Sponsored by Blighter Surveillance Systems
21 Jul 20. DARPA issues solicitation for moving-target recognition project. The U.S. Defense Department’s advanced research arm issued a broad agency announcement July 15 for technology that would use algorithms to identify moving military ground vehicles.
The Moving Target Recognition program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Strategic Technology Office is a “vital part” of DARPA’s “Mosaic Warfare” vision, in which each weapon system is one “tile” in a large force package that overwhelms the adversary.
For the program, DARPA is interested in algorithms and collection techniques that allow synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, sensors to “detect, geolocate, and image moving ground targets,” the announcement read. If the goals of the project are met, the MTR program will then work to develop automatic target recognition algorithms for the moving target images.
“Emphasis is on military vehicle targets, including slow moving vehicles whose SAR signatures are superimposed on clutter,” the announcement noted.
Test for moving target recognition will include airborne data collection experiments to test and evaluate the effectiveness of algorithms. Under the contract, performers will be required to provide the airborne radar sensors and flight services, while the government team will design experiments with moving ground vehicles. DARPA anticipates handing out multiple awards.
The MTR program has two phases. Phase one will focus on SAR moving target detection, geolocation and imaging, according to the announcement. It has a performance period of two years and a six-month option. Phase two, which is solicited through the July 15 notice, will center on automatic target recognition. Second phase instructions will be provided to the phase one performers before the end of the phase one base period. No award amount was provided.
The U.S. Army is also working through the challenges associated with advanced target recognition capabilities, such as ensuring that algorithms receive adequate and sufficient data to mature and learn.
“If you’re training an algorithm to recognize cats, you can get on the internet and pull up hundreds of thousands of pictures of cats,” Gen. Mike Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, said in June. “You can’t do that for a T-72 [Russian tank]. You can get a bunch of pictures, but are they at the right angles, lighting conditions, vehicle sitting camouflaged to vehicle sitting open desert?”
DARPA’s mosaic warfare effort includes several other projects under the Strategic Technology Office, including one that would automate aerial dogfighting. The office is also developing two complementary systems that would identify combat systems in an area available for support missions and quickly plan their route to an area. (Source: Defense News)
21 Jul 20. Raytheon Missiles & Defense delivers first SPY-6 radar array to U.S. Navy’s newest destroyer. Radar will provide unmatched, simultaneous air and missile defense.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business (NYSE: RTX), delivered the first AN/SPY-6(V)1 radar array for installation on the future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), the U.S. Navy’s first Flight III guided-missile destroyer. The SPY-6 family of radars performs simultaneous air, missile and surface defense on seven types of U.S. Navy ships.
“SPY-6 will change how the Navy conducts surface fleet operations,” said Capt. Jason Hall, program manager for Above-Water Sensors for the U.S. Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems. “Our ships will be able to see farther, react quicker and defend against threats in a way we couldn’t before.”
The 14′ x 14′ modular array was transported by truck from the company’s automated 30,000-square-foot Radar Development Facility in Andover, Massachusetts, to Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
“This is the start of what will be a steady stream of SPY-6 array deliveries to the shipyard,” said Kim Ernzen, vice president of Naval Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. “Threats to Navy ships are getting smaller and faster. SPY-6 will extend the Navy’s reach against dangers like drones, ballistic missiles, aircraft and unmanned ships.”
The SPY-6(V) family of radars delivers significantly greater range, increased accuracy, greater resistance to environmental and man-made electronic clutter, advanced electronic protection, and higher reliability than currently deployed radars.
20 Jul 20. US Navy takes delivery of new, more powerful radar. The U.S. Navy has taken delivery of the first AN/SPY-6 radar array for the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Jack Lucas, which was designed and built specifically to accommodate the upgraded air and missile defense radar.
The Raytheon-built system is about 30 times more sensitive than the SPY-1 arrays on the Navy’s cruisers and destroyers, but it requires much more power. That led to a significant redesign of the Flight IIA DDG.
Jack Lucas, being built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, is the first of the new builds. The ship is scheduled to be delivered in 2024, according to Navy budget documents.
The delivery of the first SPY-6 marks a significant step for the radar, which looks poised to rapidly become the fleet standard. The Navy plans to install a scaled-down version of the radar on the older Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to keep them relevant, as well as on the future frigate, FFG(X), being built by Fincantieri.
Wes Kremer, president of the Raytheon Missiles & Defense business, said in a July 15 interview with Defense News that the radar is designed to simultaneously handle multiple missions without losing fidelity on any individual mission.
“SPY-6 is an evolutionary step forward in radar capability, but it was, most importantly, designed with incredibly long range and sensitivity to support all the missions that Navy destroyers do: ballistic missile defense, surface warfare and anti-air missions simultaneously,” Kremer said. “And what’s sometimes lost in the noise is that it can do [its job] in the presence of electronic attack or jamming. That’s really the magic of that radar.”
Kremer is confident the radar has been put through its paces in the acquisition process and that the next major hurdle for the program will be Jack Lucas’ sea trials.
“These radars are being delivered under the low-rate initial production run,” he said. “For about three years now we’ve had a test radar in Hawaii and proving out the radar. We’ve also delivered an array to Navy’s [Combat Systems Engineering Development Site] in Moorsetown, New Jersey. This isn’t just a radar — it’s part of Flight III, which is not just the radar, it’s Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Baseline 10, and we are fully integrated. So we’ve already gone through all that, so really the next step is sea trials.”
