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  • Fighting for “Future Vertical Lift”

    July 6, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Fighting for “Future Vertical Lift”

    BY JAN TEGLER ROTORCRAFT ADVOCATES IN THE U.S. MILITARY HAVE BEEN LAYING THE RESEARCH GROUNDWORK TO REPLACE MANY OF TODAY'S HELICOPTERS WITH VERSIONS THAT WOULD EMPLOY A REVOLUTIONARY PROPULSION CONCEPT TO-BE-DECIDED. JAN TEGLER LOOKS AT THE BATTLE TO ELEVATE THE FUTURE VERTICAL LIFT INITIATIVE INTO AN ACQUISITION PROGRAM AND SPEED UP ITS SCHEDULE. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joseph Priester was jolted awake at 4 a.m. by the sound of rocket and mortar fire. He sprinted to his OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, a lightly armed reconnaissance helicopter, and took off with his co-pilot from Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Afghanistan. They didn't have to fly far. A group of 30 insurgents about 2 kilometers from the base had launched an attack on the coalition base. At one point, Priester landed in the middle of the fight to pick up a wounded American soldier — his left-seater remaining behind so that the two-seat Kiowa Warrior could transport the wounded man back to the base. Priester's response to the 2008 attack was emblematic of many of the missions flown by U.S. helicopter crews in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many could be accomplished by short dashes by light-lift, maneuverable helicopters. Now, however, recognition is growing in the Pentagon that range and speed could turn out to be paramount in the next conflicts. For years, the Pentagon has been laying the technological groundwork for the possible creation of a multibillion-dollar acquisition program called Future Vertical Lift. Preliminary plans call for the Army to manage development of FVL variants for itself, the Marines and Navy, with the designs founded on a revolutionary propulsion concept still to be decided. The overarching goal would be to double the range and speed of today's helicopters by rolling out conventionally piloted and unmanned versions in the mid-2030s, a schedule that the Army and allies in Congress want to accelerate. At the moment, FVL remains a modestly funded research effort, although in late June the Army announced a “draft” solicitation to industry to get their feedback on a Future Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive Prototype. The Army wants to have prototypes of an armed reconnaissance rotorcraft (one of two FVL aircraft types it is prioritizing) flying by 2023 in an effort to choose a design that will enter service within a decade. The White House is proposing to spend $125 million on FVL and related efforts in fiscal 2019, a request that is making it through the congressional appropriations and authorization process with minimal adjustments up or down. The FVL initiative appears to be at a crossroads. On one path is a multiservice, multibillion-dollar acquisition program. On the other lies something short of that. The Army, Marine Corps and Navy are in the midst of analyzing their rotorcraft alternatives for the years ahead in an analysis of alternatives, or AoA, that will spill into 2019 and largely determine the path for FVL. Brig. Gen. Walter T. Rugen, who manages the FVL initiative from Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state, expresses confidence that the path will be a bold one, with some questions still to be addressed. “We've moved on from the ‘why' question. We're not having to justify why we need Future Vertical Lift. It's how we do it,” he said in a phone interview. I spoke with Rugen, Marine Corps leaders, a member of Congress, former Army helicopter pilots and defense analysts to take the pulse of FVL about this critical crossroads. SCHEDULE On the question of timing, the plan to roll out FVL aircraft in the 2030s has not set well with Army aviation advocates in the Pentagon or on Capitol Hill. One of them is Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., a former Army OH-58 pilot whose state is home to the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground, where rotorcraft research could aid FVL, and Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR, which manages rotorcraft acquisitions for the Navy and Marine Corps. Brown says he was surprised when he was briefed about the timeline by the Army. Plans still call for releasing the FVL request for proposals in 2021, which is itself a two-year slip from the plan as it stood in the fiscal 2017 budget. That release would put the first FVL aircraft in the hands of pilots in the mid-2030s. “I must say my first impression was ‘Man, this is going to take a long time,'” Brown says. Earlier this year, the House authorization subcommittee that Brown sits on told the Army to “weigh speeding modernization and fielding” of weapons, including FVL. Rugen tells me “we have to go faster,” which would mean flying operational FVL aircraft within a decade rather than the mid-2030s. He says accelerating FVL “is being pushed at the highest levels, so we enjoy that priority.” Rugen leads the Cross Functional Team that has been assembled to ensure that all relevant subject matter experts are included in the FVL initiative. He sounds cognizant of the complexities and speckled history of other attempts at large programs serving multiple agencies. “We're focused on accelerating this capability as much as we can, balancing the risks,” he says of FVL. For one, he and others shun the word “joint” in reference to the structure of the FVL program. “If we had a joint program we'd have a joint program office and all that stuff. We don't have that,” he says. On the question of timing, the answers I received from NAVAIR's PMA-276 office, which manages the Marine Corps light-attack helicopters, are strikingly different from those of the Army. “The Marine Corps need is currently unchanged,” PMA-276 said when I asked whether the Marines also would like to see FVL rotorcraft delivered sooner than the mid-2030s. Also, the Marine Corps explained that the “driving factor” in its planning is an aircraft that can carry six to eight passengers and match the V-22 tiltrotors in range and speed to escort them. An open question remains how these divergent visions of timing would translate into budget planning, once the services finish analyzing their rotorcraft futures early next year. Richard Aboulafia, who analyzes military aviation spending for the Teal Group in Virginia, cautions that the Army has only a “small window of time” to get an FVL program funded and moving forward. That's because the Trump administration spike in defense spending would peak in 2019. If FVL is elevated to an acquisition program, the stakes would be enormous. Early plans call for producing a family of aircraft to replace such stalwarts as the Army's UH-60 Black Hawk, the Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter and the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter. The new aircraft must exceed the performance of those flown by near-peer competitors, meaning China and Russia, which would mean flying about twice as fast and far as most of today's rotorcraft. The foundational propulsion technology has yet to be chosen. Two concepts are facing off against each other under a related demonstration initiative, called the Joint Multi-Role Demonstrator program, with funding tracing back to 2013. Vying are the V-280 Valor tiltrotor built by Bell of Fort Worth, Texas, and the SB-1 Defiant, an unusual helicopter built by Sikorsky and Boeing. The SB-1 team says it is “fighting hard” to fly for the first time by the end of this year. The two concepts could not be more different. The Valor design was partly inspired by the larger V-22 Osprey tiltrotors. The main difference is that the V-22's engines tilt entirely when transitioning between horizontal and vertical flight, whereas just the gearbox on each Valor engine tilts. “V-22 is the number one in-demand VTOL aircraft within DoD because of its speed and