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29 Jul 21. Redwire to Demonstrate In-Space Additive Manufacturing for Lunar Surface on the International Space Station. Redwire, a leader in mission critical space solutions and high reliability components for the next generation space economy, announced today that it is launching new manufacturing hardware to the International Space Station (ISS) that will demonstrate additive manufacturing processes using lunar regolith simulant. This demonstration is critical to advancing the ability to develop a permanent presence for humankind on the Moon using in-situ resources. This will be the first time that lunar regolith simulant has been used for 3D printing in space. The mission is currently set to launch onboard Northrop Grumman’s 16th commercial resupply mission (NG-16) no earlier than 5:56 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 10, from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
“At Redwire, we are developing versatile, autonomous manufacturing capabilities that will maximize in-situ resources and enable robust construction on the lunar surface,” said Michael Snyder, Chief Technology Officer of Redwire. “The Redwire Regolith Print (RRP) mission is an important step for proving these advanced manufacturing processes and ultimately accelerating NASA’s exploration timeline to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon.”
RRP is a technology demonstration mission, developed in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The mission will demonstrate autonomous, on-orbit 3D printing with regolith feedstock material using Redwire’s Additive Manufacturing Facility currently aboard the ISS. Redwire will launch three custom-design 3D printing heads and three print bed surfaces on NG-16 to support RRP’s on-orbit operations.
The objective of this mission is to successfully demonstrate the manufacturing process capability (3D printing of a regolith-laden simulant material) in microgravity. Upon successful print operations, the material samples will return to Earth for scientific analysis.
The RRP mission will advance NASA’s efforts to develop critical in-situ resource utilization capabilities for the Artemis program and will help determine the feasibility of using resources available on the Moon as the raw materials for on-demand construction of housing and other structures. RRP technology is ultimately intended to manufacture infrastructure and mission hardware on the lunar surface using local materials, thus reducing launch mass for future Artemis missions. Construction applications include landing pads, foundations, roads, habitats, and habitat furnishings.
To learn more about the RRP mission visit www.redwirespace.com.
Redwire is a new leader in mission critical space solutions and high reliability components for the next generation space economy, with valuable IP for solar power generation and in-space 3D printing and manufacturing. With decades of flight heritage combined with the agile and innovative culture of a commercial space platform, Redwire is uniquely positioned to assist its customers in solving the complex challenges of future space missions. For more information, please visit www.redwirespace.com. (Source: PR Newswire)
30 Jul 21. US army looks to navigate like birds. The US military wants to harness the ability of migratory birds to fly great distances at night without getting lost to help it fight wars without satellite navigation. China’s anti-satellite capability is seen as a growing threat to America’s space-based global positioning system (GPS), forcing the Pentagon to fund research into alternative ways of navigation — including those already perfected by nature. Migratory birds such as the European robin have a protein called cryptochrome 4 in their retinas which enables them to sense the Earth’s magnetic field and chart their course from one country to another.
“Night migratory songbirds are remarkably proficient navigators. Flying alone and often over great distances, they use various directional cues including a light-dependent magnetic compass,” Nature magazine reported last month.
That spurred the US army to intensify research which has been going on for decades into the path-finding skills displayed by birds, insects, fish and sea turtles.The discovery that the protein in a migratory bird’s retinas is sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field “could be key to navigation of both autonomous and manned vehicles where GPS is unavailable, compromised or denied,” the US army research laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, said.
The research findings in the Nature article, carried out by the universities of Oxford and Oldenburg, in Germany, were partly funded by the US army’s combat capabilities development command.
Researchers managed to synthesise the genetic code of the robin’s protein and then harvest it.
“It’s an exciting first step toward navigation systems that would rely only on the magnetic field of Earth, unaffected by weather or light,” Stephanie McElhinny, an army researcher, said. (Source: The Times)
29 Jul 21. DOD Promotes Additive Manufacturing Expansion, Standardization, Training Through New Policies, Collaboration. Through new strategies, policies and inter-departmental collaboration, the Defense Department is harnessing the potential of additive manufacturing — better known as three-dimensional printing — to help our warfighters maintain technological overmatch against our strategic competitors. AM is a computer-controlled process that creates 3D objects by depositing materials, usually in layers. These materials include but are not limited to polymers and metals.
As cost decreases and AM technology advances, DOD is increasingly taking advantage of this technology to produce such things as spare parts for aircraft and weapons systems; tools; rapid prototyping for research, development and experimentation; and medical supplies, such as face shields for COVID-19 first responders.
Spotlight: Coronavirus: DOD Response
AM technology benefits include the ability to make parts with innovative designs that are lighter and perform more efficiently than parts manufactured by traditional methods like lathes, mills, welding and casting, explained Robert Gold, director of the technology and Manufacturing Industrial Base Office in the office of the undersecretary for research and engineering.
