Friday, December 28, 2012

Army’s TGER fuels tanks with garbage

Army’s TGER fuels tanks with garbage

The Tactical Garbage to Energy Refinery II prototype (TGER) is mounted on a trailer and can turn about a ton of garbage into electricity. A typical 550-person unit generates about 2,500 pounds of trash a day. And whether that’s paper, plastic, packaging or food waste, one standard 60-kilowatt diesel generator can handle the unit’s garbage, making synthetic gas from it.
TGER’s fuel can run a generator on approximately 75 percent within two hours; in under 12 hours, TGER can produce alcohol that, when blended with the synthetic gas, can run a generator on full power.
Giving soldiers at forward operating bases the ability to produce their own fuel ensures that it is always available -- and by removing the need for delivery, TGER dramatically reduces the risk to soldiers’ lives.
Fuel convoys travelling to and from base camps in Afghanistan and Iraq have been an ongoing target, routinely exposing soldiers delivering fuel to the risk of improvised explosive devices and enemy ambushes.

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N. Korea is nuclear test-ready: US think-tank

N. Korea is nuclear test-ready: US think-tank


North Korea has repaired extensive rain damage at its nuclear test facility and could conduct a detonation on two weeks notice, a US think-tank said Friday, citing satellite imagery analysis. With the UN Security Council debating possible sanctions against the North following the launch earlier this month of a long-range rocket, there has been widespread speculation that Pyongyang may carry out its third nuclear test. Satellite photos as recent as December 13 show that Pyongyang is determined to maintain a state of readiness at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said. Following heavy flooding earlier in the year that destroyed key infrastructure elements, the North has moved quickly to restore its ability to operate the complex, it said on its closely followed website 38 North. "They continue to maintain the test site at a state of readiness that could allow them to conduct a detonation as soon as two weeks after such a decision is made," the institute reported.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Army engineers design, build roadway threat detection system

 Explosives along roadways remain an unrelenting hazard for deployed Soldiers.

U.S. Army engineers have developed a system for detecting possible threats by identifying potential threat locations on unimproved roads.

The Shadow Class Infrared Spectral Sensor-Ground, known as SCISSOR-G, could allow Soldiers on a route clearance patrol to achieve greater standoff ranges during missions, said Jim Hilger, chief of the Signal and Image Processing Branch within the U.S. Army Communications -- Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, at Fort Belvoir, Va.

CERDEC is one of the seven research and development organizations that comprise the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

The SCISSOR-G is a complementary system to radars. It can perform region of interest cueing of threats at greater standoff distances, which can be further interrogated by the radar as the vehicle gets closer to the threat, Hilger said. The system provides a route clearance patrol with increased standoff range for potential threat detection.

"If you can increase the threat detection in front of the vehicle, you give the operators a chance to do what they need to do to further interrogate it," Hilger said. "You can see [the threat] before you get to it."

The Army recently deployed the SCISSOR-G prototype to theater for 90 days of test and evaluation by Soldiers, Hilger said.

"We are giving the route clearance patrol the ability to look for cues and clues while they're on the move," Hilger said. "They're generating the information live. They're not waiting for an intel brief to give them photographs or a data feed from an [unmanned aerial vehicle]."

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization requested that CERDEC NVESD take an existing sensor designed for detection from the air and adapt it for use on a ground vehicle, Hilger said. The SCISSOR-G is the Army's first detection system of its type embedded with a route clearance patrol.

The SCISSOR-G consists of a sensor and a multi-sensor graphical user interface, or MS GUI. The sensor is mounted on a vehicle, usually a Husky, using a 10-inch turret with state-of-the-art infrared and high-definition color cameras. The MS GUI has a touch screen monitor to control the turret and cameras.

The MS GUI is flexible enough to enable the sensor control and data visualization to be on the same vehicle as the turret or in a trailing vehicle. The two components of the system enable a single operator to monitor the roadway for threats in real time, Hilger said.

When SCISSOR-G is configured for two vehicles, commands and data are transmitted via a radio link. If the MS GUI operator in the sensor vehicle detects a threat, he would alert the lead-vehicle driver to a specific area for threat confirmation.

Hilger emphasized that the detection of an irregularity or clue does not necessarily mean that a threat is present. Information is provided to the MS GUI operator to determine whether further investigation is required based on the threat signature.

The SCISSOR-G is the result of more than 10 years of research into techniques for explosive threat detection, Hilger said. Twelve CERDEC NVESD personnel from three branches combined their areas of expertise to complete the project in the past year-and-a-half.

