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16 May 19. Dstl develops open-source framework to improve tracking technology. The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has designed an open-source software framework called Stone Soup intended to help improve tracking technology. Even though tracking enemy missiles, vehicles or drones is essential for operational effectiveness, algorithms that process the data are complex and difficult to compare. The algorithms can now be compared side-by-side against realistic data using the new software framework.
Dstl led the project across the ‘five eyes’ nations, which are the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It has made the project available to anyone to upload and test their tracking algorithms. The software is available on Github free of charge.
Stone Soup is a software architecture that has six component types, namely framework, data, algorithms, metrics, simulators, and sensor models.
The framework allows code components such as algorithms, sensor models and simulators to be plugged-in in a modular way.
Users can model several outcomes and assess how they improve factors such as survivability, safety, or operational effectiveness.
It can also be used for non-defence purposes such as in self-driving cars. Tracking systems are a key component in self-driving technology, used to ensure the vehicle can be aware of and operate with other vehicles and people in its vicinity.
Stone Soup will allow algorithm developers or tracking practitioners to insert new components and compare them alongside accepted or latest algorithms to help the developers and industry or government laboratories evaluate them against standard data sets.
Industries can also use the framework to run data against the standard suite of tracking algorithms.
The initiative is supported by four other countries’ defence labs, including Defence Research and Development Canada.
Dstl senior principal scientist Prof Paul Thomas said: “The framework is in its infancy but the long-term aim is to save lives by having data that can accurately track adversaries, giving commanders in the battlefield full situational awareness.
“It’s an accelerated learning aid for people who are just coming into this area too. Before this, it could have taken months, even years, to learn the detailed mathematics of tracking.” (Source: army-technology.com)
16 May 19. DARPA Competition for AI-Powered Aircraft Dogfighting. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to launch a competition to teach artificial intelligence (AI) software programmes how to control aircraft and their weapons in dogfights.
The research agency sees the competition as the first step in developing software that would automate air-to-air combat. AI-controlled fighter aircraft could react faster in combat and free up pilots to spend more time managing a larger air battle, says DARPA. Ultimately, the Air Combat Evolution (ACE) programme aims to develop AI dogfighting software programs that are reliable and trusted enough by pilots to take over air-to-air combat.
“Being able to trust autonomy is critical as we move toward a future of warfare involving manned platforms fighting alongside unmanned systems,” says US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dan Javorsek, ACE programme manager. “We envision a future in which AI handles the split-second manoeuvring during within-visual-range dogfights, keeping pilots safer and more effective as they orchestrate large numbers of unmanned systems into a web of overwhelming combat effects.”
DARPA says it will hold a “proposers day” for researchers interested in pitching their ideas on 17 May in Arlington, Virginia.
The ACE programme intends to train AI programmes in the rules of aerial dogfighting in a similar way to how new fighter pilots are taught. It will start with basic fighter manoeuvres in simple, one-on-one combat scenarios, before moving on to more complex and fast-changing situations.
DARPA believes that dogfighting is a good test case for AI combat programmes because it has a clearly defined objective, measurable outcome and aircraft have inherent physical limitations. The expansion of the AI performance envelope will be monitored by human pilots riding within the autonomously controlled aircraft.
“Only after human pilots are confident that the AI algorithms are trustworthy in handling bounded, transparent and predictable behaviours will the aerial engagement scenarios increase in difficulty and realism,” Javorsek says. “Following virtual testing, we plan to demonstrate the dogfighting algorithms on sub-scale aircraft, leading ultimately to live, full-scale manned-unmanned team dogfighting with operationally representative aircraft.”
ACE is part of a larger DARPA air combat research effort, called “mosaic warfare.” The agency is looking at ways to shift air combat away from being the exclusive domain of manned aircraft towards a future where a mix of manned and less-expensive unmanned air vehicles (UAV) fly together. The belief is that the UAVs could counter changing threats more effectively because they would be developed, fielded, and upgraded with the latest technology faster and cheaper than a manned aircraft.
