LONDON — Europe is sandwiched between two pressure points as refugees are pouring in from war-torn countries like Syria and Libya while Russia continues to wreak havoc in Ukraine, making the rest of the Baltic states nervous.
At DSEI, one of the world’s biggest defense shows, many companies addressed modern day dangers as they showcased solutions to provide border security and humanitarian relief.
Northern European companies like Sweden’s Saab, Norway’s Kongsberg and Finland’s Patria were focused on “hard” technologies like gun systems, cruise missiles, air and missile defense systems and undersea warfare technologies, Jim Tinsley of Avascent observed across the massive showroom floor.
Western and southern European companies like France's Thales and Italy's Finmeccanica emphasized soft surveillance for sovereignty operations and border security applications such as air- and sea-based maritime patrol, integrated air common operating picture on both the civil and defense sides, and surveillance capabilities such as air and ground-based radars, Tinsley said.
“It’s not that they didn’t have weapons systems, but you could see the difference in focus.”
Hanging over Thales’ booth at the show was its Watchkeeper X unmanned aircraft system. It was originally designed for the British Army to provide long endurance, airborne intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capability. The aircraft can operate anywhere in the world in any weather conditions, said Matt Moore, the UAS product head at Thales. Watchkeeper is also being offered for competitions in France and Poland.
The aircraft is a fully certified airworthy system, qualified to the same standards as manned aviation, Moore said.
“We are providing the first UAV that can fly over civilian populated area,” he added. “A lot of the tasks these days, even on operations, you have to demonstrate the duty of care to fly over civilians, a lot more homeland security tasks, critical infrastructure, protecting your borders and sovereignty.”
Thales also demonstrated a simulation of the air command and control system it has designed with Raytheon for NATO. The system provides a single, integrated picture of airborne commercial and military aircraft activity.
Selex ES, a Finmeccanica company, touted its counter-UAV system on the first day of the show. Using multiple sensors positioned strategically in a chosen area, it can detect small unmanned aircraft systems and their control stations, geo-locate and track an airborne UAS while an electro-optical and infrared camera can identify the aircraft. In the last stage, Falcon Shield is able to disrupt the UAS.
In an animated video conveying Falcon Shield’s capability, a small quad-copter with an explosive device is headed toward a stadium. In the scenario, the system finds, identifies and tracks the aircraft and then, overtaking the UAS, forces it to land safely on the ground “minimizing collateral damage,” Chris Bushell, senior vice president of electronic warfare at Selex ES, said at a press briefing.
Chess Dynamics, a company based in the United Kingdom, teamed up with Blighter Surveillance Systems and Enterprise Control Systems to develop a counter-UAV solution called the Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS). The system was originally developed to answer South Korea’s concern over an influx of small UASs coming from North Korea.
AUDS is the only fully developed counter-UAS solution that can disrupt UAVs in flight, said Julian Moir, a business development consultant at Chess Dynamics.
“In essence, it is mature technology,” Moir said. “It has been tested in three official trials. It’s been tested against six or seven categories of air vehicles and about 350 sorties have been flown against it and it has been proved effective in every single case,” he said. The system is being evaluated by the US Army, according to Moir.
Chess Dynamics also displayed a family of Hawkeye multisensor surveillance systems from mobile, deployable offerings to ones that can be integrated easily onto a vehicle, an armored truck and in fixed locations. Hawkeye systems can be tied together in one surveillance network, Moir said.
Kelvin Hughes, another UK company, dedicated an entire page and half press release highlighting its border security work. In Kenya, for example, the company is supplying ground surveillance radars and training to the Kenyan defense forces in Nairobi through a US company.
The company is also supplying SharpEye SxV radars to provide surveillance coverage of the Goro Lagoon in the Adriatic Sea to protect the area from illegal clam harvesting and it provides perimeter surveillance at the Belgrade airport.
Kelvin Hughes was also recently awarded a contract to provide a number of SharpEye radars to be deployed on mobile security platforms in Saudi Arabia.
UK-based QinetiQ has a solution for border or perimeter security that takes any existing fiber-optic cable or a newly installed one and fires a laser down the cable that measures the “back-scatter” from the laser, said Jon Hay-Campbell, the company’s head of media. “This can be over miles and miles and miles. Then it has boxes, clever boxes, every few miles along that fiber-optic cable,” he said.
The laser-charged cable can measure disturbances like sonar does. “Everything has its own signature, it can tell whether it’s an animal walking along, whether it’s a human walking up or whether it is a car or whether someone is digging in the ground,” Hay-Campbell described.
The system is also able to provide information on how many people, animals or cars are pinged, he explained.
The system is already along borders, but Hay-Campbell said he could not disclose those locations.
QinetiQ has also developed a passive millimeter wave scanner called SPO-NX that can detect in large crowds of people, “in a non-invasive way,” if anyone is hiding a foreign object underneath their clothes, Hay-Campbell said. “It scans a large body of people, it pings up and spots them and then you can go and take the one person to one side and check and see if they’ve got anything sort of dubious.”
The Transportation Security Administration has conducted some trials with the system at some airports, he added.
Norwegian company Camp Supply International pitched a shelter complete with an industrial kitchen at the show and came ready to address the refugee crisis, explaining how to provide quick and comfortable shelters for refugees in one of its brochures.
The shelters the company is offering are turnkey solutions, Henrik Eftedal, a partner at the company, said. The shelters house 72 people each with two floors per building and can hook into external power, water and sewage supplies quickly. A shelter complex takes one week to set up if the site is prepared.
An Estonian company called TerraMil turned heads at the show displaying a prefabricated tunnel shelter that can be quickly buried in trenches with modules for bedrooms, showers, toilets, kitchens and even a morgue. Peeter Kirtsi, a Terramil board member, told Defense News while sitting inside a segment of a tunnel, that the shelters have been tested against 155mm shells and would be a good choice for use in civil wars and crisis areas like in Ukraine.
And when units are on the move, the tunnels can be unburied quickly, removed and then dropped into other trenches in a matter of hours, not days, he said.