24 juillet 2018 | International, C4ISR

Marines Test New Drone Swarms a Single Operator Can Control

By Gina Harkins

One Marine could soon dispatch more than a dozen drones to jam enemy communications and take out targets -- all from a single handheld tablet.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab has successfully tested the ability to have a single Marine operate six drones in the air simultaneously. The goal is to get that up to 15 and to see the small unmanned systems stay in the air for hours at a time.

"What we're looking at is ... minimal operator burden so [a Marine's] face isn't down in a tablet," said Capt. Matt Cornachio, a fires project officer with the Warfighting Lab's science and technology division. "It's sort of having the machines do the work for you, so you give them intent and they operate."

That could help ground troops in remote or hotly contested locations augment 60mm mortar fire with precision strikes. Cornachio said they're looking for drones with a host of potentials, including swarming, automatic-target recognition, kinetic-strike and electronic-warfare capabilities.

"Your swarm is multifaceted so you have several warheads that hold their own capabilities in that cloud," he said. "... We see the precise nature of loitering munitions to augment company-level fires."

In order to carry out a range of missions -- from delivering explosives to jamming communications, the Marine Corps is on the hunt for drone swarms that can stay in the air for hours. The Warfighting Lab held a drone-endurance test in the desert this month, Cornachio said, during which one unmanned aircraft flew for nearly two hours straight.

"It's not out of the realm of possibility that these things could be in the air for three or four hours, so the smaller, the better," he added.

Getting to the point where one Marine controls a swarm of drones is a big change from unmanned systems like the Switchblade, which required one operator per drone. That kamikaze-style drone delivers a payload equivalent to a 40mm grenade.

The Warfighting Lab's efforts are part of a larger Marine Corps strategy called Sea Dragon 2025. Marines are experimenting with drones, self-driving vehicles, robotics and other technology that can limit their exposure in the field. The use of unmanned technology could be especially beneficial in complex urban environments, said Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, head of the Warfighting Lab.

"We can use manned-unmanned teaming and unmanned systems to take on some of the most dangerous tasks that Marines are executing in that kind of an urban environment," he said.

https://www.military.com/defensetech/2018/07/23/marines-test-new-drone-swarms-single-operator-can-control.html

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  • ‘I’ll be their angel investor’: Air Force vice chief wants to crowdsource airmen’s ideas

    21 septembre 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    ‘I’ll be their angel investor’: Air Force vice chief wants to crowdsource airmen’s ideas

