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SOFEX 2014.

The 2014 edition of the biannual exhibition of military equipment dedicated to Special Forces was inaugurated on Tuesday 6 May in Amman, Jordan, by His Majesty King Abdullah II, himself a former special forces commander. Air and ground segments dominated the exhibition, with numerous aircraft on stand in the outside area, while three main halls hosted respectively international, US and Jordan exhibitors.

Weather forecast announced some rain for the last day, but that materialised in an intense night storm that managed to flood two of the halls, an unfortunate event that reduced by one day the exhibition for a number of participants (although some American media wrongly informed that the whole exhibition had closed). All pictures [C]Armada/Paolo Valpolini


The Amman exhibition marked the public debut of the recently delivered AC-235, the light gunship developed by ATK with Jordan's KADDB (King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau). The two ordered aircraft (the programme was announced at IDEX 2011) have been delivered. One featured on the static display, while the other flew by during the opening ceremony. Flying under the colours of Jordan's Special Operations Aviation, that is the 5th Prince Hashim Bin Abdulah II Royal Aviation Brigade, the AC-235 features two stub wings carrying Hellfire missiles as well as rocket launchers. Those installed can fire 2.75-inch rockets, but the key weapon is ATK's M230LF 30 mm Chain Gun installed in the rear of the cabin to fire through the portside door (see red arrow, left). The M230 is the low recoil version of the ATK 30 mm gun and fires 30x113 ammunition at a rate of625 rounds per minute. Target acquisition and tracking are carried by a Thales I-Master radar (a Kuband synthetic aperture radar with ground moving target indicator capability) and an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical day/night sensor, that also includes a laser designator to home the AGM-114s. BAE Systems announced that Jordan had decided to acquire its 2.75-inch APKWS laser-guided rockets to the tune of $5.5 million. The agreement between the US Navy and Jordan for this FMS contract was signed on 14 April with deliveries planned for 2016 (more details on the APKWS further on).

Separated on the exhibition grounds from the AC-235 by some Jordan Special Forces helicopters and a training aircraft as if to ensure that no 30 mm gun duel between the two contenders would take place, was Alenia Aermacchi's MC-27J--the other light gunship currently on the market. Like the AC-235 it is being developed by ATK, but in cooperation with the Italian aircraft manufacturer. The mock-up of the gun system installed on the aircraft has considerably evolved since the last Paris Air show, as the gun can nowbe moved both in elevation and azimuth (see red arrow, above picture). Based on a roll-on/roll-off pallet system that allows easy reconfiguration of the aircraft for other missions, this is a phased programme that led to firing tests with a fixed gun in Spring 2013, followed by prototype flight last April in Turin equipped with the L-3 Wescam MX-15Di optronic sensor installed under the nose of the aircraft. The main difference between the AC-235 and the MC-27J is that the latter is fitted with the GAU-23 which fires the more powerful 30x173 mm ammunition. The gun fires through a modified port-side door. A next phase will see the installation of Common Launch Tubes in the rear of the aircraft to allow the MC-27J to engage opponents with guided precision munitions. Air-refuelling capable, the MC-27J can ensure a considerable time on-station. The Italian Air Force is to have six of its C-27J outfitted to receive the palletised system and is also envisaging the acquisition of a Phase 1 version kit (with fixed gun) to deploy it to Afghanistan before the withdrawal of the Italian troops.


The ability to carry a radio in a rucksack and deploy the satcom antenna in a matter of seconds is any special force operator's dream, but has become a reality with the Selex ES Tacsat Razor antenna. The antenna is opened by pulling a strap, the two series of four rods being installed in a way that they do not interfere with the operator's head. According to Selex ES thorough testing showed that there is no radiation hazard. When transmission is over, the antenna goes back into its container, which is 420 mm long, just by pulling the strap in the other direction. Overall the antenna weighs one kilo, operates in the 240-320 MHz frequency band and can accept a maximum of 20W.

With over 20,000 Personal Role Radios sold to Jordan years ago, Selex ES exhibited the whole evolution of its PRR radios. The first model provided only voice link with a 500-metre range in the open, due to the 50 mW output and the original antenna; an incremental evolution was then carried out adopting add-on features in successive moments. While remaining on the original 2.4 GHz frequency, a high gain antenna as well as an increase in the output power, up to 100 mW, allowed to more than double the range. In the meantime a data variant was introduced, as well as a dual push-to-talk switch pack allowing the team commander to operate both the PRR and the Combat Net Radio. The addition of an encryption package brought to the EZPRR, which still maintains the shell of the PRR. The next step has been the adoption of the "in the ear" capacity, providing ear protection. The last step is more visible, as the Frontline Soldier Radio (FSR) features a new case; but the most important change is the adoption of a dual band system, which adds to the original 2.4 GHz band UHF waveform, a soldier narrowband in the 350-400 MHz, the squad commander being now able to monitor both the squad and platoon nets simultaneously. Next step? Full software-defined radio compatibility, of course.


