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28 Dec 20. USAF Research Laboratory issues 17 grants for quantum research. The Air Force Research Laboratory issued 17 grants to scientists and engineers around the world in an attempt to accelerate innovation in quantum information science that can help the U.S. military.
AFRL’s Office of Scientific Research initially solicited white papers on four focus areas: communications, computing, sensing and timing. Ultimately, the office invited 36 submissions originating from 22 different countries to compete in for funding at a three-day virtual pitch competition in September hosted at the Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator. Seventeen participants ultimately applied for and received one-year grants of approximately $75,000 for basic research.
Winning submissions address a wide variety of hard-to-solve problems for the Department of Defense using quantum technologies, including quantum sensors for GPS-denied navigation, an optical atomic clock and quantum computing solutions.
“AFOSR has a long history of collaborating with academia and industry on breakthrough science critical to the future of the Air Force and Space Force capabilities,” said AFOSR Director Shery Welsh. “We are thrilled to have supported the Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator competition as it served as a perfect entry point for us to find talented, entrepreneurial and energetic researchers dedicated to finding creative solutions that go beyond the classical quantum information science (QIS) systems.”
AFRL’s Office of Scientific Research issued the awards, with additional funding provided by AFRL’s Information Directorate, the Office of Naval Research, the Griffiss Institute, the New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation and SUNY Research Foundation.
“We are so grateful to the amazing team at AFRL’s Information Directorate for their dedication to driving quantum science through the cultivation of new partner relationships and the coordination of this very successful event,” said Welsh. “Congratulations to the new grantees — we look forward to the research results generated by this effort.” (Source: Defense News)
24 Dec 20. Preparing for a hydrogen-fuelled future. Paul Adams, director and aerospace & defence sector specialist at top-20 management consultancy, Vendigital examines hydrogen’s potential for transforming the sustainability of modern air travel, and the practical challenges that stand in the way of aviation’s hydrogen-fuelled future.
Recent news that Airbus is preparing to launch a commercial aircraft fuelled entirely by liquid hydrogen by 2035 illustrates how manufacturers are using the forced downtime caused by the pandemic to sharpen their business models and accelerate the way to a greener future. So, why is there so much excitement about hydrogen’s potential for transforming the sustainability of modern air travel, and what practical challenges stand in the way of aviation’s hydrogen-fuelled future?
Investigations into hydrogen as a low-carbon alternative to traditional jet fuels are not limited to the aerospace sector. For example, earlier this year saw the maiden journey of a hydrogen-powered train – a prototype called HydroFLEX – on a section of the UK rail network. The fuel also forms a key part of the Prime Minister’s “10-Point Plan” for a green industrial revolution, with a pledge to introduce a £240m Net Zero Hydrogen Fund and develop 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.
In theory, hydrogen represents an ideal alternative fuel source for commercial flight, as well as being a zero-carbon fuel. Only producing water vapour when burned, it is plentiful and more energy-dense than kerosene. This last point is particularly important given the significant amount of energy required for a turbo jet engine to achieve lift off, and complete its required mileage in a cost-efficient way.
A design rethink
Making its recent announcement of three different aircraft concepts, with the aim of taking to the skies by 2035, Airbus is the first major aerospace player to put solid plans in place for developing hydrogen-fuelled designs. However, it’s important to note that only one of the three concepts would currently be capable of replacing existing long-haul aircraft.
The chemical properties of hydrogen will effectively require OEMs to completely rethink aircraft design if the goal of making the transition to hydrogen fuel is to become a reality. For example, in current aircraft, kerosene is stored predominantly in the wings, where it is also circulated to help balance the plane during flight. However, hydrogen is a highly flammable fuel and aircraft wings are not currently able to store it safely, at a high pressure. This presents the practical challenge of finding another space within the aircraft where the gas could be stored in order to make hydrogen-fuelled flight more viable. Current aircrafts also contain a number of pipelines and other infrastructure that would effectively become redundant following a switch to hydrogen, and there would also be a requirement to replace fuelling infrastructure within airports on a global scale.
In order to achieve a successful switch to hydrogen fuels, the industry will need to develop a new supply chain. This will involve not only finding ways to extract hydrogen en masse, but also techniques for storing it safely. In order to leverage cost efficiencies, OEMs should consider opportunities for cross-industry collaboration in this area, for example, rail depots are also likely to require substantial tanks for hydrogen storage.
