02 Sep 20. USMC Explores Robots & 5G Networks For Future Wars. Could mini-drones and robot trucks, coordinating via 5G, replace vulnerable manned convoys? The Marines have a bold vision for fast-paced future operations – but the current supply system can’t keep up. That’s why Marines at Miramar, Calif. are working with Gaithersburg, Md.-based Robotic Research, which also works with the Army, on unmanned resupply.
“There are missions that are essentially unsupportable…with our current construct,” Lt. Col. Brandon Newell told me. In a war zone, it’s too dangerous to send a single driver out by himself, so even routine supply runs in Afghanistan use either helicopters, a scarce resource, or heavily armed ground convoys, which require a lot of preparation only worth doing for big deliveries. If a unit needed one critical thing right now – ammunition, water, batteries for vital electronics – the supply system was often slow to respond.
That’s not good enough for the new combat concept called “distributed operations,” with small, dispersed teams moving quickly on their own so they don’t create big, static targets for enemy precision missiles. So the Marines have spent years experimenting with robotic resupply vehicles, ranging from the K-MAX unmanned helicopter in Afghanistan to mini-drones carrying individual clips of ammo, canteens, and packs of batteries. If the unmanned vehicle is lost, no human lives are lost with it, so you can quickly send out single, unescorted robots to meet those small-but-urgent needs for resupply.
“Now you can go point to point and be more dynamic in meeting the need,” Newell said, “rather than [having to] bulk up and aggregate everything together.”
With today’s technology, Newell and Robotic Research told me, you can put together multiple off-the-shelf systems – ground robots, mini-drones, static sensors – and have them share information over cellphone-style networks. That was 4G LTE in this summer’s experiment, but in future trials, it could the much higher-bandwidth 5G network that Verizon is about to build at Miramar.
The result? A team of unmanned systems that’s more than the sum of its parts. Each individual bot has enough on-board smarts to navigate to its destination on its own if communications are cut off by malfunction, obstructions, or enemy action. But when the network’s working, it effectively lets the robots see through each others’ eyes, vastly expanding their view of the battlefield and thus their ability to navigate it.
In a July experiment at Robotic Research’s Maryland test site, for example, an 8×8 ground robot called a MUTT set off with a pair of Pegasus mini-drones on its back. One Pegasus carried a sensor package: When needed, it took off from the MUTT and scouted ahead, reporting on part of the route that was out of sight around a corner. The second Pegasus carried a small but crucial resupply item, a battery, that it delivered to a different location than the MUTT’s main load, saving the ground vehicle a side trip and cutting delivery time. Another portion of the route was monitored by a prepositioned radar sensor called a SUAVI – a $400 version fits in your hand and runs off battery power for 24 hours – which fed real-time updates to the MUTT.
All four unmanned systems – the wheeled MUTT, Pegasus drones, and static SUAVI – shared data over a 4G LTE network. That’s not the kind of wireless that Robotic Research normally uses, executive VP Eddie Mottern told me, but the Marines wanted to check out widely available civilian technology and see how well it might work for the military.
4G LTE is widely available; Miramar has had a Verizon network on-base since 2018. But even back then, Newell said, it was clear that the emerging technology of 5G could offer much higher bandwidth and lower latency, allowing experimental robots at the base’s Autonomous Vehicle Proving Grounds to exchange much more data much more quickly. That’s part of the reason the Marines signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Verizon to upgrade the 4G network at Miramar to a “living lab” for a form of 5G known as “ultra wideband.”
Meanwhile, Newell and his team are running models and simulations, holding brainstorming sessions, and preparing for a second robotic resupply experiment for 2021, this time to be held at Miramar itself. “We will have a more integrated, more capable prototype next May,” he told me. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
02 Sep 20. L3Harris Technologies Selects Kinaxis to Enhance Real-Time Decision-Making. Major defence contractor leverages RapidResponse to create end-to-end supply chain visibility and collaboration.
Kinaxis® Inc. (TSX:KXS), the authority in driving agility for fast, confident decision-making in an unpredictable world, announced that L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX), an agile global aerospace and defence technology innovator, has selected Kinaxis RapidResponse® to support strategic and tactical decision-making across its supply chains.
L3Harris, one of the largest defence contractors in the world with 48,000 employees and $18bn in revenue, provides advanced defence and commercial technologies across air, land, sea, space and cyber domains. To provide end-to-end supply chain visibility to plan, monitor and respond to demand and supply changes in near real-time, L3Harris selected Kinaxis to support the company’s enterprise planning, starting with its Space and Airborne Systems and Communication Systems segments.
Kinaxis will help L3Harris enable collaboration with internal stakeholders as well as customers and suppliers on sales and operation trade-offs, engineering changes and supply chain disruptions – all critical to meeting targets. Leveraging the power of Kinaxis RapidResponse and its unique concurrent planning technique, L3Harris gains a single, scalable SaaS planning platform that synchronises the company’s supply chain.