Currently, the military services, the Defense Logistics Agency, and even combatant commands in the field use AM processes, Gold noted.
“What we’re trying to do with this highly flexible technology is to align activities across our enterprise, so that there is a sense of harmony and so that our processes work together and we can exchange lessons learned,” he said.
In order to do that, DOD published the Department of Defense Additive Manufacturing Strategy in January 2021. The strategy sets a common AM vision and lays out five strategic AM goals. In June 2021, the Department published DOD Instruction 5000.93, Use of Additive Manufacturing in the DOD. The instruction establishes overall AM policy, roles and responsibilities across the Department, and provides overarching AM guidance. As a follow-on to those documents, DOD is now working with the military services and OSD agencies to develop AM implementation plans and detailed technical guidance, Gold said.
DOD formed a joint steering committee in 2021 to support the publication of an AM guidebook in 2022, Gold added.
“As with any other guidance or policy document, we will continue to mature it as technology itself matures, and DOD will continue to expand the use of this knowledge in conjunction with our industry partners. And, we’ll continue to work with the services and collaborative bodies to close gaps, minimize risks in technology adoption and accelerate additive manufacturing use across the department,” he stated.
Tracy Frost, director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program in the office of the undersecretary for research and engineering, elaborated further on DOD’s five AM goals, as described in the DOD AM strategy:
- Integrate AM into DOD and the organic and commercial industrial bases.
- Align, promote and advance AM activities across the department and with federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Collaborate with industry and academia to establish a public-private partnership with America Makes, which aims to advance and promote America’s global manufacturing competitiveness in AM and other areas.
- Expand proficiency in the DOD workforce through quality training and sharing best practices.
- Ensure cybersecurity of the AM workflow within the Department as well as the supply chain.
She noted that the Joint Additive Manufacturing Working Group is working across DOD’s acquisition and sustainment and research and engineering communities to determine where DOD can best implement AM policies, and identify key personnel who will assist with that implementation. The JAMWG is made up of representatives from each of the military services and key defense agencies that have AM equities.
At the DOD senior leadership level, the Joint Defense Manufacturing Council is providing oversight of AM implementation department wide, she added.
“Close collaboration between OSD ManTech and our military services and OSD agencies have allowed us to fully capture AM’s potential for our warfighters. With this AM strategy and instruction now in place, we have a firm way ahead for fully integrating AM use in DOD,” Frost said.
(Source: US DoD)
28 Jul 21. Aitech Continues to Enable Space Innovations in Small Geostationary Communications Satellites from Astranis. Mission-critical system from Aitech is used in communications infrastructure for near earth orbit (NEO) and low earth orbit (LEO) small sats.
Aitech, a leading provider of rugged board and system level solutions for military, aerospace and space applications, has announced that its mission-critical, space rated flight computers will enable communications technologies onboard the second production block of small satellites being developed by Astranis. Astranis has started building four very small geostationary communication satellites as it gears up to produce dozens and later hundreds of them simultaneously. The company is building satellites at around 400 kilograms, making them one of the smallest geostationary communications spacecraft offered commercially. This next production block of satellites includes an upgraded payload that drives higher throughput and various bus improvements to extend satellite lifetime. Astranis develops proprietary core technology, such as the software-defined radio (SDR) and procures mission-critical components from highly accomplished aerospace partners, like Aitech, which also provided flight computers for the first satellites that Astranis developed.
Anthony Lai, Business and R&D Director for Space at Aitech, noted, “Providing mission-critical systems for small sats throughout NEO and LEO orbits is just one aspect of Aitech’ space innovations. We’re also bringing GPGPU processing to in-orbit applications that will help facilitate artificial intelligence-based advancements throughout a number of space applications.”
Aitech has spent more than thirty years developing rugged, reliable and space-rated electronics systems and components for use in a variety of government, commercial and private space programs. The company continues to develop cost-effective COTS-based and custom integrated systems, depending on radiation and mission requirements, giving the company the ability to offer an extensive array of space solutions with the backing of several decades worth of engineering experience. In addition to the Astranis small satellite program, Aitech provides other space-rated integrated systems for missions in virtually every orbit. Most notably, the company’s rocket motor controller (RMC) unit is on the Virgin Galactic VSS that successfully carried Virgin Galactic founder, Richard Branson, on the Unity 22 90-minute suborbital flight, further demonstrating the success of the SpaceShipTwo spaceplane.
