17 mars 2023 | International, C4ISR

US Army consolidates network modernization efforts into single office

The shift in responsibility coincides with the U.S. Army’s pursuit of a unified network, linking in-the-field with back-at-home.


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  • U.S. Air Force Plots Fleet Insertion Path For ‘Loyal Wingman’

    9 mars 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    U.S. Air Force Plots Fleet Insertion Path For ‘Loyal Wingman’

    The format of the U.S. Air Force's “fireside chat” series is well-understood. A technology pioneer such as Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson or Mark Cuban appears onstage at an Air Force-affiliated event, counsels an audience of pilots and airmen about innovation and, not least, tries not to offend anyone. Elon Musk arrived at the Air Warfare Symposium on Feb. 28 with a different plan. The founder of SpaceX and Tesla, who seems to delight in publicly tweaking established competitors in the space market such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, sat on the Air Force Association's (AFA) stage and declared that the fighter aircraft—for decades the heart of the Air Force's tactical combat capability—is already irrelevant. “The fighter-jet era has passed,” Musk said, provoking audible gasps and murmurs in an audience peppered with officers clad in flight suits. Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Musk's interviewer, quickly changed the subject. Hours later, Musk clarified in a tweeted reply to Aviation Week that he meant the fighter aircraft remains relevant, just not the pilot onboard. “The competitor [to a manned fighter] should be a drone fighter plane that is remote-controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy,” Musk writes. Musk's comments on airpower should be taken with a grain of salt. Although his companies have sought to disrupt the space, automotive and mining industries, Musk has no track record in the aircraft sector. One of his symposium hosts, David Deptula, a retired lieutenant general who is now dean of the AFA's Mitchell Institute, also pointed out in a rapidly published rebuttal in Forbes that Musk's predictions about autonomy are often wrong, even when it concerns the self-driving capabilities of Tesla cars. But Musk's remarks only differed with those of senior Air Force officials at the same event in the details of timing and scope. For over a year, Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, has championed a vision of future airpower populated by numerous, small batches of autonomous aircraft augmenting manned fighters with specialized capabilities. For the first time, Gen. James Holmes, head of Air Combat Command (ACC), offered a path to introducing such aircraft into the fleet around 2025-27. In the near term, the Air Force is focused on replacing aging F-15C/Ds with a mix of Boeing F-15EXs and Lockheed Martin F-35As. The Air Force decided to add the F-15EX to its inventory last year even as the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) began experimenting with a new class of low-cost aircraft with an “attritable” value. The first such experimental aircraft, the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, in March 2019 completed the first of four flights made to date. Next year, the Air Force plans to fly the XQ-58A or a similar aircraft with an artificial intelligence “brain,” which allows the so-called Skyborg aircraft to learn maneuvers as it flies. Such capabilities are not far from Musk's vision of future air combat, but they are too immature to replace a fleet of F-15Cs on the verge of being grounded; hence, the decision to buy the F-15EX instead. The next opportunity to introduce a new kind of aircraft comes in about 5-8 years, Holmes says. That timing dovetails, perhaps intentionally, with the schedule for maturing aircraft such as the XQ-58A and Skyborg. The Air Force will need to replace hundreds of F-16 Block 25s and Block 30s, which entered production in the mid-1980s. “There's an opportunity there if we want to cut in something new, a low-cost attritable, loyal wingman and the different things that we're looking at and experimenting with,” Holmes says. In late February, Holmes and Roper met to discuss the meaning of a “fighter aircraft” in the future with the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program in the backdrop. The program office for NGAD began operations in October, with a focus on inventing a new production process capable of affordably producing small batches of advanced aircraft every 3-5 years. But Air Force officials are still grappling with the definition of basic requirements such as range and payload, as operations in the vast Pacific Ocean dominate the calculations. “The equation and the kind of math that we use for a fighter still works pretty well in the European environment—the range and payload and distance,” Holmes says. “It's not as effective a solution in the Pacific, because of the great distances. So as you look at NGAD and you look at the following programs, I wouldn't expect it to produce things that necessarily look like a traditional fighter.” The exhibit hall at the Air Warfare Symposium offered some clues. Besides the usual displays and posters of F-35s and F-15s, some new concepts appeared. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) showed a concept design called “Defender,” an apparent variant of the Predator C Avenger, armed with air-to-air missiles and infrared search-and-track sensors. The Defender would protect an “outside force” of enablers, such as tankers and surveillance aircraft, from aerial attack while an inside force of stealth bombers and fighters engaged targets downrange, a GA-ASI spokesman says. Kratos, meanwhile, continues working on the XQ-58. The AFRL initially funded five test flights, but despite a crash landing on the third flight, all test objectives were met after the third test, says Steve Fendley, president of Kratos' Unmanned Systems Division. The AFRL now is accelerating the “missionization” of the XQ-58, Fendley says, adding payloads and potentially weapons. The first payload integration will be demonstrated in April, when the XQ-58 serves as a communication conduit between the F-35 and the F-22. Meanwhile, Kratos has started production, with 12 XQ-58s scheduled off the assembly line by the first quarter of 2021. The fleet will be assigned to multiple demonstration programs, funded by several agencies, Fendley says. The XQ-58's performance helps define the new class of aircraft, called “loyal wingman” in the U.S. and “remote carriers” in Europe. A critical feature shared by the XQ-58 and similar aircraft such as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) is range. Both are capable of flying 3,000 nm unrefueled, almost three times the range of the F-35. Unlike the ATS, the XQ-58 does not need a runway to land, and instead deploys a parachute. Both aircraft seem unrecognizable from the typical next-generation fighter favored by ACC, but the command is changing its approach, Holmes says. “In the past at Air Combat Command, we would have built something that we call a fighter road map . . . to figure out what our fighter force will look like for the next 30 years,” Holmes said. “What I would rather build is a capabilities road map that shows how we're going to accomplish the missions for the Air Force that we traditionally had done with fighters.” At the same time, Holmes' counterparts in the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) are also changing their approach to fighter acquisition. Last October, the AFMC established the Advanced Aircraft Program Executive Office, which is tasked with reinventing the acquisition process for the next class of fighters. A modern fighter is typically developed over a decade and then sustained for several more. For the next generation, the Air Force now prefers to produce multiple aircraft in small batches, in development cycles lasting only five years. The sustainment phase would be minimal, as the aircraft would be phased out after a brief operational career. The approach requires that the Air Force make the design phase profitable for contractors, which now lose money in design and earn profits during the sustainment phase. The approach means paying higher prices up front for the design, but theoretically less overall during the shorter lifespan of the aircraft. The Air Force is still trying to craft the contractual mechanism for such an acquisition approach, says Gen. Arnold Bunch, the head of AFMC. “Industry is going to have to rethink how they want to go do this. They're gonna have to talk to their boards in a different way,” Bunch says. “[Something] we also have to factor into that is: How do I do my cost estimates? How do I do my financial planning? How do I interact with Congress?” https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/aircraft-propulsion/us-air-force-plots-fleet-insertion-path-loyal-wingman

