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Successful Final Qualification Firing for MdCN

By on Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

The French DGA (Direction Générale d’Armement) has successfully carried out the final qualification firing of the MdCN system (Missile de Croisière Naval, also known as NCM or Naval Cruise Missile).

The firing, which took place on 27th October 2014 at the DGA’s “Missile Test Centre” at Biscarrosse (Landes) on France’s Atlantic coast, represented a missile launch from a frigate.

The firing enabled the full scope of flight objectives to be satisfied, particularly regarding the demonstration of the missile’s range performance. This success comes as a result of the intense and coordinated efforts of a number of state participants (notably the DGA’s test and evaluation centres and the French Navy) as well as industry (MBDA France).

MdCN will equip the French Navy’s FREMM (multi-mission frigates) during 2015 and its Barracuda submarines in around 2018.

Featuring a range of several hundred kilometers, MdCN has been devised for striking targets deep within enemy territory. It complements the air-launched cruise missile, Storm Shadow/SCALP, from which it is derived.

Carried on surface warships positioned safely for prolonged periods in international waters, overtly (frigates) or discretely (submarines), MdCN has been designed for operations calling for the destruction of high value, strategic infrastructures.

MBDA was awarded the MdCN contract by the DGA in 2006.

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Final push in ‘historic’ Iran nuclear talks

Iran nuclear talks enter the decisive, dangerous endgame Thursday with a marathon final round of hardball negotiations potentially going all the way to the July 20 finish line.

The deal being sought by Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany would finally ease fears of Tehran getting nuclear weapons — and silence talk of war for good.

With insurgents overrunning large parts of Iraq and Syria in chaos after years of civil war, this could help Tehran and the West normalize relations at an explosive time in the Middle East.

But failure could return both sides to the path of confrontation and even war, with neither Israel nor Washington ruling out military action.

“In this troubled world, the chance does not often arise to reach an agreement peacefully that will meet the essential and publicly expressed needs of all sides, make the world safer, ease regional tensions and enable greater prosperity,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said this week.

“We have such an opportunity, and a historic breakthrough is possible. It’s a matter of political will and proving intentions, not of capacity. It’s a matter of choices. Let us all choose wisely,” Kerry wrote in the Washington Post.

“In the next three weeks, we have a unique opportunity to make history,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a video message released ahead of the talks.

“To forge a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear energy program and to end an unnecessary crisis that has distracted us from addressing together our common challenges, such as the horrifying events of the past few weeks in Iraq.”

After five rounds of talks in Vienna seeking to secure a deal by July 20 — when an interim deal struck in November expires — the differences appear considerable, however.

The last meeting from June 16-20 saw both sides begin drafting the accord, but haggling over language concerning the thorniest problems was put off until later.

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany want Iran to reduce drastically in scope its nuclear activities in order to render any Iranian drive to assemble a weapon all but impossible.

This would include in particular Iran slashing its capacities to enrich uranium, a process producing nuclear fuel but also at high purities the core of a nuclear weapon.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last month Iran has to slash the number of centrifuge enrichment machines to several hundred from almost 20,000 at present.

But Iran rejects this, saying it even needs to expand the number of centrifuges to fuel a fleet of nuclear power plants — facilities that it is however years if not decades away from having.

Demands that Iran’s program be “radically curbed” rest on a “gross misrepresentation of the steps, time and dangers of a dash for the bomb”, Zarif said.

Writing in French daily Le Monde, Zarif said Iran “will not abandon or make a mockery of our technological advances or our scientists.”

– Final whistle or extra time? –

In theory, the July 20 deadline could be extended by up to six months, and many analysts believe that such a move is already being discussed.

But US President Barack Obama, facing midterm elections in November and Republican accusations of weakness, is wary of doing anything that could be construed as simply giving Iran more time to get closer to having the bomb.

This is the long-standing accusation of Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state.

But Kelsey Davenport from the Arms Control Association believes that Washington should not shy away from pushing back the deadline if necessary and if Iran is “negotiating in good faith”.

“The alternative to no deal is far worse for the international community — a constrained, unlimited Iranian nuclear program,” she told AFP.

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Malmstrom AFB Completes Final Minuteman III Missile Configuration

Air Force Global Strike Command met a major milestone June 16, when maintainers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, removed the last multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle in the Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile inventory from a Minuteman III.