The Navy wants to start backfitting the scaled-down version of SPY-6 in 2021, Capt. Jason Hall, who is the above-water sensors program manager at Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems, said in January. But beyond that, Kremer said Raytheon is looking to Japan and South Korea as potential customers for SPY-6.
The Navy’s investment in SPY-6 is not without some controversy. Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said while the Navy needs a radar like SPY-6 for ballistic missile defense, the service still must figure out how to perform passive detection to avoid giving away its location to adversaries that will be able to electronically sniff out a big, powerful radar.
Kremer said he wasn’t comfortable discussing concepts of operations surrounding the issue of keeping electronically quiet with SPY-6. But he reiterated that during active electronic attack, the radar would perform.
“You have to be able [to] operate around electronic attack, and on the active side we have a lot of capability to do that,” he said. “But when you get into that other stuff, you’re really starting to talk about concepts of operations, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for a contractor to talk about CONOPS.”
The Navy is also planning to scale back construction of the Flight III destroyer. In its most recent budget submission, the Navy cut four of the planned 12 Flight IIIs over the next five years as the service tries to juggle the enormous bill for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. (Source: Defense News)
20 Jul 20. Epirus, a venture-backed startup, inks deal with Northrop for counter-drone tech. Epirus, a venture-backed startup offering a counter-drone capability, launched quietly enough two years ago, but it’s making noise by bringing together key veterans of Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon ― and by landing its first deal with a name-brand defense prime contractor.
Epirus chief executive Leigh Madden was general manager for Microsoft’s national security business before he joined the Hawthorne, Calif.,-based firm two months ago, and its chief financial officer, Ken Bedingfield, is a former chief financial officer at Northrop. The former chairman of Epirus is Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of the Silicon Valley data-analytics company Palantir Technologies.
Epirus, this week, is expected to announce a previously undisclosed strategic supplier agreement with Northrop to provide exclusive access to Epirus’ software-defined electromagnetic pulse system, called Leonidas. The dollar value of the deal isn’t being disclosed.
Northrop said Leonidas would augment its own kinetic and non-kinetic solutions to counter small drones. The Army recently selected Northrop’s Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control software, or FAAD-C2, as the interim C2 system to counter small drones. (DoD’s FY21 budget request included $18.7m for counter-drone enhancements for the system.)
“UAS threats are proliferating across the modern battlespace,” said Kenn Todorov, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s Combat Systems and Mission Readiness division. “By integrating the Epirus EMP weapon system into our C-UAS portfolio, we continue maturing our robust, integrated, layered approach to addressing and defeating these evolving threats.”
Many companies have jumped into the $2bn counter-UAS market, anticipating a boom as commercial drones have grown cheaper and more commonplace, posing an asymmetric threat on the battlefield as well as a threat to airports, sports stadiums, government buildings and urban areas. So many companies are in the field the Pentagon has been working to streamline the number of systems available across the department.
Epirus executives said the company’s technology is unique because its use of solid-state commercial semiconductor technology makes it lighter and smaller ― and because it can have narrow effects or be “adjusted to sanitize a volume of terrain or sky, creating a forcefield effect.” The company’s systems involve a combination of high-power microwave technology and, for enhanced targeting, artificial intelligence.
Epirus Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Bo Marr was a radio frequency engineer and technical lead on Raytheon’s next-generation jammer program, under development by the U.S. Navy. Madden, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who spent eight years at Microsoft, and Bedingfield, who spent five years as Northrop’s CFO, both said they joined Epirus because they were impressed by the technology and its potential.
“Northrop and Microsoft are both multibillion-dollar defense businesses, and I think we bring a knowledge of how to operate around some of the larger opportunities and to make outsized impacts in the market,” Madden said. “We’re taking that experience to a smaller, innovative company. I think that will allow us to really accelerate the pace of growth and have a more rapid and greater impact for our customers.”
The Pentagon has attempted to shift toward working with smaller, more innovative companies to supplement its work with larger firms, which continue to dominate the marketplace. Flexible, non-traditional contact vehicles called “other transaction authorities” have grown more popular as the Pentagon has turned to Silicon Valley for cutting edge technologies.
“One of the things that attracted me to come to Epirus is the ability to work in an agile enterprise that is trying to take some of the approaches of Silicon Valley and apply them to the defense world―to iterate quicker and to field faster, and to be able to respond to the urgent needs of the customer,” Bedingfield said.
Bedingfield said the company is growing fast and generating revenue from working with customers on studies and technology demonstrations, but it’s as yet unclear when it will begin to deliver products. The coronavirus pandemic has slowed its hiring, but the firm is looking to double in the next year, adding more than 50 employees in Hawthorne, and a planned office in Northern Virgina.
Formed in 2018 and named after the magical bow of the Greek hero Theseus, Epirus was raising $17.8m in new funding last November, according to its public filings. With Lonsdale and Marr, its co-founders include its previous CEO; current Vice Chairman John Tenet, from venture capitol firm 8VC; Chief Operating Officer Max Mednik, a Google veteran; UnitedHealthcare Chief Digital Officer Grant Verstandig is the current chairman.
Palantir, which Lonsdale founded with billionaire Peter Thiel in 2005, appeared as an upstart when the Defense Department hadn’t opened its arms as wide to Silicon Valley. Last year, Palantir beat Raytheon in a head-to-head competition to provide the Army a new version of its intelligence analysis system ― after a years long saga in which the Army rejected Palantir’s offering and Palantir sued.
