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14 May 20. Future Combat Air System: Airbus and Fraunhofer FKIE create expert panel on the responsible use of new technologies. In the frame of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), Airbus (stock exchange symbol: AIR) and Bonn, Germany-based Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE have created an independent panel of experts on the responsible use of new technologies to define and propose ethical as well as international legal “guard rails” for Europe’s largest defence project.
The expert panel, which was first initiated in Germany in 2019, currently includes stakeholders such as the German Ministry of Defence, German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foundations, universities as well as think tanks.
“In many ways, FCAS represents a giant leap forward. Not only is it Europe’s largest defence programme in the coming decades, which will foster collaboration across our partner nations. With FCAS we‘ll be significantly stepping up our game in terms of new technologies which will form part of this sixth-generation ‘System of Systems’”, said Dirk Hoke, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space. “This opens up new opportunities in terms of security policy and helps to strengthen Europe’s role in the world. But there are also ethical and legal challenges which we have to address.”
The FCAS programme reflects a complex and extensive networked “System of Systems”, of which a next generation manned fighter will represent one key element. Such manned platforms will team with unmanned ones, called “remote carriers”, which will be providing additional capabilities to complete the missions at stake. Scalable and interoperable system architectures will allow upgraded existing platforms to be integrated into FCAS. Leveraging the collaborative capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms will require an “Air Combat Cloud” fusing in real time massive amounts of data augmented by warfare analytics and articifical intelligence. Furthermore, it is expected that the technologies developed in the frame of this project will also have significant beneficial spill-over effects for future civil applications.
Professor Reimund Neugebauer, President of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft e. V., added: “FCAS is the largest and most technologically ambitious European defense program ever. One essential question we’re trying to tackle with this panel is how we can ensure that, on the one hand, such a system meets the necessary mission requirements of the 21st century on a global scale, while, on the other hand, ensuring full human control of such a system at all times and under all circumstances. For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, a major defense policy project is accompanied from the start by the intellectual struggle for the technical implementation of basic ethical and legal principles – “ethical and legal compliance by design”.”
In order to create the greatest possible transparency over the proceedings of the expert panel, a website was established: www.fcas-forum.eu. All panel members make their contribution free of charge and are solely committed to their conscience.
An interview by Dirk Hoke and Professor Reimund Neugebauer further outlining the panel’s purpose and partnership can be read here: http://www.fcas-forum.eu/en/interview.
In order to reflect the European nature of the FCAS programme, it is foreseen in due course to broaden the panel to further participating nations.
13 May 20. IBCS Goes Agile. A year ago, after the U.S. Department of Defense called for a movement to Agile development methodologies, one of the Northrop Grumman IBCS software teams was part of a pilot program with the U.S. Army. The experience and results were well received and, last November, the Army awarded a $70m, 28-month contract to transform the entire IBCS software development process to an Agile framework.
Under the contract, Northrop Grumman and the Army are partnering to prototype an Agile development process in order to build, test and field capabilities faster to respond to current and emerging needs.
“We’ve been developing and delivering software to the Army under our Agile framework for months,” said Kim Robbins, Northrop Grumman software lead for IBCS. “One of the reasons for our success has been the partnership with our customer in creating our quick feedback loop.”
Regular feedback among the team members and the customer is a core tenet of Agile methodology, which involves the delivery of products or capabilities in regular Program Increments (PIs). For IBCS, they are three-month PIs, comprised of three-week “sprints” in which each team tackles their specific tasks and issues required to deliver. A product owner from the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense office is a member of the team.
“Before Agile, it wasn’t unusual to wait a month or more to learn whether your ‘bug fix’ or software change worked well for the warfighters who will use IBCS,” said engineer Josh Bagwell, of the Support Operations (SO) software team. “Now, through quick communication with a soldier, we bounce ideas off each other. It helps us ‘fail fast, fail early’ so time isn’t wasted on a bad idea.”
“The regular communication with soldiers helps busy IBCS team members see themselves and their work in the Army’s mission,” said IBCS Deputy Program Director Alana Henley. She has also noticed another benefit as the mindset shift accompanying Agile has empowered the engineers.
“Because of the regular communication and the development atmosphere, I’ve seen entry-level engineers become more comfortable raising issues and talking with their more experienced peers,” Alana explained. “They’re embracing ownership of problems and signing up for work, and that’s a big deal.”
In their first sprint after the contract award last fall, the teams developed software that was used in IBCS Flight Test 5 at White Sands Missile Range in December 2019 — the most complex flight test to date, in which two target cruise missiles were intercepted simultaneously by the soldiers at the system’s controls.
“Northrop Grumman has long been an Agile pioneer, transforming processes to speed development while increasing communication with customer end-users and increasing quality,” said Mark Rist, Northrop Grumman IBCS, program director. “We are shifting the paradigm, because every aspect of the program can benefit from the increased communication and incremental nature of Agile.”
