EDR Magazine #57 May-June 2021

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N° 57 • May/June 2021

MAGAZINE European Defence Review Unmanned lightweight firepower Naval Remotely-controlled Weapon Stations evolve International Air Operations in Mali

Multi-purpose medium-to-large size OPVs are gaining momentum

I S S U E N°



Publisher: Joseph Roukoz Editor-in-chief: Paolo Valpolini Aviation & Space Editor: David Oliver Naval Editor: Luca Peruzzi European Defence Review (EDR) is published by European Defence Publishing SAS www.edrmagazine.eu


Leveraging the success of its Sabre 25 one-man turret and the R&D work done for its Teber 30/35 RCT, FNSS developed a remotely controlled version of the former, known as Sabre 25 RCT, here installed on a PARS III 6x6 armoured vehicle. © FNSS

Unmanned lightweight firepower By Paolo Valpolini


Naval Remotely-controlled Weapon Stations evolve


International Air Operations in Mali


Multi-purpose medium-to-large size OPVs are gaining momentum

By Luca Peruzzi

By David Oliver

By Luca Peruzzi

EDR | May/June 2021


European Defence Review


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Unmanned lightweight firepower By Paolo Valpolini

Now known as the RS4, Kongsberg’s of Norway Protector M151 in its various variants has become the most widely used RWS following its success in US Army CROWS programmes. © US Army

Saving weight and space while ensuring maximum firepower even on lighter vehicles, these are the main reasons for the development of unmanned remotely controlled weapon station (RWS) and turrets. Initially RWS were mostly armed with machine guns (MG), up to 12.7 mm, and 40 mm automatic grenade launchers (AGL), however beefed up RWS armed with 30x113 mm weapons started appearing, providing considerable firepower even for light 4x4 vehicles. Beside classic roles, RWS are acquiring also an importance as Counter-UAS effectors. On the other hand remotely controlled turrets, the main difference being that here the main weapon is fully protected within the turret, give away the turret basket, increasing the room inside the vehicle, while the lower protection level and reduced dimensions allow a considerable weight saving, permitting to use such systems on lighter vehicles, typically 6x6 armoured personnel carriers (APC), as well as on heavy unmanned ground vehicles (UGV).


ome new players have appeared in recent times. Arquus, the French vehicle manufacturer, has launched at IDEX its Hornet Business Unit, the aim being decoupling the RWS business name from that of the company, allowing a better penetration on the market. According to the company the move

has been well accepted by potential customers, the name chosen being the market name of the RWS brand developed for the French Scorpion programme, the Hornet, which features an innovative grenade launcher turret ring independent from the turret itself, allowing to optimise the use of countermeasures. EDR | May/June 2021


Exhibited at IDEF two years ago as RWS, the Sancak is an evolved version unveiled in 2021, which features a higher number of ready rounds. The RWS has been sold to an undisclosed customer. © FNSS

Another change in name comes from what can be considered the benchmark in the RWS world, Kongsberg of Norway. While the Protector brand remains, it is now followed by an acronym, RS for Remote Station and RT for Remote Turret, and by a number totally unrelated to the weapon’s calibre, as all those mounts can be fitted with weapons of different type and calibre. More importantly, Konsgberg is implementing a new command and control software, common to all its Protector products, which brings family commonality allowing reducing the training and logistic burdens for a service using more than one type of system. A further element of key importance is that thanks to the new C2 software the operator console can be linked via a packet-based secure fire control system, for example via Ethernet or wireless link, via secure radio. This solution is being qualified in the United States and in other nations, making Kongsberg weapon stations and turrets perfectly suitable for installation on unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). Operators working stations have also been standardised, the software allowing a single operator to control multiple systems.

Remotely controlled Weapon Stations FNSS of Turkey is proposing at IDEF 2021 one newish and one new product in this category. The newish one was unveiled at IDEF 2019 as RCWS and was then produced for an undisclosed customer, 16 systems having been delivered. Since 6

EDR | May/June 2021

then it has been upgraded becoming the Sancak, which can still be armed with a 12.7 or 7.62 mm MG or a 40 mm AGL, but carries a higher number of ammunition compared to the original RCWS, respectively 400, (+100) 1,000 (+250) and 96 (+32) rounds, protection having also been increased both in level and surface. The new RWS proposed by FNSS at IDEF 2021 is named Caka and has been purposely designed to be installed on the new Turkish Navy amphibious assault vehicle, the ZAHA. The weapons are the same of the Sancak, the same being true for day/ night sensors and laser rangefinder of the Sancak, with a thermal channel based on a 640x512 uncooled microbolometer, a day channel with a full HD sensor, and a laser rangefinder. The wide field of view of the optics allows aiming with the AGL even when using superelevation to fire at long distance. In the Caka the optronic package is located in a different position, under the weapon rather than on its right, this architecture being considered more suitable to obtain a waterproof system, a must for an RWS designed for an amphibious platform capable of ship-to-shore operations up to Sea State 4. The Caka elevation arc is –7°/+45°, the weapon station being stabilised on both elevation and traverse axis. The control console as well as the fire control system are the same of the Sancak, with only minor differences, and it is fitted with moving target detection and automatic target tracking. At IDEF FNSS is exhibiting the new turret, that might find an interest also on the international market, as not many RWS purposely designed for amphibious use are available, on a ZAHA. In combat order, with

The Caka RWS has been purposely designed by FNSS to answer the requirements for a system dedicated to amphibious vehicles, this weapon station first use being on the new Turkish Navy AAAV known as Zaha. © FNSS

full protection kit, it weighs less than 700 kg, and its height has been kept to a minimum to respect centre of gravity limits imposed by the amphibious design. As part of the reshuffling of its RWS portfolio, Kongsberg developed a wholly new product, named Protector R2, leveraging the experience acquired with the two previous light products, the Protector Super Lite and Lite. The huge difference is that the new RWS, which weighs 60 kg without weapon and ammunition, the double of the Super Lite but some 15 kg lower than the Lite, is a much more capable mount, as it can host a 12.7x99 mm heavy MG, while the two previous products could accept only light MGs. This will allow providing

a considerable firepower to light vehicles, while using only a minimal portion of their payload capacity. The Browning M2 12.7 has 100 ready to fire rounds, while the M240 and M249 MGs have 200, respectively in 7.62 and 5.56 mm calibres. With the weapon at 0° elevation the R2 is 550 mm high, only 43 mm more than the Super Lite of which it retains the general architecture, the swept diameter with the M2 installed being 2,155 mm. Fully stabilised on three axis, it has a maximum elevation of 70°, a key performance when operating in urban areas, while maximum depression is 20°, angular speed in azimuth being 90°/s. Different sensors suites are proposed, with detection and identification ranges relevant to the operational ranges of the installed weapon.




Hall: 7

Stand No: 710

May 25-28,2021 / İstanbul, TÜYAP

EDR | May/June 2021


The RS2 is the new lightweight member of the Kongsberg’s RWS family, and is one of the few lightweight mounts that can be armed with a 12.7 mm MG. © Kongsberg

Beside current weapons options Kongsberg is looking at other MGs to be installed on its RS2; considering the company footprint in the United States, it is foreseeable that as soon as the US Army will have selected its Next Generation Squad Automatic Weapon, the .338 Norma Magnum MG that will replace the M240 will be integrated onto the new RWS. MGs of German production are also among those that might soon be available on the RS2. The new weapon station is ready for production, Kongsberg awaiting a launch customer to start manufacturing. One word on the RS4, the new name of the Protector M151 which originated Konsberg’s weapon stations family. The RS4 has been fitted with the software mentioned in the introduction, but among other enhancements it has also received the airburst capability, a key capacity when being used in the counter-UAS role, this station having been selected by the German Bundeswehr as the effector of its C-UAS system. This capability can also be exported to the bigger RS6, which main armament is an M230LF 30x113 mm cannon, this weapon station having been recently selected by the US Marine Corps for its MADIS Inc 1 air defence programme, armed with the cannon, an M240 MG and two Stingers VSHORAD missiles. Confirming the trend towards heavier RWS, Escribano unveiled in late 2020 the Guardian L-HIT, for Lightweight High Impact Turret. With a weight of 260 kg without ammunition and weapon, it can be armed with up to an M230LF cannon. Derived 8

