Sponsored By Oxley Developments
22 Mar 19. The first industry innovation event launched under the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) “SME Searchlight” initiative is to be held on 3rd May at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire. Searchlight aims to encourage small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to work with Dstl, and the first event will focus on Radio Frequency (RF) systems. Specifically, frequency-agile RF hardware, machine learning applied to modern communications standards (including Internet of Things) and novel manufacturing solutions to reduce size, weight, power and/or cost.
The free event includes: industry insight by leading experts; how companies can enter the market and work with Dstl; case study success stories; sample technical challenges and workshops. Staff from across various Dstl departments will be available throughout the day to offer technical and commercial guidance. Places are limited and restricted to one person per company. To register follow this link: http://www.teamdefence.info/event.php?event=1000630
SME Searchlight aims to engage with non-traditional Defence suppliers and SMEs to meet the needs of a £40m – £45m increase in research, in line with the Government’s intent to increase external spending with SMEs. Companies benefit in turn from increased funding and being at the cutting-edge of research and technology.
Over the next 12 months, events, workshops and consultations run by Dstl will take place in partnership with Aerospace and Defence Suppliers (ADS), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Team Defence Information and TechUK, to bring companies together from across industry sectors. An ambitious target of 60% of suppliers who may never have worked with Defence before has been set to attend each of these events, with the aim of bringing these new companies into Dstl’s supply chain.
The increase in demand for new research opportunities extends across Dstl, with a number of priority areas identified. In addition to RF these include artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and wargaming.
Rob Solly, Division Head for Defence and Security Analysis from Dstl, said: “SMEs possess tremendous ideas and innovation. Dstl has funds available to invest in cutting-edge research, and the commercial and technological clout to accelerate these ideas. Importantly, SMEs retain the Intellectual Property rights to any innovation in most cases, boosting their long-term prosperity as well as that of the UK.”
Separately, Dstl is also a sponsor of Venturefest on 29 March at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, which brings together top talent from the region to demonstrate technologies and innovations, allow start-ups to pitch for investment, and match entrepreneurs with the right organisations to take their businesses to the next level.
For more information contact the Dstl press office on 01980 956845 or 07384 210107.
11 Mar 19. £30m boost to fast-track battlefield apps. Digital apps are set to redefine the battlefield as the Defence Secretary announces a £30m boost to fast-track agile software development technology. The funding, drawn from the multi-million Transformation Fund, will spark a step change in the development of application software for the Armed Forces and allow the rapid adaption of the state-of-the-art technology to be used in extreme environments, from natural disasters to the frontline.
The crucial technology will also give the military the warfighting edge they need to outpace adversaries and combat emerging threats, allowing those on the ground to demand responsive software that can visualise and automate secure, critical information, tailored to their mission, anywhere in the world.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: From major natural disasters to the frontline on the battlefield, our Armed Forces are quick to react and even quicker to adapt. This technology matches that agility by enabling the creation of specialist digital applications that are tailored, secure and responsive.
By deploying this technology into the hands of our military, from sailors serving in the Caribbean, to pilots working in the Middle East, we will ensure we have a fighting force fit for the future, equipped with state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips.
The new approach, championed by Joint Forces Command, will allow defence specialists to create and tailor applications rapidly to meet an operational commander’s requirements, assure its robustness and security, and deploy it on military networks in a matter of days.
As a mission evolves and changes, the application will be able to be adapted and changed to keep step with the demands of the operation.
The capability, dubbed PREDA – Platform for Rapid Exploitation of Digital Applications – is similar to the technology being introduced by the United States Air Force (USAF) and US Marine Corps, which has already seen direct benefits from putting modern applications and decision support software directly in the hands of the war-fighter, when and where it is needed.
The USAF has already delivered 18 tailored applications to support planning, command and control functions at its Air Operations Centers. Further applications are being explored in budgeting and acquisition, cyber defence and logistics.
Whilst the approach is initially expected to provide tools to support decision making and command and control, the initiative could be rolled out to other disciplines, such as cyber defence, logistics and medical support.
The technology is expected to be in use on operations across the globe by the end of the year.
The funding for the innovative Application and Software Design comes after the Defence Secretary announced a £66m funding injection for military robotic projects last week.
As part of the Modernising Defence Programme, the Defence Secretary has dedicated millions of pounds to transforming defence, arming the British military with innovative technology through fast-tracking new projects.
The MOD is embracing transformation at an ever-faster rate and the Transformation Fund is focused on investments in truly high-tech innovation that will develop the Armed Forces of the future. (Source: U.K. MoD)
20 Mar 19. What aircraft does the US Air Force need to beat China and Russia? This new study has an answer. Last September, the U.S. Air Force revealed that it will need a total of 386 operational squadrons to take on future threats posed by Russia and China. A new congressionally mandated study posits that number may not be enough.
