Tuesday, May 31, 2016

NATO summit to raise military presence in Poland, region

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that an upcoming “landmark summit” will enhance the alliance’s defensive and deterrent presence in Poland and in the region, but decisions as to the number still haven’t been finalized.
Stoltenberg spoke in Warsaw, which will host a July 8-9 NATO summit that will give security guarantees that Poland and other nations on the alliance’s eastern flank have been seeking, concerned about a resurgent Russia.
He said that several battalions will be placed in Poland, the Baltic States and elsewhere in the region that will raise NATO presence in troops, equipment, prepositioning and infrastructure. The U.S. will be adding an armored brigade.  more

Air Force chief of staff: 40,000 to 60,000 more airmen needed

As his tenure as Air Force chief of staff winds down, Gen. Mark Welsh is becoming increasingly blunt about where he thinks manpower levels should be — and that's at full manning, 40,000 to 60,000 more airmen.
Air Force leaders have been advocating for more airmen to sustain the overworked and undermanned force. It’s where all the “bigger problems” stem from, Welsh said during a speech at an Air Force Association breakfast in the Washington, D.C.-area, Thursday. more

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Special Operations Command to Buy New Uniforms, Wearable Gear

Special Operations Command plans to acquire new uniforms and a suite of wearable technologies for its warfighters, a program official said May 25.

After years of fighting in the desert climates of the Middle East, U.S. commandos need to be prepared to operate in the Arctic and the jungle, said Adam Fields, SOCOM’s program manager for survival, support and equipment systems.

“We haven’t been fighting in those areas,” he said in an interview following a briefing on his portfolio at the National Defense Industrial Association's Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. “It’s going to be different things that we need.”

Operators in the Arctic must be able to tolerate temperatures 50 degrees below zero, he said. “We want to reduce bulk as much as possible so the guys aren’t simply surviving in the Arctic but they’re actually able to do their job,” he said “It’s mostly about reducing weight and bulk.”

In the jungle, uniforms need to counteract heavy rainfall and high humidity, Fields said. “We want to be able to get the moisture off of the operator [and] we also don’t want the uniforms to get soaked after five minutes,” he said.

The uniform needs to be durable in heavy brush, which can tear materials when troops are on the move. “You need to make it strong but absorb water but quickly dry and protect them from that sort of thing,” he said.

The command is looking for gloves that provide similar advanced protection, Fields noted.

A single company doesn’t need to produce the entire uniform, which will consist of multiple layers, Fields said during his briefing to members of industry.


F-35 Testing Slips To 2018

The military’s top weapons tester has been warning for months that the F-35 will not be ready for its final test phase until 2018 at the earliest. On Tuesday, the Pentagon officially acknowledged the schedule slip.
“We reviewed the status of operational test planning, and there is consensus that that is likely to occur in calendar year 2018 given the realities of the schedule at this time,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, during a Tuesday conference call. “The target was the middle of 2017, but it’s clear we’re not going to make that.”

This slip reflects a six-month delay for initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E, the last major period of testing before full-rate production. IOT&E will test the F-35's full combat capability, verifying the jets can fly real, operational missions as intended.
The joint program office’s objective to begin IOT&E was August or September 2017, said JPO chief Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, speaking to reporters along with Kendall after the F-35 chief executive officer roundtable in Phoenix. But that start date has slipped to January or February, he said.  more

AFSOC Moves Forward on Plans to Equip AC-130J with Laser Weapon by 2020

Air Force Special Operations Command is on track to equip an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship with a laser weapon by the end of the decade, officials said May 25.

Working alongside Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren in Virginia, the service has wrapped up the first phase of a two-part study that will give the command greater clarity on the maturity of commercially available systems and potential design concepts, said Lt. Col. John DiSebastian, director of fixed-wing tech insertion at Special Operations Command.

“We have identified our partners that have responded to our [request for] information [and] we are in the process of evaluating that,” he said at Special Operations Forces International Conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association. “We have not downselected away from any, or chosen any. We are still, as part of this architecture, looking at what is the best operational capability and determining which vendors can support that.”