range,” says Keith Flail, Bell's vice president for advanced tilt-rotor systems. “We're taking all the knowledge from the Osprey — over 400,000 flight hours — and we've applied that to Valor, a clean-sheet design with today's technology.” SB-1 gets at the range and speed problem another way. Its two coaxial rotor blades are mounted one above the other, and they rotate in opposite directions to prevent clockwise or counterclockwise torque on the fuselage. This strategy eliminates the need for a tail rotor (sometimes called an anti-torque rotor) and frees up space for a pusher prop to add speed and maneuverability. The design is based on Sikorsky's experimental X2 that the company flew in 2008. “Not only does our X2 technology preserve all of the best characteristics of traditional single- or double-rotor aircraft like the Chinook, Black Hawk and Apache, it betters them in some ways. Yet it can still achieve speeds well north of 200 knots to get to the expanded battle space the government appears to be looking at,” says Rich Koucheravy, Sikorsky's business development director. At the moment, it's not clear whether one or both of these approaches will be chosen as the way forward for FVL. The Marine Corps light-attack helicopter office, PMA-276, says the analysis of alternatives is “reviewing multiple aircraft concepts, not just those used for the full scale technology demonstrators.” Perhaps complicating budget matters, FVL is one of six modernization priorities the Army has identified across all domains: air, land, space, cyberspace, electromagnetic spectrum, information and the cognitive dimension. All require significant expenditures. SPEED = REACH The requirements for the FVL aircraft have yet to be written, but the demonstrators are targeting a cruise speed of 230 knots or 425 kph and a range of up to 800 nautical miles or 1,481 kilometers. Rugen rattles off the broad brushstrokes of what rotorcraft experts want: “We're looking for sweeping improvements in our lethality, agility, survivability, sustainability and what we call reach.” “Reach” alludes to a different kind of fight from the counterinsurgency war that Priester, the Kiowa Warrior pilot, was thrown into. In future conflicts, the air superiority that U.S. forces have enjoyed could be contested, Rugen says. In that case, dotting the battlefield with forward operating bases and refueling points for rotorcraft won't be practical. Missions would have to cover greater distances, whether for attack, reconnaissance, transport, medevac or special operations. Speed and range will “get them to the fight rapidly,” Rugen explains. Penetrating sophisticated enemy defenses would be done by teaming rotorcraft with an “ecosystem of unmanned aircraft and modular missiles.” The question is which concept — the coaxial SB-1, the V-280 tiltrotor or perhaps another idea — would be best suited. MANEUVERABILITY Army helicopter pilot Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael LaGrave, an ex-Kiowa Warrior pilot, says tilt-rotor aircraft “lack the agility at low speed” of traditional helicopters, noting that the Army is the only service that does not operate the Osprey. Bell officials are aware of this perception, and the company has invited current Army aviators to fly its V-280 simulator. Bell's Flail says the V-22 is in fact “incredibly agile” at low speed. “We've been able to do a lot of things with this next-generation tiltrotor to have even greater agility at low speeds,” he says. “As we go through the envelope expansion we will demonstrate that.” Sikorsky and Boeing think they have an edge with an aircraft that traces its heritage to previous helicopters. Looking at the initial FVL description, “we realized that while the Army did want the extended range and speed of a fast vertical lift platform, it did not appear they were willing to sacrifice much in terms of low-speed hover and performance in the objective area,” says Sikorsky's Koucheravy. That's why Sikorsky and Boeing based their SB-1 Defiant design on the X2, which was a compound helicopter, meaning it combined the propulsion of rotors and propellers. COST The Army wants this new generation of rotorcraft to cost about the same to operate and maintain as the latest variants in its fleet, from the UH-60V Black Hawks to AH-64E Apaches. “I'll echo what Gen. [James] McConville, our vice chief of staff, said,” says Rugen. “We're looking at the price point that we have now for procurement and flight hours as our targets.” Aboulafia of Teal Group doesn't believe it's realistic to think that the FVL aircraft will cost the same as today's versions. “I don't think you can get this incredible capability for the same or anything like the same price,” he says. Given the costs, funding uncertainty of FVL and the history of multiservice programs, Aboulafia is skeptical about the future of FVL. He thinks it makes little sense to try to compress diverse demands into one program. “Rather than building one giant mega-
cathedral, how about just a small village church?” If he were the Army or Marines, he'd think about a “fallback” option of continuing with “upgrades or existing new-build helicopters.” “I tell everybody who will listen,” Aboulafia quips, “be prepared for a future of ‘Black Hawk-N' models, ‘Apache-G' models or ‘Chinook-Q' models, take your pick.” Aboulafia notes that the Army is continuing to make incremental upgrades to its existing fleet. The service continues to buy the latest version of the Apache, the AH-64E and the UH-60M while upgrading UH-60L Black Hawks with a digital cockpit as UH-60Vs. The Army also has an Improved Turbine Engine program underway to replace the engines in its Black Hawks and Apaches with more powerful, fuel-efficient turbines. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps is continuing to procure the UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper utility and attack helicopters. PRIORITIZING DESIGNS FVL rotorcraft are classified under “capability sets” — two Light variants, two Medium variants and two Heavy variants. These capability sets encompass the variety of roles Army and Marine helicopters fulfill, from light attack and reconnaissance to airborne assault and heavy lift missions. In March, Army aviation leaders, including Rugen, indicated the service would focus on two FVL variants — a light future reconnaissance attack aircraft (the subject of the draft solicitation) and a long-range assault aircraft similar to the medium-lift SB-1 Defiant or V-280 Valor rotorcraft now progressing through JMR-TD. I had heard speculation that the Army wants an armed scout to be the first FVL variant fielded. I asked Rugen if that was the plan, and he says that's “yet to be determined.” Sikorsky thinks that's a real possibility and is offering its S-97 Raider for the future reconnaissance role. Not part of the current demonstration program, Raider was developed for the Army's Armed Aerial Scout program (canceled in late 2013) to replace the OH-58D. The S-97 has the same coaxial rotor configuration as the SB-1 Defiant. It remains unclear how the Marine Corps would fit into the FVL initiative, given the statement from PMA-276 that it still likes the 2030s date and that the “driving factor” is not a light FVL but one capable of carrying six to eight passengers and escorting V-22s. At the end of June, Marine Corps sources confirmed this, explaining to me that the service's “primary interest” is in a long-range assault aircraft, “not in an FVL Light/armed reconnaissance-attack aircraft.” They add that the Marine Corps and Army continue to explore “a potential for a joint program on the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft.” Aboulafia of Teal Group contends that Bell's tilt-rotor V-280 is more suited for the type of missions the Marine Corps performs while Sikorsky-Boeing's SB-1 may be more appropriate for Army missions. If FVL is to go forward, “each service should pick one of the aircraft now in development for JMR TD and get going.” Staff reporter Tom Risen contributed to this report.

