14 septembre 2021 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR, Sécurité

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  • Space-based interceptors and drones with lasers: the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review wish-list revealed

    17 janvier 2019 | International, Aérospatial

    Space-based interceptors and drones with lasers: the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review wish-list revealed

    By: Aaron Mehta WASHINGTON — The long-delayed Missile Defense Review, which will be formally introduced by President Donald Trump at the Pentagon Thursday, will call for research and investments to ensure America’s security for the next several decades: laser technology, the F-35 as an ICBM killer, and potentially putting interceptors in space. Trump will roll out the report at 11 a.m. Thursday as part of his third visit to the Pentagon since taking office. Expected to attend the rollout is a who’s who of national security officials, including vice president Mike Pence, national security adviser John Bolton; Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan; Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Army Secretary Mark Esper; Pentagon policy head John Rood; Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord; Pentagon technology head Mike Griffin; and Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, a leading advocate for missile defense. A senior administration official, speaking to reporters ahead of the report’s release, confirmed a number of new technologies that Defense News has learned are highlighted in the report. The official told reporters that overall, the review looks at “the comprehensive environment the United States faces, and our allies and partners face. It does posture forces to be prepared for capabilities that currently exist and that we anticipate in the future.” It’s been a long road for the MDR to finally emerge. Pentagon officials originally said the document would be released in late 2017 — then February, then mid-May and then late in the summer. In September, Rood, who as undersecretary of defense for policy is the point man for the MDR, indicated the report could come out in a matter of weeks. And in October, Shanahan, then the deputy secretary of defense, said the document had been done “for some time.” There is also widespread speculation in the missile defense community that the review has been delayed, at least in part, because of the warmed relations between the Trump administration and North Korea. Notably, the mid-May time frame for release, which was floated by Shanahan in April, lined up President Donald Trump’s planned meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. While that meeting was canceled and then eventually happened in June, there was a sense the Pentagon did not want to do anything that could jeopardize those talks, such as releasing a report discussing how the U.S. could counter North Korean capabilities. Ironically, Trump will be rolling the report out just hours before a high-level North Korean delegation is expected to arrive in Washington for talks with the administration. However, Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korean expert with Tufts University‘s Fletcher School, doesn’t expect that to impact any negotiations. “North Korea has the upper hand and is playing hard to get,” Lee said, and so won’t make a big deal out of the MDR’s statements on North Korea. “Their propaganda machinery at home may issue a statement a couple of days later, but [lead North Korean official Kim Yong Chol] would be foolish to address it while he’s in D.C," he added. Technological changes Much of the technology discussed in the MDR will require many years of development, and in some cases will never come to fruition. But the following points give a good sense of the let’s-try-everything approach the Pentagon is putting forth with the report: Turn the SM-3 and F-35 into ICBM killers: The SM-3 Block IIA ship-launched interceptor is designed for dealing with regional threats. But the Pentagon intends to test the weapon as a counter-ICBM system in 2020, as part of a goal of creating an extra layer of protection for the homeland. In essence, the department wants to offer as many options as possible, scattered around the globe, for making sure nothing gets through the safety net. The department has previously said the F-35 could be used in some capacity for missile defense, but the MDR calls for the testing and development of a new or modified interceptor which could shoot down a ballistic missile in the boost phase; expect early R&D funding for such a weapon to be in the FY20 budget request. There is also the possibility of using the F-35, equipped with its array of sensors, to hunt and track mobile missile units, which is a key part of North Korea’s doctrine. Lasers on drones: The idea of using directed energy weapons, more commonly known as lasers, to take out a missile in the boost phase is not new, but it has received a boost in the past year in comments from technological leaders inside the building. In theory, putting a drone equipped with a laser high in the air at around 60,000 feet would keep it safe from any missile defense systems, while providing overwatch on potential launch sites. However, this idea feels more far-flung than others, in part because both the scaled up laser that would be needed for such capabilities has yet to be invented, let alone paired with a system that would be able to stay that high for long periods of time. In the meantime, DoD is developing a low-power laser demonstrator to evaluate and test what technologies would be needed to make such a system a reality, despite the fact that airborne laser weapons are perhaps the hardest directed energy system to develop. Space-based sensors: In the FY19 defense authorization bill, Congress required the missile defense agency to fully study and prototype ways to increase the space-based sensor layer. It’s been another focus area for Griffin during his time in the Pentagon. “A space-based layer of sensors is something we are looking at to help give early warning, tracking and discrimination of missiles when they are launched,” the administration official said. “We see space as an area that’s very important as far as advanced, next-level capabilities that will help us stay ahead of the threat.” Just what that layer looks like, however, remains to be seen. Expect some form of disaggregated architecture, relying on many smaller systems rather than the expensive, highly-capable systems that the U.S. has traditionally relied upon. Hosting sensor payloads on commercial satellites could also be in play. The hope is to demo some form of space-based sensor layer by early in the 2020s. Space-based interceptors: Perhaps the most controversial of the ideas being considered in the document comes from the idea of having interceptors placed in orbit to take out ballistic missiles. Picture a satellite equipped with 10 rockets that, when triggered by the sensor net, can target and launch against an incoming missile. The MDR does not call for investment in space-based interceptors at this point. Instead, the department will launch a study, lasting perhaps six months, to look into the most promising technologies and come up with estimates for cost and time; after the study is done, the department will look to move forward if it makes sense. But don’t expect lasers in space anytime soon, with the administration official saying nothing has been determined, only that “we’re going to study it and we’ll see whether or not it’s feasible.” Full article: https://www.defensenews.com/breaking-news/2019/01/17/space-based-interceptors-and-drones-with-lasers-the-pentagons-missile-defense-review-wish-list-revealed