Supply chain reaction
When developing supply chains, a key area for the industry to consider will be how to identify potential procurement partners and support them as they scale to become mass production suppliers. Adopting an end-to-end supply chain perspective and making use of digital technologies to improve efficiency levels will be vital, enabling manufacturers take a prototype to production at pace. Rolling out the use of hydrogen fuel will also require the aerospace sector to adopt a new approach to intellectual property (IP). Whereas currently OEMs would expect to hold the majority of IP rights, in the future it will become essential to develop valuable partnerships with industry disruptors, in order to bring new sustainable technologies to market.
It’s important not to shy away from the fact that achieving a more sustainable future for the aerospace sector will come at a cost. In an industry that typically operates on low margins, cost is often a key driver for investment decisions. As such, there will always be a need to balance the speed of reducing emissions against the availability and financial viability of alternative fuel technologies. In practice, this will likely involve the need for government intervention and improved collaboration between policy makers, academics and manufacturers in order to develop green solutions in mass quantities.
Consumer choice will also play an important role in making a green future affordable for the aerospace sector. With the commercial aviation industry driven by price disruptors, such as Ryanair and EasyJet, the willingness of passengers to fund sustainable technologies through higher ticket prices is at the crux of the emissions reduction challenge.
A greener future
Ultimately, the holy grail in realising a greener future for commercial flight is to achieve the highest possible emissions improvements, at the lowest possible cost. While hydrogen may seem like the perfect solution to the industry’s problems, it’s important to bear in mind that often in the transport industry, “ideal” solutions are overlooked in favour of cheaper alternatives. For example, biojet – a subset of fuels that mimics the behaviour of conventional jet fuel – could achieve similar emissions benefits to hydrogen without many of the switching costs involved in upgrading infrastructure.
While the pressure is on for the industry to become zero carbon, the key to achieving this goal will be delivering a financially viable transformation. By investigating a range of zero-carbon technologies, looking for opportunities to collaborate across industries and forming strategic partnerships with industry disruptors, UK aerospace manufacturers can clear the flight path to a more sustainable future. (Source: Google/https://www.aero-mag.com/)
23 Dec 20. Formula 1 vehicle racing digital engineering practices inspire US Air Force’s Roper. The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) acquisition executive is drawing inspiration from a Formula 1 racing team’s digital engineering practices as he tries to apply these concepts to the service’s next-generation aircraft.
Will Roper, USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics (AT&L), said on 18 December that Formula 1 teams perform digital engineering across a racing season from their first conversation. These racing teams, he said, deal with 85% parts obsolescence year to year and digitally design, spiral, and evolve cars around such obstacles. They even optimise their vehicles for individual race tracks.
Roper wants into infuse digital engineering into future USAF aircraft to lower modernisation and sustainment costs while infusing new technologies into weapon systems via rapid prototyping and competition. Instead of making a single downselect before moving into a 30 year acquisition, as is common now, the USAF, with digital engineering, would immediately start new competitions every six to eight years and buy aircraft in smaller lots.
“A Formula 1 race car on the ground is not that different [from] a fighter, it might be as close to a fighter on the ground as you can get,” Roper said during a Defense Writers Group event. “Certainly the competitive nature of racing, and the fact that safety also depends on those designs, align it really well with the USAF mission.” (Source: Jane’s)
23 Dec 20. Four future fighters to watch. A number of defence departments around the world are busy developing the next generation of fighter jets. Harry Lye checks out four of the biggest projects to watch.
Led by the UK, with the help of Italy and Sweden, the Tempest programme aims to start replacing the Eurofighter Typhoon from 2035 onwards. BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo and MBDA are leading the charge on development alongside a host of other aerospace and defence companies and academia.
The aircraft is set to form part of a broader combat air system that will likely include ‘wingman’ uncrewed aerial systems (UAS).
Team Tempest recently revealed some insights into the programme. Leonardo, the Tempest’s electronics lead, is developing a new radar system for the aircraft capable of providing over 10,000 times more data than existing systems. The multi-function radio frequency system is slated as being able to collect data equivalent to the internet traffic of a large city such as Edinburgh every second.
On top of this, BAE Systems has begun flight-testing components for the aircraft’s ‘wearable cockpit’ technology. The system will see physical controls replaced with augmented and virtual reality displays projected directly inside the visor of a helmet.
