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Last chance saloon for Iran nuclear talks

Time runs out Monday for the biggest chance in years to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff, as Tehran and world powers make a final push for a deal but with a risky extension looking likely.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) have been locked in talks with Iran for months, seeking to turn an interim deal that expires at midnight (2300 GMT) on Monday into a lasting accord.

Such an agreement, after a 12-year standoff, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition it hotly denies.

But a last-ditch diplomatic blitz in recent days involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers to secure a deal appears to have failed to bridge the remaining major differences.

As a result, late Sunday a senior US State Department official said for the first time that the powers and Iran were now discussing putting more time on the clock.

The official said it was “only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline we are discussing a range of options … An extension is one of those options.”

This came after US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif for the sixth time since Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said however that the parties would still make a “big push tomorrow (Monday) morning to try and get this across the line”.

“Of course if we’re not able to do it, we’ll then look at where we go from there,” he said.

“We’re still quite a long way apart and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with”.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was expected in the Austrian capital early Monday, completing the line-up of all the six powers’ foreign ministers.

This included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player in the talks. Earlier in the week he said all the elements were in place for a deal with just “political will” missing.

– Gaps –

Diplomats on both sides say that despite some progress, the two sides remain far apart on the two crucial points of contention: uranium enrichment and sanctions relief.

Enriching uranium renders it suitable for peaceful purposes like nuclear power but also, at high purities, for the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges — in order, it says, to make fuel for future reactors — while the West wants them dramatically reduced.

Iran wants painful UN and Western sanctions that have strangled its vital oil exports lifted, but the powers want to stagger any relief over a long period of time to ensure Iranian compliance with any deal.

“What a deal would do is take a big piece of business off the table and perhaps begin a long process in which the relationship not just between Iran and us but the relationship between Iran and the world, and the region, begins to change,” US President Barack Obama in an ABC News interview aired Sunday.

In view of the difficulties — and of the dangers posed by the alternative of a complete collapse — many experts have long believed that the negotiators would put more time on the clock.

An Iranian source told AFP earlier Sunday, while stressing at that point that adding time was not yet on the table, that the extension “could be for a period of six months or a year.”

Another extension — as happened with an earlier deadline of July 20 — however carries risks of its own,including possible fresh US sanctions that could lead Iran to walk away.

Pushing back the cut-off point will also fuel accusations from Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, that its arch foe Iran is merely buying time to get closer to the bomb.

Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP that an extension of six months to a year “would not fly” with the other parties.

Any extension “will have to be very short because there are too many hardliners, particularly in Washington and Tehran, that want to sabotage this deal,” she told AFP.

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US Army Gets a Second Chance to Assess Hybrid Electric Propulsion Through GCV TD Phase

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A dual sponson engine design clears more space in the fighting compartment, while minimizing the volume under armor, thus saving weight of about three tons. It also enables a two-seat crew compartment, for driver and commander seated side-by side.

A dual sponson engine design clears more space in the fighting compartment, while minimizing the volume under armor, thus saving weight of about three tons. It also enables a two-seat crew compartment, for driver and commander seated side-by side.

The most ambitious land combat system development program currently underway is the US Army’s next generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle – known as the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV). Two industry teams are developing vehicle prototypes for the Army evaluation under the program’s $900 million 24 month technology demonstration (TD) phase. Through this phase the Army will have the opportunity to compare how a new generation combat system fare against current systems and platforms. One of these technologies is Hybrid Electric Propulsion.

Although the Army hasn’t committed to Hybrid-Electric Drive (HED) propulsion, this technology is already shaping the future requirement in a new way. The first opportunity for the US Army to truly evaluate this trend is the upcoming selection of Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) expected in four years time. The Army will have to choose between two alternatives – a conventionally propulsion (diesel, proposed by GDLS) and HED-driven one (proposed by BAE-Northrop Grumman). QinetiQ developed the Ex-Drive based HED utilized in this vehicle and the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery bank is supplied by Saft.

BAE Systems claims a combat vehicle powered by HED will be 10-20 percent more efficient than diesel powered alternative, it will also offer faster acceleration and maneuvering, and higher degree of fault tolerance, through system redundancy and reduction in moving parts.

“HED is a system solution for the constant demand for increasing electrical power,“ said Mark Signorelli, Vice President and General Manager Vehicle Systems at BAE Systems, this is not merely a mobility solution, as it responds to requirements for more available power, more power generation and higher voltages independent of the HED application. According to Signorelli HED is already a mature system, proved for years as highly reliable propulsion for locomotives, bulldozers and heavy mining machines.

