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12 Nov 20. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully ferried the fifth NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft, via a non-stop transatlantic flight. The aircraft departed on Wednesday, Nov. 11 from Palmdale, California and landed nearly 20 hours later on Nov. 12 at Sigonella Air Base, Sigonella, Italy.
The air vehicle is the last of five NATO RQ-4D aircraft, thus completing deliveries to the Main Operating Base (MOB) of the NATO AGS system of systems comprised of aircraft, ground and support segments. Work remains to complete Handover of the AGS System to the NATO AGS Force (NAGSF).
“Once the NATO AGS system achieves Handover, NATO Commanders will have greater flexibility and redundancy to support the mission of protecting ground troops, civilian populations and international borders in peacetime and times of conflict as well as humanitarian missions during natural disasters,” said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman.
The NATO AGS RQ-4D is based on the U.S. Air Force wide area surveillance Global Hawk. The high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned NATO AGS system, which includes the multi-platform radar technology insertion program radar, provides leading-edge intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that is able to deliver near real-time situational awareness 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Led by Northrop Grumman, the NATO industry team is comprised of companies from across NATO’s member nations, including Leonardo, Airbus, and Kongsberg and other defence companies from all AGS Procuring Nations.
12 Nov 20. Vietnam to Convert MiG-21 ‘Flying Coffins’ into Drones. Vietnam, the South-East Asian nation which is also in conflict with China like many other nations including India could be planning to make a very audacious move to upgrade its arsenal. According to reports, the country is planning to convert its retired MiG-21s into combat drones.
The Russian-made aircraft that form the backbone of the Vietnamese and Indian fleet which have been the most accident-prone. The MiG jet in particular has become known as the “flying coffin” in India due to extremely high accident rates.
While the concept of conversion of a fighter jet into an unmanned UCAV is not new, but the programs have not been feasible enough yet to be fielded for combat by any country around the world.
Vietnamese Air Force retired its MiG-21s back in 2010. So far, research has been carried out on how to have the drone (MiG-21) land automatically, VietDefence reported on its Facebook page.
The MiG-21 remains the one of most-produced aircraft ever, which is still in active service by a number of nations since its first flight in 1955. The jets made many records upon its introduction and was the top-most interceptor for the Soviet Air Force, and is still for India in the form of MiG 21 Bisons.
However, converting such an old aircraft into a combat drone could pose an enormous challenge compared to developing a new one altogether, as these airframes lack the modern electronic avionics and systems such as Fly-By-Wire.
These are manually operated aircraft, which require a lot of expertise and skills to fly – and even today these jets are operated by pilots who have gathered a sizeable amount of flying experience.
The MiG-21 has physical actuators that push manual flight controls which makes the task of designing a computer interface difficult and expensive. Even the Russians have not done it who preferred to build new drones altogether.
Although now obsolete, the MiG-21s have earned the respect of all aviationists in the world and have left a golden mark in the history of aviation. It marked a milestone, during the Cold War, and frightened the Americans when it first came to service.
It was developed after gaining experience from the MiG-17s and MiG-19s, which were the world’s earliest supersonic fighter jets, developed by the Soviet Union.
Apart from the American QF-16s, there have been recent strides into the field of converting Fighter Jets into unmanned aerial combat vehicles (UCAVs). It was reported that the Indian Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the state-owned company responsible for building the Indian Air Force’s fighter jets, is working on a similar ambitious project on converting the latest LCA Tejas fighter jet into unmanned variants.
“We have started an internal study on making an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) on the Tejas platform. Besides, we are confident about coming up with an unmanned version of Chetak helicopter as well,” HAL Chief T Suvarna Raju told Economic Times.
Such aircraft are used as exercise pairs to train pilots in their dogfighting skills, giving them a more realistic environment than shooting down target drones.
Contrary to popular belief, these planes are not lost in such exercises (at least not very often); ‘as many times these drills feature missiles without warheads. Since the AIM-120 is proximity fused and uses a continuous-rod blast fragmentation warhead, as long as the missile gets close enough to the target it is considered a kill,’ writes Tyler Rogoway writes for the War Zone. (Source: UAS VISION/The Eurasian Times)
10 Nov 20. Easy Aerial Portable Autonomous Drone in a Box. Easy Aerial, a Brooklyn based provider of autonomous drone-based monitoring solutions for government, public safety, military, and commercial applications, launched its latest system, the Smart Aerial Monitoring System, SAMS-T-MINI. The SAMS-T-MINI is a very compact and portable tethered drone in a box designed for mission-critical, on the move operations. It provides constant eye-in-the-sky surveillance for extended periods of time to obtain aerial imagery and situational awareness, either stationary or on a moving vehicle. The SAMS-T-MINI joins a line of SAMS and SAMS-T systems currently on offer from Easy Aerial.
