In March, the U.S. Air Force conducted the first flight of a new autonomous air vehicle demonstrator that is to be used to evaluate new combat roles for uncrewed aircraft. The XQ-58A Valkyrie was developed by Kratos in California for an Air Force program to develop expendable drones capable of performing strike missions, including while under the control of crewed aircraft. Air Force concepts call for a single crewed aircraft to work with several combat drones, which could carry additional munitions, jam hostile radars, perform reconnaissance and serve as decoys.
The initial program is focused on the air vehicle's basic capabilities, including system functionality, aerodynamic performance and launch and recovery. The Air Force is also looking at teaming the XQ-58A (at left) with its F-35 Lightning II and other fighters for further trials. In this configuration, the drone would be equipped with new sensors and payloads and networked with the fighter jets.
Japan expects to commission the lead ship in a new class of Aegis destroyers in early 2020. The Maya class is a development of the Atago-class destroyers with room to accommodate future naval weapons, possibly including directed energy or railgun systems. The design, about 16 feet longer than the Atago class, includes a combined gas-turbine electric and gas turbine (COGLAG) propulsion system and an aft flight deck for a helicopter. It is equipped with 96 Mk 41 vertical launch cells that can fire SM-2, Evolved Sea Sparrow, SM-3 Block IIA, SM-6 and Type 07 VL ASROC missiles.
The Maya (at right) was launched in July 2018 and is scheduled to be commissioned in March 2020. The second ship in the class is expected to be launched later in 2019 and enter service in March 2021. The destroyers will be equipped with the U.S. Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), which allows the warships to serve as part of a wider network of sensor and weapon platforms and share surveillance and targeting data. The Maya class is being fitted with the capability in part due to concerns about North Korean ballistic missiles.
Sweden has taken delivery of a new domestically developed mobile mortar system. The Mjolner turret carries twin 120-mm mortars mounted on CV 90 tracked infantry fighting vehicles. The smoothbore mortars are loaded through a mechanical system, which supports a maximum rate of fire of 16 rounds per minute. Ammunition is loaded manually. A total of 56 120-mm rounds can be carried within the turret bustle. The mortars can hit targets at ranges of up to 14,220 yd (13,000 m).
In February, the army took delivery of four pre-production Mjolner (at left) vehicles, which are to be used for training and validation trials. Delivery of series production vehicles is scheduled to begin in August 2019. The systems will serve as organic artillery for mechanized battalions equipped with CV 9040 vehicles. The Mjolner, named after Thor's hammer, is expected to give Swedish forces an improved ability to support armored units through its rapid grouping, shooting and regrouping capability.
Zarya Sonar Supports ASW, Navigation For Surface Ships
Other new records this month include the Russian Zarya hull-mounted sonar, which has been fitted to a number of Russian navy warships.
Sensor updates include the Russian Flat Face air defense radar; the Swiss Fledermaus, which supports various anti-aircraft guns; and the German TRS-4D naval radar. The latest information has been provided for the Slovenian BOV-3, South Korean Chun Ma and Chinese CS/SA1 air defense platforms.
A number of missile records have been brought up to date, including the Counter-electronic High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile (CHAMP), which has reportedly been fielded by the U.S. Air Force. The Taiwanese Tien Chien IIA and Chinese YJ-91 anti-radar missiles have been updated, along with the Indian Agni VI intercontinental ballistic missile and the Chinese CSS-3 and CSS-4 ballistic missiles.
Estonia, Finland Beef Up In Face Of Russian Threat
Updates to the Armed Forces database have a Baltic flavor this month, with the latest information on the orders of battle for Estonia and Finland. The Guinea record has also been brought up to date.
Easter Sunday Bombing In Sri Lanka Shows ISIS Reach
On Easter Sunday, a local terrorist group in Sri Lanka with ties to the Islamic State conducted coordinated suicide attacks on churches and luxury hotels in three cities across the country. The attacks raised questions about the reach of ISIS following its expulsion from its territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria. Andy Oppenheimer reviews the attacks and the terrorist group's likely goals in "ISIS Strikes Back."
The EW Europe conference was held in late May in Stockholm, Sweden. The growing importance of electronic warfare capabilities and threats, including potential compromise via imported networking equipment, were key takeaways from the event. Reuben Johnson has the details in "A New Era Of EW."
The U.S. has been rebalancing towards the Asian theater for much of the last decade. The region has strategic implications beyond the Navy. Representatives from the Coast Guard, Dept. of Transportation and State Dept. discussed these issues at the Sea-Air-Space Conference outside Washington, D.C., in early May. Nations Editor Kevin Ivey has the story at "Thinking Regionally In Asia."