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30 May 19. Not an F-35: The Jet That Might Destroy Russia’s Su-57 Stealth Fighter. The Su-35S was intended as an interim solution; as a modernized air superiority fighter to sustain the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) through the 2010’s until the Su-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter enters serial production. But the Su-35S was almost too successful for its own good, ticking so many performance and role versatility boxes that it seems to cannibalize its more expensive Su-57 successor. In the short term, it’s likely true that there will be a minimal operational difference between the latest Su-35S units and the first serially-produced Su-57’s. As it currently stands, there is even a chancethat the two fighters may use the same AL-41F1 engine.
“A unique machine, a deadly aerial fist,” is how the official television channel of the Russian Ministry of Defense introduced the Su-35S superiority fighter earlier this week.
SECOTV Zvezda’s three-minute clip of a recent Su-35S training sortie over Syria provides close-up shots of the fighter jet being prepped for flight, taking off, cruising over the Syrian coast, and firing flares. On their youtube account, they published slightly extended footage of the same exercise.
The first Su-35S fighters arrived at Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base in 2016, relatively late into the Syrian Civil War. They performed well in their role of covering for Russian ground-strike aircraft during bombing missions against Syrian opposition targets, but then again– there were no immediate airspace threats facing the Russia’s Syrian forces in early 2016. The Su-35S was therefore limited to an air deterrence role amid an ongoing diplomatic row between Moscow and Ankara that wound down only in the latter half of 2016.
Today, airpower continues to be the crucial military ingredient in the enforcement of Russian “de-escalation zones” strewn across the western parts of Syria, and in intermittent bombing runs against opposition stragglers and ISIS targets.
From the conflict’s earliest days through 2019, the Syrian venture continues to yield military value as a training and proving grounds for the next generation of Russian servicemen. As a Su-35S pilot told Zvezda, “here, we can realize the potential of the aircraft– the tactical potential. For every pilot and co-pilot, this is a tremendous opportunity to hone their skills.” In a less covered but no less important development, it also provides Russian engineers with aircraft maintenance know-how after real, albeit low-intensity, combat missions.
Barring a brief and nondescript Su-57 outing, the Su-35S is among the most advanced Russian military aircraft to be deployed in Syria. As a deep modernization of the prolific Soviet-era Su-27 fighter, the Su-35S boasts updated avionics (onboard electronics), a new lightweight frame, and 3d thrust vectoring capability, and vastly more expanded armament suite. Notably, the latter includes Vympel R-77 air-to-air missiles that are meant to compete favorably with the US AIM-120 AMRAAM platform, and an air-launched anti-ship variant of Russia’s prolific Kalibr cruise missiles.
The Su-35S was intended as an interim solution; as a modernized air superiority fighter to sustain the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) through the 2010’s until the Su-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter enters serial production. But the Su-35S was almost too successful for its own good, ticking so many performance and role versatility boxes that it seems to cannibalize its more expensive Su-57 successor. In the short term, it’s likely true that there will be a minimal operational difference between the latest Su-35S units and the first serially-produced Su-57’s. As it currently stands, there is even a chancethat the two fighters may use the same AL-41F1 engine. But as is typically the case with next-generation platforms, the VKS is not concerned with immediate value. Rather, they see the Su-57 as a long-term investment that will incrementally phase out older aircraft to become Russia’s staple air superiority platform over the coming decades. In the meantime, the Su-35S continues to occupy the upper echelons of Russian aerospace design as the VKS’ top air superiority fighter. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
29 May 19. Alaka’i Technologies Launches World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Air Mobility System. Skai is Uniquely Designed to Change the Way the World Moves. Today, Alaka’i Technologies unveiled Skai, the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell powered air mobility solution designed to transform the way the world moves. From its sleek, uncluttered design, radically simple and safe electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, to its fuel source – a system that runs entirely on hydrogen fuel cells – Skai is poised to be one of the safest, cleanest and most versatile air mobility solutions introduced to the world.
Skai’s core team members are nationally-recognized aerospace experts, engineers, and veteran pilots who have served in top-level positions at NASA, Raytheon, Beech, Cirrus, DayJet, and the Department of Defense who collaborated on the vision of solving some of the world’s most-pressing global challenges across transportation, energy and the environment. Skai is co-designed by Designworks, the design innovation studio for the BMW Group, to leverage its creative expertise to help shape a world-class vehicle. The result is Skai, stripped away of all unnecessary complexity, waste and possible points of failure, leaving the most essential elements for the craft and optimizing them for the most intuitive experience.