EDR | May/June 2021

from the Guardian 2.0, which can host a 12.7 mm MG, the L-HIT maintains the same architecture but some elements, such as the stabilisation control unit, have migrated from the left to right to rebalance loads, as the ammo box is on the left and hosts thee same 200 rounds of the 2.0, but the weight of a 30x113 mm round is roughly four times that of a 12.7 mm. The actuators of the 2.0 were strong enough to properly work also with the nearly 100 kg extra weight, easing the development process, the main issue being therefore the redesign of the cradle, Escribano being ready to evolve it to host other 30 mm weapons should a customer require i.e. a non-ITAR cannon. As for recoil, according to Escribano the impulse was not critical, thanks to the damping system fitted to the M230LF. The L-HIT elevation varies between –20° and +60°, the same of the Guardian 2.0; angular speeds are 60°/s in azimuth and 50°/s in elevation, while respective accelerations are 80/s2 and 70°/s2. Designed to be armed with the M230LF or other 30 mm cannons, the Guardian L-HIT can be fitted with a 12.7 mm or smaller calibre MGs, as well as with 40 mm AGLs, and can also be equipped with 40, 76 or 80 mm smoke grenade launchers. On the right side we find the sensor package, which includes a thermal camera, cooled or uncooled according to customer’s choice, a CCD daylight camera and a laser rangefinder, detection, recognition and identification ranges varying depending on the choice. Thermal cameras are made by Escribano itself, while the other two components, as well as the optional IR pointer, are from third parties. The touch screen console allows the operator to exploit the multi-tracking mode, shifting target simply touching the new one on the screen. A series of sensors provide the ballistic computer with all data needed to ensure maximum accuracy, the control software being developed in accordance to the NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NVGA). The Guardian L-HIT is equipped with an embedded simulation system with a built-in

A US Army vehicle equipped with a Kongsberg CROWS (Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station), now RS4, armed with a 40 mm Mk19 AGL, fires during a training session in Afghanistan. © US Army

scoring system that allows easy performances evaluation. Escribano is proposing its new RWS to the Spanish Army and Marine Corps, as well of course on the international market.

the CLWS slightly intrudes inside the vehicle, as it is fitted with an under-armour reloading system. The 30 mm cannon has 90 ready to fire ammunition, while 25 mm weapons have 140 rounds, the 7.62 mm MG being provided with a 250 ammo box. The CLWS elevation arc is –10°/+50°.

Another 30 mm RWS comes from Belgium, John Cockerill Defence (JCD) having unveiled at IDEX its CLWS (Cockerill Light Weapon Station). FulFully digital, it is usually operated by a single solly modular, beside the M230LF it can be armed dier, however a two-man solution is also availwith other 30 mm weapons such as AEI’s Venom able. The CLWS can accept the sighting suite LR or Nexter’s 30M781, as well as 25 mm canrequired by the customer, JCD considering as nons or 12.7 mm MGs. A secondary weapon can be fitted on the left, usually a 7.62 mm MG, which can also be replaced by a vertical twin missile launcher. Other options are available, the primary weapon being replaced by a side-by-side twin antitank missile launcher plus a 7.62 MG, or by a four rocket pod launcher with a 12.7 mm MG. Although considered an RWS as the main weapon is not inside a turret, the CLWS has a turret look, the structure providing a Level 2 ballistic protection, its mass in combat order being around 600 kg. The 600 mm diThe RS6 is the heavier of Kongsberg’s RWS and can be armed with an M230LF ameter turret ring allows it to be easily 30 mm cannon. It has been selected by the US Marine Corps for short-range air installed on many types of vehicles; defence use, equipped also with two Stinger missiles. © Kongsberg EDR | May/June 2021


minimum ranges 8 km for detection, 4 km for recognition and 2 km for identification, to cope with 30 mm operational ranges; longer ranges can be required should the customer add long-range missiles. The CLWS is currently in full development stage, JCD aiming at exhibiting a firing demonstrator in summer 2022, at the Eurosatory exhibition.

Remotely controlled turrets While typically RWS host up to 30x113 mm cannons, remotely controlled turrets can be fitted with more powerful weapons, starting from cannons firing the 30x173 mm full length ammo, up to higher calibre systems. At IDEX 2021 John Cockerill Defence unveiled a second system, this time an unmanned turret, the Cockerill 1030, the Belgian company having already in its inventory a manned turret in that same calibre, the Cockerill 3030, nearly 600 Series 3000 turrets having been produced. The aim for the new turret was to widen the potential market, adding lighter vehicles to those that could cope with the manned turret, the Cockerill 1030 being designed around Notrthrop Gumman Mk44S cannon but being capable to host also a 40x180 mm weapon. The basic protection provided by the welded aluminium hull is Level 2, but it can be increased up to Level 4 with add-on kits. In combat order, with the Mk44S and the full load of 200 rounds, the turret weighs less than

Following the development of the Guardian 2.0 RWS, Escribano of Spain unveiled in late 2020 its Guardian L-HIT, for Lightweight High Impact Turret, which can be armed with a 30x113 mm cannon such as the M230LF. © Escribano


EDR | May/June 2021

John Cockerill Defence of Belgium has unveiled its Cockerill Light Weapon Station (CLWS) at IDEX. This RWS is designed to be capable of hosting 30x133 mm cannons of various types. © John Cockerill Defence

1,500 kg at the basic protection level. Encased in the turret, on the left side of the gun we find the sighting system with day and night channels, while on the right we find the coaxial MG in 7.62 mm calibre. The open architecture vetronics allows easy integration of sensors selected by customers, minimum ranges being those imposed by the cannon operational range. While the standard solution allows a very low silhouette, a commander’s periscopic sight can be installed on top of the turret to provide a hunter/killer capability. The Cockerill 1030 can reach a maximum elevation of 70°, which allows it to be eventually used against UAVs, a vital feature also when operating in urban areas. COVID issues are slowing down the development process, but JCD aims at having its 1030 available around mid-2021. Kongsberg’s first medium calibre turret, the MCT30, developed in the last decade, is now the RT40, and has been fitted with the aforementioned common software. In service on US Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment Strykers in service in Germany, it is being considered for the upgrade of these 8x8 vehicles within three Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. Based on a competitive tender, the US Marine Corps selected Kongsberg for providing the medium calibre turret for the ACV (Amphibious Combat Vehicle). The weight requirement was however much lower than that of the RT40, hence the Norwegian company developed a brand new turret, the RT20, aiming at reducing the mass, succeeding in halve that of the RT40, down to only 1,200 kg. Reduced dimensions and a lesser protection in the USMC configuration allowed to do this while maintaining the same weapon, Northrop’s Grumman 30x173 mm Mk44,

John Cockerill Defence new remotely controlled turret, the Cockerill 1030, exhibited at IDEX 2021. It is designed around Northrop Grumman’s Mk44S cannon, but can withstand also the beefed up 40 mm version. © John Cockerill Defence

with the same number of ready rounds, 150, the 7.62 mm coaxial MG having 200 rounds. Although the RT20 is lower, 680 versus 775 mm, excluding roof mounted sensors, the maximum elevation has been increased from +45° to +60°, an important element in urban warfare. The RT20 prototype is in delivery to BAE Systems for being installed on the ACV and undergo customer trials. The RT20 is competing for another contract with the USMC, that for the ARV (Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle), the Konsberg turret being installed on the platform developed by SAIC, one of the two OEMs downselected by the Marines for providing a technology demonstrator. The availability of a light remotely controlled turret in its catalogue allows Kongsberg to open its scope

towards 6x6 platforms as well as to armed UGVs. Kongsberg’s turret portfolio is completed by the RS60, the biggest of the company systems, at 3,500 kg, which is available at prototype level, and is being proposed for infantry fighting vehicles, either tracked or wheeled. After having been selected with its RS4 for the UK Boxer/MIV, Konsberg is looking with interest at the evolution of that programme, in the light of the cancellation of the Warrior CSP contract.

The second brand new turret system unveiled by FNSS of Turkey at IDEF 2021 is the Saber 25 RCT, for Remotely Controlled Turret. Two years ago FNSS unveiled the Teber-30/35 RCT, and it now developed the unmanned version of its widely used Saber 25 one-man turret. This maintains the 25x137 mm The US Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment is equipped with M242 Bushmaster cannon, fitted the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoon (ICV-D), with a dual feed system. Overall fitted with Kongsberg’s RT40 turret armed with a 30 mm cannon. © US Army the turret can carry 180 ready to fire ammunition, hosted in a single ammo box, the split between APDS and HE rounds being flexible, a movable divider allowing to adapt the load to the mission. The 7.62x51 mm coaxial MG has 600 ready rounds at its disposal. The elevation arc has been slightly increased compared to the manned version, -10°/+50° versus EDR | May/June 2021


The Kongsberg’s RT20 pictured during firing tests. This turret has been selected by the US Marine Corps for the ACV programme. © Kongsberg

stations and turrets, allowing savings, easier training and a reduced logistic footprint. Three companies are lining up for the Spanish Army Dragón 8x8 IFV programme; according to plans the first batch should include 176 IFVs to be equipped with an unmanned 30 mm turret, 40 of which with a twin Spike missile launcher, while 56 Cavalry armoured vehicles will be fitted with a two-man turret, which is out of the scope of this article.

