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12 Jan 23. Iran Builds Drone Aircraft Carrier from Converted Merchant Ship. Work is progressing on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ first aircraft carrier (We should ignore the infamous fake aircraft carrier target barge). The 240 meter long drone carrier is based on a large merchant ship hull. Two of the vessels are expected to be built, the Shahid Mahdavi and Shahid Bagheri.
Like the Iranian Navy’s forward base ship Makran, which is currently transiting across the Pacific, the conversion is being done at the ISOICO shipyard west of Bandar Abbas.
The conversion adds a large cantilever flight deck on the port (left) side. It is currently unclear whether an overhang will be added to the starboard (right) side also. The fact that the superstructure spans the original deck means that a traditional aircraft carrier layout is not possible. The angles on the added light deck are also not traditional. Possibly this hints at a flight deck running across from port to starboard ahead of the superstructure.
As a drone carrier the ship is expected to carry both helicopters and runway-launched drones.
Information suggests that the ship was originally Perarin (IMO: 9209350), a large container ship. Perarin was built in 2000 and operated under an Iranian flag. Specifications for Perarin are a carrying capacity of 3,280 TEU, length overall (LOA) of 240.2 meters and beam of 32.2 meters. Her reported draught was 7.8 meters.
Low-resolution open source satellite imagery suggests that the ship was moved into the dry dock at the end of May 2022. The deck was stripped and the ship painted grey. Work on the overhanging flight deck became apparent in satellite imagery around November 19 2022. (Source: UAS VISION/Covert Shores)
12 Jan 23. USN more certain of role for medium surface drones following tests. The U.S. Navy is firming up plans for the Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel, after previously questioning the need or utility of the system.
The Navy has seven large and medium USV prototypes in its custody or on contract, and already these vessels have shown the value of having an unmanned craft tote around payloads related to intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting, leaders said.
Meanwhile, small USVs operating as part of Task Force 59 are conducting ISR missions of their own, in much greater numbers due to their size and low cost.
The Navy had already announced its commitment to a Large USV program.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday previously said Task Force 59′s success using small USVs to sense the battlespace and create a common operating picture for the U.S. Navy and its partners “has changed my thinking on the direction of unmanned.” If small USVs can do this ISR mission more cheaply, he said, “it will cause us to consider numbers and what potential payloads they’re going to have” for medium ones.
After experimentation last year, including four medium and large USV prototypes participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, Rear Adm. Fred Pyle, who leads surface warfare on the CNO’s staff, said “we are very excited about the prospects of what MUSV can bring.”
Through USV Division One within the Surface Development Squadron, Pyle explained, “we are doing a lot of storming and norming in this space of what the [command and control] looks like, how we do the operational employment, and what the future of the medium unmanned platform is.”
He told Defense News on Jan. 11 at the annual Surface Navy Association conference that the MUSV conducting cyber, surveillance and targeting missions proved “advantageous.”
“We’ve learned a lot from recent events such as RIMPAC, and we’re going to continue to take opportunities of exercises and fleet experimentation to determine what’s the best capability to go in there to support distributed maritime operations,” he added.
The Navy intends to begin the LUSV program in fiscal 2025, but has not publicly discussed potential timing of an MUSV program — particularly amid the conversation about whether the service wants a medium versus a small USV for the ISR mission set.
“We have investments in medium unmanned surface vessels and we are moving out on it. The [Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants] and I are lockstep, and we’ve got very good dialogue with the fleet on what we want to accomplish with this platform,” Pyle said during a panel discussion about moving these vessels from experimentation into fleet operations.
The head of USV Division One, Cmdr. Jeremiah Daley, told Defense News on Jan. 12 at the conference that, whereas USV operations at RIMPAC and previous advanced-phase predeployment training focused on a single destroyer paired with one drone, this year will host more complex and realistic scenarios.
Planned events with the soon-to-be five total USVs in his division will “increase the scope and complexity of those events, integrated both with individual ships, with Marine Corps and with carrier strike groups,” he said.
“We’re now tying directly into surface action group and carrier strike group operations” as they simultaneously conduct multiple kinds of operations and rely on USV payloads to sense and affect the battlespace.
Asked about the Navy’s comfort in operating unmanned craft alongside crewed ships, Daley replied: “Our command is comfortable, but the real customer is the fleet. The more frequently we engage the fleet directly, with their operations and their missions and their exercises and their training objectives, the more comfortable the fleet will be with normalizing USV operations with the larger fleet. That’s what our goal is this year.”
