Sponsored by Spectra Group
29 Oct 19. Spectra Group (UK) awarded 2019 Queen’s Award for Innovation. Last week, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire, The Dowager Countess Darnley, presented Spectra Group (UK) with the highly prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The ceremony took place at Spectra’s headquarters and was attended by Major Patrick Darling, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire;; Councillor David Hitchiner, Leader of Herefordshire Council; Sharon Smith, CEO, H&W Chamber of Commerce; Mark Armitage, Senior Director of International Trade, H&W Chamber of Commerce; as well as Members of UK MOD and a host of proud Spectra staff.
The Queen’s Award is highly contested and is a noteworthy recognition of the outstanding commercial success that Spectra has achieved with their revolutionary device, SlingShot®. Along with the commemorative trophy, Spectra were presented with the official Grant of Appointment, given permission to use the Queen’s Award emblem and to fly The Queen’s Award flag at their main office.
SlingShot is a lightweight device that delivers game-changing capabilities to existing military and civilian radio networks. When connected to military or commercial UHF/VHF radios, Slingshot extends their range from under 50 miles to potentially 1000s of miles by utilising the commercial satellite network. The system works by simply converting standard radio signals to the frequency used by commercial satellites and is the only product of its type to enable beyond line-of-sight voice and data communications whilst the user is on the move. It also enables interoperability between agencies using different radio systems, without degradation by environmental factors such as weather, terrain and vegetation, delivering increased safety and security with improved flexibility and effectiveness.
Spectra’s innovation stemmed from a realisation in 2012 that there was a previously unutilised capability of the Inmarsat geostationary satellite network that would have huge potential in both military and commercial sectors. Within a year of working closely with Inmarsat, a working concept was developed and approved for use by the British military; versatile enough to be used in aircraft, vehicles, maritime platforms and by individuals on the ground. Spectra has since gone on to successfully market SlingShot internationally for military and non-military use, such as emergency services and disaster-relief, with a capability that has proved to be of critical importance and has undoubtedly contributed to the saving of lives.
Simon Davies, CEO of Spectra Group said: “I am extremely proud of what the staff at Spectra have achieved. This award is the greatest validation of our work; it’s a huge recognition and a ‘thank you’ to my team who have worked tirelessly to develop and produce our remarkable SlingShot technology”. He added, “Working on the design and building a business that supplies a product with the ability to revolutionise communications globally, not only for soldiers but also emergency services and disaster-relief agencies, is immensely satisfying. As a former soldier in the Royal Corps of Signals and knowing that lives are being saved is incredibly motivating for me and my team.”
31 Oct 19. DOD Names First Bases to Host Initial 5G Testing and Experimentation. The Department of Defense has selected Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Naval Base San Diego, California; and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia as the first U.S. military installations to host testing and experimentation for 5G technology.
The bases were selected for their ability to provide streamlined access to site spectrum bands, mature fiber and wireless infrastructure, access to key facilities, support for new or improved infrastructure requirements, and the ability to conduct controlled experimentation with dynamic spectrum sharing.
The department announced earlier this month it would issue a draft request for proposals in November. Information gathered from responses to the draft RFP will factor into the creation of a final RFP planned for December, though the timing will depend on passage of a 2020 defense appropriations bill.
DOD plans to add new opportunities roughly every quarter, pending funds availability, and will hold an industry day prior to issuing the final RFP. The first round of opportunities will focus on the following areas:
- Establishing a dynamic spectrum sharing testbed to demonstrate the capability to use 5G in congested environments with high-power, mid-band radars.
- Integrating Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality into mission planning and training in both virtual and live environments on training ranges.
- Smart Warehouses to leverage 5G’s ability to enhance logistics operations and maximize throughput. (Source: US DoD)
31 Oct 19. Will the Pentagon adopt these five AI principles? A military advisory committee endorsed a list Oct. 31 of principles for the use of artificial intelligence by the Department of Defense, contributing to an ongoing discussion on the ethical use of AI and AI-enabled technology in both combat and non-combat purposes.
“We do need to provide clarity to people who will use these systems and we need to provide clarity to the public so they understand how we want the department to use AI in the world as we move forward,” said Michael McQuade, vice president for Research, Carnegie Mellon University, who sits on the Defense Innovation Board and led the discussion on AI ethics.
The Defense Innovation Board is an independent federal committee made up of members of academia and industry that gives policy advice and recommendations to DoD leadership. Recommendations made by the DIB are not automatically adopted by the Pentagon.
“When we’re all said and done, the adoption of any principles needs to be the responsibility of the secretary of the department,” said McQuade.
The report is the result of a 15-month study conducted by the board, which included collecting public commentary, holding listening sessions and facilitating roundtable discussions with AI experts. The DoD also formed a DoD Principles and Ethics Working Group to facilitate the DIB’s efforts.
Those principles were also pressure-tested in a classified environment, including a red team session, to see how they stood up against what the military perceives as the current applications of AI on the battlefield.
For the purpose of the report, AI was defined as “a variety of information processing techniques and technologies used to perform a goal-oriented task and the means to reason in the pursuit of that task,” which the DIB said is comparable to how the department has thought about AI over the last four decades.
Here are the six principles endorsed by the board:
- Responsible. Human beings should exercise appropriate levels of judgment and remain responsible for the development, deployment, use and outcomes of AI systems.
- Equitable. DoD should take deliberate steps to avoid unintended bias in the development and deployment of combat or non-combat AI systems that would inadvertently cause harm to persons.
