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12 Oct 23. US Army considering aerostat overhaul as focus turns to Russia, China. The U.S. Army is examining how it can reinvigorate its aging fleet of blimp-like aircraft known as aerostats that serve as elevated surveillance and communication platforms.
The service is interested in the updates amid a focus on countering the Russian and Chinese militaries, forces more sophisticated than those fought for decades in the Middle East.
“Aerostat, I think, is synonymous with the old fight, counterinsurgency,” Lareina Adams, a project manager for terrestrial sensors, told C4ISRNET during an interview at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington. “But what we’re trying to see is if we can expand the applicability of the aerostat to other missions that will support the Army in 2030.”
Future aerostats could carry autonomous capabilities — slashing costly logistics and staffing needs — or even counter-drone payloads. Adams said she observed autonomous features aboard an aerostat at a recent demonstration, but offered few additional details.
The Army has for decades deployed and tinkered with aerostats and other so-called lighter-than-air technologies. Examples include the Persistent Threat Detection System, PTDS, and the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, JLENS.
“One of my priorities is to help reimagine aerostats,” Adams said. “We’re starting to have those conversations with the requirements community within the Army to figure out what the needs are. We’re also looking at industry, as well, to see what advancements they’ve made.”
The terrestrial sensor bureau that Adams leads is part of the Army’s Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. The executive office is tasked with helping develop and deploy everything from aerostats to biometric devices, electronic jammers to soldier-carried navigation tools. (Source: Defense News)
11 Oct 23. Leonardo DRS exhibited its SPEAR HPEM C-UAS system at AUSA. SPEAR provides a portable, compact, and deployable High Power Electromagnetic (HPEM) source as a directed energy weapon against individual and swarm drone threats. The innovative system was designed as an intentional, single-pulse to repetition rate, high-power electromagnetic radiator. Due to its portable size, low weight, low power requirements, and effectivity, SPEAR provides Counter small Unmanned Aircraft System (C-sUAS) capabilities to ground vehicles, fixed platforms, and field troops.
Key Design Advantages
- High effectivity; low SWaP
- Low-cost system with ~1M magazine depth with low cost per shot; minimal logistics support needed
- Ultrawide bandwidth permits engagement of targets without prior knowledge of specific vulnerabilities
- Ability to disrupt and destroy targets with both front-and-back-door coupling
- Counter heterogeneous sUAS swarms simultaneously without prior knowledge of threat type
- Defeat ranges beyond distances associated with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) / Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) type UAS swarm attack distances
- System electromagnetically couples with heterogeneous target systems regardless of size
- Independent of threat orientation due to simultaneous horizontal and vertical polarization
- Rapid deployment; instantaneous effectivity
- Easily transportable, set-up/power-up in seconds to minutes
10 Oct 23. Matrix Space showed the Editor its new micro radar, the MatrixSpace Radar™. The MatrixSpace Radar™ is the smallest, lightest and most portable high-performance radar available on the market, weighing only one pound.
The radar has been designed using a low-cost architecture, giving users the ability and power to digitize their outdoor environments.
In each area where our radars are placed, we offer new information and details previously unavailable, from the ground or in the air.
- Easy to set up and operate in a matter of minutes, we facilitate those situations where speed of deployment is a key factor for a successful outcome.
- If it needs to be permanently left in a remote area, it can be simply attached to a single solar array panel.
- The overall architecture design means you now have confidence in receiving the information necessary to make immediate, real-time decisions.
“How has your small form factor been achieved?” The Editor asked.
“We built our foundational platform using a fully digital (software-defined) and proprietary design. We’ve leveraged our team’s experience in RF semiconductors, software defined radios, cell phones, cellular base stations and mmWave 5G to create a fresh approach to the modern radar.” Robert Hipwell Senior Advisor replied.
“Why did you create this radar?”
“We saw a gap in the market. We saw very large radar systems, costing hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, and medium-sized radars that still cost in the lower hundreds of thousands of dollars. We also saw the lidar automotive market with a small form factor but very limited in range. We set out to create a radar that works at reasonable distances for most activities, especially those supporting airspace and physical security. We wanted to add to it, coupled with the ability for multi-sensing capabilities along with the overlay of AI/ML all while utilizing a low-cost architecture design.”
“How can this radar be used?”
“The MatrixSpace Radar is designed for a wide array of edge applications and is intended for commercial enterprise, law enforcement, and military use cases. One of the great benefits of radar is its ability to see targets day or night and in most weather conditions. Since we have combined powerful edge compute and RF sensing in a single package, MatrixSpace has a broad set of applications in which MatrixSpace is already working on behalf of the military/DoD. Our platform is based on 100% software-defined and modular architecture through which the product is adapted to satisfy different customer requirements with ease.”
“Why do you state that you are low SWaP?”
“SWaP stands for low (small) size, low weight and low power. Our system meets all of these attributes. Our radar is the size of a hand-held regular sized cell phone, its weight is very low at under one pound, and its power consumption is so low it could be run using a small cell sized battery or set up with a single panel solar array for long term remote power. We intentionally designed our system to be used on constrained platforms like robotics and UAV’s platforms.”
“Does your system come pre-integrated or does it require the use of your proprietary control systems?”
“Our system supports an open API structure. We will offer either a software interface for display or the option to embed our technology into your existing systems and architectures.”
“Do you hold any patents?”
“Yes, we have patents pending on our technology. We also have a number of trade secrets.”
“Is your software and technology designed in the United States?
Yes, all our development work has been done solely in the United States and our teams are 100% United States-based. We are also a current United States Government Contractor for a number of defense organizations.”
“Are your units available for sale today?”
“No, our units are not available for sale today. However, we do have a number of market trials and experimental licenses that have been granted to us.”
Once the MatrixSpace Radar™ is fully matured and trialled it is likely to attract a lot of interest in the defense, security and automotive markets.
27 Jul 23. Anduril Industries and Epirus recently completed an advanced Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) software integration to support technology evaluations from the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) as part of its ongoing efforts to analyze new technologies for the U.S. Marine Corps Force Design 2030 process. This partnership was made possible through an integration between Epirus’ Leonidas system, a high-power microwave (HPM) counter-swarm defeat capability and Anduril’s Lattice Command and Control (C2) system. Leonidas is a software-defined HPM weapon with unmatched ability to defeat swarming UAS. With a deep magazine, the system enables near instantaneous defeat of electronic threats. Lattice combines Anduril’s state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to detect, track, and classify every object of interest in an operator’s vicinity.
Lattice combines all phases of the C-UAS kill chain into a modern open architecture operating system, providing all the tools an operator needs for threat detection, tracking, identification, and defeat in a way that is made available to users across a network, not just locally with the system. Lattice also layers in software capabilities to enable automated sensor processing, robotic controls, sensor fusion, correlation, classification and disposition of targets, and can provide recommended courses of action to the operator to provide a modern defense-in-depth C2 platform that supports multiple Air Defense missions. This integration with Epirus’ Leonidas provides a new capability to the warfighter that can be used as a part of a series of various layered defeat capabilities connected to Anduril’s Lattice Operating System.
With its software backbone, operators can control Leonidas’ HPM pulse with unmatched precision, enabling the system to defeat single UAS in tight crowded spaces or neutralize a hostile UAS swarm across a wide terrain. Epirus’ use of solid-state semiconductors dramatically reduces the size and weight of the system, providing the warfighter with a highly maneuverable and mission ready counter-swarm solution. Leonidas’ open application programming interface, modularity, and scalability enable swift integration with other partner platforms and rapid development of additional form factors.
Leonidas’ successful integration with Lattice demonstrates the system’s ability to rapidly ingest and process inputs including timing, radar track data, commands and more through Lattice to lock and track designated targets. When cued by Lattice, Leonidas effectively neutralizes targets, without harming operators nor blue force assets. With its open architecture, Lattice makes it possible to compose diverse platforms and payloads made by different industry partners – like Epirus – for various mission solutions and then change them rapidly as threats and technologies evolve.
Anduril and Epirus will continue to collaborate to build new capabilities in support of the MCWL’s ongoing efforts to develop and integrate C-UAS sensors, effectors, and C2 systems into concept-based experiments to inform requirements in support of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Force Design process to enhance ground forces’ ability to detect and defeat small UAS.
12 Oct 23. CSIR upgrades Meerkat with new, lighter camera. Meerkat, the wide area surveillance system that is used in the Kruger National Park to detect wildlife poachers, has been recently upgraded with a new and lighter camera. This has eased the logistical burden around its use in the Park, increased its reliability and reduced the system’s power consumption.
The Meerkat system was developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to amongst others detect and capture rhino poachers before they attack. Since initial deployment in the Kruger in March 2017, poaching in the area under surveillance has been eradicated. Before Meerkat was deployed, more than one rhino a day was killed in the area but in its first six months of operation, the Meerkat system detected almost 90 poachers.
