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November 1, 2022 | International, Aerospace

US Air Force launches Autonomy Prime program in hunt for new tech

Unlike traditional acquisition, Prime contracts seek companies outside of the established defense industrial base to find out what they're working on.

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  • Pentagon publishes zero-trust cyber strategy, eyes 2027 implementation

    November 22, 2022 | International, C4ISR

    Pentagon publishes zero-trust cyber strategy, eyes 2027 implementation

    Zero trust, a new cybersecurity paradigm, assumes networks are always at risk. As a result, continuous validation of users, devices and access is needed.

  • The military is this close to nabbing Gremlins from midair

    December 21, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    The military is this close to nabbing Gremlins from midair

    Nathan Strout WASHINGTON — The U.S. military recently came within inches of successfully retrieving three unmanned air vehicles in flight with a C-130 aircraft, bringing the Gremlins program tantalizingly close to a significant milestone. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's emerging technology arm, wants to demonstrate the ability to launch and recover four cheap, reusable unmanned aerial vehicles — the Gremlins — within 30 minutes in flight. The program uses X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) developed by Dynetics, a Leidos subsidiary. The GAVs are built to dock with a C-130 aircraft via an extension, similar to an airborne refueling operation. Dynetics secured a 21-month, $38.6 million award for the third phase of the Gremlins effort in 2018. While GAVs are relatively small, they have a range of more than 600 miles and can be equipped with a variety of sensors and technologies for different missions. The ability to distribute and collect GAVs from the air could keep them beyond the range of adversary defenses, according to DARPA, expanding the potential impact of unmanned aerial vehicles on the battlefield. Once recovered, GAVs are expected to be mission ready within 24 hours. In the latest demonstration Oct. 28, DARPA made nine attempts to collect the GAVs with a docking mechanism extended from the C-130 aircraft. While none of the attempts was successful, with each GAV eventually parachuting to the ground, DARPA insisted the effort validated all autonomous formation flying positions and safety features. “All of our systems looked good during the ground tests, but the flight test is where you truly find how things work,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager for DARPA's Gremlins effort, in a Dec. 10 statement. “We came within inches of connection on each attempt but, ultimately, it just wasn't close enough to engage the recovery system.” Given the GAVs' performance and the data collected over the nine attempts, Wierzbanowski said success is imminent. “We made great strides in learning and responding to technological challenges between each of the three test flight deployments to date,” he said. “We were so close this time that I am confident that multiple airborne recoveries will be made in the next deployment. However, as with all flight testing, there are always real-world uncertainties and challenges that have to be overcome.” The next attempt will take place in spring 2021. While the Gremlins effort is ongoing, the U.S. Army has made strides in its own effort to retrieve small drones midair. During a recent demonstration, the Army was able to snag air-launched effects (ALE) — effectively small drones — from the air using the flying launch and recovery system (FLAReS). FLAReS uses a hook to catch the ALEs by the wing in flight, saving them from the wear and tear of a belly landing on the ground.

  • MDA and Army see successful Patriot and THAAD test after failure

    October 2, 2020 | International, C4ISR, Security

    MDA and Army see successful Patriot and THAAD test after failure

    Jen Judson UPDATED — This story has been updated to include a statement from Lockheed Martin. WASHINGTON — After a failed test in February, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the Army successfully intercepted a target in an Oct. 1 test using a Patriot air and missile defense system as well as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system integrated together, according to an MDA statement. In the test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the THAAD AN/TPY-2 radar detected and tracked a Black Dagger target missile and provided that information to the Patriot system. The Patriot launch system deployed a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missile and destroyed the target. In February, the AN/TPY-2 detected and tracked a Black Dagger and supplied the information to the Patriot system, but the missile missed the target “due to an interceptor software upgrade error,” according to the MDA statement. The error “has since been corrected, as demonstrated by today's successful intercept,” the statement noted. The success of the test "validates the interoperability of the Patriot and THAAD weapon systems,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said in the statement. “This capability is vital to the Ballistic Missile Defense System to defend against rogue threats to our homeland, deployed forces and allies.” “We're proud to support the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army Program Executive Office Missiles and Space to provide this vital capability within the Ballistic Missile Defense System,” Scott Arnold, Lockheed Martin vice president of integrated missile defense in the company's Missiles and Fire Control business, said in statement. Lockheed Martin manufactures the THAAD weapon system. The missile tests this year meet a congressional requirement for the Army and the MDA to test integration and interoperability of the THAAD and Patriot weapon systems annually. Last year, the first-ever test of THAAD's ability to remotely fire an interceptor was a success, a significant milestone in proving the ability to decouple launchers from radars and fire control systems. The Army's work to integrate the Patriot and THAAD systems was born out of an urgent operational need on the Korean Peninsula. The effort uses some of the principles of decoupling launchers and radars so an operator, for instance, can use a THAAD radar — which can see farther than a Raytheon-made Patriot radar — but decide to engage a Patriot interceptor depending on the threat picture. The ability to use the THAAD radar also gets more out of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement weapon fired from Patriot units, which outperforms the organic Patriot radar. In another test last year at White Sands, a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Cost Reduction Initiative interceptor took out an air-breathing threat at a record distance. That test also showed it can be integrated into the Northrop Grumman-made Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, which is the command-and-control system of the Army's future air and missile defense architecture.

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