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  • LEARN MORE ABOUT M-RTOS

    July 16, 2020 | Local, Aerospace

    LEARN MORE ABOUT M-RTOS

    MANNARINO is revolutionizing aerospace software with a superior RTOS solution that significantly drives down the cost of ownership. M-RTOS is a modular, flexible and affordable operating system for a wide range of aerospace applications, from COTS electronic hardware to federated LRU aircraft systems to IMA platforms. M-RTOS was designed to outperform the competition on all key benchmarks. Join us at Farnborough International Airshow Connect (FIA Connect) on July 20th. Click here to register . DISCOVER MORE ____ FOLLOW US ____ CONTACT US ____ +1 514.381.1360 Mannarino Systems & Software Inc. 100 Alexis-Nihon, Suite 800, St-Laurent, Quebec, H4M 2P4, Canada ©2020 Mannarino Systems & Software Inc. info@mss.ca

  • SCAF-Tempest: nouvelle guerre d'avions de combat européens en vue

    July 16, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    SCAF-Tempest: nouvelle guerre d'avions de combat européens en vue

    Par Vincent Lamigeon le 15.07.2020 à 15h04 Un rapport du Sénat sur le projet d'avion de combat franco-allemand SCAF juge peu probable une fusion du programme avec le projet britannique concurrent Tempest. Une nouvelle guerre intestine de type Rafale-Eurofighter ferait le bonheur de la concurrence américaine. On connaissait la guerre intestine Rafale-Eurofighter. Il va peut-être falloir s'habituer à son remake, l'affrontement SCAF-Tempest. Dans un rapport sur le projet d'avion de combat franco-allemand SCAF (Système de combat aérien du futur) publié le 15 juillet, les sénateurs Hélène Conway-Mouret et Ronan Le Gleut estiment hautement improbable la fusion du programme avec son concurrent britannique Tempest, lui aussi prévu pour une entrée en service en 2035-2040. "Pour le moment, les deux projets n'ont aucune intersection", estiment les rapporteurs, soulignant que "l'intérêt réciproque" à un rapprochement est "de moins en moins marqué". "Les Britanniques semblent d'ailleurs beaucoup moins effrayés que nous à l'idée d'une concurrence intra-européenne", assure Hélène Conway-Mouret. De fait, chacun des deux programmes avance de son côté. Lancé par Paris et Berlin en juillet 2017, le SCAF a été rejoint par l'Espagne mi-2018. Le projet vise le développement d'un nouvel avion de combat (NGF, pour New Generation Fighter), de drones d'accompagnement ("remote carriers", ou effecteurs déportés) et d'un "cloud de combat" destiné à faire fonctionner ces engins en réseau. Après d''pres négociations, Paris et Berlin ont signé début 2020 un premier contrat de recherche et technologies (R&T). D'un montant de 155 millions d'euros, il a permis de lancer les travaux préparatoires au développement d'un démonstrateur à l'horizon 2026. Dassault, Airbus Defence & Space, Safran, MTU, Thales, MBDA et l'espagnol Indra figurent notamment parmi les industriels retenus. Italie et Suède dans la "Team Tempest" En réaction à ce projet, le Royaume-Uni a annoncé en juillet 2018 le développement de son propre avion de combat du futur, baptisé Tempest. De premiers travaux ont été confiés à une équipe d'industriels britanniques ou très implantés outre-Manche (BAE, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo, MBDA). Londres cherche désormais à attirer dans la "Team Tempest" des pays comme l'Italie, la Suède, mais aussi le Japon, la Turquie et l'Arabie Saoudite. Stockholm et Rome ont déjà, plus ou moins officiellement, rejoint le projet. "C'était une évidence pour nous de choisir cette option au lieu d'attendre quelques années pour obtenir une fraction du programme franco-allemand", assurait le 15 juillet dans le Financial Times Micael Johansson, le directeur général du groupe suédois Saab. Pour les sénateurs, une fusion des deux projets semble donc chaque jour moins probable, d'abord pour raisons industrielles. "La négociation pour la répartition des t'ches entre les grands leaders industriels au sein d'un seul et même projet, en particulier Airbus, Dassault, BAE, Thales et Leonardo, serait très complexe", souligne le rapport. Un rapprochement serait "encore plus