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Mini-Robots for the US Army

February 28, 2013 by · Comment
Filed under: iRobot, QinetiQ, Syndicated Industry News 
minirobotsThe US Army awarded iRobot and QinetiQ North America two procurement orders for small robotic vehicles, representing the new class of small/miniature robotic systems designed for counter-IED and surveillance missions.

U.K. Military Continues to Buy Qinetiq’s Support

Qinetiq is a British company that was formed several years ago when the U.K. privatized parts of their Research, Test, Development & Engineering (RDT&E) support structure. This included labs, ranges and the employees who had formally been civil servants. Over the last 2 decades the British governments have been very aggressive about converting formally government positions and roles to private companies with a goal of cost savings. This was the opposite policy of the U.S. which had tried converting contractor positions to government ones in the past with the same goal.

Qinetiq due to the fact that it provides fairly critical services to the U.K. military through the testing & evaluation (T&E) services it provide signed a 25 year contract in 2003. This had a predicted value of over $8 billion if all parts were fully executed.

Now the U.K. government has announced that the last 5 year option has been executed. This option is worth about $1.6 billion.

These types of arrangements are not unheard of in other countries and the U.S. relies on contractors to provide many of the services Qinetiq does to the U.K. military. It is just they don’t normally transfer title of the facilities and management to the contractors. Often equivalent U.S. test ranges have contractors doing most of the work under oversight of the U.S. government.

In 2010 the company underwent a shake up in management as well as a re-organization. Qinetiq had expanded its business interests beyond the U.K. including work in America. Some problems caused the CEO to resign and the company to refocus on their core, original purpose.

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U.S. Army Continues Development of New 25mm Weapon for Soldiers

The U.S. Army relies on the M4/M16 family of assault rifles using the standard NATO 5.56mm round to provide the personnel weapons for its soldiers. These have seen some evolution since the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan started with the addition of improved sights, reliability and upgrades to ammunition but they remain basically the same weapon that was introduced in Vietnam almost fifty years ago.

Starting in the Nineties a development program for a new rifle was begun that led to the XM8. This went through several years of testing and development before being canceled in 2005. Since then the Army has looked at beginning again while making upgrades to the M4. One part of the XM8 program did continue though which was a 25mm version which has seen limited testing in Afghanistan as the XM25.

The XM25 fires an air-burst round that may be programmed prior to firing so that it detonates at a specific range from the shooter. This allows engagement of foes that are behind cover as the round attacks them from above. In the original XM8 program the 25mm launcher would have been mounted under the barrel but due to weight issues a specific version was built and the plan was to equip one soldier in each squad to provide fire support.

In the last year a limited number of XM25 were issued to troops in Afghanistan and tested. The reported results were very encouraging and the Army has decided to continue work on the system. ATK (ATK) was awarded a contract to conduct Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) work on the weapon. The thirty month contract has a value of just under $70 million.

The XM25 provides long range suppressive fire and has proven accurate and effective so far in combat. The decision to move into EMD shows that the Army is interested in moving the weapon into large scale production. When combined with other systems such as the Individual Gunshot Detector (IGD) developed by QinetiQ it allows engagement of the enemy at ranges much further then standard infantry weapons.

Photo from The U.S. Army’s flickr photostream.

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Termination of the UK Defence Training Review (DTR) Programme

October 19, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: QinetiQ, Syndicated Industry News 
Termination of the Defence Training Review
October 19, 2010

The termination of the Defence Training Rationalisation (DTR) project and the Metrix Consortium's appointment as preferred bidder has been announced by Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox today, 19 October 2010.

The DTR project intended to combine the technical and engineering training for the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force on a single site at St Athan in South Wales.

In a written ministerial statement to Parliament today, Dr Fox said:

"The Metrix Consortium was appointed as preferred bidder in January 2007 subject to it developing an affordable and value for money contract proposal.

"Given the significance of this project and the opportunity to provide a world-class training facility, the Ministry of Defence has worked tirelessly to deliver this project.

"However, it is now clear that Metrix cannot deliver an affordable, commercially-robust proposal within the prescribed period and it has therefore been necessary to terminate the DTR procurement and Metrix's appointment as preferred bidder.

"Technical training, collocated on as few sites as possible, remains in our view the best solution for our Armed Forces. Equally, St Athan was previously chosen as the best location on which to collocate that training for good reasons, and we still hope to base our future defence training solution there.

"We will however now carry out some work before finalising the best way ahead; including to confirm both our training and estates requirement, and the best way to structure the solution that will meet them.

"To ensure momentum is not lost, work on the alternative options will begin as soon as possible and we hope to be able to announce our future plans in the spring."

Training will continue to be delivered at current training locations as it would have done under the original PFI (Private Finance Initiative) proposal. These sites are: Arborfield, Blandford, Bordon, Cosford, Cranwell, Digby, Fareham (Collingwood), Gosport (Sultan) and St Athan.

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Termination of the UK Defence Training Review (DTR) Programme

October 19, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: QinetiQ, Syndicated Industry News 
Termination of the Defence Training Review
October 19, 2010

The termination of the Defence Training Rationalisation (DTR) project and the Metrix Consortium's appointment as preferred bidder has been announced by Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox today, 19 October 2010.

The DTR project intended to combine the technical and engineering training for the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force on a single site at St Athan in South Wales.

