Sponsored by Blighter Surveillance Systems
27 Jan 21. US Army: IVAS problems fixed since DOT&E findings. US lawmakers have sliced procurement dollars from the army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) programme, and a newly released Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) report backs up some of their concerns about potential operational roadblocks. However, the service told Janes that most of the identified faults either had been addressed or will be fixed before the militarised heads-up display is fielded.
Each January, the Pentagon’s DOT&E releases a report detailing testing activities from the previous year. In the most recent report, the office unveils findings from soldier touchpoint 2 that occurred in October and November 2019. During that event, soldiers used a non-militarised, non-ruggedised version of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 augmented reality (AR) system at Fort Pickett, Virginia. DOT&E cited several problems with this capability set 2 prototype, including with the GPS to imagery sensors.
“We agree with DOT&E test report and welcome the feedback, constant collaboration and transparency in the programme,” Lieutenant Colonel Brad Winn, the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team’s IVAS lead, wrote in a 26 January statement to Janes.
“Nothing took us by surprise. Negative feedback on some capabilities was expected, because we used a commercial HoloLens device that was not yet ruggedized,” he later added. “The focus of CS2 [capability set 2] was the integration phase of the programme, and the integration activities informed the approach to capability sets 3 and 4.”
More specifically, DOT&E reported that soldiers using the capability set 2 prototype sometimes experienced problems with commercial GPS accuracy, which lead to inaccurate position location information. Then, at night, “poor low light and thermal sensor performance prevented some operational navigation activities”. (Source: Jane’s)
27 Jan 21. D-Fend Solutions Achieves Significant Growth as it Triples Installed Base of its Takeover-Based, Counter-Drone Solution in 2020.
Heightened concern about drone incidents, combined with shortcomings of traditional C-UAS technologies, leads to increased demand for D-Fend Solutions’ flagship C-sUAS EnforceAir.
D-Fend Solutions, the leader in radio frequency (RF), non-kinetic, non-jamming, counter-drone takeover technology, today announced significant growth in 2020, including tripling the size of its installed base. In response to increased awareness of rogue drone risks globally, D-Fend Solutions has distributed its flagship product, EnforceAir, to numerous new clients while expanding its presence at existing customer sites. EnforceAir was deployed by military, national and homeland security, law enforcement, airport, border patrol and VIP executive protection security agencies over the past year.
D-Fend continued to grow its team globally and enlarged its North American operations, including the establishment of a direct presence in Canada. The company rounded out its executive team by adding five new executives in the past year: Jeffrey Starr, Chief Marketing Officer; Roni Miran, Vice President of Operations; Dafna Bacharach, Vice President of Legal; Yuval Reina, Vice President of Research & Development; and Terry DiVittorio, General Manager, North America. The company’s management team is now comprised of 13 executives with experience in public safety and security, law enforcement, homeland security, airports, aerospace and defense. Additionally, D-Fend commenced sales in Europe, introducing its valuable technology to new strategic markets.
With the continued threat to airspace, D-Fend also made a major push into airports and aviation in 2020, including onboarding its system at major international airports. These airports have adopted D-Fend Solutions’ innovative rogue drone takeover technology to create safer airspace management with advanced detection and mitigation capabilities that do not disrupt airport operations or communications. As D-Fend intensifies its focus on aviation safety, it has added Michael Huerta, the former head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to its advisory board.
EnforceAir, D-Fend Solutions’ counter-unmanned aerial system (c-UAS) product, features premier drone radio frequency (RF) takeover technology. EnforceAir is an autonomous system that automatically and passively detects, locates and identifies rogue drones, takes control of them and lands them safely by employing unique takeover technology. EnforceAir does not rely upon traditional jamming or kinetic technology for mitigation, avoiding collateral damage, interference, disruption and disturbance.
