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19 Feb 21. UK to launch new research agency to support high risk, high reward science. The Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) will be led by scientists who will have the freedom to identify and fund transformational science and technology at speed.
- UK government will launch the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA), a new independent research body to fund high-risk, high-reward scientific research
- ARIA will be led by prominent, world-leading scientists who will be given the freedom to identify and fund transformational science and technology at speed
- the new agency will help to cement the UK’s position as a global science superpower, while shaping the country’s efforts to build back better through innovation
The UK’s next generation of pioneering inventors will be backed by a new independent scientific research agency, the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has announced today (Friday 19 February), as part of government plans to cement the UK’s position as a global science superpower.
The new agency, the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA), will be tasked with funding high-risk research that offers the chance of high rewards, supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better.
The UK has a long and proud history of inventing that dates back centuries – from Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing who pioneered early predecessors of the computer, Thomas Newcomen and James Watt who transformed travel by creating steam engines, William Grove who created fuel cells and Frank Partridge who helped save millions of lives by developing the first portable defibrillator.
The creation of ARIA will continue this tradition, backed by £800m, to fund the most inspiring inventors to turn their transformational ideas into new technologies, discoveries, products and services – helping to maintain the UK’s position as a global science superpower.
The new agency will be independent of government and led by some of the world’s most visionary researchers who will be empowered to use their knowledge and expertise to identify and back the most ambitious, cutting-edge areas of research and technology – helping to create highly skilled jobs across the country. It will be able to do so with flexibility and speed by looking at how to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and experimenting with different funding models.
ARIA will be based on models that have proved successful in other countries, in particular the influential US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model. This was instrumental in creating transformational technologies such as the internet and GPS, changing the way people live and work, while increasing productivity and growth. More recently, ARPA’s successor, DARPA, was a vital pre-pandemic funder of mRNA vaccines and antibody therapies, leading to critical COVID therapies.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, “From the steam engine to the latest artificial intelligence technologies, the UK is steeped in scientific discovery. Today’s set of challenges – whether disease outbreaks or climate change – need bold, ambitious and innovative solutions.”
Led independently by our most exceptional scientists, this new agency will focus on identifying and funding the most cutting-edge research and technology at speed.
By stripping back unnecessary red tape and putting power in the hands of our innovators, the agency will be given the freedom to drive forward the technologies of tomorrow, as we continue to build back better through innovation.
Central to the agency will be its ability to deliver funding to the UK’s most pioneering researchers flexibly and at speed, in a way that best supports their work and avoids unnecessary bureaucracy. It will experiment with funding models including program grants, seed grants, and prize incentives, and will have the capability to start and stop projects according to their success, redirecting funding where necessary. It will have a much higher tolerance for failure than is normal, recognising that in research the freedom to fail is often also the freedom to succeed.
Science and Innovation Minister Amanda Solloway said, “The UK’s scientific community has a proud history of discovery, producing iconic inventors such as Alan Turing whose imagination and creativity changed the world as we know it. But to rise to the challenges of the 21st century we need to equip our R&D community with a new scientific engine – one that embraces the idea that truly great successes come from taking great leaps into the unknown. ARIA will unleash our most inspirational scientists and inventors, empowering them with the freedom to drive forward their scientific vision and explore game-changing new ideas at a speed like never before. This will help to create new inventions, technologies and industries that will truly cement the UK’s status as a global science superpower.”
Legislation to create the new research agency will be introduced to Parliament as soon as parliamentary time allows. The aim is for it to be fully operational by 2022.
Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance said, “The Advanced Research and Invention Agency will build on the UK’s world-class scientific research and innovation system. The importance of scientific innovation has never been clearer than over the last year and this new body provides an exciting new funding mechanism for pioneering R&D.”
The new body will complement the work of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) while building on the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap published in July 2020. In November 2020, the Spending Review set out the government’s plan to cement the UK’s status as a global leader in science and innovation by investing £14.6bn in R&D in 2021 to 2022, putting the UK on track to reach 2.4% of GDP being spent on R&D across the UK economy by 2027.
A recruitment campaign will begin over the coming weeks to identify a world class interim Chief Executive and Chair to shape the vision, direction and research priorities for the agency.
ARIA will be backed by £800m of government funding over the course of this Parliament, as set out by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the March 2020 Budget.
Matthew Fell, CBI UK Chief Policy Director said, “ARIA will create new opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research. As world leaders in R&D and home to the brightest and best scientists, the UK has a unique opportunity to play to its strength with this new agency, to help create jobs, raise productivity and tackle the biggest challenges facing our country such as net-zero. Key to ARIA’s success will be strong business engagement to make sure the brilliant ideas developed can make it through to market. This a prime chance for business, government and the research and innovation community to work together and turn ambitions into realities. And coalesce around an shared economic vision for the next decade in which innovation will be at the heart of it. The CBI looks forward to engaging with the government as it looks to develop its proposals further.”
Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “We are delighted to see the government deliver on its commitment to a high-risk high-reward funding agency. I hope this ambitious new funding mechanism will help to unlock radical innovation and enable step changes in technology that provides value for our economy and society at large. Engineering is central to an ambitious innovation agency of this kind, forming the bridge between research and innovation to enable technological and commercial breakthroughs.”
Previous comments provided as evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee as part of its formal inquiry into the proposition of a new UK research funding agency include:
There is space in the UK’s research landscape for a new funding agency that supports high risk, high pay off investment. It should be designed to complement the wider system of funding streams that already exist and should be tied closely to a well-funded university research network.
