DSEI 2021: UK reveals contracts for new directed-energy weapon demonstrators

by Richard Scott & Peter Felstead

A computed-generated image of what a Wolfhound laser-based C-UAV system could look like. (Raytheon UK)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed the award of three contracts for the development and demonstration of experimental directed-energy weapon (DEW) systems.

Awarded to industry consortia led by Raytheon UK and Thales UK, the contracts – covering laser and radio frequency (RF) capability demonstrators for the British Army and the Royal Navy (RN) – are collectively valued at GBP72.5 million (USD100.3 million). Forming part of the MoD's wider Novel Weapons Programme, the systems will be integrated onto existing platforms for user experimentation from 2023.

DEW systems are powered by electricity and operate without ammunition, thus significantly reducing operating costs, increasing platform endurance, and providing a high degree of offensive and defensive flexibility. Their pinpoint targeting and scalable effects also reduce the risk of collateral damage.

Announcing the contracts at DSEI 2021, Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said DEW systems constitute “a key element of our future equipment programmes” and that the UK aspires “to become a world leader in the research, manufacture, and implementation of this next-generation technology”.


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Smallsat firm BlackSky goes public

by Marc Selinger

BlackSky, which is fielding a small-satellite constellation to monitor rapid changes on Earth for defence and intelligence agencies and commercial customers, has become a publicly held company, raising USD283 million to fuel its growth, the US-based firm announced on 10 September.

BlackSky altered its ownership status by merging with special purpose acquisition company Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp, which already had a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The combined company has been renamed BlackSky Technology, and its ticker symbol is ‘BKSY'.

BlackSky plans to use the proceeds to expand its workforce, build and launch satellites, and develop more advanced data analytics software. It expects to have 14 satellites on orbit by year's end.

The constellation is scheduled to grow to 23 high-resolution satellites by the end of 2023, providing the ability to monitor “the most important locations on Earth every 60 minutes from dawn to dusk”, according to BlackSky. The company announced in June that it would create a UK office “to address growing international opportunities”.


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AFA 2021: US TRANSCOM awards Rolls-Royce contract for air refuelling management software prototype

by Pat Host

The US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) has awarded Rolls-Royce a USD800,000 contract to demonstrate and continue developing air refuelling asset management software, according to a company statement.

The Rolls-Royce Air Refueling Optimization and Planning System (AROPS) is intended to increase air tanker availability and eliminate inefficiencies caused by disconnected systems and process challenges within a highly complex air refuelling enterprise. Nadine Melind, services executive for Rolls-Royce Digital Services, told Janes on 15 September, ahead of the Air Force Association's (AFA's) annual conference, that this is because the current air refuelling enterprise is a mix of software packages and general communication methods, such as email, mobile phone text messages, spreadsheets, and whiteboards.

The idea is to standardise the toolset to make it faster, more efficient, repeatable, and feature more effective communication, Melind said. Rolls-Royce's AROPS software will be more agile and will optimise assets for mission requirements, she added.


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DSEI 2021: Saudi Arabia continuing to build on engagement opportunities for foreign suppliers

by Charles Forrester

Saudi Arabia is continuing to promote inward investment and contracting opportunities in its defence industry, His Excellency Ahmad Abdulaziz Al-Ohali, Governor of the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), told Janes during the DSEI 2021 trade show in London.

“We have identified that we have up to 74 supply chain opportunities that branch into hundreds of billions of dollars of opportunities worldwide,” Al-Ohali said. “This represents a green-field environment for people who want to invest and who want to join our journey.”

The formal release of the Industrial Participation Program (IPP) in 2020 has allowed the country to codify its requirements and engagement with foreign suppliers, linking offset obligations to defence procurements. The focus on growing Saudi industry has been a key aspect of the IPP as part of efforts to grow the country's sovereign capabilities.


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https://www.janes.com/defence-news/c4isr-command-tech/latest/dsei-2021-uk-reveals-contracts-for-new-directed-energy-weapon-demonstrators

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed the award of three contracts for the development and d...

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