Leonardo secures £293 million Apache fleet contract

The MOD has awarded a five-year, multi-million-pound deal to Leonardo Helicopters (UK) for the support of the existing fleet of 50 Apache attack helicopters.

Defence Minister Stuart Andrew announced the £293 million contract with Leonardo Helicopters during a visit to the company’s site in Yeovil where some of the vital work on the aircraft will take place. The Apache AH MK1 Integrated Operational Support (IOS) contract will maintain the fleet until it’s out of service date in March 2024.

The Apache MK1 is being incrementally replaced by the latest Apache AH-64E aircraft that will begin entering service with the British Army in 2022. The new AH-64E model will have improved sensors and avionics as well as greater performance that will enable the Army to sustain its battle-winning capabilities in future operations.

DPRTE Official Partner: DE&S

The IOS contract secured by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) includes deep maintenance, repair and overhaul of the MK1 aircraft as well as the provision of technical and spares support. The contract has been awarded in three tranches, to maintain value for money, with this latest investment covering the final five years of the fleet in service.

Director Helicopters at DE&S, Graham Russell, said: “This latest multi-million-pound investment in the existing Apache fleet not only demonstrates our positive collaboration with industry in achieving value for money, but also ensures that these battle-proven helicopters remain in-service and readily available for the British Army until their out of service date.”

image © Crown Copyright

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University of Sheffield to study bomb explosions to improve protection

Engineers at the University of Sheffield are getting to the heart of what happens inside an explosion, in a new project aimed at improving the design of bomb protection systems.

The team will be measuring explosions ‘up close’, gathering detailed information from inside the fireball of different types of blast and different environmental conditions, ranging from a land mine to a bomb exploding close to a building.

As global threats from terrorist attacks or from armed conflict increase each year, effective materials, buildings and other structures that can withstand a blast are vital to increase public safety. Despite this, little data has been gathered from actual bomb blasts, so engineers have to rely on computer modelling when designing protection systems.

“Just like earthquakes and hurricanes, real world explosions are unpredictable,” explains lead investigator, Professor Andy Tyas, an expert in blast and impact engineering in the University’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering.

“Seismic and wind engineers have designed tests to predict how buildings and other structures will respond to these natural disasters, but it’s much harder to do this for explosions.

“Although blast engineers do test structures and materials to assess their protection capability, there’s a lot of debate about the reliability of these tests and a heavy reliance on computer modelling of explosions. That’s because we don’t really know what’s going on inside the blast, so we can’t tell for sure how repeatable the tests are.”

The £1.2 million project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will be carried out at the University’s research facilities, in Buxton. The first step will be to improve and adapt the CoBL (Characterisation of Blast Loading) testing equipment, previously used by Professor Tyas and his team to measure the output from shallow buried landmines. New technologies will enable the apparatus to carry out direct measurements of the blast load, in both space and time, to provide detailed data on the aggressive environment after an explosive is detonated very close to a target.

Professor Tyas said: “Only by understanding the complex physics and fundamental chemical reactions at play inside the explosion fireball, can we allow our engineers a better understanding of blast loading. These insights will help us design better systems to protect people around the world from explosive attacks.”

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Welsh Government and Thales to work together on £20m cyber centre

The Welsh Government is working with Thales to establish a £20m cyber centre which will sit at the heart of its Tech Valleys programme, Economy Minister Ken Skates has announced.

The National Digital Exploitation Centre (NDEC) will be the first research and development facility of its kind in Wales, and will provide the perfect setting for SMEs and microbusinesses to test and develop their digital concepts.

It will also provide a research lab in which big multi nationals can develop major technology advances and will connect Wales to major tech centres across the UK and globally.

Not only will the cyber centre help Wales to exploit the global opportunities of digital transformation, it will also equip businesses with the skills and knowledge they need to win a greater share of large regional and national projects.

The NDEC, located in Blaenau Gwent, will be delivered by Thales in collaboration with the University of South Wales (USW).