The Meerkat system allows for up to 200 square kilometres of coverage. Components include a Reutech RSR 904 ground surveillance radar, day and thermal cameras for 24 hour operation, and information analysis software that is able to detect, track and classify people entering certain areas. The radar detects multiple moving targets, does a first order classification, and then offers a human operator the opportunity to designate the camera to determine if the object is a human or an animal.
The Meerkat system started out using the Cyclone camera, which was subsequently replaced by Otus and then RINO, a smaller version of Otus with similar range capability. Hendrik Theron, former CSIR Research Group Leader in the Optronic Sensor Systems area, told defenceWeb the RINO upgrade allows a Meerkat operator from South African National Parks to easily lift the camera system in the set-up process. The previous Otus camera had to be transported in a special transport case and then lifted into place by either four people or by a crane due to its heavy weight. An additional benefit of the new camera is its lower power consumption, reduced system complexity and easier maintenance. Theron said the new camera provides approximately the same quality as the old one.
The RINO long-range day/night camera was designed as a fully sealed, low maintenance system that can be remotely deployed for extended periods of time. It operates passively in daylight, through dusk and down to halfmoon conditions, and is augmented with a long-range laser illuminator for zero-light conditions. RINO weights 23 kg (excluding chiller) and is smaller and more power efficient than Otus. RINO has a daylight recognition range of just under 10 km and a nighttime range in excess of 7 km.
A new development to replace the long-range RINO camera system is the Tyto multi-role camera system. Tyto is lighter and cheaper – Tyto weights 20 kg compared to the 98 kg of Otus and 23 kg of RINO. Tyto is able to operate during the day or at night with enhanced twilight performance. It has a high sensitivity monochrome main sensor, a zoomable thermal night sensor and a 30 times optical zoom colour viewfinder channel. The recognition range is around 6 km, compared to approximately 10 km for Otus and RINO. Development of Tyto started in 2018, with integration into Meerkat from last year.
In addition to camera upgrades, Meerkat may in future be fitted with a new Ground-based Surveillance and Classification Radar (GSCR). This has been developed by the CSIR with support from the Department of Science and Innovation.
Meerkat allows continuous coverage of large areas requiring protection. While it has, to date, only been used in the Kruger National Park, with three systems manufactured, Meerkat could also be used for border protection, open cast mining operations, and in industrial and farm security roles.
The Meerkat system in the Kruger is the outcome of a partnership, with funding coming from lotteries in the Netherlands (Dutch Postcode), Sweden (Swedish Postcode), the United Kingdom (UK People’s Postcode), and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). South African involvement is via the national conservation agency SANParks, the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) and the CSIR (DSI). (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
09 Oct 23. Moldova Signs LoI with France, Buys GM200 Air-Defense Radar. Defense Agreement between France and Moldova: Letter of Intent. During his trip to Chisinau on September 25, Sébastien Lecornu, the Minister of the Armed Forces, concluded with his counterpart a Letter of Intent aimed at strengthening defense cooperation between France and Moldova. This rapprochement comes at a time when the Republic of Moldova is directly impacted by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Bordering Ukraine for nearly 1,000 kilometers, the Republic of Moldova is located in a troubled regional environment. Independent since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, this country, which has 2.6 m inhabitants, is also faced with a territorial dispute due to the secession of Transnistria.
France “alongside the Moldovans”
On September 25, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, went to Chisinau to meet his Moldovan counterpart, Anatolie Nosatîi, and to demonstrate France’s support for Moldova. The two men laid the foundations for a defense agreement through the signing of a letter of intent aimed at strengthening cooperation between their countries and modernizing Moldova’s military capabilities. The document provides, among other things, for the training of Moldovan military personnel and support for the missions of the Ministry of Defense in the field of developing its capabilities, and with a view to possible acquisitions of defense equipment.
This historic visit, the first for a French Minister of the Armed Forces, “represents a strong message that France has been and is a supporter of initiatives and projects to modernize the defense sector (…)”, declared the Moldovan minister of the defense.
This rapprochement between the two countries is part of the broader framework of Moldova’s accession process to the EU. An approach supported by France since June 24, 2022. “France will continue to stand alongside the Moldovans in the face of any attempt at destabilization,” said Sébastien Lecornu.
Protecting the Moldovan sky
On the sidelines of this meeting, Moldova announced the acquisition of a GM200 radar. This aerial surveillance equipment, manufactured by Thales, makes it possible to simultaneously detect and track targets moving from low to very high altitude, in all types of environments.
In a broader perspective, Sébastien Lecornu announced that he wanted to “conduct an audit of air defense means to help strengthen the security of Moldovan skies”. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: Defense-Aerospace.com/ French Ministry of the Armed Forces)
09 Oct 23. American Rheinmetall Unveiled Best-in-class 30mm Cannon on RCV to Demo Mobile C-UAS Excellence.
- American Rheinmetall displayed the Skyranger 30mm turret on Textron Systems’ Ripsaw M5 RCV at AUSA to demonstrate leading c-UAS technology, available now (booth 1603)
- Skyranger offers exceptional lethality, precision and versatility in all air defense scenarios
- Skyranger, paired with Textron’s M5 can be deployed alongside ground forces or used for stationary vital-asset protection
Rheinmetall, a leader in advanced defense technologies and solutions, took the mobile counter-UAS fight to the next level at this year’s Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting. Rheinmetall is showcasing the exceptionally lethal, precise and versatile Skyranger 30, the world’s most advanced c-UAS turret, with the combined speed, mobility, and unmanned capability of Textron Systems’ Ripsaw M5 robotic combat vehicle (RCV). When integrated on an unmanned ground vehicle, Skyranger can secure the air space and mitigate UAS threats in the most austere and contested battle spaces, including autonomously at the tactical edge. Visitors to AUSA can see the Skyranger displayed on Textron’s M5, on Rheinmetall’s booth (#1603).
The use of best-in-class cannon systems means that Skyranger can stand its ground against swarming attacks. Together with Textron’s M5, Skyranger can be deployed alongside ground forces or used for stationary vital-asset protection. The Skyranger can protect mobile units on the march or critical fixed infrastructure and facilities from loiter, pop-up and dive attacks. The Skyranger 30 variant represents a significant leap-ahead in c-UAS technology by coupling 360° air and ground surveillance with an autonomous 30mm Oerlikon Revolver Gun®, Oerlikon AHEAD® airburst ammunition and short-range air defense missiles. The 30mm revolver gun provides ultimate firepower and precision at 1,250 rds/min, and when combined with the dynamically programmed airburst ammunition, enhances the probability of hitting even the smallest micro and nano drones.
Skyranger can independently generate its own local air picture while its open architecture C2 system (Skymaster), IFF and data link can be seamlessly integrated into higher echelon systems such as FAADC2. As the threats evolve, so will the Skyranger. Also available as a 35mm variant, the Skyranger family offers the most modern mobile defense against an array of current and future battlefield air threats.
Rheinmetall has earned exceptional customer trust on an international level, providing air defense and c-UAS solutions to over 40 countries and is committed to working with the U.S. Army and industry partners to deliver next-generation air defense capabilities in America. (Source: ASD Network)
09 Oct 23. US Army headset’s latest version clears hurdle, but service wishlist remains long. Service approves further development after Microsoft’s IVAS 1.2 proves lighter, crisper.
Soldiers who tried out the latest prototype of the U.S. Army’s futuristic infantry headset called it much improved over an earlier, heavier version. But the Army’s wishlist of capabilities for a soldier headset remains long and ambitious.
From August 18 to 24, soldiers at Fort Drum, New York, tested version 1.2 of Microsoft’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, which Army leaders hope will give forces a massive advantage in everything from training to mission rehearsal to combat.
The testers “appreciated the improved form factor, with the flip-up heads up display and significantly improved center of gravity/weight distribution,” said David Patterson, a spokesman for PEO-Soldier. He said the positive reviews led the Army Acquisition Executive to greenlight IVAS 1.2 for more development and a planned operational assessment in fiscal 2025.
The new version has a slimmer visor and a new display that help reduce eyestrain and motion sickness, Microsoft says, as well as better night vision, compatibility with weapons optics, and more stable and reliable software. The system can also incorporate imagery from a rifle’s digital sight, allowing soldiers to peer around corners without exposing themselves to fire.
Defense One tested the new IVAS in a simulated training exercise at one of Microsoft’s Virginia offices. Compared to the original version, the new one is indeed smaller and lighter. The night-vision picture is clearer and crisper; a new option to fuse visible-light and thermal data helps when thermal imagery alone doesn’t work well, such as through glass.
IVAS comes with an embedded training tool, the Squad Immersive Virtual Trainer, which the Army hopes will become central to the way troops learn and practice their craft. It allows soldiers to fight holographic adversaries in realistic settings, then rewatch and learn from their efforts, down to the position of the gun at different moments. (When Defense One ran through several simulations, we did indeed improve over time, yet repeatedly died, as we are not actually good at this stuff.)
Microsoft delivered 20 IVAS 1.2 headsets in August; a spokesman said the company expects to deliver more by January for testing and refinement.