Further, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study — which has been obtained exclusively by Defense News — goes on to recommend that the Air Force begin developing a handful of new technologies not in its plans, including a stealthy weaponized drone, a new unmanned reconnaissance plane that can penetrate into contested spaces, and refueling tankers that are unlike anything in its current inventory.
The study is the result of language in the 2018 defense policy bill, which called for the Air Force, the government-funded research firm MITRE Corp. as well as CSBA to make recommendations for the future force structure of the Air Force.
In its study, which was delivered to Congress earlier this month, CSBA found critical shortfalls in the tanker, bomber, fighter, strike/reconnaissance drones, and command-and-control/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance inventories, with the bomber, tanker and drone fleets especially needing a bump in aircraft numbers.
The bomber fleet, CSBA said, should grow from the nine operational squadrons around today to 24 operational squadrons at an unnamed point in the future. (CSBA declined to associate a specific year in its recommendations, as the hypothetical future force includes some aircraft that are not in the Air Force’s plans.)
Fighter squadrons should increase from 55 to 65, and the tanker fleet should jump from 40 to 58 squadrons. Strike/reconnaissance drone squadrons, currently typified by the MQ-9 Reaper, should skyrocket from 25 to 43 squadrons.
The C2/ISR inventory — which is currently comprised of assets like the E-8 JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft, the RC-135 family of recon planes and the RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone — shows a decrease from 40 squadrons to 33 squadrons. However, CSBA notes the importance of moving from the Air Force’s current inventory of aging battle-management planes to a more disaggregated family-of-systems approach like the Advanced Battle Management System, which will be able to provide more coverage and link together more platforms.
CSBA declined to comment further on the report, as it has not yet been briefed by Congress.
The report was briefly available on a Defense Department website before being taken down.
What the Air Force (thinks it) needs
The think tank’s assessment contrasts with the Air Force’s own findings, which center around the need for the force to grow from 312 to 386 operational squadrons. The service’s “Air Force We Need” study, which has not been released in full, differed from that of CSBA in that it included several types of squadrons that the think tank did not evaluate in detail — areas like space, cyber, missiles, airlift, and combat search and rescue.
The Air Force will need 14 bomber squadrons, 62 fighter squadrons, 54 tanker squadrons, 27 strike/reconnaissance drone squadrons and 62 C2/ISR squadrons by the year 2030, according to the service’s own study. However, the service has not revealed how those goals might influence future buying decisions, and whether current programs of record are to be expanded to meet those goals.
Another major difference is that the Air Force and CSBA formed their proposed future forces based on different threats. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has said that its 386-squadron count is necessary to “defeat a peer threat while being able to deter a near-peer threat.”
By contrast, CSBA sought to create an Air Force that could take on a very concrete and possibly more ambitious goal. First, the Air Force would be confronted with a major conflict with a near-peer competitor, a “major Chinese military action in the South China Sea,” for instance. Then, 10 to 20 days later, it would be forced to address aggressive activity by a second near-peer, such as “a Russian invasion of one or more Baltic states.”
In that future, Russia and China will become even more capable of defending themselves, turning what is now a contested environment into a “highly contested” environment characterized by mobile, overlapping and interconnected surface-to-air missile systems that use passive sensors and other methods to avoid detection by U.S. equipment.
“The lethality, range and geographic dispersion of these systems, combined with modern fighters, electronic warfare aircraft, cyber attacks and other threats, create an all-aspect, multi-domain challenge for U.S. aircraft,” it said.
At this point, none of the U.S. Air Force’s inventory is optimized for such a battle, CSBA believes. The B-21 bomber built by Northrop Grumman is set to be the first when it becomes operational in the mid-2020s.
The bomber force
As China and Russia field more advanced and long-reaching air defenses, it will be vital for the United States to field long-range, stealthy bombers that can slip past radar, and for the U.S. to use its large payload capacity to take out surface-to-air missiles, adversary airfields and other targets of interest — clearing the way for fighter jets and other U.S. aircraft to fire from standoff distances or move farther afield.
But right now, the Air Force isn’t buying enough of its latest bomber, CSBA posits.
“The Air Force’s planned force of 100 [total aircraft inventory] B-21s could fall short of the penetrating strike capacity needed for a single major high-end great power conflict,” said the report, which recommends a future force of 288 B-21 Raiders.
CSBA recommends accelerating B-21 procurement, adding that “assuming annual B-21 production can ramp to a range between 10 and 20 aircraft per year by the late 2020s, a total of 55 [total aircraft inventory] B-21s could be in the force by 2030.”
Meanwhile, the Air Force should sustain its B-52 and B-2 fleets, and retire the B-1 as the B-21 comes online, it continued.
The fighter force
Should the Air Force buy the F-15X from Boeing?
The study gives an unambiguous answer of “no,” stating that spending its resources on new F-15s could take away precious funding away from the service’s next-generation fighter, which the Air Force needs to expedite and begin buying as soon as possible.