On the propulsion front, Rolls-Royce is developing advanced combustion system technology to meet the future air system’s power and efficiency needs. Rolls-Royce is also working on composite materials and additive manufacturing techniques which are set to allow for the use of lighter, denser components that can withstand higher temperatures than current components.
Future Combat Air System
A collaboration between France, Germany and Spain led by Dassault Aviation, Airbus and Indra Sistemas is set to replace Rafales, Typhoons and F-18 Hornets for the three countries, respectively.
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) comprises a fighter jet and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will fly alongside it. The programme initially was a joint venture between France and Germany, with Spain joining last year.
FCAS’ technology development and maturation phase began in February and a further contract for a demonstrator phase is under negotiation.
The next-generation fighter is set to feature passive and active stealth technology, with Airbus saying the aircraft would be ‘more sophisticated and connected’ than any comparable aircraft. The three companies are also looking at how directed energy weapons such as lasers and microwave systems can be deployed on the aircraft.
At the core of FCAS is the teaming between a piloted aircraft and UAVs. Alongside the fighter jet, the consortium is developing what it calls remote carriers to act as force multipliers.
The remote carriers will be a family of UAVs, including 200kg disposable systems, two-ton recoverable systems and more traditional UAVs in the form of ‘loyal wingman’ platforms. These force-multiplying UAVs are being designed to fill a full suite of capabilities from target acquisition and electronic warfare to suppression of enemy air defences and striking adversarial targets.
Next-Generation Air Dominance
The US Air Force’s (USAF) head of acquisition Dr Will Roper made headlines in September when he announced that the USAF had already built and flown a full-scale prototype of a future fighter jet.
In an interview ahead of a speech at the Association of the Air Force’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Roper told Defense News: “We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it. We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”
Roper declined to give any concrete details about the jet, which is being built as part of the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme, but said that it would use digital design principles to speed up the development process.
According to a Congressional Research Service document, the Department of Defense had shown interest in developing a new ‘X-Plane’ since 2014; however, it is unclear whether this is linked to the NGAD demonstrator described by Roper. The USAF is exploring a number of technology paths for NGAD, including propulsion technology.
Between 2019 and 2025, the USAF has set aside $9bn for the development of NGAD, with $1bn earmarked to be spent on the programme in 2021.
Like Tempest and FCAS, NGAD is expected to be not just a single fighter, but likely to take the form of a new jet and accompanying UAVs.
Another important aspect of NGAD, according to the Congressional Research Service, is that the USAF is also looking at changing the acquisition process, exploring how design, production and sustainment could be separated. Under these plans, NGAD could be designed by one company, then built by a specialist manufacturer and sustained in the field by another.
Expected to enter service from the mid-2030s, Japan’s F-X fighter is set to replace the country’s fleet of ageing F-2 jets based on the F-16. In October 2020, Japan announced that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries had been selected to lead the development of the country’s future jet.
Japan plans to fly the first prototype in 2028 and hit full-scale production in 2023. Production of the new jet could be worth up to $40bn. It is expected that the F-X jet will draw from technology developed in flying the prototype X-2 jet.
As the other three programmes, Japan’s development effort reportedly also includes a loyal wingman UAV component.
Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and BAE Systems have all shown interest in assisting Japan with the programme, submitting proposals to support the development of the aircraft. BAE Systems has offered a package of integration support, while Boeing has submitted a proposal to support the design and production of the fighter jet. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
22 Dec 20. Wearable connectivity solutions now easier to integrate into flexible structures. Fischer Connectors is enhancing the integration capability of its versatile plug & use Fischer Freedom™ Series. The product line has been extended with new products and accessories allowing design engineers to further optimize cable management in line with their SWaP (size, weight and power) requirements, and integrate low-profile connectors, cable assemblies and active devices easily into all sorts of materials, even the most flexible of fabrics.
The ruggedsewing junction of the new Fischer Freedom™ Quick Detach System allows to easily convert flexible material into a potential panel, e.g., heavy duty tarp cover/tent, sail, vehicle tire blankets, smart backpacks. The system’s adapter and retaining ring facilitate the quick fit and interchange of receptacles.
The new Fischer Freedom™ cabled receptacle in size 08 is a smaller version of the receptacle introduced to the market last year. With a metal housing, four signal and power contact tracks, IP68 sealing and EMI shielding, this new cabled receptacle is ready to use under any conditions, easy to integrate into garments or mount on panels, and quick to fit and remove.
