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  • Congress looks to gut funding for the Corps’ futuristic sea drone

    30 juillet 2018 | International, Aérospatial, C4ISR

    Congress looks to gut funding for the Corps’ futuristic sea drone

    By: Shawn Snow In the latest version of the annual defense legislation Congress has gutted nearly $14 million for the Corps' futuristic expeditionary sea drone known as the MUX. The original funding request was $25,291,000, but the approved funds are only $11,291,000, that's more than a 50 percent slash. But the steep cuts pale in comparison to the $100 million Senators originally approved in their mark-up of the Senate version of the annual defense authorization bill in late June. House members argued in a report there were a number of capabilities and platforms across the services that could “likely mitigate” the Corps' identified shortfalls. “The committee believes the Marine Corps underestimates the required communications, data link, launch, mission execution and recovery infrastructure, or the human capital resources required to train, operate, maintain and sustain such a system,” the House Armed Services Committee, or HASC, said in a report that followed their version of the defense bill in May. “The Marine Corps also underestimates the necessary human capital resources required to meet current deployment-to-dwell policy and guidance issued by the Secretary of Defense," the report added. The HASC also called for a report from chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council by February 2019 on how existing capabilities across the services can plug the Corps' perceived gaps. “The committee also directs the Secretary of the Navy to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services, not later than February 5, 2019, that explains the acquisition and funding strategy of the Marine Corps to affordably develop and field an unmanned capability of this nature, and then personnel, funding, infrastructure, and mission-execution resources that would be needed to viably sustain and support this capability, the report reads. The Corps is amid plans to develop a futuristic group five drone capable of landing on amphibious ships at sea. The Corps wants its high-tech platform to conduct electronic and kinetic strikes and come with an early airborne warning capability. The airborne warning feature will afford Marine Expeditionary units the ability to operate independent of aircraft carriers. Carriers deploy the E2D Hawkeye for early airborne warning. The MUX will also have long-range networking capabilities allowing the drone to patch into and cue weapon systems from other ships and aircraft. The Corps held a conference with industry leaders in early June to hash out its wish list for the MUX. Currently, the Marines do not operate a large group five drone. To make up for the lack of experience, the Corps has been sending Marines to work with the Air Force. Marines do operate smaller tactical surveilance drones like the RQ-21 Blackjack. The House passed the latest version of the defense bill on Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on it early next week. Inside Defense first reported the potential cuts to the MUX.

  • Navy practices with key anti-mine asset: dolphins

    30 juillet 2018 | International, Naval

    Navy practices with key anti-mine asset: dolphins

    By: Andrew C. Jarocki WASHINGTON ― When it comes to minesweeping at the 2018 Rim of the Pacific exercises, the top sonar for the job isn't located on any of the 46 ships and five subs sailing in the maneuvers. Instead, the Navy relies on dolphins. The highly-trained creatures “search for and mark the location of undersea mines” according to a description by the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, which also deploys sea lions to recover suspicious objects at deep depths. The dolphins “possess the most sophisticated sonar known to science,” allowing them to find mines in any depth or light when mechanical equipment is often less reliable, the Navy says. That skill proves especially useful in crowded coastal waters or on murky sea floors. Navy RIMPAC footage released to the public shows dolphins, overseen by human trainers, finding practice mines and placing markers near them. Their reward? A steady stream of fish treats.