The University will run an Advanced Cyber Institute at the Centre that will provide a base for major, multi million pound academic research and will also operate a Digital Education Centre that will enable SMEs, schools and individuals with the skills they need to protect themselves online.

As well as providing a vital facility for Welsh SMEs and academic research, the NDEC will also root technology giant Thales firmly in the South Wales valleys. The centre will be managed by a small team, some of whom have already been recruited from the local community.

Both the Welsh Government and Thales have committed £10m each to the project which is expected to generate significant income. All elements, apart from the educational aspects of the centre, are expected to be fully self-sufficient within five years.

Announcing the Welsh Government’s partnership with Thales, Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “I am delighted that the Welsh Government is working in partnership with global technology company Thales on a new £20m cyber centre that will be located in Blaenau Gwent and right at the heart of our Tech Valleys project.

“The centre will help ensure that Wales exploits the global opportunities of digital transformation, provide a base for ground breaking research and will equip businesses of all shapes and sizes with the skills and knowledge they need to win a greater share of large regional and national projects.

“I am confident that through our partnership with Thales and the University of South Wales we will work to stimulate and create employment in high value technology businesses – an ambition that is right at the heart of our Tech Valleys project.”

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Saab takes sensor technology to bold new heights

In this article defence features writer Robert Atherton speaks exclusively to Saab about the evolution of radar, the company’s 21st century sensor tech and the critical importance of the UK marketplace.

All too often the name of the long-established Swedish defence and security company, Saab, is associated foremost with its former automotive spin-off, and not without reason – the car business is still looked back on as one of the world’s most recognisable brands. But if you’re at all familiar with the defence and security sector you will know that the company’s enduring presence is as a long-standing pillar of the defence industry, having pioneered state-of-the-art sensor technology over the past 60 years.

Saab first took shape in 1937, and has served the defence and security sector ever since – initially as a manufacturer of military aircraft for the Swedish Air Force. Today, that remit has broadened significantly, with a full spectrum offer and a 16,000-strong workforce. Saab now operates across the globe, boasting an annual turnover of around SEK 31 billion, of which around 23% is reinvested into various R&D initiatives each year. Crucially, this pattern of continued reinvestment has enabled Saab to make major surveillance inroads, specifically around state-of-the-art sensor technology.

Sea Giraffe on a Visby Corvette

It’s here that the company has established itself as a world leader, with diverse sensor capabilities that span the land, sea and air domains. What’s interesting, however, is that this expertise has been shaped by the complexities of the Swedish coastline and the Baltic littorals that historically made navigation an uneasy prospect. It’s an ingenuity born of actual need, and it has driven Saab to carve out an innovative range of sensor-related technology.

Undoubtedly, innovation is essential in the sensor space. If commanders are to react and respond to threats in real time, sensor technology must keep pace with the cutting edge. And so, through new approaches, Saab hopes to hand back the reins to the commanders themselves, affording them greater latitude when time and space are in short supply. Here, adaptability is key; with recent innovations enhancing the range, accuracy and mobility of land sensors in response to a noticeable rise in manoeuvre warfare.

“At Saab we exploit our technology across multiple domains which allows us to transfer lessons learned from any one product or environment into all our products very quickly,” said Andy Thomson, Saab’s UK Director of Land Surveillance Marketing and Sales.

But what should commanders expect from a 21st century radar system? Chiefly, that it’s multifunctional. It is no longer enough to have siloed land, sea and air surveillance. Cutting-edge technology allows all three to be integrated, and today’s commanders expect nothing less. Here, Saab’s use of innovative AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) technology has allowed the business to boost the flexibility of its sensor tech and integrate key software upgrades to enable clients to take the initiative when new threats emerge.

“We’re very familiar with open architectures and interoperability,” continued Thomson. “We have consistently demonstrated our ability to integrate our sensors into other people’s systems, and from a UK perspective we have an established track record integrating our sensors into existing and future UK-based weapon and C2 systems.”


