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ENGAGEMENT ZONE! The ADF’s ground-based air defence capabilities are about to get serious!

by Andrew McLaughlin

Not since the Bristol Bloodhound system of the 1960s has the Australian Defence Force (ADF) possessed a land-based anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile (SAM) system with a beyond-visual-range (BVR) defence capability.

The RAAF’s ramjet and rocket-powered Bloodhound entered service in 1961 and, at 27ft long and weighing in at 5,000lbs, was a large missile. It boasted a range of up to 180km, but by 1968 was considered obsolete and ineffective against manoeuvring targets or against even rudimentary onboard electronic warfare systems.

The Australian Army’s 16th Air Land Regiment picked up the SAM mission, initially with the very limited range Redeye man-portable air defence (MANPAD) system, and then with the acquisition of the British Aerospace Rapier short-range air defence (SHORAD) system in 1980.

But Rapier was designed to defend beach-heads, insertion points and regimental headquarters against low-flying aircraft, and had a short range of less than 10km meaning it had limited application beyond a point-defence role. In the early 1980s, Redeye was replaced with the SAAB Bofors RBS-70 MANPAD.

The fixed launcher Rapier was replaced in service by additional RBS 70 equipment acquired in the mid-2000s. This was accompanied with the introduction of an improved missile, which gave RBS 70 a similar range to Rapier.

The RBS-70 has been continually upgraded in service and remains a capable short-range system. But with the proliferation of long-range air, surface and sub-surface launched threats in the Indo-Pacific region, the ADF’s platforms, people and infrastructure requires much higher levels of protection.

The RAAF operated the massive Bristol Bloodhound in the 1960s, but it was largely ineffective against low-flying manoeuvring threats. (DEFENCE)

The Rapier was a fixed system with limited range. (DEFENCE)

Despite upgrades, the RBS-70 lacks the range and flexibility required against modern long-range stand-off threats. (DEFENCE)

In April 2017, Government approved the development of what it describes as a short-range ground-based air-defence (SRGBAD) system to improve protection for deployed personnel under Defence’s Project LAND 19 Phase 7B requirement.

Through this Gate 1 process and using Defence’s new ‘Smart Buyer’ risk-based decision-making framework, a single-supplier limited request for tender was released to Raytheon Australia as prime system integrator (PSI) for the Raytheon/KONGSBERG National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS). Valued at up to $2 billion, the project will provide the innermost layer of an enhanced Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) capability, and will be operated by Army’s 16th Air Land Regiment.

“A modern and integrated ground-based air-defence system is needed to protect our deployed forces from increasingly sophisticated air threats, both globally and within our region,” Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne said in the announcement release. “Australia’s current short-range capability is 30 years old and due to be retired early next decade. The replacement system will provide improved protection for our deployed servicemen and women.”

NASAMS is a state-of-the-art integrated defence system that will maximise the ADF’s ability to quickly detect, engage, and destroy existing and evolving aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missile threats. NASAMS has been integrated into the US’ National Capital Region’s air defense system since 2005, and is in service with seven nations, including Norway, Spain, Oman, Finland, and The Netherlands, while it has also been ordered by Lithuania and Indonesia. The capability is adaptable and can utilise different launchers, radar and other sensor technologies, and missile types.

“The Raytheon offering draws on a common launch rail that can make effective use of multiple weapons from existing ADF inventory,” Raytheon Australia Managing Director Michael Ward said in a company statement at the time.

“As the prime systems integrator, our solution will provide short and medium-range defence capability using in-service multipurpose Raytheon AMRAAM missiles, and potentially AIM-9X missiles, providing a system to meet Army’s ground-based air and missile defence requirements.”

The AMRAAM’s range and the ability to intercept targets beyond visual range is a key driver towards having the LAND 19 Phase 7B solution fully integrated with emerging ADF Integrated Air and Missile Defence programs.

The air-launched version of the AIM-120C5/7 and later versions of AMRAAM reportedly have a range exceeding 100km. Even without the kinetic benefits of being launched from a fighter aircraft at altitude, the ground-launched AMRAAM will still be capable of intercepting BVR targets, putting its capabilities well beyond the traditional “short-range” category the ADF has filled with its Rapier and RBS‑70 systems.

