UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE
04 Mar 09. Navy Explores Use of Robot Boats. Remote-controlled unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) are being mulled by the Pentagon as anti-piracy and anti-terrorism tools. The devices can go untended for longer periods than manned boats and can communicate with other seaborne or airborne vessels. Capt. Paul Siegrist of the U.S. Navy says that “they have the ability to be the eyes and ears of the fleet at sea, but also of the forces protecting our ports and harbors.” He believes the robot craft will deliver “force multiplication” to carry out missions with greater effectiveness while lowering the risk to manned forces. A pair of 11-meter USVs have been provided for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship by General Dynamics. Company representative Karl Oskoian says the boats “operate and support sensor systems, including [various] sonars,” while also boasting 360-degree situational awareness. The craft can run for 24 hours straight and carry 5,000-pound payloads. 5G Marine Systems President Robert Murphy says his company’s 20-foot Interceptor USV is “specifically designed for security and public-service applications such as anti-piracy patrol, harbor security and oil rig surveillance” and can be deployed via helicopter and parachute as well as from friendly shores. The craft has no armaments but can pursue or collide with hostile vessels or use nonlethal weapons such as long-range sound-blast devices, intense lights, laser dazzlers and water cannons. SeaRobotics President Donald Darling says his company’s USV can be equipped with both lethal and nonlethal weapons while sporting sophisticated military multiband network radios and satellite communications. (Source: AUVSI/Washington Times)
04 Mar 09. U.S. Drones, Armed With Hellfire Missiles, Finally Go to War in Iraq. The U.S. Army has starting using combat UAVs for the first time in Iraq, deploying Warrior Alpha UAVs equipped with Hellfire missiles for counterinsurgency work. The General Atomics Warrior Alpha is a multi-purpose hybrid UAV based on the MQ-1 Predator platform and uses electro-optical/infrared or synthetic aperture radar payloads. “Anytime you can see the enemy and he doesn’t know you’re watching is a good thing, but not good enough,” U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody said in an address to an industry conference in 2007. “You also must be able to do something about it, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.” Sgt. Jerry Rhoades, a UAV operator, says, “Say we see someone emplacing IEDs. If we can see it, our customer can see it, and they can call in a team to diffuse it. But that puts ground troops in harm’s way. If we have Hellfires on board, we can get authorization, take out the whole emplacement, and no ground troops get injured.” (Source: AUVSI/ World Tribune)
13 Mar 09. The Air Force is modifying a fixed price incentive firm contract with Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., of San Diego, Calif., for an amount not to exceed $107,575,999. This action will provide for long lead items associated with LRIP Lot 8 Global Hawk Block 40 air vehicles. At this time, $25,999,999 has been obligated. 303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8620-08-C-3001, P00007).
03 Mar 09. Defence to Buy Hunter-Killer Drones. Australia is set to purchase a number of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) equipped with armaments to attack insurgents in Afghanistan. This will enable special forces troops to identify insurgent targets and summon their own remote controlled UCAV to fire Hellfire air-to-ground missiles or precision laser guided bombs against enemy outposts. Leading candidates for the Australian contract include General Atomics’ Reaper and BAE Systems’ twin-engine Mantis. Unmanned helicopters such as Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout are currently operating from U.S. warships, and the first unmanned fighter jet will soon take off and land on a U.S. aircraft carrier. Australia’s federal government has d