The F-15X, while a capable “fourth-generation-plus aircraft,” will not be able to survive the more contested battlespace of the future, the assessment stated, adding that “the Air Force should consider replacing some retiring F-15C/Ds with modified F-35As as a bridge to its future air superiority family of systems.”
The study prioritizes the development of a new sixth-generation fighter, known as Penetrating Counter Air, or PCA, as well as hastening to a procurement rate of 70 F-35As per year.
Not much is known about PCA, a classified program that is in the early stages of development. The study envisions it as a speedy, long-range family of systems capable of moving deep into an enemy’s airspace and taking out air defenses, opening the aperture up for other assets to move closer to the adversary.
To speed up the development of PCA so that the Air Force can buy at least 50 systems by 2030, the service could look to the B-21 program as an example: “Maximizing use of mature technologies and possibly components and mission systems developed for other advanced platforms could reduce the time and cost of fielding a multi-mission PCA,” the study said. “This capability is needed now, and therefore its development should be a top priority.”
CSBA also recommends the gradual retirement of F-16s, as F-35s come online, and the modernization of F-22 Raptors and F-15Es. Six A-10 Warthog squadrons should be retained into the 2030s as planned, but the service should not pursue a single-mission close-air support aircraft to replace it once the A-10 reaches the end of its service life, according to the think tank.
“Since nearly all of its future precision-enabled combat aircraft will be capable of providing close air support to friendly forces, the Air Force should not develop a future replacement for the A-10 that would be limited to operations in permissive environments,” it said.
The tanker force
With the estimated 457 tankers in the Air Force clocking in at an average of 53 years of age, the Air Force’s tanker force is too old and too small to meet future threats. As such, the Air Force needs to continue buying its latest aerial-refueling aircraft, Boeing’s KC-46, so that it can retire older tankers like the KC-10 and — eventually — the KC-135, CSBA said.
By 2030, CSBA recommends the divestment of the KC-10 as the KC-46 replaces it, as well as the retirement of about 50 of the oldest KC-135s. That, coupled with 179 KC-46s, would lead to a tanker inventory of about 520 aircraft.
At this point, the Air Force should expand the capabilities of the KC-46 with upgrades that allow it to “perform as a communications and situational awareness node to support multi-domain operations, as well as to provide it with some countermeasures against area-denial threats,” the report stated.
The service would need to move quickly to develop a KC-46 follow-on if a future tanker force of 630 aircraft were to be achieved. CSBA conceptualized that future tankers — potentially a family of systems — could involve manned aerial-refueling planes like the KC-46 that transfers fuel from U.S. bases to a number of small, lightweight drones or optionally manned tankers just outside a contested environment, creating a number of disaggregated “offload points” for fighters and other aircraft to get fuel.
Small tanker drones could even move into lower-threat areas inside of the contested environment, “extend[ing] the range and mission duration of penetrating aircraft” while not putting a human pilot and crew at risk, the report found.
Future ISR/light strike drones
In 2030, the Air Force will still be using its MQ-9 Reaper drones, and the service could begin using them in new ways, like for homeland or air base defense. But CSBA identified a “pressing need” for a stealthy combat UAV — a UCAV it terms MQ-X — that could conduct strike, electronic attack or counterair missions while teamed with other unmanned or manned aircraft.
Previous programs to develop a stealthy UCAV have been terminated before they ever reached fruition. One notable example was the Navy’s carrier-launched airborne strike and surveillance program, or UCLASS, wihch was killed in 2016 and reborn as the MQ-25 tanker drone.
CSBA stated that the Air Force should build on such efforts “to initiate development of a MQ-X UCAV that can penetrate and persist in contested environments as soon as possible.” It envisioned a need for 68 MQ-Xs in the future force, with as many as 40 such aircraft being adopted around 2030 if a program is started now.
The service might also consider fielding a family of drones it calls MM-UAS — for multimission unmanned aerial systems — which could eventually replace the Air Force’s current inventory of drones into the 2030s: As CSBA stated, MM-UAS could be based on existing technologies or involve upgrades to current systems.
It would operate in environments that are either permissive or slightly contested, and could accomplish a range of missions like conducting surveillance, executing airstrikes or acting as a communications node.
The ISR and BMC2 force
Of all the mission areas, it’s the Air Force’s ISR and battle management command-and-control aircraft that needs to go through the most revolutionary changes from 2030 onward, CSBA posits.
The Air Force should sustain its U-2 spy planes, RQ-4 Global Hawk drones and E-3 early warning aircraft through 2030, the report said. It’s RC-135 family of special-mission aircraft — which includes the Rivet Joint, Cobra Ball and other planes with unique equipment used in intelligence gathering — could be viable into the 2040s. Meanwhile, the E-8C JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft should be retired in the mid-2020s as long as a capability gap is mitigated by other assets, the think tank said.