It was a critical test of a system that has seen delays, scaled-back expectations, and complaints about neck strain and glitchy software. In April, Army acquisition head Doug Bush told lawmakers that the Army “is absolutely prepared to end that arrangement and seek a new competition.”
But the program’s problems reflect the Army’s big ambitions for the headset as much as the actual hardware and software issues.
“It’s not ready,” PEO-SOF Warrior’s Col. Anh Ha said of IVAS in May. “But it’s not because of any type of problems with industry. The technology that [Army leaders] want to get after is not there yet…They want to make sure they get the best, but they are building some right now to understand what they can and can’t do in the realm of possibility, technically, for IVAS.”
The program owes its origins to an earlier vision of future tech: the “Iron Man” suit that then-SOCOM chief Adm. William McRaven announced in 2013. The armored exoskeleton was supposed to give the wearer super abilities, like running through walls and swatting away bullets. It was ultimately crushed by the limitations of physics, particularly battery technology. But a portion of the idea lived on in the idea of the hyper-enabled operator, supplied with data and optical gear to understand the battlefield better than his or her adversary.
The Army has relatively near-term goals for IVAS or whatever AR headset it eventually adopts, such as pulling in video feeds from soldier-borne drones such as the Teledyne FLIR Black Hornet. But ultimately, the service wants to use artificial intelligence to collect and disseminate battlefield data much more quickly and effectively, data collected from and sent to the headsets, the IVAS program’s head-up-display leader said in May
“As we speak, the Army intel data platform is undergoing an operational test both here in the National Capital Region and all over the world. And that’s gonna get deployed early next year. So [Army Data Platform] is a big data platform hosted on the cloud, multiple security enclaves,” Robert Luke told a crowd in Tampa. “Right now we’re in the tens of ms of individual files and data objects and multiple security lanes, dozens of pipelines increasing every day…We have a warehouse full of data that is timely. We have countless sensors adding to it, basically, by the minute, in real time, 24 hours a day. So it’s pretty obvious to us early on that we needed to be able to effectively manage this giant volume and complexity of data. The only way to do that is through artificial intelligence.”
The Army doesn’t want AI to replace human decision-making, Luke said, so much as allow human operators to make better decisions faster with much more data. The IVAS, ultimately, is just a one of several points where soldiers will access information about the world around them allowing them to act faster than their foes not only when they are dismounted but when they are operating vehicles and weapons around them.
“At the tactical level,” he said, “On a fighting platform, with an open-systems architectural approach, I can now take a…data feed; I can link that to a the appropriate antenna that is listening in the EW spectrum; I can fuse that with multispectral imagery coming from multiple optics on the platform, and now present a synchronized multimodal, ‘Hey, this is what the battlefield looks like around you. I recognize these things are threats. Shoot this one first.’
“And the gun does it by itself because I’ve…accelerated this decision cycle filtering, multimodal information into that vehicle commander, you know, synthesized for him, and he’s just pressing the button because he agreed with the prioritization and the identification,” he said. “If you’re going to do that, you’re basically out-fighting someone else’s OODA loop and you’re going to win every day.” (Source: Defense One)
09 Oct 23. BAE preps adaptable armored vehicle turret for counter-drone missions. BAE Systems hopes a prototype redesign of its new armored vehicle’s turret could one day allow the U.S. Army to rapidly adapt it into an anti-drone weapon.
BAE is now developing the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle for the Army as a replacement for the Vietnam-era M113 armored personnel carriers. The company has so far built more than 270 of the tracked, heavily-armored AMPVs, and hundreds more are on the way, according to BAE’s vice president of business development for combat mission systems, Jim Miller. The business official spoke to Defense News on Oct. 9 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s conference in Washington.
The AMPV has five variants, including versions designed to fire mortars, a command-and-control vehicle, and medical vehicles for evacuating or treating troops wounded on the battlefield.
But BAE thinks the AMPV can do more — and that the Army will want it to carry out additional missions.
The company created a prototype that essentially has its roof plate chopped and replaced with a version — dubbed the External Mission Equipment Package, or ExMEP — that has an adaptable turret on top. The ExMEP plate uses modular, open-systems architecture for quick adaptability, Miller said.
BAE outfitted its prototype AMPV at AUSA with a counter-drone turret commonly used on the Army’s Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or M-SHORAD, system to demonstrate what could be added to the vehicle without much difficulty or cost.
“The Army doesn’t have to test all that stuff again,” Miller said. “All the pieces have [already] been tested.”
Miller compared the concept to a Picatinny rail system on a rifle that allows a soldier to quickly adapt a weapon with features such as a scope, targeting laser or grenade launcher.
The M-SHORAD counter-drone system that was adapted into the AMPV is the Moog-made Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform turret.
BAE adapted its AMPV with a 30mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, Stinger missiles, radar and other tracking systems. However, Miller said the Stingers could be replaced with Hellfire missiles.
Miller said the work to adapt different systems onto an AMPV would likely happen in BAE facilities or depots, not in the field. One adaptation took place in a few days, he explained, but cautioned that not all might happen that quickly. The integration of command-and-control systems into the AMPV is complicated, he said — but it can be done.
“We want to show the Army that … this vehicle is completely adaptable,” Miller said. “It is [a] modular, open-systems [architecture], and should they want to do a rapid program development for something like [M-SHORAD], they could do something like we’re showing here.”
BAE started planning these AMPV adaptations at last year’s AUSA conference, he noted. But the firm isn’t yet planning to start adapting its already in-construction AMPVs with the adaptable top, he said, and it will be up to the Army to decide if it wants this to be another official variant, or if it wants to adjust BAE’s design.
“Our base planning idea is to keep this as low cost as possible so that the Army can do it … at low risk and low cost,” Miller said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
10 Oct 23. Northrop Grumman Athena – Advancing Survivability for Army Aircrews – A Generational Leap in Threat Detection Technology Since their introduction, Man-Portable Air Defense Systems – heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles – have been a persistent threat to U.S. Army aviation. Infrared countermeasures, such as Northrop Grumman’s Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM), are highly effective at protecting warfighters from these threats. But CIRCM and similar systems can defeat only what they can see, and its missile warning sensors are critical to survivability. These “eyes of CIRCM” may be the unsung heroes of the countermeasure world, detecting and identifying supersonic missiles almost instantaneously. Northrop Grumman’s next-generation missile warning sensor (MWS), the Advanced Tactical Hostile Engagement Awareness (ATHENA), provides a generational leap in threat detection capability. Introducing ATHENA ATHENA is a staring sensor, always on and keeping an eye out for threats. Setting ATHENA apart are its significant increases in resolution and processing power. In operational terms, these advances translate to additional time for warfighters and survivability systems to address threats and greater maneuverability. ATHENA is also able to detect threats beyond infrared guided missiles, including hostile fire and anti-tank guided missiles. “The longer range and resolution of ATHENA will give warfighters an additional margin of safety in contested airspace,” said Dennis Neel, program director, Northrop Grumman. A smarter sensor Aside from sharper vision, ATHENA is also a smarter sensor. Onboard processing provides actionable information instantly while preserving mission computing resources for other functions.
This processing power, combined with advanced software that is updated easily to address changing mission requirements, allows for additional survivability capabilities.
One of these capabilities is full spherical situational awareness. Using the multiple sensors on a standard installation configuration, the individual video feeds are seamlessly stitched together. Operators and passengers can view any point in 360 degrees around the aircraft, even “looking through” the aircraft floor. “ATHENA exemplifies our approach to sensors, using available hardware to perform multiple functions and missions. This increases rotary wing aircraft survivability and provides situational awareness capabilities previously available only on much larger aircraft,” said Neel. “It has the potential to make any aircraft significantly more survivable. Bringing warfighters home safely is the ultimate goal.” Unparalleled missile warning expertise Northrop Grumman’s CIRCM is currently protecting Army helicopters. Northrop Grumman photo. Northrop Grumman has manufactured missile warning sensors since pioneering the first infrared countermeasure system. Customers worldwide now use Northrop Grumman survivability systems to protect more than 80 aircraft types. With each generation of CIRCM, the MWS has also grown in capability. ATHENA builds on these innovations to provide next-generation missile warning, survivability and situational awareness capabilities.
09 Oct 23. General Atomics: New radar to turn Gray Eagles into anti-drone hunters. A new multidomain surveillance radar from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, dubbed Eagle Eye, aims to increase the U.S. Army’s ability to track and shoot down even small drones.
Mike Shortsleeve, vice president of Defense Department strategic development at the firm, said in a Monday interview at the Association of the U.S. Army’s conference in Washington that Gray Eagle 25M drones are now in production with Eagle Eye, a synthetic aperture radar.
A fact sheet from General Atomics said Eagle Eye’s synthetic aperture radar can spot targets up to 50 miles away at high resolution, or up to 125 miles when conducting maritime surveillance.