“As drones become cheaper, more advanced and even more accessible, we expect to see the UAS threat continue to rise, and our growing team of experts and advanced technology are ready to take on these new challenges,” said Zohar Halachmi, Chairman and CEO of D-Fend Solutions. “I’m proud of the safety, security and operational continuity we have provided clients. D-Fend has ambitious plans for expanding into new agencies, sectors and territories in 2021.” (Source: PR Newswire)
26 Jan 21. 2021 Is the Year the Small Drone Arms Race Heats Up. The cat-and-mouse of drone defense and offense is entering a new phase. As drones become smarter, cheaper, more nimble, easier for rogue adversaries to acquire and more advanced adversaries to evolve, they pose a unique threat for the U.S. military that grows in importance as the objects themselves diminish in size. This year, trends in autonomy will reshape drone capabilities and concepts, making them more offensively useful and even harder to defend against.
“Drones and most likely drone swarms are something you’re going to see on a future battlefield…I think we’re already seeing some of it,” said Army Gen. John Murray, who leads Army Futures Command. “Counter drone, we’re working the same path everybody else is working in terms of soft skills and hard kills via a variety of different weapons systems. It just becomes very hard when you start talking about swarms of small drones. Not impossible but harder.”
The U.S. military plans to spend $83m this year to buy lasers, electromagnetic devices, and other means to take down small drones. By year’s end, the destroyer Preble will get a 60-kilowatt laser and an optical dazzler, while the Air Force will deploy a Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder, or THOR. But the Pentagon will spend $404m — almost four times as much — to develop new anti-drone defenses, the Congressional Research Service reported Jan. 11.
Future counter drone efforts will be coordinated by the year-old Joint Counter Small Unmanned Aerial System Office, or JCO, which released its first strategy document on Jan. 7. The office was established after individual services had spent “a couple billion dollars” to develop and deploy counter-drone tech, Army Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey, who leads the 60-person JCO, told a CSIS audience recently.
Such efforts managed to field a few systems, like the Marine Air Defense Integrated System that the Navy used in July 2019 to down an Iranian drone. (The system was mounted on a truck on the deck of the USS Boxer.) But the services’ hurried, disorganized efforts produced “several redundant systems” and “not all of it worked as advertised,” Gainey said. Even the best and promising solutions couldn’t meet their fullest potential in such an environment. “We never followed up” on maturing the technology that worked, he said. He said the JCO’s “enterprise” approach should help to fix that, allowing a much more organized development of counterdrone tech that’s better matched to current intelligence and technology trends.
The real problem will be staying ahead of these trends. The JCO’s new strategy looks ahead to an era when commercial drones will fill the skies over cities, and defenders will have to spot the ones that are acting strangely. The military must aim to “adopt a posture of anomaly detection by seeking ways to highlight abnormal behavior,” the strategy says. In the U.S., at least, this will eventually be aided by the Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to build a next-gen Aircraft System Traffic Management System. But that is years away, and in any case, doesn’t apply overseas. “Until they are implemented, the burden of tactically detecting and identifying anomalous systems in the vicinity of U.S. forces and facilities remains the responsibility of installation commanders,” it reads.
Jamming drones, or even blasting them out of the sky, might work fine over the strait of Hormuz or the desert sands of Syria, but it’s a tricker proposition in the cities where the military expects to fight. Just finding them is a big problem. Small drones are often too small for radar, too cool for thermal sensors, and too soft for sound detectors.
One promising approach combines detection and defense: hijacking radio control signals.
“With our system, we surgically take control of the connection between the remote control operator and the drone and essentially hijack that session. Then we own the drone,” said Josh Montoya, a pre-sales engineer with the Israeli company D-Fend Solutions. “The drone takes commands from our system. What we tell the drone to do is take a safe route from where you’re at and get out of the area, land, in a location we determine you can land safely.”
We were given an exclusive demonstration of the technology at a small farm just outside of Washington, D.C. The system picks up the signal of any drones in the area and assembles a list. Press a button and the drone you were fretting over is now yours to land where you like — and without interfering with other radio-connected devices.
“That’s kinda what federal law enforcement likes, the Border Patrol folks like, the Secret Service protective detail people like…all of them who have the concern of ‘if the drone crashes, what the collateral impact could be,’” said Montoya.
