General Electric Co. in Cincinnati, OH received a $12.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity with cost-plus-fixed fee contract. The USAF wants GE to demonstrate the resilience of an aircraft’s flight control, electric actuation, and power management and distribution subsystems against high power microwaves and nuclear electromagnetic pulses, with a focus on a near-term solution to make aircraft immune (or at least highly resistant) to electromagnetic environmental effects. At this time, $527,000 has been obligated.
Solicitations began June 2006, negotiations were complete November 2006, and work will be complete November 2011. The US Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8650-07-D-2700 task order 0001).
Technical innovation is present in all militaries, but America’s combination of do-it-yourself types, large defense budgets, and a gadget-happy national character makes it particularly fertile ground. Now add a global war and its challenges, plus a defense sector with a strong small business component made up of ex-military types. The overall innovation transmission belt may not be as tight or as effective as Israel’s or Singapore’s, but the scale of the US defense establishment more than compensates in terms of the sheer number produced.
Adoption, of course, is another matter. One way to improve it is to raise the profile of sucessful innovations through awards. Along those lines, the US Army recently recognized some special innovators by naming its “Top 10 inventions of 2005,” a list that should be of interest to many militaries around the world.
DID recently covered Lockheed’s High Altitude Airship military blimp and the related ISIS project. HAA/ISIS could put incredibly powerful battlefield ground surveillance and aerial surveillance radars on unmanned solar-powered blimps, which would stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to a month. DID also noted the importance of Akron’s huge (1,175 x 325 x 211 feet), historic Airdock as the project’s location.
NBC reports that a large explosion and fire occurred yesterday at the airdock (Thursday, May 18, 2006), with smoke and flames pouring out of the hangar and bringing between 15 and 20 Akron fire companies to the scene…
The Pentagon has shown interest in blimps for “near space” use in a variety of roles, from radar surveillance to communications relays. In our in-depth look at the US military’s future $14-18 billion Transformational Satellite (TSAT) system, DID also had this to say:
“In terms of long term trends, it’s also worthy of note that a combination of narrowband satellites and MARTS-type communications aerostats for theater communications, wideband AEHF satellites for mission-critical high-bandwidth transfers like UAV video, encrypted communications via commercial satellite carriers, and laid fiber-optic cables for strategic communications are already appearing on the scene… Throw in the possibility of finding new ways to leverage existing systems, and this constellation definitely represents a potential “incremental competition” threat to TSAT.”
Add one more piece to this array of incremental options, courtesy of a system currently under examination at the 2006 Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX 06)…
Raytheon Co. in Andover, MA received a $5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Contractor Logistics Support related to the Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment Product Office. DID has covered past RAID contracts before, and noted this small surveillance aerostat’s derivation from the JLENS missile defense program and deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Work will be performed in Andover, MA and is expected to be completed by Oct. 31, 2006. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on March 9, 2006. The Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Huntsville, AL issued the contract (W9113M-06-C-0128).
“But it wasn’t meant to be. Darpa took away the fiscal year 2006 funding for the Walrus. And the agency’s 2007 budget request calls for “termination of the Walrus effort.” Now, the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command had its own plans for a heavy-hauling airship, too. I’m checking to see if they’re still interested. Keep your fingers crossed.”
Actually, as a DARPA source notes, Congress canceled the walrus effort by zeroing the program in the FY06 Appropriations. It’s interesting to counterpoise that decision with this recent information…
DID’s in-depth article covering DARPA’s project for the 1-2 million pound (500-1,000 ton) WALRUS Hybrid Ultra-Large Aircraft (HULA) blimp-aircraft remains perennially popular. There’s something about a 1,000 foot long blimp-like aircraft that can lift a full battalion and ship them 8,000 miles in a week, without requiring landing strips or in-depth infrastructure, that appeals to the imagination. DARPA expects to pick a winning design in September 2006, and award a $100 million contract for a prototype airship. The LA Times reports that if WALRUS works out, the total contract could be worth up to $11 billion over 30 years.
Two firms won the $3 million preliminary design contracts: Lockheed’s fabled “Skunkworks,” producers of “impossible” aircraft like the U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 Blackbird – and a small California firm called Aeros made up of Russian emigres. A recent LA Times story profiles Worldwide Aeros, noting their confidence (“In reality we don’t feel Lockheed is our technical competitor… There is only one solution, and we have that one solution.”), quality of proposal (“seemed outstanding,” said one evaluator), revenues ($10 million expected this year from selling ad blimps), and company origins. CEO Igor Pasternak and colleagues began designing mammoth airships in Russia as a way to transport heavy cargo to Siberia’s remote oil fields, and future plans for their design also extend to “cruise ships in the sky.” They aren’t the only ones who can imagine extensive civilian spin-offs from this technology; of course, notes Pasternak, “it can totally change how you conduct warfare.”
DID has covered the growing US interest in blimps for everything from low-altitude surveillance and communications relay, to air mega-transport, to near space operations. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Akron, OH received a $149.2 million cost-reimbursable contract to build and demonstrate the technical feasibility and military utility of the High Altitude Airship (HAA). The Missile Defense Agency issued this contract (HQ0006-06-C-0001), and eventually plans to deploy approximately 10 blimps to provide overlapping coverage of U.S. coastal regions.
Imagine an aircraft that could lift 1-2 million pounds of cargo, then fly it up to 12,000 miles nonstop without needing a runway to land on. DARPA has. DID has too via our in-depth coverage of their WALRUS HULA (Hybrid Ultra Large Aircraft) airship program. Now a new congressional report is imagining it as well.
The WALRUS may be an airship, but isn’t exactly a traditional blimp. The Army Times reports that the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan analytical arm of the US Congress, “likes the heavy-lift airship concept because it could do more than the airlift aircraft and surge sealift capabilities currently used when U.S. forces deploy.” DID went and found that report, which offers some interesting conclusions.
The Boeing Co. in St. Louis, MO received a $13.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-05-C-0045) to provide persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance UAV services for an Afloat Forward Staging Base, and on the High Speed Vessel, in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. Work will be performed onboard a Navy vessel in the Pacific, and is expected to be completed in September 2006.
While the exact equipment was not specified in the release, DID covered that original contract and can offer additional details. We can also fill our readers in on the unfortunately-acronymed High Speed Vessels (HSV).