–8°/+48°. The sighting system, derived from that of the ARCT anti tank turret, is located on the right, which allowed to reduce height and to free the roof for installing sensors of different types, or even a commanders independent periscope. The reduced protection need, the slightly smaller shape, and the lack of a turret basket brought to a 400 kg decrease compared to the 1,800 kg of the one-man version. The turret ring diameter was kept the same to ensure easy installation on existing vehicles. FNSS started firing tests on the prototype in early April, and following IDEF will complete company trials, including long range firings, aiming to close the R&D phase in late June. The prototype is however a proof of concept, and some elements might change should FNSS decide to go for production, i.e. the company might go for a standardised fire control system and console for all its line of unmanned weapon

The RT60 is proposed by Kongsberg for infantry fighting vehicles use, the Norwegian company considering with interest the evolution of the UK MIV/Boxer programme. © Kongsberg


EDR | May/June 2021

Following the selection of its Guardian 2.0 for some of the variants Escribano, part of Tess-Defence, the consortium formed specifically to manage the 8x8 programme together with Santa Bárbara Sistemas and Indra Sistemas, is now proposing its Guardian 30 for the IFV variant. Designed starting from a blank sheet with flexibility and modularity in mind, it is based on a machined chassis on which the basic armour and all subsystems are bolt on. It is armed with the ubiquitous Northrop Grumman dual feed Mk44 Bushmaster II 30x173 mm chain gun, with 200 ready to use rounds; reloading can be carried out both from inside or from outside the vehicle. A 7.62 mm coaxial MG is located on the right of the main weapon, the weapons elevation arc being –20°/+60°; a higher elevation would have probably impacted the very low silhouette of the Guardian 30, which is 616 mm on the sides and reaches 1,076 mm at the top of the commander’s periscope. On the right a dual launcher for Spike missiles can be installed; hinged in the lower part, it rotates 90° and when in place it reaches a pre-set elevation angle for firing. When folded, it is fully merged into the turret shape and goes unnoticed. The gunner’s sight is located on the left, well protected, while on the same side, on top of the turret, we find the commander’s sight, both having the same elevation arc of the main weapon. The two sights share the same modules, a cooled MWIR thermal camera operating in the

Unveiled at IDEX 2021, FNSS’ Sabre 25 RCT maintains the same turret ring of the one-man version, allowing to easy replace the latter on existing vehicles. © FNSS

adds to digital 3D mapping and scenarios used for navigation and targeting. Rafael is also proposing tube-launched Firefly loitering munitions to be integrated on Samson turrets, while EDR Magazine understood that other solutions might well be available but are not yet publicized. For the Spanish Dragón 8x8 IFV bid Rafael teamed up with Pap Tecnos of Spain, and is proposing a version of its Samson 30 named Toledo 30S, 70% of the production being eventually carried out in Spain. Rafael is also bidding for the Piranha-based IFV in Bulgaria as well as for the Stryker upgrade programme in the United States

3-5 µm band based on a 640x512 third generation 15 µm pitch FPA with a x8 zoom, a Full-HD daylight camera with a x20 zoom, and a 10 km laser rangefinder, the thermal camera being from Escribano itself. The vetronic architecture allows the commander and the gunner to switch roles, Another Israeli champion in the turrets field, or eventually to exploit the images of a single Elbit Systems, is also competing for that same sighting system, should the other having suffered Spanish contract; teamed with Navantia and damages. The Guardian 30 has embedded simExpal, it is proposing a version of its UT30Mk2, ulation capability allowing in-barracks training. renamed Tizona, the first turret to be used for The basic turret weighs less than 1,250 kg withtests having been assembled in San Fernando at out weapon, ammunition and armour, the weight the Navantia Sistemas facility, 60% of the turret in combat order with Level 2 protection being production to be carried out in Spain. under 1,650 kg, Level 4 protection bringing weight over 2 tonnes. Escribano of Spain is part of the Tess consortium developing the future Dragón 8x8 for the Ejercito de Tierra, and is proposing its new Guardian 30 for the IFV version. © Escribano

With over 6,000 of its Samson turrets in service all over the world Rafael of Israel is definitely one of the main players in this field. Although no announcements were recently made on new turrets or RCWS, the Haifa-based company latest development of its Samson 30 remotely controlled turret is the Samson 30mm Integrated RWS, which combines in a single turret other capabilities than the cannon and MG, such as the Trophy active protection system, the Spike LR1 and LR2 missiles in a dual launcher. Rafael also stresses its NGCV-S (Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Suite) developed for the Israeli Carmel 8x8 programme, which puts at the core of the system the so-called Combat Artificial Intelligence that Rafael has not developed any new turret in the recent past, but is actively working ensures automatic mission plan- on inserting Artificial Intelligence elements and integrating its systems in the ning and weapons selection, that NGCV-S. Its Samson is competing for the Spanish Dragón contract. © Rafael EDR | May/June 2021


Naval Remotely-controlled Weapon Stations evolve By Luca Peruzzi

Leonardo has developed the new Lionfish family of NRWS, which leverages the technology and experience acquired with bigger 76/62 and 127/64 mm guns. The Lionfish Ultralight, here depicted, represents the lightest RWS of the family. © Leonardo

The danger posed by a range of emerging asymmetric threats ranging from a swarm of fast attacking or suicide boats or unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) suddenly showing up at short distance through the commercial maritime traffic, or aerial attacks from small armed unmanned aerial vehicles or light loitering munitions, representing difficult-to-bedetected threats in littoral scenarios, has been pushing industries to develop new families of small calibres (7.62 and 12.7 mm) naval remotely-controlled weapon stations (NRWS). These are characterized by shorter reaction time through both the command management system (CMS) and local control stations, lighter and more responding weapon stations to be installed on smaller manned and unmanned platforms, equipped with enhanced sensor suites capable to offer longer detection, recognition and identification capabilities in the widest range of environmental conditions, and compatible with unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) installation and usage among stringent rules of engagement.


EDR | May/June 2021

made servo systems were installed, all Lionfish NRWSs being fully stabilised in elevation and azimuth thanks to two independent gyros, two tachometers ensuring backup stabilisation, servosystems operating in closed loop with the stabilisation system. The over-deck non-penetrating family shares a new optronics suite based on the Leonardo Mini Colibrì fire control system including a 640x480 uncooled LWIR (812 µm) thermal imager and a daylight full-HD CMOS sensor, together with a 5.5 km laser rangefinder (LRF). According to Leonardo, the detection, recognition and identification ranges (D/R/I) at night are respectively 6.3, 3.0 and 1.5 km, while the day sensor reaches 9.5, 4.8 and 2.7 km against a standard 2.3x2.3 meters NATO target. All four Lionfish NRWSs feature the same Logic Control & Move Unit (LCMU), the system core that ensures ballistic computation and target trajectory estimation, with a new 1280x1024 resolution 17-inch touch-screen and two ergonomic multifunction joysticks with expanded functionalities and a power supply with a 30 minutes emergency battery. The smallest Ultralight NRWS, which has a completely new station, mechanical enhancements and improved rearming mechanism (common to all the Lionfish family) compared to the current Hitrole Light design, has a mass with gun without ammunition of less than180 kg with a ready to fire 250 rounds magazine. With a 1,500 meters effective range, the

The Leonardo Lionfish Inner Reloading NRWS has a 100 rounds magazine that can be reloaded from under the deck or bridge cover; it is aimed to equip both fast patrol boats with bridge stations as well as bigger naval platforms. © Leonardo

Leonardo Lionfish family Unveiled officially during Euronaval 2020 and having already found success on the market, the new family of Lionfish NRWS has been conceived as main or secondary armament for both fast patrol and combatant vessels, and to equip larger platforms to offer improved inner layer defence capabilities. The new family of NRWSs includes the Lionfish 12.7 Ultralight, Lionfish 12.7 Inner Reloading and the Lionfish Top, the latter offered in both 12.7 and 20 mm variants. Three of the four Lionfish NRWSs are armed with a 12.7x99 mm machine gun, usually the FN Herstal M2HB-QCB, while the Top 20 is armed with the Rheinmetall Defence KAE gun with 20x128 mm ammunition. According to Leonardo, both the Ultralight and Inner Reloading RWSs are already qualified while the Top 12.7 is planned to reach the same milestone by late 2021. All three 12.7 mm Lionfish NRWSs have already been selected or contracted by a launch customer, Leonardo unveiled to EDR Magazine, further boosting the potential sales. Leveraging the technology and experience acquired by Leonardo on the 76/62 SR and the 127/64 LW gun systems, the Lionfish family shares the same new dual-axis stabilization, mechanical and electronic architecture in addition to the new optronic suite, differing for the gun mount, shield and ammunition magazine. New Italian-

The Lionfish Top NRWS has been conceived as the main gun system for smaller naval platforms and the secondary armament for larger ship. © Leonardo

EDR | May/June 2021


Ultralight has a ±155° training range and elevation and training speed of 60°/s (with an acceleration of 150°/s2) common to all the Lionfish family and an elevation range of -20°/+70°. The Hitrole Ultralight was tested by the industrial team led by Leonardo for the SWAD USV demonstration programme. The Inner Reloading has a very close resemblance to the former Hitrole N (for Naval); the latter key characteristic was that it allowed the crew to reload the ammunition from under the deck or bridge station. This is also the main feature of the new turret with a 100 rounds ready to fire magazine. With a turret weight without ammunition of less than 215 kg and a deck interface diameter of 820 mm, the new NRWS maintains the common training range, training and elevation speed of the Lionfish family but differs for a -15°/+50° elevation range. The Lionfish Top NRWS turret architecture differs from the rest of the family for a reduced-radar cross section structure nearly symmetric and protecting all the components including the 400 rounds magazine, while the sensor package is installed under the gun, further reducing the overall signature. The new turret features the Mini Colibrì Cooled sensor package, where the LWIR microbolometer is replaced by a cooled MWIR (3-5 µm) sensor, providing longer range DRI performances, respectively 12, 6 and 3.3 km. With an overall turret mass without ammunition of less than 300 kg, the Lionfish 12.7 Top has the same training range, speed and elevation speed of the family while elevation reaches -30°/+70°.