“This remarkably impressive team have come together to build on our collective experience to finally realize our singular, critical vision to launch Skai and transform transportation,” said Brian Morrison, Co-Founder, President and Chief Technology Officer of Alaka’i Technologies. “Skai offers practical, real-life solutions to everything from relieving traffic congestion to delivering supplies during natural disasters. Skai is set to offer affordable, realistic applications in the commercial, private, freight, and personal air mobility markets.”
The heart of Skai, and one of its most revolutionary features, is the use of hydrogen fuel cells, a clean environmental solution from end to end. With the advantage of being 95% reusable and the remaining (99%) recyclable, Skai’s hydrogen fuel cells offer reliable, safe and environmentally clean emission comprised solely of heat and water. This is a stark alternative to traditional fuel and battery sources. Hydrogen fuel cells allow Skai to travel further distances and carry a greater payload.
“Air mobility is a very exciting and fascinating topic,” said Holger Hampf, President of Designworks. “Our focus for this project was to help build a new consumer facing brand from scratch – considering and designing all touchpoints – digital, physical and service. And as a result, delivering an all-encompassing user-centric experience which is purposeful and highly desirable in all aspects.”
Alaka’i Technologies has initiated their test program with the FAA. Pending certification, Skai will create new possibilities in personal mobility for everyone, efficient emergency responses, economical freight distribution, and the utilization of hydrogen fuel cells as a highly reliable, zero-emission power source.
Skai Highlights Include:
- Co-designed by Designworks with inherent quality craftsmanship
- Powered by clean hydrogen fuel cells, with zero emissions
- Range: Up to 4 Hours, ~400 Miles
- Six reliable, quiet, efficient electric motors with designed-in redundancy
- Seats up to five passengers
- Reliable, fault-tolerant architecture for safety and security
- Piloted version launched first, with autonomous versions to follow
- Designed for the ultimate in safety, with an Airframe Parachute
For more information: http://skai.co.
Alaka’i Technologies is an emerging air mobility design and manufacturing company, headquartered in Hopkinton MA. Founded by Brian Morrison in 2015, Alaka’i Technologies assembled a distinguished executive team with decades of aerospace development, production, executive and airspace integration experience (NASA, Raytheon, Beech Aircraft, McDonnell Douglas, Hughes, DayJet, SATSAir, Cirrus, Metro Aviation, Delta Airlines) and FAA certification experience. Working together since the 1990’s on industry-defining projects such as the NASA AGATE and SATS Programs, they also built and flew the world’s first-ever Fly-By-Light aircraft. Today, the Alaka’i team is engineering proprietary, progressive air mobility solutions to offer point A-to-Anywhere transportation that are clean, simple, safe, and accessible for everyone. Ultimately, transforming transportation through hydrogen-powered mobility.
Designworks is the design innovation studio for the BMW Group. Designworks is ‘the architect of future’ — designing holistic systems that impact and improve the world we live in. Designworks inspires and challenges the companies it works with to be and stay at the forefront of their industries in design, technology and innovation. For 25 years it has been stimulating the BMW Group as well as a select group of companies with ambitious visions for the future. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
29 May 19. Military version of Kongsberg’s IRIS UxS announced. Kongsberg Geospatial is set to introduce a new multi-domain control system for coordinating the use of UAS in the battlespace, the company announced on 27 May. The military-focused version of the IRIS UxS fleet control station and airspace management system is based on its participation in the NATO STANAG 4817 standard for multi-domain control stations.
The new system collects and fuses data from a wide range of sensors: allowing operators to control multiple autonomous vehicles in a multi-domain mission theatre. This control system integrates different kinds of geospatial data and sensor input to create a composite operating picture which includes the airspace, 3D terrain, bathyscapy, and features from S-57 nautical charts.
The system leverages a real-time DDS bus architecture and sensor fusion technology that allows operators to simultaneously track and operate drones in the air, on the water and underwater.
The company’s IRIS UxS was first developed to help commercial UAS operators safely operate beyond visual line-of-sight. (Source: Shephard)
29 May 19. Cooperation Elettronica And Spherea. During the AOC EW Europe Show in Stockholm, Elettronica and Spherea signed an agreement for a collaboration on EW test solutions for ESM/RWR suites installed on helicopters. With reference to the German NH90 Navy helicopter program, Elettronica is proposing its Radar Warning Receiver ELT 160, already selected by Italian Army and Italian Navy for their TTH fleet, Spherea supplies end-to-end test solutions to be used directly on the platform. Working together shall lead to added value for armed forces, in a first step for Germany and afterwards for other Nations interested in such testers, too. Elettronica and Spherea are intended to offer to BAAINBw a study in order to analyze the best technical solution for testing the ESM suite of the NH90 Navy. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
29 May 19. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Qualified For Outdoor Use. Together with adKor, SFC Energy has developed an energy solution based on the Jupiter hydrogen fuel cell. The Jupiter fuel cell hardens the plant’s power supply and ensures uninterrupted operation of the communication systems even under the most difficult environmental conditions (e.g. temperatures from -33 °C to +46 °C). After extensive testing at the German Aerospace Center DLR in Stuttgart, the fuel cell was technically qualified for outdoor use in telecom and BOS digital radio systems.
