Jan 29, 2009 09:39 UTC
JA BizTown’s STEM
On Sept 24/08, DID’s “AIA Concerned By Future Shortage of Qualified American Aerospace Workers” gave voice to a long-standing concern in the American aerospace industry – and added some alarming figures to the debate. Good STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education is the foundation, but by Grade 12, American youths have fallen from solid international competitiveness in Grade 4 to a position that’s near the bottom among advanced countries. When this trend, and college graduate composition, are coupled with a rapidly-aging aerospace workforce, AIA is right to be concerned.
The industry association is undertaking a “Launch Into Aerospace” program to help stem the tide, and other industry players have also been chipping in. Raytheon’s “Math Moves U” program is well known. Firms like Pitsco are offering innovative curriculum solutions that include everything from its Engineering Academy packaged program for high school students, to smaller educational toys that are promoted by the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association’s foundation.
Over the past month, a pair of releases from Northrop Grumman shine a light on some of that firm’s efforts to improve the quality of STEM education in its local communities, including a very innovative facility and a financial grant program for schools…
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Jan 28, 2009 20:09 UTC
(click to buy)
by P.W. Singer, The Brookings Institution
Something big is going on in the history of war, and maybe even humanity itself. The US military went into Iraq with just a handful of drones in the air and zero unmanned systems on the ground, none of them armed. Today, there are over 5,300 drones in the US inventory and another roughly 12,000 on the ground. And these are just the first generation, the Model T Fords compared to what is already in the prototype stage. This is what is happening now. Peering forward, one Air Force lieutenant general forecast that “given the growth trends, it is not unreasonable to postulate future conflicts involving tens of thousands.”
For my book Wired for War, I spent the last several years trying to capture this historic moment, as robots begin to move into the fighting of our human wars. The book features stories and anecdotes of everyone from robotic scientists and the science fiction writers who inspire them to 19 year old drone pilots and the Iraqi insurgents they are fighting. The hope wasn’t just to take the reader on a journey to meet this new generation of warriors–both human and machine, but also to explore the fascinating, and sometimes frightening, political, economic, legal and ethical questions that our society had better start facing in how our wars will be fought and who will fight them. In other words, “What happens when science fiction becomes battlefield reality?”
Despite all the enthusiasm in military circles for the next generation of unmanned vehicles, ships, and planes, there is one question, however, that people are generally reluctant to talk about. It is the equivalent of Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, the issue That-Must-Not-Be-Discussed. What happens to the human role in war as we arm ever more intelligent, more capable, and increasingly more autonomous robots?
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Jan 28, 2009 17:35 UTC
Starstreak SP HVM
In 1997, Britain introduced a unique entry to the world of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Its dual-stage Starstreak High Velocity Missile flies at Mach 4+, uses advanced laser-guidance to home in on fast-flying aircraft, pop-up helicopters, or UAVs, then uses a system of 3 individually-guided dart-like projectiles and warheads to shred any target they hit. Starstreak HVMs can be carried by Army and Royal Marines troops, fired from helicopters (ATASK), or fired from Stormer armored vehicles that mount multiple launchers (SP HVM).
The Starstreak HVM’s combination of extreme speed, guidance approach, and kill method is a significant advance over peer systems like the American Stinger, French Mistral, and Russian SA-18. The difference is that those peer systems were fielded many years earlier during the Cold War, and so entered widespread service around the world. A handful of Starstreaks were ordered by South Africa in 2002, but Britain remains the system’s only large-scale operator. In July 2004, the UK MoD announced that the number of Starstreak HVM units in the British Army would be reduced from 156 to 84 fire units. Those units will still need to be maintained.
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Jan 28, 2009 12:33 UTC
On the list again
Naval Open Source Intelligence is a good set of quick links to international navy-related stories in the news. Each year, they also add a summary of their take on the most significant trends and items to their “Naval Year in Review” set.