All seven of the planned prototypes — the Sea Hunter and Sea Hawk medium USVs, four Overlord large USVs, and another medium USV prototype on contract with L3Harris Technologies — are technically medium USVs due to their length. The Large USV program of record will involve a longer hull that can store and launch missiles, acting as an adjunct magazine for the surface fleet.
Despite the smaller size of these prototypes and their current use of non-kinetic payloads, Daley said his division’s work is reducing risk for the LUSV program, not just informing the path forward for the MUSV program.
The most recently delivered prototype, the Mariner, has the USV version of the integrated combat system and will help sailors and Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems learn more about this capability before the LUSV is designed and delivered.
Daley also said his division is working on the development of tactics and concepts of operations, some of which would apply to both large and medium USVs.
Gilday said Jan. 10 at the conference that he expects the first USV to deploy with a carrier strike group in 2027 to demonstrate “meaningful” manned-unmanned teaming.
(Source: Defense News)
12 Jan 23. Elbit Systems UK to deliver Magni-X UAS for British Army. Elbit Systems UK has been awarded a contract to provide Magni-X micro-Uncrewed Aerial Systems (micro-UAS) to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). The contract has been awarded by Defence Equipment & Support’s Future Capability Group as part of the British Army’s Human Machine Teaming framework, and the proven micro-UAS will be delivered to specialist army units for service by mid-2023.
Magni-X is a proven military-grade Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) micro-UAS from a family of quadcopter platforms already in service with armed forces across the globe. As part of the contract, Elbit Systems UK will deliver the service-ready Magni-X systems to the British Army with a contracted option to deliver many further systems. The Magni-X that will be delivered will carry a variety of payloads, including Electro-Optical and Infrared gimballed cameras, giving the users extensive long-range reconnaissance capabilities.
The Magni-X is a 2kg, packable and easily portable mUAS system, which is capable of autonomous flight and can be integrated with Elbit’s Legion-X System to give it swarming capabilities, acting as a force multiplier for soldiers on the ground.
Featuring a low radar and acoustic signature, Magni-X is a proven and in-service backpack-portable micro-UAS designed to enhance Short Range Reconnaissance and support combat and intelligence operations for up to 60 minutes at a time.
Martin Fausset, CEO of Elbit Systems UK said:
“This contract represents another milestone in Elbit Systems UK’s delivery of advanced UAS systems to the UK Armed Forces. The unique capabilities of these systems demonstrates our commitment to being at the forefront of technological advances to support the integration of Robotics and Autonomous Systems to enhance the British Army’s capabilities.”
10 Jan 23. USAF unit exploring uses for small drones in Mideast.
After struggling to fend off weaponized quadcopters in the Middle East for years, a band of volunteer airmen is trying to flip the script.
The new unit, known as “Task Force 99″ at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, wants the U.S. Air Force to use small, store-bought drones to its own advantage.
“The ability to protect local populations and our bases against small [unmanned aerial systems] is very important,” said Lt. Col. Erin Brilla, the team’s commander. “[How] can we … turn that narrative around and impose dilemmas in the other direction?”
Quadcopters and the like offer several advantages: They are easy to find, cheap to buy, relatively simple to customize and fly, require little upkeep, can be carried essentially anywhere, have a low profile, and are quick to replace.
These lightweight drones are far less sophisticated than the Air Force’s remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper or RQ-4 Global Hawk. But they can still wreak havoc when outfitted with cameras, radio jammers or explosives, or if they get sucked into and destroy a jet engine.
That’s turned the children’s toy or photographer’s tool into a hallmark of asymmetric warfare over the past decade.
In the coming year, Task Force 99 will mix and match small drones with a variety of low-tech gadgets that could give airmen an upper hand on the battlefield.
Their first attempt involved an electronic warfare tool that can jump radio frequencies and transmit audio or video over those channels, said Capt. Barrett Kopel, the group’s cyber and systems integration chief.
It was cobbled together using “pieces that you would find if you were to go into an old-school RadioShack” and code they found online, Kopel said.
They’re tinkering with the contraption to see if it could block nearby frequencies while riding on a drone, among other possibilities.
“Our first success story, really, is generating and proving that we can take commercial off-the-shelf software, commercial off-the-shelf hardware, and … apply it towards an operational capability,” he said.
Brilla said the group has its first small drone ready to collect unclassified images, but needs approval from the Qatari government to fly near the base.
