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  • Navy Use of Laser Scanning Already Showing Big Savings; Summit This Month to Refine Plans

    3 juillet 2018 | International, Naval

    Navy Use of Laser Scanning Already Showing Big Savings; Summit This Month to Refine Plans

    By: Megan Eckstein A $50,000 investment in laser scanning equipment saved the Navy nearly $2 million during the planning effort for USS George Washington‘s (CVN-73) refueling and complex overhaul. A small team of engineers with a LIDAR system did the work of the usual 20-person team, inspecting the nooks and crannies of the carrier to inform the overhaul plans. Now the Navy is looking to leverage that win and expand its use of laser scanners to not only cut down costs for aircraft carrier maintenance planning and execution but also tie into virtual reality trainers and other cutting-edge technologies. In the case of the George Washington RCOH, a team of two or three engineers from Newport News Shipbuilding flew out to the forward-deployed carrier in Japan with a LIDAR scanner atop a tripod. As the tool slowly spins around it gathers millions of data points depicting how far away objects are from the scanner. The resulting 3D point cloud shows the precise location of items in the room – not where a server rack was supposed to be according to the blueprints, for example, but where it actually is. Capt. John Markowicz, the in-service carrier program manager, told USNI News in an interview that the $1.8-million savings from that one ship check effort was about 15 percent of the total cost of that portion of the RCOH planning, and that his office was already employing the laser scanning technology ahead of the next RCOH for USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). He said it was too early to guess a percent savings the laser scanning will yield this time around, but that it would likely be on par or better than with George Washingtonbecause Newport News Shipbuilding has continued to invest in the laser scanners and learning how to best leverage them. Markowicz said the tripod-mounted scanners cost about $3,600 each, and smaller handheld ones for scanning small spaces cost about $600. The actual scanning service can cost between $50 and $250 an hour, and post-production work can cost $100 to $300 and hour. USNI News visited Newport News Shipbuilding last October, and during a lunchtime meeting a company engineer scanned the whole conference room and produced a point cloud model of the room within about 30 minutes, as an example of how quickly the scanners can work. Once those point cloud models are created, the Navy and Newport News have already found several uses during the RCOH and other carrier maintenance planning and execution phases. First, for the actual planning, the point cloud models can offer some spatial perspective that flat blueprints can't, as well as an updated “as-is” assessment of the space instead of the “as-designed” view the blueprints contain. Mark Bilinski, a scientist at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific and its Battlespace Exploitation of Mixed Reality (BEMR) Lab, and his team are working on laser scanning technology and ways to leverage the 3D point cloud product. He showed off some of the technologies to USNI News during the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA's WEST 2018 conference in San Diego in February. During a panel presentation at WEST, he said that sometimes the 3D scans just show discrepancies between where an item was supposed to be installed versus where it actually was installed. However, he ran into a case where the blueprints depicted an escape hatch of a certain size, but it was larger in reality; in that case, a planner might have thought there was room to install something nearby, when in reality putting the equipment there would actually partially block the hatch and cause a safety issue. In another case, the blueprints showed a hatch as being much larger than it actually is, and so the planner might have thought the space was unusable. “That's an opportunity cost because that might be some space that you could use for an install that you don't think is available to you,” Bilinski said. Once the planning is done and execution is set to begin, Markowicz said the 3D models, unlike 2D blueprints, can help identify interferences and obstructions, help find the best route down narrow passageways for bringing in bulky equipment to install, aid in laying in pipes and wires and more. “That is valuable, it cuts down time in the shipyard,” which ultimately cuts down cost and allows the next carrier to come in for maintenance quicker. Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility are beginning to embrace this technology, which could spread to the other two public shipyards to support submarine maintenance activities too, and Newport News Shipbuilding is “all in” on the private sector side, he said. Markowicz noted that taking the scans and making mockups in a 3D digital environment can not only save time on major efforts like finding the best routing for piping, but can also help with little things – for instance, there was a case of trying to install a laptop in a phone booth area, but it turned out that the laptop couldn't open all the way without hitting the phone. “We stumble upon these things sometimes a little late in the design process, or actually the install process. It's not as efficient as it can be,” he said. Every time a maintenance or modernization activity takes place, the scan would become slightly outdated, but Markowicz said the idea would be to rescan periodically and maintain records of all the scans as “selected records” that accompany the 2D drawings for the Nimitz class today. “Once we have this digitally, I think that's pretty useful. We can share it with multiple activities and have the documentation for future use and future availability planning,” he said. Bilinski also noted the ways laser scans could help during a major maintenance period, when multiple program offices are trying to get their own equipment in and don't always have a great way to coordinate. In many availabilities, Bilinski said, someone goes to install a piece of equipment in a space, only to find that that space is taken. Instead, he will just take the next closest space that meets his need. Then the next person comes in to use that space and finds that it was just taken, causing a cascading effect. If everyone involved in the maintenance period were working off a shared digital plan that could be updated in real time as systems were installed, conflicts could be identified sooner and plans could be rearranged as needed without any on-ship confusion. “If you have that collaborative environment where everyone is planning off of the scan data, the installer can see not only that this space is physically available, but hey, it's also available in the planning environment; no one is planning to put anything there. Or, maybe someone is planning to put something there but you've got to put your equipment somewhere, so you put it there, but you at least know who to notify so that we can start fixing this problem earlier than discovering it when the next program office