The US Department of Defense’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program works to support research that involves more than one traditional science and engineering discipline. Traditional research grants can be hard to come by in these cases, and few extend over multiple years but many complex problems require this approach. So, too, does talent development.
Hence MURI’s recent FY 2009 slate, involving $260 million awarded to 69 academic institutions, in order to fund 41 projects over the next 5 years. Exact amounts for each project will be negotiated between the winning institutions and the DoD research offices that will make the awards: the Army Research Office (ARO), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).
ARO, ONR, and AFOSR solicited proposals in 32 topics important to the DoD, and received a total of 152 proposals. Some of the project topics and titles included:
Research and Development is essential to any national technology base, and to the health of its defense industrial base. The USA is a global research leader, and some of its efforts have created international infrastructure – like the internet. In other cases, it has been a matter of adapting existing civilian research like low-power, flexible displays for military use. For smaller nations like Canada, Australia, et. al. R&D budgets are smaller, and so funded research must be more focused.
Australia’s Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) Extension Program aims to take existing DSTO research projects to higher maturity levels for operational./ commercial evaluation, in a manner similar to the USA’s SBIR Phase III awards. Australia’s Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowden recently announced 4 winners in this area:
Giuseppe Ceracchi: “Minerva as the Patroness of American Liberty”
In this day and age, more people associate “Minerva” with a strict teacher at a fictional wizard’s school than with Rome’s incarnation of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and war. As “WIRED: A Different Kind of Net-Centric Warfare in Iraq” revealed, however, Minerva’s ancient incarnation remains very relevant today. “The surge” in Iraq is best known for its increase in the number of American troops, but that was actually its least significant feature. Its most significant feature was a major shift in the way the Americans fought the war, using a counterinsurgency doctrine that acted on the lessons from successes like Malaysia – and on newer insights from social scientists embedded with the American military. See also General Petraeus’ December 2008 remarks in Washington [Transcript | Slideshow].
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has previously served as the president of Texas A&M University. Under his watch, the US DoD has unveiled The Minerva Initiative to foster longer-term research that’s relevant to the national security community. Now the first awards have been made under that program…
The US military’s DARPA research agency is sponsoring research under the Biofuels-Cellulosic and Algal Feedstock program. Its goal is to develop the technical capability and commercial experience to produce an affordable JP-8 surrogate fuel from algae, in order to create a wider range of options if some of the US Army’s Corps of Engineers’ predictions come true over the next couple of decades. JP-8 is the fuel used by the US Air Force; Army vehicles also use it as an option, which can simplify the supply chain. Bids solicited were via the Broad Agency Announcement and 17 bids were received by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, VA.
Dec 15/08: Science Applications International Corp (SAIC) in San Diego, CA won a $14.9 million cost-plus fixed-price contract. Work will be performed in Vienna, VA; Minnetonka, MN; Albuquerque, NM; Houston, TX; Baltimore, MD; Austin, TX; Irvine, CA; Imperial, TX; Des Plaines, IL; and Grand Forks, ND, and is expected to continue until March 10/10 (HR0011-09-C-0033).
Dec 9/08: A team led by General Atomics in San Diego, CA won a $19.9 million cost-plus fixed-price contract. Work will be performed by General Atomics in San Diego, CA; Scripps Institutions of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA; Arizona State University in Mesa, AZ; Blue Sun Biodiesel in Golden, CO; Texas A&M AgriLIFE in College Station, Texas, UOP LLC in Des Plains, IL; Hawaii Bio Energy in Honolulu; The University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmetal research Center in Grand Forks, ND; and Utah State University in Logan, UT. Work is expected to continue until June 8/10 (HR0011-09-C-0034)
When Canada announced a program to replace its aging CC-130 Hercules fleet in November 2005, there was a great deal of speculation about where the C-17 might fit in. The fast answer was that it didn’t, but speculation revived following the Liberal government’s defeat and the formation of a new Conservative Party government. The new government justified that speculation, creating a separate Strategic Airlift competition – and the shape of its specifications suggested that Canada was about to reprise Australia’s recent move and buy at least 4 of Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Australia, Britain, and the USA already operate the C-17; NATO is scheduled to buy 3-4 as a shared strategic airlift solution, but the procurement is in limbo.
Canada has traditionally resisted buying strategic airlift, choosing instead to participate in NATO’s SALIS consortium that leases ultra-heavy AN-124 aircraft for such roles. Other leased alternatives to the C-17s were available to Canada, including one based on Canadian soil – but in the end, the C-17 was the sole realistic competitor for this C$ 3.4 billion (USD$ 3 billion) program, and is entering service in Canada as the CC-177.
Canada has now taken delivery of its “CC-177s,” and begun flying missions. With new planes, however, comes new ancillary equipment.
The Scone Foundation Archivist of the Year Award is presented annually by The Scone Foundation to recognize an archivist who has made considerable contributions to his or her profession or who has provided significant support to scholars conducting research in history and biography. This year, the award has a military winner.
