Sea, air, land and space updates

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sea State

One of the Su-33 Flanker-D aircraft onboard the Admiral Kuznetsov—Russia’s aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean—crashed last week. The accident was the second one in a month and occurred after one of the ship’s arrestor cables snapped during landing operations. While those types of accidents aren’t uncommon in naval aviation, Russia’s lack of experience with carrier operations, as well as equipment that’s reportedly poorly maintained, might be to blame.

Russian state media is reporting that the Russian Navy is expanding development on two different types of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). One, the Surrogat, is designed as both a survey vessel and a decoy—it can supposedly imitate both conventional and nuclear powered submarines. The other, called the Kanyon by US intelligence, was first revealed by accident last year during a segment on Russian television.

Australia and France signed an intelligence sharing agreement last week to support the development of Australia’s Future Submarine program. The agreement sets out ‘mechanisms and safeguards’ for the handling of classified materials related to the program.

Flight Path

After a decade-long wait, Israel is expecting to receive its first pair of F-35I Adir fighter jets this week, with 15 more expected down the line. But unlike in the US and here in Australia, Israel decided to undertake pilot training through course work and in a simulator built by Lockheed Martin. The Israeli Air Force has vouched for the reliability of the simulators, insisting that the training will allow pilots to be ready to fly on arrival.

Canada announced the successor for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 40 year old CC-115 Buffalo transport aircraft last week. After a competition, Airbus’s C295W was chosen to replace the Buffalo and the legacy CC-130H Hercules fixed-wing search and rescue fleet. Airbus will provide 16 C295W aircraft in an initial 11-year contract estimated at US$2.4 billion to support the Canadian Air Force’s search and rescue operations.

The US Air Force sees a continuing need for ‘bunker busting’ bombs, and is looking to replace its current BLU-109B and BLU-109C/B Penetrator Warhead systems. The US Air Force has issued a draft request for proposals (RFP) for the BLU-137/B replacement Penetrator Warhead. The RFP covers low-rate initial production and four full-rate production lots, totalling 15,000 bombs. Check out this video to see the bunker buster in action.

Rapid Fire

The US Army has put a call out to industry for a protection shield à la Captain America’s vibranium shield. The specifications for the so-called ‘Adaptive Armor Actuator Mechanisms’ describe technology that the crew can control remotely to move a one square foot armour plate 10 inches horizontally in less than 5 seconds. The proposed technology aims to resolve the conundrum of fitting tanks with armour capable of protecting against increasingly forceful missiles, while not compromising the vehicle’s speed and fuel efficiency.

Russia is looking to enhance the targeting capability of its own tank fleets by fitting its T-72 and T-90 main battle tanks with the Armata tank’s ‘electronic brain’. Russia’s prized Armata T-14 is equipped with an automatic target tracker (ATT) and Kalina computerised fire control computer (FCC), enabling the destruction of enemy vehicles with a single shot. While the tanks slated for upgrade are already fitted with the FCC, adding the ATT will constitute a significantly modernised fleet.

Zero Gravity

NASA has awarded Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto a US$127 million contract to build the world’s most expensive space mechanic. Despite costing tens of millions of dollars, today’s satellites are often consigned to space junk once they’ve run out of fuel or experience a mechanical fault. Enter the Restore-L, a robotic spacecraft capable of servicing, refuelling and relocating satellites in lower earth orbit, thereby extending their lives and, not incidentally, their ability to provide data and revenue. NASA hopes to refuel its first live satellite in orbit by 2020.

Israel and India are deepening space ties. Israel’s science, technology and space minister Offir Akunis and the Chief of the Israel Space Agency Avi Balsberger met their counterparts on a four-day trip to India last week to discuss collaborations on spy satellites, cybersecurity and defence technologies. The meeting was heralded with the launch of a PSLV-C36 rocket carrying a Resourcesat2A imaging satellite into space. The launch showcased the complementarity of Indian rocket technology and Israeli sensors. The countries also signed a bilateral scientific collaboration treaty to facilitate scientific exchanges furthering knowledge sharing.