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Is Small Beautiful For The Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle?

There’s serious lesson here which the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle effort is taking to heart. Automation, by replacing bulky humans with compact electronics, can make for smaller combat vehicles that are not only cheaper and more fuel-efficient, but harder to hit.

“The key to survival on the battlefield is not being seen,” said David Johnson, a leading scholar and former top advisor to the Chief of Army Staff. “If you saw the BAE autonomous tank… it is radically smaller than anything we have now, and smaller for a vehicle on the battlefield is a good thing.”

You don’t have to replace the entire crew to benefit, either. The Russians have long been obsessed with smaller tanks, to the point of having height limits for tank crewmen, and starting with their T-64 in the 1960s, they replaced the main gun’s human loader with a mechanical one, allowing for a smaller turret. (The M1’s designers didn’t do this because Cold War autoloaders were not only unreliable but slower than a well-trained human). Today, Russia’s new T-14 Armata tank has a completely automated turret, with the entire three-man crew in the heavily armored hull. The US Army tried a similar configuration with its cancelled Future Combat Systems, a program to build much lighter armored vehicles. BAE’s Armed Robotic Combat Vehicle mini-tank was also originally built for FCS.

Smaller vehicles have advantages for mobility as well as for survivability: They’re easier to transport to the battlefield by ship, plane, or rail, and they’re easier to keep supplied. That’s in stark contrast to the M1 Abrams, which for all its virtues gets three gallons to the mile. During the seizure of Baghdad in 2003, some M1s had to shut down their engines until a fuel convoy could push through, taking casualties on the way. The Army’s concepts for future Multi-Domain Battle envision widely dispersed units, constantly on the move to evade detection and destruction, and able to live off infrequent resupply — something that would be difficult for current heavy forces.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle, set to enter service by 2035, would be designed to carry out those concepts, said Col. William Nuckols, director of mounted (i.e. vehicle) requirements at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center. “This is not just about a vehicle, this is about a concept and a formation,” he said at AUSA, “the formation that we need to be able to fight the way that’s prescribed in the Army Functional Concept for Movement and Maneuver.”

“Many of the things in the Movement and Maneuver concept do a great job of making the case for new-start combat platforms that make different trade-offs,” said Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems. For instance, the Army has upgraded the M1 and M2 engines, he told me at the conference, and there’s more promising tech in the works — but the engine compartments on those vehicles will stay the same size they were when designed in the 1970s, putting a strict physical limit on what upgrades are possible. If you want to dramatically change fuel consumption, speed, firepower, or any other performance characteristic, you need to design a new vehicle.

So how do you build a vehicle to burn less fuel? “Fuel consumption is driven in no small way by overall vehicle weight,” Bassett said. Weight, in turn, is mainly driven by armor. Since no one’s about to develop any new magical armor material that lets us get the same protection for less weight, if you want to reduce weight, you have two choices: accept less protection — fine with unmanned vehicles, not so with humans at risk — or shrink the “volume under armor” you have to protect. Shrinking volume also makes the vehicle a smaller target.

“We are certainly keeping our aperture wide open” about what size and shape the NGCV could be, Nuckols said. In fact, he said, “we’re not certain” if NGCV will replace the M1 Abrams tank, the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicle, “or potentially both. It could be a family of vehicles.”

For a potential Bradley replacement, Nuckols said, the Army is studying both reducing the crew and reducing the number of infantry passengers. The Bradley today has a three-man crew: a driver in the hull, a commander and a gunner in the turret (its 25 mm ammunition is small enough it doesn’t need a dedicated loader). The commander’s role is to keep a 360 lookout for threats, targets, and terrain so he can direct the gunner and driver, who focus more narrowly on a given target or path. With enough assistance from sensors and artificial intelligence, however — for example, Nuckols said, “automated target acquisition” to serve as a virtual gunner — you could get down to two crew. You could also put both of them in the hull, which would allow for a smaller, cheaper turret that’s harder to hit and, if it is hit, the likely ammunition explosion doesn’t kill anyone.

To really reduce the size of the hull, however, you need to make peace with carrying fewer infantrymen. That’s painful because the raison d’être of an Infantry Fighting Vehicle is to carry infantry. The Bradley nominally carries seven, but that was with the smaller equipment loads — and smaller soldiers — of the 1980s, and even then one man had to cram into the charmingly named “hell hole.” In practice, Bradleys today manage from four to six depending on the mission.

The Army’s standard infantry squad, however, is nine men, a number the service’s analysts and tacticians swear by. The eight-wheel-drive Stryker can carry a full squad, but it’s both large and lightly armored. The cancelled Ground Combat Vehicle would also have carried nine, but putting heavy armor around that many men — plus a manned turret — pushed the vehicle’s weight north of 60 tons. So, while the Army won’t give up the nine-man squad, it’s considering splitting that squad between two (or even three) smaller vehicles.