They’ve added the 2008 list, which includes piracy, the continuing crisis in US Navy shipbuilding (4 of last 5 years, see DID), environmental groups’ lawfare against the US Navy (2 of last 3 years, see DID), the steady growth of the Chinese Navy, the use of semi-submersibles to smuggle drugs into the USA (see readings), humanitarian operations, arctic sovereignty, and more.
Jan 27, 2009 19:05 UTC
Armed Forces Journal’s January 2009 issue has an article entitled “Good business is good policy.” It looks at the US Navy’s growing focus on maritime partnerships, and notes that:
“In terms of volume, more than 90 percent of international spending on U.S. Navy equipment and services is done by just 15 percent of the countries who buy their maritime defense articles from the U.S… As evidenced by the rising prominence of security cooperation programs in U.S. theater engagement efforts, foreign military sales and training are especially well-suited to growing security relationships. They build capacity, improve interoperability and provide a basis for professional relationships which lead to mutual understanding and respect. However, developing security cooperation relationships with nontraditional partners has proved to be challenging. These countries come in two categories: regional powers such as India and Brazil, and strategically significant nations such as Nigeria, Indonesia, Djibouti and Yemen that are limited by resources and equipment.”
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Jan 27, 2009 15:16 UTC
Strv 122: darkest before…?
In May 2006, “2007 Budget Proposal Cuts Swedish Gripen Force, Looks to Buy Strategic Lift” covered the budget issues facing Sweden’s armed forces, which had to deal with budget cuts, even as Sweden’s politicians increased their expensive international deployments. Something had to give. Something did. Sweden’s Minister of Defence Mikael Odenberg, who resigned on principle in September 2007, saying that the contradiction would endanger Sweden’s forces and its soldiers.
In January 2008, current defence minister Sten Tolgfors became embroiled in controversy when he criticized Supreme Commander Hakan Syren’s moves to cut the length of national service and slash flying hours for fighter pilots, in response to an operational budget shortfall of over $200 million. An April 2008 report confirmed that further cuts were on the way, and the minister worked to put a sunny face on the process after his Defence Commission issued a June 2008 report that agreed with his vision. A November 2008 government directive to the Supreme Commander from November confirms that the military budget will be frozen at SKR 38.9 billion (about $4.9 billion) per year through 2014, which means slight cuts over time in inflation-adjusted terms.
Now, The Local reports that the government’s future plans will cut the Swedish Army by 30%, while cutting its number of tanks in half. The number of soldiers and officers deployable for combat will be cut from 20,000 to 12,500. In the end, Sweden’s military will retain 7 tactical land battalions, plus one Marine battalion. Supreme Commander Hakan Syren is expected to make the announcement this Friday, but the plans were leaked to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.
Sweden purchased 280 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, but only the 160 Strv 122 variants are still operational. The 120 Strv 121/2A4 versions have already been removed from active service.
Jan 26, 2009 18:05 UTC
What happens when advances in modern electronics mean that sensors like imaging-class radars, advanced day/night cameras, and even more exotic items like hyperspectral sensors, laser radars, etc. are no longer very expensive items that are mounted on dedicated platforms? When a wide array of video cameras, surveillance turrets, ubiquitous radar capabilities, and other systems built into vehicles, aircraft, ships, and unmanned vehicles provide an explosion of sensor data – just as a range of databases related to human patterns or physical infrastructure are also appearing on the scene, in numbers.
In part, it is similar to what happened when the Internet went from an academic platform to a global phenomenon. The good news was, so much more information became available. The bad news was, finding the things we were looking for started to involve a lot more work.
The military has this same problem with sensors, only worse. Most of the time, they’re not necessarily looking for discrete answers, but for an overall picture of what’s going on. That becomes hard as sensors move from a small number deployed on dedicated platforms, to hundreds or thousands of them employed in platforms of every shape and size. For some applications, like domestic security or protecting certain key areas, it gets even harder. The need to include physical surveillance, communications surveillance, information about human activities, and improved geo-awareness all combine to produce a maddeningly complex task.