Complex production and supply networks, demand for innovation, and global disruptions are all familiar strains on today’s aerospace and defence supply chains. Kinaxis helps manufacturers gain full visibility into the end-to-end supply chain to make it easier to keep pace, adapt to shifting demand and manage complexity. With RapidResponse, companies can collaborate across the supply chain network for fast, feasible demand, supply, inventory and capacity plans, run simulations for situations like rate changes, supply disruptions and engineering changes, and manage data from multiple sources all on a single platform.
“The most successful companies today make the right decisions sooner so that they can act faster than their competitors,” said John Sicard, CEO at Kinaxis. “We’re glad to have earned the trust of L3Harris and to work with them to give end-to-end supply chain visibility so they can stay responsive to customer needs while enhancing their supply chain agility.”
01 Sep 20. RAAF uses HoloLens mixed-reality device for C-17A maintenance.
The Australian Department of Defence has announced that the No 36 Squadron aircraft technicians are using HoloLens mixed-reality devices for aircraft maintenance.
Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality devices are being used with software developed by Boeing for C-17A Globemaster III aircraft maintenance.
Traditionally, specialist technicians of Boeing support repair and replacement tasks by travelling to Australia. The technicians are known as the recovery and modifications services team (RAMS).
However, technicians were not able to visit this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions in place.
This situation led to technicians exploring virtual reality with Microsoft HoloLens.
A trial into making virtual reality possible commenced at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Amberley this July.
Maintenance team supervisor sergeant Thomas Lane said: “Through a secure ‘Cloud’ connection, my team and the technicians in the US can work seamlessly together by sharing screens and see exactly what they are seeing inside the aircraft through iris tracking.
“The first project was to replace the floatation equipment deployment systems panels inside C-17s, which consist of explosive components that deploy life rafts in an emergency.
“This technology is a massive benefit to resourcing the workforce moving forward, with significant potential to empower and train less-experienced technicians.”
Boeing C-17A field services manager Glen Schneider added that this technology will eliminate the need for travel in the future and increase efficiency.
Schneider said: “After the initial maintenance activity, No 36 Squadron will continue the trial with two HoloLens devices that can be used by accompanied maintenance teams.
“Technicians can connect with the Boeing field engineering team while they are away on a domestic or international mission and will aid them to troubleshoot any unique maintenance issues they encounter.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
01 Sep 20. Tekhodinamika unveils new high-altitude parachute for Russia’s VDV. Tekhnodinamika, a subsidiary of Russian state corporation Rostec, unveiled its Stayer high-altitude parachute system, which enables airdrops from up to 10 km altitude, at the Army 2020 defence show in Kubinka. State trials of the system finished earlier this year, a Tekhnodinamika spokesperson told Janes.
The Stayer parachute was developed by the Ivanovo Polyot Parachute Plant and is intended for special unit airdrops from an altitude between 700 m and 10,000m via Ilyushin Il-76, Antonov An-26 and An-2, Aero Vodochody L-410, and Mil Mi-8/17 aircraft flying speeds between 140km/h and 350km/h.
The main and backup parachutes withstand 10 g and 14 g overloads, respectively. The Stayer is capable of carrying the SKG-50 cargo subsystem that can mount a container with a 50 kg payload, armament, and oxygen subsystem. The SKG-50 works at temperatures between -40 C and 50 C and weighs about 4 kg.
Overall, the Stayer system airdrops up to 180kg; its main and backup parachutes have service lives of 1,000 and 20 jumps respectively. The main dome works at altitudes between 800 m and 8,000 m, while the backup one works between 200 m and 2,500 m.
“The Stayer parachute system was developed under the requirements of the Ministry of Defence,” Tekhnodinamika Director General Igor Nasenkov said on 26 August. “It has passed through state trials, and there are contracts for its delivery to the Airborne Troops. We hope that the system will kindle the interest of potential customers.”
Deliveries to Russia’s Airborne Troops (VDV) are slated to start in 2021. (Source: Jane’s)
31 Aug 20. The US Navy’s new amphibious landing craft are coming off the lines. The U.S. Navy’s new ship-to-shore connectors are coming off the production lines, with the second being delivered last week, Naval Sea Systems Command announced Friday.
The new air-cushioned landing craft built by Textron replaces the current generation, adding payload capacity and range.
The landing craft air cushion vehicles are designed to operate from the well decks of amphibious ships and the expeditionary transfer docks as well as from expeditionary sea bases.
There are 12 of the new ship-to-shore connectors in production at Textron Systems’ New Orleans, Louisiana, shipyard.
In April, the Navy announced a $386m contract for 15 of the next-generation landing craft air cushion vehicles. (Source: Defense News)