    By: Kyle Rempfer As the U.S. military turns its attention to the threats posed by near-peer adversaries, Air Force leadership is shifting its focus to great power approaches to combat, like multi-domain operations and expeditionary warfare. A culture of innovation among airmen will be pivotal in preparing for such a conflict, and the effort to foster that independence and creativity is already underway. In the coming weeks, the Air Force will be rolling out a new initiative to crowdsource solutions from airmen around the service. Across all specialty codes, the service is calling on airmen to design apps, develop algorithms and create new approaches to the problems that plague their career fields or help the Air Force carry out its missions. The program — dubbed the Vice Chief's Challenge — will be spearheaded by Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. “We want to take the ideas our airmen have to see around corners, anticipate what's next and solve these really complex national security challenges,” Wilson told Air Force Times. Those challenges range from fusing open-source social media information into actionable intelligence with new software, to upgrading legacy aircraft with gadgets to help airmen stay in the fight longer. “Navigation apps like Waze change the way we travel across town by giving us an intuitive display that integrates traffic, hazards, and route recommendations in real time. Companies like Uber and Amazon have transformed our view of logistics," according to a copy of the Vice Chief's Challenge provided to Air Force Times. "They are not the only ones leaning forward. I am sure each of you have seen opportunities to enhance [multi-domain operations]. I want to hear your best ideas.” The initiative is designed to deliver capabilities to the Air Force in months, rather than the usual years, Wilson said. And it's going to become routine, always running against the backdrop of the service's other acquisition initiatives. “It's this cultural change and this shift that happens ... and today, I think it's clear in this great power competition, we need this urgently," Wilson said. “I need to remove barriers to innovation." The Vice Chief's Challenge will consist of three phases. First, ideas will be solicited from across the service in a broad announcement. Then, workshops will be set up in which subject matter experts help refine the most promising proposals and draft development plans for the budding ideas. The final phase will involve developing and demonstrating prototypes for the chosen concepts. “We'll start small by gathering ideas from individual airmen, rapidly evolve concepts with national thought leaders, and scale fast by working with industry to build and demonstrate prototypes in the next year,” Wilson said. Each phase will be led by a different organization, but the Air Force Research Lab and the Office of the Vice Chief of Staff will serve as executive agents to ensure smooth transition between phases. The initiative is similar to last year's first-ever Spark Tank innovation proposals. “Each of the [major commands] went out to their different wings and solicited ideas, picked their best ones and came to us," Wilson said. "There were a dozen ideas, of which we picked six of them and presented them at the [Warfighter's Edge] conference.” The idea chosen for development ended up being that of a boom operator on the KC-135 Stratotanker. He proposed a plan to re-engineer the boom operator platform instructor position for the entire KC-135 fleet at a projected cost of $1.5 million. The proposed innovation aims to both reduce back and neck injuries and save the Air Force $132 million each year in this critical aircrew specialty, according to Air Mobility Command. “It was across the fleet, easy to implement, and that's what we're using now,” Wilson said. Other innovative ideas that Wilson has already seen, and clearly wants more of, involve software development that connects sensors, platforms and nodes to share information across the force. “We had an airman and second lieutenant who briefed me on software development they had done that was unbelievable — the capability they were bringing me and the speed at which they were doing it,” Wilson said. The duo took SIPRNet information and found a way to fuse it together using complex computer coding for targeting purposes. The result was a tool dreamed up in-house that directly solved a pressing issue. Much of that is simply owed to the fact that those airmen knew what they needed to do, how to do it and already worked in a position to provide the service. “The CEO of Pivotal [Software Inc.] pulled me aside and said ‘I work with all the Fortune 500 companies across the world, and I would put these two people against any company, anywhere,'” Wilson said. That's the sort of innovation the Vice Chief's Challenge is looking to tap into. Wilson doesn't know yet how many ideas will be taken to completion, but by this time next year, he's hoping that the Vice Chief's Challenge will be handing out some awards. “I can't compensate them like industry can, but I can offer them purpose," he said. https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2018/09/20/ill-be-their-angel-investor-air-force-vice-chief-wants-to-crowdsource-airmens-ideas

  • Pentagon releases its Defense Space Strategy to counter Russia and China

    19 juin 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    Pentagon releases its Defense Space Strategy to counter Russia and China