However big they are, the manned Next Gen Combat Vehicles could well operate with completely robotic “wingmen” similar to BAE’s mini-tank, which is designed to keep up with full-sized armored vehicles. The autonomy software would have to improve. Currently, the BAE Armed Robotic Combat Vehicle can navigate from waypoint to waypoint, using its LIDAR sensors and object recognition to avoid hitting obstacles and running people over, BAE’s Jim Miller told me. For precise driving, like bringing it into the AUSA exhibit space, however, a human takes over by remote control. A human also has to remote-control the gun — no Terminators here. In fact, the ARCV’s robot brain currently doesn’t have the capacity to realize it’s under attack.

Given rapid advances in automation, however, those should be solvable problems. The Army is very interested in autonomous vehicles that could scout ahead of the manned machines or provide supporting fire alongside them. Ideally, these machines wouldn’t require one human remote operator per unmanned vehicle, but would be smart enough that a single human could supervise a whole pack of robots.

The question of control is critical. “One of the problems we have with robotics right now, Sydney, is the fact that we can’t have assured control,” Nuckols said. “Until we have that assured control… we’re going to be hesitant to replace any of our current formation capabilities with a robotic platform.”

If that’s solved, however, it opens up some radical possibilities. “There’s no guarantee that the Abrams will be replaced by a future tank,” Nuckols said. “It could conceptually be replaced by an autonomous vehicle with the lethality of an Abrams.” Equally lethal, but probably smaller — and perhaps cuter.

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In the event of hybrid threat, NATO would also trigger the collective defense

In the event of hybrid threat, NATO would also trigger the collective defense

BRUSSELS, Belgium (, 13 July 2018, Editor: Stanislava Georgieva, Photo Credit: Drop of Light / Shutterstock

On the meeting of the leaders of NATO countries were taken decisions such as to be triggered the collective defense in case of hybrid attack, to be increased the number of military forces in the Eastern part of the Alliance, and also to be taken additional measures to protect against terrorism, learned

The declaration says “Any attack against one Ally will be regarded as an attack against us all, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. We will continue to stand together and act together on the basis of solidarity, common goals and fair burden sharing.”

Read more: NATO’s collective defense in the Bulgarian National Security Strategy
Read more: Hybrid war as a challenge to the national security of Bulgaria

On the subject of Russia, the leaders of the member states decided to suspend all their practical civil and military cooperation with the country, as well as to split up with their dependency of the armament use that is Soviet and Russian production. They appeal for the Russian forces to be withdrawn from the sovereign territories of Moldova (Transnistria), Ukraine (Crimea and breakaway territories) and Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

“We strongly condemn Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, that we renounce and will never renounce” – stated the leaders of the member states.
Despite these decisions, NATO is still open for a political dialog with Russia.

On this subject, in the declaration is also said, that NATO does not look for confrontations with Russia, and that NATO is not a threat for it.

Read more: Russia May Boast with at Least Six Super Weapons

“NATO also is committed to improve their capabilities and technologies, including to defend against improvised explosive devices and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats and to counter terrorist misuse of technology” – declared the NATO leaders.

To the total reserve of the Allies’ forces, NATO is planning to provide itself with more highly qualified fighting national forces, that possess a high degree of readiness, as well as additional 30 large Naval units, 30 heavy middle maneuvering battalion units and 30 kinetic and air squadrons. The term for them to be ready is 30 or less days.

Furthermore, the leaders of the member states decided to start elaboration of NATO space policy.

New centers will be established. The first, on Belgium territory, will be an operational center for cyberspace. Its aim is to provide coordination of NATO operational actions in cyberspace.
An Unified Command Center will be opened in Norfolc, US. Its function will be to protect transatlantic lines and communication, as well as a Center for an unified command for support and authority, situated in Germany, that will guarantee the freedom of operation and stability in the remote areas of Europe and beyond.

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UK Approved to Acquire up to 200 AIM-120D Missiles

UK Approved to Acquire up to 200 AIM-120D Missiles

WASHINGTON, D.C., the USA (, July 13, 2018, Author: Bm Team, Photo credit: / The photo shows Grumman F-14 Tomcat aircraft carrying an AMRAAM under its wing during a test over the Pacific Missile Test Centre in 1982.

The sale of up to 200 Raytheon’s AIM-120D radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missiles to the United Kingdom at approximately $650 million was approved by the U.S. State Department, learned

The AIM-120D sale to the UK also covers missile containers, weapon system support equipment, support and test equipment, repair and return support, warranties, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, maintenance and personnel training, and training equipment. However, it has not been included in the sale notice information about the aircraft that would carry the AIM-120D missiles.

Through that possible sale, the Royal Air Force will be armed with the longest range variant of the AIM-120. The range of the D-version is considered to be more than 167km. This is approximately the range of detection of one active electronically scanned array radar.

The AIM-120D features a data link through which the targeting system on board the launching aircraft may direct the missile towards any enemy target, which is taking evasive manoeuvres. The AIM-120 missile family has passed 4,200 test shots and 10 air-to-air combat victories as reported by the maker Raytheon Missile Systems Company of Tucson, Arizona.