  • Study finds these gaps in Army’s small unit counter-drone capabilities

    July 6, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Study finds these gaps in Army’s small unit counter-drone capabilities

    Army units at and below the battalion level are unprepared to defeat aerial drones and current plans can't keep up with rapidly evolving technology, according to a recent study. Back in 2016, the Army Research Office asked an outside organization, The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, to evaluate their counter drone capabilities for battalion and below operations. The report they published earlier this year notes some significant gaps and threats to soldiers with this technology. “Contrary to the past, when U.S. warfighters may have found (improvised explosive devices), now the IEDs will find our warfighters,” according to the report. While the Army and Marine Corps, which also included representatives in the study, are throwing resources at the small drone problem, they are not keeping pace with the threat. “Army time frames are significantly out of sync with the rapidly advancing performance capabilities of individual (small Unmanned Aerial Systems) and teams of sUASs,” according to the report. The report noted that most of the service's counter drone asset work was focused on heavy vehicle platforms or on fixed sites, which leaves smaller units most likely to first encounter the threat more exposed. “Significant quantities of man-portable” counter-drone systems have been fielded, Army spokesman Maj. Chris Ophardt told Army Times in an email. The Army will continue to pursue those capabilities based on emerging threats. Based on his response, which did not include details of capabilities, the Army is pursuing other ways to defeat drones. A large portion of the study was classified, due to operational security concerns. “Future Army C-UAS systems will encompass a variety of potential platforms to include fixed, mobile, and Soldier-portable capabilities,” Ophardt wrote. But beyond the types of systems employed, what they're targeting or attacking also came under fire in the report. The Army and other branches have invested significantly in counter-drone technology, “often focusing on detecting radio frequency transmissions and GPS signals of individual sUASs. However, today's consumer and customized sUASs can increasingly operate without radio frequency (command and control) links.” Drones now available can use automated target recognition, tracking, obstacle avoidance and other software-enabled activities instead of traditional RF and GPS. Ophardt did not divulge specifics of how the Army is addressing this, but responded that the service's counter drone capabilities, “include multiple methods in order to detect, identify and defeat enemy UAS.” A new school began last month at Fort Benning, Georgia to give basic trainees familiarity with small drones. The drone school gives infantry and scouts the ability to fill out a seven-line report when they encounter a drone then relay that info to their headquarters. The students use both fixed-wing and helicopter small drones. They also learn defensive tactics such as how to use dispersal and hiding tactics to minimize casualties from drone-coordinated fires, according to an Army release. Those introductory tactics can help even brand-new soldiers start thinking about how to deal with drone threats. But, at the same time, the low-level tactics currently used for counter drone work have tried to use “kinetic effects,” basically shooting down the drone by interfering with its signals or overheating its circuits. The report noted that method isn't practical on a wide scale for large numbers of troops, especially dismounted units. That path only adds more gear from the equipment to the batteries, to an already overloaded soldier, not to mention the “cognitive load” of training and using another piece of equipment, according to the report. Ophardt responded that the Army's counter-drone strategy included “multiple methods” to detect, identify and defeat” enemy drones. The major provided a similar response when asked about Army efforts at counter-drone tactics, capabilities against swarming drones and collaboratively acting drone groups, which the report remarks will be more prevalent and sophisticated as soon as 2025. Report authors urge Army leaders to adjust their timelines for matching tech development, which are woefully inadequate for the exponential changes in software, hardware and drone capabilities. Current Army time frames consider near-term planning to run from now until 2025; mid-term planning in the 2026 to 2035 window and far-term at the 2036 to 2050. Those efforts mirror vehicle acquisition strategy timelines, not the drone arena. The report pushes for a near-term planning of one to two years, mid-term at the three- to five-year level and far term in drone tech at the six- to eight-year range. The advances are happening so quickly, authors point out, that it is “impossible to predict performance capabilities beyond eight years.”