difficile si le projet britannique parvient à une véritable internationalisation, en particulier avec l'entrée de la Turquie et/ou de l'Arabie Saoudite, voire du Japon", écrivent les sénateurs. Le scénario de deux avions concurrents, déjà éprouvé depuis 30 ans avec la lutte Rafale-Eurofighter, serait une catastrophe pour la défense européenne. "Il n'est pas certain que l'Europe pourra s'offrir deux systèmes de combat aérien du futur concurrents, avec une base d'exportation nécessairement plus étroite, surtout lorsque les conséquences économiques de la crise du coronavirus se seront fait pleinement sentir", écrivent Hélène Conway-Mouret et Ronan Le Gleut. La concurrence s'annonce frontale: le projet Tempest ambitionne une entrée en service en 2035, soit cinq ans avant le SCAF. Si ce calendrier est jugé "extrêmement ambitieux" par le rapport, le Sénat appelle néanmoins à profiter des plans de relance européens pour accélérer le calendrier du projet franco-allemand, et le rapprocher de la date de 2035. Le cap du milliard d'euros La concurrence du Tempest n'est pas la seule menace pour le programme SCAF. Avec seulement 155 millions d'euros de contrats signés, pour un montant total estimé entre 50 et 80 milliards d'euros, le projet n'est pas encore irréversible, soulignent les rapporteurs. Le Bundestag allemand est en droit de valider chaque tranche de 25 millions d'euros d'investissement, ce qui a déjà ralenti l'avancée du projet et menace les travaux futurs. Pour éviter cet écueil, les rapporteurs préconisent la signature d'un contrat-cadre global dès début 2021, pour graver dans le marbre le lancement du démonstrateur en 2026. "Il faudrait passer à un plus d'un milliard d'euros investis, idéalement 2 milliards, pour rendre le programme irréversible", estime Ronan Le Gleut. Autre menace pour l'avion de combat franco-allemand: l'inefficacité du fameux principe européen dit du "retour géographique", qui prévoit que les Etats partenaires reçoivent une charge industrielle proportionnelle à leur investissement. Cette vieille doxa européenne aboutit, comme sur le programme A400M, au choix d'industriels en fonction de leur passeport, et pas forcément de leurs compétences. Sans sacrifier totalement ce principe, le Sénat appelle donc à privilégier la doctrine dite du "best athlete" (meilleur athlète), selon laquelle c'est l'acteur le plus compétent qui est choisi, quelle que soit sa nationalité. Pour autant, Paris ne doit pas l'cher ses champions nationaux, industriels comme organismes publics, estime le rapport. Les sénateurs préconisent de veiller à la charge confiée aux PME et ETI françaises, et à confier au plus vite des contrats sur le SCAF à l'Onera, le laboratoire français de l'aérospatial. A l'inverse de son homologue allemand, le DLR, celui-ci est pour l'instant largement délaissé. "L'Onera doit participer au programme à la hauteur de son excellence reconnue par tous", indiquent les rapporteurs. Dans une interview à Challenges publiée le 22 juin, le président de l'Onera Bruno Sainjon espérait la signature de contrats SCAF en 2021. M88 contre J200 Les rapporteurs se veulent aussi vigilants sur la motorisation du futur démonstrateur du SCAF, qui doit voler en en 2026. Ils poussent au choix du moteur M88, développé par Safran, dans une version plus puissante que celle qui équipe actuellement le Rafale. C'était le scénario privilégié depuis le départ du programme, et un choix logique au vu du statut de maître d'oeuvre de Safran sur le moteur du SCAF. Mais les rapporteurs ont découvert qu'une autre option envisagée serait de choisir le moteur J200... qui équipe l'Eurofighter Typhoon. "Ce ne serait pas le bon choix, assure Ronan Le Gleut. Safran est le meilleur." Reste à voir si l'allemand MTU et l'espagnol ITP, qui participent à la fabrication du J200, sont du même avis. https://www.challenges.fr/entreprise/defense/scaf-tempest-la-nouvelle-guerre-des-avions-de-combat-europeens_719510

  • House defense spending bill would give the MQ-9 Reaper drone a second life

    July 16, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    House defense spending bill would give the MQ-9 Reaper drone a second life