  • Florence Parly visite le site d’Airbus Helicopters à Marignane et doit annoncer des commandes d’équipement

    15 avril 2021 | International, Aérospatial

    Florence Parly visite le site d’Airbus Helicopters à Marignane et doit annoncer des commandes d’équipement

    DÉFENSE Florence Parly visite le site d'Airbus Helicopters à Marignane et doit annoncer des commandes d'équipement La ministre des Armées, Florence Parly, se rend, ce jeudi 15 avril, sur le site d'Airbus Helicopters de Marignane, dans les Bouches-du-Rhône. Elle visitera la chaîne d'assemblage des H225 Caracal et rencontrera les salariés et apprentis œuvrant sur ces sites. « A cette occasion, la ministre annoncera des commandes d'équipements dans le cadre du plan de soutien gouvernemental à l'aéronautique, présenté en juin 2020 », indique le ministère des Armées. La ministre devrait annoncer, selon le journal La Provence, que la commande par l'État de huit hélicoptères Caracal, dans le cadre du plan de relance aéronautique, est finalisée. La Provence du 15 avril

  • Lockheed develops electronic warfare tools with eye toward multinational interoperability

    18 août 2020 | International, Terrestre, C4ISR

    Lockheed develops electronic warfare tools with eye toward multinational interoperability

    Mark Pomerleau WASHINGTON — As Lockheed Martin works on the U.S. Army's first ground-based integrated signals intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber system, the company is placing a heavy focus on coalition interoperability. The Army awarded Lockheed a $6 million other transaction authority contract — a highly flexible contracting tool — in May to build the first phase of the Terrestrial Layer System-Large. Boeing subsidiary Digital Receiver Technology also won an award for the program for $7.6 million. The two companies will build and outfit their systems to Stryker vehicles during the 16-month-long phase one, while also participating in operational assessments, after which the Army will choose one company to move on. John Wojnar, director for cyber and electronic warfare strategy at Lockheed, told C4ISRNET in a July interview that the company had a keen eye toward integrating its system with international partners as well as the Army, given the U.S. military doesn't fight alone. “Being able to bring in our coalition partners, maybe starting with the Five Eyes first and in particular the U.K., and aligning the architecture that we provided ... really drove us to the architecture that we came up with,” he said. He added that Lockheed examined the building blocks of the U.K.'s cyber and electromagnetic activities to help inform the offering. Being in close partnership with coalition members is key, he said, so whatever architectures the company designs should be interoperable with partners to maximize effectiveness on the battlefield. Lockheed's system was an internal research and development project that is a companion of sorts to its aerial cyber/electronic warfare system Silent Crow, which the Army awarded a year ago for its Multi-Function Electronic Warfare-Air Large system. Wojnar said the ground system went through testing in September at the Army's Cyber Blitz event, which helps the service understand how to mature cyber and electronic warfare operations with traditional units through actual experimentation with emerging technologies and soldiers at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. “Based on lessons learned from those tests as well as the other activities that have been underway tied to Silent Crow IRAD, we were able to leverage the best of the best to then come up with our TLS-Large system offering,” he said. The work that will be ongoing between now and next summer when the first phase of TLS wraps up, Wojnar added, includes ensuring all the component parts developed internally and externally have been acquired and integrated into the ground vehicles, as well as conducting a variety of software drops. https://www.c4isrnet.com/electronic-warfare/2020/08/17/lockheed-develops-electronic-warfare-tools-with-eye-toward-multinational-interoperability/

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