Tag Archives: weapons

The Arms Race: Who Lacks an Indigenous Defense Industry

XM1203 Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) prototype in 2009. image from wikipedia

Even though Colombia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco and Singapore have very different perspectives and agendas, they are all expected to sharply increase their defence spending over the next 10 years. Due to the arms race and an increasing threat perception, the effects of the 2008 financial slowdown on defence spending in these transitioning markets are gradually reducing.

“Unlike leading transitioning economies like India, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil, the five countries selected for this study are still attempting to develop an industrial base …,” said Frost & Sullivan Aerospace & Defence Industry AnalystAlix Leboulanger. “Upon a closer look at these countries’ dynamics, it is found that their political intent is stronger than their financial and infrastructure capabilities.”  Several factors are dampening indigenisation plans. The increasingly competitive marketplace has left little room for emerging local players unless they can distinguish themselves appropriately – for instance, with price in Colombia and technology in Singapore. Moreover, weak market prospects beyond local demand, along with the absence of small- and medium-sized enterprises, have restricted partnership opportunities and transfer-of-technology ventures with foreign companies.

Investing in high-end foreign technology is perceived as the way forward to fulfil three objectives: achieving modernisation programmes, consolidating the domestic industrial base, and providing employment to locals,” explained Leboulanger. “This will require efficient and easily-applicable regulations to create an attractive and stable environment for foreign investments and industrial partnerships. The lack of skilled personnel and infrastructure, also need to be addressed.”… Financial constraints mean that governments will try to reduce armed forces and invest in combat-proven platforms, surplus material and second-hand equipment…

“As a matter of fact Colombia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco and Singapore are expected to spend 21 percent of their total budget, circa 9.77 billion USD per year, on new equipment.”

Combat Readiness Plans Win Over Defence Indigenisation Targets in Select Markets, Finds Frost & Sullivan, PR Newswire, July 22, 2015

The Weapons Business

An XM25 airburst grenade launcher in July 2009.  Image from wikipedia

The United States has taken a firm lead as the major arms exporter globally, according to new data on international arms transfers published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March 16, 2014. Overall, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons grew by 16 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14.

The volume of US exports of major weapons rose by 23 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. The USA’s share of the volume of international arms exports was 31 per cent in 2010–14, compared with 27 per cent for Russia. Russian exports of major weapons increased by 37 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. During the same period, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143 per cent, making it the third largest supplier in 2010–14, however still significantly behind the USA and Russia.  ‘The USA has long seen arms exports as a major foreign policy and security tool, but in recent years exports are increasingly needed to help the US arms industry maintain production levels at a time of decreasing US military expenditure’, said Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

Arms imports to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states increased by 71 per cent from 2005–2009 to 2010–14, accounting for 54 per cent of imports to the Middle East in the latter period. Saudi Arabia rose to become the second largest importer of major weapons worldwide in 2010–14, increasing the volume of its arms imports four times compared to 2005–2009.

‘Mainly with arms from the USA and Europe, the GCC states have rapidly expanded and modernized their militaries’, said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘The GCC states, along with Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Turkey in the wider Middle East, are scheduled to receive further large orders of major arms in the coming years.’

Asian arms imports continue to increase.  Of the top 10 largest importers of major weapons during the 5-year period 2010–14, 5 are in Asia: India (15 per cent of global arms imports), China (5 per cent), Pakistan (4 per cent), South Korea (3 per cent) and Singapore (3 per cent). …

African arms imports increased by 45 per cent between 2005–2009 to 2010–14.Between 2005–2009 and 2010–14 Algeria was the largest arms importer in Africa, followed by Morocco, whose arms imports increased elevenfold.  Deliveries and orders for ballistic missile defence systems increased significantly in 2010–14, notably in the GCC and North East Asia.