shows up to install their equipment,” he said. Virtual reality application Virtual and augmented reality tools are already changing how ships are built, with Newport News Shipbuilding telling USNI News during the October visit that the use of VR goggles while laying pipes and cables for the future John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) has cut the required man-hours in half. Newport News is also sending its shipbuilders out with tablets that can use VR to show what's on the other side of a wall or where to cut a hole into a wall, and can also include how-to videos to show step-by-step how to do the day's tasks. Markowicz said there would likely be less applicability for that technology on the ship repair and maintenance side compared to the ship construction side, but he hopes to explore how the public shipyards can use VR and tablets to drive efficiency up and cost down. Where VR and laser scanning could converge, though, is on training. Because each ship has a different set of navigation and steering systems, surface search radars and other systems, allowing a sailor to train on his or her own ship is more useful than training on a generic ship. Markowicz said his office is working with Bilinski's BEMR Lab to create ship-specific VR training tools for while ships are in maintenance. They scanned destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) after its collision last year, and while the ship undergoes a lengthy repair process, sailors could use VR goggles to practice maintenance and repair work on McCain's specific configuration without having to actually be on the destroyer. The BEMR lab already has Virtual Eqiupment Environment (V2E) tools that let the user walk into a room, spot a server rack, for example, and begin to take apart and put back together the server rack. Similarly, when a carrier is in RCOH for four years, sailors are often times flown around the world to get training time on other carriers. Though the ship is safe for them to be in while in RCOH, the systems are all ripped out. If the Navy had scans of the last carrier that came out of RCOH and could insert a finished product view into VR goggles, sailors could train on their own ship at Newport News while the RCOH goes on around them. “We've got to find creative ways to do training. Normally they leave ... and they go out to the fleet and ride another ship and get their training that way. But a lieutenant had the idea of, okay, you can go up to pri-fly (primary flight control), any everything's ripped apart but you can put on these goggles and see what your space is going to look like 48 months from now ... and visualize it all and stand there in your space without having to go to another ship,” Markowicz said. “I definitely see a partnership with the BEMR Lab and laying that out for training for ship's force, closing that gap in readiness. Because I was part of the Carl Vinson (CVN-70) overhaul, and our skills atrophied as we stayed in overhaul for that length of time. So we have to find opportunities to sharpen our skills.” Bilinski said there could be other uses for combining a current ship scan and VR goggles or tablets. For example, if scans of ship spaces were taken correctly, they could be woven together to create essentially a Google Maps of sorts. New sailors could use it to learn their way around the ship. Or, more importantly, “let's say a fire breaks out on a ship and you need to go into a compartment and fight that fire – it's going to be smoke-filled, it can be dark, you may not have ever been in that space, there could be plenty of places where you can fall, you could twist your ankle, you could bump into equipment in the space. If you were to understand where you were, you could look through that wall and see what the last as-is condition of the ship was and sort of get an idea of what you're getting into before you go into that space,” then firefighting or other emergency response efforts could be done potentially more safely and quickly. Policy and technical barriers Much like other emerging technologies, Markowicz said those trying to implement laser scanning are facing the usual set of challenges: how does the Navy balance the need to ensure technical rigor while also not being too proscriptive and excluding potential scanners or data formats that could be useful? What legal and ethical concerns need to be addressed through policy changes? “That's the rub right now,” Markowicz said. “You see us working with Newport News. I'm sure there's other pockets within NAVSEA that are working on it. But alignment across the whole NAVSEA equities hasn't happened yet. So where we are successful at NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) is where we have a singular tech warrant holder who owns turbines or fire protection or what have you. So we're really successful in employing that model across NAVSEA. I see a vision someday where you have a tech warrant holder for a laser scanner that's able to establish standards, policy, requirements to go forward and articulate that to industry.” His team is hosting a laser scanning summit later this month to identify barriers and develop courses of action to begin to address them – everything from how many dots per inch are needed for the scan to be useful, to, are there any engineering decisions that cannot or should not be made based on laser scanning and 3D point cloud modeling work. Markowicz suggested that anything related to the nuclear propulsion system is going to require much more technical rigor than other parts of the ship, but he said he still sees great potential for savings with laser scanners beyond what the Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding are doing today. “I think across the board we will save money, and in that way the leadership is behind it if it helps us be more efficient,” he said. Back when the Navy and Newport News first did the George Washington ship check, then-Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley's message to Markowicz was, “I absolutely needed to make it my mission to leverage new technologies and be more efficient in the repair business,” the captain said, and he believes this is a prime example of how to do that. To be successful enterprise-wide, he said, “I think the real key is setting the standards, which will provide a framework where contractors and Navy can plug into. To get there, we need to provide technical leadership, host conferences ... flush out all the issues. At least create a standard so that we can contract and have deliverables. One software package or one laser scanner, I don't think we need to be that proscriptive. I think we set a standard for industry, like an ISO standard, and people will come around to it.” He likened the point cloud image to a PDF that could be opened on a Mac or a PC and is readily sharable among users, and said it would be important that, regardless of what scanner is used, the output has these qualities too. He suggested that some scans would need to be precise while others could forsake precision for speed if the user just needed a general idea of how a room is laid out, and all those types of issues would eventually become written out and standardized.