In September, Epirus won a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center as part of its AFWERX technology accelerator. The contract was for the company’s novel architecture for using commercial off-the-shelf field programmable gate arrays, which are semiconductor devices commonly used in electronic circuits, as ultra-wideband radio frequency transceivers.
While traditional systems use large vacuum tubes, Madden said Leonidas is based in microchips and software.
“We believe there is no other solution on the market that allows for fully software defined precision targeting at digital speeds, enabling both precision targeting as well as large-area, counter-swarm targeting of many drones at the same time,” he said.
Northrop and Epirus are expected to announce their partnership this week.
“We’re not just solving today’s swarm threat, we’re also looking to the future to understand how asymmetric threats will evolve,” Marr said in a statement. “Epirus is an agile startup, Northrop Grumman has defense prime contractor resources, and through this partnership we intend to deliver the best technology to the warfighter as fast as possible.” (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
16 Jul 20. Countering Airborne Threats – NSO Group. There are three major airborne threats that make their way into regional security discussions today, whether in the defence press or policy offices across NATO member states:
1) Russia’s hypersonic missiles
2) COVID 19 dispersion
3) aerial drones of various sizes and threat levels
The NSO Group recently launched two compelling solutions for two of these three airborne dangers: Fleming™ – a unique contagious illness mapping tool; and, Eclipse™ – a novel cyber-active counter-drone system. As these have been in deployment for some time, ESD decided now is an opportune time to catch up with NSO Group’s Vice President Sales, Michel Berdah, to find out how these systems are performing. No word yet on hypersonic missile defences.
Interviewee Michel Berdah, NSO’s VP Sales is seen here (right) with Oren Ganz, NSO’s Product Manager (left), observing how Eclipse detected, mitigated and safely landed the drone from the Eclipse Operating Station (pictured centre).
ESD: Why is Eclipse becoming the preferred solution for counter-drone operations?
Michel Berdah (MB): Eclipse is the only cyber counter-drone platform designed to automatically detect, take over and safely land unauthorised commercial drones in designated zones. Eclipse deploys an autonomous end-to-end cyber solution to detect activity within a designated perimeter, identify the presence of drones, take over control of drones which present a threat, and land them safely.
ESD: What does it do differently that drone jammers and killers on the market today cannot do?
MB: Unlike other solutions, Eclipse offers a threat mitigation capability for dense urban environments, stadiums, critical infrastructure, airports, landmarks, and private enterprises, along with smooth integration connecting to existing infrastructure. Eclipse operates automatically according to pre-defined parameters, removing the requirement for real-time decision making. Furthermore, Eclipse is designed not to jam existing communications platforms, and it operates with no impact on wireless communications and GPS signals. It is the only drone defence system that is FCC, CE and CB compliant.
ESD: There are various companies and government launching some sort of a disease mapping tool; what are the Fleming advantages?
MB: Fleming is an epidemiological analytics system designed to specifically meet the challenges presented by challenges. It was developed in partnership with leading epidemiologists and public health experts. NSO specialises in developing long-term innovative solutions for public safety. Illness tracking is one aspect of keeping the public safe.
Fleming’s benefits include an advanced mapping tool that identifies the spread of the virus in real time, empowering health and government decision-makers. By utilising the Fleming system, these decision-makers can more effectively deploy resources, including critical supplies and medical personnel, and implement public health protocols that help contain the spread. In addition, Fleming is helping officials in developing strategies to reopen economies in regions where the pandemic no longer poses a serious health threat. The technology anonymizes all data inputted by the operator, which adds an additional layer of privacy and security. Fleming is already being operated by countries around the world as health officials work to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep citizens safe and healthy.
ESD: How long has Fleming been in deployment and where?
MB: Immediately upon the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, NSO, which specializes in developing life-saving technology solutions, recruited the best minds internally alongside epidemiologists and other experts. NSO was able to quickly develop an innovative system to help eradicate the spread of the pandemic. Fleming was developed in Israel, NSO’s main development centre.
As the nature of life-threatening events around the world continues to rapidly evolve, NSO is at the forefront of technological innovation to protect the public’s welfare and make the world a safer place.
ESD: Thank you. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
17 Jul 20. US Army Boomerang shot detection system integrated into mobile networks. US defence company Raytheon has completed integration of its mobile gunshot detection technology into the Pentagon’s main mobile battlefield network software, which handles all combat management operations for the US armed forces.
Programme officials within the company’s intelligence and space directorate fused the Boomerang Warrior-X Dismounted Soldier Gunshot Detection System with the Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK), providing tactical operations centres (TOCs), for the first time, the ability to track and pinpoint incoming small arms enemy fire in real time. “We are entering an era where Boomerang sensors cannot only assist in providing a bubble of protection to individual users but can also transmit the precise location of enemy shooters to all friendly forces on the network, Raytheon BBN Technologies President Brad Tousley said in a 15 July statement.
An informational graphic by Raytheon depicting integration of the Boomerang shot detection programme with the US Army’s Android Team Awareness Kit. (Credit: Raytheon)
The Boomerang Warrior-X system is the man-portable variant of Raytheon’s Boomerang III gunshot detection system, fielded to US armed forces units beginning in 2011.