Chief among Saab’s surveillance offering is GlobalEye, an iteration of the Erieye radar system, which has found widespread success in the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) marketplace. GlobalEye is something of a two-hander. It pairs the powerful Erieye extended range radar with the modified ultra-long range Global 6000 jet aircraft from Bombardier, delivering a single centralised solution for air, maritime and ground surveillance in the process.

According to Matthew Smith, UK Director Airborne Surveillance Marketing and Sales at Saab: “With Erieye ER (extended range), the goal is to detect everything from very slow, even stationary targets such as hovering helicopters, right the way through to extremely high-speed hypersonic, dynamic targets – both close-up and a long way away. It really is a quite demanding set of requirements.”

But for Erieye ER to fully meet the needs, both present and future, of the defence community, a comprehensive programme of research and development would first be required: “We arrived at Erieye ER following a ten-year R&D initiative,” added Smith, “to ensure we understood how the threat was evolving, where the market was going, and the kinds of capabilities our customers would require in the future.”

Thus, Erieye ER is a true multi-role system – one able to occupy either dedicated or combined roles, with the ability to instantly switch between them should the need arise. GlobalEye is flying today, with the latest Erieye ER radar and associated mission equipment; this brings the number of aircraft types equipped with Erieye sensors to five, and the number of nations to eight – further proof of the system’s interoperability.


Known as MAMBA in the UK, Saab’s weapon locating system ‘Arthur’ is another innovation in the sensor space. It is able to detect ballistic trajectories such as rockets, artillery and mortars, and calculate the firing site and point of impact – enabling effective counter-fire within seconds. In addition to the UK, Arthur has found widespread use across 12 separate militaries – among them Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Spain, Italy and Greece.

Meanwhile, the Giraffe Agile Multi Beam (AMB) 3D surveillance radar has proven a hugely popular land-based air defence solution. Generating a real-time, 360-degree panorama of the surrounding airspace, Giraffe AMB is able to track incoming aircraft, missiles, rockets and drones on a highly mobile platform. Its lofty mast, which rises higher than any other radar of similar class, allows the system to survey distances of up to 120 kilometres. Crucially, this technology has helped save countless lives, providing early warning against incoming threats during international operations.

Clearly, the Ministry of Defence has taken notice. Having recently acquired its tenth Giraffe AMB from Saab, the UK has become the single biggest operator of land-based Giraffe AMB radars in the world today. In fact, the Giraffe AMB surveillance radar system is poised to play a pivotal role in the UK’s new ground-based air defence (GBAD) Sky Sabre system, while also providing air target tracking to the Land Ceptor air defence platform – as demonstrated at a recent weapons test in the north of Sweden. And to illustrate the cross-domain nature of the Saab range, over 65 systems from the maritime version (the Sea Giraffe AMB) are in use with 11 different navies including the US, Australia, Canada and Singapore.

According to an MOD spokesperson: “The Giraffe radar system provides our military with unmatched surveillance capabilities, keeping the UK safe and protecting our troops on operations. Giraffe provides our cutting-edge Sky Sabre air defence system with crucial battlefield intelligence, so it is brilliant to see our defensive strength bolstered by the arrival of the tenth radar system.”

For Saab, Giraffe AMB sits at the centre of a wider family of surface radars which collectively offer a multitude of land and sea solutions for ground-based air defence and surveillance.

Giraffe 1X

Weighing less than 150 kilograms, the lightweight Giraffe 1X is the company’s newest member of the Giraffe family. Named ‘X’ to denote its X-band radar characteristics and designed with mobility in mind, the G1X can be integrated onto any platform, irrespective of size. Furthermore, its compactness means that it can easily be relocated by means of manpower alone – from a vehicle to the rooftop of a building, for example – making it ideally suited to the rapidly changing pace of mobile forces.

Similarly, the Giraffe 4A is a fully multifunctional radar which blends capabilities of the Arthur and Giraffe AMB with an all-new AESA-inspired radar sensor. Crucially, this new radar offers unparalleled range, performance and operational flexibility in a single solution. And in the maritime domain, the Sea Giraffe AMB applies that same methodology to open water in an effort to safeguard ships and secure superiority at sea; indeed, the solution can now be found across five classes of US Navy ships.