CSBA predicts the Air Force will get its Advanced Battle Management System online in the early 2030s, recommending a future force of 21 systems.
The Air Force is pursuing the Advanced Battle Management System as a disaggregated family of systems that can provide command and control, as well as the surveillance of ground and airborne targets, in a contested environment. However, the service hasn’t made it clear what sensors, aircraft and communications gear will be included in the enterprise.
Here’s where CSBA diverges sharply from the Air Force: It calls for the service to develop one or more penetrating ISR drones in the 2030s, calling the fielding of a so-called P-ISR “one of the Air Force’s biggest priorities for its future global awareness force.”
Right now the Air Force has no plans — at least not publicly released ones — to create such an aircraft. However, the CSBA report sees an important role for an unmanned, stealthy spy plane in a future conflict with Russia or China.
“Persistent, penetrating airborne ISR would be critical to the air interdiction of highly mobile armored vehicles and other land forces invading a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally,” a typical scenario in war games involving Russia, the report said. “It also would be necessary to find, fix, track and provide shooters with cues to attack mobile surface-to-air missiles, missile launchers and other high-end Chinese and Russian [anti-access, area denial] systems.” (Source: Defense News)
20 Mar 19. Black Swift Developing Active Navigation System. Black Swift Technologies, a specialized engineering firm based in Boulder, CO, announced that it has completed the first phase of a NASA funded project to demonstrate the effectiveness of fusing a host of onboard sensors to develop a terrain-following fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system (UAS), in this case, it will be demonstrated using the Black Swift S2 UAS.
BST’s understanding and integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help serve as a catalyst for accelerating UAS growth and adoption, industry-wide. Through autonomous, active navigation around obstacles and over rugged terrain by a fixed-wing UAS, BST is demonstrating how technology can help make UAS operation simpler and safer, for both operators and the public.
“Our state-of-the-art sensor suite and approach to sensor fusion enables a number of capabilities not yet seen for fixed-wing UAS,” says Jack Elston, Ph.D, CEO Black Swift Technologies. “Integration of these developments with our highly capable avionics subsystem can make flying a fixed-wing small UAS significantly safer for operations in difficult terrain or beyond line of sight.”
Relevance of the Technology
Fixed-wing aircraft can scan substantially more area in less time than their multi-rotor counterparts. Yet low altitude sensing by fixed-wing UAS is not without its challenges. Avoiding obstacles such as trees and towers, along with terrain variations that can exceed the climb capabilities of the aircraft, are some of the inhibitors to widespread use of fixed-wing aircraft for scientific and commercial data gathering operations.
BST’s solution fuses state-of-the art machine vision technologies with advanced sensors, including lidar and radar, into a modular subsystem enabling a fixed-wing UAS to operate safely in a variety of theaters and weather conditions.
While initial deployments will focus on fixed-wing UAS, initially the Black Swift S2, this subsystem of augmented onboard intelligence will be extended to multi-rotor UAS as well as other UAS platforms in future iterations.
Beyond Terrain Following to Obstacle Avoidance
The last few years have seen significant growth in collision avoidance technology for multi-rotor vehicles. This has not only driven the miniaturization and diversification of proximity sensing suites, but also spawned a number of technologies for providing onboard image processing and data fusion. While some of these technologies are applicable to fixed-wing collision avoidance, the relatively low speeds of average multi-rotor UAS and their ability to hover in place have generally produced shorter-range proximity sensing solutions. The dynamics and relatively high speed of larger fixed-wing UAS require much longer range sensing and predictive real-time avoidance decision processing capabilities to give the aircraft sufficient time to react.
Recent advancements in self-driving cars and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) for automotive applications have resulted in a variety of longer-range sensors including radars and lidars. This project fuses common vision-based techniques with both lidar and radar, enabling fixed-wing UAS data gathering flights in a wide breadth of environments.
In instances where an inflight emergency is encountered, especially when the UAS is flying beyond-visible-line-of-sight (BVLOS), remote and autonomous landings can be safely achieved leveraging the systems’ online machine vision classifiers. These classifiers can accurately and effectively identify obstacles (people, buildings, vehicles, structures, etc.) that could impede finding a viable, and safe, landing area. The result is an autonomous and remote landing without causing detrimental impact to people or property.
Many application areas of UAS demand the use of a vehicle able to cover a larger sampling area, such as pipeline and other infrastructure inspection, rock and mudslide monitoring, snowpack analysis, forest biofuel calculation, invasive plant species identification, trace gas emission observation over volcanoes, and missions requiring high-resolution imagery.
Using a UAS capable of carrying the necessary instruments routinely through difficult environments adds an invaluable contribution to the calibration and validation of data collected from ground- and satellite-based methods. This use of active remote sensing (sending out a signal that interacts with the environment and the resulting changed signal gets detected) allows data collected from a UAS to enhance comprehensive 3D models more effectively than traditional remote sensing methods.