“It provides orthomosaic and 3D modeling imagery capabilities to look at facilities or landscapes that we’ve previously not been able to access … due to [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance resource] allocation and competing intelligence requirements,” said Capt. Raymond Revell, the group’s intelligence chief.
An orthomosaic, according to the web site dronegenuity.com, is “like Google Earth, but way sharper. It is a large, map-quality image with high detail and resolution made by combining many smaller images called orthophotos.”
The Pentagon’s limited inventory of intelligence assets don’t have the time or bandwidth to map out everything. Drones can help fill that gap so troops can better understand the land around them.
“The biggest takeaway is how cheap these UASs are, because you can employ a number of them for very low cost, and they’re attritable, so you don’t really care if you lose them or not,” Revell said of store-bought drones, which typically retail for less than $1,500. “If you do lose them, whatever capability that your adversary has used to take down that drone likely was slightly more expensive than you fielding that drone in the first place.”
Another perk: Because the system is unclassified, Americans don’t have to withhold as much information from their foreign partners as they would with a more complex machine.
That’s particularly important as U.S. officials hash out the details of how Middle Eastern countries might work together in a regional security collective, making those partner nations less dependent on American forces.
A Middle East air defense alliance would ideally pool resources to secure and monitor the airspace using far fewer U.S. aircraft and sensors than in the past. As part of that effort, Task Force 99 is looking at long-endurance aircraft that can loiter for days and pass the data it collects back to the Air Force.
“It really boils down to making sure that we are making the best use of our resources to ensure that we have a sufficient and sustainable presence here,” Brilla said. “We absolutely need each other.”
The effort comes as the U.S. looks to maintain a smaller overseas footprint in the post-Afghanistan War era. The Pentagon has also begun retiring some of the workhorse drones that have played that surveillance role for years.
Task Force 99 sees those legacy aircraft as useful on their own, but not plentiful or versatile enough to create a true blanket of “eyes in the sky” over a region.
“There’s some interesting, different technologies … that can fly for days,” Brilla said. “We are laying the groundwork for proofs of concept in 2023, probably in succession, to measure them against each other.”
Still, the unit has to figure out how to funnel the data it collects to the rest of the military in a way that is relevant and understandable.
Task force members hope they can succeed where numerous federal programs have failed: Quickly and cheaply getting troops new technology that makes a difference on the battlefield.
Task Force 99 became an official unit in mid-October and moved into its own facilities at the end of 2022. The team of eight Americans, plus three troops from Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom, plans to partner with sister organizations in the Army and Navy and is tapping into the resources offered elsewhere in the military’s “innovation” ecosystem.
Brilla wants to double the size of her team, staying under 20 people, and bring in airmen with experience in support roles like contracting and finance.
“By nature of being in a deployed environment, we will have a somewhat rotational force, which is good because it keeps fresh ideas coming in,” she said. “But we also will need some … continuity going forward.”
(Source: C4ISR & Networks)
10 Jan 23. US Navy Demonstrates Unmanned Cargo Delivery for Ships at Sea.
The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) recently demonstrated multiple unmanned systems in a first-of-its-kind mission to move supplies to ships at sea without the use of manned aircraft during an event at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in St. Inigoes, Maryland.
The demo, held in collaboration with the Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems program (PMA-263), employed unmanned vehicles to transport cargo weighing less than 50 lbs., which accounts for 90% of Navy logistics deliveries.
“We are seeing an increase in manned and unmanned logistics,” said Col. Victor Argobright, PMA-263 program manager. “For the Marine Corps, the Commandant is enthusiastic about where we are going with unmanned logistics, and is beginning conversations about operations and contested environments. The Navy is currently identifying areas where unmanned logistics would be a critical enabler to operations at sea, and the Blue Water Maritime Logistics UAS is a great demonstration of this emerging requirement.”
During the event, industry partners Skyways Air Transportation, Inc., and Martin UAV operated their unmanned systems through long-range flights from ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, and shore-to-ship situations, carrying a variety of objects to mimic critical supplies. Both systems successfully delivered cargo over 200 nautical miles onto a moving ship underway.
“[For the future], we are looking at continued long-term experimentation, how the fleet operates, and how we get the technology out to our Sailors,”
said Tony Schmidt, NAWCAD’s Experimentation Office director.
The unmanned systems under consideration are capable of vertical take-off-and-landing to operate from most naval ships at sea and stations ashore, as well as systems that do not require dedicated launch and recovery equipment.
