Sea, air and land updates

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sea State

Defence contractor Raytheon has won a US$523 million (AU$687 million) contract to provide the US Navy with 47 Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B interceptors. The missiles form the backbone of the US Navy’s ship-based ballistic missile defence capability, and are deployed on the US Navy’s fleet of Aegis destroyers and cruisers.

Still on acquisition, India has recently agreed to buy three Admiral Grigorovich-class guided missile frigates from Russia. These ships were originally scheduled to be delivered to the Russian Navy as a part of its naval modernisation program, but Ukraine’s 2014 ban on military exports to Russia has left the vessels without powerplants. India, however, isn’t constrained by the export ban and is able to acquire the Ukrainian-made engines.

And finally, in a move celebrated by American sailors around the world, the US Navy announced it was replacing its oft-ridiculed Navy Working Uniform (NWU) I. Commonly referred to as ‘blueberries’ due to their blue and grey digital camouflage (‘aquaflage’) pattern, the NWU I has gained a poor reputation since its introduction to sailors’ wardrobes in 2008. Notably (and somewhat ironically), the uniform’s aquaflage pattern was criticised for only being effective when a sailor fell overboard. Other major complaints focused on the weight and flammability of the uniforms. The US Navy will begin transitioning to its new uniform, the woodland patterned NWU III, in October 2016.

Flight Path

Bell Helicopter is pitching the AH-1Z Viper attack and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters to the ADF in order to meet the capability gaps outlined in the 2016 Australian Defence White Paper. The retirement of the Tiger ARH attack helicopter in the mid-2020s and the need for special operations support helicopters has led to a partnership between Bell and BAE Systems Australia, which will now compete to provide more advanced air platforms to the Australian Army.

Following a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration has released a redacted version of the Presidential Policy Guidance—the ‘drone playbook’—under the Freedom of Information Act. The declassified documents explain the process the White House, NIC, CIA and the Pentagon follow to choose targets for kill or capture. Drones have been the key instrument of that tactic as the weapon of choice for offensive strikes and surveillance during captures.

Virgin Galactic has received an operating licence from the US Federal Aviation Administration. The licence covers all of Virgin’s current spacecraft, pending final safety and operational checks on software and hardware components in the fleet. SpaceShip Two, the new version of the company’s spacecraft, successfully completed its first taxi test on a runway at the Mojave, California, last week, following the crash of the VSS enterprise in 2014.

Rapid Fire

A team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have created a new material which could be used in US military uniforms. Dubbed ‘second skin’, the material integrates tiny carbon nanotubes (CNT), which provide increased breathability, and also protection from biological threats. Given the small size of the CNT pores, biological threats like bacteria or viruses are unable to permeate the material. The scientists are also working to develop the material to protect against chemical threats, which are also molecular in size, and would require a secondary material to either seal over in the presence of a threat, or react with the chemical and self-exfoliate. View how the technology works here.

India has reportedly approved the deployment of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles along the Indo-China border. The BrahMos missile, developed by Brahmos Aerospace in a joint Indo-Russian venture, can be launched from land, submarines, ships or aircraft, and has a range of up to 290kms. The missiles installed at the border are a land-attack variant of the traditional anti-ship missiles. Check it out here.

And finally for the mechanics enthusiasts, see this gallery from Popular Mechanics of 10 military vehicles with insane engines.