France Acquires C-130Js as Part of a New Franco-German Squadron


1/31/18: In a deal made prior to President Maron becoming President, France and Germany agreed to join forces and share costs of the new squadron.

There will be 4 C130Js on the French side to be acquired by 2019 and 6 on the German side after the Bundestag’s expected green light in 2019.

The IOC (Initial operational Capability) is planned for 2021 and the FOC (Full Operational Capability) by 2024.

France Acquires C-130Js as Part of a New Franco-German Squadron from on Vimeo.

In a recent piece by Murielle Delaporte published on Breaking Defense, the acquisition of the aircraft and its importance is highlighted.

To some French observers, purchasing American military transport aircrafts seems like heresy.

It’s an admission of failure of the A400M European adventure, many argue.

But this nascent fleet of C130Js is really the stepping stone towards a new Franco-German bilateral unit (some refers to it as a squadron) to be based in 2021 at FAB Evreux and symbolizes the drive towards the dream of a true European defense both French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel aspire to.

It also marks one of the fastest major military acquisition in French history. 

Barely two years passed between approval of the actual FMS contract in January 2016 and the delivery of the first C-130J-30 to France last December at the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Ga.

The contract includes support, spares and a two-year maintenance program, as well as training in the US centers consisting in 10-month periods for pilots ad loadmasters, and two to three month periods for non-flying staff.

The training for loadmasters is especially important, as, the same way than on A400M,  that profession is changing while taking over more responsibilities in flight.

This move was decided with the signing of a pooling and sharing agreement by former French minister of defense Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen in April 2016 (hence before Emmanuel Macron became president last June); it was then reinforced with a bilateral cooperation agreement signed between Maj. Gen. Philippe Coindreau and Vice Chief of Defence Vice Adm. Joachim Ruhle in October 2017.

Concretely, the deal is for both nations to join forces and share costs, i.e. respectively 4 C130Js on the French side to be acquired by 2019 and 6 on the German side consequently to the Bundestag’s expected green light in 2019.

First C-130J for the French Air Force, October 2017. Credit Lockheed Martin.

The IOC (Initial Operational Capability) is planned for 2021 and the FOC (Full Operational Capability) for 2024….

Having several assets with different strong points is actually a bonus in military planning as it offers more options at a time when allied armed forces are especially in demand on very harsh territories.

For the French Air Force, which has been operating for several years in the Sahara-Sahelien region (with the Barkhane Operation) and over Syria and Irak against terrorist groups (with the Chammal Operation), the A400M, which can carry 30 tons in 6 hours on a flight between Orléans and N’Djamena in Chad, the C-130H-30, which can carry 7 tons in 8 hours, and the C-130J-30, which can carry 10.5 tons in 7 hours, are all complementary.

They offer self-deployable and self-sustainable assets which France can use on its own or within a coalition of allies, such as Germany and the United States.

This piece is the initial launch of a new focus of Breaking Defense as well

With this article we begin regular coverage of the French military, NATO and a wide variety of European defense issues by Murielle Delaporte, a deeply experienced and knowledgeable expert on French strategy and acquisition.

Murielle, who travels regularly between Washington and Paris and to the traditional haunts of the French military, is editor of Opérationnels, a French-language defense magazine.

This marks the beginning of a measured but marked expansion of Breaking Defense’s coverage of the US and foreign militaries. Read on! The Editor.

Australian Hawkei Vehicles to Iraq for Test and Evaluation


1/23/18:Two PMV-L Hawkei vehicles have arrived in the Middle East Region to conduct operational test and evaluation trials in Iraq.

Soldiers from Task Group Taji 6 will utilise these vehicles throughout the trial period which will assess the sustainability of the vehicles.

The vehicles were transported from Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East Region to Taji in Iraq on Royal Australian Air Force C-130J aircraft.

Australian Defence Force members are deployed on Operation Accordion and support and sustain ADF operations in the Middle East region, enabling contingency operations and enhancing regional relationship.

Australian Department of Defence

January 14, 2018

In a 2017 interview we conducted with Chris Jenkins of Thales Australia, we discussed the new combat vehicle.

Question: Key platforms are being bought which are software upgradeable.

This means a very different approach to upgrading and modernizing platforms, and if you want to shape an integrated approach you clearly need to find ways to shape cross cutting software integration.

How do you do this?

Chris Jenkins: The Defense Department for a long time have been saying open architecture’s what they want to see in platform systems.

The goal is to be able to insert, with relative ease, new software developments, new applications, new functionalities, to enable agility, the ability to adapt the capability in our systems more rapidly.

We learned a lot about that in Afghanistan with some of the land-based platforms we had.

We have also learned about the capability advantage of having open architecture in things like Australia’s submarines and surface ships as well.