  • DoD researchers literally reinvented the wheel with shape-shifting tracks

    30 juillet 2018 | International, Terrestre

    DoD researchers literally reinvented the wheel with shape-shifting tracks

    By: Kyle Rempfer Wheels are faster on hard surfaces, while a tracked design performs better on soft ground. Rather than pushing a ground combat vehicle through terrain it doesn't perform well on, why not just slap on some shape-shifting wheels? A team from Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center demonstrated the feasibility of such shape-shifting wheel-track mechanisms for the Defense Department recently. The new technology, dubbed a “reconfigurable wheel-track,” can transition from a round wheel to a triangular track and back again while the vehicle is in motion — allowing for an instant improvement in tactical mobility on shifting terrain. The wheel-track is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Ground X-Vehicle Technologies, or GXV-T, program, which aims to improve mobility, survivability, safety, and effectiveness of future combat vehicles without piling on more armor, according to a June 22 press release. “We're looking at how to enhance survivability by buttoning up the cockpit and augmenting the crew through driver-assistance aids,” said Maj. Amber Walker, the program manager for GXV-T in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. “For mobility, we've taken a radically different approach by avoiding armor and developing options to move quickly and be agile over all terrain.” The DARPA initiative is looking to build a future in which combat vehicles can traverse up to 95 percent of off-road terrain, including slopes and various elevations. The new wheel-track design is just one of the contract awardees that recently demonstrated advances on a variety of potentially groundbreaking technologies that meet the program's goals. DARPA also showcased a new “multi-mode extreme travel suspension” system that allows for "high-speed travel over rough terrain, while keeping the vehicle upright and minimizing occupant discomfort,” the agency said in its statement. The suspension can move 42 inches upward and 30 inches downward, and keeps itself level on steep grades by adjusting each wheel. Other enhanced mobility designs include an electric in-hub motor built by QinetiQ, which puts motors directly inside the wheels, offering heightened acceleration and maneuverability with optimal torque, traction, power, and speed over rough or smooth terrain. “QinetiQ demonstrated a unique approach, incorporating three gear stages and a complex thermal management design into a system small enough to fit a standard military 20-inch rim,” according to the release. Another new development could impact a vehicle crew's awareness. Most combat vehicles have small windows. This improves the protection offered to troops, but limits their visibility to spot threats and targets. The GXV-T program is looking at sensor technologies to give mechanized troops their eyes back. One design by Honeywell International boasts an enhanced 360-degree awareness suite through virtual windows. The company showed that capability off in a windowless cockpit of an all-terrain vehicle with an opaque canopy, according to the DARPA release. “The 3D near-to-eye goggles, optical head-tracker and wrap-around Active Window Display screens provide real-time, high-resolution views outside the vehicle,” the release reads. “In off-road courses, drivers have completed numerous tests using the system in roughly the same time as drivers in [ATVs] with full visibility.” No fielding date has been announced by DARPA's offices for the new mobility technologies, but the program could help solve many of the ongoing mobility issues troops have experienced in recent conflicts. For a full breakdown of the technologies being vetted through DARPA's GXV-T program, check out this YouTube video by the agency.

  • A long-term future for Robins Air Force Base and US national defense

    27 juillet 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    A long-term future for Robins Air Force Base and US national defense

    By: Sen. David Perdue I grew up in Warner Robins, Georgia. As a member of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee and a former member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I know that Robins Air Force Base is an integral piece of our country's national security. Since 1996, Robins has been home to the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System mission. JSTARS is a platform that helps with intelligence gathering and battle management. JSTARS planes are very much in demand. However, JSTARS is an aging platform. Russia and China have modernized their air defenses to keep America's specialized capabilities, like JSTARS, out of potentially denied airspace. There are growing areas of denied airspace around the world that JSTARS planes simply cannot penetrate. The Obama administration had proposed a JSTARS recapitalization that was on track to leave a significant capability gap. We fought that in the United States Senate and House by pushing for a JSTARS recapitalization that would continue the mission in non-denied airspace with new planes and avoid that gap. Now, President Donald Trump and his national security team have created an opportunity for a long-term solution for both denied and non-denied airspace. The final version of this year's National Defense Authorization Act is supported by President Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. First, the plan in the defense authorization bill secures the future of the JSTARS platform for the next 10 years, including the more than 2,500 jobs that JSTARS supports. Second, the plan accelerates the development of the Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS, mission, which is a multidimensional platform that can access both denied and non-denied airspace. Third, the Air Force has named Robins Air Force Base as the host base of this new ABMS mission. This means that Robins will be a force for years to come, while providing for our long-term national defense by developing this technology more quickly than we would have been able to do otherwise. Clearly, this is a major win for Robins Air Force Base, the middle Georgia community and for our national defense overall. It provides certainty for the current JSTARS mission for the next 10 years. It accelerates the development of next-generation mission capabilities so desperately needed by our armed forces today. Finally, the Air Force has assured Robins' future role in dealing with modern-day threats by naming Robins the host base of the Advanced Battle Management System. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