Recent conflicts, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the days-old fighting between Israel and Hamas, show the growing importance of small drones in war, Shortsleeve said. Hamas in part used small, explosive-laden drones to take the Israeli military by surprise, Forbes reported.
The threat from drones is likely to increase, according to Shortsleeve, as technical advancements such as artificial intelligence and machine learning increase their capabilities and as the costs of such systems come down.
That is where General Atomics sees its Eagle Eye-equipped Gray Eagles — working hand-in-hand with other systems that could do the actual shooting down of enemy drones — benefiting the Army, Shortsleeve said.
For example, he added, it would be prohibitively expensive for a Gray Eagle to track and shoot down a small enemy drone with a multim-dollar missile. But the Gray Eagle can identify the target, track it and hand that target off to another counter-drone platform that could down an enemy UAV with a less expensive weapon, such as a cannon or directed-energy weapon.
In a May test, he said, the Eagle Eye was able to detect and track a small fixed-wing drone made out of balsa wood — much smaller than forces in the field would likely encounter from an enemy. An earlier test in late 2022 used the radar to shoot down a drone, General Atomics said.
Shortsleeve said Eagle Eye would be able to spot targets in the air, at sea and on the ground.
General Atomics expects to deliver the first tranche of 12 Eagle Eye-equipped Gray Eagle 25Ms to the Army National Guard in the second half of 2026, Shortsleeve said. Another six to 12 will follow for the active duty Army, he said. General Atomics plans to continue producing Gray Eagles with the new radars until the service decides to stop buying them or wants to put a different radar on the new Gray Eagle drones, he added.
The 25M variant of the Gray Eagle also includes open-architecture aircraft and ground systems, a better engine, advanced data links, and improved range, the company said.
General Atomics has been evolving the technology at the core of Eagle Eye for years, but work on the program dramatically accelerated in the last five years, Shortsleeve said.
And loitering munitions of the kind that have gotten considerable use in Ukraine could also be targeted by the Eagle Eye radar, he said.
Some foreign nations have expressed interest in Eagle Eye-equipped drones, Shortsleeve noted, but he declined to identify the countries.
It would be possible to adapt this radar to other platforms besides the Gray Eagle, he said. But in years to come, he added, the Army is only going to need more capabilities to counter small drones in combat.
“The proliferation [of small drones] in combat operations is growing exponentially,” Shortsleeve said. In the future, “it’s going to be undeniable that [unmanned aerial systems] are going to be all over the battlespace, in any large-scale combat operations.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
03 Oct 23. US troops to receive “more focused C-UAS training with opening of specialist training school.”
A report from the American Homefront Project reveals the fact that the US Department of Defense (DoD) will open a new ‘Counter small UAS university’ at Fort Sill, OK, on 16 October, focused on improving training for US troops to deal with one of the fastest emerging threats the military faces – small weaponised drones.
Events in Ukraine have highlighted the imperative and the urgency for such training to be provided – it remains to be seen whether use of the facility might be extended to state and local law enforcement or other pertinent security agencies. Currently, the forecast is for around 1,000 troops to be schooled per year.
US Army Future Command certainly perceives the urgency, with commander Gen James Rainey stating that a five year wait for the “perfect system” is simply unacceptable. The extent of proliferation – especially when it comes to the scale and speed of disruption that small drones can cause on the battlefield and beyond – is driving the pace of change and causing militaries everywhere to ‘drop a gear’ and accelerate the development, fielding and efficient operation of effective countermeasures.
Three principal lines of instruction will be featured at the new school:
- For C-UAS system operators, with differential teaching to cater for the needs of the individual services;
- For planners, seeking to educate the best methods for siting sensors and effectors;
- For those responsible for protection of fixed locations, to protect current US military bases.
One warning bears careful attention, though: the speed of proliferation and the agility of hostile drone operators in adapting to current-generation countermeasures means the school will have to remain vigilant, agile and flexible, ready to adapt or radically overhaul the curriculum at very short notice.
For more information: A new school will train U.S. troops to fight a growing threat: small weaponized drones | The American Homefront Project (ampproject.org) (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
10 Oct 23. Teledyne FLIR Defense Unveils New Black Hornet 4 Personal Reconnaissance System at AUSA Conference.
Next gen nano-drone builds on battle-proven Black Hornet 3 legacy; Delivers improved range, endurance, signature and imagery data while providing covert situational awareness to warfighters
Teledyne FLIR Defense, part of Teledyne Technologies Incorporated (NYSE:TDY), is introducing its new Black Hornet® 4 Personal Reconnaissance System at this week’s Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference in Washington D.C.
Black Hornet 4 represents the next generation of lightweight nano-drones, building on its predecessor to deliver enhanced covert situational awareness to small units. A new 12-megapixel daytime camera with superior low-light performance, plus new high-resolution thermal imager, deliver crisp video and still images to the operator. At just 70 grams, Black Hornet 4 has a flying time of more than 30 minutes, range greater than two kilometers, and can fly in 25-knot winds. Flight performance has been augmented by new obstacle avoidance capabilities and an advanced battery.
Compared to small quad-rotor drones, the single rotor Black Hornet 4 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has an extremely low visual and audible signature, enabling it to identify threats day or night without being detected. Able to launch in less than 20 seconds and well suited for missions in GPS-denied environments, the Black Hornet 4 UAV can be used to rapidly identify targets beyond visual line-of-sight and assess weapon effects in real-time.
“Black Hornet 4 takes the features and capabilities that made Black Hornet 3 world renowned to the next level,” said Dr. JihFen Lei, executive vice president and general manager of Teledyne FLIR Defense. “We’ve worked closely with customers and end users to make this system even more valuable for dismounted soldiers in need of situational understanding or engaged in covert operations, where precise and immediate intel is crucial.
“Black Hornet 4 is future-proof nano-drone technology,” Lei added.
FLIR Defense has delivered more than 20,000 Black Hornet PRS systems to military and security forces in over 40 countries. Black Hornet drones are currently being used in Ukraine through donations made by the British and Norwegian governments, where they have performed successfully in numerous missions under the harshest of environments.
The U.S. Army began acquiring Black Hornets five years ago as part of its Soldier Borne Sensor program and since then has placed orders totaling more than $125m. In July, the Army awarded Teledyne FLIR a five-year contract worth up to $94 m for additional Black Hornet systems.
Visit Teledyne FLIR Defense at AUSA in Hall A, Booth 1003, to see the new Black Hornet 4, or learn more online. Black Hornet 4 is designed and built by FLIR Defense in Norway. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
10 Oct 23. Shield AI unveils V-Bat Teams drone swarm tech, with eye to Replicator. California-based defense technology firm Shield AI on Monday launched a new drone swarming capability called V-Bat Teams — one it hopes the Defense Department might use for programs such as its Replicator initiative.
V-Bat Teams, which grew out of Shield AI’s experiments with the Air Force’s AFWERX innovation unit that culminated in a demonstration this summer, has at its core the company’s artificial intelligence pilot software dubbed Hivemind. These teams consisting of a handful of V-Bat aircraft are intended to operate autonomously in high-threat environments, without needing instructions or guidance from GPS or communications.
In an interview Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington, Shield AI’s co-founder and president said V-Bat Teams could be a “great fit” with the Pentagon’s Replicator program, which aims to field thousands of autonomous, attritable drones in the next two years to counter China.
Brandon Tseng added that V-Bat Teams would operate with minimal instruction from human operators, beyond the point where the humans tell them what target or mission to pursue. However, the V-Bats would notify humans when they notice something that needs to be brought to their attention.
Tseng said Shield AI conducted the first flight of V-Bat Teams in April and conducted a demonstration as part of the Air Force’s AFWERX autonomy effort in June. That demo, which was announced in August, showed how the Hivemind technology could launch and autonomously control a trio of V-Bats to monitor and surveil simulated wildfires.
V-Bat Teams now include four of the UAVs, Tseng said, but the company hopes to double that capacity every year — to eight in 2024, then to 16, and so on.
Hivemind’s autonomous software is, on its own, already able to control many more V-Bats, Tseng said. The limiting factor on V-Bat Teams comes in the operational logistics of launching multiple drones at once and then landing, he explained.
Sending large swarms of drones into the air isn’t a new trick, Tseng noted, as such demonstrations are commonly done at festivals or other celebratory events. But those are “brittle, dumb drones” that would fall out of the sky or automatically land if they were jammed, he added. Shield AI first focused on creating an intelligent, secure AI pilot in the form of Hivemind, and then the firm worked to add more drones into the mix to carry out different mission sets.
V-Bat Teams will first focus on maritime domain awareness missions, Tseng said, but their use could expand to include the suppression of enemy air defenses, strike operations, escort missions and logistics operations.
With their relatively low cost — Tseng said the V-Bat’s price point comes around the mid-six-figure range — V-Bats could even be used as decoys to lure out enemy fire and take hits that would otherwise target crewed aircraft.
V-Bats are attritable, Tseng noted, which means they could be sent into combat in considerable numbers and the military could easily weather their loss, while still being able to operate intelligently.