The reentry vehicle is the portion of the missile that houses the nuclear warhead. Re-configuring the missile to carry only a single reentry vehicle helps bring the Air Force towards compliance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and comply with direction from the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, Steve Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command missile maintenance division, said.

“This was the last Minuteman III in the Air Force to be ‘deMIRVed,’ and this is a major milestone in meeting the force structure numbers to comply with the New START requirements,” Ray said. “This is historic because we’ve had MIRVs in the field for more than 40 years, since 1970 when the first Minuteman III came on alert.”

The New START, signed by the United States and Russia in April 2010 and entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011, limits the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550, and limits the number of nuclear capable deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles to 800. Of that, 700 can be deployed. These numbers must be met by Feb. 5, 2018.

“The NST sets treaty limits on the number of deployed strategic warheads and strategic delivery vehicles each party to the treaty is allowed, but does not direct the composition of that party’s strategic assets,” Kenneth Vantiger, AFGSC senior arms control analyst, said.

It was the 2010 Nuclear Posture review which dictated that all MMIIIs go to a single reentry vehicle. It states:

“The United States will deMIRV all deployed ICBMs, so that each Minuteman III ICBM has only one nuclear warhead. (A ‘MIRVed’ ballistic missile carries Multiple Independently targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs). ‘DeMIRVing’ will reduce each missile to a single warhead.) This step will enhance the stability of the nuclear balance by reducing the incentives for either side to strike first.”

In April of this year, the U.S. Administration adopted the baseline NST implementation plan that the Air Force has been advocating since 2010, Vantiger said.

That plan calls for the U.S. forces to go to 400 deployed ICBMs with a single reentry vehicle, 60 deployed nuclear-capable bombers, and 240 deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Non-deployed forces will consist of 54 ICBM launchers (silos not containing a missile), 40 SLBM launch tubes (20 tubes on two submarines in non-deployed status for overhaul) and six heavy bombers for a total of 100 non-deployed launchers and heavy bombers. This balanced force structure fully supports U.S. national security objectives, including strategic stability and deterrence, extended deterrence guarantees, allied assurance, and the ability to implement the President’s nuclear weapons employment strategy.

While this final deMIRV was part of meeting NPR and New START requirements, Ray said the Air Force has been moving toward single reentry vehicles on all MMIIIs for some time.

“F.E. Warren had actually already converted to all single reentry vehicles before the New START was even signed,” he said. “This was just one part of several actions we’ll be doing to meet New START requirements.”

While the Air Force was the primary agency responsible for overseeing the deMIRV, it took multiple agencies to make this process happen, Ray said. Coordination was done with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which maintains a database of where all missiles are located, with the Department of Energy for shipment of the weapons, and with U.S. Strategic Command, who must be notified of how many weapons they have supporting them at all times.

“At the base, it took a five-man missile mechanical team to go out and pull the top off the missile, and they were supported by a large security forces team and helicopters, which ensured safe transport to and from the base,” he said. “The missile operators also played a role, as they maintain command and control at the missile sites. Everyone at the heart of the missile operations team was involved. It was a real team effort.”

Being a part of that team was something the maintainers and others were very proud of, Assistant Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of Missile Maintenance Teams at Malmstrom AFB, Master Sgt. Joshua Schoenbein, said.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of something this big in the ICBM community to comply with the new START requirements,” he said. “It feels awesome to complete the deMIRV program, and I know the technicians couldn’t be happier to finish and move on to the next program whatever it might be.”

Schoenbein added, “Overall, it takes many people and hours of planning and work to accomplish even one mission.”

From munitions technicians at the weapons storage area and members of the missile maintenance team to security forces members, a convoy response force and helicopter support, everyone has a role in making the mission a success, he said.

Back at the base, Master Sgt. Jason Thompson, NCOIC of weapons maintenance at Malmstrom AFB, oversaw the team which did the disassembly of the MIRV.

“It’s a great historical event, especially for nuclear weapons technicians, to be a part of,” Thompson said. “We’re a relatively small career field, so to be a part of something so significant is a great morale builder for the Airmen.”

A team of 12 people at the weapons storage area were involved in the process of disassembling and reconfiguring the system to a single reentry vehicle, making sure the maintenance was done in a safe and secure manner.

