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  • New National Guard medical helicopter unit set to deploy

    12 juin 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    New National Guard medical helicopter unit set to deploy

    WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut National Guard's newest unit, which has spent the past two years training with new, specialized helicopters, will deploy soon to provide care and transport to the sick and wounded in support of military operations in southwest Asia. "To receive your first medical evacuation aircraft in 2016 and be fully prepared for a deployment less than two years later is a testament to the hard work and dedication of those in our aviation community," Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J.Martin, adjutant general and commander of the Connecticut National Guard, said in a statement ahead of a sendoff ceremony last month for the aerial medical evacuation unit, officially known as Detachment 2, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment. The detachment, based in Windsor Locks and commanded by 1st Lt. Matthew Barringer of South Glastonbury, doesn't officially deploy until later this month. It represents a new capability for the National Guard. It received the first of three Blackhawk helicopters specifically outfitted for medical evacuation in the spring of 2016, even before becoming a fully operational unit in the fall of 2016. Thirty members of the detachment are deploying and will spend about a year providing aeromedical evacuation, en-route critical care and medical support while transporting patients. Five of the members deploying are women. The unit will join the 70 guardsmen from Connecticut already deployed in support of operations around the world. While deployed, the unit will be on 24-hour standby, and operate in shifts. A crew of four — two pilots, a crew chief, and a flight paramedic — can transport up to six patients at a time on one of the Sikorsky-built HH-60M Blackhawk helicopters. The helicopters have been specially outfitted for aerial medical evacuation and will be stocked with medical supplies like ventilators and IVs. The crew also has the capability to do procedures on board such as put in a chest tube. "We're almost a flying hospital," said Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Behuniak, 28, of Unionville. From the time a call comes in, they have less than 15 minutes to grab supplies, get to the aircraft and take off to aid a patient, who could be a member of the U.S. military or coalition forces, contractors, and even military working dogs, Behuniak said. Through training, they've been able to get that number down to nine minutes. "There are a lot of computers that need to start working, so as fast as the aircraft will let us take off, we can take off," Behuniak said. The benefit of a medevac unit, he added, is the ability to get a critically wounded patient to a hospital within so the so-called "golden hour," which greatly increases a patient's chance of survival. A 2015 study involving the Army, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston found that getting wounded troops to hospitals in less than an hour, along with improved care on the battlefield and in medical helicopters, saved hundreds of lives. "There's a wide spectrum of care an injured person can receive on this aircraft," said Sgt. Ryan Will, 28, Manchester, a flight paramedic. "It's very comprehensive care as well." Flight paramedics like Will and Staff Sgt. Trevor O'Neill, 27, of Greenwich, have gone through extensive training and are nationally registered paramedics. Both are also civilian paramedics. Members of the unit underwent a range of training to prepare them for the conditions they'll encounter overseas. They trained at a facility in Rhode Island that can simulate desert conditions. Anticipating mountain peaks of 13,800 feet, some pilots went to Colorado for training to get an understanding of how air density affects a helicopter's rotor system and the ability to fly. Last week, they trained with members of Air National Guard's 103rd Airlift Wing, practicing loading and unloading patients onto the helicopters, and simulating different missions where the two units would cross paths. "There are a lot of gravity and effects that are placed on the patient that there aren't normally on the ground, whether that be from high maneuver turns or simply just taking off and landing. Things like vibrations can really make a patient uncomfortable and these are things they have to know when they're giving us patients," said O'Neill, one of the flight paramedics. There was strong interest in joining the unit, which represents a new capability for the Connecticut National Guard. Second Lt. Brett Boissonneault, 25, of East Hampton, was handpicked out of flight school to be part of the unit. "It's a great opportunity to be part of an important mission where we're saving people every day, helping people every day," he said.