NAWCAD acquired the original Blue Water UAS prototype in 2019 to demonstrate long-range unmanned naval ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore cargo transport. Navy test pilots and engineers have since worked with industry partners to develop a system that best meets maritime requirements.
The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division is the Navy’s warfare center dedicated to aviation employing more than 17,000 military, civilian and contract personnel. It operates test ranges, laboratories and aircraft in support of test, evaluation, research, development and sustainment of everything flown by the Navy and Marine Corps. Based in Patuxent River, Maryland, the command also has major sites in St. Inigoes, Maryland, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida. (Source: UAS VISION/NAVAIR)
10 Jan 23. IMSC completes three-day exercise in Arabian Gulf.
The naval drill had seen integration of uncrewed systems with artificial intelligence. The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) has finished a three-day maritime exercise, Sentinel Shield, on 9 January 2023 in the Arabian Gulf.
During the naval drill, the exercise had seen uncrewed systems being integrated with artificial intelligence for the second time in six months.
Coalition Task Force (CTF) Sentinel, which is the operational task force of IMSC, completed the exercise, which has seen participation of the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119) and two Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels from US 5th Fleet.
CTF Sentinel’s director of plans and Royal Saudi Navy captain Alamri Assem said: “We planned this exercise to demonstrate how artificial intelligence and unmanned systems effectively increase CTF Sentinel’s maritime domain awareness to maintain maritime security in Middle Eastern waters.”
The exercise had seen uncrewed and artificial intelligence systems being operated along with Delbert D. Black and CTF Sentinel’s command centre onshore in Bahrain.
These systems could aid in locating and identifying objects in nearby waters and transmit visual depictions to watchstanders.
CTF Sentinel deputy commander and US Navy captain Brian Granger said: “Saildrones transmitted information on contacts of interest and our watch officers coordinated with the destroyer for further monitoring.”
CTF Sentinel earlier finished a similar exercise on 23 August 2022 which had seen participation of the Royal Bahrain Naval Force ship RBNS Ahmed Al-Fateh (P20) and US Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) along with another Saildrone Explorer from US 5th Fleet.
This late-summer exercise was the first that IMSC planners had particularly designed a Sentinel Shield exercise to integrate uncrewed systems.
IMSC was set up in July 2019 to help tackle the increased threats to freedom of navigation for merchant mariners sailing through international waters in the Middle East.
CTF Sentinel was formed four months later to stop state-sponsored malign activity and support the merchant shipping industry in the Bab al-Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz.
Currently, IMSC membership has 11 countries – Albania, Bahrain, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, UAE, UK, and the US. (Source: naval-technology.com)
10 Jan 23. Bayraktar Hints at Kill Switch in Combat Drones. The senior executive of Turkish defense manufacturer Baykar dismissed concerns that as it increases exports, its attack drones may one day be used against Ankara, saying that all required measures had been taken to prevent the military technology from slipping into the hands of a prospective adversary.
Selcuk Bayraktar, chairman and chief technology officer of Baykar, stated in an earlier this week interview with TV100 that the company, first and foremost, only sells combat drones to nations that have “close relations” or a “strategic alliance” with Türkiye and does not “expect” a stab in the back.
He noted, but didn’t elaborate,
“you also know that these are high-tech devices, and you equip high-tech devices with software. Only those who develop that technology dominate the software.”
The CTO stated that Baykar has taken precautions to stop hackers from commandeering and damaging its UAVs. Bayraktar claimed to presenter Candas Tolga Isik, “Of course, we have special measures regarding information security.” Noting that, “now you know that in this era, states are also hacked. We are taking special measures against all these, and this is also a race.”
“We can take control of all UAVs sold by us to other countries and deploy them in the air against them; they work on our software,”
said Selcuk Bayraktar.
Drone control systems are apparently connected to satellites or can be controlled via medium waves. Information on this subject was voiced in an interview with journalists by the technical director of the Turkish company Baykar Makina Selçuk Bayraktar.
Previously, such a feature of Turkish drones has never been disclosed, which can seriously affect the interest in Turkish drones. However, which is very remarkable, this may mean that during the conflict in Ukraine, it was Turkey that could be involved in controlling the strikes of Ukrainian drones, especially those drones that can be controlled via satellite communication channels. (Source: UAS VISION/MENAFN; Defence View)
09 Jan 23. Europeans wade into fighting seabed threats with drones and sensors. Shaken by an underwater explosion that ripped through the Nord Stream pipelines in September, European nations are waking up to the task of securing the ocean floors that house the continent’s arteries of wealth.