The Boomerang III system is built around a cluster of vehicle-mounted audio sensors that can detect the direction of enemy small arms fire, as well as measure muzzle blast and bullet velocity. As the sound of the projectile is picked up by the various sensors at different intervals, the Boomerang III calculates the projectile’s speed, trajectory, and flight path ultimately directing soldiers to the origin of the gunfire. The system is designed to detect and track incoming small arms fire within 30 meters of the intended target, according to a company fact sheet. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Jul 20. US Army seeks information for ground-based sense and avoid support services. The US Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a Request For Information (RFI) to identify interested parties to undertake the operation of Ground Based Detect And Avoid (GBDAA) systems at various air bases. The roles include trainers, operators and maintenance technicians. The US Army will review white papers submitted in response to the RFI.
Additionally, the contractor shall provide courseware updates, training, and logistical support to include inventory control and spares management at the sites. The contractor shall arrange for and provide training on the LSTAR(V)3 radar system maintenance with the original equipment manufacturer, SRC, Inc. for any new personnel who have not previously received training on this system.
According to the RFI: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establishes rules on aircraft flight operations to fly within the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA regulations require that the aircraft pilot must be able to “see and avoid” other aircraft to provide safe clearance distance with other traffic. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) cannot comply with these regulations without additional mitigations. To mitigate the risk of not being able to “see and avoid”, the Army Program Manager Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS) developed and fielded a Ground Based Sense and Avoid (GBSAA) system. The GBSAA system was developed by PM UAS and uses the Lightweight Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar (LSTAR(V)3) system which provides safer airspace for aircraft and UAS to operate. The Air National Guard has purchased the system for use as a Ground Based Detect And Avoid (GBDAA) system at various air bases. GBSAA and GBDAA are fundamentally the same system with support requirements and CONOPS being the only differences. PM UAS has the requirement to provide operations, training, maintenance, and logistics support for the GBSAA systems at select Army and Air Force Air National Guard (AF ANG) sites. The intent of PM UAS is to meet this requirement through contracted support.
Concepts provided should explain plans to provide GBSAA operators (GBO), System Maintenance Technicians (SMT), and Senior Trainers (ST) to support operations at GBSAA Sites. Currently, there are 5 Army GBSAA sites – Ft. Hood, Texas; Ft. Riley, Kansas; Ft Campbell, KY; Ft Bragg, NC; and Ft Stewart, GA. All 5 Army sites currently have 2 GBOs and 1 SMT. Senior Trainers are located at Ft Hood and Ft Campbell. Contract should also provide SMT support for the Air National Guard (ANG) GBDAA System located at Syracuse, NY. Future support to be covered in this effort will include additional ANG sites at Fargo, ND; March ARB, CA; Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ; and Ellington AFB, TX.
The GBOs and STs serve as electronic visual observers and UAS crew members who are required to ensure safe operation of the UAS aircraft operation under GBSAA. The GBO/ST shall have similar duties and requirements as the ground observer in accordance with (IAW) Army Regulation (AR) 95-1. GBOs and STs are considered crew members as defined IAW the FAA Gray Eagle Certification of Waiver or Authorization (COA).
Funding is not available at this time.
Notice ID: W58RGZ20R0302
Published date: 13 July 2020
Response date: 28 July 2020
Point of contact: anthony.l.jones295@.
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15 Jul 20. UK government provides extra funding for countering drones competition. The UK Home Office and Department for Transport (DFT) is adding an additional GBP1.5m funding to the Defence and Security Accelerator’s (DASA) Countering Drones competition. Putting in this additional funding brings the new total to at least GPB3m and should more than double the number of proposals that the government will be able to award for the competition according to the Home Office.
DASA is looking for solutions aimed at addressing the threat of unmanned air systems. It seeks proposals that can develop the technology needed to counter Unmanned Air Systems (C-UAS) and demonstrate how these can be integrated together to form a capable system. This is the second phase in a multi-phase competition. Proposals need to meet one or more of the following criteria: Provide fixed site protection; mobile protection; and/or maritime protection.
In light of this additional funding, the deadline for the competition has been extended by 10 days. Proposals for funding to meet these challenges must be submitted by Friday 31st July 2020.
The Home Office Counter-Drones Unit owns domestic counter-drones policy for the government, working closely across the government and operational partners to understand risk and operational requirements. The government priority is to help industry and academia to deliver world-leading counter-drone solutions to support the safe and responsible use of drones in the UK. This DASA competition provides an immediate opportunity to help us further develop the critical counter-drone technical capabilities we need at pace, and to support counter-drone exploitation routes in the future.
the Home Office and the DfT are working closely with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in support of Phase 2 of this DASA competition.
For this new funding, the UK government is particularly keen to hear from industry and academia who have innovative solutions to respond to domestic security needs. A scenario could include numerous drones being used at an important installation, major event or demonstration over a wide, complex geographic area, and over a prolonged period of time. The small UAVs (sUAVs) could be a mix of commercially available, high performance multirotor types, being operated directly in a planned and sophisticated manner. They could also include legitimate drones. The intent of the sUAVs could range from surveillance to malicious disruption or attack. There may be electronically sensitive infrastructure in the area.
The Home Office is interested in C-sUAS solutions that can be static, mobile, portable or temporarily deployable on vehicle(s), to:
- Detect presence of sUAVs
- Determine location, intent and assess the risk posed
- Locate operator
- Enforce a ‘no-drone’ zone
Despite the challenge of COVID-19 the Government is dedicated to continuing to collaborate closely with the drone and counter-drone industries. This work will therefore be in lieu of a separate Home Office Counter-Drone Unit Grand Challenge this financial year, to reduce the burden on industry that different competitions bring. The outputs from this enhanced DASA competition will still allow the Home Office and DfT to scope the focus for any potential future investment in developing counter-drone technologies.