- Traceable. DoD’s AI engineering discipline should be sufficiently advanced such that technical experts possess an appropriate understanding of the technology, development processes and operational methods of its AI systems, including transparent and auditable methodologies, data sources, and design procedure and documentation.
- Reliable. AI systems should have an explicit, well-defined domain of use, and the safety, security and robustness of such systems should be tested and assured across their entire life cycle within that domain of use.
- Governable. DoD AI systems should be designed and engineered to fulfill their intended function while possessing the ability to detect and avoid unintended harm or disruption, and for human or automatic disengagement or deactivation of deployed systems that demonstrate unintended escalatory or other behavior.
The language of the final principle was amended at the last minute to emphasize the importance of having a way for humans to deactivate the system if it is causing unintended harm or other undesired behaviors.
According to McQuaid, the AI ethics recommendations built upon other ethical standards the DoD has already adopted.
“We are not starting from an unfertile ground here,” said McQuaid.
“It is very heartening to see a department … that has taken this as seriously as it has,” he continued. “It’s an opportunity to lead a global dialogue founded in the basics of who we are and how we operate as a country and as a department.”
The board recommended that the the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center should work to formalize these principles within the DoD, and an AI Steering Committee should be established to ensure that any military AI projects are held to that ethical standard.
Beyond those recommendations, the report also calls on the DoD to increase investment in AI research, training, ethics and evaluation.
AI ethics have become an increasingly hot topic within the military and the intelligence community over the past year. In June, the inspector general of the intelligence community emphasized in a report that there was not enough investment being put into AI accountability. And, at the Pentagon, the newly established JAIC has announced that it will be hiring an AI ethicist. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Oct 19. Research has potential to provide significant innovation across a broad range of applications. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have formally signed a master research agreement (MRA) that will help foster innovation between the two organizations. The signing also initiated the kickoff of several projects at CMU related to strategic, operational, and tactical emergency operations. Northrop Grumman will be supporting CMU research focused on decision making, robotics, human-machine teaming and autonomy.
“This research agreement will allow us to move faster to initiate research projects across the breadth of the combined experience of Northrop Grumman and CMU,” said Vern Boyle, vice president, advanced technologies, Northrop Grumman.
The research agreement will accelerate Northrop Grumman’s ability to sponsor research projects with CMU. Five of those projects are aligned to CMU’s support of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center’s National Mission Initiative priority areas with an initial focus on humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
“The projects are about getting the right information to the right person at the right time,” said Karen Metzler, strategic director, Northrop Grumman. “Human-machine teamed first responders can optimize their decision-making and information flow across dynamic environments through a variety of platforms.”
Northrop Grumman has been funding university research at CMU since September 2010, when CMU joined as an inaugural member of the Northrop Grumman Cybersecurity Research Consortium (NGCRC). As part of the NGCRC, CMU has been conducting leading edge research for over 25 Northrop Grumman sponsored projects in critical cybersecurity domains including network and data security, Internet-of-Things (IoT), wireless and cellular communications security, visualization of system anomalies, software security, blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning security and other important areas.
“Having companies like Northrop Grumman sponsor research at CMU is an important component of how industry and universities partner to support the nation’s vibrant innovation ecosystem,” said J. Michael McQuade, CMU’s vice president for research. “Working together, we can accelerate the transformation of knowledge learned through basic research into applied commercial products.”
Northrop Grumman will maintain its partnership with CMU’s CyLab, which is focused on cybersecurity research. Joint Northrop Grumman-CyLab research has led to some of the first practical applications of machine learning to detect network traffic malware in real-time.
30 Oct 19. Capability, Maturity, Flexibility – SEWIP Block 3 on Track to Deliver Critical Electronic Warfare Improvement to the Fleet. As Electronic Warfare (EW) continues to shape the future battlespace, Northrop Grumman is advancing a critical capability for the U.S. Navy. The Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) protects surface ships from anti-ship missiles, providing early detection, signal analysis and threat warning. Three SEWIP block upgrades have been established and a fourth is planned. SEWIP Block 3, being developed by Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS), adds electronic attack to the SLQ-32(V) EW system, and is a cornerstone capability that will meet the urgent operational needs of the Fleet. The timing couldn’t be more important, as the pace and complexity of emerging threats continues to escalate.
In January this year, Northrop Grumman announced it had successfully reached a Milestone C decision from the U.S. Navy, reflecting the government-led review of the technology’s performance and readiness. The company’s navigation and maritime systems division soon launched low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the SEWIP Block 3 AN/SLQ-32(V)7 system. That same month, Northrop Grumman opened a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art high-bay facility, specifically designed for integration and testing of the system’s hardware and software.
Low-Rate Initial Production and Testing Progressing Well
Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing team has successfully built the SEWIP Block 3 engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) hardware and is currently conducting system integration and test. Testing in the high-bay facility’s anechoic chamber has been proceeding well.
After successfully completing the manufacturing readiness assessment, demonstrating proven processes and equipment in place, the team launched material procurement and has started manufacturing the first two LRIP systems. An important milestone was recently reached with the production of the 500th RF module, Transmit and Receive components used in the SEWIP Block 3 system.
As progress continues, Northrop Grumman is on track for targeted installation of the first SEWIP Block 3 system in 2021 on an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.
With a long legacy of leadership and innovation in electronic warfare, Northrop Grumman has provided expertise to the legacy AN/SLQ-32 EW system for over four decades. Today, with the Navy now recognizing the electromagnetic spectrum as a distinct warfighting domain, Northrop Grumman has continued to invest in advanced capabilities in electromagnetic maneuver warfare (EMW) and has introduced a number of innovative approaches to harness the full potential of the SEWIP system.