Easy integration: two recent applications
The multiple award-winning Fischer Freedom™ technology platform enables design engineers to integrate more technology and functionality into fixed, portable or wearable devices and ecosystems in markets such as: defense & security, medical, instrumentation, industrial and civil engineering, robotics, wearables, the Internet of Things (IoT). The two following applications recently introduced to the defenseand industrial markets show how the unique features of Fischer Freedom™ – easy 360° mating, easy cleaning, easy integration thanks to low-profile design and ergonomics – benefit OEM integrators.
Wearin’s connected vest (Platinum 2020 Technology Innovators Award) is a centralized, integrated connectivity system featuring six Fischer Freedom™ 7-contact receptacles fitted using the new Quick Detach System. VRaktion’s design engineers have integrated a Fischer Freedom™ 4-contact receptacle in plastic into a smart work shoe using an obstacle warning system with laser sensors.
Fischer Connectors’ press release and HD/web images can be downloaded here (Dropbox).
√ Fischer FreedomTM: www.fischerconnectors.com/global/en/fischer-freedomtm-series
√ Wearin’: www.wearin.tech
√ VRaktion’s smart shoe: Robust connectivity for smart shoes
22 Dec 20. Fast and precise beam-steering mirror position feedback: Kaman’s new KD5100+ offers a high reliability specification for fast beam-steering mirror control systems. Kaman Precision Products Inc, the USA based designer and manufacturer of precision, inductive eddy current position measurement systems for the military/aerospace industries and many other challenging application areas has recently launched a high-reliability version of its fast beam-steering mirror measurement system. Available with full support from Kaman’s UK distribution partner – Ixthus Instrumentation – the upgraded KD-5100+ enables high-precision position feedback for control systems used in mirror steering and scanning tasks for laser communications on satellites and ground stations, airborne and shipborne directed energy systems and image stabilisation systems.
Typical inductive sensor configurations used with the KD-5100+ include Kaman’s 15N or 20N series offering non contacting measurement ranges of +/- 0.9mm and +/- 1.9mm respectively. Arranged in precisely matched pairs on the X and Y mirror axes with each pair acting as a balanced bridge circuit on either side of the mirror, these sensors detect the differential distance as the mirror rotates about its pivot, providing an output voltage from the KD5100+ which is proportional to the mirror’s angular displacement. The resulting resolution and precision for each axis is in the sub-micro radian range – providing the means for exceptional accuracy. The KD5100+ measurement system features an operating temperature range of -20°C to +60°C (sensors are -52°C to +105°C) with excellent thermal and long term stability in a small and easily installed package size. The highly durable measurement system is designed for long trouble-free operational life for maximum high-reliability usage.
The upgraded KD5011+ features an identical Mil-PRF-38534 Class H proprietary hybrid microcircuit as the KD5100 ‘standard’ version with the addition of high-rel diodes and capacitors plus an upgraded aerospace specification for circuit layout, ground connections and sensor connectors. The KD5100 is already providing nanometre level precision for control systems used, for example, in laser focussing for micro-column architecture in semiconductor wafer manufacture as well as precision long-range telescope positioning and many other applications were differential inductive measurement is contributing to an advance in precision measurement technology.
Throughout ISO 9001-200 certified Kaman’s comprehensive range of sensors and measurement systems, customisation is available for application areas as diverse as cryogenics, high-vacuum, radiation tolerance or other severe environment position measurement tasks across all types of industry and research settings. A lower cost industrial specification version for fast beam steering mirror position control, utilising inductive eddy current sensors, is also available as the Kaman DIT-5200. Ixthus Instrumentation provide a complete UK-based service from the first enquiry to delivery and after sales support for Kaman’s specialised range of products.
Bolstering its commitment for aerospace related applications across its wide range of inductive sensors and measurement systems, Kaman recently took affiliate membership with the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) – the USA based organisation that provides support and representation for operators, service providers and equipment suppliers for the commercial satellite industry.
Ixthus works closely with Kaman and other global sensor technology leaders for force, torque and vibration measurement, providing a comprehensive sales and support service at component level or for complete instrumentation systems. Ixthus’ knowledgeable technical staff are on hand to assist with measurement solutions – from the first enquiry, to supply and to after-sales support. For further information please call +44 (0) 1327 353437, email or visit www.ixthus.co.uk. (Source: https://www.mymepax.com/)
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.