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October 22, 2021 | International, Aerospace

Global Hawk Drones Repurposed for Hypersonic Missile Tests

Northrop Grumman will be repurposing four decommissioned RQ-4 Global Hawk drones into Range Hawk surveillance platforms.

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  • DARPA: Teaching AI Systems to Adapt to Dynamic Environments

    February 18, 2019 | International, C4ISR

    DARPA: Teaching AI Systems to Adapt to Dynamic Environments

    Current AI systems excel at tasks defined by rigid rules – such as mastering the board games Go and chess with proficiency surpassing world-class human players. However, AI systems aren’t very good at adapting to constantly changing conditions commonly faced by troops in the real world – from reacting to an adversary’s surprise actions, to fluctuating weather, to operating in unfamiliar terrain. For AI systems to effectively partner with humans across a spectrum of military applications, intelligent machines need to graduate from closed-world problem solving within confined boundaries to open-world challenges characterized by fluid and novel situations. To attempt this leap, DARPA today announced the Science of Artificial Intelligence and Learning for Open-world Novelty (SAIL-ON) program. SAIL-ON intends to research and develop the underlying scientific principles and general engineering techniques and algorithms needed to create AI systems that act appropriately and effectively in novel situations that occur in open worlds. The program’s goals are to develop scientific principles to quantify and characterize novelty in open-world domains, create AI systems that react to novelty in those domains, and to demonstrate and evaluate these systems in a selected DoD domain. A Proposers Day for interested proposers is scheduled for March 5, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia: “Imagine if the rules for chess were changed mid-game,” said Ted Senator, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “How would an AI system know if the board had become larger, or if the object of the game was no longer to checkmate your opponent’s king but to capture all his pawns? Or what if rooks could now move like bishops? Would the AI be able to figure out what had changed and be able to adapt to it?” Existing AI systems become ineffective and are unable to adapt when something significant and unexpected occurs. Unlike people, who recognize new experiences and adjust their behavior accordingly, machines continue to apply outmoded techniques until they are retrained. Given enough data, machines are able to do statistical reasoning well, such as classifying images for face-recognition, Senator said. Another example is DARPA’s AI push in self-driving cars in the early 2000s, which led to the current revolution in autonomous vehicles. Thanks to massive amounts of data that include rare-event experiences collected from tens of millions of autonomous miles, self-driving technology is coming into its own. But the available data is specific to generally well-defined environments with known rules of the road. “It wouldn’t be practical to try to generate a similar data set of millions of self-driving miles for military ground systems that travel off-road, in hostile environments and constantly face novel conditions with high stakes, let alone for autonomous military systems operating in the air and on sea,” Senator said. If successful, SAIL-ON would teach an AI system how to learn and react appropriately without needing to be retrained on a large data set. The program seeks to lay the technical foundation that would empower machines, regardless of the domain, to go through the military OODA loop process themselves – observe the situation, orient to what they observe, decide the best course of action, and then act. “The first thing an AI system has to do is recognize the world has changed. The second thing it needs to do is characterize how the world changed. The third thing it needs to do is adapt its response appropriately,” Senator said. “The fourth thing, once it learns to adapt, is for it to update its model of the world.” SAIL-ON will require performers and teams to characterize and quantify types and degrees of novelty in open worlds, to construct software that generates novel situations at distinct levels of a novelty hierarchy in selected domains, and to develop algorithms and systems that are capable of identifying and responding to novelty in multiple open-world domains. SAIL-ON seeks expertise in multiple subfields of AI, including machine learning, plan recognition, knowledge representation, anomaly detection, fault diagnosis and recovery, probabilistic programming, and others. A Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation is expected to be posted in the near future and will be available on DARPA’s FedBizOpps page:

  • UAE cleared for CH-47F Chinook buy

    November 11, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    UAE cleared for CH-47F Chinook buy