  • Tiger helos upgrade will replace verbal orders with digital ones

    12 juin 2018 | International, Aérospatial, C4ISR

    Tiger helos upgrade will replace verbal orders with digital ones

    VERSAILLES, France ― Information technology firm Atos is in talks with Airbus Helicopters about installing its SICS battle management system on the Tiger Mk 3 attack helicopter, said Sylvain Gonnet, Atos project director. Atos developing the Scorpion Information Communication System, which will equip the French Army with the Bull battle management system intended to give a tactical overview, linking up platoon leaders to colonels. Atos expects to sign a contract with Airbus Helicopters this summer for a 12-month study to de-risk an installation of the Bull system on the Tiger. That study will help draw up a road map for equipping the attack helicopter with the system. Track our full coverage of Eurosatory here! SICS is designed to provide situation awareness, blue-force tracking and allow orders to be given by on-screen graphics rather than verbal orders, he said. Fitting SICS will be part of a midlife upgrade of the Tiger to the Mk 3 version. Belgium is closely tracking the SICS program. Officials there have signed a letter of intent on a €1.1 billion (U.S. $1.3 billion) acquisition of Griffon troop carriers and Jaguar reconnaissance and combat vehicles, which will be equipped with the battle management system. Atos signed in October 2016 a contract with an export client for its system. No further details were available. There is strong interest in battle management systems, with Britain and Germany looking to upgrade capabilities. Bull pitched its system to the U.K., which is looking to upgrade with the Morpheus tactical information and communication system. Other competitors in the market include Elbit Systems, Rheinmetall, Nexter and Danish company Systematic. Atos gave its presentation to the press May 16 ahead of the Eurosatory trade show, which runs June 11-15. The Tiger Mk 3 will be a midlife upgrade of the helicopter, which will be undertaken in cooperation with Germany. That modernization includes a new air-to-ground missile as well as linking up the helicopter more closely to the ground troops through the SICS.

  • Défense : dernière chance pour la vente du Rafale à la Belgique

    12 juin 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    Défense : dernière chance pour la vente du Rafale à la Belgique

    C'est une course contre la montre quasiment désespérée. Ce lundi 11 juin, le Premier ministre Charles Michel et ses ministres de l'Intérieur et de la Justice vont rencontrer leurs homologues français sous le patronage d'Édouard Philippe. À l'agenda de cette visite, le remplacement des avions de chasse belges de type F-16, comme le révèle la RTBF. Depuis des mois, le dossier empoisonne la politique de défense belge. Initialement, le gouvernement avait reçu trois offres pour remplacer son avion de chasse américain vieillissant. En plus du Rafale, l'Eurofighter, construit par un consortium britannico-germano-italiano-espagnol, et le F-35 américain de Lockheed Martin étaient sur les rangs. Mais la proposition française faite par Dassault était assez différente sur la forme. Dénonçant dans un biais de l'appel d'offres, qui, selon le PDG de l'avionneur à Challenges, aurait favorisé le F-35 américain, Dassault a décidé d'agir directement à l'échelle intergouvernementale. Plutôt qu'une simple offre respectant l'appel lancé par le gouvernement belge, la France, par la voix de sa ministre des Armées Florence Parly, a proposé en octobre dernier un partenariat stratégique. Face au refus du ministre belge de la Défense, Steven Vandeput, l'affaire semblait très mal engagée pour le fleuron de l'aéronautique français. Accès aux porte-avions français pour les avions belges Cependant, les atermoiements et les divisions politiques sur ce sujet – les francophones du Mouvement réformateur (MR) étant les plus fervents partisans de l'offre française –, ont permis à la France de conserver des chances. « Notre proposition couvre les demandes faites par la Belgique dans le cadre de l'appel d'offres, a expliqué à la RTBFl'ambassadrice de France en Belgique, Claude-France Arnoult. En plus, depuis septembre, l'offre française s'est développée à la lumière des événements : vous trouverez des propositions comme celle de donner aux Belges l'accès aux porte-avions français, s'ils prennent la version navale du Rafale. C'est un partenariat global pour un système de combat qui a été proposé en septembre, et qu'on affine depuis, qui est sur la table et qu'on est prêt à discuter plus en profondeur ». Après des mois de tergiversations, le dénouement est imminent.

  • Plan d’investissement de la Défense 2018

    11 juin 2018 | Information, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR, Sécurité

