frequency sonar equipment at variable depth to achieve long-range submarine detection. This is also deployable off the company’s two Sea class marine boats – one of 11m and one slightly larger at 15m.

Ultra Group’s president Thomas Link, talking to AMR at the show, reported that the organisation’s three year restructuring had concluded with 30 business units being reconfigured into just five strategic groups. Among these the Maritime division was responsible for around 40 percent of the Group’s business, split into the following business units: Sonar Systems; Sonobuoy Systems; Naval Systems and Sensors; and Signature Management and Power.

Link said that the Sonar Systems business was particularly structured to meet the naval requirements of Five Eyes nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US), to provide interoperability of sonar solutions whether hull-mounted or towed.

Recent business successes include being selected for the US Navy’s AN/SPS-73(V)18 Next Generation Surface Search Radar (NGSSR) programme. This multi-mission navigational radar is being developed to eventually provide all naval vessels with safe navigation, surface search and periscope detection capabilities. To this end Ultra was awarded a further $40 million modification contract on 30 September by the US Department of Defense, following early awards of $42 million on 14 July 2020 and $27 million on 15 March.

Self-Propelled Artillery

Now that NATO forces are no longer engaged in operations in Afghanistan or Iraq, attention is being focused in a number of other areas including enhanced indirect fire capabilities, especially guns and their associated suites of ammunition.

A number of countries have requirements for new 155mm self-propelled (SP) artillery systems, with an increased emphasis on systems with increased range and higher rates of fire.

In some countries there is a clear trend towards the procurement of wheeled 155mm SP artillery systems as potentially these have lower operating and support costs and have greater strategic mobility and do not require heavy equipment transporters (HET) to deploy them nearer the front line.

While tracked 155mm SP artillery systems are heavier, they do carry more ammunition and the crew are fully protected while carrying out a fire mission. In addition they have greater cross-country mobility and a lower ground pressure.

BAE Systems Bofors showed its Archer 155mm (6×6) SP artillery system at DSEI, which is now deployed by the Swedish Army and was one of the systems recently tested by the US Army to meet its requirements for a wheeled gun system to support its Stryker (8×8) brigades.

The BAE Systems Bofors Archer
The BAE Systems Bofors Archer 155mm self-propelled artillery features a fully automatic loading system with the crew in the fully protected armoured cab at the front.

Archer is based on a Volvo (6×6) cross-country chassis with the fully protected crew compartment at the front and the 155mm weapon at the rear which is fed from a magazine that holds 21 rounds of 155mm ammunition plus associated charges.

Nexter Systems showed their latest production CAESAR 155mm/52 calibre SP artillery system fitted with a four door fully enclosed cab based on a Tatra (8×8) chassis which has a high level of cross country mobility.

The original CAESAR was based on an Renault (now Arquus) (6×6) Sherpa chassis and also fitted with a 155mm/52 calibre ordnance at the rear but carried only 18 rounds of ammunition (projectile, charges and fuzes), but the CAESAR (8×8) can carry 32 projectiles and charges. The first customer for the CAESAR (8×8) is the Danish Army who is taking delivery of an initial batch of 15 units.

The German ARTEC Boxer Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) (8×8) is being used for an increasing number of more specialised roles due to it being fitted with a removable rear mission model.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), prime contractor for the tracked PzH 2000 155mm/52 calibre SP artillery system has developed the Remote Controlled Howitzer 155 (RCH-155). This is essentially a protected turret armed with the same 155mm/52 calibre ordnance as that fitted to the PzH 2000, but with a fully automatic ammunition handling system that holds a total of 30 projectiles and associated charges. This is aimed and controlled by the crew seated in the forward part of the Boxer.

Rheinmetall unveiled a full scale mock-up of its Wheeled Self-Propelled Gun (WSPG) which is based on the latest generation Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) HX3 series cross-country truck. This features a armoured protected cab at the front with a remote control turret armed with a 155mm/60 calibre gun at the rear. It offers a significant increase in range when compared with currently deployed 155mm/52 calibre systems.

Although not at DSEI 2021 Elbit Systems of Israel showed a scale model of its ATMOS truck mounted 155mm SP artillery system which is being marketed with a number of ordnance options, including 155mm/52 calibre as well as being integrated onto a 6×6 or 8×8 platform.

Under development for the Israel Defense Force (IDF) by Elbit Systems is the SIGMA which is based on an Oshkosh (10×10) cross- country chassis with a rear-mounted 155mm/52 gun in a protected turret. It is fed by an automatic ammunition handing system with a total of 40 x 155mm rounds.