AFSOC plans to use commercially available technology to develop the laser but it will be the lead integrator of the system, he said during a panel discussion at the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Railgun pulse power modules delivered to U.S. Navy

Deliveries of pulse power containers for the U.S. Navy's railgun program have been initiated by Raytheon.
The containers with multiple pulsed power modules will be integrated into the Navy's railgun test range for additional development and testing, the company said.The railgun uses electromagnetic force to propel a projectile instead of explosives. A jolt of 32 megajoules would propel a shell at a speed of Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound."Directed energy has the potential to redefine military technology beyond missiles and our pulse power modules and containers will provide the tremendous amount of energy required to power applications like the Navy Railgun," said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business. "Raytheon's engineering and manufacturing expertise uniquely position us to support next generation weapon systems to meet the ever-evolving threat."  more

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

DARPA's XS-1 Spaceplane

The DARPA hopes to develop a reusable spaceplane, the XS-1, that can boost an upper stage and small orbital payload through the first stage ascent profile. The second stage would carry small satellites into low earth orbits. The initial customer for such a system is expected to be U.S. national security agencies.
In effect, the XS-1 is intended to replace the traditional expendable "first stage" of a multistage launch vehicle, but with the capability of flying at hypersonic speeds. In a fashion similar to an expendable first stage, the XS-1 should enable an expendable upper stage to separate and deploy a payload into orbit. This hypersonic stage will be designed to return to Earth and be serviced fast enough to repeat the process at least once every 24 hours.  more

Monday, May 23, 2016

U.S. lifts embargo on arms sales to Vietnam

The Obama administration announced Monday that the United States would fully lift a longstanding U.S. embargo on lethal arms sales to Vietnam, a decision that reflects growing concerns about China’s military clout and illustrates the warming bilateral ties between the former enemy nations.
President Obama unveiled the new arrangement at a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang during the opening day of his first visit to the country. Obama emphasized that his decision reflected a maturing relationship and deepening cooperation on security and economic investment four decades after the end of the Vietnam War.  more

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

US commandos continue to gain intel in Libya

The US military doesn't have a "great picture" of the situation in Libya, but small teams of US special operations forces continue working in the war-torn country to gain intelligence, a spokesman said Monday.
The Pentagon was forced to acknowledge in December that a team of US commandos had gone to Libya after they were kicked out the country by local forces who posted a photograph of the men on Facebook. The United States still has a "small presence" in Libya tasked with trying to identify the players and which groups might be able to assist the United States in its mission to combat the Islamic State group, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.  more

Aircraft Nose Art Makes Quiet Comeback, Reviving Air Force Tradition

Air Force fighters and bombers are soaring into the wild blue yonder with new paint jobs, quietly reviving an old tradition.
The decorative painting and designs on the noses and wings of Air Force planes may not be as racy as they were during World War II, but they are just as meaningful, Air Force Times reports.
"This is a tradition across the Air Force," Col. Jeff Smith, commander of the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Oregon, told the newspaper. "This truly is a source of morale and pride, especially for the dedicated crew chief to know that they have a little mark of themselves on the airplane."
It took 31 days to transform one of the unit's dull gray F-15 Eagles into a colorful work of art, commemorating the Oregon Air National Guard's 75th Anniversary, Air Force Times reported.
"Basically, we just wanted something bold that was going to make an impact," Master Sgt. Paul Allen, the artist behind the paint job, told the paper. "The guys took a lot of pride in this. ... And people considering coming into the Guard who see this see we have a lot of pride in our unit."  more

Battelle Fielding 100 Drone Zappers to Pentagon

The military has turned to a directed energy frequency jammer mounted on an assault rifle-type frame to deal with the growing threat of small drones to military bases and troops in the field.
Officials of Battelle, the non-profit research and development organization based in Columbus, Ohio, said Monday the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security had signed off on buying 100 of its “DroneDefender,” billed as the “safe” solution to warding off intruding unmanned aerial vehicles.
Battelle officials at the Navy League’s 2016 Sea-Air-Space Exposition at National Harbor in Maryland outside Washington, D.C., said they could not discuss the unit cost or the total cost of the sales to the departments.
“It’s a portable solution to stop portable drones,” said Rich Granger, a Battelle business development director for Mission and Defense Technologies.
The DroneDefender has two triggers — a “command and control” trigger to sever the link between the pilot and the UAV, and a second trigger to jam GPS links to the drone.
The device can intercept drones out to 400 meters. Once the drones are disabled, they are programmed to hover safely to the ground, said Kim Stambler, a Batelle business development and sales leader.  more