In many cases, the UK seems to be an early adopter of Saab technology. And given that 23% of the Giraffe AMB’s content comes from the UK, Saab has a vested interest in supporting British business. The company’s Gripen fighter jet, which derives 37% of its value from the UK supply chain, has the potential to generate £2-3 billion in economic benefit and a further 5000-6000 British jobs over the next decade. As the company continues its expansion, the UK is increasingly seen as a home market – so much so that a state-of-the-art UK-based Innovation Centre is now in the works.

“Saab is actively seeking to expand its manufacturing and export base here in Britain,” concluded Saab UK’s Head, Andrew Walton. “We see the UK as a strategically critical customer because of the global renown of British Armed Forces and we want them using our products.”

“The UK is absolutely a Tier 1 customer,” Walton continued. “Saab has a long-established history with the Royal Air Force dating back 40 years, during which we have developed systems for the Harrier, Tornado and Typhoon. The performance and technology requirements across the Services, together with the high standards we place on ourselves, means we’re very much looking to leverage our experience to become an even more trusted supplier of advanced technology to the UK.”

To find out more about Saab’s sensor technology, visit: www.saab.com

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The next giant leap: The UK launches its space ambitions

The UK is looking to capitalise on its worldleading expertise in aerospace with the development of vertical and horizontal spaceports, taking one giant leap into next phase of space travel. 

The UK Space Agency selected Sutherland on the north coast of Scotland as the first vertical launch site. 

An initial £2.5 million will go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the vertical launch site in Sutherland, which will use a combination of proven and innovative rocket technologies to pave the way for a world-leading spaceflight market. 

However, new horizontal launch sites have significant potential in a future UK spaceflight market, which it is anticipated could attract companies from all over the world to invest in Britain.  

These horizontal launch sites will host runways that will support space planes capable of carrying satellites and tourists and will be located in Cornwall, Glasgow and North Wales. The sites will be boosted by a new £2 million horizontal spaceport development fund to grow their sub-orbital flight, satellite launch and spaceplane ambitions. 

The UK’s thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain also put the UK in a strong position to further develop horizontal launch sites. The Government’s decision to make available a £2 million strategic development fund, should also help accelerate this early-stage market further. 

It is envisaged that small-satellite launch and sub-orbital flight from the UK will support organisations across the country to remain at the forefront of commercial space services, driving new highly skilled jobs and boost local economies – not only in the communities around spaceport sites, but in the UK’s space sector as a whole. 

Business Secretary Greg Clark explained: “As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our Industrial Strategy. The UK’s thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain put the UK in a leading position to develop both vertical and horizontal launch sites. 

“This will build on our global reputation for manufacturing small satellites and help the whole country capitalise on the huge potential of the commercial space age.” 

The first launch at Malness spaceport is set to take place in 2023, with a team led by Lockheed Martin set to deliver six cubesats tasked with assisting weather monitoring projects. 

The move is a clear endorsement of commercial spaceflight, said to be worth £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the coming decade, with the potential to usher in a new era of space travel. However, the possibilities for military use have stirred the interest of the defence industry.  

Speaking at a briefing at this year’s Farnborough Airshow, Air Vice-Marshal Simon Rochelle, Chief of Staff for Capability and Force Development with the Royal Air Force spoke of his hopes that responsive military launches would soon be a possibility. 

Although the process is still early in its development, the ability to deliver emergency supplies via a small satellite and restock them within 72 hours would be of significant strategic value. 

Given the collaborative nature of manufacturing and procuring within the defence industry, there also exists the further potential to open up the spaceport to the UK’s military allies. 

Rochelle explains: “We go and buy airplanes together; we can buy AWACS together; think of federated capability; think of how partners work symbiotically with each other. 

