TRIP REPORT – LandForces Conference, June 2021

LandForces Conference was on again this year.

It’s billed as a forum for decision-makers throughout the region to enable networking opportunities between manufacturers, senior management (both civil and military), and equipment/service suppliers. This means there’s some really big international conglomerates as well as small business.

 

Such an example of a smaller business is this company Envirofluid: They offer tool and part washing equipment to the Royal Australian Navy, but are trying to expand their market to the other two services as well.

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As is usual for the LandForces Conference, there were a few major themes. The biggest one this year was to encourage sovereign capabilities. This includes formulation, design and manufacturing.

Unmanned systems are still a major item on the radar, with some big capabilities for drone platforms from small, innovative companies.

Personal protection is another major issue for many militaries, which brings us nicely into the first entry.

 

ARMOR AUSTRALIA

It was an absolute pleasure to meet the crew behind the Adelaide based Armor Australia. They are producing some very cool, innovative products.

What drew my eye initially was their Dive Plate, new for this year.  Neutrally buoyant – as in, the Level IIIA plate actually floats! This is a great innovation to see from an Australian company. Whilst appreciably heavier, their stand-alone special threat plate (rated for 5.56mm SS109) is still of neutral buoyancy.

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For those who may not realise why I’m so excited about this technology: one of the biggest risks to dismounted troops is drowning from being dragged underwater by their personal equipment. The problem with wearing so much PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in the form of body armour is the attendant risk in other factors in the environment that may not involve small arms fire and explosions.

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Armor Australia have other armour plates in their product line-up for military and law enforcement applications. These are some of the lightest armour plates I’ve examined. It’s great to see serious efforts to lower the carried load of dismounted troops wearing PPE.

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Another product line being offered is ballistic helmets. I was able to examine their Ultralight UHWMPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethelene) Ballistic helmet. At less than a kilogram (actually closer to 600-800 grams depending upon configuration) for Level IIIA plus hi-frag (high fragmentation) protection, this was an amazing weight reduction compared to the old steel and Kevlar helmets of my mis-spent youth.

That we have this talent and capability in Australia is fantastic.  You can check them out at: www.armoraustralia.com

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INFANTRY FIGHTING VEHICLE’S

We had opportunity to give a cursory examination of the IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) on offer to the ADF (Australian Defence Force) for LAND400 Phase 3 project. Hanwa’s Redback and Rheinmetall’s Lynx IFV’s were both on display.

As an old Recon Scout, who spent a bit of time living out of the back of tracked vehicles, I could see both contenders have their advantages and disadvantages.

Simplicity in the troop bay of the Redback was nice. A floating deck means seating is lot less complicated than the Lynx.

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But the Lynx has a fantastic sensor network that dismounts can plug into for better situational awareness prior to de-bus. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) is even capable of identifying and highlighting movement that the human operator may miss. This offers significant advantages to task saturated crew and dismounts. In fact, this technology is reminding me of reading military science fiction like Hammer’s Slammers by David Drake where individual troopers had helmet AI capable of such things.

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RMG 7.62

Speaking of Rheinmetall…

With the increasing prevalence of Remote Weapon Stations (RWS) on fighting vehicles now, Rheinmetall also had their solution for an RWS dedicated machinegun.

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The issue with many RWS stations, is that they mount a conventionally designed machinegun. These were originally designed for dismounted use by troops, and suffer design compromises from being used in weapons stations. In particular, weapons manipulations (such as loading, barrel changes and safety procedures) being conducted under armour within the vehicle can be almost impossible or extremely difficult.

The RMG solves a lot of issues for RWS dedicated platforms. A tri-barrel design, the barrel can be changed by remote control. So, whilst one barrel is cooling down, the next barrel in sequence can be brought into alignment via the control panel from under armour.

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Make-safe procedures are another area addressed by this weapon system. In a traditional RWS, utilising a conventional gun designed for dismount usage, making the weapon station safe disables the turret controls, but can still potentially leave a loaded and live weapon mounted.

This system allows mechanical safeties inherent in the gun to lock the bolt and firing mechanism as well as electronic shut down of the turret controls.

