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We spoke to Senior Analyst Ruchi Chaturvedi about the key developments, challenges and opportunities facing the global military market today. Part 1 of this Q&A focuses on the biggest developments in the three key areas of Army, Navy and Airforce.
Q: What have been the most remarkable developments in the global military market over the past decade? How have these influenced the market, and what further developments can we expect?
Defense cuts, combined with a substantial increase in the cost of developing technologically superior weapons platforms, have encouraged collaboration between governments, services, and industries. This has led to an increase in joint development and procurement programs, which are expected to continue over the next 10 years. Defense equipment manufacturers are continuously working towards developing new technologies in an effort to enhance the efficiency and survivability of soldiers. Major Military Developments in the past decade have taken roots across all the Military categories i.e., Army, Navy and Air Force.
Migration to wheeled platforms from tracked platforms
Historically heavy armored vehicles such as MBTs and IFVs have been built on tracked platforms while wheeled vehicles are majorly used for light reconnaissance or armed area control operations. However, more recently several countries, primarily in the North American and European regions, are increasingly adopting wheeled vehicles instead of procuring new tracked vehicles. African nations are adopting them to suit their hard terrain while the US and several European countries are procuring them for internal operational requirements as well as for export purposes. The market for wheeled armored vehicles particularly picked up since the 1990s with the US and several European countries taking a major initiative to replace their tracked APCs with wheeled platforms. The growing popularity of wheeled vehicles can be attributed to their better mobility and lightweight, which results in improved combat capability in a battlefield. Additionally wheeled vehicles also require lower operational and maintenance costs, while ensuring a longer operational life.
The trend of migration from tracked to wheeled vehicles can be seen with several European countries undertaking large scale procurement of wheeled armored vehicles. For instance, France is procuring 2000 LMVs at a cost of US$5.7 billion, with the first deliveries expected in 2018. Besides, Russia is also migrating towards wheeled vehicles by procuring BTR-82A advanced 8x8 APCs and Boomerang 8x8 armored vehicles. In addition to European nations, the US is undertaking the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) program under which the country plans to procure 49099 light tactical wheeled vehicles by 2035. Middle Eastern countries such as UAE have also shown interest in adopting wheeled vehicles through its plan to purchase 6X6 and 4X4 Nimr APCs and Multi-Purpose Combat Vehicles.
Precision Extended Range Munition
Through Raytheon, the US Government is executing the Precision Extended Range Munition (PERM) program for the US Marine Corps. Under the program, the company designed extended range, 120mm guided mortar shells to be used in the primary weapon of the US Army’s Expeditionary Fire Support Services (EFSS). The company successfully fired four PERM 120mm guided projectiles during testing in December 2014. The PERMs are expected to possess numerous advantages over the existing Mortar Ammunition such as extended range, precision, and operational flexibility. Due to their control system, these all-weather capable munitions also nullify any errors caused by gun emplacement.
Invented by UNC Charlotte professor Yuliang Zheng, Signcryption has become one of the most important technology developments in the cyber security domain. The technology protects confidentiality and authenticity by preventing usernames and passwords from being seen by unauthorized individuals. Smaller communication devices, such as smartphones, PDAs, and emerging technologies, such as radio frequency identifiers (RFID), wireless sensor networks and Electro-Optical sensors, used in the defense industry, are making use of this new technology for securing confidential data and information.
Machine Learning Technology
In 2009, Ai-one Inc., a US firm specializing in artificial intelligence (AI), discovered a new form of machine learning, which had profound implications in the field of cyber warfare. R&D work was carried out extensively for two years, after which the machine learning technology was made commercially available in 2011. This technology is based on the premise that the loopholes in the source code, which are utilized by attackers while hacking into systems, can be neutralized by early detection even before the attack happens. Machine learning will find its application in Fraud Detection & Analysis, Identity & Access Management, Data Mining, and Network security among others.
Collimated Display System
This system offers improved display performance over traditional products, by using additional optics (mirrors and lenses) to manipulate the focus. These are much more expensive and create a more realistic scenario compared to rear-projected displays, where images are projected onto segmented screen panels to create the illusion of the outside world. In this area of technology, projectors have undergone a process of rapid evolution with the emergence of LCD light valve technology, micro mirror technology, and most recently, laser projector technology.
Infrared Thermography (IRT)
This is a form of biometrics that uses the pattern of blood vessels located just beneath the skin of a person to identify. Although fingerprints, facial, and iris/retina scans are the most popular biometric solutions currently in use, there is an ample chance of forging the database, as these techniques involve scanning fingers or taking pictures of face or eyes. However, according to a team of researchers at Jadavpur University in India, the blood vessel patterns, located just beneath the skin of a person’s face, are as unique as a fingerprint and iris, at the same time almost impossible to forge.