    Plan d’investissement de la Défense 2018

    Le Programme des capacités de la Défense (PCD) un nouvel outil maintenant en ligne permet d'accéder à des renseignements sur les occasions d'investissement en défense. À l'instar du Guide d'acquisition en défense, le PCD offre à l'industrie de l'information sur la planification comme les fourchettes de financement et les échéanciers des projets. L'industrie pourra y trouver environ 250 projets financés dans le cadre de la politique Protection, Sécurité, Engagement (PSE), dont des projets d'infrastructure ainsi que d'importants contrats de soutien en service afin de faire ses prévisions pour les occasions d'acquisition en défense et tenter d'obtenir des contrats. Gr'ce à ces renseignements, l'industrie sera en mesure de prendre des décisions éclairées en matière de recherche-développement (R-D) et de partenariats stratégiques fondés sur les besoins prévus des Forces armées canadiennes. On trouvera dans le PCD : des projets : des projets de biens d'équipement ou d'infrastructure d'une valeur de plus de 5 millions de dollars prévus et financés dans le cadre du la politique PSE des contrats de soutien : des contrats de soutien en service et des contrats de service professionnels d'une valeur escomptée supérieure à 20 millions de dollars qui seront octroyés dans les prochaines années pour soutenir les capacités livrées dans le cadre de la politique PSE des projets de PSE notés et inscrits Le PCD comprend une fonction de recherche par mot-clé et segmente les occasions d'investissement en composantes qui peuvent servir de critères de recherche : secteurs en matière de capacités de Défense (SCD) secteurs d'investissement en matière de capacités de défense (SICD) promoteurs du projet capacités industrielles clés (CIC) Les secteurs en matière de capacités de Défense (SCD) se divisent en treize grandes catégories, comme les le domaine terrestre, le domaine maritime, le domaine aérien, l'aérospatiale et le cyberespace. Ces catégories se subdivisent en éléments constituants plus de 150 secteurs d'investissement en matière de capacités de défense (SICD), comme les véhicules de modèle commercial, les pièces de navires et l'avionique. Les promoteurs du projet correspondent au commandement du service ou à l'organisation civile équivalente au sein du ministère de la Défense nationale (MDN). Il est aussi possible de rechercher les projets et les occasions d'investissement en fonction des capacités industrielles clés (CIC) d'Innovation, Sciences et Développement économiques Canada. Ces secteurs de capacité indiquent à l'industrie qu'elles sont les principales activités commerciales prioritaires pour le gouvernement en ce qui concerne l'approvisionnement en matière de défense. Enfin, il y a une fonction de recherche avancée qui permet à l'utilisateur de filtrer ses résultats selon des critères particuliers.

  • Nexter armored vehicle could soon include tethered drones

    11 juin 2018 | International, Aérospatial, Terrestre, C4ISR

    Nexter armored vehicle could soon include tethered drones

    VERSAILLES, France ― Nexter has unveiled a concept version of its Titus armored vehicle adapted to carry augmented mission systems, including a tethered drone, unmanned ground vehicles and a remote controlled 20mm cannon. The six-wheeled vehicle serves as a multipurpose platform to develop capabilities that could one day be fitted to vehicles such as the Griffon troop carrier. One of the capabilities is a captive UAV tethered to the vehicle, which could be used for observation and artillery targeting, a Nexter executive told journalists May 16. The UAV can fly to a height of 50 meters. A quieter option is a small, stand-alone UAV, which can also be launched from the vehicle's roof for reconnaissance missions. The hull has an outside compartment to deploy small unmanned ground vehicles, or UGV, to detect improvised explosive devices as well as chemical, biological and radiation weapons. The vehicle is armed with a remote controlled 20mm cannon, with options for a 25mm or 30mm weapon. The gun, UGV and UAV could be controlled inside or outside the vehicle with a smart pad. Another capability that could be installed includes a “virtual fence” for facial recognition for the vehicle's crew and troops. Nexter displayed the demonstrator vehicle at an artillery day event in December at the Canjuers Army base in the southeast of France. Nexter also showed off Themis, a tracked UGV armed with a 20mm gun. The vehicle is supplied by Milrem of Estonia. Themis is armed with an ARX 20mm remote controlled cannon with a 2-kilometer range and armor piercing shells. Other options are 12.7mm and 14.5mm heavy machine guns. The vehicle could support disembarked troops with heavy firepower and be used to open roads. Themis weighs 1 ton, travels at 24 kph and has an all-terrain capability. It is powered by electricity and diesel, with the latter delivering an endurance of 10 hours. Many countries, particularly for special forces, have shown interest in the vehicle, a Nexter executive said. A firing test is due to be held this year.