“Linking together manned aircraft with significantly cheaper unmanned systems creates a mosaic where the individual pieces can easily be recomposed to create different effects or quickly replaced if destroyed, resulting in a more resilient warfighting capability,” says DARPA.
The Loyal Wingman UAV, the XQ-58A Valkyrie, which is supposed to fly alongside manned fourth and fifth-generation fighters, is an example of such a concept being separately developed by the USAF Research Laboratory. (Source: UAS VISION/Flightglobal)
14 May 19. Tablet With PC Performance. At EW Europe MilDef showed their newest solution for the military: MilDef DE13. Small in size this is a real Windows 10 PC, in terms of performance comparable with an office computer. The tablet is based on a slim aluminum chassis for minimal footprint without losing robustness and high performance in extreme environments. MilDef DE13 can be utilised as a handheld unit for mobile operations or installed in cramped confined spaces. With these capacities it might fill up the gap between smart phones and tablets with a familiar Windows operating system.
The MilDef DE13 also features a high-brightness 7” resistive multi-touch display and an Intel I7 CPU. It also comes with a wide selection of customisation options ranging from military connectors to wireless connectivity options.
Talking about standards MilDef DE13 is IP67 rated as well as certified to both MILSTD-810 and MIL-STD-461, therefore proving its ruggedness that is most important for many military environments. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
14 May 19. Long-endurance Canadian underwater drone to be fitted with full suite of Sonardyne tracking, communication and navigation technology. Integrated navigation, positioning and communications technology from Sonardyne Inc. will support a new, fuel cell-powered long-range unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) being designed by subsea specialist Cellula Robotics Ltd. for the Canadian defence department.
The UUV, called Solus-LR, is being designed to be able to travel up to 2,000 kilometres and stay submerged on multi-month missions, supported by an onboard fuel cell power pack. To help meet these demanding long-duration and long-distance navigational requirements, Cellula Robotics has ordered one of Sonardyne’s high-performance SPRINT-Nav subsea navigation instruments for the Solus-LR.
SPRINT-Nav, which combines a SPRINT INS sensor, Syrinx 600 kHz DVL and a high accuracy intelligent pressure sensor in a single housing, is one of the smallest and the highest performing combined inertial navigation instruments on the market.
For tracking the vehicle from the surface, receiving data packets from it and sending mission commands to it, Cellula Robotics has also ordered a Micro-Ranger 2 Ultra-Short BaseLine (USBL) system with optional Marine Robotics software feature pack, and an AvTrak 6 combined transponder and telemetry transceiver, which will be integrated into the UUV. Micro-Ranger 2 is Sonardyne’s most compact underwater target tracking system, built around the company’s 6G hardware and Wideband 2 digital acoustic technology platform which delivers perform consistently in any operational scenario.
Sea trials of the Solus-LR, which are expected to start in late 2019, running through to early 2020, will also be supported by the use of Sonardyne’s Compatt 6 seabed transponders and the company’s BlueComm-200 underwater optical communication instruments. BlueComm-200s are able to transmit high-bandwidth data, including video, at up to 150 metres. The trials will be held in the Indian Arm fjord, near Vancouver, British Columbia, close to Cellula’s Robotics’ headquarters.
Solus-LR is being built for the Canadian Department of National Defence’s (DND) science and technology organization, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), under the All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) Science & Technology (S&T) Program. The ADSA S&T program is supporting projects which could help to enhance domain awareness of air, maritime surface and sub-surface approaches to Canada, in particular those in the Arctic.
Eric Jackson, President of Cellula, explains “This S&T program will showcase Cellula’s advanced UUV research and development, combining traditional technologies with innovative power and anchoring solutions. With Solus-LR able to travel for thousands of kilometers, port to port missions will become a feasible lower-cost alternative to vessel-based operations.”