SEWIP Block 3 provides game-changing capability for non-kinetic electronic attack options, and the system has the potential to do much more. From advanced communications to multi-role waveforms, the multi-function applications for SEWIP Block 3 will provide enhanced mission capabilities to the Fleet while presenting opportunities for future cost-savings and reduced size, weight and power.
29 Oct 19. France, Germany step up effort to build rivals to U.S. cloud firms. France and Germany are stepping up efforts to foster homegrown rivals to U.S. tech giants Amazon and Microsoft in cloud computing, according to a joint statement by the countries’ finance ministries issued on Tuesday.
Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet’s Google dominate the field of data storage worldwide, with a combined market share of more than 50%, according to market research.
This dominance is raising concerns in Europe that sensitive corporate data could be spied on in the wake of the adoption of the U.S. CLOUD Act of 2018 and in the absence of any major competitors, with the exception of China’s Alibaba.
Amazon’s cloud division has a $600m contract with the CIA, while Microsoft recently won a $10bn cloud computing contract with the Pentagon.
“We want to establish a safe and sovereign European data infrastructure, including data warehouses, data pooling and develop data interoperability,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a statement.
Le Maire’s German counterpart, Peter Altmaier, also cited the need to “regain our digital sovereignty.”
The two governments pledged to hold a workshop before the end of November. The aim is to present proposals for a “European data infrastructure” in early 2020, according to the joint statement.
The initiative follows a call that Le Maire made earlier this month to French tech companies Dassault Systemes and OVH to come up with plans to break the dominance of U.S. cloud computing firms.
Previous French government-supported attempts to build a so-called “sovereign” cloud to store the most sensitive data held by companies and states failed. (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
29 Oct 19. Why not Microsoft? A look at the JEDI contract. Make no mistake: IT contracts are largely commodity buys that are won and lost on price. That remains true even when a contract is valued at a whopping $10bn and has been embroiled in controversy. And, yet, here we are: Conspiracy theories abound around the decision by the Department of Defense to award to Microsoft the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract. (The DoD made the announcement around close of business on a Friday; a clever habit of the Pentagon for its most contentious programs.)
And it is true that the actual decision itself — to give the award to Microsoft and not Amazon — may seem to be rooted, at least in part, in squabbling of recent months. We repeatedly heard how the odds always seemed stacked in Amazon’s favor, spurring lawsuits and what some believed to be a coordinated smear campaign by Oracle. All the noise has succeeded in repeatedly delaying the program and causing Pentagon leadership to handle it with kid gloves.
So then why Microsoft? Some have pointed to President Donald Trump’s seeming disdain for Jeff Bezos properties — notably The Washington Post but by extension Amazon. Certainly his comments could pave the way for a protest. But driving the award decision? Even in this political environment, I can’t believe such disregard for federal acquisition regulations would fly.
But this much is indeed true: Amid all the legal and political wrangling around this contract, Microsoft did become a simpler choice. Perhaps strategically, the company stayed out of the fray — opting to move quietly along while other competitors led the mudslinging. Microsoft was, quite frankly, less controversial.
Of course, good behavior can’t drive contract decisions any more than politics. But again, a JEDI award is at the heart an IT contract. It calls for capabilities of which Microsoft and Amazon are each perfectly capable of providing. Either company can perform the work. Both have provided secure cloud services to government agencies in the past. So all things being pretty equal, that differentiation typically doesn’t comes from the solution itself, but rather from the price point. How thin is a company willing to go on its margins? What infrastructure is in place to support requirements?
While we don’t necessarily have specific answers to those questions, we do know that Microsoft and Amazon are technology giants that can afford to invest as needed to meet requirements and remain competitive.
So, then, why not Microsoft? That argument won’t spare the JEDI contract from being protested necessarily — a near certainty for any large contract these days, even more so for one that brought with it so much baggage. Nor will it even promise that the award won’t be overturned. Maybe Amazon succeeds in arguing a bias, or maybe any one of the onetime competitors convinces the Government Accountability Office that the procurement was flawed from the get-go. There’s a convincing argument to be made there.
But for now, I’d argue again: Why not Microsoft? (Source: https://www.federaltimes.com)
29 Oct 19. US Army’s plan to field its network could collapse under an extended continuing resolution. Critical fielding plans for major elements of the Army’s revamped network could fall apart if Congress does not reach a budget deal soon, according to service leaders in charge of network modernization.
Should Congress opt to extend the current continuing resolution, which funds the government at fiscal 2019 budget levels, past the Nov. 21 deadline, the Army will struggle to get more capable radios and other elements of its new and improved network to units. While a shorter extension would be less painful, a yearlong continuing resolution, or CR, would derail the efforts.
“The whole fielding plan will collapse without a budget,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said during a recent trip to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, where he was briefed on the service’s efforts to deliver a modernized network to the force.
“The longer [the CR] goes, I think it can definitely impact the schedule. If it bleeds into the next calendar year, you can look at a day-for-day slip” until a budget is passed, he said, adding that the longer a CR exists, the more likely the Army will have to reformulate its fielding plan because the units originally intended to receive the equipment won’t be available to test the new capabilities and train with them.
The Army is scheduled to conduct three major test events next year of its network. The 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division will assess the first capability set of the new Integrated Tactical Network, or ITN, in February. The manpack and leader radio operational test, which is part of the Handheld, Manpack, and Small Form Fit radio program, is scheduled for the third quarter of FY20.