“There were numerous safety measures in place during the entire process, and there was a lot of coordination between security forces and maintenance personnel to move the weapon from the missile to here for us to do the maintenance,” Thompson said. “That ties back to the significance of our Airmen being a part of this. We put a lot of special trust in our 18 or 19-year-old Airmen to do this type of maintenance, where in other countries it’s left to the officers to do.”

In addition to the hard work by the maintenance teams throughout AFGSC who worked the deMIRV process, Ray said multiple agencies worked together to make it a success.

“It takes a lot of planning and teamwork both at the base and the headquarters to make this happen in a safe, secure manner while still meeting our other mission requirements,” he said.

Those who worked the process should be proud of their accomplishments, Ray said, because they’re a part of history that will help maintain stable deterrence for the U.S. and its allies.

“We’re reducing the number of weapons from a Cold War high in conjunction with the Russians,” he said. “To take these multiple independent reentry vehicles to a single reentry vehicle is a significant milestone in stability and arms control.”

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Britain Closes Final Forward Base In Afghanistan

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has visited Afghanistan to mark the latest milestone in the drawdown of UK forces.

Mr Hammond was in the country to witness the closure of Observation Post Sterga, the last remaining forward base to be used by UK troops. The closure of Sterga means that the only UK troops remaining in Helmand are at Camp Bastion and locations in Kandahar and Kabul.

During the visit, which was conducted as closure work continued, Mr Hammond spoke to soldiers from the 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) who had been living and working there.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“The closure of our last base outside Camp Bastion is another important step towards ending combat operations in Afghanistan. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the mission and the hard work and sacrifice of British Forces. Their efforts have helped build a credible Afghan National Security Force and supported the emergence of a democratic Afghan state.”

Sterga opened in August 2013 to enable UK personnel to observe a large and strategically important area of central Helmand. Troops based there provided vital assistance in covering UK and US base closures and gave Afghan and coalition personnel a fuller understanding of insurgent activity.

The majority of the personnel based at Sterga prior to its closure came from 4th Battalion 4 SCOTS with specialist capabilities provided by other units such as 5 Regiment Royal Artillery, 32 Regiment Royal Artillery, 3 Royal Horse Artillery and 14 Signals Regiment. At its peak the base was home to 180 people although by its closure this had reduced to around 90 personnel.

Commanding Officer Lt Col James Roddis, said:

“Providing a secure environment for the redeployment of a base is vital to ensure the safety and protection of our personnel and equipment. The soldiers of the cross-coalition multi cap-badged Manoeuvre Battle Group, led by 4 SCOTS, have once again shown their ability and competence in making sure the personnel and equipment from Sterga could return safely back to Camp Bastion.

“Alongside our coalition partners we also oversaw and provided security for the closure of Laskhar Gah Durai and FOB Price in March earlier this year. As the last Scottish Infantry Battalion in Afghanistan it has been a challenging and rewarding job being part of the drawdown of British Bases in Helmand and the handover of lead security responsibilities to the Afghan Security Forces.”

More than 100 ISO containers worth of equipment had to be removed from the base by air and road with both UK and US forces involved in aviation, logistics and security.

During the Secretary of State’s visit to Afghanistan he also met with Major General Sayed Malouk, Commander 215 Corps based in Camp Shorabak. The pair discussed the development of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Major General Sayed Malouk updated Mr Hammond on their training. Whilst at Shorabak the Defence Secretary also spoke to a number of British medics engaged in developing the ANA’s medical capabilities.

Capt David Watts, Medical Advisor 3 MERCIAN Brigade Advisory Team, said:

“The ANA have made significant steps over the last nine months, specifically with the development and delivery of the En Route Care Course which has reduced mortality rates. They now have a growing paramedic capability to perform in transit care from point of wounding to the hospital. I have found it a privilege to work alongside my ANA medical counterparts as a medical advisor.”

The closure of Sterga means that the UK presence in Helmand is now centralised in the main operating base Camp Bastion which is due to close at the end of the year as the British combat mission concludes.

