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November 27, 2019 | International, Aerospace

The Air Force may have found new imagery it needs at a pitch day

By: Nathan Strout 

The Air Force awarded Capella Space a $750,000 base contract for high-resolution radar imagery during one of the service’s rapid acquisition events earlier this month.

Capella Space announced Nov. 20 that the Air Force plans to use the company’s sub 0.5 meter synthetic aperture radar imagery for virtual reality software, missile defense and developing predictive intelligence to foresee foreign threats.

“The U.S. Air Force is always working to maintain our leadership as a global technology innovator, and this contract is a testament to that commitment,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, head of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.

SAR satellites are unique in their ability to collect imagery despite adverse weather or lighting conditions that make optical sensors useless. Unlike optical sensors, SAR sensors can pick up data on material properties, moisture content, elevation and precise changes and movements. In addition, SAR data can be used to make both 3D recreations or 2D images of 3D objects. Capella plans to launch its first SAR satellite in early 2020 as part of a constellation of 36 satellites that it expects to be operational in 2022.

“Capella will work alongside the U.S. Air Force to foster collaboration and deliver a product that best suits their mission needs,” Dan Brophy, vice president of government services at Capella Space, said in a statement. “Timely SAR data that presents changes on Earth holds tremendous military value, and we will make adaptations to meet unique military requirements. Together with the Air Force, we will define the applications for this data in its hybrid, military and commercial space architecture.”

The contract was awarded during the Air Force’s Space Pitch Days Nov. 5-6, where the Air Force invited small and nontraditional companies to make pitches for their products and solutions in an environment like the television show “Shark Tank.” The Air Force awarded Phase II Small Business Innovative Research contracts on the spot to several companies, including to Capella Space. At the conclusion of this base contract, Capella could win a Phase III contract in 2020.

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  • Thanks To NATO Infighting, the Future of the F-35 Is Shrinking

    June 20, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Thanks To NATO Infighting, the Future of the F-35 Is Shrinking

    PATRICK TUCKER The U.S. Senate wants to revoke Turkey’s license to buy the jet, while other European governments are looking to get a competitor off the ground. The most sophisticated fighter jet in the world, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will play a smaller role in the future of European security than originally conceived. On Monday, the Senate amended its version of the 2019 defense authorization act to block the sale of the fifth-generation fighter jet to Turkey. The reason: the NATO ally’s purchase of the Russian S-400, a radar and missile battery with a lethal range of 250 km. In routine operation, the sensor- and transmitter-packed jet exchanges electronic data with friendly anti-air systems and sensors, and if Turkey were to do this, data collected by the Russian-built weapon might find its way back to Moscow.  The House version of the bill also expresses concerns about the S-400 and Turkey and requires a report 60 days after the bill’s enactment to assess Turkey’s purchase of the system and possible consequences to U.S. aircraft. Turkey inked the S-400 deal last year, over strenuous objections from the U.S. and other NATO-member governments concerned about an ally using Russian air defense systems. “A NATO-interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in the region,” Pentagon spokesperson Johnny Michael told CNBC last fall. Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called Monday’s decision“lamentable.” It’s also very inconvenient for Turkey’s political elite, coming just days before Turkish elections. The U.S. military has gotten up close and personal with the S-400 over Syria, where the Russian military has deployed to aid the Assad regime. Its deadly presence reshaped how the U.S.-led coalition flies air ops, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigan told reporters in September. “‘We are consistently monitoring them to see if something changes their intent because we have to manage that and respond quickly…We look at it every day. It’s an everyday discussion to make sure our force can manage that risk.” Strained Atlantic relations aren’t just affecting today’s jet sales and development today, but potentially decisions far off as well. France and Germany have agreed to work together on a sixth-generation fighter, the so-called Future Combat Air System, or FCAS, to begin to replace the Tornado by 2040. The previous chief of the Luftwaffe, Lt. Gen. Karl Müllner, had been in favor of replacing the Tornado with the F-35. Partly for that reason, he was dismissed in May.   Going with the F-35 would “eliminate the need for a next-gen European fighter and possibly cripple Europe’s capacity to develop such a system for years to come,” said  Ulrich Kühn, a German political scientist and senior research associate at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. The move has ramifications far beyond what new jets are sitting on the tarmac in Western Europe in ten years. “Since Germany takes part in NATO nuclear sharing, a new platform would have to be certified by the U.S. to deliver U.S.B61s,” thermonuclear gravity bombs, Kühn pointed out on Twitter. He was responding to an article that ran Sunday in the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. “But [the] new fighter should be nuke capable,” says Kühn.  “Now, German Airbus officials have started asking the Gretchen Question: what nukes shall the FCAS carry? U.S. or French ones?” Kühn argues that the question of how to develop the FCAS as a nuclear capable jet will be one of the most important decisions that Germany will take in the next few years and could have ramifications for the future of the nuclear umbrella over Europe. What was supposed to be a unified, highly interoperable American weapons web could become more fractured, less under American control. “The decision about the FCAS as a nuclear platform will have wide-ranging repercussions on Germany, the EU and NATO,” he says. The U.S. military has been pushing allies to buy the F-35 not just to expand America’s weapons reach but because the jet is a flying intelligence fusion cell as much a bomb-dropper. One of its core selling features is its  ability to transmit rich targeting intelligence to nearby drones or faraway jets or even Aegis warships rigged for missile defense miles away. That interoperability is key to the Pentagon’s vision of future wars. As alliances with Western partners fray, those plans may need revision.

