India is increasing its defense budget for 2012-13 by 17% to Rs 1,93,407 crore (about $38.5B). The Business Standard opines that the nominal double-digit growth is misleading.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its latest report [PDF] on international arms imports and exports. India remains the #1 importer at 10% of global imports.
DARPA wants to develop new year-round monitoring capabilities in the Arctic, above and below the ice, for example to measure under-ice acoustic propagation. Their Proposer’s Day on the topic is scheduled for March 30, with $4M in funds to follow that they will spend in awards of about $250K-$500K.
In early FY 2011, DARPA awarded a pair of initial contracts for something called the Triple Target Terminator. In their own words:
“The Triple Target Terminator (T3) program will develop a high speed, long-range missile that can engage air, cruise missile, and air defense targets. T3 would be carried internally on stealth aircraft or externally on fighters, bombers and UAVs. The enabling technologies are: propulsion, multi-mode seekers, data links, digital guidance and control, and advanced warheads. T3 would allow any aircraft to rapidly switch between air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities. T3’s speed, maneuverability, and network-centric capabilities would significantly improve U.S. aircraft survivability and increase the number and variety of targets that could be destroyed on each sortie.”
Oddly, T3 sounds very similar to an ongoing Air Force Research Laboratory project – and seems to confirm a trend toward multi-guidance, multi-role smart weapons. But can the USAF develop and field its desired Next Generation Missile from among these development programs? Seems not.
We welcome the Department’s better performance in controlling project-level cost increases, but remain concerned that total costs of the top 15 projects continue to rise for other reasons each year. Projects approved since 2002 have shown significantly lower overall cost growth than those approved before this date and since 2008 there has been no overall cost increase from project-specific technical issues. However, in 2010-11 the forecast costs to complete the 15 largest defence projects still increased by £466 million overall [DID: about $735M], and the Department continues to struggle to live within its means.
A note on variables that a Department cannot control: macro-economic factors such as exchange rate changes accounted for 38% of the 2010-2011 increase. Meanwhile the National Audit Office (NAO) reviewed the way the Ministry of Defence is handling reductions in the size of its workforce.
In response to the growing threats to US military and civilian networks, the Pentagon has unveiling its first formal cyber strategy.
This follows a series of events over the last few years that have escalated cyber attacks against networks and infrastructure to warlike events. For example, an unidentified foreign national penetrated the internal networks of the Department of Defense (DoD) with an infected thumbdrive in 2008. In 2009, a virus known as Stuxnet, suspected of being the product of Israeli-US government collaboration, shutdown an Iranian nuclear power plant. And in 2011, defense contractor Lockheed Martin suffered a major cyber attack that was suspected of being carried out by the Chinese government.
While the Pentagon has struggled to combat these threats, it has also had to fight some within its own ranks, as well as other agencies, for authority in cyberspace. This article focuses on the growing cyber threat to US military and civilian infrastructure and the efforts being made by the Pentagon to deal with these threats.
It’s 2020. A US soldier sits down with a village sheikh, with an unusual robot in tow. The sheikh greets him courteously, respectfully, in flowing Arabic. At the appropriate time, the robot offers the same speech in English. The soldier nods, speaks, and gives a command, whereupon the robot offers dependable translation that’s even customized to the local dialect. Offshore, an intelligence analyst sorts through a combination of intercepted emails, recorded cell phone conversations, and document archives, looking for patterns and connections. She’s not fluent in Arabic, but the same technology used by the soldier is providing usable translations for her searches – asking her questions as needed, and helped by embedded clarifications and tags.
Thanks to a 2003 DARPA program, The world got to know Siri, the show-stealing component of Apple’s iPhone 4S. DARPA’s 2011 BOLT program aims to take the next step, from a silicon intermediary between man and machine to an intermediary between people. Even as it also provides a powerful back-end translation system for traditional intelligence tasks. It’s one of a family of ongoing translation research efforts, all aiming to solve a persistent and expensive problem for the US military.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Tactical Technology Office has 3 major focus areas. Advanced Platforms does a lot of work in robotics, from load carriers that walk like a dog (LS3) to UAVs designed to stay up for months (Vulture). They also do work in areas like hypersonic vehicles, however, and helicopter rotors that work better by changing their shape. Advanced Space Systems deals with programs like MOIRE flat-lens surveillance, and F6 fractional/clustered satellites. Advanced Weapons Systems covers projects like the naval LRASM missile, the Triple Target Terminator missile for fighters, or guided small-caliber sniper rounds (EXACTO).
In October 2011, US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) Atlantic in Charleston, SC issued a multiple-award contract for FY 2012, whose options could drive it to $150 million, and extend work through FY 2014.
In September 2011, the RN Armor Vax international consortium in Orlando, FL received a $17.3 million technology investment agreement from US DARPA. Their research and development program is designed to “identify, investigate, and develop candidate RNA vaccines against infectious disease.” Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (19.59%); Lyon, France (11.93%); Tubingen, Germany (56.62%); and Nantes, France (11.86%). The work is expected to be completed by September 2015. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency manages the contract (HR0011-11-3-0001).
RNA is very useful for synthesizing proteins. This has led to research into ways of using it as a trigger, so that cells synthesize very specific proteins that will kill tumor cells, trigger correct immune responses, or perform other related functions. Dendritic immune cells, for instance, which stimulate the production of defensive killer T-cells, are a useful vector for RNA codes that direct the production of specific proteins. Another interesting function is RNA-enhanced vaccines using “silencing RNA,” which shuts down specific proteins in the cells that process a vaccine. That lets the vaccine offer more of an antibody response, which is very useful for parasitic infections, or create more of a cellular-kill response for viral infections.
Aug 30/11: The President and Fellows of Harvard College in Cambridge, MA receive a $6.7 million cost reimbursement contract for research to develop technologies and approaches to predict natural viral evolution. We’d all benefit from that, but we’re still likely to be surprised by what actually happens.
Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA (39%); Laurel, MD (37%); Baltimore, MD (9%); Ann Arbor, MI (9%); and Pittsburgh, PA (5%). Work is expected to be completed by Aug 31/12. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) manages the contract (HR0011-11-C-0093).
At a time when defense budgets are being cut, the era of the multi-billion dollar military satellite program might be over. Witness the fate of the massive $12 billion TSAT program, which was shut down in 2009. As a much cheaper alternative, governments are exploring the possibility of using microsatellites to perform many of the functions currently performed by expensive large satellite systems: GPS navigation, communication, surveillance, and earth imagery.
At a 10th of the cost of their larger cousins, microsatellites are much easier sell to budget conscious procurement officers. They are much cheaper and faster to build and launch. For key military missions, however, their reliability and longevity are an issue. They might be cheaper, but if the military has to use 10 times as many to do the job of traditional satellites, would that be a cost savings?
This DID Spotlight article will focus on the US military’s microsatellite development and launch programs, as well as the Army’s development of nanosatellites for battlefield communication, and take a brief look at the problem of space debris.