  • The Pentagon’s latest budget is its largest counter-drone budget ever

    July 6, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    The Pentagon’s latest budget is its largest counter-drone budget ever

    By: Kelsey Atherton As the Pentagon's latest budget slouches towards Washington, a $716 billion beast waiting to be born, it is time to take a closer look at how the robots in the budget survived the various committees and drafts. As expected, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act is a boon for drones, allocating funding for nearly three times as many uncrewed vehicles as in previous years. Most of those new drones are small, cheaper models, which is a trend reflecting in the other big spending increased in this budget: the Pentagon is set to spend almost twice as much on countering other drones in 2019 as it spend on that same in 2018. The Association of Unmanned Vehicles System International has provided an in-depth look at how exactly the 1.4 percent of the defense budget allocated to drones is spent, detailing the minute differences in the comparatively meager $9.6 billion allocation. From the AUVSI's report: Separating the President's Budget request by domain, we see that air is receiving the largest funding support with the budget for unmanned aircraft reaching almost $7 billion in FY2019, followed by $1.5 billion for counter unmanned systems (C-UxS), $1.3 billion for unmanned maritime vehicles and $0.7 billion for ground robotics. From FY2018 to FY2019, the budget for C-UxS technologies almost doubles. Figure 2 also shows the number of unique projects and sub-projects that involve unmanned systems relative to the domains in which they are operating. Cross-domain operations of air and ground unmanned vehicles are supported by the largest number of projects. Over 60 percent of these efforts are funded by the U.S. Army. The U.S. Navy is also working to provide solutions for interoperability and teaming of unmanned vehicles across multiple domains as they support over half of the projects involving operations in all domains (air, ground, and maritime). For the counter-drone mission, the Pentagon is splitting $1.5 billion between over 90 different projects, ranging from modifications to existing missiles and anti-air systems to directed energy weapons to electronic warfare software. The largest share of the 2019 budget for counter-UAS is set to go to the Army's Indirect Fire Protection family of systems, though the most interesting projects aren't always the budget headliners. Buried further down the spending list is DARPA's “Multi-Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System” (MAD-FIRES) project, which a projectile as agile and useful for interception as a missile, but cheap enough to be fired and fielded like a bullet. There's also a submunitions project from the Air Force to “Exploit the signatures of ISR targets; capture and catalog multi-spectral signatures on asymmetric threat Unmanned Aerial Systems.” That project is dubbed “Chicken Little,” perhaps with the explicit goal of making the sky fall. What the diversity of counter-drone programs, and drone programs generally, in the new Pentagon budget show is that this is still a young field, one with drone types and countermeasures all in flux. It's likely that future years will see more spending on counter drone tools, but it's also equally likely that the range of countermeasures will shrink as people fighting learn first-hand what does and doesn't work.

  • NATO advances in its new operational domain: cyberspace

    July 6, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    NATO advances in its new operational domain: cyberspace