In the case of volcano monitoring, low-AGL UAS flights (following the terrain of the forest canopy) enables the vehicle to directly sample gas plumes and ash clouds that are low to the ground, where the richest chemical and physical characteristics exist immediately after eruptions.
The use of a UAS to measure hazardous phenomena, such as wildfire smoke, eliminates the risk of harm to researchers and scientists making observations at close proximity. Utilizing UAS systems provides researchers the ability to collect desired data sets while remaining at a safe vantage point from the danger posed by the phenomena.
Catalyst for UAS Growth and Adoption
Black Swift’s system allows for active navigation around obstacles and rugged terrain by fixed-wing UAS, thus reducing adverse impact to either people or property. By making UAS operation safer—for both operators and the public—BST’s understanding and integration of AI and machine learning can help serve as a catalyst for accelerating UAS growth and adoption, industry-wide. (Source: UAS VISION)
19 Mar 19. Military helicopter manufacturers improve airworthiness in Amazon region. Key Points:
- Sikorsky and Helibras have created new ways to improve airworthiness rates in the Amazon
- These include improved contracting methods and quick-change assembly modules
Military helicopter manufacturers Sikorsky and Helibras have developed new ways to improve airworthiness rates in the Amazon rainforest region, one of the most environmentally challenging areas for rotorcraft to operate.
General Douglas Bassoli, director of Army Aviation Material Directorate, Brazilian Army (Exército Brasileiro), said the army’s Sikorsky S-70A Black Hawks are used to transport assault troops and for light jungle infantry and special forces in the Amazon. The Black Hawks also perform medical evacuation and resupply missions for border platoons.
The Brazilian Army’s 4th Battalion, based in Manaus, which is Amazon’s largest city and in the middle of the region, 1,500 km from the Atlantic Ocean, operates four S-70A (UH-60L equivalent) Black Hawks. According to Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment: South America , the 4th Battalion also operates Helibras AS 532 Cougar and Eurocopter AS 365K Panther aircraft. Gen Bassoli said the army plans, budget permitting, to put 500-600 hours on the Black Hawk fleet annually.
Sikorsky has a major presence in the Amazon. Brazil operates 26 Black Hawks – 16 air force, 4 army, and 6 navy S-70B Sea Hawks – while the other Amazon user, Colombia, operates 97 Black Hawks across the army, air force, and national police. Adam Schierholz, Sikorsky’s Latin America regional executive, told Jane’s in February that the Brazilian Army improved its Black Hawk utilisation rate from 50-60% to 100% over the last few years due to spare parts initiatives, a logistics support agreement, multiyear contracting, and earlier ordering.
The Brazilian Army and Sikorsky made a concerted effort in 2016 to work more closely together. Schierholz said Sikorsky and the army created a logistics support agreement, an open contract negotiated ahead of time with a maximum value. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
19 Mar 19. US pursuing mini-nuclear reactors to support military expeditionary capabilities. The US military is conducting research into the development of rapidly deployable, container mounted nuclear reactors to support deployed American and allied forces, reducing threats to traditional supply and support convoys.
With about 52 per cent of all US casualties incurred during the Iraqi and Afghanistan campaigns, the US has recognised that despite its technological advantages and unrivalled global network of defence infrastructure secure, reliable supply-lines, whether air, land or sea, are major-vulnerabilities for any expeditionary force.
Furthering these challenges, the growing area-access denial (A2AD) and peer-competitor air, land, sea and cyber capabilities of rivals like Russia and China are directly influencing the future expeditionary, logistics, procurement and supply-chain calculations for the US and its allies, including Australia.
Liquid fuel and water supplies comprise the majority of the mass transported to expeditionary forces, with resupply of fuel and drinking water for troops in-theatre costing about four lives for every hundred convoys.
In response, the US has initiated a series of programs to develop, test and deploy alternatives to traditional petrol-based fuel systems, particularly for power generation and small-scale manufacturing of key materials like munitions at forward operating bases operating in close proximity to peer-competitors, limiting supply line and convoy exposure to enemy interdiction.
The US Army’s study, titled ‘Mobile Nuclear Power Plants for Ground Operations’, highlights the importance of energy on the modern battlefield, saying, “Energy is a cross-cutting enabler of military power and nuclear fuel provides the densest form of energy able to generate the electrical power necessary at forward and remote locations without the need for continuous fuel resupply.
“Key points of the Army vision include high-intensity conflict where the Army must be ready to conduct major large-scale combat operations (LSCO) against near-peer competitors.”
Enter the development of very small modular nuclear reactors (vSMRs), designed to deliver between one and 10 megawatts (MW) for years without refuelling in a rapidly-deployable (road and/or air) package. Both the US Department of Defense and NASA have collaborated on the development of such reactors for use in military and space exploration contingencies.