Marine Corps V-22 Osprey Could Get 'Kamikaze' Missile

The Marine Corps is getting close to selecting a weapons system and sensors for its prized tiltrotor aircraft, the services' deputy commandant of Aviation said Monday.
Speaking at the Sea Air Space expo near Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis named some systems that might end up on the Osprey as Marine officials work to build out all their aviation platforms for combat, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Among options being considered: the Switchblade Tactical Missile System, a "kamikaze" unmanned aerial vehicle that has been tossed out of the back of the aircraft in testing for precision target acquisition.
"We are making every one of our platforms a sensor, a sharer and a shooter," Davis said. "We're putting long-range communications and link compatibility on V-22s, we'll put a sensor package on the V-22, and we will weaponize the V-22 as well. Why would you do that? You do that because you're going to need those platforms as you fight your way from [the continental U.S.] to wherever you've got to go."
Other systems used in experiments with the Osprey include the Viper Strike glide bomb, a laser-guided system with GPS capabilities, and the Griffin A aft-eject missile, he said.  more

Corps May Need 5,000 More Marines to Combat New Threats

The Marine Corps is projected to remain a force of 182,000 in coming years, but the four-star assistant commandant of the Marine Corps said new threats may require an increase of 5,000 troops or more.
Gen. John Paxton on Monday told reporters at the Sea Air Space convention near Washington, D.C., that while a force structure review four years ago found the Marine Corps wanted a force of 186,800 to properly execute its role, new threats and tensions may make the "floor" number even higher now.
"That was before Ukraine, before Syria, before South China Sea, before Wikileaks," Paxton said. "To us, 186,800 is about the floor. So the number may [now] be north of there."
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has said the Corps may cut conventional forces, including infantry troops, to make room for an increase in specialized skill sets such as cyber and electronic warfare. The commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, has estimated that these communities need to grow by up to 3,000 troops.  more

Carter Could Recommend Veto of 2017 Defense Bill

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is waiting to see whether Congress uses war funds in the 2017 defense budget before he decides to recommend that the president veto it, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said Monday.
During the last month, the House and Senate have passed their versions of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Though each chamber has passed an overall budget of $610 billion, the House version shifts $18 billion from a fund dedicated to war spending to pay for increased troops, aircraft and shipbuilding, a maneuver that Carter criticized as "gambling with funding for our troops."
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is pushing the plan to use the $18 billion to address military readiness by tapping into the Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, fund to pay for it. This fund is not subject to the spending caps set by sequestration.
The war spending account pays for increased operations against the Islamic State group and increased U.S. troops and equipment in Europe. If the OCO fund runs out before the fiscal year ends, Congress would have to vote to approve additional war funding to replace the $18 billion used in the NDAA.
The Senate version of the bill does not use OCO funds.  more

Monday, May 16, 2016

Year of mystery swirls around latest X-37B mission

The semi-classified X-37B robot spaceplane hasn't received much attention, despite the fact that it is on its fourth flight in space. At least, that's the official story. Launched in May 2015, the latest mission seems even more covert than the three previous launches. Absolutely no images of the spaceplane were released before launch. That's a big change from the past, when we saw high-resolution images of the vehicle before launch and after landing.
Nobody knows when X-37B is coming home. It's even possible that the US Air Force, which owns the small vehicle, has not set a firm date. But we can consider what will happen when it does. This analyst will speculate that no images or video of X-37B will be released after its landing. Again, that would be a departure from previous trends, but consistent with the "no photography" policy of this flight.Why is X-37B so camera-shy this time around? The reason could be that the spacecraft currently in orbit isn't the same type of X-37B that we already know, or is an entirely different vehicle. This has been the subject of previous articles by this analyst in SpaceDaily.But what could it be?

DARPA Working on New Night Vision Device

Defense Department scientists are working on a new, digital night vision and thermal device that’s smaller and lighter than the Army’s latest Enhanced Night Vision Goggle.
The PIXNET camera is designed to provide small combat units with a “helmet mounted shortwave and longwave infrared blended imager with wireless networking capability,” according to officials from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the May 11 DARPA Demo day at the Pentagon.
Currently, soldiers use the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle, or ENVG. The Army began fielding the first generation of the ENVG in 2009 and has since fielded a slightly improve version in the ENVG II.
The ENVG technology consists of a traditional infrared image intensifier similar to the older PVS-14 and a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display.  more