  • Thales propose de l'IA pour le pod Reco NG

    11 juin 2018 | Aérospatial

    Thales propose de l'IA pour le pod Reco NG

    Dans le cadre du standard F4 du Rafale, Thales propose d'employer l'intelligence artificielle pour améliorer les performances du pod Reco NG. Thales propose d'utiliser l'intelligence artificielle pour changer la façon d'employer le pod Reco NG du Rafale. Le Reco NG est utilisé pour réaliser des photos hautes définitions d'un thé'tre d'opération. Ce système peut couvrir 3 000 km2 de terrain en une heure. Mais l'analyse des données à postériori nécessite un important travail de la part des interprétateurs images des armées. Il faut en effet une heure à un spécialiste pour analyser l'équivalent de 10 km2 de terrain explique Thales.Il faut en conséquence un délais de plusieurs heures après le retour de mission du chasseur avant que les données ne puissent être exploitées. Thales a développé des algorithmes spécifiques aux missions militaires qui pourraient permettre au système de reconnaitre lui même en direct des éléments d'intérêt. Pour apprendre au pod à identifier ces éléments qui intéressent les militaires, les équipes de Thales ont créé deux millions d'images synthétiques reproduisant des zones géographiques, des contextes, des situations météo très divers. Les capacités de discernement du système ont ensuite été confrontées à 10 000 images réelles avec des résultats très positifs annonce Thales. Cette innovation pourrait changer les profils des missions de reconnaissance du Rafale. Pour l'heure les plans de vols de ce type de missions sont définis à l'avance, le pilote devant orienter son appareil et le pod en fonction des zones d'intérêt qui lui ont été indiquées. L'innovation proposée par Thales permettrait de faire remonter en temps réel vers le pilotes la presence d'éléments interessants. Ce dernier pourrait ainsi réorienter sa mission en cours de vol. Le premier tri en temps réel pourrait aussi permettre d'optimiser la bande passante des liaisons de données en n'envoyant vers les centres de commandement que des images à priori intéressantes. Physiquement l'intégration de l'IA sur le pod Reco NG se traduirait par l'ajout d'un processeur. Thales a développé des circuits adaptés offrant les capacités de calcul adaptées tout en limitant la consommation de puissance (20 watt). Le standard F4 du Rafale est en cours de définition. Les armées, la DGA et les industriels échangent et négocient actuellement à propos des innovations qui seront apportées au Rafale dans le cadre de ce programme dont le lancement est prévu cette année.

  • Air Force's New Battle Management System Will Be Based at Robins

    11 juin 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    Air Force's New Battle Management System Will Be Based at Robins

    By Oriana Pawlyk Robins Air Force Base has been selected to host an elite system that will fuse intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor data from around the world, the Air Force announced Wednesday. The Georgia base, which currently hosts the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, or JSTARS, will be home to the next-generation Advanced Battle Management System, the service said in a release. "We must adapt our capability to survive in the changed threat environment and move swiftly to advanced battlefield management and surveillance," said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. "The critical capabilities at Robins allow us to leverage key expertise and accelerate toward the network needed for contested environments." The ABMS is intended to replace the current JSTARS fleet, which will keep flying until the mid-to-late 2020s. The network, which fuses the data from hundreds of sensors to provide situational awareness for combatant commanders across the globe, will function "as [a] decentralized system that draws on all domains," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. "This is an important step as we move forward with a resilient and survivable network to ensure we are ready to prevail against changing threats," Goldfein said in the release. The network will leverage air and space systems and will include "a fusion center and associated supporting activities," the service said. "In addition, the network will also include some remotely piloted aircraft at Robins with sensors capable of collecting and transmitting information from the battlefield." Officials have said RPAs such as MQ-9 Reaper aircraft would be used to plug into such a network for additional situational awareness. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, both Republicans from Georgia, were optimistic but cautious about the announcement Wednesday. They have previously voiced concerns over the Air Force's plan to cancel the JSTARS recapitalization program in favor of the ABMS. "We welcome any and all new missions that the Air Force is willing to bring to Robins, and I will continue to work with the Air Force as the implementation of this plan proceeds," Isakson said in a joint statement with Perdue. "In the meantime, I urge Secretary Wilson to work with us to ensure that there will be no capabilities gap that could put our warfighters at risk during the transition to this new system." Perdue added, "This additional new mission at Robins will be critical to fulfilling President Trump's National Defense Strategy and provides for the new Advanced Battle Management System." Both senators in August said they were "alarmed" to find out earlier that month that the Air Force might pursue "alternative intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms" instead of procuring a JSTARS replacement. The service in 2016 launched a $6.9 billion request for proposal for the engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the upgraded aircraft. It had planned to buy 17 new aircraft. In February, during the Air Force's fiscal 2019 budget rollout briefing, service officials said they were scrapping the initiative. The current JSTARS fleet is capable of developing, detecting, locating and tracking moving targets on the ground. The Air Force on Wednesday said there is no intent to reduce manpower at Robins as it transitions to ABMS. Lawmakers want to ensure there is no capability gap for troops on the ground as the service moves from the E-8C to the ABMS system. In April, the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee in its markup to the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act said it will cap funding for the ABMS program until the Air Force restores the JSTARS recapitalization contract. The HASC passed its version of the fiscal 2019 bill on May 10. But members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have hinted they are open to the Air Force's effort to invest in a more survivable system than the JSTARS, which could be shot down. "There's a recognition in the Senate bill that we don't want to retire aircraft too quickly before a replacement capability arises such that we end up with a gap," an SASC staffer told Defense News on May 30. But "we do not direct them to proceed with the recap out of concerns with survivability, which we share with the department." The Senate is poised to vote on the bill in coming weeks.