Furthermore, at next year’s Defender Europe military exercise, the Army will use the Command Post Computing Environment, the Tactical Server Infrastructure and a number of ITN’s initial capabilities to assess interoperability with partners and allies.
If a CR extends past the first quarter of the fiscal year, the Army will be unable to test radios with a new waveform, known as TSM, as part of its HMS radio program. The current plan is for the 1st Brigade of the 82nd to test the radios in the third quarter of FY20.
The TSM waveform is critical to a modernized network because it provides greater capability than what is currently fielded. The radios with the TSM waveform are more secure, can connect a larger number of radios on a single network, can easily tie into coalition partners’ communications, and can more effectively push voice and data.
If the Army is faced with a yearlong CR, the HMS radio program would be limited to a $3.7m budget out of $35.6m requested in FY20. Without the funding, the manpack and leader radio operational test won’t happen until FY21, and the Army will likely have to shift to a different unit to conduct the test because of the operational tempo of the 82nd, according to Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, who is in charge of the Army’s network modernization.
Additionally, if testing can’t begin until FY21, the Army’s full-rate production schedule will slip.
“We’re confident that our radios will support the waveform, but we’re talking about maybe a situation where we couldn’t ramp up production to meet the capability set fieldings without essentially ordering stuff in the absence of that operational test, which is not exactly a best practice,” Gallagher said.
The Army is planning to field the radios to four units in 2021: the 1st Brigade of the 82nd; the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team; the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division; and the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd.
A long-term CR would also prevent the procurement of critical ITN communication enhancement equipment that will also be delivered to the four planned brigade combat teams in FY21.
Without the equipment, the Army would have to delay communication patches for light infantry formations.
A yearlong CR would affect the fielding of the Tactical Server Infrastructure, or TSI, which is also facing a potential FY20 budget cut. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee cut its procurement line by more than half, and it’s unclear whether that decrement will survive conference committee.
The TSI would only have 26 percent of its funding under a yearlong CR, which means the procurement of TSI servers, both small and large versions, will be delayed.
A $45.86m reduction in FY20 would prevent the fielding of 101 large variant servers and 184 small variants, which means two corps, three divisions and 10 brigade combat teams — including units like the 18th Airborne Corps, the 1st Cavalry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, III Corps and 4th Infantry Division — wouldn’t get the updated server hardware needed to run the Command Post Computing Environment, Gallagher said during a briefing with McCarthy.
And because the servers used to run the Command Post Computing Environment will be delayed, so will the rollout of the CPCE itself. Units like the 10th Mountain Division and the 335th Theater Signal Command have requested accelerated fielding of the CPSE and TSI capability.
Currently fielded servers are cumbersome to initialize and are not appropriately protected to deal with emerging cyberthreats. The Tactical Defensive Cyber Operations Infrastructure capability, which protects the servers, will also be delayed.
As the Army’s first capability set due for fielding in 2021 would be delayed under a CR, its next capability set slated for 2023 would also be pushed back.
The Army wouldn’t have the funds to conduct experimentation and soldier evaluation because those are considered new start programs with no funding lines in FY19. Those efforts include experiments with low-Earth and medium-Earth orbit constellations, data management, new waveforms, command post mobility, and network management tools.
This early research and development is meant to inform preliminary design and further larger-scale experimentation leading up to 2023. (Source: Defense News)
29 Oct 19. European ESSOR project workshop held. The European Defence Agency (EDA) has hosted the third PESCO workshop related to the European Secure Software Defined Radio (ESSOR) project which aims to develop common technologies for European military radios.
The goal is the adoption of common technologies as a standard in order to guarantee the interoperability of EU forces in the framework of joint operations, regardless of which radio platforms are used.
The ESSOR project will provide a secure military communications system, improving voice and data communication between Member States’ armed forces on a variety of platforms. It will also deliver guidelines related to the validation and verification of waveform portability and platform re-configurability, setting up a common security basis to increase interoperability between forces. By ensuring that military radios are fully accessible, shared and used by all Member States, the effectiveness of joint operations can be increased substantially.
Member States participating in the ESSOR project include Belgium, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal, with Estonia and Ireland as observers. These nations have moved to implement a common architecture analysis of software radios in Europe.
ESSOR project activities are currently performed by the consortium A4ESSOR – Thales (FR), Leonardo (IT), Indra (SP), Radmor (PL), Bittium (FI) and soon Rohde & Schwarz (DE) – through a contract managed by OCCAR. (Source: Shephard)
29 Oct 19. DARPA makes its case for Mosaic Warfare. In an effort to move away from overarching CONOPS or C2 structures, DARPA has used the platform of AOC 2019 to make its case for a new kind of strategic architecture through which to govern the battlespace: Mosaic Warfare.
Conceptually this would allow distributed C2 capabilities for operators wherever they might be required, permit faster response times and is part of an overall endeavour towards ‘monolith busting’, that is a one-system-controls-all functionality.
The notion of distributed C2 ties in with what military services such as the US Navy is looking to create – that of distributed lethality – which works to provide a network of distributed capabilities that can be tasked as required.
Mosaic Warfare would be a ‘portfolio of programmes’ with ‘federated capabilities’, according to Tim Grayson, director Strategic Technology Office at DARPA (pictured).
Conceptually, this means that mission operators can select functions or capabilities from a set of available options in order to achieve the required effect. These functions, processing or otherwise, would be distributed across multiple platforms and systems.