But protecting the vast network of energy pipelines and communications cables that line the surrounding bodies of water comes down to a familiar question: Who’s in charge?
That’s because the responsibilities for infrastructure that traverses multiple countries, is privately owned and serves vital national interests are anything but clear. Militaries, with their special skills and equipment for underwater operations, are expected to pick up a chunk of the work. But the scope of the assignment and the technologies involved is still coming into focus.
Analysts consider seabed warfare a growing national security discipline with influences from submarine warfare, countermine operations and harbor protection.
“There are two thrusts here,” said Sebastian Bruns, a naval expert at the University of Kiel in northern Germany. For one, there are high-tech, offensive tactics that involve clusters of autonomous weapons quietly lying on the ocean floor until activated, potentially organizing into something like movable mine fields never to be recorded on any maps, he said.
And then there is the field of protecting critical underwater infrastructure, which has a lot to do with understanding, by way of sensors, what is going on around cables and pipelines, he added. Observing hard-to-reach places deep below the surface is challenging enough; being able to do it at the scale required is another.
“An analogy would be the assignment of two cop cars to watch over the entire highway network of the United States,” he said.
Developments are afoot in individual countries and at the European Union level. At the European Defence Agency, for example, officials are awaiting word from Italy in the first quarter of 2023 on a proposal for a dedicated program for critical seabed infrastructure protection. If approved, the effort could join the growing list of so-called PESCO projects — small, multinational government and industry teams whose work serves as a blueprint for solving specific military capability problems.
The agency also is kicking off a series of studies in January to identify capability gaps and find emerging technology in industry that could fill them, said Conor Kirwan, an Irish naval officer detailed to EDA’s office on maritime programs in Brussels.
Also planned is an examination of national governance mechanisms that touch underwater infrastructure protection.
The analyses are expected to culminate in an EDA-sponsored symposium in late April that aims to bring together military and civilian authorities, private companies and academic researchers.
Peeling back the layers of authorities — military, civilian and commercial — may turn out to be the biggest impediment to Europeans acting jointly against threats. “That’s where the complexity around critical seabed infrastructure lies,” Kirwan said in an interview.
France: Drones to the rescue
France has rushed ahead with new investments in the undersea domain ever since it became the first European nation to launch a national security-oriented seabed warfare strategy in February 2022.
Other nations have published seabed strategies before, but in more civilian capacities, such as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s strategy for ocean mapping, exploration and characterization. What made France’s release stand out was its military emphasis, especially as Russia and China — considered adversaries by the U.S. and much of Western Europe — are heavily investing in ways to conduct warfare on the seabed, said Steven Horrell, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
“Russia and China are clearly moving out to utilize the seabed to hold at risk those transoceanic cables and other things on the seabed,” he told Defense News.
Traditionally, the military has focused on anti-submarine warfare in the undersea domain, he added. With the development of underwater unmanned vehicles and mine countermeasure missions, as well as the increasingly critical need to protect transoceanic cables and gas pipelines, that scope has widened. (Source: Defense News)
09 Jan 23. USN demonstrates new launch and recovery solutions for large UUVs. The US Navy has demonstrated a new launch and recovery concept for large unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs). This follows a collaborative R&D effort by a U.S. Navy team from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Newport, and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) in Virginia.
The demonstration, conducted at Division Newport’s Narragansett Bay Test Facility, showed both a land-based launch and recovery approach and a new solution for launching large UUVs from U.S. Navy amphibious ships. The demonstration included the Snakehead large displacement unmanned undersea vehicle (LDUUV) prototype, and the Pharos large launch and recovery vehicle (LLRV) designed by HII.
Snakehead, a modular, reconfigurable, multi-mission LDUUV provides support of intelligence preparation of the operational environment missions.
“We are very proud to have worked with talented Navy warfare centers (Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Florida and Division Newport) to advance Pharos capabilities,” said Jim LaCroix, director for advanced technology at HII. “The Navy and industry team did a great job addressing the challenges and completing a successful demonstration.”
“It’s encouraging to see new opportunities that facilitate use of the vehicle in the field,” said Allison Phillips, Division Newport’s test and evaluation lead for the Snakehead LDUUV.
Cheryl Mierzwa, Snakehead LDUUV technical project manager, said, “This successful demonstration emphasizes that collaboration with the government and industry is key to build and test innovative solutions to increase the operational value that Large UUVs bring to the fleet.”
(Source: Rumour Control)
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