13 May 19. Drone flights over Iraq limited by electromagnetic interference. U.S. Army Sgt. Ian Templeton and Spc. Christopher Prang, Soldiers assigned to Company D, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conduct a pre-flight inspection on an RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system at a base in Iraq, June 8, 2016. Shadows support to the advise and assist mission to the 7th Iraqi Army and aerial reconnaissance to Iraqi security forces. There are more than 10 advise and assist teams, enabling Iraqi security forces as they prepare for upcoming operations by sharing intelligence and helping them develop security strategies and targeting plans. Knowing is half the battle, and overcoming electromagnetic interference is apparently 11 percent. Electromagnetic interference is now a durable part of the modern battlefield, and one that is degrading the ability of American and allied forces to operate at full capacity as they once had. The news comes from the latest report by the Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve, published May 7.
“Due to maintenance issues, disabled video broadcasting devices, and electromagnetic interference, about 11 percent of Coalition ISR coverage this quarter was lost, specifically affecting areas along the Iraq-Syria border and in northern Iraq,” the report read, citing a statement from Coalition Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
The task force cited a lack of assets in Central Command’s area of responsibility, and rationed those assets to provide ISR targeting support. To adapt, special operations has had to ask CENTCOM for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance provided by their platforms, which notably operate at higher altitudes. The report highlights that these platforms provide less detail, which “resulted in a greater reliance on human intelligence and on information provided by the [Iraqi Security Forces].”
What happened? The United States has operated continuously over at least some of the skies of Iraq since January 1991, though the specific missions have varied. CENTCOM leaders attribute the lack of coverage in part to an Iranian presence in Eastern Iraq, which it also cites as a factor for ISIS forces being able to reconstitute near the Iraq-Iran border. (Given that Iran and ISIS have hostile postures towards one another, the most generous interpretation of the report is that the contested nature of the space on the border is what allows for ISIS to eke out a geographical presence.)
Electromagnetic interference is an increasingly common feature of modern conflicts. Army soldiers deployed in Europe have encountered it, and it’s a capability other nations have actively cultivated as a way to mitigate U.S. advantages. The Army is working on finding new and good-enough solutions it can deploy. Electromagnetic interference is one of the main factors driving the development of autonomous technology, and it’s one of the threats elevating the importance of conflict in the information domain.
As for Iraq, one way to mitigate the effects of electromagnetic interference is to simply have more ISR platforms on hand. At present, Iraq’s own military is only able to cover 60 percent of the country with full-motion video captures by tactical-level drones. The report also highlights the addition of ISR technologies and capabilities to attack helicopters, turning strike assets into intelligence assets as well.
More assets can make it hard to prevent all ISR from being collected, but jammers are likely a durable presence on the battlefields of today and tomorrow. Technology that can work around jammers will likely be the next order of the day. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
13 May 19. Tactical radio manufacturers eyeing GaN semiconductors as material costs decrease. Gallium nitride (GaN), increasingly used in radar design, appears to now be migrating into tactical radios as well.
In the communications domain, GaN can help reduce physical space and system complexity. An example of this is in wideband communications. Traditionally, tactical radios would have needed more than one transistor to cover each of the frequency bands used by the transceiver – in other words, a multiband radio would need multiple transistors.
Employing GaN enables a single transistor to perform multiband transmissions. Furthermore, a single wideband power amplifier using GaN components can perform the tasks of several narrowband amplifiers, each covering the radio’s wavebands. These attributes are helping GaN to migrate into the tactical radio domain. For example, Harris is using GaN in its Falcon series of transceivers, and Persistent Systems has employed GaN in its MPU5 Wave Relay mobile ad hoc networking tactical radios.
This technology is particularly appropriate for the multiple-in/multiple-out (MIMO) approach that Persistent Systems employs on its MPU5 radio. This enables the equipment to overcome the restrictions that built-up environments usually impose on tactical radio users employing very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) wavebands for communications.