  • Will the F-35 beat out ‘the usual suspects’ in Singapore’s search for F-16 replacement?

    3 juillet 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    Will the F-35 beat out ‘the usual suspects’ in Singapore’s search for F-16 replacement?

    By: Mike Yeo MELBOURNE, Australia ― Singapore will decide in the next few months on a new fighter to replace its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 multirole fighters, with the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from the same manufacturer seen as the prime candidate. In an interview with media ahead of the southeast Asian island nation's Armed Forces Day, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that despite ongoing upgrades, the F-16s face obsolescence beyond 2030. He added the country will make a definitive decision on its replacement in the next few months based on interoperability with Singapore's current systems and platforms as well as the price. Ng refused to be drawn into further details as to which fighter platforms Singapore is looking at, only saying that the BAE Systems Typhoon, the F-35, Russia's Sukhois, and Chinese-made stealth fighters are “the usual suspects that you have to look at” when air forces are choosing a new combat platform. However, Singapore has been evaluating the F-35 since 2013 and Ng had previously suggested that the type was suited to be the replacement for Singapore's F-16s. Earlier reports suggested Singapore is keen on acquiring the F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant, with the B-model's STOVL capability seen as useful for Singapore, whose main island has an area of a mere 277 square miles and whose air bases are seen as vulnerable to a first strike. Nevertheless, former head of the F-35 program Christopher Bogdan, said Singapore requested information on all three variants of the F-35, and the possibility of Singapore opting for the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A variant cannot be ruled out. Singapore is a security cooperative participant of the F-35 program and is believed to have an eventual requirement of between 40 and 60 new fighters to replace its F-16s. The Republic of Singapore Air Force, or RSAF, currently operates a fleet of 60 F-16C/D Block 52 and Advanced Block 52 aircraft delivered between 1998 and 2005. Twelve aircraft are currently assigned to a joint continuation training unit between the U.S. and Singapore air forces at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, while the remaining are split between three Singapore-based squadrons. Singapore's F-16s are currently being upgraded by Lockheed Martin with the upgrade program, which started in 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2022, including the addition of Northrop Grumman's AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar, an improved identification, friend or foe system, as well as Link 16 data links. During the interview, Ng also outlined some of the other upcoming procurement programs Singapore is looking at. These include new multirole combat vessels to replace six corvettes and new joint multimission ships to replace four amphibious ships in Singapore's Navy, while the Army will replace its towed 155mm howitzers with a new self-propelled high-mobility artillery system in the 2020s.

