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07 June 19. Applying pressure: Pursuing a 5th-gen air superiority capability. Despite assertions otherwise, the F-35 is not designed to win a close-in air-to-air fight. Regional developments of fifth-generation air superiority capabilities, namely the Chinese J-20, FC-31 and Russian Su-57, are serving as echoes of the hard-fought lessons of Vietnam’s air campaign, prompting Japan to approach the US for access to a modified F-22 Raptor capability – given the increasing challenges, should Australia join Japan’s pursuit? Throughout history, military operations have favoured those who occupy the high ground. Command of the skies empowers both offensive and defensive operations, while also providing powerful deterrence options as part of the broader implementation of power projection and national security doctrines.
Air dominance reflects the pinnacle of the high ground, where both a qualitative and quantitative edge in doctrine, equipment and personnel support the unrivalled conduct of offensive or defensive air combat operations. Air dominance proved influential as a tactical and strategic operating concept, with the use of tactical fighters providing air dominance, close air support and escort essential to the Allied triumph in the Second World War.
However, the growing success of Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the Su-57, J-20 and JF-31 – combined with reports of Russia offering the Su-57 for export to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the increasing introduction of highly-capable fourth plus generation combat aircraft – is threatening to serve as a repeat of the air combat battles over Vietnam that saw dedicated Soviet designed and built air superiority fighter aircraft severely challenge US air superiority despite the advances in air-to-air missiles promising the end of traditional dog fights.
Fifth-generation fighter aircraft represent the pinnacle of modern fighter technology. Incorporating all-aspect stealth even when armed, low-probability-of-intercept radar, high-performance air frames, advanced avionics and highly integrated computer systems, these aircraft provide unrivalled air dominance, situational awareness, networking, interdiction and strike capabilities for commanders.
The world’s first fifth-generation aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, first introduced in the mid-2000s, was designed to replace the US Air Force’s fleet of ageing F-15C/D Eagles – incorporating full spectrum, low-observable stealth characteristics, super cruise, and super manoeuvrability in an air frame designed to fight, win and maintain US and allied air superiority against even the most advanced enemy integrated air-and-missile defence systems and air combat capabilities.
However, shrinking defence budgets in the aftermath of the Cold War, a lack of credible peer adversary to US air superiority and a Congress-implemented export ban despite requests from Japan, Australia and Israel hindered even America’s ability to field a credible fleet of these technological marvels – with an original order of 750 units cut to 195, the unit price rose beyond what was sustainable, paving the way for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter family to fill the role.
Recent changes within the US political establishment, notably the election of President Donald Trump, has triggered a major rethink in the policies that govern America’s arms exports, opening the door for Japan to engage with major US defence contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to support Japan’s domestic development of a large, low-observable air superiority fighter to replace its fleet of locally built F-15J aircraft.
While Japan has committed to acquiring a fleet of 147 F-35s, including a fleet of 42 short-take off, vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B variants, the Japanese government has remained focused on procuring a fifth-generation air dominance fighter, with or without US help, to counter the growing challenges it faces in its direct region.
This resulted in the development of the X-2 Shinshin, a technology demonstrator that proved Japan’s domestic aerospace industry could produce an indigenous stealth fighter design capable of competing with the world’s best. Both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have actively supported Japan’s continued development of the Shinshin concept, raising renewed questions about a US commitment to reopening the F-22 Raptor line.
Both Russia and China will continue to develop and enhance their growing fifth-generation air combat fleets – with Russian President Vladimir Putin allegedly approving the export of the specialised air superiority Su-57 to China to operate in conjunction with China’s domestic J-20 and FC-31 fleets, dramatically impacting the tactical and strategic balance of air combat power in the Indo-Pacific.
Recognising these emerging peer competitor capabilities and previous attempts at acquiring the F-22, both Japan and Australia are well positioned to support the reopening of the US F-22 Raptor line, estimated to be worth approximately US$9.9bn for non-recurring start-up costs according to a US Congress report and an additional US$40.4bn to acquire 194 Raptors for the US Air Force.