About Aitech Systems:
In business for more than three decades, Aitech is one of the world’s first, independent, open systems architecture, COTS/MOTS innovators offering open standards-based boards and integrated computing subsystem products, with customization services for rugged and severe environment, military, aerospace and space applications…i.e. products for Air, Land, Sea, and Space. For more information, please visit www.aitechsystems.com
29 Jul 21. £250m contract for next phase for Future Combat Air System. The new contract will drive forward the concept and assessment phase of the Future Combat Air System. The Ministry of Defence has signed a £250m contract with British industry ‘Team Tempest’ partners, driving forward the next phase of the major national and international endeavour to develop the next generation of combat air, the Defence Secretary has today announced. Known as Tempest, the Future Combat Air System is expected to combine a core aircraft with a whole network of capabilities such as uncrewed aircraft and advanced data systems to form a next-generation mix designed to enter service from the mid-2030s. Marking the formal start of the programme’s Concept and Assessment phase, the contract is worth an initial £250m and is planned to grow further. The investment forms part of more than £2bn worth of UK Government spending on the project over the next four years, as announced in the recent Defence Command Paper. The contract will see investment in the digital and physical infrastructure on which the programme will be developed, putting it on a ‘digital first’ footing whereby simulated design and testing can significantly reduce costs, time and emissions. The Defence Secretary made the announcement at BAE Systems’ site in Warton. Warton is the centre of development for the programme and is home to the ‘Factory of the Future’, a highly connected facility with state-of-the-art technology designed to showcase a revolutionary approach to manufacturing military aircraft. The contract has been signed with BAE Systems, one of the four founding members of ‘Team Tempest’, which also includes partners Leonardo UK, Rolls Royce and MBDA UK. Around 800 of the 2,000 jobs supported by the contract are based in the North of England, across sites in Warton, Samlesbury and Brough. BAE Systems has flowed collaborative support contracts directly with the core ‘Team Tempest’ partners Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce and MBDA. As a result, further jobs supported by the programme are also spread across areas including Edinburgh, Luton, Stevenage and Bristol.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “Today marks a momentous step in the next phase of our Future Combat Air System, with a multi-million pound investment that draws on the knowledge and skills of our UK industry experts. Boosting our already world-leading air industry, the contract will sustain thousands of jobs across the UK and will ensure that the UK remains at the top table when it comes to combat air.”
Now officially underway, the Concept and Assessment phase will:
- Define and begin to design the future combat air system
- Mature technologies across the system
- Invest in the skilled workforce
- Secure digital and physical infrastructure and tools that underpin cutting-edge digital engineering, data and software-based systems
- Enable major programme choices by 2024.
UK Director of Future Combat Air, Richard Berthon said: “This project is hugely important in ensuring the UK and its partners have the skills and technology we need to give us the battle-winning edge for the future. Developing the system allows us to drive a revolution in digital development and harness the power of open systems architecture. We are looking forward to working together with UK industry and international partners to create and deliver a system which will keep us safe for decades to come.
The programme to design a future combat air system is a major international endeavour, and the UK will deliver it with international partners. Last year, the UK, Italy and Sweden signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the project. Together the three countries aspire to develop the concepts, sharing workload while maximising their national expertise as they strive towards a common goal.
During his visit to Tokyo last week, the Defence Secretary and Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi also agreed to accelerate discussions between the UK and Japan on developing sub-systems for a Future Combat Air System. This included intensifying efforts to explore working together on power and propulsion. International partnership has been central to the Combat Air Strategy from the outset, and the UK is open to welcoming other partners onboard.
According to research conducted by professional services company PWC earlier this year on behalf of Team Tempest, the ongoing work of the four Team Tempest partners and their supply chains in support of UK combat air activities could support around 62,000 jobs per year and contribute in the region of £100bn to the UK economy between 2021 and 2050.
The Future Combat Air System is supported by the £24bn uplift in defence spending, announced by the Prime Minister last year. This partnership between the MOD and industry, also forms an integral part of the MOD’s recently published Defence, Security and Industrial Strategy (DSIS). (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
29 Jul 21. Multi-million pound Tempest funding set to advance the UK’s future Combat Air capability. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded a contract worth approximately £250m to progress the design and development of Tempest, the UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS). The contract, signed by BAE Systems, officially marks the start of the programme’s concept and assessment phase.
Continued funding of Tempest underlines the UK Government’s confidence in the progress and maturity of the programme, which is set to deliver the military, industrial and economic requirements of the national combat air strategy.
The programme is being delivered by Team Tempest – combining the expertise of the UK MOD, BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce. Working with international partners, the team is leading progress towards a UK-led internationally collaborative Future Combat Air System which will ensure the Royal Air Force and its allies retain world-leading, independent military capability.
The concept and assessment phase contract will see the partners develop a range of digital concepts, embedding new tools and techniques to design, evaluate and shape the final design and capability requirements of Tempest.
Announcing the contract during a visit to BAE Systems’ Warton site in Lancashire, Ben Wallace, UK Secretary of State for Defence, said: “Today marks a momentous step in the next phase of our Future Combat Air System, with a multi-million pound investment that draws on the knowledge and skills of our UK industry experts.