    By: Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON —The House Appropriations Committee is aiming to resuscitate the MQ-9 Reaper program, which the Air Force wants to curtail in fiscal 2021. The committee's version of the FY21 spending bill, which its defense subcommittee will deliberate Wednesday in a closed hearing, would allocate $344 million for 16 MQ-9 Reaper drones. The language is a good sign for the aircraft's manufacturer, General Atomics, which stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in sales if the Air Force stopped buying the aircraft. The service in FY20 had planned to buy nine MQ-9s in FY21, 17 in FY22, two in FY23 and three in FY24, but zeroed out all plans to buy additional Reaper drones as part of its FY21 budget request. However, the Reaper isn't home free just yet. The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to unveil its own version of the legislation, leaving it unclear whether the Senate will concur with the House committee's spending bill. The MQ-9 wasn't the only aircraft program to get a boost from House appropriators. The committee added 12 more F-35s to the budget, for a total of 91 jets and $9.3 billion. The lawmakers are also planning to authorize $965 million for 11 C-130J aircraft — an increase of two planes — and they boosted the number of V-22 Ospreys tilt-rotor aircraft from nine to 11. The bill also beefs up the investment for the UH-60 Black Hawk with an additional $141 million, funding a total of 42 helicopters. The legislation funds three P-8A Poseidon submarine-hunting planes for the Navy Reserve force. Those aircraft were not originally included in the budget. The Navy would get an additional E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, for a total of five planes costing $791 million. The committee also approved $1 billion for nine CH-53K helicopters, two more than the request. Additionally, the legislation would allow U.S. Special Operations Command to begin its Armed Overwatch Program, but the bill summary did not state how much funding would be allotted in FY21. The House committee fully funded most other major military aircraft programs, including money for 50 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, five CH-47 Chinook Block II cargo helicopters and long-lead funding for additional Chinooks for the Army. The Air Force would get 12 F-15EX fighters, 15 KC-46 tankers and 19 HH-60W combat rescue helicopters. Meanwhile, the Navy's request of 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets was also fully funded by the committee. https://www.defensenews.com/air/2020/07/08/house-defense-spending-bill-would-give-the-mq-9-reaper-drone-a-second-life

  • Defense execs press lead lawmakers for COVID reimbursements

    July 16, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Defense execs press lead lawmakers for COVID reimbursements

    By: Joe Gould WASHINGTON ― Eighty defense industry executives have written to top congressional leaders to ask for emergency appropriations to reimburse defense contractors' coronavirus-related costs. Led by the Aerospace Industries Association, which represents 300 large and small suppliers to the Department of Defense, the letter called for, “an appropriate level of funding for these reimbursements and respectfully request your support of the Department of Defense's request for emergency funding.” The letter was one of two this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., their minority party counterparts and the leaders of the defense committees. The other letter came Wednesday from the Professional Services Council, which represents more than 400 government contracting firms. Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act allows firms serving the federal government to seek reimbursement for pandemic-related expenses, but Congress hasn't passed corresponding appropriations. Defense officials have said they need roughly $10 billion and that without added funding from Congress, the Pentagon would have to dip into modernization and readiness funds. Both the PSC and the defense executives called for an extension of the 3610 authorities beyond their Sept. 30 expiration date, to Dec. 31. While federal civilian workers and uniformed personnel will be paid whether they can come to work or not, that's not often the case for contractors, Berteau said. Contractors need the 3610 reimbursements to hold onto highly skilled workers, many with high-level security clearances. “Failure to sustain the employees in that workforce will lead to negative impacts on the agencies which they support as well as on the workers themselves, their families, and their employer companies,” the PSC's president and CEO, David Berteau, said in its letter. “Such a failure could also lead to furloughs and layoffs that would further damage an already faltering economy. Extending Section 3610 authorities will help prevent these negative consequences.” The defense execs, in their letter, said their firms face COVID-19-related costs associated with “travel restrictions, facility closures, social distancing within facilities, enhanced cleaning measures, the purchase of personal protective and sterilization equipment, and costs associated with supply chain disruptions.” The pandemic has created weapons program slowdowns, temporary factory closures and cash flow problems, particularly for smaller firms. The Pentagon was been working in close communication to respond to the problems, largely by making billions of dollars in advance payment to contractors. The AIA-led letter asked for consideration for the Defense Department's request for emergency funding as congressional leaders draft their next tranche of coronavirus aid. “Absorbing the magnitude of the Department's estimated costs without appropriations would threaten recent improvements to readiness, jeopardize critical defense sector jobs which have helped stabilize communities across the country during the pandemic, and further erode the domestic supply base,” the letter reads. “During a period of massive unemployment, the defense industrial base has risen to the challenge and gone above and beyond to keep essential manufacturing sites safe and open, and to ensure critical national security programs are not delayed indefinitely. The defense industrial base continues to be an economic driver during a period when many elements of commercial industry have been shaken by the pandemic.” The advocates appear to face an uphill battle in Congress, where Republicans in particular are skeptical of new deficit spending after already approving aid packages worth trillions. McConnell outlined a proposal last week that made no mention of defense spending or Section 3610. The House Appropriations Committee passed a fiscal 2021 defense spending bill Tuesday that included $758 billion, which is far less than the figure the Pentagon is seeking. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash. ― has said repeatedly that the Defense Department should draw from its existing budget. A smaller group of top defense firms sent similar letters last week to Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord and acting White House budget chief Russell Vought last week warning a defense budget disruption would lead to “significant job losses in pivotal states.” https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2020/07/15/defense-execs-press-lead-lawmakers-for-covid-reimbursements/