Rheinmetall SeaSnake family

Rheinmetall Defence SeaSnake 7.62 RWS can be armed with the Heckler & Koch MG-5A1 or the FN-MAG 7.62x51 mm machine guns, but can also accept 5.56x45 mm light MGs, all with a 250 rounds magazine. © Rheinmetall Defence


EDR | May/June 2021

Around four years ago, Rheinmetall decided to go for a wholly new NRWS family, in order to cope with new safety regulations imposed by the International Law on remotely controlled systems. This led to the SeaSnake family of NRWSs that included both the heavier gun mount based on a modular architecture, which allowed to host cannons ranging from 20 to 30 mm calibres, as

Designed to host the 12.7x99 mm M2-Browning heavy machine gun, the SeaSnake 12.7 can also accepts the H&K 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. It is fitted with the same company’s Flex-Eye sensor package as the smaller SeaSnake 7.62. © Rheinmetall Defence

well as the smaller SeaSnake 12.7 and SeaSnake 7.62 models. Developed considering customers’ requirements for close perimeter defence, i.e. gangway protection, and based on the SeaSnake family common use of carbon fibre in most of the mount structure to reduce the overall weight and vibration, the two small calibres gun mounts leverage the company experience in the land RWS domain. Using the latest image processing algorithms, movements of the barrel axis, caused by ballistics, can be compensated and allows for a coaxial assembly on a 2-axis stabilized platform. The common control station uses a touch-screen console with left- or right handed operable joystick. The lighter one, the SeaSnake 7.62, can be armed with the Heckler & Koch MG5A1 or the FN-MAG 7.62x51 mm machine guns with a 250 rounds magazine, but can also accept 5.56x45 mm light MGs such as the MG4 and the M-249. With weapon and without ammunition the Seasnake 7.62 model weighs 89 kg. This data includes the Flex-Eye sensor suite, installed on the right side (while the ammunition magazine is on the left), which is fitted with the Saphir/ UC 5.9 uncooled thermal imager operating in the 8-12 µm band featuring a 640x480 pixels array and with two daytime Full-HD cameras with a

Escribano Mechanical & Engineering of Spain has recently sold the Sentinel 2.0 RWS armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun to the Spanish Navy. It was previously sold to the Peruvian Navy, the Royal Oman Police and the Vietnam Border Guard. © EM&E

2,064x1,544 CMOS array. Day and night D/R/I ranges declared by the company are respectively in excess of 12.6/5.3/2.7 and 7.6/2.8/1.5 km. The LRF is similar to the short range one (over 10 km) adopted in the medium calibre optronic package. The Flex-Eye is used also in the heavier SeaSnake 12.7, which weighs 174 kg including the weapon and without ammunition. Designed to host the 12.7x99 mm M2-Browning heavy machine gun, it can also accept the H&K 40 mm automatic grenade launcher, as well as the MG5A1 machine gun. Both mounts have the same angular speed and acceleration, respectively 120°/s and 120°/s2, while elevation arcs are different: the lighter mount can reach –15° in depression while maximum elevation is 85°, while the heavier one covers a –20°/+60° arc.

Escribano solutions The Spanish Escribano Mechanical & Engineering (EM&E) company is marketing both the Sentinel 2.0 and new light ASPIS NRWS, the latter also used for land applications. The Sentinel 2.0 is a light and compact NRWS with modular architecture that integrates a 12.7 mm weapon but that can also be adapted for 5.56, 7.62, 14.5 mm machine guns and the 30 mm (M230LF) cannon. With a two-axis gyrostabilized mounting, where the day/night sensor suite is positioned under the gun station and the 200 12.7 mm rounds magazine on the pedestal left side, the Sentinel 2.0 has an overall weight

In September 2020 Escribano Mechanical & Engineering unveiled the ASPIS NRWS with a 7.62 mm Gatling Dillon M134D gun (current configuration) or alternatively a 5.56/7.62 mm machine gun for both naval and land applications. © EM&E

under 180 kg without weapon and ammunition. With a standard configuration centred on the M2HB-QCB 12.7 mm, it has a –20°/+60° elevation range and a stabilization level of less than 0.5 mrad. The sensor suite provided by Escribano includes a 640x480 or 1024x768 uncooled LWIR or alternatively a 640x512 3rd generation MWIR cooled thermal imager of the Sparrow family, a daylight full-HD CMOS sensor and an 8 km-capable LRF. Day and night D/R/I ranges declared by the company are respectively in excess of 15/10.3/8.4 km and 8.5/2.9/2.0 km with the uncooled imager or 17.3/5.4/3.6 km with the cooled system. Equipped with an operator station centred on a control panel with joysticks and extended functionalities, the Sentinel 2.0 was adopted by the Spanish Navy and is in service with Santa Maria- and Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates, Galicia-class LPDs and replenishment tanker and is to be installed on the Juan Carlos I LHD. The previously named Guardian system is in service with the Peruvian Navy, Royal Oman Police and Vietnam Border Guard. In September 2020 EM&E unveiled the ASPIS NRWS with a 7.62 mm Dillon M134D Gatling gun (current configuration) or alternatively a 5.56/7.62 mm machine gun for both naval and land applications. A compact design, its overall weight is under 90 kg without weapon and ammunition, making it the lightest RWS available on the market according to Escribano. The ASPIS includes advanced features present in the Guardian/Sentinel solutions, including a two-axis stabilization, a target tracking system EDR | May/June 2021


and automatic tracking. With a –20°/+60° elevation range and a stabilization level of less than 1 mrad, the ASPIS has a 300 7.62 mm rounds magazine and a sensor suite with the same company’s uncooled LWIR imager, daylight camera and LRF providing day and night D/R/I ranges of respectively of over 13/9/7 km and 7.7/3.2/2.1 km. The ASPIS is being offered by EM&E together with Ferri company on the latter Victoria USV.

latter with an 1,100 rounds per minute firing rate, alternatively replaced by a 40 mm AGL. With a two-axis gyroscopic stabilization system and a soft recoil cradle, the Sea deFNder is alternatively equipped with a 500 12.7 mm or a 1,000 7.62 mm rounds magazine and has a maximum traverse and elevation speed of respectively 90°/s and 60°/s and an elevation angle of –42°/+72° depending on weapon type. With an overall weight under 125 kg excluding weapon and ammunition, the Sea deFNder is equipped with a day/night sight with an uncooled thermal imager (cooled system as option) and can be equipped with add-on modular ballistic protection. In addition to the Belgian Navy, which already uses the FN Herstal RWS on its Castor-class patrol vessels, under the joint Belgian-Netherlands robotics MCM programme, both navies have jointly acquired the Sea deFNder armed with the 12.7 mm M2HB-QCB gun to equip their future MCMVs. The Sea deFNder was also used as payload of USVs being demonstrated by the US Navy for force protection operations.

FN Herstal Sea deFNder

Kongsberg RS4 Naval

The FN Herstal Sea deFNder NRWS can integrate all FN Herstal machine guns from the 5.56 mm Minimi to the 12.7 mm M2HB-QCB and M3R 12.7 mm gun, the latter having a 1,100 rounds per minute firing rate. © FN Herstal

Specifically dedicated to naval forces and coastguards, the maritime variant of the deFNder family of RWS known as Sea deFNder fulfils an extensive range of missions, from anti-piracy to maritime security, and can integrate all FN Herstal machine guns, from the 5.56 mm Minimi to the 12.7 mm M2HB-QCB and M3R 12.7 mm gun, the

With more than 20,000 systems delivered and in use by customers worldwide, the Kongsberg family of RWS includes the today called “Protector RS4 Naval” turret previously known as Sea Protector. The RS4 Naval is equipped with a 2+2 axis fully stabilised (Point and Vector stabilisation) mount capable to accommodate machine guns with calibres of 5.56 mm such as the M249, 7.62 mm, i.e. M240 and Gatling M134, and 12.7 mm like the M2 and WKM-B, as well as 40 mm Mk 19, Mk 47 and H&K GMG AGLs. Depending on configuration its weight is of 135-190 kg excluding weapon and ammunition, while its elevation range is -20°/+60°, training and elevation speed being respectively 90°/s and 60°/s. The Kongsberg NRWS can be fitted with optronic suites, that include day, night and laser rangefinder, according to customers requirements. The RS4 Naval The Kongsberg family of RWS includes what is called today “Protector RS4 Naval”, previously known as Sea Protector and sold to the Norwegian Navy. © Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace is in service with Norwegian navy. 18