More information at SIPRI

PDF

Laser Weapons: Lockheed Martin

laser weapon

The U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $25 million contract to design, build and test a 60-kilowatt electric laser to be integrated and tested in a truck-mounted weapon system demonstrator. The laser weapon is designed to significantly improve the warfighters’ ability to counter rockets, artillery, mortars and unmanned aerial threats. Under a contract managed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Technical Center, the Lockheed Martin-provided laser will be integrated on the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD). This ruggedized laser builds on the corporation’s work under the current Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) contract for the Army…

The corporation’s electric laser system implements multiple compact, rugged fiber laser modules to generate a high power output beam with excellent beam quality and high electrical efficiency. A unique spectral beam combining process is used to combine many fiber lasers into a single beam of light that retains the high beam quality of the individual fiber modules while reaching the 60 kilowatt mark.

In 2014 Lockheed Martin announced it had demonstrated a 30-kilowatt fiber laser, the highest power ever documented while retaining beam quality and electrical efficiency. The internally funded research and development demonstration was achieved by combining many fiber lasers into a single, near-perfect quality beam of light-all while using approximately 50 percent less electricity than alternative solid-state laser technologies.

This successful demonstration marked a significant milestone on the path to deploying a mission-relevant laser weapon system for a wide range of air, land and sea military platforms.

Lockheed Martin has specialized in directed energy laser weapon system development for the past 30 years and purchased Aculight in 2008 to further strengthen its offerings at every level-from pioneering research to solid prototyping and flexible manufacturing.

Lockheed Martin Wins Contract To Develop Weapons Grade Fiber Laser for US Army Field, Space Daily, Test, Apr. 30, 2014

See also Laser Weapons

Germany’s Weapons Industry: how to make weapon sales invisible

heckler & koch g3 rifle

Germany.. exports a lot of weapons: more than Britain, France or any other country besides America and Russia. Some German makers of military gear are part of civilian industrial giants, such as Airbus Group (which has dropped its ungainly old name, EADS, to adopt the brand of its commercial-aircraft business), and ThyssenKrupp, a steelmaker. But the biggest German company known mainly for weapons, Rheinmetall, is just 26th in the world league of arms-exporting firms. And Krauss Maffei Wegmann (KMW), which makes the Leopard 2 tank, is 54th.

Germans are, in general, proud of their export prowess. But although foreign sales of weaponry bring in almost €1 billion ($1.4 billion) a year, they are a delicate subject, and lately beset by bad press. Several German firms are accused of bribery in Greece. A former defence official there has said that of €8m in bribes he took, €3.2m came from German firms, including Wegmann (now part of KMW) and Rheinmetall. On January 3rd KMW’s alleged middleman was detained after a court hearing. The firm itself denies any bribery. Atlas, a maker of naval weapons owned jointly by Airbus and ThyssenKrupp, is under fire too. A former representative in Athens has reportedly admitted to bribery; the company says it is investigating the matter.

On another front, the industry faces criticism over the countries it sells to—most recently over a deal to sell Leopard 2s to Saudi Arabia. Arms sales to anywhere other than NATO and “NATO-equivalent” countries are in principle forbidden. But the Federal Security Council, headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, can approve exceptions when foreign policy dictates, as long as they do not harm human rights.

Peace campaigners fear that the exceptions are becoming less exceptional. NATO countries’ budgets are being squeezed, so Germany’s armsmakers are looking farther abroad. Rheinmetall, for example, has a target of 50% of exports outside Europe by 2015. Asia is a growing target: Singapore recently signed a €1.6 billion deal for ThyssenKrupp submarines.

German small arms are also popular. Heckler & Koch’s G3 rifle (together with its variants) is the world’s most popular after the Russian AK-47….But Germany’s arms exports are probably in little danger, since they have the same reputation for reliability as its cars and other industrial goods.

Moreover, there are ways to lessen the controversy of selling things used to wage war. For example, making guns for a fighter jet assembled elsewhere is less visible than selling a German-made tank. Military transport, logistics, surveillance and protective equipment together account for five times as much of German defence firms’ output as weapons and ammunition—and are less likely to be blamed for civilian casualties. Stephan Boehm, an analyst at Commerzbank, sees such non-lethal materiel as a bright spot for German exporters. The flagging fortunes of Rheinmetall, in particular, should be restored by strong sales of the armoured transporters it produces in a joint venture with MAN, a lorry-maker.