Although the emphasis at DSEI 2021 was on wheeled SP artillery systems, the South Korean company Hanwha Defense confirmed that it is offering its latest K9A2 Thunder 155mm/52 calibre SP artillery system to the British Army for its Mobile Fires Platform. Team Thunder has been formed to manage this which includes Leonardo UK, Pearson Engineering, Horstman Defence Systems and Soucy with addition contractors expected to be added.

The company has already produced almost 1,700 K9 Thunder systems for the Republic of Korea Army as well as for Estonia, Finland, India, Norway, Poland (with a different turret) and Turkey (locally produced as the Firtina), and with Australia expected to be the eighth customer.

The K9A2 will be fitted with a fully automated ammunition handing system which will not only give a higher rate of fire but also allow the crew to be reduced. The actual platform is only part of a total artillery system that also includes the key ammunition, artillery fire control, forward observers, target acquisition systems and ammunition resupply.

K9A1 Thunder 155mm/52 caliber Self-Propelled Howitzer system
Hanwha Defense exhibited its K9A1 Thunder 155mm/52 caliber Self-Propelled Howitzer system at DSEI.

Air Domain

For a company that has yet to produce a military aircraft, Aeralis has attracted a heavyweight team of partners at DSEI to its new venture.

Aeralis is a UK-based aircraft developer creating a new class of transformative military aircraft. The new aircraft will be based on a modular system, enabling the company to deliver a range of configurations for different missions including advanced jet training and light attack by using common fuselage and avionics while switching engines, wings and mission systems.

The company has already has already entered into strategic agreements with Thales UK, Atkins, a Member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and Siemens Digital Industries Software.

At DSEI it announced that a Middle East sovereign wealth fund has invested an initial amount of £10.5 million in Aeralis which will support the design, development and first flight of its first aircraft, an Advanced Jet Trainer. Aeralis marked another key milestone at DSEI by entering a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Rolls-Royce to meet the company’s propulsion requirements. Rolls-Royce’s family of small digital propulsion systems are being rapidly developed to deliver disruptive and innovative technologies whilst also being more cost effective.

As Aeralis aircraft concepts can be reconfigured with different single and twin-engine configurations, the MOU will focus initially on using a Rolls-Royce propulsion system to power the pre-production aircraft, and the ability to integrate them digitally in the aircraft design process.

“I am delighted to see Aeralis and Rolls Royce partnering to develop advanced digital design methodologies and investigate future power systems options for the Aeralis modular aircraft design,” said Air Commodore Jez Holmes, Head of the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office. “This digital engineering and digital twinning approach could deliver considerable savings relative to traditional air system design, development and sustainment, and offer the opportunity for rapid capability adaption. As such, the learning achieved could be broadly applicable across a broad range of acquisition programmes including FCAS”

The company has completed phase one and phase two development, with feasibility studies complete and its core team established in preparation to develop a pre-production aircraft with first flight targeted within the next three years.

Aeralis' two-seat and single-seat advanced jet trainers
Concepts of Aeralis’ two-seat and single-seat advanced jet trainers and light attack aircraft.

Unmanned UAS

Tekever’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are developed and produced in the United Kingdom and Portugal gathering intelligence to support the most demanding missions.

The UK Home Office uses Tekever’s UAS-as-a-Service as the key asset to survey the British Channel and help prevent Illegal Migration and Illegal Fishing activities. The company has been operating its AR5 medium-altitude, medium endurance twin-engine fixed-wing UAS designed for maritime surveillance missions from 2019 over the English channel. The AR5 can fly for more than 12 hours, and carry multiple payloads, including maritime radars, synthetic aperture radars, day and night cameras and AIS and EPIRB receivers. The specific payload package used to survey the Channel allows it to cover vast areas, detecting and recognising potentially illegal vessels, and then track and identify them, providing the authorities with real time and highly accurate intelligence.

At DSEI Tekever announced that it has added a new life-saving capability to the maritime patrol version of its AR5 UAS, carrying an eight-person life-raft that can be precision-dropped to aid people in distress in the water. This new capability has been fully proven and demonstrated during multiple search and rescue exercises over the Atlantic Ocean and will be delivered under upcoming contracts in Europe and Africa.