What this House Armed Services Committee report fails to account for is an allied acquisition and integration within the advanced Raptor development, supply chain – most notably Japan and Australia, which are both widely respected US allies and industrial partners within the existing F-35 supply chain. The acquisition is not without risk, however, as both Japan and Australia would need to at least match the US order of 194 air frames.
Broader horizons and industrial benefits
While a joint US, Japanese and Australian acquisition of at least 388 air frames would serve as the basis for re-openinig the Raptor line – expanding the export opportunities of the Raptor to include other key ‘Five Eyes’ allies like Canada and the UK, both of which are currently undergoing an air force recapitalisation, modernisation or research and development program of their own, would further reduce the costs associated with reopening the line and acquiring new Raptor air frames.
Australian procurement could mean enjoying a highly capable, interoperable and future-proofed airframe operated by Japan, a key regional ally, and potentially the US and UK, which agreed with the Japanese government in 2017 to collaborate in the joint development of a fifth-generation aircraft to replace the Royal Air Force’s Typhoons within the next two decades.
Global participation in the project, particularly around the design and manufacturing phase, presents Australian suppliers to the F-35 program with economic opportunities and incentives for wanting the project to proceed.
In particular Marand and Quickstep holdings, which enjoy existing global supply chain relationships with key US contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing that could place them in good standing to bring their advanced manufacturing and materials engineering solutions to the $40bn project. (Source: Defence Connect)
03 June 19. How the military could find robots it needs to win underground. In 1969, the Army’s primary interest in caves and tunnels was simple: demolish them. Devoted to jungle operations, Field Manual FM 31-35 described dense, wet forests. Exploring — much less taking, holding and maneuvering through underground networks — was beyond the scope of how the Army equipped soldiers to fight. In an era where dense foliage proved to be nearly impenetrable, caves were out of the equation.
A follow-up manual, printed in 1982, was even lighter in its treatment, noting caves as a place to “conceal rucksacks” and that opposing forces may travel through networks of tunnels to launch attacks. This edition identified tunnels as a place the Army might be attacked from, but then did nothing to address how these tunnels might be explored, held or exploited.
A third manual — published in 1986 and devoted to counter-guerrilla operations — detailed how to clear and hold tunnels and bunkers, though the emphasis was still on rendering them empty and then destroyed. The unique challenge of tunnels is primarily in finding and clearing them, but the assumption by the manual is that a tunnel network can be closed off or destroyed and neutralized. This threat of violence, in turn, would force occupants of the tunnels to evacuate and lay down arms.
“The last major exposure to this environment was Vietnam, where it was very specific to a tactic by the enemy to basically circumvent American air power, artillery and the ability to track them. So they went underground and then we would send people on the ground,” said John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies with the Modern War Institute at West Point. “We consider it a special environment, although we faced it in Afghanistan in the early days with all the cave complexes. Most people forget that we lost Bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora.”
Since Vietnam, and especially since Tora Bora, thinking on caves and tunnels, and what the Army will need to be successful in such a battlefield, has changed.
Today, Army leaders are preparing for battles that will take place underground and are searching for the tools and equipment they will need to win in caves and cities.
For example, a tactical circular published in November 2017 — “Small Unit Training in Subterranean Environments” — explores how war will be executed underground. In a series of diagrams about how squads should maneuver in tight quarters, a small robot always goes first, scouting the way for humans traveling the tunnel after it.
The list of equipment needed for underground operations has expanded from describing the explosives needed to seal off an entrance to detailing lights needed, communication tools, breathing apparatus and suppressors to decrease the noise of firing in the tunnel.
Army leaders need to be able to quickly find survivors, quantify the air quality, and learn what kind of hazards exists in the caves. And, in a break from the past, maybe even find a way to maneuver underground for advantage. Such tasks will take robot guides, which don’t yet exist. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
06 June 19. A technology kit developed by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company (NYSE: LMT), was used for the first time to operate a Black Hawk helicopter with full-authority, fly-by-wire flight controls. The May 29 flight marked the official start to the flight test program for the soon-to-be optionally piloted aircraft. Follow-on flight testing aims to include envelope expansion throughout the summer leading to fully autonomous flight (zero pilots) in 2020.