Tseng said some of Ukraine’s experiences have shown that throwing waves of basic drones at an enemy isn’t always enough to make a dent. “You need intelligent, affordable mass,” he noted. “Mass for the sake of mass is not helpful; it has very low returns.”
Shield AI aims to sell V-Bat Teams to all U.S. military services as well as foreign customers.
“You’re going to open up a new paradigm of these operations when you have this many aircraft that are able to do it autonomously,” Tseng said.
For now, however, Tseng doesn’t see V-Bat Teams fitting in with the Air Force’s plan to create a fleet of collaborative combat aircraft — autonomous drones that fly alongside crewed fighters such as F-35s. Shield AI is open to looking further into the collaborative combat aircraft program, he said, but what the Air Force has in mind differs from V-Bat’s design.
“We’re open to it,” Tseng explained. “But they want AI-piloted jets, and that’s what they’re focused on before they start thinking about how those AI-piloted jets work with other machines like a V-Bat.” (Source: Defense News)
09 Oct 23. General Micro Systems (GMS) Creates Multi-Function Rugged, Daisy-Chained, High-Definition Thunderbolt 4 Portable Rugged Displays with Touch, NVIS, Storage and PCI Express I/O.
Using Thunderbolt™ 4 technology from Apple® and Intel®, GMS re-invents the rugged display
General Micro Systems (GMS) this week will show off innovation that re-invents the rugged display using open-standard Thunderbolt™ 4 technology. The X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display, the market’s lightest 1-inch thin, mobile-ready multi-function touchscreen display, is available today in 12-, 17-, 24- or 36-inch sizes, in standard and high-definition resolution. Using Thunderbolt 4 technology developed by Apple® and Intel® allows the display to be connected by an exceptionally thin single copper or fiber optic cable up to 50m, which also powers the display and all its features. The display can be daisy-chained to expand to multiple independent displays, while acting as a plug-in peripheral appliance for the main host computer by adding COTS M.2 add-in I/O like software-defined radio (SDR) or GPS, or a removable SSD storage drive.
The X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display enables military and commercial system designers to rethink the display as more than just an output device. For the 12- and 17-inch versions, displays can function as “manpack” portable tablets, usable by dismounted soldiers/Marines or first responders. GMS patent-pending LightBolt™ cables using Thunderbolt 4 technology provide incredible freedom to use the display separately but distantly tethered to the host computer, which may be in a Molle manpack or on a vehicle at-the-halt. Mobile features include an optional wide-angle camera for F2F conferencing between front-line squads and the forward operating base (FOB), and versions with lightweight carbon fiber frames for easy hand holding. Carbon fiber provides superior and even cooling and is one-fifth (80 percent less) the weight of metal displays. Additionally, the X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display costs around $10,000, less than one-third the price of competing displays.
When is a display more than just a visual output device?
“GMS’ military-grade LCD technology gives us the lightest, brightest and most full-featured display anywhere in the market,” said Ben Sharfi, CEO and chief architect, GMS. “But what makes our display truly innovative is how Thunderbolt 4 technology lets us daisy chain multiple displays together—each with their own video feed; add internal I/O like MIL-STD-1553; give the user a convenient 8TB removable drive right on the display itself; include a wide-angle camera for F2F interaction, and power the whole display with the same cable that feeds it video.”
Never before incorporated into a rugged display, Thunderbolt also includes PCI Express, the “data bus” used internally in the host computer. This puts any I/O or storage device installed in the display’s two M.2 sites right on the bus as if they were in the host computer. Placing them in the display eases wiring, allows convenient cable disassembly for plug-in peripherals like audio headsets and push-to-talk, and brings radio electronics to the forefront and away from possible EMI sources while allowing antennas to be conveniently mounted right on the display. Having a local storage drive in the display simplifies the user interface by allowing mission profile changes, data removal and system declassification using a removable M.2 2280 storage drive.
For comparison, competing smart displays without Thunderbolt connectivity rely on networks, such as 1 Gigabit/s Ethernet over copper cable. Thunderbolt technology is 40 Gigabits/s—40 times faster—and has no network overhead. With a thinner copper or fiber optic cable, data between the display and the host is 40 times faster with lower latency. The cable is also lighter—a tremendous weight savings on long runs in aircraft or ships.
The X9 Rugged Thunderbolt Display also reduces cabling and wiring with up to 100W of power sent to the display using the same data cable, eliminating a separate power source and cable. The GMS patent-pending LightBolt cable even provides power over a fiber optic cable, up to 50m. Other features include resistive touch screen compatible with gloves, resolutions from standard to high definition, each supported with GMS’s “boot kick” glass, anti-reflective/anti-glare coatings, water resistant coating, and NVIS night vision support with special GMS backlight controls. A GMS-customizable 10-button keypad allows program-specific functions.
“Beyond all of the incredible specs built into these displays, there are really only a few key takeaways,” Sharfi said. “First, Thunderbolt gives us never-before-imagined capabilities in rugged displays—and we are using these to the fullest. Two, this display allows designers to rethink their system architecture where the display does so much more. And last: only GMS has this—we continue to look at the best COTS technology and will always bring it to the battlefield first.”
The display integrates flawlessly with the rest of the GMS X9 Spider family of rugged, open distributed computing architecture (DCA) small form factor systems designed to reduce the development barriers to rugged high-performance computing, high-definition video, sensor processing, AI, battlefield edge processing, storage, display and intelligent I/O.
Much more than an average ruggedized panel
Beyond the exceptional ruggedization with MIL-SPEC features—the hallmarks of all GMS displays—the X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display brings unparalleled value to systems with:
- Multiple displays can be daisy-chained from a single cable
- Portable hand-held (12-, 17-inch) or panel mount
- 1-inch thick, with carbon fiber option for up to 80% weight savings
- Lower price point compared with smart displays: up to 60% less
- High-definition options, with dual-mode backlights for daylight readability and superior low-light NVIS viewing
- Variety of filters and coatings for all environments: sunlight anti-glare to rain-shedding
- Resistive touchscreen, with PCAP option
- Add-in Thunderbolt 4 I/O on M.2 modules
- Removable M.2 NVMe SSD up to 8TB
- USB 3.2 ports, plus audio and push-to-talk feature
- Single-cable video, data and power, copper or fiber
- Built-in wide angle, ultra-low light camera for F2F video
- GMS-customizable keypad for user-defined capabilities
- A fully EMI-shielded resistive touchscreen for glove and/or stylus operation
- Ultra-rugged “boot kick” glass for a virtually unbreakable screen
- GMS SecureDNA™ cyber security sanitize, including host’s BIOS and storage
The display supports mounting options ranging from VESA and panel/surface, to portable/handheld, including full customization options to meet any need. Plus, the lightweight 12-inch display version expands capabilities to suit dismounted soldier/marine operations. Carbon fiber is lighter than metals, like aluminum. In the X9 Display, it can also save up to 80% of the weight while providing superior cooling by spreading the heat across the microscopic carbon strands.
The dual Thunderbolt 4 ports support daisy chains of up to 4 displays such as three 4K 60Hz monitors, two 4K 120Hz monitors, or four HD 1080p monitors. By connecting to an X9 Spider Mission Computer, Thunderbolt 4 provides power plus 40 Gbps of data, including PCIe Gen 3, DisplayPort video, 10 Gbps Thunderbolt networking and USB. The display may be powered directly from the host up to 50 meters away or powered with external +20 VDC power via a Smart Power™ (patent pending) connector for safe, ultra-low EMI and IP67 waterproof operation. An optional MIL-STD-1275 power supply is available, with optional 50ms hold-up.
The built-in, removable M.2 2280 storage drive is suitable for mission planning, tactical maps, data recorder applications, and the declassification of the entire X9 distributed computing architecture (DCA) system, including the host. Add-in I/O on a separate M.2 3042 module brings local functions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and APNT. I/O connectors (such as for antennas) can be accommodated into the display chassis.
Displays built for harsh, high-performance environments
All X9 rugged display products support optional display coatings to maximize the screen readability and clarity in wet, bright or multi-light source environments. Coatings include anti-reflective (AR), anti-glare (AG), polarizer and water-rejection options. The X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display optionally supports Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) MIL-STD-3009 to reduce eye strain in applications where night vision glasses are used. GMS has created dual backlight arrays, one for ultra brightness, and a second for superior NVIS stealth. A unique “COV” (Cover) button instantly lowers the LCD and keys backlights to a pre-programmed, ultra-low level for surveillance environments.
09 Oct 23. INTERPOL launches second phase of C-UAS testing under project Courageous. INTERPOL has started the second phase of testing under Project Courageous – an initiative funded by the EU aimed at developing a comprehensive procedure to select, test and assess CUAS (Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System) solutions, according a Linkedin social media post by Christopher Church, Senior Forensics Specialist at Interpol.