Grayson said that the concepts in how to rapidly develop and deploy systems were learned through the processes of Silicon Valley, which might go through multiple development cycles in a year as the concurrent testing and evaluation services to direct the programme.
Further, system architecture should not be allowed to develop at the same pace as traditional platform programmes.
‘If we build [C2] architecture in the same way, say, as the F-35 [fighter] we are going to be in big trouble. The key is speed, we are trying to create more diversity of options for the warfighter,’ Grayson warned.
‘My dream end-state is to get to the pint where the questions of [mission] architecture is left to the warfighter at the operational edge and at the time of need.’
The F-35, while regarded as potentially one of the most capable aircraft and sensor platforms in the sky today, has taken a generation to come from concept, design, prototyping, testing and deployment.
Additionally, DARPA is undergoing testing on a software programme called STITCHES, which uses machine learning to determine the most effective way to connect at a software level platforms or capabilities, that previously had not been tied together in the same system architecture.
It is thought that a live-fire demonstration of previously unconnected systems using the STITCHES programme has been carried out recently.
‘The STITCHES tool auto-generates the glue software link systems where interoperability didn’t exist,’ Grayson explained.
In doing so, STITCHES can create architecture in a matter of weeks while also potentially removing the need for lengthy system revalidation process, particular for aircraft.
‘We don’t have to go through a traditional acquisition and programme office, we can generate architecture on demand,’ Grayson continued. ‘This blows away the notion of what TRL [technology readiness level] means.’ (Source: Shephard)
29 Oct 19. Mercury Systems positions for increased demand in COTS tech. With the aid of its own custom solutions, Mercury Systems is looking to position itself as an enabler for commercial electronics companies that had previously not considered putting solutions forward for US DoD programmes. An announced investment in mid-October of $15m by Mercury Systems in its microelectronics business is designed to provide a platform for commercial companies to offer and supply solutions to the US DoD, as the latter organisation calls for the EW industry to provide more capable systems at a lower cost point. It is widely argued that one way to do this is to open up military programmes to commercial systems and software, where open architecture designs allow for cheaper development and faster upgrade processes.
Exhibiting at AOC 2019, officials from Mercury Systems were keen to showcase their systems to visiting delegates, and highlighted to Shephard the role that the commercial sector can have in assisting the defence sector in meeting its needs.
Speaking of the work being undertaken in the commercial semiconductor industry and possible applications to the defence sector, a company official said that Mercury Systems could ‘be the bridge’ for companies looking to do that. Regarding the $15m investment, the official said that there were no specific timelines or products tied to it, ‘We always scale our business. This is not something leading to a single product’.
The investment is linked to a DARPA programme launched in 2017 by its Microsystems Technology Office of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), in a bid to improve electronic performance beyond the limits of traditional scaling.
This includes efforts in circuit specialisation and management, and is aimed at created partnerships between the commercial electronics community, the defence industrial base and the DoD.
A second annual ERI summit was held in Detroit, Michigan in July 2019 where commercial and defence representatives discussed the development of the US semiconductor industry and the applications driving the next-generation electronics. (Source: Shephard)
29 Oct 19. Latest Blackbird COMINT system due for customer deliveries. Having recently concluded development of the latest iteration of its Blackbird COMINT system, TCI International will begin deliveries to customers in the US and overseas in 2020, officials confirmed.
The new solution has a lower SWaP requirement, improved frequency scanning and direction finding, among other developments, the company stated. The family of Blackbird systems operate in the V/UHF range and are used to geolocate and identify signals, and potentially queue reactions if required.
For international customers, very few of the functions available to the US market are ITAR restricted.
‘[The new Blackbird] is faster scanning, more capable,’ Kevin Davis, VP, product and channel management, explained.
The system is also being developed for possible integration as a man-portable/man-packable solution for mounted and dismounted units. On display at AOC 2019 was a potential man-pack solution (pictured) with the company’s 5243 direction finding (DF) processor and DF antenna.
Of the man-packable system the integration of technology such as an operator HUD, described as ‘not out of reach’ by officials, is also being considered as TCI canvass for opinion from industry and service operators.
The company has delivered ‘hundreds’ of Blackbird systems over the past eight years, with the system ‘in combat every day’ deployed at critical locations around the world. Officials confirmed that radomes had come back to the US ‘with shrapnel in them’, but declined to provide additional details due to operational sensitivities.
Additionally, TCI continued to push its C-UAS detection and classifications system into military and commercial markets, with the company actively engaged in a competition for a 90-system required spread across eight airports. It is not known if this is a US or overseas programme.
However, opportunities like this in the commercial/civil space were less regular than the military domain, officials told Shephard, due to regulatory and financial impediments in the aviation sector.
‘Their is reticence, probably [due to] cost,’ said Davis, who added that it was legally difficult to deploy a UAS countermeasure near airports on US soil.
Nevertheless, the civil sector still provided ample market opportunity, with the company delivering delivered over 60 C-UAS systems to US government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies. (Source: Shephard)
28 Oct 19. Can Pentagon acquisition keep up with electronic warfare? The cat-and-mouse nature of electronic warfare means systems need to always be up to date, but the Pentagon’s acquisition authorities don’t always allow for the Department of Defense to move fast enough, a senior acquisition official said Oct. 28.
Speaking at the Association of Old Crows international symposium in Washington, Alan Shaffer, the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said success in electronic warfare means agility, speed and low-cost systems.