US, Polish Leaders Break Ground for Missile Defense Site

Polish and U.S. officials symbolically broke ground Friday for a U.S.-led missile defense site in the country's north, a system that has drawn condemnation from Russia.
President Andrzej Duda declared it was an "important day" for Poland whose security was being enhanced, but also for showing NATO's unity.
Responding to Russia's nervousness over a NATO base so close to its border, Duda said the interceptor site in Redzikowo was not aimed against anyone but was solely to defend the "skies over Europe from any missile attack." It is scheduled to become operational in 2018.
Earlier Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the development of NATO's missile defense program as a threat to global security and vowed that Russia will take the necessary steps to maintain a strategic parity.
On Thursday, another missile defense interceptor site became operational in Romania, which, just like Poland, was under Moscow's domination during the Soviet era. more

Friday, May 13, 2016

US missile shield in Romania goes live to Russian fury

A US anti-missile defence system in Romania aimed at protecting NATO members from threats by "rogue" nations became operational Thursday, triggering Russian fury despite US insistence it does not target Moscow.
Located in Deveselu in southern Romania, the missile interceptor station will help defend NATO members against the threat of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, particularly from the Middle East, officials said."Today the United States and Romania make history in delivering this system to the NATO alliance," said US commander in Europe and Africa Mark Ferguson at an inauguration ceremony with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.But Russia sees the missile system as a security threat right on its doorstep, despite the US and NATO insisting it is not aimed at undermining Moscow's defences.  more

Radar May Let Helo Pilots ‘See’ Through Brownouts

The Pentagon’s research arm and aerospace industry partners have developed promising technology to enable rotorcraft pilots to see through brownouts caused by their own downwash, such as the fatal crash of an MV-22B Marine Osprey last spring.
“That’s exactly what this is for — a self-generated brownout. It truly sees through the dust” and debris thrown up by the rotors of a helicopter or the “proprotors” of the Osprey in landings and takeoffs, said David C. Baughman, a program manager with Honeywell Aerospace.
Honeywell has worked on the “synthetic vision” cockpit displays, or Synthetic Vision Avionics Backbone, while Northrop Grumman Corp. has developed the millimeter wave radar to punch through the dustclouds and show obstacles and inclinations of the landing zones.
The SVAB was meant to “provide full terrain awareness of ingress and egress routes” in the cockpit while the millimeter wave radar had the capability of “turning sensor data into pilot awareness,” according to the industry literature.
With the combination of the two, “You’re not looking for a hole in the cloud, you’re seeing through the cloud,” Baughman said. “You can see features you could not see” with the existing radar and cockpit displays, said H. Bruce Wallace, a program manager with the Strategic Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  more

Boeing backs extended-range Harpoon to stave off Kongsberg threat

The US Navy will wrap up developmental free flight testing of the datalink-equipped Boeing Harpoon Block II+ sea-skimming, anti-ship missile next week, ahead of fielding on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet sometime between June and August of 2017.
The latest variant of the 45-year-old Harpoon weapon type expands on the satellite-aided navigation system introduced in Block II by adding a datalink radio ported across from the C-1 variant of Raytheon's AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) for in-flight retargeting against enemy surface vessels in cluttered coastal regions.
The Harpoon missile successfully struck its first ship target during a test in December 1971, less than two years after McDonnell Douglas Astronautics of St Charles, Missouri received a contract from the Pentagon to develop the low-flying, radar-homing cruise missile.  more

Marines To Add ‘Harvest Hawk’ Weapons Kit to Entire C-130J, V-22 Fleets

The Marine Corps intends to add improved sensors and precision-strike capability to its entire KC-130J Super Hercules tanker/transport plane and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor fleets, applying the “Harvest Hawk” concept to make both aircraft more multi-mission, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation told USNI News this week.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the Marines’ next aviation plan would include upgrading all 79 C-130Js into Harvest Hawk-capable platforms. The Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit (HAWK) includes both modifications to the plane – the installation of a new MX-20 sensor ball with a laser designator on the nose of the plane, and the Intrepid Tiger electronic warfare pod – as well as a supply of Hellfire, Griffin and Viper Strike missiles for precision strike. The Intrepid Tiger pod is already installed on the AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets, and the Marine Corps intends to put the pod on the C-130Js, V-22s and H-1 attack helicopters. Davis said the pod is a “great capability, gives us a jamming capability, an electronic warfare capability for not only [self]-protection but more importantly that people on the ground can manipulate and operate. It’s open architecture so they can control the weapon system from the ground.”
Davis said 10 C-130Js had already been modified with the initial Harvest Hawk kit and would receive the upgraded sensor ball, and the rest of the fleet would go through the full Harvest Hawk modifications under the Marines’ next aviation plan, which is being developed now.  more