A UK ARPA could facilitate investments in technologies with radical potential that may not otherwise receive support through existing mechanisms. It is important that this differentiated focus is clearly articulated and understood.
Institute of Physics
The ARPA model’s focus on the future would also be a welcome addition to the UK’s R&D funding system, scanning the horizon for areas of research and technology development that may not have an obvious immediate market application but that are likely to benefit the industries of tomorrow, in 10, even 20 years’ time. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Feb 21. Phoenix Plans to Establish Second Neutron Imaging Facility in California. Phoenix, LLC has announced plans to construct a second neutron imaging center near the aerospace, defense and tech hub of the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California to address the regional demand for commercially available neutron radiography services. This announcement follows the success of the company’s first Phoenix Neutron Imaging Center, or PNIC, in Fitchburg, WI, which opened in the fall of 2019. PNIC is one of the only sites in the world to offer production-scale, high-quality neutron radiography (N-ray), a powerful industrial nondestructive testing method for quality assurance, R&D, and failure analysis. Unlike most other N-ray providers, Phoenix utilizes proprietary accelerator-based neutron generator technology as the source of neutrons for the N-ray processes.
The planned west-coast neutron imaging facility would provide a variety of key aerospace and defense nondestructive testing (NDT) services including thermal neutron radiography (film and digital), fast neutron radiography, thermal and fast neutron computed tomography (CT), X-ray imaging, X-ray CT, radiation effects testing, and neutron activation analysis. The facility is expected to further grow Phoenix’s employee base, with future potential to expand beyond a dedicated NDT service center into a regional manufacturing and engineering hub that will attract top talent from the California and West Coast university system to support Phoenix’s growing company charter.
The facility plans to support the growing US space and defense sector by providing critical inspection capabilities to energetic device manufacturers such as Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company (PacSci EMC). Energetic devices are crucial for aircraft, spacecraft and satellites, acting as the catalysts of ejection, payload separation, and explosive signal transfer systems, and so the ability to reliably and nondestructively inspect them using neutron imaging is paramount.
“PacSci EMC is committed to the highest levels of safety and quality in all our products. We use nondestructive inspection techniques such as neutron imaging to ensure our products perform exactly as designed. We’re pleased that Phoenix has chosen the Bay Area as a location for its next neutron imaging facility, as it fills a critical gap in the defense and aerospace nondestructive testing industrial base,” says PacSci EMC President Greg Scaven.
“Placing a new Phoenix neutron imaging center on the West Coast would allow Phoenix to better provide new and existing clients in critical industries access to this important technology that helps ensure their products are free from potentially catastrophic defects, significantly improving the security of a critical defense supply chain,” says Phoenix president Dr. Evan Sengbusch.
About Neutron Imaging
Neutron imaging, or N-ray, is a form of radiography similar to X-ray imaging except with neutron radiation, a form of penetrating radiation comprised of neutral particles, instead of X-radiation. Due to the unique properties of neutron radiation, N-ray is a powerful complementary industrial imaging tool that can often find details about a part’s inner structure that X-ray on its own might overlook. For example, in internal structures of components with very dense outer shells surrounding lighter material, which X-rays typically have a difficulty capturing on film, can be far more easily examined with N-ray.
Neutron imaging is a critical nondestructive testing tool in key niches within the aerospace and defense manufacturing industries, such as the manufacture of energetic devices (ejection and payload separation mechanisms, explosive signal transfer systems, munitions, etc.) and jet engine turbine blades, for which it is the most reliable method of detecting certain potentially catastrophic flaws. For the past half century, these manufacturers have had to rely primarily on reactor facilities for their neutron imaging capabilities in order to perform necessary quality assurance on high-volume products with extremely low margins for error. Reactor facilities offering neutron imaging services, however, have been steadily decreasing in number over the past few decades, necessitating the need for new powerful neutron sources to mitigate and prevent future supply chain issues caused by reactor shutdowns and decommissions, temporary or otherwise.
Since 2012, Phoenix, LLC. has been designing and developing powerful, compact neutron generators for neutron imaging, radiation effects and survivability testing, and neutron activation analysis. Rather than producing neutron radiation through nuclear fission, which requires fissile material and produces heavy, long-lived radioactive byproducts, Phoenix uses particle accelerators to produce neutron radiation. Phoenix relies on this accelerator-driven method of neutron production to provide fast and thermal neutron imaging, matching reactor-driven neutron imaging facilities for image quality and throughput. Phoenix maintains an ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100 Rev D (2016) certified quality management system as well as NAS-410 certified nondestructive testing personnel. (Source: PR Newswire)
17 Feb 21. Convertible jet design backed by RAF might just have wings. The RAF has backed a British company to develop an aircraft that can be converted from a trainer to a faster, more aggressive jet by swapping out its engines and wings.
Aeralis, based in Suffolk, has been given £200,000 by the force to develop its “revolutionary” modular plane, which it says would be the first fully developed in Britain since the Hawk was launched in 1974.
The two-seater aircraft will have at least three variants based around the same fuselage but fitted with different engine and wing configurations: a basic trainer, a speedier, more manoeuvrable fighter-style plane and a reconnaissance model with long wings and a more efficient engine.
Tristan Crawford, Aeralis chief executive, said the project could help the RAF rationalise its future fleets and reduce the number of different aircraft.