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17 Jul 20. RADA Announces $8m in New Orders since start of June 2020.
Has received new orders of $49m since start of 2020.
RADA Electronic Industries Ltd. (NASDAQ: RADA) announced the receipt of $8m in accumulated new orders since June 1, 2020. To date, the aggregate amount of new orders since the beginning of 2020 has reached $49m, compared to $31m received for the same period in 2019.
Out of the $8m new orders, 70% were for RADA’s software-defined tactical radars for counter UAV and counter fires (C-RAM). The radars’ orders are a mix of follow-ons from existing customers, along with orders from new defense customers. Most of these orders are expected to be delivered during 2020. The rest of the orders were for UAV avionics as well as digital video recorders and debriefing stations for fighter aircraft.
RADA continues to expect revenues to grow in 2020 to over $65m, guidance that was released in December 2019, representing an increase of over 47% year-over-year.
Dov Sella, RADA’s CEO, commented, “The current flow of new orders, amidst and despite the COVID-19 crisis, ensures our strong expectations for 2020. The orders for avionics underline the stability of this business, at annual revenues level of about $10m. We reiterate our expectations of sequential quarterly growth and growing operating profit throughout 2020.” (Source: PR Newswire)
20 Jul 20. FLIR Systems Hadron – First Thermal and Visible Sensor Module for Drones. FLIR Systems, Inc. has announced the FLIR Hadron, the industry’s first dual sensor module for drone, robotic, and imaging original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Designed to help reduce development costs and improve time-to-market, the lightweight, low power, and compact form factor includes a 12-megapixel visible camera paired with the FLIR Boson 320×240 resolution thermal camera with up to a 60-hertz framerate.
“With the introduction of Hadron, FLIR Systems is leading the way in offering low-cost, dual sensor integration across a variety of industries from commercial drones to industrial imaging systems,” said Paul Clayton, General Manager, Components Business at FLIR. “Although our unmanned aerial system (UAS) customers are first to market with Hadron, this product empowers all of our OEM customers to increase performance with out-of-the-box functionality and simplified integration.”
Hadron Development with Vantage Robotics and Teal Drones
As part of the Hadron development process, FLIR worked closely with drone manufacturers Vantage Robotics and Teal Drones, to perfect the module for use on lightweight drone airframes.
Vantage Robotics integrated Hadron into its micro-gimbal platform featuring its proprietary stabilization technology, offering a dual-sensor, OEM solution for existing UAS airframes and potentially other robotic platforms.
“Hadron is far and away the lightest and smallest combined visible-thermal sensor that has ever been commercially available,” said Tobin Fisher, CEO at Vantage Robotics. “For an aircraft where you’re trying to push the limit on flight performance, every gram matters. The ability to get these sensor capabilities in a package this small makes an enormous difference.”
Teal has also integrated Hadron within its 2-pound (1 kilogram) Golden Eagle UAS platform, taking advantage of the module’s compact size to create a lightweight yet dynamic payload that helps preserve battery life and maximize flight time on a small airframe.
“Hadron enables us to speed development and time-to- market for small airframes with thermal and visual sensors,” said Teal Drones CEO and founder, George Matus. “It’s high quality, low weight, and compact size allows for rapid integration to quickly develop prototypes.” (Source: UAS VISION)
17 Jul 20. Eurofighter’s New Radar Is Nearly Ready But Royal Air Force Wants An Even Better One. The United Kingdom is holding out for a unique cutting-edge Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar for its Eurofighter Typhoons, while its European partners in the fighter program are forging ahead with a less capable, but ready solution. The Royal Air Force will likely receive its special version of the Captor-E radar that is currently in secretive development sometime in the middle of the current decade, which will enable its Typhoons to neatly complement its 5th generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in high-end warfighting.
In a written statement on July 10, 2020, U.K. Minister for Defense Procurement Jeremy Quin stated: “The Ministry of Defence is committed to implementing an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar on our Typhoon fleet. The demonstration and manufacture phase for the UK’s variant of the European Common Radar System is continuing at pace, and in June 2020 a contract was let with our European partners to develop a common integration solution across the Typhoon radar enterprise.”
An AESA radar in a modern fighter is extremely important. Compared to older mechanically-scanned array radars, AESAs can spot and track targets further away and with greater speed and accuracy, even against smaller and harder to detect threats, such as low flying cruise missiles. With increased power, they generally have better target discrimination and multi-target tracking capabilities, as well as greater resistance to jamming. With longer range, they allow fighters to make better use of a new generation long-range air-to-air weaponry, such as the MBDA Meteor that the Typhoons can carry. They are also significantly more reliable than their mechanically scanned array counterparts. You can read more about AESA radars and their unique capabilities in this past piece of ours.
Airbus announced in late June that it had been awarded a contract for the development, supply and integration of 115 AESA, or E-Scan, radars for German and Spanish Eurofighters. The news was extremely significant, marking the biggest development by far in a long-running saga related to the European fighter’s EuroRadar Captor-E system.
Airbus operations in Germany and Spain are two partners in the Eurofighter Typhoon program, alongside BAE Systems in the United Kingdom, and Leonardo in Italy. The European fighter has made significant progress over the past five years through the addition of an array of new weapons and avionics to herald a true multi-role mission capability. However, the story of the fighter’s next-gen radar has proved less impressive.
