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October 16, 2018 | International, Aerospace

GE and ATEC Vying for U.S. Army Helicopter Engine Program

General Electric [GE] and Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC) touted the capabilities of their respective engines in the quest by the U.S. Army to find new engines for the AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk fleets under the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP).ATEC...

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  • Raytheon Unveils Platoon-Sized Infantry Combat Simulator

    December 4, 2019 | International, Land

    Raytheon Unveils Platoon-Sized Infantry Combat Simulator

    By Matthew Cox Defense contractor Raytheon has just unveiled a new virtual training simulator designed to immerse full platoons of soldiers at a time into realistic battlefield settings, where they can shoot enemy targets with individual weapons and even call in close-air support. Raytheon began showing off its new Synthetic Training Environment Soldier Virtual Trainer at the Interservice/ Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando, Florida this week. The prototype system is Raytheon's attempt to satisfy the U.S. Army's need to create a synthetic training environment that dramatically increases the level of realism in training. "They need a way to get soldiers into the same virtual environments that they have had for tanks and helicopters for decades," Harry Buhl, lead investigator for synthetic training at Raytheon, told "When you do that in an immersive, synthetic environment, you can go beyond the [live-fire] range -- you can put people soldiers into urban scenarios or into combat-type scenarios ... so you can stress them at a higher level and gain higher levels of proficiency." The Army recently told industry officials that it will begin seeking prototype solutions early next year designed to develop similar types of simulator training technologies. "We intend to compete for that opportunity," Buhl said. Currently, Raytheon is demonstrating its new soldier virtual trainer to simulate an observation post for two soldiers. But it can be configured for much larger units, Buhl said. "We can support up to a platoon ... that is something that the Army hasn't asked for. But the technology path that we have chosen allows us to actually do this for a platoon-sized unit over a large area. So we have the capability to do squad training or situational training exercises which we believe will be the next step as the Army goes down this path," Buhl said. The new trainer uses very high-quality graphics, similar to high-end games and relies on virtual-reality headsets and instrumented weapons, he said. "You can pick up a weapon, and the weapon is in that virtual environment," Buhl said. "When you put your cheek to the stock of that weapon, you have that same sight [picture] as you would in real life, but you are in a virtual environment." The trainer relies on commercially available tracking sensors, roughly two-inch cubes, that are spread out across any area, Buhl said. "The software package that we put behind them will link them together and make them smart enough to understand where you are in the environment so that you can be realistically replicated in the synthetic environment," Buhl said. "As you ... take a knee, go to the prone, you are doing the same things in that synthetic environment. "If you were training on a basketball court, you could put these things up in the rafters of the basketball court and just leave them there." Eventually, the sensor technology will be built into the headsets, so there will be no need for tracking sensors, Buhl added. One of the features the Army is looking for is the ability for soldiers to train for calling in artillery or close-air support, Buhl said, describing how Raytheon's simulator shows realistic training distances. "You are ... on a hilltop looking down the valley, you've got some threat vehicles few miles away," he said. "You have [Air Force] A-10s circling overhead; they come down and you control them and call in their attack, so that you can apply close-air support directly on those targets." The simulator also allows soldiers to engage enemy targets with individual weapons at realistic ranges, another feature on the Army's wish list, Buhl said. If soldiers are using a rifle with an effective range out to 500 meters "you can engage targets out to 500 meters," he said. The trainer will also allow units to train for scenarios involving checkpoints that could call for the need to escalate from using non-lethal devices to lethal force, Buhl said. The Army is now developing the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), a Microsoft-based headset that uses augmented reality to equip soldiers with a heads-up display allowing them to sight their weapon and view key tactical data. Scheduled to be ready for fielding in fiscal 2021, IVAS will also allow soldiers to train in synthetic training scenarios such as mission rehearsals before going on a live operation. Buhl said Raytheon used virtual-reality headsets because it "provides an immediate capability" the Army could take advantage of, but the system will be adaptable to work with augmented-reality headsets used with IVAS. "All of this is ... able to be packed up in a Pelican case and taken anywhere in the world," Buhl said. "It's also cloud-enabled, so if you did want to link into a networked training exercise with soldiers in another location, with tanks or helicopters that are in synthetic simulators, you could do all of that."