“Boosting our already world-leading air industry, the contract will sustain thousands of jobs across the UK and will ensure that the UK remains at the top table when it comes to combat air.”
Chris Boardman, Group Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Air Sector, added: “Working with our industry partners and the Ministry of Defence, we are on track to deliver an ambitious programme for the UK, which will provide a highly advanced and sophisticated air defence capability, capable of countering future threats and safeguarding our national security and defence.
“The funding announced today marks a critical next step for the programme and, with our partners, we will work together to define the technical and capability requirements and develop the concept which will bring Tempest to life.
“Tempest offers an exciting opportunity for the next generation of talent to develop rewarding careers, contributing to important work in support of the defence of our nation. The coming years represent one of the most exciting periods in the history of our industry and, as a team, we have a chance to be part of something genuinely historic, transforming the way we develop and deliver.”
Tempest will pioneer cutting-edge technologies, including those assisted by Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and autonomous systems to meet the capability requirements of future conflicts and be operational in the mid-2030s.
The design and production of Tempest demands a radically different approach and the Team Tempest partners are working with companies in their supply chain to drive digital transformation, embedding a digital enterprise through the ecosystem; embracing an agile approach that will deliver a combination of advanced technologies, efficiency, speed of production and lower costs.
Recent research conducted by PwC underlines how the Tempest programme is expected to deliver significant and wide ranging benefits to all regions of the UK, stimulating vital investment, productivity, skills and innovation. The programme will make an estimated £26.2bn contribution to the UK economy, create high productivity employment – 78% higher than the UK national average – and will support an average of 21,000 jobs a year.
The programme is able to stimulate R&D in regions most in need and generate wider economic benefits for these areas, with 70% of the programme’s value to be generated in the North West, South West and East of England. This means the Tempest programme is well placed to support the UK Government’s levelling up priorities and contribute to the UK’s economic recovery and prosperity in the decades ahead.
- BAE Systems, on behalf of Team Tempest partners, commissioned PwC to carry out an independent analysis of the economic impact of the Tempest programme. The full report is available here: https://baesys.resourcespace.com/?r=29557&k=c7f6341bca
- The report was prepared for BAE Systems (Operations) Limited and solely for the purpose and on the terms agreed with BAE Systems (Operations) Limited. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP accepts no liability (including for negligence) to anyone else in connection with the report.
- The research by PwC looks at the period of programme development, production, entry into service and early support up to 2050, but does not include the full potential of export opportunities, R&D investment or the value of the programme after this.
- Figures in text presented in NPV (net present value) terms in 2019 price basis. Gross Value Added (GVA): A measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy. Net present value (NPV): Used to compare estimates of costs and benefits occurring at different points in time, taking into account society’s time preference for incurring costs and benefits. All figures exclude benefits beyond 2050, which means most of the value generated by exports is not captured within this 30-year period.
- Effective international partnering will play a fundamental role in defining and meeting the goals set out in the UK’s Combat Air Strategy and the delivery of an international future combat air programme. Progress continues in collaboration between the UK, Italy and Sweden and their respective leading industry players, underpinned by trilateral memorandum of understanding signed in 2020.
29 Jul 21. Mercury introduces industry-first heterogeneous processing module with integrated artificial intelligence functionality. Ruggedized board leverages Versal adaptive compute technology for dramatically increased compute performance, efficiency and customization. Mercury Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY, www.mrcy.com), a leader in trusted, secure mission-critical technologies for aerospace and defense, today announced the SCFE6931 processing module, the first in the industry to incorporate integrated artificial intelligence (AI) processing functionality. Featuring dual Xilinx® Versal™ AI Core adaptive compute acceleration platform (ACAP) processors, the 6U OpenVPX ™ heterogeneous processing module delivers performance improvements up to 20× more than today’s fastest FPGA implementations and 100× more than today’s fastest CPU implementations. The result is significantly more processing power for a wide variety of digital signal processing-intensive (DSP) applications such as radar, 5G wireless, electronic warfare (EW) and signals intelligence (SIGINT).
“Demanding radar, artificial intelligence and similar processing-intensive applications rely on rapid technology adoption to keep pace with evolving threats,” said Neal Austin, vice president and general manager, Mercury Microelectronics. “Mercury’s new ACAP-based signal processing modules meet our customers’ demand for greater processing power needed for real-time tactical decision making. From essential components and modules to pre-integrated subsystems, our innovative portfolio of solutions is open, scalable and easily integrates with our customers’ platforms, demonstrating our commitment to Innovation that Matters.”
