Small business qualifier Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, VA received a $6.2 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Orion Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Prototype Development and Test Flight. Work is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2010, and will be performed at Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory in Starkville, MS; Aurora just completed a new production facility nearby. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There were an unknown number of bids solicited via the World Wide Web on Dec. 21, 2005, and one bid was received by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, AL (W9113M-06-C-0186).
Orion HALL (High Altitude, Long Loiter) is a hydrogen powered UAV designed to fly at high altitudes for up to 4 days. Unlike other platforms Aurora is involved in like the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Orion HALL will reportedly have a much smaller carrying capacity of about 180 kg/ 400 pounds. This would limit its surveillance capabilities but make it an outstanding communications relay. The project is a collaboration with Boeing’s cutting-edge Phantom Works division, who is working on a version with a 10-day endurance. The first Orion UAV is expected to fly in 2008.
The Department of Defense Multi-disciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) is a multi-agency Department of Defense program that supports research teams whose efforts intersect more than one traditional science and engineering disciplines. They’re especially interested in efforts where cross-fertilization can accelerate research progress, hasten the transition of basic research findings to practical applications, further key infrastructure such as research instrumentation development, or just help to train students in science and/or engineering in areas of importance to the US DoD.
In April 2007, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research announced the FY 2007 competition MURI awards, which will fund 10 awards to to 29 academic institutions, totaling about $60 million over 5 years. MURI awards are typically larger and longer in duration than traditional awards, with a 3-year base period plus a 2-year option contingent upon both availability of appropriation funds and satisfactory research progress. Topics ranged from “Dynamic Decision making in complex task environments: Principles and neural mechanisms” to “Biologically-Inspired Flight for Micro Air Vehicles” and many points in-between; this PDF file contains the entire list. Winners included teams at:
The Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, TX received a $928.3 million cost-plus-fixed fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity order type modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-D-6200) for approximately 45,653 staff months of research and development and specialized engineering support. Work will be performed in Austin, TX and is expected to be complete by March 2012. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issued the contracts.
ARL:UT, as a Navy University Affiliated Research Center, will continue to provide research and development, test and evaluation and specialized engineering capabilities. These capabilities have been established and maintained at the Applied Research Laboratories since the 1940s, and have continued to be determined essential to the Navy’s needs.
Ionatron in Tucson, AZ received a $9.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to fund the development of an advanced Ultra Short (femtosecond – 10^-15)Pulse Laser, physics modeling and experiments related to laser guided energy effects (i.e. Laser Induced Plasma Channel) requirements, a transportable demonstrator, and effects testing. This contract was not competitively procured by the energetics specialists at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN (N00164-07-C-8901). See also Ionatron release.
Ionatron has done previous work on an IED land mine neutralized called the JIN, as well as nonlethal and lethal short-range energy weapons based on its technology. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (95%); Los Alamos, NM (3%); and Urbana, IL (2%), and is expected to be complete by April 2009. The contract includes technical development support from Los Alamos National Laboratories in Los Alamos, NM; and the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana, IL. Ionatron also has a strategic development agreement with DRS.
The Pentagon recently announced plans to award $41.2 million to academic institutions under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), to support the purchase of research instrumentation. DURIP meets a critical need by enabling university researchers to purchase scientific equipment costing $50,000 or more to conduct DoD-relevant research. Researchers generally have difficulty purchasing instruments costing that much under research contracts and grants.
These awards are the result of a merit competition for DURIP funding conducted by the Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research, and Air Force Office of Scientific Research. These research offices collectively received 780 proposals, requesting $220 million in support for research equipment. The 199 winning awards will fund efforts in to 112 academic institutions; they are expected to range from about $50,000 – $950,000, with an average around $200,000. All awards are subject to the successful completion of negotiations between DoD research offices and the academic institutions. See DoD release | the list of winning proposals [PDF format]
The Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas in Austin is being awarded a $20.3 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-01-D-6600). The money covers a 3-month extension to provide continued research, development, and test & evaluation capabilities for major mission product areas such as mines, fire control, undersea countermeasures, coastal/special warfare support, acoustic reconnaissance and search, special sensors, navigation, and communications. See their web site for details and examples.
Work will be performed in Austin, TX and is expected to be complete by March 2007. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC announced the original contract for $291 million/ 18,878 staff-months back on August 17, 2001.
In July 2005, Lead Systems Integrators (LSI) Boeing and SAIC awarded 4 contracts to 3 premier industry partners for the first phase of development for 2 classes of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as part of the U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. The contracts range in value from $3 million to $5 million, and the UAVs were slated for fielding in 2014 with the first fully-equipped FCS brigade-sized combat teams.
Or not. A January 9, 2007 release from US Army indicates that its Class II and Class III UAV programs are not slated for deployment, and existing UAVs (the RQ-7 Shadow and Warrior / ERMP UAV currently in development) would fill those roles. This is extremely bad news for rotorcraft manufacturer Piasecki, who was hoping for a win to bring its innovative rotary technologies into the mainstream and give the firm itself the same kind of “serious presence status” accorded its founder. The decision will also have an impact on other firms, and it’s worth a quick look at the new and existing UAVs affected by this move:
The College of American Pathologists in Northfield, IL received a $5.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for laboratory accreditation and proficiency testing in Washington, D.C. Work is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2011. This was a sole source contract initiated on Nov. 6, 2006 by the Center for Health Care Contracting in Fort Sam Houston, TX (W81K04-07-C-0002).
NATO reports that they’ve moved a step closer to providing their helicopters with added protection from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) thanks to the successful demonstration of prototype technology in Bulgaria. While countermeasures exist for shoulder-fired infrared missiles, the simple ballistic flight and fuzes on RPGs are a different challenge. Helicopters are very difficult to hit with RPGs, but it is not impossible – “Black Hawk Down” in Mogadishu, Somalia was one example, and the 2005 downing of a MH-47G Special Forces helicopter in Afghanistan was another. With known terrorist suppliers producing a surfeit of RPGs, and NATO countries facing future operations in Afghanistan and urban terrains, this kind of work is timely. See also this US Army CALL report re: RPG-7s in Iraq.
Early testing has been promising, with important improvements made over the past year. More testing must be conducted, and the next stage is to demonstrate practical application by fitting the technology to a helicopter so the RPG debris impact and the influence of different weights and shapes can be measured. More active measures that destroy incoming RPGs rather than just preventing them from exploding are also under investigation.
Bulgaria is the lead country in the development of helicopter protection technology under NATO’s Defence Against Terrorism program, with Greece and Poland also involved. Poland is currently conducting a parallel programme of testing. Read the entire NATO article.
In November 2005, “$355.2M for MITRE from the US Air Force” covered exactly what the title implied. This year, the Headquarters Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA issued a $312 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract for systems engineering and integration support in FY 2007. Support level is estimated at 926 direct staff years for the Air Force ceiling programs (929 in FY 2006) and 131 direct staff years for the Air Force non-ceiling program (131 in FY 2006). As it did last year, the effort also supports foreign military sales with Britain, France, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. At this time, $8.3 million has been obligated, and work will be complete in October 2007. The Headquarters Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA issued the contract (FA8721-07-C-0001).
MITRE was formed in 1958 as a not-for-profit corporation under the leadership of C.W. Halligan, and has a long-standing cross-fertilization with MIT. It manages three Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs): one for the Department of Defense (known as the DOD Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence FFRDC), one for the Federal Aviation Administration (the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development), and one for the Internal Revenue Service (the Center for Enterprise Modernization). MITRE also has its own independent research and development program that explores new technologies and new uses of technologies to solve its sponsors’ problems in the near-term and in the future.