  • Italy buys new tank — and it’s got much more going for it than its predecessor

    27 juillet 2018 | International, Terrestre

    Italy buys new tank — and it’s got much more going for it than its predecessor

    By: Tom Kington ROME — The Italian Army has signed a €159 million (U.S. $186 million) contract to acquire 10 Centauro II wheeled tanks, the first tranche of a planned 136-vehicle order. Manufactured by a consortium grouping Italian firms Leonardo and Iveco, the Centauro II is faster, more powerful and better protected than the Centauro tank already in service with the Italian Army, which it will replace. The new 30-ton Centauro features a 120mm cannon, digital communications and a 720-horsepower engine, and is seen by planners as a lightweight tank able to complement the Freccia armored troop carrier on which the Army is basing its new medium brigades. The new tank's enhanced digitalization means it will work better with the digital capabilities of the Freccia, and it provides 24 horsepower per ton compared to 19 for the old Centauro. Generals see the new Centauro as lighter and more flexible than a traditional tank, but with the same destructive power. The eight wheels of the new Centauro, which make it better suited for peacekeeping operations than a tracked vehicle, extend farther out from the hull of the vehicle than its predecessor to give it greater stability. The new design also means that any mines triggered by the pressure of the tire will detonate further from the hull. The Iveco-Oto Melara Consortium, or CIO, was established in 1985 on a 50-50 basis between Iveco and Oto Melara, which is now part of Leonardo. Leonardo said it was responsible for the vehicles' turret, including observation, targeting and communications systems, and was responsible for a €92 million share of the €159 million contract.

  • Heavy polar icebreaker questions mount for Coast Guard

    27 juillet 2018 | International, Naval

    Heavy polar icebreaker questions mount for Coast Guard

    By: Andrew C. Jarocki WASHINGTON ― Potential funding woes and questions about the aggressive proposed timelines have cast doubts about the future of the Coast Guard's new heavy polar ice breaker. The Government Accountability Office is dubious the service's lone heavy polar icebreaker can make it to its proposed 2023 retirement date and questioned whether the Coast Guard's construction schedule was too optimistic. The Coast Guard is planing to replace the Polar Star with the new heavy icebreaker the same year, something GAO said may not be “realistic and feasible.” The watchdog noted the aging Polar Star could reach the end of its service life as soon as 2020, and the “highly optimistic” delivery date of the new vessel could be delayed and leave the service without a heavy polar icebreaker to defend strategic Arctic interests for several years. Vice Adm. Daniel Abel, deputy commandant for operations, recently told the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee at a hearing that the Polar Star is “limping along, and nothing with a US flag could rescue her [in the Arctic] if something happened, putting our polar capabilities at risk." To further complicate matters, House appropriators are currently debating cutting $750 million in funding for the Coast Guard. Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, deputy commandant for mission support, said at the hearing that the entire program schedule is at risk if the appropriations cut is finalized but that he remained confident that the Coast Guard is “well-poised to award the detailed construction contract in fiscal year 2019” for the heavy polar ice breaker.

  • The Army wants to replace the ‘Mickey Mouse’ cold weather boots

    27 juillet 2018 | International, Terrestre

    The Army wants to replace the ‘Mickey Mouse’ cold weather boots

    By: Todd South The old “Mickey Mouse” cold weather boot, a rubber relic from the 1960s still in service with both soldiers and Marines, could be replaced if a recent Army posting proves fruitful. The aim is to reduce the weight and bulk of the boot, which earned its nickname for its white, bulbous size, like the famed cartoon rodent's feet. The boot does also come in black, and for a time, they were also called “Bunny Boots” by troops. Earlier this month, U.S. Army Contracting Command posted a special notice on, a federal business opportunities website. The notice detailed the procurement of 150 pairs of three models of an Extreme Cold Weather Overboot to replace the classic version, called the Extreme Cold Weather Boot. And the post author noted the long-standing boot's deficiencies. “The current Extreme Cold Weather Boot (ECWB) has remained largely unmodified since the 1960s and utilizes outdated technology and manufacturing processes which are no longer available within the U.S.,” according to the notice. “Additionally, the ECWB is heavy, bulky, and difficult to pack/carry when conducting dismounted operations,” according to the notice. The white, bulky boot provides a vacuum-type seal that maintains foot warmth in temperatures down to -60 Fahrenheit. So much so that troops often soak their socks with sweat while standing in banks of snow. Researchers at the U.S. Army Soldier, Research, Development and Engineering Center along with Product Manager-Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, “will commence an effort to evaluate insulated overboot solutions with the potential to offer similar environmental protection at reduced weight/bulk.” The boot was developed during the Korean War to combat the extreme cold weather soldiers and Marines faced in fierce fighting during that war. Minor modifications occurred early in its development, including an air valve being added in the 1960s for use in high altitudes, whether on mountainsides or in aircraft.