11 May 20. Semiconductor companies consider new plants in the US. Intel and a Taiwanese company are talking to the Trump administration about building new semiconductor plants in the United States amid concern about relying on suppliers in Asia for chips used in a wide variety of electronics.
A spokesman for Intel, the biggest American chip maker, said Sunday that the company is in discussions with the U.S. Defense Department about improving domestic technology sources.
Spokesman William Moss said Santa Clara, California-based Intel is well-positioned to work with the government “to operate a U.S.-owned commercial foundry.”
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is open to building a plant outside of Taiwan and has talked with the Commerce Department, a spokeswoman said.
“We are actively evaluating all the suitable locations, including in the U.S., but there is no concrete plan yet,” said the TSMC spokeswoman, Nina Kao.
The discussions were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said TSMC is also talking with Apple Inc., one of its biggest customers, about building a plant in the U.S.
The newspaper said the coronavirus pandemic has heightened worries about global supply chains, and that U.S. officials are particularly concerned about the growing reliance on Taiwan, the self-ruled island that is claimed by China.
Intel CEO Bob Swan said in a letter last month to two Pentagon officials that strengthening U.S. production “is more important than ever, given the uncertainty created by the current geopolitical environment.” He said it would be in the best interests of the United States and Intel to explore how the company could build a plant. Concern about relying so heavily on chips from Taiwan, South Korea and China started even before the coronavirus outbreak. The Pentagon and the Government Accountability Office issued reports on the matter last year. The GAO said that when U.S. companies shift operations overseas it can mean lower prices for components and technology used in weapons systems. However, having global sources “can also make it harder for [the Pentagon] to get what it needs if, for example, other countries cut off U.S. access to critical supplies,” the GAO said in a report last September. (Source: Defense News)
11 May 20. Certification authorizes the SeaFIND (Sea Fiber Optic Gyrocompass Inertial Navigation with Data Distribution) system for navigation. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s (NYSE: NOC) SeaFIND Inertial Navigation System has been type approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), formally certifying its use as a shipboard gyrocompass system for navigation for nations that need the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) compliance.
Following a rigorous process of test and evaluation, the USCG has officially type approved the SeaFIND system, proving its compatibility and conformity to the IMO’s requirements for a gyrocompass system in addition to its capabilities as an inertial navigator and navigation data distribution system for ships. The USCG certification includes the European Community’s (EC) Mark of Conformity (wheelmark) under the mutual recognition agreement between the U.S. and the EC for type approval.
“In addition to SeaFIND’s low size, weight and power (SWAP), affordability and reliable performance in a GPS denied environment, being type approved makes it very attractive to customers throughout the world,” said Todd Leavitt, vice president, maritime systems & integration, Northrop Grumman. “This certification demonstrates that the system is compliant with a common standard and benchmark.”
07 May 20. Lockheed Martin and USAF partner on autonomous ISR system. Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has partnered with the US Air Force (USAF) Test Pilot School to demonstrate an autonomous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) system to advance troop effectiveness in denied communications environments.
USAF Test Pilot School Test Management Project Lead Captain Josh Rountree said: “As a remotely piloted aircraft pilot, having the opportunity to test an emerging technology and see it perform functions required for operations in denied communications environments sparks the imagination of what is possible in future ISR systems.”
The autonomous ISR system is integrated into an F-16 using a pod solution developed by Lockheed Martin. This helps in detecting and identifying the location of the target and automatically route to the target.
The autonomous ISR system can capture an image to confirm the target in a simulated, denied communications environment.
The system penetrates in contested environments, collects critical intelligence, which is essential in making informed decisions during denied communications.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works artificial intelligence solutions programme manager George Hellstern said: “As the battlespace becomes increasingly contested, human-machine teams will enable operators to collect critical intelligence in denied communications environments, ensuring our warfighters get information they need when they need it.
“We are proud to partner to advance a novel capability, allowing the warfighter to adapt in a rapidly changing operational environment and still get critical data to perform the mission.”
Under the $50m contract, the company will upgrade the avionics suite that modernises the aircraft’s on-board systems for the airforce. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
07 May 20. AI, data, space and hypersonics set to be ‘strategic disruptors’: NATO. NATO’s science and technology organisation has released a report detailing the innovations that are likely to cause major disruption to the way its members’ militaries operate over the next 20 years.
In the report, NATO cited data, artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, space, hypersonics, quantum, biotechnology and materials as tech areas ‘either currently in nascent stages of development or are undergoing rapid revolutionary development.’
The report reads: “Technological development in data, AI, autonomy, space and hypersonics are seen to be predominately disruptive in nature, as developments in these areas build upon long histories of supporting technological development. As such, significant or revolutionary disruption of military capabilities is either already on-going or will have a significant impact over the next five to ten years.
“New developments in quantum, biotechnology and materials are assessed as being emergent, requiring significantly more time (ten to 20 years) before their disruptive natures are fully felt on military capabilities.”