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Besides the USA, among the other countries that have AIM-120D missiles are Canada and Australia.

On 10th July, the U.S. State Department also gave the green light to the sale of twenty-eight AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) to Denmark at the price of approximately $90 million for the purposes of arming the Lockheed Martin F-16 and future F-35 Lightning II fighter fleets of Denmark. The C-variant of the AIM-120 AMRAAM has been steadily upgraded since it was introduced. However, being an earlier version, it features a shorter range in comparison to the AIM-120D.

The AIM-120 AMRAAM is a modern beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) capable of all-weather day-and-night operations. The current existing variants are AIM-120A, AIM-120B, AIM-120C, AIM-120C-4/5/6/7, AIM-120D. The AIM-120A is no longer in production. The original developer is Hughes Aircraft.

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Cambridge Pixel’s Radar Technology Will Be Integrated with Lockheed’s CMS 330

Cambridge Pixel’s Radar Technology Will Be Integrated with Lockheed’s CMS 330

CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom (, July 13, 2018, Author: Galina Zdravkova, Photo credit: Cambridge Pixel

On 11th July 2018, the maker of radar display, tracking and recording sub-systems Cambridge Pixel announced that the company will deliver and provide its radar acquisition and display technology to Lockheed Martin Canada for the purposes of integrating it with the new advanced naval Combat Management System 330 (CMS 330) of Lockheed, learned

“Our business is radar and we are thrilled that Lockheed Martin Canada has chosen to use our technology in its CMS 330 system, which is now deployed on four different classes of ship across three different navies,” commented David Johnson, CEO at Cambridge Pixel.

The Cambridge Pixel scan converter operates in each display console for converting the polar-format network video into a PPI or B-Scan representation for visualisation to the operator. The radar image must be scaled and adjusted to match the view at request by the user.

The radar picture may then be analysed in combination with map graphics like nautical charts, as well as with overlay symbols, e.g. track positions. The multi-layer image as combined is then presented to the operator. The colour, fading, brightness, trails and scan correlation of the radar image is fully controlled by the CMS 330 system.

The radar technology of Cambridge Pixel is operated in air traffic control, vessel traffic, naval, commercial shipping, surveillance, security and airborne radar systems. Its systems have been integrated in mission applications of crucial importance with the following companies: BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Saab, Frontier Electronic Systems, Blighter Surveillance Systems, Barco Defence, Exelis, Navtech Radar, Kelvin Hughes, Royal Thai Air Force, Sofresud, Hanwha, and Tellumat.

The CMS 330 of Lockheed Martin Canada is a derivative of a legacy product of the company that was originally developed in the 1980s for the original build of the HALIFAX Class ships of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Recently, Lockheed Martin Canada has announced that the company will support the twelve Halifax-class frigates of the Royal Canadian Navy for another three years under a contract extension.

Read more:
Halifax-Class Frigates Will be Supported by Lockheed for Another 3 Years

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Booz Allen Hamilton Will Improve the U.S. Soldier Protective Equipment

Booz Allen Hamilton Will Improve the U.S. Soldier Protective Equipment

McLean, Virginia, the USA (, July 12, 2018, Author: Bm Team, Photo credit:

The photo shows U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrolling a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan.

Booz Allen Hamilton will work on the improvement of the U.S. Soldier protective equipment. That was announced by the company on 10th July 2018. The works on the improvement will be performed under a 5-year, $43M contract awarded by the Air Force Installation Contract Agency, learned

The VP at Booz Allen, Vincent Simpson, commented, “As a nation, we bear no greater responsibility than protecting the men and women who serve on our front lines. We are honoured to expand our partnership with the U.S. Army, working side-by-side with NSRDEC to research, test and evaluate equipment designed to safeguard our Soldiers in the field. We look forward to supporting NSRDEC’s mission to ensure that our Soldiers have the tools they need to counter adversaries that pose a threat to national security.”

NSRDEC stands for Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre. The U.S. Army NSRDEC is the national and international leader in Warfighter science and technology development.

Under the newly signed in March agreement Booz Allen Hamilton will develop recommendations related to human systems integration, communication headsets and personal protective equipment, involving body armour, protective eyewear and helmet systems in support of the NSRDEC for the purposes of keeping soldiers safe on the battlefield.

Booz Allen Hamilton has worked in support of the U.S. Department of Defence under various contracts since 1940 when it was awarded its first Navy contract.

Booz Allen is an American management and information technology consulting company, which is sometimes referred to as a government-services company. It is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, in Greater Washington, D.C., and has 80 other offices around the world. It has been trusted by business, government, and military leaders for more than 100 years for solving complex issues. The engineers, scientists, software developers, technologists, and consultants of the company offer solutions to various most complicated management and technology matters through a combination of consulting, analytics, digital solutions, engineering, and cyber expertise.

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