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On September 2019 the Finnish MoD awarded a contract to Saab to provide and integrate the combat system equipment, including the Trackfire RWS, on board the future Finnish Navy’s Pohjanmaa-class corvettes. © Saab

Saab Trackfire On September 2019, the Finnish MoD awarded a contract to Saab to provide and integrate the combat system for the Finnish Navy’s new Pohjanmaa-class corvettes. The contract also includes the Trackfire NRWS already in service with both the Swedish and the Finnish Navy. With an independently stabilised sensor module decoupled from the weapon’s axis and hence not subjected to weapon recoil effects, the system provides greatly reduced target acquisition times and a true comprehensive ballistic calculation including 3D target prediction thanks to a continuous lasing during the engagement sequence, according to Saab. Capable to accommodate 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine guns alternatively to AGL and other effectors, the Trackfire has an overall weight of 280 kg excluding weapon and ammunition. Equipped with a sensor suite including a 3-5 µm cooled imager, day camera and LRF, the system has a -20°/+55° elevation range and a training and elevation max speed of 120°/s.

backlash drives, the MSW mounting is centred on a single-arm construction with a sensor suite including a thermal imager, daylight and LRF and a universal soft mount able to receive a 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm weapons from different manufacturers or alternatively a 40 mm AGL. The MWS has been extensively tested on board BAE Systems’ P950 unmanned surface vessel (USV) platform during a series of national and international exercises and demonstrations, successfully acquiring, tracking and carrying out simulated engagements of live manoeuvring targets in challenging sea conditions.

Aselsan STAMP-2 Launched in 2017 and based on the STAMP (Stabilized Machine Gun System) success on international market, the new generation STAMP-2 NRWS is continuing this trend with contracts signed in 2019 with Qatar and Oman in addition to deliveries to Turkey, according to Aselsan. STAMP-2 enhancements are based on a compact and light design combined with features such as advanced graphical user interfaces, training simulator and High Accuracy Stabilized Gimbal (HASG) day/night sensors package. This gives the gunner independent surveillance capability while increasing the engagement capability at long distances. With an overall 330 kg weight without gun and ammunition, the STAMP-2 has a -20°/+60° elevation range and a 60°/s training speed. In addition to a 19 inch large screen operator console with two joysticks, the new NRWS offers the optional ammunition loading system to improve personnel security.

MSI Defence Systems MWS The Multi Weapon Station (MWS) offered by the UK-based MSI Defence Systems is the lightest and more compact member of the same company’s Seahawk family. Leveraging the ballistic computing, video auto-tracker and control console already proven in the larger Seahawk mountings, the MSW is being aimed at small fast craft and USVs. Designed for high structural stiffness and integrating high-torque zero-

The UK-based MSI Defence Systems offers the Multi Weapon Station (MWS) A1, the lightest and more compact member of the same company’s Seahawk family, which was extensively demonstrated on board BAE Systems’ P950 USV. © MSI Defence Systems

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an up to 230 12.7 mm rounds magazine. Featuring a -20°/+60° elevation range, advanced stabilization and 0.5 mrad pointing accuracy, built-in ballistic computer and baseline integrated sensor suite with thermal imager, daylight camera and LRF, the Mini-Typhoon can also be equipped with surface-to-surface missiles.

The smallest member of the Rafael Typhoon family of NRWS, the Mini-Typhoon can integrate both 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns. The Rafael system is in service with main international navies for close-in defence. © Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

Last year, Aselsan unveiled to be working on a lighter STAMP-2 system and the capability to integrate the 12.7 mm NSV machine gun.

Rafael Mini-Typhoon The smallest member of the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems combat-proven Typhoon NRWS family, the Mini-Typhoon has found worldwide success being in service with customers including the Israeli, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines and United States navies, US Coast Guard and special forces. Derived from the larger Typhoon and installed also on USVs, with a 140-170 kg (depending on configuration) overall weight with 12.7 or 7.62 mm machine guns or alternatively a GAU-17 Gatling gun or a Mk 19 40 mm AGL, the Mini-Typhoon is equipped with

In February 2021 Nurol Makina announced the qualification of the mortar-carrier version of its Ejder Yalçın, fitted with Aselsan’s 120 mm automated mortar system. © Nurol Makina

Elbit Systems NRWS The NRWS offered by Elbit Systems has been sold to international customers including an undisclosed Navy and Coast Guard of an Asia-Pacific country and more recently the Hellenic Coast Guard. A flexible weapons station enabling the use of 7.62 or mm MGs or alternatively 40 mm AGL, the low footprint pedestal, also installed on the company’s Seagull USV, has a line-of-sight (LOS) and line-offire (LOF) stabilization which enables engaging, aiming and firing against moving targets, while stationary or on-the-move. With a -20°/+60° elevation range, the turret is equipped with a suite of modular optical sensors, including a daylight colour CCD camera and a thermal imager respectively with a recognition range of 3,500 and 4,500 meters and a full eye-safe LRF. Operation is simple and intuitive, using a general purpose display with soft key-based operating workstations.

The flexible Elbit Systems NRWS with both 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine guns or alternatively the 40 mm grenade launcher, has been demonstrated also on the same company’s Seagull USV. © Elbit Systems


EDR | May/June 2021

A French Air Force Mirage 2000D flying over Mali being refueled from an USAF KC-135R tanker. © USAF

International Air Operations in Mali By David Oliver

On August 1, 2014, France launched Operation Barkhane at the request of Mali’s government as extremist groups pushed south and threatened to overrun the capital, Bamako. The mission was simple, to stabilise the country. Not long after the creation of Barkhane, a terror group known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) formed operating mainly in eastern Mali and neighbouring regions of Niger and Burkina Faso.


he French-led Operation Barkhane succeeded Operation Serval in August 2014, but with a much wider geographic focus. The force, with more than 5,000 soldiers, is spread out between Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. While its headquarters is in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, it also has fighter aircraft and bases for intelligence collection and operations in Niger’s capital Niamey, Agadez, Arlit, Tillabéry, and several other sites, as well as around 1,500 troops in northern Mali scattered between the large base at Gao, others at Kidal, Timbuktu, and Tessalit, and more recently a base at Gossi, closer to central Mali, as well as along the border with Burkina Faso. France’s Special Operations Task Force for the region, Operation Sabre, is in Burkina Faso.

The airland assets play a key role in the conduct of operations providing the force with indispensable flexibility and long-distance crossing capabilities to defeat the terrorists. The force is made up of seven French Air Force Mirage 2000C/D multirole fighter aircraft and three MQ-9 Reaper longrange unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) Escadron de drones 1/33 Belfort for reconnaissance and surveillance of targets, and feeds images in real time to deployed units. Since 2019 they have been armed with GBU-12 laser-guided bombs when required. Safran is committed to delivering the S15 Patroller medium-altitude long-endurance UAV to the French army by early 2022 for use in Operation Barkhane. EDR | May/June 2021


French Air Force MQ-9 Reaper UAVs operate from Niamey in Niger for reconnaissance and surveillance of targets. © Jean-Luc Brunet / Armée de l’Air

In July 2020 Germany’s Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) has signed a renewed service contract agreement with Airbus Defence and Space for Heron I UAV services in operation in Mali to be extended to July 2021, with an option for August 2021 to July 2022. The German Heron’s first flight in Mali dates back to November 2016 and the type has logged more than 11,500 flight hours in over 1,200 operational flights in Mali. An example of the airpower available to Operation Barkhane was in February 2019 when, at the request of the Chadian government, French Mirage fighter jets struck a column of 40 pickup trucks operated by a rebel group entering Chad from Libya. In other missions, jets will strike a terror enclave before ground troops enter to clear the area. “The missions are very long, from four to more than six hours, so we require numerous refueling sessions in air,” said Lt. Wilfred, a Mirage pilot who, as is customary for French Soldiers serving abroad, is identified only by his first name. “It’s atypical hours. We could be taking off very late at night or very early in the morning. Whenever an alert is triggered.” There are also seven strategic and tactical transport aircraft deployed to Barkhane that include Transall C-160s from the 1/64 Béarn and 2/64 Anjou squadrons and C-130H Hercules from the 2/61 Franche Comté squadrons are used to ferry materiel to Bamako, while Transall C-160s from the 3/61 22