“The more we – Five-Eyes and allies – can respond effectively, or even offer deterrence, dissuasion, we may actually control that space domain rather than being threatened or outmanoeuvred in the space domain.”

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Asteroid Mining: The future of space exploration

In this feature John Baker, Head of Global Operations for the National Security and Resilience and Event Horizon Consortium; Mitch Hunter Scullion, CEO of the Asteroid Mining Corporation; and Luke Deamer, MESci (Hons) Geology; examine asteroid mining and what the future holds for the UK space sector.

Asteroids are the minor planets of the inner Solar System including those co-orbital with Jupiter. There exist millions of asteroids, which are thought to be the shattered remnants of planetismal bodies within the young Sun’s solar nebula that never grew large enough to become planets.

The vast majority of known asteroids orbit within the main asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, or are co-orbital with Jupiter (the Jupiter trojans). However, other orbital families exist with significant populations, including the near earth orbits.

Individual asteroids are classified by their characteristic spectra, with the majority falling into three main groups: C-Type, M-Type, and S-Type. These were named after and are generally identified with carbon rich, metallic and silicate (or stony) compositions respectively.

The sizes of asteroids varies greatly. The first and largest asteroid ever to be discovered was Ceres by Giusseppe Piazzi at Palermo Astronomical Observatory on 1 January 1801,which is almost 1,000 kilometres (625 metres) across and composed of rock and ice. Incredibly, it is estimated to comprise approximately one-third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. It is also the only object in the asteroid belt known to be rounded by its own gravity.

In January 2014, emissions of water vapor were detected from several regions of Ceres. This was unexpected because large bodies in the asteroid belt typically do not emit vapor, a hallmark of comets.

On 6 March 2015, the robotic NASA spacecraft Dawn entered orbit around Ceres. Pictures with a resolution previously unobtainable were taken during imaging sessions starting in January 2015 as Dawn approached Ceres, showing a cratered surface and implying possible cryovolcanic origin.

On 9 December 2015, NASA scientists reported that the bright spots on Ceres may be related to a type of salt, specifically a form of brine containing magnesium sulfate hexhydrite (MgSO4·6H2O). The spots were also found to be associated with ammonia-rich clay.

In June 2016, near-infrared spectra of these bright areas were found to be consistent with a large amount of sodium carbonate ( Na2 CO3 ), implying that recent geologic activity was probably involved in the creation of several bright spots.

Finally, in July 2018, NASA released a comparison of physical features found on Ceres with similar ones present on Earth.

Deep Earth: A window into deep space

In order to understand what is above us in deep space, it seems almost paradoxical that scientists would look down at our own planet. Yet the Earth’s crust offers one of the best insights into the composition of asteroids and other planets. Therefore, geologists have been delving into special sites around the world to discover new frontiers in space exploration.

Perhaps the best example of this approach to astrogeology is the hunt for Martian landscapes right here on the surface of the Earth. Researchers found that the classic red sands that cover a large proportion of Mars are nearly identical to deserts sands in Arizona and Hawaii. This means that Airbus and their partners have been able to recreate the surface of Mars in a warehouse in Stevenage. This facility, now open to the public, is used as a test centre for the European Space Agency ExoMars rovers. Images sent back from the Mars Curiosity Rover also show fossilised ripple marks created by past rivers, just as we see preserved across the UK.

Closer to home, the famous moon rock brought back from the Apollo missions is a type of basalt – the same rock that forms natural monuments like the Giants Causeway.

Recent discoveries in Oman have also found microbes living as deep as 400 metres in the crust, surviving extreme temperatures and pressures within solid rock. These organisms survive by chemosynthesis, breaking down minerals within the rock to produce the water and nutrients they require, rather than relying on carbon dioxide and water in the atmosphere. This has given hope to planetary geologists that there may be life beneath the surface of rocky planets like Mars.

But these discoveries do more than just further our scientific understanding. Finding a viable source of water on other planets/asteroids, where there are extreme temperatures and often little to no atmosphere, is essential for fuelling space transport and potential future habitation.