Additionally, the US Army study identified a series of performance and design considerations for the development and operation of such a system, including:
- Sized for transport by different strategic, operational and tactical military platforms (C-17 aircraft, ships, Army watercraft and military truck);
- Designed to enable multiple movements in austere locations, throughout its operating life (e.g. passively or actively vibration-resistant during transport);
- Once installed, provides stationary ‘load-following’ and conditioned electric power as well as possibly process heat. Capable of meeting a camp’s variable electrical base power load demand;
- Provides electrical power for mission systems (e.g. sensing, computing and communications), life support (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting etc) quality-of-life functions, and other future applications (e.g. electric weapons, manufacturing, water or fuel production) during contingency operations in remote locations;
- Must have characteristics enabling minimum downtime for periodic instrumentation and sensor replacement or refurbishing, without requiring direct exposure to the nuclear fuel system;
- Must be simple in design and operation. Reactor design and fuel must be inherently safe and accident-forgiving; and
- Factory fuelled with system operating life of 10-20 years without refuelling.
The HOLOS reactor in particular has been designed to support deployed military requirements, with full-power tested successfully in 2018. The HOLOS reactor uses a form of low-enriched uranium known as ‘high-assay low-enriched uranium’ or HALEU, which is neither weapons-grade nor useful in dirty bombs, and satisfies all nuclear non-proliferation requirements.
The potential introduction of these systems serves to enhance the operational and deployment tempo of combatant forces. The US, alongside the UK, Russia, France, China and India, have a long-history of developing and operating such miniaturised nuclear reactors, particularly for naval vessels in the form of submarines and aircraft carriers, paving the way for an easy transition to implementing similar systems for deployed land forces.
The full US Army study is available here. Let us know your thoughts about the introduction of similar rapidly deployable reactors for the ADF in the future in the comments section below or get in touch with us at . (Source: Defence Connect)
18 Mar 19. DOD Announces FY2018 Minerva Research Initiative Awards. The Department of Defense continued its history of strong support for fundamental research by selecting 12 faculty investigators for awards through the FY2018 Minerva Research Initiative. This initiative supports basic research that focuses on topics of particular relevance to U.S. national security. Through its network of faculty investigators, the Minerva Research Initiative also strengthens the department’s connections with the social science community and helps DOD better understand and prepare for future challenges, including National Defense Strategy priorities such as great power competition.
“We live in a dynamic world, and many of the challenges we face are social or have social elements to them,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, deputy director of the Basic Research Office. “The knowledge and methodologies generated from Minerva awardees are an important source of new ideas from the social science community to better understand the social aspects that are inherent to security and stability.”
The 12 faculty awardees were selected for the prestigious awards following a merit competition from approximately 175 applicants across eight categories. Research proposals were peer-reviewed and selected in conference between the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to identify proposals that make foundational contributions to basic social science and align with the National Defense Strategy. The Minerva Research Initiative is jointly administered by the Basic Research Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Strategy and Force Development Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. The projects are jointly supported by the Basic Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research.
17 Mar 19. Stealth on Steroids: Meet Israel’s F-35I Adir (An F-35 Like No Other). Israel is also developing two different sets of external fuel tanks to extend the F-35’s range. The first will be non-stealthy 425-gallon underwing tanks developed by a subsidiary of Elbit—these could be dropped when approaching enemy airspace (the pylons holding the drop tanks would reportedly detach as well so as not to compromise stealth), or used for missions in which stealth isn’t necessary. Further down the line, IAI wants to co-develop with Lockheed bolt-on conformal fuel tanks which “hug” the F-35 airframe so as not to compromise stealth and aerodynamics.
On May 22, Israeli Air Force commander Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35I stealth fighters had flown on two combat missions on “different fronts,” showing as proof a photograph of an F-35 overflying Beirut. While details on those missions have not been released—apparently, they were not deployed in a massive Israeli air attack on Iranian forces in Syria that took place on May 9—this nonetheless apparently confirmed the first combat operations undertaken by any variant of the controversial stealth jet , which is currently entering service with the militaries of ten countries after undergoing over two decades of development. In fact, Israel’s F-35I Adir—or “Mighty Ones”—will be the only F-35 variant to enter service heavily tailored to a foreign country’s specifications. There had been plans for a Canadian CF-35, with a different refueling probe and drogue-parachute to allow landing on short Arctic air strips, but Ottawa dropped out of the F-35 program.
It has become a common practice to create custom variants of fourth-generation jet fighters such as the Su-30, F-15 and F-16 for export clients, made to order with local avionics, weapons and upgrades that suit a particular air force’s doctrine and strategic priorities. Today, Israel operates heavily upgraded F-15I Ra’am (“Thunder”) and two-seater F-16I Sufa fighters. Furthermore, Israel in particular hasn’t hesitated to modify aircraft it has already received fit its needs: for example, in 1981 it rigged its then-new F-15A Eagle air superiority fighters to drop bombs, and used these first-ever strike Eagles to destroy the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor.
