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UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
21 Jan 21. Airbus pitches H175 as potential Puma replacement for UK. Airbus is pitching its H175 as a potential replacement for the United Kingdom’s fleet of Royal Air Force (RAF) Westland-Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC2 medium-lift helicopters in the 2025 timeframe.
Speaking at the virtual Royal Aeronautical Society Next-Generation Rotorcraft Conference, Jerome Combe, Portfolio Policy & Strategy at Airbus Helicopters France, said that while the company’s NH90 and H225M platforms would suit the capabilities required of any UK Puma replacement effort, the H175 would also provide industrial opportunities for the country.
“We know that in the UK there are questions about a Puma replacement,” Combe said on 21 January. “There are two ways to look at it – either the UK will push for a capability requirement, and I think that both the [NH90 and H225M] would be the perfect ones [in that case], or if the UK had in mind the national cost [benefits] I think that [the H175] could really offer a huge opportunity for UK content in the design of the [military variant of the] platform, [which it could] also export. So, I think it is good to have it in mind that the H175 could play a role.”
The RAF currently fields 23 Puma helicopters that were upgraded to the HC2 standard in the mid-2010s. With the airframes themselves dating back to the early 1970s, these helicopters are slated for retirement in 2025 with no replacement planned. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Jan 21. Netherlands sets out plans for Goalkeeper CIWS replacement. The Netherlands Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to buy a combination of inner-layer missiles and medium-calibre guided munitions to replace the Goalkeeper close-in weapon system (CIWS) currently fitted to Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) ships. In a 14 January letter to the Dutch parliament’s House of Representatives, State Secretary for Defence Barbara Visser said that plans were being taken forward to acquire the Raytheon/RAM-System GmbH RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) guided weapon system and the Leonardo DART (Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight) 76 mm guided ammunition. The latter will be integrated with the Pharos fire-control radar developed by Thales Nederland. Developed by what was Hollandse Signaalapparaten, now Thales Nederland, Goalkeeper is a fully autonomous CIWS combining a seven-barrel General Dynamics ATP GAU-8/A 30 mm gun with an I-band search radar and an I/K-band tracking radar. The system has recently been the subject of an upgrade under the Instandhouding Goalkeeper programme, designed to sustain Goalkeeper through to 2025. This has introduced a new electro-optical sensor package and video tracking processing unit, new prediction algorithms to improve fire-control effectiveness, and a new operator console. However, with the Goalkeeper system now encountering obsolescence, the MoD’s Defence Material Organisation (DMO) in 2018 established the Vervanging (replacement) Close-in Weapon System project to identify options for a successor. According to the DMO, the replacement capability – costed at between EUR100–250m (USD120–300m) – is required to defeat stressing anti-ship cruise missile threats, other air targets, and surface threats, such as fast inshore attack craft. (Source: Jane’s)
21 Jan 21. Second round of tests of UH-60 Victor-model delayed. The Army has delayed a second attempt at an initial operational test for the UH-60 Victor-model Black Hawk until software and reliability fixes are made and the aircraft receives certification to fly in national airspace, said Brig. Gen. Robert Barrie, the program executive officer for Army aviation. The first initial operational test and evaluation was conducted at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington State, in September 2019, but due to numerous software reliability issues, the Army decided to hold a second test for the third quarter of fiscal year 2020. That event was pushed back by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic and delays in the Instrument Flight Rules certification process (IFR) that would allow the aircraft to fly in national airspace.
The Victor model converts a Lima-model Black Hawk from an analogue cockpit to a digital one. This replacement better matches the capability of the UH-60 Mike-model, the latest variant of the helicopter. But its success could serve as springboard for the Army’s future vertical lift backbone, which will allow mission systems to seamlessly plug into the architecture of the aircraft.
Redstone Defense Systems won an Army contract to take Northrop Grumman’s cockpit design and integrate the technology into V-model prototypes in spring 2014. Three prototypes spent more than two years in the Prototype Integration Facility at Redstone undergoing integration.