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Poitou Transport Squadron fly reinforcements to the airport of Gao. USAF KC135 tanker aircraft support the Mirage operations while USAF and Canadian Hercules provide additional tactical aircraft to the operation. The mission also relies heavily on aerial resupply drops to remote outposts. It has received logistical support from partners including Spain, which has flown a C-130 based in Senegal and a C-295 in Gabon. The French Army Light Aviation (ALAT) deploys 16 helicopterzs including Tigre HAD and HOT-armed SA.342M1 Gazelle Viviane combat helicopters from the 5th Combat Helicopter Regiment and SA.532UL Cougar and NH90 Caiman transport helicopters. In March 2021 three SA.330B helicopters from DetALAT Djibouti arrived at Bamako to reinforce the French Groupement Tactique Désert-Aérocombat (GTD-A). The French Air Force also deployed two H225 Caracal helicopters of the 1/67 Pyrénées Helicopter Squadron in the combat search and rescue role to Bamako. The operational environment across the Sahel and particularly in northern Mali is daunting. Temperatures reach well above 40 degrees centigrade, sandstorms reduce visibility to almost nothing making flying challenging, and during the rainy season many roads become impassable. In June 2019 an ALAT Gazelle was hit by ground fire near the border between Mali and Niger, and

ALAT Tigre HAD ground support helicopters operate in Mali in support of Operation Barkhane. © ALAT

A HOT-armed ALAT SA.342M Viviane Gazelle at Sévaré in central Mali. © ALAT

the two pilots were injured during the crash landing. A Commando sniper also on board received only minor injuries and was able to strap the pilots to the outside of a Tigre attack helicopter to be evacuated, and was later exfiltrated by another helicopter. Following a clash with an armed terrorist group on 25 November 2019 a patrol of two ALAT Gazelles took off on alert from the Ménaka forward base in northern Mali, followed by a Cougar helicopter carrying six commandos and an air mission commander (AMC). In addition two Tigre helicopters were sent as reinforcements from Gao. The Gazelles arrived on the scene shortly after nightfall and the Cougar was positioned to the north-east of this area.

The two Tigres arrived and split in two, the leader orbiting above the two Gazelles at an altitude of about 3,000 feet, the second Tigre came to fly over the French troops in the south. Minutes later, the Tigre leader and the Cougar collided in flight killing all 13 soldiers and crews, the heaviest loss of life for the French military since 1983.

One of three DetALAT SA.330B helicopters based in Djibouti deployed to Bamaco in Mali in March 2021. © David Oliver

The multinational ground forces are supplemented by heavy lift helicopters from Allied partners including three Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook HC.5 transport helicopters and two Royal Danish Air Force EH101 Merlins, the latter having reached full operational capability on 24 December 2019.

ALAT NH90 Caiman tactical transport helicopters are used for day/night transport, SAR and MEDEVAC missions in Mali. © Airbus

The RAF detachment in Mali is designated as No 1310 Flight and is deployed on Operation Newcombe flying from Gao Airfield in Mali. The Flight is committed to supporting, in a non-combat role, Operation Barkhane, and is fully integrated into the GTD-A. EDR | May/June 2021


RAF Tactical Supply Wing (TSW) refueling an ALAT Tigre at Gao Air Base in Mali. © Crown Copyright

An RAF Chinook HC.5 carrying an underslung cargo in Mali during Operation Newcombe. © Crown Copyright

The deployment of RAF Chinooks began in 2018 and it has been the UK Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) that has sustained this operation for more than two years by providing the enabling person-

nel, together with the planning needed to ensure the operations continue. The Chinook detachment supporting French troops in Mali logged over 2,000 flight hours since 2018, including nearly 1,000 hours in 2020 transporting 4,670 personnel and some 400 tonnes of freight. operating in temperatures up to 47 degrees centigrade which have been accompanied by frequent dust storms. A tool being used by RAF Chinook crews deployed to Mali is the beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) capability of Inzpire’s GECO tablet-based mission system. The capability, which was developed in response to an urgent operational requirement (UOR), uses satellite communication enabling to communicate over great distances from virtually anywhere in the world. GECO BLOS is used in the briefing stage of RAF Chinook crews to give a 3D flythough of a target, alongside other briefing products that allow crews to visualise the assault track and final mile to the landing site. It also allows them to talk through overshoot plans, re-attacks and factor threats. The use of an electronic bag allows the crews to have large documents to hand rather than having to rely on photocopies or memory. Flt Lt Rob Town outlined the challenges of the Chinook operations in Mali. “Most of the forward operational bases (FOBs) are 150-180 km away and fuel is limited. Weather is changeable with dust storms, thunderstorms and torrential rain. Communications are difficult due to the sheer size of the operations area. The use of Arctic flying techniques in the desert was required. BLOS allowed us to

An RAF No 1310 Flight Chinook flying over the daunting environment of the Sahel in northern Mali. © Crown Copyright


EDR | May/June 2021

French troops with a Royal Danish Air Force Merlin supporting the international Takuba Task Force. © French Defence Headquarters

communicate back to base so oncoming crews were fully prepared and read in the weather before they launched.” JHC planners have recently led the work to ensure that equipment, including a Chinook, could be rotated to allow long term maintenance. The complicated planning ensured a RAF C-17 Globemaster from RAF Brize Norton based No 99 Sqn to be able to conduct the changeover of Chinook air frames successfully. JHC personnel are also deployed in Mali at Gao Air Base, to support No 1310 Flight which is currently from C Flight, No 18 (B) Sqn RAF and their supporting ground crew. One of the JHC units that is supporting the operation is the Tactical Supply Wing (TSW) which is a key enabling element for the deployment as they carry out the fueling of helicopters and other aircraft. The detachment is equipped with a very large Oshkosh Tactical Aircraft Refueller tanker that can hold 15,000 liters of fuel. The fuel that is used is drawn from the main French fuel depot based at the airfield and then the detachment blend in additives that brings the fuel to UK military grade specifications. The TSW detachment has increasingly taken the lead in introducing specialist refueling activities for

all of the helicopters currently based at Gao, including the Danish Merlins and the French Tiger helicopters as well at the RAF Chinooks. The programme of interoperability training has introduced rotors turning refuels. This means the helicopter is refueled without the engines being shut down and the rotors are still turning, a procedure that requires additional training and is an activity the UK military refuellers from the RAF and Army Air Corps specialise in. In November 2020, 300 British troops from the Light Dragoons and the Royal Anglian Regiment arrived in Mali on an RAF A400M Atlas aircraft to undertake a United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) peacekeeping mission. The troops operated out of a British section of a UN camp in Gao, named Camp Bagnold. In June 2020 the UK Ministry of Defence announced that it would extend military support to Mali by continuing Operation Newcombe with three Chinooks. Task Force Takuba, a new European military force of special forces led by France was launched earlier this year which will advise, assist and accompany Malian Armed Forces, in coordination with the five countries of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger set up to EDR | May/June 2021


A US Marine Corps C-130J delivers a Utility-Terrain Vehicle with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force at Bamako, Mali. © USMC

fight growing Jihadist terrorist threats and organised crime in the region. In February 2021 Sweden announced that it was contributing a 150-strong contingent to Task Force Takuba comprising Swedish Armed Force Helicopter Wing UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters as well as Swedish Air Force C-130H transport aircraft until December 2021. The strength of the Swedish unit can be increased by another 100 troops if necessary. Other countries contributing to Task Force Takuba include Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom. South Africa’s Starlite Aviation is also supplying a Super Puma helicopter to the European Union Training Mission Mali (EUTM) headquartered at Bamako, and German personnel deployed to the West African country have been using it for medical evacuation training. Troops from 22 European Union member states and five non-EU states work with both the Armed Forces of Mali (FAMa), and G5 Sahel partners. The Malian Air Force has recently taken delivery of four new Mi-35M combat helicopters and two former Russian Mi-24 Hinds 26

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are part of Burkina Faso’s military contribution to the G5 Sahel Joint Force. France has stressed that Operation Barkhane and Task Force Takuba are not indefinite missions. As soon as possible, it intends to give way to local forces and France wants to partner with national militaries, and regional efforts like the G5 Sahel Joint Force and the United Nations.

New Mi-35M Hind attack helicopters have recently been delivered to the Mali Air Force. © MAF

Multi-purpose medium-to-large size OPVs are gaining momentum

The Italian DRASS company is promoting the DS-class of SDVs including DS4 and DS8 vehicles, respectively capable to carry a total of respectively four and eight operators. © DRASS

By Luca Peruzzi Envisaged as a common platform with a shared baseline which can be customized as needed, the patrol variant of the European Patrol Corvette (EPC) has a 2,800 tonnes displacement and a 98 meters length. Baseline armament includes a 30 or 40 mm main gun. © Naviris

The recent tensions around the world to contend the economic exclusive zone (EEZ) extensions and protect both natural and fishing resources in blue waters have highlighted the need to deploy larger offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) capable to accomplish a wider range of missions. Emerged requirements mandate for flexibility, modularity and lower lifecycle costs, in addition to larger and armed platforms that can withstand high-seas and conduct operations with helicopters and UAVs in a networked environment. European shipbuilders maintain a strong patrol vessels product portfolio, although the competition is strong, on the international market.