  • The coronavirus threatens NATO. Let’s move to protect the alliance.

    April 14, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    The coronavirus threatens NATO. Let’s move to protect the alliance.

    By: Sophia Becker , Christian Mölling , and Torben Schütz The global fight against COVID-19 has devastating economic consequences which might soon be felt in the defense sector. First estimates by OECD and national institutions conclude that the initial economic impact of the measures to fight the virus will by far exceed that of the 2008 financial crisis. The severe socio-economic consequences may tempt European governments to prioritize immediate economic relief over long-term strategic security and defense considerations. The good news is: there is no automatism – it remains fundamentally a political decision. If European governments do decide to slash defense spending as a result of the current crisis, it would be the second major hit within a decade. Defense budgets have only just begun to recover towards pre-2008 crisis levels, though capabilities have not. Nationally, as well as on an EU and NATO level, significant gaps still exist. European armies have lost roughly one-third of their capabilities over the last two decades. At the same time, the threat environment has intensified with an openly hostile Russia and a rising China. With European defense budgets under pressure, the United States might see any effort to balance burden-sharing among allies fall apart. A militarily weak Europe would be no help against competitors either. The US should work with allies now to maintain NATO's capabilities. Improve coordination to avoid past mistakes Europe's cardinal mistake from the last crisis was uncoordinated national defense cuts instead of harmonized European decisions. In light of the looming budget crisis, governments could be tempted to react the same way. This would be the second round of cuts within a decade, leaving not many capabilities to pool within NATO. If domestic priorities trump considerations about procurement of equipment for the maintenance and generation of military capabilities the system-wide repercussions would be severe. NATO defense, as well as the tightly knit industrial network in Europe, will suffer. Capabilities that can only be generated or sustained multinationally – like effective air defense, strategic air transport or naval strike groups - could become even more fragile; some critical ones may even disappear. If Europeans cut back on capabilities like anti-submarine warfare, armored vehicles of all sorts and mine-warfare equipment again, they could endanger the military capacity of nearly all allies. Ten years ago, such capabilities for large-scale and conventional warfare seemed rather superfluous, but today NATO needs them more than ever. This outcome should be avoided at all costs, because rebuilding those critical forces would be a considerable resource investment and could take years. Europe would become an even less effective military actor and partner to the US, resulting in more discord about burden-sharing. Uncoordinated cuts would also affect the defense industry, as development and procurement programs would be delayed or cancelled altogether – hitting both European and American companies. Moreover, their ability to increase efficiency through transnational mergers and acquisitions and economies of scale is limited due to continued national sentiments in Europe. Companies might decide to either aggressively internationalize, including massive increase of defense exports, or leave the market as national armed forces as otherwise reliable clients drop out. Technological innovation would suffer from a shrinking defense industrial ecosystem and duplicated national research and development efforts, risking the foundation of security for the next generation of defense solutions. To safeguard NATO's strategic autonomy, lean on lead nations In order to prevent the loss of critical capabilities and infrastructure within NATO, the US should immediately start working with its European partners to preemptively plan for increasingly tight budgets. NATO should take stock of existing capabilities and offer alternatives for consolidation. Based on a coordinated effort to redefine NATO's level of ambition and priorities, it should offer plans for maintaining the military capacity to act while retiring unnecessary and outdated resources. Such a coordinated effort should include close cooperation with the European Union. Building on the NATO Framework Nations Concept, the United States should work with a network of larger member states, better equipped to weather the economic shock of the current crisis, to act as lead nations. These countries could safeguard critical defense capabilities and provide a foundation of essential forces, enabling smaller partners to attach their specialized capabilities. Such an arrangement allows for a comparatively good balance of financial strain and retention of military capacity. Additionally, NATO should look beyond the conventional military domain and build on lessons learned from hybrid warfare and foreign influence operations against Europe. The way ahead is clear: As ambitions for European strategic autonomy become wishful thinking in light of the current crisis, allies should focus on retaining NATO's strategic autonomy as a whole. For the foreseeable future, both sides of the Atlantic have to live by one motto: NATO first! The authors are analysts at the Berlin-based German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

  • U.S. Defense Industry Could Change In Blink Of An Eye

    November 29, 2021 | International, Aerospace, C4ISR

    U.S. Defense Industry Could Change In Blink Of An Eye

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