The Jupiter hydrogen fuel cell expands SFC Energy‘s extensive product portfolio with energy solutions in the higher power range. With its range of direct methanol and hydrogen fuel cells, the company covers a power range between 40 W and 20 kW and can thus supply highly reliable application-specific remote and backup solutions. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
29 May 19. Commissioning ZSwKBw. Yesterday, in Euskirchen, Germany, the roll call of the new Zentrum für Software-kompetenz der Bundeswehr (ZSwKBw) (working title: Bundeswehr Centre for Software Expertise) took place. This is to be seen in the course of the focus on digitisation within the German Armed Forces, whose starting signal was the establishment of the Cyber and Information Domain Service being equivalent to the classical military branches of the armed forces. The centre, which belongs to the Kommando Informationstechnik der Bundeswehr (KdoITBW) (Bundeswehr Communication and Information Systems Command (BwCISCOM)), now bundles the software expertise of the German Armed Forces. This new centre is to assess, test and evaluate purchased software, to adapt commercial software to the needs of the Bundeswehr and to develop own military software. In total, it is expected to employ about 350 personnel. The employees of the centre will not only develop and test the software at home, but also go on site and into missions. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
29 May 19. Euroquartz announces installation of cleanroom facility for UK military and aerospace surface-mount oscillator production.
- New class 7 cleanroom facility installed to support UK manufacture of oscillator products
- Aims to extend the range of SMD oscillators for military and aerospace applications
- Charcroft fully franchised for UK distribution for entire range of Euroquartz products
- Supports customers in the UK and Ireland with a specialist distribution partner
Charcroft’s franchised partner, frequency control specialist Euroquartz, has completed installation of a new class 7 cleanroom facility at the company’s Somerset headquarters. This significant investment is designed to ensure that the company continues to play a critical role in the UK manufacture of oscillator products for military and aerospace applications and ensure UK defence contractors can fulfil their requirements for surface mount device (SMD) oscillators.
Charcroft Electronics covers the full range of Euroquartz products with a UK distribution franchise agreement. The addition of the new class 7 cleanroom will allow Charcroft to further support military and aerospace customers and enable Charcroft’s Product Specialists to offer a more complete solution for space, aerospace and defence systems. The new cleanroom facility was installed early in 2019 and is currently being commissioned with an expectation of adding a new range of SMD oscillators to its current range of through-hole products before the end of the year. Existing UK manufactured products will also benefit from the cleanroom environment and the company anticipates improved quality for its UK production for the foreseeable future. The ambition is for Euroquartz to offer high-quality UK manufactured products to the aerospace industry free from all ITAR restrictions. “The ongoing turmoil of Brexit and other world events suggest that the timing for this significant investment in our UK facility is right,” commented Euroquartz Director Andy Treble. “It is important to maintain manufacturing for critical frequency components in the UK particularly for military and aerospace projects.”
Euroquartz has AS9100 rev D certification and is a wholly privately-owned British company making it an ideal partner for the UK defence and aerospace industry.
29 May 19. How advances in semiconductors are powering the multi-domain battlespace. The multi-domain battlespace is no longer a future vision. It is a reality now, connecting sensors and shooters through secure and resilient networks. As these systems require increasingly higher levels of reliability, power output and frequency coverage, engineers are turning to high performance materials such as gallium nitride (GaN) to keep up with the evolving requirements.
As a semiconductor material, gallium nitride offers efficiency and high power density, an ideal combination of attributes for radio frequency applications, including radars and electronic warfare systems. Northrop Grumman is using its decades of expertise with GaN and other advanced materials to empower warfighters in their missions.
Advancing the science of semiconductors
Fifty years ago, Northrop Grumman opened its Advanced Technology Laboratory (ATL) to create semiconductors for critical military programs. The facility, now a Department of Defense trusted foundry, has delivered more than eight million components that support missions from undersea to outer space and every domain in between. The foundry maintains a wide range of processes in gallium nitride, gallium arsenide, silicon, and silicon carbide in the production of military spec microelectronic chips, some of which are radiation hardened. Nowhere else in the world will you find a single foundry with this broad mix of device fabrication capabilities. A variety of ground-based, aircraft and space systems programs have sourced components from the laboratory.
The ability to move a component through the full design cycle – from mission requirements through to flight test quickly, and all within a two mile radius – makes ATL a unique facility. The lessons learned through that seamless process have transferred to countless Northrop Grumman programs. The company’s experience in developing and integrating GaN into military systems has led to robust capabilities for ground, aircraft and space systems. Northrop Grumman and the government have invested more than $350m in GaN development.