But you can’t hijack a radio connection if it doesn’t exist — that is, if a drone can operate autonomously. Smarter drones are the next big challenge for defenders, Gainey said.
“Where we see the threat going in the future is autonomous,” the JCO commander said. “Massing swarming capability and integrating AI and potentially leveraging 5G out in the future.” These, he said, “are the areas we’re looking to address.”
Yet autonomous drones are also the next big opportunity for the Army, Murray said.
The Army Futures Command leader highlighted an experiment involving a small drone swarm last September, part of the Army’s fledgling Project Convergence experiment in the Arizona desert.
“I think we got up to about eight to ten out at Yuma and what we primarily use them for was to extend our mesh network,” he said. “So we were replicating a division headquarters which, by today’s doctrine, has the ability to cover about 25 to 30 kilometers. We extended it out to almost 70 kilometers through the use of aerial mesh networks with our drones.”
Murray said the Army is experimenting with a variety of payloads, but declined to be more specific.
“You can think of it from a non-lethal and lethal perspective. We’re able to swarm right now and we’ll continue to try and expand the number,” he said.
Greater autonomy is going to force militaries — and their civilian masters — to rethink the idea of meaningful human control over weapons like drones, Murray predicted. An incoming drone swarm may be too much for any human to deal with; effective defenses might require firing decisions made by artificial intelligence, with no human in the loop after the initial decision to fight. That, in turn, could have international and policy implications. “I was talking about artificial intelligence, where there might not be a C2 [communications] node in the net. The policy of a human on-the-loop, when you’re defending against a drone swarm, a human may be required to make that first decision but I’m just not sure any human can keep up with a drone swarm, so that’s an area where I think, in the U.S., we can have some conversations going forward in terms of how much human involvement do you actually need when you’re talking about non-lethal decisions from a human standpoint,” he said.
Since 2016, drone maker Shield AI, working with the Defense Innovation Unit, has been providing small drones to special operations with the ability to detect their location and maneuver without GPS signalling. Shield AI co-founder Brandon Tseng compared imbuing drones with autonomy to making a self-driving car, teaching software to measure and make decisions about objects in physical space. “GPS is not reliable in dense urban environments, so the cars have to build their own maps of the world,” Tseng said in a phone interview.
In about two months, Shield AI aims to release an upgraded version of its signature Nova drone with “vision-based autonomy,” a system designed to perform better at night than the current LIDAR sensors.
But the company’s most significant work is less about selling specific drones and more about developing autonomic systems that can work on a wide assortment of devices and weapons. “We’ve actually been doing a lot of the work in the DOD on training fixed-wing aerial vehicles to breach integrated air defense systems,” Tseng said.
He said the company would demonstrate autonomous behaviors and maneuvers on a drone, perhaps from a different drone maker, sometime this year.
“Once you have a highly intelligent system, you can start to swarm,” he said.
From there, stopping the drones is someone else’s problem.
Importantly, the same technology that is enabling more autonomy in small drones has big implications for larger drones and the way the two work together in future battlefields. In October, Shield AI entered into a partnership with large UAV maker Textron. The two are making a “proof-of-concept work to integrate Shield AI technology into Textron Systems’ proven air, land and sea unmanned systems,” according to a release from Textron.
The slow merging of small and large drones in exercises and in autonomy software is particularly relevant for a military facing an adversary like China. China is a market leader in small consumer drones and they’re rapidly moving into larger types. Earlier this month, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation claimed that the country’s first jet-powered long-endurance UAV had completed its maiden voyage.
Russia is applying lessons from the decisive use of drones in Azerbaijan to new drones and operating concepts, said Sam Bendett, a research analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses.
“Going forward, the Russian military will obtain multifunctional long-range drones that can carry different types of munitions. The [Ministry of Defense] is developing UAV swarm and loyal wingman tactics; and is working on testing and procuring loitering munitions,” as well as imbuing drones with greater autonomy. (The U.S. military has its own loyal wingman program. In December, the Air Force’s experimental Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie, took its first flight in formation with other jets.)