“This technology brings a whole new dimension of safety, reliability and capability to existing and future helicopters and to those who depend on them to complete their missions,” said Chris Van Buiten, Vice President, Sikorsky Innovations. “We’re excited to be transforming a once mechanically controlled aircraft into one with fly-by-wire controls. This flight demonstrates the next step in making optionally piloted – and optimally piloted – aircraft, a reality.”
This is the first full authority fly-by-wire retrofit kit developed by Sikorsky that has completely removed mechanical flight controls from the aircraft.
Through DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Sikorsky is developing an OPV approach it describes as pilot directed autonomy to give operators the confidence to fly aircraft safely, reliably and affordably in optimally piloted modes enabling flight with two, one or zero crew. The program aims to improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned and reduced crew operations.
Sikorsky has been demonstrating its MATRIX™ Technology on a modified S-76B™ called the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). The aircraft, which has been in test since 2013, has more than 300 hours of autonomous flight.
Sikorsky announced in March that its S-92® helicopter fleet update will include the introduction of phase one MATRIX Technology that will bring advanced computing power to the platform. This foundation enables adoption of autonomous landing technology.
03 June 19. DARPA to Use Shrimp, Plankton to Detect Undersea Threats. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s biological technology office will begin prototyping sensing capabilities using undersea organisms such as plankton and shrimp to detect threats.
DARPA launched its biological technology office in 2014 to begin research in hopes of aiding the Defense Department in the fight against unique forms of bioterrorism, and deploy biological countermeasures to thwart peer adversaries, according to the agency.
Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract in April to develop biological sensing hardware to observe patterns in the marine environment and help classify targets.
“The purpose of this program is to explore the use of organisms in the undersea environment that are inherent, that have their own organic sensing capabilities,” said Vern Boyle, vice president of advanced mission systems at Northrop Grumman.
The persistent aquatic living sensors program, or PALS, will use snapping shrimp and bioluminescent plankton to detect manmade objects underwater.
The company will employ these organisms to “understand if we can use the inherent sensing capabilities of life and the undersea world to better detect disturbances and objects,” Boyle said.
A major portion of the program will be studying the organisms’ reactions to environmental objects that are benign. For instance, they might respond in different ways to passing whales and underwater vehicles, he said.
“The belief is that these biological organisms are more effective in detecting things than manmade sensors,” Boyle said.
Although the company has been involved in undersea systems technology for around 50 years, the concept for this project is relatively new, he noted.
Northrop Grumman may expand its studies to other organisms, but shrimp and plankton will be its initial focus.
“For the purpose of validating the concept and understanding the feasibility of a system like this, … [using plankton and shrimp] is a sufficient starting point,” Boyle said.
The company will also use artificial intelligence and machine learning to perform feature extraction and analysis of data collected. (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)
03 June 19. Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) and Infinity Technology Services, LLC, won a two-year Mentor Protégé program contract from the U.S. Air Force. Mentor Protégé programs help the Department of Defense diversify its supplier base by giving small businesses experience in high-demand disciplines with a mentor company. Raytheon will help ITS mature its cybersecurity design, testing, defense and verification capabilities.
“Encouraging small business is a good thing for the government as well as Raytheon, and ITS brings a unique understanding of the Air Force mission from several operational perspectives,” said Bill Sullivan, vice president of Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business. “Together, we are developing key technologies our customers need, and what we’ve learned on GPS OCX will be extremely valuable to everyone involved.”
GPS OCX is the enhanced ground control segment of a U.S. Air Force-led effort to modernize America’s GPS system. It has achieved the highest level of cybersecurity protections of any DoD space system to date.