V/UHF signals rely on a line-of-sight range and can be disrupted or obscured by large objects such as walls or buildings. MIMO can divide a single signal into three, convert the signal to higher bandwidths such as L-band (1-2 gigahertz), and then transmit these signals to another MIMO radio where the disparate transmissions are then merged back into a single signal – but that process is reliant on the benefits provided by GaN.
GaN’s hardness makes it ideal for use as a semiconductor as it can withstand high temperatures. In the radar domain, this translates into a material that can withstand higher operating temperatures than its Gallium Arsenide (GaS) counterpart. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
13 May 19. The Pentagon wants to create a broader network of innovators. The Pentagon is reorganizing its internal offices to better partner with universities and upstart technology firms to ensure the military has access to talent and research in the near future and to fortify its innovation pipeline. Defense leaders are increasingly worried about what they describe as the national security innovation base. They hope a series of steps will make it easier to work with, and take advantage of, the leading-edge science across the country. This includes technology that spans from the concept stage to the production stage, and outlets that includes researchers to the defense industrial base.
The changes, which affect the Defense Innovation Unit and MD5, were first mentioned in the Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal 2020 and have been discussed with increasing details in recent weeks. Defense innovation leaders explained the new setup to C4ISRNET in an interview May 9.
DIU’s mission is to help the military accelerate its use of emerging commercial technologies and lower the barrier of entry for businesses that don’t already do business with the Pentagon.
Under the new approach:
– The MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator has been renamed the National Security Innovation Network. The network, which helps connect academia, DOD laboratories and users, will fall under the Defense Innovation Unit as a way to take advantage of economies of scale. Morgan Plummer, the network’s managing director, said the new name, which changed May 6, more accurately portrays the agency’s mission. The program has its own line in the budget for the first time in fiscal 2020.
– The National Security Innovation Capital fund, a new program created in the fiscal 2019 defense policy bill, will set aside investment in upstart U.S. companies so they don’t fall risk to foreign investors. U.S. leaders fear that as some startups become so desperate for funding they may not consider the national security ramifications of accepting money from overseas. “It’s an attempt to keep hardware investment on shore,” said Mike Madsen, director of Washington operations at DIU. The NSIC also aims to signal to the investment community that the Defense Department is interested in developing dual-use technologies and to provide a foreign investment alternative for hardware companies.
In testimony to Congress in March, Mike Griffin, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief for research and engineering, said that the new groups will fall to DIU “in an effort to put similarly-focused organizations under a single leadership structure.”
Perhaps more importantly, Defense leaders said the new structure will help the Pentagon “hand off” technology with a low readiness level or level of maturity until it is ready for broader adoption.
“There are these huge pools of untapped talent,” Plummer said. To take advantage of that talent means going beyond research grants in academia and instead to create a network of hubs and spokes of early stage ventures in approximately 35 communities throughout the country. While DIU has offices in Austin, Boston and Silicon Valley, creating a broader network means the NSIN would have staffers in cities such as Chicago, Miami, Columbus, Boulder, Raleigh, St. Louis and Minneapolis.
“It makes the Department accessible in a real way,” Plummer said. Previously, business leaders may see the Pentagon as a “big gray monolith” and “may not even know where the door to this place is.”
DIU will continue to focus on artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber, human systems, and space. The Pentagon asked for $164m for DIU in its fiscal 2020 budget request. (Source: Defense News)
14 May 19. Raytheon Company’s (NYSE: RTN) GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System program, known as GPS OCX, completed final qualification testing of the system’s modernized monitor station receivers, which are now ready to be installed around the world starting in August. GPS OCX is the enhanced ground control segment of a U.S. Air Force-led effort to modernize America’s GPS system.
“The modernized receivers give GPS OCX the ability to receive and decrypt all GPS III military and civil signals, a critical capability the current system doesn’t have,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. “Monitor station receiver installation keeps us on track for full system delivery by our June 2021 contractual deadline.”