The Versal ACAP AI processing power and novel architecture maximizes performance, regardless of application or data type, by incorporating scalar processing, vector processing and next-generation FPGA fabric into a single 6U module. Designed to be delivered in a variety of cooling options, the SCFE6931 is ideal for applications that require high-performance operation in harsh environments. Additionally, the module’s OpenVPX, SOSA-aligned design enables agile system integration. Like all Mercury FPGA boards, the SCFE6931 module is built around EchoCore® IP to provide design verification testing infrastructure functionality right out of the box, optimizing time-to-market and reducing development time.
“Versal ACAPs have been architected to achieve new thresholds of system-level performance for a variety of aerospace and defense applications where size, weight and power (SWaP) are critical,” said Manuel Uhm, director of silicon marketing, Xilinx. “We are thrilled that Mercury Systems is developing rugged Versal-based solutions for faster time-to-market for these applications.”
26 Jul 21. US Army and partners announce project to improve manufacturing capabilities. UK researchers aim to develop new technologies for the production of superior components for the DOD. The US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory (DEVCOM ARL) and partners have announced a $50m project to advance manufacturing capabilities in the country. Under the five-year collaboration between DEVCOM ARL, University of Kentucky, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT), UK’s project, ‘Next Generation Materials and Processing Technologies’ (NextGen MatProTech), will receive nearly $23.8m from the US Department of Defense (DoD). Researchers in the UK aim to develop new materials processing and technologies for the manufacturing of superior products and components for DoD and civilian use. The project will generate new discoveries and identify high-potential technological innovations. It will also strive to meet the strategic research needs of the country in materials and processes as identified by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine.
US Senator Mitch McConnell said: “I applaud President Capilouto and the University of Kentucky community for leveraging their institution’s advanced manufacturing expertise to help the army fulfil its modernisation strategy. Throughout my time in the Senate, I have been proud to deliver the resources needed to secure Kentucky’s prominent place in our nation’s defence infrastructure. This new programme will not only add to those capabilities but also provide a strong source of regional economic development.”
The researchers will collaborate with army engineers and scientists to pursue new nanostructured metal alloys and advanced composite materials. For this, they will use methods such as smart, sustainable and hybrid manufacturing processes. Four primary research areas have been identified by the team: engineered high-temperature materials; advanced additive manufacturing; novel manufacturing processes and predictive modelling; and performance assessment. Additionally, 13 UK researchers will take part in initiatives that are identified as relevant to these research areas in seven project topics. (Source: army-technology.com)
27 Jul 21. Elementum 3D Adopts Award-winning Cold Spray Metal 3D Printing Technology. Elementum 3D, an additive manufacturing (AM) research and development company that specializes in the creation of advanced metals, composites, and ceramics, has acquired cold spray metal 3D printing technology developed by SPEE3D. The acquisition will allow Elementum 3D to offer more capabilities within its current services by expanding into metal cold spray technology. With the investment, a WarpSPEE3D metal 3D printer will become the latest tool for Elementum 3D to advance its current additive manufacturing capability. The WarpSPEE3D is SPEE3D’s large-format cold spray metal 3D printing machine able to build multiple components at once up to 1000mm x 700mm in diameter and has the capacity to print 30 tons of metal parts per year. This acquisition enables Elementum 3D to now offer a rapid and cost-effective solution for customers who require high-quality metal parts for applications such as Defense, mining, oil and gas, aerospace, automotive industries, and more.
“Our revolutionary RAM technology and AM expertise is helping meet the 3D printing industry’s ever-growing demand for a greater selection of printable materials. We are confident the acquisition of SPEE3D’s technology will be an excellent addition to our current capabilities. Developing and applying Elementum 3D materials to SPEE3D’s cold spray printers is a major step forward towards our goal to offer customers a comprehensive range of AM solutions,” stated Dr. Jacob Nuechterlein, CEO of Elementum 3D.
Leveraging cold spray technology, SPEE3D’s metal 3D printers run at a supersonic speed 100 to 1000 times faster compared to traditional metal 3D printing methods. They can produce industrial quality metal parts in just minutes, rather than days or weeks, making SPEE3D’s metal 3D printing machines the fastest and most economical additive manufacturing capability in the world. Through SPEE3D’s recent Australian Army field trials, it is also the world’s only proven deployable metal 3D printing technology.
“We are very excited about partnering with such a pioneering company such as Elementum 3D. Their additive manufacturing and material expertise will help to bring cold spray additive manufacturing to the forefront and quite literally change the way parts are manufactured in several industries,” states Byron Kennedy, CEO of SPEE3D.
“SPEE3D is honoured to be involved in Elementum 3D’s advanced materials research and development. SPEE3D’s cold spray fabrication technology provides a significantly increased scope for advanced materials development as the material is not melted during the print process. With our WarpSPEE3D technology, we look forward to how Elementum 3D spearheads material enhancement in cold spray processes for the future 3D printing market,” said Steven Camilleri, CTO of SPEE3D.
