28 juillet 2020 | International, Aérospatial, Terrestre

US Army plans long-range missile fly-offs for future helicopters


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army plans to conduct a few fly-offs to test possible long-range precision munitions for its fleet of future helicopters, according to the chief of operations in charge of the service's Future Vertical Lift modernization efforts.

While the Army has picked Israeli company Rafael's Spike Non-Line-of-Sight missile as an interim solution to deliver long-range lethality from its current and future helicopter fleets, it is also in the market for other options.

“The Army has not committed yet to a form factor of long-range precision munitions. If it's Spike, or something else, we have time to work with that. We have time to do one fly-off or more” over the next few years to inform requirements, Col. Matthew Isaacson told reporters during a July 24 briefing.

The service is molding a future fleet for the early 2030s, acquiring two manned helicopters, a tactical unmanned aircraft system, air-launched effects, and long-range precision munitions that will be networked together on the battlefield using a common digital, modular, open-system architecture.

The Army extensively demonstrated Spike on both foreign and American AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, which led to the decision to buy some to tie the service over until it can assess other capabilities and better refine requirements before developing a permanent solution.

The service fired the Spike NLOS missile from AH-64s in Israel and at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, last year. Defense News was present for one of six multidomain operations-relevant shots fired from an “E” model Apache at Yuma in August 2019.

Isaacson says there are a number of vendors with capabilities that could meet the future need.

The Army will need to finalize a preliminary design review across the board for assets within its future fleet in the 2023 time frame, so Isaacson said the Army has roughly three years to work with industry to settle on a capability and ensure it is interoperable with platforms “that are still somewhat on the drawing table,” something he said will be challenging.

“We are looking at getting outside of the range of our pacing threats,” he said. The Army is “pleased” with Spike's beyond 30-kilometer range, he added, “so any competitor in any future fly-off will have to demonstrate that they can do very similar and get at a long range in a timely manner after our pacing threats.”

Isaacson indicated the Army will likely work through cooperative research and development agreements among other means to demonstrate long-range precision munition capabilities at small venues. Then the munitions would be put to the test with soldiers at the brigade level, followed by higher-level demonstrations at venues like the Joint Warfighting Assessment, to inform requirements, he added.


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  • 15 extra pounds of gear can be the difference between life or death in a firefight, this Marine officer’s research says

    19 juin 2019 | International, Autre défense

    15 extra pounds of gear can be the difference between life or death in a firefight, this Marine officer’s research says