In a written ministerial statement to Parliament today, Dr Fox said:

"The Metrix Consortium was appointed as preferred bidder in January 2007 subject to it developing an affordable and value for money contract proposal.

"Given the significance of this project and the opportunity to provide a world-class training facility, the Ministry of Defence has worked tirelessly to deliver this project.

"However, it is now clear that Metrix cannot deliver an affordable, commercially-robust proposal within the prescribed period and it has therefore been necessary to terminate the DTR procurement and Metrix's appointment as preferred bidder.

"Technical training, collocated on as few sites as possible, remains in our view the best solution for our Armed Forces. Equally, St Athan was previously chosen as the best location on which to collocate that training for good reasons, and we still hope to base our future defence training solution there.

"We will however now carry out some work before finalising the best way ahead; including to confirm both our training and estates requirement, and the best way to structure the solution that will meet them.

"To ensure momentum is not lost, work on the alternative options will begin as soon as possible and we hope to be able to announce our future plans in the spring."

Training will continue to be delivered at current training locations as it would have done under the original PFI (Private Finance Initiative) proposal. These sites are: Arborfield, Blandford, Bordon, Cosford, Cranwell, Digby, Fareham (Collingwood), Gosport (Sultan) and St Athan.

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Department of Defense Awards Several UAV Related Contracts

For the last month the United States’ Department of Defense has been awarding a variety of contracts to support development, testing and operations of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems. These have played a major role in the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) missions as well as attacking enemy personnel and assets.

The U.S. Air Force also operates the long range, high endurance Global Hawk from Northrop Grumman (NOC) that provides strategic collection capability. The system is being developed as well for the U.S. Navy and Australia for their Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) mission.

The U.S. continues to invest in these systems through a variety of contracts including a recent development effort to Boeing (BA) for a solar powered, high altitude, long endurance system. The $89 million contract to the company and its partner QinetiQ is part of the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency (DARPA) Vulture program. The goal of this effort is to build a system that could remain airborne for up to five years providing reconnaissance and communication relay capability. In a way to fly an airplane rather then a satellite to provide some capability at a lower cost.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) won a Navy contract to support test and design efforts for future UAV systems. The school along with its partners operates a test facility that would provide harsh environments for these efforts. The contract could be worth up to $47 million if all options are exercised. The vehicle will allow the Navy to task the school to quickly react to requirements or efforts.

In another contract that supports existing systems the U.S. Air Force gave General Atomics a contract for six more MQ-9 Reaper systems. General Atomics makes the heavily used Predator and Reaper systems. The Predator was originally designed for ISR but has been armed with Hellfire missiles and provides precision strike for the Air Force and C.I.A. The Reaper is a bigger, more capable evolution of the Predator. This contract has a value of over $38 million.

These contracts indicate the U.S. commitment to unmanned programs. The different services will continue to develop and increase the capability of them as well as use their existing systems. The UAV market will see growth in the near future even as the defense budget declines and more traditional weapons see less investment. Right now there are limitations on these type of aircraft but as they are developed further these will be reduced. They do offer advantages over manned aviation assets chiefly because they do not put any crew at risk. They also may be smaller and more stealthy and have high endurance. They also have the possibility of offering more bang for the buck.

The UAV market continues to be one where small companies as well as large will focus on developing systems, sensors and the data lins necessary to control them.

Photo from Rob Shenk flickr photostream.

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England Awards Initial Contract For Combined Training Site

The English government has ambitious plans to not only centralize their technical training but also privatize it. The goal is to save money within the defense budget. The consortium that is planned to construct and operate the new training site was awarded an initial contract worth almost $60 million to begin site preparation. The Metrix consortium which includes the British company QinetiQ will use this contract to move an existing Royal Air Force (RAF) school and begin demolition of existing buildings. Eventually the total program will be worth billions as the schools are established and classes taught.

The idea is fairly novel and controversial. In the United States for example they are moving away from contractor provided services by insourcing positions to civil service. They believe that this will save money in the long run. It will be interesting to compare how these two different paths work out over the next few decades.

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UK Still Keeps Private Training Idea Going

The Financial Times writes that the U.K. government moved to keep its plan to privatize all military training going with another $40 plus million guarantee to the contractors involved. There had been reports that this contract was being reconsidered due to the costs associated with it. The collapse of the world’s credit market along with real estate prices has also contributed to this doubts. One of the companies partnering on this contract left and had to be replaced which also added to the worries of the efficiency of the decision. That makes it sound like the current British government is committed to it, but still more to come.

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Royal Navy awards test contract

September 3, 2008 by · Comment
Filed under: Contract Awards, development program, England, QinetiQ, S&T, SETA 

The British Ministry of Defence and Royal Navy awarded QinetiQ a contract to provide test and ship design support. QinetiQ used to be the part of the British military providing test services they are contracting to get access to facilities they built and used for several decades. This fifteen year, $300 M contract will allow ship and submarine models to be tested in QinetiQ’s tanks.

See Telegraph.uk.com for more on this contract.

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Boeing wins one

Boeing was awarded a $3.8 M contract by DARPA to begin development of a ultra-high endurance unmanned aircraft. Boeing teamed with a British company, QinetiQ Ltd., for the program. The Vulture will be an aircraft that can loiter for years and carry a payload. It would then be activated when necessary. QinetiQ had been working on solar powered aircraft under other contracts that might have applications to this mission.

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