Military GSE: On the front line

Samantha Payne provides an overview of what's happening in the military GSE market.

Sales of military ground support equipment are proving to be a reliable business segment in these volatile times. For Aviogei, whose main customers are foreign military air forces and military aircraft manufacturers, there are many activities in the pipeline that will turn into orders in the third quarter of this year, with high demand expected to continue as we head into 2023.

Currently it is working on its new K-Loader that will be able to operate any military or civil aircraft, which is expected to be in operation in 2023. The K-Loader integrates the best technologies available for electrical, electronic parts and sensor and the height is fully compliant with IATA rules.

“The GSE will be tested according to the strictest military certifications and will achieve the ATLAS certification required for air transport. Thanks to the 4x4 traction and the steering operating on the front and rear axles, the K-Loader will be prepared for any ground surface,” said Andrea Cesarini, CEO.

Another important GSE manufactured by Aviogei is the mobile control tower, which is also available  in an air-transportable configuration. Aviogei is working on military green solutions, for instance, hydrogen trials are underway to reduce CO2 emissions and have a further impact on the environment worldwide.

During 2022 Aviogei has become a member of the AFCEA association in order to always be aligned with the needs of military communities in terms of new technology and strategy.

SOVAM almost sells all its civil equipment to the military, providing aero-transportation for most of them. That includes baggage tractors and pushbacks, passenger stairs, maintenance platforms, sanitary, catering and PRM vehicles, and so much more.

The most popular equipment is of course its maintenance platforms, because the company says they have an unrivalled stability and a lot of safety features to ensure the safety of aircrafts and operators. The platforms can be used on any military aircraft (as much as any civil ones too).

They have a number of historical customers, from France and Europe, but also from French speaking African countries and the Middle East for instance. As for today and the past two years, the French army, NATO, Qatar, EAU, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Niger and India have been their main military customers.

The military side of the business was still going strong even though some major delays happened (and were to be expected) due to the Covid crisis.

“We are only seeing in 2022 the results of tenders meant for 2020. Regarding the geopolitical situation, the war in Ukraine stopped our business with our Russian distributor on the civil part but otherwise, we have not seen any disruption for our military sales activities. However, and as for every industrial company, we are really impacted by lead-time and the costs of raw materials,” said Ambre Bernela, Product Manager.

For 2022/2023, SOVAM’s strategy is to assess the new demand now that the pandemic has (hopefully) come close to an end. For instance, most European countries are looking for electrical equipment exclusively so it is  wondering what its new target of development should be.

“As for this ‘green energy’, we are developing with some customers an offer on electro-retrofitting our equipment in order to upcycle our vehicles instead of creating new ones, and at a cheaper cost. To be more specific to the military business, we are mostly dependent on tenders, so it can be hard to have a clear vision for the future.

We are so grateful to our customers, who still believed in us during the Covid crisis because thanks to them, and thanks to our team, we are still there, going strong and building the future of SOVAM. We stayed positive, close to our fellow colleagues and customers and turned this pandemic to our advantage, showing the resiliency and the hunger to fight for the future of SOVAM.

We have chosen to believe in a resumption of  aeronautical activity and we’ve worked for it: continuing the modernisation and industrialisation of our production, creating an ecological range in response to the decarbonization strategies of our customers and prospects, extending our distributors network in order to reinforce our local presence and more broadly to the ecological challenges that we must all face and finally, completing our product offering, such as catering vehicles and GSE for people with reduced mobility,” added Bernela.

Despite 2021 being a slow year due to the Covid pandemic causing the global market to be reluctant to make major acquisitions, EINSA had a successful year. It won major domestic and international contracts and managed to maintain its turnover at similar levels to pre-Covid years.

“2022 seems to be the year of recovery and we have high expectations for the coming months”, said Laura Fiandra, Regional Director for Europe.

EINSA is a global company, with equipment operating in more than 60 countries. A couple years ago, it started working with the Canadian Air Force to supply dozens of weapon loaders in which the last units were recently developed. It has also been developing commercial activities in West African countries where it has been awarded several contracts for the supply of vehicles and different military equipment. Last year it entered a new market in a Central European country and in Spain, it was awarded with the contract to supply 24 Light Tactical Vehicle for the Spanish Special Forces.

“It was a very important milestone for EINSA as it was a project that we developed for more than three years. In the near future, we are about to sign our fourth contract with the German Air Force for the supply of armament handling, transport and loading equipment.”

Weapon loaders, together with towing tractors, have always been EINSA's bestseller equipment. Its light vehicles have also been popular with the different Armies worldwide.

“Years ago, EINSA was selected by Lockheed Martin as the main supplier for the supply of weapon loaders for all the F-35s sold in Europe. This was a very important milestone for a Spanish company like EINSA, since Spain does not participate in the programme as a nation. Since then, we have been supplying equipment for different countries including Italy and the United Kingdom.”

The solid state ITW GSE 2400 is the first choice for many military and defense customers as it is the cleanest, greenest, and most reliable ground power unit powered by the mains in the airport.

In particular, the 2400 Compact for the Eurofighter Typhoon, which has been approved by BAE Systems is popular as is the 2400 270 VDC which meets and exceeds the stringent requirements of the world’s most advanced aircraft systems including Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22. However, at many military bases there is a need for emission free, mobile equipment making the battery driven7400 eGPU the perfect alternative as it is neither dependent on diesel nor on electricity at input and can be used anywhere where 400 Hz or 28 VDC supplies are needed.