“GPS OCX’s information assurance protections are industry leading, which is why this partnership is an incredible learning opportunity for our company,” said Hassan B. Campbell, president of ITS. “Cybersecurity is foundational to every DoD system, and the skills required to execute in this arena continue to evolve rapidly. We’re looking forward to improving our current capabilities to protect the systems we make and deliver to our military customers.”
03 June 19. UAVOS introduces new GCS. UAVOS has introduced a new Portable Ground Control Station (PGCS) 3, fully compatible with the UAVOS autopilot, the company announced on 29 May. In its baseline configuration, PGCS 3 comes with a military-grade rugged Getac X500 laptop. The system can integrate a variety of 15-inch laptop computer models. PGCS 3 is a detachable computer and a console with additional controls. Console joysticks, push-buttons and switches are industrial water-proofed units. The panel is equipped with a quick-release mechanism for docking the laptop. Designed to control and monitor UAS, the PGCS 3 also displays live video streaming from the UAS. A digital modem integrated into the UAVOS system provides UAS control without using an external antenna complex. UAVOS has also developed a switching and power supply board which allows the PGCS 3 to work from various power sources, as well as to charge the docked computer. (Source: Shephard)
04 June 19. Evaluation of Remote ID at NUAIR. NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research) in collaboration with ANRA Technologies conducted an operational assessment of ANRA’s UTM technology for broadcast and network based remote identification (RID) of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at the New York UAS Test Site located at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY. On May 28-29, staff from NUAIR assessed ANRA’s first-of-its kind technology using draft industry standards for evaluating both broadcast and network based remote identification capabilities. Several drones were flown by NUAIR staff, with two carrying an unique Wi-Fi broadcast module provided by ANRA and Doodle Labs, to test RID broadcast capability. Overall, the event was deemed successful for being the first operational assessment of both broadcast and network capability.
Part of the assessment included multiple UAS Service Suppliers (USS)at the test site using ANRA’s UAS traffic management (UTM) software to manage drone operations while also serving as the network RID service and display provider. The display applications ingested broadcast RID data and/or interacted with a network RID display provider to present information to the end users.
The broadcasting drones transmitted RID advertisements continuously and a Display App on a smartphone used the smartphone’s technology to listen for the drone advertisements, extracted the RID data, and then displayed the live drone location on a map along with its historical path.
Additionally, network publishing was evaluated using ANRA’s software platform to visualize data within an internet-based service area. In this case, the Display App made a request to ANRA network RID display provider which had aggregated RID data for all flights in the area managed by network RID service providers and provided the aggregated data back to the Display App.
Remote ID is the ability of a UAS in flight to provide identification information that can be received by other parties. Remote ID will help facilitate more advanced operations for drones and help lay the groundwork for future UAS Traffic Management (UTM). Remote ID will assist the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), law enforcement, and Federal security agencies when a UAS appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where the drone is not allowed to fly. Broadcast remote ID was received and viewed on ANRA displays by Oneida County Sheriff personnel who participated in the assessment using a mobile app and password protection.
“This test of ANRA’s remote identification technology is further evidence of how innovation and collaboration continue to blossom at Oneida County’s UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “This new tool will prove vital in the traffic management and public safety of unmanned aircraft systems and continue to push the industry forward.”
To further the industry, ANRA and its partner Doodle Labs also announced their decision to open source the broadcast based Remote ID firmware implementation which can be used for any Linux compatible Wi-Fi hardware module.
Another aspect of the assessment included testing a public facing mobile app that provides information about participating drones, such as if the drone was being flown by an approved FAA operator.
“We are thrilled to test our technology to advance commercial drone operations. ANRA is committed to safe and efficient drone operations and we know that starts with gaining public trust.” said Amit Ganjoo, CEO ANRA Technologies. The app is just one feature of many features of ANRA’s remote ID technology that was assessed.
The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office whole heartedly supports the mission statement of NUAIR and ANRA Technologies pertaining to the broadcast of Remote ID.