The June 2020 agreement for 110 Captor-E radars for Germany and an initial batch of five radars for Spain is significant in that it is the first such order from the partner nations involved in the Eurofighter program. The Airbus media release said the contract foresees the delivery and integration of the radars by 2023. “Whereas the Airbus sites in Manching, Germany, and Getafe, Spain, will act as overall integration hub, the development and building of the radar will be subcontracted to a consortium under the leadership of Hensoldt and Indra and by participation of further Eurofighter partner companies,” according to the statement.
Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defense and Space, said: “The contract for the Captor-E radar is a main achievement to equip Eurofighter with sensors that ensure today’s dominance of the aircraft also in the threat scenarios of tomorrow.”
Eurofighter’s Complicated E-Scan Origins
The European Common Radar System for the Typhoon is a complicated collection of projects that are being run by the overarching EuroRadar consortium comprising Leonardo in the United Kingdom and Italy, Indra in Spain, and Hensoldt in Germany. EuroRadar has already manufactured over 400 mechanically-scanned Captor radars for the existing Eurofighters that are in service, and an eagerly-awaited AESA follow-on dates back to early demonstrator flight trials in 2006 and 2007 under a project known as CAESAR (Captor AESA Radar).
As long ago as 2012, then Eurofighter CEO Enzo Casolini said the E-Scan radar was “in full development,” as the partners sought to dispel confusion over the exact status of the radar with talk of an agreement by the end of 2012. “We started development, the gate target is to have entry to service in 2015,” Casolini said.
At the Farnborough International Air Show in 2014, BAE Systems, Eurofighter, and EuroRadar held a public unveiling of a production representative Euroradar Captor-E, fitted to BAE Systems-operated Eurofighter Instrumented Production Aircraft 5 (IPA5) serial ZJ700. The aircraft flew into the event with the radar fitted and Eurofighter declared that a trials program was under way. A second aircraft, a two-seat new-build Tranche 3 production batch aircraft (IPA8), was also in construction in Manching, Germany, ready to join the combined E-Scan test program.
Significantly, at the time of the unveiling, a contract for the radar was still not signed, with work being undertaken with contractor funding. However, speaking at Farnborough in 2014, the then British Minister for Defense Equipment, Support and Technology Phillip Dunne said that he expected to have a radar contract in place by the end of 2014. In fact, a €1bn contract for the core development program of the common Captor-E radar was funded by the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and Spain in November 2014.
Captor-E Moves Into Flight-Test
A further two years passed before the Captor-E entered flight trials at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire, when Typhoon IPA5 undertook a flight of around one hour on July 8, 2016. A media release said that IPA8 in Germany was also set to join the integration program. The kick-start came due to a pressing need to ensure the radar and weapons system would reach the required capability in time for first deliveries in late 2020 to the Kuwaiti Air Force, which became the aircraft’s eighth customer in April 2016 with an order for 28 jets. Importantly, Kuwait was the first Eurofighter operator to order the Captor-E for its aircraft and will be the first to operate with it.
In addition, Qatar ordered 24 Eurofighters in 2017. It too required Captor-E, and despite none of the original European partners having ordered the radar, more vital funding was flowing into the E-Scan project with these new foreign customers.
The latest radar order fits into a major enhancement project that was recently outlined for the Luftwaffe’s Eurofighters. Germany originally purchased 143 aircraft, consisting of 33 early Tranche 1 aircraft, 79 from Tranche 2, and 31 Tranche 3 aircraft. The Tranches are essentially the progressively more capable main build standards applied to three main batches of orders and manufacture. The Luftwaffe now plans to upgrade 110 Tranche 2/3 aircraft and procure new Tranche 4 aircraft to replace its early Tranche 1 jets under Project Quadriga. The radar contract appears to apply to both upgraded and new-build aircraft.
The Spanish element of the order relates to a plan to add Captor-E to its 19 Tranche 3 aircraft. Like Germany, Spain is also evaluating buying additional Eurofighters under Project Halcon, an emerging requirement to replace its aging EF-18 Hornets.
Why Is The E-Scan So Important?
BAE Systems says the Typhoon E-Scan will “deliver the largest electronically scanned array for increased detection and tracking ranges, advanced air-to-surface capability and enhanced electronic protection measures. The large airframe also allows a wider field of regard than any other platform.”
The antenna at the front-end of the E-Scan is mounted on a swashplate repositioner, that allows a much wider field-of-regard in terms of angular coverage (azimuth) compared with a fixed-plate antenna. It provides the ability to slew the antenna to “look” at far greater angles off the centerline of the aircraft. As such, a Typhoon could be traveling perpendicular to its target while still maintaining lock. This unique capability enables some highly unique tactics, which can be especially for non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter aircraft, that you can read all about in this past piece of ours.
Eurofighter says “The Captor-E electronically scanned radar is the future primary sensor on Eurofighter Typhoon and has a full suite of air-to-air and air-to-surface modes. The capacious aperture of the Eurofighter Typhoon allows the installation of Captor-E’s optimized and repositionable array whose field of regard is some 50 percent wider than traditional fixed plate systems.” A different repositioner system that looks to achieve the same goal is used by the Saab JAS 39 Gripen E for its Leonardo ES-05 Raven AESA radar, which you can read more about here.
One Radar Becomes Three
Details regarding the Captor-E test program since 2016 have been limited, although in Italy, Leonardo’s test aircraft Instrumented Series Production Aircraft 6 (ISPA 6) was reconfigured to full Kuwaiti Air Force standard and it returned to flight on December 23, 2019, to commence trials from Leonardo Aircraft Division in Turin-Caselle, Italy.
