At present, many soldiers don’t have communications radios because the hardware is too expensive. Buying 2-way radios from Radio Shack before deployments solved that problem for some soldiers, but insecure communications created others. On the high end, the US military’s JTRS program is expected to create radios that are much better at working together, and much easier to upgrade. As one might expect, however, the hardware appears to be on track to be more expensive, in return for that improved performance.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Wireless Network after Next (WNaN) program aims to shift the approach used to design these military wireless networks. It also intends to use inexpensive, high-volume, commercial off the shelf hardware components. They would be combined with adaptive wireless network software operating over densely-deployed, low-cost wireless nodes, with the aim of putting a reliable communications radio into the hands of every soldier. How could that work?
The UK’s Chief of the General Staff warns that the British Army faces “serious decline” if the government does not fulfill its pledge to increase defense spending after the 2015 general election. Speaking at at the Royal United Services Institute’s Land Warfare Conference General Sir Peter Wall said spending on the army would “require a real-terms growth in the latter part of the decade” in order to avoid such a decline.
The Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation says Russia and the United States will set up a maintenance center for Afghanistan’s Mil Mi-17 helicopters.
Skydex Technologies signs multiple contracts with the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to provide its blast mitigating Convoy Deck product for about 1,000 M-ATV vehicles.
DARPA’s crowd-sourced design crusade comes to the aircraft industry in the shape of a fly-off competition. UAVForge has been launched to demonstrate crowd-sourced design of small, persistent perch-and-stare unmanned aircraft.
DARPA’s TRITON program plans to demonstrate duplex connectivity at submarine keel depths significantly greater than what has been demonstrated in the green, achieving area coverage and bit rates that satisfy existing Navy requirements. On Sept 24/10, QinetiQ North America Operations, LLC received a $31.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Phase 1 of the TRITON/ Tactical Relay Information Network program. Work will be performed in Waltham, MA (43%); Ypsilanti, MI (7%); Herndon, VA (30%); La Jolla, CA (1%); Anaheim, CA (18%); Redondo Beach, CA (1%); and Los Angeles, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete by November 2011.
Phase 2 contract for Boeing/ QinetiQ’s SolarEagle. (Sept 15/10)
In April 2008, 3 teams received Phase 1 contracts to begin developing develop a radical new aircraft, under a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program known as “Vulture.” DARPA’s goals for Vulture are not trivial: 5 years on station with a 450kg/ 1,000lb payload, 5kW of onboard power, and sufficient loiter speed to stay on station for 99% of the time against winds encountered at 60,000-90,000 feet.
So, what is the significance of a platform like that, who is competing, and what is happening now? Well, Phase 1 is done, and Phase 2 has been awarded.
The proliferation of UAVs and fighters equipped with stabilized, high-magnification video pods and imaging radars has a number of corollary consequences. Bandwidth has become a key battlefield constraint. Specialized reconnaissance fighter aircraft are a dead concept. And some poor analyst has to sift through the video tsunami at the other end, in order to find items of interest.
The USA is using a number of approaches to help deal with the flood, and one unconventional approach involves a DARPA project called VIRAT (Video Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool). It doesn’t recognize faces, perform before/after analysis, or rely on rewinds. Instead, it aims to distinguish certain types of behaviors, so it can provide alerts to intelligence operatives or ground forces during live operations.
Inmarsat Navigation Ventures, Ltd. in London, England recently received an $18 million firm-fixed-price demonstration contract to develop and certify a transceiver terminal for their 3-satellite I-4 constellation’s Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service. The terminals must be capable of operation from on-board low Earth orbit satellites, and the BGAN network will require modifications to support space-based terminal equipment. Under the contract, Immarsat will support the integration of the space-based BGAN terminal with a government demonstration satellite, and support the on-orbit connectivity via the BGAN network for the demonstration satellite mission.
Work is to be performed in London, England (20.60%); Golden, CO (64.76%); Aylesbury, England (11%); Norresundby, Denmark (2.15%); and Ontario, Canada (1.49%), with an estimated completion date of Sept 13/15. One bid was solicited with one bid received by DARPA in Arlington, VA (HR0011-10-C-0149).
Inmarsat currently operates a fleet of 11 satellites, and their customers include governments and the military. In November 2009 they bought managed secureIP provider Segovia, whose clients include the US military. The I-4 constellation is based on EADS Astrium’s Eurostar E3000 bus, but in August 2010, Immarsat announced a $1.2 billion contract with Boeing for 3 702HP-based satellites, in order to field a more advanced I-5 constellation delivering up to 6.25MB/s (50 megabits) each.
GE, United Technologies win Phase II contracts. (July 6/10)
It might not be a Vulcan mind-meld, but it’s pretty close. The Department of Defense’s technology brain trust, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has given 4 contractors the go-ahead to develop the advanced Vulcan combination engine system for hypersonic flight.
The Vulcan engine will integrate a traditional jet turbine engine that performs well at low speeds, with a constant volume combustion (CVC) engine that performs well at higher speeds. The combination will help the vehicles go from standing starts to Mach 4 or so, where hypersonic engines can take over. DARPA’s ultimate goal is to design, build, and fly Mach 6+ re-usable, air-breathing, turbine-based hypersonic vehicles.
What current engines will the Vulcan program modify? What are the program’s goals? What is its structure? DID has answers…
Satellites are currently big, expensive to build and launch, vulnerable, impossible in practice to upgrade on-orbit, difficult to replace – and critical to military effectiveness. That’s a really bad combination. Now add program risk and cost inflation driven by those issues, as the military tries to launch the most advanced technologies it can, in a uniquely ‘no fail’ environment.
DARPA’s System F6 program aims at nothing less than a revolution in satellite technology, aimed at removing those constraints. If successful, it will develop and demonstrate the basic building blocks of a totally new space architecture, in which traditional integrated satellites are replaced by clusters of smaller, cheaper, wirelessly-interconnected space modules that form a “virtual” satellite.
The US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is working with the US Air Force Research Lab and Northrop Grumman to develop a web-based system to autonomously control manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.
Getting real-time information in an urban firefight can mean the difference between life and death, success and failure. The Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team (HART) program is developing IT capabilities to feed ISR aircraft data directly to the soldiers in the field.
On Feb 17/10, Northrop Grumman received a $46.2 million contract under the HART program to develop technologies enabling command and control of unmanned aircraft for the conduct of urban operations.