“Whilst we’re talking about this being a ‘short-range’ system, the main effector for the capability will be AMRAAM,” Michael Ward told ADBR. “This a significant step forward for Army capability, even the surface-launched AMRAAM gives you some considerable range when compared to RBS-70.”

Risk mitigation

Raytheon Australia signed a $12.1m contract with the Commonwealth in October 2017 to conduct a comprehensive risk mitigation activity (RMA) for LAND 19 Phase 7B.

The RMA investigations conducted in conjunction with CEA Technologies and Thales Australia included incorporating the system into the Australian environment, and the potential integration of a CEA phased array radar to the system. One of the key tasks assessed the feasibility of integrating the system aboard vehicles in-service with the Australian Army including the Thales Hawkei and Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, and the new family of medium and heavy trucks.

“Whilst the Australian NASAMS system will come with a Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (or C-RAM) Sense, Warn and Locate capability, we also did look at potential intercept solutions available through a C-RAM Effector study,” Mr Ward said. “Whilst this is not part of the core requirement, this looks at capability options that may be brought into the system at some point in the future.

“If you look at it, there are some significant changes being explored to Australianise the system,” he added. “First off, it will potentially have a CEA radar. One of the key RMA activities contracted separately was for CEA to produce the prototype of their tactical radar to prove that it could be incorporated into the system.

“Secondly, the system will be integrated onto Australian vehicles, and third it will be integrated into the existing ADF command and control network,” he added.

The RMA demonstrated the suitability of current Army communications and tactical data links, thus minimising the impact on Army’s current systems. “The other thing that we did during this mitigation is conduct the first round of system familiarisation for Army. We’ve run two training courses now, and we’ve received feedback from those courses so that we can trial suggested improvements.

“Where we are at now, we’ve just completed the risk mitigation activity on the program and completed the initial round of engagement with Australian industry,” Mr Ward added. “We’re just in the process now of working with the Commonwealth to finalise the solution options which they’ll then take to Gate 2 in early 2019.”

In parallel with the RMA, Raytheon Australia also engaged extensively with Australian industry, initially through a web portal and then at supplier showcases and networking events in the capital cities

“As the proposed PSI for Army’s SRGBAD capability under LAND 19 Ph 7B, Raytheon Australia’s solution has a strong focus on Australian industry participation and the creation of local employment opportunities,” an October 2017 company statement read. “We are dedicated to the identification of opportunities for Australian industry to participate in the project and enhance local industry capabilities.

“As part of this process we will implement an Australian Industry Capability (AIC) development plan to identify Australian suppliers who are able to support activities in areas such as component manufacture, assembly and test, systems integration and in-country sustainment for LAND 19 Ph 7B. This will also identify opportunities for Australian industry to support future NASAMS programs across the globe.”

Ward says the majority of the Fire Distribution Centre and passive EO/IR sensor sub-system work will be done in Australia, with local assembly and integration of almost all sub-systems components. Many components would also be locally sourced.

As suggested above, Raytheon is also keen to point out that elements of the Australian NASAMS solution are likely to be of interest to other current and future operators of the system around the world, so the supply chain possibilities are truly global.

“We’ve engaged with more than 200 suppliers across the country and are working through now whether we’re going to have additional competitions,” Mr Ward said. “And obviously, that provides export opportunities.

“I think one of the main opportunities for export of the solution that we’re talking about for Australia, is some of the individual components,” he added. “The EO/IR systems for example would be a good export prospect to other countries that already use NASAMS or countries that in the future want to acquire NASAMS, because that’ll give it a very capable sensor package.

“There are a couple of other things we are doing for Australia that other countries could look at, whether it be the CEA radar, or the high mobility launcher (HML) integrated on the Hawkei protected vehicle solution.”

An Australian NASAMS

“We are going to put forward two options to Defence for consideration, from which they will develop a business case to take forward to Government,” said Mr Ward.

“One of those is a baseline NASAMS solution, the solution you would see if you went to a NASAMS user somewhere in the world. Fundamentally, that will be a battery operations centre, a fire distribution centre, a Sentinel radar, the canister launchers, and the AMRAAM as the effector. We could also incorporate the legacy Giraffe radars as a third-party sensor for RAM detection.”

The other option is an enhanced NASAMS solution which brings new technology and Australian content. “That also comes with the battery operation centre and the fire distribution centre,” Mr Ward added. “But it adds a CEA tactical radar and, if successfully prototyped, a CEA operational radar which provides greater range, and an EO/IR sensor.”