“What we have learned from our work with our cutting-edge Advanced Technology Laboratory is that developing advanced devices is just the beginning,” said Dr. Nicholas Paraskevopoulos, vice president, emerging capabilities development, and chief technology officer, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. “Ensuring that the device performance will meet or exceed our customer’s expectations once integrated into a complex military system, under challenging real-world conditions, is where our technical team’s expertise makes the difference. This is systems thinking in action.”
One significant example is the Marine Corps AN/TPS-80 program, the first and only multi-mission ground radar in the Department of Defense to use GaN technology. Applied to the AN/TPS-80 radar, GaN enhances system sensitivity and efficiency, increases power density and improves reliability. The system achieved Initial Operational Capability and was fielded last year.
GaN meets the law of large numbers
Gallium nitride’s ability to provide high power for signal amplification and pulse generation make it a natural fit for many military applications. But defense is not the only field that is taking advantage of the benefits of GaN. The telecommunications industry, currently investing heavily in infrastructure for 5G, is using GaN to power key parts of the network. Those investments are creating positive effects for all users of GaN technology.
The implementation of 5G has created economies of scale for GaN production, driving down prices and increasing the quality and reliability of the components. What was once a specialty item is now approaching commodity status – and that is a good thing, says Rob Howell, a Northrop Grumman fellow and chief technologist.
“Producing GaN components requires hundreds of steps, and ensuring that each one is carried out to specification is critical to the effectiveness of the final product. The investment of commercial industries in GaN has led to a significantly higher process uniformity, from which the military can also benefit,” said Howell.
What’s next: SLCFET and SiGe
The next generation of microelectronics is taking shape at Northrop Grumman. One technology under development is Super Lattice Castellated Field Effect Transistor (SLCFET), the company’s patented structure that uses GaN to offer even greater levels of performance.
The SLCFET is a novel device specifically engineered to provide superior ultra-wideband frequency performance for the next generation of military radio frequency (RF) systems. The device is based on a superlattice of GaN to create parallel, stacked channels of current, which are each controlled by the three dimensional castellated gate, so named due to its resemblance to the top of a castle wall. As RF switch performance is a dominant factor for next generation wideband systems, the SLCFET is a key technology enabler for realizing these future systems.
The company is also a leader in silicon germanium (SiGe) designs, which permit a dramatic reduction in the number of chips required and are ideal for highly integrated RF and mixed signal systems.
28 May 19. Caltech’s ‘Neural Lander’ Uses AI to Land Drones Smoothly. At Caltech’s Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST), artificial intelligence experts have teamed up with control experts to develop a system that uses a deep neural network to help autonomous drones “learn” how to land more safely and quickly, while gobbling up less power.
The system they have created, dubbed the “Neural Lander,” is a learning-based controller that tracks the position and speed of the drone, and modifies its landing trajectory and rotor speed accordingly to achieve the smoothest possible landing.
“This project has the potential to help drones fly more smoothly and safely, especially in the presence of unpredictable wind gusts, and eat up less battery power as drones can land more quickly,”
says Soon-Jo Chung, Bren Professor of Aerospace in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) and research scientist at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. The project is a collaboration between Chung and Caltech artificial intelligence (AI) experts Anima Anandkumar, Bren Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Yisong Yue, assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences.
A paper describing the Neural Lander was presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Robotics and Automation on May 22. Co-lead authors of the paper are Caltech graduate students Guanya Shi, whose PhD research is jointly supervised by Chung and Yue, as well as Xichen Shi and Michael O’Connell, who are the PhD students in Chung’s Aerospace Robotics and Control Group.
Deep neural networks (DNNs) are AI systems that are inspired by biological systems like the brain. The “deep” part of the name refers to the fact that data inputs are churned through multiple layers, each of which processes incoming information in a different way to tease out increasingly complex details. DNNs are capable of automatic learning, which makes them ideally suited for repetitive tasks.
To make sure that the drone flies smoothly under the guidance of the DNN, the team employed a technique known as spectral normalization, which smooths out the neural net’s outputs so that it doesn’t make wildly varying predictions as inputs or conditions shift. Improvements in landing were measured by examining deviation from an idealized trajectory in 3D space. Three types of tests were conducted: a straight vertical landing; a descending arc landing; and flight in which the drone skims across a broken surface—such as over the edge of a table—where the effect of turbulence from the ground would vary sharply.