Russia already trains military units to counter small drones. They will soon be moving larger drones into the mix. Around September, Russia will work cruise missile and drone defenses into its largest annual military exercise, Zapad. The Russian military is “also starting to train in countering larger, heavier drones – its domestic industry has fielded several targeting models whose flight characteristics approximate larger Western UAVs,” said Bendett. “Previously, Russian armed forces mostly trained in countering smaller UAS, with their own smaller UAVs acted as adversarial assets during training.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense One)
26 Jan 21. US Navy eyes future targeting capability for Triton UAS. The US Navy (USN) is to equip the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a targeting capability for third-party maritime platforms.
A service spokesperson told Janes on 25 January that a sole-source notification was posted on beta.SAM.gov, the US government procurement website, some days ago, in anticipation of Northrop Grumman upgrading the navy’s Triton systems, formerly known as Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS).
“Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation is providing Triton-centric sensor-to-shooter analysis in support of Distributed Maritime Operation (DMO) concepts,” Captain Dan Mackin, USN Triton programme manager, said. “Triton is not armed. Triton’s platform and surveillance posture provide a unique sensor capability to locate and target enemy combatants and relay targeting data for prosecution.”
As noted in the solicitation posted on 19 January, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in California is to be contracted in support of the Future Capability Third-Party Targeting Analysis (FCTPTA) for Net-Enabled Weapons (NEW) used for demonstrating integrated warfighting capabilities and maintaining sea control for the MQ-4C Triton.
Vice president and programme manager for Triton programmes at Northrop Grumman, Doug Shaffer, told Janes, “While this recent contract is for development and demonstration on our Triton surrogate platform, ultimately integrating targeting software into Triton’s existing sensor and communications suite will elevate the Triton system to an even more critical role in the [US] Navy’s distributed maritime operations construct.” (Source: Jane’s)
25 Jan 21. USN begins I-Stalker LREOSS fits to carriers. The US Navy (USN) has revealed initial installations of its Improved Stalker (I-Stalker) Long Range Electro-Optic Sensor System (LREOSS) on two Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs).
The l-Stalker programme, also known as AN/SAY-3, is a rapid deployment capability for fleet urgent operational needs (UONs) to support the security and protection of USN ships through the provision of improved shipboard situational awareness capabilities to combat fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft. The system replaces the earlier Stalker LREOSS system, which is itself a modular, portable, form/fit replacement for the NATO SeaSparrow Missile System (NSSMS) MK 6 Low Light Level Television (LLLTV).
Stalker was developed to enhance the USN’s ability to detect, classify, identify, and determine hostile intent of potential threats to its ships, with experimental prototypes originally tested on CVNs and large amphibious ships from 2008. In response to a counter-swarm UON raised by US Naval Forces Central Command in 2010, a sole-source contract was awarded to Ball Aerospace in September 2012 for a single Stalker (NSSMS MK 6 MOD 4 LLLTV) Independent Mount (IM) experimental prototype system and eight Stalker (NSSMS MK 6 MOD 3 LLLTV) Director Mount (DM) developmental prototype systems (the IM configuration being deployed on ships not having the NSMSS missile system). A second sole-source contract to procure 12 DM systems, three IM systems, and upgrade eight of the developmental LREOSS prototypes to a production configuration was let to Ball Aerospace in April 2014. (Source: Jane’s)
25 Jan 21. Latest SOSA Aligned Backplanes from Elma Feature 6 or 8 Slots, Each with 25 GB Throughput. Provides essential backbone for common, modular architecture across critical C5ISR and EW systems. As The Open Group® Sensor Open Standards Architecture™, or SOSA™ initiative continues to move towards completion, Elma Electronic Inc. has added two 3U backplanes to its growing family of products aligned to Snapshot 3 of the SOSA Technical Standard. Available populated with or without VITA 67.3 connectors for timing and RF connectivity, the 6-slot and 8-slot backplanes provide the foundation for complex, high speed signal processing systems.