  • Here are just some of the ways Canadian technology keeps Americans safe

    11 juin 2018 | Local, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR

    Here are just some of the ways Canadian technology keeps Americans safe

    It's been a week since the Trump White House slapped Canada with steel and aluminum tariffs on the ground that reliance on our imports was threatening the “national security” of the United States. If Canadians are particularly galled at this, it might be because no foreign country in modern times has done more to arm and equip the United States than Canada. “I would not be surprised if every single major aircraft or warship in U.S. military service today has Canadian components in it,” said Richard Shimooka, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Below, a cursory summary of some of the Canadian stuff used by history's most powerful military. Landing gear We'll start with an entry that directly concerns steel and aluminum. Quebec-based Héroux-Devtek is the world's third largest aircraft landing gear company, and some of that is thanks to a longstanding relationship with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. Specifically, Héroux-Devtek is in charge of landing gear repair and overhaul for several large U.S. aircraft, including the heavy-lift C-130 Hercules. Of course, landing gear is made almost entirely of steel or aluminum. So, thanks to these new tariffs, American military procurers are either going to start getting hosed on their Héroux-Devtek contracts — or they're going to have start getting their landing gear overhauls from a U.S. company that isn't their first choice. Armoured personnel carriers “Canada and the US have been building military equipment for each other since the summer of 1940,” David Bercuson, a military historian at the University of Calgary, told the National Post. “Literally billions of dollars of such equipment has passed the border since then.” The most obvious example is the Stryker. There are nearly 5,000 Stryker armoured personnel carriers in the U.S. military, and all of them were built in London, Ontario. Not only that, but the Stryker is even based on a Canadian design, the LAV III. Coming in at a rock bottom $4 million apiece, the Americans use Strykers for everything: Ambulances, firefighting, missile platforms, chemical weapons defence and mine detection. They even started rigging them up with giant lasers to shoot down enemy drones. Armoured vehicles happen to be a Canadian specialty. While the United States was busy throwing money at big ticket items such as tanks and attack helicopters, the shoestring Canadians have gotten very good at the much cheaper task of simply strapping guns and armour to oversized trucks. And if a U.S. diplomat found themselves touring Iraq in an armoured Toyota Land Cruiser, chances are good they were shielded from bullets and IEDs by Canadian workmanship. Specialized aircraft Here again, the United States has it covered when it comes to big ticket aircraft such as fighters or bombers. But the U.S. military will occasionally call up Canadian plane-makers when it needs something quirky. Bombardier has retooled some of its airliners and business jets to act as airborne radar platforms. When the United States Army Parachute Team appears at air shows, they're jumping out of a Canadian-made de Havilland Twin Otter. De Havilland has also hooked up the Americans with some of its famously rugged prop planes for use in electronic warfare, remote cargo drops or simply moving National Guard troops around Alaska. All told, the U.S. military is flying more planes built in Canada than in any other foreign country. The U.S. military's only cargo drone (and it has the most Canadian name imaginable) A U.S. special forces unit is pinned down on a remote Central Asian mountaintop. Surrounded by militants on all sides, it needs an emergency airlift of water and ammunition to even see daybreak. Enter the SnowGoose, an unmanned autogyro specializing in precision deliveries to special forces. The SnowGoose is the U.S. military's only cargo drone, and it's an all-Canadian creation. An emerging theme on this list is that Canada is great at building niche military hardware for cheap, and the SnowGoose is no exception. As the drone's Stittsville, Ont. builders note, it can move cargo across a battlefield at a fraction of the price of other drones. Nuclear fuel Uranium is a big part of the modern U.S. military. It has more than 100 nuclear-powered vessels in the navy, and there's also those 7,000 atomic weapons it still has lying around. Canada has sold a whole lot of uranium to the U.S. military, going all the way back to the initial atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. However, the taps were somewhat shut off in the 1960s, when Canada started limiting uranium exports to “peaceful” purposes. Still, with Canada ranking as the United States' top uranium dealer, we help keep their uranium topped up enough to have plenty left over for the military. Speaking of nuclear weapons, it might behoove the White House to remember that if a Russian or North Korean missile should happen to be fired in their direction, a Canada-based NORAD station will likely be among the first to let them know. Making fighter jets last forever This entry should fill thrifty Canadians with particular pride: We've gotten so good at squeezing every penny out of our CF-18s that we're now globally renowned experts at fighter jet life extension. Among other things, Canada invented “robotic shot-peening,” a method of using robots to restore aging aircraft with a precision never before known. The technology has been exported to Europe, Australia and, in 2013, the U.S. Navy brought in the Quebec aerospace company L-3 MAS to give its jets a makeover. Battlefield communications Tactical radios are another niche technology in which Canadian companies have a built a slow but steady reputation with the Americans. In a 2017 reporton Canada/U.S. military industrial cooperation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted that the U.S. military has been using Canadian radios since the 1960s. Ultra TCS, headquartered in Montreal, remains a supplier of tactical radios to both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. And these aren't just walkie-talkies; they're hyper-advanced networks that can provide email, voice and even video hook-ups to American troops in battle. Jeeps That's right. The Second World War-era Willys Jeep — one of the most American vehicles in history — was manufactured in part by Canada. Ford Motor Company of Canada churned out thousands of Jeeps after the Second World War. In 1952 alone, Canadian factories were making an average of seven of them per day. According to Ford Canada's website, “these postwar Canadian-made Jeep were shipped to the United States, for the American military forces.” Space robots DARPA is the U.S. agency tasked with pursuing military so cutting edge that they occasionally veer into outright science fiction. Last year, DARPA signed a deal with Canada's MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates to design robots that could be dispatched into space in order to repair U.S. military satellites. And like most times Canada is brought in for U.S. military stuff, the robot space mechanic program is indeed intended as a cost saving measure. Canada has been a leader in space defence for some time. Our beloved Canadarm, in fact, technically qualifies as an early military space robot. Over the course of the space shuttle program 11 missions were sent up to perform classified work for the Pentagon. We still don't know the specifics of what the Canadarm did for Uncle Sam on those missions, but the arm is a certifiable Cold Warrior.