Dr. Conrad Crane’s title is Director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, following 26 years of military service that concluded with 9 years as Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 2003, he became Director of the Military History Institute – and also co-authored “Reconstructing Iraq,” which drew heavily on archival material relating to past military occupations throughout history. It predicted failure without early and adequate post-conflict planning, and warned that: “A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders should an unwelcome occupation continue for a prolonged time”. Dr. Crane’s contribution did not stop there, however. His West Point classmate Gen. David Petraeus has spoken of foreign occupation having a “half-life,” and in 2006 he asked his old colleague to be the lead author of the Counter Insurgency Field Manual for Iraq Forces [US Army release | Amazon.com].
Even this achievement is only part of Dr. Crane’s legacy. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson has praised Dr. Crane “for professionalizing one of the nation’s most priceless repositories of military records, and in making the U.S. Army’s Military History Institute more accessible to both scholars and curious citizens. He combines the best instincts of historian, archivist, and public servant.”
The event will be held on Nov 17/08 from 6:00pm – 7:30pm, in the Teatro Casa Italiana at Columbia University’s Morningside Campus, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC, NY. In addition to receiving the award, Dr. Crane will also deliver a lecture: “From Past to Policy: Using History to Make History.”
United Technologies subsidiary Pratt & Whitney is well known around the world as a manufacturer of turbine engines for aircraft, helicopters, and even industrial uses. Within that firm, its Canadian subsidiary has a well established reputation of its own, as a global leader for turboprop and turboshaft engines used in helicopters, military trainer aircraft, and commercial/industrial planes. That status has made them a top-tier R&D player within Canada’s large aerospace industry, working on over 300 research projects with a wide array of universities, research centres and other organizations.
On Oct 20/08, Quebec’s Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade announced that Investissement Québec will invest C$ 125 million over the next 3 years to support the firm research and development activities in Longueuil, Quebec. The investment is repayable from royalties on sales. Pratt & Whitney Canada then announced an investment program of its own: over C$ 360 million in research and development in the Montreal area over the next 3 years. Their R&D investment will be aimed at “further improving engine technology required to surpass the world’s most stringent environmental standards, while delivering outstanding performance, durability and operating economics.”
P&WC’s primary R&D are located and Mississauga, Ontario, and the Montreal suburb of Longueuil which will receive the C$ 485 million (about $395 million) injection. Together, they employ about 1,500 engineers. Pratt & Whitney Canada release.
One of war’s costs can be found in those who return from battle alive, but maimed. Crude prosthetics have been around for a long time, but they could only restore a semblance of normal function at best. In the last decade, however, advances in design and materials science are creating passive prosthetics good enough to allow some of their wearers to compete in world-class races – or return to active duty.
The next step is active prosthetics that can approach normal human function, and are controlled by their wearer. The ideal is to exercise that control via the wearer’s own nervous system, just like a biological limb. In 1958, medical doctor and USAF colonel Jack Steele coined the term ‘bionics’ to describe technology that works as part of a human body. In the 1970s, “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV series chronicled the adventures of a man with a super-powered bionic eye, legs, and right arm. Fast forward 30 years, where the twin impellers of technological advances and the pressure of war are making the concept of active prosthetic limbs a viable concept. Even as art imitates life with a revived Bionic Woman TV series.
Sept 30/08: New Mexico State University of Las Cruces, NM received a cost reimbursement no fee contract for a maximum of $9.95 million. This contract will establish Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Program for UAS research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E), including operations in the USA’s National Airspace System (NAS). At this time $2.1 million has been obligated. AAC/PKET at Eglin AFB, FL is managing this contract (FA9201-08-D-0093, Orders 0001, 0002, and 0003).
The popular Predator UAV is about the size of a Cessna, which means a collision with another aircraft is going to ruin everybody’s day. UAVs are good at looking at limited sections of ground. So far, they aren’t very good at noticing other aircraft around them – aside from final glimpses of a Russian MiG-29. The ability to fly UAVs safely in civilian airspace would open up a huge new market, and is is currently the subject of a concerted MIDCAS research and planning effort by Europe’s EDA, as well as private research. A Hermes 450 UAV has achieved civil registration in Israel, and Lockheed Martin’s UAMS experiment is looking at ways to give smaller UAVs the capabilities they’d require.
DoD Buzz (Oct 6/09) – FAA Acts or Drones Stop Flying. “Army drones will have to curtail training and operational flights by fiscal 2012 in the United States unless the FAA approves some form of UAS deconfliction, a top Army UAS official says.”
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is at least as much an industrial program as it is a fighter aircraft. The commitment stages involved have been carefully designed on all fronts, from the conflating of USMC, Navy, and Air force roles, to the 3-stage industrial commitment process by program member nations, which see the JSF as the only major industrial opportunity for fighter aircraft over the next 20 years. As articles like Bill Sweetman’s “JSF Office Makes Buyers an Offer They Cannot Refuse” explain, the F-35’s seeming inevitability as a major aerospace procurement program is critical to its success. Hence the recent discussions about capping prices far below the normal high cost of low-rate initial production aircraft, in exchange for sharp financial penalties to countries who buy less than their committed number.
Recent events in Canada illustrate another aspect of the F-35’s industrial strategy: its invitation to promote and fund specialized industrial competencies that can be applied elsewhere in the aerospace sector.