CEA Technologies unveiled the CEATAC radar prototype mounted on a Hawkei PMV at LAND FORCES 2018 in Adelaide. (ANDREW MCLAUGHLIN)

This option also includes both the MkII canister launchers and high mobility launchers which are capable of launching AMRAAM and AIM-9X missiles. The Mk II canister launcher will also be able to launch the developmental AMRAAM-ER.

“What that means is it gives you much more flexibility,” he said. “One example is to use different missiles for different missions. A move to AMRAAM-ER which is not part of this project, would allow you to extend the range of this into the medium-range requirement envelope. There would be no change to the system other than a change of effector.”

The HML is a lightweight missile launch platform designed to carry four to six AMRAAMs mounted on a vehicle in the class of the HMMWV or Hawkei, whilst the Canister launcher will be carried by the HX77 trucks. Army is considering both launcher options.

Mr Ward said “The HML mounted on the back of a Hawkei vehicle would give Army greater mobility than they would get out of a canister launcher, but the canister also has a number of advantages. A mix of both is optimal.”

The proposed enhanced NASAMS configuration’s primary sensor will be a CEA Technologies phased array radar which will be supplied to Raytheon as government furnished equipment through the newly established Advanced Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) Systems Project Office (SPO) within CASG.

Mr Ward says the CEA radar will be smaller and more mobile than the truck-mounted ground-based multi-mission radar (GBMMR) system displayed by CEA at recent trade shows. “It sits on a Hawkei vehicle, so it’s much smaller than what you would have seen previously,” he said.

Another key element of the enhanced NASAMS configuration is the integration of a passive MTS-A electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensor with the system. “We’ve completed the design for the EO/IR sensor on the back of the Hawkei,” Mr Ward said. “The sensor will operate in a ground mode, so we’ll package it in a Tricon container and mount it on the back of the Hawkei.

“It’s integrated with the fire distribution centre, so fundamentally you drive up, you extend the mast and exercise your data link with the fire distribution centre, and you are operating and the package remotely hides. So, you are going to end up with a very good radar combination, a very good passive sensor, and of course the potential of two different types of effectors.”

The re-packaging and integration work for the MTS-A will be completed in Australia. “We’re not creating a new sensor, but the application is unique to Australia,” said Ward. To conduct this integration work as well as ongoing development work on this and other programs, Raytheon plans to establish a Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) in Adelaide.

Wider opportunities

While the ranges for the short and medium-range systems haven’t been defined, Ward says there is a strong understanding of where each project will fit. “What we understand is, the inner tier is the short-range GBAD which is LAND 19, the middle tier is medium-range GBAD which is AIR 6500, and then the outer tier will fundamentally be provided by the Air Warfare Destroyers and possibly other things.”

The selection of Raytheon Australia as PSI on the SRGBAD program opens up possibilities for common elements from the company’s stable or those of its team-mates to be adapted to the other ADF IAMD programs.

“While the LAND 19 solution is being delivered for Army, of course its command and control has to be integrated into the ADF’s wider IAMD environment,” Mr Ward said. “As it stands at the moment, AIR6500 Phase 2 will be a medium-range Ground-Based Air and Missile Defence which is currently planned for Air Force.

“I think the thing which could be common across LAND 19, AIR 6500 Phase 2, and the SEA 4100 Phase 2 Land Based Maritime Strike, is the C2 element,” he said. “Another possibility is the CEA radar, however those decisions are up to the Commonwealth to make.”

Raytheon has several other products in its portfolio which would be considered for AIR 6500, including the previously-mentioned AMRAAM-ER which could be added to LAND 19 with the MkII cannister solution. It also has the combat-proven Patriot surface-to-air missile system which has a genuine anti-ballistic missile capability and has been integrated with numerous sensors including a new Raytheon-developed Gallium Nitride (GaN) AESA radar which could easily make way for a CEA system.

Raytheon already has a teaming arrangement in place with Kongsberg for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which is being considered for SEA 4100, and the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) which is a strong contender for the RAAF’s future anti-ship missile requirement to equip the F-35.

IOC for the LAND 19 Phase 7B system is currently scheduled for mid-2023, at which time Army will have taken delivery of a quantity of NASAMS fire units and training assets, and the first cadre of operators will have been trained and certified.

This feature story appeared in the September-October 2018 issue of ADBR.

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