“We can put different wings on and different engines on so that it becomes a basic trainer for example, so it flies more slowly and it’s more easy to fly — like the flying equivalent of a family car,” he said.
“Then you can put more swept wings on it and a more powerful engine so you can fly faster but it’s more demanding to fly . . . so then you’re into your sort of Porsche.”
The fuselage stays the same for each design. Then different kinds of wings and engine units are bolted on to create the various options. The third option involves longer wings for surveillance missions, and Aeralis is also exploring a fourth option that will be unmanned and used as a fast-attack drone.
The aircraft will primarily be used for all kinds of training from basic to Top Gun-style combat exercises.
In another scenario, Crawford said that the aircraft could also be used as a tanker, a “flying petrol station”, which could refuel swarms of small drones under development for the military.
Crawford, an aircraft design engineer, said that every component would come from British companies. “The last time Britain developed its own crewed military aircraft fully in Britain was 1974 with the Hawk. Everything else that has come afterwards has had to rely on some kind of overseas partnership to make it happen,” he said.
Aeralis has been granted the £200,000 for this financial year from the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office, which aims to develop innovative thinking and novel ideas. The RAF said there were no plans to replace the Hawk training aircraft.
Air Marshal Richard Knighton, deputy chief of the defence staff, said: “This private aircraft company is adopting an innovative approach that I have not seen before in the combat air sector.” (Source: The Times)
17 Feb 21. Israel Shipyards Will Showcase for the First Time at NAVDEX its Transfer of Technology (TOT) Concept.
The Company will also present its Portfolio of Vessels for Military, Law Enforcement & HLS Markets.
NAVDEX 2021 Abu Dhabi, UAE, February 21-25, Stand B-O35
Israel Shipyards Ltd. – a leading shipbuilding and repair company in the Eastern Mediterranean serving naval and commercial marine markets – will showcase for the first time at NAVDEX its Transfer of Technology (TOT) concept. The company will also present its portfolio of vessels for the Military, Law Enforcement, and HLS markets.
Israel Shipyards provides customers around the world with TOT services, delivered at a logistical and engineering level by the company’s highly skilled and experienced training teams. The goal is to create, by the end of the process, a professional team with expert craftsmanship capabilities that can independently build and maintain seagoing vessels without the need for external support. These programs increase regional independence, enable local teams to provide Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services, and create numerous local employment opportunities.
The company also offers support services following completion of the TOT process, if needed. Reflecting a high level of versatility, Israel Shipyards creates customized turnkey projects ‒ individually designed service kits for each customer ‒ according to their defined needs and capabilities. Training time depends on the type of training and the qualifications of the employees, with training of engineers typically taking up to six months, while training of production workers requires up to four months.
In addition to its TOT services, Israel Shipyards will also present its portfolio of vessels. The SHALDAG Family of Fast Patrol Craft (FPC) includes vessels ranging in size from 25-33m, providing outstanding maneuverability and minimal draft, which are designed for coastal protection as well as rivers and the defense of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The company’s Family of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), the most advanced and cost-effective available, include a range of vessels from 45-72m, designed primarily for coastal protection, drilling rigs, and offshore facilities. Its multi-mission SAAR Corvettes are designed for open sea patrol and surveillance, as well as protection of maritime sovereignty and offshore facilities and Search and Rescue operations.
Regarding the company’s participation at NAVDEX, Israel Shipyards’ CEO, Eitan Zucker, said, “We are pleased to present the company’s solutions at this important exhibition. We are confident that the wide-ranging portfolio of vessels we will showcase will help secure maritime borders in the area, and that the knowledge transfer services and additional options provided by our company are relevant, cost-effective solutions for these challenging times and for the future.”
About Israel Shipyards Ltd.
Israel Shipyards Ltd. is one of the largest privately owned shipbuilding and repair facilities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The manufacturing and repair plant is spread over 330,000 sq. meters with 45,000 sq. meters of under-roof facilities and a wharf length of 900 meters. Israel Shipyards operates a syncrolift with 3000 tons of lifting capacity and has a total berthing area length of 1000 meters with 12 meters of water depth. The company’s main offerings cover SAAR class missile corvettes including SAAR 4, SAAR 4.5 and SAAR S-72, Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), Fast Patrol Craft including SHALDAG MK II – MK V, commercial ships, tugboats, and multipurpose boats. Over the past decades, the company has built and delivered a large number of these vessels, which are in active service in the Israeli Navy as well as in the navies, coast guards, and law enforcement authorities of countries around the world. Israel Shipyards employs about 500 people, including more than 35 engineers in the design department. Its management is comprised of highly experienced and skilled professionals with extensive naval and technical backgrounds.
17 Feb 21. Australia funds $1.6m in tech research projects. The federal government has awarded grants to five Australian-led research groups in a bid to accelerate the development of advanced military technology.
The Morrison government has issued just under $1.6m in research funding to five locally-based organisations, in an effort to accelerate the integration of advanced materials into defence platforms.
The projects, which form part of a joint-initiative between Australia and the UK, will be funded by Australia’s Next Generation Technologies Fund under the Small Business Innovation Research for Defence (SBIRD) initiative.
This is in addition to $1.6m in SBIRD funding already provided to Australian-led research groups.
A total of 14 organisations applied for funding, responding to the four capability challenges listed by Australia and the UK.