The aircraft became the third to carry the Captor-E and it is in Phase 3 Enhancement Package b (P3Eb) standard, which is the latest multi-role configuration — the standard specified for Kuwait. Eurofighter said that ISPA 6 has been used to refine Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM) for the radar and for software release certification flights.
While the baseline Captor-E is an integral part of the four-nation development program for the Eurofighter, there are actually three different variants of the radar. Kuwait and Qatar will receive the Mk 0 version, which was previously known as “Radar 1+.” The order for Germany and Spain will deliver 110 Mk 0 systems, but they will be subsequently upgraded to Mk 1 standard, which is a step-up in capability.
Leonardo remains the industry lead on the Captor-E Mk 0 radar and the company will provide “knowledge transfer” to enable Hensoldt to assume the role of design authority for the Mk 1 upgrade, with Leonardo continuing to provide the processor for this radar variant. The upgrade is thought to include the provision of new Transmit-Receive Modules (TRMs) for the antenna and a new multi-channel digital receiver. This is to be embodied initially as an upgrade and then via new-build radars.
Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom is targeting a third, altogether more advanced and more clandestine version of Captor-E, dubbed “Radar 2.” This is shaping up as potentially the most capable of all the Typhoon E-Scan radars, although officials are staying tight-lipped about its capabilities. According to RAF sources, “Radar 2” is “the preferred capability pathway for operating it in a true contested environment with a radar that can do more than just support air-to-air weapons and provide situational awareness.”
RAF pilots have always been swift to praise the legacy mechanically-scanned Captor, but procurement chiefs have robustly laid out ambitious plans to retrofit a small fleet of Tranche 3 jets with the new “Radar 2.” This will include additional electronic attack and secure data-link modes, whereby the radar is used as a high-bandwidth communications node and to make pinpoint electronic attacks. A number of secretive and lengthy technology demonstrator projects, including one named “Bright Adder,” have been leveraged to develop technology and mission requirements for “Radar 2.”
The United Kingdom’s Strategic Defense and Security Review in 2015 stated: “We will continue to enhance its multirole capabilities and integrate an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar.” According to a 2018 House of Commons Defense Committee document, “Radar 2” was then “in the assessment phase.” It added: “we anticipate Ministry of Defence Main Gate investment approval in the latter half of 2019. We expect that the new radar will be embodied on 40 Tranche 3 Typhoons.”
Leonardo Electronics Division is leading the RAF E-Scan program from an industry perspective. Its laboratory in Crewe Toll, North Edinburgh, Scotland, is thought to host the technology for the “Radar 2” program, now referred to by the company as Captor-E Mk 2. The next likely phase of the United Kingdom project would appear to be a move into live flight trials aboard a Eurofighter at BAE Systems’ Warton Aerodrome, but this has not been confirmed.
A far clearer picture of the overall Captor-E program is now forming and getting Typhoons with an E-Scan into service is a vital step in cementing the future credibility of the fighter, both for existing users and potential new customers. An AESA radar is an intrinsic part of what a modern fighter aircraft must bring to the air combat arena. While competitors have passed the Typhoon by in this critical technological regard over the last decade and a half, that is finally about to change.
In many ways, the Typhoon will finally be able to become all that it can be with this long-overdue reality sensor technology, and the RAF looks slated to get the most capable of the soon to be realized Captor-Es. (Source: News Now/https://www.thedrive.com/)
17 Jul 20. Inside the intelligence community’s new plan for commercial imagery. Starting in 1961, the National Reconnaissance Office has been tasked with designing, building, launching and operating the United States’ fleet of intelligence satellites. Over the years, that mission has evolved, bolting on new components and missions.
Now in 2020, the NRO is looking to change once again, moving beyond the status quo by issuing a new set of contracts toward the end of this year that will reshape the intelligence community’s relationship with commercial imagery.
Peter Muend, the head of NRO’s commercial imagery efforts, told C4ISRNET that the agency is “obviously very committed to utilizing commercial imagery to the maximum extent practical in support of defense, national security and all the other mission areas that we serve.”
“I think the best philosophy that underpins that is one that says ‘We really are looking to buy everywhere we can and only build what we have to—what’s really not available on the commercial market,‘” Muend said.
An important condition to that approach is that the commercial imagery market actually have commercial support. In other words, Muend doesn’t want any of these companies to exist solely to support government requirements. There should be a real commercial market for these capabilities, which will help drive down costs for the government.
To understand the agency’s approach to commercial imagery, it’s best to go back to 2017, when the NRO took over the role of acquiring commercial satellite imagery on behalf of the intelligence community from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Under this new paradigm, NGA serves as the geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) functional manager, determining what imagery the intelligence community needs and writing those requirements, but it’s up to NRO to determine how those requirements are filled.
Then in 2018, another step occurred when the NGA’s EnhancedView contract was transferred to NRO, which issued a follow-on contract to Maxar shortly thereafter. That single EnhancedView contract has been one of the primary source of commercial imagery for the intelligence community for years.
The goal now is to start the move beyond EnhancedView. That process started in 2019, when the NRO issued a request for information (RFI) to see what types, quality and quantity of imagery industry could provide. For Muend, that RFI sent a message to industry: the intelligence community was looking to the commercial sector for imagery that went beyond the requirements, capacity and capability the government had sought in the past.
That RFI initially led to a trio of study contracts for Maxar, BlackSky and Planet.