“This significant event was attended by members from our consortium along with various other stakeholders involved in producing CUAS solutions,” said the post. “The session entailed rigorous testing of each solution against multiple varied drone scenarios using different techniques. The aim is to produce effective and efficient countermeasure methods that enable law enforcement agencies to tackle potential threats posed by unauthorized drones more effectively while ensuring public safety. This development marks a notable progression towards innovation in tech-enabled security measures.”
Project Courageous will develop a standardized methodology for testing and selecting countermeasure systems that can be used to detect and track a drone that enters protected airspace or a no-fly zone, according to the project website.
“This methodology will be based on a series of standard scenarios that represent a wide range of locations and situations, for example, security at prisons, airports, critical infrastructure and borders, and countering drug and human trafficking.
“Three specific drone threat scenarios will be created, according to the operational and functional needs defined by the end users. Three validation trials will then be carried out in Belgium, Greece and Spain respectively, against which counter-UAS technology will be used to try to locate and identify both drone and pilot.
“Using the results from the validation trials, a comprehensive test methodology will be developed to allow an objective qualitative and quantitative comparison between different counter-UAS tools.
“In the short term, the standardized test methodology will lead to a much better understanding of the capabilities needed to counter UAS among law enforcement agencies, not only among Courageous partners, but also within the European Union network of law enforcement agencies and on a global scale via INTERPOL.
“In the medium-to-long term, a more extensive set of commercial counter-UAS will be tested using the Courageous methodology, which will also allow developers of such systems to make design decisions based upon quantitative data.”
For more information: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7117100525405319169/ (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
03 Oct 23. Indian Navy contemplates procurement of 20-50 C-UAS systems underpinned by “Buy India” policy. Unmanned Airspace understands the Indian Navy is in the throes of considering the procurement of between 20 and 50 counter-UAS (C-UAS) systems to protect vessels at sea and its shore stations. A basic set of requirements has already been completed and the service seeks to push the programme ahead relatively aggressively, forecasting tender publication in approximately ten months.
The systems will be procured from an Indian company, with partial supply of equipment and/or support from foreign partners envisaged. Domestic, indigenous content is to stand at a minimum level of 50% and procurement will be governed by the DAP-2020 ‘Buy India’ policy.
Interested parties must move quickly, since the process requires answers to a comprehensive questionnaire, together with a rough order of magnitude regarding pricing, to be submitted no later than 15 October. The expectation is then that the service will finalise the requirements and specifications in about six months and proceed to tender before October 2024.
For more information: RFI_FOR_COUNTER_DRONE_SYSTEM_ (SOFT_KILL).pdf (indiannavy.nic.in) (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
10 Oct 23. Russians Wrap Old T-62 Tanks In Drone Armour. Not content to weld ridiculously tall cage-style anti-drone armor on the tops of their old T-62 tanks, Russian forces in Ukraine now completely are surrounding some of the aged tanks in the bird-cage-style armour.
The result is an extremely unwieldy combat vehicle. One that trades its mobility for protection. But only protection against certain kinds of attacks.
In wrapping a T-62 from tread to turret in slat armour, the Russians are assuming—probably accurately—that explosives-laden drones are among the biggest threats to the 1960s-vintage tanks.
The Kremlin reactivated hundreds of old T-62s starting in the summer of 2022, as losses of more modern tanks—150 or more a month—began far outstripping construction of new tanks.
Inexpensive drones, each hauling a couple of pounds of explosives, indeed are serious threats to tanks and other combat vehicles on both sides of Russia’s 21-month wider war on Ukraine. $5,000, radio-controlled FPV drones have knocked out hundreds of vehicles on both sides.
But most FPV drones range just a few miles. That makes them top killers of tanks in assault echelons fighting at the line of contact between Russian and Ukrainian troops. FPV drones were partially responsible for some of the highest-profile attacks on Ukraine’s Leopard 2 and Challenger 2 tanks.
The problem, for front-line tanks, is that they can’t afford to trade away too much mobility—not even for protection from drones. These tanks have to move fast, in and out of cover, in order to support combined-arms assaults on enemy positions.
Cage armour that doubles a tank’s size obviously impedes the tank’s concealability. Good luck hiding a tank that can’t squeeze itself into a typical Ukrainian treeline. It’s for that reason that, when a front-line tank wears anti-drone cage armor, it typically wears it judiciously.
The 40-ton, four-person T-62 isn’t an assault tank, however. Its 115-millimeter gun lacks the power of the 125-millimeter gun that arms newer Russian tanks. The T-62 likewise is poorly protected relative to modern tanks, with armor that’s just 240 millimeters thick at its thickest. That’s a quarter as much protection as, say, a Ukrainian Leopard 2A6 enjoys.
No, the Russians deploy the T-62 not as a tank, but as artillery. By super elevating its gun, a T-62 should be able to engage a target as far as five miles away, albeit inaccurately. T-62s and older T-54/55s doubling as howitzers lately have helped the Russians quickly to make good escalating losses of actual howitzers.
Five miles puts the T-62 at the outside edge of a typical FPV drone’s effective range. But close enough that at least one Russian regiment is worried about these drones above all else. A purpose-built howitzer might shoot far enough—10, 15 or even 20 miles—that drones are a diminishing threat.
Not so the T-62-turned-howitzer. It can’t outrange all FPV drones, so its crew better had protect itself some other way. Even if this protection makes the tank extra bulky. (Source: UAS VISION/Forbes)
11 Oct 23. Nigerian Air Force takes delivery of final DA 62 special mission aircraft. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken delivery of all four DA 62 MPP special mission aircraft from Austria’s Diamond Aircraft.
It seems the first aircraft was delivered in late February, subsequently being displayed at NAF Day celebrations in May. Waring the registration NAF260, it was seen fitted what appeared to be a Hensoltd Argos II HDT electro-optical gimbal. FlightRadar24 subsequently tracked it on surveillance missions near the Lake Chad region.
The first two aircraft delivered are registered as NAF260 and NAF261 and the final two aircraft are NAF262 and NAF262. These arrived in Nigeria from Austria on 6 October, according to FlightRadar24 data.
Dimond Aircraft describe the DA 62 MPP (Multi Purpose Platform) as offering low operating cost with low noise signature (a specialized on top exhaust system blends fresh air with engine exhaust and utilizes the cowling to provide shielding of exhaust noise and heat). The aircraft has an endurance of up to ten hours thanks to two economical Austro Engine AE330 engines that run on JET A1 or diesel fuel (they each develop 180 hp).
The DA 62 MPP cabin provides for two pilots (equipped with Garmin G1000 NXi glass cockpits) and one or two mission system operators (mission equipment can be fitted in the hold or luggage compartment – useful load is 710 kg). Diamond Aircraft says the DA62 MPP has been specially designed for carrying multi-functional aerial sensors, like electro-optical/infrared cameras, land and sea radars, communications intelligence solutions, airborne laser scanners or large format digital aerial cameras etc. A Universal Nose carries cameras up to 60 kg, the belly is designed for maritime or land radar applications up to 50 kg, and a satellite communications pod houses L-, Ku-, or Ka Band antennas.
A carbon fibre airframe offers virtually unlimited airframe life and is not subject to corrosion, even when operated in saline and humid environments. “Together, fuel efficiency and the unlimited airframe life combine for extremely low direct operating costs, making the DA62 MPP the most cost-efficient special mission aircraft in its class,” Diamond Aircraft said.
In operation since 2016, the DA62 MPP platform is aimed at law enforcement operations, search and rescue missions, land and sea border surveillance, disaster management, infrastructure and environmental monitoring, airport landing systems calibration and more.
The Nigerian Air Force earlier this year confirmed that over 50 new aircraft are being acquired for the service. In late January, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, said the NAF was expecting the delivery of additional new platforms which the President has approved for the service. These include two Beechcraft King Air 360 transports, the four DA 62 surveillance aircraft, three Wing Loong II unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) and six T-129 ATAK attack helicopters.
He further disclosed that there are ongoing acquisitions of 12 Agusta A109 Trekker multi-role helicopters, with the new aircraft to boost the NAF’s air power employment and projection capabilities as well as air combat training. The Army and Navy are also receiving helicopters.
Amao attributed the combat successes recorded by the NAF to the newly acquired JF-17 Thunder aircraft, A-29 Super Tucano aircraft and UCAVs. He maintained that the Nigerian military was winning the war against terrorism in the country, with the aid of these modem platforms. He emphasized that more still need to be done to completely decimate and flush out the remnants of terrorists still preying on soft targets.
The Nigerian government has acquired 38 new aircraft since 2015, including ten Super Mushshak trainer aircraft, five Mi-35M attack helicopters, two Bell 412 transport helicopters, four A109 Power utility helicopters, two Mi-171E transport helicopters, three JF–17 Thunder multi–role fighters, 12 A–29 Super Tucano combat/trainer aircraft and numerous unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs).
Pending acquisitions for the NAF are two C295 transport/surveillance aircraft and 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
09 Oct 23. Hamas and Israel: Will the drone always get through?
“I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through” –Stanley Baldwin, 1932. The invasion of Israel by Hamas fighters on 7 October has shown, yet again, the vulnerability of seemingly well-organised, well-equipped defences against forces with relatively low technology but highly coordinated drone attacks.