“Any opportunity to effectively engage in the community that places emphasis on the ability to educate and creates a safe environment, all participants benefit,” stated Chief Deputy Jonathan Owens. (Source: UAS VISION)
02 June 19. No Bigger Secret: Why the New Mach 5 SR-72 Spy Plane Could Be Everything. Why Russia and China should be nervous. The successor to Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird, the Mach 3 long-range recon aircraft that once tore across the skies like a Cold-War era arrowhead before its retirement in 1999, may be inching closer toward reality. According to Aviation Week, a handful of visitors to the SAE International Aerotech Congress and Exhibition at Fort Worth, Texas, this week reported catching glimpses of a “demonstrator vehicle” believed to be linked to the proposed replacement: the SR-72.
Though the SR-72’s development is (understandably) a tightly-kept secret, Aviation Week reports that: In the early hours of July, an “unmanned subscale aircraft” was seen flying into the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works division is headquartered.
With an “optionally piloted” flight research vehicle test slated for 2018 by Lockheed back in June, and a test flight anticipated to occur by 2020, the presence of the demonstrator at Palmdale seems to indicate that the SR-72’s progress is in line with Lockheed Martin’s timeline.
“Although I can’t go into specifics, let us just say the Skunk Works team in Palmdale, California, is doubling down on our commitment to speed,” Orlando Carvalho, the executive vice president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, said at the exhibition, which ran from Sept. 26 to 28. “Simply put, I believe the United States is on the verge of a hypersonics revolution.”
Lockheed Martin has remained tight-lipped on the SR-72 program since announcing the Blackbird successor in 2013, but the aerospace giant wants to up the ante in terms of speed. And that’s saying something: the Blackbird as it’s known is not only faster than any other jet-propelled aircraft — it can literally outrun missiles.
“Speed matters, especially when it comes to national security,” as Carvalho put it.
If the recent sightings in Palmdale are tied to the Blackbird’s replacement, then the aircraft really is fast — and not just on the flight line. While still under development at Skunk Works, the proposed reconnaissance plane is expected to hit Mach 6 thanks to advanced new hypersonic tech.
“Hypersonics is like stealth. It is a disruptive technology and will enable various platforms to operate at two to three times the speed of the Blackbird,” Carvalho told Aviation Week. “Operational survivability and lethality is the ultimate deterrent. Security classification guidance will only allow us to say the speed is greater than Mach 5.”
The proposed hypersonic aircraft could fill a space left by the SR-71, which was retired in 1999 due to the proliferation of spy satellites, enemy air defenses, and ultimately, its exorbitant costs — roughly $200,000 per hour of operation, reports the National Interest. Unlike its predecessor, the SR-72 is being designed with strike capability in mind — which means it’s not just a super speedy spy plane: It can reach out and obliterate a target, then zip back the way it came.
Carvalho’s comments, while not explicitly linked to the SR-72, mirrored sentiments expressed by Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs organization, during the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics forum in Denver, Colorado in June.
“We’ve been saying hypersonics is two years away for the last 20 years,” said Weiss. “But all I can say is the technology is mature and we, along with DARPA and the services, are working hard to get that capability into the hands of our warfighters as soon as possible.” (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
31 May 19. Royal Marines test new technology for UK future commando force. British marines tested situational awareness pads, as well as a ruggedised tablet during Commando Warrior Two. Credit: Royal Navy. British Royal Marines from the 40 Commando unit have experimented with new technology during the Commando Warrior Two exercise, as the UK pushes towards a future commando force.
The central theme of the UK future commando force is to experiment with how Royal Marines will operate on the battlefields of the future, while learning from the past.
Commando Warrior Two is part of a series of exercises planned to take place this year with a focus on the evolution of the Royal Marines and the kit they use.
40 Commando Bravo Company commanding officer major Jack Anrude said: “Commando Warrior Two is the second phase of an exercise series where we are looking at future commando force as a concept.
“We’re going back to our origins as a commando and the operations they conducted. Right at the epicentre of the commando ethos is commando mindset – we’re first to understand, we’re the first to adapt and the first to overcome.”
40 Commando marines took part in a two-week mission on Salisbury Plain to work on stealthy tactics on urban and rural assaults.