“Really, the purpose of those study contracts was to serve a couple purposes, one being to take a look at their systems and really understand their performance from a modeling and simulation standpoint to really see what they can do and how they would measure up and meet our capability,” said Muend. “The other part was really to assess imagery, because of course a lot of the input we got back from the RFI emphasized the quality of the imagery and how much they could deliver. It’s one thing to get an RFI response. It’s another thing to actually formally assess and measure.”
In the year since those first study contracts were issued, the agency has issued a handful of other study contracts, primarily to companies offering different phenomenologies than electro-optical imagery, including synthetic aperture radar and radio frequency sensing. Muend clarified that those study contracts were less focused on purchasing data from those phenomenologies and more focused on ensuring the agency’s systems could interface with those phenomenologies.
“We certainly see a very vibrant future ahead for those phenomenologies. We’re excited for them to continue to mature and we’re certainly looking forward to taking advantage of them in the future,” said Muend. “But again, the specific contracts we’re moving forward with toward the end of the year are more focused on the electro-optical side.”
Back on that electro-optical side of things, the study contracts have been mutually beneficial, said Muend. Not only has NRO learned what capabilities are available commercially and how they can be incorporated, the vendors have gotten a better understanding of what the agency is looking for.
“And then on the imagery side, we’ve certainly learned a lot — certainly some of the differences between what the glossy advertising sheets say and then what’s really available when looked at analytically in the way that we and the larger community do,” said Muend.
When pressed on that point, Muend declined to characterize whether any company had failed to live up to or superseded its claims.
All of those efforts are leading up to source selection and contract awards toward the end of the year. Muend noted that there were likely to be awards to multiple companies and those contracts will specifically pertain to electro-optical imagery.
“One thing that we have seen out of our study contracts and our market research is that no single provider can currently meet what we’re asking for out of our requirements. So it is going to be an aggregate of capability from multiple vendors, and in addition it’s going to be something that they’re going to have to grow into over time, that they expand their capabilities to meet our needs,” he explained.
As a precursor to that decision, NRO issued an RFI in June to help the agency standardize end user license agreements for imagery. Those agreements govern how the agency is able to use and share the imagery it collects, explained Muend. As NRO prepares to begin purchasing imagery from multiple companies, it wants to make sure those agreements are clear, intuitive and broadly uniform.
“We’re very, very excited about the future, about establishing a new set of operational imagery contracts to not only take advantage of our current industry base, but the growing new entrants and new providers as well,” said Muend. “We’re eager to get moving.” (Source: Defense News)
16 Jul 20. Lockheed’s IRST Stealth Detection Pod Passes AF Milestones.
“The Legion Pod uses an advanced IRST technology that gives 4th generation fighters the ability to ‘see’ stealth aircraft that traditional radar cannot,” says an Air Combat Command spokesperson.
The Air Force is a step closer to fielding the Legion Pod infra-red search and track (IRST) system on its F-15 and F-16 fleets — a passive sensor that gives pilots a long-range ability to track stealthy aircraft without giving away their own presence.
The Lockheed Martin-built IRST system just passed two major testing milestones: the first shot of an AIM-9X air-to-air missile from an F-15C Eagle using the Legion Pod for targeting; and the first flight of an operational F-16 Fighting Falcon with the Legion Pod, Air Combat Command announced Tuesday in a press release.
“This is exceptionally important, as the Legion Pod uses an advanced IRST technology that gives 4th generation fighters the ability to ‘see’ stealth aircraft that traditional radar cannot,” an Air Combat Command spokesperson says in an email.
Because it uses infrared to track an airplane’s heat signature, the system isn’t affected by radar jamming. Further, IRST systems are passive, meaning the Legion Pod can act without emitting any radiation of its own that might allow an enemy to recognize they are being targeted.
The Air Force is driving toward initial operational capability (IOC) for the Legion Pod by the end of the year, under a rapid testing program managed by the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force (OFP CTF). The unit is unique in that it reports both to Air Combat Command and Air Materiel Command, and is empowered to do developmental and operational testing at the same time — unlike traditional sequential testing programs.
“The OFP CTF’s work on the Legion Pod is done differently than the traditional acquisitions method,” Lt. Col. Thomas Moser, the unit’s commander, says in the press release. “We actually started testing the pod in a Pre-Developmental Test (DT) phase in early 2019 and got it to an eighty percent solution before it ever entered the official developmental phase. This ultimately allowed us to go through the developmental and operational testing quicker. What would normally take several years has been reduced to eighteen months from the start of DT to expected fielding.”
The Air Force selected the Legion Pod to equip the F-15C fleet in 2017; and Lockheed Martin received a contract for the system from prime contractor Boeing in 2018 for development and low-rate initial production of 19 pods.
“Currently, we are under contract for 38 LRIP systems,” Lockheed Martin spokesperson Dana Edwards Szigeti tells Breaking D in an email. “The next generation Block II systems are also under development with the U.S. Navy and we look to transition that to Legion Pod for the U.S. AF and Air National Guard over the next few years. Block II significantly increases system performance.”
The new F-15EX jets also will be compatible with the pod, according to Boeing’s program manager Prat Kumar — although there isn’t a formal contract yet.
The system is based on Lockheed Martin’s IRST21 sensor, also being used by the Navy in its Block III F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet.
In addition, Lockheed in May received an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract, worth up to $485m, that will allow the US military services and allies to buy the IRT21 sensor, as well as other sensor products such as the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod and the LANTIRN Extended Range pod, for five years at pre-set price points. That contract vehicle will allow the Air Force to equip the F-16 fleet with the Legion Pod, Edwards Szigeti said. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
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