23 Jul 21. The F-35I? America’s Most Lethal Stealth Fighter With an Israeli Twist. Israel took America’s fierce fighter and made it even better. Here’s What You Need to Remember: It has become a common practice to create custom variants of fourth-generation jet fighters such as the Su-30, F-15 and F-16 for export clients, made to order with local avionics, weapons and upgrades that suit a particular air force’s doctrine and strategic priorities. Today, Israel operates heavily upgraded F-15I Ra’am (“Thunder”) and two-seater F-16I Sufa fighters.
On May 22, Israeli Air Force commander Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35I stealth fighters had flown on two combat missions on “different fronts,” showing as proof a photograph of an F-35 overflying Beirut. While details on those missions have not been released—apparently, they were not deployed in a massive Israeli air attack on Iranian forces in Syria that took place on May 9—this nonetheless apparently confirmed the first combat operations undertaken by any variant of the controversial stealth jet, which is currently entering service with the militaries of ten countries after undergoing over two decades of development.
In fact, Israel’s F-35I Adir—or “Mighty Ones”—will be the only F-35 variant to enter service heavily tailored to a foreign country’s specifications. There had been plans for a Canadian CF-35, with a different refueling probe and drogue-parachute to allow landing on short Arctic air strips, but Ottawa dropped out of the F-35 program.
It has become a common practice to create custom variants of fourth-generation jet fighters such as the Su-30, F-15 and F-16 for export clients, made to order with local avionics, weapons and upgrades that suit a particular air force’s doctrine and strategic priorities. Today, Israel operates heavily upgraded F-15I Ra’am (“Thunder”) and two-seater F-16I Sufa fighters. Furthermore, Israel in particular hasn’t hesitated to modify aircraft it has already received fit its needs: for example, in 1981 it rigged its then-new F-15A Eagle air superiority fighters to drop bombs, and used these first-ever strike Eagles to destroy the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor.
However, the Lockheed-Martin has mostly refused to allow major country-specific modifications to the F-35, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars foreign F-35 operators contributed to the aircraft’s development. There is, of course, an efficiency-based rationale, given the additional costs and delays of creating country-specific variants, and the fact that Lockheed is struggling to both produce F-35s fast and cheaply enough and build enough spare parts for the hundreds already in service.
Israel, however, managed to carve out an exception. Though not an investor in the F-35’s development, Tel Aviv was nonetheless quick to sign on to the program with an initial order of fifty. It also negotiated a favorable deal in which billions of dollars worth of F-35 wings and sophisticated helmet sets would be manufactured in Israel, paid for with U.S. military aid. Furthermore, depot-level maintenance will occur in a facility operated by Israeli Aeronautics Industries rather than at a Lockheed facility abroad.
The first nine F-35s entered operational service in December 6, 2017, with the 140 “Golden Eagles” Squadron, based at Nevatim Airbase near Be’er Sheva. Six more should arrive in 2018. Israel will eventually activate a second squadron at Nevatim, and retains the option for an additional twenty-five F-35s to form a third squadron, likely based elsewhere. However, recent reports suggest a third squadron may postponed for a decade in favor of buying additional F-15Is, which trade the F-35’s stealth for greater range and payload. Israel has paid a high price of between $110 to $125m per F-35 for its initial order, but in the future unit cost will supposedly decline to around $85m.
The first nineteen stealth jets received by Israel will actually be standard F-35A land-based fighters, while the following thirty-one will be true F-35Is modified to integrate Israeli-built hardware. However, most media sources have taken to labeling all of them as F-35Is, and it does appear even the initial batch will be retrofitted with an open-architecture Israeli Command, Control, Communications and Computing (C4) system.
The Lightning’s sophisticated flight computer and ground-based logistics system has become a matter of contention with many F-35 operators. Foreign air forces would like to have greater access to the F-35’s computer source codes to upgrade and modify them as they see fit without needing to involve external parties—but Lockheed doesn’t want to hand over full access for both commercial and security-based reasons.
Israeli F-35Is uniquely will have an overriding Israeli-built C4 program that runs “on top” of Lockheed’s operating system. One of F-35’s key capabilities come from its superior ability to soak up data with its sensors and share it with friendly forces. Compatibility with datalinks used by friendly Israeli air and ground forces is thus an important aspect from Israel’s perspective as it tracks the position of hostile surface-to-surface rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles systems.
The new system will also allow the IDF to install Israeli-built datalinks and defensive avionics systems such as radar-jamming pods. An official told Aviation Week the IAF expects the advantages of the F-35’s low radar cross section will be “good for five to ten years” before adversaries develop countermeasures. There already exist methods for detecting stealth fighters, including long-range infrared sensors, electromagnetic sensors, and low bandwidth radars (though all have significant limitations), and more exotic technologies such as quantum radar are also under development.