    By: Sorin Ducaru As NATO prepares for its annual summit, to be held July 11-12 in Brussels, media attention has been focused on whether member states will boost their defense spending and readiness across the traditional operational domains of land, air and sea. This reflects a needed focus on important, but frankly longstanding alliance priorities. What many NATO-watchers are missing, however, is NATO's full embrace of its newest operational domain: cyberspace. Just two years ago, at the Warsaw Summit, allied nations recognized cyberspace as a new “operational domain in which NATO must defend itself as effectively as it does in the air, on land and at sea.” Since the Warsaw Summit, NATO has developed an ambitious roadmap to implement the cyber operational domain approach, with profound implications along lines of effort, such as: training, capability development, organizational construct, operational planning, training, exercises and strategic communications. Work in these areas is conducted with the aim to augment the cyber resilience and achieve mission success, in a cyber environment that is increasingly contested by adversaries. This is in line with the alliance's cyber pledge to prioritize investment in cyber skills and capabilities. Furthermore, the recognition of cyberspace as an operational domain opens the way for the integration of voluntary sovereign national cyber contributions into NATO operations and missions. Keeping in line with the other operational domains, NATO itself will not acquire offensive capabilities, but will rely on the contributions of its member nations. Already, the United Kingdom has led the efforts. In a Chatham House address last year, Sir Michael Fallon, former U.K. defense secretary, announced publicly that “the United Kingdom is ready to become one of the first NATO members to publicly offer such support to NATO operations as and when required.” At the NATO defense ministers' meeting last November, allies agreed on a framework of political and legal principles to guide the integration of voluntary cyber contributions from member nations. The framework ensures that any allied engagement in cyberspace will abide by NATO's defensive mandate, political oversight and compliance with international law. This is also in line with allies' support for the development of norms and confidence building measures, for security and stability in cyberspace. This year, allies' defense ministers agreed to establish a Cyber Operations Centre as part of the new NATO command structure, the first cyber-dedicated entity within NATO's command structure. This is the first step toward integrating cyber capabilities into NATO planning and operations, but specific considerations should be kept in mind. In the physical domains of land, air and sea, operational planning refers to of the physical forces or capabilities provided. In the cyber domain, integration will focus on the effects generated by the voluntary national cyber contributions, rather than the capabilities themselves, given that most cyber tools are unique and discrete. Within NATO, there has been a growing emphasis on developing the “digital IQ” of the allied military. In Portugal, a NATO Cyber and Communication-Information Systems Academy is being set-up, while cyber resilience is now featured in coordinated training curricula in every NATO member state. Cyber has been also streamlined across all NATO exercises. The NATO Cyber Center of Excellence in Estonia organizes two annual cyber-dedicated exercises. The first, “Cyber Coalition,” is testing the alliances readiness and response procedures and policies in situations of wide-reaching, persistent cyberattacks. The second exercise, under the Locked Shields banner, tests the skills of cyber experts in red-team/blue-team war games scenarios. This year, NATO's blue team won the exercises, signaling the growing interest of member nations to strengthen NATO's new operational domain. “All crises today have a cyber dimension,” noted Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier this month. Soon after in London, Stoltenberg hinted that the July NATO summit will “take decisions on integrating national cyber capabilities into NATO operations.” This reflects a game-changing approach in terms of mainstreaming cyber across strategy and tactics, training and exercises, as well as military planning in all operational domains. This is consistent with the recent U.S. Department of Defense strategy, which aims to “invest in cyber defense, resilience and the continued integration of cyber capabilities into the full spectrum of military operations.” It is no secret that, in cyberspace, we are under attack as we speak. As the threat landscape expands, so does NATO's commitment to the new cyber operational domain. Ambassador Sorin Ducaru is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Between September 2013 and November 2017, he was NATO assistant secretary general and chair of NATO's Cyber Defense Committee and Cyber Defense Management Board, having a leading role in NATO's cyber policy development and implementation. He is also a special advisor of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.

  • 5 technology trends driving an intelligent military

    July 6, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    5 technology trends driving an intelligent military

    By: Antti Kolehmainen The rise of non-traditional actors, cyberattacks and state-sponsored subversion is challenging democratic governance and creating an increasingly volatile operational and security environment for defense agencies. To address these threats, military organizations must be able to operate seamlessly and intelligently across a network of multinational partners. This year's Accenture Technology Vision identified five trends that are essential components of any intelligent defense organization: Citizen AI, extended reality, data veracity, frictionless business and Internet of Thinking. Private AI: training AI as an effective troop member Harnessing AI's potential is no longer just about training it to perform a specific task: AI will increasingly function alongside people as a full-fledged member of a team. In the high-stakes world of defense, it's especially important that AI systems act as trustworthy, responsible and efficient colleagues. AI could have a major impact for military organizations, including defense logistics and cybersecurity. An adversary equipped with advanced AI capabilities will not wait for its enemies to catch up technologically before launching an offensive. AI's ability to process and analyze vast amounts of data has significant implications across the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop. From augmenting our ability to detect new threats to analyzing countless variables, AI could transform surveillance and situational awareness. Extended Reality: The end of distance Extended reality (XR), which includes virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), is the first technology to relocate people in both time and place—effectively eliminating distance. For the defense sector, the ability to simulate and share a common view of an operational theatre is immensely powerful. Recently, Accenture created a mixed reality proof of concept using Microsoft HoloLens and gaming engine Unity that provides military personnel with an interactive map showing real-time location and status data for troops and resources on the ground. With a simple command, a user can order reinforcements or supplies, or create and test different scenarios through a mixed reality interface. XR technology can also enhance operational command capabilities in the field. For example, AR goggles could provide dashboards and data visualizations where and when they are needed – such as at an operating base. XR also will have major implications for training, allowing soldiers and pilots to engage in highly realistic combat simulations. Data veracity: the importance of trust As defense organizations become increasingly data-driven, inaccurate and manipulated information is a persistent and serious threat. Agencies can address this vulnerability by building confidence in three key data-focused tenets: provenance, or verifying data from its origin throughout its life cycle; context, or considering the circumstances around its use; and integrity, or securing and maintaining data. The ability to trust and verify the data that flows between multinational partners is critically important. Organizations must be capable of delivering the right data to the right recipient, at the right time – which can only be accomplished by radically reorienting how data is shared across today's armed forces. Today's vertical approach involves passing information up and down the command stack of a nation's military. In contrast, multinational military operations demand that information is also shared horizontally across the forces of different nations and partners. This shift requires a profound change in technology, mindset and culture within agencies. Frictionless defense: built to partner at scale Our recent survey found that 36 percent of public service leaders report working with twice as many strategic partners than two years ago. And when partnerships between industry, academia and military organizations are horizontally integrated and technology-based, they can expand faster and further than ever before. But legacy systems weren't built to support this kind of expansion, and soon, outdated systems will be major hindrances to collaboration. With this in mind, defense organizations must develop new IT architectures to reduce complexity. Agile IT systems will allow innovation to flourish, unimpeded by internal politics and employee resistance. A modern IT architecture will push organizations to clearly define the services they offer and turn each service into a potential enabler of collaboration. The Internet of Thinking: intelligent distributed defense capabilities Today's technology infrastructures are designed around a few basic assumptions: enough bandwidth to support remote applications, an abundance of computing power in a remote cloud and nearly infinite storage. But the demand for immediate response times defies this approach. Recent projections suggest that by 2020, smart sensors and other Internet of Things devices will generate at least 507.5 zettabytes of data. Trying to manage the computational “heavy-lifting” offsite will become limiting. The need for real-time systems puts hardware back in focus: special-purpose and customizable hardware is making devices at the edge of networks more powerful and energy efficient than ever before. Public service organizations are taking note: our survey indicates 79 percent of leaders believe it will be very critical over the next two years to leverage custom hardware and accelerators to meet new computing demands. The next generation of military strategies ride on pushing intelligence into the physical world. Defense organizations have to embrace new operating models to enable high-speed data flows, harness the potential of distributed intelligence and successfully neutralize threats. The defense sector is challenged to respond to new types of threat, political volatility and even new combat arenas, and acquiring new technology capabilities is a strategic imperative. Delivering greater situational awareness and the ability to respond rapidly to unpredictable adversaries requires investments in AI, edge computing and other emerging technologies. Likewise, today's information architectures will need to be redesigned to collaborate quickly, effectively and securely. Antti Kolehmainen is managing director, defense business service global lead at Accenture.