  • Key House Democrats want to lock in New START weapons limits

    July 16, 2020 | International, Land

    Key House Democrats want to lock in New START weapons limits

    By: Joe Gould WASHINGTON ― The chairmen of the House foreign affairs and intelligence committees are pushing a measure meant to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control agreement amid fears President Donald Trump will let it lapse. Led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the proposal would require congressional approval to increase the nuclear arsenal above the limits of the 2010 New START treaty, if the pact is allowed to expire next year. The measure was offered as an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which is set for floor consideration next week. Engel's amendment was cosponsored by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and House Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin, D-R.I. “This Administration's recklessness has left New START as the only remaining agreement limiting Russia's nuclear weapons. Despite the White House's claims, there's no ‘better deal' with Russia and China on the horizon, and the clock on New START is ticking,” Engel said in a statement. “The president doesn't seem to have a problem with Russia developing more and more nuclear weapons that could strike the United States, so Congress has to do everything we can to keep these protections in place.” The action came days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned he's not very optimistic about prospects for an extension because of Washington's focus on making China sign onto the pact. U.S. and Russian envoys held talks last month in Vienna, but Beijing has refused to take part. Engel's amendment states that the U.S. should extend the pact for five years, to an expiration date of February 5, 2026, unless Russia is in material breach of the treaty or if it is replaced by a new, stronger agreement. It also provides the executive branch with permission to continue inspection activities and other transparency measures if New START expires on February 5, 2021, assuming that the government of Russia reciprocates these steps The New START treaty limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance. The amendment would bar funding to increase the arsenal above the treaty limits unless the president notifies Congress in advance of the new military requirements, certifies that the additional deployments are necessary and justifies the deployments, reports the associated costs and operational implications, and requires that any increase in deployed nuclear weapons is subject to a joint resolution of approval. It also requires detailed reports on Russian nuclear forces and, with and eye toward potential growth in China's nuclear arsenal, requires briefings and reports regarding the administration's arms control approach with Beijing, according to a summary. It also requires a presidential certification before New START would lapse that this would serve U.S. national security interests, an assessment whether continuing limits on Russian nuclear forces would serve U.S. interests and a plan for how the U.S. military and intelligence communities will address the post-New START environment, including the potential funding and development of additional nuclear deterrence and intelligence requirements. If Engel's amendment is accepted by the House Rules Committee and adopted by the House, it would almost certainly invite resistance from hawkish supporters of the president during negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the NDAA. Senate Armed Services Committee's Chairman Jim Inhofe, a proponent of nuclear weapons spending, has historically been a skeptic of the treaty. Kingston Reif, the Arms Control Association's director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, said the Trump administration doesn't seem like it will extend New Start and that Congress ought to be putting in roadblocks. “Crucially, the amendment would require congressional approval to increase the nuclear arsenal above the treaty limits, if the treaty is allowed to expire next year. A decision as consequential as increasing the size of the deployed arsenal, which hasn't occurred in decades, merits special scrutiny,” Reif said. After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries. Russia has offered its extension without any conditions, while the Trump administration has pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China. Moscow has described that idea as unfeasible, pointing at Beijing's refusal to negotiate any deal that would reduce its much smaller nuclear arsenal. Trump declared an intention to pull out of the agreement in May, citing Russian violations. Russia denied breaching the pact, which came into force in 2002, and the European Union has urged the U.S. to reconsider. https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2020/07/15/key-house-democrats-want-to-lock-in-new-start-weapons-limits/

