The U.S. Army has chosen a new uncrewed ground vehicle design for its Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M) program. The Ripsaw M5 is a tracked vehicle powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system developing up to 1,600 hp. The 20,000-pound vehicle can carry a payload of up to 8,000 pounds. The nose of the Ripsaw is attached to a common bulkhead, permitting it to be easily switched out to carry different payloads. These could include smaller UGVs, radars, mine plows, mine rollers or mine-clearance charges.
The Ripsaw can be armed with weapons up to 30-mm caliber, such as the Kongsberg MCT-30 weapon station. The payload deck can also be used to launch uncrewed aerial vehicles or to carry counter-UAV systems. The vehicle can accept scalable armor packages. The Army plans to evaluate the vehicle in a platoon-level experiment in March and a company-level test by the end of 2021. The trials are intended to help the service determine the best way forward with battlefield robots by 2023.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is fielding a new class ocean-going minesweepers. The first two ships in the AWAJI class entered service in 2017 and 2018, with a third due for commissioning in 2021. The defense ministry has requested funding for a fourth vessel. The class is armed with a single 20-mm cannon and a stern deck for launching and recovering a variety of mine countermeasures systems, including uncrewed vehicles and expendable mine-disposal systems.
The hull is made from fiber-reinforced plastic, which reduces weight and signature and is less likely to activate mines with magnetic detectors. A variable-depth sonar is carried for detecting mines in deep and shallow waters. An infrared sensor on top of the bridge can be used to support low-light or nighttime minesweeping operations. The class was designed to replace the aging Yaeyama-class minesweepers. One each was ordered in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Unit cost is reportedly around US$100 million.
Thales is developing a high-altitude pseudo-satellite for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and other monitoring missions. The Stratobus stratospheric airship can carry a 550-pound (250-kg) payload, such as electro-optic sensors and radars, to altitudes of around 65,600 feet (20,000 m), providing coverage at ranges up to 124 miles (200 km). The aircraft is propelled by solar-powered electric motors. The Stratobus is designed to be deployed for five years at a time, including annual maintenance.
Work on the Stratobus began with concept development in 2014. The project was formally launched in April 2016. The following year, Thales revealed that it was developing a maritime surveillance variant equipped with an MX-25 sensor system, with a full-scale model to be produced in 2020. In January 2020, Thales signed an agreement with the French defense procurement agency, DGA, for concept studies on the ability of the Stratobus to meet French army surveillance requirements.
China Plans Early Warning Aircraft For Carriers
Other new records this month have an Asian flavor. Consider the China's planned KJ-600 carrier-based airborne early warning aircraft and Wozang-class mine countermeasures vessels and South Korea's Chiron man-portable air defense system.
Several ground systems have been made current, including the Israeli ATMOS 2000 and French AUF1 GCT self-propelled howitzers, Singapore SLWH and South Korean KH179 towed howitzers and the Russian 2S25 Sprut tank destroyer and Serbian M-84 main battle tank.
Aviation updates include the A310 MRTT and Russian Il-78 Midas aerial tankers, Serbian G-2 Galeb trainer, Argentinean Lipan remotely piloted vehicle and the Japanese AAM-4 and AAM-5 air-to-air missiles.
Los Angeles-Class Subs Soldier On
Maritime records have not been neglected, with the latest information available for the U.S. Los Angeles- and Improved Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarines and the Estonian Admiral Cowan-class and British Sandown-class minesweepers.
Several missile records have been updated, including the Russian SA-10 Grumble and British GWS 25 Sea Wolf surface-to-air missile systems, Russian SS-N-18 Stingray, SS-N-23 Skiff and SS-27 Topol-M nuclear ballistic missiles and Russian SS-N-21 Sampson sea-launched cruise missile.
The latest information has been gathered for sensor systems such as the Russian Low Blow fire-control radar for SAMs, Italian Lyra family of surveillance radars and the Russian Arena active protection system.
Dutch Naval Plans With Belgium Move Forward
The Netherlands has been making plans to re-equip its navy with new frigates and minehunters in cooperation with Belgium as part of its military modernization program. Other order of battle updates this month include Romania and South Africa.
The Communist Party of India-Maoist terrorist group record has also been made current.
Duterte Pushes America Away
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threw his country's longstanding alliance with the U.S. into turmoil in February when he suddenly withdrew from a bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement. Nations Editor Kevin Ivey examines the decision and the fallout in "Duterte Lashes Out."
As the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to make its way around the world, Weapons Editor Brody Ladd returns to the start of the outbreak in China, where the ruling Communist Party's response to the initial outbreak has resulted in widespread public discontent, in "CCP Vs. COVID-19."
China was also large on the agenda at February's Electronic Warfare Asia event in Singapore. Reuben Johnson has the details in "All Eyes On China."
Finally, there has been an increase in terrorist attacks using a variety of improvised weapons, such as vehicles, knives and explosives. Andy Oppenheimer reviews the threat in "Rise Of The Marauder Militant."