  • Tightening Chest and Tingling Fingers: Why Are the Military’s Fighter Pilots Getting Sick?

    July 5, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Tightening Chest and Tingling Fingers: Why Are the Military’s Fighter Pilots Getting Sick?

    BY LARA SELIGMAN On June 28, a young U.S. Navy officer flying in a two-seater electronic warfare jet in the skies over Washington State suddenly felt a tightness in his chest and tingling in his extremities. He instantly recognized his symptoms as signs of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. The jet, an EA-18G Growler from a training squadron out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, diverted to a local airport, and made an “uneventful” landing, according to Navy spokesman Cmdr. Scot Cregan. The crew member, an electronic warfare officer in training, was transported to a hospital for medical treatment. Both the pilot and the trainee officer survived, but the incident, the latest in an alarming string of similar episodes, could have been deadly. Across the U.S. military fleets, pilots and aircrew are experiencing a dramatic surge in so-called physiological episodes, which leave aviators disoriented and shaken. At worst, these unexplained incidents can be fatal — the Navy has linked four F/A-18 fighter pilot deaths over a span of 10 years to the events. The continuing mystery over the pilots' sickness is part of a deeper concern about the military's aviation readiness, as the rate of fatal aircraft crashes recently reached a six-year high. It also raises larger questions over the ability of the world's largest and best-funded military to resolve a basic problem that appears primarily limited to the United States. The Navy considers the physiological episode problem its “number one aviation safety priority.” From 2009 to 2016, the rate of such events increased almost eightfold in the F/A-18 and EA-18G — a version of the two-seater F/A-18 — fleets, from 16 to 125 incidents. In the Navy's T-45 training fleet, the spike is even more significant: In 2009, the Navy reported just one such incident, but in 2016, the number was 38. Most recently, two aviators endured a harrowing landing after the temperature inside their Growler cockpit suddenly plunged to as low as -30 degrees. A mist formed in the cockpit, covering the instruments and windows with ice and rendering the pilots almost completely blind. The aircrew had to turn on the emergency oxygen supply. The crew and ground-based controllers managed to work to land the aircraft safely. But both the pilot and the electronic warfare officer suffered “severe blistering and burns on hands” due to frostbite. The Navy believes the incident was caused by a failure of the environmental control system, a series of pipes and valves that regulates airflow to the air conditioning and oxygen systems. The Air Force has a similar oxygen problem. In 2010, Capt. Jeff Haney died when an engine bleed-air malfunction caused the control system on his F-22 stealth fighter to shut off oxygen flow to his mask. Since then, the episodes have continued in almost every aircraft type, including the A-10 attack jet, the T-6 trainer, and the new F-35 fighter. The most recent incidents have not yet been directly linked to fatalities. But in a sign that the military recognizes the severity of the problem, in the past year both the Navy and Air Force have grounded fleets in response to these events: the Navy's T-45s in April 2017, the Air Force F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in June 2017, part of the Air Force's A-10 fleet in November 2017, and the T-6s in November 2017 and again this February. Neither service has identified a single point of failure or a solution to these episodes despite years of investment — a fact that has not gone unnoticed by prominent lawmakers. “What's occurring in the Navy is absolutely unacceptable,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, in 2017. “This is absolutely critical for our pilots.” “I have no doubt the Navy is taking that issue seriously,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, during an event in Washington in 2017. But, “I don't understand why we can't figure out what's causing the oxygen problem.” In May, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), introduced legislation to create an independent National Commission on Military Aviation Safety in response to the surge in deadly crashes over the last year. Some, but not all, of these incidents were related to hypoxia. Meanwhile, NASA has waded into the fray. After completing a congressionally mandated review of the Navy's investigation into the F/A-18 and EA-18G incidents, which faulted both the Navy and manufacturer Boeing, the agency is embarking on a new study of how pilots breathe while flying high-performance aircraft. The services continue making incremental changes to the aircraft design, flight gear, and maintenance procedures in an effort to mitigate the risk to aircrew. In the T-45, at least, these modifications have reduced the number of incidents, according to Rear Adm. Sara Joyner, who until recently led the Navy's physiological episode investigation. Rear Adm.-select Fredrick Luchtman currently leads the effort. But other Navy and Air Force fleets continue to see physiological episodes at alarming rates. “More work remains to be done, and this will remain our top safety priority until we fully understand, and have mitigated, all possible PE [physiological episode] causal factors,” said Rear Adm. Roy Kelley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, in congressional testimony June 21.