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

US, German Forces evaluate operational readiness

Months of training by the German Armed Forces in combined arms warfare, middle intensity conflict techniques and standard tasks focused on crowd riot control techniques culminated at Camp Prizren, Kosovo, May 6-7, during Operation Sharp Griffin.

The multinational exercise was conducted over a 36-hour timeframe and centered on multiple complex situations, such as; air infiltration and evacuation operations, platoon level movements, live fire maneuvers, crowd riot control techniques, as well as synchronized coordination of operational forces between the German and U.S. forces. The German soldiers partnered with members of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division and 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, throughout the operation.

The two day operation started at Orahovac Range, in Kosovo, where German Soldiers penetrated the site thanks to the help of UH-60 Black Hawks. From there the teams received a short mission brief before engaging a group of targets. After each simulated enemy was eliminated, the Soldiers were air evacuated, once again, by UH-60 Black Hawks.

For the mechanized infantry battalion soldiers, refining their tactical abilities was less about their mission in Kosovo and more about honing their abilities as German soldiers.

"As third responders it's unlikely we will be forced to use the skills we achieved today, but, I think it's one of the skills every soldiers needs to have," said Maj. Oliver John Steenson-Schulz, day one event coordinator. "On one hand we use this as training for the Soldiers, and of course we hope it never comes to it but if we needed we can use the skills here in Kosovo if asked to."

Day two of the exercise reflected more of the peace support operations the German soldiers are used to conducting here in Kosovo, as the contingent responded to protestors who gathered at the three of the camp's gates.

As their aggression heightened, the escalation of force, used to handle the disgruntled crowd, did as well. Additional German troops were called in for reinforcement, while Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment arrived on scene to serve as a reserve force.

It did not take long for the angry mob of protestors to disband, once the support elements arrived. With a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement restored, the multinational team returned to their camp knowing they had successfully completed the mission.

"This exercise was more to force our staff members to make decisions, to go through their military decision making process and make the best decision," said German Lt. Matti Hybenkvist, German liaison officer for the German mechanized infantry battalion. "What we needed to do to succeed at the company level was to show we could use the different tactical techniques we have been learning. From what I have seen it worked really well and was a job well done."

Although the overall mission was a success, the MNBG-E Soldiers don't plan on slowing down on training and instead have set their sights on an even bigger training exercise later this year.

Directed Energy Projects Losing in Fight for Research Funding

On Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon’s courtyard earlier this month, the focus was on developing new air and ground-based weapons that would direct high-energy beams against a range of threats — from frying enemy roadside bombs to zapping ballistic missiles in the boost phase.
Despite the promise held out by industry proponents of lasers and high-power microwave bursts, military officials and senators from both sides of the aisle said that lack of funding was putting a crimp on the necessary research and testing for the new weapons under the constraints of the 2011 Budget Control Act.
“We’re on an unaffordable path” for research, said Adm. William E. Gortney, who was expected to retire this summer as head of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said at an April 13 Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing on Ballistic Missiles Defense Policies and Programs.
During that same week in the Pentagon’s courtyard, industry and military laboratories had on display mockups and illustrations of their systems, from Boeing’s Strategic Laser Systems for missile defense to Leidos’ High Power Microwave (HPM) for ground-based Explosive Hazard Neutralization (EHN) meant to destroy roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDS).
The Leidos system, developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, was essentially a megawatt generator turbine mounted on a heavy truck and billed by Leidos as a “first of its kind solution to the standoff, pre-detonatiuon of explosive hazards.”
The system is designed for route clearance and convoy security more

Kissinger Talks Presidential Politics While Discussing His Own Legacy

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dipped into presidential politics Monday while defending his legacy as a statesman and strategic thinker.

At the Pentagon, where he received the Distinguished Public Service Award, the 92-year-old warned against the tendency of the presidential contenders -- he didn't name them -- to put all blame for the state of the world on current and past administrations.