Last month, Royal Marines used autonomous vehicles for the first time during tactical action as part of Exercise Commando Warrior.
The latest iteration involved the use of dismounted situational awareness pads, as well as a ruggedised tablet that provides access to footage from a combination of unmanned aerial vehicles feeds and GPS overlays.
In addition, Royal Marines used specialist radios designed to enhance commandos’ ability to communicate during battle.
Anrude added: “Following the successes of Commando Warrior One and Two we are now fine-tuning how we best use that equipment, looking at introducing unmanned aerial systems, mobility assets and cutting-edge communication technology to make sure we are the most efficient on the battlefield.”
During Commando Warrior Two, 40 Commando’s fighting companies engaged in force-on-force battle.
The exercise involved commandos fighting through villages held by ‘a seemingly superior force’ and blowing up ‘enemy’ bridges.
One of the teams played the role of local civilians in urban areas. The scenario allowed the commandos to prepare for future situations they could encounter. The Marines intend to test more technologies during Commando Warrior Three. (Source: naval-technology.com)
02 June 19. BAE Systems Partners with UiPath to Expedite Machine Learning Adoption across the U.S. Defense and Intelligence Communities. BAE Systems is now a technology partner with robotic process automation leader, UiPath, to integrate machine learning capabilities into defense and intelligence community programs. (Photo: BAE Systems, Inc.). BAE Systems is a technology partner with robotic process automation (RPA) leader, UiPath, in developing suites of software robots that its customers can use to automate high-volume, repetitive business processes.
“The technology is completely scalable and can be used at the server or enterprise levels, and can even be leveraged to enhance business operations occurring in the cloud.”
The tools allow human analysts to shift their attention to managing more critical challenges. As part of this partnership, BAE Systems is also working with UiPath to develop and embed new automation capabilities within its Advanced Analytics Lab. The Lab transforms large volumes of unstructured and semi-structured data into relevant and actionable intelligence for its customers. RPAs are capable of searching, sorting, and in some cases, processing large data sets to complete work that currently takes employees hours to complete.
“UiPath’s RPA Platform is proven to deliver faster automation design and deployment than competitors, and most customers see a return on investment in as little as six months,” said Jim Walker, Chief Technology Officer for the UiPath U.S. Federal business. “The technology is completely scalable and can be used at the server or enterprise levels, and can even be leveraged to enhance business operations occurring in the cloud.”
BAE Systems is currently leveraging RPAs to drive process improvement with its customers to increase automation, reduce operating costs and create new efficiencies.
“We are transitioning RPA technology from traditional business processes to automate intelligence analysis workflows, aligning to major intelligence community augmented analytics initiatives,” said Manish Parikh, chief technology officer of the BAE Systems Intelligence & Security sector. “Working with UiPath, our analysts are laying the foundation on which future augmented analytics capabilities will be designed and integrated into government systems.”
You can learn more about how BAE Systems is integrating RPAs into its mission workflows by seeing a demo June 2-5 in booth #625 at the 2019 GEOINT Symposium in San Antonio, Texas. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
31 May 19. Future fighter aircraft: contractors slate sixth-generation concepts. Defence companies and governments are still ironing out issues with fifth-generation fighter aircraft, but some contractors are already looking to the defence aviation solutions of the future. What concepts for sixth-generation fighter jets have been put forward and what are some of their potential capabilities?
Defence companies around the world are already looking to a sixth-generation of future fighter aircraft, despite only a handful of fifth-generation aircraft being in service, namely Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor and Chinese firm Chengdu’s J-20 fighter jet.
France/Germany/Spain’s New Generation Fighter
The New Generation Fighter (NGF) is a proposed sixth-generation jet fighter currently being developed by France’s Airbus Defence and Space and Germany’s Dassault Aviation.
The NGF project is expected to replace existing European jet fighters such as Dassault’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and Spain’s F/A-18 Hornet.
The new aircraft will comprise brand new technology including a new Next European Fighter Engine, which is currently being developed by MTU Aero Engines and Safran. It will also be part of the Next-Generation Weapon System, working with unmanned ‘wingmen’ in the form of autonomous drones.
