The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High satellite program aims to replace the current fleet of DSP satellites for early detection of ballistic missile launches. Lockheed Martin has delivered the sensors for the classified satellites, and the payload for the first dedicated satellite is in thermal vacuum testing (UPDATE: completed successfully Jan 18, 2006). Even so, the Lockheed program has had more than its share of difficulties. Its costs grew from $4 billion to $11-12 billion, and the launch date slipped from 2002 to 2009, but SBIRS has thus far been viewed as a problem program with no alternative.
That status may be changing. First of all, the existing DSP satellites are lasting longer than expected. In addition, C4ISR Journal reports that SBIRS is being scaled back from at least 5 to no more than 3 satellites (and possibly 2), due to technical difficulties that have proven “intractable.” They also note that the U.S. Air Force will seek Congressional approval next year to begin work on a new space-based Overhead Non-Imaging Infrared (ONIR) missile-warning satellite system instead. The ONIR competition will take advantage of more up to date sensor and software technologies, but will not be as ambitious as SBIRS in terms of performance requirements. It will also dump the ADA programming language that is the basis of SBIRS current software, in favor of more modern programming languages.
Read C4ISR’s article “Pentagon Scales Back SBIRS Program” for more details regarding SBIRS, the near-term design compromise that the USAF still rejects, and the blow that Undersecretary Krieg’s Dec 12/05 memo represents to Lockheed.
New firm PixelOptics of Roanoke, VA has announced that it will receive $3.5 million from the Defense Department to develop “SuperVision,” a technology that may improve the vision of US soldiers beyond 20/20 via electro-active prescription lenses. The technology uses sensors and electro-active transparent material to alter the index of refraction of the lens dynamically, without any moving parts.
This provides a number of performance advantages, allowing the wearer to instantly achieve optimal vision no matter where they look (far, near, or in-between). In addition, lenses based on this technology show promise for significantly reducing momentary blurring caused by head tilt and movement, as well as distortion associated with conventional state of the art bifocals and progressive addition lenses.
So, how can these glasses provide vision that’s better than 20/20?
DID has quite a few readers in Australia’s defence department and related organizations. They’re looking for information, and DID’s readers may be able to help them out and share (cleared) knowledge with an ally – possibly helping their own companies in the process. Here’s the request:
“The Australian Department of Defence has recently initiated Phase 2 of Project LAND 146 – Combat Identification for Land Forces in response to an Australian Government priority to provide a combat identification (CID) capability for Australian Land forces… To gain a better understanding of the technology that will form the basis of this capability, the Defence Department is conducting a market technology survey in which technology suppliers and agents are asked to provide a range of technical, human systems integration, operational employment, logistics and cost information about Terminal Air Controller (TAC)-related products and technologies.”
They are looking for technologies that would serve to provide a general CID capability suitable for use in the following roles:
DID has covered remarks from National Defense Industrial Association President Lawrence P. Farrell Jr. re: acquisition issues and procurement reform, and the need to improve defense manufacturing. Now, he discusses the current US debt and deficit, the October 2005 “England memo,” the commitments inherent to the Global War on Terror, and the maintenance and repair overhang.
Cuts are almost certainly coming, he says, but they way in which cuts are made matters a great deal…
The Dutch Ministry of Defence notes that Finland has officially signed a contract for two complete field batteries of the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) from the Netherlands, in a sale valued at EUR 30M. They note that an MLRS field battery comprises nine rocket systems, each of which can fire twelve [M26, 227mm] tactical rockets with a range of 30 kilometres. Operational MLRS field batteries also tend to require heavy truck support vehicles with organic cranes, in order to handle rocket pack reloads.
The Dutch had retired these systems in 2004 to save money, and State Secretary Cees Van der Knaap noted that the Netherlands has sold EUR 1.2 billion worth of surplus military equipment since 2003. The release was translated by defense-aerospace.com.