    By: Shawn Snow The weight being humped by grunts into a firefight with a sophisticated adversary like Russia or China could be the difference between mission success or going home in a body bag, according to one Marine officer's award-winning research. Marine Capt. Courtney Thompson said computer simulations she ran showed that just adding 15 pounds to the “bare essential” fighting load carried by Marines resulted in an additional casualty on the battlefield when Marines were pitted against competent shooters. The Corps' fighting load varies between 43 to 62 pounds depending on the level of body armor a Marine wears. Military body armor protection ranges from level II to IV. Thompson's simulations were run with level II body armor — protection capable of stopping a 9 mm round. The weight range includes a carried weapon. She told Marine Corps Times in an interview that the results of the simulations were “eye opening," especially in light of a 2017 government watchdog reported that detailed Marines and soldiers were carrying between 117 pounds to 119 pounds on average. When she ran the simulations and added more weight “casualties just went up,” Thompson said. And “the better the [enemy] shooter got, the more the difference in weight mattered." In a near-peer fight, Thompson said, Marines will need to move faster on the battlefield to survive and win. “The slower they are, the higher the chance they have of getting hit," she said. But it's not just about reducing a Marine's exposure time to being shot, smaller weight loads aid in more precise shooting and quicker target engagement times. A 2018 report from Washington D.C.-based think tank Center for a New American Security, explained that heavy combat loads “not only slows movement and increases fatigue” but decrease “situational awareness and shooting response times.” Moreover, a 2007 report from Naval Research Advisory Committee on Marine combat loads recommended an assault load of just 50 pounds. As the Corps focuses on the near-peer fight, the weight carried by Marines into battle is a topic that will need to be front and center for Marine commanders, Thompson said. Thompson's research, which won the Military Operations Research Society Stephen A. Tisdale Thesis Award at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, has the attention of officials at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory — where the Corps has been exploring ways to boost combat power while also reducing the weight burden on grunts. Marine Corps Times has reached out to the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory for comments on this research. Marine Corps Systems Command said its “Gruntworks” team spoke with Thompson about her research. The team handles the integration of equipment for Marine rifle squads. Thompson, a combat engineer, said she came up with the idea after seeing how “gassed” her Marines got during training as a result of operations tempo and weight. “I thought if I could quantify weight in terms of casualties and probability of mission success, that's what the Marine Corps understands,” she said. Thompson's computer simulations relied on Australian human subject data and infantry demographics supplied by headquarters Marine Corps. The Australian data was used because of the Australian Defence Department's rigorous study on its tiered body armor system, Thompson explained. The Marine infantry data included physical fitness and marksmanship. The individual Marines within the simulated 13-man rifle squads “represented the average for that rank for all 0311s [Marine rifleman] in the Marine Corps,” she said. Thompson said she ran the simulations nearly a million times. Thompson's research showed that reducing the weight burden carried by grunts could save lives and win battles. But she didn't make any prescriptive adjustments to the Corps' combat gear load outs. She told Marine Corps Times that she didn't want to “limit” a battlefield commander's decision-making. The Corps' various fighting loads are broken down in its infantry training and readiness manual into four different groups, fighting load, assault load, approach march load and sustainment load. The load type is dependent on the mission at hand. Thompson's research was aimed at the fighting and assault loads. The fighting and assault loads include combat gear for the “immediate mission” and the “actual conduct of the assault,” respectively, according to the Corps' infantry manual. The assault load weight varies between 58 pounds and 70 pounds based on level of body armor. The weight range includes a weapon being carried. The training and readiness manual excludes the weight of a weapon in its gear break down. Thompson isn't calling for particular pieces of gear to be thrown off the packing list, but she said commanders should throw the entire list in a pack, wear it, and “see if it is a reasonable amount of weight.” The Corps is already making a number of changes to reduce weight. Some of those include a new lightweight helmet, lighter body armor for counterinsurgency conflicts and polymer ammunition. But Marines also are packing on weight with new tech like tablets and drones, which have been dished out to rifle squads. At the end of the day, Marine commanders have a delicate balance of weighing risk verse capability, and it wont be easy for commanders to forgo pieces of equipment on a mission to lighten packs, Thompson explained. A commander “can't prove the lives they saved” from taking a particular action, Thompson said. https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2019/06/18/15-extra-pounds-of-gear-can-be-the-difference-between-life-or-death-in-a-firefight-this-marine-officers-research-says/