  • Belgian Navy tests Austrian copter drone for at-sea surveillance

    July 5, 2018 | International, Naval, C4ISR

    Belgian Navy tests Austrian copter drone for at-sea surveillance

    By: Sebastian Sprenger COLOGNE, Germany ― The Belgian Navy has finished a weekslong series of test flights with Schiebel's CAMCOPTER S-100 drone as part of the sea service's search for new maritime-surveillance and search-and-rescue equipment, the company announced Tuesday. The test plan, which ran June 21 to July 1, constituted an initial step for Belgian officials to identify “the possibilities of such systems and sensors,” Lt. Cmdr. D. Biermans is quoted as saying in the statement. In particular, officials had an eye on the unmanned copter's operation in the country's confined airspace — on land and over water ― and “opportunities for the domain of coastal security and prospects for further developments,” Biermans said. Belgium sports a relatively straight coastline measuring close to 70 kilometers, roughly equivalent in length to that between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in Florida. The European nation is joining a growing trend among navies worldwide to employ UAVs to act as the eyes and ears of military and coast guard vessels. Equipped with a variety of sensors, the aircraft can help spot potential threats and help rescue people lost at sea. “Given the complexity of introducing a [maritime tactical unmanned aircraft system] within the Navy and its impact on the concepts of operation and tactics, this was a first informative step and will be part of a series of tests and experiments with a variety of vehicles and sensors,” Biermans said. Schiebel's CAMCOPTER S-100 has performed “thousands” of takeoffs and landings from aboard more than 30 ships by a host of international customers, company spokeswoman Sanna Raza told Defense News. She declined to say what countries' programs the company is eyeing next, citing confidentiality agreements. Based in Vienna, Austria, Schiebel plans to focus on integrating next-generation sensors to further expand its portfolio in the areas of intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, according to Raza.