Critics say the government is too willing to let arms firms export to dodgy regimes. The Federation of German Security & Defence Industries argues that strong exports are crucial to spread the development costs of the equipment Germany needs to defend itself. This would be less of a problem, the lobby group admits, if Europe’s fragmented defence industry were consolidated; it says the government should not have vetoed a proposal last year to merge EADS with BAE Systems of Britain. Weapons account for less than 1% of Germany’s exports. But it is a 1% that it, like other countries, is loth to give up.

German weapons firms: No farewell to arms, Economist, Jan. 11, 2014, at 56

No Target too Cheap to Kill: cost per kill of drones armed with cheap weapons

Guided missiles are ludicrously expensive. A Tomahawk cruise missile costs about $1.5m, and even the Hellfire, an air-to-ground rocket that weighs a mere 50kg, is $115,000 a pop. In exchange for, say, an enemy tank, that is probably a fair price to pay. To knock out a pick-up truck crewed by a few lightly armed guerrillas, however, it seems a little expensive, and using its shoulder-fired cousin the Javelin ($147,000) to kill individual soldiers in foxholes, as is often the case in Afghanistan, is positively profligate. Clearly, something has to change. And changing it is.

An early sign of this change came in March 2012, with the deployment in Afghanistan of the APKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) made by BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman. The APKWS II is a smart version of the old-fashioned 70mm (2.75-inch) rocket, which has been used by America’s armed forces since 1948. It is also cheap, as guided missiles go, costing $18,000 a shot.  The APKWS II is loaded and fired in the same way (pictured above) as its unguided predecessors, from the same 19-round pods, making its use straightforward. The difference is that it can strike with an accuracy of one metre because it has been fitted with a laser-seeking head which follows a beam pointed at the target by the missile’s operators. This controls a set of fins that can steer the missile to its destination.  Standard practice with unguided 70mm missiles is to use as many as two pods’ worth (ie, 38 rockets, at $1,000 a round) to blanket a target. That means the APKWS II comes in at less than half the cost per kill. It also means that many more targets can be attacked on a single mission.

BAE and Northrop are merely the first to market with this sort of device. ATK, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are all close behind. Meanwhile, the American navy has been working on its own cheap guided missile, the Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS), which it tested successfully last year.  The LCITS is another upgraded 70mm weapon, but instead of laser guidance it picks out its targets by their heat signature. Because the operators do not need to keep pointing a laser at the target, they can fire several missiles in quick succession—a useful feature if a ship is being attacked by a swarm of boats.

Smaller precision weapons are useful, too, in circumstances where weight is a crucial factor. Shadow, a drone used by the American, Australian and Swedish armies, is too light to be able to carry Hellfires and is thus, at the moment, restricted to reconnaissance duties. But not for much longer. Shadows are now being armed with a small, still-classified guided missile. This follows the earlier success of arming Hunter drones with Viper Strike, a laser-guided glide bomb weighing 20kg originally developed by Northrop Grumman as an anti-tank weapon and now owned by MBDA. Viper Strike, along with Raytheon’s Griffin, a similar weapon, also arms the marines’ Harvest Hawk, an aerial gunship based on the Hercules transport aircraft. Viper Strike means these aircraft are capable of hitting a large number of targets with great precision from a distance of several kilometres.

The most determined effort to develop a small, cheap guided weapon, though, is the Forward Firing Miniature Munition (F2M2, or Spike missile), from the Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake, California. Steve Felix, the F2M2’s project manager, wanted to make such a weapon for just $5,000, using off-the-shelf components. The result, which weighs less than 3kg and is the size of a baguette, is claimed to be the world’s smallest.  Spike has been tested successfully as a shoulder-launched missile, and also fired from drones. It has an ingenious optical-guidance system—a camera that can either lock on to an operator-designated object or can pick up a laser spot and home in on it. It has a range of 1,500 metres and, though the warhead is too small to damage a tank, it can destroy cars and other light targets far more cheaply than the alternatives.

Precision weapons have already changed warfare radically, even though they have sometimes raised the price of battle. Low-cost guided missiles, often carried on small drones rather than expensive piloted aircraft, will change it further still. When such missiles cost a thousand dollars rather than a million, no target will be too cheap to engage.