More interestingly, improving our understanding of the Earth’s lower crust has opened the possibility of space mining for nickel, platinum group and rare earth elements. These elements, used in rechargeable batteries, electronic devices, lasers and super magnets, are found throughout Earth’s crust but are rarely concentrated sufficiently to be mined.

The Earth’s mantle and outer core are thought to concentrate these valuable metals, but these have proved unreachable. This is where asteroids represent an opportunity. Nickel-iron asteroids, known as ‘M-type’ asteroids, represent a massive opportunity to sample the metal-rich cores of former planets.

Unlike other asteroid types that form by accretion, just one 500 metre wide M-type asteroid could contain 175% of the global platinum output (MIT mission, 2016).

As Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources asserts: “Whether it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the materials that we build things with or ultimately, of course, the food that we eat… all of these things are available to us on this planet, but when we head into space we have to bring all of it with us. That of course, isn’t very scalable.”

NASA states that, in the 21st century, space exploration will be reliant upon what we can mine in the cosmos: “The metals and minerals found on asteroids will provide the raw materials for space structures, and comets will become the watering holes and gas stations for interplanetary spacecraft.”

Governments and private companies are already working on related laws and projects, turning science fantasy in to science fact. Yesterday’s vision becoming today’s reality.

Luxembourg recently established a €220 million fund for space mining projects: “Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats,” the nation’s Economy Minister Etienne Schneider said in a statement.

The United States has also signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law (which recognizes the right of US citizens to own asteroid resources); and private companies to help humanity mine the cosmos.

In the United Kingdom, the Asteroid Mining Corporation Ltd is seeking to drive forward awareness across the international community, UK government, the commercial sector and through the Event Horizon Programme, working with major systems integrator Sopra Steria to create platforms upon which UK Space Innovation (UKSI) can sit.

NASA has identified some 1,500 asteroids that it has described as ‘easily accessible’, with rapid advances in technology and robotics having brought a space-based, industrial-scale operation into the realm of feasibility,

In addition, ESA has elaborated on its vision for a multinational “research village” on the Moon – a project to potentially replace the International Space Station for use as a base for mining, and stopover for probes heading deeper into space.

On October 3rd 2018, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 landed the European MASCOT ( Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) probes on the surface of Asteroid Ryugu.

Mitch Hunter Scullion, asteroid mining entrepreneur and CEO of AMC Ltd, said: “In the UK we stand ready to engage forcefully with this emerging sector; as a frontrunner for innovation, technological brilliance and cross party political commitment and determination required to succeed in the race towards the edge of a new horizon in space exploration and mining.”

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Defence Secretary looks to next century of British air power

The Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has revealed that Britain’s combat air power has reached new heights whilst speaking in a brand-new hangar displaying one-hundred years of fighter jets.

Speaking at RAF Marham, the Defence Secretary announced the UK now has nine F-35 Lightning jets ready to be deployed on operations around the world.

The F-35 Lightnings will form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet alongside the Typhoon jets, which Mr Williamson also announced have now been fitted with a state-of-the-art complex weapons suite to vastly increase its capability.

Under ‘Project Centurion’, worth £425m over the past three years, the Typhoon now has deep strike cruise missile Storm Shadow, air-to-air missile Meteor and the precision attack missile Brimstone at their disposal.

It means the jets have boosted capabilities to intercept airborne missiles and strike ground based targets, seamlessly taking over from the Tornado’s attack role as it nears retirement.

Completed on time and to budget, the upgrades transform the fleet into a world-leading multi-role combat air platform for decades to come.

Military engineers and personnel have worked together with hundreds of UK workers from British defence firms including BAE Systems, MBDA and Leonardo to reach the milestone.

The Defence Secretary made the announcement in front of four different aircraft, in a brand-new maintenance hangar at RAF Marham, which he opened along with a state-of-the-art new training centre.

These facilities, along with resurfaced runways and new landing pads to accommodate the jet’s ability to land vertically, are a key part of the £550m being invested in the Norfolk base.