    By: Aaron Mehta and Jen Judson  WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared the United Arab Emirates to purchase 10 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters, with an estimated price tag of $830.3 million. The potential deal was announced Thursday on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA. Such notifications are not guarantees of final sale; should the request be approved by Congress, quantities and dollar figures can change during negotiations. This request represents the 10th Foreign Military Sales request from the UAE since the start of fiscal 2017, for a total approximate worth of $10.5 billion. It is also the first Foreign Military Financing request cleared by the DSCA since the Trump administration declared a regional emergency in order to get several weapons packages pushed through Congress despite opposition on Capitol Hill, leading to bipartisan criticism of the move. The UAE bought its first lot of CH-47Fs — 16 aircraft for estimated total of $2 billion — in 2009. Boeing said earlier this year that it was relying on foreign military sales, including “30 helicopters or less” to the UAE, to shore up a delta between the production of its Block I version of the F-model and its Block II version. The company needs FMS deals like the one with the UAE even more now that the U.S. Army is planning not to buy the Block II version for the active force. The service still plans to produce Block II aircraft for Army special operators. Top Army officials have said they are working hard to mint FMS deals to help make up for the huge production gap left open following the service’s decision to not buy Block II F-models for the active force. But Boeing told Defense News that it expected FMS deals would not lessen the blow and, so far, none of the anticipated sales are for Block II versions. The UAE’s order, according to Boeing, was not for Block II, and the only other possible F-model sale to the United Kingdom is for extended range versions of the Block I version. It is unclear which countries might actually be interested in Block II aircraft, but the service won’t be ready to offer those to foreign customers until after the variant’s qualification testing is completed in 2021. The proposed sale “will expand the UAE’s helicopter fleet,” per the DSCA announcement. “Further, it will enhance the UAE’s operational and defensive capabilities to better defend U.S. and UAE national security interests in the region, and increase the UAE’s contributions to any future joint or coalition efforts requiring helicopter support.” In addition to the helicopters themselves, the proposed package would include 26 T55-GA-714A engines; 24 embedded global positioning systems with inertial navigation system; 20 M134D-H mini-guns; and 20 M240H machine guns, as well as various transmitters and other equipment. Up to 10 U.S. government or contractor representatives will be needed in the UAE to help prepare the Chinooks for operations. Primary work will be done at Boeing’s Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, facility, Honeywell Engine’s Phoenix, Arizona, location, and Science and Engineering Services in Huntsville, Alabama.

  • Companies seek end to haggling over FCAS rights with fresh offer this week

    February 3, 2021 | International, Aerospace

    Companies seek end to haggling over FCAS rights with fresh offer this week

    By: Sebastian Sprenger  COLOGNE, Germany – Airbus and Dassault executives hope to finalize their offer for the next phase of the Future Combat Air System by the end of the week, putting to rest a dispute over the handling of intellectual property rights that has been simmering between partner nations Germany, France and Spain. At issue is whether countries participating in the development of mainland Europe’s futuristic weapon system are free to use the technology to make adjustments of their own later on, said German Air Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz. “It should be clear that if we’re developing a European system, there can be no black boxes,” he said at an virtual press conference organized by German aerospace industry association BDLI. The term “black box” refers to technology purchased as-is, with no means by customers to understand, replicate or modify it. “It must be possible to hand intellectual property rights from branch of industry to another so that it’s possible for all partners to make their own developments in the future,” Gerhartz added. The tri-national FCAS program aims to replace the German Eurofighter and French Rafale fleets by 2040. As envisioned, it will consist of a next-generation manned jet and a series of drones, dubbed remote carriers, that can be tasked to work in concert on anything from reconnaissance to strike missions. Germany’s Airbus and France’s Dassault are the primary contractors for the program. As Europe’s most ambitious weapons project ever, it is estimated to have a price tag in the hundreds of billions of euros. Spain is meant to be a full participant, with Indra as national lead, getting access to a third of the overall work share. Next up for the program is additional development work culminating in the presentation of a demonstrator aircraft and remote carriers by 2026 or 2027. Those could be simple, throw-away drones or more elaborate unmanned planes in the style of a “loyal wingman” to the human pilot, said Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, at the same event. An agreement on intellectual property usage is needed both on the government and industry level before submitting an offer for the upcoming program stage. The idea is to find a compromise by Feb. 5, have the Berlin government submit the documentation to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, for approval over the next few months, and get the green light to spend additional money before the summer break, Hoke said. While Airbus is used to sharing its intellectual property rights when selling to the German government, partner nations, France and Spain handle those occasions differently. “I’m confident that we can find a common solution,” Hoke said. Reinhard Brandl, a lawmaker of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union who sits on the Bundestag’s appropriations committee, said he shared the optimism but singled out IP rights as a continuing sticking point. “We will look at the agreement very carefully,” he said. “We don’t want to see unfavorable concessions just for the sake of an agreement.” Brandl belongs to a faction of German lawmakers who fear that domestic companies could lose out in a cooperative program with France. That is especially the case, following that logic, because Airbus, as the German lead contractor, is partly French to begin with. The French, meanwhile, have at times become frustrated with Germany’s piecemeal approval process for FCAS funding, a dynamic that could become even more pronounced if money gets tight as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Thomas Jarzombek, the point person for aerospace policy at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, said the program remains crucial for German industry, describing it as a recovery activity for companies post-COVID. “It’s become even more important than before,” he said. Brandl said he still worries about spending cuts in the future, especially during development, as the defense ministry may seek opportunities for more near-term fixes to lagging readiness rates across the force. He proposed anchoring FCAS funding elsewhere in the federal government other than under the auspices of the Bundeswehr, at least until the program gets close to showing actual military utility.

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