With fully automatic operation, the AR5 Lifesaver onboard system can detect, identify and locate people on the water, and then precisely calculate the optimal drop-point and automatically re-route the UAS, enabling the life-raft to be deployed at a close, but safe, distance. The system automatically considers weather conditions and flight plan restrictions, allowing the Lifesaver to be easily used in a wide range of situations.

Tekever's AR5
Tekever’s AR5 unmanned life-raft drop capability.

BAE Systems and Malloy Aeronautics announced plans to explore the development of an electric-powered T-650 heavy-lift unmanned aerial system (UAS), as a potential new solution to deliver cost-effective, sustainable rapid response capability to military, security and civilian customers.

The UK-based Malloy Aeronautics has been conducting research and development on unmanned Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) technology since 2013. It has created and produced a family of heavy-lift unmanned vehicles designed to solve the so-called ‘last mile’ logistics for the most extreme and demanding operations.

The all-electric powered concept vehicle will be designed with a top speed of 75 knots (140km/hr) and the ability to carry 661lb (300kg) payload over a range of 30km (18.6 miles). The technology could be used for a range of applications such as performing ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore movements to support military and security operations and logistics. Emitting zero carbon, the UAS could help revolutionise military operations where there is a requirement to carry heavy loads, keeping military personnel out of harm’s way in dangerous situations or disaster zones, while reducing the environmental impact of armed forces.

Malloy Aeronautics T-150
A collection of Malloy Aeronautics T-150 on the flight deck of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales. The T-150 can lift up to 150lbs (68kg) and has a removable battery pack for quick change.

Potential applications include automated logistics and re-supply, casualty evacuation (CASEVAC), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), maritime search and rescue (MSAR), surveillance and monitoring, mine countermeasures (MCM) and close air support (CAS).

Back in August Schiebel completed flight trails with the US Navy. Neil Hunter, Schiebel’s director of Business Development said that the company had teamed with Areté Associates to allow the S-100 to use Areté’s Pushbroom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) sensor, for demonstrations to the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). The PILLS sensor can hydrographically map shallower littoral areas.

Schiebel has also teamed up with Thales to demonstrate a potential for maritime sensor operations. Trailed off the North Wales coast in August, the S-100 was fitted with a sensor suite which combined Thales’ I-Master radar, the IAI POPULTRA EO/IR sensor pod, an IFF transceiver and AIS receiver. A CarteNav AIMS Mission System fused the collected date which was then sent to the Thales TACTICOS Combat Mission System for interpretation.

In May the UK Ministry of Defence issued a tender for a Flexible Tactical Uncrewed Air System (FTUAS) for the Royal Navy. The requirement is for a number of warship based UAS systems that can “find, fix, track and assess fast inshore attack craft, crewed and uncrewed, operating alone or in large numbers.”.

David Willems, vice president of Business Development for UMS Skeldar told AMR that the company’s V-150 platform had completed a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight and approach to an airport as part of the Egnos Civil Aviation ROadmap (ECARO), which feeds into work being done on the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) that aims to improve the performance of the global positioning systems.

“Integrating with high precision GNSS [Global Navigation Satellite System] based flight procedures into IFR [Instrument Flight Rules] airport rules is a key requirement for adopting a UAS within controlled airspace,” said Willems.

Mini-Chinook Look

General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada showcased Laflamme Aero’s LX300 multi-role twin-rotor unmanned helicopter for the first time in Europe, after recently signed a co-operation agreement with Laflamme Aero to promote the LX300 for defence and security opportunities in Canada and internationally. The agreement also supported advances in manned-unmanned teaming (MUMT) operations, autonomy, network security and human-machine collaboration in common mission management systems.

Laflamme Aero specialises in the development and the manufacturing of tandem-rotor remotely piloted helicopters. Located in Quebec, Canada, the company offers unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with unique capabilities for both military and commercial applications.

Laflamme Aero’s LX300
The General Dynamics Mission Systems/Laflamme Aero’s LX300 UAS multi-role twin-rotor unmanned helicopter was being shown for the first time in Europe.

The LX300 is designed to meet the demand for alternate options to manned platforms for multi-mission roles such as maritime patrol and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Built to helicopter certifications and standards, its advanced tandem-rotor technology and the ability to carry nearly 200lb (90kg) of payload will allow for sustained multi-mission operations. It also features aeronautical grade composite materials for blades and airframe and eliminates vibration at its source using advanced rotor technology. It is powered by a certified heavy fuel engine. Six prototypes have flown to date.

by Andrew Drwiega, Christopher F. Foss and David Oliver