Adding weapons to naval aircraft isn’t the simple retrieve and attach process many people think it is. For logical safety reasons, many weapons stored on board a ship require several steps to bring them from storage containers to “armed and ready” condition for installation. That process requires 500-1000 square feet of grudgingly-given space on board ship, a design constraint that still leaves some assembly operations with less room than one would like. Meanwhile, weather conditions may not choose to be cooperative.
To address this issue, the Office of Naval Research is holding a competition under the Automated Weapons Assembly Project. The goal is to create an automated robotic system that can unpack weapon components from storage containers, and safely assemble them onboard ships even in high seas.
“Can the US Army Afford Helicopter Modernization?” covered a CBO report addressing the USA’s future helicopter procurement plans. Meanwhile, the existing fleet must still be maintained, lest rising maintenance costs eat into the procurement budget. The future fleet will also need to improve.
There’s a trend around the world toward HUMS (Health & Usage Monitoring Systems). Initial helicopter HUMS systems were developed twin-engine helicopters flown to offshore oil rigs in the North Sea, whose savage weather and freezing seas can quickly combine to turn even relatively minor mechanical problems into life-threatening events. In time, HUMS are spreading to other commercial platforms, while trying to remain cheap enough to stay economically feasible.
As one might expect, the US Army is very interested. Their current maintenance system largely relies on aviation maintenance and parts replacement based on operating hours, or on a set number of days. In contrast, moving to a HUMS system that can monitor issues (diagnostic), predict likely faults before they occur (prognostic), and schedule maintenance based on need, ought to have several benefits. For starters, it would vastly improve reliability diagnosis of the platform as a whole, and help to identify required areas for improvement. It would also cut down on spare parts usage, save man-hours, and keep more helicopters available to fly. Now, a coalition led by Bell Helicopter has submitted a winning proposal…
In the wake of BAE Systems’ SEP vehicle’s elimination from the Future Rapid Effects System-Utility next-generation armored personnel carrier finals (Nexter’s VBCI, GD MOWAG’s Piranha V, ARTEC’s Boxer) and their loss of the Systems of Systems Integrator role to a Boeing-Thales partnership, Defense News recently quoted BAE Systems Land Systems Managing Director Andrew Davies as saying that the firm “must win the last piece of the FRES utility program – the integration-and-build contract – or consider shutting the Newcastle plant.” That may well be a calculated overstatement, but the firm who had built over 95% of the UK’s armored vehicle fleet has definitely fallen short of its own and others’ expectations thus far.
While the BAE Hagglunds CV90 tracked vehicle is reportedly on offer for the FRES Reconnaissance and specialty slot, the integration and build portion of the GBP 15-17 billion FRES program would appear to be BAE’s main focus at the moment. The firm has just unveiled its team, which consists of:
VIVACE(Value Improvement through a Virtual Aeronautical Collaborative Enterprise) is a very large research & technology project funded by the European Commission that was launched in January 2004, grouping 63 companies and research institutions from the aerospace sector to improve 7 key areas of the product development process, providing solutions in “Design Simulation”, “Virtual Testing”, “Design Optimisation”, “Business and Supply Chain Modelling”, “Knowledge Management”, “Decision Support” and “Collaboration in the Extended and Virtual Enterprise”. By using the latest innovations in advanced simulation and modeling techniques, it hopes to provide the means to improve knowledge about the product prior to its physical development, reducing development costs, shortening time to market, and improving product quality.
If European aerospace firms can incorporate these advantages, the thinking goes, they will be in a better position to maintain their global competitiveness. By creating shared learnings among many companies, meanwhile, the research creates a common base of knowledge and practices among its participants, improving the odds that they will be on the same page managerially and technically as well. A level of commonality that is crucial, if the full gains of the research are intended to extend beyond any one firm’s supply chain.
Airbus has put out a release, stating its belief that its co-ordination of the VIVACE project has produced significant results. The final results of VIVACE were presented at a public Forum held in Toulouse from 17th to 19th October, and further background is available online as a 25 MB book.
I’ll start this with a big tip of the hat to DARPA and its director, Dr. Tony Tether, who has one of the world’s best jobs. Not only do they push the bleeding edge and come up with clever ways to engage the research community in their endeavors, but they run well-managed events with a flair for showmanship that belies their status as a government and military agency. As an example of the latter, they had arranged for the Urban Challenge webcast and on-site video to be co-hosted by Jamie Hyneman and Grant Imahara of Myth Busters, the techie crowd’s favorite TV show.