Thus, the IDF particularly values the flexibility to install “plug-and-play” defensive countermeasures such as jamming pods as they become relevant and available. It so happens the Israeli firms Elbit and Israeli Aerospace Industries are major developers of such systems. However, due to the F-35’s highly “fused” avionics, such plug-and-play support needs to be built both into F-35 software and apparently even the airframe. The add-ons will be installed in special apertures in the lower fuselage and leading edge of the wings—presumably, features only in the later production F-35Is that arrive in 2020.
Israel is also developing two different sets of external fuel tanks to extend the F-35’s range. The first will be non-stealthy 425-gallon underwing tanks developed by a subsidiary of Elbit—these could be dropped when approaching enemy airspace (the pylons holding the drop tanks would reportedly detach as well so as not to compromise stealth), or used for missions in which stealth isn’t necessary. Further down the line, IAI wants to co-develop with Lockheed bolt-on conformal fuel tanks which “hug” the F-35 airframe so as not to compromise stealth and aerodynamics.
The F-35I will also be certified to carry major Israeli-developed weapons systems in its internal weapons bay, notably including the Python-5 short-range heat-seeking air-to-air missile, and the Spice family of glide bombs, which combine electro-optical, satellite and man-in-the-loop guidance options for greater targeting versatility and have a range of up to sixty miles.
However, country-specific F-35 weapons capabilities are not unique to Israel. British Royal Air Force and Navy F-35s will be compatible with the Meteor and ASM-132 air-to-air missile, while Norway and Australia’s Lightning IIs will be able to carry the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile, reflecting the importance of the sea-control mission for these nations. The United States even would like its NATO partners to purchase F-35s specially modified to deploy B-61 nuclear bombs.
The Adir and Israeli Strategy
Norkin’s announcement of F-35 operations was as much a part of Israeli strategy as the actual deployment of the fighters. Tel Aviv wants potential adversaries (chiefly, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah) to know that its fighters have already proven capable of infiltrating the airspace of neighboring countries, and that its stealth jets could at any moment launch an attack that may go undetected until the first bomb strikes a target.
The F-35 has been criticized for its mediocre flight performance compared to earlier fourth-generation jets, meaning that it would be at a disadvantage in a short-range ai dogfight against enemy fighters. Supporters argue that the F-35 would leverage its stealth, sensors and long-range missiles to avoid getting that close to more agile opponent in the first place, and that the platform is really optimized more for striking targets in defended enemy airspace.
The strike emphasis, however, is just fine with the Israeli Air Force, as since 1948 it has historically mostly trounced its opponents in air-to-air combat, but suffered heavy losses to ground-based air defenses in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Since then, Israel jets have continued to face, and mostly defeat, hostile SAMs in scores of raids launched into Lebanon and Syria, though in February 2018 it suffered its first combat loss of a fighter in decades when Syrian S-200 missiles downed an Israeli F-16. Since 2017, there have been rumors of the F-35s involvement in these raids, though most of these rumors were likely inaccurate due to the risk of losing an airframe over hostile territory at this stage.
Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu, in power since 2009, clearly favors using military force to suppress Iran’s nuclear research program, having opposed and undermined negotiated settlements. While Tel Aviv basically wants the United States to carry out such an attack, the F-35 makes an Israeli attack on Iran more practical.
However, Israeli aircraft would have to fly through Turkey, or either Jordan and Syria and then Iraq to reach Iranian aerospace over six hundred miles away—and remember, key targets will likely be much further from the border. This also happens test the range limit of most combat-loaded fourth-generation fighters, meaning they would need conspicuous aerial tankers to make the raid viable. Furthermore, Israeli warplanes would have to disable or destroy Iranian air defenses, which would require additional time and aircraft. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
20 Jul 21. US plans expansion of innovation zones for UAS spectrum experiments. US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to establish “two new Innovation Zones for Program Experimental Licenses and the expansion of an existing Innovation Zone”, due approval in August 2021. The Innovation Zones include a zone at North Carolina State University in Raleigh called the Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless (AERPAW), according to the law firm Wiley, and reported in sUAS News.
AERPAW will study new use cases for advanced wireless technologies for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), says Wiley. The draft public notice states that “AERPAW will focus on how cellular networks and advanced wireless technologies can enable beyond visual line-of-sight unmanned aerial systems to accelerate development, verification, and testing of transformative advances and breakthroughs in telecommunications, transportation, infrastructure monitoring, agriculture, and public safety.” “Notably,” the draft public notice continues, “the AERPAW testbed will be the first platform to allow testing at scale of open 5G-and-beyond solutions in unmanned aerial system verticals.”
