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February 22, 2024 | International, Land

US Army’s short-range air defense efforts face review board

The Army is seeking approval for its short-range air defense requirements, which will solidify a program of record for the rapidly developed capability.

On the same subject

  • What could a military do with this flying saucer?

    August 14, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    What could a military do with this flying saucer?

    By: Kelsey D. Atherton This may be a flying saucer, but don't call it a UFO. Carefully named, the All DIrections Flying Object, or ADIFO, is instead a saucer-like contraption, a flying prototype built at exploring the aerodynamic potential of an alien craft. It is, at its core, an omnidirectional flying wing built around a quadcopter with jets attached. Its designers see a future for the airframe as an unmanned combat aerial vehicle. In a video posted July 1, a narrator discusses the design process and aerodynamics of the craft. Like many VTOL tools built on a quadcopter frame, ducted fans provide initial lift and mobility at low altitudes and low speeds. The addition of vectored jets on the rear of the craft, combined with four vertical vents and four side-facing vents, promising greater maneuverability at high speeds. The ADIFO is the invention of Romanian engineer Razan Sabie in conjunction with Iosif Taposu, a scientist with a long career in aerospace research for the Romanian government. “The aerodynamics behind this aircraft is the result of more than two decades of work and is very well reasoned in hundreds of pages and confirmed by computer simulations and wind tunnel tests,” Sabie told Vice, in the pair's first American interview. That story explores both the specific nature of the ADIFO, and the long and mostly failed history of flying saucer design. Like many other ideas for the first decades of aviation, the possibility of operating the craft without a human on board opens up greater potential in what an airframe can actually do. Human pilots are subject to the limitations of a body and perception, and a flying disk changing directions suddenly at high speed is not the ideal place for a human to be. Uncrewed craft can take on novel forms, and execute turns and twists beyond those human limits. While maneuverability is likely the primary selling point for a future role as combat aircraft, the smooth and fin-free form could easily have stealth characteristics built in, and could be further adapted by a dedicated team to fully realizing that stealth flight. What might a military planner or designer do with such a machine? The proof-of-concept offers little in the way of information about storage space or sensors. With wide enough lenses, a handful of cameras could match the circular symmetry of the vehicle and provide and omnidirectional surveillance presence. The high speeds and potentially low radar profile suggest a role akin to earlier, Cold War spy planes, taking specific pictures in contested space and returning before anti-air systems can act. And as with any aircraft, the potential is likely there for it to release an explosive payload, taking the flying saucer from an extraterrestrial fear to a terrestrial threat. ADIFO might not be the future of anything. The project's home page says the team is still attracting partners, and aviation history is littered with proofs-of-concept that failed to materialize in a meaningful way. Yet there is something to the idea of a flying saucer working the moment it no longer has to transport a human. It is an old aviation frontier that likely warrants further exploration.

  • Drone maker General Atomics lays off hundreds

    August 28, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    Drone maker General Atomics lays off hundreds

    By: Joe Gould and Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON ― Privately held drone maker General Atomics, of San Diego, is laying off approximately 630 of its roughly 10,000 employees. “General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. can confirm a reduction in force involving 6% of its workforce,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to Defense News late Wednesday. “This reduction was made to balance resources with customer requirements.” The layoffs were announced internally Wednesday and confirmed by the company, which did not specify which operations were impacted. General Atomics and Northrop Grumman were two beneficiaries of the Trump administration's recent decision to ease restrictions on overseas sales of unmanned aircraft. In addition, lawmakers are expected to boost Reaper buys in the near term, with House appropriators proposing to give General Atomics $344 million for 16 more MQ-9s in fiscal 2021. But the company was also dealt a blow earlier this year when the Air Force announced it would stop buying the MQ-9 Reaper in fiscal year 2021, at least four years earlier than expected. And now the future of the program remains uncertain, with the Air Force looking at options to replace the MQ-9 Reaper. Over the past two decades, the Reaper has served as one of the Air Force's workhorse drones for surveillance and for striking targets in the Middle East. But service leaders believe it is ill-suited for a war with Russia and China. In addition, they believe it costs too much time and money to keep the aircraft ready for operations in low-threat environments. “The Reaper has been a great platform for us. Four million flight hours, just undeniable overmatch in a low-end uncontested fight, and it is certainly saving lives,” Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper told lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing this March. “But as we look to the high-end fight, we just can't take them into the battlefield. They are easily shot down.” In June, the Air Force issued a request for information for an MQ-9 successor, underscoring the service's plan to transition from the Reaper to a new surveillance and strike drone.