  • Space Force awards contracts worth as much as $1B for new modems

    April 1, 2020 | International, Aerospace, C4ISR

    Space Force awards contracts worth as much as $1B for new modems

    Mike Gruss   The Space Force awarded L3 Technologies and Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems contracts worth as much as $1 billion for the development and production of new modems that would help with protected satellite communications. The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts, each worth as much as $500 million, are part of the Air Force and Army Anti-Jam Modem program, which is also known as A3M. The modems would be capable of handling the new Protected Tactical Waveform, which provides anti-jamming communications for warfighters on the battlefield. The program is led by the Army’s Program Executive Office Command Control Communications – Tactical and the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. Space Force officials emphasized that they awarded the contract about four months ahead of schedule. In a request for information from 2018, military officials said the modem would be used in the Air Force Ground Multiband Terminal and Army Space Transportable Terminal. The contracts are also expected to include terminals or terminal components to work with the new Protected Tactical SATCOM system, commercial satellites and the Air Force’s Wideband Global SATCOM satellites. “We are very excited to be partnering with Raytheon and L3 Technologies Inc. to bring Protected Tactical Waveform anti-jam capability to both Department of the Air Force and Army users,” said Shannon Pallone, senior materiel leader, Tactical SATCOM Division, said in a release. “This was a joint team from the start, a partnership between the Space Force and the Army, and included support from the [National Security Agency].”

  • Pourquoi les industriels européens de l’aéronautique misent sur les secteurs de la défense et l’espace

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

    Pourquoi les industriels européens de l’aéronautique misent sur les secteurs de la défense et l’espace

    HASSAN MEDDAH INTERNATIONAL , ALLEMAGNE , AÉRONAUTIQUE , SPATIAL , DÉFENSE  PUBLIÉ LE 13/05/2020 À 18H43 Les présidents du GIFAS et de son équivalent allemand le BDLI appellent de façon urgente à un plan de relance européen ambitieux et à accélérer les investissements dans le domaine de la défense et de l’espace. Face à la crise du coronavirus qui frappe lourdement le secteur aéronautique, industriels allemands et français ont décidé d’agir en concert. Le GIFAS (Groupement des industries françaises aéronautiques et spatiales) et son homologue allemand (german aerospace industries association) ont tenu en commun ce 13 mai le bureau de leur conseil d’administration par vidéoconférence. Dans la foulée, les deux présidents respectifs Eric Trapper - par ailleurs PDG de Dassault Aviation - et Dirk Hoke, président du BDLI et CEO d’Airbus Defence & Space ont profité d'une conférence de presse pour lancer un appel commun à un plan de relance européen ambitieux. Les industriels aéronautiques des deux pays auraient dû se voir en chair et en os à cette date… si le salon aéronautique de Berlin (Allemagne) n’avait pas été annulé à cause de la pandémie mondiale. "Ensemble, nous étions forts avant la crise et nous partageons l’idée qu’il faudra que nous soyons forts après la crise pour faire face à la concurrence mondiale", a souligné Eric Trappier, le patron de Dassault Aviation. Accélérer le programme d'avion de combat du futur Selon les deux groupements, les secteurs de la défense et de l’espace peuvent permettre d’amortir le trou d’air que traverse le secteur aéronautique. Ils appellent les deux gouvernements à renforcer leurs budgets de défense afin de conserver les capacités dans ce domaine stratégique. "Ce serait une grave erreur de réduire les dépenses du secteur de la défense. C’est un facteur de stabilité qui ne doit pas être sous-estimé", a précisé Dirk Hoke. Le GIFAS et le BDLI misent sur l’accélération des programmes en coopération. La France et l’Allemagne, rejointes par l’Espagne, ont lancé le programme SCAF (système de combat aérien du futur). Ce programme, à l’horizon 2040, permettra le remplacement des Rafale français et des Eurofighter allemands. "Ce programme est un défi et nous sommes convaincus qu’il faut le renforcer et ne pas prendre de retard. Les industriels ont commencé à travailler. Nous avons besoin d’une vision à long terme et de contrats pour atteindre la première échéance d’un démonstrateur en 2026",  a exhorté Eric Trappier. Des deux côtés de la frontière, l’accélération de ce programme pourrait apporter une bouffée d’oxygène à tous les acteurs qui y participent : avionneurs, fabricants de moteurs, électroniciens  et leurs sous-traitants. Cela permet également de faire d’une pierre deux coups, puisque la plupart des entreprises de l’aéronautique travaillent également pour le secteur de la défense.   La manne du programme spatial européen Dirk Hoke a également évoqué l’importance du secteur spatial comme amortisseur à cette crise. Il a rappelé que l’agence spatiale européenne (ESA) avait approuvé en fin d’année dernière le lancement de nombreux programmes. En novembre 2019, lors de la réunion des ministres européens en charge du secteur spatial à Séville, l’ESA avait en effet dégagé un budget de 14,4 milliards d’euros pour les cinq prochaines années. La France et l’Allemagne étant les principales contributrices avec respectivement 3,3 milliards d'euros et 2,7 milliards. Les deux partenaires ont également sollicité l’aide de l’Europe. Ils craignent toutefois que le budget du fonds européen de défense soit la victime des ajustements budgétaires en cours de négociation. A l’origine, il devait atteindre 13 milliards d’euros sur la période 2021-2027. "Ce serait un mauvais signe si ce budget était coupé pour la construction et l’autonomie stratégique de l’Europe", a averti le patron du GIFAS.

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