The Israeli navy has been operating a new uncrewed surface vessel designed for mine countermeasure missions. The Seagull, based on a 39-foot (12-m) composite and aluminum hull, can also perform anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare, hydrography and maritime security operations. It can be operated remotely or with a crew onboard and has an endurance of four days. The control station can be located on a mothership, vehicle or in a building. Each system can control two Seagull USVs simultaneously.
Various mission equipment can be carried, including synthetic aperture, side-scan and dipping sonars. Optional armament for the Seagull (at left) includes a remotely operated weapon station with a 12.7-mm machine gun at the bow and a lightweight torpedo launching system with two torpedoes at the stern. Standard equipment includes line-of-sight and satellite communication data links. The Seagull was first unveiled in February 2016 and entered service with the Israeli navy the following year. Several upgrades have been implemented since.
Serbia has fielded a hybrid gun and missile air defense vehicle designed to defeat drones, helicopters, cruise missiles and low-flying aircraft. The PASARS-16 is armed with a Bofors 40-mm cannon at the rear of a 6 x 6 platform with two surface-to-air missiles mounted on the right side of the turret. Several missiles have been shown on the vehicle, including the Mistral and Igla. Another variant, armed solely with a domestic version of the Soviet-era AA-2 Atoll missile, has been evaluated.
Development of the PASARS-16 (at right) began in 2016. After testing, an initial variant was fielded in 2019. Testing of the Phase 2 prototype -- with improved diesel generator, driver vision system, thermal imager and timing system for new prefragmented ammunition -- was underway in 2020. Serbia has tested two turret configurations, one with an open gunner position and one under armor. The latter appears to have been fielded. Three systems were in service by August 2020, with 12 anticipated to be active by the end of the year.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is developing an experimental hypersonic booster to support accelerated hypersonic testing. The X-60A is an air-launched, single-stage, liquid-fueled booster designed to support a variety of hypersonic, flight test and suborbital research activities. A major objective is to increase the frequency of hypersonic testing, reduce the cost of maturing such technologies and accelerate the development of hypersonic weapons. The X-60 is expected to be deployed from Gulfstream business jets. As many as four X-60 test flights could be conducted annually once it enters service.
Initial captive-carry flight testing was completed in 2018. The X-60 (at left) completed its critical design review in 2019 and first flight was anticipated in 2020. The first two flights would evaluate the platform at speeds greater than Mach 5 and 6. If successful, follow-on flights would begin to incorporate payloads for trials. It can accommodate 200-pound payloads for high-altitude microgravity testing and 700 pounds for hypersonic trials. In February 2020, however, the AFRL delayed first flight from March to later in the year. As of April 2021, no such flight had been reported.
Shang-Class Subs Boost China's Underwater Capabilities
Maritime updates are plentiful this month, including the Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, North Korean Yugo-class midget submarines and Pakistan's MG-110-class midget subs. The German DM2A4 torpedo record has been updated and there is a new record on Russia's Klavesin-2R-PM uncrewed underwater vehicle.
Ground system updates include the South Korean K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer and accompanying K10 ammunition resupply vehicle. The Brazilian Guarani armored fighting vehicle and Polish Kroton mine-scattering records have also been made current.
Finally, air systems have not been neglected, with a new record for the Chinese Z-19 helicopter and updates to the AW109 helicopter, U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 maritime patrol aircraft, French 30-mm DEFA aircraft cannon and Israel's Orbiter family of uncrewed aerial vehicles, variants of which saw action in last year's conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Iraq Still Fighting ISIS, Iranian Influence
Although the Iraqi government declared victory over ISIS in 2017, the battle against the Islamist militants continues. The latest on the order of battle for the Iraqi armed forces is now available. The order of battle for Gambia has also been updated.
Putin Manufactures Ukraine Crisis
After building up more than 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, Russia sent its troops back to their bases apparently ending the immediate threat of an invasion. Reuben Johnson looks at the events of April and their consequences in "Putin Backs Down … For Now."
India has fought Maoist rebels for decades, largely without much attention beyond its borders. In recent years, a combined development and security strategy seems to have whittled down the Maoist threat. Nations Editor Kevin Ivey looks at the current state of play in "India's Quiet Insurgency."
The U.S. withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty, which permitted it to make unarmed surveillance flights over Russian military facilities, last year. The Biden administration has upheld that decision. Weapons Editor Brody Ladd looks at the treaty and its collapse in "Darkening Skies."
Finally, Reuben Johnson reviews Chinese President Xi Jinping's foreign and domestic challenges as he seeks to strengthen his grip on power in "Riding the Dragon."