Let’s face it, the market for advanced military technologies and systems has gone global. Even the United States which could once boast to be leading the world in most advanced military systems and capabilities finds itself increasingly dependent on foreign sources of both technology and manufacturing. As the U.S. defense budget continues to shrink it makes less sense to focus solely on home grown solutions to military requirements. When foreign countries want to partner with the U.S. in a new program and thereby help to defray the cost of development, manufacturing and sustainment, we should jump on the opportunity.
One of the best examples of the power inherent in international defense collaboration and multi-national development and production of a major weapons system is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The eight international partners in the program (United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway) provided more than $4 billion in development funding. Moreover, each of these countries is now or soon will provide high-end technical or manufacturing support. For example, the aft fuselage and empennage for each F-35 is being designed, manufactured and assembled by BAE Systems, a U.K. company. Italy’s Finmeccanica will build some 1200 wings and wing boxes. Elbit of Israel is helping to build the advanced helmet-mounted display and another U.K. company, GKN, is responsible for the canopy.
Another example of going global to find solutions to its most urgent military requirements is the U.S. Army’s decision to test an innovative power generation system developed by DRS Technologies, a division of Finmeccanica. The modern Army is investing heavily in C4ISR equipment to support situational awareness, mission command and tactical communications. All these systems require power which means, in turn, some way of generating electricity. Today, most of that power comes from towed generators. Unfortunately, towed generators limit cross-country mobility, take up valuable space when deploying and add to the sustainment burden of the force. A much better solution would be to turn every combat vehicle into a power generator. This would reduce a tactical unit’s footprint, slim down the logistical tail for U.S forces and lower overall costs.
In its next Network Integration Experiment (NIE) in early 2014, the Army will conduct field testing of DRS Technologies’ On-Board Vehicle Power (OBVP) system. The OBVP is a high-powered DRS/Allison Transmission Integral Generator that can be installed on virtually all combat vehicles in the U.S. military. The OBVP system transforms the vehicle’s powertrain into an electrical generating plant providing power to operate a host of command, control, communications, computers and other sensors on battlefield vehicles. This both provides continuous power on the move and also reduces reliance on heavy generators to power numerous electrical systems. At the NIE, the OBVP will be employed on two separate concept vehicles, the Mobile Integrated Command Post and the Mission Command On-The-Move, both built on the basic frame of a Navistar MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. According to DRS, the technology works with a range of deployed combat vehicle platforms such as the Stryker, MRAP, and the family of medium tactical vehicles that use the Allison 3000 series transmission.
Foreign companies in friendly and allied nations have developed a wide range of technologies, advanced weapons systems and platforms that could prove useful to the U.S. military. These companies have developed products and capabilities in such areas as air-to-air missiles, heavy lift helicopters, lightweight radar and night vision systems that are state-of-the-art. In the future, a fiscally-constrained U.S. military will have to consider spending more of what resources are available on foreign built or collaboratively-developed capabilities if they provide the best value.
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