The five successful applicants include:
- Western Sydney University, Imperial College London, Metrologi, UNSW and Airbus Australia Pacific — awarded $348,204 to research the use of nanotechnology in more durable bonded joints;
- Qinetiq Australia and RMIT — awarded $349,317 to develop a modelling framework supporting the use of Multi-functional Shape Memory Alloy Tufted Composite Joints (MuST) technology;
- University of New South Wales, Imperial College London, Advanced Composite Structures Australia — awarded $349,946 to research the use of advanced materials in more effective armour;
- RMIT University and BAE Systems— awarded $330,500 to develop more effective metal-to-composite hybrid joints through the use of advanced materials; and
- University of Adelaide, Research Institute of Saint-Louis (ISL – France) and Materials Science Institute — awarded $209,510 to develop improved means of examining areas where adhesives have been used in ageing military platforms.
“Joint research such as this not only strengthens our bilateral defence relationship but provides support and opportunities to each country’s respective defence industries to overcome the capability challenges we face,” Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said.
“Our aim is to give the men and women of both defence forces a competitive advantage, and this program will be a further important step in achieving that aim.”
Minister Price noted the importance of industry partners for both Australia and the UK’s defence forces.
“Through initiatives such as this, the Morrison government is committed to providing the best capability possible to the men and women who serve our nation,” she added.
“Australia’s academics and small business sector have a wealth of talent and innovative expertise and the Next Generation Technologies Fund program is designed to draw out the best ideas to support our Defence capability.”
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, supported by the Materials for Strategic Advance Program, is leading the initiative in the UK.
The competition for projects was managed by the UK’s Defence and Security Accelerator and funded co-operatively by both nations. (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Feb 21. Pentagon acting CIO pushes on with cybersecurity, software development. The U.S. Department of Defense is forging ahead with IT projects despite the absence of a Senate-confirmed chief information officer, grappling with cybersecurity after a government hack and a cloud infrastructure with an uncertain future.
Leading the efforts in an acting capacity until President Joe Biden settles on the next CIO is John Sherman, the principal deputy under former DoD CIO Dana Deasy. He told C4ISRNET that he’s “not just keeping the seat warm here.”
Though it’s uncertain how long he’ll hold the job, cybersecurity is his top priority in the aftermath of the SolarWinds breach discovered in December that infected networks across the federal government, he said.
Sherman, who led major IT initiatives for three years as CIO of the intelligence community, will also carry on efforts to implement the DoD’s 2019 digital modernization strategy.
“One of my main areas is keeping up the press on all of our key initiatives that did start with our digital modernization strategy,” said Sherman, who served about seven months as Deasy’s top deputy.
Here are four pressing issues he faces.
JEDI: Not afraid to make big decisions
In a recent memo to Congress, the Defense Department disclosed that its enterprise cloud procurement, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, is potentially on the chopping block, pending a decision in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
The court is set to rule on a request to dismiss allegations of political interference by former President Donald Trump in the JEDI cloud award to Microsoft in 2019. If the court allows the case to continue forward, that would “bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question,” the memo said.
While Sherman would not discuss the future of the DoD’s cloud environment if JEDI fails, he said that any major decision needed on the project likely wouldn’t wait for a permanent chief information officer.
“My view is to work closely with DoD leadership on this, and while I’m vested with the acting role, we can’t wait, whether it’s on a big decision like that [JEDI] or other big decisions that may not be of a procurement nature,” Sherman said.
Top DoD technology officials have long asserted the pressing need for an enterprise cloud capability for artificial intelligence and other advanced computing.
Increased cybersecurity worries
Remote working during the pandemic accelerated the DoD’s goal to adopt a zero-trust cybersecurity architecture with strict identity verification requirements. Then, the federal breach through vendor software and other entry methods added to the need for innovation in the department’s cybersecurity.
“One of my key areas is to really increase our focus on zero trust and to maintain our strong focus on cyber hygiene and cyber accountability,” Sherman said.
He wants to work with Cyber Command, the military departments and Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network to clearly identify needed investments to enable zero trust, he said.
Sherman will help the department continue to navigate its cultural shift away from perimeter defenses to an in-depth approach to strengthen cybersecurity. He wants the department to move away from signature-based analytics to behavior-based, segment networks better, and increase identity, credential and access management capabilities.
“I want to flesh out even more the steps we need to take and the investments we’re going to have to make in the near term,” Sherman said. “Especially as we do the FY23 [fiscal 2023 appropriations] bill … what [do] we need to do to really flesh out those other areas of segmentation, do even more on ICAM [and] do even more on behavioral based analysis.”
Improving software development
Under Sherman, the department’s top IT office is committed to “really furthering” cloud-enabled software development using the service’s fit-for-purpose clouds, such as the Air Force’s Cloud One or milCloud 2.0.
“Our job … [is] really to synchronize and accelerate that [software development], really being the shepherd,” Sherman said.
Software development is critical to modernizing legacy platforms, advancing weapons systems and developing artificial intelligence tools. Because of the delay to the general-purpose JEDI cloud, organizations like the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center have had to use the Air Force’s Cloud One for computing needs.
To ensure the department is delivering needed tools for the future fight, “we’re going to have to be even more agile on areas like software development and procurement,” Sherman said, echoing statements from Kathleen Hicks, the new deputy defense secretary, at her confirmation hearing.
“If cloud is our jet engine or car engine, data is … our high-octane fuel; we’re going to need to really unlock the power of that computing capability,” Sherman said. “Which by the way, the software that we’re going to either purchase or write is going to have to leverage to do what it needs to do, as will AI algorithms.”
