The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the 6 sites selected for UAS research: University of Alaska, State of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Tech. Nevada is also one of 3 states where self-driving cars can be licensed.
We missed the Pentagon’s updated long term unmanned system roadmap last week, so here it is [PDF]. After a drop to $4.1B in total UAS funding in FY14, budgets are planned to rebound to the $4.7B-$5.3B/year range over the following 4 years.
Oskar Levander from Rolls Royce thinks it’s time to have a debate about remote-controlled ships.
Today’s video reviews the state of self-driving cars:
From USNI, a quick wrap-up of this year’s US Navy acquisition developments.
Battle management systems are designed to cut through the “fog of war” by tracking unit location and passing data, so friendly units and command centers can keep track of what’s going on. These BMS systems-of-systems change the kinds of operations commanders can plan and execute, and also reduce the risk of friendly fire.
The US Army’s FBCB2 system is colloquially known as “Blue Force Tracker,” after the component that shows the location of all friendly forces and identified enemies on a digital map, and allows the exchange of messages and data. Allied armies without such systems find it difficult to work with the Americans, and Australia’s DoD has faced criticism over this gap. That began to change in March 2010, when Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd. won a major contract for Australia’s LAND 75 Phase 3.4 (Battle Management System) and LAND 125 Soldier Combat System Phase 3 programs…
In February 2010 Defense News reported that Saudi Arabia’s fleet of Tornado low-level, medium-range strike fighters would soon be receiving a pair of significant enhancements: MBDA’s stealthy Storm Shadow medium range cruise missiles, and the MBDA/Boeing Brimstone anti-armor missile. The Storm Shadow would give the Saudis a potent long range strike capability against even heavily-defended targets, while the Brimstone missiles will allow Saudi fast jets to serve in an assault-breaker role, or offer reliable close air support for ground forces.
These developments were actually Phase 2 of an ongoing effort to keep the RSAF’s Tornado strike fleet relevant until at least 2020, under BAE Systems’ Saudi Tornado Sustainment Programme (TSP).
More than 8,000 Iraqis died in 2013 as the al-Qaeda-related Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) launched hundreds of attacks over the year. The US is delivering Hellfire missiles and Scaneagle UAVs as the State Department condemned these attacks.
The Japanese cabinet had barely approved its FY 2014 budget that China’s official media was already noting that Japan’s defense spending is set to grow by 2.8% to 4.88 trillion yen (about $46.8B). Guess why that is? For reference, here is the FY14 budget request [PDF] submitted by the Ministry of Defense in August, and a national security strategy [PDF] released a week ago (of course China objects to that document as well).
The state-owned Voice of America decries the rising use of sophisticated European dual-use technology making it into Chinese weapon systems, including diesel engines that can be used in submarines.
The US is reportedly furious at Israel military equipment transfers to China. The latest case involved micro-refrigeration systems from Ricor which also have civilian uses, alongside obvious military applications. As the USA gets weaker internationally, it’s going to have more and more trouble with this.
DARPA’s 2013 Robotic Challenge trials started today. Here’s a live video feed explaining the obstacles the robots have to overcome, from climbing a ladder to cutting a shaping into a wall and more:
12 Years of DoD Contract Spending
The CSIS think tank’s latest report charts DoD contract obligations since 2000. Among trends of note, the US Air Force is steadily competing less and less of its business, from about 40% of contract obligations awarded in 2000 without competition, to more than 60% last year. They will probably argue that their contract mix is more technological and proprietary in nature than the commodities bought by DLA, which competes more than 80% of its contract obligations.
The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies released a report [PDF] making recommendations to rebalance security concerns with privacy and civil liberties, though they point out that some core principles should not be up for negotiation. They’d like communication metadata storage not to be done by the government but rather to remain private until official access to it is justified. Interestingly, they recommend privacy protections to be applied to non-US citizens too. But their advice not to have a single individual head both the NSA and USCYBERCOM had already been rejected before their report had even been made public.
“Defense experts use a simple formula to represent the severity of threats to national security: capabilities multiplied by intentions. The world has been watching China’s military buildup with growing concern while hoping that Beijing’s intentions remain peaceful. Unfortunately, this is not proving to be the case.”
CNA conducted a joint workshop [PDF] on maritime security issues in East Asia with the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) Study Group from Yonsei University in Seoul. They advocate the development of regional dispute resolution mechanisms. But in the South China Sea the Chinese have clearly adopted a “divide and conquer” approach by insisting on bilateral discussions rather than multilateral ones. They were easier to work with in the settlement of their land borders in Central Asia.
Some good news: China’s chokehold on rare earths supplies, which used to worry the Pentagon, has been loosened by market dynamics. There are still gaps in the non-Chinese supply though.