Over the last few years the drone unit within the military wing of Hamas, Al Qassam Brigades, has quietly been developing its range of drone capabilities from counter-UAS to “domestically developed” Al-Zawari drones; according to Turkish media: “In a statement, Al-Qassam Brigades said it fired 35 of its Al-Zawari attack drones on all fronts with Israel.”
Drone security analysts DroneSec, in a Linkedin post, has identified four areas where Al-Qassam brigade’s drone unit has been able to deploy its drone capabilities.
“During these initial actions, considerable use of drones has been acknowledged, with some vision appearing via official Hamas channels. Some of the footage is pre-prepared, displaying practice and training videos. This observation documents the use of drones by Hamas during the conflict, including: the use of quadcopters to drop stabilized munitions on vehicles, people; the use of quadcopters to deliver explosives against infrastructure; the use of quadcopters to film rockets, vehicles and troops for propaganda; the use of fixed-wing kamikaze drones to target infrastructure.”
Hamas has clearly been learning the lessons of Ukraine. In particular, the publication on YouTube by Hamas militants using drones to drop munitions on an Israeli tank show that Hamas has mastered not just the technical capabilities of using drones in this role but their propaganda value, too. Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV channel on 8 October published a series of videos from the attack which have been widely circulated on social media since. They show up-close footage of the bombing of Israeli observation towers and along the Gaza border.
However, the publication of another video showing a Hamas drone attack on ambulances suggest the group’s propaganda units have not yet quite fully understood the full sensitivities of their audience.
The attack was well coordinated and coincided with a cyber attack on the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) communications system. First, a barrage 3,000 rockets was fired at Israel, while hang gliders were flown across the border to secure an area behind the fence, using explosives to breach the barrier and open the way for hundreds of fighters to pt through.
It is still a mystery as to how the most technically advanced, well-prepared and astute military power on earth found its defences breached so easily. In the subsequent inquiry, many will hope that the failures will be identified as a tactical misjudgment, resulting from underestimating the level of threat, rather than any wider strategic vulnerabilities. After all, Israel is the global centre of excellence for counter-UAS technology (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
09 Oct 23. AUSA 2023: consortium launched C-UAS semi-autonomous platform. HDT Global, Leonardo DRS and Smart Shooter have joined forces to offer a new lower-tier counter-drone systems at AUSA.
Based on HDT Global’s Hunter WOLF (Wheeled Off-road Logistics Follower) 6-wheeled UGV, The system consists of a turreted infantry rifle with an optimised smart sight from Smart Shooter – the Smash Hopper and Smash 2000-series computerised optic – and an RPS42 radar from the Leonardo DRS Multi-Mission Hemispheric (MMH) family.
At the heart of the system’s capability lies the optic which, in the turreted variant, is operated via tablet-style controller. Smart Shooter believes the system to be particularly well-suited to the lower-end C-UAS role, given its ability to acquire and lock-on to small moving targets. The addition of the radar extends the detection range to in excess of 30 kilometres, dependent on the size and activity of the target aircraft, among other factors.
As a semi-autonomous platform, the Hunter WOLF/Smartshooter/Leonardo combination offers flexible response, advanced detect and engage capabilities and a high degree of interoperability. An onboard generator lends itself to protracted operations with the range of sensors and systems on board, and facilitating running in silent mode for extended periods. The ability to counter small, low, but threatening drones will be an increasing attractor for a wide variety of military and security agencies for the foreseeable future. For more information: www.smart-shooter.com (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
09 Oct 23. NATO “to adopt UK’s SAPIENT protocol as C-UAS standard.” NATO will adopt the SAPIENT (Sensing for Asset Protection with Integrated Electronic Networked Technology) protocol developed by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) as a C-UAS (counter-unmanned aircraft system) standard, according to defence publishers Jane’s.
“A year-long ratification process will begin in 2024 with 14 countries required to approve it before it is formally adopted as a NATO Standardisation Agreement (STANAG), Cristian Coman, chief scientist for the Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance division at NATO’s Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency), told Janes and other media representatives at the exercise,” said the publisher.
“SAPIENT was developed by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) as an open standard that allows the fusion and integration of autonomous sensory information into a single integrated picture.”
According to UK Ministry of Defence briefing document:
“SAPIENT is intended to work at the “information level” rather than continually streaming raw data. The SAPIENT Middleware system architecture is based around a central database. A number of data agents manage the data-flow into the database. Each node communicates with a data agent to populate the database with declarations and detections, including as much information as the sensor modules are capable of providing. Although the SAPIENT philosophy is that C2 functionality is based on the ‘summary’ messages produced by the sensors, it is recognised that there are sometimes occasions where it is necessary to stream data from a sensor, and SAPIENT can provide the functionality to facilitate this. All ingest into the database is carried out by the data agents to ensure the data is valid. The data agent may monitor and if necessary limit data bandwidth.” For more information: https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/nato-to-adopt-sapient-as-c-uas-standard
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
09 Oct 23. DroneShield launches DroneSentry-X Mk2 multi-mission C-UAS system. DroneShield has announced the release of DroneSentry-X Mk2, a multi-mission counter-UAS solution for mobile and expeditionary fixed-site applications. The DroneSentry-X supports passive detection, identification, tracking of multi-domain unmanned (or uncrewed) systems, says the company.
“DroneSentry-X integrates DroneShield’s advanced multi-mission AI/ML technology, RFAI for passive, non-intrusive detection with its new electronic countermeasure (ECM) technology, RFAI-ATK (RFAI “Attack”) providing operators with the ability to detect, identify, track, and defeat (DITD) UxS from a single self-contained, intuitive system. DroneSentry-X Mk2 is the first platform in the Counter-UAS industry to offer RFAI-ATK,.” Sais a company press release.
“The launch of DroneSentry-X follows extensive research and development incorporating end-user feedback on the primary feature sets, performance requirements, user interface, and interoperable must-haves. With interoperability in mind, the DroneSentry-X comes with an embedded RFAI user interface for local and tactical level situational awareness, while supporting Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) best practices for seamless integration with existing system of systems and third-party sensors, effectors, and command and control (C2) platforms.
“DroneSentry-X makes its debut this week at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition (AUSA 2023) in Washington, DC. Initial deliveries under received orders will commence this month.”
For more information
https://www.droneshield.com/press-releases/droneshield-releases-dronesentry-x-mk2-multi-mission-counter-uas-applications (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
06 Oct 23. Singapore develops C-UAS system for police and law enforcement agency use. The Singapore Police Force, working with the Home Team Science & Technology Agency (HTX), has developed a handheld C-UAS system designed to help counter the growing threat from potentially hostile drones the government faces.
Aimed at detecting, tracking and disrupting drones before potentially hostile intent can achieve an effect, the system disrupts the drone’s control system and allows retrieval for forensic analysis and possible evidential use. A combination of detection systems and cameras allows for tracking and for pre-emptive action to be taken to identify and locate the drone operator. For more information: www.police.gov.sg (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
05 Oct 23. Raytheon and Texas A&M establish laser weapon test site. Raytheon recently conducted an open-air test of an operational 15kW high energy laser (HEL) weapon system at the George H W Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC) at Texas A&M University – the first such test in Texas, establishing a new capability to advance critical defence technologies. The system is due to be shipped to the United Kingdom later this month for final integration and delivery to the UK MoD customer.
“We see drone attacks having an out-sized impact in combat zones and even civilian settings, and they are extremely difficult to detect and defeat,” said Michael Hofle, Senior Director of High Energy Lasers at Raytheon. “That’s why we’re making Texas a hub for solving these challenges, side-by-side with the Bush Combat Development Complex. Our combat-ready laser weapons are a cheat code against drones. So, having the ability to test our systems in our own backyard is a game changer for getting this technology into the hands of uniformed personnel quickly and affordably”.
The Raytheon test is an example of how the BCDC will help various customers accelerate innovative R&D impacting national security. The complex’s labs offer a wide array of capabilities for collaboration between stakeholders in industry, academia and government. The organisation will establish a more formal relationship with Raytheon over the coming months. For more information: www.rtx.com/HEL and https://bcdc.tamus.edu (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
05 Oct 23. Sentient showed newly-developed ViDAR sensors at AUSA. The trials demonstrated the AI-enabled optical sensor’s capabilities to detect targets from high operating altitudes of 30,000 feet and to provide persistent wide-area motion imagery for long-range ISR missions. The company claims that ViDAR’s deep learning and computer vision solution offers faster processing and more accurate detection, fully meeting the ADF’s requirements for effective methods of detecting, locating and tracking small objects in complex environments, achieving results up to 30 times faster than current HD turret-based capabilities.