  • BAE wins Marine Corps contract to build new amphibious combat vehicle

    22 juin 2018 | International, Naval, Terrestre

    BAE wins Marine Corps contract to build new amphibious combat vehicle

    By: Jen Judson WASHINGTON — BAE Systems has won a contract to build the Marine Corps' new amphibious combat vehicle following a competitive evaluation period where BAE's vehicle was pitted against an offering from SAIC. The contract allows for the company to enter into low-rate initial production with 30 vehicles expected to be delivered by fall of 2019, valued at $198 million. The Marines plan to field 204 of the vehicles. The total value of the contract with all options exercised is expected to amount to about $1.2 billion. The awarding of the contract gets the Corps “one step closer to delivering this capability to the Marines,” John Garner, Program Executive Officer, Land Systems Marine Corps, said during a media round table held Tuesday. But the Corps isn't quite done refining its new ACV. The vehicle is expected to undergo incremental changes with added new requirements and modernization. The Corps is already working on the requirements for ACV 1.2, which will include a lethality upgrade for the amphibous vehicle. BAE's ACV vehicle will eventually replace the Corps' legacy amphibious vehicle, but through a phased approach. The Assault Amphibious Vehicle is currently undergoing survivability upgrades to keep the Cold War era vehicle ticking into 2035. BAE Systems and SAIC were both awarded roughly $100 million each in November 2015 to deliver 16 prototypes to the Marine Corps for evaluation in anticipation of a down select to one vendor in 2018. [BAE, SAIC Named as Finalists in Marines ACV Competition] All government testing of the prototypes concluded the first week of December 2017 and the Marine Corps issued its request for proposals the first week in January 2018. Operational tests also began concurrently. Government testing included land reliability testing, survivability and blast testing and water testing — both ship launch and recovery as well as surf transit. Operational evaluations included seven prototypes each from both SAIC and BAE Systems, six participated and one spare was kept for backup. BAE Systems' partnered with Italian company Iveco Defense Vehicles to build its ACV offering. [BAE Systems completes Amphibious Combat Vehicle shipboard testing] Some of the features BAE believed were particularly attractive for a new ACV is that it has space for 13 embarked Marines and a crew of three, which keeps the rifle squad together. The engine's strength is 690 horsepower over the old engine's 560 horsepower, and it runs extremely quietly. The vehicle has a V-shaped hull to protect against underbody blasts, and the seat structure is completely suspended. SAIC's vehicle, which was built in Charleston, South Carolina, offered improved traction through a central tire-inflation system to automatically increase or decrease tire pressure. It also had a V-hull certified during tests at the Nevada Automotive Test Center — where all prototypes were tested by the Marine Corps — and had blast-mitigating seats to protect occupants. The 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division out of Camp Pendleton, California, is expected to receive the first ACV 1.1 vehicles. Marine Corps Times reporter Shawn Snow contributed to this report. https://www.defensenews.com/land/2018/06/19/bae-wins-marine-corps-contract-to-build-new-amphibious-combat-vehicle/

  • DARPA wants to arm ethical hackers with AI

    30 avril 2018 | International, C4ISR

    DARPA wants to arm ethical hackers with AI

    By: Brandon Knapp The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to leverage human-artificial intelligence teaming to accelerate the military's cyber vulnerability detection, according to agency documents. The task of securing the Pentagon's diverse networks, which support nearly every function of the military's operations, presents a nightmare for defense officials. The current time-intensive and costly process involves extensively trained hackers using specialized software suites to scour the networks in search of vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited, but the scarcity of expert hackers makes detecting cyberthreats a challenge for the Defense Department. DARPA's Computers and Humans Exploring Software Security (CHESS) program seeks to bolster existing cyber defenders with a new tool that would render much of the current toolkit ancient history: artificial intelligence. The program aims to incorporate automation into the software analysis and vulnerability discovery process by enabling humans and computers to reason collaboratively. If successful, the program could enhance existing hacking techniques and greatly expand the number of personnel capable of ethically hacking DoD systems. To achieve its goal, DARPA will solicit proposals from industry across five technical areas, including developing tools that mimic the processes used by expert hackers and ultimately transitioning a final solution to the government. “Through CHESS, we're looking to gather, understand and convert the expertise of human hackers into automated analysis techniques that are more accessible to a broader range of technologists,” the DARPA program description reads. “By allowing more individuals to contribute to the process, we're creating a way to scale vulnerability detection well beyond its current limits.” While DARPA sees artificial intelligence as an important tool for enhancing cybersecurity efforts, officials emphasize the essential role humans play in the collaborative process. “Humans have world knowledge, as well as semantic and contextual understanding that is beyond the reach of automated program analysis alone,” said Dustin Fraze, the I2O program manager leading CHESS. “These information gaps inhibit machine understanding for many classes of software vulnerabilities. Properly communicated human insights can fill these information gaps and enable expert hacker-level vulnerability analysis at machine speeds.” The CHESS program will span three phases lasting a total of 42 months. Each phase will focus on increasing the complexity of an application the CHESS system is able to analyze effectively. https://www.c4isrnet.com/it-networks/2018/04/27/darpa-wants-to-arm-ethical-hackers-with-ai/

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