The report added that the crossovers between these technologies, such as with data, AI and autonomy, would be highly influential on the development of future military capabilities. Alongside this NATO also noted the importance of the intersections between data, AI and biotechnology; data, AI and materials; data and quantum; space and quantum; and space, hypersonics, and materials as other areas that would influence the development of military technology.
Commenting on the report NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoană said: “This report is a glimpse into the future of defence. It will guide research at NATO and our Allies, to ensure that we maintain our cutting edge technology in the years ahead”.
China has in recent years made major investments in the field of AI and hypersonics, which analysts have previously warned could see the People’s Liberation Army leapfrog the US when it comes to military technology. The report notes: “China, following the release in 2017 of its AI development plan, has also obviously moved quickly to expand the science of AI and explore its use.”
In the report, NATO noted how the emerging disruptive technologies (EDT) largely come under four overarching themes: intelligent, interconnected, distributed and digital. Across these themes, NATO said: “Technologies with these characteristics are bound to increase the Alliance’s operational and organisational effectiveness through the development of a knowledge and decision advantage; leveraging of emergent trusted data sources; increased effectiveness of mesh capabilities across all operational domains and instruments of power; and, adapting to a future security environment replete with cheap, distributed and globally available technologies.”
NATO believes these emerging disruptive technologies, if adopted, will allow it to keep pace in an increasingly fast-paced world. The report goes on to say: “Alliance forces and a NATO
enterprise enabled by EDTs will expand the alliance’s ability to operate in rapidly evolving operational environments, such as space, cyber (including the information sphere) and urban areas.
“However, NATO will be challenged to ensure legal, policy, economic and organisational constraints are properly considered early on in the development of these technologies.”
Countering adversarial EDT development
As important as developing its capabilities in these spaces, NATO’s report notes that keeping pace with adversaries’ science and technology is also an important factor in maintaining its edge. However, NATO said it should not be assumed that foreign forces will pursue the same technologies or development in the same ways that its members do.
The report reads: “Red forces are themselves complex and adaptive. It is misleading to consider red force development of EDTs as being a simple mirror of blue force development.
“Potential asymmetric and peer/near-peer competitors will take differing exploitation paths and may potentially target novel applications in the physical, human or information domains.”
NATO noted that like all military technology, countermeasures, and counter-countermeasures are eventually developed. It also said that increasingly globalised supply chains mean the ‘life-span of a technological advantage may become increasingly short.’
As a result of this NATO thinks that the best operational success in the next 20 years will come from actors who are ‘best able to effectively integrate EDTs within enterprise and operational functions, as well as those who continue to push the technological edge.’
The report found that it is ‘essential’ for the alliance and its members to assess the impact, readiness, synergies, and operational applications of each outlined emerging technology, with the report adding that members have ‘little choice but to adapt to this environment’.
NATO added: “For over 70 years, NATO has stayed at the forefront of technology to ensure the defence of its allies and the success of its operations. The NATO Science and Technology Organisation supports the alliance to maintain its advantage in this area by generating, sharing and utilising advanced scientific knowledge, technological developments and innovation.” (Source: army-technology.com)
11 May 20. DSME completes preliminary research on development of new electric propulsion system. South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) announced on 11 May that it has completed preliminary research on the development of a new electric propulsion system that could be used for the Republic of Korea Navy’s (RoKN’s) future Korea Destroyer Next Generation (KDDX) and LPX-II large-deck amphibious assault ship programmes.
The company said in a statement that the research project, which was conducted in co-operation with the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI), Seoul National University, and the Korean Register of Shipping, focused on the development of a technology applicable to “next-generation advanced vessels”.
DSME said the new electric propulsion system would enhance the survivability of such vessels during anti-submarine warfare operations, given that it would limit as much as possible the amount of noise radiated under water as it would operate solely with electricity, without the use of mechanical propulsion devices. (Source: Jane’s)
07 May 20. IAI offering BLACK HAWK upgrade package. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is in negotiations with potential customers for the upgraded version of the BLACK HAWK helicopter. Though these are overseas are customers, with whom the negotiations are in various stages, it seems that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is also evaluating the upgrade for its fleet of BLACK HAWKS, with the negotiations based on the upgrade package designed by the Israeli company and installed on a dedicated demonstrator. This was designed by the new aviation group of IAI that has merged some previously separated entities within the company with the BLACK HAWK upgrade programme aimed at current operators of the helicopter and at air forces that want to purchase surplus airframes and upgrade them as an alternative to buying a new helicopter. The upgraded package includes a glass cockpit, enhanced navigation systems, high performance mission EO payload, weapons and self-protection/ EW systems. According to Yoav Laor, VP and general manager of conversion and upgrades in the aviation group, the upgrade includes airframe work and the full overhaul of the BLACK HAWK’s transmission units and rotor blades. “Our package is now being offered to air forces that are operating BLACK HAWKs and others that plan to buy old BLACK HAWKs and upgrade them, [this] will cost much less than to buy a new helicopter with similar capabilities,” Laor said.
(Source: ESD Spotlight)
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.