The new system decreases vertical error by 100 percent, allowing for controlled landings, and reduces lateral drift by up to 90 percent. In their experiments, the new system achieves actual landing rather than getting stuck about 10 to 15 centimeters above the ground, as unmodified conventional flight controllers often do. Further, during the skimming test, the Neural Lander produced a much a smoother transition as the drone transitioned from skimming across the table to flying in the free space beyond the edge.
“With less error, the Neural Lander is capable of a speedier, smoother landing and of gliding smoothly over the ground surface,” Yue says.
The new system was tested at CAST’s three-story-tall aerodrome, which can simulate a nearly limitless variety of outdoor wind conditions. Opened in 2018, CAST is a 10,000-square-foot facility where researchers from EAS, JPL, and Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences are uniting to create the next generation of autonomous systems, while advancing the fields of drone research, autonomous exploration, and bioinspired systems.
“This interdisciplinary effort brings experts from machine learning and control systems. We have barely started to explore the rich connections between the two areas,” Anandkumar says.
Besides its obvious commercial applications—Chung and his colleagues have filed a patent on the new system—the new system could prove crucial to projects currently under development at CAST, including an autonomous medical transport that could land in difficult-to-reach locations (such as a gridlocked traffic). “The importance of being able to land swiftly and smoothly when transporting an injured individual cannot be overstated,” says Morteza Gharib, Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering; director of CAST; and one of the lead researchers of the air ambulance project.
The paper is titled “Neural Lander: Stable Drone Landing Control Using Learned Dynamics.” Co-authors of the paper include Rose Yu from Northeastern University and Kamyar Azizzadenesheli from UC Irvine. This research was funded by CAST and Raytheon Company. (Source: UAS VISION/Caltech)
28 May 19. US Air Force Wants Tactical Beamforming Antennas for Future Swarming Drones. U.S. Air Force researchers needed distributed airborne tactical beamforming capabilities to enable future generations of aerial swarming drones. They found their solution from Intelligent Automation Inc. in Rockville, Maryland. Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate in Rome, N.Y., announced a $1.4m contract to Intelligent Automation on Monday for the distributed phased array antenna system for elastic network of autonomous SWARM (DPAA-SEA) project.
The Air Force is asking Intelligent Automation engineers to design and build low-cost distributed beamforming capabilities with swarms of omni-directional antennas to enable swarming behavior and cooperation among formations of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Intelligent Automation will use omnidirectional radio systems to cooperate and form a pseudo phased array with distributed elements in which omnidirectional antennas can steer their signals at extended ranges.
This work is part of the Air Force Research Lab’s Elastic Tactical Networking for Autonomous Swarms project, launched in late 2017 to develop affordable technologies to network future autonomous swarm applications with tactical beamforming, which will differ drastically from information exchange requirements for current applications.
For example, the project seeks new communications capabilities to enable intra-agent collaboration in severely contested environments, something which existing military and commercial networking protocols are unable to achieve, Air Force researchers say.
The project seeks new networking paradigms for future swarm-based autonomous UAV missions, and new techniques to enable existing point-to-point data links for UAV swarm networking, which includes distributed beamforming techniques.
This is where Intelligent Automation comes in. The company will address several considerations to enable swarming UAVs to perform cooperative distributed beamforming as they communicate. These include:
— precise carrier and timing synchronization throughout the swarm despite relative Doppler effects and the unavailability of GPS satellite navigation signals;
— efficient and scalable ways to assign transmission weights dynamically to nodes placed arbitrarily for strong beam pattern properties, such as minimum sidelobe leakage, and narrow beam width;
— efficient dissemination of data and control messages to UAVs participating in the swarm; and
— pulse shaping, participation control, or other techniques to account for timing delays as nodes separate many wavelengths apart.
Intelligent Automation researchers will account for self-aware motion from onboard sensors and neighbor messaging in signal processing using adaptive interpolation, instantaneous frequency estimation, admissible trajectory identification, and control for sense and avoid.
Company engineers also will account for situation-aware inference like predicted motion of neighbors based on swarming protocol, and will incorporate information from onboard optical sensors, inertial measurement units (IMUs), and radar.
Intelligent Automation experts also will demonstrate their swarm networking technology using low-cost class I and II UAVs to show the advantages of distributed beamforming technology with swarming aerial assets in tactical environments.
UAV flight line testing will be at the Stockbridge Controllable Contested Environment test range near Rome, N.Y. (Source: UAS VISION/Military & Aerospace Electronics)
29 May 19. DST to lead development of transformative energetic materials. Defence Science and Technology has initiated the Transformative Energetics Research Program to position the ADF and Australian defence industry to take full advantage of advances in energetic materials, coupled with cutting-edge manufacturing technology that can exploit those materials. Nano-particles typically display properties that differ markedly from larger forms of the same material. When compared with more traditional micron-sized energetic material particles, nano-scale energetic particles give rise to munitions that offer enhanced energy output with reduced sensitivity.