“We’ve got to stop doing just one-size-fits-everything for development of new systems and fielding capabilities,” he said. “We’ve got to get away from the linear large scale … major capability acquisition process when we can.”
He pointed to the department’s attempts to re-write the acquisition rulebook and the new authorities granted by Congress for what’s called “middle tier acquisition” allowing for rapid prototyping and experimentation of certain capabilities.
“If I’m fielding something that’s going to cost multiple billions of dollars, [we’re] probably not going to go agile. If I’m demonstrating a capability using middle tier of acquisition, I can go quickly, especially if you have open systems,” Shaffer said.
Following this approach means breaking the development of systems off smaller, more manageable chunks and not creating a system that can do everything under the sun for decades, only to be obsolete upon fielding. The next part of the equation, he explained, is for companies to make these systems more affordable.
Shaffer said by 2026, nuclear deterrence projects will make up 6.5 percent of the defense budget and interest on the debt will be more than the entire defense budget itself.
This means everyone, especially the relatively small electronic warfare community, will have to fight for funding and thinking about electronic warfare as a continuum of capabilities.
“How do you compete for dollars … by talking about what capability you deliver,” he said.
In addition, the United States is also behind the cost curve in many cases.
“We have to remember that as we field very expensive system a $1,000 jammer can defeat a $1m platform. That’s the wrong side of the cost curve so we’ve got figure out how to get around that,” he said.
Ultimately, if the United States doesn’t become more agile in this space, it will be to its detriment.
“The competition of the digital battlefield is here and it is now. If we, the West, do not win that, we will not be able to operate militarily in parts of the world that we have to operate in,” Shaffer said.
For years, U.S. adversaries have viewed the electromagnetic spectrum along the larger continuum of information warfare and information dominance, a reality the DoD is now coming to grips with in its own reorganization.
What this means, Shaffer said, is that the electronic warfare community needs to develop new concepts for how they can be used in a more information warfare-centric battlefield of the future.
“How can you disrupt someone else’s information feeds. How can you present maybe information that may or may not be true. How can you put doubt in the mind of the adversary,” he said. “To me controlling data depends upon controlling the electromagnetic spectrum. I look to this community to be able to do that. We have got to be able to control the electromagnetic spectrum, we’ve got to stop thinking in terms of just jamming, but in terms of how do you effect information that’s available to war fighters.”
In a fight in the future, it’s not the “biggest bicep” that will win, but rather the speed of decision and quality of information, Shaffer said.(Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 Oct 19. Financial and Great Power challenges threaten US electronic warfare capability. Budget pressures and a lack of military programming and industrial agility are some of the main challenges facing the US and its electronic warfare (EW) sector in the coming years, as the so-called Great Powers of Russia and China threaten Western hegemony in the battlespace.
These were some of the highlights delivered during the keynote speeches delivered on the opening day of the AOC’s International Symposium and Conference, a message intended to present industry with an outline to the environment within which they operate and how they would have to adapt in the future.
Among the speakers was Alan Shaffer (pictured), US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, who issued the warning that the EW industry would have to be able to meet the need for ever-more capable systems, at a reduced cost. Effectively, to do more with less.
Highlighting the pressures that the US Federal Budget, and in turn, the defence budget, were under, Shaffer provided the example that in 2019 the US’ nuclear modernisation programme accounted for around 3% of defence funding.
By 2026, this programme will account for 6.5% of the defence budget. Indeed, one of the largest obligations of the US Federal Budget by 2026 will be on financial debt interest payments, which by itself will be a sum total greater than the country’s entire defence budget.
Shaffer said that into this challenging environment China and Russia continued to demonstrate either existing capability or an intention to develop such technology to a degree that the two countries could in future challenge whether the US and its allies can effectively operate in an attempted area of denied access.
Russia has been particularly active in recent years in using these capabilities to conducting jamming operations on NATO forces participating in Exercise Trident Juncture in 2018. In addition, during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine Russia has been known to use the deployment of electromagnetic and information warfare.
China meanwhile continues to appropriate industrial knowledge from Western companies, leap-frogging technological generations in the process.
‘I think we are in a fight for the electromagnetic spectrum and I am not sure we are winning,’ Shaffer said.
Concluding, Shaffer warned that if the US was not able to bring systems into the field faster and cheaper, it may find itself denied access to parts of the world where its Great Power competitors are concentrated. The need will be to ‘get away from the linear acquisition process’ where possible.
To this end the US DoD will need to look at ways to speed up some procurement programmes, moving away where possible from the traditional milestone-driven model to a more agile footing able to bring prototype platforms and systems on line in a much shorter period of time.
‘Our challenge is to get better capability, at lower cost,’ he stated.
Introducing the keynotes, Stephen Watters, AOC president and senior manager for cyber and EW at Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, reiterated the generally accepted notion that the counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saw the US ‘lose sight’ of the anti-access, area denial environment.
Further, Russia’s actions in Ukraine served as a prime example of its capabilities in EW and information warfare.
Regarding China, Watters gave the example that in the time it took the US to develop and introduce the F-22 fighter, China had gone through six generational changes of its own anti-air capabilities, demonstrating the speed at which this emerging rival was able to progress. (Source: Shephard)
28 Oct 19. CRFS takes the RF lab outdoors with portable high-fidelity RF recorder. RF hardware and software innovator CRFS announced today the launch of its new RFeye SenS Portable, a small, lightweight, high-fidelity RF recorder for long-duration signal recording and playback, with applications in defense, manufacturing and telecommunications.