Focus on the pandemic
The DoD has renewed its focus on COVID-19 concerns as President Biden and his Pentagon team take over, Sherman said. For him and the DoD IT team, that means continuing efforts to enable remote work, Sherman said.
“Our telework capabilities for the department I see as a critical piece of that COVID response,” he said.
The department will continue with plans to roll out a new, permanent collaboration platform with higher cybersecurity standards than the current solution, the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment. The platform for video conferencing and file sharing recently surpassed 1.4 million users, Sherman noted. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
17 Feb 21. Japan and UK move towards partnership to develop combat-aircraft systems. A surprising defence-technology partnership is emerging between Japan and the UK. The cooperation is mostly preliminary but not at all basic: the two countries are working together on some of the most challenging systems used in combat aircraft. And there’s good reason to think they’ll pool resources on more such programs.
For Japan, the UK is an obvious high-capability partner for technology areas in which the US will not share its knowhow. The British no doubt see Japan as an alternative to France and Germany for sharing development costs, especially in the combat-aircraft field. Here and there, we also see signs that Japan has technology that the British would regard as valuable.
This development should be welcomed by anyone who wants to see a stronger Japan, one that gets more capability from its defence budget.
On 2 February, the UK and Japanese governments made what appears to have been their first mention of an ambitious potential joint project that Tokyo had briefly discussed in Japanese text in 2018. Called ‘Jaguar’, it’s officially said to be a universal radio-frequency (RF) system. It would presumably be intended for the Japanese F-X and UK-led Tempest fighter programs.
Separately, Japan revealed in September that it and the UK had been working together on a powerful radar technology; we can assume this would be integral to Jaguar. The UK and Japan are also cooperating on developing an advanced version of a far-flying air-to-air missile. And Rolls-Royce has proposed cooperative development of a single engine type for the F-X and Tempest programs, which are running on somewhat parallel timescales.
All of this wouldn’t have been imaginable only a few years ago, when Japan basically didn’t cooperate with anyone in developing defence equipment. The sudden partnership with Britain has become possible because in 2014 Japan began to emerge from its military-technology shell. In that year it ended a self-imposed ban on arms exports, which had largely prevented it from joining collaborative programs.
A country can hardly cooperate in developing and making defence systems if it can’t send defence parts to the partner. So Japan has often wasted defence funds by working on technologies that friendly countries were also developing. We can now expect the Japanese defence-technology budget to stretch further.
In fact, a crack appeared in the export ban in 2013, when the government allowed Kawasaki Heavy Industries to send engine parts to Rolls-Royce for the Royal Navy. They were parts designed by Rolls-Royce, but the UK propulsion giant had stopped making them. The Royal Navy still needed them, so Japan agreed to supply—causing a few eyebrows to rise.
Before this there had been one, much larger exception to the export ban: Japan worked with the US in developing the Raytheon SM-3 Block 2A anti-ballistic-missile interceptor.
We might imagine that the US would be Japan’s preferred partner for just about any defence-technology effort—and indeed it would be, if only it were willing to share its secrets. In general, the US prefers to pay the whole cost of its most advanced work, initially keeping the resulting capability to itself and often not letting even close allies know what it’s up to.
That policy left Japan with only two strong alternatives: the UK and France. It may have preferred the UK not only because of specific technological strengths but also because of the unusually close UK military connection with the US. The choice doesn’t stop Japan from working with other countries, and indeed since 2014 it has done a little defence research with France and (in relation to marine hydrography) Australia.
The ambition of Jaguar development, which is subject to an ongoing UK–Japanese feasibility study, shows how high Tokyo is aiming in international collaboration. Jaguar would be an advanced piece of kit. Since it is described as a ‘universal’ system, it would probably be a four-in-one set-up, combining the functions of radar, passive radio-frequency detection, jamming and communications. Japan first outlined ambitions for just such an apparatus in 2004.
Traditionally, a separate system provides each of those four functions in an aircraft, though they have always had to be designed not to interfere with each other and there has been a trend towards integration, notably in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning. Consolidating functions can reduce bulk and weight—for example, by sharing antennas—but the integrated system is necessarily complex and difficult to engineer.
A project on radar antenna design also reveals the scale of ambition in UK–Japanese work. The two countries have already been working together in this area, on a specific technology called element-level digital beam forming, or DBF. This concept has been applied to surface radars (reportedly including the Australian CEA Technologies radars on Anzac-class frigates) but not to aircraft radars, which is where Japan and the UK want to take it.
With element-level DBF, the entire face of an antenna can constantly receive signals in many directions, limited mainly by processing power. More conventional radars look in different directions sequentially or by splitting their antennas into segments; either way, they lose sensitivity. A radar that continuously receives in many directions has longer range and a better chance of picking up stealthy targets.
Japan has strong radar technology. It was the first country to field a radar with an active, electronically scanned array in a fighter: the Mitsubishi Electric J/APG-1 in the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries F-2, which entered service in 2000. Japan may also be the first to put that high-performance technology into the seeker of an air-to-air missile. For that job, it has chosen to modify the MBDA Meteor, a ramjet weapon that has been developed in a multinational program led by the UK. The British are helping with the upgrade. (They also provide test ranges far removed from Chinese electromagnetic listening gear.)
Although Rolls-Royce is one of the world’s three main aero-engine companies (the other two are American), it could probably learn a thing or two from Japan. In preparing for the F-X program, Japan has been working on identifying materials that can cope with extremely high temperatures, which would improve efficiency, and on squeezing down the diameter of a fighter engine to reduce drag.