  • Unmanned aircraft could provide low-cost boost for Air Force’s future aircraft inventory, new study says

    6 novembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial

    Unmanned aircraft could provide low-cost boost for Air Force’s future aircraft inventory, new study says

    By: Valerie Insinna  WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Air Force looks to increase the size and capability of its aircraft inventory, the service should assess the possibility of using drones as a low-cost and highly available alternative to manned airplanes, posits a new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The CSIS report, which was obtained by Defense News and other news outlets ahead of its Oct. 29 release, compares three recent congressionally mandated studies on the Air Force’s future force structure by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank, the federally funded research organization MITRE Corp. and the service itself. All three studies were broadly supportive of retaining existing unmanned aircraft, or as the Air Force terms them, Remotely Piloted Aircraft or RPAs. However, the CSIS report makes the case that the low cost and high mission capable rate of RPAs like the MQ-9 Reaper or RQ-4 Global Hawk merits more attention when making future force planning. “I think we need a roadmap for RPAs in terms of what are the new missions that we can begin to transition over to RPAs and some new operational concepts for how we use them,” CSIS senior analyst Todd Harrison told reporters at a Oct. 28 briefing. “I say this more from a cost perspective and a readiness perspective because our RPA fleet stands out from the rest of the Air Force in that it costs a lot less to operate [them] and we utilize them much more,” he said. “We need to leverage that. That’s a strength that we need to double down on.” Harrison pointed to two data points supporting a wider use case for RPAs. Despite clocking in the highest number of flight hours per airframe, drones boast some of the highest mission capable rates in the Air Force’s inventory, averaging near 90 percent for the MQ-9 and its predecessor, the MQ-1, and around 75 percent for the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Those aircraft are also cheap to operate, with some of the lowest costs per flying hour or total ownership costs in the inventory, Harrison said. The Air Force, MITRE and CSBA studies provide solid support for keeping the Air Force’s current RPA force. The Air Force’s study, which proposes a growth to 386 total operational squadrons, would add two squadrons of unmanned strike aircraft, although it does not say what kind of aircraft should be acquired. It also recommends an increase of 22 squadrons of aircraft devoted to command and control or the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission sets, but does not provide a breakdown of what specific capability gaps need to be addressed or whether they could be filled by unmanned aircraft. The MITRE and CSBA study, by contrast, advocate retaining the current inventory of MQ-9 Reapers and RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones. CSBA also recommends the procurement of a new, stealthy MQ-X drone that could be used for strike, electronic attack and other missions in a contested environment.   Despite the broad support, the three studies do not necessarily portend a wider acceptance or demand for unmanned aircraft in the next budget, Harrison said. “I wouldn’t count on it happening that soon. I think this is a wider term change that’s going to be needed. Part of it is a cultural change within the Air Force and part of it requires some real strategic thinking about what are the types of missions where unmanned is going to make sense and how do we best leverage those,” he said. “The RPAs that we have today, they didn’t come about overnight. They evolved. A lot of the time they faced a lot of institutional resistance, but they proved themselves. They proved themselves valuable in the kind of fights that we’ve been in in the past 20 years.” One mission area that could be flown by unmanned aircraft in the future is aerial refueling, Harrison said. The Navy in 2018 awarded Boeing a contract to produce an unmanned carrier-based tanker drone known as the MQ-25. That aircraft, like all Navy planes, will use the simpler probe and drogue for refueling. Refueling via a rigid boom, as utilized by Air Force tankers, makes for a more challenging development, but the remote vision system on Boeing’s KC-46 tanker — which allows the boom operator to steer the boom using a series of cameras as his or her only visual cue — is a step in the right direction, he said. Another potential area for expanded RPA use could be the development of low-cost drones that can be flown in swarms or as “loyal wingmen” to manned aircraft, the CSIS report stated. These “attritable” aircraft can be expended during a conflict without making an adverse impact on the mission or putting human pilots at risk. https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/10/29/unmanned-aircraft-could-provide-low-cost-boost-for-air-forces-future-aircraft-inventory-new-study-says/

  • Military cyber software developers fix weaknesses, create mission tools faster

    7 septembre 2021 | International, Sécurité

    Military cyber software developers fix weaknesses, create mission tools faster

    The services say in-house coders allow them to be more flexible during missions, rather than relying solely on contractor support to build cyber tools.

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