However, the Lockheed-Martin has mostly refused to allow major country-specific modifications to the F-35, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars foreign F-35 operators contributed to the aircraft’s development. There is, of course, an efficiency-based rationale, given the additional costs and delays of creating country-specific variants, and the fact that Lockheed is struggling to both produce F-35s fast and cheaply enough and build enough spare parts for the hundreds already in service.
Israel, however, managed to carve out an exception. Though not an investor in the F-35’s development, Tel Aviv was nonetheless quick to sign on to the program with an initial order of fifty. It also negotiated a favorable deal in which billions of dollars worth of F-35 wings and sophisticated helmet sets would be manufactured in Israel, paid for with U.S. military aid. Furthermore, depot-level maintenance will occur in a facility operated by Israeli Aeronautics Industries rather than at a Lockheed facility abroad.
The first nine F-35s entered operational service in December 6, 2017, with the 140 “Golden Eagles” Squadron, based at Nevatim Airbase near Be’er Sheva. Six more should arrive in 2018. Israel will eventually activate a second squadron at Nevatim, and retains the option for an additional twenty-five F-35s to form a third squadron, likely based elsewhere. However, recent reports suggest a third squadron may postponed for a decade in favor of buying additional F-15Is, which trade the F-35’s stealth for greater range and payload. Israel has paid a high price of between $110 to $125m per F-35 for its initial order, but in the future unit cost will supposedly decline to around $85m.
The first nineteen stealth jets received by Israel will actually be standard F-35A land-based fighters , while the following thirty-one will be true F-35Is modified to integrate Israeli-built hardware. However, most media sources have taken to labeling all of them as F-35Is, and it does appear even the initial batch will be retrofitted with an open-architecture Israeli Command, Control, Communications and Computing (C4) system.
The Lightning’s sophisticated flight computer and ground-based logistics system has become a matter of contention with many F-35 operators. Foreign air forces would like to have greater access to the F-35’s computer source codes to upgrade and modify them as they see fit without needing to involve external parties—but Lockheed doesn’t want to hand over full access for both commercial and security-based reasons.
Israeli F-35Is uniquely will have an overriding Israeli-built C4 program that runs “on top” of Lockheed’s operating system. One of F-35’s key capabilities come from its superior ability to soak up data with its sensors and share it with friendly forces. Compatibility with datalinks used by friendly Israeli air and ground forces is thus an important aspect from Israel’s perspective as it tracks the position of hostile surface-to-surface rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles systems.
The new system will also allow the IDF to install Israeli-built datalinks and defensive avionics systems such as radar-jamming pods. An official told Aviation Week the IAF expects the advantages of the F-35’s low radar cross section will be “good for five to ten years” before adversaries develop countermeasures. There already exist methods for detecting stealth fighters, including long-range infrared sensors, electromagnetic sensors, and low bandwidth radars (though all have significant limitations), and more exotic technologies such as quantum radar are also under development.
Thus, the IDF particularly values the flexibility to install “plug-and-play” defensive countermeasures such as jamming pods as they become relevant and available. It so happens the Israeli firms Elbit and Israeli Aerospace Industries are major developers of such systems. However, due to the F-35’s highly “fused” avionics, such plug-and-play support needs to be built both into F-35 software and apparently even the airframe. The add-ons will be installed in special apertures in the lower fuselage and leading edge of the wings—presumably, features only in the later production F-35Is that arrive in 2020.
Israel is also developing two different sets of external fuel tanks to extend the F-35’s range. The first will be non-stealthy 425-gallon underwing tanks developed by a subsidiary of Elbit—these could be dropped when approaching enemy airspace (the pylons holding the drop tanks would reportedly detach as well so as not to compromise stealth), or used for missions in which stealth isn’t necessary. Further down the line, IAI wants to co-develop with Lockheed bolt-on conformal fuel tanks which “hug” the F-35 airframe so as not to compromise stealth and aerodynamics.
The F-35I will also be certified to carry major Israeli-developed weapons systems in its internal weapons bay, notably including the Python-5 short-range heat-seeking air-to-air missile, and the Spice family of glide bombs, which combine electro-optical, satellite and man-in-the-loop guidance options for greater targeting versatility and have a range of up to sixty miles.
However, country-specific F-35 weapons capabilities are not unique to Israel. British Royal Air Force and Navy F-35s will be compatible with the Meteor and ASM-132 air-to-air missile, while Norway and Australia’s Lightning IIs will be able to carry the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile, reflecting the importance of the sea-control mission for these nations. The United States even would like its NATO partners to purchase F-35s specially modified to deploy B-61 nuclear bombs.
The Adir and Israeli Strategy
Norkin’s announcement of F-35 operations was as much a part of Israeli strategy as the actual deployment of the fighters. Tel Aviv wants potential adversaries (chiefly, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah) to know that its fighters have already proven capable of infiltrating the airspace of neighboring countries, and that its stealth jets could at any moment launch an attack that may go undetected until the first bomb strikes a target.