Mr Williamson said: “As we bid farewell to the RAF’s first century, we are setting our sights on the next 100 years. Our nation is moving into a new era outside the EU, and our huge achievements in air capability make our commitment to a role on the world stage clear to both our allies and our enemies.

“The incredible F-35 jets are ready for operations, a transformed Typhoon has the power to dominate the skies into the 2040s and we continue to look even further into an ambitious future. The RAF has long shown Britain at its great and global best, and today it lifts our nation to even greater heights.”

image © Crown Copyright

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MBDA demonstrates Mistral missile against surface vessels

MBDA has successfully demonstrated the use of the Mistral missile against fast boats such as FIACs (Fast Inshore Attack Craft).

A number of foreign delegations attended the demonstration firing that was performed from a SIMBAD-RC automated naval turret firing from the land against a fast moving remotely-controlled semi-rigid boat more than three kilometres off the coast.

The scenario was intended to be representative of the self-protection of a vessel against an asymmetric threat (commando or terrorist attack).

In its latest version currently in service with the French armed forces, the Mistral is an air defence missile equipped with an imaging infrared seeker with advanced image processing capabilities that allow it to engage low thermal signature targets from a long distance (such targets include UAVs, missiles and fast boats), whilst at the same time offering excellent resistance to countermeasures.

The SIMBAD-RC is a remotely-controlled very short range naval air defence system that provides highly efficient capacities against a wide range of threats, from combat aircraft through anti-ship missiles to small-sized threats such as UAVs.

The system provides small units or support vessels with a true self-defence capacity, or can even ensure reinforced defence for the other types of surface vessels. Each turret supports two ready-to-fire Mistral missiles. The turret is remotely-operated, allowing the operator to remain under cover in the vessel’s operation centre, and thus ensures longer operational availability in case of a combat alert.

MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier, said: “MBDA is constantly striving to help armed forces make optimum use of their investments in our products.

“The demonstration of the SIMBAD-RC Mistral combination against surface targets reflects our policy of giving our systems additional capacities to supplement those they were originally designed to provide”.

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BAE Systems to provide mission system support to QEC carriers

BAE Systems is to provide essential mission system support to the UK Royal Navy’s largest ever warships, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales, as part of an updated integration services agreement.

Through an addition to the Naval Combat Systems Integration Support Services (NCSISS) contract, BAE Systems will ensure both aircraft carriers are kept ready for operations by providing world class complex system engineering.

Under the new agreement, known as NCSISS phase 2.2, both ships’ mission systems will be supported by engineers based at BAE Systems’ Maritime Integration Support Centre (MISC) in Portsmouth. From this dedicated support facility BAE Systems ensures the systems that enable both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales to effectively carry out their operations fully optimised wherever they are in the world.

The Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) mission systems, comprising 62 individual sub-systems, are vital for the delivery of aircraft carrier operations and allow crews to assess and respond to threats, plan joint, air and maritime operations and manage aircraft movements.

The MISC has supported the QEC aircraft carrier programme since 2009 and played a vital role in preparing HMS Queen Elizabeth for her first of class flight trials.

Jo Osburn, DE&S Head of Maritime Combat Systems, said: “Extending the NCSISS arrangement to include the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers has provided a facility to test and assure new capabilities ahead of instillation into the platform.

“BAE Systems’ role in supporting the Combat System Enterprise through NCSISS will enable agile Operational Support to this new Class of Warship for her current equipment as well as de-risking the addition of the new systems and equipments planned in the near to medium term.”

image © Crown Copyright

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Understanding and defending against cyber threats

John Higginson, Principal Consultant at Context Information Security, examines what organisations can do to try and combat the increasing and varied threats posed by cyber attacks. 

Cyber security has become increasingly more relevant and tangible, with large-scale hacks and global malware outbreaks becoming the norm. But who are the threat actors out there behind these incidents, and what can your organisation do about cyber threats? 