  • The Navy’s new acquisition tool speeds up tech prototyping

    3 juillet 2018 | International, Naval, C4ISR

    The Navy’s new acquisition tool speeds up tech prototyping

    By: Maddy Longwell A research and development collaboration management company has been awarded a contract to helm a technology prototype consortium as part of a new acquisition process employed by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, in Charleston, South Carolina. SPAWAR awarded an other transaction authority to Advanced Technology International, of Summerville, South Carolina, for consortium management for SPAWAR's Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP). Under the contract, Advanced Technology International will manage a group of defense contractors who will complete projects for the government that address SPAWAR technology needs, and the consortium will facilitate competition for projects. Topics will be open to competition beginning in August 2018, the SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic said. The contract is worth $100 million over three years. IWRP OTA is an acquisition tool that allows nontraditional industry partners to work with organizations across SPAWAR to prototype technology that supports naval information warfare capabilities. IWRP focuses on information technology areas such as cyberwarfare, cloud computing and data science. SPAWAR announced OTAs as an acquisition tool through the IWRP at an industry day in February 2018, where prospective offerors learned about OTA strategy and the technical scope of IWRP OTA projects. “The IWRP will allow us to take advantage of commercially developed capabilities that are keeping pace with emerging technologies; technologies and innovation that we cannot take advantage of in a [Federal Acquisition Regulation]-based contract environment,” said Chris Miller, executive director of SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic. OTAs, which are not covered by the FAR, are a more flexible acquisition tool used by the Department of Defense. OTAs provide for the production of prototype systems. OTA contracts are mostly awarded to nontraditional defense contractors. OTA contracts enable departments under the Department of Defense to access commercial technologies that support the overall goal of IWRP, said SSC Atlantic Deputy Executive Director Bill Deligne, in a news release. “This mechanism is faster and more attuned to getting something quickly that we want today, as opposed to traditional federal acquisition,” Deligne said.

  • French firm makes moves to fund cybersecurity expansion

    3 juillet 2018 | International, C4ISR

    French firm makes moves to fund cybersecurity expansion

    By: Pierre Tran Communications & Systèmes, a specialist in mission critical systems, launched July 2 a capital increase to raise €10.2 million (U.S. $11.9 million) and finance an announced expansion in European defense and security. The rights issue is intended to raise finance for a mergers and acquisition plan, dubbed Plan Ambition 2021, and follows the approval June 26 by a CS shareholders meeting for the acquisition of Novidy's, a cybersecurity company. “I am rather delighted. This is a step forward,” CS CEO Eric Blanc-Garin told Fifth Domain July 2. “The capital increase will enlarge the shareholder base, bring in more institutional investors and improve the stock liquidity.” The main aim is to fund the company's expansion by mergers and acquisition. “We have targets; we are in active discussion,” he said, when asked if CS has a list of companies in its M&A plan. An issue of new stock is intended to raise €10.2 million, which could rise to €11.5 million if the offer meets demand from the stock market. The new stock will be priced at €5.90 per share, a 22.2 percent discount on the closing price June 28. Current shareholders are offered two new shares for every 25 shares held. A core shareholder, Sopra Steria Group, has committed to subscribe to the stock issue. Sopra Steria holds 10.36 percent of CS and has pledged to inject €1.1 million into the company by exercising its preferential rights. “This capital increase will allow CS to have the means necessary to realize other operations of external growth with priority in Europe in the growth sectors of defense and civil security, space and cybersecurity,” the company said in a statement. Current shareholders will have a preferential right for subscribing to the stock issue. The shareholders meeting approved the capital increase, which had been announced as a second step in the Plan Ambition 2010 and follows the agreed offer for Novidy's. The acquisition of Novidy's boosts CS's annual sales in cybersecurity to €40 million, with the sector accounting for 20 percent of the company's total revenue, the company said in a June 26 statement. “We are delighted that our shareholders have unanimously approved this acquisition, which allows CS to mark a new stage in its development,” Blanc-Garin said in the statement. “This is the first significant step in our strategic plan, Ambition 2021.”