Moore’s Law of doubling computing power, and Metcalfe’s Law of exponential network power, created this data explosion. Several cycles later, the military is hoping it can begin to offer assistance, by turning massive arrays of data into coherent systems that help humans respond at the speed of events. The first step was data fusion. The next step was sensor fusion. The third step is information fusion… and the US Navy has just set up a center to work on it.
- Situation Awareness vs. Information Awareness
- Information Fusion: A Scenario Illustration
- The NAWCWD’s Information Fusion Center
- IF Center: Contracts and Related Events
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Jan 26, 2009 13:49 UTC
The Royal Jordanian Air force’s fighter fleet currently consists of F-16 A/B, Mirage F1, and F-5 E/F Tiger II fighters. In recent years, the Jordanians have sought to strengthen their air force with surplus F-16s from European countries. “Jordan Buys 20 F-16 MLU from Holland, Belgium” covered an earlier purchase set, and deliveries have begun. Now, another purchase may be on the way.
DID subscriber David Vandenberghe has looked at Parliamentary documents, and also at a Jan 15/09 De Standaard article. Current estimates peg maintenance savings at EUR 3 million per aircraft, and a certain portion of that could be expected to come out of Belgian firm SABCA’s maintenance contract. According to Forecast International, De Standaard has reported that officials from Jordan and Belgium are finalizing a deal for 8-9 more F-16s, at the bargain price of EUR 7 million (about $9.25 million). A Parliamentary Defence Committee document dated Jan 14/09 [PDF] states a set transaction price of EUR 32 million, however, which seems more reasonable.
Under Belgium’s 2000-2015 Modernization plan, the Belgian Defense Forces plan to keep just 60 F-16s in the fleet, to create a total of 48 operational aircraft (46 for NATO duties and 2 for domestic air defense). At present, 68 upgraded F-16 MLU aircraft are reported to remain. with foreign sales, wear, operational losses, and storage accounting for the rest of the 160 F-16A/B aircraft that were bought in 1979.
Jan 26, 2009 12:56 UTC
In January 2006, “IBM Wins $370M Contract for Commissary Point-of-Sales System” covered IBM’s 5-10 year, $370 million maximum contract to support the US Defense Commissary Agency’s Commercial Advanced Resale Transaction System (CARTS), which replaces replace the existing point-of-sales (POS) system used at checkout. The DeCA is a supermarket chain in its own right, with worldwide operations and over 250 stores and distribution centers.
Recently, E&E Enterprises Global, Inc. was selected to provide a HughesNet high-availability satellite broadband system to support DeCA commissaries worldwide. Hughes Network Systems, LLC will provide the high-availability VPN service to E&E Enterprises Global as a subcontractor during the 4-year (1 base + 3 option years), $12 million contract. That covers 174 stores in the continental USA, 86 stores located outside that region, and 10 central distribution centers outside the continental USA (OCONUS).
HughesNet will support systems that include functions such as POS; debit and credit card transaction authorizations; “just-in-time” product ordering; shipping; receiving; invoicing and billing; email; as well as payroll and personnel management. HughesNet release.
Jan 26, 2009 11:55 UTC
Datalinks are an under-rated but critical technology set for any modern military. In simple terms, a datalink provides virtual circuit and datagram services that guarantee reliable, simultaneous, multi- channel transmissions. They can include voice, data, imagery, and video, and are generally encrypted for obvious reasons. These services may allow a soldier with a V-RAMBO wrist device to get streaming video from a UAV, or a strike aircraft to receive target information directly from troops on the ground via the ROVER system. Weapons with 2-way datalinks can be re-targeted in flight. Advanced uses of datalinks even include implementations like NATO’s Link 16 standard, which allow targets identified by one radar or aircraft to appear on others’ displays.
The Indian Air Force recently put out a contract for datalink development. In the ODL(Operational Data Link) pilot project, the Air Force plans to network selected aircraft and ground stations by 2012, as a first step and training opportunity. Over the next 10 years, they plan to equip their fighter fleets, transport aircraft, helicopters, AWACS and maritime surveillance aircraft, UAVs, and key radars…
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