Kissinger said, "We are entering a presidential campaign and it seems to be the habit of particular figures now to contrast themselves with the evils of their predecessors" going back to Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, whom he served as national security adviser and secretary of state, respectively.

Those nameless "particular figures" are also trying to "contrast themselves with the evils of the incumbent," he said, while sidestepping what those evils might be. As for his own case, he said, "the fact is we were engaged in good causes" through his turbulent tenure in shaping foreign policy.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

New U.S. Navy testing of Norwegian missile

The U.S. Navy plans to issue a contract to Norway's Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace for equipment and missile flight test support services.
The equipment and services are for an additional Foreign Comparative Testing Phase II demonstration of Kongsburg's Naval Strike Missile conducted from a U.S. Littoral Combat Ship.Kongsberg will supply missiles and ship equipment -- including deck-mounted launchers and command systems -- and installation and integration services for the testing, which is expected to end by the final quarter of FY 2018."We are very pleased that the U.S. Navy continues and expands the test and evaluation of the NSM missile," said Harald Annestad, president of Kongsberg Defense Systems. "The NSM is operational in the Norwegian and Polish Navies from both ships and land-based coastal defense."It is an off-the-shelf and non-developmental 5th-generation strike missile system that can be rapidly deployed for operational use."  more

US positions troops in Yemen, steps up anti-Qaeda strikes

US troops are helping United Arab Emirates forces push Al-Qaeda-affiliated forces from a Yemeni port, and the Pentagon has stepped up air strikes against the jihadists in the war-torn country.
Defense Department spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis's confirmation of the deployment marked the first time the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged that US troops are operating inside Yemen.Davis said a "very small number" of military personnel has been working with Yemeni and Arab Coalition forces -- especially the Emiratis -- in recent weeks as they pushed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters from the port city of Mukalla, more

Friday, May 6, 2016

U.S. Navy Completes ICEX 2016 Expedition, Mapping of Arctic Ice

A team of U.S. Naval Research Laboratory scientists from the Marine Geoscience Division concluded a monthlong sea-ice research expedition as part of the Navy's 2016 Ice Exercise (ICEX) May 5.

The project was designed to develop a comprehensive understanding of the physical structure and evolution of Arctic sea-ice, and collected data useful in assessing the operability and safety of Navy and commercial assets along future Arctic routes.

The team, comprised of geologists, geophysicists, and data analysts, was sent to the Alaska North Slope to investigate the degree of ice coverage and ice parameters such as strength and thickness. The data provides the theoretical underpinnings of the modeling of such parameters from remotely sensed data collected from aircraft and satellite platforms, cross-evaluated with ground truth data.

"Until now, characterization of sea-ice has been primarily at very small, local scales from in-situ core measurements and some ground-based scatterometry," said Joan Gardner, NRL geologist. "Our proposal executes a combined program of airborne measurements and coincident on-ice measurements used to characterize surface and volumetric scattering from the bottom of the sea-ice to the top of the snow surface."

The fundamental goal of this research is to better understand the physics and evolution of sea-ice with age from its initial salty, relatively uniform state through the gradual thickening and freshening process via the formation and expelling of brine pockets. This research utilizes airborne data collected with an ultra-wideband, low-frequency, polarimetric synthetic aperture radar, a wideband snow radar, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR).

This data is used to create models of surface and volumetric scattering across a range of frequencies and polarizations of differing sea-ice and snow surfaces and types, such as fresh snow, slightly saline ice, brine pockets of various geometries, and solid salt inclusions.

Utilizing these tools, the NRL team was also instrumental in acquiring and analyzing the parametric data necessary for establishing the ICEX camp. Funded by the Office of Naval Research, the team collected data from six candidate ice floes identified from National Ice Center satellite imagery as potential sites.

This information was provided to the members of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory to utilize in their decision making process for locating a viable ice floe for ICEX. ASL establishes a temporary ice camp every 2-3 years in the Beaufort Sea during the month of March. The camp is used for submarine force asset tactical training, sensor testing, and research and development.

The ASL mission requires an ice floe that can support the infrastructure for the exercise -- robust enough to support a runway, submarine surfacing area, and the small village of buildings necessary to house personnel for the monthlong exercise. This has historically been done using visual photos taken from Coast Guard aircraft and various satellite images.

ASL is responsible for developing and maintaining expertise in Arctic-specific skills, knowledge, equipment, and procedures to enable the submarine force to safely and effectively operate in the unique Arctic Ocean environment.