  • Trump Warns NATO Allies to Spend More on Defense, or Else

    3 juillet 2018 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR

    Trump Warns NATO Allies to Spend More on Defense, or Else

    By Julie Hirschfeld Davis WASHINGTON — President Trump has written sharply worded letters to the leaders of several NATO allies — including Germany, Belgium, Norway and Canada — taking them to task for spending too little on their own defense and warning that the United States is losing patience with what he said was their failure to meet security obligations shared by the alliance. The letters, sent in June, are the latest sign of acrimony between Mr. Trump and American allies as he heads to a NATO summit meeting next week in Brussels that will be a closely watched test of the president's commitment to the alliance. Mr. Trump has repeatedly questioned its value and has claimed that its members are taking advantage of the United States. Mr. Trump's criticism raised the prospect of another confrontation involving the president and American allies after a blowup by Mr. Trump at the Group of 7 gathering last month in Quebec, and increased concerns that far from projecting solidarity in the face of threats from Russia, the meeting will highlight divisions within the alliance. Such a result could play into the hands of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who is to meet with Mr. Trump in Helsinki, Finland, after the NATO meeting, and whose primary goal is sowing divisions within the alliance. In his letters, the president hinted that after more than a year of public and private complaints that allies have not done enough to share the burden of collective defense, he may be considering a response, including adjusting the United States' military presence around the world. “As we discussed during your visit in April, there is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised,” Mr. Trump wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in a particularly pointed letter, according to someone who saw it and shared excerpts with The New York Times. “The United States continues to devote more resources to the defense of Europe when the Continent's economy, including Germany's, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us.” “Growing frustration,” Mr. Trump wrote, “is not confined to our executive branch. The United States Congress is concerned, as well.” The president's complaint is that many NATO allies are not living up to the commitment they made at their Wales summit meeting in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on national defense. American presidents have long complained about the lack of burden-sharing by NATO member countries, but Mr. Trump has taken that criticism much further, claiming that some of the United States' closest allies are essentially deadbeats who have failed to pay debts to the organization, a fundamental misunderstanding of how it functions. The Trump administration has already reportedly been analyzing a large-scale withdrawal of American forces from Germany, after Mr. Trump expressed surprise that 35,000 active-duty troops are stationed there and complained that NATO countries were not contributing enough to the alliance. In the letter, Mr. Trump told Ms. Merkel that Germany also deserves blame for the failure of other NATO countries to spend enough: “Continued German underspending on defense undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their military spending commitments, because others see you as a role model.” In language that is echoed in his letters to the leaders of other countries — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway and Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium — Mr. Trump said he understands the “domestic political pressure” brought to bear by opponents of boosting military expenditures, noting that he has expended “considerable political capital to increase our own military spending.” “It will, however, become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries do not share NATO's collective security burden while American soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives overseas or come home gravely wounded,” Mr. Trump wrote to Ms. Merkel. Mr. Michel reacted tartly last week to the letter, telling reporters at a European Union summit meeting in Brussels that he was “not very impressed” by it, according to a report by Deutsche Welle. Mr. Trump has long complained about the alliance and routinely grouses that the United States is treated shabbily by multilateral organizations of which it is a member, be it the World Trade Organization or the North Atlantic alliance. But in Europe, the letters to NATO allies have been greeted with some degree of alarm because of their suggestion that Mr. Trump is prepared to impose consequences on the allies — as he has done in an escalating tariff fight with European trading partners — if they do not do what he is asking. “Trump still seems to think that NATO is like a club that you owe dues to, or some sort of protection racket where the U.S. is doing all the work protecting all these deadbeat Europeans while they're sitting around on vacation, and now he is suggesting there are consequences,” said Derek Chollet, a former Defense Department official who is the executive vice president for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “Europeans have been watching Donald Trump begin to implement his rhetoric on trade in ways that are very combative,” he said, “and they're starting to contemplate whether he would do this regarding security issues, as well.” Mr. Trump's letter to Mr. Trudeau was reported last month by iPolitics in Canada, and the existence of others was reported last week by Foreign Policy. It was not clear precisely how many Mr. Trump wrote, and the White House would not comment on presidential correspondence. But two diplomatic sources said they believed at least a dozen were sent, including to Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter, said that Mr. Trump is committed to the NATO alliance and expects allies to shoulder “their fair share of our common defense burden, and to do more in areas that most affect them.” John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump's national security adviser, said Sunday that it was NATO members who refused to spend more on defense — not the president — who were responsible for undercutting the alliance. “The president wants a strong NATO,” Mr. Bolton said in an interview on CBS's “Face the Nation.” “If you think Russia's a threat, ask yourself this question: Why is Germany spending less than 1.2 percent of its G.N.P.? When people talk about undermining the NATO alliance, you should look at those who are carrying out steps that make NATO less effective militarily.” But for diplomats hoping fervently to avoid another high-profile summit meeting collapse with Mr. Trump as the instigator, the letters were concerning. “Europeans, like many folks in our Defense Department, think that there are many good things that could come out of this summit if only they can keep it from going off the rails,” Mr. Chollet said. “They are hoping to survive without irreparable damage, and so the fact that you have all these storm clouds surrounding NATO and Trump is really worrisome.” Mr. Trump's disparagement of Europe and the alliance has become almost routine, leaving some veteran diplomats aghast. Last week, Jim Melville, the United States ambassador to Estonia, told friends and colleagues that he would resign at the end of this month after more than 30 years in the Foreign Service, in part because of the president's language. “For the President to say the E.U. was ‘set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank,' or that ‘NATO is as bad as NAFTA' is not only factually wrong, but proves to me that it's time to go,” Mr. Melville wrote in a Facebook post. He was referring to remarks about Europe that the president made during a rally last week in Fargo, N.D., and comments about NATO that he is reported to have made privately during the Group of 7 gathering. Still, the president is not alone in demanding more robust military spending by NATO allies. Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, wrote to Gavin Williamson, the British defense minister, last month saying he was “concerned” that the United Kingdom's military strength was “at risk of erosion” if it did not increase spending, and warned that France could eclipse Britain as the United States' “partner of choice” if it did not invest more. A United States official confirmed the contents of Mr. Mattis's letter, first reported by The Sun.

