17 Sep 21. Rolls-Royce Developing Revolutionary Digital System to Improve USAF Air Refueling Efficiency, Reduce Cost. Rolls-Royce North America has been awarded a U.S. Transportation Command contract for the demonstration and continued development of a revolutionary new software system that will maximize efficiency in managing air refueling assets, improving mission availability and reducing cost for the U.S. Air Force.
The Rolls-Royce Air Refueling Optimization and Planning System, or AROPS, is part of the new suite of digital services known as TwinAlytix® from Rolls-Royce Defense. TwinAlytix features the benefits of digital twins and digital analytics to improve customer services through advanced, secure software applications.
The AROPS software package contract, valued at $800,000, is intended to increase air tanker availability and eliminate inefficiencies caused by disconnected systems and process challenges within a highly complex air refueling enterprise. Working with our partners at Applied Aeronautical Systems Inc. (AASI), Rolls-Royce has developed and continues to improve on a solution to make the overall air refueling enterprise more effective and efficient, which could lead to ms of dollars in cost savings and a reduced environmental impact.
Additionally, the Rolls-Royce and AASI team’s concept of creating an Operational Process Digital Twin (OPDT) of the USAF’s air refueling enterprise became the first Rolls-Royce submittal to advance to both Phase 2 and Phase 3 of an AFWERX challenge (Reimagining Energy). The OPDT will allow the USAF to plan future air refueling requirements ahead of actual deployments, providing multiple courses of action in a low-risk/low-cost environment to best serve its missions.
Darryl Roberson, Rolls-Royce Defense, Senior Vice President, Business Development, said, “The new AROPS software package will lead to significant improvements in the entire U.S. Air Force air refueling enterprise. Rolls-Royce is proud to be leading the way in the aerospace industry in digital advancements with our new TwinAlytix® suite of offerings. We are focused on removing complexities and transforming operations for our customers.”
The AROPS development activity includes an expansive team joining Rolls-Royce, the USTRANSCOM, Operations Directorate’s Air Refueling Branch (J38-R), Air Mobility Command (AMC), the 618th Air Operations Center, and other major commands, to modernize air-refueling management for the Department of Defense.
In addition to the AROPS platform, the TwinAlytix digital suite includes Virtual Reality Training, already fielded in the Air Force; Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Prevention Services, already in operation in the U.S. Marine Corps; Asset Management Protection Service; TP400 Tip Clearance; Enterprise Modelling Services; and Remote FSR Service, with more offerings to come.
Rolls-Royce is already an industry leader in the digital realm, having recently completed a $600 m investment in advanced manufacturing facilities and technology in Indianapolis, US, transforming manufacturing capabilities. The revitalized facilities are highly efficient and will improve competitiveness in an increasingly contested marketplace for propulsion and power solutions. The modernized and digitized facilities have already significantly improved energy efficiency and helped Rolls-Royce in its journey to become net-zero in carbon use in operations by 2030.
Rolls-Royce Indianapolis primarily serves U.S. military customers, manufacturing engines and components for the C-130J and C-130H Hercules, V-22 Osprey, Global Hawk and Triton, E-2 Hawkeye, F-35B Lightning II, and other military aircraft. The site also produces engines and power components for the U.S. Navy, industrial power generation, commercial aircraft, and helicopter customers. (Source: ASD Network)
20 Sep 21. Kaman unveils medium-lift UAV to resupply distributed Marine Corps forces. Kaman is unveiling this week a medium-lift unmanned quadcopter meant to solve the biggest challenge to the Marine Corps’ expeditionary advanced base operations concept: resupplying small units of Marines scattered around island chains. Kaman’s KARGO unmanned aerial vehicle has been designed from scratch over the past nine months to meet the Marines’ needs for an Unmanned Logistics Systems-Air (ULS-A) medium-lift vehicle for the distributed laydown the Marines expect will be the hallmark of their operations in the future in places like the Pacific, the Baltic Sea or other contested areas.
Ian Walsh, president and chief executive of Kaman, told Defense News on Sept. 17 the vehicle will be able to balance range and payload capacity — up to 500 nautical miles and as much as 1,000 pounds of cargo — to help the Marine Corps move “beans, bullets and Band-Aids,” or even potable water, fuel and spare parts, to small units in remote locations.
Kaman is the company behind the K-MAX heavy-lift UAV that saw operations in Afghanistan in 2011.
“The Marine Corps was very progressive, as they’ve always been, leveraging technologies. It was in theater, did a whole bunch of missions, tons of hours, basically taking young Marines off the road” to move supplies around theater in the air instead of in ground convoys susceptible to being shot at or hitting roadside bombs, Walsh said.
“After that war ended, [the Marine Corps] mothballed both those helicopters because nothing really was going on, and then here we are 10 years later with this emerging threat in the Pacific Rim,” he said, adding that the threat of conflict with China creates urgency for the Marine Corps and the joint force to figure out how it would sustain forces in a fight across such a large swath of sea space.