    July 5, 2018 | International, C4ISR


    Lily Hay Newman EVERY DAY, COMPANIES like Google and Apple wage a constant battle to keep malicious apps out of their marketplaces and off people's phones. And while they do catch a lot of malware before it does any damage, there are always a few nasty infiltrators that manage to sneak by and end up getting downloaded by thousands of consumers. No one wants these mistakes to happen, but when you're a crucial app store for the Department of Defense, these mistakes can't happen. That was the problem facing the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as it set about creating a flexible yet ultrasecure app store in 2012. NGA is a combat support organization that primarily assesses and distributes geospatial intelligence. The agency wanted to provide sensitive and mission-critical apps to groups across the DOD through a platform that had the security and resilience of a government defense product, while also offering a streamlined, up-to-date user experience similar to ubiquitous commercial app stores. "We recognized that we did not know everything when it came to apps, and we wanted to be using the innovation that was happening in the commercial sector," says Joedy Saffel, division chief and source director of NGA who has worked on the GEOINT App Store from the beginning. "But how do we do that in a safe, secure manner? How do we do that from a contractual perspective? And how do we do that in a way that nontraditional vendors will trust doing business with the government? It was a great challenge." The key, Saffel says, is getting developers to agree to hand over the source code of their apps for in-depth analysis and review. Whether an app is a simple time/speed/distance calculator for a pilot or a hyper-specialized classified tool, sharing source code is a big risk for developers, because it means trusting third parties with the core intellectual property they have built their businesses on. But NGA soon realized that full access was the only way its project could work. So NGA's GEOINT App Store runs its security protections and screening processes in a way a commercial platform never could. Need To Know You can browse through the GEOINT App Store yourself today and see many of the mapping, aeronautical, weather-forecasting, location-sharing, and travel-alert services that it hosts for Android, iOS, desktop, and web. But that's just the public unclassified section—one crucial aspect of designing the platform was building segmentation controls so DOD employees with different levels of clearance, or simply different needs, could have gated access to different apps. "We built the App Store to be a completely unclassified environment that's open to the public," says Ben Foster, a technical director at NGA who is the product manager for the app store. "But it also has identity management that uses a federated approach to authentication. It's even flexible enough to integrate with other identity-management platforms across DOD. If a user is a helicopter pilot, they might see and get different apps then someone who is a tactical operator in the Army." This system also works with the platform's pricing variations: Some apps are free to everyone, some downloads come with a fee that needs to be taken out of a particular department's budget, and some apps are licensed by NGA or another agency. The most radical part of the GEOINT App Store from a government perspective is the speed with which NGA can process apps and get them live in the store. In general, government acquisition processes take many months or years, a clear problem when it comes to constantly evolving software. So NGA worked with its chief information officer, IT Directorate, legal team, international affairs division, and contracting office to establish a streamlined app-vetting process that would be acceptable under federal acquisition regulations. The agency also contracted with a private firm called Engility to directly manage the outreach, acquisition, and development environment for customizing prospective apps to NGA's requirements. The process, known as the Innovative GEOINT Application Provider Program, or IGAPP, minimizes bureaucratic hurdles and guides developers who want to submit an app through a pipeline that vets, modifies, and generally grooms apps for NGA's store. "What we focused on early on was providing tools so developers can bring their app and do a lot of the pre-testing and development with Engility," NGA's Saffel says. "We're able to be flexible with that because it's being done outside of the government footprint in a brokered environment. And then NGA has a governance board that meets every week, and the whole process has matured enough that by the time an app comes to NGA, we can review it and get that application into the app store and exposed within two weeks' time." Though the process might be even faster if NGA only did the minimum vetting required, Saffel says that the GEOINT team worked to find a balance where the apps go live quickly, but there's still time for the automated code analyses and human audits that commercial app stores can't do. Check It Out After a developer submits their app, Engility does extensive source code analysis and vulnerability scanning and produces an initial findings report. John Holcomb, the IGAPP program manager from Engility, notes that an initial vulnerability report can have as many as 1,000 items on it that a developer needs to address. "It's a little intimidating at first," Holcomb says. "But we walk them through it, and they go back and modify their code—it's their code, we don't modify it for them. We might go through four runs of that on a brand-new app, but by the time we're done, they will have remediated their code down to the level that the government needs. There are still going to be bureaucratic hurdles, but it's our job to break through those." In addition to digging deep into source code, IGAPP also tests how apps function in practice, to make sure that there aren't benign-looking aspects of the code that actually underlie a shady function. "We take the compiled application and we watch what it does," Holcomb says. "Who does it phone home to? Is it sending private information unencrypted?" After an app gets approved for inclusion in the GEOINT App Store, developers continue to work with IGAPP on developing and vetting software updates so that patches and improvements can be pushed out quickly. The brokered vetting process means that the government never holds developers' source code directly. The inspection is always mediated by Engility, which signs nondisclosure agreements with developers and isn't a software maker itself. Holcomb says that the company carefully guards app data while storing it, and once a project is done, Engility doesn't just do a soft data deletion; it hard-purges the information from its cloud servers within 30 days. NGA's Saffel and Holcomb both note that developers were apprehensive about the unusual workflow at first, but over the years the app store has gained credibility. Developers say they benefit from the IGAPP process both by securing lucrative government contracts and by integrating the improvements from the IGAPP development into their commercial products. The code audits and security vetting IGAPP offers are expensive, so developers generally don't do such extensive assessment on their own. "Everyone's dream is to sell to the government, but it normally takes years of effort to get to a position where you can. In our case, I was able to sell to the government in less than a month," says Bill DeWeese, CEO of the firm Aviation Mobile Apps, which has had six apps accepted into the GEOINT App Store. "You do feel a little anxiety about sharing source code, you worry about your IP leaking and someone getting ahold of it. But I haven't had any issues, and the benefit is the increased quality of your products at no cost—you get the analysis for free and you can put it in your commercial offerings." NGA's Saffel says the governance board that evaluates the apps at the end of the process is careful to stay vigilant so nothing goes into the store by accident. The board will still push back on apps or turn them away when warranted, but Saffel says the process has matured such that most of what the board sees these days is ready or very near ready to go live. And IGAPP prioritizes its patching process and infrastructure, to make it easy for developers to push bug fixes and improvements throughout the life of an app. All of this means a consumer-grade turnaround time for critical Department of Defense tools without the consumer-grade security concerns. "NGA is kind of a unique combat-support agency," Saffel says. "With the GEOINT App Store we chose to go into a very risky new frontier for DOD and the government in general, but I think we've demonstrated that we can do things differently and still be secure and still control access. We're supporting a lot of different mission sets, and I expect that the app store will keep growing."

  • Hydro-Québec and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Announce Battery Materials Breakthrough

    July 4, 2018 | Local, Land

    Hydro-Québec and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Announce Battery Materials Breakthrough

    Hydro-Québec and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have announced a breakthrough in the lithium-ion battery materials field, publishing their research results(This hyperlink will open a new window) in the Journal of Power Sources(This hyperlink will open a new window). Using a cathode made with new high voltage safe materials, the researchers have achieved a world first: building a 1.2 Ah lithium-ion cell with a voltage of 5 V. “With the high voltage of this new cell, we can reach a very high energy density,” says Karim Zaghib, General Director of the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage. “This highly desirable property can improve batteries used in a wide range of applications.” ARL scientists Jan Allen and Richard Jow, also inventors of this high voltage cathode material, believe that the high cell voltage can, in addition to enabling high energy density, improve the design of devices. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used to power many electronic devices, including smartphones, medical devices and electric vehicles. Their high energy density, excellent durability and lightness make them a popular choice for energy storage. In response to the growing demand for their use in a wide range of products, there are many teams working to improve their storage capacity. In particular, there is great interest in developing new compounds that could increase energy storage capacity, stability and lifespan. That is why the innovation announced today has such a strong commercial potential. About Hydro-Québec Hydro-Québec generates, transmits and distributes electricity. It is Canada's largest electricity producer and one of the world's largest hydroelectric power producers. Its sole shareholder is the Québec government. It uses mainly renewable generating options, in particular large hydropower. Its research institute, IREQ, conducts R&D in energy efficiency, energy storage and other energy-related fields. http:/ hyperlink will open a new window) About the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage The mission of the Centre of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage is to conduct battery materials research for Hydro-Québec. The center of excellence is headed by Karim Zaghib, an expert of international renown. Dr. Zaghib was recently named one of the World's Most Influential Scientific Minds(This hyperlink will open a new window) for the third year running. The center of excellence commercializes Hydro-Québec technologies, protected by several hundred patents. It will also create new research partnerships and develop new technologies. About the U.S. Army Research Laboratory The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is the U.S. Army's premiere laboratory for land forces. It is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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