Ram Rajan, Sr. VP of Engineering for Elma Electronic Inc., noted, “When using these new backplanes, designers can develop systems aligned to SOSA for high-performance mission-critical applications requiring lower lifecycle costs and rapid technology insertion. We see them applied to a number of applications including mission, weapons and navigation control, threat detection, surveillance and target tracking and display as well as sensor-based systems and process and environmental monitoring.”
The backplanes incorporate the latest for precision network timing plus slot profiles for SBCs, switches, radial clocks and expansion. All data paths support high-speed signals.
Either used as configured or customized to meet specific system needs, the SOSA aligned backplanes offer considerable design flexibility. The extensible, modular design enables a wide range of slot counts and connection configurations.
Elma’s products aligned to the SOSA technical standard strive to follow the defense industry’s hardware and software convergence initiatives per the DoD’s convergence initiative as laid out in the Modular Opens Systems Approach (MOSA) mandate.
25 Jan 21. Swansea University and Faradair Aerospace strengthen relationship for UK aerospace revival. Aero-engineering interns/graduates to support BEHA aircraft design team.
Swansea University and Faradair Aerospace are to expand their relationship with the British company’s commitment to bring back large-scale aircraft production to the UK and deliver 300 home-designed, sustainable aircraft for regional air mobility and special missions by 2030. The enhanced collaboration will see the University’s Bay Campus become a training ground for engineers and interns as Faradair develops new technologies for use on its clean-sheet Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft (BEHA).
Neil Cloughley, Founder and CEO of Faradair said. “Swansea has been part of this programme for four years now and we are delighted to reinforce our position in making Swansea a long-term partner of this world-leading aviation initiative, and thus Wales, a long-term partner in BEHA’s success. We plan to have 30 engineers based at the Bay Campus working on BEHA developments by the end of 2021 and there will be opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students also.”
Dr Ben Evans, Associate Professor in Aerospace Engineering at Swansea University, said: “The partnership we have established, providing aerodynamic design support to Faradair for their BEHA aircraft, is an exciting opportunity for Swansea University. It will allow us to use our world-leading aerodynamic modelling, high performance computing and design optimisation technologies on an aircraft set to transform the world of civil aviation.”
“The BEHA will be a clean and quiet aircraft for the 21st century that could have a major impact to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation whilst better connecting smaller, regional airfields across the UK and beyond. It also provides Swansea University’s students with an amazing chance to work alongside an innovative company and great graduate employment opportunities,” he added.
The widened partnership with Swansea University follows Faradair’s announcement in December that it had attracted a strong consortium of global partners for the BEHA*, an aircraft specifically designed for low cost, quiet, environmentally friendly flight – qualities that enable it to deliver Air Mobility as a Service (AMaaS) for all.
In line with UK Government ambitions for sustainable air transport, the British-designed and built BEHA will emerge in hybrid electric/ turbine configuration, but engineered for evolution into a fully electric net zero commercial aircraft when power generation technology delivers the power density levels required for an 18-seat utility aircraft.
The ambition is to deliver an initial portfolio of 300 Faradair-owned BEHAs between year 2026 and 2030. Of these, 150 aircraft will be built in firefighting configuration, 75 as quick change (QC, passenger to cargo) aircraft, deployed at general aviation airfields globally, and 50 as pure freighters. The final 25 aircraft will be demonstrated in non-civilian government roles, including logistics, border and fisheries patrol, and drug interdiction.
Talks are now advancing at pace with investors and aircraft finance organisations to enable the full programme of development to scale up and meet the target objectives. Meanwhile, Faradair is building its executive and engineering team, and expects to make further announcements early in 2021.
22 Jan 21. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has successfully completed flight testing of a newly developed Self-Protection Pod (SPP) on an MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
The project was executed as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and with the support of the Air National Guard (ANG), the U.S. Navy (USN), and industry partners Raytheon Intelligence & Space, BAE Systems, Leonardo, Leonardo DRS, and Terma North America. The demo was held Oct. 28, 2020 at the Yuma Proving Grounds (YPG).
