The Missile Defense Agency is reportedly revamping the Airborne Laser (ABL) concept it ditched in 2012. The newly-designed concept will see the laser – designed to intercept ballistic missiles – equipping a long-range UAV. The head of Boeing’s Phantom Works stated in May that he wants to put solid-state lasers onto the company’s Phantom Eye high-altitude UAV; the MDA has used the developmental drone before, including reportedly carrying laser payloads. The MDA is planning to test various technologies over the next three to four years, with a view to select and develop the most promising of these.
The next generation Air Force bomber, the Long-Range Strike Bomber, is likely to run over budget. A cost estimate for the program rose from $33.1 billion to $58.4 billion over a ten-year period, with the Air Force now revising this figure down to $41.7 billion. The thirty-year program could see the awarding of a prime contract to either Northrop Grumman or a Boeing/Lockheed Martin team, with the timetabled August deadline pushed back to later this year, likely September or October.
Despite the Air Force voicing plans last week to reduce the number of UAV combat flight operations to 60 by October, the Pentagon has announced its intention to increase overall US military UAV flights to 90 by 2019. The extra flights will reportedly be taken up by the Army, Special Operations Command and contractors operating unarmed aircraft. The Air Force dropped down from 65 flights to 60 in April, with FY2014’s 65 flights an all-time high for the Air Force.
The mistake earlier this month involving the accidental insertion of chemicals into the fuel system of the KC-46A tanker has officially delayed the aircraft’s first flight by a month. The tanker will now see its first flight in late-September or early October, with the program’s original timetable calling for this flight to have taken place last year, with this pushed back to April and then again to late August, before this latest setback.
The H-1 helicopter fleet of both the Navy and Pakistan will receive a boost through a $85.5 million contract to develop weapons systems for the aircraft as part of its system configuration set (SCS). The SCS intends to create prototypes for emerging operational requirements, with the majority of this contract covering acquisitions for the US Navy, with the contract set to run to 2020.
After much speculation, Russia may finally supply Iran with S-300 air defense systems, after Putin signed a decree in April paving the way for export of the system. Manufactured by sanctions-hit Almaz Antey, the S-300 was nearly sold to the country in 2010, with that deal scrapped in the face of pressure from Israel and the US. The Iranians are reported to be acquiring four S-300 battalions, with the first contract – expected next week – to cover the initial delivery of four systems.
Russia is building two new nuclear early warning radar systems in the north of the country, with these scheduled to come online in 2017 [Russian]. The radar will cover the Arctic region, Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Other Voronezh-M systems are in operation in the south of the country, with four coming online last year. These new radars are intended to form part of a comprehensive early warning system due to come online by 2020.
India has cleared sixteen broadly-defined categories of defense equipment for export, including warships, armored vehicles and electronic warfare equipment. These include the Akash missile, Tejas light combat aircraft and Nishant UAV. The clearance brings India’s defense industry in line with international arms trade regulations, with the Indian government easing restrictions in July on private companies looking to export abroad, reducing the requirements for end-user licenses. India has been looking to join several international arms control regulatory regimes, with Sweden endorsing the country’s membership to the Missile Technology Control Regime in June.
A Chinese company has been accused of selling counterfeit Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems, using a design taken from Israel’s Elta Systems. NAV Technology Company is believed to be selling a version of Elta Systems’ EL/M-2052 system, an airborne fire control radar capable of tracking dozens of targets simultaneously. The company also offers other products thought to be taken from US designs, including a copy of the GBU-39 precision munition.
The Indian Army is planning to test fire an Agni-IV surface-to-surface, nuclear-capable missile later this month. The planned test will be the Indian Army’s second user trial, following a previous test fire by the Army in December 2014. The missile was previously tested in early 2014, the missile’s third test. Manufactured by the government’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Agni-IV is thought to have a range of approximately 4,000km.
On Sept 30/08, “The USA’s National Cybersecurity Initiative” focused on the belated but growing reaction to recent uses of cyber-attacks as an adjunct to warfare, and by the growing rate of attempted intrusions into American systems from countries like China. “Secure Semiconductors: Sensible, or Sisiphyean?” discussed the growing realization within the US military that massive use of commercial electronics, coupled with the complexity of modern chip designs, made it very difficult to be sure that “backdoors” and other security flaws weren’t being inserted into high-end American defense equipment. It’s a difficult conundrum, because commercial chips offer orders of magnitude improvements in cost and performance. Hence DARPA’s “Trust in IC” program, which hopes to crack the problem and offer the best of both worlds.
On Oct 2/08, Business Week’s in-depth article “Dangerous Fakes” claimed that a key component of the silicon security threat might be even simpler:
“The American military faces a growing threat of potentially fatal equipment failure – and even foreign espionage – because of counterfeit computer components used in warplanes, ships, and communication networks. Fake microchips flow from unruly bazaars in rural China to dubious kitchen-table brokers in the U.S. and into complex weapons. Senior Pentagon officials publicly play down the danger, but government documents, as well as interviews with insiders, suggest possible connections between phony parts and breakdowns… Potentially more alarming than either of the two aircraft episodes are hundreds of counterfeit routers made in China and sold to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines over the past four years. These fakes could facilitate foreign espionage, as well as cause accidents. The U.S. Justice Dept. is prosecuting the operators of an electronics distributor in Texas – and last year obtained guilty pleas from the proprietors of a company in Washington State – for allegedly selling the military dozens of falsely labeled routers… Referring to the seizure of more than 400 fake routers so far, Melissa E. Hathaway, head of cyber security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says: “Counterfeit products have been linked to the crash of mission-critical networks, and may also contain hidden ‘back doors’ enabling network security to be bypassed and sensitive data accessed…”
August 19/15: A Chinese company has been accused of selling counterfeit Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems, using a design taken from Israel’s Elta Systems. NAV Technology Company is believed to be selling a version of Elta Systems’ EL/M-2052 system, an airborne fire control radar capable of tracking dozens of targets simultaneously. The company also offers other products thought to be taken from US designs, including a copy of the GBU-39 precision munition.