“Our customers made clear that they needed a compact, portable, affordable, and versatile autonomous security solution,” says Ido Gur, Co-Founder, and CEO of Easy Aerial. “The SAMS-T-MINI answers this need by providing constant and customized eye-in-the-sky surveillance for extended periods of time, allowing them to obtain aerial imagery and situational awareness.”
The SAMS-T-MINI features a 320-foot data-over-power (DOP) enhanced tether for resilient, unjammable data security. It can support 24 hours of continuous flight, even in extreme weather conditions, and offers precise hovering over the ground station. Weighing just 35 lbs (16 kg) and having a multiple payload capacity (up to 15 different payloads) of up to 7.7 lbs (3.5 kg), the SAMS-T-MINI is light and portable, making it ideal for mission-critical, on-the-move operations. It is compatible with Easy Aerial’s entire line of rugged, military-grade drones.
Like all of Easy Aerial’s autonomous, cost-effective Smart Aerial Monitoring Systems, the SAMS-T-MINI combines drone-in-a-box simplicity with military-grade durability that can be remotely deployed and operated from anywhere in the world, including GPS-denied environments, without the need of an onsite operator.
Designed and manufactured in the United States, Easy Aerial solutions are rugged, durable, all-weather capable, and designed to operate in the most inhospitable environments with little to no infrastructure support. The company’s line of SAMS includes free-flight and tethered autonomous systems that accommodate a variety of sensor payloads. With the ability to deploy anywhere, the systems take off and land from a portable, rechargeable enclosure without the need for on-site human intervention. (Source: UAS VISION)
10 Nov 20. Nigeria receives Wing Loong II UAVs from China. Nigeria has received a pair of Wing Loong II medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from China, a senior Nigerian Air Force (NAF) official announced on 10 November.
Images of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)-built MALE UAVs and a ground control station (GCS) were posted to the official Twitter account of the Director of Public Relations and Information, Headquarters NAF.
“Nigeria has joined China and the United Arab Emirates as the only countries operating the Wing Loong II unmanned combat aerial vehicle. The two Nigerian Air Force Wing Loong IIs, which can remain airborne for 31 hours in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mode and 26 hours in offensive role[s], will add significant value to counterinsurgency and anti-banditry [operations],” Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola said.
10 Nov 20. UK Police Streamline Drone Operations. In the UK, West Midlands Police has turned to Centrik to manage its complex drone programme, using the powerful operational management system to improve efficiency and help its officers “spend less time on administration and more time policing”.
The West Midlands Police drone programme – working closely with the National Police Air Service (NPAS) – provides 24/7 unmanned aerial support to an area of 348 square miles, home to more than 2.8 million people.
With the unit attending more than 2,000 incidents in 2020 alone, West Midlands Police needed a powerful, intuitive system capable of managing the complexities involved in operating 32 pilots and its unmanned aircraft as part of the second largest police force in the UK.
Sgt Keith Bennett, West Midlands Police, says, “When we expanded the drone programme in October 2019 to offer 24/7 support, it quickly became apparent that our existing systems and operational processes were cumbersome, inefficient and time consuming.
“Centrik has streamlined every process into a single, intuitive platform that has significantly improved operational efficiency – it has meant our officers can now spend less time on admin and more time on policing.”
Originally developed for civil aviation, Centrik is the only fully ICAO and CAA-compliant solution that also specifically caters to UAS operations. The system provides a complete, configurable solution, managing workflows, tasks, equipment and logbooks, simplifying internal and external audit processes, as well as tracking pilot training and currency records, among a myriad of additional functionality available to all departments within an organisation. The system’s CAA support is truly what sets it apart. To increase safety and ensure compliance we can instantly file occurrence reports directly to the CAA via our Centrik dashboard. The system has even been specifically adapted to cut out the extraneous manned aviation elements that used to make the process so time consuming,” adds Sgt Bennett.
Centrik’s modular architecture can be accessed from any connected device, either on or off line, allowing pilots and authorised users to manage pre-flight checks, conduct risk and safety assessments and reports, as well as instantly input detailed flight logs out in the field. The system also accurately tracks all aircraft flight-hours, ensuring important service and maintenance schedules are always met.