  • Yokota airmen improve gas mask with 3D printer, potentially saving Air Force $8 million or more

    11 juin 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    Yokota airmen improve gas mask with 3D printer, potentially saving Air Force $8 million or more

    By SETH ROBSON YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Tokyo-based airmen used a 3D printer and American ingenuity to modify a standard-issue gas mask into an aircraft oxygen system, potentially saving millions of dollars and improving aircrew safety. The idea of hooking up the M-50 joint-service, general-purpose mask to an aircraft was hatched during brainstorming sessions by airmen from Yokota's 374th Maintenance Squadron and 374th Operations Support Squadron. “We took the mask and added some off-the-shelf parts and some 3D-printed parts and converted it into a piece of equipment that can work in an aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. David Siemiet, an aircrew flight equipment superintendent. Gear used now — the Aircrew Eye/Respiratory Protection System, or AERPS — is expensive, heavy and fault prone with long waits for replacement parts, said C-130 Hercules pilot Capt. Matthew Kohl. When the ubiquitous, light and cheap M-50 is connected to an oxygen system, air flows through its chemical filters to the user, whose eyes are protected by goggles, Siemiet said. To build their prototype, the airmen looked at an Army system that hooks soldiers' masks to air blowers to overcome the stifling environment inside a battle tank. The airmen came up with a cap that blocks airflow into one side of the mask and an adaptor that allows it to attach to a hose that can be plugged into an oxygen system. The modification, which the airman call “AERPS Ultra,” uses a few standard parts and two components made on a 3D printer that aircraft materials technology craftsman Sen. Airman David Petrich bought for a few hundred dollars of his own money. It costs only about 75 cents to modify one mask, and the project has the potential to save the Air Force at least $8 million and countless man hours, according to Tech. Sgt. Eric Lundeen, another aircraft materials technology craftsman involved in the project. The M-50 weighs less than a pound, a lot less than the 40 pounds of chemical-protection gear now used by aircrew. Unlike the current system, the lighter masks don't need a power supply that must be hooked to on-board electricity and uses expensive batteries, Petrich said. “You can wear the mask onto the plane and latch in and you are good to go,” he said. The mask modifications can be done on base without the need to pay a contractor, Siemiet added.

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