During the testing, the MQ-9 was able to successfully track Radio Frequency (RF) and Infrared (IR) missile threats, deploy countermeasures, and provide real-time threat awareness and protection in a simulated contested environment.
“Threat awareness and survivability are critical capabilities needed to enable the MQ-9 to operate in a contested environment,” said GA-ASI President, David R. Alexander. “GA-ASI is committed to expanding the mission envelope of the MQ-9 to enable not only the warfighters’ needs of today, but also to ensure the platform remains a survivable, capable, and highly adaptable platform for the future fight.”
SPP leverages mature (TRL9), state-of-the-art Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) to provide full-spectrum awareness and countermeasures. The system is built upon an earlier joint demonstration of a podded AN/ALR-69A(V) Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) in 2017, which demonstrated the utility of an RWR to enhance aircrew situational awareness. In addition to the RI&S AN/ALR-69A(V), the pod features the Leonardo DRS AN/AAQ-45 Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasure (DAIRCM) System that utilizes a single sensor for both 2-color IR missile warning and wide field-of-view gimbal for threat countermeasures. The BAE Systems ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser System is used for dispensing airborne flares, chaff, and other airborne decoys. The RF countermeasure of choice demonstrated successfully during testing was Leonardo’s BriteCloud Expendable Active Decoy (EAD), which is a small, self-contained Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM)-based expendable decoy.
At the heart of the Self-Protection Pod is the Terma AN/ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management System, which provides the interface, health, status, and command and control for the various systems installed in the pod. The AN/ALQ-213 functions as the Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) manager that coordinates between the various threat warning and dispensing systems to automatically dispense the appropriate sequencing pattern and expendables to protect the MQ-9.
22 Jan 21. US Army hosting ‘low collateral’ C-sUAS demo. The US Army will evaluate counter-small unmanned aerial system (C-sUAS) technologies ideal for urban environments during an industry demonstration at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in April.
In mid-January, the service released a request for information asking interested vendors to submit White Papers detailing technologies capable of downing group 1 and 2 UAS that weigh less than 25 kg, travel at speeds less than 250 kt, and operate at altitudes less than 1,066 m.
After reviewing the White Papers, the army will select up to 10 companies to present oral presentations about their capabilities. The service will then pick up to five C-sUAS options to participate in the “low collateral interceptor” demonstration.
“The low collateral effects interceptor demonstration event is intended to find solutions to defeat small UASs in an environment that requires minimal collateral damage to the surrounding environment or personnel,” the service wrote. “Specific, but not limited, uses would include defeating small UAS in urban environments, over sensitive sites, or situations where the rules of engagement would not allow kinetic effects.”
The upcoming event follows the army’s selection of seven interim C-sUAS technologies last year. To continue evaluating capabilities, the Joint C-sUAS Office (JCO) plans to conduct a series of ‘semi-annual’ events to see what else is available.
“Future opportunities to participate in demonstration events for other JCO focus areas will be posted separately,” the service added. (Source: Jane’s)
Blighter® Surveillance Systems (BSS) is a UK-based electronic-scanning radar and sensor solution provider delivering an integrated multi-sensor package to systems integrators comprising the Blighter electronic-scanning radars, cameras, thermal imagers, trackers and software solutions. Blighter radars combine patented solid-state Passive Electronic Scanning Array (PESA) technology with advanced Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) and Doppler processing to provide a robust and persistent surveillance capability. Blighter Surveillance Systems is a Plextek Group company, a leading British design house and technology innovator, and is based at Great Chesterford on the outskirts of Cambridge, England.
The Blighter electronic-scanning (e-scan) FMCW Doppler ground surveillance radar (GSR) is a unique patented product that provides robust intruder detection capabilities under the most difficult terrain and weather conditions. With no mechanical moving parts and 100% solid-state design, the Blighter radar family of products are extremely reliable and robust and require no routine maintenance for five years. The Blighter radar can operate over land and water rapidly searching for intruders as small a crawling person, kayaks and even low-flying objects. In its long-range modes the Blighter radar can rapidly scan an area in excess of 3,000 km² to ensure that intruders are detected, identified and intercepted before they reach critical areas.