  • Davie aims to replace Canadian Coast Guard's entire icebreaker fleet

    3 juillet 2018 | Local, Naval

    Davie aims to replace Canadian Coast Guard's entire icebreaker fleet

    Kevin Dougherty Shipbuilding firm will start work on icebreaker conversion this summer Chantier Davie Canada Inc., the country's largest shipbuilding firm, is gunning for contracts to build new icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard. "Given the age of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, the entire icebreaker fleet will need to be replaced in the near future," says Alex Vicefield, CEO of Inocea Group, which has owned Davie since 2012. "We have every intention of submitting a world-class proposal together with global leaders in icebreaker design." Until then, Davie, located across the river from Quebec City in Lévis, is in the home stretch of negotiations with the federal government to convert three surplus commercial icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard. Under its new management, Davie has made its mark in the industry by turning surplus ships into lower-cost solutions. The first converted icebreaker will be ready in time for the 2018-2019 ice season on the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes. However, when it comes to building new ships, there remain doubts about Davie's ability to deliver at a competitive cost. Canadian ships cost 'twice as much' Marc Gagnon is director, government affairs and regulatory compliance for the Montreal-based Fednav, which operates a fleet of nearly 100 ships. Fednav buys its ships in Japan because, Gagnon says, Canadian-built ships cost "at least twice as much." "Davie no longer has the capacity to build an icebreaker or a frigate," Gagnon said. "To do so, they would have to re-equip their shipyard." Vicefield said Davie is aware of the challenges ahead and has invested $60 million to upgrade its steel-cutting and IT infrastructure. The University of British Columbia's Michael Byers, who argues that Ottawa's current shipbuilding strategy is too costly and needlessly slow, says building government ships in Canada makes sense and Davie is definitely up to the task. "For every $100 million that is spent on building a ship in Canada, you would get several times more than that in terms of knock-on economic activity," Byers said. "And Davie is the logical place to do it. They have a very large shipyard. They have a very capable workforce. The labour costs are relatively low and it's an active shipyard." Asterix 'very impressive' Last year, before Ottawa agreed to sit down with Davie to discuss the icebreaker conversions, Davie delivered the Asterix — a container ship converted into a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy — on time and on budget. ​In 2015, when the navy's existing two supply ships were no longer seaworthy, Vicefield and his team proposed converting the Asterix to a naval supply ship for about $600 million. "What they did with the Asterix was very impressive," Byers said. "There is no other shipyard in Canada that could have done that." In comparison, Vancouver-based ​Seaspan was chosen to build two new navy supply ships for $2.6 billion. But the first new supply ship will only be ready in 2020. "This is a cutthroat business and there is a lot of money involved and a lot of politics involved," Byers said. "Davie has the capacity and the experience to build icebreakers, plus they have the lowest costs in terms of labour of any shipyard in the country," he said. The Canadian Coast Guard has an aging fleet of 13 ice-breaking vessels and two hovercraft. Ice still a hazard to navigation Canada's oldest and largest icebreaker, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, was commissioned in 1969. It was to be replaced in 2017 by the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker. But from the initial estimate of $720 million, the Diefenbaker is now expected to cost over $1.4 billion, with delivery in 2022. To meet Ottawa's need for "interim icebreakers," Davie found four icebreakers built for oil and gas drilling off the coast of Alaska that were idled when oil prices fell, putting an end of Shell's Arctic venture. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to negotiations with Davie to acquire the three smaller ice-breaking vessels, leaving aside the larger Aiviq. With no other shipyard matching Davie's proposal, the conversion work will begin this summer.