As for other systems that could go into both the F-X and Tempest, Japan and the UK are still talking. Lockheed Martin will be Mitsubishi’s overall technological supporter for the F-X, helped by Northrop Grumman. But the program will run into the problem that the US companies can’t share all the information that Japan needs. Again, the solution may come from the other island nation that flanks Eurasia. (Source: News Now/https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/)
15 Feb 21. International Space Station Tests Virus-fighting Surface Coating Developed by Boeing, University of Queensland. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are conducting experiments with an antimicrobial surface coating designed to fight the spread of bacteria and viruses, including the Earth-bound SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Developed by Boeing [NYSE: BA] and The University of Queensland (UQ), the joint research project was tested aboard Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator last year as part of the company’s Confident Travel Initiative.
“While testing continues on orbit and on Earth, we’re encouraged by the preliminary results of the antimicrobial chemical compound,” said Mike Delaney, Boeing’s chief aerospace safety officer. “There is the potential for broad-based applicability for a surface coating like this when used in conjunction with other measures to prevent disease transmission.”
The ISS experiment tests two identical sets of objects, including an airplane seat buckle, fabric from airplane seats and seat belts, and parts of an armrest and a tray table. One set received the antimicrobial surface coating, the other did not. ISS crew members are touching both sets of objects every few days to transfer microbes naturally occurring on human skin; no microbe samples were sent to the station for this experiment. Later this year, the test objects will be returned to Earth for analysis at Boeing’s labs to measure the effectiveness of the surface coating in a space environment.
“After years of development, it is truly exciting to see our research in space,” said Professor Michael Monteiro from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. “The primary purpose of our antimicrobial coating was to help protect space missions. After the current pandemic struck, we modified the coating’s formula to also target the COVID-19 virus if it is present on a surface on Earth. We look forward to continuing our testing regimen and working to gain regulatory approvals.”
An antimicrobial surface coating in a spacecraft could help ensure the health of the crew and protect the spacecraft’s systems from bacteria – and ultimately may help prevent interplanetary contamination from Earth-borne or another planet’s microbes.
Boeing was selected by NASA as the prime contractor for the ISS in 1993. Since then, Boeing has provided round-the-clock engineering support – maintaining the station at peak performance levels through dynamic missions and ensuring that the full value of the unique research laboratory is available to NASA, its international partners and private companies for years to come.
Since 2003, Boeing and The University of Queensland have collaborated on a broad portfolio of joint research and development projects. In 2017, the Brisbane-based Boeing Research & Technology engineers relocated to the university in a first-of-its-kind partnership for the company’s Asia-Pacific region.
The Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at UQ has been a driver for multidisciplinary research to tackle global problems. The AIBN houses over 400 researchers across a wide range of scientific disciplines.
Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes, defense, space and security systems, and global services. As a top U.S. exporter, the company supports commercial and government customers in more than 150 countries. Building on a legacy of aerospace leadership, Boeing continues to lead in technology and innovation, deliver for its customers and invest in its people and future growth.
16 Feb 21. BAE Systems taps SA firm to support frigate, subs programs. The global defence prime has selected a South Australia-based technology company to support its suite of projects, including the Hunter Class frigate program.
BAE Systems has announced that 3D volumetric display technology developed by South Australian company Voxon Photonics will be leveraged to support its UK-based submarine business and the Australian Hunter Class frigate program.
Voxon has been tasked with delivering its bespoke displays to provide 3D visualisation to test situational awareness, systems integration and specialist engineering design applications.
This comes just months after Voxon, along with BAE Systems, Flinders University and the University of South Australia, was awarded a Defence Innovation Partnership grant to support the advancement of the technology.
Voxon is now expected to focus on scalability, ruggedisation and specific operating functions, designed to have multiple applications across all Defence domains.
BAE Systems first partnered with Voxon at the Hunter Class Innovation showcase in Melbourne in 2019, with the Global Access Program team already supporting engagement opportunities with potential users, including the research and development team within BAE Systems’ UK Submarines business.
“Our collaboration with Voxon has and will continue to explore opportunities for the integration of the company’s technology across our programs and has the potential to significantly influence a suite of sovereign industrial capability priorities aligning with key objectives of the global supply chain program,” BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan said.
“The Global Access Program is providing ongoing support to Voxon and has also implemented new initiatives that will expedite Voxon’s research and development efforts.”
Voxon CEO Gavin Smith added, “Voxon would like to acknowledge the support that BAE Systems has given to specialist SMEs like ourselves via the Australian industry Global Access Program team.
“The team has been highly engaged with us from the beginning and established connections for us with the broader BAE Systems international business.” (Source: Defence Connect)
12 Feb 21. The tiny tech lab that put AI on a spyplane has another secret project. When Will Roper, then the Air Force’s top acquisition official, visited Beale Air Force Base in California last fall, he issued a challenge to the U-2 Federal Laboratory, a five-person organization founded in October 2019. The team was established to create advanced technologies for the venerable Lockheed Martin U-2 spyplane, and Roper wanted to push the team further.
“He walked into the laboratory and held his finger out and pointed directly at me,” recalled Maj. Ray Tierney, the U-2 pilot who founded and now leads the lab. “He said, ‘Ray, I got a challenge.’ We didn’t even say hello.”