“Through the pandemic, we have seen an overall major increase in order intake from the military and defense segment, including eGPUs. Thus, during the past three years, roughly about 20% of ITW GSE units has been delivered to the military segment,” said Rune Lind Pedersen, Strategic Marketing Manager.

ITW GSE has supported military applications worldwide for more than 50 years to include the most advanced fighter platforms, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-16 Falcon, F-18 Hornet, etc. During the last three years, it has supplied more than 500 units to military and defense customers worldwide. The units have primarily been delivered to Royal Air Forces, Ministry of Defences, navy, marine and airbases. Additionally, ITW GSE is a major service provider of cables, hoses, and accessories to the US Military.

“During the last few years, military air bases around the world have tested the ITW GSE 7400 eGPU and although the military aircraft power demand is lower than that of civil aircraft, the airbases have been surprised with the battery capacity. After three days of use, the eGPU was still running without being recharged. Furthermore, the military air bases were thrilled to discover that the emission free and silent eGPU is indeed well suited for hangar use as well,” continued Pedersen.

“Our military and defense customers value the same product benefits as our civil customers just like they appreciate our common control interface and ease of use. ITW GSE’s vision is to provide the cleanest, most reliable, and most cost-efficient ground support equipment, and the eGPU provides armed forces with a good opportunity to show environmental commitment without compromising operations. The military and defense customers also want to be green – and not only when wearing camouflage.”

JBT Defense has been investing heavily in the development of air-transportable, multi-capable carts supplying air, electrical power, pneumatics, and hydraulics for use by air force and army units, especially those forces engaged in force projection and highly flexible forward deployed settings.

Among its popular products is the AgileAir conditioned air, bleed air, and 400Hz power cart, which it has been manufacturing and supplying for some time now.

With more than 50 units operational around the globe, the AgileAir continues to impress and gain support as militaries look to reduce their logistical footprint, ease asset transportation requirements, and reduce fuel consumption. AgileAir helps meet all three of these objectives.

It is a diesel powered, high pressure conditioned air and power cart for F15, F16, F18 and more fighter aircraft. Designed to replace with a single cart, the old Dash 60 and C-10 carts commonly used on military flightlines, the AgileAir unit uses a diesel engine, rather than a turbine, to produce the power,  air temperatures, pressures, and air flows needed by modern fighter aircraft. Using the diesel engine results in significantly improved fuel consumption over turbine powered models, quieter operations, greater reliability, and a smaller footprint as it basically combines the function of two older carts into a single, modern platform.

Air-transportable on C130, C17, A400M and other aircraft and able to operate on JP8, JP5, JetA, 1D, 2D and TS-1 fuels, the AgileAir is a great choice for tarmac, forward deployed, and mobile base operations in any environment. A sister product to the AgileAir, but suitable for army/helicopter flightline support, is JBT’s AgilePower product. AgilePower is a modernised, diesel powered, ground support cart (AGPU1.1) using proven technologies configured in a unique way to provide pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical power in a single, air-transportable cart.

Like AgileAir, the AgilePower cart provides the pneumatics, hydraulics and electrical power with greater fuel efficiency, noise reduction, and reliability of proven diesel engine power. Compatible for air-transport with the CH47, C130, C17 and other aircraft, and transportable as a sling load, the AgilePower is designed to support AH64, CH47, UH60, UH72 and other airframes on tarmacs and at forward deployed sites around the world.

Langa Industrial
Madrid-based Langa Industrial designs and manufactures a wide range of military aviation ground equipment for many applications to be used with fighters, cargo aircrafts, helicopters and UAV. They offer different lifting systems, solutions for pushback and towing, access stairs and maintenance platforms for use in ramp or hangar operations.

Adolfo Gordo, Commercial Director, said: “Our AGE design is cost-effective, rugged for military use and manufactured with standard components to reduce maintenance in order to give a proven reliability in combat operation zones throughout the world.”

Langa’s range of tripod jacks with load capacity from 2 to 180 tons, covers most fighters, cargo aircrafts and helicopters available for military use and can be operated with their hydraulic and electronic lifting system for safe operation, reducing time and resources.
The air transportable tactical loaders are designed with the highest reliability on irregular grounds and in combat environments.

They are a cost-effective solution with optimised load capacity to lift and transfer containers, palletized loads, vehicles and small helicopters in most of military cargo aircrafts. They have been designed to be aligned with the aircraft cargo deck of CASA CN235/C295, Hercules C-130, KC-390, CJ-27 , C17, A400M , IL76 and up to civilian B747 cargo aircraft.

The loaders are among Langa’s most popular items and have been incorporated into the Air Forces of Italy and Spain in Europe, Morocco and Algeria in Africa and Malaysia and Oman in Asia.

Airbus Defence and Space, General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), BAE Systems and Nato´s NSPA are the company’s major customers in the military arena.

“2022 is the year in which a light at the end of the tunnel has started to become visible. It is still blurred with uncertainties and many variables but hopefully it will be the foundation for our growth in 2023 and 2024,” added Gordo.


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