  • Airbus US pivots business strategy away from selling big platforms to the Pentagon

    July 16, 2020 | International, C4ISR, Security

    Airbus US pivots business strategy away from selling big platforms to the Pentagon

    By: Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON — After decades of trying to break into the U.S. military aircraft market, Airbus is shifting course with a new strategy that prioritizes selling off-the-shelf sensors, data, space and intelligence capabilities that have been customized for U.S. government buyers. During a Wednesday discussion with reporters about the new direction for the business, Chris Emerson, the new chief executive of the Airbus U.S. Space and Defense division and formerly the president of Airbus Helicopters, said he wanted to move the company's focus in the United States away from the major fixed-wing platforms that are the company's bread and butter in Europe. Instead, he hopes to expand the company's presence in the growing space and intelligence markets, particularly with low-cost satellites like those made by its joint venture One Web, geospatial intelligence and imaging, and space-based sensors. “We know the Air Force needs an A400M, but I can spend 10 years trying to convince the Air Force and all the politicians that they should buy an A400M. And ultimately they will buy C-130s,” Emerson said. “So let me focus this energy, this great leadership team, on achieving something that is tangible today that the customer really needs. Yes, it's not traditional for Airbus, but it will bring the value and we'll have a better foundation if one day my successor says, ‘You know, I want to be a big platform competitor.' At least we'd have built up trust and proven that we could really meet the requirements that are demanded of it.” Although Airbus is a juggernaut in the international military and commercial aerospace market, it has always struggled to find its place among the U.S. defense prime contractors as major aircraft manufacturers. It famously lost the KC-X contract to Boeing in 2011 after a bloody and prolonged battle. Since then, the company's biggest procurement victory has been continued sales of its UH-72A Lakota helicopter to the Army. “I remember I spent eight years thinking we could bring real value on air-to-air refueling for the Air Force. But I spent eight years, and I'm frustrated because I look at it and we didn't succeed,” Emerson said. “I've asked the team, ‘Let's find a roadmap where we can actually make a mark with the customers.' And that means, I'm not going to go look at competing with Boeing and the Lockheeds and Northrop, but I'm going to look at other areas.” The U.S. customer is increasingly making investments into technologies that can augment or accelerate decision-making, he said. “That's where we start to look everything beyond an air breathing platform. We started to look at the data, the intelligence, that they need,” he said. “It could be intelligence that is geospatial-related, either Earth observation, or electro-optical, or synthetic aperture radar, or a blend that we're pulling in multi-source information.” Airbus already develops those types of capabilities in its commercial air and space businesses, and could quickly adapt them to U.S. demands, he said. When there are opportunities to offer Airbus aircraft to the U.S. military, the strategy will be to partner with American primes, Emerson said. For instance, last year Airbus and Lockheed signed a memorandum of understanding to market aerial refueling services to the U.S. Air Force using the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport. Asked on Wednesday whether the two companies planned to compete for tanker leasing opportunities currently being considered by the Air Force, Emerson said Lockheed takes the lead on interactions with the U.S. military on aerial refueling. He added that UH-72s will continue to be manufactured alongside Airbus's commercial H125 helicopter in Columbus, Miss., but modifications, support and contracting will be performed by the Airbus U.S. Space and Defense. In addition to naming Emerson as head of the company's U.S. defense and space business, Airbus also appointed a five-person board of directors — which includes former National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director Letitia Long and William Shelton, a retired Air Force four-star and former head of Air Force Space Command — aimed at deepening ties with the U.S. military, space and intelligence agencies. It also named a seven-person team of advisers made up of former national security officials. https://www.defensenews.com/industry/2020/07/15/airbus-us-pivots-business-strategy-away-from-selling-big-platforms-to-the-pentagon/