Excerpts, Cheap smart weapons: Rockets galore, Economist, Sept. 29, 2012, at 85

The Deadly Weapon Dumps

Taking stock of an ammunition depot can be a deadly task…Last year was the worst yet, with 442 victims from 46 explosions. One of the biggest ever happened in March this year: an accident in Congo-Brazzaville that killed 250, showering munitions over a two-mile radius.  Thousands of ill-run weapons stores are in restless parts of Africa and the Middle East, often near towns or cities. The end of the cold war left unneeded weapons all over the Soviet empire. Moldova spends a quarter of its defence budget guarding obsolete munitions. Ukraine alone has half a million tonnes.

Most high explosives are inherently stable. But the propellant that launches projectiles from gun barrels is not. Over time it eats away at the stabilising compounds—especially in hot weather—until spontaneous detonation occurs. In rich and strict countries munitions are tested and dealt with before that happens. In poorer places, the temptation is to trust to luck. Many are also reluctant to give up their arsenals, particularly if they are unsure they can be replaced. Somaliland, an independence-seeking statelet in the Horn of Africa, for example, has curbed the destruction of its ageing weapons because international sanctions stop it buying new ones.

Small slip-ups can have grave consequences. At a weapons dump in the Rajasthan desert in India, a gardener was sacked to save money. Unkempt long grass then caught fire, triggering an explosion in April 2000 that killed two soldiers and destroyed $90m of ammunition.

Bad management of weapons dumps makes life easier for thieves and dodgy customers. It is a big headache for Western countries worried about advanced weapons such as shoulder-launched missiles, or those suitable for use by insurgents or independent militias. This is a particular problem in Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi, the former dictator, spread his arms around more than 500 supply points to avoid NATO’s air strikes.

The simplest means of disposal is to blow weapons up in a hole in a remote location. But they must be expertly stacked to ensure everything explodes properly. And for big stockpiles, and in countries with tough environmental rules, that may not be possible. Alternative solutions include movable facilities that remove explosives from their casings, cut them into small pieces and burn them in a furnace. But for big munitions such schemes are costly and so far still untested.

Landmines get far more money and legal scrutiny than ammunition dumps, because of their dire effects. But perhaps too much. Adrian Wilkinson, a UN explosives specialist, reckons landmines have killed roughly five times as many people, but at least 100 times more is spent on dealing with them.

Ammunition depots: Storing up risk, Economist, Sept. 29, 2012, at 66

Who is Selling Weapons to Developing Countries? The United States dominance and motivations

Recently, from 2008 to 2011, the United States and Russia have dominated the arms market in the developing world, with both nations either ranking first or second for each of these four years in the value of arms transfer agreements. From 2008 to 2011, the United States made nearly $113 billion in such agreements, 54.5% of all these agreements (expressed in current dollars). Russia made $31.1 billion, 15% of these agreements. During this same period, collectively, the United States and Russia made 69.5% of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations, ($207.3 billion in current dollars) during this four-year period.

In 2011, the United States ranked first in arms transfer agreements with developing nations with over $56.3 billion or 78.7% of these agreements, an extraordinary increase in market share from 2010, when the United States held a 43.6% market share. In second place was Russia with $4.1 billion or 5.7% of such agreements.

In 2011, the United States ranked first in the value of arms deliveries to developing nations at $10.5 billion, or 37.6% of all such deliveries. Russia ranked second in these deliveries at $7.5 billion or 26.8%.

In worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2011—to both developed and developing nations—the United States dominated, ranking first with $66.3 billion in such agreements or 77.7% of all such agreements. This is the highest single year agreements total in the history of the U.S. arms export program. Russia ranked second in worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2011with $4.8 billion in such global agreements or 5.6%. …..

In 2011, Saudi Arabia ranked first in the value of arms transfer agreements among all developing nations weapons purchasers, concluding $33.7 billion in such agreements. The Saudis concluded $33.4 billion of these agreements with the United States (99%). India ranked second with $6.9 billion in such agreements. The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) ranked third with $4.5 billion…..

Whereas the principal motivation for arms sales by key foreign suppliers in earlier years might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based as much, if not more, on economic considerations as those of foreign or national security policy.

Excerpt from, Richard F. Grimmett and Paul K. Kerr,  Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2004-2011, (pdf)-