  • How Army researchers are using software and analytics to maximize battlefield power

    27 juillet 2018 | International, C4ISR

    How Army researchers are using software and analytics to maximize battlefield power

    By: Todd South ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — As soldiers at every level become more connected and devices proliferate, the strain on the field-level power grid increases. Staff at the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command dove into the finer details of power management, auto tuning and analytics to drive how soldiers use power in the field. Most of that work is focused around the tactical microgrid, basically the network of power that runs tactical operations. Think thick cables, generators and all the power that lets the computers, radios and networks run to digest the vast amounts of information, communication and other electrical needs consumed by a modern military. In the not-too-distant past, generator operators and technicians played a sophisticated guessing game that involved a clock, multimeter, flashlight and notepad to measure and mark which power supplies were running, at what level, and where they were on fuel. But by adding digital capabilities and software-driven devices into the guts of what were simple analog generators and boxes full of copper wiring and switches, they have created a type of brain for what was formerly a mindless system. That's resulted in the new Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, the first new generator for the service in years. The combination of that device, controllers within the system, and advanced software gives the soldier a centralized place to monitor and manipulate the different devices in the microgrid that will help the flow of power move to where its needed. “I can tell you if you're using too many lights or computers on one of those three phase lines and if you're out of balance,” said Bradley Stanley, an RDECOM computer scientist. By using software to make those readings, the end user can then shift the strain to other parts of the system, maximizing power output and fuel use for what can be 24-hour, days long operations. Another software improvement in “autotuning” is helping make what can be a multi-person with expert training four-hour job into an automated procedure handled by the computer.

  • Want Siri or Alexa ready for tactical ops? This Army command is working on it.

    27 juillet 2018 | International, C4ISR

    Want Siri or Alexa ready for tactical ops? This Army command is working on it.

    By: Todd South ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — As the Army improves its mission command posts, one of the key areas where it has made changes is how soldiers can operate computers for everything from sharing information to tracking friendly and not-so-friendly forces. Staff at the Army's Research Development Engineering Command have upgraded items from tablet-style computers, display systems and ways to use voice commands rather than keyboards for controlling devices. During a recent display at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, soldiers who work as trainer/observers at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, gave demonstrations of the new capabilities for the Tactical Computing Environment. Sgts. 1st Class Sheena Ferrell and Ramon Contreras Jr. showed how soldiers using the new devices can share “one common operating picture” with each other. Users can track individual vehicles on the wide-ranging training area, mark obstacles, terrain features, enemy positions and other items with preprogrammed symbols and use a chat feature to send messages or attachments to other soldiers. Alongside those efforts is another piece of software that gives soldiers a Siri or Alexa-type voice command capability, but contained to the device, rather than relying on the computing cloud or an Internet connection. The program, Single Multimodal Android Service for Human Computer Interaction, or SMASH, has been a part of the larger effort to improve Expeditionary Mission Command across the Army. Users can simply speak commands such as “Show Blue Force layers,” or “big picture,” to have icons or elements appear or disappear on the digital map. Another quick-use feature is to mark specific incidents for later use in after action reports. The demonstrator gave the example of selecting a shorthand for marking a spot for a roadside bomb, speaking the words “French fries,” and the device immediately marked and alerted the map, which would also be relayed to those sharing the same features. Some lower tech but important additions are portable, roll-up displays, and software called Display Viewer Application that replaces a massive hardware device used to share computer screen displays across a closed, Local Area Network within the command post.

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