The F-35 has been criticized for its mediocre flight performance compared to earlier fourth-generation jets, meaning that it would be at a disadvantage in a short-range ai dogfight against enemy fighters. Supporters argue that the F-35 would leverage its stealth, sensors and long-range missiles to avoid getting that close to more agile opponent in the first place, and that the platform is really optimized more for striking targets in defended enemy airspace.
The strike emphasis, however, is just fine with the Israeli Air Force, as since 1948 it has historically mostly trounced its opponents in air-to-air combat, but suffered heavy losses to ground-based air defenses in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Since then, Israel jets have continued to face, and mostly defeat, hostile SAMs in scores of raids launched into Lebanon and Syria, though in February 2018 it suffered its first combat loss of a fighter in decades when Syrian S-200 missiles downed an Israeli F-16. Since 2017, there have been rumors of the F-35s involvement in these raids, though most of these rumors were likely inaccurate due to the risk of losing an airframe over hostile territory at this stage. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org/blog)
18 Mar 19. Swarming Drone Hackathon Challenge. The UK’s Dstl (Defence Science & Technology Laboratory), in partnership with the AFRL (US Air Force Research Laboratory), are hosting the ‘Swarm and Search AI 2019 Fire Hack‘. Simultaneous competitions in the UK and US will explore new and more efficient ways to plan and execute complex drone searches and missions. Supported by experts from industry, academia, MOD and the Fire & Rescue Service the participants will tackle a series of increasingly challenging scenarios to facilitate the development of their techniques within a simulated synthetic environment developed specially for this event by AFRL. Using a bespoke synthetic environment from AFRL, this hackathon is going to develop new and innovative ways to use unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to assist the emergency services to deal with wildfires. This pioneering initiative aims to find new ways of using UAS for global search and rescue in defence and the public sector. Scenarios will be run in parallel with the US via a continuous video link with the WBI in Dayton, Ohio who are hosting the same event in the US.
The hackathon will explore innovative ways to plan missions using multiple systems to assist in the identification and prediction of how wildfires will spread and subsequently find preventative solutions, minimise damage and save lives. Teams will use a range of collaboration platforms to explore different fire scenarios with an increasing level of complexity, working with experts from the Fire Service, Dstl and the wider Ministry of Defence. Dstl and AFRL are using this innovative approach to find the best Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning algorithms that embody efficiency and resilience.
Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said: Collaboration in innovative research between the UK and US continues to push the boundaries of advanced technology. This hackathon will bring together the best and brightest from academia, industry and the public to discover new ways to utilise life-saving drone technology.
Tim Wright, Dstl’s Aerospace Systems Group Leader, said: The speed and ferocity of the devastating wildfires in California demonstrated the need to develop new ways of using science and technology to assist the emergency services wherever possible. Small unmanned air systems or ‘drones’ – in the right hands – could offer a way of reducing the burden on the emergency services by mapping and tracking a wildfire in real time, autonomously, so efforts can be focussed rapidly where they’re needed to save more lives.
We are reaching out to industry, academia, tech start-ups, coders, anyone with new ideas and an interest in drones, artificial intelligence or autonomy to help us find and develop new concepts of controlling drones in the most efficient and effective ways to give as much assistance to the emergency services as possible. This event will be a fantastic opportunity to spend a weekend with some of the best minds in the business from the UK and US, collaborating simultaneously with the Wright Brothers Institute’s hackathon.
Mick Hitchcock from the US Air Force, said: It is fantastic to be able to work with Dstl on this project. The activity fits right into both countries’ desire to approach research differently, and involves non-traditional innovative thinkers as partners and most importantly get results faster. The competition is not between the two countries, but to highlight the ability to rapidly work together on tough problems.
The winning team from the UK hackathon will be offered a unique opportunity to present their winning ideas and proposal for further exploitation at the British Embassy in Washington DC. Costs for travel and accommodation will be provided where appropriate. The winning teams from both the US and UK hackathons will also be recognised at the AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2019 unmanned and autonomous systems trade show.
The UK and US hackathons take place simultaneously from 29 to 31 March 2019 with the UK event taking place at the ‘Spark’ Facility at Southampton Solent University. (Source: UAS VISION)
Oxley Group Ltd
Oxley specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced electronic and electro-optic components and systems for air, land and sea applications within the military sector. Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA and enjoys representation worldwide. The company’s products include night vision and LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components. Oxley has pioneered the development of night vision compatible lighting. It offers a total package incorporating optical filters, equipment modification, cockpit and external lighting along with fleet wide upgrade services including engineering, installation, support, maintenance and training. The company’s long experience of manufacturing night vision lighting and LED indicators, coupled with advances in LED technology, has enabled it to develop LED solutions to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting in existing applications as well as becoming the lighting option of choice in new applications such as portable military hospitals, UAV control stations and communication shelters.