The Army Test and Evaluation Command conducted testing on the SCISSOR-G before its deployment to theater.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bulgaria asks for permanent US troops presence

Bulgaria asks for permanent US troops presence – report

Bulgaria has asked the United States to place a permanent military force in the country aimed at strengthening security in the region and increasing their military cooperation, local media reports.

­Bulgarian Defense Minister Anu Anguelov has discussed the opening of a US military base in Novo Selo, near Sliven, with officials of the Pentagon in early December, reports Dneven Trud daily newspaper citing sources in the Bulgarian military.
Nothing has yet been set in ink, but if the deal is to go through, it could double the American troop numbers in the country, according to the report.
If an agreement is reached, anti-war activist Brian Becker, argues it would surrender Sofia’s power to the US government, as troops pose “a threat to the national sovereignty of the people of Bulgaria because they have foreign military bases, and it incorporates Bulgaria, makes it more secure as part of an American political, economic as well as military formation. You really can't be a free country and free people and have foreign troops on your soil,” he told RT.
US troops have been present in Bulgaria for over six years under a Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by the both states in April 2006. Under the arrangement, Americans are allowed to train their troops at four Bulgarian bases, which remain under Sofia’s command and under the Bulgarian flag.

U.S. Increasing Military Presence in the Philippines

U.S. Increasing Military Presence in the Philippines

In a move that prompted a swift and angry response from China, the U.S. has reportedly agreed to substantially increase its military presence in the Philippines, increasing the number of troops, aircraft and ships which routinely rotate through the country.
Details surrounding the scale of the increase were not made public but Pio Lorenzo Batino, the Philippines deputy defense minister said policy consultations were also held on a framework that would allow Washington to bolster military equipment in-country as well. He warned that, "There has been no discussion yet on specifics [of in-country military equipment] … (these are) policy consultations and the specifics would be determined by the technical working groups,"
Batino went on to say they expected to sign a five-year joint U.S.-Philippine military exercise plan during their meetings recently.

DARPA wants to build 100Gbps wireless military network

DARPA wants to build 100Gbps wireless military network

Defense researchers are looking to update the wireless platform currently used for military communications to deliver 100Gbps connections.
While fiber-optic cables provide the long-haul backbone for most data and voice communications networks without issue, radio signals often face electronic interference and degradation over long distances, resulting in reduced communications efficiency to soldiers in the field.
The current Common Data Link, the U.S. military's secure communications protocol created in 1991, operates at data rates of up to 274Mbps. To boost that speed, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is inviting input on creation of a new wireless communications platform that would match the weight and power of the current CDL.
DARPA has announced that a "proposer's day" will be held next month to brief participants on the 100G program, which aims "to design, build, and test a communications link with fiber-optic-equivalent capacity, long reach, and high availability in airborne-to-airborne and airborne-to-ground configurations that can serve as a deployable data backbone in a military communications network."

Hawk's return in Japan heartens US

Hawk's return in Japan heartens US
The return of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan has raised hopes in Washington for closer security ties, although US officials hope he keeps a lid on his more strident views. Abe is a champion of revising the post-World War II pacifist constitution and may take shorter-term steps such as boosting defense spending and allowing greater military cooperation with the United States, Japan's treaty-bound ally. His Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled almost continuously from 1955 until 2009, roared back Sunday with a crushing victory over the Democratic Party of Japan, which Abe accused of harming relations with the United States.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pentagon's Global Strike Weapon Stuck In Limbo

Pentagon's Global Strike Weapon Stuck In Limbo; Congress Fears Accidental WWIII

As part of its ongoing strategic "pivot" towards the Pacific, early this year the Defense Department announced it would design a new missile able to quickly cross long distances and penetrate sophisticated air defenses, of the kind rapidly proliferating across Asia. The so-called "conventional prompt strike option" would be submarine-launched, the Pentagon said in its January Defense Budget Priorities and Choices release.
The department placed great emphasis on the new weapon, declaring that "we had to invest in capabilities required to maintain our military's continued freedom of action."

But 11 months later, the Pentagon has yet to take meaningful, practical steps towards developing the prompt strike option, casting into doubt the department's ability to solve the kind of anti-access, area-denial problem posed by, for example, China's fast-modernizing navy and air force.

Equipment evaluated by troops in battle scenarios

Equipment evaluated by troops in battle scenarios

Fort Bliss is playing a vital role in the Army's ongoing efforts to keep up with technology and continually modernize itself.

The large-scale Network Integration Evaluation is held twice a year at Fort Bliss, at its surrounding training ranges and at White Sands Missile Range.

The NIE, as it's commonly called, evaluates radios, computers, batteries, software, antennas and other equipment.