The range of threat actors varies considerably: from low-sophistication and low-resource ‘hacktivists’ typically driven by ideology; to much better equipped and funded organised crime elements driven by financial gain; through to highly organised, motivated and extremely capable state-sponsored actors looking for political or economic advantage. Real-world examples of how they operate are varied too and include diverting payments; targeting personal, banking or proprietary data to sell on the Dark Web; and stealing commercial secrets to avoid onerous and time-consuming research and development costs, with the potential to reduce your company’s competitive edge and price you out of the market. A number of well-publicised new products have been launched that bear more than a passing resemblance to those of well-established and more expensive brands. For example, the new Chinese Land Wind X7 looks astonishingly similar to the Range Rover Evoque.  

State-sponsored actors can also have the longer-term and more strategic aims of disrupting or destabilising foreign nation states to further their own political or economic goals. As an example of this, recent reporting suggests purportedly Russian state-sponsored groups have infiltrated US power supply networks as well as those in Ukraine, where power disruption attacks have already taken place. The threats posed by operating in cyber space are very real and ever-more prolific.  

From a defence industry perspective, any supplier is a potential target for many of these threat actors. Understanding the weapon or technological capabilities of a potential enemy significantly increases the ability to prepare and devise strategies to defeat that adversary.  

Notwithstanding the considerable threats to individual organisations, companies in the supply chain often have trusted relationships with large defence contractors or the Ministry of Defence itself, so can be seen by threat actors as the ‘soft underbelly’ and an easy way in to obtain their end goal. Whilst, unsurprisingly, such hacks are not well publicised, they do occur and the supply chain will continue to be targeted. 

So, now that we know the various threat actors out there and some of their intentions, the big question is: what should your organisation be doing about it? 

The solution, unfortunately, is not simple. However, it is imperative companies make sure that efforts are being put into all the areas needed with management and governance to mitigate risk, resourced with an appropriate level of cyber-aware people, following effective processes and supported by technology controls. Most importantly, the correct security-focused culture must proliferate throughout the entire organisation, from the very top down to the very bottom. 

As with anything involving human factors, there can never be a 100% foolproof solution; people by their very nature are unpredictable. In line with everything concerned with security, the best approach and most viable solution will be all about reducing risk, via the frequency or impact of those human errors and within the budget and risk appetite of the organisation. With that in mind, ensuring that the Return on Investment is maximised will be at the forefront of people’s minds. Unfortunately, more often than not, this means having something tangible to show for the investment, be that a shiny new piece of hardware or a clever new intruder alarm. However, this can ultimately give rise to a false sense of security. 

The key to addressing the sociological aspects of security is fostering a vigilant and questioning cyber-aware culture that is rewarded for following procedures, even if staff ‘cry wolf’ occasionally in being overly cautious. To support your staff in keeping your information secure, there are four main factors to consider: 

  • Policies and Procedures – What guidance and direction is provided to support appropriate action and informed decision-making? 
  • Technical Controls – Who has access to what information, and why? The principle of least privilege should pervade and can significantly reduce the impact of any incident. 
  • Training and Awareness – Who across the organisation has been trained, and to what level? How long ago was this? Was the training level appropriate to their role, responsibilities and risk profile? Ensuring your staff are trained reduces the likelihood of an incident occurring as well as the impact should the worst happen. 
  • Testing – When were your procedures and awareness training last tested to establish how effective they are, either through realistic rehearsals and simulation exercises, or via technical penetration testing or exploitative ‘red teaming’? If you have a response plan, who knows about it, what would their role be, and is the plan still fit for purpose? 

If you get these factors right, then your organisation should be in a good place. So perhaps it’s time to look internally at what security processes your business has adopted and whether the culture, tools, technology and training you have in place support them in being successful and delivering real security value through a reduction in operational risk.  

The easiest route into your network is via the people who use it. Making it more difficult, and therefore not worth threat actors’ time and effort, should mean that potential attackers will, with a bit of luck, look elsewhere.  

For more information, visit: https://www.contextis.com/ 

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