Long link, tech data sheet

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AIR 2 GROUND GEAR

Whilst I love Aimpoint red dot optics, the economy isn’t as forgiving as it has been in the past for me. I’m always looking to reach into my inner Scottish ancestry and save a few bucks as well. That some dollars may be saved and help given to an allied country as opposed to Communist China is a good thing.

Seen here is their mini-red dot mounted on an angle mount for a magnified optic.

These optics offered by Air 2 Ground Gear are made by the South Korean firm of Global Response Defense with German glass. These seem like some good options for local shooters wishing to support an allied nation.

They can be seen here:

www.a2ggear.com.au

 

ADA (AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE APPAREL)

The latest tranche of plate carriers has entered service with the ADF. I was able to examine it. It’s not bad, a decent plate carrier. I’m utterly pleased that such equipment is finally entering service.

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The only thing that annoys me at this whole program is the length of time that this equipment has taken to get into service. This isn’t a dig at ADA, since they’re restricted by the requirements outlined by the ADF.

But I am annoyed that a decent plate carrier has entered service… 21 years… after requirements for light weight body armour solutions were outlined and requested by units deployed to Timor Leste, then SECDET in Iraq and our ongoing deployments to Afghanistan. A classic example of just how slow our procurement organs are unless a fire is lit underneath them.

The plate carrier can be seen here:

https://www.ada.com.au/

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RED BARON ALSE

Aviation Life Support Equipment (ALSE) is a broad spectrum of specialised equipment and procedures for protecting aircrew, passengers and support personnel in hazardous aviation operations.

It includes such things as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like helmets, fire resistant clothing, fire resistant gloves, fire resistant footwear, fire extinguishers and rescue equipment like inflatable vests and signal equipment.

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Red Baron is a local Australian company that provides all this equipment to a wide variety of customers here in Australia.

What drew my eye to Red Baron’s display was the new model personal inflatable vest for aircrew. Here, it can be seen with the current issue item on the right.

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Single seater inflatable raft suitable for fast jets.

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Latest model immersion suit.

Link:

https://www.redbaronalse.com.au

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KORD

We’ve been talking about Kord for more than a few years now. In their own words, they’re trying to  develop and produce innovative push-button control and shot recording technologies for the military, law enforcement, homeland security and commercial shooting markets. Their main concern is an ergonomic solution to use the main functions of an individual soldier’s equipment, all without moving the hands from the primary weapon. So this means that weapon light, lasers, sight settings and communications can all be

They’ve reached significant product maturity and a couple of product layouts to suit different tastes and requirements.

Now there is a vertical grip configuration and a horizontal grip. I would consider one of these an essential accessory on the modern battlefield for switch and equipment management.

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Link:

https://www.kord.business/

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KRIEGER INDUSTRIES

Although they didn’t have a stand, it was a pleasure to bump into the team behind Krieger Industries, whom I’ve met before. They’re a Townsville based company just starting out in nylon gear design and manufacturing.

I’m looking forward to obtaining some of their gear for my own use later. I’ll ensure to cover my thoughts on it when this happens.

https://kriegerindustries.com.au/

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SECURITY

Possibly the most concerning issue for this year’s conference was security. There were people and organisations outside the venue, executing their democratic right to gather and protest in what they saw as the ills of the world. For that, I have no issue what-so-ever.

But those protestors then started harassing and intimidating women entering the venue in a professional capacity, throwing paint on other attendees.

The moment such harassment occurs, then those protestors lose all moral credibility in my mind. Their cause is morally bankrupt – and they kept proving that by continued harassment of conference attendees.

The scariest moment for me was when the protestors broke through security cordon and stormed the venue, chaining themselves to an armoured vehicle. There were a lot of pent-up Daddy-Issues on that car (ie. A-vehicle/IFV)…

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But… in these “unprecedented times” and with a serious risk of suicide bombers, and other terrorist acts against the west, a part of my mind was waiting for a call of “Galah Snackbar” and an earth-shattering Ka-Boom. When I looked around a couple of attendees in my location, I knew I wasn’t the only one expecting such a pants filling “exciting” moment.

That this security breach occurred was a sobering moment. We are getting too complacent here in the “Lucky Country”, our luck is very likely to run out sometime.


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