The KADDB Investment Group made a major announcement regarding its intention to join forces with South Africa's Paramount Group, the latter active both in the air and land sectors with the aim of bringing the production of battle-tested and proven defence technologies to Jordan for armed forces across the Middle East and North Africa. The birth of Arab Defence Industries--or ADI in short was materialised by the signing of the agreement by Shadi Ramzi Al Majali, Chairman of KIG, and Ivor Ichikowitz, executive chairman of Paramount Group and by the presence of a Mbombe 6x6 IFV already bearing the ADI badge. The first visible result of the joint venture came on the last day of the exhibition, when ADI announced that the Jordanian Armed Forces had signed a contract for 50 Mbombe 22-tonne all-Level 4 protected vehicles to be produced in Jordan, quite probably in a new facility.


In service in numbers in the US military and one of the two Mrap types that will be maintained in service, the M-ATV is looking at new markets and thus Oshkosh developed new versions to underline the flexibility of its successful vehicle. In Amman the manufacturer announced the launch of six new versions, with three on an extended wheelbase. The three versions build on the standard chassis are the SXB (base), SXU (upgrade) and SXF (special forces). The SXB features increased blast protection, which increases the curb weight from the 11,340 kg of the original vehicle to 12,747 kg, while maintaining the same 1,814 kg payload capacity. Compared to the SXB the SXU features an Underbody Improvement Kit (UIK) including energy absorbing seats. It also has new larger tyres (16.00R20 compared to the standard 395/85R20), and its curb weight is increased to 14,182 kg. Payload capacity is 2,000 kg. The SXF's fifth seat converts to gunner stand and is compatible with a remote-control weapon. The variant also features a rear cargo access hatch, hood steps and hand holds, an increased crew compartment volume, and a protected cargo area. As for weights, curb is increased to 14,273 while payload capacity increases to 2,500 kg.

The new extended chassis wheelbase is increased from 3,929 mm to 4,447 mm, and comes in EXI (intervention), EXE (engineer) and EXC (command) versions, all with a single extended crew capsule as well as the UIK and the 16.00R20 wheels. The EXI allows the transport of up to 11 military, two in the front seats, three in rearward facing seats and six on two rows of inward looking folding seats at the rear, the whole vehicle being protected. At 16,700 kg curb weight, it is the heaviest of the three extended models, though the 2,000 kg payload capacity is common to all three EXs. Two rear hatches hinged at the bottom act as small ramps, adding to the standard four side doors, a double door roof hatch allowing vertical deployment.

The EXE and the EXC have the same 16,500 kg curb weight. The former normally seats five (two front and three rear). Wide storage space is available for various equipment including robots with tie-down points for robots. The extra-wide rear hatch ensures easy transit of big robots. An optional modular system at the rear can increase the seating to 11. The EXE is mine roller-ready with integrated mounts, electrical interfaces and interior controller mounts. The EXC for its part features a single rear hatch on the right with a spare tyre on the left, leaving the left of the rear compartment free for C4I equipment. It has the same seating arrangement as the EXE. The standard base M-ATV has already scored some success in the area, 800 having been delivered to the United Arab Emirates while Saudi Arabia is another user, and the extended chassis version has already chalked up an order from an undisclosed customer. According to Oshkosh executives, further variants are in the pipeline.

The other Oshkosh vehicle on show was the L-ATV, the company name for the JLTV proposal, of which 22 prototypes are being tested by the US Army and Marine Corps. It is the first appearance of the L-ATV in the Middle East, and a clear indication of Oshkosh's intention to promote it on the export market.


The role of the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau is to provide the Jordanian armed forces with new equipment with state-of-the-art technology or refurbishing existing equipment. The Jordanian Pavilion exhibited its last products, either developed in house or in cooperation with foreign companies.