In addition to the Logistic and Engineer experts, the operation to close the base was supported by soldiers from 4 SCOTS, 9/12L and the Danish VIKING platoon. It will be the last operation for the Danish Tanks prior to their own redeployment

  • Equipment that was redeployed included: HUSKY Protected Support Vehicle, Persistent Threat Detection System (balloon), MAMBA Weapon Locating Radar, Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar (LCMR), Light Electronic Warfare Team (LEWT), Desert Hawk III (small unmanned aerial vehicle), LIVINGSTON Base ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) system, 105mm Light Gun, 82mm Mortars (High Explosive, smoke and illuminating rounds, accurate to a max. range of 5.5km).
  • The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (RRF) were the first unit to use Sterga on HERRICK 18.
  • The BAT Medical Development team has trained ANA medics in the life saving skills needed on the frontline, such as application of tourniquets, emergency field dressings etc whilst simultaneously developing surgical capability in Shorabak. The En Route Care Course was initially designed and delivered by the BAT medical team in Jan 14 and has now been rolled out ANA wide following its success.

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Manas KC-135s Complete Final Mission, Leave Kyrgyzstan

By on Monday, March 3rd, 2014

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan: The Transit Center’s final aerial refueling mission over Afghanistan landed here Feb. 24, completing the end of an era.

After six hours of traveling, refueling A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F-16 Fighting Falcons, the KC-135 Stratotanker touched down to a fanfare of saluting Airmen.

Col. Mike Seiler, the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, piloted the historical flight.

“It’s pretty special to be able to say that we were able to fly on the last sortie out of Manas,” Seiler said. “When (I) think about it, we flew our last sortie just like we did our first one–fighter support, troops in contact. … I got chills rolling down the runway for the last time.”

Over the last 12.5 years here, KC-135s flew 33,500 sorties that led to 135,000 aircraft refueled with more than 12.2 billion gallons of fuel delivered, enough to fill 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“I wish there was an honest way to track how many times a tanker mission has directly affected troops on the ground, ” Seiler said.

Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Bishop, the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, was the boom for the final mission.

“It all comes down to people … Airmen with a big ‘A,’” Bishop said. “This team — I would go to war with them anytime.”

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Boeing Starts Assembly of Final KC-46A Test Aircraft

By on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Boeing is assembling the fourth and final KC-46A test aircraft for the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation aerial refueling tanker program at the company’s Everett factory, keeping the program on track to deliver the initial 18 tankers to the Air Force by 2017.

“All four test aircraft are moving through production to support our transition to ground and flight testing later this year,” said Maureen Dougherty, Boeing vice president and KC-46 Tanker program manager.

“Our joint Boeing and U.S. Air Force team continues to deliver on our commitments to the warfighter.”

The aircraft are commercial derivatives of the Boeing 767 jetliner; their design features aerial refueling capabilities that will be installed later at Boeing Field in Seattle.

The 767 is a proven jet in service as an airliner, freighter and international tanker, with more than 1,060 delivered worldwide.

The first flight of an Engineering and Manufacturing Development KC-46 tanker program test aircraft, without its aerial refueling systems, will take place at midyear, followed by the first flight of a KC-46A tanker in early 2015.

The first delivery of a production aircraft to the Air Force is planned for early 2016. Boeing expects to build 179 tankers by 2027 if all options under the contract are exercised.

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JLTV Programs Enters The Final Round of Testing

Three prototypes for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are undergoing testing. The AM General Prototype is on the left, Oshkosh JLTV in the center, and the Lockheed Martin prototype is on the right.

Three prototypes for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are undergoing testing. The AM General Prototype is on the left, Oshkosh JLTV in the center, and the Lockheed Martin prototype is on the right.

Full-pace, full-scope testing of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle prototypes began Sept. 3 and will last for 14 months. Each of the three vendors — Oshkosh Defense, Lockheed Martin and AM General — delivered 22 vehicles and six trailers for testing to three sites — Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Yuma, Ariz.; and Rrs 14 Medstone Arsenal, Ala. according to Col. John Cavedo, the Joint Program Office managerThe test program includes rigorous reliability testing over various terrains and in different weather conditions and protection-related testing is being conducted.


JLTV Testing & EMD Schedule – 2013-2018

Cavedo said the program is still on track despite this year’s sequestration and the continuation of continuing resolutions, but warned that if the budget issues are not resolved by next year, he could not rule out a slip in the schedule. “We’re doing everything we can to keep the program on track,” he said, emphasizing the importance of the program to meeting asymmetrical threats like those experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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With military forces facing ‘asymmetric’ warfare in contemporary conflicts, that notion of front lines and rear area was no longer applicable after 9/11. As the military has deployed to Iraq in the mid 1990s ‘soft’ vehicles such as the Army’s ‘Humvee’ became vulnerable to improvised explosive devices no matter where they were. Up-armor was added for protection but the enemy adapted to that with more lethal explosives.