  • Our nation’s defense supply chain imperative

    May 19, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Our nation’s defense supply chain imperative

    By: Bill Brown, L3Harris Technologies The Department of Defense and defense industry have a long history of responding quickly and forcefully to crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Today, hundreds of thousands of dedicated defense workers remain at their posts – delivering mission-critical products and services to support our troops around the world, while also providing personal protective equipment and other supplies to first responders and health care workers here at home. However, this most recent crisis has re-exposed weaknesses in our defense industrial base – highlighting the need to significantly bolster the nation's vital supply chain. This serves as a call to action to develop a strategic, long-term approach across government and industry. We witnessed the fallout from the 2008-09 financial crisis. Thousands of suppliers shuttered or permanently shifted precious capacity to other verticals when defense budgets were indiscriminately cut following the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequester of 2013. When budgets began to recover several years later, the damage was clear – longer lead times that in some cases doubled or more, and increased reliance on single-source and international suppliers for critical components, such as microelectronics. In 2017, President Trump signed an executive order and established a multi-agency task force to study supply chain resiliency. The task force identified five macro forces that create risk to the supply chain and national security preparedness including sequestration and the uncertainty of government spending, the overall decline of U.S. manufacturing capabilities and capacity, harmful government business and procurement practices, industrial policies of competitor nations, and diminishing U.S. STEM and trade skills. Task force members proposed a comprehensive set of risk-reduction actions – ranging from establishing sustained and predictable multi-year budgets and developing an adaptive acquisition framework, to directing investment to small businesses and diversifying the supplier base. Over the past two years, the government has made initial strides on a number of these fronts, including working to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign sources for critical rare earth minerals and decreasing the country's dependence on China and other international suppliers for semiconductors and related components. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged before these and other task force initiatives gained serious traction and forced the DoD to refocus its near-term priorities. And the urgency escalated when we began to see the brutal impact the pandemic was causing in the commercial aerospace sector, an important vertical market for many defense suppliers. The department quickly designated defense suppliers as essential and increased progress payments, spurring larger defense contractors to accelerate payments to thousands of small business suppliers. These actions helped companies to continue operating, maintain their employment and hiring goals, and sustain critical spending on internal research and development (IRAD) to keep the innovation engine humming. At L3Harris, for example, we recommitted to investing nearly 4 percent of revenues in IRAD, hiring 6,000 new employees and maintaining our apprenticeship and internship programs to provide opportunities for the workforce of the future. The combined DoD and industry efforts demonstrate the power of a focused, collaborative approach to mitigate and address the damaging effects of the pandemic and to support the broader defense industrial base. Today, we are at a critical juncture. We have an opportunity to make the necessary strategic investments that could significantly strengthen our supply base for generations to come, including: · Ensure sustained/predictable budgets – stable, long-term funding helps companies better plan and encourages them to invest in staffing, technology and facilities needed for the country to maintain its technical superiority. Now is not the time to pull back the reins on defense spending. · Accelerate contract awards – shorter decision and acquisition cycles enable suppliers to invest in and deliver technologies faster than with traditional methods, and in the near term could help offset the impact of the commercial aerospace downturn. · Expand domestic supplier base – increasing domestic capabilities reduces vulnerabilities and increases access to critical components, such as rare earths and microelectronics, and over time can help reduce the proportion of sole/single-source supply. · Increase workforce investment – providing advanced STEM education opportunities drives innovation and productivity by enhancing critical skillsets for existing employees, while attracting, training and growing the workforce of the future. · Institutionalize process improvements – the COVID-19 pandemic forced government and industry to find new and more efficient ways to work. The challenge now – to make these advances permanent. These are not quick fixes. However, they provide a strong platform for a more resilient national defense supplier base, which is vital at a time when near-peer adversaries continue to invest heavily in new technologies that threaten our nation's security. The imperative is clear – and the opportunity is now. Bill Brown is chairman and CEO at L3Harris Technologies.

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