Today, what we’re seeing is that open architecture capability is really being valued in the acquisition process, and we’re seeing the service chiefs and the forces being much more effective in requesting and getting open architecture implementations for the systems into ships and vehicles and so on.

It’s putting pressure into some suppliers to review their previous business model of delivering hardware and software “locked in” to a single source of capability upgrade. It could be communications systems or battle management systems or whatever.

The new model is going to be open architecture.

This brings much greater flexibility and speed to adapt to changing operational needs.

We found that in the Bushmaster vehicles going to Afghanistan, with the upgrades to systems progressively through that whole conflict.

The number of capabilities that were trying to be inserted in the vehicle required hardware changes, more and more hardware being built up inside the vehicle, more power demand, more weight and a great difficulty to ensure the safety of the people inside the vehicle.

Just the practical aspects of getting the equipment in there are a problem, but it means you have lots of equipment that can be dislodged during a blast.

It becomes very difficult for the occupants, say for example, of the Bushmaster.

Some of the work done on the Hawkei learning from the Bushmaster experience was to create only a single integrated computing system with open architecture that then allows all the suppliers that Defense wants to work with to drop in their communications systems, their remote weapons system, their surveillance system, their battle management system.

The simple matter is exactly as you say.

That’s where the market is going.

That’s what defense forces want, and of course from an agility standpoint that’s what they need to have, so industry has to adapt how it works to make sure we make this happen quickly.

There are some very good examples of that now happening.

I think it’s a great change.

It’s a real change clearly delivering the agility our forces need.

HIMARS at Sea 360 Degree View


11/25/17: U.S. Navy Sailors with Assault Craft Unit 5 deliver a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from Battery R, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, onto the USS Anchorage (LPD-23) via a landing craft, air cushion on Oct. 20, 2017, during Exercise Dawn Blitz.

DB17 is a scenario-driven amphibious exercise conducted between Expeditionary Strike Group 3 and 1st MEB, testing their ability to conduct amphibious operations in response to global crises and to project power ashore as part of a Navy-Marine Corps team



Video by Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Knauth 

1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade

3 Carrier Exercise in Western Pacific


11/15/2017: For the first time in a decade, three U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) coordinated operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

The USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Strike Groups staged a complex series of air and sea exercises with Japan.

According to the US 7th Fleet:

YOKOSUKA, Japan — The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) strike groups will commence a three-carrier strike force exercise in the Western Pacific, Nov. 11-14. Units assigned to the strike force will conduct coordinated operations in international waters in order to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort. “It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift.

 “Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.” While at sea, the strike force plans to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers and other training.

 This is the first time that three carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam.

 Both exercises focused on the ability to rapidly bring together forces from three strike groups in response to any regional situation. Ronald Reagan took part in VS 2006 and Nimitz took part in VS 2007.

 More recently, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have conducted dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific including in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea.

 These opportunities typically occur when strike groups deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations from the West Coast of the United States are joined with the forward deployed carrier strike group from Japan.

And an article in Defense News added this with regard to Japanese participation in the exercise:

Japan has announced it will participate in the U.S. Navy’s three-carrier strike force exercise in the Western Pacific, sending its own ships and aircraft to join the exercise.

 In a news release, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force of JMSDF said that three of its ships and aircraft from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force or JASDF will join in the exercises to be held off the East China Sea and Sea of Japan.

 The three JMSDF ships participating in the exercise are the helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH 182) and destroyers JS Inazuma (DD 105) and JS Makinami (DD 112). In addition two Mitsubishi F-15J Eagle interceptors from the JASDF’s 6th Air Wing from Komatsu Airbase will also be involved. 

 The news release also says that the JMSDF is keen to use every opportunity to strengthen the alliance with the U.S. Navy, noting that joining such exercises like these contribute to regional security.


Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Aiyana Paschal 

Defense Media Activity Forward Center – Pacific



Firing HIMARS at Sea: A Case Study in the Evolution of the MAGTF


10/25/2017: U.S. Marines with Battery R, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division launch a rocket from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) off the USS Anchorage (LPD-23) during Exercise Dawn Blitz, Oct. 22, 2017.

Dawn Blitz 17 allows the amphibious force to integrate the F-35B Lightning II and HIMARS into the exercise to validate a capability with platforms not traditionally used at the Marine Expeditionary Brigade/Expeditionary Strike Group or Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Ready Group levels.


Video by Lance Cpl. Victoria Decker

1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade

According to the USMC, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is described as follows:

HIMARS is a C-5 transportable, wheeled, indirect fire, rocket/missile system capable of firing all current and future rockets and missiles in the Multiple-Launch Rocket System Family of Munitions (MFOM).

The HIMARS launcher consists of a fire control system, carrier (automotive platform), and launcher-loader module that performs all operations necessary to complete a fire mission.

The basic system is defined as one launcher, one resupply vehicle, and two resupply trailers.  