Roper, a string theorist turned reluctant government bureaucrat who was known for his disruptive style and seemingly endless references to science-fiction, wanted the team to update the U-2′s software during a flight. It was a feat the U.S. military had never accomplished, but to Tierney’s exasperation, Roper wanted only to know how long it would take for the lab to pull off.
The answer, it turns out, was two days and 22 hours.
A month later, in mid-November, Roper laid out a second challenge: Create an AI copilot for the U-2, a collection of algorithms that would be able to learn and adapt in a way totally unlike the mindlessness of an autopilot that strictly follows a preplanned route.
That task took a month, when an AI entity called Artuμ (pronounced Artoo, as in R2-D2 of Star Wars fame) was given control of the U-2′s sensors and conveyed information about the location of adversary missile launchers to the human pilot during a live training flight on Dec. 15.
Now, the U-2 Federal Laboratory is at work again on another undisclosed challenge. Tierney and Roper declined to elaborate on the task in interviews with Defense News. But Roper acknowledged, more broadly, that a future where AI copilots regularly fly with human operators was close at hand.
“Artuμ has a really good chance of making it into operations by maybe the summer of this year,” Roper told Defense News before his Jan. 20 departure from the service. “I’m working with the team on how aggressive is the Goldilocks of being aggressive enough? The goal is fairly achievable, but still requires a lot of stress and effort.”
In order to ready Artuμ for day-to-day operations, the AI entity will be tested in potentially ms of virtual training missions — including ones where it faces off against itself. The Air Force must also figure out how to certify it so that it can be used outside of a test environment, Roper said.
“The first time we fly an AI in a real operation or real world mission — that’s the next big flag to plant in the ground,” Roper said. “And my goal before I leave is to provide the path, the technical objectives, the program approach that’s necessary to get to that flag and milestone.”
Meanwhile, the team has its own less formal, longer-term challenge: How do you prove to a giant organization like the Air Force, one that is full of bureaucracy and thorough reviews, that a small team of five people can quickly create the innovation the service needs?
No regulations, no rules
During a Dec. 22 interview, Tierney made it clear that he had little interest in discussing what the U-2 Federal Lab is currently working on. What he wanted to promote, he said, was the concept of how federal laboratories could act as innovation pressure chambers for the military — a place where operators, scientists and acquisition personnel would have the freedom to create without being hamstrung by red tape.
For those immersed in military technology, focusing on the promise of federal laboratories can seem like a bit of a letdown, if not outright academic, especially when compared to a discussion about the future of artificial intelligence. The U.S. government is rife with organizations — often named after tired Star Wars references that would make even the most enthusiastic fanboy cringe — created in the name of fostering innovation and rapidly developing new technologies. Many of those advances never make it over the “valley of death” between when a technology is first designed and when it is finally mature enough to go into production.
Ultimately, that’s the problem the U-2 Federal Lab was created to solve.
As a federally accredited laboratory, the team is empowered to create a technology, test it directly with users, mature it over time, and graduate it into the normal acquisition process at Milestone B, Tierney said. At that stage, the product is ready to be treated as a program of record going through the engineering and manufacturing development process, which directly precedes full-rate production.
“We’re basically front loading all the work so that when we hand it to the acquisition system, there’s no work left to do,” Tierney said. The lab essentially functions as a “blue ocean,” as an uncontested market that does not normally exist in the acquisition system, he explained. “There’s no regulations; there’s no rules.”
While that might sound similar to organizations the Air Force has started to harness emerging technologies, such as its Kessel Run software development factory, Tierney bristled at the comparison.
“We’re basically developing on the weapon system, and then working our way back through the lines of production, as opposed to a lot of these organizations like Kessel Run, which is developing it on servers and server environments,” he said.
That distinction is critical when it comes to bringing modern software technologies to an aging platform like the U-2, an aircraft that took its first flight in 1955 and is so idiosyncratic that high speed muscle cars are needed to chase the spyplane and provide situational awareness as it lands.
Because the team works only with the U-2, they understand the precise limitations of the weapon system, what its decades-old computers are capable of handling, and how to get the most out of the remaining space and power inside the airplane.
Besides Tierney, there are only four other members of the U-2 Federal Lab: a National Guardsman with more than a decade of experience working for IBM, and three civilians with PhDs in machine learning, experimental astrophysics and applied mathematics. (The Air Force declined to provide the names of the other employees from the lab.)
As the lone member of the team with experience flying the U-2, Tierney provides perspective on how the aircraft is used operationally and what types of technologies rank high on pilots’ wish lists. But what most often drives the team are the projects that can make the biggest impact — not just for the U-2, but across the whole Defense Department.
Making it work
One of those projects was an effort to use Kubernetes, a containerized system that allows users to automate the deployment and management of software applications, onboard a U-2. The technology was originally created by Google and is currently maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
“Essentially, what it does is it federates or distributes processing between a bunch of different computers. So you can take five computers in your house and basically mush them all together into one more powerful computer,” Tierney said.
The idea generated some resistance from other members of the lab, who questioned the usefulness of deploying Kubernetes to the U-2′s simple computing system.
“They said, ‘Kubernetes is useless to us. It’s a lot of extra processing overhead. We don’t have enough containers. We have one processing board, [so] what are you distributing against? You got one computer,’” Tierney said. But a successful demonstration, held in September, proved that it was possible for even a 1950s-era aircraft to run Kubernetes, opening the door for the Defense Department to think about how it could be used to give legacy platforms more computing power.