  • DoD stands up its artificial intelligence hub

    3 juillet 2018 | International, C4ISR

    DoD stands up its artificial intelligence hub

    By: Aaron Mehta WASHINGTON – The Defense Department has formally ordered the creation of a new hub for artificial intelligence research with Dana Deasy, the Pentagon's new chief information officer, taking the lead. Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan ordered the move in a June 27 memo. The Pentagon's goal is to launch a series of AI projects known as National Mission Initiatives within 90 days – as well as taking over the controversial Project Maven. The office will be known as the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), with the goal of enabling “teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new AI-enabled capabilities and effectively experiment with new operating concepts in support of DoD's military missions and business functions,” according to DoD spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza. Put another way, the group will have the “overarching goal of accelerating the delivery of AI-enabled capabilities, scaling the Department-wide impact of AI, and synchronizing DoD AI activities to expand Joint Force advantages,” according to a copy of the memo posted by Breaking Defense. “This effort is a Department priority. Speed and security are of the essence,” Shanahan wrote. “I expect all offices and personnel to provide all reasonable support necessary to make rapid enterprise-wide AI adoption a reality.” Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan directed the DoD Chief Information Officer to standup the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) in order to enable teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new AI-enabled capabilities and effectively experiment with new operating concepts in support of DoD's military missions and business functions. The JAIC marks the second major initiative Pentagon leaders handed over to Deasy, a former CIO with JPMorgan Chase who has only been at the Pentagon for a few weeks. Deasy also is in charge of managing the department's JEDI cloud computing contract. The idea of standing up an AI center was first confirmed by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on April 12, but it has been championed by the Defense Innovation Board, a group of outside experts ho advice the secretary on potential updates to how the Pentagon handles evolving technologies. According to Michael Griffin, the head of Pentagon research and engineering, the department counts 592 projects as having some form of AI in them. However, Griffin said in April 18 testimony that he did not believe every one of those projects makes sense to roll into some sort of AI hub. That concern appears to be reflected in Shanahan's memo, which orders that any AI project with a budget of $15 million or more should be coordinated with the services in order to ensure “DoD is creating Department-wide advantages.” In terms of budget, Shanahan ordered the Pentagon's comptroller to find options for funding during the current fiscal year, but the major focus is on driving resources for fiscal year 2019 and beyond. Given the support for artificial intelligence research on the Hill, it is likely the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY19 will include some funding for the new office. The movement of Project Maven to the JAIC is notable. A DoD initiative to accelerate the integration of big data and machine learning, largely drawing on video feeds from unmanned systems, Maven in the last month has become a poster child for the clash of cultures between the defense department and Silicon Valley. Google was working hand-in-hand with the Pentagon on the project, until a backlash from the company's employees, who argued in an open letter signed by more than 3,000 workers that it did not want to “build warfare technology.” Moving the program to the JAIC may be an attempt to keep the project underway without Google's participation.