Stealth technology in naval warships
Although stealth technology has historically been used in aircraft, its use in radar signals, and are designed with more angles in the hull and superstructure to reduce radar detection.
Swedish corvette HMS Visby (K31) is the first ship to use stealth technology extensively, while the Zumwalt-class destroyer DDG-1000 is a multi-mission ship being built for the US Navy, which will have stealth technology. The Indian Navy is also building Shivalik-class stealth frigates, which have low observability, enhanced seakeeping, integrated combat systems, and enhanced shipboard automation.
Ballistic missile defense capabilities in naval warships
Recent years has witnessed various countries upgrading their fleet of naval warships including frigates, cruisers, destroyers, and amphibious ships with ballistic missile defense capabilities. With various countries currently involved in border disputes and other geo-political conflicts, governments are upgrading their naval vessels with anti-ballistic missiles to combat existing threats. Facing considerable ballistic missile threats from adversaries, the US and the prominent countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East are spending robustly to equip their warships with integrated air defense combat systems. One of the major programs highlighting this trend is the modernization of 22 cruisers and 62 destroyers by the US. With an estimated cost of US$16.6 billion, the program includes the installation of Aegis ballistic missile combat system on 62 destroyers and 10 cruisers. Concurrently, Russia is overhauling its Admiral Nakhimov nuclear-powered cruiser with a view of equipping it with P-800 Yakhont (SS-N-26) anti-ship cruise missiles, an advanced air defense missile systems based on the land-based S-400 Triumf, and new point-defense systems. Another major program is the upgrading of six Aegis Destroyers by the Japanese Maritime Self–Defense Force.
New barrier technology to protect ships in harbor
The US Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Halo Maritime Defense Systems have jointly developed a new maritime security barrier to protect warships in harbor. The new Halo Barrier system, which could provide a quantum leap in existing sea-port protection, provides protection to ships against speeding attack vessels in port and requires less manpower and lower maintenance. The Halo barrier has undergone a series of crash-tests using a full-size speedboat and validated its increased protection capability by stopping the high-speed speedboat almost instantly.
Fifth Generation Fighters
Fifth Generation fighters are the latest technical achievement in the military aircraft domain with only the F-22 Raptor being the verified and operational model. Differentiating factors of these aircraft include stealth features, cruising a supersonic speeds and hence more powerful engines and C4ISR capabilities which fuse several sources of information into one single picture for the pilot. Several other countries are trying to come out with their own versions of the 5th generation fighter aircraft. Examples of 5th generation fighters under development include: the US’ F-35 Lightning II, Russian T-50 PAK FA, Japan’s X-2 Shinshin, China’s J-XX, Turkey’s TFX/FX and South Korea’s KFX.
Solar and Laser Powered UAVs
Solar powered UAVs stand as the latest revelation within the market in light of their better endurance capabilities and low maintenance costs. Owing to the high endurance, the solar-powered UAVs have the ability to provide real-time, high-quality surveillance for larger geographical areas, and for extended periods of time. With solar panels mounted on the wings that recharge the electric motors, making them capable of being in air for days.
The next major advancement in UAV technology is the development of laser-powered UAVs that offers unlimited endurance and continuous surveillance. These UAVs are designed to be capable of staying airborne for their entire lifecycle as their method of recharging avoids the need to land and refuel. This is achieved through the process under which, in place of conventional fuels, the UAVs are powered by a laser transmitter which converts power from a primary source, such as a battery, generator, or AC power-line, into a single-wavelength beam of light In addition to the aforementioned, UAVs are no longer restricted specifically to surveillance and attack roles. Future UAVs that are being developed include bomber UAVs, carrier based UAVs and helicopter UAVs.
Latest innovations in the rotorcraft platform include the Eurocopter X3 which emphasizes speed and is quite an improvement on existing helicopters regarding speed. Eurocopter intends the chopper to be used for search-and-rescue, border patrol, Special Forces operations, and troop transport. The design varies from standard helicopters given the two propellers on the sides of the craft both stabilize the helicopter and deliver enhanced speed. Another innovative design is the Sikorsky S-97 Raider. A huge innovation in this model is a clutched propeller in the back, replacing the typical propeller configuration and allowing for huge increases in speed.
Technological developments are facilitating the advancement of the global military market, resulting in greater land vehicle mobility, ship stealth capacities, more comprehensive cyber security and warfare solutions, and faster aircraft. As Ruchi pointed out, defense cuts and increased costs have led to collaborations between governments, services and industries, and the creation of innovative military technologies. Remember to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this Q&A, when Ruchi will discuss military UAVs and the challenges this market faces.
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