"It runs the gamut," said Lt. Col. Andy Morgado, operations officer in charge of planning for the NIE.

The main purpose of the exercise is to put equipment into the hands of real soldiers in realistic warlike scenarios, Morgado said.

"We're now developing future concepts," he said. "The Army is focusing its time, energy and resources into this and that's keeping Fort Bliss relevant as an installation to the Army and the nation."

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, is attached to the Brigade Modernization Command, which is headquartered at Fort Bliss. The Brigade Modernization Command is one of three Army agencies that manage the NIE.

More than 3,000 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade and an additional 1,000 soldiers, civilians and contractors from the rest of the country participated in the most recent exercise, which ended in mid-November.

Industry, U.S. Army Pushing for More Helicopter Teaming

While the role of UAVs is expected to grow in future operations, one senior U.S. Army official says manned aircraft won’t go away any time soon.
In fact, the Army and industry want to empower those pilots by giving them the ability to control several UAVs at once.
“It will always be a balance” of manned and unmanned assets, Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant Army secretary, told an Army Aviation Association of America conference in northern Virginia on Dec. 12. “You need situational awareness, and you need the curiosity of the human inside the cockpit.”
But as budgets flatten in coming years and planners are hard pressed to find efficiencies, the temptation to field more unmanned systems, which are less expensive, might be hard to resist, Phillips admitted.
While budget cuts “may drive us toward [more unmanned systems], at the end of the day we have to get it right and ensure that there is the appropriate balance,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll ever get the human out of the cockpit,” Phillips continued. “Having someone there who can see the battlefield 360 degrees — it’s so important.”
The Army isn’t planning to jettison its fleet of attack and reconnaissance helicopters. But as Phillips said, there are many reasons for the service to invest more in its unmanned fleet and explore more ways in which its manned and unmanned aircraft can work together.
The AH-64 Apache Block III helicopter comes equipped with software that allows it to receive data and imagery from Gray Eagle UAVs, while the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter has been pairing with Shadow UAVs. Phillips said the Army is studying the capabilities of the Block III upgrade and what it offers when evaluating future moves.
While Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been working on these capabilities with the Apache program, Bell Helicopter and AAI — operating under the Textron corporate umbrella — are also making a big push to get involved in the emerging manned-unmanned pairing.
On Dec. 4, the companies unveiled a laboratory in Huntsville, Ala., that will be used to train pilots and UAV operators in the latest tactics, techniques and procedures, while also helping the Army experiment with and evaluate new technologies, according to company officials.
The lab provides “simulation, modeling and new engineering capabilities” that bring together AAI’s Shadow UAV, Bell’s Kiowa Warrior helicopter and the Universal Ground Control Station while allowing users to combine live data feeds in high-fidelity simulated environments, said Bill Irby, senior vice president and general manager of AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
The simulation capabilities will be key, Irby said, since they will allow users at the lab to tie in with major Army exercises such as the Network Integration Evaluations at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at other training and evaluation events. The ability to realistically simulate events will also help the service drive down training costs, he said. The lab is capable of streaming live imagery collected from Shadow UAVs at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, Ala., for use during simulations and tests.
A major component of the lab is a Bell helicopter simulator linked to multiple generations of the Shadow UAV, from older systems to more recent Tactical Common Data Link-equipped systems.
“We’re able to do interoperability with all of these assets with the actual tactical software that’s out there, which is unique,” said Peter Blocker, vice president of Huntsville operations for AAI. He said the company is interested in exploring with the Army the ability of a single helicopter to interact with or control several UAVs at once.
“Today, the only manned/unmanned capability that’s there is one unmanned asset and one helicopter. One of the ideas this lab can look at is two or three unmanned aircraft with a helicopter,” Blocker said.
Ellen Lord, president and CEO of Textron Systems, said the company has made a “significant” financial investment in setting up the lab, but declined to provide any dollar amount. But given the financial realities of the moment, she said, “we are making choices about discretionary spending and capital investment, and we believe that unmanned teaming is a critical area for the military, so we are putting our money behind the concept.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Great 2012 Doomsday Scare

This guest article on 2012 was written by E. C. Krupp, Director of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and is reprinted with permission from Sky & Telescope Magazine. The publisher and the author reserve all rights. All opinions are the author's own.
The year 2012 is acting like a badly behaved celebrity. Frightful rumors and gossip are spreading. Already more than a half dozen books are marketing, to eager fans, astronomical fears about 2012 End Times. Opening in theaters on Friday, Nov. 13, will be 2012, a $200-million disaster movie that seems designed to break all records for disaster spectacles -- with cracking continents, plunging asteroids, burning cities, and a tsunami throwing an aircraft carrier through the White House. The movie's ominous slogan: "Find out the truth." Two other major movies about the 2012 doomsday are also reported to be in the works.