With a high-fidelity RF receiver and up to 25.6 TB of built-in, enterprise-class, solid-state storage, the SenS Portable can record up to 12 hours of gapless, high-resolution RF data across a wide instantaneous bandwidth (IBW) of 100 MHz.
But storage is only one part of the equation: The other is receiver sensitivity. The SenS Portable uses a highly sensitive built-in receiver. Its low noise figure and phase noise and high spurious free dynamic range (SFDR) empower operators to capture and differentiate between low-power, distant or “snuggling” signals—small signals that hide beside larger signals, a tactic commonly used by state-level actors in electronic warfare (EW).
“For our military customers in particular, signal fidelity means very little. Commanders want situational awareness; they want the most comprehensive view possible of their battlespace,” explained SenS Portable Product Manager Danielle Simmons. “When we say our RFeye system has great signal fidelity, what we mean is that you can see more in the same signal environment. You can catch those complex, short-pulsed signals. You have a better chance of seeing that weak signal from over the ridgeline. Whether for civilian or military signal collection, your probability of intercept, your POI, for the signal you want is much higher.”
The SenS Portable doesn’t just have advantages for electronic and communications intelligence (ELINT and COMINT). Across 5G development, test and measurement of sensitive electronics like autonomous vehicles and medical equipment, spectrum management for telecommunications regulators, and even countersurveillance, the capture of native signals in complex, real-world signal environments is driven by financial, safety and security concerns.
“Mistakes can be costly,” continued Simmons. “Failing to account for real-world signals can cost lives. If a pacemaker or insulin pump or self-driving car fails to deal with real-world RF environments, the effects can be devastating. Sometimes you just have to go outside the lab.”
The SenS Portable was launched in the U.S. at AOC 56 in Washington, DC from 28–30 October. More information can be found at crfs.com/product/recorder/sens-portable. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
28 Oct 19. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) in partnership with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) successfully completed a critical test in the development of the Integrated Topside (InTop) Low-Level Resource Allocation Manager (LLRAM) program last month at NRL’s test facility in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland.
LLRAM in conjunction with the InTop Electronic Warfare/Information Operations/Communications (EW/IO/COMMS) system demonstrated the simultaneous sharing of a single antenna, while flexing its adaptable size and antenna pattern capabilities, and performing a mission that would have required multiple dedicated antennas in the past. The significance of the test is to enable future antenna reductions on ships that are already capacity-constrained, allowing for more advanced warfighting capabilities in an ever-increasingly complex battlespace environment.
“The Northrop Grumman/NRL demonstration of LLRAM concepts was conducted in the same environment that proved crucial to the development of the SEWIP Block 3 EDM,” said Mike Meaney, vice president, maritime electronic and information warfare, Northrop Grumman. “The efficiency of signal sharing capabilities, scalability and advanced resource management capabilities developed on the Low-Level Resource Allocation Manager program will allow for a significantly reduced footprint topside.”
The demonstration showed that the EW/IO/COMMS Advanced Development Model for SEWIP Block 3 can serve as a platform for proving out advanced multi-function concepts using existing NRL test assets.
LLRAM and EW/IO/COMMS were developed under the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare Command and Control (EMC2) Integrated Topside (InTop) Innovative Naval Prototype. The system leverages four AESA arrays (low band transmit/receive and high band transmit/receive) and intended platforms include cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers.
28 Oct 19. DOD Focuses Early AI Use on ‘Low Consequence’ Applications. The Defense Department has a long way to go in developing artificial intelligence and applying it to the most pressing military problems. For now, DOD is applying AI toward humanitarian assistance and predictive maintenance, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center said.
“We start with low-consequence use cases for a reason,” Air Force Lt. Gen. John Shanahan said during a panel discussion last week at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Because they are ‘narrow’ applications, he explained, it’s easier to assess results.
Shanahan said AI hasn’t yet achieved the readiness level to apply toward more complex issues such as nuclear command and control or missile defense, which carry a much higher risk if it doesn’t work as expected.
“I think that’s not where any of us are interested in heading right now,” he said.
One measure the department is willing to apply now is the perceived risk versus the potential reward for using AI in a particular application, and reward outweighing risk is something Shanahan said he’s not seeing now.
“I can’t show the rewards right now on mission-critical systems,” he said. “On decision support, every single combatant command wants help on decision support systems: ‘How can I do an operational plan in two weeks instead of two years?’ That’s very, very challenging … to take on.”
There is no part of the Department of Defense that cannot benefit from AI.”
Air Force Lt. Gen. John Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center
The reward is great for solving a problem like decision support, he said, especially in terms of saving time, but only if an AI system can get it right — and that’s just not happening yet, Shanahan said.
“Nobody has proven that those rewards justify the risks we’re going to take right now,” he said. “Everything that we do in the business I am in is about risk. Who incurs the risk? What’s the risk to mission? What’s the risk to force? Is it a risk worth accepting? What I am having a hard time getting through right now is [that] I am not seeing the rewards outweigh the risk in those mission-critical cases.”
Still, Shanahan said, he’s confident AI is going to be a big part of the department’s future.
“There is no part of the Department of Defense that cannot benefit from AI,” he said.
Problems beyond risk exist as well, he said, including overcoming hurdles in military culture, talent and data. Military culture requires long-term planning for the development of new systems, he explained, and a new aircraft might take decades to deliver.
“There are a lot of people that want to go forward very quickly with AI capabilities in the department, but we live by five-year budget cycles and weapons system milestones that are measured in five-to 10-year increments, as opposed to how quickly can I take an algorithm, update it and put it back into the field,” Shanahan said. “We have a long way to go to really embrace the speed and the scale of what’s happening in commercial industry.”