The modernized receivers will measure and monitor legacy military and civilian signals sent by the current GPS satellite constellation plus the new signals sent by the next-generation GPS III. The receivers will also feed correction models at the master control station, giving U.S. Air Force satellite controllers the information necessary to make key adjustments to maximize accuracy.
13 May 19. Boeing shows off F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet concept. Boeing Corporation has showed off its concept of future F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet fighter aircraft during maritime exposition Sea-Air-Space 2019, held in Maryland. Boeing also made the announcement that the US Navy will receive the Block III Super Hornets and next-gen capabilities until 2033, with their teams delivering new aircraft and updating existing aircraft through the Service Life Modification program.
“The initial focus of this program will extend the life of the fleet from 6,000 to 9,000 flight hours,” said Mark Sears, SLM program director.
“But SLM will expand to include Block II to Block III conversion, systems grooming and reset and O-level maintenance tasks designed to deliver a more maintainable aircraft with an extended life and more capability. Each of these jets will fly another 10 to 15 years, so making them next-generation aircraft is critical.”
The company also confirmed that Block III is on schedule for delivery next year, with testing completed on the fighters’ next-gen conformal fuel tanks, advanced cockpit system and infrared search and track.
The Block III configuration will add capability upgrades to some of these features, as well as enhanced network capability, longer range, reduced radar signature and an enhanced communications system.
Boeing’s profile of the fighter describes the aircraft as “the newest highly capable, affordable and available tactical aircraft in US Navy inventory. The Super Hornet is the backbone of the US Navy carrier air wing now and for decades to come”. (Source: Defence Connect)
10 May 19. DARPA seeks proposals for AI-driven close-range air combat. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals to automate air-to-air combat as part of its Air Combat Evolution (ACE) programme. Automating air-to-air combat will enable pilots to focus their resources on the larger air battle, according to the agency.
DARPA is keen on turning aerial dogfighting over to AI as it hopes the technology will be able to handle a high-end fight, elevating the pilot’s role to cockpit-based mission commander.
ACE programme will initially focus on increasing the trust of troops in autonomous combat technology by promoting human-machine collaborative dogfighting.
As part of this, a Proposers Day will be held later this month to move forward with its efforts to tap artificial intelligence (AI) to develop autonomous air-to-air combat capabilities.
To be held in Arlington, Virginia, the Proposers Day will reach out to interested researchers.
DARPA Strategic Technology Office (STO) ACE programme manager airforce lieutenant colonel Dan Javorsek said: “Being able to trust autonomy is critical as we move toward a future of warfare involving manned platforms fighting alongside unmanned systems.
“As part of the programme, AI technologies will be trained in aerial dogfighting in a manner similar to how new pilots are trained.”
“We envision a future in which AI handles the split-second manoeuvring during within-visual-range dogfights, keeping pilots safer and more effective as they orchestrate large numbers of unmanned systems into a web of overwhelming combat effects.”
Through ACE, the agency aims to shift combat concepts to a mix of manned and cost-effective unmanned systems.
Known as ‘mosaic warfare’, this approach involves linking manned aircraft together with inexpensive unmanned systems to fight the combat.
It will enable the forces to easily recompose the individual ‘pieces’ to create different effects or quickly replaced if destroyed.
As part of the programme, AI technologies will be trained in aerial dogfighting in a manner similar to how new pilots are trained.
The training will include basic fighter manoeuvres in simple, one-on-one scenarios. If pilots are satisfied with the reliability of the AI algorithms in handling bounded, transparent and predictable behaviours, the training will proceed to more complex aerial engagement scenarios.
Javorsek added: “Following virtual testing, we plan to demonstrate the dogfighting algorithms on sub-scale aircraft leading ultimately to live, full-scale manned-unmanned team dogfighting with operationally representative aircraft.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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