Romin Dasmalchi, the company’s senior director of business development, said during the interview KARGO is meant to hide in plain sight: the air vehicle and all the tools to maintain it are housed in a standard cargo container, which could be moved into theater on commercial shipping or aircraft, via military airlift or sealift, or even on a Navy warship. They could be prepositioned in strategic forward locations, with just two Marines needed to get the UAV out of the container and in the air in minutes.
If Marines were fighting from small expeditionary bases throughout the South China Sea, for example, the KARGO UAVs could be prepositioned in Okinawa, Japan; quickly assembled by Marines and launched south towards Military Sealift Command supply ships outside the South China Sea; loaded up with supplies from the ship; and then sent on their way to drop off supplies at multiple locations each, Dasmalchi said.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger outlined his vision for future Marine Corps operations almost immediately upon taking command, in his July 2019 Commandant’s Planning Guidance. In it, he said “we must re-imagine our amphibious ship capabilities, prepositioning, and expeditionary logistics so they are more survivable, at less risk of catastrophic loss, and agile in their employment.”
Since then, he’s embarked on a Force Design 2030 effort to reshape the force to be lighter and more suited for these kinds of small-unit distributed operations — but Berger and other leaders have acknowledged that their ability to resupply these units could be the Achilles’ heel to their expeditionary advanced base operations plans.
Berger and his leadership team have proposed relying on unmanned systems — in the air, and also on the ocean’s surface and undersea — to help move goods around without using large MSC supply ships that attract enemy attention and are more easily targeted. The Navy is investing in a fleet of smaller, next-generation logistics ships, so they can have a larger number of smaller resupply vessels that can more easily blend in with commercial traffic, but for Marines scattered throughout the theater, the final mile of delivery is likely to come via unmanned platforms.
Walsh said that, because there isn’t a program of record with formal requirements yet, there’s no official timeline — but there is a well understood urgency.
Kaman has already completed demonstrations with a half-scale model that focused on the drivetrain and air vehicle design, and Dasmalchi said several lessons came out of that that informed alterations to the full-scale vehicle. The autonomy package the UAV uses, under developent by Near Earth Autonomy, is being tested separately on surrogate aircraft now. Command-and-control systems for various delivery options, such as conformal pods, sling loads or even air drops are being developed by DreamHammer.
By the end of this calendar year, he said, the full-sized demonstrator will be going through ground-based testing. Flight tests of that air vehicle will begin early next year, and after an integration effort with the autonomy package and mission systems, a complete system in-air test should occur by late 2022. All of this is being done with internal research and development funds, Dasmalchi said, because the company is convinced its product is the only one that exists to meets the Marines’ needs.
“The three top things that we’re really trying to attack is the reliability, the maintainability and affordability. Those are the three premier values that we know our customers is eager to get, and Gen. Berger has been very clear about speed to market, bringing new capabilities out there,” Walsh said.
Everything about the design is tailored to those principles: all four rotors are interchangeable, and all the blades within the rotors are interchangeable, for example, reducing the need to keep many spare parts on hand. The engine is fuel-efficient, and available today — Walsh said the hope is to eventually upgrade to an electric or hybrid power system to reduce or eliminate its dependence on jet fuel, but that technology isn’t mature enough yet. A gas-powered engine lets Kaman field this product in a year or two without waiting on any major technology development.
“Our timeline is, we’re working demonstration right now, from design to flying concept in less than six months this year. Next year we will be flying a full-scale demo … and if the Marine Corps feels this is where they want to go, we can be in production in short order,” Walsh said. “Fundamentally, in a five-year window, we’d love to be at full-rate production.”
Kaman had hoped to unveil its full-sized model this week at the Modern Day Marine exposition at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, but the event was canceled last month due to growing COVID-19 concerns.
Instead, Kaman will bring the model to the AUSA exposition with Army leadership in October, in the hopes of attracting other potential customers, including the Navy and MSC, the Coast Guard and foreign militaries.
The Marines’ Unmanned Logistics System-Air technology demonstration effort has small-, medium- and heavy-lift components within the family of systems. Walsh and Dasmalchi said Kaman wanted to go after the medium-lift UAV first because their conversations with the Marines revealed the most urgency around this need. But the company is also eyeing the heavy-lift variant, which would be similar to the K-MAX optionally manned helicopter. Walsh said Kaman and the Marine Corps are working to find funding to fix up the two mothballed aircraft and upgrade them with a modern autonomy package.
“At that size of helicopter, with that size of capability, it’s truly unique. It’s a niche product, so that’s why they initially wanted it, and that’s why they’re interested again in it,” Walsh said, adding that Kaman renamed this revamped K-MAX effort Titan.
But, there’s a cost that comes with that large capability, which includes flight safety features for optional manned operations.
Though the company did not discuss the cost of KARGO, Kaman calls it an “attritable” aircraft, which the military has increasingly used to refer to unmanned systems cheap enough that it’s not a big deal if one gets destroyed or lost in operations.
The way Kaman believes the Marines intend to operate these UAVs, Walsh said, “even if one of these things get shot down, guess what, one’s coming right behind it. And that’s the beauty of it at a price point you’re not with manned aircraft.” (Source: Defense News)