They also have the guts to invite in the world press and the general public while trying something new to the world: Turning multiple autonomous vehicles loose on city streets at the same time, interspersed with human drivers. As Tether said at the start of the program, “If anyone tells you he knows what’s going to happen, he’s lying.”
Since that test could likely take every bit of a short November day, the teams, staff and press assembled for their briefings at a chilly and dark 0600 hours. The day featured robot traffic jams, the world’s first ‘bot vs. ‘bot collision, and the Terramax robot truck’s attempt to take out the old air base PX.
Utah State University Research Foundation, North Logan, Utah, is being awarded $10M for cost-plus-fixed-fee completion task order #0007 under previously awarded contract (N00173-02-D-2003) for research in the area of Time Critical Sensor Image/Data Processing. Specifically, they will research advanced networking, compression/image processing, and ground/control station sensor processing. Under this task order the contractor will be required to support the development and demonstration of hardware and software systems for airborne and ground-based acquisition, recording, screening, dissemination, fusion, and exploitation of multi-INT sensor systems for manned and unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance systems.
This, too, sounds like an excellent future fit for the American RAID surveillance system. Its primary target, however, is the massive bandwidth crunch being created by hundreds of video-equipped UAVs and networked airborne ISR(Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) systems sending video back to base. Obviously, any system that could improve the links in this chain, from screening and fusion of the information collected into smaller ‘packages,’ to better video compression and processing, to advanced networking, would be a big help. Other firms like Trident Systems are also doing R&D related to bits of this puzzle.
Work will be performed in North Logan, Utah, and is expected to be complete in September 2012. The Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, DC issued the contract.
Florida Community College in Jacksonville, FL received an indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity firm-fixed-price contract for $19.2M, exercising exercise of option II for instructor services to support the Training Support Center and the Recruit Command in Great Lakes, IL.
Work will be performed in Great Lakes, IL, and is expected to be complete by September 2011. This contract was competitively procured through Navy Electronic Commerce Online (NECO), with 2 offers received by the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Norfolk, Philadelphia Department (N00140-07-D-0014).
It’s not the size of the sub that counts…OK, it is
No, not Tango Uniform – Tango Bravo, as in “technology barriers.” The Navy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plan to pour $97 million between 2004-2009 into a new joint project known as Tango Bravo, asks what technologies would be required for a new attack submarine that could have all the capabilities of the current Virginia Class boats, but at half the size and half the build cost. As a comparison, SSN-774 Virginia Class attack submarines are 377 feet in length, and have a 34-foot beam. They cost approximately $2.0-2.5 billion each.
Tango Bravo grew out of a joint Navy-DARPA study that ended in May 2004. It looked at a number of factors that affect the size and cost of hull, mechanical and electrical systems on a submarine. Led by Naval Sea Systems Command’s Program Executive Officer for Submarines, Tango Bravo is a demonstration project aimed at bringing fundamental change to future U.S. submarines, while maintaining or improving their current capabilities. This updated DID Focus Article offers a snapshot of DARPA’s program, and looks at the contracts and winners that are beginning to shake out…
San Diego State University Foundation in San Diego, CA received a $9.1 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract with a time and materials pricing arrangement to procure analytical and technical support services from undergraduate and graduate level students in the following disciplines: 1) electrical engineering, computer engineering, mathematics, physics, and statistics; 2) computer science and information systems; 3) mechanical engineering and fluid mechanics; and, 4) public health, exercise physiology, psychology, social science, biology and chemistry. The students will support a wide variety of research and development projects at the Naval Health Research Center, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego (SSC San Diego).
This is a 5-year contract that contains no options. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA and is expected to be completed July 2012. This contract was competitively procured under solicitation N66001-07-R-0016 via publication on the SPAWAR e-Commerce Central and Federal Business Opportunities web sites. Competition was limited to educational institutions in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation 6.302-3, and 1 proposal was received. SSC San Diego is the contracting activity (N66001-07-D-0016).
Small business qualifier Boston Dynamics, Inc. in Waltham, MA has received a $10 million completion-type, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to build a dog-like robot with the capability to run fast, traverse trough terrain, jump over obstacles 1 meter (40″) tall or 2 meters wide, and operate for 2 hours without refueling. The goal of this effort is to create legged robots that mimic animal structure, mechanics and control, in order to achieve animal-like strength, speed and mobility. The priority application is a robot that could eventually accompany Marines and other troops in the field as a load-carrier across nearly any terrain. This 15-month contract also includes 3 one-year options which would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $40 million if exercised.