An NGF model was showcased in Paris at Euronaval 2018 last October. The model was of a delta wing-style aircraft with no vertical surfaces, which does not reflect radar laterally and significantly reduces its side aspect radar cross section.
The completed aircraft is scheduled to take its first test flight by 2025, and could enter service by 2040. However, there are still some hurdles for the manufacturers to overcome, not least in terms of their ability to incorporate a multitude of technologies and reaching political compromise between the participating countries.
Japan’s Mitsubishi F-3 is a sixth-generation future fighter aircraft concept derived from the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin experimental aircraft for demonstrating advanced fighter technology.
Not much has been confirmed in terms of the F-3s technology, except that it will be powered by high-thrust XF9-1 jet engines developed by Ishikawajima Heavy Industries. The XF9-1 is of similar design to the US’s F119 jet engine used on the F-22 Raptor. Japanese television footage also revealed Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars for used on the F-3 programme.
“Our F-2 fighters are expected to retire from the late 2030s,” a Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson told Jane’s in February 2019.
“In order to acquire new fighters that are capable of playing a central role in a future networked force…the MoD will promote necessary research and launch, at an early timing, a Japan-led project with the possibility of international collaboration in sight.”
The Mikoyan MiG-41, also referred to as PAK DP, is a Russian interceptor future fighter aircraft concept that would be considered a fifth++ or sixth-generation aircraft upon completion, according to Moscow’s Higher School of Economics defence analyst Vasily Kashin.
Kashin told the National Interest: ““I think that it is something like a fifth++ or sixth gen project. So, we probably should consider it as having the same status as the American, Chinese and European sixth gen projects—something futuristic, which, at best will be deployed by 2035-40.”
The MiG-41 is expected to replace the aging MiG-31, and will reach speeds of at least four times the speed of sound (Mach 4), according to Russia Today, which reported that the MiG-41 could even be used in outer space, though how remains unclear.
In the news article, aviation expert Fabrizio Poli said: “It will have certain elements of artificial intelligence built into the jet, because, obviously, flying at those speeds, the human brain is not capable of thinking that fast. There are a lot of new technologies going to be put into this aircraft, for sure.”
Other speculators say that the plane could come with laser weapons, which will be a common feature of sixth-generation fighter jets, according to Tass News. In the US, two branches of the military are looking to develop sixth-generation future fighter aircraft simultaneously.
The US Navy’s F/A-XX programme, dubbed Next Generation Air Dominance, is looking at creating a new fighter jet to replace the older Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet models, with an in-service date originally planned for 2030. However, according to Popular Mechanics, this date is now unlikely due to the very little information that has been released regarding the F/A-XX thus far.
The Navy has opted for an open architecture design so that the aircraft can be reconfigured for different mission requirements. Moreover, it could be manned, unmanned or both, and should be able to mitigate land, air and sea threats equally, unlike the US Air Force’s (USAF) F-X programme that will prioritise air-to-air superiority.
The USAF’s F-X programme, referred to as Penetrating Counter Air, is another US-based sixth-generation aircraft designed to meet threats the current F-22 and F-15 Eagle cannot.
The F-X programme will not only include the new jet fighter, but also a variety of new capabilities to achieve air superiority. Improvements for the programme will be made in the areas of “basing and logistics, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control” as well as incorporating existing and future electronic warfare and weapons platforms, according to the National Interest.
The final future fighter aircraft on this list is the UK’s Tempest project in development with a consortium led by BAE Systems. It was designed to replace the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) Eurofighter Typhoon from 2035 onwards.
RAF Air Staff chief Sir Stephen Hillier said: “Team Tempest demonstrates our commitment in ensuring that we continue to build our capabilities, draw upon our experience and history to bring forward a compelling vision for the next generation fighter jet. In the last 100 years, the RAF has led the way and today’s announcement is a clear demonstration of what lies ahead.”