The Defense Department, he said, is making progress in learning to do acquisition and contracting more quickly. He cited as examples the Defense Digital Service, which hires top experts from industry and academia for short tours to help overcome defense challenges, and the Defense Innovation Unit, which provides funding to private sector companies to solve defense-related problems. (Source: US DoD)28 Oct 19. Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) completed the first power generation flight test of the Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band. The U.S. Navy will use the test data to inform the airworthiness authorization decision to fly NGJ-MB on the EA-18G Growler in the spring of 2020.
Raytheon conducted the three flight tests onboard a Calspan commercial jet to assess the jammer’s prime power generation system, known as the ram air turbine generator, at Niagara Falls Airport in New York. The generator scoops air from the airstream, turns a turbine and creates electricity that enables NGJ-MB to jam enemy radars and communications.
“This is the first time the pod generated its own power outside of a lab,” said Ernest Winston, senior manager for Electronic Warfare Systems. “Future tests will verify the power is sufficient to enable NGJ-MB to significantly enhance range, attack multiple targets simultaneously and perform advanced jamming.”
Raytheon’s NGJ-MB ram air turbine generator is designed to give the Growler more power than it has ever had before to jam at unprecedented levels. Its open architecture and design allow the technology to be scaled to other missions and platforms.
26 Oct 19. New contract will help communication during disasters. The Department of Homeland Security awarded a contract potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars to help with emergency communications during disasters, according to a news release from the award winners.
The single-award contract, potentially worth $325m, was awarded to CSRA, an affiliate of General Dynamics Information Technology. CSRA will work with the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Emergency Communications Division to provide priority telecommunications services (PTS) to allow for better communication during disaster response.
Often in disaster areas, GDIT said, the network infrastructure can be damaged or its traffic congested. To combat that, DHS PTS program provides communication services to “maintain continuity of government operations,” the release said.
The contract has a base period of one year and four single year options.
“GDIT will leverage a vast community of internal telecommunication and system engineering experts and significantly expanded priority services capabilities,” GDIT wrote in its press release. “This will enable PTS to reach near-ubiquitous data connectivity and expand the use of data, video and information services.”
GDIT will also help DHS adopt 5G network technology, a highly anticipated advancement that experts say can transform communications.
“By leveraging GDIT’s telecommunication experts and our extensive community of partners, DHS can utilize the latest capabilities and realize enhanced, real-time emergency communications across the federal government,” said Vice President Brian Michl, general manager of GDIT’s DHS Sector. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Federal Times)
24 Oct 19. Pentagon black intel funding dropped in FY19. The Pentagon’s secret intelligence fund dropped in fiscal year 2019, the first time in three years that the black budget did not increase year over year. The total Military Intelligence Program, or MIP, budget for fiscal 2019, including the base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations appropriations, was $21.5bn, the Pentagon revealed Thursday.
MIP funding went as high as $27bn in FY10, but by FY15 hit the low point for the decade at $16.6bn, according to numbers maintained by the analytics group Avascent. But starting in FY16, the MIP had four straight years of growth, going from $17.7bn in FY16, to $18.5bn in FY17 and $22.1bn in FY18.
According to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report, MIP funds “defense intelligence activities intended to support operational and tactical level intelligence priorities supporting defense operations.” Among other uses, these dollars can be spent to facilitate the dissemination of information that relates to a foreign country or political group, and covert or clandestine activities against political and military groups or individuals.
Part of the MIP funding going to U.S. Special Operations Command as it pursues “several current acquisition efforts focused on outfitting aircraft — both manned and unmanned, fixed and rotary wing — with advanced ISR and data storage capabilities that will work in multiple environments,” according to CRS.
In the two paragraph statement announcing the number, the Pentagon noted that the funding “is aligned to support the National Defense Strategy.” That may be an indication that the MIP was cut slightly as funds redirected from the long-running conflicts in the middle east towards other priorities meant to combat China and Russia.
It is possible the MIP will grow in the coming year, however; in FY20, the Pentagon requested $22.95bn. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
Spectra Group Plc
Spectra has a proven record of accomplishment – with over 15 years of experience in delivering secure communications and cybersecurity solutions for governments around the globe; elite militaries; and private enterprises of all sizes.
As a dynamic, agile, security accredited organisation, Spectra can leverage this experience to deliver Cyber Advisory and secure Hosted and Managed Solutions on time, to spec and on budget, ensuring compliance with industry standards and best practices.
Spectra’s SlingShot® is a unique low SWaP system that enables in-service U/VHF tactical radios to utilise Inmarsat’s commercial satellite network for BLOS COTM. Including omnidirectional antenna for the man, vehicle, maritime and aviation platforms, the tactical net can broadcast over 1000s miles between forward units and a rear HQ, no matter how or where the deployment. Unlike many BLOS options, SlingShot maintains full COTM (Communications On The Move) capability and low size and weight
On 23 November 2017, Spectra Group (UK) Ltd announced that it had recently been listed as a Top 100 Government SME Supplier for 2015-2016 by the UK Crown Commercial Services
Spectra’s CEO, Simon Davies, was awarded 2017 BATTLESPACE Businessman of the Year by BATTLESPACE magazine and is a finalist in the inaugural British Ex-Forces In Business Awards in the Innovator Of The Year category.
Founded in 2002, the Company is based in Hereford, UK and holds ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.