The company believes this development is well timed: Australia, the United Kingdom and United States are now engaging in strengthening AUKUS ties, with Pillar 2 of the strategic industrial agreement focusing on AI collaboration. One desired outcome will be exploiting data diversity, enhancing detection and classification accuracy and thereby enabling better decision-making in environments in which available information reaches very high densities. Operator benefits include improved versatility to provide joint forces with land and maritime capabilities, high accuracy data to detect, locate, classify and track at high altitude and the fact that ViDAR is platform agnostic.
“The capability sets demonstrated not only met, and in many cases exceeded the mission objectives, but also importantly provided a road map for US and allied forces deployment of advanced, low signature sensor solutions with onboard processing,” said Chief Technology Officer, Callum McGregor. “Clearly the modularity and interoperability of Sentient’s technologies for AUKUS Pillar 2 sets the scene for a raft of integration on crewed and uncrewed airborne platforms”.
“Lessons learnt in Ukraine demonstrate the need for real-time intelligence – and that demands AI-enabled surveillance technologies to flag targets of interest before they become threats,” said Brent Bergen, US Business Development Director. For more information: www.sentientvision.com (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
05 Oct 23. Fortem Technologies highlights SkyDome Manager C2 system and TrueView radars at AUSA. Fortem Technologies will focus visitor attention on the newly-advanced SkyDome command and control (C2) systems at the AUSA conference in Washington, DC, 9-11 October. Also on prominent display will be the latest updates to the TrueView radar line.
Utah-based Fortem recently secured an additional USD17.8m in new funding and signed a collaboration agreement with the UAE’s Etimad Holdings at IDEX in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. Last year, the company’s DroneHunter systems was successfully proven against Group 1, 2 and 3 drone threats.
“We are certain that in our effort to defeat dangerous drones, the hardware and software upgrades we are presenting make our mission even more possible and effective,” said Jon Gruen, CEO.
For more information: www.fortemtech.com (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
10 Oct 23. BlueHalo Unveils Next Generation Missile to Deliver Unmatched Layered C-UAS and Air Defense Capabilities. Building upon its industry-leading Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) solutions, BlueHalo is unveiling its Next Generation Missile in response to the US Government request for missile technology that rapidly and affordably enhances warfighter lethality, survivability, and combat effectiveness, providing an agile and disruptive new technology to the munition industrial base and expanding national security air defense capabilities.
The BlueHalo Next Generation Missile (NGM) provides increased lethality and range against Group 3 UAS and other larger air threats while seamlessly integrating with existing infrastructure and command and control systems. In addition, the NGM offers a low-cost effector with superior maneuverability to defeat an array of Short-Range Air Defense (SHORAD) threats.
“The Next Generation Missile builds on BlueHalo’s proven record for delivering innovative cost-efficient technologies at the speed of mission,” said Jonathan Moneymaker, BlueHalo Chief Executive Officer. “BlueHalo’s NGM has the technically superior capabilities to deliver unmatched protection to our warfighters and ease of integration to truly transform our nation’s air defense systems against the ever-evolving peer threat. Equally important, it demonstrates our Company’s commitment to the DoD priorities as outlined by Deputy Secretary Hicks.”
Team BlueHalo’s NGM leverages existing infrastructure and utilizes existing Command and Control–enabling a rapid delivery timeline to get the technology to the frontlines quicker and more cost-effectively than alternatives. It is radar agnostic for flexibility in Concept of Operations (CONOPS), has significantly reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP) demands as compared with other current air defense weapons systems, and features a modular architecture, with a software-defined front end that can be integrated with other rocket motors for even greater range and maneuverability against sub-sonic and supersonic threats.
Jimmy Jenkins, General Manager, Defense Sector, and a former air defender in the US Army included, “Adding this kinetic interceptor to BlueHalo’s Directed Energy and Radio-Frequency-based C-UAS solutions provides warfighters with true end-to-end layered air and missile defense capabilities.”
BlueHalo is the leading provider of innovative, effective C-UAS solutions for national defense customers providing critical products to essential Programs of Record with the Department of Defense. The company’s SkyView system offers autonomous radio-frequency (RF) detection and precision tracking of small UAS. Titan, another RF-based C-UAS solution from BlueHalo, can detect, track, and force drones to safely land without disrupting nearby communications or electronics. BlueHalo’s LOCUST Directed Energy Laser Weapon System combines precision optical and laser hardware with advanced software, artificial intelligence, and processing. It has been successfully delivered and operationally deployed to identify, track, and engage a wide variety of targets with its hard-kill High Energy Laser. The NGM expands BlueHalo’s portfolio of layered C-UAS air defense technologies to deliver best-in-class, cost-effective, control-point solutions to warfighters. (Source: PR Newswire)
10 Oct 23. Lockheed Martin will develop two 300kW laser weapon prototypes for US Army. The defence prime has been spearheading the transition to a 300kW laser weapon countermeasure since 2019 and will now begin the deliver two prototypes.
The US Army has selected Lockheed Martin to develop two 300kW laser countermeasure prototypes under the service’s High Energy Laser (HEL) project; one of two directed energy weapon (DEW) concepts that come under the Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability programme.
Directed energy weapon systems comprise lightweight hardware and can engage targets instantaneously, offering a solution to ever-changing threats and reducing the logistical requirements associated with traditional kinetic weapons.
It can engage targets at the speed of light with high precision, limited collateral damage and no time of flight. It can also provide a deeper magazine at a lower cost per shot than conventional munitions.
HEL will complement other layered defence components, enabling rapid response and precision engagement to safeguard stationary and partially stationary sites against rockets, artillery, mortars, unmanned aerial systems and both rotary and fixed-wing threats.
The US Army plans to field up to four operational 300kW-class IFPC-HEL prototypes integrated into tactical military vehicles by 2024.
Building on recent milestones in laser development
“Winning the IFPC-HEL prototype contract is the result of several years of complex programme evolution, strategic investments and partnership with the Army,” said Rick Cordaro, vice president of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Weapons.
In 2019, the US Department of Defense (DoD) selected Lockheed Martin to advance its spectral beam combined high-energy laser architecture to reach a power level of 300kW class under a contract valued at $83m.
In August 2022, Lockheed Martin delivered a laser weapon system for the DoD’s High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI) for use in the IFPC-HEL demonstrator. This was a tactically relevant electric laser with a power rating of 300kW, the company’s most powerful laser ever produced.
The US Army’s laser weapon system portfolio
While the HELSI became the most powerful solid-state directed energy technology, the US Army has also developed other types of DEW concepts.
This includes integrating RTX’s 50kW Multi-Mission High Energy Laser with 8×8 Stryker armoured combat vehicles – a system the Army calls its ‘Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense’ (DE M-SHORAD) system.
According to GlobalData intelligence, the Army took the first two DE M-SHORAD prototypes for training with soldiers, which successfully took down drones.
Other players in America’s HELSI market include Northrop Grumman, another defence prime selected in March 2021 to prototype its own 300kW HEL system using the company’s coherent beam combining technology, which is a unique power-scaling design. (Source: army-technology.com)
09 Oct 23. Apps to drive how soldiers use US Army’s ‘mixed reality’ device. In the not-too-distant future, soldiers at the lowest tactical level might carry a single device into combat that allows them to navigate, see in thermal or standard night vision, receive orders, fly a microdrone, and provide targeting coordinates for a strike mission.
As batches of the newest version of the Army’s $22bn Integrated Visual Augmentation System — a combined augmented reality and night vision device — arrive at units, a vast team of military and civilian scientists as well as researchers will continue to tweak, refine and improve a piece of gear that could radically alter the soldiers’ capabilities.
The service has a lot to work with: The Army received 5,000 IVAS 1.0 devices over this past year. The service ordered 5,000 IVAS 1.1 devices in December 2022 and plans to begin fielding IVAS 1.1 by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2024, Program Executive Office Soldier told Army Times.
Those 1.0 and 1.1 versions are mostly slated for training units and schoolhouses to further develop how soldiers will learn to use and employ the device, officials said.
The 1.2 version is most likely to field for operational use and eventually combat. Twenty of the 1.2 versions arrived this past summer.
Another 80 such devices are planned for delivery in FY24, with 200 more devices headed to soldiers for testing in the first quarter of FY25, which is when the service plans to begin fielding IVAS 1.2, officials said.
PEO Soldier and Microsoft teams working on the IVAS program have made substantial changes to the device, some of which will continue to see improvements between the 1.0 and 1.1 versions as well as the 1.2 model.
The HoloLens-based iteration of IVAS emerged in March 2019, followed by ruggedized, military versions through mid-2022. As teams developed the device, it transitioned from a helmet/no-helmet goggle option with a chest-mounted controller and thick cabling that proved cumbersome for soldiers in various field tests. That development pushed the boundaries of technological territory, especially with combing digital technology and night vision. Current night vision technology remains mostly analog, relying on nearly 70 years of research and development.
Developers at PEO Soldier, along with Brig. Gen. Christopher Schneider, who runs the office, said the analog approach has reached its limits. That’s especially true for putting augmented reality, a digital technology, in the mix. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Army Times)
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