Tempest will be able to fly unmanned and new technology will allow the jet fighter to control swarms of drones to help with mission assistance. The Tempest will incorporate artificial intelligence and could be fitted with laser weapons systems, similar to the MiG-41 jet fighter concept.
Under the Cooperative Engagement Capability, the Tempest will be able to share information recorded by its sensors with other aircraft or ground support to better coordinate attacks. It will be powered by an adaptive cycle engine and the pilot’s helmet-mounted display will create a virtual cockpit using augmented reality technology. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
03 June 19. US Army to retrofit Apache helos with underwater crew escape system. The US Army is to retrofit its Boeing AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopters with an underwater escape system for the crew as part of a wider rollout of the aircraft’s maritime capabilities.
The service disclosed on 31 May that it is to issue Boeing with a sole-source contract to fit its AH-64D Apache Longbow and AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters with a new canopy severance device that is known as the Underwater Emergency Egress System (UEES).
The Apache has an explosive canopy fitted as standard to aid a crew escape should the aircraft be forced down over water, although this can only be fired before the aircraft submerges. As noted in the notification, the UEES replaces the current detonation system in door and window locations for the pilot and weapons operator in its entirety.
This upgrade is necessary as, when fitted with the top-heavy mast-mounted fire-control radar, the Apache has a tendency to roll and become inverted quickly. Although an Apache flotation system has been developed and tested by the UK, the upgrade adds weight to the aircraft that could otherwise be given to fuel and ordnance.
While the Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal (ACC-RSA) did not disclose a timeline or contract value, it did note that the initial effort will cover five test UEES kits.
The UEES modification is part of a growing requirement by the US Army to operate its Apaches in the littoral environment, using US Navy (USN) and US Marine Corps (USMC) ships as launch pads. While the Apache is not a bespoke naval platform in the same way as the Bell AH-1Z Viper fielded by the USMC, the army has already rolled out some modifications for the helicopter and its crews to aid with over-water operations. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
04 June 19. Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) and the U.S. Navy completed the final developmental test of the latest generation of the Ship Self Defense System, or SSDS, Integrated Combat System for the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The test was conducted off the coast of California from the Navy’s unmanned Self Defense Test Ship simulating a scenario CVN 78 may encounter once deployed.
During the raid scenario exercise, two anti-ship missile surrogate targets were located, classified, tracked and engaged using the SSDS Integrated Combat System adapted for CVN 78.
“This successful dual-target test demonstrates the maturity of the Ship Self Defense System ICS and paves the way for operational testing to begin,” said Mike Fabel, Raytheon’s SSDS program manager. “SSDS is a critical capability that enables CVN 78 to defend herself and her crew against current and emerging threats.”
The Raytheon Ship Self-Defense System ICS includes:
- Dual Band Radar: This technology searched for, located and tracked the targets. DBR then provided uplink and radar illumination to the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile to support missile guidance.
- Cooperative Engagement Capability, or CEC: The capability validated and processed the Dual Band Radar data for SSDS. CEC is responsible for providing a single, integrated air picture by fusing data from multiple sensors to improve track accuracy.
- Ship Self Defense System: SSDS processed the CEC data, classified the targets, determined the appropriate engagement ranges, passed launch commands to the interceptor missiles, and scheduled Dual Band Radar support for the engagements.
- Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and Rolling Airframe Missile: Successfully engaged and defeated both targets using live and simulated interceptors.
The Ship Self-Defense System ICS for CVN 78 has now successfully engaged three of three targets over the course of its first two test exercises.
Background on SSDS
Proven and deployed, SSDS is an open, distributed combat management system in service on US carriers and amphibious ships, including CVN, LSD, LPD, LHA and LHD classes. SSDS MK 2 is the premier self-defense system for the U.S. Navy. SSDS is integrated with Raytheon’s Cooperative Engagement Capability for the seamless extraction and distribution of sensor-derived information. This further enhances each ship’s anti-air warfare capability through sharing of available data to all participating CEC units, improving situational awareness, increasing range, and enabling cooperative, multiple, or layered engagement strategies.
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.