To ensure total transparency, West Midlands Police has granted the Policing Crime Commissioner (PCC) access to its Centrik system, which provides complete operational oversight and helps demonstrate compliance as part of any subsequent audit process. Centrik’s comprehensive analysis tools will also help to drive continuous improvements in performance and efficiency.
“We’ve had a first-class service from Centrik, with the entire team always available and ready to offer us support when needed; the system has genuinely revolutionised the way we operate,” concludes Sgt Bennett. (Source: UAS VISION)
09 Nov 20. Turkey to launch its first armed unmanned surface vessel. A partnership between two leading Turkish defense companies has launched the country’s first armed unmanned surface vessel, the ULAQ.
Ares Shipyard and Meteksan Defence said Oct. 28 the ULAQ was built from advanced composites, has a 400-kilometer range and can travel up to 65kph.
The companies also said the platform is equippped with day and night vision capabilities as well as encrypted communication infrastructure, which can be operated from mobile vehicles and headquarters or from sea platforms such as aircraft carriers or frigates. That infrastructure can be used for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, surface warfare, asymmetric warfare, escort and strategic infrastructure protection missions.
The design for the prototype was finalized in August, Ares and Meteksan said, and structural construction was recently completed, with the first vessel to enter Mediterranean waters in December following its outfitting.
ULAQ’s missile systems are inclusive of four cells of Cirit and two of L-UMTAS, manufactured by Turkey’s state-controlled missile-maker Roketsan. Firing tests are planned for the first quarter of 2021.
Along with the Cirit and L-UMTAS missile systems, the ULAQ will be equipped with different variations of communication and intelligence technology, like jamming and electronic warfare systems, to cover diverse operational needs. The vessel will be able to carry out joint operations with complementary drones.
Its builders said the ULAQ is not only remotely controlled but also an autonomous vehicle that hosts artificial intelligence.
“ULAQ is a messenger (original word is ‘ulak’), an envoy from the ancient Turkish culture who represents the state with his extraordinary skills since Central Asia. Along with the intelligence and experience, ULAQ possesses extreme warriorship capabilities,” Ares CEO Utku Alanc said.
Added Meteksan CEO Selcuk Alparslan: “While designing the critical electronic systems of the platform, we have sought maximum indigenousness and fully considered the operational needs of Turkish Armed Forces.” (Source: Defense News)
06 Nov 20. Defence unfazed by SkyGuardian hiccup. The Australian government has confirmed it will proceed with its proposed acquisition of up to 12 SkyGuardian aircraft, despite uncertainty over its capability in urban environments.
The Department of Defence has confirmed it is developing options for up to 12 General Atomics MQ-9B (SkyGuardian) aircraft to present for second pass government approval in 2022, as part of Project AIR 7003 – a $1.3bn program to deliver an armed remotely piloted aircraft system to the Australian Defence Force.
This comes despite General Atomics’ failure to demonstrate the aircraft’s capability in urban environments, with the manufacturer forced to cancel a test flight in San Diego earlier this year in response to community pushback.
Last month, US regulators confirmed that General Atomics would need to reapply for permission to conduct test flights over densely populated urban environments in light of safety concerns.
However, a spokesperson from the Department of Defence has said the decision to purchase SkyGuardian would not be affected by the current domestic air space restriction in the US.
According to Defence, concerns over regulatory compliance, aviation safety and airworthiness would be addressed “well ahead of achieving initial operating capability”, currently scheduled for the “mid-2020s”.
“The variant of SkyGuardian that Defence is purchasing will be certified to similar standards as manned aircraft. This is to ensure the safety of people on the ground and other airspace users,” the spokesperson told Defence Connect.
“While this is yet to be completed, this will enable operations in domestic airspace.”
The spokesperson noted that in Australia, testing would be guided by the Defence Aviation Safety Regulations, rather than Civil Aviation Safety Regulations that govern civil aviation.
“This includes Defence-specific regulations to operate unmanned aircraft systems in Australia,” the spokesperson added.
Defence added that it would work closely with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to ensure Defence regulations are compatible with CASA’s guidelines.
The SkyGuardian is expected to provide persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare support and precision strike to multiple domains.
According to Defence, the aircraft can continuously observe a wide area for an extended period of time, supporting ADF and allied land forces, and providing reconnaissance support to search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. (Source: Defence Connect)
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