  • UK orders first three Protector drones from General Atomics

    July 16, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    UK orders first three Protector drones from General Atomics

    By: Andrew Chuter LONDON – Britain's Ministry of Defence has signed a deal with General Atomics for the first three Protector remotely piloted air vehicles destined to equip the Royal Air Force with a replacement for its Reaper drone force. A £65 million (U.S. $80 million) contract for three Protectors, the British version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian was announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace during a virtual air power conference held by the RAF July 15. Protector will fly further, hit harder and, crucially, be able to fly in unsegregated civilian airspace compared with the Reaper vehicles widely used by the British in Afghanistan and the Middle East over the last several years. Three ground stations and other associated support equipment are also included in an initial deal that will see the first vehicle delivered to the British next year. The initial vehicle will remain in the United States for test and evaluation until 2023, ahead of deploying to its UK base at RAF Waddington, eastern England. Able to fly for up to 40 hours Protector is expected to enter service in 2024. The aircraft will be armed with MBDA's Brimstone missile and Raytheon UK's Paveway IV precision-guided bomb, enhanced data links and detect-and-avoid technology. The deal for Protector production includes an option on a further purchase of 13 drones. A contract firming up the options is planned for April next year. An MoD spokesperson denied that breaking up the order into two parts was related to balancing the over-stretched budget for this year. The cost of purchasing the remaining drones is put at around £180 million, or $230 million. The MoD spokesperson said consideration is also being given to an additional acquisition of drones over and above the 16 vehicles already envisaged. A total force of more than 20 Protectors was envisaged in the Conservative government's 2015 strategic defence and security review. Now, the final numbers will likely be subject to the outcome of an integrated defense, foreign policy and security review now underway by the Conservatives. Many people here think the already cash-strapped MoD will be a post-Covid-19 target for capability cuts as the government shifts its emphasis on defense equipment spending away from more conventional technologies into areas like space, cyber and artificial intelligence. Protector has already been a victim of MoD financial pressures. Sir Simon Bollom, the CEO of the Defence Equipment and Support arm of the MoD, alluded to the difficulties saying in an MoD statement his organization had "overcome considerable challenges" to keep the program on track. The vehicle was originally slated to enter service with the RAF in 2018 but that was then put back until 2021 before the new date was agreed. In announcing the deal defence secretary Ben Wallace said, „Protector will provide the RAF with vast global reach, meeting the UK's defense and security needs for decades to come, and provide another increase to the unmanned inventory for the armed forces.“ https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/07/15/uk-orders-first-three-protector-drones-from-general-atomics/