    Nathan Strout The Pentagon has put forward a new Defense Space Strategy designed to maintain U.S. military superiority in space amid growing counter-space efforts in Russia and China. “China and Russia have weaponized space and turned it into a war-fighting domain,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Stephen Kitay said during a June 17 press call. “Their actions pose the greatest strategic threat with ongoing development, testing and deployment of counter-space systems and the associated military doctrine designed to hold allied and U.S. space systems at risk.” The strategy reflects the Defense Department's shift to approaching space as a war-fighting domain, which includes the establishment of both U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force in 2019 as well as the ongoing efforts to bolster those two organizations. Space Command in particular has been vocal in calling out the counter-space capabilities being built and fielded by Russia, such as direct ascent weapons and potential on-orbit kinetic weapons. But the threat extends beyond kinetic threats to include electronic warfare, ground-based lasers that can blind space-based sensors, and cyberattacks. “The U.S. space enterprise was not built for the current strategic environment,” Kitay said, adding that the U.S. has historically approached space as a supporting domain, where satellites are launched into orbit and relied upon to deliver capability without interruption. Now, however, the U.S. military is preparing for conflicts that could extend into the space domain, threatening on-orbit assets that war fighters rely on for communications, navigation and intelligence. The self-stated purpose of the strategy is to ensure the space domain is secure, stable and accessible for U.S. and allied activities over the next 10 years through American military strength. Further, it will leverage its space capabilities to employ power across all domains throughout the spectrum of conflict. “The Defense Space Strategy is the next step to ensure space superiority and to secure the nation's vital interests in space now and in the future,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. “We desire a secure, stable, and accessible space domain that underpins our nation's security, prosperity, and scientific achievement. However, our adversaries have made space a war fighting domain and we have to implement enterprise-wide changes to policies, strategies, operations, investments, capabilities, and expertise for this new strategic environment. This strategy identifies a phased approach on how we are going to achieve the desired conditions in space over the next 10 years.” To achieve these objectives over the next decade, the strategy lays out four lines of effort: Build a comprehensive military advantage in space. According to the strategy, the Department of Defense must transform its space enterprise to meet the evolving counter-space threats. To do that, the DoD must become more agile, taking advantage of technological and commercial innovation. Specifically, this line of effort calls for further support for the Space Force; development of military space power doctrines; and the further development of space war-fighting expertise and culture. This effort also includes the fielding of assured space capabilities, including capabilities that can counter the hostile use of space. The strategy also calls for improving U.S. space-based intelligence and command-and-control capabilities. Integrate space into national, joint and combined operations. As the DoD expands its capabilities, doctrine and culture as outlined above, it plans to integrate them into national, joint and combined operations. Space Command must be enabled to plan, exercise and execute joint and combined space operations across the spectrum of conflict, and space war-fighting efforts must be integrated with military plans and staffs, including those of allies and partners. The strategy calls for the realignment of operational authorities and an updated rules of engagement that reflect this new reality. In addition, the document states that the DoD's space program security classifications should be updated. Shape the strategic environment. Under the strategy, the DoD will try to deter hostile and aggressive activities in space. Partnering with the State Department, the Pentagon will work with allies and partners to develop international norms of behavior for space that will reduce misunderstandings and conflict. In addition, the Pentagon will work to inform the public about the growing threats to U.S. space capabilities. Cooperate with allies, partners, industry and other U.S. government departments and agencies. This line of effort calls for the DoD to work with allies and partners to increase information sharing; align space policy; promote favorable standards and norms of behavior for space; and expand cooperative research, development and acquisition. In addition, the DoD will modernize its approach to the commercial licensing approval process. The full Defense Space Strategy can be read here. https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2020/06/17/pentagon-releases-defense-space-strategy-to-counter-russia-and-china/

  • Ligado would be banned from DoD contracts under House plan

    6 juillet 2020 | International, C4ISR, Sécurité

    Ligado would be banned from DoD contracts under House plan

    Joe Gould WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers took another apparent jab at Ligado Networks on Wednesday as the House Armed Services Committee passed a ban on the Pentagon awarding contracts to firms that interfere with Global Positioning System signals. The panel adopted an amendment from House Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner to bar the Department of Defense from contracting with an entity that engages in commercial terrestrial operations using certain frequency ranges ― unless the defense secretary certifies the operations do not cause harmful interference to a the military's GPS devices. Ligado is not specifically named. However, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved the plan from Ligado to use the bands identified in the amendment: the 1525–1559 MHz band and the 1626.5–1660.5 MHz band. The FCC's decision in April came despite objections from the DoD and a number of nondefense industry trade groups, which argue that Ligado's plan would create wide-ranging disruptions for GPS usage. During the markup, the panel approved a separate amendment from Turner that would bar DoD from spending any money to mitigate impacts from Ligado's potential interference with the military's GPS signals. The moves by lawmakers during the HASC's markup of its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act is the latest salvo from lawmakers on Congress' defense committees. Earlier this month, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., offered legislation that would require the company to cover the costs of any GPS user — government or commercial — hurt by its spectrum use. Turner, a defense hawk in Congress, is among 22 HASC members who called on the FCC to reverse its support for Ligado's plan. He has called for an inspector general to probe consulting company Roberson and Associates, the firm that determined Ligado's plan wouldn't cause GPS interference. https://www.c4isrnet.com/congress/2020/07/01/ban-on-dod-contracts-to-ligado-approved-by-house-panel/

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