A layout depicting the placement of different HED related components inside the GCV

A layout depicting the placement of different HED related components inside the GCV

For the military, HED offers packaging flexibility, allowing for the design of more spacious, mission adaptable platforms. In addition, electric drive also offers high torque at any ground speed, improved fuel efficiency and silent mobility and increased silent watch endurance. Increased power availability also results in more available power for new capabilities, such as thermal and signature management (cooling, ECS, stealth), new armament (electric guns, lasers) and exportable power generation. Design flexibility enables the creation of space efficient steel core hull, further protected by tailorable armor packages resulting in a protective suite matching or exceeding MRAP type vehicles.

While the HED is positioned as a lightweight and compact alternative to existing transmissions, the entire HED GCV application would weigh 140,000 pounds (70 tons). Adding the full protection suite, the Army considers the weight scale up to 14 ton heavier, setting the weight limit of the GCV TD at 84 tons. The Army and BAE Systems engineers are confident this weight could be reduced with further optimization, BAE Systems executive said, stressing the advantages the system could offer.

GCV HED architecture

Signorelli said the HED benefits to the GCV would contribute reduction of 40 percent in moving parts, corresponding to significant improvement in reliability. Ex-Drive gear system built by QinetiQ The absence of reverse gear will also contribute to higher reliability and improved performance. This system offers a compact and lightweight solution for electric drive tracked vehicles based on an optimal combination of electrical and mechanical components. This is achieved through efficient packaging, mechanical transfer of steer power, range-shift mechanisms and permanent magnet motor technology.

The Ex Drive gear system will require only three-speed system, versus the current six speed mechanical gear, eliminating three sets of planetary gears. The clutch pack and torque converter will also be eliminated as well as high-pressure hydraulic controls for those systems. In fact, according to QinetiQ, the Ex-Drive developer, a mere 15 percent increase in transmission mass has delivered an increase of 85 percent of the torque available to move the GCV. This means more power on demand for faster acceleration and smoother low-speed movement, supporting operation with dismounted troops. The traction drive system will be half the weight of equivalent mechanical systems. The HED consists of two diesel generators, providing redundant capability in case one engine is hit. According to BAE Systems assessment, the dual engine architecture could reduce system abort failures from 1,106 failures experienced in traditional (diesel) systems to only 272 in HED, a potential 75 percent increase in reliability.

To assess the benefits of HED for the GCV, BAE Systems is building a ‘Hot Buck’ test set representing the vehicle’s HED system, t. This system will include the dual diesel generator sets, transmissions and brakes, cooling, exhaust, energy storage systems, controls and software. These systems will be integrated into a chassis—like test fixture and tested against dynamometers to gain an understanding of the systems’ performance, reliability, verifying the system’s maturity for TRL 6 at GCV design weight.

Saft, the designer of ultra-high-power cells for the vehicle’s hybrid electric drive system, says it has already completed the demonstrator Energy Storage System (EES) including hardware and software. The system is charged by an MTU diesel engine, which directly runs the propulsion system when operating in full power. Overall, the GCV HED system will be able to deliver 1,500 horsepower and provide up to 1,100 kilowatt of electrical power to drive on board and external electrical systems. The EES utilizes ultra-high-power, high-voltage VL 5U cells, supporting the vehicles’ electric drive system when the vehicle is not running on gasoline, such as during silent watch missions.

The Army has also evaluated a number of existing platform, to asses the potential benefits a new platform could bring. In 2012 the Army evaluated a range of modern combat vehicles from domestic and foreign makers, including BAE Systems (M2A3, Turretless Bradley and CV-9035), GDLS (Stryker DVH) and Israel Defense Forces (Namer). The Army already determined the protection suite to be used with its future vehicle would result in a heavy platform (70-84 tons), that most likely will require a tracked vehicle. The weight variance is attributable to the propulsion system used. The vehicle proposed by the GDLS uses the latest version of the proven MTU 883 diesel engine and an Allison transmission (both are also proposed for the M-1A2 SEPV2 ECP), resulting in a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 64-70 tons. Future commonality with the M1A2 tank powerpack will also contribute to lower sustainment costs over the lifespan of the two vehicles. BAE lead team offers heavier, yet more efficient hybrid-electric propulsion that weighs 70-84 tons (depending on the armor configuration). The alternative vehicles weigh less, but do not provide the protection level required for the GCV. The Israeli Namer, the closest peer weighs around 70 tons.
Please note all tons mentioned in this article are US (short) tons, converted to 0.892 Long Ton (UK).

Two Ground Combat Vehicles (GCV) models, developed by BAE Systems / Northrop and GDLS / Lockheed Martin teams will be evaluated for the future Army procurement of vehicles replacing M-113s and Bradley IFVs.

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