SpaceX lands rocket's first stage after space launch

SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean early Friday after launching a Japanese communications satellite into orbit.
Shouts of "USA, USA, USA" and applause from the ground control crew greeted the feat, only the second time it has been accomplished by SpaceX, the company headed by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk.The two-stage rocket lifted off on schedule at 1:21 am (0521 GMT) with a telecommunications satellite owned by Japanese operator SKY Perfect JSAT.As the second stage moved into orbital position, the first stage fell back for the landing, firing its engine to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. more

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Military Tests Unmanned Ship Designed to Cross Oceans

The military is launching tests on the world's largest unmanned surface vessel — a self-driving, 132-foot ship designed to travel thousands of miles out at sea without a single crew member on board.
The so-called "Sea Hunter" has the potential to revolutionize not only the military's maritime operations but commercial shipping, according to military officials. If successful, it could usher in the arrival of unmanned cargo vessels moving between countries.
Military officials showed off the ship in San Diego on Monday before it set sail to a nearby Naval base where the testing will be conducted. The sleek, futuristic-looking steel-gray vessel was docked at a maritime terminal in the heart of San Diego's shipbuilding district, where TV crews filmed the robotic craft. No media access was given to the inside of the vessel.
The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, developed the ship along with Virginia-based Leidos. DARPA will test it in conjunction with the Navy over the next two years off California's coast. The tests will largely focus on its ability to react on its own to avoid collisions with seafaring traffic.
"For our military operations we want to make sure we have unmanned vessels like this to supplement the human mission so that we're not putting people unduly in harm's way," said DARPA spokesman Jared B. Adams.
During the testing phase, the ship will have human operators as a safety net, but once it proves to be reliable, the autonomous surface vessel will maneuver itself — able to go out at sea for months at a time.  more

Delayed Maintenance Threatens Navy's Ability to Meet Missions

After years of long and repeated deployments to the Middle East, the Navy's fleet of warships is behind on maintenance, possibly threatening the service's ability to meet future missions overseas.
That's according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office, which found that the Navy bypassed some ship maintenance over the past 15 years to keep pace with the demands of multiple wars.
That's led to a backlog in work needed to keep the fleet going.
"These decisions have reduced the predictability of ship deployments for sailors and for the ship repair industrial base," the report said. "They have also resulted in declining ship conditions across the fleet and have increased the amount of time that ships require to complete maintenance in the shipyards."
The Navy has long been aware of the brewing problem. In 2014, it implemented a new training and maintenance cycle, starting with aircraft carriers, designed to ease the burden on its sailors and ships.
The strategy, known as the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, deploys ships less frequently -- once every 36 months instead of once every 32 months. The plan makes seven-month deployments the new standard, as opposed to six-month cruises that often stretched to eight months or longer. It also leaves more time for maintenance.
But the plan won't work if the Navy can't accurately predict how much work ships need or how long they'll need to spend in shipyards between deployments. more

The Marines Are Running Out of Fighter Jets

The service is running short of planes to fight wars and train its pilots. But the problem is one of the Marines’ own making.
The U.S. Marine Corps has got an air force problem. Its current fleet of fighter jets, purchased from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, is in poor repair. And a new fleet of of vertical-launching F-35 stealth fighters that the Marines have been waiting years to put into action is coming on-line too slowly to keep up flying units’ strength.
The slow-motion collapse of the combat squadrons could, in some future conflict, expose Marine infantry on the ground to enemy air attack—something that hasn’t happened in generations.
The Marines’ air fleet isn’t small, at least on paper. It consists of 276 F/A-18 Hornet fighters, more than two-thirds of the Marines’ combat-capable jets. But on April 20, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marines’ deputy commandant for aviation, told the Senate that just 87 of those Hornets were flightworthy—a mere 32 percent. more

Monday, May 2, 2016

Marines are using 3-D printing to make their own parts

West Coast Marines are tapping into 3-D printing technology that has the potential to cut the wait for some replacement parts from months to hours.
Over the last month, members of 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group have had 3-D printing technology, said Lt. Col. Gregory Pace, the battalion commander.
The gear is on loan from a company called Inventor Cloud, Applied Systems and Technology Transfer. The Camp Pendleton, California-based unit will try it out for six months while the Marine Corps evaluates its potential use and cost savings. more