  • Congress skeptical of Navy’s unmanned vessels plans

    July 16, 2020 | International, Naval

    Congress skeptical of Navy’s unmanned vessels plans

    Nathan Strout The U.S. Navy wants $464 million for unmanned surface vessels, but Congress is not on the same page. Legislators have so far declined to fully fund the massive investment into research and development for large and medium unmanned surface vessels as they work through the annual defense bill, citing the request as “excessive procurement ahead of satisfactory testing.” Among other things, that budget request would give the Navy $239 million to purchase two Overlord large unmanned surface vehicle (LUSV) prototypes for testing. While the Senate Armed Services Committee has declined to authorize any of the $464 million request, the House Armed Services Committee agreed to authorize just $270 million of that request — specifically cutting funding for the two LUSVs. Instead, the House version would provide the Navy $45 million to convert a Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship into a LUSV for further testing. In a report on the bill issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee, lawmakers argued that the Navy already has the LUSVs that can fill the Strategic Capabilities Office's needs in this area. But perhaps more importantly, the committee members do not seem convinced that LUSVs are ready for prime time. “The committee remains concerned that the budget request's concurrent approach to LUSV design, technology development, and integration as well as a limited understanding of the LUSV concept of employment, requirements, and reliability for envisioned missions pose excessive acquisition risk for additional LUSV procurement in fiscal year 2021,” the report reads. “The committee is also concerned by the unclear policy implications of LUSVs, including ill-defined international unmanned surface vessel standards and the legal status of armed or potentially armed LUSVs.” Furthermore, legislators remain unconvinced that the current unmanned vessels can hold up to the physical environment of extended operations at sea. While the Navy requires its unmanned platforms to be able to operate continuously at sea for 30 days without maintenance or repairs, the committee report notes the Strategic Capabilities Office's prototypes have only demonstrated two to three days of continuous operation. The Senate version of the bill would require the Navy to formally qualify two main engines and electrical generators — including successfully demonstrating 30 days of continuous operations at sea — before Milestone B approval is granted. An industry group hit back July 9. In a letter to leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International called on legislators to fully fund the Navy's fiscal 2021 request. “It is imperative that Congress continues to fund the research and development (R&D) efforts included in the Navy's FY21 budget request,” wrote President and CEO Brian Wynne. “Failing to do so will disrupt the significant investment industry has made in unmanned systems over the last several years. The severe reduction in funding being considered in the FY21 NDAA would eliminate jobs, drive many small companies out of business, and cause larger companies to shift their R&D investments to more stable opportunities” The committee report argues that its requirements do not delay these programs, but in fact will enable the delivery of unmanned surface vehicles faster by ensuring they are “capable, reliable and sustainable.” In the meantime, the Navy has moved forward with its unmanned surface vehicle efforts. On July 13, the Navy awarded L3Harris $35 million to develop a medium unmanned surface vehicle prototype, with an option to buy eight more later on. If all options are exercised, the contract could be worth up to $294 million. “The award of Medium USV is the culmination of a great dialogue with industry to right-size the requirements for a capable, reliable, and affordable unmanned surface vehicle that will employ a variety of modular payloads,” said Capt. Pete Small, program manager of Unmanned Maritime Systems within the Unmanned and Small Combatants Program Executive Office. “Leveraging new rapid prototyping authorities and mature commercial technology will allow us to quickly deliver a capable prototype to the Surface Development Squadron to conduct experimentation and learning in support of the Navy's plans for a future fleet incorporating unmanned vessels.” The prototype is expected to be delivered in fiscal 2023. However, the Navy press release announcing the award notes that funding for future MUSV prototypes is uncertain. While the Navy has asked for additional fiscal 2021 funding for a second MUSV prototype in fiscal 2023, that acquisition strategy is yet to be determined. https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2020/07/15/congress-skeptical-of-navys-unmanned-vessels-plans/

  • National Reconnaissance Office launches “revolutionary” satellites from Virginia

    July 16, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    National Reconnaissance Office launches “revolutionary” satellites from Virginia

    Nathan Strout The National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched four classified payloads into orbit July 15 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility — the agency's first dedicated launch from the Virginia facility. NRO is in charge of acquiring, launching and operating the nation's intelligence satellites, and while the agency does not typically reveal the details or purpose of its classified satellites, the agency's director noted that the four payloads will demonstrate revolutionary capabilities. “NROL-129 represents a collaboration between the NRO and our industry partners to design, build, launch and operate a system of satellites that will demonstrate revolutionary capabilities of value to the nation and our allies,” said NRO Director Chris Scolese. “Despite facing challenges in 2020, we have found new and better ways to collaborate with our partners from a distance, relentlessly pursuing our mission and denying sanctuary to our adversaries.” The four NRO-built payloads — dubbed NROL-129 — were launched aboard a Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket at 9:46 a.m. ET. This was NRO's first launch with a Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV, a rocket capable of delivering payloads of up to 3,814 lbs into low Earth orbit. The first three stages of the four stage, 78-foot tall rocket utilize solid rocket motors taken from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs. The launch was acquired under the U.S. Air Force's Orbital/Suborbital Program-3, a contract mechanism built to take advantage of the growing commercial small launch sector. This was NRO's third launch of 2020 and its first to take place on U.S. soil. The previous two launches, taking place respectively in January and June, were launched aboard Rocket Lab Electron rockets from the company's New Zealand facility. The agency's next mission, NROL-44, is set to launch in August from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2020/07/15/national-reconnaissance-office-launches-revolutionary-satellites-from-virginia/

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