This could lead to design options such as lighter weapons, additional space for other weapon components and the use of explosive ordnance in previously inaccessible extreme operational environments.
To position the ADF and Australian defence industry to take full advantage of those technical benefits, DST has initiated the Transformative Energetics Research Program. It has three key planks – nano-scale energetic materials, resonant acoustic mixing (RAM) and 3D printing of energetics.
RAM is a relatively new technique that uses low-frequency, high-intensity vibration to blend highly viscous materials rapidly and effectively. It’s a contactless mixing technique, there are no moving parts in contact with the energetic material and this confers process safety benefits.
Defence scientist Andrew Hart explains, “The mixing ability affords us the potential to now incorporate a higher proportion of high energy-density solids, including hard to process materials such as nano-energetics, into our materials. This confers additional energy into the system, beyond that which has been possible historically with conventional processing technology.”
Hart, a chemical engineer, has observed a significant increase in interest around the world in the 3D printing of energetic materials over the past four to five years, with researchers examining all classes from gun and rocket propellants to pyrotechnics to high explosives.
“There is such a strong interest because the performance gains that stand to be unlocked are astounding. 3D printing lets us create complex, truly three dimensional structures that give us superior control over the nature of the energy release. In pyrotechnics we can better tailor spectral output, for example. With high explosives, improved safety and better detonation characteristics are possible, opening the door to concepts such as dial-a-yield warheads,” Hart said.
The smaller manufacturing footprint required by 3D printing, and the agile nature of the same, means energetic materials might ultimately be produced, for example, on demand in theatre, bringing to bear significant strategic and logistic advantages.
To date, a focus at DST has been on the possibility of printing large calibre gun propellants, because it’s here that some of the greatest performance and logistic advantages can be unlocked.
The Transformative Energetics Program is broad in scope and highly multi-disciplinary in nature, thus necessitating a collaborative approach in order to expedite the research and to position defence industry to adopt the manufacturing technologies once matured.
Hart and colleagues are teaming with industry and academia in a multi-year Cooperative Research Centre project looking at the 3D printing of energetics, have industry alliances in the area of RAM, and collaborate with Defence government partners across all facets of DST’s Transformative Energetics Program. (Source: Defence Connect)
27 May 19. 3 big changes in how the US Army thinks about software. The Army is changing the way it buys software and has started entering into new agreements with industry to acquire the intellectual property rights of software. Generally, contractors that develop systems for the Army own the actual code they write. This means if an update needs to be made quickly, the Army has to go back to the contractor and often pay for updates because they don’t own the rights to the programming.
“It used to be the way we looked at intellectual property rights is we kind of saw it as a binary decision. The government either bought it or we didn’t. Most times we didn’t because it was very expensive,” Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, commander of Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM), told C4ISRNET in a May 20 interview. “The reason it was so expensive is because what company would want to compromise that?”
CECOM is responsible for sustaining and refurbishing Army systems such as radars and radios. As software has become a critical enabler, and a crutch in some cases, CECOM has had to grapple with sustaining and maintaining software for the service as the organization’s mission now includes ensuring refurbishment and readiness of command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems.
Now, Taylor said, under a new effort underway when the Army buys and develops a system, the Army follows an agreement that predetermined events can trigger a clause in which the government will have rights to the intellectual property developed by the contractor at a pre-negotiated price. For example, due to the nature of threats, new signatures for a radio or radar could be detected and necessitate a quick software update.
To ensure each side is properly protected, a neutral third party will hold onto the intellectual property of the software code and the government will pay for what it needs when it needs it.
“That reduces my expense risk and reduces their competition risk,” Taylor said. “We’ve already started that. That is a brand new way of doing business.”
Reducing software costs
In the past few years, sustaining software has been a crushing expense for the Army.
“If you saw the trend of how software sustainment was going up before we did a big course correction, we were approaching the point, theoretically, someday where all of our sustainment dollars would go to software and have nothing left for the hardware,” Taylor explained.
The first step toward gaining control of this problem, Taylor said, was reducing software baselines. During the last 18 years of war, there were so many different versions of software on different platforms. CECOM worked with the various program offices to consolidate these down to minimum number.
Taylor said when systems are purchased now, Army leaders want more commonality with the program offices so that one software solution can be applied to similar functions.
He also noted that the Army has negotiated better enterprise licenses which has led to greater efficiencies. He said the Army’s sustainment community went from 43 software contracts to 34. While that’s still a large number, the difference makes an impact.
Automated software patching
One of the most critical defensive mechanisms in the cybersecurity world is simplifying patching systems. These updates are issued to ensure systems are up to date against reported threats.