Starting from vehicles, KADDB unveiled its new Stallion II light armoured troop transport, which in the base troop transport configuration has a gross weight of around 7.5 tonnes, the maximum number of passengers being seven plus the driver. Its 272 hp Steyr engine is located at the front and is protected by the monocoque welded steel hull that provides an all-crew base Level 1 protection. Access is via the two doors on each side and the rear door, all of them featuring an armoured window, full 360[degrees] vision being increased by two small side-windows in the rear compartment. The bonnet is sloped to ensure good short distance visibility to the driver and commander. The Stallion II has independent suspensions with rear, front and central differential locks, a central tyre inflation system and automatic 5-speed gearbox. Maximum road speed is 125 km/h, with a road range of 500 km. No dimensions were given except a turning radius of 6.8 metres. The Stallion II can cope with 60 percent front and 40 percent side slopes and is able to cross a 900 mm wide trench or a 500 mm high obstacle. Standard armament includes a pintle-mounted M60 7.62x51 mm machine gun, but the roof can withstand the weight of a light remote-control weapon station. The displayed prototype was equipped with Rheinmetall Rosy grenade launchers and a DRS Enhanced Situational Awareness system providing improved view to the driver. KADDB plans further versions of the vehicle, such as double-cab logistic and antitank vehicles, the latter armed with Kornet-E missiles, and single-cab versions armed with Igla air defence missiles or light multiple rocket launchers.

Using older systems to provide new improved capabilities to the Jordanian Army was clearly shown by the new truck-mounted self-propelled howitzer that is being developed using the old M102 105/32 mm towed weapon system of American origin installed onto a 4x4 DAF 4440 cross-country truck chassis. Stripped of its carriage, the howitzer is mounted on a baseplate fitted with an electro-hydraulic control system that allows to traverse the weapon 45[degrees] left or right, the elevation arcbeing-5[degrees]/+75[degrees]. A manual hydraulic backup traverse and elevation system is fitted. The prototype shown had already undergone two firing trials, demonstrating an in-action time of less than 210 seconds and an out-of action time of less than 45 seconds.

This Phase 1 development vehicle carries a GPS/inertial/odometer navigation system and 36 105mm rounds located behind the cabin. The M012 has a maximum range of 11.5 km and a first three-minute rate of fire of 10 rpm. Two outriggers are located behind the first axle to improve stability when firing and the sides and back of the truck open to increasing platform surface. The system weighs 11.17 tonnes without the crew that consists a driver plus three artillerymen--a considerable manpower saving compared to the seven needed for the towed version. Phase 1 should be concluded in October 2014 with the delivery of the first prototype to the Army for test and evaluation. Phase 2 will include numerous improvements, including a fire control system derived from that developed by KADDB for heavy mortars, an increase in the number of ammunition and the installation of the system on a pallet, to allow quick installation on any suitable chassis.


With over 200 rockets fired in combat by the US Marine Corps, which uses them on its AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) 2.75-inch guided rockets fully deserves its combat-proven tag, something that certainly weighed in Jordan's choice to install the weapon on its Special Forces AC-235, marking the first export order for the system. At Sofex time over 3,000 rockets had been built and tested from multiple platforms, including unmanned rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft. The key element of the weapon is the WGU 59/B guidance kit, equipped with a distributed aperture semi-active laser seeker (Dasals) mounted between the Mk66 propulsion section and the front warhead section. Its laser seekers are installed on each one of the four flip-out flaperons, which ensures that before optics are protected before launch, including from plume of a neighbouring rocket. The seeker has a 40[degrees] field of view, which ensures a broad area to capture the laser designator beam. The system also enables the missile to be guided onto the last known target position in case of laser beam disruption. According to BAE Systems the US Marine Corps scored an over 95 percent hit rate in operations, with most of the misses intentional, particularly when an excessive risk of collateral damage was detected after launch. The optimal launch distance for the weapon is three kilometres. At this distance the system has the maximum off-axis capacity of [+ or -] 15[degrees] in azimuth and [+ or -] 7.5[degrees] in elevation. BAE Systems is working on a version for faster aircraft, since higher launch speeds require adjustments to the flaperons and their deployment mechanism. Full development depends on American intentions.


With considerable interests in the Middle East Region and in Jordan, Beretta Defence Technologies was definitely amongst the major exhibitors. Its pistols and assault rifles being already in service in numerous countries in the region, the firm is now presenting itself as a complete solutions supplier, having incorporated in the group numerous accessory manufacturers, with more to join. Innovative solutions include the iProtect (prototype unveiled at Milipol 2013) that records and manages automatic alerts. In addition to weapons, Beretta's stand showcased two other main subjects, clothing and training, including a full suite of clothing (from underwear to cold weather, in standard fabric, for training or low-risk missions, and full flame-retardant fabric) already ordered by the Italian MoD.

Possibly a most visited item was the VirTra training simulator. The Arizona-based virtual training specialist has recently clinched an agreement with BDT by which the latter will promote the simulator to its customers around the world. Available in different versions, V-100, V-180 and V300, the numbers indicating the angles covered by the screens, the system allows full immersion and, according to operators that tested it, provides a considerable level of stress on trainees.


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Title Annotation:Show Report
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 2014
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