According to Wiley, the FCC has been considering for several years spectrum that can be utilized for UAS. In August 2020, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology (WTB and OET) released a report on spectrum usage for UAS. In that report, WTB and OET recommended that the Commission begin a rulemaking to develop service and licensing rules for UAS command and control use of the 5030-5091 MHz band, as called for in a petition for rulemaking filed by the Aerospace Industries Association that has been pending since 2018. The WTB and OET report also noted that alternative frequencies licensed under flexible use service rules could be a promising option for UAS communications, particularly for beyond visual-line-of-sight and other network-based use cases. The report cautioned, however, that it had not studied the potential for such uses to cause harmful interference to other operations.
But activity on spectrum for drones and interference studies is ongoing, like the recently announced Memorandum of Agreement between Skyward and the Federal Aviation Administration to test cellular-connected drones. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee recently adopted a report on UAS spectrum. In addition, the FCC has granted a waiver that allows AURA Network Systems to provide command and control services to UAS using air-ground radiotelephone spectrum in the 450 MHz band, subject to AURA filing a petition for rulemaking seeking more flexible use of the band. AURA filed the petition for rulemaking in February 2021, but the petition remains pending.
This Innovation Zone provides further opportunities to provide data to the FCC on uses of spectrum for UAS, and will potentially clear the way for additional spectrum options.
For more information visit:
www.wiley.law (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
25 Jul 21. URClearED SESAR research project ensures safe separation between manned and unmanned airspace users. The EU-funded URClearED SESAR Project is investigating critical technology to ensure that remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS) can go about delivery and other type of business safely and securely. The foreseen growth in drone deployment for civil and commercial purposes needs a safe and secure way of sharing airspace with other (manned and unmanned) aircraft at intermediate altitudes.
The URClearER project is focusing on a key security aspect: the ‘remain-well-clear‘(RWC) function. This function is a critical function for keeping a safe distance from other aircrafts, avoiding that such situations could result in a hazardous mid-air collision.
This will allow certified RPAS to safely share airspace with other (manned and unmanned) aircraft at intermediate altitudes. Here we are referring to altitudes below 18,000 feet, well below typical cruise altitudes of commercial airliners which fly at around 40,000 feet, explains project coordinator and CIRA research member Federico Corraro:
What is remain-well-clear (RWC) functionality? How is it achieved in manned aviation?
In aviation, ‘well clear‘ refers to a state in which a pilot considers the situation of the aircraft to be safe in relation to the surrounding air traffic. It is a prognostic function in the sense that its aim is to identify well in advance situations in which two aircraft would fly too close to each other. Therefore, remaining well-clear is a critical function for keeping a safe distance from other aircraft, avoiding that such situations could become a hazardous mid-air collision.
In manned aviation, air traffic controllers ensure separation using specific ground-based surveillance systems (primary and secondary radars). However, depending on the airspace class in which the aircraft flies and type of mission (instrument or visual flight rules – IFR or VFR ), you may have situations in which controllers have no responsibility in providing separation services to aircraft, such as general aviation flying in class G airspace. In these cases, the pilots currently rely on their ‘out-of-window’ view or on-board surveillance sensors (when available) to keep safe distances from other traffic.
What is the challenge you are trying to address?
URClearED aims to define the requirements and capabilities for the RWC function, to be integrated in RPAS vehicles flying IFR into specific parts of the sky that are referred to as airspace classes D-G. These air segments are indeed the most challenging portions of the airspace for the design of such a function for two main reasons:
- In most parts of airspace (D to G), air traffic controllers provide separation, which means the RWC is considered only as a backup function (for example, in class D with IFR traffic). However, in the case of class G, separation is not provided by the controllers, so the remote pilot must rely on the capabilities of the RPAS, hence the inbuilt RWC function.
- D to G airspace refers to low altitude portions of the sky, below 18,000 feet, in which small and medium-sized aircraft typically fly. Since these aircraft are possibly not equipped with transponders of any kind, they are only visible to the RPAS through active traffic sensors like radar, which in turn are limited in their range and field of view.
How are the authorities, ANSPs, and end users involved in the project?
Several stakeholders, like pilot and air traffic controller associations, research centres and unmanned industries, are taking part in the project advisory board supporting the team both to identify scenario and to define the RWC requirements. They will also support the analysis of the results of the validation campaigns that will be performed end of this year and during the next one These validations will be carried out by means of both fast and real-time simulations and will involve experienced air traffic controllers and remote pilots at both CIRA and DLR experimental laboratories, with the purpose to collect valuable information about the impact of the designed RWC function on human performance.
What benefits do you hope your project will bring?
By providing evidence of the effectiveness and safety of our implementation of the RWC function, we hope to facilitate the introduction and integration of certified RPAS in classes D to G allowing this part of the sky to be safe for day-to-day civil use.
For more information visit:
https://www.sesarju.eu/news/urcleared-take (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.