HIMARS addresses an identified, critical warfighting deficiency in Marine Corps fire support.

HIMARS employs the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rocket to provide precision fires in support of the MAGTF. HIMARS is a transformational, responsive, general-support/general-support reinforcing precision indirect fire weapon system that accurately engages targets at long ranges (in excess of 40 miles) with high volumes of lethal precision fires in all weather conditions and throughout all phases of combat operations ashore.

But this is a platform-centric description not how it can contribute to the fight in a distributed battlespace.

For the Marines, the HIMARS can be used ashore or as they have just demonstrated can be fired from an amphibious ship as well during Dawn Blitz.

And in the most recent WTI exercise, the F-35 operated as the trigger for HIMARS firing.

This development can be missed or simply look like legacy aircraft support to a ground firing capability.

But it is not.

U.S. Marines with Battery R, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division launch a rocket from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) off the USS Anchorage (LPD-23) during Exercise Dawn Blitz, Oct. 22, 2017. Dawn Blitz 17 allows the amphibious force to integrate the F-35B Lightning II and HIMARS into the exercise to validate a capability with platforms not traditionally used at the Marine Expeditionary Brigade/Expeditionary Strike Group or Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Ready Group levels. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Logan Block)

The F-35s sensors onboard provide significant range and ability to target discriminate which can be shared with the ground force to guide their operational trajectories as well as, in the case of HIMARS, a key target to destroy.

With the decision-making ability built into the cockpit of the F-35, the pilots can identify key choke point targets to support ground fires and can themselves add weapons to the fight.

In other words, rather than doing class ground support, the F-35 is capable of integrating the ground fires into an overall distributed strike force.

HIMARS integration with F-35 and the shipboard firing are case studies of the transition of the USMC and not simply case studies of more advanced ways of doing what they have been doing.

C-27J Spartan’s Flies in Exercise Southern Katipo


10/31/2017: The RAAF’s No. 35 Squadron has achieved a significant milestone this month, having deployed a C-27J Spartan Battlefield Air Lifter to participate in a major international exercise for the first time since the aircraft was brought into service by the Australian Defence Force.

The Spartan is in New Zealand to provide an air mobility capability for Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 – the New Zealand Defence Force’s largest combined and joint exercise.

The exercise features a variety of air, land and sea scenarios including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the evacuation of civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid, maritime patrols, peacekeeping operations and conventional warfighting.

Credit: Australian Department of Defence

October 27, 2017

Thirteen countries are participating in Southern Katipo, with 17 fixed-wing aircraft, six helicopters, five ships and more than three-thousand ground force personnel, as well as civilian agencies including Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The RAAF Spartan has transported more than 200 troops with their equipment and 11000 pounds of cargo into the exercise area since Southern Katipo started on 18 October, including soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Timor Leste, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

No. 35 Squadron C-27J Detachment Commander, Flight Lieutenant Jason Meyers said deploying to New Zealand for the exercise demonstrated the progress made by the squadron over the past two years to get the new aircraft fully operational.

“Our participation in Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 represents a massive leap forward for 35 Squadron, demonstrating our ability to operate the C-27J Spartan in support of military operations, not just in Australia but also abroad,” Flight Lieutenant Meyers said.
Flight Lieutenant Meyers, who is also the aircraft captain of the deployed Spartan, said the C-27J was contributing a unique capability to the exercise.

“We are one of the smallest fixed-wing aircraft operating in the fleet for this exercise, which also has C-17s and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and United States Air Force C-130s,” he said.

“The Spartan can operate more freely in environments where the C-17 is impacted by restrictions, making us a valuable capability for getting troops and cargo where they need to go, even in challenging situations.”
Flight Lieutenant Meyers said Southern Katipo was providing his crew with some great training opportunities, which would be difficult to replicate in Australia.

“I’m operating with two co-pilots and three loadmasters who are building their experience in this aircraft type,” Flight Lieutenant Meyers said.
“One of my co-pilots is here straight out of his initial qualification for the C-27J, so for him this is an excellent opportunity to enhance his experience and improve his knowledge and operating abilities on this aircraft.

“Additionally, the weather here in New Zealand is temperamental and challenging – with frequent low cloud, rain and constant windy conditions around most of the airfields and drop zones we are operating into.

“If you combine that with the mountainous terrain in the South Island, it provides my co-pilots, the loadmasters and I with a unique and valuable training experience that we can’t really get back home.”

As well as transporting personnel and equipment to RNZAF bases all over New Zealand, the C-27J Spartan crew is conducting air drops to help re-supply troops in the field as the exercise develops into its peacekeeping and war fighting phases.

The Australian Defence Force has also deployed a KA350 King Air and Air Load Teams to support the Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 Air Task Group, with a RAAF C-130 Hercules supporting the deployment of personnel from Australia to New Zealand.