Anyone who cruises the internet or all-night talk radio knows why. The ancient Maya of Mexico and Guatemala kept a calendar that is about to roll up the red carpet of time, swing the solar system into transcendental alignment with the heart of the Milky Way, and turn Earth into a bowling pin for a rogue planet heading down our alley for a strike.

None of it is true. People you know, however, are likely becoming a bit afraid that modern astronomy and Maya secrets are indeed conspiring to bring our doom. If people know you’re an astronomer, they will soon be asking you all about it.

Here is what you need to know.

The Great 2012 Doomsday Scare

U.S. seeks double Israel missile funding

U.S. seeks double Israel missile funding
U.S. senators want U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to at least double its funding request for Israel's anti-missile systems to $680 million.

Obama has asked Congress to approve $99.9 million for "Israel cooperative programs" in fiscal 2013. The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year exceeded that by adding $168 million to Obama's request. The Senate recommended adding $100 million to its own authorization act last week. The Jewish Telegraph Agency reported from Washington that U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., sent a letter Wednesday to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee urging them agree to the higher House increase.  "As witnessed by the recent attacks on Israel from Gaza, the continued joint efforts of the United States and Israel in missile defense systems is critical to protecting a close U.S. ally and American interests in that region," the letter said.  These appropriations are separate from the annual $3.1 billion in U.S. military aid Israel receives. The projects covered by the funding under consideration include the long-range, high-altitude Arrow-3 system designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside Earth's atmosphere. It's being developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the U.S. Boeing Co.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rockwell Collins wins Navy E-6b upgrade

Rockwell Collins wins Navy E-6b upgrade

Aviation communications company Rockwell Collins will modernize and upgrade U.S. Navy airborne strategic command systems in a $295 million deal that includes work on aircraft involved with the operations. Rockwell Collins announced the contract from its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, headquarters, where the company has been based since Arthur Collins founded it in 1933. At the center of the modernization program are the Navy's E-6B aircraft that form the military's flying command post. The award includes a $54 million full-rate production contract, with unexercised options valued at an additional $241 million, to upgrade 11 aircraft as part of the Navy's E-6B Block I Modification program. The E-6B aircraft is used to conduct the "Take Charge and Move Out" mission, also known as TACAMO, and the U.S. Strategic Command Airborne Command Post missions. The open system solution provided by the Block I modification addresses immediate modernization requirements and enables system expansion in the future.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

U.S. reducing plans for large civilian force in post-2014 Afghanistan

The Obama administration has ordered significant cutbacks in initial plans for a robust U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan after U.S. combat troops withdraw two years from now, according to U.S. officials.

Learning from Iraq, where postwar ambitions proved unsustainable, the White House and top State Department officials are confronting whether the United States needs — and can protect — a large diplomatic compound in Kabul, four consulates around the country and other civilian outposts to oversee aid projects and monitor Afghanistan’s political pulse.

Planners were recently told to reduce personnel proposals by at least 20 percent, a senior administration official said. Projects once considered crucial are being divided into lists of those considered sustainable and those that will not be continued.

“As we saw in the Iraq exercise, you need to be very tough on the numbers going in,” the official said. “We need to have enough civilians to achieve the goals we’ve laid out,” within “a finite amount of money we have to spend.”

Officials declined to identify specific projects that might end. But the inevitable decrease in eyes and ears across Afghanistan could threaten a range of long-term U.S. investments and priorities, such as women’s rights, education, health care and infrastructure.

The challenge of balancing the American civilian presence of what are now about 1,000 officials and thousands of contractors with reasonable resources goes beyond pocketbook and personnel issues, according to several senior officials, who discussed the planning on condition of anonymity because it is at an early stage.

On one side of the simmering internal debate are fiscal constraints, diminished hopes for progress and national weariness with the Afghanistan effort. On the other side are formal U.S. pledges of development support, moral and political commitments to a country where nearly 2,200 U.S. troops have died and $590 billion has been spent, and fears Afghanistan could again become a terrorist haven.

Looming over the debate is the determination to avoid a repeat of the September attack on a poorly defended U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Last month, the administration began what is likely to be a year-long negotiation with the Afghan government over how many troops the U.S. military will leave behind when combat ends in 2014. A key sticking point is whether remaining troops will be subject to Afghan law, which doomed similar talks with Iraq last year.

Even if the negotiations succeed and a sizable American force remains, the U.S. military is certain to curtail or stop the security and other services it provides U.S. government civilians in Afghanistan.