ast January, the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board announced the launch of a specific EDA ad-hoc project that will contribute to the implementation of a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) project aimed at developing a European Patrol Corvette (EPC). Italy, which leads a group of four PESCO participating countries that includes France, Spain and Greece, requested the Agency’s support for moving this ambitious project forward. Part of the third batch of PESCO projects approved in November 2019, it aims at designing and developing a new class of military ships, which will host several systems and payloads able to accomplish a large number of tasks and missions in a modular and flexible way, according to EDA. During Euronaval 2020

virtual exhibition, European shipbuilding groups involved in the programme, Naviris and Navantia, which subsequently signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the EPC programme, provided first details of the ship which first of class should be ready in 2027. The EPC is envisaged as a common platform, a shared baseline, which can be customised as needed by participating Member States according to their national needs and specifications. The modular concept design to be defined by customers through the following programme phases, envisages a 2,800 tonnes displacement and 98 meters long patrol variant with a helicopter and UAVs flight deck and hangar, powered by diesel and potentially electric motors providing a maximum 21 knots speed and a range of 3,500 nm at cruise speed. EDR | May/June 2021


With a crew of 80 and accommodations for 100 persons, this variant is to have a 21 days autonomy and a minimum armament package including a 30 or 40 mm main remote weapon station (RWS) and two 12.7 mm machine guns. According to EDA, there is a short-term priority for nine European member states, and medium term for six member states, with seven expressing an interest in cooperation going forward. The French industry is the most prolific in the construction and fitting-out of patrol vessels for navies, constabulary and coast guard bodies. Last April, Naval Group as prime contractor, delivered the second of four OPV 87 Bouchardclass offshore patrol vessels to the Argentine Navy. This is the largest platform (OPV 90 model) offered by the Kership joint-venture established between Piriou and Naval Group in 2013. The first-of-class 1,650 tonnes full load displacement, 87 meters long and 14 meters large OPV delivered to the customer in December 2019 was the ex-L’Adroit platform, which proved its capabilities for almost seven years of operations with the French Navy. The follow-on three OPV 87s are all-new platforms built by Piriou under the Kership joint-venture, with Naval Group providing the Polaris combat management system (CMS) and combat system integration. With a steel monohull and pyramidal aluminiumbuilt superstructures, with a 360° panoramic bridge surmounted by a single enclosed mast, an active stabilisation system, and a bow thruster coupled to a propulsion system centred on two diesel engines, the OPV 87 has an over 20

knots maximum speed and 7,000+ nm range or over three weeks endurance. The platforms for the Argentine Navy were also adapted to navigate in the cold waters of Antarctica with a strengthened hull. With a 10 tonnes helicoptercapable flight deck and 5 tonnes size helicopter hangar, in addition to the optional capability to operate a UAS as extensively demonstrated by the French Navy, the OPV 87 has a stern launch and recovery area for two 9 meters rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs). The OPV has a 40 members crew plus additional accommodation for about 20 persons. The armament package is centred on a Leonardo 30 mm Marlin-WS RWS and on machine guns. Last year, the Kership joint-venture expanded its products portfolio to include new OPV models with lengths of 45, 52, 58, 65, 70, 75 and 80 meters, all featuring the innovative and patented C-SHARP (CombinedSpeeds Hull with All-Round Performances) concept ensuring optimal performances at all speeds and improved seakeeping, plus the OPV 90 model based on the Naval Group design sold to Argentina. The 1,400 tonnes, 80 meters long and 13 meters large OPV 80 has more extended superstructures with a flight deck for both a 12 tonnes helicopter and an organic UAV, the latter with a dedicated hangar. Capable to carry three 20-foot standard containers in addition to two 9 meters RHIBs, the OPV 80 has a 30 days endurance and a combat system based on the Polaris CMS with a 4D radar as main sensor and an armament suite including a 76/62 mm gun, 2 MBDA Simbad-RC twin-Mistral missile launchers, and two 20 mm RWS.

The Kership joint-venture offers the new 1,400 tonnes, 80 meters long and 13 meters large OPV 80, which has a 30 days endurance and is equipped with a flight deck for both a 12 tonnes helicopter and an organic UAV, the latter with a dedicated hangar. © Kership


EDR | May/June 2021

The industrial team headed by Socarenam with Mauric (ECA group) and CNN MCO (Engie group) is building six new 80 meters OPVs to be based in three French overseas territories (Reunion Island, New Caledonia and French Polynesia) under the Patrouilleur d’Outre Mer programme. © Socarenam

The French Socarenam shipyard has progressively expanded its range of patrol vessels built in collaboration with naval architecture firm Bureau Mauric (ECA group). In late 2019, the industrial team headed by Socarenam with Mauric and CNN MCO (Engie group) won the contract to supply six new 80 meters OPVs to be based in three French overseas territories (Reunion Island, New Caledonia and French Polynesia) under the POM (Patrouilleur d’Outre Mer) programme. With a full load displacement of around 1,300 tonnes, a length and beam of respectively 79.9 and 12 meters, the POMs feature both lateral and stern areas for accommodating two 8 meters RHIBs (in addition to one tender) and one standard container in addition to the maintenance crane, a flight platform and aviation facilities for unmanned fixed- and rotary-wing air systems. With a hybrid diesel/electric propulsion system offering a maximum speed of 24 knots and an autonomy of 5,500 nm at 12 knots, together with an endurance of 30 days, the POM has a 30unit crew and is capable to accommodate an additional 23 personnel including commando forces. With a combat system based on the Lyncea CMS by Nexeya France (Hensoldt group), the POMs will be armed with a Nexter Narwhal 20B remotely controlled 20 mm gun, two 12.7 mm and two 7.62 mm machine guns. The programme, which saw the first steel cut in October 2020, calls for ships deliveries between 2022 and 2025, with CNN MCO to provide inservice support. Last October, Socarenam signed a contract with the Polish Border Guard for a 70 meters OPV to be delivered in 2022. Funded by the European Union and intended primarily to patrol EU’s external borders, the new OPV will feature a reinforced hull, will have a one month endurance, and will be able to accommodate up

to 35 people including the crew. Equipped also for firefighting and anti-pollution operations, it will be able to operate a 10 meters RHIB (in addition to an 8.5 meters rescue craft), a UAV, and carry two 20-foot containers in addition to accommodate up to 250 survivors for 24 hours. Specialized in the design, building and support of aluminium vessels up to 85 meters, the French OCEA shipyard delivered in December 2019 to the Philippines Navy its largest product, the OPV 270 named Gabriela Silang. Being the largest aluminiumhull OPV on the world market, it offers different benefits compared to steel constructions, including lower emissions, maintenance, acquisition and operating costs, according to OCEA. Over the 20 years of expected operations, the new lighter OPV design will burn 42% less fuel than an equivalent steel-hulled ship, corresponding to reduced CO2 emissions, which makes it a more environmental friendly platform. With a true 83.6 meters length and 15.4 meters beam, the OPV 270 baseline versions use conventional diesel propulsion with diesel-electric combination as an option, together with stabiliser fins offering improved seakeeping performances. Maximum speeds range from 20 to 25 knots while range is 8,000 nm at 12 knots. With a 35 members crew and accommodation for additional 35 berths, the OPV 270 features a 360° panoramic bridge with a separate large command and control (C2) centre, a 10 tonnes helicoptercapable flight deck and hangar for a 5 tonnes helicopter and small UAVs. Two 9 meters RHIBs are also available while the armament is based on a 20 or 30 mm main gun. In 2018, OCEA expanded its products portfolio, introducing the 72 meters OPV 230. This hybrid propulsion vessel uses electric propulsion about 60% of the time, resulting in a low environmental footprint. EDR | May/June 2021


The OCEA’s 83.6 meters OPV 270 platform, already in service with the Philippines Navy, is the largest aluminiumhull OPV on the world market. It offers different benefits compared to steel constructions, including lower emissions, maintenance, acquisition and operating costs, according to OCEA. © OCEA

The German Lürssen shipbuilding group has strengthened its worldwide positioning with recent successes on both domestic and export programmes. The defence division is currently offering an OPV family ranging from 80 to 90 meters, which are a further development of the Darussalam-class OPVs in service with the Royal Brunei Navy. In 2017, Lürssen Australia has been selected and subsequently awarded a contract as prime contractor and designer for the SEA 1180 programme regarding the construction, with ASC shipbuilder and Civmec group, of 12 OPVs for the Royal Australian Navy. Based on its OPV design family, the firstof-class is expected to be delivered in 2022.

With a 1,800 tonnes full load displacement, 80 meters length and 13 meters beam, they feature a propulsion system based on two MTU diesel engines providing a maximum speed of 22 knots and an endurance of 21 days. With a 40 members complement plus 20 additional accommodations, the Arafura-class OPVs have a stern helicopter flight deck with UAV capability but no helicopter hangar. Under the flight deck we find a mission modules bay and a 10 meters RHIB stern launch and recovery station alongside two 8.5 meters fast boats. The combat system is centred on Saab Australia CMS with a sensor suite including Saab Situation Awareness System (SAS) with EOS 500 EO fire control director, Terman Scanter 6002 radar and Safran Vigy Engage surveillance and fire control multi-sensor system. The armament includes a Leonardo 40 mm OTO Marlin 40 and two 12.7 mm machine guns. In addition to the 12 OPVs, the more recent Australian Defence Forces posture and recapitalisation plans include an enhanced mine warfare capability, with the acquisition of up to eight new vessels that may be based on the Arafura class OPV. The Lürssen group also won in November 2020 a contract by the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence to act as prime contractor and design provider for two Multipurpose Modular Patrol Vessels (MMPVs) to be built by local MTG Dolphin, which design could be a derivative of the OPV 90, although no comment was received from the company.