This can be a challenge for the globally deployed Army in which some units are operating in disparate environments with limited connectivity. In the past, updates were loaded to compact discs and mailed to units in the field, significantly increasing the time for patching.
Now the Army is working on ways to automate that process for deployed units, which improves tactical cyber defense.
“What we’ve done recently is made it a lot easier to work with automated or what we call electronic patching. Meaning we have 33 systems, mission command systems, that require updates from us right now as an example that are good candidates to be electronically patched,” Taylor said. “Of those, in 2017 we went from about eight that could be electronically patched to now we’re on our way to 24 of the 33 with this capability.”
The system is not automated, however, in the sense that systems update themselves. A patch is posted online and as long as soldiers have a connection to the Department of Defense Information Network they can pull the updates down and apply them. However, depending on the type of update and echelon of unit, some soldiers might need to be connected to larger pipes for more bandwidth.
“When you look at the cyber vulnerability in the Army, the widest growing attack surface is that tactical [side] because there [are] so many soldiers with so much equipment and so many different units and a lot of that is administered and operated at a relatively low level,” Taylor said.
The automated updates also have the added benefit of allowing greater oversight of what units are patching. First, because it is more convenient than waiting for a disc, Taylor said the new system ensures the updates are more likely to be done. Second, Army officials can see who is applying the updates and tell certain units they have to do them if they haven’t. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 May 19. DST research collaboration to enhance submarine stealth. Defence has signed a three-year collaboration agreement with universities and industry to develop new acoustic materials that will make Australian submarines harder to detect.
The $1.5m Defence Science and Technology (DST) agreement, supported by the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF), will produce new materials to reduce the acoustic signature of submarines without disrupting their operation.
Researchers from DST, the University of Melbourne and RMIT University will join with industry partners QinetiQ and Matrix Composites & Engineering to develop the prototype stealth materials.
Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro said the agreement was another step forward in leveraging acoustic science, materials science, engineering and technological innovation across Australia to develop new Defence technology solutions.
“Emerging materials and next generation platforms are vital to creating sustainable sovereign capability for the Navy to support Defence’s current and future needs across the maritime domain,” Professor Monro said.
The NGTF, managed by DST, is a government initiative introduced with the Defence Industry Policy Statement in 2016.
Together with the Defence Innovation Hub and the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, these three form the integrated Defence innovation system.
With an investment of $730m over the decade to June 2026, the NGTF is a forward-looking program focusing on research and development in emerging and future technologies for the “future Defence Force after next”.
The NGTF is focused on the following nine priority areas as determined by the Defence White Paper 2016:
- Integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance;
- Space capabilities;
- Enhanced human performance;
- Medical countermeasure products;
- Multi-disciplinary material sciences;
- Quantum technologies;
- Trusted autonomous systems;
- Cyber; and
- Advanced sensors, hypersonics and directed energy capabilities.
Professor Monro added, “This innovative research has the potential to enhance underwater vehicle survivability, as well as operational effectiveness.”
The research team will be led by University of Melbourne’s Professor Graham Schaffer with Chief Investigators Professor Tuan Ngo and Dr Christian Brandl; RMIT University’s Professor Peter Daivis; and DST’s Dr Ellie Hajizadeh. (Source: Defence Connect)
22 May 19. Pentagon Jumpstarts Hypersonic Targeting, Electronic Warfare, C2. Fed up with neat technologies that never turn into usable weapons, the Pentagon’s director of advanced capabilities is taking a new approach to crucial missions like finding time-sensitive targets for hypersonic missiles, waging large-scale electronic warfare, and building new command-and-control networks.
Bids are already in for the targeting initiative, James Faist told reporters this afternoon, and companies that want to participate in the industry day for electronic warfare need to sign up by Friday.
These are all “really urgent needed missions,” Faist said, prioritized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the four armed services through extensive discussion, research, and wargaming. “These are well defined areas that we’re behind our adversaries,” he said. “We have to catch up.”
Time-Sensitive Contracts For Time-Sensitive Targets
The first of Faist’s initiatives is already well underway. More than 90 companies, many of them small businesses, have made competing proposals for tracking high-priority mobile threats like truck-borne missile launchers, a prime target for the new hypersonic missiles the military is developing. The Pentagon will award multiple contracts for feasibility studies on June 14th, with the studies due in just three months, i.e. before the fiscal year ends Oct. 1st. The contenders that produce the most promising studies will then have “two to three years at most,” Faist said, to build working prototypes, i.e. no latter than 2022. The best prototypes will then move quickly into Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of combat-ready systems.
