TopSat is a low cost, high capability micro-satellite designed and built by a QinetiQ-led consortium of British companies. After some initial launch delays, it was successfully launched on October 27, 2005 from the Plesetsk launch site in Northern Russia, along with micro-satellites from China, Iran, and Russia. The launch was the culmination of a project that began in 2000 and was jointly funded by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the UK Ministry of Defence.
TopSat is attracting increasing interest from international government and commercial interests because it’s designed to provide 2.5 meter resolution imagery at about 20% of the cost of larger satellites with similar capabilities. It is part of Britain’s larger Micro Satellite Applications in Collaboration (MOSAIC) program.
DID recently covered a major defence-related report from the transatlantic CSIS think-tank, and EDA head Nick Whitney’s response to that report helps underline the overall thrust of his agency’s efforts. As he noted, in the midst of a generally positive reaction to CSIS’ document:
The 155mm/39-cal Singapore Light Weight Howitzer (SLWH) Pegasus was commissioned by Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean on Oct 28, 2005 [fact sheet | video]. Its combination of 155mm firepower, powered mobility, and single-helicopter portability makes it an unusual offering on the global stage. Weighing 5.4 tons, the Pegasus offers better range and firepower than the aging 60 Giat 105mm LG1 towed light howitzers it will replace. During operations, the Pegasus will provide long-range, maneuverable fire support to the Army’s heliborne forces.
Singaporean defense industry is known for its hand-in-glove work with the Singaporean government, smart diversification of its industrial base, and innovative combinations of new and tested technologies to produce very fine equipment that precisely meets Singapore’s needs. The Pegasus is another example of these trends, and its performance characteristics are indeed well suited to its mission.
COTS Journal reports that Boeing has selected the Aonix PERC Java J2SE-based, real-time embedded Virtual Machine (VM) for the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems’ (J-UCAS) X-45C program.
The multi-billion dollar J-UCAS program is a joint Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), U.S. Air Force and Navy effort to create UAVs deployable from land bases or aircraft carriers, with stealth characteristics and a range and weapons load that approaches current manned fighters. Both Boeing (X-45C) and Northrop-Grumman (X-47B Pegasus) are submitting and testing designs, but all J-UCAS platforms will employ a Common Operating System (COS) integrating the system components. As DARPA notes:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is now home to two of the most powerful computers on the planet: the ASC Purple supercomputer, and the Blue Gene/L. After three years in development and time running scaled-down versions of these systems, the supercomputers have come fully online over the past few months and were recently dedicated in a ceremony at the nuclear research facility. The computers are under the management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Advance Simulation and Computing (ASC) program office, which oversees computing in U.S. national laboratories.
ComputerWorld reports that Blue Gene/L, which has more than 130,000 processors and a theoretical peak capacity of 367 trillion floating point operations per second (TFLOPS), is being used to study the movement and behavior of molecules. Each processor in Blue Gene has more computing power than a 1988 Cray supercomputer, and the system’s actual performance is expected to be 270-280 TFLOPS, beating out an earlier 136.8 TFLOP earlier version of Blue Gene/L that was ranked as the world’s #1 supercomputer in June 2004. The machines are now being marketed more generally by IBM, at a starting price of $1.5 million for a 5.7 TFLOP eServer Blue Gene. The 12,000-processor ASC Purple, meanwhile, is intended for nuclear weapon simulations. It has a theoretical peak capacity of 93 TFLOPS, which is about 50% greater than NASA/SGI’s Columbia (the No. 3-ranked supercomputer in the last Top 500 survey). ComputerWorld has more.
Future turf battles between the US Director of National Intelligence bureaucratic layer and the US Department of Defense, which has seen its intelligence functions broaden during the War on Terror, seem likely. Given that fact, and the linkage between the key industrial partners for the intelligence and defense industries, it’s worthwhile to pay attention to intelligence-related developments.
A recent DefenseLINK article described “The National Intelligence Strategy of the United States of America: Transformation through Integration and Innovation” [PDF format] as “the blueprint for improving the intelligence community’s information gathering and assessment capabilities for the 21st century.” In the document itself, the new DNI John Negroponte says: “A strategy is a statement of fundamental values, highest priorities, and action toward the future, but it is an action document as well.” Actually, that isn’t what a strategy is. Nor is it what one will find in this document.
General Electric Co. Aircraft Engines Business Group in Lynn, MA received a $6.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-99-C-1175) for the purchase of two F404-GE-402 engines for the government of Switzerland under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The F404 is a widely-used jet engine, equipping the F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter, JAS-39 Gripen 4th generation lightweight fighter, India’s Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer & light attack aircraft, Singapore’s upgraded (and soon to be retired) A-4SU Super Skyhawk attack aircraft, and the X-45 J-UCAS attack UAV, as well as models A-D of the F/A-18 Hornet fighter flown by Switzerland et. al.
Work will be performed in Lynn, MA and work is expected to be complete in December 2005. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Despite coverage of events like the installation of wind power at Guantanamo Bay, most people don’t automatically associate the US Navy with energy conservation. Yet the US Navy scores well above federal agencies in its research and application of new energy technologies, winning 40% and 37.5% of the prestigious Presidential and Federal Energy Management Program awards in 2005. Last year, the Department of the Navy even became the first U.S. government agency honored with a Industry Leadership Award at the 2004 Platts Global Energy Awards.
Alternative energy companies looking to find traction with government clients may wish to take that interest level into consideration. This DoD release details a number of alternative energy projects the US Navy has undertaken over the past year.
Computer Sciences Corp. is America’s third-largest IT outsourcing company, with billions of dollars in defense-related contracts. InformationWeek reports that sources close to New York City-based Blackstone Group list the firm among possible buyers, while the Wall Street Journal has reported that Warburg Pincus, Texas Pacific Group and Lockheed Martin also are looking at CSC.
Still, any buyer is likely to face heavy scrutiny from both the Pentagon and private industry, from security checks on key investors to contract cancellation threats and close attention to debt rating changes. InformationWeek has more.
DID has covered the Aerospace Industries Association’s recent report showing the US aerospace industry’s global trade surplus, and testimony re: defense procurement improvvements. AIA also notes that the average American aerospace employee is in his or her 50s, far older than the levels that prevail in other high-technology sectors. Fully 27% of aerospace workers will become eligible for retirement by 2008.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an AIA-supported bill to create a federal inter-agency task force on aerospace workforce revitalization, which charges 11 executive branch agencies, including NASA and the Defense and Homeland Security departments, to identify new aerospace workforce opportunities through a variety of scholarship, training, and recruitment programs in partnership with the private sector and state governments.