The Army partnered with Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, to convert “L” models into new “V” models at a rate of 48 aircraft per year, which some have called too slow, as it would take 15 years for the service to produce all 760 aircraft. The Army has been looking at ways to speed that up.
Barrie told Defense News in a Jan. 20 interview that the IOT&E delays did not affect the overall schedule for program.
“There was a [software] latency issue,” Barrie said. “Things weren’t updating as fast as they should have in the software … and there were some comms issues where changing radio frequencies was a challenge.”
The Army has developed a new software baseline — “baseline 3.0” — that is undergoing developmental testing, but has solved the challenges seen in the IOT&E from a software perspective, Barrie said.
The work that is remaining is to certify the aircraft to fly in national airspace. “That’s really the lion’s share of the work that we have and we are on track to do that,” he said.
Barrie said he did not have a specific timeline nailed down for the second IOT&E yet and that is still being worked out with the test community. The event will not take place this fiscal year, he added.
But the service is still planning to begin to field the aircraft to test units this summer, according to Barrie.
“We are going to train the testers and then we will complete the IOT&E II once we’ve delivered that capability in the summer and completed that test process and completed the IFR certification,” he said.
During the first test, the aircraft used were engineering and manufacturing development versions of the aircraft and not production representative systems, according to the recently released 2020 report on the program from the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester.
Two of those aircraft did not have production-representative wiring harnesses “that may have contributed to some reliability failures,” the report notes.
Overall the cockpit software problems “distracted pilots during mission execution and forced aircrews to focus inside the aircraft,” according to the document. The Victor-model also had frequent false notifications of radar threats which could have been due to the aircraft but also ambient electromagnetic activity like cell towers, the report adds.
Leading up to the second test, the Pentagon’s weapons tester noted that the initial developmental testing on software build 3.0 “appears to fix many of the failures observed during IOT&E I in a simulated environment.”
The document also noted that while some cybersecurity capability has improved, some vulnerabilities remain.
The report included recommendations to the Army use production-representative aircraft and plan testing in locations unfamiliar to the aircrews to demonstrate the cockpit is helping to provide situational awareness. The first Victor-model helicopter produced at CCAD rolled off the line in September 2020 ahead of the 2021 fielding to test units. (Source: Defense News)
19 Jan 21. US looking for aerostat air-defence radars for Saudi Arabia. The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) has released a request for information (RFI) for radars that are carried by aerostats to increase their ability to detect low-flying missiles and aircraft as part of a wider Saudi C4I modernisation study. AFLCMC said it has already carried out a Saudi radar coverage study that concluded that “the combination of terrain and Earth surface curvature make it economically unfeasible to provide a complete and persistent coverage using ground-based radar assets against low-altitude in-bound air-breathing threats.” As an example, it said that a radar on a 100 ft (30.48 m)-high tower cannot see a threat flying at 100 ft until it is 45 km away.
The study’s proposed solution is to elevate radars, saying their range would be increased to about 180 km if they were at an altitude of 5,000 ft, and installing these at 13 sites in Saudi Arabia, some on the border looking out, with others further inside the kingdom requiring 360° coverage.
These stations will need to be able to provide year-round surveillance in desert, mountain, and coastal conditions in sustained winds of up to 102km/hour. Two systems could potentially be used at each site to provide the required operational availability.
The radar system will have to provide 360° coverage at a minimum range up to the line-of-sight limit for air-breathing threats flying at 100 ft from its operational altitude. The threats include cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and aircraft with a radar cross-section as low as 0.1m2. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Jan 21. US Army taps industry for autonomous drones to resupply troops. The U.S. Army is tapping industry for drones that can deliver supplies to infantry brigade combat teams in the field, according to a request for information posted to the federal contracting website Beta.Sam.Gov on Jan. 13.
Army Futures Command’s Sustainment Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate as well as the Marine Corps’ Capabilities Development and Integration office began looking in earnest at a concept called the “Joint Tactical Autonomous Aerial Resupply System,” about two years ago with the hope of getting a capabilities development document signed in three years.