In a marked departure from typical Pentagon practice, all these activities — from feasibly study to early production — will take place under a single contract. At each stage, Faist and his staff will cull companies that don’t cut it, but the proposals that do impress him get to proceed to the next phase without having to negotiate a new contract — a hurdle which often delays, disrupts, or even kills programs entirely under the standard system. The time to negotiate a new contract, he said, will come only when he decides to hand over the program to one of the four armed services to move from low-rate to full-rate production. By that point, the program should have plenty of momentum to carry it through.
“The intent is to get rid of the contractual… valley of death,” Faist said. To do this, he’s using what’s called Other Transaction Authority (OTA) to bypass a lot of the usual procurement bureaucracy and Cooperative Research And Development Agreements (CRADA) to share government-developed technology with private companies large and small. But the most innovative aspect is how he’s making novel use of a vehicle known as a Broad Agency Announcement.
Now, normally, a BAA solicits proposals for basic research, applied research, and experimental proofs of concept in a broad area of technology — DARPA often uses them this way — which means the projects they produce often fall into the valley of death. But Faist is using his BAAs to develop already-mature technologies into usable weapons systems and then start low-rate production. In terms of the federal government’s official Technology Readiness Levels, he said, proposals need to be at least TRL 4, demonstrated to work in the lab, if not the field.
All too often, Faist said, bright scientists in industry or a Defense Department lab come up with a really cool technology that wins limited funding but never gets enough to cross the “valley” into the much more expensive development and production phases — because the techies don’t convince the four armed services that their neat idea offers real return on investment for a specific military mission. That’s all backwards, he said.
“It needs to start with the mission concept,” Faist said. “What we weren’t doing was really that up-front mission engineering, mission integration… before we prototyped the joint efforts we were going to do.” So in the new approach, he said, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the services, and the operational Combatant Commands thoroughly brainstorm and wargame out what mission areas we urgently need to improve, then go looking for specific technologies.
EW, Networks, & Beyond
Faist is already moving out on the next mission area after moving targets: electronic warfare. He expects well over 100 proposals this time round, though he didn’t give a due date yet. The draft Broad Agency Announcement on EW came out last Thursday (May 16th), he said, and the industry day will be held the 29th: Companies wishing to participate need to sign up by the end of this week.
Faist was apologetic about the short notice for any interested companies that haven’t already heard. The Pentagon-based Washington Headquarters Service is handling the contracting, and while they’re doing a great job, he said, they’re not the usual suspects for this kind of competition, so a lot of companies may not have been watching for announcements from them.
This kind of speed is necessary because electronic warfare is “an area that we’re behind our adversaries, we’re not moving fast,” Faist said. Across OSD and the services, he said, “when we mentioned the idea of doing this there was just a groundswell of enthusiasm… .because we’ve just lost so much capability.” Faist himself was an electronic warfare officer in the US Air Force — which, like the Army, disbanded almost all its EW assets in the post-Cold War drawdown.
Much of the EW project is highly classified, but Faist did make clear that it’ll involve far more than short-range defensive jammers to protect ground vehicles from roadside bombs or aircraft from surface-to-air missiles. He’s seeking systems to wage electronic warfare on a large scale against an adversary such as Russia’s well-equipped EW battalions, pursing what he called “offensive and defensive electronic warfare dominance.” He also said the focus would be on autonomy and software, including AI-enabled systems that can rapidly adjust to new enemy tactics.
Sometime this summer, Faist plans to issue a third BAA, this one on what’s called Fully Networked Command, Control, & Communications (FNC3). That’s a fairly new term of art inside the Pentagon, but it implies a new level of real-time, secure information sharing among the different services around the world — the kind ofcommand system required to implement a new warfighting concept called Multi-Domain Operations. The FNC3 problem, Faist said, is “at least as hard” as electronic warfare — but once that Broad Agency Announcement is out, he’ll already be working on the next. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
26 May 19. Sensoryx highlights VRfree tracking system. Sensoryx has developed an independent hand tracking system for use in virtual reality (VR) environments and showcased it for the first time at the 2019 International Training and Education Conference (ITEC) in Stockholm in May. The VRfree system comprises a pair of lightweight, fingerless gloves that contain inertial measurement units (IMUs) for each finger segment and a wrist unit. The wrist units communicate via a combination of ultrasound and infrared with a central tracking device. The latter is normally mounted on a VR head-mounted display (HMD), but Mark Moutarde, head of sales for Sensoryx, told Jane’s that it could be installed separately, for example, in a flight simulator. It is agnostic to the HMD used.
VRfree tracks the hands and fingers to sub-millimetre levels in real time with a latency of less than 30 ms and displays their position in the virtual environment. This enables users to view their hands in the virtual environment and interact with controls and other equipment. The system operates independently without the need for any other tracking infrastructure such as separate cameras or beacons. It will continue to track the hands outside the HMD’s field of view, which Moutarde observed is useful for after-action review. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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.