First Future Vertical Lift Helicopters Will Be Medium-Lift

The first Future Vertical Lift aircraft to be fielded by the Army will come in the medium-lift category, where attack and cargo lift helicopters reside, according to Maj. Gen. William Gayler, the new Army Aviation Center of Excellence commander at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Gayler, who spoke at the Aviation Association of America’s Mission Solutions Summit on Friday, said that since Congress required the Army to consider the FVL program as a joint program to include the Marine Corps and the Air Force, the need to be joint is driving the decision on which type of helicopter will be built first. The Army is still leading the effort.
The Army’s acquisition approach divides up the type of helicopters to be built as a family of helicopters to replace the service’s current fleet into five “capability sets.” The first set is the lightest variant while the fifth is the heaviest. Capability set 3 refers to the medium-lift variant.  more

Army testing air defense system integration

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. -- A series of tests here is demonstrating the capabilities of a new air defense system in development by the U.S. Army.

The Integrated Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept, IFPC Inc 2-I, is a defense system in development to protect Soldiers from aircraft, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial systems, as well as artillery weapons like cannons, rockets and mortars.

"If you go back and take a look at what has happened in terms of the threat over the last couple years you'll find that UAS systems and cruise missiles have really become a problem," said Col. Terrence Howard, program manager for Cruise Missile Defense Systems. "So we've got to introduce materiel solutions that can address multiple threats."

As an emerging Army air defense system, not only does it have the requirement to defend against a wide variety of threats, but it also must integrate into the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense system. AIAMD is a networked air defense control system also currently going through testing on WSMR.

"The idea behind that is 'plug and fight,' take multiple systems, multiple radars, and put it on a network and solve whatever threat situation we have out there," Howard said.

This March and April, IFPC Inc 2-I is conducting several launches to test the systems ability to launch various missile types, and demonstrate its ability to connect to the AIAMD system and utilize its Integrated Battle Command System, IBCS, a computer system that allows a small number of Soldiers to better manage and control a complex air defense network composed of different radars and missile systems.

"(It's about) integration of a lot of existing capability," said Tamera Adams, chief engineer with the Army's Cruise Missile Defense Systems projects. "It's kind of like if you're trying to put together a new stereo system in your house. You're buying speakers from this vendor, a turntable from another and a DVD player from another. You're trying to put them together to get the best capability for your house."

One of the most visible features of the IFPC Inc 2-I system is its Multi-Mission Launcher, MML. The launcher, mounted on a medium tactical truck similar in size to a delivery truck, carries 15 modular missile launch tubes on a turret system allowing the missiles to be launched in almost any direction. The vehicle's size allows it to be placed in nearly any location, and the tube system will allow the launcher to customize its missile loadout, to meet the requirements of many different missions.

To date the program has launched a Hellfire Longbow and a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders utilizing the IBCS and sensor data from a Sentinel radar unit, as well as conducting a ballistic test of the Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile, a compact missile intended for use against rocket, artillery and mortar threats. In most of these tests the IFPC Inc 2-I system is being used against targets representing cruise missile or UAS threats to allow the IFPC Inc 2-I test to evaluate not just the systems compatibility with the IBCS and missiles, but also evaluate how it performs against those threats.

"We're firing the entire kill chain and seeing what the end product looks like as we shoot at unmanned aerial systems and cruise missiles," Howard said.

IFPC Inc 2-I is a joint collaborative effort between the Army's Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space's Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center. Produced largely in house by the Army, the program has seen rapid progress, going from concept, to demonstrator, to its current full featured prototype form in only a few years.

"We've been working for the past 24 months, on maturing the design of our new launcher and integrating with three major existing programs: AIAMD, the sentinel radar system and the AIM-9X missile," Adams said.

As the Army's premiere location for the test of complex missile and air defense systems, as well as the existing presences of the AIAMD program, WSMR was the logical choice for this test series. WSMR has supported the IFPC demonstrator in previous testing, and is able to provide not only the space, but also the targets, telemetry, staff and infrastructure needed for testing counter cruise missile and UAS systems.

"(WSMR has) the technical expertise to run these ranges and really provide the data we need to get out of the test and the test results," Howard said. "So we can go back and do our analysis and say 'did we get this right?'"

More firings are scheduled at WSMR to continue testing the launchers capabilities and compatibility with other missiles and systems.