But the concept has been alive for much longer. In 2018, the JTAARS concept was on an evaluation list for the Joint Warfighting Assessment in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
The services plan to field the system by 2026.
The drone should already be technologically mature to demonstrate capability, weigh less than a Group 3 drone — or less than approximately 1,300 pounds — and be able to haul up to 800 pounds of supplies to the field to provide an organic sustainment capability for infantry brigade combat teams in a multidomain operational environment, according to the request for information.
The drone should also be able to operate in a 110-mile radius at day or night, and in bad weather conditions, as well as plug into current and future tactical command-and-control systems, the RFI read.
Setup time to launch a package should take 15 minutes, and two to four soldiers should be able to lift it out of a transport container, the RFI said. This means the system should be lightweight and easy to use, the document explained.
The drone must automatically launch, navigate in GPS-denied environments, drop cargo, land and return to its point of origin, the document added. The system should also be able to avoid obstacles and pick optimal flight paths and landing sites on its own, the RFI explained.
Turnaround time between missions should be minimal, according to the RFI, and the system should be modular and open in order to integrate a variety of payloads and software needed, but it also must be secure from cyberattacks.
The Army and Marine Corps have worked on autonomous resupply concepts for over a decade. Perhaps most well-known is the evaluation of Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX unmanned helicopter, which had the capability to sling-load cargo. Two of the aircraft were evaluated for several years in Afghanistan beginning in late 2011; one aircraft crashed.
The services completed the operational assessment but did not pursue the capability beyond that.
While the Army has focused on robotic ground convoys for resupply — including developing leader-follower capability — it’s expected that autonomous resupply will happen in the air before ground systems provide sustainment due to the increased complication of navigating unpredictable terrain and obstacles on land.
And as the commercial sector — such as Amazon and Google — continues to invest in the drone delivery market, systems designed for the task will become more reliable, more capable and less expensive, likely benefiting the U.S. military. That market is projected to be worth almost $29bn by the late 2020s. Responses from industry are due Feb. 12. (Source: Defense News)
18 Jan 21. DARPA Funding Opportunity – Reversible Quantum Machine Learning and Simulation AI Exploration Program. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is issuing an Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) Opportunity inviting submissions of innovative basic research concepts in the technical domain of Reversible Computing. The total award value for the combined Phase 1 base and Phase 2 option is limited to $1,000,000.
The primary objectives of the Reversible/Quantum Machine Learning and Simulation (RQMLS) AIE opportunity are; https://beta.sam.gov/opp/e201b103d2c742ddb59088451c7206b9/view
- to explore the fundamental limits of reversible quantum annealers;
- to quantitatively predict the computational utility of these systems for machine learning, simulation, and other important tasks; and
- to design experimental tests for these predictions that can be carried out on newly fabricated small-scale reversible quantum annealers.
Teams are required to address all primary objectives.
Proposals submitted in response to this AIE Opportunity must be UNCLASSIFIED and must address two independent and sequential project phases (a Phase 1 Feasibility Study (base) and a Phase 2 Proof of Concept (option)). The periods of performance for these phases are 6 months for the Phase 1 base effort and 12 months for the Phase 2 option effort. The Phase 1 (base) award value is limited to $250k. The Phase 2 (option) award value is limited to $750k.
More details are available here.
Due date: February 9, 2021 (4pm US EST)
REST OF THE WORLD
18 Jan 21. DST calls for Study Proposals: Enhanced Human Performance. DST’s Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF), under its Enhanced Human Performance Theme, intends to publish an open call for study proposals in the area of Human Biotechnologies.
DST will provide a research program brief to all interested parties via Microsoft Teams on 27 January 2021. Nominations to attend the briefing must be forwarded in writing to the Contact Officer via Lisa Headley, email@example.com, by 25 January, 2021 to secure an MS Teams invitation. For further information go to the Defence Science Institute web site. (Source: http://rumourcontrol.com.au/)
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