It also paved the way for the laboratory to do something the Air Force had long been aiming to accomplish: update an aircraft’s code while it was in flight.
“We wanted to show that a team of five in two days could do what the Department of Defense has been unable to do in its history,” Tierney said. “Nobody helped us with this; there was no big company that rolled in. We didn’t outsource any work, it was literally and organically done by a team of five. Could you imagine if we grew the lab by a factor of two or three or four, what that would look like?”
The lab has also created a government-owned open software architecture for the U-2, a task that took about three months and involved no additional funding. Once completed, the team was able to integrate advanced machine learning algorithms developed by Sandia National Laboratories in less than 30 minutes.
“That’s my litmus test for open architecture,” Tierney said. “Go to any provider that says I have open architecture, and just ask them two questions. How long is it going to take you to integrate your service? And how much is it going to cost? And if the answer isn’t minutes and free, it’s not quite as open as what people want.”
The U-2 Federal Lab hopes to export the open architecture system to other military aircraft and is already in talks with several Air Force and Navy program offices on potential demonstrations.
Could the Air Force create other federal laboratories to create specialized tech for other aircraft? The U-2 lab was designed from the outset to be franchisable, but Tierney acknowledged that much of the success of future organizations will rest in the composition of the team and the level of expertise of its members.
“Can it scale? Absolutely. How does it scale is another question,” Tierney said. “Do you have one of these for every weapon system? Do you have just a couple sprinkled throughout the government? Does it proliferate en masse? Those are all questions that I think, largely can be explored.”
For now, it’s unclear whether the Air Force will adopt this framework more widely. The accomplishments of the U-2 Federal Laboratory have been lauded by Air Force leaders such as Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, who in December wrote on Twitter that the group “continue[s] to push the seemingly impossible.”
However, it remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will give the lab the champion it found in Roper, and continued pressure on the defense budget — and to retire older aircraft like the U-2 — could present greater adversity for the lab.
But as for the other challenge, the one Tierney and Roper didn’t want to discuss, Tierney offered only a wink as to what comes next:
“What I can say is that the future is going to be an interesting one.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
09 Feb 21. US defense department certifies Sagetech MX12B micro IFF transponder. The US Department of Defense (DoD) AIMS Program Office has awarded Sagetech Avionics’ MX12B micro Mode 5 Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) transponder the DoD 17-1000 Mark XIIB certification. This newly certified transponder enables NATO and allied militaries to deploy Mode 5 IFF capability on small drones, protecting the warfighter against rapidly increasing unmanned threats from enemy forces.
According to a Sagetech press release, the new MX12B is among the smallest certified Mode 5 IFF transponders, delivering 100% of the Mode 5 functionality from a package that is 93% smaller than traditional certified transponders. All functionality is integrated into a single unit applicable to both unmanned and manned aircraft. Features include:
- World’s first full certification to DoD AIMS 17-1000 Mark XIIB
- Compliant with STANAG 4193 NATO IFF
- Military Modes 1, 2, 3, 5 (Levels 1 & 2), upgradeable to Level 2-B Out
- Crypto compatibility per AIMS 04-900(A), Option B (KIV-77, SIT2010)
- Civil Modes A, C, S per RTCA/DO-181E
- Integrated ADS-B In per RTCA/DO-260B
- ADS-B Out per RTCA/DO-260B
- Full power per AIMS 17-1000
- Native antenna diversity for full visibility by space-based and ground-based ADS-B systems, configurable for single antenna installations
- Flexible I/O: Ethernet, RS-422, RS-232
- 93% smaller than competitive products: 3.4″ H x 2.5″ W x 1.0″ D (86 x 64 x 25 mm)
- Weight: 6.7 oz. (190g)
- Environmental screening: RTCA DO-160G, MIL-STD-461F, MIL-STD-810G
- Included command and control software
- ADS-B In situational awareness data visualization software available
- Test and integration kits including test box and KIV emulator also available.
Over the past year, Sagetech has successfully performed live demonstrations of the MX12B interoperating with multiple crypto computers at the US Navy IMPAX 2020 event, for the U.S Army, and for major OEM military UAS customers. With the new certification issued last week, the company has already delivered certified MX12B units to numerous customers to fulfill backlog purchase orders for new and ongoing programmes.
“From a technology perspective, we’ve used our military program experience and microelectronics expertise to take a traditional Mode 5 IFF transponder and condense it into a package that is nine times smaller, six times lighter, and certified to a higher level than the next smallest certified Mode 5 IFF transponder,” said Matthew Hamilton, CTO of Sagetech. “After months of rigorous testing to verify compliance to the full AIMS 17-1000 specification, harsh MIL-STD environmental testing, and data analysis by our team of engineers, we are pleased to have certified to the complete set of Mode 5 IFF requirements. Our new MX12B is suitable for any fixed- or rotary-wing unmanned or manned aircraft.”
For multi-mission UAVs, the MX12B preserves avionics designs across fleets through easy interchangeability with a civil version of the transponder, Sagetech’s MXS. The MX12B represents the next-generation of military certified transponders from Sagetech. Previously, Sagetech had certified its XPC AIMS Mode A/C transponder, now in service for more than a decade.
According to Tom Furey, CEO of Sagetech Avionics. “The MX12B combines Mode 5 IFF functionality with ADS-B situational awareness in a tiny SWaP unit that is fast and easy to integrate.”
For more information visit:
www.sagetech.com (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
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.