  • Cyber Command moves closer to a major new weapon

    3 juillet 2018 | International, C4ISR

    Cyber Command moves closer to a major new weapon

    By: Mark Pomerleau The Air Force issued a formal proposal earlier this month for the Department of Defense's long-awaited cyber weapon system, known as the Unified Platform, sources tell Fifth Domain. DoD officials have said the Unified Platform is one of U.S. Cyber Command's largest and most critical acquisition programs to date. Industry officials have said it is necessary to conduct cyber operations and is critical to national security. Just as sailors rely on an aircraft carrier, pilots need airplanes or soldiers need tanks, cyber warriors require a system to which they launch their attacks. Pentagon leaders have said the Unified Platform will house offensive and defensive tools, allow for command and control, situational awareness and planning. Industry officials have referred to the programs as a “cyber carrier” used to launch cyber operations and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. But details on what the Air Force, which issued the request on behalf of Cyber Command, wants in a Unified Platform are scarce. Sources told Fifth Domain a formal request for proposal was released through the General Services Administration's premier enterprise Alliant Governmentwide Acquisition Contract vehicle, which “provides flexible access to customized IT solutions from a large, diverse pool of industry partners ... [and] allows for long-term planning of large-scale program requirements.” Under this model, GSA completes much of the initial contracting legwork and, in this case, allows the Air Force to focus on the specific technical requirements, sources said. Companies compete to be eligible for task orders under the Alliant contract and then GSA selects contractors who compete against each other for individual task orders on the final program. This means, only vetted companies would work on the program. Alliant is also designed to streamline contracts for IT projects only, eschewing some of the documentation and financials in typical contracts enabling faster awards. The Unified Platform proposal was only released to companies on the contract about two weeks ago, sources said, and is due in mid-July. Today, each of the individual services use their own disparate systems, many of which are not linked together. The spokesman added that efforts are underway to review and consolidate existing service and Cyber Command's platforms. Unified Platform seeks to take the best of breed of these and provide all cyber warriors a consolidated system. “In concert with US Cyber Command and all Services, the Air Force as Executive Agent is directing development and deployment to ensure timely and relevant full-spectrum capabilities for our cyber warriors,” an Air Force spokeswoman said. An Air Force spokeswoman said that the Air Force's Life Cycle Management Center will serve as the system integrator and will lead a multi-contractor, agile development/operations effort to launch and expand the Unified Platform. Currently, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Booz Allen Hamilton are known to be competing for the contract. Sources said other companies may also be considering a bid. The Air Force, in its research and development budget for fiscal 2019, asked for $29.8 million for the Unified Platform program this year. It requested $10 million for fiscal year 2020 and $6 million in fiscal 2021. The total cost of the program is not immediately clear. Other companies are also working on Unified Platform prototypes in the interim. Enlighten IT Consulting, a Maryland based company, was awarded earlier this year a sole source contract to provide a Unified Platform prototype, Duane Shugars, Enlighten's vice president of operations, told Fifth Domain. Enlighten is providing a capability Cyber Command's cyber mission force is using in real world missions today in which they collect data, push it into their analytics to run and share it for intelligence fusion. As the command continues to grow and mature leaders have said it will need its own infrastructure to conduct operations. As recently as 2015, top Pentagon officials acknowledged Cyber Command did not possess a robust joint computer network infrastructure capability, a robust command and control platform and systems to plan and execute fast-moving, large-scale cyber operations. During his confirmation process to lead Cyber Command, Gen. Paul Nakasone said the organization needs its own infrastructure separate from the National Security Agency, which is currently co-located with Cyber Command and has traditionally shared personnel and infrastructure. “Operating under the constraint of the intelligence authorities that govern NSA infrastructure and tools would severely limit USCYBERCOM's ability to effectively support wartime cyber operations,” he said.

  • Boeing Awarded $1.5B Contract for 28 Kuwait Super Hornets

    3 juillet 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    Boeing Awarded $1.5B Contract for 28 Kuwait Super Hornets

    By: Ben Werner Boeing was awarded a $1.5 billion contract to build 28 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for the Kuwait Air Force, according to a Wednesday Pentagon contract announcement. Kuwait is buying 22 of the single-seat “E” variant and six of the two-seat “F” variant Super Hornet. The deal has been in the works since late 2016 when U.S. State Department notified Congress about Kuwait's intent to purchase Super Hornets. On March 30, Boeing was awarded a $1.16 billion contract to research, development and testing for the Kuwait deal. The deal Kuwait finalized Wednesday is a scaled-down version of the initial purchase announced in 2016 which involved 40 aircraft. At the time, the deal was considered significant by industry analysts and U.S. government officials because it would keep Boeing's Super Hornet production line operational. Since the 2016 announcement, Boeing has courted several potential international Super Hornet customers, including Finland, India, Switzerland and Germany. The U.S. Navy has announced it plans to purchase 116 additional Super Hornets — bringing its fleet up to 480 aircraft. When the Navy orders are added to possible international sales, the St. Louis-based production line could remain running for more than a decade. The following is the complete June 27, 2018 contract award. The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is awarded a $1,504,995,240 fixed-price-incentive-firm contract that provides for the production and delivery of 22 F/A-18E and six F/A-18F Super Hornets in support of the government of Kuwait. Work will be performed in El Segundo, California (41.4 percent); Hazelwood, Missouri (28.2 percent); Fort Worth, Texas (4.7 percent); Santa Clarita, California (4 percent); Bloomington, Minnesota (3.3 percent); Greenlawn, New York (2.8 percent); Endicott, New York (2.3 percent); Santa Ana, California (1.9 percent); Clearwater, Florida (1.5 percent); Clifton, New Jersey (1.3 percent); Mesa, Arizona (1.3 percent); Torrance, California (1.2 percent); Ontario, Canada (1 percent); Vandalia, Ohio (0.9 percent); Kalamazoo, Michigan (0.8 percent); Fort Walton Beach, Florida (0.8 percent); East Aurora, New York (0.7 percent); and various locations outside the continental U.S. (2.1 percent), and is expected to be completed in January 2021. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $1,504,995,240 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N00019-18-C-1060).

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