The added weight of the up-armor taxed the Humvees’ performance and further limited its payload, which now included network gear. And, the Humvees were just getting old, with the first ones rolling off the assembly line about three decades ago.

Soldiers and Marines continued to be vulnerable, so the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, were developed. These had good payload and protection and helped save many lives over the last six years, but performance was sacrificed and Soldiers could not move with speed and agility around the battlefield, especially in the difficult terrain in parts of Afghanistan, he said.

Furthermore, the heavier versions of the earlier MRAPs could not be moved around the battlefield by helicopter and required strategic lift, which in turn required adequate runways for these big cargo planes to take-off and land.

The sustainment cost for the MRAP program increased over time, he said, as more variants were developed by different vendors. Parts were not interchangeable and mechanics had to get follow-on training, he said.

The JLTV closed the capability gap, addressing “the iron-triangle of payload, performance and protection,” he said. Its payload and protection is similar to an MRAP and its performance exceeds that of a Humvee.


Besides addressing the “iron-triangle,” Cavedo said the JLTV is designed to meet the needs of the commander for a variety of missions.

The commander can decide what level of protection JLTV needs for the mission, he said, pointing out that armor kits will be available for vehicles going into harm’s way. Also, some of the JLTVs will be equipped with heavy weapons, including TOW missile systems, while others can be used as light, utility vehicles.

Other kits include command and control and network gear. He said JLTV “plug and play” open-architecture technology allows for future networks and electronic devices to be installed without a vehicle redesign.

While different vehicles will have different kits, all vehicles come equipped with automatic fire extinguishers, multiple egress options, fuel-tank fire suppression systems and combat locks.

Powering the 21,000-pound gross weight JLTV and whatever kits and trailers are added on is a 300-horsepower fuel-efficient diesel engine. JLTVs also will be able to tow the thousands of legacy trailers that are still useable.


“We’ve managed to hold cost down by promoting better competition between vendors, incentivizing productivity and conducting an analysis of alternatives,” he said. By “analysis of alternatives,” he means ordering the right number of kits and mission packages. “We don’t want surplus kits stockpiled in warehouses across the country.”

Incentivizing productivity, he explained, means that after giving the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, the specs, like protection, speed, weight and so on, it is up to them to determine how it’s built and what the tradeoffs are.

He provided an example. Besides armor kits, the basic JLTV requires a certain level of protection, he said. There might be very exotic metals out there that are lightweight and offer exceptional protection, but the cost involved would be astronomical. So a tradeoff might be reached where steel or aluminum is used to keep the cost down but still meet the basic requirements. To be competitive, however, the thickness or type of material used might exceed basic standards but be within a reasonable price range.

Tradeoffs like this apply to the power and transmission features and to everything else on the vehicle, he said. They’re trying to be as innovative and competitive as possible with the other OEMs, yet they must stay below the $250,000 assembly-line figure.

There are other ways cost has been controlled. Instead of requiring each OEM to supply 35 vehicles, they were required to provide 22 for the testing phase, he said. That number is reasonable and adequate for an effective evaluation.

Also, instead of a cost-plus type contract, the JLTV is on a firm-fixed price contract.

“In the past, the production price was set after down-select,” he said. “Our intent was to set production prices during competition so as we go forward into the competitive down-select we’ll have production prices set at that point and not negotiated for the years out.”


Source-selection evaluation will start in early 2015, and conclude by July of that year when a single vendor will be selected.

At that time, 2,000 vehicles will be produced and be tested for three years with the focus on fine-tuning the assembly line, full-up system testing and so on.

Full-scale production will begin in fiscal year 2018 with the ratio of organic to contract work determined by the third quarter of fiscal year 2015.

By 2018, the first Army brigade will roll with new JLTVs, he said.

Production will total 49,000 JLTVs for the Army and 5,500 for the Marines, with the production cycle ending sometime in the 2030s.

Kits will initially be produced by the selected OEM but follow-on kits might use a different vendor, he said.

In conclusion, Cavedo said the JLTV comes at the right time at the right cost, and is the perfect match to the Army’s shift to the Pacific, regional alignment strategy and meets the requirements of the Defense Strategic Guidance of 2012 and the Army’s 2014 Equipment Modernization Plan.

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