The Lürssen shipbuilding group has strengthened its worldwide market capabilities, providing with its Australian subsidiary its OPV 80 design for the Royal Australian Navy SEA 1180 programme. © Lürssen Australia


EDR | May/June 2021

The Fassmer shipbuilder has been awarded a contract by ASTINAVE EP shipyard in December 2019, to provide its MPV 70 Mk II design for the Ecuadorian Navy Multipurpose Combat Vessel programme. © Fassmer

The German Fassmer shipbuilder is continuing to find success with multirole OPV applications in the South American continent, and in December 2019 was awarded a contract by ASTINAVE EP shipyard for the Ecuadorian Navy Multipurpose Combat Vessel programme. The Fassmer’s MPV 70 Mk II design has been selected to provide a multipurpose platform capable to accomplish both support and patrol roles, providing fleetlevel asset optimization as well as enhanced capabilities for disaster relief and humanitarian aid. The new vessel will be built by ASTINAVE EP in Ecuador with design, engineering, technical support and materiel packages from Fassmer. According to released computer images, the MPCV design combines a forward ship section dedicated to the ship management and command, control, communications and combat duties with a 360° panoramic bridge and an integrated mast

with an extensive sensor suite together with a weapon package. The MPV70 Mk II design will feature ASTINAVE EP’s Orion combat management system and an integrated mast codeveloped by Virtualabs from Italy and ASTINAVE EP. The latter hosts a Virtualabs Searadar fixedfaces AESA 3D multifunction surveillance radar, a DESM-IM RESM, a CESA 32 IFF and multiband communications. The armament includes a Leonardo 76/62 mm Super Rapido main gun and two Rafael 25 mm Typhoon RWSs. The central and stern ship sections are respectively devoted to multi-purpose transportation and feature a large flight deck (11 tonnes helicopter capable), under which we find two launch and recovery stations for interceptor crafts. Amidship, the vessel can handle various containers (12 20-foot according to images) thanks to a high capable crane, and is designed with RAS (Replenishment At Sea) transfer systems to support other ships. The Fassmer contract comes after the success of the OPV 80 project with both the Chilean and Colombian navies respectively operating four and three vessels. Although worldwide known for its family of Stan Patrol vessels, ranging from 13 to over 60 meters, Netherlands-based Damen Shipyards group offers a latest generation larger OPV family, featuring both conventional as well as Sea Axe hull, the latter designed to reduce water resistance, enable superior seakeeping,

The latest customer for the Damen Shipyards’ latest generation family of OPVs is the Pakistan Navy, which in 2020 received two 2,300 tonnes multipurpose platforms build upon Damen 1900 design. © Damen

EDR | May/June 2021


Last January, the Navantia shipbuilding group was awarded a contract to deliver an OPV for the Royal Moroccan Navy based on an international tender. No further details were provided but according to local media, the OPV is based on the Avante 1400 version. © Navantia

and ensure sustained high speeds (max 25/26 knots) in high sea states. The latest customer is the Pakistan Navy, which in 2020 received two 2,300 tonnes multipurpose platforms build upon the Damen 1900 design, capable according to the shipbuilder to accomplish a variety of maritime operations in a complex environment. The new platforms, designated as corvettes by the Pakistan Navy, can launch two RHIBs of respectively 11.5 and 6.5 meters from stern and lateral launch and recovery stations, and have a flight deck for both helicopter and UAV operations. They can also accommodate two 20foot containers for special mission operations. Although no armament details were provided, EDR Magazine understood the two platforms are fitted for anti-surface warfare operations with guns and anti-ship missiles. Except for the smaller 62 meters and 1,000 tonnes OPV model, the new family of 75 meters (1,400 tonnes), 85 meters (1,800 tonnes), 95 meters (2,400 tonnes) and 103 meters (2,600 tonnes) platforms offered by Damen features a multi-mission bay capable to accommodate dedicated modules, in addition to two RHIBs, a stern flight deck with hangar capable to store an 11 tonnes NH-90 helicopter and a Boeing ScanEagle-size UAV, and a command-and-control centre (C2 Centre) located directly behind the bridge offering faster response and better maritime picture. The Spanish Navantia shipbuilder offers its Avante OPV family portfolio for both EEZ and homeland security missions, ranging from the 32

EDR | May/June 2021

Avante 300 to Avante 3000 tonnes platforms. The latest success regards the announcement by the Spanish Government on last January of an OPV contract for the Royal Moroccan Navy based on an international tender. No further details were provided on the selected platform, but according to local media, the OPV is part of the Avante family, with a displacement of about 1,500 tonnes and a length around 80 meters. In addition to the Meteoro-class 2,860 tonnes full load displacement Buque de Acciòn Maritima (BAM) combatant OPV (Avante 3000) for the Spanish Navy, Navantia delivered to the Venezuelan Navy between 2010 and 2012 four 2,250 tonnes full load displacement POVZEE (Patrullero Oceanico de Vigilancia) and four 1,500 tonnes full load displacement BVL (Buque de Vigilancia) OPVs. The Spanish group currently offers a range of platforms including more constabulary oriented Avante 1400 and 2200 and more combatant Avante 300, 1800, 2200 and 3000. With a 1,500 tonnes full load displacement, 79.9 meters length and 11 meters beam, the Avante 1400 design, already used for the BVL OPVs, features a flight deck for a medium-size type Eurocopter AS 565 Panther helicopter but no hangar, stern and side stations for three RHIBs and a propulsion system centred on two diesel engines providing an over 22 knots maximum speed. With a 35 units complement (and 29 extra accommodations), the Avante 1400 is offered with a combat system including a CMS with three multifunction consoles and a sensor suite with 2D air/surface radar, IFF, navigation radar, EO and radar FCSs,

A recent entry into the larger size OPV sector is the Italian Cantiere Navale Vittoria shipbuilder. Last February it launched a 75 meters platform under contract for the Armed Forces of Malta. © Cantiere Navale Vittoria

RESM and CESM, while the armament package includes a 76/62 mm Super Rapido main gun, one Rheinmetall 35 mm Millennium secondary gun and two 12.7 mm machine guns.

remotely controlled gun and machine-guns, while the navigation and mission sensors suite includes a 2D surveillance radar and satellite communications.

A recent entry into the larger size OPV sector, the Italian Cantiere Navale Vittoria shipbuilder launched last February a 75 meters platform under contract for the Armed Forces of Malta. With an 1,800 tonnes full load displacement, a 74.8 meters length and 13 meters beam, a crew complement of up to 50 units plus around 20 additional personnel, the P71 OPV’s prominent features include a 360° panoramic bridge, and a stern flight-deck without hangar for the Leonardo AW139 helicopter in service with AFMs. The OPV can operate two 9.1 meters RHIBs respectively from a stern and starboard launch-and-recovery station. The hybrid propulsion system is based on two diesel engines and two electrical motors offering together a maximum speed of over 20 knots. The P71 will be armed with a 25 mm

UK-based BAE Systems Maritime is proposing worldwide its 80 and 90 meters OPV family which found national and export success. Last January, the Royal Navy received the last of five OPVs built to the River-class Batch 2 standard. The latter differs from Batch 1 vessels for a 90 meters length and 2,000 tonnes displacement, a different above-water hullform shape and full width superstructures, a strengthened flight deck for operations with Leonardo Merlin-type helicopter and improved services together with additional accommodations (up to 50). The new platforms features a BAE Systems CMS-1 CMS with Shared Infrastructure operating system and a sensor suite centred on Terma Scanter 4100 2D radar, a 30 mm DS30M Mk2 RWS and two 7.62 mm miniguns and two general purpose machine guns.

Last January the Royal Navy received the last of five OPVs built to the River-class Batch 2 standard, further reinforcing the export potentialities of BAE Systems Maritime 80-90 meters OPVs. © UK Ministry of Defence – Crowncopyright

EDR | May/June 2021


MAGAZINE European Defence Review European Defence Review (EDR) is the first magazine in English focusing on defence issues with a European perspective and one which is fully managed by well-known journalists specialised in defence and security. EDR addresses every topic of the defence sector: equipment and industrial issues, armed forces and operations, but also strategic and political news concerning defence and security issues. Although the articles will be mainly focused on European topics, the review also discusses the main countrie’s partners of Europe and emerging markets: Russia, the Middle East, Brazil, India… EDR distributes during the major international defence trade fairs. The readers include military decision-makers, both political and industrial, from European countries as well as traditional or potential partners of the European defence community. Finally, EDR covers all of the major defence exhibitions worldwide; privileged accasions where policy makers, military and trade-related, are attending. N° 56 • March/April 2021

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