AUSA 2021: Companies, US Army leaders converge on Washington with new kit and program updates

by Ashley Roque

As Industry and US Army officials descend on Washington, DC, for the annual Association of the US Army conference (AUSA), running from 11-13 October, for the opportunity to mingle and show off new and improved defense technologies. Ashley Roque explores... 

Since last year’s event was virtual due to the ongoing pandemic, companies are racing to secure time with decision-makers to demo what they have been working on. A new administration has ushered in a sea of changes including the service’s first female civilian head, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth.

While Wormuth has only been at the army’s helm for several months, she has defended the six modernization priorities — long-range precision fires (LRPF), next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality. While industry may have let out a collective sigh of relief due to her support of these development areas, she has hinted at looming cuts in a bid to trim fat and army belt-tightening measures are not expected to ease up in the coming years. 

For example, the army’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget (not yet approved by Congress) cut USD3.6 billion over the FY 221 discretionary spending levels. This trend is expected to continue as the Pentagon looks for ways to fund navy modernization and increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

With these moving pieces and question marks, all eyes will be on Wormuth’s guidance during the show and hits from senior Pentagon leaders who will also be attending. 

This year’s AUSA event will also be filled with in-depth discussions about the service’s role around the globe and a wide array of personnel challenges. As for equipment, here are a few programmatic topics and technologies sure to be in abundance:

  • Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV): The army is now in its fourth attempt to field a M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) replacement, and in July awarded five companies  — American Rheinmetall Vehicle, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), a Hanwha Defense-Oshkosh Defense team, and Point Blank Enterprises— with 15-month concept design contracts. While there will be technology demonstrators at the show and chatter about potential proposals, nothing is solidified yet and these public concept photos are not representative of where teams may be headed.
  • Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA): Sikorsky and Boeing are competing with their Defiant X design against Bell and its V-280 tiltrotor for a covered FLRAA requirement. Army leaders are anticipated to select a winner in the second half of FY 2022. 
  • Counter-small unmanned aerial systems (C-sUAS): The US Department of Defense (DoD) designated the army as the executive agent for C-UAS and the service’s Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) is now leading the charge to identify and prioritize solutions to down drones. Numerous vendors and technologies will be displayed at this year’s AUSA event.
  • Common Tactical Truck: The service recently released a CTT request for information for a single line of trucks, in multiple variants, to replace its ageing fleet of Palletized Load System (PLS) vehicles, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs), and M915 tractors. Several vendors are attending the show with their potential offerings including Mack Defense with a modified version of its Granite truck (a tractor version based around the same chassis) and Rheinmetall with its next-generation HX3 tactical truck. Read more here
  • Robotic combat vehicles: While the army has selected to RCV prototypes, several companies will be showing off their respective RCVs at the show with tentative plans to enter them into a future RCV-light (RCV-L) and RCV-medium (RCV-M) competitions.
  • Mobile Howitzers: Last year several companies announced plans to have their mobile howitzers participate in a shoot off at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. With this event over, several vendors including BAE Systems with the Archer howitzer, and Elbit Systems with its 8×8 Autonomous Truck Mounted Ordnance System (ATMOS), dubbed Iron Sabre, will be at the show. 

Heading to AUSA 2021? We’re looking forward to showcasing our unique foundational intelligence. Chat to us by booking a meeting here, or stop by booth 6022 to understand how Janes interconnected intelligence can integrate with your own sources to produce a more complete situational awareness.



Venezuelan shipyards maintain repair deliveries for Venezuelan naval fleet

by Alejandro Sanchez

Venezuelan shipyards have fixed and returned four ships to the Venezuelan navy since late September.

The interceptor craft AB Capaya (LI-05) and AB Catatumbo (LI-03) were delivered back to the Venezuelan navy on 7 October, after undergoing maintenance at the service's Maintenance and Construction Directorate (Dirección de Mantenimiento y Construcción: DMACON).

Capaya and Catatumbo are two of the 10 small interceptor craft that are getting maintenance work by DMACON, the navy said on 29 September. The work and other craft have not been specified or verified, although the navy released photos of AB Arauca , assigned to the coastguard, when announcing the maintenance work.

On 25 September the coastal patrol boats AB Albatros (PG-33) and AB Alcaraván (PG-53) were also delivered. The ships underwent maintenance and repairs at the Venezuelan state-run shipyard Unidad Naval Coordinadora de los Servicios de Carenado, Reparaciones de Casco, Reparaciones y Mantenimiento de Equipos de y Sistemas de Buque (UCOCAR).

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US 5th Fleet vessels operate USVs for the first time

by Jeremy Binnie

A MANTAS T-12 USV operates alongside the Bahraini fast-attack craft RBNS Abdul Rahman al-Fadel (P 22) during Exercise ‘New Horizon' on 26 October. (US Naval Forces Central Command)

The new task force that the US Navy's 5th Fleet set up to pioneer unmanned systems demonstrated its role during an exercise that included Bahraini naval and coastguard vessels.

The 5th Fleet announced on 26 October that the two-day Exercise ‘New Horizon' involved Task Force 59 integrating unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) with manned vessels for the first time in its area of operations.

The first day of the exercise involved operators controlling MANTAS T-12 USVs from USS Firebolt, while the second day involved Bahraini navy and coastguard vessels, as well as a US Coast Guard cutter, a V-BAT vertical take-off unmanned aerial vehicle, and an SH-60S Seahawk helicopter.

“This is a significant milestone for our new task force as we accelerate the integration of unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into complex, cross-domain operations at sea,” said Captain Michael Brasseur, commander of Task Force 59, which was established on 9 September.

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UK funds TRED-H demonstrator for organic fire support

by Richard Scott

The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has tasked aviation systems house Callen-Lenz Associates to develop, build, and flight test an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) concept demonstrator designed to deliver an organic fire support capability for a small team.

A GBP5 million (USD6.9 million) contract for the Tactical Remote Effects Delivery-Heavy (TRED-H) project was placed by Dstl at the end of September. However, the contract – awarded to Callen-Lenz Associates under the pre-existing RCloud framework agreement – only came to light in a transparency notice published on 26 October.

According to details contained in a heavily redacted statement of requirements released as part of the transparency notice, TRED-H is designed to provide “a responsive, cost-effective, and proportional organic fire support capability that can be controlled and tasked by the deployed team that requires it”. Fitted with a suite of engagement options, the deployed unit should be able to conduct a rapid and accurate response to emerging threats.

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